Wednesday Reads: The Great Wall of Africa

 

 

NO, it is not The onion…

 

Donald Trump urged Spain to ‘build the wall’ – across the Sahara | US news | The Guardian

Donald Trump suggested the Spanish government tackled the Mediterranean migration crisis by emulating one of his most famous policies and building a wall across the Sahara desert, the country’s foreign minister has revealed.

According to Josep Borrell, the US president brushed off the scepticism of Spanish diplomats – who pointed out that the Sahara stretched for 3,000 miles – saying: “The Sahara border can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.”

Trump wooed voters in the 2016 election with his promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” across the US/Mexico border, which is roughly 2,000 miles long.

A similar plan in the Sahara, however, would be complicated by the fact that Spain holds only two small enclaves in north Africa – Ceuta and Melilla – and such a wall would have to be built on foreign territory.

Borrell’s comments were made at a lunch event in Madrid this week and widely reported in the Spanish media. “We can confirm that’s what the minister said, but we won’t be making any further comment on the minister’s remarks,” said a spokesman for the foreign ministry.

But let’s get down to more serious matters, like this news from last evening…another notch to add to tRump’s wall of shame.

Moving on to Dr. Ford:

 

I know this post is late, so here are the funnies:

Kavanaugh confirmation: 09/19/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Kavanaugh confirmation

Actually, I could finish it with that single cartoon. Powerful stuff there.

SHE SAID HE SAID: 09/19/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - SHE SAID HE SAID

Kavanaugh Defense: 09/18/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Kavanaugh Defense

Kavanaugh accuser: 09/17/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Kavanaugh accuser

MEPATHY: 09/16/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - MEPATHY

The fake out : 09/15/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - The fake out

Cyclone of denial: 09/14/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Cyclone of denial

09/19/2018 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

09/19/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

09/18/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

09/15/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

09/19/2018 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

09/18/2018 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

09/13/2018 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 09/19/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

09/19/2018 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

Trade Fortune: 09/19/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Trade Fortune

Supreme Groping: 09/18/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Supreme Groping

Kavanaugh’s oath: 09/19/2018 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Kavanaugh's oath

Duterte Silences His Critics: 09/19/2018 Cartoon by Angelo Lopez

Cartoon by Angelo Lopez - Duterte Silences His Critics

Put that Duterte cartoon into a tRump context….

09/18 Mike Luckovich: You left the seat up.

And on that note…this is an open thread.

Advertisements

Lazy Saturday Reads: Another Wild Week In Crazytown

By David Hettinger

Good Afternoon!!

We’ve reached the end of another stunning week in Trump world, culminating in the news that Paul Manafort has flipped and SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh may be a sexual predator. How much more of this can we take?

It’s difficult to believe that it was only this Tuesday the Bob Woodward’s book Fear was released. I’ve been reading it and, difficult as this is to believe, it is even more surreal than Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. We are truly living on the edge of disaster every single day under this “president.”

The cable networks have been obsessed with Hurricane Florence for days now, to the point that there was little coverage of the Manafort plea deal and the shocking news that Trump’s SCOTUS nominee allegedly tried to rape a woman when he was in high school.

It’s really difficult to know what to focus on today, so I’m just going to offer some reads that have caught my attention this morning.

Harry Litman at USA Today: Manafort plea is new proof that Mueller is Trump’s worst nightmare. He’s on to him.

It’s tempting to view Paul Manafort’s guilty plea and cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe in gladiatorial terms: Manafort brought utterly to heel; Mueller in full triumph; and the vainglorious orange-haired Emperor sulking in the royal box, his chosen warrior having turned tail and abandoned him.

By Claude Grobety

The actual story is even more exhilarating. In his all-out, morally bankrupt assault on the Mueller probe, the president had chosen Manafort as his poster child for justice. Manafort, the multi-million dollar tax cheat and mercenary servant of Russia’s interests, became Manafort, the stand-up guy. And the two men appeared to be enacting an obstruction of justice in plain view: Manafort keeping quiet and going to jail in the expectation of a corrupt pardon from Trump, which the president had shown himself very willing to give.

All that is blown to bits after the plea deal announcement, which is, more than anything, a triumph for the rule of law and the notion that, Rudy Giuliani’s buffoonish proclamations to the contrary, truth is truth.

What does the Manafort deal mean for Trump?

For the president, the plea agreement from his former campaign chair is at least a huge blow and potentially disastrous. It had been widely reported that Trump believed Manafort could incriminate him and took great relief from the thought that he would keep his lips sealed.

For starters, Manafort likely knows whether Trump had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr. to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, which would expose the president to co-conspirator liability. Manafort likewise was at the center of the manipulation of the Republican platform to favor Russian interests in the Ukraine.

By Jane Peterson

More generally, Manafort’s shamed, mumbled court confession to all Mueller’s charges further makes more untenable Trump’s histrionic shrieks of “witch hunt,” which already had been losing purchase.

Manafort’s cooperation promise also may bode ill for Roger Stone, his former business partner, on whom Mueller already has been turning the vise, and possibly Jared Kushner, who worked closely with Manafort during the campaign and now is a senior adviser to his father-in-law at the White House.

Yes, there’s much more to come, and it seems clear now that Mueller isn’t worried about Rudy Giuliani’s threats about the investigation continuing as we approach the election. After all, Trump is not on any ballots.

I didn’t know that Manafort was involved in identity theft. The New York Times: How a Ukrainian Hairdresser Became a Front for Paul Manafort.

KIEV, Ukraine — At first glance, what happened to Yevgeny G. Kaseyev hardly seems like misfortune.

Without his knowledge, he says, unknown individuals set up multiple companies in his name and deposited tens of millions of dollars into those companies’ bank accounts.

“Sometimes it seems fun,” Mr. Kaseyev, a 34-year-old hairdresser, said with a shrug during an interview. “I’m a secret millionaire.”

Sally Strand – A Good Read (2008)

Until the authorities came calling, that is, seeking $30 million in back taxes.

One of the people who did business with a company opened under Mr. Kaseyev’s stolen identity didn’t mean anything to him. But the name certainly caught the eye of investigators in the United States: Paul J. Manafort.

Mr. Manafort, who worked for a decade as a political consultant in Ukraine before becoming chairman of the Trump campaign in 2016, made a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with the shell company under the hairdresser’s name. It was called Neocom Systems Limited, according to a Ukrainian lawmaker.

Read the rest of the twisted tale at the link.

On the Kavanaugh story, in July Sen. Diane Feinstein, the ranking member on on the Senate Judiciary Committee, received a letter from a woman who said that Brett Kavanaugh and a friend of his had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were high school students. From Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece:

The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.

Feinstein sat on the story until the Intercept published a report that she was keeping it secret, even from other Democrats on the committee.

Félix Vallotton (Swiss-born French, 1865-1925), La Liseuse (1922)

Kavanaugh and the friend, Mark Judge, both deny that the events happened. But it turns out Judge has a colorful past. He wrote a book about being a teenage alcoholic, and wrote a bizarre 2012 piece for The Daily Caller claiming that a black person stole his bicycle, even though he actually had no idea who had done it: The End Of My White Guilt. Judge parked his car with his bike on the roof when he went to church; when he returned, the bike was gone.

But  when I came back to my car after the stations, my bike, which had been locked to a bike rack on my car, was gone. I called the cops and filed a report. Then I walked around Brookland, the neighborhood around the Shrine, for an hour to see if I could spot it. I didn’t, but I did talk to some people who said there were a lot of kids around that day because the schools are out.

I went to college at Catholic University, which is right next to the National Shrine, and I know Brookland pretty well. It’s home to several Catholic religious orders (Brookland was once known as “Little Rome”). I could be pretty certain that on Good Friday a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which is across the street from where I was parked, had not nicked my bike. Neither had the monks at the Dominican House of Studies on the corner. The students at Catholic University were on Easter break. That left the neighborhoods around the university. Since the time I was an undergrad at Catholic University in the 1980s, most of the crime that has occurred on campus has come from those neighborhoods, which are predominately black. As sure as it took the D.C. cops forever to get to the parking lot to file a report, I knew that the odds were very high that a black person had taken my bike — maybe one of the kids that had been described.

I actually remember reading about this at the time, because Judge was roundly mocked on the internet. So this guy is Brett Kavanaugh’s alibi. Read more about him at Heavy: Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh’s Classmate: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.

There’s at least one other rumor going around about Kavanaugh:

It’s also weird that Kavanaugh clerked for Alex Kosinki, the judge who was forced to resign over accusations of sexual harassment; yet Kavanaugh claims he had no knowledge of Kosinki’s blatantly abusive behavior. Slate: I Received Some of Kozinski’s Infamous Gag List Emails. I’m Baffled by Kavanaugh’s Responses to Questions About Them, by Heidi Bond

When I came forward in December about my experience in Judge Alex Kozinski’s chambers, I said that when he showed me pictures of naked people without my co-clerks present, I felt isolated. Had they been there, I explained, “it would have felt like I was being treated as one of the guys. Kozinski was not known for being terribly appropriate, but I could handle that. Inappropriateness directed solely at me felt very different than chambers-wide jokes.”

Cynthia Reading by Rosina Emmet Sherwood (1854 – 1948)

Those chamberswide jokes that I alluded to have now become an issue in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski in the early 1990s and has maintained a close personal relationship with the judge. When Kavanaugh was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006, it was Kozinski who introduced him to the Senate.

For years, Kozinski maintained an email list known as the “Easy Rider Gag List,” to which he would send sexually explicit and otherwise raunchy jokes; the existence of the list was first publicized in 2008. In his hearings, Kavanaugh was asked by Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mazie Hirono if he was aware of the email list, and if he had received emails from Kozinski with sexually explicit content. In response to these questions, he said he couldn’t recall anything like that. And, in response to a written question for the record—“Has Judge Kozinski ever made comments about sexual matters to you, either in jest or otherwise?”—Kavanaugh responded, “I do not remember any such comments.”

This last response leaves me wondering whether Kavanaugh and I clerked for the same man. Kozinski’s sexual comments—to both men and women—were legendary.

Click on the link to read the rest.

I’m running out of time and space, so I’ll end with this strange story from The Washington Post: A solar observatory in New Mexico is evacuated for a week and the FBI is investigating. No one will say why.

 At a small solar observatory tucked away in the woods of a national forest here, scientists and other personnel were commanded last week to leave at once. A week later, the facility remains vacant, and no one is willing to say why.

By Julian Barrow

The mysterious and lengthy evacuation, in a state known for secretive military testing and a suspected UFO crash, has spawned a wealth of speculation.

Did the researchers spot something extraterrestrial? Was the solar telescope hacked by a foreign power and deployed to spy on, say, the state’s missile testing range? Or is there an innocuous explanation, suppressed only because of corporate and government resistance to transparency?

On Friday, the entrance to the National Solar Observatory was blocked by yellow crime scene tape and two security guards, who said even they had been kept in the dark. The guards, from Red Rock Security & Patrol in Las Cruces, N.M., did not give their names but said it was the first day the company was guarding the entrance and that only the “director and an assistant” were allowed in. There was no obvious sign of law enforcement activity.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit group that runs the facility said the organization was ad­dressing a “security issue,” but offered no additional information, other than, “I can tell you it definitely wasn’t aliens.” She said Friday that the facility “will remain closed until further notice.” Neither the FBI — which was spotted on the premises around the time of the evacuation — nor those who worked at the facility would tell local law enforcement what had happened, said Otero County Sheriff Benny House.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Frenetic Friday Fun: Big Pauly Sings, Flo Blows, Kavanaugh’s an accused rapist, and Russian Bots are all in for Ted Cruz

Huile sur toile (1925) de Vassily Kandinsky. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France. Donation Nina Kandinsky 1976. AM 1976-856

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I do not even know where to start. All I know is that I miss No Drama Obama more and more every day.  Oh, and Hillary Clinton was right about everything.  I could never be a morning drinker of anything but coffee or tea, but sheesh, a day like this could do it to me if I ever had any inclination at all.

Oh, and a Louisiana congressman just made the Hate Watch headlines for the SPLC because he’s a fucking racist who hangs out with known Hate Groups.  Two of these headlines come via The Bayou Brief and Lamar White Jr.  He’s on a roll again. Gotta love Lamar on a Roll!

And I’m all in for Kandinsky and Abstract Art today because it makes about as much sense as ANY of this.

Rep. Clay Higgins Recently Attended Two Conferences, One Hosted By A Hate Group And The Other By Climate Science Deniers. The freshman Republican from Louisiana’s Third District had already aligned himself with two anti-government militia groups.

Last week in the nation’s Capitol, Rep. Higgins attended a conference hosted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, better known as FAIR, a recognized hate group of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According to the advocacy group America’s Voices (emphasis added):

FAIR is an anti-immigrant hate group that was founded by white nationalist John Tanton, who helped create a network of anti-immigrant organizations — many of which are also hate groups. For this year’s “Hold Their Feet to the Fire”, an annual event, FAIR brought in anti-immigrant activists and far-right talk radio hosts from across the country to amplify their anti-immigrant messages. The conference also attracted a number of elected and appointed officials.

One of them was Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, who came to speake with far-right talk radio host Tom RotenOn the show, Vitiello defended the policy of separating families at the border and racistly characterized immigrants as the bearers of crime and disease.

Higgins was one of only ten elected official in attendance.

For our other report on Rep. Higgins’ associations with militia groups, click here. 

Yup. You read that right.  “TEN other elected officials in attendance.”

Wassily Kandinsky
In Grey (Im Grau) 1919
Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art moderne / centre de création industrielle. Bequest of Nina Kandinsky 1981

Beto O’Rourke is rocking and rolling Texas so much that the Red TrollBot Army has rushed to Ted Cruz’s side.  Either that or you believe Michelle Malkin’s view that millions of Texans got up to tweet at 2 am because they’re feeling the Ted so much.  BTW. there are three phone banks operating out of New Orleans around in support of Beto because New Orleans would like at least an adopted Senator that acts in their interests instead of the clueless twoless we’ve got.

This year, the entire country is watching the race between Beto O’Rourke, the dynamic young Congressman from El Paso who shares a name- Robert Frances- and more than a passing resemblance to another U.S. Senator, a man largely known by his initials, RFK.

In the early hours of Thursday, while searching for news about the Texas Senate race on Twitter, I noticed a troubling pattern, and I mentioned it:

As of this writing, my tweet has received 3.6 million impressions and more than 500,000 engagements from people all across the country and the world, making it- easily- the most viral tweet I’ve ever published. (For the first and likely the only time in my life, one of my tweets received more engagement than any of Donald Trump’s tweets that day).

The implication is clear: It defies logic and commonsense that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Texas voters decided to share the same exact tweet in the middle of the night.

Many, understandably, came to the same conclusion: 2AM CST is 10AM in Moscow, and considering the outsized role that Russian social media interference played in the 2016 election, it’s worth wondering whether this was a legitimate effort by the Cruz campaign or if they had been compromised.

Untitled,1922
Watercolor and ink on paper. 26.7 x 36.3 cm
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Following that is the Malkin mouthpiece site trying to explain it away.  Then, the Cruz campaign trying to explain it away. But, what follows that is highly interesting.

Unfortunately for the Perry and the Cruz campaign, it didn’t take much to discover that, in fact, this was not an organic response.

Christopher Bouzy, the creator of Bot Sentinel, a software system designed to “correctly identify propaganda bot/troll accounts with an accuracy of 98%,” conducted an independent forensic analysis of the tweets at issue.

“At first I thought it was a bunch of people just clicking the button like you suggested, until I realized many of the accounts are being tracked (by Bot Sentinel),” he explained to a skeptic.

“Unlike other machine learning tools designed to detect bots, we are not sacrificing accuracy for speed,” Bouzy explains. “We analyze hundreds of Tweets per each Twitter account to determine if an account exhibit irregular tweet activity or engaging in harassment.

And Bouzy was not the only data expert to verify that a significant number of the accounts that had blasted out Team Cruz’s message were, in fact, not real people.

Circles in a Circle (1923) by Wassily Kandinsky

LaMar is getting national attention again for this and I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Hayes or Lawrence or some one picks up on this story.  But, like I said, today is a helluva a news day.

So, I’m torn between the absolute jaw dropping accusations that Kavanaugh attempted to rape a girl in high school and the Manaford–not a very brave man–cooperation/plea deal.

Let’s go with the Kavanaugh charges since BB is much better than me at explaining the Russia intrigue.  It appears that Kavanaugh could possibly be Trump’s soul mate which is why he really really wants him on SCOTUS.  Ronan Farrow appears to be the go to for all things Me Too related.  This isn’t just sexual misconduct.  This is attempted rape.  I seriously doubt this anonymous woman is the only victim.  This makes Clarence Thomas look like an underachiever!  It’s much more Trumpish!

The woman, who has asked not to be identified, first approached Democratic lawmakers in July, shortly after Trump nominated Kavanaugh. The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.

In a statement, Kavanaugh said, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Kavanaugh’s classmate said of the woman’s allegation, “I have no recollection of that.”

The woman declined a request for an interview.

In recent months, the woman had told friends that Kavanaugh’s nomination had revived the pain of the memory, and that she was grappling with whether to go public with her story. She contacted her congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, a Democrat, sending her a letter describing her allegation. (When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Eshoo’s office cited a confidentiality policy regarding constituent services and declined to comment further on the matter.)

The letter was also sent to the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. As the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein was preparing to lead Democratic questioning of Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing weeks later. The woman contacted Feinstein’s office directly, according to multiple sources.

Composition II (1910)

High school boys can be completely awkward. They can be cads.  They can misread some signals.  This, however, shows signs of something completely off in what might sit  on SCOTUS pronouncing life and death sentences on laws that impact women’s lives significantly.

I cannot believe this was something he did once.  It’s way too twisted and pathological. It definitely explains his obsession with the Lewinsky details. Guy is a full on criminal perv.  Put his fat ass on the Sex Offender list.

Okay now to Big Pauly and his jailbird rock.  Manaford has a plea deal and is cooperating. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Pence and Trump will throw themselves off the top of the Rotunda rather than make the country suffer needlessly any more.  And wisdom beings, let them do it directly after Nancy becomes Speaker again. From Politico:

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller under a plea agreement revealed Friday.

Manafort appeared in a Washington, D.C., courtroom Friday morning, looking relaxed in a suit and red tie, to formally announce the deal.

The deal dismisses deadlocked charges against Manafort from an earlier bank- and tax-fraud trial in Virginia, but only after “successful cooperation” with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts. Later, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Manafort is agreeing to “cooperate fully and truthfully” with the investigation.

However, a source close to the defense told POLITICO, “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.”

Separately, the agreement calls for a 10-year cap on how long Manafort will be sent to prison, and for Manafort to serve time concurrently from his earlier Virginia trial and the D.C. case involving foreign-lobbying and money-laundering charges. But it will not release Manafort from jail, where he has been held since Mueller’s team added witness tampering charges during the run-up to the longtime lobbyist’s trial.

Manafort addressed Jackson in a soft voice, saying, “I do,” and, “I understand,” as she asked him whether he understood what rights he’s giving up.

“Has anybody forced you, coerced you or threatened you in any way?” she asked later.

“No,” Manafort replied in a barely audible voice. A deputy marshal stood directly behind Manafort, a reminder that he remains in custody.

Wassily Kandinsky, “Kleine Welten VIII” (1922) print

My guess is Trump will be out of control for days. Vox has more details.  Will some one please point Trump towards the staircase to the rotunda?

What does Manafort know?

So now that Manafort has flipped — what does he know about collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 campaign?

Previously, Manafort has said the answer is: nothing. That no collusion happened, so he would naturally have no information on this to provide.

But it’s seemed likely that Mueller has long believed otherwise, given his intense focus on Manafort. And there are two curious happenings during the campaign in particular that Manafort was involved in (that we know about).

The Trump Tower meeting: For one, there’s that infamous meeting at Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr. set up in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer and other Russia-tied figures. The three attendees of that meeting on the Trump side were Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Manafort. No attendee has become a cooperator for Mueller. Perhaps the special counsel does think more remains to be learned about this meeting and hopes Manafort will tell him about it.

Oleg Deripaska and Konstantin Kilimnik: Perhaps even more suspicious are Manafort’s surreptitious contacts with two Russian nationals during the campaign. There’s his former client, the oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort was heavily indebted. And there’s Manafort’s longtime business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who Mueller’s team has said is tied to Russian intelligence.

Just weeks after joining the Trump campaign, Manafort seemed to see an opportunity. He emailed Kilimnik in early April about his newly high media profile, writing, “How do we use to get whole,” and “Has OVD operation seen?” (Those are Deripaska’s initials.)

Then in July 2016, Manafort and Kilimnik exchanged emails about Deripaska again, as the Washington Post and the Atlantic reported last year. “I am carefully optimistic on the issue of our biggest interest,” Kilimnik said. “He will be most likely looking for ways to reach out to you pretty soon.” Manafort wrote that if Deripaska “needs private briefings we can accommodate.”

The pair’s emails on the topic grew vaguer and more cryptic as the summer continued. In late July, Kilimnik wrote to Manafort, “I met today with the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago. We spent about 5 hours talking about his story, and I have several important messages from him to you.” This, again, is believed to be about Deripaska, with “caviar” thought to be code for money.

Kilimnik and Manafort arranged a meeting in New York City to discuss the matter on August 2 — Kilimnik wrote that he had a “long caviar story” to tell and “several important messages.”

Days after the meeting, Deripaska took a yacht trip with Sergei Prikhodko, Russia’s deputy prime minister, who is focused on foreign policy. Again, all of this occurred while Manafort was chairing the Trump campaign, before his mid-August 2016 firing.

Now, this year, Kilimnik seemed keenly interested in keeping Manafort out of jail — he was indicted alongside Manafort for obstruction of justice in June, for allegedly trying to get witnesses to give a false story. Yet Kilimnik is unlikely to ever face those charges since he’s currently based in Moscow.

We still don’t know what happened between Manafort, Kilimnik, and Deripaska during the campaign. Maybe this where the action on Trump campaign/Russia collusion happened. Or maybe Manafort was just freelancing and trying to get himself paid, and it doesn’t involve Trump personally. But it’s one of the biggest loose ends about what happened in 2016.

Wassily Kandinsky
Unstable Balance 1930

Ah yes, Karma is such a beautiful bitch!

Marcie at emptywheel reminds us this is pardon proof!

And at this point, the deal is pardon proof. That was part of keeping the detail secret: to prevent a last minute pardon from Trump undercutting it.

Here’s why this deal is pardon proof:

  1. Mueller spent the hour and a half delay in arraignment doing … something. It’s possible Manafort even presented the key parts of testimony Mueller needs from him to the grand jury this morning.
  2. The forfeiture in this plea is both criminal and civil, meaning DOJ will be able to get Manafort’s $46 million even with a pardon.
  3. Some of the dismissed charges are financial ones that can be charged in various states.

Remember, back in January, Trump told friends and aides that Manafort could incriminate him (the implication was that only Manafort could). I believe Mueller needed Manafort to describe what happened in a June 7, 2016 meeting between the men, in advance of the June 9 meeting. I have long suspected there was another meeting at which Manafort may be the only other Trump aide attendee.

And Manafort has probably already provided evidence on whatever Mueller needed.

So here’s what Robert Mueller just did: He sewed up the key witness to implicate the President, and he paid for the entire investigation. And it’s only now lunch time.

As I disclosed July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

 

Okay, so AccuWeather reports that:  “Florence crawls over land as life-threatening flooding persists; Over 600,000 without power”.

Hundreds of thousands have lost power across North and South Carolina since Florence first began impacting the Carolinas on Thursday.

“Significant wind damage will lead to utility outages that may last several weeks, especially along the immediate coastline,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde warned.

Storm surge exceeded 10 feet in New Bern, North Carolina, on Thursday night, sending first responders out into the storm as many people were forced to their top floors and roofs. Similar flood conditions threaten coastal communities up and down the North Carolina coast.

Rainfall totals have already exceeded a foot at several locations, and the rain is not expected to let up any time soon.

“Florence has slowed to a crawl as expected, and this will only exacerbate the flooding situation for the Carolinas from now through Sunday,” Rinde said.

Early next week, Florence will bring a threat of heavy rainfall and flooding farther north up the spine of the Appalachians and perhaps into the eastern Ohio Valley.”

Wassily Kandinsky Clear connection (1925)

All of you in the zone please be careful!

I have a lot more but we’re going to have to keep it in the thread so any crazy news or whatever please post!  I’d like to talk about Cynthia Nixon and Susan Sarandon and their total exercise of white female privilege but that will have to wait for another day.  I just hope black women realize that there are many of us that having been trying to be allies in the struggle for civil rights and we are continually discovering our shortcomings in the struggle for equality for all.  At this point, I just listen and pass it forward and stand up and speak out when I see it. No woman or child in this country should experience any kind of persecution because of their sex, their color, their choice of life partner, or anything else. The first step is to shut up and listen.  Sarandon, Stein, and Nixon don’t seem to realize that.  All I can say is none of them speak for me.

Love you all!  Try to just embrace the chaos!

What’s on your reading and blogging today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Caturday and Kavanaugh

Good Afternoon!!

I’m getting a slow start today because I’ve been having stabbing pain in my right eye from falling asleep with my face in the pillow. I don’t know why this happens. It might be because I have surgically inserted lenses in my eyes. Anyway, that’s my excuse for being so late.

You’ve probably seen this by now, but when I read it last night everything about fell into place for me. Brett Kavanaugh is the culmination of the “vast right wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton warned us about so long ago.

NBC News: I knew Brett Kavanaugh during his years as a Republican operative. Don’t let him sit on the Supreme Court, by David Brock

Twenty years ago, when I was a conservative movement stalwart, I got to know Brett Kavanaugh both professionally and personally.

Brett actually makes a cameo appearance in my memoir of my time in the GOP, “Blinded By The Right.” I describe him at a party full of zealous young conservatives gathered to watch President Bill Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union address — just weeks after the story of his affair with a White House intern had broken. When the TV camera panned to Hillary Clinton, I saw Brett — at the time a key lieutenant of Ken Starr, the independent counsel investigating various Clinton scandals — mouth the word “bitch.”

But there’s a lot more to know about Kavanaugh than just his Pavlovian response to Hillary’s image. Brett and I were part of a close circle of cold, cynical and ambitious hard-right operatives being groomed by GOP elders for much bigger roles in politics, government and media.

Call it Kavanaugh’s cabal: There was his colleague on the Starr investigation, Alex Azar, now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Mark Paoletta is now chief counsel to Vice President Mike Pence; House anti-Clinton gumshoe Barbara Comstock is now a Republican member of Congress. Future Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson were there with Ann Coulter, now a best-selling author, and internet provocateur Matt Drudge.

Brock details how Kavanaugh became the “designated leaker” in the Starr investigation and how used his position to weaponize right wing conspiracy theories.

Another compatriot was George Conway (now Kellyanne’s husband), who led a secretive group of right-wing lawyers — we called them “the elves” — who worked behind the scenes directing the litigation team of Paula Jones, who had sued Clinton for sexual harassment. I knew then that information was flowing quietly from the Jones team via Conway to Starr’s office — and also that Conway’s go-to man was none other than Brett Kavanaugh.

That critical flow of inside information allowed Starr, in effect, to set a perjury trap for Clinton, laying the foundation for a crazed national political crisis and an unjust impeachment over a consensual affair.

Please read the rest if you haven’t already.

The New York Times Editorial Board weighs in on Kavanaugh: Confirmed: Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted. A perfect nominee for a president with no clear relation to the truth.

In a more virtuous world, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be deeply embarrassed by the manner in which he has arrived at the doorstep of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

He was nominated by a president who undermines daily the nation’s democratic order and mocks the constitutional values that Judge Kavanaugh purports to hold dear.

Now he’s being rammed through his confirmation process with an unprecedented degree of secrecy and partisan maneuvering by Republican senators who, despite their overflowing praise for his legal acumen and sterling credentials, appear terrified for the American people to find out much of anything about him beyond his penchant for coaching girls’ basketball.

Perhaps most concerning, Judge Kavanaugh seems to have trouble remembering certain important facts about his years of service to Republican administrations. More than once this week, he testified in a way that appeared to directly contradict evidence in the record.

Read numerous examples of Kavanaugh’s mendacity at the link.

Kavanaugh received and used stolen Democratic emails when he worked in the Bush White House, and he’s not the least bit sorry. The Washington Post: Leahy says Kavanaugh was ‘not truthful’ about Democratic documents.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said Friday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was “not truthful” when he denied knowing that he had received documents that Leahy said had been “stolen” from him and other Democrats.

Leahy said that emails disclosed during Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing this week buttress his case that Kavanaugh knew, or should have known, that he had received documents that Republican staffers took from a computer jointly shared with Democrats.

“There were numerous emails sent to him that made it very clear this was stolen information, including a draft letter from me,” Leahy said in an interview….

Leahy’s charge stems from an infamous episode between 2001 and 2003 when a Republican counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Manuel Miranda, learned that Democrats on the panel had put documents on a computer server shared with Republicans. Miranda said in an interview that he read them to learn about the party’s strategy on judicial nominations coming before the committee.

At the time, Kavanaugh was associate counsel in the White House and was responsible for helping to vet judicial nominees who would appear before the Judiciary Committee.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Kavanaugh lied about this affair in previous confirmation hearings.

Mother Jones: Five Times Brett Kavanaugh Appears to Have Lied to Congress While Under Oath.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has made declarations under oath during his current and past confirmation hearings that are contradicted by documents from his time as a counsel to the president and staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House. Newly released documents have undermined Kavanaugh’s declarations to the Senate Judiciary Committee, contradictions that are drawing close scrutiny from many Democrats. Kavanaugh has denied making any misleading or false statements.

His role in accessing stolen documents: In 2002, a GOP aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Manuel Miranda, stole thousands of documents belonging to the committee’s Democratic staff. At the time, Kavanaugh was a White House lawyer working on judicial nominations, which included working alongside Miranda. In 2003, President Bush nominated Kavanaugh to his current position on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and his confirmation hearing was held in 2004—though he was not confirmed until two years later. During his 2004 hearing, Kavanaugh denied ever receiving any of the documents Miranda stole. Asked if he “ever come across memos from internal files of any Democratic members given to you or provided to you in any way?” he replied, “No.” In 2006, also under oath, he again denied ever receiving stolen documents….

Warrantless wiretapping: At a 2006 confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that he knew nothing of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, launched under President George W. Bush, until the New York Times revealed it publicly in 2005. Kavanaugh insisted he’d heard “nothing at all” about the program before that, even though he was a senior administration aide. But a September 17, 2001 email provided to the New York Times this week shows that Kavanaugh was involved in at least initial discussions about the widespread surveillance of phones that characterized the NSA program….

Torture: During the same 2006 confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh told Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that he “was not involved” in legal questions related to the detention of so-called enemy combatants. But Durbin said Thursday that records show that there are at least three recorded examples of Kavanaugh participating in discussions of Bush administration detainee policy. Kavanaugh stood by his prior answer.

Please read the rest of the examples and explanations at Mother Jones.

More interesting reads, links only:

Lisa Graves at Slate: I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About. He should be impeached, not elevated.

Just Security: Judge Kavanaugh’s Testimony on His Constitutional View of Presidential Immunity is Misleading—and It Also Clinches the Case for Recusal.

Bloomberg: DNC Lawyers Raise Prospect That Papadopoulos’s U.K. Contact May Be Dead.

The Daily Beast: We Found the ‘Plaid Shirt Guy’ Who Trolled Trump’s Rally With Hilarious Faces.

The Atlantic: ‘The Separation Was So Long. My Son Has Changed So Much.’U.S. border guards took a 6-year-old Honduran boy from his mother, and ultimately returned a deeply traumatized child.

The New York Times: Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers.

New York Review of Books: ‘Bless Nixon for Those Tapes’: An Interview with John Dean.

What stories have you been following?


Friday Reads: Sociopaths of a feather Gaslight together

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I truly have some news items today showing that every one in Trump’s orbit is extremely disturbed.  I mean it too.

Okay, let’s just sorta tick off what’s actually in serious media this morning then take a deep breath while realizing these people are making policy decisions for this country that impact the entire wold.

From The NYDN: “White House officials flagged Trump’s behavior to psychiatrist last year”.

White House officials reached out to a noted Yale University psychiatrist last fall out of concern over President Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior.

Dr. Bandy Lee, who edited the best-selling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” told the Daily News Thursday the staffers contacted her because the President was “scaring” them.

Lee’s revelation comes as Trump fumes in response to an anonymous op-ed about administration insiders White House tell-all by journalist Bob Woodward that claims there are grave concerns among the highest ranks of the Trump administration about the President’s judgment.

Lee briefed a dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate last December about Trump’s fitness to be President. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill weren’t the only ones alarmed by the President’s erratic behavior, his troubling tweets or his temper.

A pair of West Wing representatives contacted her two separate times on the same day because they believed the President was “unraveling.”

“I had not mentioned this before because I did not want to confuse my role as an educator to the public,” Lee said when pressed about why she did not speak out sooner. “I thought I would be more effective by retaining my public role than getting involved in either the treatment of those who were feeling scared or in the actual intervention with the President.”

Salon first reported Lee’s claim.

Around the same time, a Trump family friend emailed her over concern for his mental health.

I didn’t watch the Rally last night but there’s all indications that it was a doozy.

And then there was this:

Trump is trying to deflect stories that accuse him of labeling southerners “Dumb” and using the slur “retarded” frequently.This is via the NYT.

“The Woodward book is a scam,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday morning about “Fear: Trump in the White House,” the new volume to be published by Bob Woodward next week. “I don’t talk the way I am quoted. If I did I would not have been elected President. These quotes were made up.”

In particular, Mr. Trump has denied that he called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” or a “dumb Southerner,” as the book reports. “I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing,” the president wrote earlier this week.

But, in fact, Mr. Trump has used the phrase “mentally retarded” on recorded radio shows that have been unearthed this week. And in a previously unreported incident, a journalist who used to interact with Mr. Trump during his days as a real estate developer in New York said this week that he even used the phrase “dumb southerner” to describe his own in-laws.

 

But then, Trump’s staff isn’t faring any better at looking sane and stable.  Here’s a Woodward story about John Kelly.

John Kelly nearly engaged in a “fistfight” with an ICE official whom President Donald Trump invited to the White House. Bob Woodward’s new book suggests that Kelly had butted heads with the official while Kelly was working as Secretary of Homeland Security.

“I can’t believe you’d let some f–king guy like this into the Oval Office,” Kelly allegedly shouted at Trump in November 2017. Kelly was referring to Chris Crane, the head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement union

Crane was invited into the oval office by Trump without Kelly’s knowledge. The invite was sent out after the POTUS heard Crane complaining on TV about him and other ICE agents had not been invited to the White House

The heated argument led to Kelly threatening to resign before storming out of the Oval Office. Later on, Trump told aids that it appeared Kelly and Crane were about to get into a “fistfight” over the interaction.

Crane and Kelly had previously fought over ICE’s attempts to execute an extreme plan for crackdowns on certain immigration violations — Kelly blocked the crackdown and Crane didn’t agree with the decision.

Numerous reports have suggested that the quarreling between Donald Trump and John Kelly have been ongoing and heating up for months. Kelly is expected to resign from his position in the near future.

 

The Kavanaugh Hearing is turning into one of the most incredible things I’ve seen in a long time.  Brett Kavanaugh is a lying piece of shit. The Democrats have a strategy that’s pissing off Mitchie McConnell whose screaming “the rules” and “bad behavior” when it’s not like he hasn’t done everything possible the last 8 years to screw up all decorum, tradition and standing rules himself.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview that aired Friday that Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) could face scrutiny from the Senate Ethics Committee for violating a rule that prohibits the release of confidential material.

During Thursday’s hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Booker said he was knowingly violating a Senate rule by releasing an email revealing the nominee’s views on racial profiling. After another senator on the Judiciary Committee said that could result in expulsion, Booker dared his colleagues to take that action.

It turns out that document had already been cleared for public release. But later Thursday afternoon, Booker, who is weighing a 2020 presidential bid, released what he said were 28 documents marked “committee confidential” in a defiant bid to make the confirmation process more transparent.

During a radio interview, McConnell characterized Booker’s actions as “unusual behavior” and said it “wouldn’t surprise me” if it draws the attention of the Ethics Committee.

“When you break the Senate rules, it’s something the Ethics Committee could take a look at,” McConnell told host Hugh Hewitt. “And that would be up to them to decide. But it’s routinely looked at by the Ethics Committee.”

 

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh seems to think birth control is “abortion-inducing” via Vice.

While the D.C. Circuit court ruled in favor of the Obama administration, denying the religious groups a chance to argue their case before the entire panel, Kavanaugh dissented from the majority.

“The question was first was this a substantial burden on their religious exercise? And it seemed to me, quite clearly, it was,” Kavanaugh explained Thursday. “They said filling out the form would make them complicit in the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to. That phrase — ”abortion-inducing drugs” — is inaccurate and, in the eyes of abortion rights advocates, incredibly telling. In their brief to the Supreme Court, which eventually heard the case, Priests for Life and its fellow plaintiffs argued that they didn’t want to “affirmatively authorize, and facilitate coverage for contraception, sterilization, abortifacients, and related education and counseling.”

Zina Bash must be trolling us all. First, she shows up in a Ruth Bader Ginsberg collar and then she trolls us with the okay (sic) hand signal once again.

Oh, and but his emails via The Daily Beast: “Newly Released Emails Show Brett Kavanaugh May Have Perjured Himself at Least Four Times”.

You can forgive Democratic senators for saying “I told you so.”

For over a month, Democrats (and this writer) have complained that the confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is fatally flawed because the records of Kavanaugh’s White House tenure were being redacted by his former deputy, then redacted again by the Trump White House, then redacted a third time by Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

As a result, only 7 percent of Kavanaugh’s White House records have been released to the public—compared to 99 percent of Justice Elena Kagan’s, a nominee of President Obama.

Well, so what, Republicans said. You’ve got over 400,000 pages to look at—a few more isn’t going to make a difference.

On Thursday, with the release of a half dozen emails by Grassley and several more by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the Democrats have been proven right. Brett Kavanaugh has misled the Senate at least four times, and the censored emails have been withheld not because of national security or executive privilege, but, at least in part, because they make Kavanaugh look bad.

Mojo counts to five examples of Kavanaugh lying to Congress.  Go to the link to see the five areas and the documentation.

And Booker is not backing down at all.

My Congressman was one of the folks testifying today against Kavanaugh.

There’s also still the parlor game about the anonymous op ed writer claiming to be a Senior official and White House ‘resister’.  Frank Rich’s piece today is brilliant on that account.  And yes, I feel like all of this should be coming from the National Enquirer or The Globe along with the Hillary adopts Alien baby stories but we’re all strangers in a strange land right now.

At least when those like Lindsey Graham espouse such a rationale they attach their names to it. Mr. Anonymous is a coward so lacking a moral compass that he doesn’t realize that the best way to “preserve our democratic institutions” (as he claims to be doing) is to identify himself, resign, and report any criminal activity he has witnessed by the president or his colleagues. The Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple has a point when he dismisses the op-ed as “a P.R. stunt” for the Timessince it adds an intriguing guessing game but no news to what we already know about this White House from Woodward and even Omarosa, not to mention the stalwart work of reporters at the Times and Post since Inauguration Day.

But the piece could also be viewed as a P.R. strategy for its author. It reads like a defense document that’s being put on the record should that rainy day come when Mr. Anonymous, no longer anonymous, will have to defend his own actions in a Nuremberg-like legal reckoning once the king of Crazytownhas been carted off. As any student of Vichy knows, there was no shortage of French collaborators who falsely claimed to have been secretly part of the underground Resistance to the Pétain regime once the war was over.

Rich also takes on Lady Lindsey’s pearl clutching about children seeing protests at the Kavanaugh hearings. Why not worry about all children who happen to watch the US president at a rally on any given day?

What kind of country have we become?” whined Lindsey Graham, appalled that Kavanaugh’s daughters had to witness rude protesters in the hearing room on opening day. Thanks to Graham and his cohort, we have become Trump country. In keeping with that, the hearings are a clown show, a bare simulation of democratic procedure, with withheld evidence, unexamined evidence delivered in a last-minute document dump, and a foregone conclusion. In that spirit, here’s what I would ask Kavanaugh if I were a Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee: “Explain your thinking when you wrote a legal memo to the independent counsel Kenneth Starr proposing that President Clinton be asked this question and nine others like it: ‘If Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions in the Oval Office area, you used your fingers to stimulate her vagina and bring her to orgasm, would she be lying?’” And in further keeping with the ethos set by the “grab ’em by the pussy” president who nominated Kavanaugh, I would ask that question aloud before the nominee’s family. The answer might well illuminate the future justice’s view of women and their right to govern their own bodies with a specificity missing in his obfuscating filibusters about Roe.

My bottom line is that absolutely none of this should be normalized by the media because it’s all absolutely insane and not worthy of a country whose democracy has been centuries in the making.  Actress Alyssa Milano had this to say and I agree.

Actress Alyssa Milano in an interview that aired Thursday on “Rising” said the news media has normalized President Trump throughout his campaign and the first half of his presidency instead of pointing out events she calls “crazy.”

“The media actually normalized some of what he did, and continues to normalize it instead of going ‘Can you believe how crazy this is? This guy wants to do this,’ ” Milano, a frequent critic of Trump, said to Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton on Tuesday.

Sexton noted that some in the media would probably say they have tried to “raise as many alarms as they can.”

“I would wonder if you were to have this conversation with any number of White House correspondents or major news anchors, other than at one channel that I’m sure you could guess, you would probably have a lot of folks saying they’re doing everything that they can to raise as many alarms as they can,” Sexton said.

Milano pushed back on that assertion, saying she does not think the media has done “enough.”

“I don’t think it’s enough, and I don’t think it was enough when he was campaigning,” Milano replied. “I think that we coddled this idea of a man who has been a self-proclaimed pussy grabber.

“During this time, instead of calling it what it was, which was total and crazy bullshit that this guy would actually be allowed to be the leader of the greatest country on the planet, the most powerful country on the planet, the fact that instead of news media going ‘This is just crazy,’ they reported it like it was normal, so it completely normalized the entire thing. We looked at it like ‘This is entertaining. This is getting us ratings.’”

Republicans need to stop collaborating with a clearly unqualified, unhinged man or acting like they can secretly save us from his madness.  Mitch McConnell needs to find the drawer where he hid his soul.  Are tax cuts and clearly radical judges with outlier opinions really worth what you’re putting the country and our institutions through you feckless asshole?

Grow a fucking pair and ask Cory Booker to show you his if you need some instructions!

East Coast Sky Dancers!  Be on the watch out for Florence!

And have a great weekend!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Storm’s a’brewing

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Well, I woke up with the news we’re under a Tropical Storm warning and all the models point it straight at us. It’s a rain event–which normally wouldn’t bug me–except I need to get this new roof on my house yesterday. I’ve spent the last 3 days with water coming on to my bed again.  My turkey roaster comes in handy for brief storms but I have no idea how I’m going to bail things out from what’s projected from Gordon.  I’m trying to find a few people to put more tarps on the roof. I have the roofing guy coming tomorrow oddly enough. I’ve had a hard time scrambling for my deductible and I’m at the point it just needs to be done whatever other bill has to go unpaid.

I used to find these things oddly exciting but I’m not sure if old age or the number of hurricanes/tropical storms I have to deal with, but, this is getting to me.  Karma died during the last one and I was without electricity for quite a period.  This is the first one I will go through without Miles too.  Anyway, I’m a bit of a wreck already and it’s just over the tip of the Florida peninsula headed to us some time tomorrow.  Hopefully, it just blows right through and goes away quickly.

Our infrastructure sucks here and costs plenty. I’m expecting a lot of flooding here too. I’m not in danger of that but I know a lot of people that will be.  Our Sewage and Water Board is in a state of collapse and the head of the Electric company has been fired.  Basically, both utilities are rudderless.  I’m just hoping and praying that the people that actually do the hard work are going to be able to do it.

So, here’s a few things you might want to read today.

From the New Yorker and Courts watcher Jeffrey Toobin: How Rudy Giuliani Turned Into Trump’s Clown. The former mayor’s theatrical, combative style of politics anticipated—and perfectly aligns with—the President’s.” Do shit storms count?  At least, this one is not aimed at me.

Since joining Trump’s team, Giuliani has greeted every new development as a vindication, even when he’s had to bend and warp the evidence in front of him. Like Trump, he characterizes the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” and the prosecutors as “thugs.” He has, in effect, become the legal auxiliary to Trump’s Twitter feed, peddling the same chaotic mixture of non sequiturs, exaggerations, half-truths, and falsehoods. Giuliani, like the President, is not seeking converts but comforting the converted.

This has come at considerable cost to his reputation. As a prosecutor, Giuliani was the sheriff of Wall Street and the bane of organized crime. As mayor, he was the law-and-order leader who kicked “squeegee men” off the streets of New York. Now he’s a talking head spouting nonsense on cable news. But this version of Giuliani isn’t new; Trump has merely tapped into tendencies that have been evident all along. Trump learned about law and politics from his mentor Roy Cohn, the notorious sidekick to Joseph McCarthy who, as a lawyer in New York, became a legendary brawler and used the media to bash adversaries. In the early months of his Presidency, as Mueller’s investigation was getting under way, Trump is said to have raged, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” In Giuliani, the President has found him.

Giuliani’s behavior has provoked disgust among some of his former fellow-prosecutors. “He has totally sold out to Trump,” John S. Martin, a predecessor to Giuliani as U.S. Attorney who later became a federal judge, said. “He’s making arguments that don’t hold up. I always thought of Rudy as a good lawyer, and he’s not looking anything like a good lawyer today.” Preet Bharara, who served as U.S. Attorney from 2009 until 2017, when he was fired by Trump, told me, “His blatant misrepresentations on television make me sad. It’s sad because I looked up to him at one point, and this bespeaks a sort of cravenness to a particularly hyperbolic client and an unnecessary suspension of honor and truth that’s beneath him. I would not send Rudy at this point in his career into court.” Giuliani’s desire for attention and publicity has always been at odds with the buttoned-up traditions of the Southern District of New York. In 2014, some seven hundred current and former prosecutors for the Southern District met for a gala dinner to celebrate the two-hundred-and-twenty-fifth anniversary of the office. Almost every former U.S. Attorney still living gave a speech—except Giuliani, who sent a video, with the excuse that he was attending to his duties as an “ambassador” to the U.S. Ryder Cup golf team. The announcement was greeted with derisive laughter.

The Kavanaugh nomination barrels forward with so much aplomb and gall that it’s really disturbing.  Hearings start tomorrow. There’s likely to be a battle of some kind per ABC.

Democrats are expressing alarm over the Trump White House decision to claim executive privilege and withhold some 100,000 pages of documents from Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s time with the George W. Bush administration.

That decision, relayed in a letter late Friday, just days before confirmation hearings are set to begin Tuesday, is a move top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New Yorkcalled a “Friday night document massacre.”

More than 400,000 other pages have been handed over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Democrats say the withheld documents would give details and color to Kavanaugh’s time as White House Counsel in the Bush White House — when he was involved in some of its most controversial decisions and judicial nominations.

It’s a time Democrats say is key in giving context to his time as a partisan Republican.

Before serving in the Bush White House, Kavanaugh had been a key deputy to Independent Counsel Ken Starr and advocated for tough questioning of President Bill Clinton about his sexual encounters with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Later, he said, after seeing the pressures inside the Bush White House, he wrote in a 2009 article for the Minnesota Law Review that any civil and criminal investigations of a president should be deferred until they’re out of office because they’re “time-consuming and distracting.”

The just over 100,000 pages of material was withheld after the Trump White House “directed that we not provide these documents,” wrote William Burck, the lawyer handling the document release on behalf of the Bush administration.

 

WAPO has an interesting feature that discusses how the Trump presidency has caused the “Trump Effect” which is basically seen in all that Wypipo outrage about black people in what they consider white spaces. This discusses the small town and “Pool Patrol Paula” who was outraged that young black children would be swimming in their neighborhood pool.

Darshaun’s aunt said she noticed that none of the adults at the pool seemed to be doing anything to help him. She called over Darshaun’s mother to watch. Darshaun told them that he and two friends had been invited to the pool by a family that lives in the subdivision. They were just sitting down at a table and kicking off their shoes when Strempel approached them, asked them if they lived in the subdivision and then accused them of trespassing.

Darshaun’s mother took him to the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office to file an assault complaint.

His aunt looked Strempel up on Facebook and dashed off a quick message.

“Good evening, Stephanie. Is this you in the video?” she asked.

After four hours passed without a response, Darshaun’s aunt posted it to her Facebook page, tagging local activists, two television news stations, the NAACP and the Coast Guard unit where, she had learned, Strempel’s husband was serving.

“This kind of behavior is unacceptable and we WILL NOT TOLERATE IT!!!! PLEASE SHARE!!!!” she wrote. “. . . Racism at its best.”

She hit post at 11 p.m., flipped off her computer and went to sleep.

Online, Strempel would soon be dubbed “Pool Patrol Paula,” joining “ID Adam,” “BBQ Becky,” “Permit Patty,” “Coupon Carl” and others branded as exemplars of racism and white entitlement.

It was 10 the next morning when Strempel, who declined to comment for this article through her attorney, sent her first message to Jovan Hyman. She denied hitting Darshaun — even though the video showed her doing so — and defended herself as an involved member of the community.

“I have children,” she wrote. “My husband is a respected coast guard officer. I have a special needs son. . . . My husband and I are being threatened and slandered all over social media [and it] is not okay.”

By this point, Hyman had watched the video several times, and he had no doubt that Strempel had targeted the boys at the pool because of the color of their skin.

Today, Reminisce is reminiscent of a typical Southern suburb, where blacks and whites live side by side but usually avoid sensitive topics such as race and politics. It’s a precinct where Trump took nearly two-thirds of the vote, is mostly white and made up of schoolteachers, police officers, and employees of the nearby Air Force base and Boeing plant.

What follows is a tick tock of how the town dealt with and is still dealing with its race issues.

A devastating fire has leveled a 200 year old museum in Brazil. It was a repository of many artifacts that cannot be replaced.

“It was the biggest natural history museum in Latin America. We have invaluable collections. Collections that are over 100 years old,” Cristiana Serejo, one of the museum’s vice-directors, told the G1 news site.

Marina Silva, a former environment minister and candidate in October’s presidential elections said the fire was like “a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory”.

Luiz Duarte, another vice-director, told TV Globo: “It is an unbearable catastrophe. It is 200 years of this country’s heritage. It is 200 years of memory. It is 200 years of science. It is 200 years of culture, of education.” TV Globo also reported that some firefighters did not have enough water to battle the blaze.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the fire began. The museum was part of Rio’s Federal University but had fallen into disrepair in recent years. Its impressive collections included items brought to Brazil by Dom Pedro I – the Portuguese prince regent who declared the then-colony’s independence from Portugal – Egyptian and Greco-Roman artefacts, “Luzia”, a 12,000 year-old skeleton and the oldest in the Americas, fossils, dinosaurs, and a meteorite found in 1784. Some of the archive was stored in another building but much of the collection is believed to have been destroyed.

 

Paul Blumenthall–writing for Huffpo–outlines the number of investigations surrounding the Trump Family Crime Syndicate.  “It’s Not Just Robert Mueller. President Donald Trump Faces Six Separate Investigations And Lawsuits.Prosecutors are digging into the president’s business from which he refused to divest.”

There are currently five separate investigations into Trump and his associates from four different investigative bodies. An additional lawsuit brought by two state attorneys general challenges whether Trump is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. There are further reports about probes into the financial dealings of the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his second eldest son, Eric Trump.

It’s a great list and description of all the investigations from obstruction of justice to emoluments clause violation.

So, I know you’re all likely having a great long weekend.  I’ve got to start working on getting ready for this and finishing up my grades. I have no doubt this will likely take me offline for a few days.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: The Walls Close In on the Trump Family Crime Syndicate

The Sandy Beach at Olonne by Albert’ Marquet – circa 1938.

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s the usual Frantic Friday News Day.  A new WAPO/ABC Poll shows exactly how unpopular KKKremlin Caligula has become and shows wide spread support for both the oldest Living Confederate Widow at the DOJ and the Russia Inquiry.  I bet the Twitler storm will be epic over the weekend if they don’t keep him on the golf course.

President Trump’s disapproval rating has hit a high point of 60 percent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that also finds that clear majorities of Americans support the special counsel’s Russia investigation and say the president should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

At the dawn of the fall campaign sprint to the midterm elections, which will determine whether Democrats retake control of Congress, the poll finds a majority of the public has turned against Trump and is on guard against his efforts to influence the Justice Department and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s wide-ranging probe.

Nearly half of Americans, 49 percent, say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to Trump being removed from office, while 46 percent say Congress should not

And a narrow majority — 53 percent — say they think Trump has tried to interfere with Mueller’s investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice; 35 percent say they do not think the president has tried to interfere.

Overall, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance, with 36 percent approving, according to the poll. Because of random sampling variation, this represents only a marginal shift from the last Post-ABC survey, in April, which measured Trump’s rating at 56 percent disapproval and 40 percent approval.

I wonder how his base feels about his snobby comments about Sessions. Jonathan Chait provides this analysis.

Trump has touted the mindless loyalty of his base, and when he marveled that he would not lose any support if he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue, he was not complimenting the discernment of his supporters. He has tried to turn that into a positive — “I love the poorly educated!” — but the association with low socioeconomic strata has grated on him. Trump is the ultimate snob. He has no sense that working-class people may have equal latent talent that they have been denied the chance to develop. He considers wealthy and successful people a genetic aristocracy, frequently attributing his own success to good genes.

Attempting to explain his penchant for appointing plutocrats to his Cabinet, Trump has said, “I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?” It makes sense if you assume a person’s wealth perfectly reflects their innate intelligence. Trump has repeatedly boasted about his Ivy League pedigree and that of his relatives, which he believes reflects well on his own genetic stock. He has fixated on the Ivy League pedigree of his Supreme Court appointments, even rejecting the credentials of the lower Ivys as too proletarian.

Trump has built a brand on attracting working-class strivers. But the relationship he cultivates is unidirectional admiration. Trump gives his supporters a lifestyle they can enjoy vicariously. He views them as suckers. The Trump University scam was premised directly on exploiting the misplaced trust of his fan base. The internal guidance for salespeople trying to drain the savings accounts of their targets explained, “Don’t ask people what they think about something you’ve said. Instead, always ask them how they feel about it. People buy emotionally and justify it logically.”

isis is now making a comeback. The frequency of the group’s attacks is up, and so, apparently, are its numbers. It excels, once again, at crafting small explosive devices, and weaponizing drones. And its sophisticated media outreach is recovering, according to a new U.N. report. The elusive isis emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom Russia claimed to have killed in a May, 2017, air strike, reëmerged this month with an hour-long broadcast, his first in a year. He acknowledged that his followers had been tested with “fear and hunger.”

The United States had boasted of its “so-called victory in expelling the state from the cities and countryside in Iraq and Syria,” Baghdadi, who was held by U.S. forces in Iraq for several months in 2004, said. He urged a different metric. “The land of Allah is wide and the tides of war change,” he said. “For the believer mujahideen, the scale of victory or defeat is not tied to a city or town being stolen or subject to those who have aerial superiority, or intercontinental missiles or smart bombs.” He referred to the revival of an earlier version of isisafter it was decimated by U.S. troops in Iraq during the surge of 2007. At the time, the jihadi group was down to only a thousand fighters. isis subsequently mobilized more than sixty thousand fighters from more than a hundred countries to its cause. Baghdadi vowed that those who “patiently persevere” would again have “glad tidings.”

isis may already have numbers sufficient to rebuild. Two stunning reports this month—by the United Nations and Trump’s own Defense Department—both contradict earlier U.S. claims that most isis fighters had been eliminated. The Sunni jihadi movement still has between twenty thousand and thirty thousand members on the loose in Iraq and Syria, including “thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters,” the U.N. said, despite the fall of its nominal capital, Raqqa, last October. The Pentagon report is more alarming: isis has fourteen thousand fighters—not just members—in Syria, with up to seventeen thousand in Iraq. More important, isis has successfully morphed from a proto-state into a “covert global network, with a weakened yet enduring core” in Iraq and Syria, with regional affiliates in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, the U.N. reports. It can “easily” obtain arms in areas with weak governance; it is now a threat to U.N. member states on five continents.

Children Playing on the Beach Mary Cassatt 1884

A breaking story on DOJ Attorney Bruce Ohr is possibly what has made Trump so angry the last few days.

A senior Justice Department lawyer says a former British spy told him at a breakfast meeting two years ago that Russian intelligence believed it had Donald Trump “over a barrel,” according to multiple people familiar with the encounter.

The lawyer, Bruce Ohr, also says he learned that a Trump campaign aide had met with higher-level Russian officials than the aide had acknowledged, the people said.

The previously unreported details of the July 30, 2016, breakfast with Christopher Steele, which Ohr described to lawmakers this week in a private interview, reveal an exchange of potentially explosive information about Trump between two men the president has relentlessly sought to discredit.

They add to the public understanding of those pivotal summer months as the FBI and intelligence community scrambled to untangle possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. And they reflect the concern of Steele, a longtime FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research into Trump ties to Russia was compiled into a dossier, that the Republican presidential candidate was possibly compromised and his urgent efforts to convey that anxiety to contacts at the FBI and Justice Department.

The people who discussed Ohr’s interview were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the closed session and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Among the things Ohr said he learned from Steele during the breakfast was that an unnamed former Russian intelligence official had said that Russian intelligence believed “they had Trump over a barrel,” according to people familiar with the meeting. It was not clear from Ohr’s interview whether Steele had been directly told that or had picked that up through his contacts, but the broader sentiment is echoed in Steele’s research dossier.

Steele and Ohr, at the time of the election a senior official in the deputy attorney general’s office, had first met a decade earlier and bonded over a shared interest in international organized crime. They met several times during the presidential campaign, a

Tahitian Women on the beach Paul Gauguin

relationship that exposed both men and federal law enforcement more generally to partisan criticism, including from Trump.

There’s also a new indictment of a Manafort crony with connections to Cambridge Analytica.  This is another FARA violation charge.  This may be connected to the upcoming DC trial for Manafort.

A former associate of Paul Manafort agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors after pleading guilty to failing to register in the U.S. as a foreign agent for his work lobbying on behalf of a Ukrainian political party.

The lobbyist, Sam Patten, is a longtime international political operative who’s partnered with a Russian already indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. He appeared in federal court in Washington Friday.

Mueller’s office referred the case to U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu in the District of Columbia, according William Miller, a spokesman for Liu, who declined to comment further on a pending case.

Patten has worked with Manafort and on Ukrainian campaigns, as well as in countries including Russia, Georgia, Iraq and Kazakhstan. He served in the State Department under George W. Bush, and reportedly worked on microtargeting operations with Cambridge Analytica.

From 2014, Patten provided a “prominent” Ukrainian oligarch who isn’t named in court papers and his Opposition Bloc political party with lobbying and consulting services, according to the criminal information. A company Patten co-owned with a Russian national received more than $1 million for the work, the U.S. said.

As part of his lobbying work, he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not disclosing the work to the U.S., prosecutors said. No date has been set for his sentencing.

He headed the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute in the early 2000s. A Russian IRI employee in those years, Konstantin Kilimnik, went on to work as a fixer for Manafort in Ukraine and is a business partner with Patten. Kilimnik has been indicted in absentia alongside Manafort on obstruction of justice charges the former Trump campaign chairman faces in Washington next month.

Beach Scene Edgar Degas

Trump continues his war on Canada as the Toronto Star uncovered some Trumpertantrums regarding the so-called NAFTA rework. Trump’s interview with Bloomberg News has turned into a verbal bombing campaign.

High-stakes trade negotiations between Canada and the U.S. were dramatically upended on Friday morning by inflammatory secret remarks from President Donald Trump, after the remarks were obtained by the Toronto Star.

In remarks Trump wanted to be “off the record,” Trump told Bloomberg News reporters on Thursday, according to a source, that he is not making any compromises at all in the talks with Canada — but that he cannot say this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”

“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people,” he said of the Canadian government.

In another remark he did not want published, Trump said, according to the source, that the possible deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.” He suggested he was scaring the Canadians into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” Trump said, according to the source. The Impala is produced at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg. He deemed them off the record, and Bloomberg accepted his request not to reveal them.

But the Star is not bound by any promises Bloomberg made to Trump. And the remarks immediately became a factor in the negotiations: Trudeau’s officials, who saw them as evidence for their previous suspicions that Trump’s team had not been bargaining in good faith, raised them at the beginning of a meeting with their U.S. counterparts on Friday morning, a U.S. source confirmed.

The Star was not able to independently confirm the remarks with 100 per cent certainty, but the Canadian government is confident they are accurate. Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait, who was one of the journalists in the room, did not dispute their authenticity.

Two Women Running on the Beach Pablo Picasso

Trump has removed cost of living raises for Federal Employees.  What a small minded little manchild.

President Donald Trump told lawmakers on Thursday he wants to scrap a pay raise for civilian federal workers, saying the nation’s budget couldn’t support it.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Trump described the pay increase as “inappropriate.”
“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the President wrote.

An across-the-board 2.1% pay increase for federal workers was slated to take effect in January. In addition, a yearly adjustment of paychecks based on the region of the country where a worker is posted — the “locality pay increase” — was due to take effect.
Trump said both increases should no longer happen.

“I have determined that for 2019, both across the board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” he wrote.

Congress has an opportunity to effectively overrule the President’s edict if lawmakers pass a spending bill that includes a federal pay raise. The Senate passed a bill this summer that included a 1.9% raise for federal workers. The House’s version did not address federal pay. Senate and House negotiators will negotiate a final measure in the coming weeks.

Trump’s 2019 budget proposal, released earlier this year, included a pay freeze for civilian federal workers. It’s not clear if Trump would approve a budget that includes the pay increase; the White House has not issued a formal veto threat of the Senate’s bill.

Boats on the Bieach of Saiint Marie, Vincent Van Gogh 1888

The nation is mourning Aretha Franklin and John McCain today. WAPO wrote an article on McCain’s 106 year old mother who attended the service today.  I wanted to share some of it with you.

She was sitting in a wheelchair as they carried her son’s casket into the Capitol Rotunda Friday.

Roberta McCain, 106, held granddaughter Meghan McCain’s hand and lifted a handkerchief to dab her eyes. Wearing lipstick, pink blush and a polka dot white blouse, she sat silently as congressional leaders and Vice President Mike Pence lauded Sen. John McCain, who died last week at age 81.

When the tributes were over, Roberta was the last member of the family to touch his flag-draped casket. She crossed herself afterward.

Many obituaries have been quick to mention the McCain family’s prestigious lineage within the American military. The senator’s father and grandfather — both of whom shared his name — were the first father and son in Navy history to become full admirals.

But often overlooked is the influence McCain’s mother had on his upbringing and political life. Now, Roberta has outlived the child she still calls “Johnny,” whose death she faced once before when he was shot down over Vietnam and presumed lost.

Roberta, who lives in Washington, spent years crisscrossing the globe, often alongside her identical twin sister, Rowena, eager for whatever spontaneous adventure came next. She has ridden through the Jordanian desert in the dark of night, hopped a ferry to Macau and trekked through Europe on less than $5 per day.

Roberta and Rowena were born in 1912 when William Howard Taft was president. They grew up traveling the country with their father, a successful oil wildcatter who retired young to raise his children. The family would travel for weeks, sometimes along the California coast or by the banks of the Great Lakes.

Those trips would later serve as the blueprints for what Sen. McCain described as his mother’s “mobile classroom” — one that could show her children the world’s wonders in ways a four-walled classroom could not.

“My mother grew to be an extroverted and irrepressible woman,” Sen. McCain wrote in his memoir, “Faith of My Fathers.”

I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend.  I’ll be dreaming about the days when I use to spend it on a beach.