Lazy Saturday Reads

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Good Morning!!

The big news this morning is the death of Fidel Castro. From the AP via the NYT: Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Who Defied US for 50 Years, Dies at 90.

Former President Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule, has died at age 90.

With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Toward victory, always!”

Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died 10 years after ill health forced him to hand power over to Raul.

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Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.

His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.

“Socialism or death” remained Castro’s rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.

The Times also has a lengthy obituary: Fidel Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Who Defied U.S., Dies at 90.

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90….

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

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Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

He dominated his country with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista by delivering his first major speech in the capital before tens of thousands of admirers at the vanquished dictator’s military headquarters.

A spotlight shone on him as he swaggered and spoke with passion until dawn. Finally, white doves were released to signal Cuba’s new peace. When one landed on Mr. Castro, perching on a shoulder, the crowd erupted, chanting “Fidel! Fidel!” To the war-weary Cubans gathered there and those watching on television, it was an electrifying sign that their young, bearded guerrilla leader was destined to be their savior.

Much more at the link.

Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of a shocking revolution here at home. Our government has been essentially taken over by a hostile foreign state, and it appears that no one in power is doing anything about it. It looks like we are going to be ruled by billionaires–are we really going to allow our country to become a Russian oligarchy?

The Washington Post: Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story, by Eric Chenowith.

In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.

U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government actively interfered in our elections. Russian state propaganda gave little doubt that this was done to support President-elect Trump, who repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and excused the Russian president’s foreign aggression and domestic repression. Most significantly, U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed that the Russian government directedthe illegal hacking of private email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and prominent individuals. The emails were then released by WikiLeaks, which has benefited financially from a Russian state propaganda arm, used Russian operatives for security and made clear an intent to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

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From the Russian perspective, the success of this operation can hardly be overstated. News stories on the DNC emails released in July served to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, instigate political infighting and suggest for some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — without any real proof — that the Democratic primary had been “rigged” against their candidate. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks began near dailydumps from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, generating a month of largely negative reporting on Clinton, her campaign staff, her husband and their foundation. With some exceptions, there was little news in the email beyond political gossip and things the media had covered before, now revisited from a seemingly “hidden” viewpoint.
Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidencesuggestswere generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.
Does anyone in the Obama administration have serious concerns about this? And what about possible connections between Russia and factions in FBI? I can only hope that efforts to deal with the situation are going on behind the scenes, but it sure doesn’t seem that way. Instead, it looks like the Obama administration is focused on making things easier for Trump and his Russian oligarch pals.

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NYT: U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Friday that despite Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election, it has concluded that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

The statement came as liberal opponents of Donald J. Trump, some citing fears of vote hacking, are seeking recounts in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where his margin of victory was extremely thin.

A drive by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for recounts in those states had brought in more than $5 million by midday on Friday, her campaign said, and had increased its goal to $7 million. She filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, about an hour before the deadline.

In its statement, the administration said, “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”

That was a reference to the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, and the leak of emails from figures like John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

I don’t get it. So President Obama really isn’t that interested in fighting for his legacy anymore? And there’s this from The Hill: Obama urged Clinton to concede on election night.

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President Barack Obama called Hillary Clinton to persuade her to concede the White House on election night, according to a forthcoming book on Clinton’s defeat.

Authors Amie Parnes, The Hill’s senior White House correspondent, and Jonathan Allen cite three Clintonworld sources familiar with the election-night request in the unreleased book from Crown Publishing.

“You need to concede,” Obama told his former secretary of State as she, her family, and her top aides continued to watch results trickle in from the key Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The latter state, called after 1:30 a.m. by The Associated Press, was the clear tipping point for the White House race, ensuring Trump would crest over the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to win.

Clinton ultimately heeded Obama’s advice and called Trump to acknowledge her defeat in the early morning hours Wednesday….

Obama’s call left a sour taste in the mouths of some Clinton allies who believe she should have waited longer, and there’s now a fight playing out between the Obama and Clinton camps over whether to support an effort to force the Rust Belt states to recount their votes.

Meanwhile, efforts to get recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are moving forward. The Wisconsin Election Commission: Wisconsin Elections Commission Receives Two Presidential Election Recount Petitions.

MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Elections Commission today received two recount petitions from the Jill Stein for President Campaign and from Rocky Roque De La Fuente, Administrator Michael Haas announced.

“The Commission is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for President of the United States, as requested by these candidates,” Haas said.

“We have assembled an internal team to direct the recount, we have been in close consultation with our county clerk partners, and have arranged for legal representation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice,” Haas said. “We plan to hold a teleconference meeting for county clerks next week and anticipate the recount will begin late in the week after the Stein campaign has paid the recount fee, which we are still calculating.”

The last statewide recount was of the Supreme Court election in 2011.  At that time, the Associated Press surveyed county clerks and reported that costs to the counties exceeded $520,000, though several counties did not respond to the AP’s survey.  That election had 1.5 million votes, and Haas said the Commission expects the costs to be higher for an election with 2.975 million votes.  “The Commission is in the process of obtaining cost estimates from county clerks so that we can calculate the fee which the campaigns will need to pay before the recount can start,” Haas said. The Commission will need to determine how the recount costs will be assessed to the campaigns.

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The state is working under a federal deadline of December 13 to complete the recount. As a result, county boards of canvassers may need to work evenings and weekends to meet the deadlines. “The recount process is very detail-oriented, and this deadline will certainly challenge some counties to finish on time,” Haas said.

A recount is different than an audit and is more rigorous, Haas explained.  More than 100 reporting units across the state were randomly selected for a separate audit of their voting equipment as required by state law, and that process has already begun.  Electronic voting equipment audits determine whether all properly-marked ballots are accurately tabulated by the equipment.  In a recount, all ballots (including those that were originally hand counted) are examined to determine voter intent before being retabulated. In addition, the county boards of canvassers will examine other documents, including poll lists, written absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots, and provisional ballots before counting the votes.

Haas noted that the Commission’s role is to order the recount, to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount, and to certify the results.  If the candidates disagree with the results of the recount, the law gives them the right to appeal in circuit court within five business days after the recount is completed.  The circuit court is where issues are resolved that may be discovered during the recount but are not resolved to the satisfaction of the candidates.

The Detroit News: Mich. readies for presidential recount as cutoff looms.

Lansing — Elections officials are preparing for a possible presidential election recount in Michigan that could begin as soon as next week, state Director of Elections Chris Thomas said Friday.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has indicated she plans to jumpstart a recount in the Great Lakes state over fears that Michigan’s election results could have been manipulated by hackers. Republican President-elect Donald won the state by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to unofficial updated resultsposted Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, Stein had raised more than $5 million of her $7 million goal to cover the cost of a recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan “to ensure the integrity of our elections” because “there is a significant need to verify machine-counted vote totals,” according to her campaign website. Stein finished nearly 2.3 million votes behind Trump in Michigan and received 1.1 percent of the vote.

Michigan’s deadline for initiating a recount is Wednesday. “We have not heard from anybody,” Thomas said about a Stein recount request. “We’re just trying to be proactive, make sure we have plans.”

Thomas said officials “could probably begin by the end of the week,” although it will be “a huge undertaking in a very short period of time” if it happens.

That’s all I have for you today. I admit that I’ve been sinking into depression and despair over the past few days. I don’t know how to deal with this nightmare. I’m not giving up; I’m just in a state of extreme confusion and not sure how to come out of it yet.

Take care Sky Dancers! I love you all.


Tuesday Reads: The Trumpocracy Takes Shape

Trumpocracy

Trumpocracy

Good Afternoon!!

So . . . we have a president elect who is completely unqualified, overwhelmed, surrounded by racists and conspiracy theorists, and openly supported by Neo Nazis and the KKK. After 7 days as president elect, he has yet to address the American People except for his acceptance speech and his bizarre appearance on 60 Minutes.

According to Rachel Maddow last night, the Trump team has not yet reached out to the DOJ, the intelligence community, Homeland Security or any other government entity we know about and they are not answering calls from people in the government who are anxious to begin working on the transition.

He has announced the appointment of Reince Priebus as WH chief of staff and Steven Bannon as chief White House strategist and senior counselor. Neither of these men has any experience in government. Priebus does know GOP leaders, of course; but he has little apparent knowlege about how the White House and the Federal government work. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is so ignorant of government that on Thursday he actually asked White House staffers how many of them would be staying on after Obama leaves!

Rudy Giuliani is the top choice to be Secretary of State. The second choice is John Bolton. One positive note: Ben Carson has said he doesn’t want a role in the Trump administration. He was being mention as Secretary of Education! So now many they’ll just go ahead and eliminate that department as Trump as threatened.

President Obama gave a press conference yesterday in which he provided veiled warnings about what may happen, announced that he will be visiting a number of foreign countries to try to reassure them, and that he will be helping Trump get ready for a job he will never be ready for.

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Brian Beutler at The New Republic: Obama Is Warning America About Trump’s Presidency. Are You Listening?

President Barack Obama’s remarks about Donald Trump in his Monday press conference contained some of the most ominous words I’ve heard since news networks began calling the election for Trump early last Wednesday morning….

In a tense environment in which reporters, government workers, world leaders, and anxious citizens and immigrants understandably are scrutinizing every Donald Trump tweet and utterance and leak, Obama’s closing thoughts on the presidency and his successor will inevitably be given short shrift. But the things he says about the transition contain critical information about its progress and his confidence that, on the other side of it, things will run fairly smoothly.

His Monday comments suggests he has very little confidence that they will.

On the subtext of Obama’s remarks:

On the surface, his comments were reassuring. He was chipper. He did not doomsay. He searched for the generous and hopeful things to say about Trump and Trump’s designs on the presidency. But the sum total of his remarks, on close reading, were frightening—a stage-setting, at the very least, for an administration that Obama expects will be hobbled by incompetence and likely to fail.

Obama kept returning to three basic themes: that Trump will be given every opportunity to succeed, thanks to the tutelage Obama and his team will be providing, and the fact Trump won’t be inheriting massive crises—which should give him the kind of running room Obama never enjoyed; but that the work of a presidency is ceaseless, and much of it highly detail-oriented; and finally that Trump’s grasp of what he’s been elected to do is at best remedial.

Obama may be subtly trying to communicate to the Trump transition team that they need to make massive strides, and quickly, or they will be, in Obama’s words, “swamped.” But his expectation that Trump and his entourage will get their act together is clearly very low.

Please go read the rest.

Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon

On November 10 Elliot Cohen, a conservative, hawkish foreign policy guy who worked for awhile under Condoleeza Rice and who helped organize other national security experts to oppose Trump, wrote this at The American Interest: To An Anxious Friend…

First, the buffers and restraints built into our system—Congress, the courts, the press, bureaucratic inertia, federalism, and certain norms—are really quite strong. Republican politicians know that with a better candidate they would not have eked out a bare tie in the popular vote, but would have crushed Clinton and added to their Senate majority rather than reduced it. They are not beholden to Trump and do not feel that they should be. He will not be able to rule as a dictator. And in truth, Democratic fears that he may are salutary. So many of them dismissed Republican complaints about a politicized Internal Revenue Service—my guess is that they are rediscovering a healthy respect for older values of rigid political neutrality, as well as the larger system of checks and balances.

Second, Trump may be better than we think. He does not have strong principles about much, which means he can shift. He is clearly willing to delegate legislation to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. And even abroad, his instincts incline him to increase U.S. strength—and to push back even against Russia if, as will surely happen, Putin double-crosses him. My guess is that sequester gets rolled back, as do lots of stupid regulations, and experiments in nudging and nagging Americans to behave the way progressives think they should.

Third, part of the magic of America is its ability to regenerate itself. Both parties produced rotten outcomes at the presidential level; both deceived themselves about the actual concerns of the American people; both desperately need new generations of leaders. Those will emerge. What one can hope for as well is a sobering realization about the extent to which both have played dangerous games—with identity politics, with falsehoods, with cultural contempt, and above all, with the transformation of politics into a matter of unthinking tribalism.

Tough times ahead, no doubt. But I think about my grandparents, who fled pogroms, arrived here penniless, and experienced World War I and the influenza pandemic, as well as ethnic and religious discrimination of a kind now unthinkable. My parents lived through the Depression and World War II—and then the social upheavals of the 1960s.

Then he apparently reached out to the Trump people. Here’s what he tweeted about that today.

Not very reassuring.

A couple more stories that caught my attention:

NBC News: Trump Transition Shake-Up Part of ‘Stalinesque Purge’ of Christie Loyalists.

The Donald Trump transition, already off to slow start, bogged down further Tuesday with the abrupt resignation of former Congressman Mike Rogers, who had been coordinating its national security efforts.

Rudy Giuliani

Two sources close to Rogers said he had been the victim of what one called a “Stalinesque purge,” from the transition of people close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who left Friday. It was unclear which other aides close to Christie had also been forced out….

He [Rogers] and his top aide had been working for months, preparing the groundwork for transition. Two sources close to the situation described an atmosphere of sniping and backbiting as Trump loyalists position themselves for key jobs….

Rogers’ departure follows Christie’s demotion from head of the team to a vice-chair, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence taking over for him last week.

The purge indicates the emphasis on loyalty — and significant influence of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka — that characterized Trump’s campaign will carry over into his White House.

Multiple sources indicated that Christie was demoted because he wasn’t seen as sufficiently loyal to Trump, failing to vocally defend him at key moments on the campaign trail.

Rogers had been mentioned as a candidate for CIA director, but now he’s out.

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USA Today Exclusive: Fox anchor Megyn Kelly describes scary, bullying ‘Year of Trump.’

In her new memoir, Settle for More, Kelly describes how an unexpectedly anxious Trump complained to Fox News executives last year about what she’d do as a moderator of the debate. The questions Kelly and her colleagues planned to ask the candidates were secret. She wrote that days before the debate, Trump called Fox “in an attempt to rein me in. … He said he had ‘heard’ that my first question was a very pointed question directed at him.” Kelly’s first question was in fact for Trump and about his treatment and descriptions of women. She wondered, she wrote, “How could he know that?”

In an exclusive interview Monday with USA TODAY — one in which she discussed what she called her “Year of Trump” and her stand against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes — Kelly said she did not believe her question leaked to Trump beforehand. “I don’t think he had any idea,” she said. “What I think he was worried about was his divorce from Ivana Trump. … He was afraid I was going to bring that up.”

Much more about Kelly’s dealings with Trump and his pal Roger Ailes at the link.

More reads, links only:

NYT: Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest.

Columbia Journalism Review: Eight steps reporters should take before Trump assumes office, by Dana Priest

WaPo: Paul Ryan’s plan to phase out Medicare is just what Democrats need, by Paul Waldman

LA Times: Paul Ryan is determined to gut Medicare. This time he might succeed, by Michael Hiltzik

Daily Beast: Steve Bannon’s Dream: A Worldwide Ultra-Right, by Christopher Dickey

WaPo: Hate crimes against Muslims hit highest mark since 2001.

TPM: Jeff Sessions, Now Up For AG, Once Rejected From Judgeship For Racist Remarks.

That’s all I have. I’m still really struggling with my emotions, and I don’t know how long it’s going to take before I find my center again. This situation has triggered my deepest childhood fears and traumas. I just hope it isn’t going to be as disastrous as I expect.

Courage, Sky Dancers!

 


Wednesday Reads: Are we there yet?

img_1030Hello…

Hey ho, just a couple of more weeks to go…

and now that the swinging dicks of DC have come to the conclusion that their rapey tangerine-tinted fascist is getting his bigly answer coming Nov. 8th…”WRONG” (Tradmark, haha)… it seems they are focusing their eye of Shitfire, I mean Sauron, on Hillary.

A few days ago, this came out of John McCain’s mouth:

An issue that has been mostly absent from this year’s Senate campaigns — the fate of the Supreme Court — suddenly erupted Monday after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., indicated during a talk-radio appearance that Republicans would move to block any high court nominee made by a President Hillary Clinton should the Democratic nominee win.

McCain made his remarks on WPHT-AM radio in Philadelphia, during an interview in support for fellow Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa.: “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” he said. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority, and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.”

img_1032Of course, he backed down later in the day…John McCain backs off promise Republicans would block Clinton Supreme Court nominees – Chicago Tribune

The remark immediately raised hackles of Democrats, who have complained about GOP treatment of President Obama‘s judicial nominees — most prominently, Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, whose nomination has sat in limbo for more than six months after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., resolved to save the pending vacancy for the next president.

McCain’s comments raised the prospect that the vacancy could extend much longer than that, particularly if Republicans maintain their control of the Senate. Even if Democrats win the majority, they would still need a handful of GOP votes to confirm any Supreme Court nominee — current Senate rules require 60 senators to close debate and move to an up-or-down vote.

If Republicans were in fact “united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton . . . would put up,” that could mean the Supreme Court would remain an eight-member body indefinitely — and perhaps force a change to Senate rules allowing for simple-majority confirmation of Supreme Court nominees.

McCain’s office issued a statement Monday afternoon backing off his pledge of blanket opposition.

“Senator McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees,” spokeswoman Rachel Dean said. “That being said, Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career.”

Y’all must keep in mind this swinging dick is facing some competition in his current run for the senate.

But this notion that the senate will block yet another president from nominating (yeah…not appointing ya Trump bastard) is something that makes me sick…in a pissy sort of way.

I mean like come on…

Wasn’t it enough that the GOP handed Trump his golden ticket as nominee of their fucking fucked up party?

If that wasn’t a pure example of the dysfunctional party’s complete lack of credibility, this latest Freudian slip is just the tip of what could become another political bed of impotent alpha males banging their chest while the people don’t get served.

img_1028Take a look at these words from Evan Culbertson, over at Paste Magazine: John McCain’s Supreme Court Obstructionism is Tantamount to Treason ::: Paste

It was less than two hours after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was reported in February that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began his crusade to prevent the appointment of his replacement on the Supreme Court. From the outset, McConnell’s insistence was that the next president—by the will of the American people—would have the privilege of selecting a new ninth Justice. This outstanding vacancy, as well as the potential for several other vacancies to open up over the next few years, has become a major issue in the presidential election. Meanwhile, President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, has languished in limbo awaiting a confirmation hearing.

This stall tactic was offensive enough, but all of the Senate Republicans’ bluster may have spun into something much more sinister. Last Monday, Senator John McCain made a bold and injurious claim: that the GOP “will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” In other words, McCain, McConnell, and Co. have changed their tune—President Obama’s “lame duck” nomination isn’t the problem at all; instead, they refuse to allow any nominee from a Democrat that will, as McCain put it, “change this country for decades.” And with most polls pointing to a likely Clinton presidency, Republicans appear to be scrambling to salvage any party unity they can from the scorched earth Donald Trump is leaving in his wake.

[…]

…McCain’s promise that Republicans would indefinitely blockade any SCOTUS nominations made by a President Clinton isn’t just irritating, it’s downright dangerous. If only Republicanpresidents get to select Supreme Court justices, then the implication here, of course, is that a Democratic president is not a legitimate president. And if you’re disquieted by that last sentence, you should be: It challenges the very fundamentals of our democracy.

[…]

The fact that McCain (a well-respected 30-year Senator who has formally unendorsed Trump for his behavior) is trying to undermine the authority of the President is far more terrifying. If we take McCain at his word, then the GOP’s new strategy appears to be dismantling the government from the inside out. Much has been made of the Senate’s refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland over the past seven months, but now, they’re actively refusing to do their jobs for another four-to-eight years.

As you could probably imagine, this is unprecedented: the longest vacancy in Supreme Court history came during the Tyler and Polk presidencies and lasted 841 days (or a little over two years, from April 1844 to August 1846). The longest in modern history was during the Nixon administration, and lasted “only” 391 days before Harry Blackmun was sworn in. McCain has now promised to leave the seat vacant for at least five years, and possibly longer, depending on the outcome of the 2020 election.

To be perfectly frank about it, this threat is tantamount to treason—Congressional Republicans are refusing to recognize the legitimacy of a democratically-elected President and crippling the effectiveness of the Judicial branch in the bargain. Imagine what could happen if, as many anticipate, two or three additional Justices retire in the next four-to-eight years. There seems to be no valid reason for Republicans to continuously refuse legitimate appointments made by a President Clinton, other than a purely selfish attempt to hold onto some semblance of power. Looking ahead in this scenario, if the Republicans do manage to win the Presidency in 2020 or later… why wouldn’t Democrats return the favor? It’s not that difficult to imagine the left retaliating with similar pettiness, leaving our country in perpetual constitutional crisis. Even if the scenario doesn’t end up being so grave, this effort will only serve to neuter the Supreme Court and diminish its authority, throwing our already-delicate legislative balance of powers into complete disarray.

img_1029All of this doomsday prophesying aside, the fact is that Congress has a constitutional obligation to maintain the Supreme Court, whether they like it or not. If Senate Republicans refuse to do the jobs for which they were elected, then not only are they stalling our nation’s progress—they’re delegitimizing the very Constitution that they’re sworn to uphold.

I can tell you, obstructionism from the GOP is treason in my opinion. That goes back to Grover Norquist (Remember that fuckwad?)… and further still to the meeting the GOP members had while Obama was being sworn in.

Well, fuck them. Those Fuckers!

Yeah, this is a fucking open thread…post whatever the fuck you want!

 


Thursday Reads: “We’ll Be Lucky To Live Through It.” — Daniel Drezner

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Good Morning!!

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for hours now without writing anything. I’m so overwhelmed by the insanity Donald Trump has been spewing since the end of the conventions, that I’m really at a loss. I honestly feel as if I’m in shock.

This morning, the media is struggling to explain away Trump’s latest–his claim in a speech last night that President Obama “founded ISIS” and “Crooked Hillary Clinton” was the co-founder.

“Isis is honoring President Obama,” Trump said of Islamic State. “He is the founder of Isis. He founded Isis. And, I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”

Trump’s declaration echoed an attack he made against Clinton last week, also in Florida, in which he said the former secretary of state “should get an award from them as the founder of Isis”.

Republicans have long sought to blame the turmoil in the Middle East on the Obama administration’s foreign policy, often criticizing the president for underestimating the threat posed by Isis. But Trump has routinely gone a step further by stating directly that Obama is sympathetic to terrorists.

The former reality TV star employed the same tactic on Wednesday, referring to the president by his full name – Barack Hussein Obama – and repeating it several times for emphasis of his claim that Obama had founded Isis.

The origins of Isis trace back to the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The group has been deemed an offshoot of al-Qaida, which carried out the attacks on 9/11. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant terrorist viewed as the founder of Isis, was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad in 2006.

I’m afraid to think what ghastly thing Trump might say today, but I’m sure there will be something. Just imagine how Vladimir Putin feels!

 

The first link I opened this morning was from Time Magazine: Inside Donald Trump’s Meltdown. Next I opened Twitter and found that the article had been trending for a couple of hours. It’s an extended list of Trump’s outrageous remarks along with hand-wringing by desperate Republicans who just want him to stop saying stupid things. But Trump obviously can’t help it. The piece is a must-read. Here are just a couple of samples:

When Donald Trump mucks things up, the first person to let him know is usually Republican Party boss Reince Priebus. Almost every day, Trump picks up his cell phone to find Priebus on the line, urging him to quash some feud or clarify an incendiary remark.

The Wisconsin lawyer has been a dutiful sherpa to the Manhattan developer, guiding him through the dizzying altitude of the presidential race and lobbying the GOP to unite behind a figure who threatens its future.

But every bond has its breaking point. For this partnership, the moment nearly arrived in early August. Priebus was on vacation when he learned that Trump had declined to endorse Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House and a close friend. The chairman had a frank message for the nominee, according to two Republican officials briefed on the call. Priebus told Trump that internal GOP polling suggested he was on track to lose the election. And if Trump didn’t turn around his campaign over the coming weeks, the Republican National Committee would consider redirecting party resources and machinery to House and Senate races.

Trump denies the exchange ever took place. “Reince Priebus is a terrific guy,” Trump told TIME. “He never said that.” Priebus could not be reached for comment. But whatever the exact words spoken on the phone, there is no doubt that the possibility Republicans will all but abandon Trump now haunts his struggling campaign.

0811toon_wasserman

Of course. Trump also denies the Secret Service spoke to his campaign about his implied threat against Hillary.

Republicans groan that the difficult task of keeping their Senate majority gets tougher with each outré remark. Which is why the RNC is considering shifting some cash and staff away from the presidential race and toward down-ballot contests. That plan is already in motion among powerful outside groups that typically spend hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of the party nominee. “There’s going to have to be some resource reallocation,” says a senior Republican official familiar with internal party deliberations. A second senior party official routinely instructs Senate campaign managers to distance their candidates from Trump. “Don’t worry about the appearances,” the official said on a recent conference call. “Worry about winning.”

That explains why Republicans running for office this year don’t meet Trump’s plane at airports or introduce him at rallies. In some places, the avoidance strategy seems to be working. Senator Pat Toomey is in a statistical tie in his re-election bid in Pennsylvania, a state where Trump trails by about 10 points. In the key swing state of Florida, Senator Marco Rubio is running ahead in his re-election bid even as Trump narrowly trails Clinton. But in New Hampshire, Trump’s troubles may be dragging down Ayotte, who plummeted from a virtual tie to 10 points down in a recent poll.

On calls with Senate campaign donors, Trump often comes up, as moneymen probe for details on coordination with the top of the ticket. “What Trump campaign?” one swing-state Senate campaign manager snapped at a volunteer recently. “We have more offices than they do.” ….

Like the rest of the party, Trump’s staff has been flummoxed by his political naiveté. They describe a candidate who doesn’t understand the basics of modern campaigns, from why you knock on doors to how to read a poll to why he should be dialing for dollars more aggressively. His headquarters has enough palace intrigue and warring fiefs to rival the fictional badlands of Westeros. “You’re always afraid of getting fired,” says one staffer, “but it’s his fault, not ours.”

These staff members are still cashing checks but have begun to lose faith that their boss can or should win the top prize in American politics. Most highly regarded Republican operatives have stayed away from the campaign, wary of being blackballed for future gigs. “If someone applied for a job and brought in a résumé that had Trump 2016 on it,” says a GOP fundraising consultant, “I wouldn’t give them an interview.”

There’s much much more at the Time link, so be sure to check it out.

Secret Service guard Trump's mouth

Secret Service guarding Trump’s mouth

So what’s Trump up to this morning? He’s doubling down on his “found of ISIS” and “second amendment people” remarks. Politico reports: Trump ramps up attack on Obama as founder of Islamic State.

Donald Trump on Thursday escalated his attack on President Barack Obama, doubling down on his accusation that he’s a founder of the Islamic State and claiming that both Obama and Hillary Clinton remain the terrorist group’s most valuable players….

After first leveling the terror-related accusation against Obama and Clinton at a Wednesday night rally, Trump made the claim three more times on Thursday — all before noon.

“Our government isn’t giving us good protection. Our government has unleashed ISIS,” he said as he addressed the National Association of Home Builders in Miami. “I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They’re the founders. In fact, I think we’ll give Hillary Clinton the — you know, if you’re on a sports team, most valuable player, MVP, you get the MVP award — ISIS will hand her the most valuable player award. Her only competition is Barack Obama.”

His remarks echoed his sentiments earlier Thursday during a phone interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” during which he also named Obama the MVP of ISIS.

“He gets the most valuable player award. Him and Hillary, she gets it too. I gave her co-founder if you really looked at this speech,” Trump said. “But he and Hillary get the most valuable player award having to do with Iraq, and having to do with the ISIS situation, or as he would call it, ISIL. He calls it ISIL because nobody else does and he probably wants to bother people by using another term, whether it’s more accurate or not.”

And Trump sees no problem with calling the President of the United States a terrorist.

The Manhattan billionaire bristled at the notion that referring to the president and his former secretary of state as the co-founders of a terrorist group intent on killing Americans was somehow inappropriate. He said that he has been successful thus far as a political outsider throughout the election cycle by speaking his mind, and if that ends up costing him the general election, so be it.

“Is there something wrong with saying that? Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS?” Trump said. “Look, all I do is tell the truth. I’m a truth teller. All I do is tell the truth.”

Unbelievably, there is even more at the link.

trump-second-amendment-people-cartoon-luckovich

Here’s Daniel Drezner at The Washington Post in response to Trump’s implication that Hillary should be assassinated: The 2016 campaign is getting out of control. We’ll be lucky to live through it.

The Trump campaign is trying to spin this every which way they can. Claims that his remark about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was just a “joke” don’t really hold water in the sense that jokes still mean something, particularly in presidential campaigns. Furthermore, the statement was serious enough for the Secret Service to have a conversation with the campaign about this kind of rhetoric. The fact that Trump won’t apologize for a joke gone bad is indicative of the many other dangerous statements that he never walks back.

And there are consequences for this kind of violent rhetoric. Read some examples at the link.

This is the kind of thing that Trump supporters think is funny. From the Buffalo News last month: Festival apologizes for ‘Hillary Clinton in a coffin’ car show entry.

It seems there’s no escaping the politics of bad taste when a presidential campaign is in full swing. Just ask Leslee Chilcott.

The Village of Hamburg resident has attended BurgerFest for 20 years. But this year, she cut her visit short after visiting the car show with her four children. Hitched to a 1920s Model-T Ford was an open coffin on a trailer hitch with a full-sized doll inside representing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. An image of Donald Trump’s face, attached to the rear car window, making it appear as if Trump is looking down on Clinton’s smiling-but-dead mannequin body. The coffin also featured beer taps on the side.

“That was enough for me,” said Chilcott, who abruptly took her disappointed children home early Saturday afternoon.

When her 6-year-old son asked her why there was a coffin with a dead woman in it named Hillary, Chilcott said, “I had to explain to him that some people are mean. For me, it wasn’t a political stance for this person to have the dummy. It was a living person.”

Hillary-coffin

What’s next? I shudder to think. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread. I’ll add a few more stories there too.


Thursday Reads: The Trump Convention Approaches

Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, 2008

Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, 2008

Good Morning!!

The next two weeks will be fascinating ones for political junkies. The Republican Convention begins on Monday, July 18 in Cleveland, and just a week later on July 25 the Democratic Convention will be held in Philadelphia. The list of speakers for the GOP Convention was released this morning.

The Washington Post: Republican convention’s ‘non-conventional’ list: Model, astronaut and Trump clan.

Donald Trump’s convention will feature an eclectic mix of cultural figures, from the first woman to command a space shuttle mission to the survivors of the 2012 Benghazi attacks to an underwear model.

But while several Republican Party establishment figures will take the stage next week in Cleveland, the national convention to officially nominate Trump will be devoid of some of the GOP’s most seasoned leaders and brightest new stars.

Republican officials released a long-awaited list of convention speakers on Thursday that are billed as “non-conventional speakers” who emphasize “real world experience.”

Barry Goldwater and William Miller at the 1964 GOP Convention in San Francisco

Barry Goldwater and William Miller at the 1964 GOP Convention in San Francisco

A small number of elected officials and former office-holders have agreed to speak at Trump’s convention, including Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marsha Blackburn, Mike Huckabee, Rick Scott, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Jeff Sessions, Joni Ernst, and Asa Hutchison. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is not included in the list of speakers. It’s not clear whether that means he will be the VP nominee or if there is some reason he won’t be speaking. Another notable omission from the speakers list is Sarah Palin.

The unusual collection of non-political speakers seems designed to broaden Trump’s appeal. They include retired astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman pilot and first woman commander of a space shuttle mission; Mark Geist and John Tiegen, two survivors of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya; and Antonio Sabato Jr., a former Calvin Klein underwear model, soap-opera actor and reality-television star.

Some sports figures will take the stage here, including pro golfer Natalie Gulbis and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White. But some sporting heroes of decades past that Trump has said he would like to see at the convention — former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight and boxing legend Don King — are not listed as featured speakers.

Thomas E. Dewey at the 1948 Republican Convention

Thomas E. Dewey at the 1948 Republican Convention

Trump family members and close friends will also speak at the convention.

The Cleveland convention will be orchestrated to help expand Trump’s appeal to the general electorate. To that end, several member of Trump’s family are expected to give speeches, including his wife, Melania, and his four oldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany.

In addition, other speakers who have known Trump and his family through the years plan to take the stage. They include Haskel Lookstein, a rabbi in New York who converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism; Tom Barrack, a wealthy California-based investor who has worked with Donald Trump on real estate deals; and Kerry Woolard, the general manager of Trump Winery in Virginia.

See a full list of GOP convention speakers at Cleveland.com and a tentative schedule of events at Newsday.

In contrast to the weak list of GOP convention speakers, the Democratic Convention speakers list is star-studded. The Washington Post:

The Democratic National Convention is likely to open with a showcase of some of the party’s biggest stars, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and first lady Michelle Obama, according to a source with knowledge of the convention planning.

Although the speaking schedule isn’t yet set in stone, the jam-packed Monday night is also expected to include Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) will introduce Warren in Philadelphia.

Sanders’s name will be entered into the nomination, prompting a roll call vote of delegates for both candidates.

Percy Sutton nominates Shirley Chisholm at the 1972 Democratic Convention

Percy Sutton nominates Shirley Chisholm at the 1972 Democratic Convention

As we all expected Sanders will continue trying to get as much attention as he can for as long as he can.

According to another source familiar with the convention planning, the night’s theme will be an economic agenda focused on families. The list of speakers is intended to highlight the unity of the Democratic Party in contrast to the Republican convention that will have come the week before.

The night’s programming, including the speakers and videos, will drive home the theme of Clinton’s campaign, “Stronger together,” by highlighting a populist economic agenda.

The convention speaking list is coming together this week, and more speakers are likely to be formally announced as early as this week.

Presumably, speakers also will include President Obama and former President Clinton as well as rising stars in the party.

The Trump campaign announced yesterday that the presumptive GOP nominee will name his Vice Presidential running mate tomorrow morning at 11AM in New York City. The exact location hasn’t been announced yet. NPR reports: Trump Wraps Up Vice President Auditions, Sets Friday Announcement.

The deadline for a decision comes after the presumptive GOP presidential nominee wrapped up both public tryouts and private meetings with the three men believed to be among the finalists — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

After he campaigned with Pence in Indiana Tuesday evening, Trump his family met with Pence at his Indiana home on Wednesday morning, according toNBC News, while Gingrich and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions also flew to Indianapolis to meet with Trump. Christie met with Trump and his family on Tuesday.

Pence, who gave a tepid endorsement to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz before his state’s primary, was more gleefully on board with Trump’s campaign on Tuesday night as he introduced him at a rally in Westfield.

“Donald Trump gets it,” Pence told the crowd. “Donald Trump hears the voice of the American people.” ….

Of the three presumed vice presidential finalists, Pence was the only one who gave a direct introduction for Trump before he came to the stage. Trump also campaigned with Christie on Monday in Virginia and with Gingrich last week in Ohio.

Trump praised Pence at the end of what was a meandering speech — attacking rival Hillary Clinton often but also wandering off into other topics such as immigration and trade and back again.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or your vice president, who the hell knows!” Trump told the crowd, referring to Pence.

Richard Nixon at the 1968 Republican Convention

Richard Nixon at the 1968 Republican Convention

Yeah, who the hell knows? This horrifying man is actually running for president. The other top VP candidates are supposedly Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie, and Newt Gingrich. TA Frank weighed in on each of these choices at The Atlantic: It’s down to four, but does any candidate offer even a smidgen of hope?

At this point, Trump needs a running mate who amplifies his strengths and, possibly, goes some way toward remedying some of the candidate’s most serious weaknesses: erratic behavior, lack of experience, inadequate grasp of history, and almost zero policy chops. He or she needs to believe what Trump believes—but in a way that suggests there will be an adult in the room. Trump’s vice president is likely to be powerful in the White House, so the pick is about a lot more than campaigning. The question remains, however, whether any of the final four offer a glimmer of hope.

Some excerpts from Frank’s assessments of the top four candidates.

Newt Gingrich

Even in the wake of reports that Fox News and Gingrich have parted ways, perhaps to allow him to be vetted for the post, I still do not think this V.P. possibility is for real. Even Trump has said about Gingrich that “Newt is Newt.” That’s what you say about someone whom you accept despite major flaws. As in: Kanye is Kanye. That sort of stuff. And remember that “erratic” thing that we were trying to remedy? Gingrich is not your man for that.

John Kennedy at the 1960 Democratic Convention

John Kennedy at the 1960 Democratic Convention

Mike Pence

Yes, Pence campaigned with Trump this week in Indianapolis and sang his praises. But he seemed about as believable in his Trump-love as Paul Ryan. O.K., he did a little better than that. At least he wants Trump to win, maybe.

But Mike Pence has a fan club of roughly four, and all four have the last name Pence. This is someone who has the capability to be bungling and divisive on dumb social issues—by all accounts pleasing no one in his management of a religious-liberty law in Indiana, which means he angers social liberals, social moderates, and social conservatives. To be fair, that does leave the apathetic or uninformed.

Chris Christie

We’ve been through this. Christie is, I will admit, an excellent retail politician. He’s a superb attack dog. He’s a social moderate. You like him, and he likes you, or thinks he does. But he’s got that bridge scandal to deal with and no one respects him after he turned into a courtier. Trump’s ticket would become the stuff of comedy. Picture it. Now picture it as a silhouette.

Protesters forming a human pyramid in Chicago's Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention

Protesters forming a human pyramid in Chicago’s Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention

Jeff Sessions

Here, I must bring up one more crucial vulnerability of Trump: the suspicion that he doesn’t really mean a lot of the things that he says. It’s all pandering: on immigration, on trade, on budgets, on health care, etc. That’s one more reason why Jeff Sessions would pack a punch: Sessions represents Trumpism without Trump. Selecting him as a running mate would signal that Trump actually means what he’s saying.

Read more from TA Frank at the link.

I can’t resist including this assessment of Trump’s VP choices from Gawker: Which of His Potential Vice Presidential Candidates Is Donald Trump Just Fucking With? Check it out at that link.

So . . . what do you think? Will you be watching next week’s GOP clusterf#ck? What other stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: NASA Goes to Jupiter and Other News

Juno spacecraft

Juno spacecraft

Good Afternoon!!

Lots of breaking news this morning. FBI Director James Comey just held a press conference to announce that the FBI will not be recommending criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of State Department emails. NBC News reports:

“No reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey told reporters.

Federal investigators did not find evidence of intentional wrongdoing, he said — but there is evidence the former secretary of state and her staff were “extremely careless.”

Comey said 110 emails sent or received on the Clinton server contained classified information. He also said it’s possible “hostile actors” gained access to the server.

So there’s still plenty of fodder for the Clinton haters and conspiracy theorists to scream out. Meanwhile, Wikileaks released a more than 1,200 of Clinton’s emails. The Independent:

The website tweeted a link to 1,258 emails on Monday that Clinton sent during her time as secretary of state. According to the release, the emails were obtained from the US State Department after they issued a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails stem from a State Department release back in February, The Hill reports.

And from NY Magazine:

If you have some hours to kill, you could do worse than a deep dive into the Clinton emails released by WikiLeaks yesterday. The site went through the emails released earlier in the year by the State Department looking for any mentions of the Iraq War. The 1,258 emails show mostly that people at the State Department are just like us, namely in that they spend their days sending their colleagues links to things they read online.

It doesn’t sound all that exciting, but Julian Assange thinks Clinton should be prosecuted. This from the guy who ran from a rape charge.

Watch Comey’s press conference:

 

There’s been another terrorist attack, this time in Saudi Arabia. Reuters: U.N. rights boss calls bombing near Saudi holy mosque an attack on Islam.

The U.N. human rights chief on Tuesday called a suicide bombing outside the Prophet Mohammad’s Mosque in the Saudi city of Medina an attack on Islam itself and many Muslims expressed shock that their second-holiest site had been targeted.

Three apparently coordinated suicide attacks on Monday targeted Medina, the U.S. consulate in Jeddah and the largely Shi’ite Muslim city of Qatif on Monday. At least four security officers were killed.

No group has claimed responsibility but Islamic State has carried out similar bombings in the U.S.-allied kingdom in the past year, targeting Shi’ites and Saudi security forces.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and a member of the Jordanian royal family, delivered his remarks via a spokesman in Geneva.

“This is one of the holiest sites in Islam, and for such an attack to take place there, during Ramadan, can be considered a direct attack on Muslims all across the world,” he said, referring to the Islamic holy month.

“It is an attack on the religion itself.”

Militant attacks on Medina are unprecedented. The city is home to the second-holiest site in Islam, a mosque built by the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, which also houses his tomb.

NBC News: ISIS Fulfills Promise of Deadly Ramadan as Holy Month Comes to an End.

With Ramadan drawing to a close on Tuesday, ISIS has fulfilled its promise of staining the Muslim holy month with bloodshed around the globe—taking credit for some of the deadly attacks that have killed hundreds in several countries, including in Iraq, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Turkey, Saudi Arabia.

The terrorist group vowed in May, just before Ramadan began, to make it “with God’s permission, a month of pain for infidels everywhere.” And that it was, with many countries remaining on high alert following the attacks.

The past few days have been particularly violent. Suicide bombs rocked two Saudi Arabian cities on Monday, killing at least four security officers, wounding five other people — and coming just hours after authorities in a third city stopped a bomber just feet from the U.S. Consulate.

On the attacks in Saudi Arabia:

In Saudi Arabia, the attacks began Sunday night, when a suicide bomber was stopped by security personnel in a hospital parking lot about 30 feet from the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah.

The bomber detonated an explosive belt, killing himself and “slightly” injuring two officers, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement. No Americans were hurt and all State Department personnel were accounted for.

Hours later, on the other side of the country, a pair of suicide bombers attacked the Persian Gulf city of Qatif, a Ministry of Interior source confirmed to NBC News. Details of casualties in the largely minority Shi’ite city were not immediately available.

Shortly after that, four security officers were killed — as well as a suicide bomber — near the security headquarters of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, a site considered to be the second holiest in Islam.

The attack occurred in a parking lot outside the mosque, during Maghreb prayers, when the bomber pretended to break the Ramadan fast with a group of security personnel, al Arabiya reported.

 

Now for some positive–even thrilling–news. NASA’s Juno spacecraft is now orbiting Jupiter! CNN:

Jet Propulsion Lab, California (CNN)NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

Welcome to Jupiter!” flashed on screens at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.

The Juno team cheered and hugged. “This is phenomenal,” said Geoff Yoder, acting administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate….

The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second).

Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution. It’s the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. Galileo was deliberately crashed into Jupiter on September 21, 2003, to protect one of its discoveries — a possible ocean beneath Jupiter’s moon Europa.

More from Spaceflight Now:

A 1/5th size scale model of NASA's Juno spacecraft is displayed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, July 4, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK

A 1/5th size scale model of NASA’s Juno spacecraft is displayed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, July 4, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK

Setting up post at the king of planets, NASA’s Juno spacecraft fired its main engine for 35 minutes Monday, steering into orbit around Jupiter to peer inside the gas giant and give scientists a better idea of how the solar system took shape 4.6 billion years ago.

Spinning on its axis once every 12 seconds, the probe’s British-built rocket thruster ignited and slowed down Juno just enough to be snared by Jupiter’s strong gravity field into a looping, 53-day-long orbit.

Confirmation of the burn’s successful conclusion reached Earth at 11:53 p.m. EDT (0353 GMT) via a radio tone broadcast by Juno, prompting applause and smiles inside the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“All stations… we have the tone for burn cutoff on delta-v,” a ground controller said over a radio loop. “Welcome to Jupiter.”

Powered by three solar panels arranged in a propeller-like pattern around Juno’s main body, the Jupiter orbiter wrapped up a five-year, 1.7-billion-mile (2.8-billion-kilometer) trip with Monday’s automated rendezvous with the solar system’s biggest planet.

“Tonight, through tones, Juno sang to us, and it was a song of perfection,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno’s project manager at JPL. “After a 1.7-billion-mile journey, we hit our burn target within one second.”

The record-setting journey made Juno the farthest spacecraft from the sun to ever rely on solar power, and Monday’s maneuver made the $1.1 billion mission the second to ever orbit Jupiter.

Read more about it at the link.

Hillary will be campaigning with President Obama this afternoon–that should also be exciting. Politico: Obama and Clinton rally against Trump.

When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama publicly reconciled eight years ago at a celebrated summer rally in Unity, New Hampshire, the two recent rivals were still closer to being opponents than friends.

While both candidates were set on healing the Democratic Party after a divisive primary, the lead-up to the event was fraught. Did their show of warmth — a kiss on the tarmac in Washington, D.C., as they boarded a chartered plane together — appear genuine? Would their praise for each other — “she rocks,” gushed Obama, seeking to win over her supporters — seem too forced?

When President Obama takes the stage at the Charlotte Convention Center with Clinton on Tuesday afternoon for their first joint rally of the 2016 campaign, it will be most notable for how far the two leaders of the Democratic Party have come in the eight intervening years.

“It is as far from fraught as can be,” said Obama’s former chief strategist, David Axelrod, of Obama’s long-anticipated campaign trail debut. “He’s been chomping at the bit to get out there. There’s so many reasons why he feels strongly about this — part of it is his genuine respect for her, part of it is his feelings about the alternative. There’s no half-hearted warrior here.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton confidant, said of Tuesday’s rally that unlike eight years ago, “they have such a great relationship that there’s nothing to psychoanalyze. He wants to do everything he can for her.”

ClintonObama_c0-10-3087-1809_s885x516

I can’t wait to watch them together on stage. On Friday Hillary will campaign with Joe Biden in his birthplace, Scranton, PA.

Here’s something else to look forward to. Buzzfeed is going to be working “a new beat” that will involve countering fake news and viral lies. First Draft News: How BuzzFeed wants to use its social media acumen to take on the hoaxers.

BuzzFeed Canada editor and First Draft Coalition member Craig Silverman will be leading the charge from Toronto, “bringing his deep expertise at debunking hoaxes to our reporting arsenal,” said Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s head of international growth, “and acting as a resource for all BuzzFeed editions, as well as a watchdog on behalf of our readers worldwide.”

“We’re in a really early phase of testing” Silverman told First Draft, “and seeing what’s going to work in terms of content produced and what works for the BuzzFeed audience.”

Almost every other story in the last month from Silverman, who founded the (currently dormant) rumour-tracking project Emergent, has been a debunk of one kind or another.Quick stories which set the record straight, in-depth investigations into the phenomenon of misinformation and weekly quizzes of the latest fake news to go viral have all been testing grounds to see what resonates with readers.

The biggest challenge for BuzzFeed – and for fact-checkers and debunkers the world over – will be in figuring out a way to make debunks travel as far and fast as the false rumours they address.

Read more at the link.

I haven’t heard anything about Bernie Sanders for days. I’ve been ignoring him, but he also seems to have dropped out of the news. But he’s still getting Secret Service protection. CNN: Sanders’ campaign is over, yet Secret Service motorcade roars on.

Bernie Sanders is back to his old day job, trading the booming applause of his campaign rallies to the far more tedious work of the Senate….But just off the Senate floor and across the Capitol, one vestige of his presidential campaign remains: his Secret Service detail. And taxpayers are footing the bill.

Protecting a presidential candidate costs about $40,000 a day, a federal official familiar with the Homeland Security budget told CNN. For Sanders, that’s more than a half-million dollars since the last primary on June 14. The cost could grow by nearly $2 million if he stays in the race through the Democratic convention in Philadelphia later.

The federal official said it’s difficult to tally exact costs, since some agents are working on other projects simultaneously, but the overall amount spent on Sanders is far higher when calculating the weeks of protection he received after the nomination was effectively out of his reach, as Hillary Clinton surpassed him in the delegate count.

Sanders waved off questions on the matter.

Maybe he’ll keep right on campaigning through November 8. Nothing would surprise me at this point.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?

Blue Blue Monday Reads and Yes! Let’s politicize homophobia and gun fetishists!

Good Afternoon!

Once again we see the results of toxic religious zealotry and resentment whipped up to the point that some nutter feels compelled to kill in the case of the Orlando massacre.  This occurs all too frequently in this country.  You may recall the images (14)Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting where we saw Robert Dear go on a shooting spree with the same deadly combination of anger whipped up by right wing politicians and preachers, mental illness, and easy access to weapons.  One claimed ISIS inspiration and Islamofascism.  The other was inspired by Christofascists in the US that bring you terror in the name of Fetus Fetishism.

We still haven’t heard about the motives of the Indiana man–a 20 year old white guy–in terms of why he was going after participants and viewers of a California Gay Pride parade.  Suffice it to say, the politicization of the private lives of the GLBT community by Republicans, their presidential candidate, and the various religious whackos that they court likely will come into play at some point.

Harassing and encouraging anger is just one political tool used regularly by Republicans these days.  I have noticed that the silence is deafening right now on James Wesley Howell.  The press can is clearly focused on the bloodbath and the sensational background of the Pulse Shooter rather than wondering why we manage to get bigger and badder displays of hatred and anger these days.  I’m not sure that most people realize that any Abrahamic-based religion is going to beget violence in some folks.  It goes with territory.  A few of them take retribution and strict commandments from their angry sky fairy way too seriously. This is especially the case if they have some kind of severe emotional or mental disorder.

(Spoiler Alert)  It’s the easy access to guns of all kinds in this country. The irresponsible and cynical use of anger and outrage to gain power and money is out of control.  Religion is just another vehicle to whip up the anger and the outrage and it frequently turns deadly.

obama1-703x406The weapon of choice for mass shooters is the AR-15 rifle.  This is one of the weapons that was included in the assault weapons ban signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 that expired in 2004.  The rifle was used in Orlando, Aurora,  Newton, and San Bernadino. It’s easily obtainable and the latest shooter–who had a history of Domestic Violence and was under the eye of the FBI for terrorist rantings–had a license to carry it and to obtain it legally.  Let that sink in.

There were calls to ban the weapon after the Newtown shootings, which led to a spike in sales. Gun manufacturers have called the AR-15 one of the most popular weapons in the U.S., with more than 3 million estimated to be in circulation.

“It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did this morning: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease,” lawyer Josh Koskoff, who’s representing Newtown families in their lawsuit against the gun industry, said Sunday.

Regulations on magazine capacity for the weapon vary from state to state, but it can fire 45 rounds a minute.

Most forms of the gun had been prohibited under the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004, following ferocious lobbying by the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has used its lobbying might in the years since to bury attempts to revive the ban.

“During the decade of the ban, there were half as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade before, and a third as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade after,” said Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, a strategist involved in the original legislation.

920x920 (1)Hillary Clinton has called for a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban that her husband signed in his first term.  This is one of the reasons that I am so happy she is the nominee.  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has some extremely neoconfederate views of gun control that he reiterated yesterday.  He believes it is a state and local issue, voted against the Brady Bill many many times, and has supported relieving gun manufacturers and stores of any liability for the damage done by their product.

Hillary Clinton has called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history that left 49 people and the gunman dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

In forthright comments a day after the massacre at the Pulse Club, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic party issued a call for a return to “commonsense gun safety reform” and lambasted the Republican-controlled Congress for what she called a “totally incomprehensible” refusal to address the country’s lax gun laws.

“We can’t fall into the trap set up by the gun lobby that says if you cannot stop every shooting you shouldn’t try to stop any,” she said.

Clinton’s tough stance on gun control sets up a torrid fight with her Republican rival for the White House Donald Trump, who has positioned himself as a champion of the second amendment and dismissed any calls for greater gun controls as weakness. She insisted that while she did believe that law-abiding American citizens have the right to own guns, it was also possible to see that “reasonable, commonsense measures” could be taken that would make people more safe from guns.

One of the things that stuns me is the ease with which a guy on the FBI threat radar could get a permit to carry and purchase a rifle that no civilian should own.

A day after the deadliest mass shooting in US history, questions are mounting over why the shooter Omar Mateen was legally able to buy an assault rifle and handgun despite having been investigated twice by the FBI for suspected terrorist sympathies.

Mateen, 29, launched his attack on Pulse club, an LGBT venue in downtown Orlando celebrating its popular Latin dance night, at 2.02am on Sunday morning.

Twenty minutes into the spree he took the bizarre step of making a 911 call in which he reportedly referred both to Islamic State and the Tsarnaevs, the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013.

Sunday’s attack – which left 49 clubgoers dead and 53 injured – was launched by Mateen using a .223-caliber assault rifle and 9mm semi-automatic pistol with multiple rounds of ammunition that had been purchased quite lawfully in the week before the rampage using Mateen’s firearms license. Mateen was shot dead by police.

He also held a permit to work as a security guard, which he did at a courthouse in Port St Lucie, Florida, even though he was interviewed three times by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 following separate reports of extremist behavior and connections to terrorism that were in the end deemed insubstantial.

Mateen was released because no evidence of wrongdoing was found by the FBI.  He’s a natural born American so that provides him the usual 4816protections.  This is something that appears to have blown completely pass Donald Trump whose rhetoric and bragging were dialed up to 11 yesterday. He revisited his call to ban all Muslims from entering the country despite the fact that all three of the shooters claiming support for Islamofascim–Nidal Hassn (Fort Hood),Syed Rizwan Farook, (San Bernardino) , and Mateen (Orlando)–were American citizens. Only Farook’s wife–Tashfeen Malik–was foreign born.

The presumptive Republican nominee pulled no punches in a lengthy statement yesterday, going so far as to call for Barack Obama to resign and reiterating his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States (despite the fact that the shooter was born in New York).

“In his remarks today, President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam’. For that reason alone, he should step down,” Trump said in his press release. “If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words ‘Radical Islam’ she should get out of this race for the Presidency. If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen – and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”

“We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States,” Trump added. “Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.” (To be fair, this mischaracterizes Clinton’s position.)

The statement followed a stream of self-congratulatory tweets.

Clinton  has decided to adopt the use of radical Islam.  Let’s hope she will also be brave enough to point out radical Christians like Ted Cruz’s “Kill the 1024x1024Gays” pastor or the horrid group at Westborough Baptist Church.   She used the term on several morning news shows today.

Hillary Clinton on Monday broke from President Barack Obama in referring to the terrorist attack as “radical Islamism,” countering Donald Trump’s accusations that both she and Obama are weak on tackling terrorist threats.

In an interview with NBC’s “Today” on Monday morning, Clinton said words matter less than actions, but that she didn’t have a problem using the term.

“And from my perspective, it matters what we do, not what we say. It matters that we got Bin Laden, not what name we called him,” Clinton said. “But if he is somehow suggesting I don’t call this for what it is, he hasn’t been listening. I have clearly said we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism, and we will.”

Both terms “mean the same thing,” Clinton continued, adding, “And to me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.”

“I have clearly said many, many times we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism or radical Islamism, whatever you call it,” Clinton said later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” reiterating, “it’s the same.”

The U.S. cannot, on the other hand, she added, “demonize, demagogue and declare war on an entire religion.” Clinton also said she could assure Americans that she is equally committed to fighting Islamic extremism as well as protecting law-abiding Muslims.

The President spoke on the radicalization of Mateen several hours ago.

President Obama said Monday that the Orlando mass murder was “inspired” by violent extremist propaganda on the internet and there’s no evidence the killing spree was ordered by ISIS.

“We see no clear evidence that he was directed externally,” Obama said from the Oval Office, using another name from the Islamic State terror group. “It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to ISIL.”

Obama said investigators are tracing Omar Mateen’s “pathway” to murder by reviewing his internet searches and other materials.

“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” Obama said.

“All those materials are currently being searched … so we will have a better sense of pathway that the killer took in the making a decision to launch this attack.”

Obama made the brief remarks after meeting with FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other security officials.

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The Orlando shooting and the shooting that might have been in California both are rooted in hate and easy access to guns. Both shooter and potential shooter had histories of mental illness. The Orlando shooter had a history of Domestic violence which in many states would stop him from getting access to any gun. Clearly, we have a problem in this country with hate and guns turned on the hapless population. One of our political parties has weaponized hatred and bigotry then enabled shooters by catering to all the whims of the most radical elements of the NRA gun lobby.

Clinton is right. This has to end on all accounts.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?