Wednesday Hump Day Cartoons: Kiss Asssssssss

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday, it said that Media Matters is changing their focus from primarily Fox News to fake news websites and Facebook. The post was from a Politco page on FB.  So I take it to be true….right?

Media Matters to pivot away from focus on Fox News, as it names new president – POLITICO

Then you have political editorial cartoons, which are beautiful things.

That’s about as close to the truth as you can get…meaning there is absolutely no false news reports in that imagery.

Romney Kisses Trump Butt | DarylCagle.com
That is a Cagle cartoon, and they are very obsessive about their cartoons. Now that article also includes a discussion on how he came up with the idea.

I will give you links to the Cagle Cartoons below and hope that you visit the site and check them out.

Many of these are from foreign cartoonist. So you can get the feel of how #tRump is being received around the world.

Flag burning and Trump

World Powers and Europe

democracy crisis

Mr. Fish: Red Menace – Mr. Fish – Truthdig

Mike Luckovich: Blind – Mike Luckovich – Truthdig

12/07 Mike Luckovich: Twit-elect. | Mike Luckovich

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12/02 Mike Luckovich: Shorthanded. | Mike Luckovich

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12/01 Mike Luckovich: Grand opening. | Mike Luckovich

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And from Politico Cartoonist Matt Wuerker:

12/05/2016 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

12/01/2016 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

12/05/2016 Cartoon by Chan Lowe

Cartoon by Chan Lowe -

12/05/2016 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

Ain’t that the truth.

12/01/2016 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

I think Dak may have used that Horsey one on her post this past week…

12/06/2016 Cartoon by Joel Pett

Cartoon by Joel Pett -

12/06/2016 Cartoon by Phil Hands

Cartoon by Phil Hands -

12/01/2016 Cartoon by Phil Hands

Cartoon by Phil Hands -

Anti-Semitism roaches: 12/06/2016 Cartoon by Steve Greenberg

Cartoon by Steve Greenberg - Anti-Semitism roaches

Trump Transition Team: 12/01/2016 Cartoon by Steve Greenberg

Cartoon by Steve Greenberg - Trump Transition Team

Swamp Tower: 12/06/2016 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Swamp Tower

Recount: 12/05/2016 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Recount

 

The Elites: 12/05/2016 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - The Elites

12/06/2016 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

12/02/2016 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

Pearl Harbor: 12/06/2016 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Pearl Harbor

THE U.S. PRESIDENCY: 12/02/2016 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - THE U.S. PRESIDENCY

Burner: 12/01/2016 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Burner

 

NEW TEXAS LAW: 12/01/2016 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - NEW TEXAS LAW

 

This is an open thread.

My mom has her specialist appointment today, this morning. We are driving down to Gainesville for that…so I’ve scheduled the post. I hope there are no formatting issues. If so, maybe Dak or BB can clean it up. I will try to pop in later on…if I can. Have a good day.


Tuesday Reads

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Good Afternoon!!

#tRump continues to sow chaos on a daily basis. This morning he apparently read an article about Boeing’s concerns about his trade policies and then tweeted that Boeing’s contract to build the new Air Force One should be cancelled. NBC News: Trump Threatens to Cancel Air Force One Order, Boeing Stock Slips.

President-elect Donald Trump threatened to cancel Boeing’s order for the new Air Force One in a Tuesday morning tweet, citing high costs.

In a surprise appearance in front of reporters at Trump Tower after sending the social media message, Trump expanded on his latest target for negotiation.

“Well, the plane is totally out of control. It’s gonna be over 4 billion dollars … and, I think it’s ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number,” Trump said. “We want Boeing to make a lot of money but not that much money.”

When asked about Trump’s tweet, a spokesman for Boeing told the AP, “We are going to have to get back to you after we figure out what’s going on.”

According to Josh Marshall, the tweet came 22 minutes after The Chicago Tribune published the article on line.

TPM:

…why did this have Trump’s attention this morning? This seems like a relatively obscure issue given the range of things Trump is now working on. TPM Reader TC notes that The Chicago Tribune published this article about 20 minutes before Trump tweeted. That is, at least according to the 7:30 AM central time timestamp; Trump tweeted at 8:52 AM eastern.

The Tribune articles by Robert Reed starts like this …

The brain trust at Boeing, among the city’s largest companies and a global aerospace and defense powerhouse, must cringe every time President-elect Donald Trump riffs on foreign policy, especially when it comes to dealing with China.

Boeing has a high percentage of its manufacturing in the US. But it is highly dependent on exports, especially to China.

The article recounts a speech Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg gave before the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association on Friday in which he was mildly critical of Trump’s plans both for the Export-Import Bank and more protectionist trade policies. The Tribunestory wasn’t the first time the speech was reported on. The Puget Sound Business Journalwrote up the speech on Friday. But a google search (which is obviously an imperfect measure) suggests that the Tribune story was the only published mention of the speech in the last 24 hours prior to Trump’s tweet. It seems at least plausible that the Tribune story was the first or one of the first reports of the speech Trump or his team saw.

There’s no proof #tRump saw the article, but Marshall’s inference certainly makes sense. #tRump is an insane person who goes off on anyone who dares to criticize him in any way. This is the nightmare we’ll be living for the next four years.

NBC says #tRump sold his Boeing stock last year, be how can we know if that’s true? Maybe he wanted the stock to drop so he could buy some at a lower price.

Click the twitter link to see the details.

And then there’s #tRump’s China/Taiwan antics.  The Atlantic: ‘Trump Has Already Created Lots of Chaos.’ A Chinese scholar argues that the U.S. shouldn’t touch Taiwan—just like China wouldn’t back separatists in Texas or Hawaii.

Shortly after news broke of Donald Trump’s phone call with the head of Taiwan—the first direct communication between American and Taiwanese leaders in 37 years—one of the leading Chinese scholars of U.S.-China relations offered a stunning proposal: If the U.S. president-elect took similar actions as president, the Chinese government should suspend the world’s most important (and precarious) partnership. “I would close our embassy in Washington and withdraw our diplomats,” said Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. “I would be perfectly happy to end the relationship.”

What made the recommendation especially notable was that, just days earlier, Shen had been arguing that Trump’s victory was good for China—much better than the election of Hillary Clinton would have been. So what was it about the Taiwan call that had so quickly soured Shen on Trump? Where did he now think the U.S.-China relationship was headed, and what might that mean for the wider world?

I asked Shen these questions during a moment of profound uncertainty for the two global powers. The Chinese government initially reacted to the call with restraint, suggesting that Taiwan’s leaders had “tricked” Trump into challenging a U.S. policy—adopted in 1979 as a consequence of Richard Nixon’s opening to China—that the island of Taiwan be considered part of China rather than an independent country. But reports have since indicated that the call was a deliberate effort by Trump and his advisers to express solidarity with Taiwan and stake out a tough stance on China, which the U.S. president-elect accused throughout the campaign of exploiting the United States economically. On Sunday, Trump noted indignantly on Twitter that China had never asked U.S. permission to devalue its currency, tax U.S. imports, and construct military installations in the South China Sea. In other words, it’s getting harder for Chinese leaders to minimize Trump’s provocations as inadvertent breaches of etiquette.

Shen’s anger and ambivalence about Trump’s call speak to broader anxiety in China right now about what to make of the U.S. president-elect and the trajectory of relations between the two countries. When I asked Shen whether he was concerned about a Trump presidency destabilizing international affairs, he told me disorder was already upon us. When I asked him whether he thought America, under Trump, would remain the most powerful nation on the planet, he answered without hesitation: “No.”

Read the interview at the link.

As we know, #tRump has not consulted with the State Department before talking with foreign leaders and as far as we know, he’s making these calls on nonsecure lines–maybe even his cell phone. And what the hell are his kids up to? Politico: Trump kids’ diplomatic forays rattle State Dept.

State Department officials are increasingly fearful that President-elect Donald Trump’s adult children will assume the role of freelance ambassadors, further blurring the line between their business affairs and America’s foreign affairs.

The warning signs are already there, current and former diplomats say. Trump’s daughter Ivanka sat in on his meeting with the Japanese prime minister. One of Trump’s sons is reported to have discussed how to resolve the Syrian war with pro-Russia figures. And the incoming president even suggested that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.

Diplomats are nervous that if Trump uses his children and other relatives as informal ambassadors, they could, intentionally or not, upend the carefully structured efforts of the Foreign Service. They worry other nations could take advantage of Trump relatives to circumvent trained U.S. diplomats. They also suspect that even if Trump steps away from his business, his children’s extensive corporate dealings could still confuse U.S. foreign policy abroad.

Perhaps more than anything at this early stage, State Department employees are seriously annoyed by the optics.

“It makes us look like we’re some sort of banana republic,” one official told POLITICO. “This is not the way that grown-up nations do things.”

The concerns are just part of bigger frustrations at Foggy Bottom, where some are starting to wonder if Trump even realizes the U.S. has a thousands-strong, paid diplomatic corps.

This is beyond crazy, and he hasn’t even been sworn in yet. And here’s more crazy at #tRump Tower in NYC: Secret Service advertised as hot ‘new amenity’ at Trump Tower.

Less than a week after Trump was elected, prominent New York real estate agency Douglas Elliman blasted out an e-mail with the subject: “Fifth Avenue Buyers Interested in Secret Service Protection?” to advertise a $2.1 million, 1,052-square-foot condo in the tower on 721 Fifth Avenue.

“The New Aminity [sic] – The United States Secret Service,” screamed the flier sent in an e-mail on Nov. 13 for a one-bedroom apartment on the 31stfloor, represented by brokers Ariel Sassoon and Devin Leahy.

“The Best Value in the Most Secure Building in Manhattan,” it stated.

While there’s been a great deal of attention to how Trump plans to divest himself from his conflicts of interest, less attention has been applied to how business associates — including owners and marketers of his properties — may seek to profit from his new job in the White House.

As hard as Trump works to distance himself from his businesses, there may be no way of getting around other business associates using his brand for their own opportunity.

And let’s face it, #tRump isn’t doing a damn thing to “distance himself from his businesses.”

Sorry this isn’t much of a post. I’m dealing with some serious personal issues and I’m completely stressed out. Please add your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Monday Reads: Chaos Happens

3aae89b8e3e08277223ea6329101b764It’s Monday!  It’s cold, gloomy, drizzly, thundering, and gray here in Swampland.  I’m trying to decide when exactly we get to start the America Held Hostage Day count.  At the moment, I’m holding out hope on a few bits of good news so I’m going to start on that note.

A judge has ordered a Presidential Election recount in Michigan so Trump and the Michigan AG can stew in their evil soup with their evil hearts.

A federal judge has ordered Michigan election officials to begin a massive hand recount of 4.8 million ballots cast in the presidential election at noon Monday.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a ruling just after midnight Monday in favor of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who sought to let election officials bypass a two-business-day waiting period that would have delayed start of the recount until Wednesday morning.

Goldsmith’s order said the recount “shall commence and must continue until further order of this court.” Goldsmith wrote.

The deadline to finalize the vote total for the Electoral College is Dec. 13 and federal election law requires a period of “safe harbor” for presidential electors before the presidency is finalized on Dec. 19.

The manual recount process was scheduled to begin Wednesday as specified by state law, and in a rare Sunday hearing in federal court, Goldsmith had questioned the harm posed by waiting.

“Defendants shall instruct all governmental units participating in the recount to assemble necessary staff to work sufficient hours to assure that the recount is completed in time to comply with the ‘safe harbor’ provision,” of federal election law.

Senate Democrats may actually be steeling themselves for a fight over nominations if you believe what’s being reported on Tiger Beat on the Potomac. Will enough of them stall the Republican menace headed our way?  There’s an old church down the street dedicated to St. Jude built during the yellow fever days.  Maybe I should adopt that altar for awhile.

Senate Democrats are preparing to put Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks through a grinding confirmation process, weighing delay tactics that could eat up weeks of the Senate calendar and hamper his first 100 days in office.

Multiple Democratic senators told POLITICO in interviews last week that after watching Republicans sit on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for nearly a year, they’re in no mood to fast-track Trump’s selections.

But it’s not just about exacting revenge.

Democrats argue that some of the president-elect’s more controversial Cabinet picks — such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary — demand a thorough public airing.

“They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified?” fumed Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs.”

Senate Democrats can’t block Trump’s appointments, which in all but one case need only 51 votes for confirmation. But they can turn the confirmation process into a slog.

47ae1ac10d555c70e95739b40c2e9c7aThe latest abomination of appointing a political lackey with absolutely no credentials for the job is Ben Carson to HUD.  It appears that Trump is just going to fill the cabinet with one Heckuva Job Brownie after another.  I don’t see much point in excerpting the bad news which you can go read at the NPR link if you so choose.

First Americans have won a concession from the Army Corps of Engineers. The agency will find a way to avoid the land of a sovereign nation of Lakota.  The Feds have denied the permit to build the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Federal officials have denied the final permits required for the Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota.

The Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday announced it would instead conduct an environmental impact review of the 1,170-mile pipeline project and determine if there are other ways to route it to avoid a crossing on the Missouri River.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a statement.

“The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The announcement comes one day before the Army Corps of Engineers’ deadline for demonstrators to leave the protest site. The governor of North Dakota had also issued an emergency evacuation order.

Protestors have clashed with police, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a Sunday statement that the Department of Justice “will continue to monitor the situation in North Dakota in the days ahead” and stands “ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions.”

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One of the weirdest things to come out of the trend of right wingers to completely fall for fake news happened in the District this weekend. A whack from NC with a very large gun showed up at a restaurant to investigate a supposed child sex ring Hillary Clinton was running at the location.  How dumb exactly are these Trump-Billies and how dangerous are they?

A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots, D.C. police said. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to “self-investigate” a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign.

The incident caused panic, with several businesses going into lockdown as police swarmed the neighborhood after receiving the call shortly before 3 p.m.

Police said 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., walked in the front door of Comet Ping Pong and pointed a firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee. The employee was able to flee and notify police. Police said Welch proceeded to discharge the rifle inside the restaurant; they think that all other occupants had fled when Welch began shooting.

Welch has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Police said there were no reported injuries.

Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said police arrived on the scene minutes after the first call, set up a perimeter and safely arrested Welch about 45 minutes after he entered the restaurant.

This shooter lives in a conspiracy theory hell realm.

One of the key pieces of “evidence,” for example, comes from the emails WikiLeaks says came from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. The emails include references to pizza. The conspiracy theory holds that based on how frequently pizza comes up, “pizza” must be code for pedophilia.

Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis told NPR that the entire theory is “an insanely complicated, made-up, fictional lie-based story” that people in the “reality-based” community quickly dismissed as an “insane sort of joke.”

But on the fringes of the Internet, some people have been taking it seriously. The restaurant has received hundreds of death threats. Now it has had an actual armed assault.

You can wonder no further when I saw that I avoid going to Jefferson Parish whenever possible.  This is 473ca62dfcc84e68ddbc5f29fed112cda white flight community of some of the worst looking strip malls and houses you could ever imagine. It’s also home to the folks that think Steve Scalise and David Duke are election material.
 A former Jets Player was gunned down in a road rage incident and the Sheriff has basically let the man go because he may be “standing his ground”.  New photo imagines of the scene show that to be highly unlikely.  What isn’t likely but well documented is that we still need the Black Lives Matter movement more than ever.  The white dude that shot the former player and black man has been cited for road rage incidents before.’

New details are emerging about 54-year-old Ronald Gasser, the man who confessed that he shot and killed former NFL player Joe McKnight in New Orleans last Thursday, an apparent road rage incident. According to the Jefferson Parish sheriff, Gasser was arrested at the same intersection a decade ago for another road rage incident in which he allegedly followed a victim and punched him several times. NBC’s Blake McCoy reports for TODAY.

16190d6928ef03df75b1207a48e9c7f8The man who was attacked by Gasser was spit on but not shot.  Try guessing the key variable in this scenario that saved his life.
As of Saturday night, no charges had been brought against Gasser, who was released Thursday night by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office after questioning. The decision to release Gasser without pressing charges has prompted outrage on social media and led to questions about Louisiana’s stand-your-ground law.

In recent days, McKnight’s family members, friends, teammates and supporters have expressed grief and outrage over the killing. At a candlelight vigil held Saturday night at the Lincoln Manner Gym in Kenner where McKnight first made a name for himself as a high school football standout, around a dozen speakers expressed anguish over the road-rage-prompted fatal shooting.

“It was senseless,” U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune at the vigil. “You’re in a car with the ability to drive away, with the ability to roll your windows up, and you feel the only choice you have is to shoot three times? I can’t comprehend that.”

I can only imagine how bad it’s going to get for all of us that don’t fall into the neat little category of “safe” that only the mind of a Trump-Billy can conjure.  We can only look forward to more incidents of white male violence against minorities and women.  I’d be willing to be the kathouse on it.

That’s it for me today!  Please share what you’re reading!  I hate to just keep raining bad news on your head like the weather down here rains the cold.   So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: #tRump – Bull in a China Shop

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Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with my brother’s family–they invited me for a birthday dinner and family movie. Unsurprisingly, while I wasn’t paying attention for a few hours the president-elect did massive damage to U.S. foreign policy, overturning decades-long policies on China. And it appears this wasn’t about policy but about enriching the #tRump family business.

Ann Gearan at The Washington Post: Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, a major break with decades of U.S. policy on China

President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.

The exchange is one of a string of unorthodox conversations with foreign leaders that Trump has held since his election. It comes at a particularly tense time between China and Taiwan, which earlier this year elected a president, ­­­Tsai Ing-wen, who has not endorsed the notion of a unified China. Her election angered Beijing to the point of cutting off all official communication with the island government.

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It is not clear whether Trump intends a more formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China. On the call, Trump and Tsai congratulated each other on winning their elections, a statement from Trump’s transition office said….

A statement from the Taiwanese president’s office said the call lasted more than 10 minutes and included discussion of economic development and national security, and about “strengthening bilateral relations.”

Trump claimed the call was initiated by Taiwan’s president, but that was a lie, NBC News reports:

BEIJING — A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan’s leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged, a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday.

Trump — who lambasted China throughout the election campaign and promised to slap 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods — tweeted that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had called him.

“Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang told NBC News. “Both are in line with Taiwan’s national interest.”

He added that the call had not been a surprise.

Apparently the call was carefully planned and scheduled by Trump staffers. It was also reported that bomb-thrower John Bolton was seen at Trump tower yesterday. Could he have helped instigate this?

After the media reported foreign policy experts’ heads exploding, Trump defensively tweeted again.

China was apparently on the phone with the White House right after the news broke, and they have now filed a complaint with the U.S. about this breach of diplomacy. The Guardian:

China has lodged “solemn representations” with the US over a call between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing on Friday after speaking to the Taiwanese president on the telephone….

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing regards as a breakaway province – in the late 1970s after the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the “One China” principle, which officially considers the independently governed island to be part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in a statement on Saturday: “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

Geng added: “This is a fact that is generally recognised by the international community.”

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#tRrump is a real bull in a china shop, so to speak. But what was his real goal in talking to Taiwan? Think Progress: Trump’s unusual phone call is great for his business, dangerous for America.

Trump is mixing his business with the presidency. Today was a stark illustration that the combination is extremely dangerous — to Americans and the world.

The Financial Times, citing three sources, reports that Trump called Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan, on Friday. The call is a symbolic breach of the United States’ “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the only government and which has been in place since 1972.

The call will antagonize China and risks “opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated.”

The incident is raising eyebrows because the Trump Organization, in which Trump plans to maintain ownership as president, is actively seeking new business opportunities in Taiwan. The Shanghaiist reported on the Trump Organization’s interest last month:

A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.With the review process for the Aerotropolis still underway, Taoyuan’s mayor referred to the subject of the meeting as mere investment speculation. Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.

#tRump is trying to turn our country into a wholly owned subsidiary of the #tRump organization.

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In just the past couple of days, Trump has bumbled through bizarre phone calls with Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Do you supposed #tRump even knows that China, Pakistan and sworn enemy India have nukes?

The Atlantic: Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan.

This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.

Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” ….

Like their problems with India?

It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. The suspicion is mutual: Just a fifth of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Trump himself has argued that Pakistan “is probably the most dangerous” country in the world, and that India needs to serve as “the check” to it.

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The reports also provoked a caustic response from the Indian government, which opposes U.S. mediation in its border dispute with Pakistan. “We look forward to the president-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues: terrorism,” a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said. And, ultimately, they forced Pakistani officials to backpedal after initially publicizing the conversation. “Our relationship with the United States is not about personalities—it is about institutions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified. In other words, a brief, breezy conversation had real reverberations on the subcontinent.One lesson of the phone call is that words matter, especially in international relations where information is patchy, things get lost in translation, rhetoric is often interpreted as policy, and a government’s credibility is only as good as its word. (Think of all the people in the United States puzzling over what policies Trump will pursue as president; now imagine trying to do that from Islamabad or New Delhi.)

 

And now Pakistan is sending an envoy to meet with the #tRump bumblers. The Indian Express reports:

Pakistan has decided to send an envoy to the US to hold meetings with Donald Trump’s transition team, two days after a “productive” telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the President-elect. Pakistani Prime Minister’s special assistant for foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi will visit the US this weekend to meet officials of the Trump transition team.

Fatemi’s meeting with officials of Trump transition team was confirmed by Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. “Besides meeting members of the transition team, Fatemi will meet officials of the outgoing Obama administration,” said Jilani.

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Huffington Post: Donald Trump Praises Philippines Deadly Drug War And Invites Leader To White House.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs that has left thousands dead, Duterte said on Saturday after the two held a phone conversation in which Trump also invited Duterte the White House.

“He was quite sensitive also to our worry about drugs. And he wishes me well … in my campaign and he said that … we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Duterte said in a statement. Duterte has conducted a severe crackdown on drugs in the country, where police and vigilante groups have killed thousands.

Trump’s brief chat with the firebrand Philippine president follows a period of uncertainty about one of Washington’s most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte’s hostility towards President Barack Obama and repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties.

The call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte’s special advisor, Christopher Go, said in a text message to media, which gave few details. Trump’s transition team had no immediate comment.

So #tRump is on the record supporting mass murder now. Awesome.

Two more links to check out:

The New York Times: How Trump’s Calls to World Leaders Are Upsetting Decades of Diplomacy.

The Washington Post: Donald Trump keeps confirming fears about his diplomatic skills.

Isn’t there anyone who can do something about this monster before he destroys our country and/or blows up the world? We are so screwed.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Good Morning!!

Today is my birthday. I don’t feel much like celebrating, but I’m being lazy so I don’t know when this post will go up.

The wildfires in Tennessee are a real disaster. I’m hoping our beloved ANonOMouse and her family are still safe.

NBC News: Seven Deaths Confirmed as Smokies Wildfires Spread in Tennessee.

Officials were continuing to assess the damage Thursday from a ferocious wildfire that erupted across Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park more than a week ago, killing at least seven people and gutting over 700 structures.

Drenching rain on Wednesday helped firefighters beat back the massive blaze, which still burned more than 15,650 acres and was about 10 percent contained, according to the Southern Area Incident Management Team, which assumed command of the fire.

Rescue operations have been slowed by mud and rockslides caused by the wet weather.

“The rain we received may have slowed this fire for a day or two at a critical time, but the threat from this fire is still there,” the team said.

While large swaths of the national park were ravaged, the wind-whipped flames also reached the neighboring Appalachian tourist meccas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Efforts to pinpoint the cause of deadly wildfires that engulfed two popular tourist towns outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions focused Thursday on their devastating path through East Tennessee, where officials said at least seven people were dead and hundreds of buildings have burned.

Several people remained missing Thursday, and at least 53 people have been treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known.

The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses throughout Sevier County — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres have burned in the most-visited national park in America.

Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said that the first fires, spotted last week, were “likely to be human-caused.”

As people throughout Sevier County tried to return to their routines Thursday, some schools were still closed and access to Gatlinburg remained limited.

The story doesn’t give anymore information about the suspected causes of the fires.

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

In other non-political news, researchers have discovered that psilocybin could help people with anxiety and depression. AP via TPM: Studies: ‘Magic Mushroom’ Psychedelic Drug May Ease Anxiety, Depression.

The psychedelic drug in “magic mushrooms” can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.

It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.

The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn).

But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.

Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. It is illegal in the U.S., and if the federal government approves the treatment, it would be administered in clinics by specially trained staff, experts say….

Psychedelic drugs have looked promising in the past for treating distress in cancer patients. But studies of medical use of psychedelics stopped in the early 1970s after a regulatory crackdown on the drugs, following their widespread recreational use. It has slowly resumed in recent years.

Griffiths said it’s not clear whether psilocybin would work outside of cancer patients, although he suspects it might work in people facing other terminal conditions. Plans are also underway to study it in depression that resists standard treatment, he said.

Trumpworld News

Have you heard about the conversation #tRump had with the prime minster of Pakistan? Yes, the president-elect is still talkingto foreign leaders on his personal phone without benefit of intelligence briefings or background information from the State Department.

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Time Magazine: Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre.

There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the “Handle With Care” label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world’s only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to a readout of the conversation from the Pakistani authorities, he apparently agreed to visit the country and said he was “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” He reportedly added: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”

The hilarity of his hyperbole aside, Trump’s intervention could have serious consequences for both regional and global stability.

Do you suppose #tRump knows that both Pakistan and India have nukes and they hate each others’ guts? Anyway, read the rest at the link. Here’s the full readout of the call from Pakistan’s press information site. The Trump people don’t bother to provide any information about the god-emperor’s phone calls.

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Yesterday the CIA head John Brennan tried to give #tRump some foreign policy suggestions via an interview with the BBC. The New York Times reports: C.I.A. Chief Warns Donald Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal.

LONDON — The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear dealwould be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”

During the election campaign, Mr. Trump railed against the deal, calling it a disaster and pledging to “dismantle” the historic accord, reached in 2015, in which Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.

Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a Republican whom Mr. Trump has chosen to succeed John O. Brennan as head of the C.I.A., wrote in mid-November on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

But in an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons.

“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” Mr. Brennan said in the BBC interview, which the broadcaster said was the first by a C.I.A. director with the British news media. “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”

Mr. Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, calling him a strong leader, and promised closer relations with Moscow, but Mr. Brennan, who was appointed by President Obama and will step down in January after four years, warned that the incoming administration needed to be skeptical about the Kremlin.

“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” he told the BBC, reiterating the widely held view that Russia had carried out hacking during the United States election and blaming Moscow for the deteriorating situation in Syria.

More at the link. #tRump supposedly reads the NYT; will he pay attention? Probably not.

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Some analysis from Vox: CIA Director John Brennan tells the BBC that Trump’s ideas are terrible.

On Wednesday morning, the BBC published excerpts from an interview with CIA Director John Brennan, the first time a serving head of America’s best-known spy agency has sat down with the British media, according to the BBC. Brennan’s comments are, unmistakably, a shot at Donald Trump. He calls Trump’s proposal to scrap the Iran deal “disastrous,” warns that “the overwhelming majority of CIA officers” oppose Trump’s call to bring back torture of suspected terrorists, and says the famously Putin-sympathetic Trump should “beware Russian promises.”

Brennan is stepping down from the CIA leadership on January 20, so he’ll never have to deal with President Trump directly. That means he’s free to do something as brazen as trash the incoming president on one of the world’s most-watched TV channels.

If you take a deeper look at Brennan’s comments, you start to realize that he’s expressing criticisms of Trump policies that are widely held in the foreign policy community.

 Take his attack on Trump’s approach to the Iran deal, which Brennan calls “the height of folly.” He warns that doing so would allow Iran to simply restart its nuclear program.

This, as my colleague Zeeshan Aleem explains, is the consensus among even anti-deal experts and policymakers. That’s because of the way the deal is structured: Iran has already gotten the sanctions relief it was promised, but has yet to fully comply with the terms of the deal that dismantle its nuclear program. If Trump were to scrap the deal on day one, Iran would have everything it wanted without having to give up too much. It would have billions of new dollars as well, and a free hand to build a nuke without pesky international inspectors.

Brennan’s position on Russia is another good example. His argument is that the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia have mostly failed to alter Moscow’s worst behavior — for example, its slaughtering of civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo and bombing of the moderate opposition looking to unseat Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Intelligence officials have been reduced to trying to communicate with a madman through the media. Please go over to Vox and read the rest.
Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

You probably heard that #tRump drove someone at the Office of Government Ethics Office to nervous breakdown yesterday. Slate: Federal Ethics Agency Spent the Afternoon Sarcastically Praising Donald Trump.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, as its name suggests, interprets and advises federal officials on the ethics laws and rules designed to help keep them honest. “When government decisions are made free from conflicts of interest, the public can have greater confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations,” its mission statement admirably declares. Given what likely awaits the agency in less than two months’ time, it understandably had some, um, thoughts on Donald Trump’s vague, predawn Twitter announcement that he will be “leaving his great business” to focus on the presidency….

Remarkably, those exclamation-filled tweets from a normally staid Twitter account don’t appear to be the result of a hack. “Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect’s twitter feed indicating he wants to be free of conflicts of interest,” agency spokesman Seth Jaffe said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. He added: “We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.”

A few of the tweets (see the rest at Slate):

That’s it for me today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of your Thursday!


Tuesday Reads: Donald #tRump, The Ugly UnAmerican, Wants an Ugly America

Trump wants to ban photos of his double chin

Trump wants to ban photos of his double chin

Good Morning!!

Breaking news this morning: #tRump will be leading rallies again beginning on Thursday in Cincinnati. He will then go on to stage rallies in other “swing states.” He doesn’t want anyone to call it a “victory tour” either, so don’t do that or you might lose your citizenship or be thrown in jail.

Bloomberg reports:

President-elect Donald Trump will begin a “Thank You Tour” on Thursday in Cincinnati, replicating the arena events that powered his surprise campaign, three of his transition officials said.

The Republican has credited his rallies as a central component of his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The events at times drew tens of thousands of people and were often broadcast live and in their entirety on cable news networks, affording him a practically unfiltered channel to voters.

His post-election tour may take him to “swing states we flipped over,” George Gigicos, Trump’s director of advance, told reporters on Nov. 17. Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, all states President Barack Obama won twice.

In case you haven’t noticed, insane president-elect doesn’t like dissent–not one little bit! He either hasn’t heard about the first amendment to the Constitution or thinks it should be ignored. This morning he tweeted about it.

Last night, #tRump flew into a rage at CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny for saying on the air that there is no evidence of that voter fraud led to Hillary Clinton’s more than 2 million lead in the popular vote, and then retweeted several random twitter posts about it. One of them was from a 16-year-old boy, but he apparently likes #tRump; so #tRump thinks he’s an expert.

The president elect doesn’t think he needs intelligence briefings from the U.S. intelligence agencies, because he’s apparently getting his briefings from “foreign leaders”–most likely Vladimir Putin. He gets his “expert advice” on appointments from Fabio and Don King. He doesn’t give press conferences or talk to the media. The only thing we have is his tweets. Some folks think we should ignore them, but this madman is the president elect and his tweets are essentially press releases. They may be the only direct communications Americans get from #tRump for the next four years. They are also the best evidence we have that #tRump is literally insane.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Why we can’t — and shouldn’t — ignore Donald Trump’s tweets.

With a trio of tweets Sunday alleging millions of fraudulent votes and “serious” fraud in three states, Trump effectively hijacked the news cycle for the next 24 hours with baseless conspiracy theories. A week prior, it was Trump’s tweets demanding an apology from the cast of “Hamilton” for disrespecting Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience the previous night.

It can all feel pretty small and sideshow-y at times. Some have a prescription: The media should resist the urge to cover Trump’s tweets as big news. Others even say we should ignore them altogether.

But both of those are fantasies. And we’d be doing readers a disservice if we tried either.

Undergirding the idea that Trump’s tweets shouldn’t be big news is the theory that he’s manipulating the media into focusing on small things to cover up less sexy but more important things — conflicts of interests and possible corruption, in particular.

I’m skeptical any such plan exists, given that Trump’s thin-skinned tweeting is pretty indiscriminate. But this idea has returned with a vengeance given the latest tweetstorm, and it’s likely to perk up again after Trump on Tuesday morning suggested revoking the citizenship or jailing of people who burn the American flag.

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I don’t buy that he’s following some Machiavellian theory of media distraction.  We’ve already seen that #tRump has virtually no self-control. He’s an childish man who has always been prone to temper tantrums. He’s not going to change. This dangerous man has been chosen by a minority of American voters have chosen to be the most powerful person in the world. More from Blake:

What we’re basically talking about here is treating Trump like a social media troll with an egg for an avatar who can be blocked or ignored and hopefully loses the will to keep harassing us.

But this is the president-elect of the United States. The job comes with the so-called bully pulpit, and what he says matters and will be the subject of debate no matter what the mainstream media does. Everything he says reverberates. It doesn’t matter if he says it on Twitter or at a news conference; either way it’s going to be consumed by tens of millions of people, and the media has an important role to play when it comes to fact-checking and providing context.

ProPublica senior reporting fellow Jessica Huseman nailed it in an interview with The Fix’s Callum Borchers on Monday.

“If he had said something similar in a press conference, no one would be concerned that journalists are getting distracted by his absurd language,” Huseman said. “But because it was a tweet, that’s somehow different? Unfortunately, this president-elect has decided to make Twitter his main means of communicating with the American public, and the American public listens deeply to things that he says on Twitter.”

Now, before I move on to other #tRump news, here’s a bizarre photo that Kellyanne Conway posted on Twitter yesterday.

caption-this

How would you caption this picture?

I have lots of links for you today.

Here’s one of the most frightening. The New York Times: How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red,’ by Amanda Taub.

Yascha Mounk is used to being the most pessimistic person in the room. Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way.

His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.

Mr. Mounk’s interest in the topic began rather unusually. In 2014, he published a book, “Stranger in My Own Country.” It started as a memoir of his experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany, but became a broader investigation of how contemporary European nations were struggling to construct new, multicultural national identities.

He concluded that the effort was not going very well. A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper?

To answer that question, Mr. Mounk teamed up with Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. They have since gathered and crunched data on the strength of liberal democracies.

Their conclusion, to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy, is that democracies are not as secure as people may think. Right now, Mr. Mounk said in an interview, “the warning signs are flashing red.”

Read the rest at the link, but here’s disturbing chart from the piece showing how attitudes toward the need to live in a democracy have changed over time. Older people still care about democracy, younger people not so much.

democracy-chart

We haven’t heard that much about #tRump’s son-in-law lately; but, according to the Wall Street Journal, like he may have nearly as many conflicts of interest as #tRump.

The real-estate company controlled by Jared Kushner, President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has hundreds of millions of dollars in loans outstanding from domestic and foreign financial institutions, markets condominiums to wealthy U.S. and foreign buyers and has obtained development financing through a controversial U.S. program that sells green cards.

Those and other business activities could raise conflict-of-interest issues if Mr. Kushner is named to a staff position in the Trump administration. Executive branch employees are prohibited from participating in any matter in which there is “a close causal link” between that matter and a “real possibility” of a financial gain or loss, according to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Mr. Trump has floated the idea of Mr. Kushner taking a number of roles in his administration. But he also is considering not giving Mr. Kushner any staff position to sidestep the conflict issue, a person familiar with his thinking said Monday.

If Mr. Trump wanted to give Mr. Kushner an official role he also would have to comply with federal nepotism law. Even if Mr. Kushner were to serve in the new administration as an unpaid adviser, his potential influence on policy would invite scrutiny, legal experts said.

Much more at the WSJ. I got through the paywall somehow; I hope my link works.

trump1

Jonathan Cohn at Huffington Post: Trump’s Pick For HHS Signals He Is Dead Serious About Repealing Obamacare

President-elect Donald Trump will name an ultraconservative surgeon, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

The choice, which Trump’s transition team announced on Tuesday morning, would appear to signal Trump’s determination to proceed with a major overhaul of federal health care programs ― including not just Obamacare, which Republicans have sworn to repeal, but also Medicare and Medicaid.

Price, 62, practiced as an orthopedist for about two decades before winning election to the House of Representatives in 2005.

Once in Congress, Price gained notoriety for his right-wing views ― first as chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative lawmakers, and then as a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus. A constant in his career has been a hostility to government interference with the practice of medicine.

That may help explain why Price has emerged one of Washington’s most vocal and persistent critics of the Affordable Care Act. That law, which President Barack Obama signed in 2010, has helped more than 20 million people to get health insurance and made coverage available even to people with pre-existing medical conditions. It has also increased the underlying cost of insurance and raised taxes on the very wealthy.

In a prepared statement, Trump hailed Price as “a renowned physician” and “go-to expert on healthcare policy. … He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American.”

Democrats reacted to the news harshly, noting Price’s history of criticizing major federal health programs ― as well as his strong opposition to abortion rights.

“Congressman Price has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the incoming minority leader. “Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house.”

Price is also a birther:

More reads, links only:

Think Progress: Trump’s lies have a purpose. They are an assault on democracy.

George Lakoff: A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do.

Vox: What the alt-right actually wants from President Trump.

New York Times: Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump.

Washington Post: What a President Trump means for foreign policy.

Jamelle Bouie at Slate: Keep Hope Alive. Demoralized Democrats have a road map for success in Trump’s America. It was written by Jesse Jackson.

Must Read! David Fahrenthold and Robert O’Harrow Jr. at The Washington Post: The mogul, in a 2007 deposition, had to face up to a series of falsehoods and exaggerations. And he did. Sort of.

Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: In Trump’s economy, mammas should make sure their babies grow up to be con men.

Washington Post: Donald Trump’s political mandate is historically small.

Eric Boelert at Media Matters: Too Little, Too Late: Weeks After Election, Media See Trump’s Conflicts, Potential Self-Dealings, And Corruption.

Matthew Yglesias at Vox: The Trump conflicts of interest we can see are just the tip of the iceberg.


Lazy Saturday Reads

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

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

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

la-castro1958_j3chgbnc

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

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

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

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

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

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

ct-fidel-castro-through-the-years-20161126

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

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

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

Much more at the link.

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

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

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

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

103051177-trumputin-530x298
From the Russian perspective, the success of this operation can hardly be overstated. News stories on the DNC emails released in July served to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, instigate political infighting and suggest for some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — without any real proof — that the Democratic primary had been “rigged” against their candidate. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks began near dailydumps from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, generating a month of largely negative reporting on Clinton, her campaign staff, her husband and their foundation. With some exceptions, there was little news in the email beyond political gossip and things the media had covered before, now revisited from a seemingly “hidden” viewpoint.
Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidencesuggestswere generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.
Does anyone in the Obama administration have serious concerns about this? And what about possible connections between Russia and factions in FBI? I can only hope that efforts to deal with the situation are going on behind the scenes, but it sure doesn’t seem that way. Instead, it looks like the Obama administration is focused on making things easier for Trump and his Russian oligarch pals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

obama-on-the-phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

recount

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care Sky Dancers! I love you all.