Goddess, Hunter, Consort, Thief, by Peter Paul Rubens, 16th Century
The Supreme Court is in the news and not in a good way. You know about John Roberts’ failed “investigation” into the leak of the draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but did you know about the secret documentary on Brett Kavanaugh? Here’s the latest:
The Supreme Court’s internal investigation into who leaked a draft of the opinion last year overturning the landmark decision that had established a constitutional right to abortion included talking to all nine justices, the marshal of the court said on Friday.
But the justices — unlike dozens of law clerks and permanent employees of the court — were not made to sign sworn affidavits attesting that they had not been involved in the leak of the draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade and that they knew nothing about it.
The clarification by the marshal, Gail A. Curley, who oversaw the inquiry, followed widespread speculation over its scope and limitations. In a 20-page report on Thursday, Ms. Curley disclosed that the investigation had not turned up the source of the leak while leaving ambiguous whether it had extended to interviewing the justices themselves.
“During the course of the investigation, I spoke with each of the justices, several on multiple occasions,” Ms. Curley said on Friday. “The justices actively cooperated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine.”
She added: “I followed up on all credible leads, none of which implicated the justices or their spouses. On this basis, I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the justices to sign sworn affidavits.”
Ms. Curley did not indicate whether she searched the justices’ court-issued electronic devices and asked them to turn over personal devices and cellphone records, as she did with other personnel. She also did not address whether she had interviewed any of the justices’ spouses, another question that arose after her report was made public.
It wasn’t much of an investigation if even Gini Thomas was not questioned, and the most likely suspects–the right wing justices– weren’t required to sign affidavits. But no one really expected Roberts to do a serious investigation when he won’t even deal with the justices’ political activities and conflicts of interest. What a weakling he is.
A secretly made documentary expanding on allegations of sexual assault against supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh has premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival.
Four year old girl with cat, by Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, 1647
Justice, a last-minute addition to the schedule, aims to shine a light not only on the women who have accused Kavanaugh, a Donald Trump nominee, but also the failed FBI investigation into the allegations.
“I do hope this triggers outrage,” said producer Amy Herdy in a Q&A after the premiere in Park City, Utah. “I do hope that this triggers action, I do hope that this triggers additional investigation with real subpoena powers.”
The film provides a timeline of the allegations, initially that Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault when she was 15 and he 17. She alleged that he held her down on a bed and groped her, and tried to rip her clothes off before she got away. Kavanaugh was also accused of sexual misconduct by Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that he exposed himself and thrust his penis at her face without her consent at a college party.
About the film:
The first scene features Ford, half off-camera, interviewed by the film’s director Doug Liman, whose credits include Mr and Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity. Justice features a number of interviews with journalists, lawyers, psychologists and those who knew Ford and Ramirez.
“This was the kind of movie where people are terrified,” Liman said. “The people that chose to participate in the movie are heroes.”
In the film, Ramirez, who previously told her story to Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, also shares her story on-camera. Ramirez is referred to as someone “they worked hard for people not to know”, her story never given the space it deserved until long after Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court in October 2018….
The film then details how the circles around Ramirez and Kavanaugh responded, showing text messages of a discussion when Ramirez’s allegations were about to go public, of a mutual friend being asked by Kavanaugh to go on record to defend him. Another friend refers to it as “a cover-up”.
The New Yorker included a statement from a group of students at the time in support of Kavanaugh. A year later, the film shows that two of them emailed the New Yorker to remove their names from the statement.
Ramirez’s lawyers claim they contacted Republican senator Jeff Flake, who was involved in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, to explain what happened to her. The next day Flake called to delay the confirmation and insist on a week-long FBI investigation.
But the film details how the FBI failed to call on the many witnesses recommended by Ramirez’s lawyers. Footage is shown of the film-makers meeting with a confidential source who plays tape of Kavanaugh’s classmate Max Stier, now a prominent figure in Washington running a non-profit, who allegedly witnessed Kavanaugh involved in a similar act of alleged drunken exposure with a female student at a dorm party at Yale. The woman has chosen to remain anonymous and this is the first time this recording has been heard.
While Congress’ biggest Donald Trump antagonists are household names to political junkies — think Liz Cheney, Adam Schiff, Jamie Raskin — there’s a lesser-known Trump adversary who may have been more effective than the others: Doug Letter.
Portrait of Cleopea Krieg von Bellikon, 1499-1671, by Hans Asper
The former House general counsel was involved in every political brawl between House Democrats and Trump that has defined Washington politics for the past four years. Letter helped guide the work of the Jan. 6 select committee, played a critical role in both Trump impeachments and strategized the certification of Joe Biden’s win — before violent rioters upended those plans on Jan. 6, 2021….
In a wide-ranging interview with POLITICO, the House’s former top attorney described his tenure battling a former president who tested the limits of executive power at every turn, resisting efforts at accountability in ways that previous chief executives had not. But he has faith that his work helped to stem future presidential attempts to push constitutional boundaries, lending more power to lawmakers.
“I just feel like the Biden administration and future administrations are not going to act like the Trump administration,” Letter said. “They’re not going to show such ignorance of our system and think that the executive branch can ignore the legislative branch. That’s not the way it works.”
Doug Letter on January 6:
Letter was returning to the House floor from some basement vending machines when he ran into Speaker Nancy Pelosi being whisked from the Capitol under heavy guard. Don’t go back up there, one official told him. An angry mob had breached the building.
But Letter, in a panic, said he had to retrieve several giant binders that were full of sensitive strategy and scripts for the day’s proceedings. He opted to forgo evacuating with Pelosi and instead raced back to the chamber.
“I was the last person in before they locked the doors,” Letter recalled.
The attack on the Capitol led to the Jan. 6 select committee, where the House’s then-top attorney charted a legal strategy that Letter now describes as one of the hallmarks of his tenure.
Through his work on that panel, Letter secured at least two streams of information that became a core element of the committee’s voluminous findings: Trump’s confidential White House records and the Chapman University emails of attorney John Eastman, an architect of the then-president’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.
Letter also won court fights to obtain telephone records from Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, who took part in Trump world’s plan to send false electors to Congress. And he helped direct the House’s strategy to hold certain Trump advisers in contempt of Congress, which resulted in prosecutions of Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon.
“We had a whole enormous number of people that, as we now know, were putting together this massive, not just a conspiracy, but a whole bunch of conspiracies, to attack our democracy,” Letter said.
Read the rest at Politico.
Joseph Goodhue Chandler, American folk art
As you know, I went to a meeting in my over-60 apartment building awhile back. Most of the people there weren’t wearing masks. I came down with something a few days later, and it dragged on for weeks. I thought others here in the building were being careful too, but I was wrong. We haven’t talked much about Covid-19 on the blog lately, but yesterday I read this article that really angered me, and I want to share it with you.
In photos of 2023’s World Economic Forum—or Davos as it is commonly called, after the Swiss resort town where it annually occurs—you might not notice the HEPA filters. They’re in the background, unobtrusive and unremarked upon, quietly cleansing the air of viruses and bacteria. You wouldn’t know—not unless you asked—that every attendee was PCR tested before entering the forum, or that in the case of a positive test, access was automatically, electronically, revoked. The folks on stage aren’t sporting masks (mostly), so unless you looked at the official Davos Health & Safety protocol, you wouldn’t be aware that their on-site drivers are required to wear them. You also might be surprised to learn that if, at any point, you start to feel ill at Davos, you can go collect a free rapid test, or even call their dedicated COVID hotline.
It’s hard to square this information with the public narrative about COVID, isn’t it? President Joe Biden has called the pandemic “over.” The New York Timesrecently claimed that “the risk of Covid is similar to that of the flu” in an article about “hold outs” that are annoyingly refusing to accept continual reinfection as their “new normal.” Yet, this week the richest people in the world are taking common sense, easy—but strict—precautions to ensure they don’t catch COVID-19 at Davos.
In addition to high-quality ventilation, masks, hotlines and PCR testing, some have noted the signature blue glow of Far-UVC lighting, demonstrated to kill pathogens in the air, although this is unconfirmed. We can be certain, however, that the testing, high-quality ventilation, and filtration protocol is effective at preventing the kind of super-spreader events most of us are now accustomed to attending.
t seems unlikely to me that a New York Times reporter will follow the super-rich around like David Attenborough on safari, the way one of their employees did when they profiled middle-class maskers last month. I doubt they will write “family members and friends can get a little exasperated by the hyper-concern” about the assembled prime ministers, presidents, and CEOs in Switzerland. After all, these are important people. The kind of people who merit high-quality ventilation. The kind of people who deserve accurate tests.
Why is the media so hellbent on portraying simple, scientifically proven measures like masking—in environments absent of high-quality ventilation, full of people who do not have easy and consistent access to tests—as ridiculous and unnecessary as hundreds of people continue to die daily here in the U.S.?
Why is the public accepting a “new normal” where we are expected to get infected over and over and over again, at work events with zero precautions, on airplanes with no masks, and at social dinners trying to approximate our 2019 normal?
Very good questions. I guess the rich are entitled to protection, but the rest of us can just get sick and die for all they care. I hope you’ll go read the whole article at Slate.
Finally, a couple of articles about the upcoming fight over the debt limit:
Still Life with Fighting Cats, by Frans Snyders (1579-1657), Flemish painter
While those newly deployed extraordinary measures are largely behind-the-scenes accounting maneuvers, Yellen told Amanpour that “the actual date at which we would no longer be able to use these measures is quite uncertain, but it could conceivably come as early as early June.”
Speaking exclusively to CNN from Senegal, Yellen said that after the measures are exhausted, the US could experience at a minimum downgrading of its debt as a result of Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling. The effects of the federal government failing to make payments, she argued, could be as broad as a “global financial crisis.”
“If that happened, our borrowing costs would increase and every American would see that their borrowing costs would increase as well,” Yellen said. “On top of that, a failure to make payments that are due, whether it’s the bondholders or to Social Security recipients or to our military, would undoubtedly cause a recession in the US economy and could cause a global financial crisis.”
“It would certainly undermine the role of the dollar as a reserve currency that is used in transactions all over the world. And Americans – many people would lose their jobs and certainly their borrowing costs would rise,” she continued.
Shortly after last year’s midterm elections, a senior congressional Democrat called White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and asked how the administration planned to prevent the new Republican House majority from using the debt ceiling — and the threat of a default that could wreck the economy — to force spending cuts.
Klain said the White House’s plan was straightforward, according to the lawmaker: Refuse to entertain any concessions, and launch a barrage of attacks highlighting the GOP position that would force Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to fold.
“This debate is simple: We want to do the responsible thing, and they want to take the entire American economy hostage to cut Social Security and Medicare,” said the member of Congress, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. Klain told the lawmaker that the fight could result in substantial political benefits for the Democratic Party. “The point he was making was clear: You can’t negotiate with people who take hostages.”
Felis Syriacus Ulisse Aldrovani (1522-1605), by Vintage Lavoie
But the question remains what the administration will do if Republicans won’t raise the debt limit without negotiations.
House Republicans have increasingly signaled that they will force a showdown with the administration over the nation’s debt ceiling, which sets a statutory limit on how much the federal government can borrow….
Many GOP lawmakers have said that they will not approve a debt ceiling increase without cuts to spending programs that the Biden administration has vowed to protect, creating an impasse with no clear resolution.
…[A]dministration officials [have] conclude[d], at least for now, that the only viable path is to press Republicans to abandon their demands to extract policy concessions over the debt limit — a position they have publicly reaffirmed in recent weeks. The Biden administration is focused on pressing the GOP to unveil a debt limit plan that includes spending cuts, with the hope that such a proposal will prove so divisive among Republicans that they are forced to abandon brinkmanship. This strategy stems in part from the belief among White House officials that it would be enormously risky either to negotiate policy with the GOP on the debt limit or try to solve it via executive order — and they appear willing to put that premise to the test.
How about having Biden and surrogates travel around the country educating voters about the consequences of either letting Republican crash the economy or letting them destroy Social Security and Medicare? Just a thought.
What are your thoughts about all this? What other stories do you recommend?
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“Organ cat, prayer book, Bruges or Ghent c. 1480-1490 (Baltimore, Walters Art Museum
It has been another busy news week, and today there are some stories that follow up on recent news and others that look further back in time. As we move closer to the midterm elections, things are looking better for Democrats to keep control of the Senate. Of course the fallout continues from the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. The judge in the case released more information on the search warrant, and there could be more coming. A court has ordered the DOJ to release a memo related to the Mueller investigation that Bill Barr refused to make public. A Michigan judge made an important decision on abortion laws in the state. Finally, the NYT published a fascinating op-ed by two law professors who argue that the U.S. Constitution is “broken.”
On Thursday, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seemed to admit that the Grand Old Party doesn’t have the highest quality roster of candidates.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said. “Senate races are just different, they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
Writing in Vanity Fair, Eric Lutz reported, “He didn’t mention any of those candidates directly, but he almost certainly could have been talking about any of Donald Trump’s handpicked contenders, who earned the former president’s support seemingly for one of two reasons: He knows them from television, or they’re loyalists who have organized their campaigns almost entirely around his 2020 election lies. There’s a lot of crossover there, obviously, but the first camp includes Mehmet Oz, a former TV doctor who apparently believes raw asparagus belongs in a crudité, and Herschel Walker, the former football great whose own campaign staff reportedly regards him as a ‘pathological liar.’” [….]
“Then there’s the second camp of MAGA candidates, which includes the likes of Blake Masters, the Peter Thiel protégé who literally has the backing of some of the Internet’s most well-known white nationalists. (Masters has attempted to distance himself from this community.) One of several extremists on the ballot in Arizona, where election deniers Kari Lake and Mark Finchem are respectively running for governor and secretary of state, Masters is trailing Democrat Mark Kelly by eight points, according to a Fox News poll released this week,” Lutz reported. “None of this to say to say that these bumbling extremists can’t win; if a country is capable of electing Trump president, Georgia is certainly capable of electing a guy like Walker. But McConnell’s apparent sense that this batch of bozos might dash GOP dreams of a Senate majority may be well-founded, even if midterms tend to favor the party that doesn’t control the White House.”
Republican Senate hopefuls are getting crushed on airwaves across the country while their national campaign fund is pulling ads and running low on cash — leading some campaign advisers to ask where all the money went and todemand an audit of the committee’s finances, according to Republican strategists involved in the discussions.
In a highly unusual move, the National Republican Senatorial Committee this week canceled bookings worth about $10 million, including in the critical states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona. A spokesman said the NRSC is not abandoning those races but prioritizing ad spots that are shared with campaigns and benefit from discounted rates. Still, the cancellations forfeit cheaper prices that came from booking early, and better budgeting could have covered both.
“The fact that they canceled these reservations was a huge problem — you can’t get them back,” said one Senate Republican strategist, who like others spokes on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. “You can’t win elections if you don’t have money to run ads.”
The NRSC’s retreat came after months of touting record fundraising, topping $173 million so far this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures. But the committee has burned through nearly all of it, with the NRSC’s cash on hand dwindling to $28.4 million by the end of June.
As of that month, the committee disclosed spending just $23 million on ads, with more than $21 million going into text messages and more than $12 million to American Express credit cardpayments, whose ultimate purpose isn’t clear from the filings. The committee also spent at least $13 million on consultants, $9 million on debt payments and more than $7.9 million renting mailing lists, campaign finance data show.
One implication of the new information is that even if Trump is right about the documents being declassified, he still could have broken the law, Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law scholar, tweeted….
[The cover sheet] showed that the FBI believes that Trump may be guilty of the willful retention of national defense information, concealment or removal of government records, and obstruction of federal investigation.
Bradley P. Moss, a national security attorney, told Insider that the new documents “clarify but ultimately do not change much” of what we previously knew.
A striking detail, he said, is that the FBI believes Trump has obstructed its probe.
“Clearly, the FBI currently believes Mr. Trump not only took properly marked classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, but he kept them and resisted turning them over when confronted by the government,” Moss said.
The day after federal agents searched Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump told a group of conservative lawmakers that “being president was hell,” according to three people at the meeting.
But to some he sounded ready to have the job again.
“He was not to be deterred,” said Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, one of a dozen Republican House members who met with Trump on Aug. 9. He described Trump’s state of mind in the immediate aftermath of the search as “pretty miffed, but measured.”
Everything that’s occurred since that Bedminster, New Jersey, meeting — and since federal agents seized a trove of top secret and other highly classified documents from his resort — has put Trump exactly where he and his supporters want him to be, according to people close to him. He’s in a fight, squaring off with Washington institutions and a political establishment he says are out to get him, issues he brought up in the meeting with the lawmakers and in conversations with others.
Taken together, it’s reoriented Trump’s thinking about whether he should announce a presidential campaign before or after the midterm elections, according to those who have spoken with him over the past two weeks. They said Trump feels less pressure to announce early because viable challengers who might otherwise force his hand have faded into the background. But there are other reasons to wait.
Trump is now inclined to launch his candidacy after the November elections, in part to avoid blame should an early announcement undermine the GOP’s effort to win control of Congress, said one person close to him, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk more freely.A post-midterm announcement would suit Republican leaders who’ve been urging Trump to hold off so that he doesn’t overshadow the party’s candidates.Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign and administration official, described Trump’s attitude in recent days after speaking with him, as “business as usual.”
Business as usual for Trump: the possibility of multiple criminal charges and crappy lawyers who have no clue how to defend a criminal.
Judge orders release of Bill Barr’s memo protecting Trump
A federal appeals court has ordered the release of a secret Justice Department memo discussing whether President Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The unanimous panel decision issued Friday echoes that of a lower court judge, Amy Berman Jackson, who last year accused the Justice Department of dishonesty in its justifications for keeping the memo hidden.
The panel of three judges, led by Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, said that whether or not there was “bad faith,” the government “created a misimpression” and could not stop release under the Freedom of Information Act.
The memo was written by two senior Justice Department officials for then-attorney general William P. Barr, who subsequently told Congress that there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry. A redacted version was released last year but left under seal the legal and factual analysis.
Department officials argued that the document was protected because it involved internal deliberations over a prosecutorial decision. But the judges agreed with Jackson that both Mueller and Barr had clearly already concluded that a sitting president could not be charged with a crime. The discussion was over how Barr would publicly characterize the obstruction evidence Mueller had assembled, the Justice Department conceded on appeal.
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Justice Department must make public an internal memo senior lawyers there prepared in 2019 about whether then-President Donald Trump’s actions investigated in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia amounted to crimes prosecutors would ordinarily charge.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Justice Department failed to meet its legal burden to show that the memo from the department’s Office of Legal Counsel was part of a genuine deliberative process advising then-Attorney General William Barr on how to handle sensitive issues left unresolved when Mueller’s probe concluded in March 2019.
Trump was never charged in Mueller’s probe and the special prosecutor’s final report declined to opine on whether what he did in response to the investigation amounted to a crime.
However, some Trump opponents have called on the Attorney General Merrick Garland to reconsider the issue now that Trump is no longer president. Release of the long-sought DOJ memo could fuel those calls and draw more unwanted attention to Trump’s potential criminal liability at a time when he is besieged by a slew of other legal woes relating to his handling of classified government records, his role in inspiring many of those involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and his broader efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.
The decision from Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Cunningham comes after two days of hearings and means every county in Michigan with an abortion clinic is at least temporarily immune from the threat of criminal prosecutions over abortion procedures.
“As currently applied, the court finds (the abortion law) is chilling and dangerous to our state’s population of childbearing people and the medical professionals who care for them,” Cunningham said.
“The harm to the body of women and people capable of pregnancy in not issuing the injunction could not be more real, clear, present and dangerous to the court.”
At times, Cunningham seemed to ridicule arguments from conservative prosecutors seeking to enforce the 1931 abortion law. He said prosecutors would suffer zero harm from not having the ability to prosecute abortion providers.
Going much further, he told these prosecutors to instead focus their efforts elsewhere.
“The court suggests county prosecutors focus their attention and resources … to investigation and prosecution of criminal sexual conduct, homicide, arson, child and elder abuse, animal cruelty and other violent and horrific crimes that we see in our society,” Cunningham said.
Is the Constitution broken?
Ryan D. Doerfler and Samuel Moyn, law professors from Harvard and Yale respectively, published this guest essay at The New York Times: The Constitution Is Broken and Should Not Be Reclaimed. You’ll need to go to the NYT link if you’re interested, because it’s very long. The main idea is that the Constitution is dated and favors conservatives; liberals need to change their thinking about “constitutionalism.”
When liberals lose in the Supreme Court — as they increasingly have over the past half-century — they usually say that the justices got the Constitution wrong. But struggling over the Constitution has proved a dead end. The real need is not to reclaim the Constitution, as many would have it, but instead to reclaim America from constitutionalism.
The idea of constitutionalism is that there needs to be some higher law that is more difficult to change than the rest of the legal order. Having a constitution is about setting more sacrosanct rules than the ones the legislature can pass day to day. Our Constitution’s guarantee of two senators to each state is an example. And ever since the American founders were forced to add a Bill of Rights to get their handiwork passed, national constitutions have been associated with some set of basic freedoms and values that transient majorities might otherwise trample.
But constitutions — especially the broken one we have now — inevitably orient us to the past and misdirect the present into a dispute over what people agreed on once upon a time, not on what the present and future demand for and from those who live now. This aids the right, which insists on sticking with what it claims to be the original meaning of the past.
Arming for war over the Constitution concedes in advance that the left must translate its politics into something consistent with the past. But liberals have been attempting to reclaim the Constitution for 50 years — with agonizingly little to show for it. It’s time for them to radically alter the basic rules of the game.
In making calls to regain ownership of our founding charter, progressives have disagreed about strategy and tactics more than about this crucial goal. Proposals to increase the number of justices, strip the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to invalidate federal law or otherwise soften the blow of judicial review frequently come together with the assurance that the problem is not the Constitution; only the Supreme Court’s hijacking of it is. And even when progressives concede that the Constitution is at the root of our situation, typically the call is for some new constitutionalism.
If that whets your appetite for me, click the link and read the rest.
Those are today’s main political stories as I see it. Maybe we’ll have some time to take a breath before more shocking news breaks. I can use a quite weekend and I wish you the same.
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There is so much news this morning that it’s difficult to know what to focus on. I guess I’ll begin with the followup to the story Dakinikat wrote about in yesterday’s post–Trump’s horrifying decision to withdraw from the INF treaty. This was nothing but a gift to Trump’s puppet master Putin–did they coordinate this?
MOSCOW (AP) — Following in the footsteps of the U.S., Russia will abandon a centerpiece nuclear arms treaty but will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if Washington does so, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.
U.S. President Donald Trump accused Moscow on Friday of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options to Russia’s new land-based cruise missiles that could target Western Europe.
By Alfonso Rocchi
The collapse of the INF Treaty has raised fears of a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent. Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.
After the U.S. gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months, Putin said that Russia would do the same. He ordered the development of new land-based intermediate-range weapons, but emphasized that Russia won’t deploy them in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the U.S. does so.
“We will respond quid pro quo,” Putin said. “Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and will do the same. They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.”
“Quid pro quo?” Is that shade from Putin? Because it’s obvious as this point that Trump is checking off everything on Putin’s wish list in order to repay him for the 2016 election and likely promises that he’ll eventually get that Trump Tower in Moscow.
A new court filing submitted on Wednesday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed that a Russian troll farm currently locked in a legal battle over its alleged interference in the 2016 election appeared to wage yet another disinformation campaign late last year—this time targeting Mueller himself.
Didier Lourenço Lithograph, 2012
According to the filing, the special counsel’s office turned over one million pages of evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting as part of the discovery process. The firm is accused of funding the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency. But someone connected to Concord allegedly manipulated and leaked those documents to reporters, hoping the documents would make people think that Mueller’s evidence against the troll farm and its owners was flimsy. The tactic didn’t seem to convince anyone, but it appeared to mark yet another example of Russia exploiting the U.S. justice system to undercut its rivals abroad….
When Mueller indicted Concord Management and Consulting in February 2018, along with two other corporate entities and 13 Russian nationals allegedly connected to the Internet Research Agency, it seemed highly unlikely that the indictment would result in a trial because Russians cannot be extradited to the United States. But Concord unexpectedly hired the well-connected American law firm, Reed Smith, to fight Mueller, arguing that the charges should be dropped because the special counsel was illegally appointed. The judge in the case, Dabney Friedrich, has twice refused to dismiss the case and recently lambasted Concord’s American lawyers for submitting “unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective” court filings, and the legal battle has raged on.
Now, according to the Mueller filing this week, unidentified actors working out of Russia appear to have weaponize the U.S. discovery process to Concord’s benefit. Over 1,000 files on the website that hosted the leaked documents “match those produced in discovery,” the special counsel said. The documents were published from a computer with a Russian IP address, according to Mueller, and whoever released them clearly “had access to at least some of the non-sensitive discovery produced by the government.” But forged documents were mixed in to the trove, too, apparently in an attempt to accuse Mueller of characterizing American websites and Facebook pages like Occupy Democrats as Russian disinformation operations. The website also inserted irrelevant documents into the unique folder names—known only to those with access to the discovery materials—and characterized them as the sum-total of Mueller’s evidence “in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation,” the special counsel said.
It’s complicated, so I hope you’ll go read the rest at The Atlantic.
Girl With a Cat, 2012, by Ju Hong Chen
Yesterday, the The Virginian-Pilot broke the news that Governor Ralph Northam included a racist photo of himself and another man in his medical school yearbook. I’m not going to post the photo; I’m sure you’ve seen it by now.
A photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook shows him and another person in racist costumes — one wearing blackface and one a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, though it was not clear which person was the future governor.
Hours after the 35-year-old photo came to light Friday, Northam apologized for his decision to appear in it. Elected officials and activist groups from across the political spectrum called for him to resign.
But in a video posted to Twitter Friday evening, Northam said he had spent the past year “fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people” and he would continue to do so throughout the rest of his term, which ends in January 2022.
Northam admitted that he appears in the photo, but for some reason did not say which of the costumed men he is. It’s obvious he is going to have to step down, but as of this morning he’s apparently still hanging on. Multiple Democratic politicians, including former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe have called for his resignation.
Shortly after this news broke, CBS New reported that the yearbook also lists a racist nickname for Northam, who was 25 years old at the time.
CBS News uncovered a page from Northam’s yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute that had nicknames listed underneath his name. One of them was “Coonman,” a racial slur.
Justin Fairfax is an Ivy League-educated lawyer descended from slaves, who as lieutenant governor of Virginia was known mostly for sitting out tributes to Confederate leaders in the historic Capitol in Richmond.
He could now become the commonwealth’s 74th governor, if fellow Democrat Ralph Northam resigns over a racist photo he included in his medical school yearbook in 1984.
Fairfax, 39, was elected as Northam’s deputy in the 2017 blue wave in which Democrats won all three statewide offices and picked up 15 seats in the House of Delegates.
He would be the second African American governor of Virginia, following L. Douglas Wilder, who held the office from 1990 to 1994. Only two other African Americans have been governors in modern U.S. history.
For more than 100 years, the Virginia State Senate has had a little tradition, where they honor Confederate “heroes” Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee at the close of a Senate session sometime near the birthdays of two men. Now if you didn’t take Treason 101 in high school, you probably missed the part where Jackson and Lee were part of the Confederacy that broke away from the United States and started the Civil War by firing on Fort Sumter. Perhaps you also didn’t learn that Robert E. Lee, as head of the Confederate Army, is responsible for more American deaths than the Nazis, The Vietcong, ISIS, the LAPD, Cobra, Hydra, and high blood pressure.
The point is, at the time and by modern standards, Jackson and Lee were horrible men. They also happen to have birthdays very close to each other (Jackson, January 21; Lee, January 19) and Jackson occasionally shares a birthday with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
By François Batet 1921
Consequently, for years, on or around the birthdays of these two Confederates, a member of the Virginia Senate would announce, “I would like to adjourn in honor of General Lee or Stonewall Jackson.”
The Senate would agree, someone would take the podium to speak a couple of words, and then everyone would break for orange slices and Mint Julip Capri-Suns. All of this has gone off without a hitch for decades, even after the first African Americans got elected to the Virginia Senate; even after the state adopted the ridiculous Lee-Jackson-King Holiday from 1984 to 2000; even after Virginia elected its first black governor, Doug Wilder, from 1990-1994. However, Justin Fairfax didn’t come to Richmond to play footsie with Confederates and he is very much his great-grandfather’s child….
Since being elected Lt. Governor of Virginia in 2017, Fairfax has served as the president of the state Senate and has quietly left the podium whenever state senators have attempted to honor Stonewall or Lee at the end of the session. He did it last Friday when a Republican senator stepped up to honor Robert E. Lee. The reasons are obvious. First, no one should be honoring American traitors in a government building, no matter where that traitor was born. Secondly, Justin Fairfax, a man who literally took his oath of office with his three-greats-ago grandfather’s Freedom papers in his pocket, knows history and knows power.
It sounds like Fairfax would do just fine as governor; he was expected to run in 2021 after Northam completed his term-limited governorship anyway.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared that he was not concerned about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
He claimed that departing Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had told him he was not a person of interest in the investigation.
“He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Mr. Trump told the New York Times.
Nevertheless, the probe seems to be circling closer to the president and his family. The arrest of long-time Trump ally Roger Stone—and wording in his indictment that suggested he’d been directed to perform criminal acts by a more senior campaign official—spurred discussion that Donald Trump Jr. or even Trump himself would be implicated in Stone’s alleged crimes.
Trump also told the Times that he would build a wall along the Southwest border with Mexico regardless of Congress.
Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee about how the latest developments are likely to impact the president. Lee’s views are her own, not a reflection of Yale’s position.
I hope you’ll go read the whole interview. Here’s an excerpt:
Bandy X. Lee: His anxieties are palpable, as he resorts to more and more extreme measures and unreal justifications for building a wall. We had the extended shutdown that put us at real security risk, according to the FBI, and declaring a national emergency is a very real possibility.
He needs to maintain his shrinking base as well as to give himself a sense of victory, and he will go to all lengths to achieve it. What concerns me, however, is our own lack of readiness for when the real crisis comes. As a nation, we continue merely to react, while dangers escalate, and underestimate the profound effects that mental instability can have.
With all the negative news for Mr. Trump, “rational” people may feel relief, as he is finally held to account, but while being driven to a corner, the president’s only desperate remaining diversion may be war. Forces around the globe—the Israelis and the Saudis, for example—want that for their own reasons, and with a foreign policy team that now reflects his psychology, times could turn incredibly dangerous.
What stories have you been following?
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Plenty of links for you today, and with the way I am feeling…all the horrible things these racist bastards are saying and doing, it is just a link dump today. As usual, the post centers around a theme…this Sunday the theme is, forgotten women.
The women have different stories to tell, some are forgotten by time. Others are overlooked or ignored by the government or their husbands, and then you have those who are having an important aspect of being a woman blatantly disregarded…her rights. (Not that she really had all of them anyway.)
So, let’s just get down to it. The link dump starts now:
Seeking to quell a politically charged controversy, the Obama administration announced new measures Friday to allow religious nonprofits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception.
Even so, the accommodations may not fully satisfy religious groups who oppose any system that makes them complicit in providing coverage they believe is immoral. The administration’s hope is that the new accommodation will be more palatable because it creates more distance between religious nonprofits and the health services they believe are immoral, by inserting the government as a middleman between nonprofits and their insurers.
But the Family Research Council, a socially conservative group, dismissed the new accommodation as an “insulting accounting gimmick” that still leaves businesses and nonprofits complicit in something they view as immoral.
They never will be satisfied. I knew this before the compromise was first offered way back…
Effective immediately, the U.S. will start allowing faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals to notify the government — rather than their insurers — that they object to birth control on religious grounds. A previous accommodation offered by the Obama administration allowed those nonprofits to opt out of paying for birth control by submitting a document called Form 700 to their insurers, but Roman Catholic bishops and other religious plaintiffs argued just submitting that form was like signing a permission slip to engage in evil.
To opt-out of paying for contraceptives without using Form 700, religious nonprofits can send a letter to the Health and Human Services Department that includes the organization’s name, the type of health plan they offer and the name and contact information for their insurance issuers or third-party administrators, officials said. Groups must also explain which types of birth control they object to and state the objection is based on sincerely held beliefs.
The administration’s proposal to let companies like Hobby Lobby use Form 700 will apply only to “closely held” corporations that are owned by families or a small number of investors. The government is asking for the public’s input about how narrowly to define a “closely held” corporation, meaning the rule-making process will drag out for many months before the fix is finalized.
In a related move, the administration announced plans to allow for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Inc. to start using Form 700. The Supreme Court ruled in June that the government can’t force companies like Hobby Lobby Inc. to pay for birth control, sending the administration scrambling for a way to ensure their employees can still get birth control one way or another at no added cost.
he teen birth rate in the U.S. has been declining for decades—it’s decreased 57 percent since 1991. But recently, it’s begun dropping dramatically. More than half of that 57 percent change took place just the past six years, says a new report from the CDC.
Alongside the rapidly dropping birth rate, there’s been an equally precipitous dip in teen abortions, which are also down 56 percent over the past two decades. With the birth rate and the abortion rate both down, it seems that teens have decided en masse to just stop getting pregnant. But why?
In the Washington Post, Tina Griego covers that possibility. In Colorado, she writes, the teen birth rate has dropped 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, the largest drop in the country. That decline, state health officials say, can be traced to a program designed to improve teens’ access to high quality, long-lasting birth control. WaPo:
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, supported by a $23 million anonymous donation, provided more than 30,000 IUDs or implants to women served by the state’s 68 family-planning clinics. The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates.
What about the longer term downward trend? In 1957, the birth rate among teens age 15 to 19 was 96.3 per 1,000 teens. In 1991, it had dropped to 61.8 per 1,000, and in 2013, it was all the way down to 26.6 births per 1,000 teens.
The deception behind the wave of state-level abortion restrictions now threatening women’s access to safe and legal abortions was strikingly revealed during a trial that ended last week in Texas.
The trial, held before Judge Lee Yeakel of Federal District Court in Austin, offered an opportunity to examine evidence and hear arguments in a challenge to crucial portions of Texas’ sweeping 2013 package of abortion restrictions. The challenge, brought by reproductive rights advocates, focuses on two rules, one requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and another mandating that clinics meet state standards for ambulatory surgical centers, an unnecessary and prohibitively costly requirement.
The admitting-privileges rule, which is already in place, has severely limited access to safe and legal care in Texas. Absent court intervention, the situation will get much worse. There are now only 19 abortion clinics in Texas, compared with 41 before the new law. This number could shrink to as few as seven after Sept. 1, when the surgical-center rule takes effect.
And this is where the quack comes in:
A team of lawyers led by the Center for Reproductive Rights and their expert witnesses presented compelling evidence of the destructive consequences of the two rules and the emptiness of the claim that they are necessary to protect women’s health and safety.
By contrast, the state’s defense of the rules was a bizarre and unconvincing show. Four of its five witnesses denied, and then conceded (when confronted with incriminating emails) that their written testimony was crafted by Vincent Rue, an opponent of women’s reproductive freedom best known for promoting kooky claims, like the existence of an abortion-related mental illness he calls “post-abortive syndrome.”
Mr. Rue does brisk business these days orchestrating testimony from pliable witnesses willing to supply “expert” support for state abortion restrictions, a task for which he has been paid $42,000, so far, by Texas. That his guidance is relied upon is incredible given that his own past court testimony and theories have been discredited by judges and others.
There is one state where women are getting killed in record numbers. Can you guess what region it is located?
The map is of South Carolina and its counties. “All 46 counties have at least one animal shelter to care for stray dogs,” The Charleston Post Courier reports, “but the state has only 18 domestic violence shelters to help women trying to escape abuse.” One of the red dots represents a 31-year-old, Amerise Barbre, whose boyfriend strangled her. Each red dot represents a woman killed by a husband or boyfriend. In the eight-year period shown, that sort of murder happened 292 times.
“Most state legislators profess deep concern over domestic violence,” the newspaper notes in the introduction to a seven-part feature. “Yet they maintain a legal system in which a man can earn five years in prison for abusing his dog but a maximum of just 30 days in jail for beating his wife or girlfriend on a first offense.”
Domestic abuse reportedly occurs there about 36,000 times per year.
As law enforcement continues to use military weapons to terrorize protesters seeking justice for slain teen Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, the ache in my soul is primitive and all-encompassing.
Reporters are being arrested, children are being hit with tear gas, and political pundits are being threatened. The stench of fear, fear of the power of collective Black rage and action, is rancid. And that fear breeds desperation. The need to suppress that rage, which screams that we are worth more than this country has shown us, claws at the gate-keepers of White supremacy—elected officials, police officers, and mainstream media—until it eats at them from the inside out.
You cannot control what you can’t contain. Wilson’s cold-blooded execution of Michael Brown, who was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, while in a position of surrender, lit the fuse on years of racial profiling and inequality in the town of Ferguson.
And there can be no peace where there is no justice.
They want us believe that it’s about looting; but it’s not. This entire horrific show of violence being committed in the name of the “law” proves once and for all that the system is not broken. When a Black boy is gunned down and left to bleed out in the street, that’s American justice. When his killer is allowed to leave town under the cloak of anonymity, that’s American justice.
To paraphrase Malcolm X, we are not Americans, we are victims of America. But as conversations about Michael Brown and Ferguson segue into broader discussions about the scourge of police brutality at large, it becomes clear that, despite being on the frontlines, the we in question often does not include Black women.
Be clear: The need to have a very specific, targeted discussion about the fear of Black, male bodies is critical.
And Kirsten West Savali, of Dame explains more at the link.
U.S. airports are littered with advertisements, but that hasn’t stopped them from refusing to run displays featuring basic information about women’s rights.
UltraViolet, an advocacy group aimed at fighting sexism and expanding women’s rights, recently attempted to launch such an ad campaign in several airports. They focused on states with both booming tourist industries and histories of economic inequality between the sexes, like Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina.
When the targeted airports got wind of the ads, however, they flat-out refused to run them.
In his introduction to the volume, John C. Raines summarized the group’s main findings about gender oppression. One, that world religions mirror social constructions of gender and vice versa; two, that the analysis of religious power is always a choice of political allegiance; three, that culturally specific and culturally competent academic work is needed in order to be persuasive; and four, that gender justice activism in religious domains demands multiple culturally appropriate tools and tactics. The contributors posited that all world religions carry their own seeds of positive change within. In John C. Raines’ words, “each of these religious traditions has a strong theory of social justice, and these resources can be harnessed to contemporary issues of gender. We ask, how can our Scriptures, how can our founding Prophets, how can our ancestors be used today to further justice in relations between genders?”
This essay offers resources from within medieval European Christianity in a feminist reading of the Christian dogma of hypostatic union, medieval political theory on royal twinning, and two medieval legends on the numinous double. Pulling these strands together as a feminist hermeneutics of double lives, I argue that the popular medieval story of a ninth century female Pope and the myth of a Fairy Lover have served to unhinge egemonic claims of male Christian superiority in the Middle Ages and in contemporary film today. As acts of subversive story telling or truth to be believed, the stories reconnoiter the possibility of a woman’s benevolent reign in the highest ecclesiastical office, and think up ingenious ways beyond institutional networks through which women might gain access to male dominated higher learning and a liberating sexuality. Safely positioned in part or in whole in the dreamlike realm of the numinous and supernatural, the narratives invite their audience to undo false consciousness. They insist that women deserve better and deserve more than what a misogynist status quo has to offer.
The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement. (Wikicommons)
In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga
Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was rediscovered.
That article is from 2013, I was so fascinated, I looked for more information on the last living family member. A woman named, Agafia Lykova.
The kittens are survivors of a line of cats taken by the Lukov family into the remote forest when they fled from Stalin’s civilisation in the 1930s.
Agafya Lykova, pictured in the middle of eighties with father Karl, left, and Krasnoyarsk professor Nazarov
Agafya Lykova, 68, is the last surviving member of the family of Old Believers who were discovered by a Soviet geologist in 1978. They had cut themselves off from the outside world.
When they were discovered, the family comprised Karp Iosifovich (the head of the family), his sons Savvin, 45, and Dmitry, 36, and his daughters Natalya, 42, and Agafya, then 34. The children’s mother Akulina had died in 1961.
The three other children died in 1981 and Karp in 1988 since when Agafya has lived alone at the family’s smallholding in what is now Khakassky nature reserve.
Rangers from the reserve visited her in February and she asked them to take two kittens back to civilisation – in exchange for a goat and a rooster which they brought her. She had earlier asked for the new animals instead of a medal ‘For Belief and Kindness’ which Governor Aman Tuleyev of neighbouring Kemerovo region wanted to present her.
‘My old cock stopped crowing, please can I have a new one? Also my old goat died and I need another one. And another thing please can I have new boots. I am feeling well thank you, do say hello to governor Aman Tuleyev.’
The reserve press office said that ‘just before their departure, Agafya Lykova gave the reserve employees two kittens, a male and a female, and asked to give them into ‘good hands’.
Last week the recluse warned in a letter to a newspaper that her health was failing and she did not have enough logs for the winter.
‘I don’t know how God will help me survive the winter. There aren’t any logs. I need to get them into the house’, she warned.
After her plea, a helicopter with a doctor on board was sent to check the deeply religious hermit – and to bring her vital supplies. Meanwhile, a well-known Russian millionaire has offered to pay the salary of a helper to live with Agafya in her lonely vigil. German Sterligov, one of the first dollar millionaires as the Soviet Union collapsed, has promised a 40,000 rouble a month salary to a companion who will live with Agafya in the remotest house in Russia.
The helicopter brought fresh food, medicine and household items, and a doctor examined her but the woman – a devout Old Believer – refused his offer to be flown to hospital for treatment. The mercy mission was ordered by governor Viktor Zimin.
‘Nature reserve staff gathered food and other goods for Agafya,’ said a statement from the Emergencies Ministry in Khakassia, the Siberian republic where she lives. ‘They brought cereals and flour for her and cabbage and food for her goats. They also brought vegetables for planting, and in a month Agafya will start growing them at home.’
The team ‘carried logs from the forest closer to Agafya’s house. The logs were cut but it was hard for her to carry them every day.’
‘The doctor examined Agafiya and offered to take her to hospital for treatment. The 68 year old woman complained of headaches and other problems and needs detailed examination. But she absolutely refused to go. The doctor gave her some advice and left medicine.
There are photos and more curious tidbits of information about Agafya and her life at those links, so be sure to take a look.
In her long and often turbulent marriage to Leo Tolstoy, Sophia Andreevna Tolstoy put up with a lot, but “The Kreutzer Sonata” qualified as special punishment. Published in 1889, the story presented Tolstoy’s increasingly radical views on sexual relations and marriage through a frenzied monologue delivered by a narrator who, in a fit of jealousy and disgust, murdered his wife.
In her diary, Sophia wrote: “I do not know how or why everyone connected ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ with our own married life, but this is what has happened.” Members of the Tolstoy family circle and the czar himself had expressed pity for her, she complained. “And it isn’t just other people,” she added. “I, too, know in my heart that this story is directed against me, and that it has done me a great wrong, humiliated me in the eyes of the world and destroyed the last vestiges of love between us.”
Convinced that the story was “untrue in everything relating to a young woman’s experiences,” Sophia wrote two novellas setting forth her own views, “Whose Fault?” and “Song Without Words,” which both languished in the archives of the Tolstoy Museum until their recent rediscovery and publication in Russia. Michael R. Katz, a retired professor of Russian and Eastern European studies at Middlebury College, has translated both stories into English and included them in “The Kreutzer Sonata Variations,” coming from Yale University Press on Tuesday, adding to a flurry of recent work appraising Tolstoy’s wife as a figure in her own right.
Looks like something good…especially with those cooler days coming our way. (Hopefully.)
What is on your mind today? Let’s have it.
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The Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.