Monday Reads: Good News First

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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?


Sunday’s Choice

Well, I’ve gotten suspended again on the Twitbox, can’t even say a few fuck yous to a couple of dipshits these days:

I’m so sick of all this…so let’s just see a few tweets and call it a day.

Hell yes to that! So click that link and check out the good things people are saying about our Hillary.

In other news:

Please remember…

On a personal note, I have become an Initiate in The Temple of Mary.

The mysteries of the Temple of Mary focus on the spiritual transformation of body, mind and soul. Through the study and understanding of symbol, metaphor and myth, we discover that human consciousness has been evolving through the ages, but the message of Love has always been a part of our sacred stories and even more importantly, that all stories contain the same archetypes, the same challenges and are in many ways, the same story – just with different names and cultures. 

-Hettienne Grobler

I came across Hettienne Ma, during the Walking with Mary month of contemplation. After this time, I started to study with her about the Black Madonna…Divine Femine, Carl Jung, Hindu and Buddhist spiritual stories, tarot, teachings of Anandamayi Ma…and so many others. It is ongoing, and fascinating. Here is some more information about Hettienne and the Order of the Dove:

I have reached a point where Hettienne has given me a spiritual name…Niranjana Maria Devi…and yesterday was my Namadiksha.

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𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐚 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝… 𝐈 𝐚𝐦, 𝐍𝐢𝐫𝐚𝐣𝐚𝐧𝐚 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐚 𝐃𝐞𝐯𝐢 :: 𝐈𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐅𝐥𝐚𝐦𝐞𝐤𝐞𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐎𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐍𝐢𝐫𝐚𝐣𝐚𝐧𝐚, 𝐢𝐬 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐚𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐃𝐮𝐫𝐠𝐚 𝐌𝐚, 𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐊𝐚𝐥𝐢 𝐌𝐚 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐭 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐬 ‘𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐦𝐨𝐨𝐧’… 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐚, 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐇𝐨𝐥𝐲 𝐌𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐲… 𝐃𝐞𝐯𝐢, 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐤𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 ‘𝐠𝐨𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐬’… 𝐁𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐇𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐞 𝐌𝐚, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐦𝐲 𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐤𝐞𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬. 𝐀𝐯𝐚 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐚 #orderofthedove #templeofmary

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𝘎𝘰𝘥…𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘭𝘭, 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘏𝘰𝘭𝘺 𝘔𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘈𝘷𝘦 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘢. 𝘕𝘪𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘫𝘢𝘯𝘢 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘢 𝘋𝘦𝘷𝘪, 𝘍𝘭𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘳 𝘖𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘋𝘰𝘷𝘦 🕊𝘛𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘺

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If you are on Instagram and would like to follow this next 30 days of #walkingwithmary it starts on Monday:

https://instagram.com/walkingwithmary?igshid=8s0c0hco4ber

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Sri Anandamayi Ma says: "Open the door and step out. The path will become visible. Once on the way, you will meet other wayfarers who will advise and guide you as to to the path. Your job is to muster whatever strength you have to get underway. Thereafter, help is assured.". . ( Posted on 2nd February 2020, Sunday, 5:45am, AE/ ) . . . . . #selfrealized #selfrealization #jaijaima #AnandamayiMa #universalmotherhood #light #body #mind #heart #emotions #intellect #tools #to #reach #self #yoga #path #guru #shishya #relation #purify #yourself #by #contemplating #guru #eternal #eternity #India #eternal #love #blissfulmother #stayblessed💙

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Have a wonderful day.

This is an open thread.


Monday Reads: Bolton into the Blue

Image result for chinese new year 2020 paintings Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Chinese New Year was on Saturday and nothing starts a new year off right like a twist in the prevailing media narrative! It’s the year of the rat and I’m pretty sure that’s what the mob boss in the oval office will be calling former Ambassador John Bolton in tweet after tweet after tweet as Capos Moscow Mitch and Boom Boom Barr and Senate bag men–like Lady Lindsey– fight to keep Bolton from testifying in the Senate impeachment trials.  Trump is already tweeting denials. But, then, maybe we also need to hear from Boom Boom ?

I really love this emphatic lede from AXIOS: “Republicans fear “floodgates” if Bolton testifies”.  We’re all waiting for those floodgates to open!  

There may be enough new pressure on Senate Republicans to allow witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial, after the leak from a forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton that contradicts what the White House has been telling the country.

Why it matters: This is a dramatic, 11th-hour inflection point for the trial, with an eyewitness rebuttal to Trump’s claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to investigations into Joe Biden.

  • GOP sources say the revelation could be enough to sway the four Republican senators needed for witnesses — especially since Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine have already strongly signaled they’d vote for witnesses.

What happened: Bolton alleges in his book — “The Room Where It Happened,” out March 17 — that Trump explicitly told him “he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” the N.Y. Times reported.

  • Trump strongly denied Bolton’s claims on Twitter early today: “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. … If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”

The state of play: Republican sources tell Axios that party leaders and the White House will still try to resist witnesses because, as one top aide put it, “there is a sense in the Senate that if one witness is allowed, the floodgates are open.”

  • “If [Bolton] says stuff that implicates, say Mick [Mulvaney] or [Mike] Pompeo, then calls for them will intensify,” the aide said.

What we can expect Trump’s defense lawyers to say as they make their case at the trial, beginning at 1 p.m. today and continuing tomorrow:

  • They’ll say Bolton’s account doesn’t change any key facts, and reiterate that the aid, which was only briefly paused, was released without the announcement of any investigations.
  • They’ll emphasize that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was no pressure, the call record shows no linkage between the two, and Zelensky got his meeting with Trump at the UN.
  • They’ll also argue that Trump’s concerns about corruption in Ukraine were well-known: He questioned giving aid to the country for a number of reasons, just as he has done with other countries.

The intrigue: Bolton submitted the book to the White House on Dec. 30 for a standard prepublication security review for classified information.

  • The Times notes: “The submission … may have given Mr. Trump’s aides and lawyers direct insight into what Mr. Bolton would say if he were called to testify.” 
  • “It also intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying.”

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So, there’s the highlights.  Here’s some analysis from Aaron Blake at WAPO:. “John Bolton’s bombshell gives the GOP a glimpse of its nightmare scenario”.

The nightmare scenario for the GOP is that they give Trump the quick and witness-free acquittal that he apparently desires, but then information like Bolton’s keeps coming out. Bolton now suggests Trump was indeed telling people privately that the withheld military aid was part of a quid pro quo — a quid pro quo that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that he communicated to the Ukrainians. This is something Trump’s team has strenuously denied, including at the impeachment trial. What if Bolton isn’t the only person Trump told this to who might suddenly contradict them? However closely this has already been tied to Trump, it can always be tied more closely. Bolton’s upcoming book — slated for March 17 — is a great example of how the hastily assembled walls the Trump team have built around its defense can quickly crumble and, in some cases, already have.

The evidence, after all, is pretty compelling that Trump wasn’t truly concerned about corruption in Ukraine. Giuliani actually said publicly that these investigations weren’t about foreign policy but were instead about helping “my client.” There are also several confirmations that these were quid pro quos — including both military aid and a White House meeting — and that the quid pro quos were communicated to the Ukrainians, even if previous witnesses couldn’t say whether Trump explicitly signed off on them. Indeed, both Bolton and Mulvaney — two very high-ranking White House aides — have now offered confirmation of the quid pro quos, even though Mulvaney recanted his.

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Here’s from the NYT Noah Weiland: “5 Takeaways on Trump and Ukraine From John Bolton’s Book. New revelations from the former White House national security adviser could complicate President Trump’s impeachment trial.”

Mr. Bolton wrote that Mr. Pompeo privately acknowledged to him last spring that Mr. Giuliani’s claims about Marie L. Yovanovitch, then the American ambassador to Ukraine, had no basis, including allegations that she was bad-mouthing Mr. Trump. Mr. Pompeo suggested to Mr. Bolton that Mr. Giuliani may have wanted Ms. Yovanovitch out because she might have been targeting his business clients in her anti-corruption efforts. Yet Mr. Pompeo still went through with Mr. Trump’s order to recall Ms. Yovanovitch last May.

Mr. Pompeo lashed out at a National Public Radio host on Friday and Saturday after she asked him in an interview about Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal.

Mr. Bolton also wrote that he had concerns about Mr. Giuliani. He said he warned White House lawyers last year that Mr. Giuliani might have been using his work representing the president as leverage to help his private clients.

Among other names Mr. Bolton referenced in the manuscript: Attorney General William P. Barr. Mr. Bolton wrote that he raised concerns with Mr. Barr about Mr. Giuliani’s influence on the president after Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. That call was a critical piece of the whistle-blower complaint that prompted the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Barr on Sunday denied Mr. Bolton’s account through a spokeswoman.

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Happy Lunar New Year 2020 ! 🧧🧨🏮🐀 恭喜发财 Gong Xi Fa Cai

Sarah K Burris–writing for Raw Story–writes: “John Bolton went to Bill Barr with concerns about Giuliani’s ‘shadow foreign policy’ in Ukraine: report”.  Well, Barr’s in it deep now and I can’t want to see Giuliani in an orange jumpsuit.

Attorney General Bill Barr was cited recently by Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas as being part of the “team” of people workign to create a conspiracy to help get President Donald Trump reelected.

“Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,” said Parnas in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “Mr. Barr had to know about everything.”

Parnas’ lawyer, Joseph Bondy, has demanded that Barr recuse himself from overseeing the Parnas trial and investigation.

In his recently submitted manuscript, former national security adviser John Bolton revealed that he went to Barr with concerns about Giuliani after the notorious July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Mr. Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call,” the New York Times reported.

According to Barr’s spokesperson, however, Barr didn’t learn about the call from Bolton and didn’t find out about it until mid-August.

 

Bad news on the Democratic Primary front. Bernie Sanders is surging and David Leonhardt (NYT) argues this: “Iowa Should Never Go First Again. The current system is a form of white privilege that warps the process.”

The strongest part of the case for change, of course, is the racial aspect of the current calendar. Iowa and New Hampshire are among the country’s whitest states. About 6 percent of their combined population is black or Asian-American. Almost 87 percent is non-Hispanic white, compared with 60 percent for the country as a whole. Demographically, Iowa and New Hampshire look roughly like the America of 1870.

Julián Castro, the former presidential candidate, was right when he called out the Democratic Party’s hypocritical support for the status quo. “Iowa and New Hampshire are wonderful states with wonderful people,” Castro said. But Democrats can’t “complain about Republicans suppressing the votes of people of color, and then begin our nominating contest in two states that hardly have people of color.”

The typical defense from Iowa officials is that their state can be trusted because it once voted for a black man (Barack Obama) — which is a pretty stark bit of paternalism.

In truth, the whiteness of Iowa and New Hampshire matters. Consider that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were doing as well as Amy Klobuchar in early polls of more diverse states; they led Pete Buttigieg in some polls. But Booker and Harris are finished, in no small part because of their struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire. Klobuchar and Buttigieg still might break out.

Or consider that a candidate with strong white support (like Bernie Sanders) could win both Iowa and New Hampshire this year. That result would create a media narrative about Joe Biden’s campaign being badly wounded, even though Biden leads among two large groups of Democratic voters: African Americans and Latinos. Those voters, however, are told to wait their turn.

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Politico looks at the potential of record turnout in Iowa.

“The national conversation seems to be moving past Pete, past Elizabeth, to Bernie and Biden. That’s where I think everything’s heading, or returning,” said Doug Herman, who was a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. “It’s kind of a reset back to the beginning of the race.”

But if there is high turnout in Iowa, he said, “It may help the other candidates: It may be what they need to stay viable.”

The Iowa Democratic Party has been preparing for record-breaking turnout for more than a year, driven both by Democrats’ angst about President Donald Trump and by an unusually large field of candidates — many of them with their own significant, independent turnout operations. The state party chairman, Troy Price, said the party is anticipating more caucus-goers than in 2008, which set a record when 239,000 Democratic voters participated, lifting Obama to victory.

“The winner is always who’s bringing a bunch of new [voters], said Sue Dvorsky, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman who backed Sen. Kamala Harris before she dropped out of the race.

The difficulty this year, she said, is that new voters could go to any number of different candidates. “There literally is no historical analogy here,” she said.

Every candidate could see potential advantages in a high-turnout caucus. And the weekend saw each of them working furiously to swell their lanes of support.

These are certainly interesting times we live in.  Some times, I wish they weren’t so heart stopping.  Maybe it’s just something we can blame on the year of the Rat!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Mostly Monday Reads: Send in the Spies

The Yellow House, 1888, Vincent van Gogh (Van Gogh lived in a room here once)

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m moving a little slow this morning.  New Orleans continues to be the city of dysfunctional infrastructure.  One of our Main Turbines at the Sewage and Water Board blew up over the weekend.  It appears to mean there is no redundancy in the system now and the West Bank was without potable water for some time.  Parts of Uptown are still without drinking water from a main that burst the week before.   The Turbine dated from 1958.  Most of the historical areas have sewage pipes dated to about 1910.  I’m sure we’re not alone on the list of aging cities with infrastructure failures but I’m sure tired of it being our city.  We have yet to have a bridge collapse in the Mississippi though which I consider a big deal still for the state of Minnesota.

As for my neighborhood, we lost electricity again for no apparent reason.  In the word of the sage,  “I’m too old for this shit” and have made arrangements with eldest daughter to expedite my ass towards the Puget Sound.  I love this city but going from the number 50 state in which one could live to the number 1 is going to be a relief. Now, if I can only convince some one to buy the kathouse which will need a good cleaning out and some repairs.  So, here’s some paintings of famous artists who captured their homes in paintings.

Renoirs House at Essoyes, 1906, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

William Webster has had a checkered history in his tenures of being–at different times–the FBI and CIA Director. He was also a former federal judge. He’s now 90. Webster was first appointed by Jimmy Carter.  He is and was a Republican of the 1980s though, and as you know, that would make him a Reagan/Bushie kinda guy.  And, you know what kind of crap went down–especially with the CIA–during the tenure of those two Presidents.  However, he’s taken the step today of adding his voice in an Op-Ed on the Troublesome Trumpist Regime.  It’s odd he’s now concerned with Rule of Law but there it is in today’s NYT.

As F.B.I. director, I served two presidents, one a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who selected me in part because I was a Republican, and one a Republican, Ronald Reagan, whom I revered. Both of these presidents so respected the bureau’s independence that they went out of their way not to interfere with or sway our activities. I never once felt political pressure.

I know firsthand the professionalism of the men and women of the F.B.I. The aspersions cast upon them by the president and my longtime friend, Attorney General William P. Barr, are troubling in the extreme. Calling F.B.I. professionals “scum,” as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe. Mr. Barr’s charges of bias within the F.B.I., made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage onenduring damage on this critically important institution.

The country can ill afford to have a chief law enforcement officer dispute the Justice Department’s own independent inspector general’s report and claim that an F.B.I. investigation was based on “a completely bogus narrative.” In fact, the report conclusively found that the evidence to initiate the Russia investigation was unassailable. There were more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents during the 2016 campaign, and Russian efforts to undermine our democracy continue to this day. I’m glad the F.B.I. took the threat seriously. It is important, Mr. Wray said last week, that the inspector general found that “the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.”

Image result for The Artist’s House at Argenteuil, 1873, Claude Monet.

The Artist’s House at Argenteuil, 1873, Claude Monet.

AG Barr’s obedience to the political demands of the Kremlin’s Potted Plant is just one of our concerns these days as we move towards the House impeachment vote.  It has become quite clear that both Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell intend to protect him no matter what.   Once again, Russian State TV calls Trump “Their Agent” as outlined by this piece in The Daily Beast as written by Julia Davis.

Sometimes a picture doesn’t have to be worth a thousand words. Just a few will do. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov returned home from his visit with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last week, Russian state media was gloating over the spectacle. TV channel Rossiya 1 aired a segment entitled “Puppet Master and ‘Agent’—How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump.”

Vesti Nedeli, a Sunday news show on the same network, pointed out that it was Trump, personally, who asked Lavrov to pose standing near as Trump sat at his desk. It’s almost the literal image of a power behind the throne.

And in the meantime, much to Russia’s satisfaction, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is still waiting for that critical White House meeting with the American president: the famous “quid pro quo” for Zelensky announcing an investigation that would smear Democratic challenger Joe Biden. As yet, Zelensky hasn’t done that, and as yet, no meeting has been set.

Russian state television still views the impending impeachment as a bump in the road that won’t lead to Trump’s removal from office. But President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda brigades enjoy watching the heightened divisions in the United States, and how it hurts relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.

They’ve also added a cynical new a narrative filled with half-joking ironies as they look at the American president’s bleak prospects when he does leave office.

Appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Mikhail Gusman, first deputy director general of ITAR-TASS, Russia’s oldest and largest news agency, predicted: “Sooner or later, the Democrats will come back into power. The next term or the term after that, it doesn’t matter… I have an even more unpleasant forecast for Trump. After the White House, he will face a very unhappy period.”

That assumes we can get him out and the McConnell and Graham will allow it.

Houses in Munich, 1908, Wassily Kandinsky

This bit in Lawyers, Guns and Money by Paul Campos is so worth the read. The Sinclair Lewis prescience is just the tip of the iceberg.

The leaders of the Republican party in the Senate have said that the impeachment of Donald Trump is a sham, and therefore they will not respect the process mandated by the Constitution. And they are saying this not because they claim there is no merit to the charges that the House is voting out against Donald Trump, but because they have decided to give Trump impunity to act outside the law without consequence. This is not hypothesis or hyperbole: this is what they are saying, clearly, openly, without ambiguity.

This is also the essence of authoritarianism. It’s not the threat of authoritarianism: it’s the thing itself, now, here, not in Germany in 1933, or Italy in 1922, or whatever other parallel is too hysterical and alarmist to cite, given that it goes without saying that America is so very exceptional that it can’t happen here, because of the Wisdom of the Framers, or because we’re God’s very special extra-favorite country, or because we just can’t bear it so please stop talking that way.

It can happen here. It’s happening now.

Would it be a good idea for the leaders of the Democratic party to at this point simply announce they are not going to participate in this charade any further? Would it be possible to organize some sort of day of mass national protest against the authoritarian overthrow of our legal system? (Because again, that’s what’s actually happening right now).

I don’t know. I do know that talking as if what’s happening isn’t what’s happening is making things worse.

And so is saying nothing at all (Hi Barack. What’s up these days? Para-gliding with Richard Branson in Fiji again? Sounds nice!).

I’m increasingly getting the sense that waiting for next November is like waiting for Godot. Because the enemies of liberal democracy aren’t waiting. They’re here now.

Country House, 1893, Pablo Picasso (signed P. Ruiz)

Country House, 1893, Pablo Picasso (signed P. Ruiz)

President Obama was actually out and about this week and said this to the BBC while in Singapore.  ” Women are better leaders than men”.  Well, thanks for that, but excuse me while I think that may not happen here in my lifetime.  Also, it still kinda put us on that pedestal unnecessarily.

Speaking in Singapore, he said women aren’t perfect, but are “indisputably better” than men.

He said most of the problems in the world came from old people, mostly men, holding onto positions of power.

He also spoke about political polarisation and the use of social media to spread falsehoods.

Speaking at a private event on leadership, Mr Obama said while in office he had mused what a world run by women would look like.

“Now women, I just want you to know; you are not perfect, but what I can say pretty indisputably is that you’re better than us [men].

“I’m absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes.”

When asked if he would ever consider going back into political leadership, he said he believed in leaders stepping aside when the time came.

“If you look at the world and look at the problems it’s usually old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way,” he said.

“It is important for political leaders to try and remind themselves that you are there to do a job, but you are not there for life, you are not there in order to prop up your own sense of self importance or your own power.”

Well, that was also a nice sentiment but I doubt the guy in the white house that really needs to hear it listened at all.  And speaking of all that …

House in Provence, 1867, Paul Cezanne

Want to know more about Lutsenko?   He’s the former prosecutor general under the old pro-Russian Regime.  This New Yorker article is quite interesting and contains an interview.

Initially, Lutsenko and Giuliani seemed a perfect partnership; the meeting between them, Lutsenko told me, offered a “win-win” situation. But by May each man felt that he had been led on by the other. After Giuliani failed to arrange a meeting with Attorney General William Barr, who had succeeded Sessions, and Lutsenko failed to publicly announce a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens, Trump made his fateful July 25th call to the new Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, to request that he announce a probe into the Bidens and the 2016 election. In September, the disclosure of Trump’s request by a whistle-blower led Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, to launch the impeachment inquiry. Three weeks later, F.B.I. agents arrested Parnas and Fruman, who face charges of conspiracy, making false statements, and falsification of records. The F.B.I. has now reportedly turned its attention to Giuliani.

Lutsenko’s miseries were only beginning. On October 3rd, Kurt Volker, Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, said in a closed-door deposition, “My opinion of Prosecutor General Lutsenko was that he was acting in a self-serving manner, frankly making things up, in order to appear important to the United States, because he wanted to save his job.” In a closed-door deposition on October 11th, Yovanovitch described Lutsenko as an “opportunist” who “will ally himself, sometimes simultaneously . . . with whatever political or economic forces he believes will suit his interests best at the time.” On the first day of public testimony, Kent accused Lutsenko of “peddling false information in order to exact revenge” against Yovanovitch and his domestic rivals. Lutsenko told me they were all liars. In our conversations, which took place in the course of several weeks, he veered between self-pity and defiance. “I gave my country so many years,” he told me one night, after his third or fourth Scotch. “I had a good story and good results, but I became a bad person. I can’t understand it.”

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Edward Hopper (1882-1967) Railroad Embankment

But, there are a few good men and women standing up for what is right.  Here is an example of a newly elected Congresswoman in a swing district that’s taking a stand which elicits a variety of responses from her constituents.  Representative Slotkin (Michigan) has an extensive background in National Security including a stint at the CIA.  My goodness!  We’re just full of spy talk these days aren’t we?  Where is John Le Carre when you need him?

“Over the past few days, I have done what I was trained to do as a CIA officer who worked for both Republicans and Democrats: I took a step back, looked at the full body of available information, and tried to make an objective decision on my vote,” Slotkin wrote in Monday’s op-ed, adding that she “read and re-read reports and transcripts. I have gone back and looked at the articles of impeachment that were drafted during the Nixon and Clinton presidencies to get some historical context.”
She said the President, “sent out unprecedented guidance to refuse and ignore the requests and subpoenas of the inquiry,” citing her reason for voting in favor of the obstruction of Congress article. “While the President may not have liked the inquiry, he broke with 100 years of tradition by ignoring the subpoenas, and in doing so, obstructed Congress’ authorities.”
“I believe that the President illegally solicited the help of foreigners to influence the American political process,” she said on her decision to vote ‘yes’ on the abuse of power article. She added Trump’s admission that he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden in the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and witness testimonies “paint a clear picture of a president abusing the power of his office for personal political gain.”

So, here we are down the same rabbit hole.  Hopefully, we can get him the fuck out of office and the White House sometime in 2020.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

 


Frantic Friday Reads: Triggered Republican Snowflakes Scream Sweet Nothings to Trump All Day Long

Pablo Picasso Rose Period Painting Acrobat and Young Harlequin, 1905

Pablo Picasso, Acrobat and Young Harlequin, 1905

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m going to borrow something from the Late Great John Lennon near the anniversary of his death by a crazed white guy looking for attention.  History is replete with crazed white guys looking for attention and today is no different.  So here it is!

“I got blisters on me fingers!” 

And why you ask?  It’s because I had to punch the mute button so many times yesterday during the Judiciary Committee’s Congressional Debate on Articles of Impeachment that I should also have carpal tunnel.  Just as Brett Kavanaugh sneered, cried, and screamed his way into the Kremlin Potted Plant’s favor, so did the Angry White Men on the bottom shelf of the dais all day and evening and night long yesterday.

Yes, the transition of the body that represents the people to an out and out circus is complete.  The debate yesterday featured a repetitive attack on “process” from the Republicans vs “what the president did is unconstitutional and against the rule of law” by the Democrats.  It came complete with clowns and verbal dagger throwing fit for Fox news sound bites.  The Republican part was designed for the Audience of One whose real claim to fame is the role of a  fake successful businessman on reality TV.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Send in the Clowns!

Yes. Nearly half of Congress has transitioned to the new reality TV world spewing propaganda goals as parroted by Fox News cut out personalities.  The gyrations of logic twisted into pretzel sentences was befitting of circus acrobats.

As a I write, Jerry Nadler is announcing that the House Judiciary passed the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress impeachment charges.  He looks exhausted. We’re all exhausted.  Trumpist Republicans and their cult leader live in the world of Abusers so, yes, we’re ALL exhausted.

 

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,At the Circus Fernando, the Rider, 1888

Historically and Constitutionally, this act is traditionally somber.  Yelling like it’s a sportsball match is inappropriate. Frankly, an entire set  of mothers should come get their sons and ground them to their basement bedrooms.  Shirtless Gym, Mai tai Matt, and lil Dougie should be first back to the nursery.

Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor, writes this: ” If there’s one thing we’ve seen consistently from Republicans during the past few weeks of congressional impeachment hearings, it’s yelling.”  Yes.  This is the new role of Congressional Republican white men in this Reality TV show designed for Fox News Viewers.

Perhaps Democratic Coalition’s Jon Cooper put it best when he tweeted Monday, “Why is Doug Collins always yelling?” CNBC’s Christina Wilkie pointed out a similar phenomenon, noting that Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was “yelling about whether the rules of the hearing are, in fact, the rules of the hearing.”

Indeed, in observing my former House GOP comrades over the many days of contentious House hearings, I am reminded of a scene from the classic Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman,” where the famed (and fictional) Channel 4 News team angrily confronts its news director over the hiring of a female reporter. In the scene, several of the male journalists take turns yelling their opposition to the addition. Steve Carell’s character, Brick Tamland, isn’t really smart enough to have a critique but wishing to be included, he screams, “I don’t know what we’re yelling about!”

That pretty much sums up Republicans’ defense of their current leader. If they yell loud enough and long enough, what they say about the circumstances of this impeachment inquiry will become truth. Their calculation is that by yelling about anything and everything, the American people will either be convinced or at the very least so annoyed they’ll stop watching. To the GOP, yelling seems to be both a demonstration of strength and a deliberate effort to wear down Democrats and any other Americans who care enough to tune in.

Thus, the outrage that’s been on display these past few weeks hasn’t been spontaneous. This isn’t an indication of passion or righteous anger. It is the manifestation of a decadelong marketing strategy that has kept them in the driving seat of Congress for the better part of the Obama and the Trump administrations.

Degas: Miss La La

Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, Edgar Degas,, 1879

So, this morning, the “Judiciary Panel Approves Impeachment Articles and Sends Charges for a House Vote”.  This was written by Nicholas Fando at the NYT. 

A fiercely divided House Judiciary Committee pushed President Trump to the brink of impeachment on Friday, voting along party lines to approve charges that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress.

After a fractious two-day debate steeped in the Constitution and shaped by the realities of a hyperpartisan era in American politics, the Democratic-controlled committee recommended that the House ratify two articles of impeachment against the 45th president. In back-to-back morning votes, they adopted each charge against Mr. Trump by a margin of 23 to 17 over howls of Republican protest.

The partisan result and the contentious debate that preceded it were harbingers of a historic proceeding and vote on the House floor, expected next week, to impeach Mr. Trump, whose nearly three-year tenure has exacerbated the nation’s political divisions. Mr. Trump, who insists he did nothing wrong, is now only the fourth American president in history to face impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and possible conviction and removal from office by the Senate.

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Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Les trois acrobates

Check out those adjectives grammar fans!!

These Articles will go to a full floor vote and then into the hands of Mitch McConnell. From Politico: “Republicans try to avoid an impeachment trial civil war.”

The party is uniting around a strategy that could quickly acquit President Donald Trump of articles of impeachment while giving them the opportunity to call witnesses later in the trial if Republicans and the president are not satisfied with how things are going, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Republican senators on Thursday.

Heading into the trial, Republicans’ plan would be to call no witnesses and simply allow House Democrats and then the president’s attorneys to make their case before the public. After that, the Senate would consider calling people either for live testimony or closed-door depositions.

 It’s a plan they believe will insulate the Senate GOP from pressure to call a host of controversial witnesses — which the caucus would struggle to do for political and procedural reasons alike — while putting Trump on track to be cleared before the end of January.

“The direction we appear to be headed is to let the House managers present their prima facie case which would mean no witnesses, to let the president’s counsel do the same thing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of leadership. “And then to decide if there’s a reason to go forward from there.”

House Republicans and Trump have repeatedly urged the Senate GOP and its slim majority to summon the likes of Hunter and Joe Biden before the chamber in a spectacle they believe would bolster the president’s case. Senate Republicans have resisted the idea, warning they couldn’t cobble together the 51 votes needed to do so under Senate rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also repeatedly cautioned his members against votes that divide the party ahead of a tough election year.

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Charles Demuth (1883-1935) Acrobats

Indeed, Repubicans think the show must go on when it comes to Joe Biden and the hapless Hunter.  The Clintons had plenty of years to work up thick skins but how will it impact Joe?  One of the key signals to this future came from Screaming Mimi MattGaetz.  This is from Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin.

All this week the House Judiciary Committee has been holding its own hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. As was the case with the the House Intelligence Committee proceedings, Republican lawmakers, lacking any credible defense of the president, have had to resort to floating insane conspiracy theories and taking sad, cheap shots that have immediately blown up in their faces. On Thursday, it was Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida’s turn.

Gaetz, a proud Trump supporter who started the rumor that George Soros was funding migrant caravans and who frequently speaks of the “deep state,” used his time this afternoon to go on a rant about Hunter Biden’s substance abuse problems. Moving to add an amendment to the articles of impeachment mentioning the former vice president’s son, Gaetz read a passage from a New Yorker article detailing an incident in which Hunter was in a crash while driving a rental car; according to the story, the Hertz rental officer on the scene said he found a crack pipe in the car and white powder residue. “I don’t want to make light of anybody’s substance abuse issues,” Gaetz said, convincing no one, “but it’s a little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car.”

Obviously, it would be slimy under any circumstances to make Hunter Biden’s substance abuse issues part of the conversation. But, incredibly, Gaetz chose to do so despite the fact that he has his own history of…being arrested for driving under the influence. Back in 2008, Gaetz was pulled over driving back from an Okalossa Island nightclub called Swamp after an officer clocked him going 48 in a 35 mile per hour zone. According to the officer, Gaetz, then 26, was driving a BMW SUV registered to his state senator father and fumbled for his license and registration, had bloodshot and watery eyes, and swayed and staggered while getting out of the car. Smelling alcohol, the officer asked Gaetz if he had been drinking, to which Gaetz said no, before admitting minutes later that he had, claiming it was only two beers. The officer reportedly twice conducted an eye test, which Gaetz failed. Gaetz refused field sobriety tests and a breath test and was arrested. Despite the fact that Florida law dictates his license should have been revoked for at least a year for refusing the breath test, Gaetz somehow got to keep his. Ultimately the charges were dismissed, and Gaetz later said that “I made bad decisions that resulted in an arrest, and that is sort of something that we all live with.”

Given his decision to air Biden’s dirty laundry, however, Democrats weren’t just going to let Gaetz shade someone else’s history of allegedly driving under the influence and move on.

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Two Acrobats,Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1932-33

This, undoubtedly, will be a taste of our future under the Big Tent.

So, our blog has been around about 10 years now and we’ve been through a lot together. It’s hard to believe that we’d end up watching impeachment hearings together.  This is my third time at this rodeo and probably for most of you also and this one just really really feels different.

Nixon was a seriously flawed man with a self esteem problem that caused him to do things he couldn’t do through force of personality or likability.  Clinton with his aw shucks who me personality used it to get what he wanted even though it was personal and problematic.  Trump is pure, raw, raging ID with more personality disorders than a circus has clowns.  Nixon’s chipping away at the rule of law and Clinton’s personal abuses look quite tame by comparison.

Trump has a chorus of screaming, angry white mean and a few tag along women behind his epic meltdowns and complete lack of character and morality.  His crimes are orchestrated by feckless enablers and ignored by Machivellian partisans who want to rewrite the Constitution without doing the work through the law making process.  No Republican appears to have the probity to bring about an ending that’s best for the country.

As with all things surrounding Trump, I’m not sure any of this will end up well.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?