Lazy Saturday Reads

Mostly empty area for Trump speech in Pensacola, FL last night

Good Afternoon!!

The snow has finally begun falling here, and now they say it will continue all night and into tomorrow. We expect around 6-8 inches. That still may not be as bad as what happened down where JJ lives in Georgia and other parts of the South. The LA Times reports: Snowmen in Alabama? Sledding in Mississippi? From Texas to Georgia, snow blankets the South.

Snow blanketed a vast swath of the Deep South on Friday, triggering a flurry of winter weather warnings that closed businesses and schools, canceled hundreds of flights and caused traffic gridlock. It also unleashed a flurry of snowman construction and sledding in places more accustomed to sunshine than snow.

The storm dropped a rare coating of snow as far south as Brownsville, Texas — near the border of Mexico — up through southern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the southern Appalachians.

“This is an unusual event — to see snow falling this early in the season all the way from Texas and the Gulf Coast region to Georgia,” said Laura Pagano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Atlanta/Peachtree City office. “It has happened before, but not often.”

More than 200,000 customers across the region lost power as snow downed branches and power lines.

People walk along Shiloh Road in Kennesaw after a snowstorm hit metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

Since I can’t go out, I plan to escape into a good book. I finished reading Luke Harding’s excellent Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and I’ve begun reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser.

Fraser is a brilliant writer, and so far the book is fascinating. She adds context to the sentimental version of Wilder’s life portrayed in the “Little House” books. Of course in many ways it’s a tragic story of the horrendous treatment of Native Americans as well as the hardships suffered by poor people like the Ingalls family who were lured west by promised of free or cheap land. Anyway, I’m glad to have a good book to help me escape from our dreadful current reality.

As the mainstream media continues to demonstrate the tremendous progress the Mueller investigation has been making, the Trump state media made up of Fox News, Breitbart, and other right wing outlets has turned up the heat with their fake news.

Please read this excellent piece by Jonathan Chait: The Mueller Investigation Is in Mortal Danger. Chait opens by describing the process by which the GOP first claims to be shocked by bad behavior (e.g. the Access Hollywood tape), but within begins denying and finally excusing that same behavior. We’ve seen this again and again, and now it’s happening with Roy Moore. Here’s the gist of Chait’s argument:

The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.

The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.

Peter Strzok

The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller.

His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions.

It’s happening, folks. Yesterday we learned that Hope Hicks was interviewed by Mueller’s team all day Thursday and Friday. Hicks knows everything that has happened. There is no way Trump is going to sit still while she either tells the truth or may get caught in a lie and have to cooperate with Mueller. The investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump and his family.

The New York Times: F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives.

F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.

The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers….

Hope Hicks with Trump and Kushner

After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious.

The meetings with Ms. Hicks, what the F.B.I. calls a “defensive briefing,” went beyond the standard security advice that senior White House officials routinely receive upon taking office. Defensive briefings are intended to warn government officials about specific concerns or risks.

Meanwhile, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Justice Department has announced “investigations” into fake scandals like Planned Parenthood supposedly selling fetal body parts and the Uranium One non-scandal. And the GOP Congress is going to turn the sexual harassment scandal into a Democratic problem. The Democrats pushed Al Franken out without due process for minor accusations that may have been orchestrated, and now more Democrats are going to be revealed as abusers so the public will forget about Trump and Moore.

Roll Call: Exclusive: Taxpayers Paid $220K to Settle Case Involving Rep. Alcee Hastings.

The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.

Alcee Hastings

Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.

Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.

“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” the congressman said in a statement Friday night. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”

Hastings said that the lawsuit that Packer filed against him and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee were ultimately dismissed.

“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” he said.

Will another member of the Black Caucus be forced out now?

Sarah Kendzior issued a stark waning this morning in response to this tweet:

Here’s a Trump scandal; will it gain any traction? The New York Times: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.

A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Ryan Zinke

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.

“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”

But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.

In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”

There is soooo much news today. I’ll have to add some links in the comment thread, but I’ll end this post with the latest NYT gossipy insider report on Trump’s defensive maneuvers: Inside Trumps Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.

Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.

Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in bedclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.

As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.

For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.

Read more about the madman in the White House at the NYT link.

What stories are you following today?

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Friday Reads: Days as Bleak as the White House Holiday Decorations

Good Afternoon!

It’s cold. It’s sleeting. It’s gray. It snowed in Baton Rouge and a few places north of Lake Pontchartrain.  I’m officially in and over winter.  I can’t seem to get warm. I can’t warm up to anything going on in this country either.  I’m sending a dear friend to check out a property on Key Peninsula at least 20 miles from most forms of civilization. There’s a wine store, a dispensary, and a Japanese-owned grocery shop/cafe close with foodstuff. Other than that I’ll have tall trees, a lake, and JoEmma State Park.  This one is way doable so I’m hopeful I can head to the blue wall of safety. Oh, and a working fireplace/stove.  It’s as bleak as the White House Holiday Decorations or Siberia right now.  Take your choice.

I’ll start out with one custom made for our resident psychologist up at WAPO.  “I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump. He tells far more lies, and far more cruel ones, than ordinary people do.”

Nearly two-thirds of Trump’s lies (65 percent) were self-serving. Examples included: “They’re big tax cuts — the biggest cuts in the history of our country, actually” and, about the people who came to see him on a presidential visit to Vietnam  last month: “They were really lined up in the streets by the tens of thousands.”

Slightly less than 10 percent of Trump’s lies were kind ones, told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else. An example was his statement on Twitter that “it is a ‘miracle’ how fast the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were able to find the demented shooter and stop him from even more killing!” In the broadest sense, it is possible to interpret every lie as ultimately self-serving, but I tried to stick to how statements appeared on the surface.

Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That’s a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones. The most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants’, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging. For example, he proclaimed that John Brennan, James Clapper and James Comey, all career intelligence or law enforcement officials, were “political hacks.” He said that “the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close.” He insisted that other “countries, they don’t put their finest in the lottery system. They put people probably in many cases that they don’t want.” And he claimed that “Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities.”

The Trump lies that could not be coded into just one category were typically told both to belittle others and enhance himself. For example: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for reelection in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”

The sheer frequency of Trump’s lies appears to be having an effect, and it may not be the one he is going for. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from late October showed that only 35 percent  of voters believed that Trump was honest, while 51 percent said he was not honest. (The others said they didn’t know or had no opinion.) Results of a Quinnipiac University poll from November were similar: Thirty-seven percent of voters thought Trump was honest, compared with 58 percent who thought he was not.

There are man cruel, inhuman policies on the Republican agenda and in its budget and tax bill. Paul Krugman points out its “War on Children”. I’m not a deist so I can’t speak to how those folks feel on how they believe that they’ll be judged on how we treat the least of us, but I’d say this is a straight to eternal damnation ticket.

What’s the problem? The other day Senator Orrin Hatch, asked about the program (which he helped create), once again insisted that it will be funded — but without saying when or how (and there don’t seem to be any signs of movement on the issue). And he further declared, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.” Then he voted for an immense tax cut.

And one piece of that immense tax cut is a big giveaway to inheritors of large estates. Under current law, a married couple’s estate pays no tax unless it’s worth more than $11 million, so that only a handful of estates — around 5,500, or less than 0.2 percent of the total number of deaths a year — owe any tax at all. The number of taxable estates is also, by the way, well under one one-thousandth of the number of children covered by CHIP.

But Republicans still consider this tax an unacceptable burden on the rich. The Senate bill would double the exemption to $22 million; the House bill would eliminate the estate tax entirely.

So now let’s talk dollars. CHIP covers a lot of children, but children’s health care is relatively cheap compared with care for older Americans. In fiscal 2016 the program cost only $15 billion, a tiny share of the federal budget. Meanwhile, under current law the estate tax is expected to bring in about $20 billion, more than enough to pay for CHIP.As you see, then, my question wasn’t at all hypothetical. By their actions, Republicans are showing that they consider it more important to give extra millions to one already wealthy heir than to provide health care to a thousand children.

Justice in the USA is only available to the privileged. It can also be avoid by the donor class and most violent folks wearing blue and sporting a badge.   Russia and now, Wells Fargo, are dodging sanctions for damaging our country.

The new acting head of the U.S. consumer finance watchdog is reviewing whether Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) should pay tens of millions of dollars over alleged mortgage lending abuse, according to three sources familiar with the dispute.

The San Francisco-based bank said in October that it would refund homebuyers who were wrongly charged fees to secure low mortgage rates – a black mark against a lender which has already been roiled by scandal over its treatment of customers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had been investigating the mortgage issue since early this year, said one current and two former officials. The agency accepted an internal review from Wells Fargo and set settlement terms in early November, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak about internal discussions.

But that matter and roughly a dozen others are in question now that Mick Mulvaney, the agency chief tapped by President Donald Trump, has said he is reviewing the CFPB’s prior work.

Richard Cordray, the former CFPB director who initiated the Wells Fargo action, approved the terms of a possible settlement before stepping down, said the sources.

That proposal envisions a Wells Fargo payout of tens of millions of dollars but likely short of the record, $100 million payout the bank made to the CFPB last year over a phony accounts scandal, sources said.

The pseudo Justice Department led by the World’s oldest living Confederate Widow is going to waste money investigating Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue.  Isn’t great to be obsessed with zygotes while letting  thousands of living children die unnecessarily?

The Justice Department is taking steps to investigate Planned Parenthood, The Daily Beast has learned.

The head of Justice’s office of legislative affairs has sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking for documents from its investigation of Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue practices. The Daily Beast reviewed the letter, which says the requested documents are “for investigative use.”

Planned Parenthood for America did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. The organization’s website says that only a few of its affiliates share fetal tissue with researchers, and that criticisms of the practice are a “smear campaign.” In October 2015, after undercover videos highlighting Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue programs generated outrage, the organization announced it would stop accepting any reimbursement from researchers for fetal tissue.

The Justice Department’s request refers to a report that the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans released last December, called “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy.” That report discusses how biomedical research corporations contracted with Planned Parenthood affiliates for fetal tissue. It mentioned contracts between those corporations and several Planned Parenthood affiliates, including Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and Planned Parenthood of Northern California. The report detailed the “specimen service fees” that biomedical researchers charged for tissue from a 20-week-old fetus –– $325 for a fetus’s brain, $650 for two eyes –– and questioned whether the biomedical research corporations ultimately profited from their disbursement of fetal tissue. It called for the Justice Department to investigate the matter.

At the time, Planned Parenthood said Grassley’s report did not demonstrate any wrongdoing.

Next up on the Republican Agenda, availability of tax dollars to train clergy and republican candidates on proper ways to stalk children and assault women.

So, the Jerusalem decision is dragging the world into Kremlin Caligula’s dark chaotic mind.  The UN has convened an emergency meeting. Republican Ptomac Fever is now a world wide plague.

The UN Security Council has convened an emergency session to discuss Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has led to deadly clashes in Palestine and strong condemnation from world leaders.

Eight countries called for the emergency meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, as Palestinians protested across the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip against the US president’s decision throughout the day.

Several countries resoundly condemned the US’ unilateral move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including Olof Skoog, Sweden’s UN ambassador, who said the decision is fuelling tension and instability in the region.

Trump’s declaration “goes against the plea of many friends of the US and Israel, however it does not affect the position of Sweden, the European Union or the wider international community” on the status of Jerusalem, said Skoog.

Violent clashes have erupted since Trump’s slurry, spit-filled speech.  A diverse number of religious leaders have begged the US to reconsider. This includes the Pope.  I think he’s hoping for massive terrorist attacks from extremists, frankly.

Clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank and over the Israeli-Gaza border, where one Palestinian was killed.

Tensions are high in the wake of Mr Trump’s announcement. His policy shift was hailed by Israel but condemned across the Arab and Islamic world.

The UN’s Middle East envoy warned of a risk the conflict would escalate.

“There is a serious risk today that we may see a chain of unilateral actions, which can only push us further away from achieving our shared goal of peace,” Nickolay Mladenov told an emergency UN Security Council meeting, by videocall from Jerusalem.

He called on all parties to engage in “constructive dialogue” and “reign in radical elements”.

While the meeting was going on, the Israeli army said it had intercepted a rocket launch from Gaza, but there had been “no casualties and no damage”.

Western allies of the US have disavowed Mr Trump’s move, which reversed decades of US neutrality on the status of Jerusalem.

Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The US became the first country to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital since the foundation of the state in 1948.

The State Department is having none of that or the threats to pull the US Team out of the Winter Olympics in in South Korea.

After the White House and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations weighed in this week on the United States’ participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the U.S. State Department joined the discussion on Friday.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert tweeted Friday morning: “We have a longstanding and successful relationship with the Republic of #Korea. We support their efforts to ensure that a safe and successful winter games will take place. We look forward to cheering on @Team USA at #PyeongChang2018.”

 Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday appeared on Fox News and said it was an “open question” as to whether U.S. Olympic athletes would compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

On Thursday, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent mixed signals, first saying at a press briefing that, “no official decision has been made” but, “I know that the goal is to do so.” Within the hour, Sanders posted an update on Twitter, writing that, “The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.”

My guess he’s doing to be in solidarnost with his boy crush Putin.

So, this is a must read.  Maternal mortality in the US rivals Banana Republic levels. This is especially true for women of color.  “Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why” on NPR.  Racial Disparity in outcomes happens across income lines.  This is a significant finding.

In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 300 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.

That imbalance has persisted for decades, and in some places, it continues to grow. In New York City, for example, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to the most recent data; in 2001-2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. Researchers say that widening gap reflects a dramatic improvement for white women but not for blacks.

The disproportionate toll on African-Americans is the main reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate is so much higher than that of other affluent countries. Black expectant and new mothers in the U.S. die at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, the World Health Organization estimates.

This is appalling and policy must be swift to change this.

Southern California is burning to a crisp. The Santa Anna’s are making them difficult to contain.  I have a friend who has been in a shelter for 4 days with her pets and husband.  She let us know this morning that he house was still standing but the homes 2 doors on either side of her were smoldering rubble. I have family in jeopardy also.  This is really scary.

Red flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, and high wind warnings are in effect for mountain and valley areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Winds gusted to over 60 mph in Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Gusts were in the 30 to 50 mph range in San Diego County. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits. Relative humidity in San Diego on Thursday afternoon was just 5 percent.

They will likely join Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as forgotten Americans.  Welcome to Dystopia! Welcome to our post-Orwellian nightmare!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Flynn Friday Reads

Good Very Late Afternoon!

It’s been a strange day! First, I had to show up at the Civil Court for jury duty sign up.  Then, my computer took what seemed like an eon for updates.  Meanwhile, we have a guilty plea from Mike Flynn and news of cooperation.  Additionally, we have information that Jared Kusner–at the very least–ordered him to contact the Russian Ambassador.  We are also on the verge of the US Senate passing the most dishonest “tax reform” that we’ve ever seen.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea Friday for lying to the FBI is alarming news for Donald Trump. But the first person it’s likely to jeopardize will be the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Two former officials with the Trump transition team who worked closely with Flynn say that during the last days of the Obama administration, the retired general was instructed to contact foreign ambassadors and foreign ministers of countries on the U.N. Security Council, ahead of a vote condemning Israeli settlements. Flynn was told to try to get them to delay that vote until after Barack Obama had left office, or oppose the resolution altogether.

That is relevant now because one of Flynn’s lies to the FBI was when he said that he never asked Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, to delay the vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. The indictment released today from the office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller describes this lie: “On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.”

James Comey waxes philosophically. Sally Yates has not weighed in yet.

Flynn has promised Bob Mueller that he will cooperate fully.  Flynn must tell Mueller everything. His tenure with Kremlin Caligula was long and was during strategically important time.

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

The stunning turn comes as Flynn, who is cooperating with investigators in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his back-channel negotiations with the Russian ambassador – talks that occurred before Trump took office. The Special Counsel made the plea agreement public Friday morning.

A close confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

“It has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in a statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.”

24174235_10156058649118447_3657890784704400571_nThere’s some talk within the beltway that Trump himself instructed Flynn to reach out to the Russians.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is expected to testify that President Trump instructed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, according to a report by ABC News.

Flynn is saying that Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians,” ABC’s Brian Ross said Friday, just moments after Flynn entered a guilty plea for lying about his contact with Russians during the presidential transition period.

 

ABC appears to be the first on many of these stories. We’re not sure who the “close confidant” is, but they are talking to Ross.

A close confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

“It has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in a statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.”

Richard Frankel, a former senior aide to Flynn and an ABC News contributor, said Flynn made his decision to cooperate under immense pressure, but he believes it is the right move for the country.

“I don’t know how much General Flynn knows about any criminal activity that took place during the campaign or in the White House,” said Frankel, who also served in a senior role at the FBI. “However, General Flynn was a top adviser to President Trump in the campaign and a top adviser to him when he entered into the WH so if there are bodies buried so to speak, General Flynn would know about them in my opinion.”

Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI about the nature of his conversations with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Those conversations led Russian officials to temper their response to increased U.S. sanctions, according to the charging documents.

The charge means Flynn could face up to five years in prison.

 

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

 

 

So, in other news of the Deathwatch for the US country, Constitution ,and the economy we are on the verge of the Senate passing a terrifically awful “tax” bill. There’s only one hold out Republican.  We can only hope things get truly fucked up in the resolution process.

The tax bill hit snags in the Senate late Thursday, as Republicans worked on ways to ease the concerns of deficit hawks. Leaders were still scrambling for votes.

But within the GOP, leaders are confident that once the tax bill is passed, they can strike a quick deal to waive the federally mandated cuts. But Democrats deeply opposed to the tax bill aren’t making any promises they’ll agree to bail out their rivals — raising the risk of a historic gutting of government programs.

“This would be unprecedented,” said William Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former GOP Senate staffer with expertise on the budget. “The law never envisioned that we’d eliminate programs.”

GOP leaders are asking moderates like Susan Collins (R-Maine) to back the tax package with the mere promise that lawmakers can find a bipartisan solution during an already divisive year-end crunch that could lead to a government shutdown.

One senior House GOP source was confident a deal on spending would go through. “A statutory PAYGO sequester has never happened, and we will prevent one from being triggered,” the source said, adding that Congress has until the end of the year to work it out.

The far reach of the Republican tax plan is the consequence of limitations placed on Congress under the “pay-as-you-go” rule. The decades-old law, revamped during the Obama presidency, requires Congress to offset the cost of each piece of legislation or risk spending cuts painful to both parties.

Lawmakers have repeatedly voted to waive this rule, a total of 16 times, for major bills like the Obama-era stimulus and multiple tax cut packages under George W. Bush.

The GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax plan would trigger $150 billion in cuts to domestic programs every year for a decade if Congress doesn’t step in, according to the CBO. That would include $25 billion from the money Medicare pays health care providers, still some people that doesn’t have insurance prefer to try to maintain good health with healthy habits like diet and supplements as kratom capsules.

So, I’m making this short so we can talk during the evening News!

Just one more thing!

Happy Birthday Boston Boomer!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today!


Monday Reads: The Economist is Really IN (5¢)

It’s Monday again Sky Dancers!

America has been held hostage by a Russian Potted plant with at least one severe Personality Disorder for 311 days.  Kremlin Caligula has been busy on his golden piss pot and all I can say where are those guys with the straight jackets when a country really needs them?

My guess is that something huge is about to break on the Russian Front. Kremlin Caligula even channeled Marcia Brady with an  all we ever hear is “Russia, Russia, Russia” tweet. This proximity to psychotic break and delusion has to be rooted in something more than a weekend spent bilking taxpayers for extended Golf Games at The Persian Whore House in Florida.

Meanwhile, the tax bill abomination is on the agenda which means wonky, economist kinda day for y’all. I’m actually going to focus on some stuff that may not make it to the Front page or lede first.

First off and like you didn’t know this, the measure of Income Equality for the United States is as bad as ever. This tax bill would put his so far to the right on a list of countries–which being right basically means you live in a kleptocracy–as to show we’re a not just an outlier but one that’s way outside the boundary of what should happen if it was just a random event.  Our modern tax and economic policy purposefully takes money from labor and industrial capital and transfers it to Wall Street Gambling and Treasure Isle Money Laundering Land.

Let’s break that down a bit. This is the global wealth report for 2016 put out by Allianz which does economic research.  The Gini Coefficient is the most widely used measure of income equality/inequality for countries.  There are two measures. One is for income. The other is for wealth. It shows how those things are dispersed among a country’s population.  This is from Investopedia which is a good source for simple explanations and examples of finance and economics concepts.

The Gini index or Gini coefficient is a statistical measure of distribution developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini in 1912. It is often used as a gauge of economic inequality, measuring income distribution or, less commonly, wealth distribution among a population. The coefficient ranges from 0 (or 0%) to 1 (or 100%), with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality. Values over 1 are theoretically possible due to negative income or wealth.

A country in which every resident has the same income would have an income Gini coefficient of 0. A country in one resident earned all the income, while everyone else earned nothing, would have an income Gini coefficient of 1.

The same analysis can be applied to wealth distribution (the “wealth Gini coefficient”), but because wealth is more difficult to measure than income, Gini coefficients usually refer to income and appear simply as “Gini coefficient” or “Gini index,” without specifying that they refer to income. Wealth Gini coefficients tend to be much higher than those for income.

Wealth–covered by this report–is basically financial assets.  Let’s look at a graph to get an idea of what’s going on in the US compared to the rest of the world.  The US is now number 1 on list for wealth inequality.   Fortune wrote on this in 2015.  The reason I bring this back up is that the dread tax bill–coupled with our next news item–will basically make this country’s wealth and income more third world banana republic level than it already is. We are the “richest and most unequal” country and believe me none of the benefits of that are trickling down.  This is from 2015 a year prior to the current report.

And yet, with the overall growth of wealth, inequality remains a persistent issue, especially in the United States.

For the first time in this report series, Allianz calculated each country’s wealth Gini coefficient—a measure of inequality in which 0 is perfect equality and 100 would mean perfect inequality, or one person owning all the wealth. It found that the U.S. had the most wealth inequality, with a score of 80.56, showing the most concentration of overall wealth in the hands of the proportionately fewest people.

In comparison, when the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) examined income inequality, it found that the U.S. has the fourth highest income Gini coefficient—0.40—after Turkey, Mexico, and Chile.

Ironically, the second highest Gini score overall in the Allianz report was found in Sweden, a nation long thought of as egalitarian.

I thought you might like to read this analysis from Steve Roth: ” Insanely Concentrated Wealth Is Strangling Our Prosperity. Today’s mountains of wealth throttle the very engine of wealth creation itself.”

Now of course you don’t expect 20-year-olds to have much or any wealth; there will always be households with none. But still, the environment for young households trying to build a comfortable and secure nest egg — the American dream? — has gotten wildly competitive and hostile over recent decades. (If we had a sovereign wealth fund, everyone would have a wealth share from birth.)

But here’s what’s even more egregious: that concentrated wealth is strangling our economy, our economic growth, our national prosperity. Wealth concentration drives a vicious, downward cycle, throttling the very engine of wealth creation itself.

Because: people with lots of money don’t spend it. They just sit on it, like Smaug in his cave. The more money you have, the less of it you spend every year. If you have $10,000, you might spend it this year. If you have $10 million, you’re not gonna. If you have $1,000, you’re at least somewhat likely to spend it this month.

This guy is not an economist but totally can put the numbers to what economists do all the time.  We determine what drives economic growth.  In this country, it is the middle class spending money and saving it to buy houses, retire, and take vacations.   A middle class does this in their home town not in Panama, the Channel Islands, or any of the other places the wealthy hide their treasure and buy overpriced yachts from each other.

This leads me to the second disturbing thing.  The very laws and agency meant to protect the middle class from abuses of turning banking houses into gambling concerns are being destroyed.  This is in the ledes and rightly so.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s top lawyer sided with the Justice Department over President Donald Trump’s appointment of Mick Mulvaney to lead the CFPB as a leadership battle over the controversial watchdog agency escalated.

In a memorandum obtained by POLITICO, CFPB general counsel Mary McLeod said Trump had the legal authority to name an acting director to the bureau under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

“It is my legal opinion that the president possesses the authority to designate an acting director for the bureau,” McLeod wrote in the Nov. 25 memo to the CFPB leadership team. “I advise all bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB.”

Yet even as McLeod’s memo was circulating, Leandra English, former CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s choice to serve as acting director of the watchdog agency, sued the Trump administration in U.S District Court in Washington.

In her lawsuit filed late Sunday, English named Trump and Mulvaney as defendants and asked the court to establish her authority as acting director.

“Ms. English has a clear entitlement to the position of acting director of the CFPB,” the filing claims. “The President’s purported or intended appointment of defendant Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB is unlawful.”

So, here’s what this controversy is all about.

As a Republican congressman, Mick Mulvaney called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau a “joke” and said he wished it didn’t exist. On Monday, Mulvaney showed up at the agency’s D.C. offices with a bag of doughnuts and a new title: boss.

But after a frantic weekend of political and legal posturing, Mulvaney’s arrival represented a new escalation of tensions over who ultimately will lead the agency. A day earlier, Leandra English filed suit claiming she is the “rightful acting director.”

Leadership of the agency was thrown into doubt last Friday when Richard Cordray stepped down as CFPB director and said his chief of staff, English, would temporarily replace him. A few hours later, Trump named Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director and a longtime critic of the CFPB, to the job.

Both sides are pointing to the fine print in dueling federal statutes to claim authority over the job running one of the most controversial, and powerful, banking industry regulators. English filed suit late Sunday, asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent Trump from appointing Mulvaney acting director.

Here’s why the lawsuit was filed and more information from DDay at the Intercept who found Trump’s legal work is coming from a PayDay lender.  There’s a succession provision in the law itself.

The succession provision was part of Congress’s intent to keep the agency independent of the president, Frank said. “We gave the director unusual independence from the president, including a five-year term. This [provision] makes that effectual,” Frank said. “Our intention was to give a full five years of independence. This was part of it.”

The president still has the ability to appoint a successor, said Frank, but only one who would not destroy the agency, as such a nominee would not get through the Senate. “The way it works, the acting director stays in until a confirmed successor appointed. I don’t think the Senate would confirm someone like Mulvaney, who would destroy the agency. Remember, Senator Collins is in there and she voted for it. Republicans would like to get rid of the agency legislatively, but they don’t have the votes,” he said.

Former Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., the lead champion of the CFPB provision in the House, also said it was the intent of the bill’s authors to keep the acting director independent of the president. “We were very much about the task of trying to create an independent agency that would not be captured by its opponents,” he said. “The statute’s pretty clear. What happens if there’s a vacancy in the director’s spot, the deputy director steps up and serves until the Senate confirms a replacement.”

Democrats, in the past, have respected the process for other agencies that have similar succession plans, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency. “We did the same thing with the FHFA. There was a desire to get rid of [then-FHFA Acting Director Edward] DeMarco,” Miller recalled in an interview with The Intercept. “We couldn’t find a way around it because the statute was really clear. It said if there was a vacancy, the statute requires Senate confirmation. The president just can’t appoint someone to serve. It’s the same thing here, there’s a clear statutory succession.”

Laurence Tribe, a renowned constitutional scholar at Harvard Law School, agreed that the statute is clear.
The OLC, in the memo filed [over the weekend], to its credit, admits that the references to unavailability and absence encompass vacancy. They’re not trying to argue that the statute doesn’t cover this. They’re trying to have it both ways. They’re arguing that the president retains an option under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to override subsequent legislation. They’re trying to have half a loaf and make it a whole loaf. It’s an interesting position but it collapses on itself. It’s completely incoherent. Laws are not typically written that way.

 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pushed back against the Mulvaney pick. “The process for succession laid out in Dodd Frank is clear: Leandra English, not Mick Mulvaney, is the acting director of the CFPB. By attempting to install Mr. Mulvaney as director, the Trump administration is ignoring the established, proper, legal order of succession that we purposefully put in place, in order to put a fox in charge of a hen house,” he said in a statement.

Our democracy is being attacked two ways.  First, our alliances and influence are being undermined through Trump’s unbound loyalty to Russia and the greed of those who are like Trump himself.  Like Trump, many are Trust Fund babies who would have never been successful without the largess of their fathers and grandfathers. Second, all social contracts which help Americans join and keep Middle Class Status are being dismantled while we sit like frogs in a pan of water set to boil.  They are going after everything in the chaos of right now and all at once. We’re pulled in many directions trying to protect everything.

In even more depressing news, the Koch Brothers–again Trust Babies for Stealing the Nation’s Wealth–have bought Time Magazine.  At a time when our free press is so under constant attack, this is really bad.

That Charles and David Koch are putting $650m into Meredith Corp’s purchase of Time would ordinarily be cause for great soul-searching in media. But these are not ordinary times.

Meredith’s Koch-backed deal with Time – which owns, in addition to Time magazine, titles including People, Fortune and Sports Illustrated – was sealed Sunday night. Meredith said in a statement announcing the deal that they are building “a premier media company serving nearly 200 million American consumers.”

Observers of Koch Industries, a longtime supporter of libertarian and conservative causes, especially generous with funding for climate denial through thinktanks and research groups, say more than business is at stake.

“It’s a very proper business decision – a cheap way to wield even more political influence,” said Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker writer and key figure in the environmental movement as founder of the group 350.org. “The return on investment on their political work is off the charts, I fear.”

At first glance, the oil and gas giant’s reason for backing the bid by Meredith is not readily apparent. Sure, the Kochs have appeared on the Time 100 list – in 2011, 2014 and 2015 – and David Koch has lunched with the magazine’s former editor. But what kind of money-minded mogul would pivot to print in 2017 – and to Time, of all places?

“Time magazine doesn’t move the needle on anything any more,” said Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University. “It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Unless they want to influence the Fortune 500 rankings or something.”

As a spokesman put it to a media reporter recently, Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the US, virtually all of which is co-owned by the brothers, “has a longstanding policy of not commenting on deals” — and this latest infusion of cash to Meredith from their private equity arm, Koch Equity Development, is no exception to that rule. But at least some of what the brothers have poured money into over the years is a matter of public record.

The Kochs have, for instance, spent hundreds of millions on not-for-profit organizations, universities, advocacy groups and political campaigns. Though payback on donations is perceptible only through influence, in Time, they would also have an asset.

I’ll end with What Sarah Wrote.

The erosion of freedom of speech and assembly has always been a hallmark of dictatorship, one traditionally associated with formal decrees of censorship or dramatic acts like book burning. In Mr. Trump’s corporatized administration, overt state censorship is unnecessary and undesirable: Instead, technology can be manipulated while excessive litigation can force the media into self-censorship. The subtler gesture of removing the neutrality of the internet allows constitutional rights to remain intact on paper but demolished in practice.

The FCC’s proposed rollback of net neutrality arrives with two other measures that mark the beginning of a more abjectly fascist phase for the United States – a systemic transformation that will likely endure after Trump leaves office. Along with the loss of a free internet, we face the packing of the courts with conservative extremists who legal scholars worry will decimate constitutional rights. Many of these judicial appointments are for a lifetime, curbing civil liberties for generations to come.

Americans also face a serious threat to the integrity of elections, with gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, a bogus “voter fraud” commission, insecure voting machines, and foreign interference that is not only unchallenged but is sometimes encouraged by Republicans all adding up to the likelihood that the 2018 midterm elections will not be free or fair. Voter suppression will likely be rampant, with non-white and immigrant Americans the primary targets of disenfranchisement.

And here we lie at the interconnected horror of the Trump administration’s autocratic manoeuvres. Consider this scenario for 2018: The repeal of net neutrality will stem the flow of information, making voter suppression harder to document. The packing of the courts will make the voter suppression that is documented harder to challenge. And the long-standing solution to purveyors of unpopular policies – vote them out – will be, by definition, impossible, since the election is rigged and the rigging uncontestable. This carefully constructed web of repression is how democracy dies.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

Reading Newspapers, by Hassan Jouni

Good Morning!!

We’re finally having a somewhat slow news day; maybe the rest of the weekend will be quiet. Trump is golfing, so for the time being we can assume he won’t blow us all up.

I’m still angry about the media’s obsession with Al Franken’s supposed sexual harassment. Here’s a post by a woman who expresses what I’ve been feeling: A Survivor’s Defense of Al Franken. An excerpt:

What Leeanne Tweeden has done is stolen the very real traumas of very survivors — people like me — and mocked them. What she has done is taken our pain and our bravery and our strength and exploited it on behalf of a network of people that actively prey on the women and children she is pretending to show solidarity with. What she is doing is vile and it is disgusting and it is dangerous on every personal and political level associated with sexual assault in the United States.

Perhaps if she was, in fact, a survivor of sexual assault she would understand the damage that is being caused by her actions. But she is not a survivor. And she is definitely not a victim of Al Franken.

Leeanne was never raped. She was never assaulted. And she was never the victim of sexual violence or harassment. She was a willing and active participant in a comedy show that involved sexualized behaviors. She consented to participating. She actively engaged in and invited similar behaviors with other performers other than Al Franken at the event….

 

The morning paper, James Guthrie

Al Franken’s tasteless joke didn’t make her fear for her life. It didn’t make her burn the clothes she was wearing that night. It didn’t make her scrub herself clean in the shower until her skin tore off. This joke didn’t keep her up shaking and puking and sobbing on the floor of a shower as she bled down a drainpipe. It didn’t send her to the clinic for STD tests.

Al Franken’s joke didn’t crush her notion of who she was or how she could walk in this world. This joke didn’t give her PTSD or depression or any of the lasting forms of struggle that true rape and assault victims must face minute by minute. It hasn’t informed every relationship she’s had since. And it wasn’t in any way what so ever a form of rape, assault or even harassment….

What Tweeden is, is a willing participant in a new skit in which the Republican Party uses her completely normal interaction with Al Franken as an excuse to accuse a Democratic Senator of sexual assault, deflect from the charges of rape and pedophilia in the highest ranks of their own party, and test drive a strategy by which they can gain increasing amounts of power by exploiting the sexual traumas of women and children.

Please read the whole thing. By going along with this charade, Democrats are handing power over to Republicans who want to take away women’s rights and freedom to control our own bodies. They would be much better allies to all Americans if they focused more energy on what Trump and his gang are doing to our government.

The New York Times: Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out in Droves.

Of all the State Department employees who might have been vulnerable in the staff reductions that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has initiated as he reshapes the department, the one person who seemed least likely to be a target was the chief of security, Bill A. Miller.

Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton for what they claimed was her inadequate attention to security as secretary of state in the months before the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Congress even passed legislation mandating that the department’s top security official have unrestricted access to the secretary of state.

But in his first nine months in office, Mr. Tillerson turned down repeated and sometimes urgent requests from the department’s security staff to brief him, according to several former top officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Finally, Mr. Miller, the acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security, was forced to cite the law’s requirement that he be allowed to speak to Mr. Tillerson.

Man reading a newspaper report of the Emancipation Proclamation, Henry Louise Stephens

Mr. Miller got just five minutes with the secretary of state, the former officials said. Afterward, Mr. Miller, a career Foreign Service officer, was pushed out, joining a parade of dismissals and early retirements that has decimated the State Department’s senior ranks. Mr. Miller declined to comment.

Exactly what we should expect from a man who was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin. The Trump gang is deliberately weakening the U.S. government in order to help Russia. There really can be no doubt about it at this point.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m reading the new book Collusion, by Luke Harding of The Guardian. It’s a real eye-opener, let me tell you. If you don’t want to read the book, I recommend listening to or reading this interview of Harding by Terri Gross on Fresh Air.  That’s a link to the transcript.

CBS News: Donald Trump’s science office is a ghost town.

In its 41-year-old history as the White House hub of innovation, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has never gone this long without a leader or official mandate. The science office, which takes up half of the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, has a fleet of empty desks.

The OSTP, as administration staffers refer to it, has hosted two events since President Trump took office: One on drones and another on “American Leadership in Emerging Technology” that prominently featured the high powered tech executives in attendance like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

But nine months into his administration, there’s no clear indication that the president is close to naming a science adviser who will inform his policymaking, though that’s the mission that the OSTP has played since its founding in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. From climate change to space to education, the office has served as an in-house incubator for research, data, and crisis management that drove policy under seven presidents.

A White House official, when asked when there would be a nomination for OSTP director and science adviser to the president, said there were no personnel announcements to be made at this time.

Under Mr. Trump, the OSTP staff has dropped to 45 staffers, a substantial decline from President Obama’s OSTP, which had a staff of 135 people. Another difference from the Obama years — the majority of Mr. Trump’s OSTP staffers do not have a background in science. The office hasn’t formally been restructured, but a White House official said the team has “naturally” streamlined over the past few months with a narrowed focus on three main issues: technology, science, and national security.

The Independent: Donald Trump running the most dishonest White House ever, says historian.

Reading the News, Sigurd Swane

Robert Dallek, who has written a number of books including Franklin Roosevelt: A Political Life, believes the current administration ranks as one of the most corrupt in US history.

Trump is the head of government, and people know they can get away with things,” he said in an interview with Vox.

“Like Nixon, Trump has created a culture in his administration in which people feel comfortable with corruption.”

Asked whether the Trump administration was the most dishonest he had ever seen or studied, he replied: “Yes. Politicians lie, but this is different.”

Listing examples of corruption in the White House – including the indictment of Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s failure to disclose $1 billion in loans connected to his real estate company – Mr Dallek said the President’s habit of lying was to blame.

Again, Trump’s lying is a big facilitator of all this corruption. This is a guy who will look right into the camera and lie without any hesitation at all.

“It’s hard to overstate what kind of tone that sets in an administration; it makes everyone more comfortable when they lie, when they deceive, when they cover things up,” he said.

Puerto Rico is still struggling more than month after the hurricane, and Trump’s neglect of American citizens there and on the Virgin Islands is a scandal and a disgrace. But non-governmental organizations are stepping in to help.

CBS Boston: Mass. General Hospital Sending Team To Puerto Rico For Hurricane Relief.

Massachusetts is sending a team of medical professionals to help with hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

The state Emergency Management Agency says the 26-person team from Massachusetts General Hospital will deploy Saturday and work on the Caribbean island for about 16 days.

I never knew this before, but the article says that “Massachusetts has among the highest concentrations of Puerto Rican families in the country.”

WGRZ.COM: National Grid workers deploy to Puerto Rico through holidays.

WESTERN NEW YORK – Utility workers have to expect the unexpected, and that means working holidays when duty calls.

In the case of Puerto Rico’s power crisis, National Grid workers are helping out, and for those headed to the island or those already there, they’ll be missing holidays with their families this year.

“Mutual aid…it’s kind of the hallmark of what utilities do all across the country. This is certainly a little bit of a special situation,” said Steve Brady, a spokesperson for National Grid.

Brady describes the logistics of helping restore power to Puerto Rico as uniquely challenging, but the fact that the company is helping out is not unusual. National Grid workers recently returned after helping in aftermath of Hurricane Irma….

Another 40 or more lineworkers and supervisors will be deployed early next week. They’ll be there for at least six weeks.

That’s all I have for today. I hope all you Sky Dancers are having a nice, peaceful weekend.


Friday Reads: UnThanksgiving

Good Afternoon!

Three of these pictures have real Presidents doing real presidentin’ things from the last 20 years. Then, there is the current president* enriching his businesses on the taxpayer’s dollars and basically doing nothing.  At least he’s not giving a speech or twittering from the golden piss pot.

I probably just spent the weirdest thanksgiving ever.  I stayed home and eventually made fajitas and only ate a little. All the food that was brought home to me just looked like the most unappetizing piles of globby gook and dried out meat I’ve ever seen. I miss family Thanksgiving in the cabin in the mountains around Estates Park which hasn’t happened for almost 30 years.  Yesterday. There was no TV. There was just Daddy cooking and every one playing card games, reading, or doing outdoorsy stuff. And, no one wanted to talk about Ronald Reagan.

I just still wasn’t together enough to be around people. Now, I have to slog through National Crass Consumerism month and try to sneak in and out of the grocery store quickly.  Lucky for me, the closest bodega is owned by an Orthodox Jewish Immigrant from Iran so crassmas bombardment is much smaller there.

I hope you seriously got to avoid the worst of the holiday yesterday and could enjoy and be thankful for what’s good to you and yours. I really hope you got to avoid watching ‘the’ speech to the Coast Guard by the president*/Russian Potted Plant.  I’m relying here on Tom Sullivan for the full effect.

We know by now the sitting president has problem keeping state secrets when boasting is an option. It seems he revealed yesterday the existence of invisible U.S. fighter jets.

View image on Twitter

But you’ll notice freedom is out as a presidential shibboleth. This president doesn’t care about freedom so much as winning. Instead of parading around the mess hall in person with a plastic turkey, the sitting president graced troops with his telepresence:

“Everybody’s talking about the progress you’ve made in the last few months since I opened it up,” Trump said about his decision to add a small number of troops to the 16-year long conflict in Afghanistan. “We opened it up, we said go ahead, we’re going to fight to win. We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around, we’re fighting to win. And you people, you’ve really turned it around in the past three to four months like nobody’s seen and they are talking about it. So thank you very much, brave, incredible fighters.”

“We’re being talked about as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win,” Trump said. “But we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before. They were letting you play even. We’re letting you win.”Which, of course, is only possible because Himself is in the White House.

The nation’s sick children are not winning. States are preparing to shut down S-Chip.  Doncha just love those death panels in Congress?  Ya know, the pro-life twits?  This is what you get when racist, greedy, shitbags elect other racist, greedy shitbags.

Officials in nearly a dozen states are preparing to notify families that a crucial health insurance program for low-income children is running out of money for the first time since its creation two decades ago, putting coverage for many at risk by the end of the year.

Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline to extend funding for CHIP, as the Children’s Health Insurance Program is known. Nearly 9 million youngsters and 370,000 pregnant women nationwide receive care because of it.

Many states have enough money to keep their individual programs afloat for at least a few months, but five could run out in late December if lawmakers do not act. Others will start to exhaust resources the following month.

The looming crunch, which comes despite CHIP’s enduring popularity and bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, has dismayed children’s health advocates.

“We are very concerned, and the reason is that Congress hasn’t shown a strong ability to get stuff done,” said Bruce Lesley, president of Washington-based First Focus, a child and family advocacy organization. “And the administration is completely out, has not even uttered a syllable on the issue. How this gets resolved is really unclear, and states are beginning to hit deadlines.”

So, here is some absolutely horrid news from Libya where immigrants are being sold at Slave Markets.  There’s been pretty much world outrage about this since a video appeared although not from the US.

After a video surfaced showing migrants apparently being sold at auction in Libya, people worldwide have been calling for action.

Last week, CNN published a report on modern slavery in Libya, featuring a video that reportedly was shot in August and a9ppeared to show a man selling African migrants for farm work.

“Big strong boys,” the man said in the video, according to a CNN narrator. “400 … 700 … 800,” he called out the mounting prices. The men were eventually sold for about $400 each, CNN reported. The Libyan government said it has launched an investigation into slave auctions in the country.

Following the CNN report, demonstrators took to the streets in Paris and other cities last week to express their outrage, and Libyans showed their solidarity on Twitter with the hashtag #LibyansAgainstSlavery.

Several world leaders spoke out as well. The chairman of the African Union, Guinean President Alpha Condé, called it a “despicable trade … from another era” on Friday. The U.N. Support Mission in Libya said Wednesday that it was “dismayed and sickened,” and is “actively pursuing” the matter with Libyan authorities.

I am horrified at news reports and video footage showing African migrants in Libya reportedly being sold as slaves,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said to reporters on Monday. “Slavery has no place in our world, and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity.”

Here’s what the placemarker in the oval office is outraged about.

He doesn’t appear to be aware that no one’s gone to make and try to sell stuff here–let alone invest in factories or workers–if there’s no growing middle class with incomes to buy the stuff.  It still appears I’m not up to being out among humanity if that’s what it’s gone back to these days.   Wonder if Kremlin Caligula and Tiger discussed what it’s like to have blonde ex-wives?

Did I mention I’m thankful for Robert Mueller and Colin Kaepernick?  Seems like I may have joined the UnThanksgiving movement.

Colin Kaepernick made a surprise appearance at the Alcatraz Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering on Thursday.

A tradition since 1975, the annual dawn festivities, also known as Unthanksgiving Day, commemorate the 1969-71 occupation of Alcatraz by American Indians, during which 89 American Indian activists and leaders occupied the island and former penitentiary with the demands that it be turned into an Indian cultural center and school.

Between traditional dancing and speeches, Kaepernick delivered a message of resistance and hope to the thousands gathered on the island:

“I realize that our fight is the same fight. We’re all fighting for our justice, for our freedom, and realizing that we’re in this fight together makes it all the more powerful.

If there’s one thing that I take away from today and seeing the beauty of everybody out here, it’s that we’re only getting stronger every day, we’re only getting larger and larger every day. I see the strength in everybody.

The dancing, the rituals – that is our resistance. We continue to fight. We continue to fight for justice. We fight for our freedom, and we continue on that path.”

Just some more man’s inhumanity to humanity stuff today to report besides the 63 million shitbags that stuck us with Kremlin Caligula.  Read at your own risk.

There was a deadly mosque attack in Egypt.

Sarah Jeffe writes that “There are no Safe Spaces”,

“Here’s your leftover turkey: The case for Hillary Clinton 2020. What better way to honor the holiday than with a spiteful argument for yet another Clinton candidacy?”

1. Hillary Clinton is the Winston Churchill to Vladimir Putin’s Adolf Hitler.

I agree with the basic principle of Godwin’s Law: The first person to invoke Hitler in a political debate should normally lose. The exception, of course, has to be when someone has genuine Hitler-like qualities. A foreign despot who has invaded neighboring countries and has a right-wing nationalist agenda is about as Nazi-like as you can get.

Okay, I’ll end with this.  Hopefully, I’ll be a bit more chipper, literate, and verbose on Monday.  Take care!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: I’m Tired! So Tired!

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

This is later than usual and I’m sorry. This is the third time to the Vet these last few days with Miles this morning and I seriously had to take nap.  My hope is that he’s stabilized and will continue to mend some so we can figure out if he has any underlying problems other than his diabetes.  He’s been keeping me up at nights with a routine like a newborn so I feel like I’ve been through the ringer.

BB has helped me out this morning with some enlightening and freaky things going on with the Russian Collaboration investigation.  Foreign Policy reports on “How Jared Kushner’s Newspaper Became a Favorite Outlet for WikiLeaks Election Hacks.”  It appears that his paper, “The New York Observer, owned by Trump’s son-in-law, was a friendly outlet for the 2016 Russian hackers.”

In the fall of 2014, Julian Assange, the embattled head of WikiLeaks, was meeting with a steady stream of supportive journalists in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had taken refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges. Among those seeking an audience with Assange was a freelancer working for the New York Observer, the newspaper owned and published by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and key advisor, Jared Kushner.

Ken Kurson, the newspaper’s editor in chief — along with a freelance writer he’d hired — helped arrange a “no-holds-barred” interview with Assange that October.

I can’t see how there isn’t a building amount of evidence that Kushner and Trump, Jr. didn’t actively coordinate with Russian Assets. It’s also evident that the Justice Department is now providing any evidence of Trump’s motivations in the Comey Firing.

Special counselRobert Mueller‘s team investigating whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct a federal inquiry into connections between his presidential campaign and Russian operatives has now directed the Justice Department to turn over a broad array of documents, ABC News has learned.

In particular, Mueller’s investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBIDirector James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter, according to a source who has not seen the request but was told about it.

Issued within the past month, the directive marks the special counsel’s first records request to the Justice Department, and it means Mueller is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation.

Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein played key roles in Comey’s removal. And Sessions has since faced withering criticism from Trump over his recusal and Rosenstein’s subsequent appointment of Mueller.

Mueller’s investigators now seek not only communications among Justice Department staffers but also any of their communications with White House officials, the source said. Before this request, investigators asked former senior Justice Department officials for information from their time at the department, ABC News was told.

The latest move suggests the special counsel is still digging into, among other matters, whether Trump or any other administration official improperly tried to influence an ongoing investigation.

I love this OP ED in the NYT entitled: “We’re With Stupid”.  Maybe love isn’t  quite the right word here.  I continually wonder what on earth brings a group of supposed Christians into the fold of such a lying huckster.

The Russians also uploaded a thousand videos to YouTube and published more than 130,000 messages on Twitter about last year’s election. As recent congressional hearings showed, the arteries of our democracy were clogged with toxins from a hostile foreign power.

But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.

As we crossed the 300-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency on Thursday, fact-checkers noted that he has made more than 1,600 false or misleading claims. Good God. At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true.

We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government. When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

Fake news is a real thing produced by active disseminators of falsehoods. Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere.

But Trump is a symptom; the breakdown in this democracy goes beyond the liar in chief. For that you have to blame all of us: we have allowed the educational system to become negligent in teaching the owner’s manual of citizenship.

It seems illiteracy in all things democratic and Constitutional has broken our Republic and led to Trumpism.  We’re six months into the Mueller investigation and a little over ten months into Kremlin Caligula’s rule of kleptocracy.  How are those within the White House dealing with the pressure.  WAPO has an interesting read on this in a piece titled ” ‘A long winter’: White House aides divided over scope, risks of Russia probe.”

Some in the West Wing avoid the mere mention of Russia or the investigation whenever possible. Others take solace in the reassurances of White House lawyer Ty Cobb that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will be wrapping up the probe soon and the president and those close to him will be exonerated. And a few engage in grim gallows humor, privately joking about wiretaps.

The investigation reached a critical turning point in recent weeks, with a formal subpoena to the campaign, an expanding list of potential witnesses and the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Some within Trump’s circle, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, have already been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators, while others such as Hope Hicks — the White House communications director and trusted confidant of the president — and White House counsel Donald McGahn are expected in coming weeks.

One Republican operative in frequent contact with the White House described Mueller’s team “working through the staff like Pac-Man.”

“Of course they are worried,” said the Republican, who insisted on anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “Anybody that ever had the words ‘Russia’ come out of their lips or in an email, they’re going to get talked to. These things are thorough and deep. It’s going to be a long winter.”

Upcoming witness Hope Hicks may have the keys to many of the big answers. The larges of these is the obstruction charge because that would go to the heart of removing this usurper child from the Oval Office.

A report from Politico this week, which found that the special counsel Robert Mueller is gearing up to interview the White House communications director, Hope Hicks, indicates that one of the many threads of the Russia investigation is probably moving into its final stages.

Hicks has long been one of President Donald Trump’s most trusted advisers, and she was present during some events that are key to the special counsel’s investigation.

Mueller’s investigation includes multiple components. In addition to looking into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, the special counsel is also investigating Trump on suspicion of obstruction of justicerelated to his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director.

As part of that investigation, ABC News reported on Sunday, Mueller has asked the Department of Justice for all emails connected to Comey’s firing.

Mueller has also requested documents related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation. Sessions announced his recusal in March after it emerged that he had failed to disclose contacts with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the US, in his Senate confirmation hearing in January.

Despite his recusal, Sessions played a prominent role in Comey’s firing, as did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Hicks was also a key presence during several critical moments leading up to Comey’s dismissal.

Comey was spearheading the FBI’s Russia investigation when he was terminated as FBI director in May. At first, the White House said he was fired because of his handling of the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business as secretary of state. But Trump later told NBC’s Lester Holt that “this Russia thing” had been a factor in his decision

The most compelling Trump Russia read of the day is this from The Daily Beast. “Roman Beniaminov, a Low-Profile Real Estate Exec Turned Pop Star Manager, Knew About Russia’s ‘Dirt’ on Hillary.”

Days before the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, a low-profile real estate figure with ties to powerful Russians alerted a meeting participant that the topic of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton could come up, The Daily Beast has learned.

That figure, Roman Beniaminov, didn’t attend the meeting himself. But he had close ties to several figures in and around it, including Emin Agalarov, the Azeri-Russian pop star who helped set up that Trump Tower confab and whose father is an ally of Vladimir Putin.

Ike Kaveladze was one of the participants in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Jared KushnerPaul ManafortDonald Trump Jr., and Kremlin-connected attorney Natalia Vesilnitskaya. Kaveladze told Congressional investigators that when he was first invited to participate, he was under the impression that he would just be there as a translator and that the meeting would involve discussion of Magnitsky Act sanctions.

Scott Balber, Kaveladze’s attorney, told The Daily Beast that before Kaveladze headed from Los Angeles to New York for the meeting, he saw an email noting that Kushner, Manafort, and Trump Jr. would all be involved. He thought it would be odd for them to attend the meeting, so he called Beniaminov before heading to New York. Both Beniaminov and Kaveladze have worked with the Agalarov’s real estate development company, the Crocus Group.

Balber said that Beniaminov told Kaveladze that he heard Rob Goldstone— Emin Agalarov’s music manager— discuss “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. It’s never become completely clear what kind of “dirt” the Russians were talking about.

According to Balber, Beniaminov was the only person to give Kaveladze any information about the meeting’s purpose.

“That was the only data point Ike had, which was inconsistent with everything else he had heard, which was that the meeting was about the Magnitsky Act,” Balber said.

I still take Trumpzilla’s word for it but I guess they may need more than that given his history of lying and braggadocio.  Trump still could fire Mueller but it doesn’t look imminent.  This is mostly because they all think it will be over shortly. Like, it will be done after this weekend or at least a by Christmas.

A source close to the administration tells the Post that Mueller is running “a classic Gambino-style roll-up” that “will reach everyone in this administration.” When you read histories of the more successful presidential administrations in American history, a phrase you don’t usually come across is “Gambino-style roll-up.”

However, in the face of this mounting evidence and the warnings of some allies, Trump has remained — by Trump’s standards — fairly calm. Obviously, by the standards of a normal president, he is acting like a complete lunatic. But given Trump’s patterns of spewing indiscriminate rage and abuse and lashing out at his enemies in wildly counterproductive fashion, he has conducted himself with notable restraint. Despite his barely concealed impulses, Trump has refrained from mass pardons or attempting to fire Mueller.

The apparent reason for his serenity is that his lawyer, Ty Cobb, has placated Trump with promises that Mueller’s probe would be over soon. “The president himself, however, has warmed to Cobb’s optimistic message on Mueller’s probe. Cobb had initially said he hoped the focus on the White House would conclude by Thanksgiving,” the Post reports.

Thanksgiving. It will all be over by Thanksgiving.

By this point, three days before Thanksgiving, it should be relatively clear Mueller’s work is not going to be completed before the turkey is served. The Post notes that Cobb “adjusted the timeline slightly in an interview last week, saying he remains optimistic that it will wrap up by the end of the year, if not shortly thereafter.”

If you want an excellent read letting you know just how low Trump can go try this one by  It’s an exciting little thriller about “Trump’s ‘Great Relationship’ With A Homicidal Drug Warrior.”

When Maximo Garcia heard that he was on a list of local drug suspects in Mayombo, he tried to clear his name with the police chief, explaining that he no longer used drugs and had never sold them. Four days later, the Philippine news site Rappler reports, a masked gunman shot up Garcia’s house as he and his family were eating lunch, wounding him and killing his 5-year-old granddaughter.

So it goes in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has claimed somewhere between 7,000 and 13,000 lives since he took office in June 2016. Although Duterte’s bloody crusade has drawn international criticism, Donald Trump evidently did not think the subject was worth broaching during his meeting with Duterte in Manila on Monday.

Trump, who, this week, bragged about his “great relationship” with Duterte, had previously praised his Philippine counterpart’s “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Trump meant that as a compliment, but the viciousness of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign does beggar belief.

“If you know any addicts,” Duterte told a crowd of supporters after taking office, “go ahead and kill them yourself, as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” A few months later, he likened himself to Hitler, saying “there’s 3 million drug addicts” in the Philippines, and “I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

Well, I’m working right now and I’m still Miles go for everything nurse.  You can see I love him like a kid since every one these photos are of him.  He’s also a cat of many talents.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  Have a great week!!!