Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

We lost one of the all-time greats last night. Carl Reiner is dead at 98. TMZ:

Carl Reiner, one of the most prolific entertainers in the history of show business has died … TMZ has learned.

We’re told Reiner died Monday night at his Beverly Hills home.  We’re told his family was with him when he passed.

Reiner was a producer. He was also a director. He was also an actor. He was also a Grammy winner. He won 9 Emmys in over 7 decades. He has more than 400 credits….

For most people … they remember Carl best for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which he created and starred in. Carl played the role of a very temperamental comedian — Alan Brady — who terrorized Dick Van Dyke‘s character and the other writers. Oh, and there was this new actress Carl cast for Dick’s wife — Mary Tyler Moore

Carl made a best-selling album with Mel Brooks called “2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks” which earned a Grammy nomination and sparked his writing career.

There were other smash hits, including directing “Oh God” with George Burns and “The Jerk” with Steve Martin. He worked with Martin on several movies, including “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” “Man with Two Brains” and “All of Me.”

Reiner appeared in a bunch of TV shows and movies, including “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming,” and “Enter Laughing.”

The directing credits are endless — “Summer Rental” with John Candy, “Summer School” with Mark Harmon, “That Old Feeling” with Bette Midler and “Sibling Rivalry” with Kirstie Alley and Carrie Fisher.

Click the link to read the rest.

Vanity Fair: Carl Reiner, Comedy Patriarch, Dies at 98.

If Carl Reiner had written a deathbed memoir, it would have been titled Exit Laughing. After all, the legendary comedy writer, performer, and director had already published Enter Laughing and Continue Laughing. Having conquered TV, movies, Broadway, and traditional publishing over his seven-decade-plus career, Reiner spent his last years mastering e-books and Twitter, writing and tweeting until Monday night, when he died at age 98 in his Beverly Hills home, TMZ reports. Reiner died of natural causes, Variety writes. He was prolific til the end, even sitting for an interview in an episode of the YouTube series “Dispatches from Quarantine” that premiered on June 22.

Born in the Bronx, Reiner began his New York stage career as a serious Shakespearean thespian, but he found that comedy was what paid the bills. He worked as a Borscht Belt joker at the Allaben Acres resort in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where he met his future wife, singer Estelle Lebost, and he learned the skills that served him as a comedy writer under actor Maurice Evans in the U.S. Army’s entertainment unit in Hawaii during World War II.

After the war, Reiner landed two jobs with one audition: summer entertainment director at the Lake Spofford Hotel in New Hampshire, and replacement for star Jules Munshin in the touring production of the revue Call Me Mister. Roles such as the latter, as well as in Broadway musicals Inside U.S.A. and Alive and Kicking, led to his casting in the sketch company of Sid Caesar’s landmark live-TV comedy series Your Show of Shows. Throughout the 1950s, Reiner would work as a performer and writer on Caesar’s various shows, working with a legendary team of scribes that included Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, and Woody Allen. He also wrote his first book, 1958’s Enter Laughing, an autobiographical novel about his early days as an actor.

Reiner drew from his own life to create his first sitcom, Head of the Family, about a young, recently married TV-sketch-comedy writer, in which Reiner also starred. The show was a flop until Reiner retooled it with a new leading actor and actress and took a supporting role as the sketch show’s egotistical host, Alan Brady. The result was The Dick Van Dyke Show (which was on-air from 1960 to 1966), an innovative series that made Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore into stars and earned Reiner several Emmys for the show’s mix of sexy, sophisticated comedy and silly slapstick.

And that was just the beginning. Read more about Reiner’s storied career at VF.

In other news . . .

Stories on the Russian bounty scandal are still breaking.

AP sources: White House aware of Russian bounties in 2019.

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File).

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump was not — and still has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they have not been fully verified. However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.

Of course he knew, and he didn’t care.

The intelligence that surfaced in early 2019 indicated Russian operatives had become more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012 during the Obama administration.

The National Security Council and the undersecretary of defense for intelligence did hold meetings regarding the intelligence. The Pentagon declined to comment and the NSC did not respond to questions about the meetings.

Concerns about Russian bounties flared anew this year after members of the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known to the public as SEAL Team Six, raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000 in U.S. currency. The funds bolstered the suspicions of the American intelligence community that the Russians had offered money to Taliban militants and other linked associations.

The White House contends the president was unaware of this development as well.

If that’s true then WTF is Trump doing pretending to be “president?” There’s quite a bit more detail at the link.

David Ignatius at The Washington Post: Trump doesn’t understand that Putin is in the payback business.

A basic truth about Russian President Vladimir Putin, which President Trump evidently doesn’t understand: Putin is in the payback business. He believes the United States destroyed his former country, the Soviet Union. He likes the United States to feel pain, in Afghanistan and everywhere else.

Trump has his own, much rosier take on Putin. And I can’t help wondering whether that explains why, assuming his account is true, the American president was never briefed about intelligence reports early this year that Russia was offering bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. Perhaps Trump’s national security aides were afraid to upset him.

When it comes to the military, Trump has the opposite of a Midas touch. Everything he handles becomes tarnished. That was true of his meddling last year in the discipline case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher; his encouragement of the firing Capt. Brett Crozier as skipper of the USS Theodore Roosevelt; and his enlistment of Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a publicity stunt at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House.

More from Ignatius:

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the Russian bounties in Afghanistan. But sources have provided some basics that allow us to see this incident in context.

First, we must understand that the Russians wish us ill in Afghanistan. Putin’s generation remains bitter about their forced withdrawal that finished in 1989, under American pressure, which presaged the collapse of the Soviet Union. There’s a tiny Afghan War Museum in Moscow’s Perovo district: two dark rooms, pictures of the fallen, guns, maps and other trinkets of a war that broke the Soviet Union’s spirit.

About 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in their nine-year Afghanistan war. By comparison, the United States has suffered 2,372 military deaths in our Afghan war, waged for more than twice as long.

What makes Afghanistan especially painful for Russia is that the Soviet Union’s final defeat resulted from a secret CIA program to supply the Afghan mujahideen with Stinger antiaircraft missiles, which could shoot down Soviet helicopters and were a death sentence for Moscow’s recruits.

More Russian bounty stories to check out:

CNN: Intelligence on Russian bounty plot was included in the President’s Daily Brief earlier this year, source says.

CNBC: Mom of Marine killed in Afghanistan wants investigation of claim Russians paid Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers.

The New York Times: Trump Got Written Briefing in February on Possible Russian Bounties, Officials Say.

Blockbuster story on Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders from Carl Bernstein at CNN

From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump’s phone calls alarm US officials

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America’s principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

The calls caused former top Trump deputies — including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials — to conclude that the President was often “delusional,” as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. The sources said there was little evidence that the President became more skillful or competent in his telephone conversations with most heads of state over time. Rather, he continued to believe that he could either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will, and often pursued goals more attuned to his own agenda than what many of his senior advisers considered the national interest….

By far the greatest number of Trump’s telephone discussions with an individual head of state were with Erdogan, who sometimes phoned the White House at least twice a week and was put through directly to the President on standing orders from Trump, according to the sources. Meanwhile, the President regularly bullied and demeaned the leaders of America’s principal allies, especially two women: telling Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom she was weak and lacked courage; and telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was “stupid.”

Trump incessantly boasted to his fellow heads of state, including Saudi Arabia’s autocratic royal heir Mohammed bin Salman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, about his own wealth, genius, “great” accomplishments as President, and the “idiocy” of his Oval Office predecessors, according to the sources.

In his conversations with both Putin and Erdogan, Trump took special delight in trashing former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and suggested that dealing directly with him — Trump — would be far more fruitful than during previous administrations. “They didn’t know BS,” he said of Bush and Obama — one of several derisive tropes the sources said he favored when discussing his predecessors with the Turkish and Russian leaders.

Read the whole thing at CNN. We knew about some of these calls, but the details in Bernstein’s story are breathtaking.

It’s only Tuesday and there will likely be more Trump scandals before the week’s end. Take care of yourselves, Sky Dancers!!


Monday Reads: Good News First

See the source image

Vivian Maier is often considered one of America’s greatest street photographers.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Today’s pictures are of women artists and their self portraits from the National Geographic and other sources.

There’s some very good news out of the Supreme Court today for Louisiana Women and women every where in the country!  From NBC News: “Supreme Court, in 5-4 ruling, strikes down restrictive Louisiana abortion law. The measure would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of a clinic.”

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Louisiana’s tough restriction on abortions violates the Constitution, a surprising victory for abortion rights advocates from an increasingly conservative court.

The 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four more liberal justices, struck down a law passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2014 that required any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Its enforcement had been blocked by a protracted legal battle.

Two Louisiana doctors and a medical clinic sued to get the law overturned. They said it would leave only one doctor at a single clinic to provide services for nearly 10,000 women who seek abortions in the state each year.

The challengers said the requirement was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. With the vote of then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that Texas imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services without providing any medical benefits. Kennedy was succeeded by the more conservative Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by President Donald Trump, who was among the four dissenters Monday.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the Texas decision, also wrote Monday’s ruling. The law poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking an abortion, offers no significant health benefits, “and therefore imposes an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.”

Roberts said he thought the court was wrong to strike down the Texas law, but he voted with the majority because that was the binding precedent. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Even small victories based on stare decisis are still victories.

 

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Self Portrait By Paula Modersohn Becker

Well, Iran always makes things interesting.  You have to give them that. From The Sydney Morning Herald: “Iran issues arrest warrant for Donald Trump, requests help from Interpol.

Tehran: Iran has issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol to help detain US President Donald Trump and others it believes carried out a drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, a local prosecutor reportedly says.”

While Trump faces no danger of arrest, the charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said Trump and more than 30 others whom Iran accuses of involvement in the January 3 strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad face “murder and terrorism charges,” the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Monday.

Alqasimehr did not identify anyone else sought other than Trump, but stressed that Iran would continue to pursue his prosecution even after his presidency ends.

From BuzzFeed News: “Democrats Won’t Let Republicans Speak In Coronavirus Hearings If They Won’t Wear Masks.  “We’re not going to have another meeting in a confined space if we’re not going to abide by this,” Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn told Republicans.”

Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis are threatening to bar Republican members from participating future meetings in-person after they showed up to a hearing on Friday without masks.

Subcommittee Chair Jim Clyburn is sending a letter to ranking member Steve Scalise, warning he would not recognize members in hearings and meetings without proper face coverings; the chair must recognize members to speak and participate in committee business.

“Going forward, as long as the Attending Physician’s requirement to wear masks is in place, I will not recognize any Member of this Subcommittee to participate in person in any Subcommittee meeting or hearing unless the Member is wearing a mask and strictly adheres to the Attending Physician’s guidance,” Clyburn said in a letter to Scalise. The letter further recommends members participate remotely if they insist on not wearing masks.

The letter comes after a monthslong debate in Congress where Republicans have repeatedly disregarded recommendations and then a requirement from Capitol health experts to wear face coverings. The disagreement on the topic came to a head at the end of a Friday hearing when Clyburn reminded his Republican colleagues they were in violation of a mandate handed down by the attending physician, even as disposable masks were stationed outside the hearing room for members to use.

“For the United States House of Representatives meetings, in a limited and closed space such as a committee hearing room for greater than 15 minutes face coverings are required,” Clyburn said, reading the Capitol health official’s order. “And we’re not going to have another meeting in a confined space if we’re not going to abide by this. I will stay in the safety of my home as I would ask all you to do.”

Scalise responded to Clyburn by saying members of the House are following guidelines on how to social distance just fine, suggesting mask-wearing is an additional precautionary measure.

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Self-Portrait, Lois Mailou Jones

From Kyle Cheney at Politico: “House Dems propose strengthening Congress’ contempt power to break administration stonewalls. “We’ve seen unprecedented and illegal obstruction by the Trump administration to Congress,” Ted Lieu said.”

House Democrats increasingly frustrated by the Trump administration for defying subpoenas are proposing legislation that would ratchet up their power to punish executive branch officials who reject their requests.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), and five other membersof the House Judiciary Committee, unveiled a rule change Monday to formalize and expand Congress’ power of “inherent contempt” — its authority to unilaterally punish anyone who defies a subpoena for testimony or documents.

Though Congress has long had inherent contempt power, it has been in disuse since before World War II. This power, upheld by courts, has included the ability to levy fines and even jail witnesses who refuse to cooperate with congressional demands.

But such extreme measures have fallen out of favor over the years, as Congress has relied instead primarily on litigation to enforce its subpoenas and officials across government have acknowledged the unappetizing prospect of using force to impose its will. It’s even trickier when applied to a coequal branch of government, which may have its own privileges and protections to assert.

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Frida Kahlo Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

More news is coming forth about the Russian bounties.  This is from WAPO: “Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments.”

Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted under the program. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed this year. In each of those years, several service members were also killed by what are known as “green on blue” hostile incidents by members of Afghan security forces, which are sometimes believed to have been infiltrated by the Taliban.

The intelligence was passed up from the U.S. Special Operations forces based in Afghanistan and led to a restricted high-level White House meeting in late March, the people said.

 

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Joni Mitchell Self Portrait

This is really unfolding in a particularly quick way.  Here’s an opinion from Greg Sargent at WAPO’s Plum Line: “As Trump’s corruption gets worse, some Democrats want a tougher response.”

The big revelations of the moment — the reports that Russia may have paid bounties for the killing of U.S. troops, and the news that a U.S. attorney was ousted after investigating Trump cronies — are a reminder that Trump has found a gaping hole in our system.

If a president refuses to cooperate with congressional oversight in just about every conceivable way — and if that president has the near-total backing of a party that controls one chamber of Congress — any such scrutiny can basically be ground to a halt, with no repercussions.

But a group of House Democrats is now calling on its chamber to get a lot tougher in this regard.

This group of Democrats — which is led by Rep. Ted Lieu of California and includes other high-profile lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee — is introducing a resolution Monday that, if successful, would dramatically increase the House’s ability to compel compliance with oversight.

This resolution would create a new, modernized mechanism by which the House could seek to levy stiff fines on officials who defy subpoenas for testimony or documents. It would in effect bring into the 21st century a power that Congress has used only rarely in the past — the power to enforce its own subpoenas.

“The administration can simply choose not to have witnesses appear and not produce documents, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Lieu told me, noting that “we’ve seen the Trump administration getting worse, not better, in terms of both obstruction and engaging in reckless conduct.”

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Self-Portrait by South African Visual Artist Zanele Muholi

One last OpEd piece from WAPO by Elizabeth Spiers: “Trump’s ‘silent majority’ isn’t a majority, and it’s far from silent. But the rhetoric lays the groundwork for crying foul when the true majority wins.”

The Trump team’s declaration that a silent majority lurks, ready to return Trump to the White House, is at odds with almost everything else the president says and does. His efforts to make it harder to vote by opposing voting by mail in the middle of a pandemic, and his repeated claims that Democrats are plotting election fraud, suggest a distinct nervousness about the majority’s true will. He appears to be laying the groundwork for explaining away a Democratic victory in November, as the result of deception and trickery. On June 22 he tweeted, in typical fashion: “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” In a system where success usually depends on grasping what a majority of the electorate wants, the sound strategy might be to reach out from one’s base to voters in the middle. Trump instead is heavily invested in the assumption that his enthusiastic minority will determine the outcome — even if it means that the people who don’t like him are prevented from voting.

These are hopeful signs in a fight to stop some of the most disturbing trends of the Trumpist Regime.  However, the fight is on so many levels and we battle the rich and powerful and the firmly entrenched like Mitch McConnell. Take this idiot as an great example. He’s not on the front pages like Police Reform and Abortion Restrictions.  And we still don’t make enough noise about voter restrictions in so many Republican-controlled states.

 

They’re killing our land, our children, our hopes and dreams, our democracy, our economy, our climate and its ecosystems, our indigenous peoples,  Black Men, and just about everything with their greed, racism, misogyny, and rigid theocratic ideologies that punish women, the GLBT community, and science and rational thought.

We just have to hang in there.

Remember we have leadership that will stand up to it all

Have a great week Sky Dancers!  Do be safe!  Stay home if possible!  Wear a mask!  Be kind, gentle, and giving to yourself and others!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thunderous Thursday Reads: Bolton From The Blue

Good Morning!!

John Bolton’s book is scheduled for release next Tuesday, but you don’t have to buy it. The best parts are already being published everywhere, despite Trump’s and Barr’s efforts to stop publication.

Bolton was interviewed by ABC’s Martha Raddatz, and the interview will be shown on Sunday in an hour-long special beginning at 9PM. ABC News: Bolton: Trump’s not ‘fit for office,’ doesn’t have ‘competence to carry out the job’

President Donald Trump is not “fit for office” and doesn’t have “the competence to carry out the job,” his former national security adviser John Bolton told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

In an explosive new book about his 17 months at the White House, Bolton characterizes Trump as “stunningly uninformed,” ignorant of basic facts and easily manipulated by foreign adversaries.

But his assessment that Trump is not “fit” to be president is among the most stunning indictments of a sitting president by one of their own top advisers in American history.

“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection,” Bolton told ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz.

“He was so focused on the reelection that longer-term considerations fell by the wayside,” he added.

The New York Times: Bolton Says Trump Impeachment Inquiry Missed Other Troubling Episodes.

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, says in his new book that the House in its impeachment inquiry should have investigated President Trump not just for pressuring Ukraine but for a variety of instances when he sought to use trade negotiations and criminal investigations to further his political interests.

Mr. Bolton describes several episodes where the president expressed a willingness to halt criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,” citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey. “The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Mr. Bolton writes, saying that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Bolton also adds a striking new accusation by describing how Mr. Trump overtly linked tariff talks with China to his own political fortunes by asking President Xi Jinping to buy American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.” Mr. Bolton said that Mr. Trump “stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

A bit more:

Mr. Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain was a nuclear power and asked if Finland was a part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. The president never tired of assailing allied leaders and came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. He said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela.

At times, Mr. Trump seemed to almost mimic the authoritarian leaders he appeared to admire. “These people should be executed,” Mr. Trump once said of journalists. “They are scumbags.” When Mr. Xi explained why he was building concentration camps in China, the book says, Mr. Trump “said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.” He repeatedly badgered Mr. Barr to prosecute former Secretary of State John F. Kerry for talking with Iran in what he insisted was a violation of the Logan Act.

There’s plenty more at the NYT link.

The Guardian: Trump was willing to halt criminal investigations as ‘favor’ to dictators, Bolton book says.

Donald Trump was willing to halt criminal investigations to “give personal favors to dictators he liked”, according to a new book written by his former national security adviser John Bolton….

Bolton alleges that Trump pleaded with China’s President Xi Jinping to help him get re-elected by buying more US agricultural products, according to accounts of his forthcoming memoir.

In his pursuit of a good personal relationship with Xi, Trump is described as brushing aside human rights issues, even providing encouragement to the communist leader to continue to build concentration camps for China’s Muslim Uighur population….

According to excerpts published by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Washington Post, Bolton describes a pattern of corruption in which Trump routinely attempts to use the leverage of US power on other countries to his own personal ends.

“The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Bolton writes, adding that he took his concerns to the attorney general, William Barr.

Axios: Bolton’s Revenge.

Highlights from a copy obtained by the N.Y. Times’ Peter Baker:

Impeachment: Bolton says Democrats failed by focusing the probe on Ukraine rather than on other cases involving China and Turkey.

Gossip: Bolton alleges Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped him a note calling Trump “full of shit” during a 2018 meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Trump gaffes: Bolton alleges Trump didn’t know the U.K. was a nuclear power and claims Trump asked if Finland was part of Russia.

Journalists: Bolton alleges Trump privately told him reporters deserve prison. “These people should be executed. They are scumbags.”

Bolton’s own words, via an excerpt published in the WSJ:

“Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

“I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”

“At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang.

According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

“One of Trump’s favorite comparisons was to point to the tip of one of his Sharpies and say, ‘This is Taiwan,’ then point to the historic Resolute desk in the Oval Office and say, ‘This is China.’”

CNN has a list of stunning revelations from the book, including this one:

Trump wanted Attorney General Bill Barr to make CNN reporters ‘serve time in jail.’

When news leaked about a hush-hush meeting on Afghanistan at Trump’s Bedminster resort, Trump complained that CNN had reported the summit was taking place, Bolton writes. The President told White House counsel Pat Cipollone to call Attorney General Bill Barr about his desire to “arrest the reporters, force them to serve time in jail, and then demand they disclose their sources.”

More highlights from the book:

The Guardian: John Bolton’s bombshell Trump book: eight of its most stunning claims.

The New York Times: Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir.

Book Reviews

Jennifer Szalai at The New York Times: In ‘The Room Where It Happened,’ John Bolton Dumps His Notes and Smites His Enemies.

David Ignatius at The Washington Post: John Bolton’s book is full of startling revelations he should have told us sooner.

More Reactions

A powerful commentary by Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: John Bolton Shows That All the President’s Men Are Cowards.

The book is 592 pages, and it’s already #1 on Amazon even before it’s out next week. Trump sued to block publication, with Bill Barr inevitably doing his hopeless dirty work there. He will lose. The book will be published. And the news is already here.

Americans will read or at least hear about how Trump has given the law the finger virtually every day of his presidency, didn’t know that England is a nuclear power, thought invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that Finland was part of Russia. And that Trump was, in Mike Pompeo’s eyes, “so full of shit.” And it’s great that we’re learning this now, five months before the American people render their verdict on this fraud.

On the other hand… why are we just learning this now?

Because John Bolton didn’t have the guts to stand up and say these things when it might have mattered more. Or maybe it was less a matter of guts than cash. His agent and publisher surely leaned on him to save it for the book, and well, it’s #1, so in that sense they were right, but what is that sense, exactly?

It’s the sense in which, in a contest between market and polity, the race isn’t even close. The market will win that race every time in today’s America. The president of the United States has been destroying this country, eroding its decent values every single day of his presidency, until matters have finally reached the point that, through his malevolence and stupidity and lack of empathy, he is actually and literally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.

Bolton had a chance to speak up before all those people died from Trump’s selfish incompetence. Of course he couldn’t have known that was coming. But with Trump, something bad was coming. It was inevitable. Maybe with a different roll of the dice, war with Iran. The man is a lunatic, completely in over his head in this job, mentally unstable, and an instrument of national grief just waiting to happen every day. It’s been obvious to everyone for years.

Bill Kristol at The Bulwark: John Bolton Tells the Truth.

I’m not particularly surprised by John Bolton’s revelations. (I should make clear that neither of the individuals described above was Bolton.)

But whether or not one is surprised by what Bolton reports, no one should really doubt the truth of it. I have no doubt that Bolton is telling the truth. Not simply because of my two, as it were, generally corroborating sources. But because I’ve known John Bolton a long time, and John Bolton is an honest man. He tells the truth.

Full stop.

John Bolton is neither a liar nor a fantasist. John Bolton may not be the epitome of warmth, humor, or even kindness. But he is honest.

Nor is he the type to get confused. He is a meticulous note-taker. When we read Bolton’s book, we will almost certainly be reading the nearest thing to the truth about the Trump administration that we’re likely to get before historians have a chance to get inside the administration’s archives.

Here is what is relevant for Republican elites going forward: They have known John Bolton for a long time, too. Almost every Republican elected official, every influential Washington conservative, and many Republican donors know John Bolton. And they, too, know he’s honest.

So what do they have to say about a president who blesses Chinese concentration camps, pleads for re-election help from an enemy dictator, and routinely subordinates the national interest to personal and political considerations?

How can they continue to support this president?

I’m sure they will find ways. But those who continue to support Trump need to accept that they’re supporting a man who has done what Bolton says Trump has done. And those who support a Trump second term need to accept that they are supporting four more years in office for a president who has done what Bolton says Trump has done.

And those who continue to keep silent are keeping silent from us, their fellow citizens, their judgment of a president who has done what Bolton says Trump has done.

Enough. Bolton has spoken. Surely there are others who will now dare to disturb the sound of silence.

We’ll have to wait and see if Bolton’s revelations will hurt Trump in the run-up to the election. What do you think? What other stories are on your radar today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump Is Killing Americans

By Sara Barnes

Good Morning!!

Is Trump deliberately letting Americans die? It certainly appears that he is directing scarce medical supplies to red states like Florida while actively trying to prevent deliveries of such equipment to blue states.

On Thursday I posted about a massive shipment of N95 masks that was delivered to Massachusetts through the intervention of the Kraft family, owners of the New England Patriots. The Krafts arranged to have the Patriots plane fly to China and back to pick up more than a million masks. Another shipment will follow later. The Krafts also donated $2 million toward the cost of the masks. From The Boston Globe:

The news, which broke early Thursday, resembled a plot pulled straight out of a summer blockbuster: The Kraft family had deployed a New England Patriots team plane to China to deliver about one million desperately needed N95 respirator masks to health care workers in Massachusetts.

By Rudi Herzimeier

Yet the story is as alarming as it is heartwarming, underscoring a harsh reality as the coronavirus pandemic spreads ever faster around the United States. Governor Charlie Baker and his counterparts throughout the country are forced to go to extraordinary lengths to secure life-saving medical equipment in the absence of a coordinated federal response.

“This is not how it is supposed to work,” said Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose, a member of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team. She described herself as “very grateful” for the Kraft family’s generosity and help getting the critical gear, but said “what we need is a coordinated federal system.”

Why was such a dramatic effort necessary? Because Trump has been actively preventing Massachusetts from purchasing medical supplies.

The journey began, in the governor’s telling, roughly two weeks ago, when the federal government confiscated a shipment of more than 3 million N95 masks at the Port of New York and New Jersey that Massachusetts had arranged to buy….

Baker’s victory in the state’s intense hunt for masks and other protective gear, or PPE, follows weeks of increasingly public frustration from the normally even-keeled governor. His administration has hit numerous roadblocks thrown up by the federal government, which has repeatedly snatched supplies from the states’ hands and directed governors to find their own source.

Very Introvert Cat Sitting on a Red Chair, by Nastya Ozozo

Even now, Baker administration officials are still waiting on the federal government to deliver promised help. Earlier this week, Baker announced that the state had ordered 1,000 ventilators from the federal government and that he expected the delivery by the end of this week. On Thursday, Baker said Massachusetts still hasn’t gotten any of the equipment and he no longer expects them by the end of the week.

Normally calm and matter-of-fact, Baker choked back tears when he spoke at Logan Airport after meeting he Patriots plane.

The Chicago Sun-Times has a story about another crazy situation in Illinois: Illinois adjusts on the fly to meet medical supply needs in a coronavirus ‘Wild West.’

About two weeks ago, Illinois officials tracked down a supply of 1.5 million potentially life-saving N95 respirator masks in China through a middleman in the Chicago area and negotiated a deal to buy them.

One day before they were expecting to complete the purchase, they got a call in the morning from the supplier informing them he had to get a check to the bank by 2 p.m. that day, or the deal was off. Other bidders had surfaced.

Realizing there was no way the supplier could get to Springfield and back by the deadline, Illinois assistant comptroller Ellen Andres jumped in her car and raced north on I-55 with a check for $3,469,600.

By Shozo Ozaki.

From the other end, Jeffrey Polen, president of The Moving Concierge in Lemont, drove south. Polen isn’t in the medical supply business, but he “knows a guy,” an old friend who specializes in working with China’s factories.

As they drove, Andres and Polen arranged to meet in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant just off the interstate in Dwight. They made the handoff there.

Polen made it back to his bank with 20 minutes to spare. Illinois already has received part of the mask shipment. There’s more on the way.

That’s just a taste of the “Wild West” world of emergency procurement taking place over the past several weeks as the state fights for equipment and supplies to protect frontline workers and patients in the battle against COVID-19.

Why is this chaos necessary? Because Trump refuses to allow the federal government to organize the pandemic response.

Now Trump is angering America’s foreign allies by commandeering medical supplies their governments are trying to buy.

Kaiser Health News: Trump Administration Uses Wartime Powers To Be First In Line On Medical Supplies.

The Trump administration quietly invoked the Defense Production Act to force medical suppliers in Texas and Colorado to sell to it first — ahead of states, hospitals or foreign countries.

It took this action more than a week before it announced Thursday that it would use the little-known aspect of the law to force 3M to fill its contract to the U.S. first. Firms face fines or jail time if they don’t comply.

Terry Runyan, Yellow Cat

The Cold War-era law gives federal officials the power to edge out the competition and force contractors to provide supplies to them before filling orders for other customers.

While it’s unclear how many times the power has been used during the coronavirus pandemic, federal contracting records examined by Kaiser Health News show that federal authorities staked first rights to $137 million in medical supplies. The orders in late March flew under the radar, even as dog-eat-dog bidding wars raged among states and nations for desperately needed medical protective gear.

“It’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ out there for states and hospitals as they bid against each other for critical medical supplies and equipment,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a statement to KHN. “Plus, there’s no transparency about what the federal government is doing with the equipment that they purchase when they outbid states and hospitals.”

Read more:

Reuters: Canada blasts U.S. block on 3M exports of masks as coronavirus cases set to soar.

CNBC: 3M warns Trump: Halting exports under Defense Production Act would reduce number of masks available to US.

At the Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Thursday, we learned that, instead of sending medical supplies controlled by the Pentagon (paid for by taxpayers) directly to states, the administration is handing the equipment over to private companies to resell to the highest bidder. Here’s what Lt. Katrina recovery hero Gen. Russell Honore had to say about that.

Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the insanity of putting failson-in-law Jared Kusher in charge of the federal pandemic response. We learned about that at the Thursday briefing too. From The Daily Beast:

President Donald Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner insisted on Thursday that the government had not built up a national stockpile of medical equipment for states to use during threats like the coronavirus since those states have strategic reserves of their own.

The remark drew raised eyebrows from experts, considering presidents have dispersed supplies from the national strategic stockpiles for use by states dozens of times over the last twenty years.

In fact, the Trump administration itself has dipped into the federal reserves to help states in need…

Malarstwo Japońskie

“He doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about. He has no idea,” said Gen. Russel Honore, a retired military general who helped direct the response on the ground during Hurricane Katrina. “He must have remembered something from some slide or some speech. But that’s why people created the national strategic stockpile in the first place. It’s for those days when we can’t predict what we need. What I see is a total misunderstanding by the White House that they have a responsibility to help maintain the stockpile and help states.” [….]

While state governments do possess their own stockpiles of equipment and supplies, the national strategic stockpile was originally designed in 1999 to help states fill the gaps when facing things like natural or health disasters. The role of the stockpile has expanded dramatically in recent years amid more frequent natural disasters.

But the Trump White House’s approach to filling the supply chain gaps has been slapstick at best, officials say, in part because it was unprepared for taking the lead in responding to a global pandemic. For weeks, the administration struggled to understand which agency was responsible for studying the supply chain breakdown and which was in charge of fixing not only the dwindling medical supplies in hospitals, but also the shortages of products like toilet paper and paper towels in grocery stores.

“We missed dealing with this disaster because for weeks, the White House said it was a hoax,” Honore said. “So we missed at least four weeks of anticipation and preparation on the logistics side because of our leadership.” [….]

“It shouldn’t be this complicated,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “It’s supposed to happen like a light switch you flip on. And this should have happened a month ago. This is not inventing a vaccine, this is just shipping stuff. In these situations you want a light White House touch and you want the subject matter experts to take the lead.”

By Saul Steinberg

More important stories to check out:

The New York Times: Coronavirus in N.Y.: Toll Soars to Nearly 3,000 as State Pleads for Aid.

The Washington Post: The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged.

The Washington Post: Inside the coronavirus testing failure: Alarm and dismay among the scientists who sought to help.

Yahoo News: Coronavirus may cause some food shortages, warns government task force.

ProPublica: How Tea Party Budget Battles Left the National Emergency Medical Stockpile Unprepared for Coronavirus.

Raw Story: Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers.

Lucian Truscott IV at Salon (via Raw Story): Trump is preparing the ground for a totalitarian dictatorship.

Business Insider: The US Postal Service is on track to run out of money by June, and it could be a disaster for states trying to expand voting by mail.

Take care this weekend, Sky Dancers! Please let us know what’s happening where you are.

 

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: “The System Was Blinking Red” and Trump Did Nothing

Reading To Her Cat by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861

Good Morning!!

As of this morning, the U.S. has 19,000 Covid-19 cases and 247 deaths. The NIH director says we could have 70,000 reported cases by the end of next week. Meanwhile, the federal government is basically doing nothing. We have an utterly incompetent failed real estate tycoon and reality TV clown as “president.” We have known for years now that this man is completely unfit to lead. In just three years he has crippled our most important institutions and we are now on our own, hoping that state and local governments can take up the slack.

Trump had plenty of warnings about the nature of the threat that was bearing down on our country. Just as before 9/11, when George W. Bush ignored the August 6, 2001 PDB titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” the “system has been blinking red for months” and Trump sat around watching TV and tweeting insults to his “enemies,” ignoring the threat to our country.

The Washington Post: U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic.

U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting.

The intelligence reports didn’t predict when the virus might land on U.S. shores or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take, issues outside the purview of the intelligence agencies. But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak.

By Catriona Millar, Scottish artist

Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Intelligence agencies “have been warning on this since January,” said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.

“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” this official said. “The system was blinking red.”

Of course, as we all know, Trump doesn’t like to read and he doesn’t listen to intelligence briefings. He thinks he’s “a smart guy” and that his gut feelings are more accurate than the actual knowledge and experience of experts. And he’s still doing almost nothing. He just holds a daily press conference instead of his hate rallies and claims he’s doing things that either aren’t happening or can’t happen.

ProPublica: The White House Asked Manufacturers for Help, Then Gave Them No Clear Instructions.

As hospitals across the country face drastic shortages of masks, respirators and other vital equipment, the White House has sent out a plea for donations that’s left many recipients confused and full of questions.

In at least one instance this week, Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, blindsided private industry by requesting that construction companies donate face masks to hospitals. The White House then failed to provide guidance when directly asked.

Pence asked builders on Tuesday to donate the N95 masks used at many construction sites to local hospitals and refrain from ordering more. Within minutes, Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the trade group Associated General Contractors of America, contacted the White House for more details, said Brian Turmail, a group spokesman.

By Adrie Martens

After receiving no reply from the White House, Sandherr sent an email to AGC’s local chapters on Tuesday telling them that Pence’s statement had taken the group by surprise.

“As we received no advance notice of this announcement and we have received no additional guidance from the Administration, it is our view that this should be considered as a voluntary gesture and not a mandate,” Sandherr wrote. Turmail said several AGC members have donated equipment to their local hospitals.

On Thursday, Sandherr finally heard back from the Department of Health and Human Services, speaking on behalf of the White House, and his group’s members were asked not to donate equipment to hospitals, as Pence had instructed. Instead, he was told the group should collect an inventory of available equipment from members, including masks, booties and protective suits, and share it with the administration.

So instead of cutting red tape, the administration is adding more red tape while more people get sick and more people die.

We’ve been hearing for awhile now that we could be like Italy. I think it’s likely we’ll soon be worse off than Italy, because we our health care system is already breaking down and it looks like Mitch McConnell is determined not to help the people who need it most.

There was talk of sending checks to most Americans immediately; now it turns out the GOP plan is to use tax rebates, so the poorest people would get little or nothing (for example, people like me who live on Social Security don’t file taxes) and people who pay more taxes would get more. That makes no sense economically when millions of people have been thrown out of work and won’t be able to pay rent or eat, but Republicans apparently just don’t care.

The Week: Senate GOP stimulus plan would exclude up to 64 million tax filers from full rebate, economist says.

Senate Republicans unveiled their proposal for sending out cash to Americans amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, but as is, a large number wouldn’t receive the full amounts.

By Dee Nickerson

Under the economic stimulus plan released Thursday, payments of up to $1,200 would be sent out to individuals and $2,400 to married couples, though the amount phases out for single filers making $75,000 a year and joint filers making $150,000 a year. But The Wall Street Journal notes that “individuals need to have qualifying income of at least $2,500 or income tax liability to get the minimum payment of $600.” This is based on their 2018 tax return.

Looking at IRS data, economist Kyle Pomerleau estimates that about 64 million filers who earn less than $50,000 won’t get the full rebate amount of $1,200 or $2,400, as “for a single filer, income must be at least about $23k to get the full $1,200,” and “for married couple filing jointly, AGI must be about $47k to get the full $2,400,” he writes.

Again, the poorest people don’t even file taxes, so they would be shit out of luck too. Furthermore, the amounts they are talking about wouldn’t even cover a month’s rent in the Boston area or other large cities. Right now I’m very grateful that I live on a fixed income in subsidized housing. But even I have had and will continue to have extra expenses and hardships.

Slate: Republicans Found a Way to Mail Checks and Still Screw People Over.

Senate Republicans have now released their hotly anticipated proposal to send families direct cash payments, as part of a wider economic aid package aimed at combating the coronavirus crisis. And hoo boy is it disappointing.

Under the plan, the government would provide households an early tax rebate worth up to $1,200 for an individual or $2,400 for a married couple, with an extra $500 for each of their children. (So far, so good). The payments will be based on a household’s 2018 tax return, or if it didn’t submit one, their 2019 filing.

Two Cats, by Sandra Bierman

But the checks will shrink for both low and high earners. Americans with little to no tax liability (aka, poor folks) will only receive a minimum payment of $600, unless they earned less than $2,500, in which case they get zilch. Low-wage workers who don’t have a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019—adults generally aren’t required to file one they if earn less than the standard deduction—also won’t qualify for the early rebate. (They could still get it next year if they file taxes for 2020, but by that time it will be a bit late.) Meanwhile, the payments phase down for workers who make more than $75,000 and drop to zero for those making $99,000 and above (double those numbers for joint filers).

Limiting these payments for the upper middle class and up is defensible, even if it irritates commentators who’d prefer a more comprehensive approach that mimics a universal basic income. Penalizing the poor during a pandemic, however, is beyond the pale. We’re in the midst of a planned shutdown of the economy that will disproportionately harm low-wage service workers, yet Republicans are concerned about properly rewarding people for work. It is a crass joke.

It’s worth emphasizing that the GOP’s new plan only calls for a single payment. The M

New York City, Seattle, Boston and parts of California already have such large outbreaks that they will probably see significant growth even after taking extraordinary measures over the past week, the researchers say. New York City’s outbreak, the nation’s largest, grew to more than 4,000 known cases on Friday and is likely to increase many times over even in a favorable scenario.

But cases will continue to mount and millions of people will run out of food. We can only hope that Congress wakes up to reality. Here’s what’s really happening:

The Washington Post: U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home.

The U.S. economy is deteriorating more quickly than was expected just days ago as extraordinary measures designed to curb the coronavirus keep 84 million Americans penned in their homes and cause the near-total shutdown of most businesses.

Lady Petting a Cat, Paula Zima

In a single 24-hour period, governors of three of the largest states — California, New York and Illinois — ordered residents to stay home except to buy food and medicine, while the governor of Pennsylvania ordered the closure of nonessential businesses. Across the globe, health officials are struggling to cope with the growing number of patients, with the World Health Organization noting that while it required three months to reach 100,000 cases, it took only 12 days to hit another 100,000.

The resulting economic meltdown, which is sending several million workers streaming into the unemployment line, is outpacing the federal government’s efforts to respond. As the Senate on Friday raced to complete work on a financial rescue package, the White House and key lawmakers were dramatically expanding its scope, pushing the legislation far beyond the original $1 trillion price tag.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The Washington Post: Coronavirus-scarred cities need ‘something bigger than the New Deal’ just to cope.

The coronavirus outbreak is forcing every state, city and county to execute a plan of attack for confronting the global pandemic. It’s a process that Sarah Eckhardt, the top official in Texas’s Travis County, likened to “building the plane while in the air.”

But the virus — and the extraordinarily costly response to it — is also putting enormous pressure on all the normal stuff: the criminal justice, sanitation, transit, emergency response and other systems that residents expect from their state and local governments.

Although the nation is just in the first stages of what is likely to be a prolonged struggle to suppress covid-19, the strain on public services is already beginning to show. First responders are stretched thin. Courts are paralyzed. And everywhere, money for basic public services is running out, fast.

“We have to manage beyond the scope of anything one city has prepared for or can handle,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose city is among the worst-hit in America. “We’re spending all our reserves right now, but we won’t make it if the federal government doesn’t step up and step up big.”

Read more at the link.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll have to wrap it up. There are so many other stories I’d like to share with you. It’s overwhelming. Please take care and stay healthy, Sky Dancers. This is an open thread.