As you can see from the paintings I’ve chosen, I have snow on the brain this morning; as an early winter storm is still hovering over the Boston area for the third day. It’s a lovely winter wonderland outside my window, but I’m hoping the snow will leave us sometime this afternoon.
Trump is at the NATO meeting in the UK making a fool of himself as usual. He just finished a tense meeting with French president Macron in which the two talked past each other and exchanged hostile comments. We’ll have to wait for analysis from reporters, but here are some twitter takes.
The Washington Post: Trump calls French president’s criticism of NATO ‘nasty’ and ‘disrespectful’
LONDON — President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.
Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with the Economist magazine — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO resulting from America’s failure to consult with its allies — Trump attacked Macron during his first remarks on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.” [….]
“I would say that nobody needs NATO more than France,” Trump said. “That’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.”
Trump’s tough talk on France came just a day after the United States threatened new tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French products, including wine, cheese and yogurt — a response, Trump’s chief trade negotiator said, to a French digital services tax that the United States concluded is discriminating against American Internet companies.
More from The New York Times: In Tense Exchange, Trump and Macron Put Forth Dueling Visions for NATO.
A once-cordial relationship between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France devolved in a dramatic fashion on Tuesday, as the two leaders publicly sparred over their approach to containing the threat of terrorism and a shared vision for the future of NATO, a 70-year-old alliance facing existential threats on multiple fronts.
In a lengthy appearance before reporters, the president met a cool reception from Mr. Macron, who earlier in the day Mr. Trump derided as “very insulting” for his recent remarks on the “brain death” of the alliance. When asked to address his earlier comments on the French leader, Mr. Trump, a leader averse to face-to-face confrontation, initially demurred, but Mr. Macron was direct.
“My statement created some reactions,” Mr. Macron said. “I do stand by it.”
What followed was an extended, terse back-and-forth over trade, immigration, and Mr. Trump’s relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
Mr. Trump’s interactions with the Turkish president are also sure to be closely watched. Mr. Erdogan, who has already upset NATO allies by purchasing a sophisticated Russian antiaircraft missile system, the S-400, is now threatening to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of Poland and the Baltic countries if the alliance does not join him in labeling some Kurdish groups as terrorists.
”Who is the enemy today?” Mr. Macron asked. “And let’s be clear and work together on that.”
More breaking news from Twitter:
— A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One can hand over years of President Donald Trump’s financial records in compliance with House Democrats’ subpoenas.
— The ruling offers another loss in the courts for Trump, who has fought attempts to obtain his financial records through multiple lawsuits.
— The case is likely destined for the Supreme Court, where the president has already appealed two other lower court decisions requiring the disclosure of his financial records.
Aaron Blake has an interesting piece at The Washington Post on the timeline of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine even before Zelensky took over as president: 2 key Trump-Ukraine events we should be paying more attention to.
The first event:
In February 2017, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump and Poroshenko had spoken by phone and “discussed plans for an in-person meeting in the future.”
Even as Trump met with a procession of foreign leaders in those early months, though, a meeting with Poroshenko wasn’t scheduled. Indeed, it didn’t happen until late June. And why is that date significant? Because it was very shortly after Poroshenko’s government took action on an investigation of personal interest to Trump — and in a Trump-friendly direction.
Here’s a quick timeline:
June 8, 2017: Trump ally Rudolph W. Giuliani meets with Poroshenko and then-Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko.
June 9, 2017: Lutsenko’s office joins an existing investigation into the “black ledger,” which implicated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The investigation had previously been handled only by Ukraine’s independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), and critics alleged the new move was meant to bury the scandal.
June 14, 2017: Reports in Europe indicate Poroshenko will meet with Trump.
June 19, 2017: Spicer says Poroshenko will meet with Vice President Pence, but doesn’t confirm a meeting with Trump.
June 20, 2017: Poroshenko gets a brief “drop-in” visit with Trump.
The second event:
In December 2017, the Trump administration made a key decision to provide Ukraine with lethal aid — specifically antitank missiles called Javelins. This is the same weaponry Trump and Zelensky would later talk about on their fateful July 25, 2019, phone call.
Republicans have hailed Trump’s decision to provide such weaponry as evidence of his support for Ukraine and as a counterpoint to the idea that he has been leveraging it. But what if the Javelins were also used as leverage?
What we can say is that they weren’t delivered until after another significant investigatory decision from Ukraine in Trump’s favor — one that was even more narrowly beneficial to Trump.
In early April 2018, according to the New York Times, Ukraine halted its investigations of Manafort and also its cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. In addition, it reportedly allowed a potential witness in Mueller’s collusion investigation to leave the country for Russia, where they couldn’t be interviewed.
Later that month, the Javelins arrived. Poroshenko posted as much on Facebook on April 30, and U.S. officials soon confirmed it.
These don’t look like coincidences to me, and they probably didn’t look that way to Zelensky either.
At The Atlantic, Professor Kim Wehle of the University of Baltimore School of Law argues that House Democrats should be tougher on witnesses who refuse to testify in the impeachment inquiry: The House Is Making This Fight Too Easy for Trump.
Last week marked a low point in Donald Trump’s quest for presidential superpowers. On Monday, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not have absolute immunity from having to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding misconduct by Trump and his associates in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. “Presidents are not kings,” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”
In practical terms, the court declared that Trump cannot lawfully forbid anyone and everyone he’s ever worked with from heeding legislative requests for information. This isn’t even a close question, as the stark language of Jackson’s 120-page ruling made clear. Notwithstanding White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s October 8 letter—in which he deemed the impeachment inquiry unconstitutional and announced that the administration would not cooperate in any way—the president cannot prohibit current or former government employees from testifying when called before Congress.
Which is why House Democrats’ milquetoast response to widespread defiance of congressional subpoenas is both perplexing and disturbing. When faced with credible evidence of serious misconduct, Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the president accountable on behalf of the people. Yet House leaders have psyched themselves out of fully exercising that duty.
Read the rest at The Atlantic link.
Bill Barr is working hard to be Trump’s personal defense attorney. The Washington Post reports: Barr disputes key inspector general finding about FBI’s Russia investigation.
Attorney General William P. Barr has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on one of the key findings in an upcoming report — that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is due to release his long-awaited findings in a week, but behind the scenes at the Justice Department, disagreement has surfaced about one of Horowitz’s central conclusions on the origins of the Russia investigation. The discord could be the prelude to a major fissure within federal law enforcement on the controversial question of investigating a presidential campaign.
Barr has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding that the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016, these people said.
Barr’s public defenses of President Trump, including his assertion that intelligence agents spied on the Trump campaign, have led Democrats to accuse him of acting like the president’s personal attorney and eroding the independence of the Justice Department. But Trump and his Republican allies have cheered Barr’s skepticism of the Russia investigation.
Finally, The Daily Beast is running a series of three articles by Patricia Ravalgi about how officials who previously worked together for the benefit of U.S. national security are now on opposite sides because of Trump. Here are the first two installments and introductory paragraphs:
The constellation of federal investigators, attorneys, prosecutors and judges orbiting Donald Trump in the last three years have a unique, shared history.
Relatively unknown to the American public is the fact that before many of them became household names, cast as either the heroes or villains of the Trump saga (depending on where you stand on Trump), they were colleagues in the trenches of some of America’s biggest terrorism cases.
They crossed paths numerous times in courtrooms and at crime scenes, often united by a single case. From my perch working for the House Intelligence Committee, at the FBI as a congressional liaison, and then on the 9/11 Joint Inquiry, I observed what in many respects were their finest achievements, how those played out politically, how they fought their turf battles at home and with foreign governments, how they learned to communicate with the American public after each tragedy—and ultimately, fundamentally how they changed America’s approach to national security.
On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 carrying 230 summer vacationers, would-be tourists, and crew members took off from New York’s JFK airport en route to Rome. Ten minutes into the flight, the plane’s captain reported unusual readings on the Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS). Two minutes after that, a catastrophic explosion occurred.
TWA 800 broke apart mid-air into three huge sections that came crashing into the sea. People on the South Shore of Long Island would report seeing the fireball in the night. Others reported seeing lights streaking across the sky around the same time as the explosion.
Alongside the work of the National Transportation Safety Board, the FBI launched an investigation led by the assistant director for the New York field office, James Kallstrom. Until recently, he was defined in history as the man who headed that $20 million, 16-month investigation into the explosion—and who kept conspiracy theories from spinning out of control. And that was no easy task. Pierre Salinger, President John F. Kennedy’s former press secretary, was reporting from France that he had secret information that the plane had been brought down by the friendly fire of a U.S. Navy missile, and that theory has never been completely exorcised from the popular imagination.
These are long reads, with one more installment to come.
It looks like we’ll continue to have a busy news day today and a busy week of news to come. What stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Sunday greeted New Orleans with 16 shootings including a Mass Shooting on Canal Street early Sunday Morning that injured 10 people with two in critical condition. Another shooting killed two later that day in the 7th ward, Our City’s crime has seen a downward trend in crime over the last 4 years but this isn’t exactly new to us or anywhere in the country.
Why do we have so many trigger happy Americans?
It’s amazing to me that the NRA can still have so much power after so much controversy surrounding its leadership and actions. It also amazes me that so many people seem to think they a “well regulated militia” doesn’t mean what they think it means. They to be a personal militia with no regulation. Hence,the real American Carnage … death by gun.
In a timely coincidence, today’s case at the Supreme Court deals with a Second Amendment Case. Many Republican politicians these days appear to recognize the Constitution only when it deals with this particular amendment and they’ve been busy stacking the court to be pro life except when it comes slaughter by gun.
What may happen today at the Court? This is from today’s NYT. “After Long Gap, Supreme Court Poised to Break Silence on Gun Rights
Following a change in personnel, the court could expand the scope of Second Amendment rights and chastise lower courts that have upheld gun control laws.”
It has been almost 10 years since the Supreme Court last heard a Second Amendment case. On Monday, a transformed court will return to the subject and take stock of what has happened in the meantime.
The nation has had a spike in gun violence. And lower courts have issued more than 1,000 rulings seeking to apply the justices’ 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established an individual right to own guns but said almost nothing about the scope of that right.
The new case concerns a New York City ordinance that limited the transport of guns outside an owner’s home. Fearing a loss in the Supreme Court, to say nothing of a broad ruling from the court’s conservative majority on what the Second Amendment protects, the city repealed the ordinance and now argues that the case is moot. But the court may be ready to end its decade of silence, elaborate on the meaning of the Second Amendment and, in the process, tell lower courts whether they have been faithful to the message of the Heller decision.
Proponents of gun rights and some conservative justices say lower courts have been engaged in lawless resistance to the protections afforded under the Second Amendment by sustaining unconstitutional gun-control laws.
Again, what don’t they get about “well regulated” and the 18th century idea of a “militia”?
On Monday the court hears arguments in a case from New York, a city and a state with some of the toughest gun regulations in the country. Several gun owners and the NRA’s New York affiliate challenged the rules for having a handgun at home. They contended the city gun license was so restrictive it was unconstitutional.
Specifically, they said the state law and city regulations violated the right to bear arms because they forbid handgun owners from carrying their pistols anywhere other than seven firing ranges within the city limits. That meant that pistol owners could not carry their guns to a second home, or to shooting ranges or competitions in other states nearby. The lower courts upheld the regulations as justified to protect safety in the most densely populated city in the country.
But when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the gun owners appeal, the state and the city changed the law to allow handgun owners to transport their locked and unloaded guns to second homes or shooting ranges outside the city.
With those changes, the first question Monday will be whether the case is moot and should be thrown out because New York has already given the gun owners everything they asked for in their lawsuit.
“This is an instance where it appears the petitioners won’t say ‘yes’ for an answer,” says James Johnson, counsel for the city of New York.
But former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who represents the gun owners, counters that the amended regulations still give the city too much power to regulate.
“The city of New York never expressed any doubt about the constitutionality of these regulations when they were winning in the district court and the court of appeals,” argues Clement. “And then lo and behold, all of a sudden the city decides you know maybe we don’t need these regulations after all.”
And, he observes, the city is still defending the original regulations.
The city is indeed doing that because the justices refused in October to throw the case out on mootness grounds, opting instead to hear the mootness arguments today, along with the direct challenge to the regulations themselves.
Testing a “moot” law seems odd to me. New Orleans wasn’t the only city with gun violence yesterday. Two kids were wounded in a shoot out in the The Bronx. Trace.org includes all these stories in it’s gun related news today.
Two kids were wounded in a mass shooting in the Bronx. Five people, including a 10-year-old and 14-year-old boy, were shot on a retail strip in the South Bronx on the afternoon before Thanksgiving. An after-school program was about to start classes when the unknown gunman began firing at a busy intersection. The director of the program was unconsoled by the fact that all the victims survived. “That’s just luck,” he told The New York Times. “Every bullet has its own trajectory. We might not be so lucky next time.”
These shootings have also gone into the Gun Violence Archive where you can be horrifed by the list and dots on a map of the USA showing the 2019 shootings for the country.
This hopeful analysis argues the case could “fizzle” but it also explains the politics involved. The Republicans are as entrenched as ever.
The mootness fight has taken on political dimensions. In August, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and four colleagues filed an unusually pointed brief that said the court would be undermining its own legitimacy if it ruled in the case.
The Democrats’ brief pointed to the millions of dollars spent by outside groups on recent Supreme Court battles. Trump’s two appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were confirmed in the Senate on nearly party-line votes.
“To stem the growing public belief that its decisions are motivated mainly by politics, the court should decline invitations like this to engage in ‘projects,’” the Democrats argued, highlighting a word the challengers used in one of their court filings.
Whitehouse’s brief provoked an equally sharp response from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his Republican colleagues. They told the justices to “stand firm” and “not be cowed by the threats of opportunistic politicians.”
Trump has had strong support from gun owners and the National Rifle Association since his 2016 campaign. He has occasionally stated support for expanded background checks — particularly when mass shootings lead to a public outcry — but later backed off, expressing doubt they would be effective in curbing gun violence.
The administration is urging the Supreme Court to decide the case, telling the justices the dispute is still meaningful because residents could seek damages.
The court has hinted it may want to rule. In October, the justices refused to dismiss the case as moot but said they would revisit the issue at the argument.
But he also pushed back on Trump’s recent claims about corruption in Ukraine, and questioned the fairness of Trump’s decision to freeze American aid. “If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” he said. “I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo.”
Zelensky’s focus during the interview, as it has been throughout his time in office, was on the effort to end Ukraine’s war against Russia and its proxies, who still control two separatist strongholds in the region of Ukraine known as the Donbass. More than 13,000 Ukrainians have died as a result of that conflict, and more are killed or wounded every week. Yet the European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting have been stalled for over three years.
So much violence, so many lives, and so many power grabs and that’s enough for me today. I’m pretty sure the judiciary committee’s impeachment hearings will fill up the week shortly. His lawyers declined to become involved as did the Kremlin Potted Plant who complained that he will be in NATO meetings this week. Obviously this trip will interrupt his Presidential Fox an Friends time so he will be peevish.
President Donald Trump on Monday blasted House Democrats for holding impeachment hearings while he is at a NATO summit in London and claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had cleared him of wrongdoing in an interview published earlier in the day.
Speaking to reporters as he departed the White House for the summit, Trump said Democrats had “decided” to hold the upcoming hearings at “the exact time” he’s in London. The president also said Zelenskiy “came out and said very strongly that President Trump did nothing wrong,” adding, “that should end everything, but that will never end it.”
Please go read that quote up there again and see if that’s your take away. It certainly isn’t mine.
Anyway, let’s get through the month and the year as well we can. Love to you all! May peace surround you!
What’s on your reading, blogging, and watching lists today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’m trying to deliver a stress free Friday Read but you know how difficult that can be these days. Time for all of us to get lost in books and movies! What’s on your screen? What book is beside your bed today?
So, here’s some “best books” lists from various sources.
As the year draws to a close, we have clear favorites. We explored the caves, tombs and catacombs under our feet in Will Hunt’s Underground and Robert Macfarlane’s Underland. In Sarah Milov’s The Cigarette and Sarah A. Seo’s Policing the Open Road, we learned about tobacco and cars, two things we thought we knew until these books dug into their complex histories. And Jeff Gordinier’s Hungry, Kwame Onwuachi’s Notes From a Young Black Chef and Iliana Regan’s Burn the Place chart the bold and sometimes bumpy paths taken by three renowned chefs.
The top book by Publisher’s Weekly is this one!
Here’s something new for us: a graphic memoir is among our 10 best books of the year. It’s Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, and it’s a wonderfully enchanting memoir that couldn’t be more of-the-moment, with its take on race in America that’s equally smart, pointed, funny, and touching. (There is also some wisdom in there about how to deal with Trump-supporting in-laws.)
Jacob’s book is joined in our top ten by nine other works that together offer a kaleidoscopic take on what it means to be alive right now.
And, here’s the one from the NYT Book Review team. Their first offering is Disappearing Earth By Julia Phillips.
In the first chapter of this assured debut novel, two young girls vanish, sending shock waves through a town perched on the edge of the remote, brooding Kamchatka Peninsula. What follows is a novel of overlapping short stories about the various women who have been affected by their disappearance. Each richly textured tale pushes the narrative forward another month and exposes the ways in which the women of Kamchatka have been shattered — personally, culturally and emotionally — by the crime.
My latest binge watch is HBO’s His Dark Dark Materials about a young girl in an alternative Time line. It was previously a movie of one of the books of the Trilogy (The Golden Compass) and the books by Phillip Pullman were published in the 1990s. It took me to this third episode to get reeled in.
The series is actually also on the BBC. It’s been playing on HBO first.
The eight-part adaptation tells the story of Lyra, the young protagonist who lives in Jordan College, Oxford. Placed there at the request of her Uncle, Lord Asriel, she lives a sheltered life amongst the scholars and college staff while under the watchful protection of The Master and Librarian Scholar Charles.
When the glamorous and mesmeric Mrs Coulter enters Lyra’s life she embarks upon a dangerous journey of discovery from Oxford to London. Here she meets Father Macphail, Lord Boreal and journalist Adele Starminster at a glittering society party where she first hears about the sinister General Oblation Board.
Lyra is subsequently thrown into the nomadic world of the boat dwelling Gyptians – Ma Costa, Farder Coram, John Faa, Raymond Van Geritt, Jack Verhoeven and Benjamin de Ruyter who take her North in her quest. Once in the North she meets charismatic aeronaut and adventurer Lee Scoresby who joins them on their epic journey and who becomes one of Lyra’s closest allies.
Each human has an animal “daemon” that serves as its soul and conscious. The animals speak and are quite well done. Children’s daemon’s only take a permanent form when they become adults so Lyra’s changes form quite often.
NPR has listed its choices for best music of 2019. I’m glad to see Missy Elliot back on the list.
Missy Elliott not only justified the VMAs’ existence but also dropped the Iconology EP in August, reminding us just how vital and future-seeking she continues to be. “Throw It Back” appears on NPR Music’s monthly best-of list along with Normani‘s irresistible “Motivation” and a blistering rock song by Big Thief.
Take a visit to the Hall of Missy with some pretty great young women!
And this is worth the read to remember your childhood reading!!
So, it’s your turn!
What’s on your reading, watching, listening, blogging list today?
I hope everyone has a lovely day whatever you choose to do. As always these days, there is plenty of news even though it’s a holiday. Some stories to check out if you want a distraction from cooking, eating and visiting with family and friends:
The Washington Post: Ken Cuccinelli walked into a bar. And Martin O’Malley lit into him.
A liberal ex-governor walks into a bar, followed by a conservative Trump administration official.
Instead of a punchline, what followed, one witness said, was a “shame-invoking tirade” by Martin O’Malley, the former Democratic governor of Maryland, directed at Ken Cuccinelli II, the former Virginia attorney general who is acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The two political polar opposites crossed paths Wednesday night at the Dubliner, a Capitol Hill Irish pub popular on Thanksgiving Eve with Gonzaga College High School graduates. Both men attended the school, graduating five years apart in the 1980s.
Siobhan Arnold, who was visiting from Philadelphia, had just met O’Malley at the bar when Cuccinelli walked in. Soon the two men were face-to-face, she said, with O’Malley excoriating Cuccinelli over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
O’Malley said “something about his [Cuccinelli’s] grandparents,” Arnold said in an interview. Cuccinelli said little if anything in reply, she added, quickly leaving the pub.
“O’Malley was shouting,” Arnold said. “I don’t think Cuccinelli was responding. I think he’s like, ‘Time to go. Just got here and I’m leaving.’ He pretty much retreated.”
Speaking to the Post over text message, O’Malley, who served as Maryland governor from 2006 to 2014 and made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, confirmed the incident, but said he did not believe he had shouted at Cuccinelli, but had simply raised his voice “just to be heard” in the popular venue.
The former governor said he also was not the only one to air his grievances with Cuccinelli, who he described as “the son of immigrant parents who cages children for a fascist president,” that evening.
“We all let him know how we felt about him putting refugee immigrant kids in cages,” O’Malley said, adding that such practices were “certainly not what we were taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga.”
Ousted Navy Secretary published an op-ed at the Washington Post: Richard Spencer: I was fired as Navy secretary. Here’s what I’ve learned because of it.
The case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was charged with multiple war crimes before being convicted of a single lesser charge earlier this year, was troubling enough before things became even more troubling over the past few weeks. The trail of events that led to me being fired as secretary of the Navy is marked with lessons for me and for the nation.
It is highly irregular for a secretary to become deeply involved in most personnel matters. Normally, military justice works best when senior leadership stays far away. A system that prevents command influence is what separates our armed forces from others. Our system of military justice has helped build the world’s most powerful navy; good leaders get promoted, bad ones get moved out, and criminals are punished.
President Trump involved himself in the case almost from the start. Before the trial began, in March, I received two calls from the president asking me to lift Gallagher’s confinement in a Navy brig; I pushed back twice, because the presiding judge, acting on information about the accused’s conduct, had decided that confinement was important. Eventually, the president ordered me to have him transferred to the equivalent of an enlisted barracks. I came to believe that Trump’s interest in the case stemmed partly from the way the defendant’s lawyers and others had worked to keep it front and center in the media.
After the verdict was delivered, the Navy’s normal process wasn’t finished. Gallagher had voluntarily submitted his request to retire. In his case, there were three questions: Would he be permitted to retire at the rank of chief, which is also known as an E-7? (The jury had said he should be busted to an E-6, a demotion.) The second was: Should he be allowed to leave the service with an “honorable” or “general under honorable” discharge? And a third: Should he be able to keep his Trident pin, the medal all SEALs wear and treasure as members of an elite force?
On Nov. 14, partly because the president had already contacted me twice, I sent him a note asking him not to get involved in these questions.
Read the rest at the WaPo link.
Tensions that have been mounting for months between some of the nation’s most senior military officers and President Donald Trump are boiling over after his decision to intervene in the cases of three service members accused of war crimes.
A long-serving military officer put it bluntly, telling CNN “there is a morale problem,” and senior Pentagon officials have privately said they are disturbed by the President’s behavior.
Dismay in the Pentagon has been building over Trump’s sporadic, impulsive and contradictory decision-making on a range of issues, including his sudden pullback of troops in Syria. But now there are new and significant worries, as multiple military officials and retired officers say Trump’s intervention into high-profile war crimes cases cannot be ignored….
Trump had upped the ante at a rally on Tuesday by issuing an extraordinary declaration that he took action in the face of “deep state” opposition. In fact, senior Pentagon officials had been unanimously opposed to the President’s intervention because they believed it would undermine military discipline and order.
The President’s comments and his intervention — at the urging of Fox News commentators — reflect another worry among military leaders that Trump continues to be influenced by the network in ways that encourage him to politicize the military, an institution that is meant to stay above the political fray.
Read more at CNN.
Some uncomfortable stories have been coming out about Trump’s EU Ambassdor and impeachment witness Gordon Sondland.
First up, did he fabricate the call in which he claimed Trump said “I want nothing….no quid quo pro?” The Washington Post: Witness testimony and records raise questions about account of Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ call.
Sondland’s recollection of a phone conversation that he said took place on Sept. 9 has emerged as a centerpiece of Trump’s defense as House Democrats argue in an impeachment inquiry that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
However, no other witness testimony or documents have emerged that corroborate Sondland’s description of a call that day.
Trump himself, in describing the conversation, has referred only to the ambassador’s account of the call, which — based on Sondland’s activities — would have occurred before dawn in Washington. And the White House has not located a record in its switchboard logs of a call between Trump and Sondland on Sept. 9, according to an administration official who, like others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
But there is evidence of another call between Trump and Sondland that occurred a few days earlier — one with a very different thrust, in which the president made clear that he wanted his Ukrainian counterpart to personally announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents.
The conflicting information raises serious questions about the accuracy of Sondland’s account, one that Trump has embraced to counter a growing body of evidence that he and his allies pressured Ukraine for his own political benefit.
More Sondland stories:
Bad news for Trump at The New York Times: Russia Inquiry Review Is Expected to Undercut Trump Claim of F.B.I. Spying.
The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general’s report said.
The determination by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is expected to be a key finding in his highly anticipated report due out on Dec. 9 examining aspects of the Russia investigation. The finding also contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who alleged not only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped. The startling accusation generated headlines but Mr. Trump never backed it up.
The finding is one of several by Mr. Horowitz that undercuts conservatives’ claims that the F.B.I. acted improperly in investigating several Trump associates starting in 2016. He also found that F.B.I. leaders did not take politically motivated actions in pursuing a secret wiretap on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page — eavesdropping that Mr. Trump’s allies have long decried as politically motivated.
But Mr. Horowitz will sharply criticize F.B.I. leaders for their handling of the investigation in some ways, and he unearthed errors and omissions when F.B.I. officials applied for the wiretap, according to people familiar with a draft of the report. The draft contained a chart listing numerous mistakes in the process, one of the people said.
More news, links only:
The Washington Post: North Korea launches two projectiles in Thanksgiving message to Trump.
The New York Times: Time Is Running Out for Trump’s North Korean Diplomacy, Analysts Say.
Edward Luce at The Financial Times: How money laundering is poisoning American democracy.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Report: Trump’s Business More Fraudulent Than Previously Known.
Have a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving Day, everyone!!
I just get a kick out of that vintage comic…
It’s almost here, Turkey 🦃 Day!
This Thanksgiving let’s take some time to think about food scarcity.
#Repost @indigenousgoddessgang with @get_repost
From California to New Mexico to Maine, Native Americans are growing what they eat, more and more. Climate change makes these efforts especially urgent. Homegrown fruits and veggies are good for health and a bulwark against a climate-uncertain future. Before Europeans arrived in North America, Native American cuisine varied greatly from location to location. Some people relied on the abundance of the Pacific coast: elk and deer, salmon and smelt, berries and acorns. But as Native Americans were violently displaced by Colonizers, many of those food traditions were lost.
One in four Native Americans, for example, are faced with food insecurity – uncertain access to enough sufficient, affordable food to get the actual nourishment they need.
At least 60 reservations in the United States grapple with food insecurity.
The condition is common in what are referred to as Food apartheid which is a relentless social construct that devalues human beings and assumes that people are unworthy of having access to nutritious food. Some call them “food deserts” – rural or urban areas that are vapid of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy whole foods. These food deserts offer more convenience stores and fast-food restaurants than supermarkets and grocery stores – thus contributing to communities of people with poor diets and higher levels of obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Food deserts are prevalent on many American Indian reservations. This is coupled with the reality of Native Americans enduring one of the highest rates of poverty in the U.S.. Households of Native American families are 400 percent more likely than other U.S.. These communities are ‘everything deserts,’ we have limited health care. We don’t have transportation and infrastructure. We don’t have basic things that every other community typically has. Low-income individuals get priced out of high-quality health foods. After all, $50 worth of boxed meals and frozen dinners can often last a family longer than $50 worth of fresh vegetables and lean meats.
Local gardens are a budding solution to the food insecurity that plagues indigenous communities.
And just a few Tweets:
Last night on The Last Word, Katy Tur showed this graphic:
Now… take a look at that 33% of jackasses who supported impeachment for Obama, ya think it is the same 33% bigoted orange fuckwad tRump backing base dickheads? I say, fuck yeah!
I will leave it there with a little Dolly…
This is an open thread.
Today fallout continues from Trump’s pardons of accused and/or convicted war criminals. Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over an internal review board investigation of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy Seal who was convicted of posing for a trophy photo of a dead ISIS fighter. Gallagher was also accused of stabbing to death the teenager in the photo was acquitted.
In today’s New York Times, two former Navy secretaries Richard J. Danzig and write: Trump and the Military Do Not Share the Same Values.
“Get back to business!” With this tweet, President Trump directed his secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, to stop the naval officers charged with oversight of the SEALs from disciplining one of their own. That order was confirmed on Monday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and over the weekend, Mr. Spencer was fired.
There are three problems with Mr. Trump’s action. The first is that it is very much the Navy’s business — and every military’s business — to maintain, as the military so often recites and Mr. Spencer put it in his final letter to the president, “good order and discipline.” In conducting their “business,” our military services are not and must not be commanded in support of political ends, as Mr. Trump was apparently doing here.
How the president chooses to value order and discipline in his White House, and if at all, is of real concern to all Americans. But the military is not an extension of his White House. Some may argue that all actions by a president may have some political component, yet instead of constraining that component, this action by this president celebrates and encourages it.
The second problem intensifies the first. Contamination from the president’s approach is amplified when his judgment is largely shaped by television commentators and his decision announced by tweet. The military has well-established procedures for assuring good order and discipline. They begin by eliciting a judgment by peers. No one is as well positioned to balance the exigencies of combat and the demands of law and ethics as a panel of fellow sailors, Marines, airmen or soldiers….
Finally, there is the judgment itself. An American service member shared a photograph of himself with a corpse along with the message: “I have got a cool story for you when I get back. I have got my knife skills on.” Our president’s endorsement of the perpetrator will be taken as a representation of our values. Our own troops, many of them teenagers, will be misled by the president’s sense, or lack of sense, of honor.
Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: How Richard Spencer’s firing illustrates some of Trump’s most corrupt impulses.
One key reason Donald Trump’s presidency has been so damaging is that he has a way of corrupting all the people and institutions he comes in contact with, infecting them with his virus. No one remains untouched.
As the sudden firing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer shows, that includes the military. Spencer’s story also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Ukraine scandal, in the way people with their own agendas played on Trump’s most repugnant impulses to manipulate him.
Spencer’s firing has its roots in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who became a Fox News hero. Gallagher’s long and complicated case began when members of his own unit accused him of a series of war crimes, including firing on civilians and murdering a wounded teenage Islamic State fighter receiving medical treatment from his unit.
Gallagher allegedly stabbed the wounded fighter multiple times, then took a picture with his corpse and texted it to friends, with the caption “Got him with my hunting knife.” He was also charged with covering up his crime by threatening to kill members of his platoon if they reported it. They did anyway….
Trump pardoned him, along with two other service members who had also been accused of war crimes.
Those pardons generated enormous controversy both inside and outside the military, but they were not surprising. From the time he began running for president, Trump has shown nothing but contempt for ideas like military order and discipline, respect for human rights and standards of wartime conduct. He has advocated torturing detainees, suggested that a way to fight terrorism would be to murder the families of suspected terrorists and mused about committing genocide. Accused war criminals are his kind of people.
There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll go read the rest.
Spencer stepped down at the request of Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday amid an ongoing controversy over Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, whose case attracted President Trump’s attention.
Esper told reporters Monday that he fired Spencer after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor.” He accused Spencer of secretly proposing a deal to the White House that would allow Gallagher to retire and retain his Trident pin, which denotes his status as a SEAL, a move Esper said was “completely contrary” to what the two had discussed.
In an interview Monday, Spencer told CBS News he spoke with White House counsel Pat Cipollone on November 15 and proposed an arrangement in which Gallagher would be allowed to retire as a SEAL if the president agreed not to intervene in the case and “let the Navy do its administrative work.” Spencer said Cipollone called back the same day to decline the offer, saying the president would be involved.
“In order to preserve the resiliency of the naval institution, I had to step up and do something when it came to the Gallagher case,” Spencer said.
Spencer acknowledged not telling Esper about the proposal.
“I will take the bad on me, for not letting him know I did that,” Spencer said. “But as far as I was concerned, at that point, the president understood the deal. Arguably, he doesn’t have to deal with anyone. He said, ‘I’m going to be involved.’ He sent a signed letter to me, an order with his signature on it, saying, ‘Promote Edward Gallagher to E7,'” the rank of chief petty officer.
Esper acknowledged Monday that when confronted about his secret negotiations with the White House, Spencer “was completely forthright in admitting what had been going on.”
Read more at the link.
The Independent spoke to veterans about the situation: US veterans say Trump views military ‘as tool for massacres’ after reinstating accused war criminal to Navy.
Numerous veterans spoke out about the move to The Independent after Secretary of Defence Mark Esper confirmed he was ordered by the president to retain Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s status in the elite service, as well as his Trident pin, a prestigious special warfare insignia.
“Ever since Donald Trump became president he’s been tearing the military apart, putting troops in the difficult position of needing to choose between obedience to his unhinged orders, and staying true to our code of honour,” said Alexander McCoy, a former Marine and political director of the veteran group Common Defence. “By pardoning war criminals because Fox News told him to, Trump showed he sees our military as a tool for massacres, not as the professional, honourable force we aspire to be.” [….]
The president’s demands could cause “significant long-term damage to the Naval Special Warfare community,” according to James Waters, a former Navy SEAL platoon commander and White House staff member in the Bush administration, who told The Independent: “The only people who weigh in on whether a Navy SEAL deserves to keep his Trident are people who have their Trident.”
“Every SEAL knows he must ‘earn your Trident every day’ – even after officially qualifying – and the same standard should apply here,” Mr Waters said. “Unless you’ve been through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and served in the Teams and know the specific facts related to a person’s performance, you’re not qualified to weigh in.” [….]
“There’s a reason we have the Geneva Convention. There’s a reason we have the Universal Code of Military Justice. There’s a reason we have the morale and ethics that we learn in training,” said Josh Manning, a former Army intelligence officer. “For Trump to just step in and undermine centuries worth of morale and discipline undercuts the very military that he’s trying to command.” [….]
Charlotte Clymer, an Army Veteran and press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, said Mr Trump appeared to be “hell-bent on exploiting” the military justice system for his own purposes.
“My colleagues and I, those still serving and not, are openly horrified by the way this coward has explicitly condoned war crimes, seemingly to pander to people who don’t understand how this undermines our moral authority,” she told The Independent. “I’ve talked to other service members and veterans, and none of us are sure how this could get worse.”
They’re suggesting that Trump wants to take us back to Vietnam years when we had shameful incidents like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.
In a final outrage, Trump now says he wants to use the pardoned war criminals in his 2020 campaign. Daily Beast: Trump Tells Allies He Wants Absolved War Criminals to Campaign for Him.
If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his re-election campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort.
Despite military and international backlash to Trump’s Nov. 15 clemency—fallout from which cost Navy Secretary Richard Spencer his job on Sunday—Trump believes he has rectified major injustices. Two people tell The Daily Beast they’ve heard Trump talk about how he’d like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year. Right-wing media have portrayed all three as martyrs brought down by “political correctness” within the military.
“He briefly discussed making it a big deal at the convention,” said one of these sources, who requested anonymity to talk about private conversations. “The president made a reference to the 2016 [convention] and where they brought on-stage heroes” like former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who refused to execute detained civilians ahead of a devastating Taliban attack.
So next year he wants to celebrate men who chose to execute civilians and detainees?
What stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
The US Navy is the latest institution to be undermined by Trumpist attacks on the Constitution and basic decency. The Navy–which is the the longest standing fighting force in the US–is just the latest institution undermined by Trump’s lack of morality and intelligence. Our relationships with other nations may never be the same as we break treaties and conventions meant to protect our country as well as our allies and friends.
This read is from NBC as reported by Alex Johnson. Here’s the headline: “Navy Secretary Richard Spencer fired in dispute over discipline of SEAL.” The Navy–as do our other branches of service–have strict codes on how to engage their duties. It is imperative to moral and behavior. Certain behaviors elicit institutional responses. War crimes are considered heinous and subject to specific action until now. Many of those actions listed as war crimes have been negotiated throughout history with allies and foes alike. They’re part of treaties. They’re actions that we promise not to commit because they are highly immoral and because we do not want our military committing them or being subjected to them.
But, we have a Criminal Syndicate in our Government acting as the Republican Party enabling their crime boss. They let him get away with anything.
From the link:
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired Sunday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who ordered that a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murder be allowed to remain in the elite commando corps, the Defense Department said.
Esper asked for Spencer’s resignation after President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher would retain the gold Trident insignia signifying his status as a member of the Sea, Air, and Land Teams, or SEALs. Spencer told reporters on Friday that he believed the review process over Gallagher’s status should go forward.
In a letter to Trump, Spencer said he acknowledged his “termination,” saying the president deserved a Navy secretary “who is aligned with his vision.”
“Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me,” Spencer wrote.
“In regards to the key principle of good order and discipline, I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Shortly thereafter, Trump tweeted that he was displeased not only by the way that “Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy” but also because “large cost overruns from [the] past administration’s contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction.”
“Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” he wrote. He said he would nominate retired Adm. Kenneth Braithwaite, the U.S. ambassador to Norway, to succeed Spencer.
He forgave a murderer for perceived cost overruns? WTAF? The USA Today Editorial Board has all kinds of questions this morning that are worth considering. First among them is this: “Do Navy leaders have a ‘duty to disobey’ Trump in Gallagher case?”
Most Americans understand that, under military law, soldiers must disobey an illegal command. It’s a doctrine that demolished Nazi war criminals’ claims during the Nuremberg trials that they were just following orders.
But what if the order is legal, but unethical or even immoral? What is a member of the military to do then?
For some top Pentagon officials, the question might be more than hypothetical. They apparently resisted President Donald Trump’s efforts to protect a Navy SEAL accused of misconduct, and by late Sunday afternoon one of them — Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — was out of a job.
This issue came to a head last week, when Trump threatened to issue an order many senior military leaders see as bordering on unethical. The order would have effectively undermined efforts by a Navy leader to restore good order and discipline among the vaunted Navy SEALs.
A key focus was the conduct of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who had earned a reputation as a rule-breaking “pirate,” accused of committing war crimes in Iraq, including the indiscriminate firing into a neighborhood with a machine gun and killing a teenage captive with a custom-made knife.
When the criminal case against Gallagher fell apart at trial in July, he was convicted only of posing in a photograph with the dead teenager and demoted. Right-wing commentators flocked to Gallagher’s defense, and Trump ordered Gallagher’s rank restored Nov. 15.
The Department of State is another institution undermined by the current usurper of the Oval Office. “As the Rich Get Richer, the Ambassadors Get Worse. Gordon Sondland embodies an age-old problem—one that the flood of donor money into American politics is only exacerbating.” is a feature article at The Atlantic written by Dennis Jett.
Trump’s administration is full of rogue actors dismissing the experts in their field under the right wing tropes of being “deep state”. Curiously, Faux provocateur Jeanne Piro has now called Sondland a deep state actor. Greg Jaffee–writing for WAPO-– writes this ”
Sondland’s appointment succeeded even though it, too, was obviously transactional. The hotel owner did not support Trump for the Republican nomination and did little to get him elected. But once he won, Sondland wrote a big check. And just like magic, he was off to live in Brussels as the American ambassador to the European Union. Along with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Sondland became the president’s go-to guy for dealing with Ukraine—even though that country is not part of the EU. For Trump, it seems, Sondland’s disdain for note-taking was an asset, not a flaw.
National security is harmed when diplomacy is done badly. When the United States has a problem with another country, it can resolve it by diplomacy, force, or just ignoring it and hoping it goes away. When the first option is debilitated by putting incompetent presidential sycophants in charge of embassies, that leaves only the two other alternatives. If command of an aircraft carrier were handed over to a real-estate developer because he had contributed to a political campaign, the outrage would be immediate. But putting our soft power, our ability to conduct diplomacy, in the hands of the unqualified and clueless is somehow acceptable.
That Sondland gave bad diplomatic advice was clear in the cellphone conversation he had with the president on July 26 as he sat in a restaurant in Kyiv. Trump had personally intervened in favor of A$AP Rocky, an African American recording artist who was arrested and charged with assault in Sweden. Sondland, according to the testimony of the U.S. diplomat who was eating with the ambassador, suggested that Trump “let [the rapper] get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape [parade] when he comes home.” Sondland then helpfully added that Trump would be able to tell the Kardashians that he had tried to help A$AP Rocky. In other words, Sondland was encouraging the president’s impulse to let a celebrity family dictate the status of our relationship with a significant ally.
Indeed, nearly every aspect of our Foreign engagements has been turned on its head since Trump stole office. Here is an exclusive from Axios and Jonathan Swan. “Scoop: White House directed block of Armenian genocide resolution”.
Many were perplexed and outraged when, right after clashing with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a heated Oval Office meeting on Nov. 13, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham hurried back to the Senate floor and did something that likely delighted Erdoğan. Graham blocked a resolution that would have formally recognized Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people.
Behind the scenes: Graham had just scolded Erdoğan over his invasion of Syria and attacks on the Kurds, according to sources in the room.