Sunday Reads: “Kook” and Kremlin Spook

 

Yesterday evening Time Magazine broke a news story about Carter Page. Carter Page Touted Russia Contacts in 2013 Letter | Time

Apparently Page had written a book on his “academic” views of Russia, and in trying to get the book published…actually bragged about being a spy. However, in the last paragraph of the article, the editor who has remained anonymous summed up his opinion of Carter in very much the same way that most people view Carter:

“I just came to see him as a kook”

Yeah, I think that we all can agree about that…

From the link above:

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page bragged that he was an adviser to the Kremlin in a letter obtained by TIME that raises new questions about the extent of Page’s contacts with the Russian government over the years.

The letter, dated Aug. 25, 2013, was sent by Page to an academic press during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication, according to an editor who worked with Page.

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” the letter reads.

As anyone reading or watching the goings on with Page, it doesn’t take much to see how bumbling a fool he was…maybe that was the main attraction for the Russians? (That is my own question to ponder, as you know Putin wants to create chaos.)

As this excerpt from the book COLLUSION by Luke Harding  in Politico describes…the two Russian spies who recruited Page described him as an “idiot”:

Why Carter Page Was Worth Watching – POLITICO Magazine

As FBI wiretaps showed, the techniques for meeting with Buryakov were distinctly old-school. Typically, Sporyshev would ring Buryakov and tell him he had to give him “something”—a ticket, a book, a hat, an umbrella. The two would meet outdoors. This sometimes happened outside Buryakov’s bank office on Third Avenue—an inconspicuous brown tower with a 1960s abstract sculpture at street level opposite the foyer. They would exchange documents.

Sporyshev’s biggest headache was finding Americans willing to become intelligence sources for Russia. This was tough. He had approached two young women working in financial consultancy who had recently graduated from a New York university. Sporyshev told Podobnyy he was skeptical anything would come of it. Or, as he put it in chauvinist terms: “In order to be close you need to either fuck them or use other levers to execute my requests.”

The Russian spies, however, had one promising lead. This was a guy—an energy consultant based in New York City. Unlike the women, he was eager to help. And, it appeared, keen to make money in Moscow. There was a drawback: The source—whom the FBI called “Male-1”—was something of a dimwit.

The FBI intercepts record:

PODOBNYY: [Male-1] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practise the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on [the Russian state energy company] Gazprom, thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious he wants to earn loads of money.

SPORYSHEV: Without a doubt.

On a little more about Page:

In a blog post for Global Policy, an online journal, he wrote that Putin wasn’t to blame for the 2014 Ukraine conflict. The White House’s superior “smack-down” approach had “started the crisis in the first place,” he wrote.

Page’s rampant pro-Moscow views were at odds with the US State Department under Clinton and with almost all American scholars of Russia. After all, it was Putin who had smuggled tanks across the border into eastern Ukraine. Not that Page’s opinions counted for much. Global Policy had a small circulation. It was edited out of Durham University in the north of England.

His relationship with the journal fizzled out when he wrote an opinion piece lavishly praising a pro-Russian candidate ahead of the U.S. presidential election—Trump.

And then something odd happened.

In March 2016 candidate Trump met with the Washington Post’s editorial board. At this point it seemed likely that Trump would clinch the Republican nomination. Foreign affairs came up. Who were the candidate’s foreign policy advisers? Trump read five names. The second was “Carter Page, PhD.” Given Trump’s obvious lack of experience of world affairs, this was a pivotal job.

One former Eurasia Group colleague said he was stunned when he discovered Page had mysteriously become one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers. “I nearly dropped my coffee,” he told me. The colleague added: “We had wanted people who could engage in critical analysis of what’s going on. This is a guy who has no critical insight into the situation. He wasn’t a smart person.”

Read more at the link…some insight as to what Page spoke of while he was in Russia, and how

Page’s loyalty to the SVR was breathtaking. Podobnyy wasn’t an “imagined bogeyman” but a career operative working against the interests of the United States. And, moreover, one who had bad-mouthed Page behind his back, calling him “a bit of an idiot”.

Whatever Page’s motives were for helping Russian intelligence—greed, naivety, stupidity—his actions surely justified the FBI’s interest in him. There was a simple way of avoiding U.S. surveillance and a FISA court warrant. It could be summed up like this: Don’t hang out with Russian spies.

All this talk of Russia, it may be a good time to watch Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Dr. Strangelove….

Buried In Trump’s Nuclear Report: A Russian Doomsday Weapon : Parallels : NPR

The Trump administration released a report on the state of America’s nuclear weaponry on Friday. The assessment, known as a Nuclear Posture Review, mainly concerns U.S. nukes and missiles.

But buried in the plan is a mention of a mysterious Russian weapon called “Status-6.” On paper, at least, Status-6 appears to be a kind of doomsday device. The report refers to it as “a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.”

“The radius of total or near-total destruction is the size of a pretty large metropolitan area, actually,” says Edward Geist, a Russia specialist at the Rand Corp. who has spent time looking at the weapon. “It’s difficult to imagine in normal terms.”

If it sounds somewhat familiar…the Status-6 has made an appearance before…

Status-6 made its first public appearance in 2015, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was visiting with his generals in the city of Sochi.

Russia state television reported on the visit. The camera shows Putin seated at a long table. Then it cuts to a shot over one of the general’s shoulders. He is looking at what appears to be a drawing of a new nuclear weapon called the Oceanic Multipurpose System Status-6.

Here is the main point:

Status-6 would launch from beneath a Russian submarine. It would shoot at a depth too deep to be intercepted and travel for thousands of miles. Upon reaching its target along the U.S. coastline, it would detonate, swallowing up whatever city happened to be nearby.

“The only possible U.S. targets are large port cities,” says Mark Schneider, a senior analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy, wrote in an e-mail. “The detonation of Status-6 in any of them would essentially wipe out their population into the far suburbs.”

“The detonation would cause a very large amount of radioactive fallout,” adds Pavel Podvig, an arms control expert who runs a blog called Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. Podvig believes the weapon could potentially bathe the entire Northeast Corridor in radioactive soot.

Status-6 would probably be used as a “third-strike” weapon of last resort. If Russia fell under attack from the U.S. and couldn’t retaliate with its missiles, it might trigger Status-6: a doomsday machine. Or at least a doomsday-ish machine.

 

Did you all see the tweet from Paul Ryan before he deleted it yesterday?

Via Reuters: House Speaker Ryan deletes tweet praising $1.50 pay increase

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan deleted a tweet on Saturday cheering a $1.50 increase to a Pennsylvania school secretary’s weekly pay because of a $1.5 trillion tax cut after it drew criticism that he was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

Ha, no shit!

The Trump administration and Republicans have cast the massive tax cuts, which came into effect in January as creating jobs and boosting economic growth. But critics have argued that they benefited the rich and would blow up the national debt.

Some social media users accused Ryan of being out of touch, with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom posting on Twitter that “Guess someone told Paul Ryan you shouldn’t go around praising yourself for giving a working person an extra $1.50 a week — because he deleted this tweet.”

Paul Ryan Removes Tweet Bragging About GOP Tax Bill After Widespread Mockery | Mediaite

On Saturday, Ryan tweeted a link to an Associated Press story with a summary that said, “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week … she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.”

Immediately after Ryan tweeted the story, many left-of-center critics pounced on the speaker for praising the minuscule raise — given that annual Costco membership are only $60 — while many corporate higher-ups have gained a much more substantial amount from the GOP tax bill.  The Wisconsin Republican was then pressured to delete the tweet.

Specifically, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed Ryan for the tweet. “Paul Ryan deleted his embarrassing tweet of a blatant admission because he and Republicans don’t want you to know the truth: the #GOPTaxScam is a gift to corporate America and the top 1% at your expense.

He also doesn’t want you to know he got $500.000.00 from the Koch family,” tweeted Pelosi.

 

There was a horrible racist attack in Italy: At least 6 people injured by far-right shooter in Italy – Axios

It comes as more ultra-right only white political parties become more popular in Europe.

Can Europe’s new xenophobes reshape the continent? | World news | The Guardian

Tensions high in Athens ahead of nationalist rally | Greece News | Al Jazeera

And for the last of today’s post, updates on the latest train wreck:

CBS News is reporting that the Amtrak train was on the wrong tracks….

Amtrak train crash today in South Carolina leaves 2 dead, 116 injured – live updates – CBS News

At least two people were killed and 116 others injured when a train traveling from New York to Miami struck a freight train Sunday morning, authorities said. The crash left thousands of gallons of oil spilled at the scene near Columbia, South Carolina.

The collision occurred in Cayce around 2:45 a.m. Sunday, Lexington County spokesperson Harrison Cahill said. He said the injuries ranged from scratches to broken bones.

The two people killed were later identified as Amtrak personnel, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a news conference Sunday. McMaster said the CSX freight train was on the right loading side track “where it was supposed to be” before the collision and the Amtrak train was “on the wrong side.” He did not elaborate.

There were approximately 148 people aboard the train, including 139 passengers and 8 personnel.

Amtrak Train Collision in South Carolina Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 – The New York Times

The CSX train was stationary, Mr. McMaster said, and appeared to be on the correct track. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track,” he said.

The first engine of the freight train was torn up, he said, and the engine of the Amtrak train, Train 91, was “barely recognizable.”

“It’s a horrible thing to see — to understand the force that this involved,” Mr. McMaster said.

In a statement earlier Sunday morning, Amtrak said the lead engine and some of the passenger cars had derailed.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

 

 

More updates on the train crash in the comments below…this is an open thread.

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Sunday Reads: Human Chains Bring Awareness to #EndChildMarriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

An estimated 5 million people (5 crore) came together to create a #BiharHumanChain2018 in the Indian State of Bihar to bring awareness against child marriage and dowry.

Bihar joins hands against dowry, child marriage; Dy CM thanks people

 

Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, on Sunday thanked the people of Bihar for participating and forming the largest human chain against child marriage and dowry practices.

Earlier in the day, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar shared a message on Twitter, saying that collective effort is required to eliminate practices of dowry and child marriage in the country and a human chain event will be organised to to show our commitment towards the cause.

Bihar forms world’s longest human chain against dowry | GulfNews.com

Millions of people from all walks of life, age groups and professions joined hands on the streets across Bihar on Sunday to form what officials claimed was the world’s longest human chain against dowry and child marriages — the twin social evils gripping Indian society.

Authorities said more than 40 million people came out on the streets in the bone-chilling cold and stood in queues for about 30 minutes Sunday to demonstrate their resolve against the two social evils. The participants included schoolchildren, college students, teachers, officials, social activists, common men and politicians.

 As with most things…this important issue is being overshadowed by politics.

However, two main opposition parties in the state, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, boycotted the initiative, claiming the programme was simply a ploy to help chief minister Nitish Kumar boost his image. They said they could not show solidarity with a man who had brutally “misused the people’s mandate” by going back to partner the BJP and form a new government with its support, while the mandate was given to the erstwhile ruling Grand Alliance comprising the RJD, Congress and the Janata Dal United (JD-U) headed by Nitish Kumar.

Kumar who was the man behind the idea refused to comment on the boycott by the main opposition parties, but said the programme was against social evils in which participation of everyone was solicited. “There are already laws in place yet the twin evils continue and our purpose is to make the people aware about them,” the chief minister told the media on Sunday.

Just a few more links on this human chain…

 

Bihar sets record through human chain

Bihar set a record of sorts when around five crore people joined hands to form a 13,668-km long human chain in here on Sunday.

The human chain, in which Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi also participated, was formed to spread awareness about two social evils – child marriage and dowry.

Apart from ruling party legislators and bureaucrats, lakhs of school and college students, teachers, lawyers and academicians took to the streets, where they lined up forming a human chain from 12 noon to 12.30 pm.

The entire event was captured by 40 drone cameras. A documentary film about the human chain will be shown in 127 cinema halls across Bihar.

This human chain has broken the record set in January 2017, when a human chain of 12,417 km was formed by around four crore people in support of the prohibition implemented by the Nitish regime.

RJD, Cong absent

The only stark difference this year was the absence of RJD and Congress leaders from the event. Only one leader from the parties – Congress MLC Ram Chandra Bharti – attended the event, making Nitish’s former partners in the Grand Alliance conspicuous by their absence.

“Nitish is one chief minister who spends crores in image-branding,” said RJD vice president Shivanand Tiwary.

Congress spokesperson Prem Chandra Mishra demanded a white paper on the exorbitant expenses incurred in organising such an event.

This year, the main function was organised at Gandhi Maidan in Patna, where Nitish flagged off the event.

Similar human chains were formed in the 38 districts of the state.

Bihar government’s human chain against dowry system and child marriage a ‘super flop’: Opposition | Patna News – Times of India

Bihar’s two main opposition parties -RJD and Congress – on Sunday said that the state government’s much-trumpeted human chainagainst dowry system and child marriage turned out to be “super flop” as participation of common people could not be seen anywhere across the state.
“Only school children who were called by opening their institutions despite being Sunday, their teachers and a section of state government employees were seen standing in the human chain that remained broken here and there. Common people didn’t turn up anywhere to participate in the chain. Participation of common villagers could not be seen anywhere,” RJD’s state president Ram Chandra Purbey said, adding, “The non-participation of common people shows that CM Nitish Kumar has lost peoples’ faith.”

Last year, the same chain was formed in awareness of the campaign to ban alcohol. Only there was cooperation from among all sides of government. I have not followed the situation enough to fully grasp the entire nuance of the political climate…but I wonder just how much the actual subject of this year’s campaign…being tied to an issue like child marriage and dowry, could be a reason for the lack of full support.

Bihar has it’s problems with child marriage. Human Chain 2.0: After Battling Liquor, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar Sets His Sights on Dowry – The Wire

A look at the statistics from Bihar prove just how serious and deep-rooted these issues are. According to the 2011 Census, around 3% of girls get married before the age of 14. Figures for under-age marriages from the National Family Health Survey 4 say that 39% of girls become child brides. When it comes to atrocities against women, the state ranks 26th in India, but is no. 2 in dowry-related crimes.

Between 2000 and 2015, out of total 1,15,374 dowry death cases registered in India, 17,257 cases were registered in Bihar. Beyond just cases that pertained to deaths, 18,462 cases were registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act during the same period.

The root of the problem

A complex relationship between child marriage and dowry exists in the state. Among well-to-do families, there is a growing emphasis on educating girls and letting them work. As awareness of social ills continues to grow in these circles, cases of child marriage have dropped drastically, but dowry continues to be a problem. In fact, not only is it still followed, the sums exchanging hands are astronomical at times.

Among financially weaker sections, instead of investing to educate girls, families save to pay dowry. Then, in order to not pay a heavy dowry, they opt to marry off their girls early. There is an added problem that arises from this practice: if underage brides become pregnant, there’s a heavy risk of death during the delivery of both mother and child.

More than that, there is also a market opportunity here. Every year, when the wedding season swings around, advertisements spring up everywhere indirectly indicating what would make for a good dowry present. In fact, as Geetanjali Mukherjee wrote in her book Dowry Death in India, published in 1999, advertisements even advise families on how to save on dowry. The book noted that “until recently, billboard advertisements in Bombay, for instance, made an unabashed appeal to pregnant women to take the expensive and somewhat risky amniocentesis test. It importuned them to spend 500 rupees now on the test in order to save 50,000 rupees in future on a daughter’s dowry”.

In contrast to Nitish’s earlier campaign against liquor where the administrative and legal measures worked quite well, in the case of dowry, there is not much space for the police to act proactively. Data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) tells us that approximately 60% of the dowry-related cases which reach the police are those where there has been a death. This means that most victims avoid going to the authorities, which is why despite strict laws against this practice, dowry-related crimes continue unabated, be it in Bihar or India. The number of cases of dowry deaths in India stood at 6,851 in 2001. That figure jumped to 7,634 in 2015. The same trend was observed in Bihar. During the same period, cases in Bihar increased from 859 in 2001 to 1,154 in 2015.

According to the article in The Wire, unlike the banning of alcohol…the issue of ending child marriage must deal with changing the mindset of people…

More than a law, what is required is changing personal opinions.

Nitish appears to have understood that this is the battle that matters. His campaign against dowry and child marriage will see him act more like a reformer working to swing a big changes in the opinion of the masses more than a chief minister taking the administrative route to fix the state of affairs. This is why he is personally visiting the homes of those who are getting married without the dowry angle. Along with Nitish Kumar, Sushil Kumar Modi, the deputy chief minister, used the marriage of his eldest son to set an example of a dowry-free marriage.

Nitish has undoubtedly taken on a herculean task, but there are certain doubts in the minds of the public. Is this another tactic to keep cadres busy, much like the plantation drive?

With assembly elections just a year away, there is little scope that the anti-dowry campaign will bear any electoral fruits. But if Nitish’s latest battle bears even some fruit, it’s still a step ahead in the fight for gender justice.

 

All the same, I feel that bringing awareness to the crisis of child marriage goes far in helping create a dialogue about an issue that will not go away any time soon.

Here are some tweets with images of the day, #BiharHumanChain2018 :

 

 

 

Last week Human Rights Watch came out with their  World Report 2018: Fighting for Rights Succeeds | Human Rights Watch

Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing from Burma into Bangladesh on Sept. 16, 2017.

Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing from Burma into Bangladesh on Sept. 16, 2017.

 © 2017 Dar Yasin/AP

 

In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that when leaders push back strongly against politicians who demonize minorities, attack human rights, and undermine democratic institutions, they can limit the advance of populists. But where mainstream politicians capitulate to a message of hate and exclusion, the authoritarian populists flourish.

“The past year showed the importance of pushing back against the threat posed by demagogues and their abusive policies,” Roth said. “As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2018, the best way to honor its principles is to vigorously defend them against those leaders who seek political advantage by depriving marginalized groups of the rights guaranteed for all.”

Please go to this link World Report 2018 | Status of Human Rights Around the World to read more and to look up how each of the 90 countries square up…

You may find the United States quite interesting:

World Report 2018: United States | Human Rights Watch

The strong civil society and democratic institutions of the United States were tested in the first year of the administration of President Donald Trump. Across a range of issues in 2017, the US moved backward on human rights at home and abroad.

Trump has targeted refugees and immigrants, calling them criminals and security threats; emboldened racist politics by equivocating on white nationalism; and consistently championed anti-Muslim ideas and policies. His administration has embraced policies that will roll back access to reproductive health care for women; championed health insurance changes that would leave many more Americans without access to affordable health care; and undermined police accountability for abuse. Trump has also expressed disdain for independent media and for federal courts that have blocked some of his actions. And he has repeatedly coddled autocratic leaders and showed little interest or leadership in pressing for the respect of human rights abroad.

The individuals most likely to suffer abuse in the United States—including members of racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor, and prisoners—are often least able to defend their rights in court or via the political process. Many vulnerable groups endured renewed attacks on their rights during the year. Other longstanding US laws and practices—particularly related to criminal and juvenile justice, immigration, and national security—continued to violate internationally recognized human rights.

Lots and lots more at the link…reading it is like going through an abbreviated list of shithole actions taken by a shithole president.

Before I end with pictures and tweets from yesterday’s marches…

After a year of Trump, women expect less from men – but demand more – The Globe and Mail

One year ago Sunday, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history took place. The Women’s March, which followed the inauguration of Donald Trump, consisted of over 650 marches of roughly five million participants. The organizers were women, most protesters were women, and the targets were the misogynists of the Trump administration and their repressive policies. Protesters warned of the new government’s autocratic tendencies and planned persecution of the marginalized. Their warnings were not heeded by pundits clinging to the illusion of “checks and balances” or the “presidential pivot,” but they were right.

One year later, women remain the backbone of the opposition to President Trump, and those opposing him comprise the majority of the electorate. You would not know this from reading many U.S. media outlets, which focus disproportionately on Trump voters, with papers like the New York Times even surrendering an op-ed page to them. On Saturday, an enormously popular second women’s march caught the country by surprise, as there was little media attention to it paid beforehand despite the massive amount of preparation and participants involved.

I wanted to show you this little bit of the anti-women’s march protest going around today:

Nazis March In Tennessee Today. Last Time That Happened, I Ended Up With Antifa In A High-Speed Car Chase | HuffPost

Heimbach’s Nazis are returning to Tennessee to protest the Women’s March taking place in Knoxville on Sunday. The Nazis plan to attach themselves to a competing anti-abortion “March for Life” rally. How this will pan out for the fascists is anyone’s guess, but back in October, things didn’t go well for them in the Volunteer State. Heimbach’s crew started a fight with a biracial couple in a Brentwood pub. And their two rallies only put a spotlight on the weakness of their movement and the strength of their opposition. The second event, in Murfreesboro, was a total flop. Heimbach’s Nazis bailed, scared off by hundreds of counter-demonstrators who descended on Murfreesboro’s main square.

It makes me sick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an open thread…what are you reading about today?

 

 

 

 

Cross-posted / Human Chains Bring Awareness to #EndChildMarriage – Empower Dialogue


Sunday Reads: Don’t expect humanity from a #ShitholePresident

 

 

When talking about the racist president in the White House… (and I still can’t believe a year later that turd of a man is the president.) Whether, it be Asshole or Shithole, both words describe both his personality and outlook on and to humanity. Well, I should place a caveat there and state *humanity that does not look or have the same qualities as he does…mainly white and wealthy. Aryan white and like, yugely wealthy.

It has been a few days since he called the Continent of Africa…a shithole nation. And don’t tell me he did not also mean that extended to Haiti and El Salvador and other Black or Brown populous countries.

Whatever any of his people may say or lie to protect their “Dear Leader” or (for what I tend to believe more myself…) to protect their own ass from whatever Kompromat the said “Dear Leader” may have on them. Uh…I am talking about the performance from Tom Collins and Perdue et al.

G.O.P. Senator Says Trump Didn’t Use Vulgarity for Haiti and African Nations – The New York Times

Transcript: Sen. Tom Cotton on “Face the Nation,” Jan. 14, 2018 – CBS News

I guess Cotton and Perdue got the message? Check out the time on this…JAN 12, 2018, 2:58 PM…that is the time that post was published over at Think Progress.

Read those links if you want to…it should come as no surprise. Especially after the other attempts to wag the dog have gone amiss. (Now that is my own opinion, and what is that saying? About assholes?) But after becoming so jaded over the past few years, you cannot tell me that certain news items were not leaked to get the news cycle off the Shithole comment. Especially after it was apparent that the victory lap which was previously taken the night before, was premature to say the least.

 

But you see:

 

I think the orange shithole let the porn star leak…and if you really want to know…I think there is something strangely tRumpian about this “Mistake” over in Hawaii.

Hey, maybe he knew it was coming?

 

It did take the Shithole news off the TVs for a little bit, however before long we were back to the obvious.

It seems like a point that I keep driving home on my threads. Hey, let us look at what this GOP has come to:

That comment above notwithstanding…who are the ones with most of the college loan debt?

Meanwhile, in Kentucky:

I think we are at the point where, it really doesn’t matter. The people will be screwed anyway:

This is a serious issue, and from the comments on that twitter thread, it looks like it could be something that will explode in our faces!

Hospitals face critical shortage of IV bags due to Puerto Rico hurricane | US news | The Guardian

Hurricane Maria crippled a key maker of fluid bags, and as ‘wellness’ clinics pay a 600% markup, hospitals unable to afford them scramble to make do without

And who, just who can pay for those markups?

Guess?

Here are just a few links to make a point, from Toledo to Shreveport and Anchorage to Fisherville, Virginia:

IV saline shortage: Triangle hospitals scramble to keep patients medicated | News & Observer

Nationwide IV bag shortage affecting local hospitals

Alaska hospitals are dealing with the nationwide IV bag scarcity linked to Puerto Rico hurricane injury | Kaplan Herald

IV shortage affects some Louisiana hospitals during flu season

Northeast Ohio Hospitals Are Keeping an Eye on Dwindling Supply of IV Fluid and Equipment | WKSU

Augusta Health finds solutions to IV bag shortage

Nationwide IV bag shortage caused by Hurricane Maria

A crisis is at hand. Only I do not think this Administration, or much of this nation for that matter, will really give a shit when people start to die.

Video shows patient left at cold bus stop at night, wearing only a hospital gown – CNN

I know we have mentioned this woman already on the blog…but I wanted to post it again for emphasis. You know, to bring home the point. Who the fuck could do this?  Where is the humanity?

I guess there is none when you have to put food on the table? Or was there something darker involved? That word is used on purpose mind you.

But, then how do you explain this shit:

That protest was over this:

This is what “humanity” has come to…here:

 

While these white supremacists and hate groups gather momentum…and tRump makes racist statements about black and brown continents and countries…here in our own country…predominantly areas populated by people of color are still subjected to environmental racism and outright negligence. It just makes me physically ill. Which brings me to my final point to all this…noise over the Shithole racist remarks, I wanted to save this little tidbit for last:

 

Trump denies Haiti slur amid fallout from ‘shithole’ comment – NBC News

Sen. Durbin on Pres. Trump’s use of the term “chain migration”:

“I said to the president, ‘Do you realize how painful that term is to so many people? African-Americans believe that they migrated to America in chains. When you speak about [it], it hurts them personally. And he said, ‘Oh, that’s a good line.'”

I am glad Durbin mentioned this…glad that he made this point…even if it went totally over the head of the racist in chief. So much of what is devastating about the direction this nation is going is the lack of humanity in a racist view of the world. tRump has made this the “ideal” to strive for…don’t tell me differently. The GOP is his accomplice.  (I truly believe that Russia (whatever way possible) got him in that White House to begin with…but that is another post all together. ) Sure Shithole is a bigger slap in the face…but the nuance of the phrase chain migration, has just as much importance. They both are significant of the same disease that is being brought forward into our everyday lives.

Racism…Corruption and Racism. It is bringing down our democracy.  Soon the only humanity left will be those who are marginalized and left with feelings of disgust and despair. You can’t expect humanity from a #shitholepresident.


Lazy Saturday Reads: This Is Our Reality Now

What might have been.

Good Morning!!

The news is ugly today. The “president” calls other countries “shitholes” as he works to turn the United States into a “shithole” full of ignorant white people who live in fear of anyone who doesn’t look and think exactly as they do. On top of the “president’s” classless vulgarity and racism, it looks like next we’re going to be subjected to examinations of the “president’s” degrading sexual history.

This nightmare reality we are living in might have been prevented if only the media weren’t populated by numerous misogynist men who prey on naive young women and at the same time enjoy mocking strong, competent women like Hillary Clinton when they dare to pursue their ambitious dreams.

In the wake of the *shitstorm* over the “president’s” vile and ignorant comments in a meeting about immigration, it looks as if one of the worst media misogynist could finally get his comeuppance.

The Cut: Exclusive: Watch Chris Matthews Joke About His ‘Bill Cosby Pill’ Before Interviewing Hillary Clinton.

On January 5, 2016, MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews interviewed Hillary Clinton in an Iowa fire station during the Democratic primary season. Network footage obtained by the Cut shows Matthews, during the interview setup, making a couple of “jokes” about Clinton. He asks, “Can I have some of the queen’s waters? Precious waters?” And then, as he waits for the water, he adds, “Where’s that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?” Matthews then laughs, delighted with the line, for an extended moment, as the staffers around him react with disbelief, clearly uncomfortable. (Cosby has been accused of sexual impropriety by dozens of women, some of whom allege that they were drugged and raped by the comedian.)

“This was a terrible comment I made in poor taste during the height of the Bill Cosby headlines,” Matthews said to the Cut. “I realize that’s no excuse. I deeply regret it and I’m sorry.”

Really? Fuck you Tweety. It’s time for you to retire.

Back to The Cut:

Matthews has a long history of talking disparagingly about Hillary Clinton, whom he once called “witchy,”and often seems to channel what a hypothetical sexist Republican might say about a woman candidate: “she-devil,” “Madame Defarge.” In 2005, he wondered whether the troops would “take the orders” from a (female) President Clinton. “Is she hemmed in by the fact that she’s a woman and can’t admit a mistake,” he asked in 2006, “or else the Republicans will say, ‘Oh, that’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind,’ or ‘another fickle woman’? Is her gender a problem in her ability to change her mind?” He once pinched her cheekfollowing an interview, and, though he later apologized, on another occasion suggested that she only got as far as she did on the political stage because her husband had “messed around.”

We’re all familiar with Tweety’s garbage talk. To paraphrase Trump: “Take him out!”

Also worth reading, tweets by Matthew Gertz of Media Matters. A couple of examples:

That’s part of a long thread about Matthews ugly sexist remarks about Clinton you can read on Twitter.

And now let’s check out some of the latest stories about the “president” Chris Matthews and his kind helped put in the White House.

Trump’s racism

The New York Times Editorial Board on the “president’s” “shithole” shitstorm: Donald Trump Flushes Away America’s Reputation.

Where to begin? How about with a simple observation: The president of the United States is a racist. And another: The United States has a long and ugly history of excluding immigrants based on race or national origin. Mr. Trump seems determined to undo efforts taken by presidents of both parties in recent decades to overcome that history.

Mr. Trump denied making the remarks on Friday, but Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who attended the meeting, said the president did in fact say these “hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”

Of course he did. Remember, Mr. Trump is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.

Even the president’s most sycophantic defenders didn’t bother denying the reports. Instead they justified them. Places like Haiti really are terrible, they reminded us. Never mind that many native-born Americans are descended from immigrants who fled countries (including Norway in the second half of the 19th century) that were considered hellholes at the time.

Read the rest at the NYT link. How appropriate that the headline contains the word “flushes.”

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: Trump Puts the Purpose of His Presidency Into Words.

Francis Amasa Walker had fought to preserve the Union in the Grand Army of the Republic, but by 1896 he saw its doom in the huddled masses coming from Eastern Europe. The “immigrants from southern Italy, Hungary, Austria, and Russia,” Walker lamented in The Atlantic, were “beaten men from beaten races; representing the worst failures in the struggle for existence,” people who had “none of the ideas and aptitudes which fit men to take up readily and easily the problem of self-care and self-government, such as belong to those who are descended from the tribes that met under the oak-trees of old Germany to make laws and choose chieftains.”

More than a century later President Donald Trump would put it differently, as he considered immigration from Africa, wondering, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” instead suggesting that America take in more immigrants from places like Norway.

These remarks reflect scorn not only for those who wish to come here, but those who already have. It is a president of the United States expressing his contempt for the tens of millions of descendants of Africans, most of whose forefathers had no choice in crossing the Atlantic, American citizens whom any president is bound to serve. And it is a public admission of sorts that he is incapable of being a president for all Americans, the logic of his argument elevating not just white immigrants over brown ones, but white citizens over the people of color they share this country with.

Please go read the whole thing.

Philip Kennicott at The Washington Post: What did the men with Donald Trump do when he spoke of ‘shithole countries’?

Over the past year, as our political culture has grown more coarse and corrupt, I’ve felt different things: sometimes, anger; often, bitter resignation; and occasionally, a bemused sense of pure absurdity. But the past two nights I have actually wept. Why now? Why in response to these particular prompts? A confused and ailing woman in a thin medical gown was tossed to the roadside in freezing weather by security guards from the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus in Baltimore. Who orders such a thing, and why would anyone carry out that order? Then, the president of the United States calls Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “shithole” countries. Who says that kind of thing? Who thinks it? Who listens to it without reflexive outrage?

Back to the Post article:

According to a few of the president’s defenders, this is what we all really think. “This is how the forgotten men and women of America talk at the bar,” said a Fox News host, imputing to ordinary Americans sentiments they wouldn’t suffer to be said at their own dinner tables. There was the usual talk about “tough” language, as if using racist language was merely candor or an admirable impatience with euphemism.

His defenders seemed to say that if the president says things that we would be ashamed even to think, he is somehow speaking a kind of truth. But while there may be countries that are poor and suffer from civil discord, there are no “shithole” countries, not one, anywhere on Earth. The very idea of “shithole” countries is designed to short-circuit our capacity for empathy on a global scale.

These two incidents, in Baltimore and in the Oval Office, seem related — inhumane indifference from a hospital and blatant bigotry from the president — which is even more troubling. They are about who is on what side of the door, or the wall, or any other barrier that defines the primal “us and them” that governs so much of the worst of our human-made world. When Trump called disfavored countries “shitholes,” he was indulging the most lethal and persistent tribalism of all: pure, unabashed racism. After a candidacy and now a presidency marked by implications of racism, the president has grown more comfortable with speaking in overtly racist terms, condemning whole countries and their people for not being more like “Norway,” one of the whitest countries on Earth….

Remarks like these from the president are still shocking but hardly surprising, given the frequency with which they occur. What I want to know is how the men in the room with him reacted. This is the dinner table test: When you are sitting and socializing with a bigot, what do you do when he reveals his bigotry? I’ve seen it happen, once, when I was a young man, and I learned an invaluable lesson. An older guest at a formal dinner said something blatantly anti-Semitic. I was shocked and laughed nervously. Another friend stared at his plate silently. Another excused himself and fled to the bathroom. And then there was the professor, an accomplished and erudite man, who paused for a moment, then slammed his fist on the table and said, “I will never listen to that kind of language, so either you will leave, or I will leave.” The offender looked around the table, found no allies and left the gathering. I don’t know if he felt any shame upon expulsion.

Again, please go read the rest.

On the Trump scandal front:

Raw Story: Haitian government claims ousted dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier laundered stolen money through Trump Tower.

Trump and Baby Doc

More than a fifth of Trump’s condominiums in the U.S. have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive cash transactions that fit a Treasury Department definition of suspicious transactions, reported Buzzfeed News.

Records show more than 1,300 Trump condos were purchased through shell companies, which allow buyers to shield their finances and identities, and without a mortgage, which protects buyers from lender inquiries.

Those two characteristics raise alarms about possible money laundering, according to statements issued in recent months by the Department of Treasury, which has investigated transactions just like those all over the country….

According to the Buzzfeed News report, the Haitian government complained in the 1980s that former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered money stolen from the Caribbean nation’s treasury by purchasing an apartment in Trump Tower.

Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc,” was overthrown in 1986, but three years earlier used a Panamanian shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy apartment 54-K in Trump’s Manhattan tower for $446,875 cash.

Trump, the future U.S. president, signed the deed of sale.

I tried to read the Buzzfeed story yesterday, but it got to be too much to deal with. Now I plan to go read it carefully.

CNN: James O’Keefe says Trump asked him to go on birther-linked mission.

James O’Keefe

Donald Trump in 2013 asked James O’Keefe, the controversial conservative filmmaker, if he could “get inside” Columbia University and obtain President Obama’s sealed college records, according to a passage in O’Keefe’s forthcoming book, a copy of which was reviewed by CNN.

O’Keefe, a guerrilla filmmaker whom critics have decried for his tactics and who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering federal property in 2010 under false pretenses, writes in “American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News” that during a meeting in New York City Trump complimented his ACORN sting videos (“That pimp and hooker thing you did, wow!”). But, O’Keefe writes, Trump “was a man with a plan” and “did not agree to this meeting to sing my praises.” [….]

According to O’Keefe, Trump “suspected Obama had presented himself as a foreign student on application materials to ease his way into New York’s Columbia University, maybe even Harvard too, and perhaps picked up a few scholarships along the way.”

O’Keefe wrote that during the 2013 meeting Trump suggested O’Keefe infiltrate Columbia and obtain the sealed records: “‘Nobody else can get this information,'” O’Keefe quoted Trump as saying. “‘Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'”

Read more at CNN.

The Washington Post: After drubbing by media, Trump’s ambassador to the Netherlands apologizes for anti-Muslim remarks.

Pete Hoekstra and Trump

The embattled U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra apologized Friday for making unsubstantiated anti-Muslim claims at a conference in 2015, after his first week in the post was clouded by questions about the incendiary statements.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan and recent political appointee, made the apology during an interview Friday with De Telegraaf, one of the largest Dutch newspapers, at the end of a particularly rough introduction for the new ambassador.

“Looking back, I am shocked I said that,” he told the newspaper. “It was a wrong statement. It was wrong.”

Hoekstra made the remarks in question during a conference on terrorism hosted by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center. He talked about the supposed “chaos” brought to Europe by immigrants from Islamic countries and repeated a baseless theory about so-called “no-go zones” that is popular in right-wing media.

“Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned,” Hoekstra said at the time. “With the influx of the Islamic community — and yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands. All right? There are no-go zones in France.”

Considering the quality of people Trump is appointing to diplomatic posts, I’m sure we can expect more embarrassing episodes like this.

So . . . I could go on and on. I deliberately left out the story of Trump and the two porn stars. It’s still difficult for me to believe this horrible man is POTUS. He has to go before he completely wrecks this country and destroys any hope of our regaining respect around the world.

What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads: “It’s Worse Than You Think.”

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Good Morning!!

I woke up with a feeling of foreboding this morning, knowing that Trump is back from his long golf vacation, ready to create more chaos around the world. Predictably he’s been tweeting up a storm, attacking Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin, The New York Times, James Comey, Barack Obama, and Kim Jong Un. He also commented obnoxiously on the protests in Iran and claimed credit for aviation safety in 2017. I can’t begin to describe the disgust I feel toward this evil man.

But it may be even worse than I thought. I just finished reading a very scary article by Susan Glasser at Politico: Donald Trump’s Year of Living Dangerously. It’s worse than you think. I wish I could just post the whole thing, but I’ll limit myself to excerpts. The opening paragraphs:

When President Donald Trump sat down for dinner on September 18 in New York with leaders of four Latin American countries on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly, anxieties were already running high.

There was the matter of Mexico and his promise to build that “big, beautiful wall,” presumably to keep not just Mexicans but all of their citizens out of the United States too. And the threat to blow up the North American Free Trade Agreement. And then, a month earlier, seemingly out of nowhere, Trump had volunteered that he was considering a “military option” in Venezuela as that country’s last vestiges of democracy disappeared. Amid the international furor over his vow to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea in the same golf-course press conference, the news that the president of the United States was apparently considering going to war with its third-largest oil supplier had gotten relatively little attention. But the leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Panama invited to the dinner remembered it well….

Los Angeles

To Trump’s left was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. “Rex tells me you don’t want me to use the military option in Venezuela,” the president told the gathered Latin American leaders, according to an account offered by an attendee soon after the dinner. “Is that right? Are you sure?” Everyone said they were sure. But they were rattled. War with Venezuela, as absurd as that seemed, was clearly still on Trump’s mind.

By the time the dinner was over, the leaders were in shock, and not just over the idle talk of armed conflict. No matter how prepared they were, eight months into an American presidency like no other, this was somehow not what they expected. A former senior U.S. official with whom I spoke was briefed by ministers from three of the four countries that attended the dinner. “Without fail, they just had wide eyes about the entire engagement,” the former official told me. Even if few took his martial bluster about Venezuela seriously, Trump struck them as uninformed about their issues and dangerously unpredictable, asking them to expend political capital on behalf of a U.S. that no longer seemed a reliable partner. “The word they all used was: ‘This guy is insane.’”

According to Glasser, the assessment of Trump as incompetent and even “insane” is pretty common throughout the world.

Over the course of the year, I have often heard top foreign officials express their alarm in hair-raising terms rarely used in international diplomacy—let alone about the president of the United States. Seasoned diplomats who have seen Trump up close throw around words like “catastrophic,” “terrifying,” “incompetent” and “dangerous.” In Berlin this spring, I listened to a group of sober policy wonks debate whether Trump was merely a “laughingstock” or something more dangerous. Virtually all of those from whom I’ve heard this kind of ranting are leaders from close allies and partners of the United States. That experience is no anomaly. “If only I had a nickel for every time a foreign leader has asked me what the hell is going on in Washington this year … ” says Richard Haass, a Republican who served in senior roles for both Presidents Bush and is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

First and Pike News, Seattle

So what the hell is going on? I’ve come to believe that when it comes to Trump and the world, it’s not better than you think. It’s worse. The president is not playing the leadership role the rest of the world has come to expect from the United States, and the consequences are piling up. Still, it is also true that the world hasn’t exactly melted down—yet—as a consequence, leading some to conclude that Trump is merely a sort of cartoonishly incompetent front man, a Twitter demagogue whose nuclear-tinged rhetoric and predilection for cozying up to dictators should be discounted in favor of rational analysis of the far more sober-minded, far less radical policies actually put in place by his team….

Over their year of living dangerously with Trump, foreign leaders and diplomats have learned this much: The U.S. president was ignorant, at times massively so, about the rudiments of the international system and America’s place in it, and in general about other countries. He seemed to respond well to flattery and the lavish laying out of red carpets; he was averse to conflict in person but more or less immovable from strongly held preconceptions. And given the chance, he would respond well to anything that seemed to offer him the opportunity to flout or overturn the policies endorsed by his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

The European diplomat who was told to practice “strategic patience” did not find it all that useful in the several face-to-face meetings with Trump he ended up sitting in on. “We were struck by the absence of knowledge of the president,” he said. Another takeaway: Trump made commitments he then did not deliver on. “On some things, he accepted the argument, and we thought now it is resolved, only to find out later he uses the same phrases and arguments as he did before,” the diplomat said.

Please read the rest. It’s painful, but it’s important to face this reality, IMHO.

Smallest news and post card stand in New Orleans, 103 Royal Street, 1908

After reading that article, my sense of vague foreboding turned into anxiety bordering on panic. I had to take a break and calm myself down. What is going to become of our country? We need Mueller to act quickly. There is still nearly a year to go before the 2018 elections and no sign that Congressional Republicans are going to do anything to rein in Trump’s madness. Sometimes I still ask myself, “Is this really happening?”

The fact-checkers at The Washington Post have published an update on Trump’s lies: President Trump has made 1,950 false or misleading claims over 347 days.

With just 18 days before President Trump completes his first year as president, he is now on track to exceed 2,000 false or misleading claims, according to our database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.

As of Monday, the total stood at 1,950 claims in 347 days, or an average of 5.6 claims a day. (Our full interactive graphic can be found here.)

As regular readers know, the president has a tendency to repeat himself — often. There are now more than 60 claims that he has repeated three or more times. The president’s impromptu 30-minute interview with the New York Times over the holidays, in which he made at least 24 false or misleading claims, included many statements that we have previously fact-checked.

If you’ve been checking Twitter, you probably know that that New York Times interview has evoked angry reactions because of the failure of Reporter Michael Schmidt to question anything Trump said. Sometimes Schmidt even asked leading questions containing falsehoods. The approach used by Schmidt and fellow NYT reporter Maggie Habermann is to just get Trump talking and “get out of the way.”

And why no tough questions or follow-ups? Because NYT reporters are afraid that Trump will just walk away. If he did that would be more important news than the word salads they keep publishing. Twitter folks have also been bringing up the famous 2016 piece in which the Times claimed that U.S. intelligence agencies had found no “no clear link” between the Trump campaign and Russia. Erik Wemple at The Washington Post: New NYT scoop on Russia raises questions about old NYT story on Russia.

It was a week before the 2016 presidential election that the New York Times wrote this headline: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” The story’s lead cited the curiosity of federal law enforcement on this front: “For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign,” read the story by Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers. “Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead — which they ultimately came to doubt — about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.”

Newsstand 32nd Street and Third Avenue, NYC, 1935

Topical stuff. Major media outlets had been following strands of the Trump-Russia story for months. Just before the Lichtblau-Myers collaboration hit the Internet, for example, Slate ran a detailed story asking whether a server of the Trump Organization was communicating with Moscow’s Alfa Bank. Perhaps, concluded the story.

The New York Times piece pooh-poohed the possibility, reporting that agents “ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.” Furthermore, the story gave this summary of the investigations: “Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.”

But just last week the Times published a bombshell story about why the FBI began investigating Trump and Russia.

More than a year later, we now know much more about the FBI’s pre-election Russia-Trump activities, courtesy of the New York Times. On Saturday, a three-byline story — Sharon LaFraniere, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo — reported that Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, addled by the offerings of a London pub, told an Australian official in May 2016 that “Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass [Democratic presidential candidate Hillary] Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.” A couple of months later, hacked Democratic emails surfaced — prompting the Australians to tell U.S. officials what Papadopoulos had said.

Yet the Times still refuses to apologize for their obsessive coverage of Hillary’s emails and the story that absolved the Trump campaign of guilt in the lead up to the election. (Remember, Michael Schmitt wrote many of the anti-Hillary stories.) This is Judy Miller all over again. The New York Times is broken.

Politico talked to John Dean about the Russia Investigation.

Newsstand in subway, Philadelphia, unknown date

John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel, has a stark warning for White House lawyer Ty Cobb and the rest of President Donald Trump’s defenders as they enter 2018: Believing the investigation and prosecutions will be over any time soon is “wishful thinking.”

And, says the man who famously flipped and became the prosecution’s star witness in the process that helped take down Richard Nixon, no one in the president’s orbit should assume they’re prepared for everything that cooperating witnesses George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn might be telling Bob Mueller, as their statements have suggested—whether it’s done out of confidence from their own review or just out of public bluster.
That’s exactly the mistake Dean saw Nixon and his close aides and accomplices, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, make about him: overconfidence.

“They didn’t know how much I knew. I knew much more than they thought I did,” Dean told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast, pointing in particular to Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser. “With Flynn and his proximity, he had even more proximity than I did.”

Dean scoffs at the idea floated by Trump lawyer John Dowd in December that the president, in his role as America’s top law enforcement official, couldn’t be guilty of obstruction of justice. He finds equally ridiculous, in terms of how it would hold up legally, that the defense of Trump and other aides has at times suggested that the president was ignorantly blundering through what then-FBI director Jim Comey took as attempts to influence the investigation, but was really just the bluster of a personality who thinks about the world in terms of loyalty and doesn’t know the technicalities of the law well enough to violate it.

Ignorance is no defense, according to Dean.

Dean did include a frightening caveat:

For all that he’s never stopped reliving the Watergate years, Dean seems surprised at how relevant what he went through 45 years ago remains. Not that everything is the same—for one, he thinks that in today’s media and political environment, Nixon might have finished his term.

“There’s social media, there’s the internet, the news cycles are faster. I think Watergate would have occurred at a much more accelerated speed than the 928 days it took to go from the arrest at the Watergate to the conviction of Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Mitchell, et al.,” Dean said. “There’s more likelihood he might have survived if there’d been a Fox News.”

That would be very bad for the U.S. and the world.

What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Breton Children Reading, Emile Vernon, 1913

Good Afternoon!!

Thank goodness the “holidays” are almost over now, and soon a new year will begin. What will 2018 bring? Will Trump continue his goal of destroying democracy or will we somehow manage to keep it alive? First we have to get through the journalistic ritual of looking back over the year that is ending.

Eugene Robinson posted his evaluation of 2017 last night: Trump’s first year was even worse than feared.

Grit your teeth. Persevere. Just a few more days and this awful, rotten, no-good, ridiculous, rancorous, sordid, disgraceful year in the civic life of our nation will be over. Here’s hoping that we all — particularly special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — have a better 2018.

Many of us began 2017 with the consoling thought that the Donald Trump presidency couldn’t possibly be as bad as we feared. It turned out to be worse.

Did you ever think you would hear a president use the words “very fine people” to describe participants in a torch-lit rally organized by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan? Did you ever think you would hear a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations thuggishly threaten that she would be “taking names” of countries that did not vote on a General Assembly resolution the way she wanted? Did you ever think the government of the world’s biggest military and economic power would reject not just science but also empiricism itself, preferring to use made-up “alternative facts” as the basis for major decisions?

We knew that Trump was narcissistic and shallow, but on Inauguration Day it was possible to at least hope he was self-aware enough to understand the weight that now rested on his shoulders, and perhaps grow into the job. He did not. If anything, he has gotten worse.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

Paul Krugman still has hope: America Is Not Yet Lost.

Auguste reading to her daughter, by Mary Cassatt

Donald Trump has been every bit as horrible as one might have expected; he continues, day after day, to prove himself utterly unfit for office, morally and intellectually. And the Republican Party — including so-called moderates — turns out, if anything, to be even worse than one might have expected. At this point it’s evidently composed entirely of cynical apparatchiks, willing to sell out every principle — and every shred of their own dignity — as long as their donors get big tax cuts.

Meanwhile, conservative media have given up even the pretense of doing real reporting, and become blatant organs of ruling-party propaganda….

What we’ve seen instead is the emergence of a highly energized resistance. That resistance made itself visible literally the day after Trump took office, with the huge women’s marches that took place on Jan. 21, dwarfing the thin crowds at the inauguration. If American democracy survives this terrible episode, I vote that we make pink pussy hats the symbol of our delivery from evil….

Let’s be clear: America as we know it is still in mortal danger. Republicans still control all the levers of federal power, and never in the course of our nation’s history have we been ruled by people less trustworthy.

This obviously goes for Trump himself, who is clearly a dictator wannabe, with no respect whatsoever for democratic norms. But it also goes for Republicans in Congress, who have demonstrated again and again that they will do nothing to limit his actions. They have backed him up as he uses his office to enrich himself and his cronies, as he foments racial hatred, as he attempts a slow-motion purge of the Justice Department and the F.B.I.

I count it as a good sign that journalists are coming right out and calling Trump a wannabe dictator. Also a good sign: both Robinson and Krugman acknowledge that if we are to survive Trump, women’s leadership will be the reason. How ironic that a woman had to be excoriated and mocked by abusive male journalists for this awakening of women’s power to happen.

Jan Van Eyck – Madonna with the Child Reading (1433)

It’s also a good sign that journalists finally recognized the Russian threat, although this only happened after a monster was installed as POTUS. Yesterday The Washington Post published a breathtaking analysis of what the Russians accomplished last year and the danger they still pose to our democracy: Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options. Here’s a brief excerpt; please go read the whole thing if you haven’t already.

The events surrounding the FBI’s NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.

One previously unreported order — a sweeping presidential finding to combat global cyberthreats — prompted U.S. spy agencies to plan a half-dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat. But one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act, intelligence officials said….

The miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia that left the United States vulnerable to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential electiontrace back to decisions made at the end of the Cold War, when senior policymakers assumed Moscow would be a partner and largely pulled the United States out of information warfare. When relations soured, officials dismissed Russia as a “third-rate regional power” that would limit its meddling to the fledgling democracies on its periphery.

Senior U.S. officials didn’t think Russia would dare shift its focus to the United States.

“I thought our ground was not as fertile,” said Antony J. Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state. “We believed that the truth shall set you free, that the truth would prevail. That proved a bit naive.”

Much more at the WaPo link.

From former CIA Deputy Director and Acting Director Michael Morrell: Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States.

Every first-year international-relations student learns about the importance of deterrence: It prevented a Soviet invasion of Western Europe during the height of the Cold War. It prevented North Korea from invading South Korea in the same time frame. Today, it keeps Iran from starting a hot war in the Middle East or other nations from initiating cyberattacks against our infrastructure.

The Reader, by Federico Zandomeneghi (Italian, 1841)

And yet, the United States has failed to establish deterrence in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. We know we failed because Russia continues to aggressively employ the most significant aspect of its 2016 tool kit: the use of social media as a platform to disseminate propaganda designed to weaken our nation.

There is a perception among the media and general public that Russia ended its social-media operations following last year’s election and that we need worry only about future elections. But that perception is wrong. Russia’s information operations in the United States continued after the election and they continue to this day.

This should alarm everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. Foreign governments, overtly or covertly, should not be allowed to play with our democracy.

Read about the continuing threats from Russia at the WaPo link.

At the Columbia Journalism Review, Jonathan Peters reports on the work of NYT master’s student to examine Trump’s Twitter attacks on the media.

Trump’s prolificacy on Twitter is well documented, and some of his press-related tweets have captured vast public attention. For example, Trump tweeted in July a doctored video in which he wrestled a man whose head had been replaced by the CNN logo. It got hundreds of thousands of retweets.

Off Twitter, of course, Trump has waged a rhetorical war on the press, threatening to sue various newspapers and calling journalists “the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” all while characterizing as “fake news” any story he dislikes.

That’s what prompted an NYU master’s student to start tracking Trump’s tweets critical of the press. “I took it on as a labor of love and hate, and I suffered through his tweets every few days to log them,” says Stephanie Sugars, who is pursuing a joint MA in journalism and international relations. “It seemed important to maintain a record of what has appeared to be a deliberate and sustained campaign to discredit the media as an institution.”

By Zulia Gotay de Anderson

Sugars was working as a researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists last spring when she created the Trump-tweet spreadsheet that she recently shared with me. She was helping to launch a website that documents press freedom incidents in the US. (CJR is a partner.) Originally, she and others at CPJ thought it would include not only arrests and equipment seizures but also anti-press social media posts.

“That just wasn’t manageable,” Sugars says. “We decided to pare the site back and not focus on tweets. I kept up with the spreadsheet, though, and continued to add to it, even after leaving [CPJ] when my term as a researcher there ended.”

Peters then assigned his students a the University of Georgia to “review the spreadsheet and to help me identify notable items and trends in the data.” Read the rest at the CJR link to see the results.

One more interesting read: could Ivanka be in trouble with the law? GQ: Ivanka Trump’s Old Jewelry Business Is Now Caught Up in an Alleged Fraud Scheme. Author Ben Schreckenger begins by asking, “Why do people looking to launder money seem to find Trump family businesses so appealing?”

Throw a dart at a map of the world and there’s a solid chance it will land near a spot where a Trump family business has allegedly gotten caught up in a money laundering scheme.

There’s Panama, where the Trump Ocean Club is said to have washed dirty cash for Russian gangsters and South American drug cartels. There’s Azerbaijan and the Trump Baku, where the money allegedly being laundered was said to belong to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. And of course, there’s the Trump Soho in Manhattan, a magnet for money from Kazakhstan and Russia, and a property that one former executive on the project now calls “a monument to spectacularly corrupt money-laundering and tax evasion.”

In each of those cases, the Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing and has sought to distance itself—and the Trump family—from the property, saying they merely licensed ​the Trump name. But as it turns out, it’s not just Trump-branded real estate developments that perhaps have attracted the wrong kinds of money.

Thanks to an overlooked filing made in federal court this past summer, we can now add a jewelry business to the list of Trump family enterprises that allegedly served as vehicles to fraudulently hide the assets of ultra-rich foreigners with checkered backgrounds. In late June, the Commercial Bank of Dubai sought—and later received—permission to subpoena Ivanka Trump’s now-defunct fine jewelry line, claiming its diamonds were used in a massive scheme to hide roughly $100 million that was owed to the bank, according to filings at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Read the rest at GQ.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: I’m Tired! So Tired!

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving. It will all be over by Thanksgiving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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