Lazy Saturday Reads: “Impeach the Motherf***er!”

Cartoon by Mike Thompson

Good Afternoon!!

Republicans and some journalists have taken to their fainting couches over a profanity used by a newly sworn-in Congresswoman, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). In case you missed it somehow, Tlaib said in a speech that she was going to Congress to “impeach the motherfucker.”

Although she only used one swear word, the NYT headline writer characterized her speech as “profanity laden.” Even Trump weighed in during his rambling word salad in the rose garden yesterday, claiming that Tlaib “dishonored” herself, her family, and disrespected the U.S. by using the same word that Trump allowed Kanye West to use in the oval office.

Here’s The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos’ take:

Impeachment was always going to hang heavily over a divided Washington. But it took little more than 24 hours this week for a freshman House Democrat’s exuberant, expletive-laden impeachment promise to upend the bonhomie of a new Congress and prompt President Trump, by his own telling, to ask the newly elected speaker if Democrats planned to impeach him.

The episode began Thursday night, just hours after the 116th Congress was sworn in, when a camera captured Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan promising profanely to impeach Mr. Trump as she drew cheers from liberal activists at a celebration at a bar near the Capitol. By the time Mr. Trump discussed the matter directly in a news conference in the Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, weeks of speculation about his potential peril had burst into the open.

Republicans, eager to portray Democrats as out to destroy Mr. Trump’s presidency, piled on criticism of Ms. Tlaib — some of it racially tinged. (Ms. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, is one of the first Muslims in Congress. The Christian Broadcasting Network referred to her as a “foul-mouthed Islamic congresswoman.”) Democratic leaders, who view discussion of impeachment as politically dangerous and premature, offered worried words meant to tamp down speculation about their intentions.

Fandos’ concern is duly noted. Now he can fuck off.

Rep. Tlaib responded to the uproar in an op-ed at The Detroit Free Press: Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

President Donald Trump is a direct and serious threat to our country. On an almost daily basis, he attacks our Constitution, our democracy, the rule of law and the people who are in this country. His conduct has created a constitutional crisis that we must confront now.

Rashida tlaib

The Framers of the Constitution designed a remedy to address such a constitutional crisis: impeachment. Through the impeachment clause, they sought to ensure that we would have the power, through our elected representatives in Congress, to protect the country by removing a lawless president from the Oval Office.

We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses, including, just to name a few: obstructing justice; violating the emoluments clause; abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes; advocating illegal violence and undermining equal protection of the laws; ordering the cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their families at the southern border; and conspiring to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments.

Whether the president was directly involved in a conspiracy with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election remains the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But we do not need to wait on the outcome of that criminal investigation before moving forward now with an inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives on whether the president has committed impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the state: abuse of power and abuse of the public trust.

Click on the link the read the rest.

Meanwhile, Trump used the F-word liberally during his meeting with Democratic leaders yesterday. The Daily Beast: Trump Referred to Shutdown as ‘Strike’ in Profanity-Laced Meeting With Democratic Leaders.

During Friday’s meeting at the White House over the ongoing shutdown standoff, President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made little substantive progress as Pelosi and Schumer urged Trump to reopen the government by Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

One of these knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast President Trump kicked off the meeting with a rant lasting roughly 15 minutes that included his $5.6 billion demand for a border wall, and threatened that he was willing to keep the government closed for “years” if that’s what it took to get his wall. He also, unprompted, brought up the Democrats who want him impeached, and even blamed Pelosi for new Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying at a party earlier this week that Democrats would impeach the “motherfucker” Trump. (It is unclear why Trump would think Pelosi was responsible for this.)

Trump proceeded to tell the room he was too popular to impeach.

Along with saying the word “fuck” at least three times throughout the meeting, the president bizarrely stated that he did not want to call the partial government shutdown a “shutdown,” according to the source. Instead, he referred to it as a “strike.” (Many of the federal employees affected by the weeks-long shutdown have been working without pay. That is essentially the opposite of a strike.)

During the course of this meeting, the Democrats in the room were visibly shaking their heads in exasperation.

Back in the real world, Americans are suffering from Trump’s latest temper tantrum.

The Washington Post: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences.

Food stamps for 38 million low-income Americans would face severe reductions and more than $140 billion in tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the government shutdown stretches into February, widespread disruptions that threaten to hurt the economy.

The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.

trash piles up in dc as the trump shutdown continues.

Thousands of federal programs are affected by the shutdown, but few intersect with the public as much as the tax system and the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the current version of food stamps.

The partial shutdown has cut off new funding to the Treasury Department and the USDA, leaving them largely unstaffed and crippling both departments’ ability to fulfill core functions.

The potential cuts to food stamps and suspension of tax refunds illustrate the compounding consequences of leaving large parts of the federal govern­ment unfunded indefinitely — a ­scenario that became more likely Friday when President Trump said he would leave the government shut down for months or even years unless Democrats gave him money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read more at the WaPo.

The Washington Post: Three dead in national parks as shutdown wears on.

Three days after most of the federal workforce was furloughed on Dec. 21, a 14-year-old girl fell 700 feet to her death at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook, part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona. The following day, Christmas, a man died at Yosemite National Park in California after suffering a head injury in a fall. On Dec. 27, a woman was killed by a falling tree at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The deaths follow a decision by Trump administration officials to leave the scenic — but sometimes deadly — parks open even as the Interior Department has halted most of its operations. During previous extended shutdowns, the National Park Service barred public access to many of its sites across the nation to substantially decrease the risk of park damage and visitor injury.

The National Parks have a poop crisis on their hands.

National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in an email that an average of six people die each week in the park system, a figure that includes “accidents like drownings, falls, and motor vehicle crashes and medical related incidents such as heart attacks.” Drowning, automobile accidents and falls are among the top causes of death at national parks….

In 1995 and 2013, respectively, the Clinton and Obama administrations made the decision to close the parks altogether. Officials concluded that keeping the parks open would jeopardize public safety and the parks’ integrity, but the closures also became a political cudgel for Democrats because they exemplified one of the most popular aspects of federal operations that had ground to a halt.

CNN: Hundreds of TSA screeners, working without pay, calling out sick at major airports.

Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers, who are required to work without paychecks through the partial government shutdown, have called out from work this week from at least four major airports, according to two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials.

The mass call outs could inevitably mean air travel is less secure, especially as the shutdown enters its second week with no clear end to the political stalemate in sight.
“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said the agency is “closely monitoring the situation” and that “screening wait times remain well within TSA standards,” although that could change if the number of call outs increases.

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, as many as 170 TSA employees have called out each day this week, Thomas tells CNN. Officers from a morning shift were required to work extra hours to cover the gaps.

Call outs have increased by 200%-300% at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where typically 25 to 30 TSA employees call out from an average shift according to a local TSA official familiar with the situation.

Union officials stress that the absences are not part of an organized action, but believe the number of people calling out will likely increase.

One more from The New York Times: Shutdown Leaves Food, Medicine and Pay in Doubt in Indian Country.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — For one tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the government shutdown comes with a price tag: about $100,000, every day, of federal money that does not arrive to keep health clinics staffed, food pantry shelves full and employees paid.

Chippawa Indian food bank in Michigan

The tribe is using its own funds to cover the shortfalls for now. But if the standoff in Washington continues much longer, that stopgap money will be depleted. Later this month, workers could be furloughed and health services could be pared back. “Everything,” said Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, “is on the table.”

For many Americans who are not federal workers or contractors, a shutdown is a minor inconvenience. A trip to a national park may be canceled. A call to a government office may go unanswered. But for Native American tribes, which rely heavily on federal money to operate, a shutdown can cripple their most basic functions.

All across Indian Country, the federal shutdown slices deep. Generations ago, tribes negotiated treaties with the United States government guaranteeing funds for services like health care and education in exchange for huge swaths of territory.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.

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Thursday Reads: Checks and Balances Are Coming!

Good Afternoon!!

Here she comes again! Today Nancy Pelosi will take the Speaker’s gavel from Paul Ryan, and Trump will begin to realize that he can no longer treat Congress as his doormat. Pelosi isn’t going to cringe in fear of Trump’s tantrums like Ryan did. She knows exactly what she’s doing and Trump’s tweets and rants will roll off her back as she works toward the restoration of our democracy. Trump won’t know what hit him.

I remember very clearly the day when Pelosi announced that “impeachment is off the table” back in 2006 when George W. Bush was president. I was furious. But she’s not saying that today.

The Today Show: Nancy Pelosi says she won’t rule out indictment, impeachment for Trump.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t rule out President Trump being indicted while in office, describing the topic as “an open discussion.”

During an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, the House Democratic leader said it’s possible that special counsel Robert Mueller could seek an indictment against the sitting president, despite Justice Department guidelines against such action….

Nancy Pelosi with JFK

“I think that that is an open discussion. I think that is an open discussion in terms of the law,” she said, on the eve of reclaiming her former title as speaker of the House. Pelosi will become the first lawmaker in recent history to hold that office twice when the 116th Congress convenes Thursday….

Although Democrats have discussed the idea of impeaching the president, Pelosi said it would not benefit the country to pursue one. But she wouldn’t rule the idea out either.

“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we’ll just have to see how it comes,” she said.

She said Trump isn’t getting his ridiculous border wall either.

“No, no. Nothing for the wall. We’re talking about border security,” she said. “There is no amount of persuasion he can do to say to us, ‘We want you to do something that is not effective, that costs billions of dollars.’ That sends the wrong message about who we are as a country.”

“This is the Trump shutdown, through and through. That’s why he has proudly taken, in his view, proudly taken ownership of it. There’s no escaping that for him,” Pelosi said. “That doesn’t mean we take any joy in the fact that there is a Trump shutdown. We want government to open.”

Pelosi remains the first woman ever to be Speaker of the House. From Politico’s somewhat patronizing piece on Pelosi: The survivor: Nancy Pelosi makes history — again.

The past seven speakers of the House have lost their majority, been forced out by their own colleagues, or stepped down amid personal scandal. One of them — Nancy Pelosi — now has a second chance to rewrite her legacy.

The past seven speakers of the House have lost their majority, been forced out by their own colleagues, or stepped down amid personal scandal. One of them — Nancy Pelosi — now has a second chance to rewrite her legacy.

On Thursday, the 78-year-old Pelosi will be the first person in more than six decades, since the legendary Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn, to return to the speaker’s chair after losing it. She will be surrounded by children as she does so, a replay of an iconic moment from her January 2007 swearing-in ceremony as the first female speaker in history.

Pelosi with George W. Bush

But Pelosi will also tie Rayburn on another front by becoming the oldest person ever elected speaker and the oldest to hold the post, a testament to both her staying power and the fact that her return engagement to the speakership will be limited.

Unlike her original go-round as speaker from 2007 to 2011, when the California Democrat was at her most powerful, Pelosi will face a whole new set of challenges during the 116th Congress — a fractious caucus full of upstart progressives who want to move an ambitious agenda; the unpredictable President Donald Trump, who has greeted Pelosi’s return to power with an ongoing government shutdown; a determined, experienced foe in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who runs his own chamber with a tight grip; and self-imposed term limits on her speakership of four years.

All that, however, shouldn’t diminish the scale of what Pelosi has done. She survived a challenge to her leadership after a 63-seat wipeout in the 2010 tea party wave. She faced more Democratic complaints in 2014 and 2016 — the latter heightened by the Democratic despair over Trump’s victory. Throughout this latest election cycle, moderate Democratic incumbents and candidates warned they wouldn’t vote for Pelosi for speaker and a band of rebels sought to derail her return to the speaker’s chair.

In the end, Pelosi overcame it all.

“I’m telling you what I know and what I have seen. … Nancy Pelosi is in charge of the Democratic Caucus, and to believe otherwise is perilous for an opponent,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who has occasionally differed with Pelosi.

“She understands legislation down to the minute details and can flip you back and forth in a negotiation session based on her knowledge, skill and experience,” Cleaver noted. “And I’m kind of an independent person, so I’m not necessarily in her camp.”

Elle also gave an interview to Elle yesterday: Nancy Pelosi on Her New Role, Trump’s Manhood, and That Red Max Mara Coat.

Born in Baltimore with five older brothers and a father who served as mayor, Pelosi became the first woman to ever lead a political party when she was elected Democratic Leader of the House in 2002. In 2007, she made history again as the first female Speaker of the House. Famous for being a fundraising juggernaut—she pulled in over a hundred million dollars for the Democratic party last year—Pelosi has also proven herself to be a formidable politician, having been on the national stage longer than some of the incoming Congress members have been alive.

When Pelosi is sworn in, 106 women of all races, sexual orientations, and walks of life will join her in Congress. Many of them have voiced their concerns that a 78-year-old, wealthy white woman who currently lives in San Francisco may not be the best representative for all Americans. Just days before her holiday break with family (she has five grown children) and the partial government shutdown, Pelosi spoke with ELLE about the shifting face of the party, the prospect of impeaching President Trump, and the fiery coat that spawned a thousand memes.

Nancy Pelosi during her first run for the House in Maryland

ELLE: Diving right in here, you’ve been cast as a villain. There are Democrats who won their elections by saying they wouldn’t vote for you. Republicans have spent enormous sums to vilify you. What does it feel like to be hated in that way?

Nancy Pelosi: I don’t necessarily feel hated. I feel respected. They wouldn’t come after me if I were not effective. I consider myself a master legislator. Republicans fear me for that, but also because I am a successful fundraiser, enabling our candidates to have the resources they need to win. So from a political standpoint they have to take me down, and from an official standpoint they have to take me down. But I’m spending more time talking about it right now than I ever have thinking about it.

ELLE: Before her passing, California congresswoman Sala Burton anointed you as her successor. Because of Burton’s support, one of your biographers wrote that you are “Exhibit A for the case that the only way for women to reach the top echelon in politics is through the committed assistance of other women.” Do you agree with that?

NP: Absolutely. I say to women all the time, “This is not a zero-sum game. One woman’s success is not subtracting from anybody else’s opportunity. It’s the reverse. Every woman’s success helps other women.” Imagine, Sala Burton, a member of Congress, deciding she was going to encourage me to run? That was remarkable. Usually it’s men to men. Because of her encouragement, I ran, and I won. Women helping women—people are now seeing the magnified impact of that, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Read the rest at Elle.

Alexandra Pelosi with her mother Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi’s daughter spoke about her mother on CNN this morning. The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi will ‘cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding,’ daughter Alexandra Pelosi says.

“How does she approach meetings with President Trump, A, and B, just what are your feelings about this person who you know quite well becoming speaker of the House for a second time?” host John Berman asked during an interview Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”

The younger Pelosi responded: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.” [….]

“No one ever won betting against Nancy Pelosi,” she continued. “She’s persevered. You’ve got to give her credit.” [….]

Alexandra Pelosi…hailed her mother as someone who “knows what she’s doing — and that should make you sleep at night, knowing that at least somebody in this town knows what they’re doing.”

Pelosi has been busy hiring staff to help her deal with Trump. Vanity Fair: “A Formidable Opponent for Anyone: Pelosi Hires Her Legal Talent to Take on Trump.

As stained coffee cups and empty takeout containers pile up on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Donald Trump points fingers at the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi has been quietly preparing to assume her role as the president’s chief antagonist. During the reprieve between Christmas and the New Year, the California lawmaker announced the appointment of Justice Department veteran Doug Letter as the new general counsel for the House of Representatives. Though Pelosi’s decision was met with little fanfare, Letter will be the linchpin in the oversight nightmare that House Democrats are preparing for Trump and his administration, circa tomorrow. “It is fanciful to think that there won’t be a substantial oversight function served by the new House. There are just so many issues that have gone without scrutiny,” Robert Loeb, a D.C. appellate lawyer, told me. It will be Letter’s job to inform Pelosi and other lawmakers “what their options are and what the risks and costs are” when it comes to leveraging Congress’s oversight authority.

Democrats have not been coy about their plans to exhume the scandals their Republican colleagues buried during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. As I previously reported, House Democrats have been treating January 3—the day Pelosi takes the gavel from Paul Ryan—like D-Day, with teams of staffers already lined up to open investigations into the president’s deputies, associates, and businesses. The anticipated lines of inquiry run the gamut—child separation at the border; Trump-Russia collusion; the F.B.I. investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh; White House security clearances; emoluments; the list goes on. And regardless of the specific rabbit holes that House Democrats choose to go down, protracted federal court battles seem assured. As general counsel, Letter would be the point person in any litigation brought on behalf of Pelosi and the House.

To former colleagues, Letter seems poised for the challenge. “For the last dozen years, I’ve litigated against Doug and with him at my side in some of the most consequential appeals in our lifetimes. Every time, he has been brilliant, professional, nonpartisan, and balanced,” Neal Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general at the Justice Department under Barack Obama, told me. “There is no one more experienced, and no one better suited to this job.” Letter has signaled as much, himself. “I am eager to apply my litigation experience as I take on the challenges and opportunities that come with the important position,” he said in a statement about his appointment.

Click on the Vanity Fair link to read the rest.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Wednesday Reads: Screw those virtual hugs.

 

Take your virtual hugs and fuck off….

 

I think that social media is turning everyone into anti-social assholes.

I went to a Christmas party this holiday season…it was a small party, when I got there I gave the people hugs. Why? Well…because it was fucking Christmas…and because I am an affectionate person and…being Latin, it is part of our DNA…you hug people you care about, especially if it is a fucking Christmas party.

Dammit, I could feel the animosity…

 

It seems as if the Facebook society has given people the excuse to become pseudo-Zuckerburgs.  By that, I mean…adopting an emotionally inept attitude, lacking any sentimental bonds or real human connection that is not some kind of fake fucking virtual “like” or “love” emoji.  In other words, behaving like a robotic asshole.

It is all bullshit….so damn sick of those “No Touch” memes:

 

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Welcome to a world where the only acceptable hug…is the virtual one you get over the fucking social network.

 

Here is my reply, via emoji:

 #🖕🏻🖕🏼🖕🏽🖕🏾🖕🏿

 

 

Sorry for the rant…

Now the cartoons:

2019..fingers crossed: 01/01/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - 2019..fingers crossed

The hangover: 01/01/2019 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - The hangover

 

12/30 Mike Luckovich: Happy New Year

01/01/2019 Cartoon by Charlie Daniel

Cartoon by Charlie Daniel -

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 01/01/2019 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

New Year Baby: 12/31/2018 Cartoon by Paul Fell

Cartoon by Paul Fell - New Year Baby

01/01/2019 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Happy New Year?: 01/01/2019 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: Happy New Year?

2019 eve: 12/31/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - 2019 eve

WINDFALL: 12/30/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - WINDFALL

And with that…I turn it over to you.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Happy New Year!!

People waiting in the rain to see the fireworks on First Night in Boston.

Welcome to 2019!!

The madman in the White House is up and tweeting nonsense in all caps, and the U.S. Strategic Command tweeted and then deleted a “joke” about dropping bombs. Welcome to 2019 everyone!

NBC News: U.S. Strategic Command deletes New Year’s Eve joke about dropping something ‘bigger.’

U.S. Strategic Command made an unexpected joke in a now-deleted Twitter post about American military might on Monday in its New Year’s Eve message.

Noting the “big” Times Square ball drop celebration at midnight, the unified command’s account tweeted, “if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.”

The joke was followed by a slickly produced video of stealth jets with the words “stealth, ready, and lethal” flashing across the screen. The tweet encouraged followers to “watch to the end!” If you do, you’ll see two bombs released from a plane, followed by several massive explosions.

The tweet was later deleted, and a subsequent tweet from the unified command’s account said the first was “in poor taste & does not reflect our values. We apologize.”

Not funny. Who are these people?? Read more excuses at the link.

Thank goodness, we only have two more days to wait until the Democrats take over the House. The Washington Post: House Democrats ready strategy to reopen government, deny Trump wall money.

Democrats will take control of the House on Thursday with a stark challenge to President Trump, voting on legislation that would fund the federal government while denying Trump the money he has demanded to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

GOP leaders in the Senate said they would support only a proposal that has the president’s backing. And without additional wall money, the Democrats’ offer is unlikely to break the stalemate that has shuttered large parts of the federal government since Dec. 22.

But the strategy Democrats announced Monday would usher in a new era of divided government in Washington with a dare to Trump, aimed at forcing him and Senate Republicans to take their deal or prolong a partial government shutdown.

House Democrats plan to use their new majority to vote through measures that would reopen nearly all of the shuttered federal agencies through the end of September, at funding levels Senate Republicans have previously agreed to. Those spending bills contain scores of priorities and pet projects for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The Democratic proposal holds out one exception: The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border security, would keep its current level of funding, with no new money for a border wall. The plan would also extend the department’s budget only through Feb. 8, allowing Democrats to revisit funding for key parts of Trump’s immigration policy in a month.

Trump has already rejected the plan. We’ll see if Republicans in the Senate want to anger their constituents by going along with him.

Meanwhile, a federal employee union is suing Trump over his government shutdown. Politico reports:

The nation’s largest union representing federal employees filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon against the government, seeking damages for the roughly 400,000 federal employees forced to work without pay during the partial government shutdown.

The two plaintiffs — Justin Tarovisky and Grayson Sharp — work for high-security prisons the Justice Department runs. The American Federation of Government Employees argues that both plaintiffs have dangerous jobs and have been forced to work overtime without pay.

AFGE represents roughly 700,000 federal employees and has challenged the Trump administration over a number of issues, including major restructuring at the Education Department.

J. David Cox, AFGE’s national president, said forcing federal employees to work without pay “is nothing short of inhumane.”

“Positions that are considered ‘essential’ during a government shutdown are some of the most dangerous jobs in the federal government,” he said in a statement. “They are front-line public safety positions, including many in law enforcement, among other critical roles. Our intent is to force the government and the administration to make all federal employees whole.”

AFGE said the federal government is still calculating pay it owes to federal workers for the 16-day shutdown in October 2013.

A GOP representative suggested that if Trump wants his wall so badly, he should pay for it himself. Roll Call: GOP Rep. Walter Jones Suggests Trump Pay for Part of His Wall.

Rep. Walter Jones

Rep. Walter Jones is worried that President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall will add to the federal debt — so worried, in fact, that he’s proposing the president pony up some of his own money for the wall.

“If Mexico isn’t going to be made to pay for a wall, that means funds must be found internally,” the North Carolina Republican said in a statement Friday.

“As a wealthy man, the president might consider pledging some of his own funds as well [to help build the wall],” Jones said. “Whatever it takes, just so long as we don’t add to the debt that is bankrupting our great country.”

Trump may have his crazy base of around 30% of the electorate, but Americans appear to be dumping Fox News for MSNBC these days. The Washington Post’s media maven Eric Wemple: MSNBC is surging.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow can speak at length on many topics. The whims and demographics of her cable-news audience, however, are not among them. “I think I may just be lucky that we’re at a time in the news cycle where there is an appetite for that kind of explanatory work,” Maddow told the Erik Wemple Blog back in the early months of the Trump administration, when her eponymous nightly program was posing a ratings threat to the top dogs over at Fox News.

That threat has turned into a full-time menace. Whereas “The Rachel Maddow Show” several years ago finished in the double digits in annual rankings of cable-news programs, it’s now in the tastemaking vanguard. Over the first three quarters of 2018, Maddow sat in between No. 1 Sean Hannity and No. 3 Tucker Carlson in the cable-news elite. Her show finished fourth for all of 2017.

MSNBC bragged that they were number 1 for the week of December 17.

And indeed: Fox News pointed out that MSNBC’s historic win for the “week of Dec. 17” included only Monday-through-Friday numbers — and excluded the weekend, which put Fox News in its normal place: No. 1. Another consideration: Hannity was on vacation that week.

Caveats noted. Still, MSNBC has something to crow about. Its news programming is sharp, energetic and relentless. Its anchors are prepared. Its correspondents are on the scene.

Read more Wemple caveats at the WaPo, but still Rachel is pulling viewers with her intelligent analysis of the news and her focus on the Russia investigation.

Speaking of that investigation, Robert Mueller hasn’t been slowed down by the government shutdown or the holiday season. Yesterday federal prosecutors filed a sealed status update on cooperating witness Sam Patten, an associate of Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort: Lobbyist who got Trump Inaugural tickets for Ukrainian still having secret dealings with prosecutors.

Washington lobbyist W. Samuel Patten, who has been one of the most low-profile but potentially significant cooperators in the special counsel’s office investigation, appears to still be involved with sensitive aspects of Robert Mueller and the Justice Department’s work.

In a court filing Monday meant to update a judge on his case and whether he should proceed to sentencing, prosecutors revealed nothing. Instead, they filed the entire status update under seal, giving no public reason for keeping details of his case private.

The secret court filing Monday comes in contrast to several disclosures prosecutors previously made about Patten’s admitted crimes — especially related to him procuring Trump inauguration tickets for a Ukrainian client — and the related lobbying work for Ukrainians done by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Patten previously admitted to procuring Trump inauguration tickets illegally for a Ukrainian oligarch and a Russian closely associated with Paul Manafort. Patten was a corporate lobbyist in business with the former Trump campaign chairman’s longtime Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the Mueller team has asked about in recent months and accused of having ties to the Russian intelligence group that allegedly hacked the Democrats in 2016.

Patten agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation and other Justice Department actions before Manafort pleaded guilty to criminal charges in September.

Here’s a little background on Patten from CNN in August:

Patten, 47, reached a plea deal with the Justice Department. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the felony charge and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Patten’s personal website describes him as a “strategic advisor” who has worked in politics on four continents. He has taken on numerous roles for campaigns and organizations over the last two decades, including as Eurasia director for the pro-democracy organization Freedom House in Washington, as well as a consultant for politicians in Ukraine, Georgia, Iraq and Nigeria, among other countries.

Sam PattenIn the early to mid-2000s, Patten worked in Moscow for another pro-democracy organization, the International Republican Institute, along with Konstantin Kilimnik, who has been charged by Mueller’s office with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Business records list Patten as an executive of the company Begemot Ventures International with Kilimnik in 2015, which is touted as “a strategic and political advisory firm that helps its clients win elections, strengthen political parties … and achieve better results” on its website, which does not list any clients.

Prosecutors have said in separate court filings that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik is also a close business associate of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also did political work in Ukraine and has been found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes.

Patten performed various services for Cambridge Analytica, the company that became embroiled in controversy earlier this year due to its sweeping collection of Facebook data, as well as its parent company SCL Group.

Brittany Kaiser, a former director at Cambridge Analytica, described Patten in testimony before the British Parliament as a “trusted senior consultant” to SCL Group. She said Patten did work for SCL in Nigeria and that he helped to organize an event on Capitol Hill in Washington.

That’s all I have for you today; believe it or not, it has been kind of a slow news day so far. What stories are you following?


Sunday Reads: New Years Wish

^My New Year’s Wish ^

 

 

Now for some interesting tweets:

 

 

 

 

 

Regarding the Kelly interview this morning:

 

 

 

And I want to end with this:

Fuck Yes!

And what is with all this Beto shit! Stacy Abrams ran a hell of a campaign…and came damn close to winning, even with all the possible illegal voter suppression that Kemp succeeded in achieving while acting as Secretary of State and running for Governor. She has a future ahead of her, but like Harris…she is a black woman.

This is an open thread…


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Jackie Morris

Good Afternoon!!

The lies come thick and fast from the Trump administration. It’s not just Trump; it’s his entire gang of shameless prevaricators.

Remember those MAGA hats that Trump signed for service members in Iraq? The White House swore up and down to CNN that they didn’t distribute the campaign merchandise, but people who were there say otherwise.

Of course we can’t be sure these tweets are legit, but come on! Who actually believes these soldiers bought Trump hats and banners and had them shipped to Iraq? Give me a break. I know this is a minor scandal in the scheme of things Trump, but still…

And besides, this was supposed to be a secret, surprise visit, so are we supposed to believe these folks always carry their MAGA hats and banners around with them and to the mess hall?

OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I get so tired of all the gaslighting.

Now check this out. Remember that NYT story awhile back about undocumented immigrants working at Trump’s New Jersey golf club?

The New York Daily News: New Jersey AG has obtained evidence of possible crimes at Trump’s golf club — and Mueller, FBI are involved in probe.

New Jersey prosecutors have collected evidence that supervisors at President Trump’s Garden State golf club may have committed federal immigration crimes — and the FBI as well as special counsel Robert Mueller have played part in the inquiry, the Daily News has learned.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents several undocumented immigrants who used to work at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said Friday he recently met with investigators from the state attorney general’s office and handed over fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that management at the club allegedly procured and gave his clients, Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz.

Before he met with the state prosecutors, Romero said he reached out to Mueller’s office because, while he wanted to contact federal authorities, he was concerned about looping in the Justice Department, which was headed by Jeff Sessions at the time.

Mueller’s office got back to Romero and said the issue was out of their jurisdiction, but they apparently passed the information on to the FBI.

A few weeks later, an FBI agent in New Jersey called Romero.

“He said to me that he had received a referral from Robert Mueller’s office and that he already knew the specifics and that he wanted to meet with me in person,” Romero said.

By S. Telari, Deviant Art

Romero then met with two agents at a federal office in Branchburg, N.J., and outlined the same evidence he had already given the AG prosecutors. The agents said they would “coordinate” with the AG’s office, according to Romero.

Romero said he’s stayed in touch with the FBI and the attorney general’s office but declined to confirm whether either of the agencies have formally opened investigations.

“I’m confident that federal and state authorities will conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” Romero said.

How many states is Trump under investigation in now? I’ve lost count.

Here’s a funny media story from by Ashley Feinberg at HuffPost: The Thinnest Skins In Media In 2018. Their diapers runneth over. You’ll have to click on the link to read the details, but here’s the list of included media figures:

Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor And Respecter Of Troops

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine Columnist And Scab

Jim VandeHei, Axios CEO And Co-founder, Unofficial Spokesman For Zuckerberg 2020

Maggie Haberman, Nonpartisan New York Times Non-non-reporter

Jonathan Swan, Axios-Branded Dictaphone

Chris Cillizza, CNN Something-Or-Other

Glenn Greenwald, Prophet Of Civil Liberties And Ironic Capitalization

Salena Zito, Gas Station Oracle

Chris Cuomo, Famous Brother Haver

Ben Wittes, Prose Torturer

Ashley Feinberg, Professional Corncob

Now go read. You won’t be sorry.

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor just signed a new law regulation short-term rentals. The Boston Globe: Baker signs long-awaited Airbnb bill, opening new era for industry.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday signed first-of-its-kind legislation to tax and regulate the short-term housing rental market in Massachusetts, capping years of debate over how to navigate an industry that has exploded through companies like Airbnb.

The new rules will take effect July 1 and could transform a market that spans the state, from Cape Cod summer homes to Boston apartment buildings to Western Massachusetts vacation retreats.

The bill requires every rental host to register with the state, mandates they carry insurance, and opens the potential for local taxes on top of a new state levy. A chief negotiator for the House said the goal is to register every short-term rental in the state by September, and local officials, including in Boston, say the new law will help buttress their own efforts to regulate the booming market.

Airbnb is fighting back.

But before Baker’s ink could dry, the law drew a sharp rebuke from Airbnb, which called it “flawed” and unnecessarily complex. Advocates who have closely followed the process — including Airbnb’s decision to sue in federal court to overturn Boston’s municipal regulations — warn a lawsuit against the state could also follow.

More details on the law:

Beyond requiring all hosts to register and carry insurance, it also subjects short-term rentals to the same 5.7 percent state levy now paid by hotels — but exempts people who rent their homes 14 or fewer nights a year. Officials have estimated that tax could raise at least $25 million annually.

It also would allow cities and towns to impose their own taxes of up to 6 percent, except in Boston, where it would be 6.5 percent, with occasional hosts also exempted.

Additional taxes would be levied on hosts who own multiple units. And an extra fee would also fall on units in Boston, Cambridge, and a handful of other cities that support the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, but only after bonds are paid off on the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.

Some cities, including New York and San Francisco, have used short-term rental registries to rein in the industry, but this law makes Massachusetts the first state to require all hosts to register. That, more than the taxes, has been the focus of debate in recent months.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Time Magazine has a new story on Paul Manafort: Exclusive: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch.

When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.

Jackie Morris for Amnesty International

A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

The former Russian intelligence officer says he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Boyarkin’s response to those investigators? “I told them to go dig a ditch,” he says. Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, declined to comment. Through his spokesman, Manafort likewise declined to comment on his alleged connections with Boyarkin.

But those connections could be potentially important to the Special Counsel’s inquiry. They would mark some of the clearest evidence of the leverage that powerful Russians had over Trump’s campaign chairman. And they may shed light on why Manafort discussed going right back to work for pro-Russian interests in Eastern Europe after he crashed out of the Trump campaign in August 2016, according to numerous sources in the TIME investigation.

Read the rest at the link. It’s a long story.

One more from Buzzfeed: These Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook In 2018.

By Max Carlier

After spending two years launching third-party fact-checking programs, rolling out News Feed updates, and investing in other anti-misinformation initiatives, Facebook is still the home of viral fake news.

For the third year in a row, BuzzFeed News compiled a list of 50 of the most viral false stories on Facebook and measured their total engagement on the platform. And in spite of a prediction from Facebook’s top anti-misinformation product manager that these articles would see a decline in engagement in 2018, this year’s top-performing hoaxes generated almost as many shares, reactions, and comments as last year’s.

The top 50 fake stories of 2018 identified by BuzzFeed News generated roughly 22 million total shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook between Jan. 1 and Dec. 9, 2018, according to data from BuzzSumo and Trendolizer. This was only 7% fewer engagements than the 23.5 million engagements generated by to top 50 of 2017, and slightly more than the top 50 fakes identified by BuzzFeed News in 2016, when those links generated 21.5 million engagements.

Read the whole thing at Buzzfeed. How long before Facebook goes the way of AOL?

So . . . what else is happening on this long holiday weekend? Post your recommendations in the comment thread below.


Thursday Reads: Trump Flubs Troop Visit and Other News

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

Good Afternoon!!

So Trump was finally shamed into visiting some troops in Iraq, and naturally everything about his visit was completely inappropriate. He acted as if he was a a campaign rally, bragging about his mythical accomplishments and telling bald-faced lies as usual.

Previous presidents have used these trips to praise soldiers and let them know that they are appreciated as well as to meet with local officials. Trump did none of that; and, as JJ noted yesterday, he revealed the classified location of Seal team troops and posted their faced on-line. On top of everything else, he autographed MAGA hats for troops who are forbidden from engaging in political activities.

Iraqi leaders were not happy.

Reuters: Iraqi lawmakers criticize Trump visit as blow to Iraqi sovereignty.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi political and militia leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, and lawmakers said a meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was canceled due to a disagreement over venue.

The Book Keeper, by Nicole Gustafson

Sabah al Saadi, the leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc, called for an emergency session of parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over.”

The Bina bloc, Islah’s rival in parliament and led by Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, also objected to Trump’s trip to Iraq.

“Trump’s visit is a flagrant and clear violation of diplomatic norms and shows his disdain and hostility in his dealings with the Iraqi government,” said a statement from Bina.

CBS News: After Trump’s visit, Iraqi lawmakers demand U.S. withdrawal.

Baghdad — Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded U.S. forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by President Donald Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Politicians from both blocs of Iraq’s divided Parliament called for a vote to expel U.S. troops and promised to schedule an extraordinary session to debate the matter.

“Parliament must clearly and urgently express its view about the ongoing American violations of Iraqi sovereignty,” said Salam al-Shimiri, a lawmaker loyal to the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Containing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in a year that saw al-Sadr supporters win the largest share of votes in May elections. Al-Sadr has called for curbing U.S. and Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.

The moron-in-chief can’t get anything right.

CNN: Troops bringing Trump hats to sign may violate military rule.

Seuss-Scape, by Nicole Gusafson

Video footage and the written report of Trump’s visit with service members in Iraq showed the President signing “Make America Great Again” hats and an embroidered patch that read “Trump 2020.”

But troops’ requests for the autographs could brush up against Department of Defense guidelines for political activities.

Those guidelines say that “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.”

The Daily Beast: Trump Takes a War-Zone Victory Lap—and Trips.

This should have been a victory lap for a president hailed by the military for letting them loose to attack ISIS, unconstrained by the reluctance and micromanagement of the Obama administration. But President Donald Trump has just announced the U.S. would be leaving the job to Turkey, deserting Kurdish and Western coalition allies, and abandoning the field of battle to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran.

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” President Donald Trump told a group of about 100 troops, most of them special operators, in an unannounced holiday visit to al-Asad Airbase, in northern Iraq. He added that other countries can no longer expect the U.S. to do their fighting, unless they are willing to pay for it. “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” he said….

“In Syria, Erdogan said he wants to knock out ISIS, whatever’s left, the remnants of ISIS,” Trump told reporters on the trip.  “And Saudi Arabia just came out and said they are going to pay for some economic development, which is great; that means we don’t have to pay.”

But what of the French and British allies the U.S. has left behind in Syria to keep up the fight? Does that mean they are the suckers left holding the bag? Or the Kurdish militia groups that did most of the fighting, and dying, to drive out the so-called Islamic State, now left to the tender mercies of sworn enemy Turkey?

The president was unrepentant, explaining that he gave “the generals” multiple six-month “extensions” to get out of Syria. “They said again, recently, can we have more time? I said, ‘Nope.’ You can’t have any more time. You’ve had enough time. We’ve knocked them out. We’ve knocked them silly,” he said. “Others will do it too. Because we are in their region. They should be sharing the burden of costs and they’re not.”

But the decision hasn’t sat well with many in the special-operations community Trump was addressing, as they’ve known many of these Kurdish fighters for years, and risked life and limb on joint missions together well before the ISIS fight.

In other news, it’s looking more and more like the Trump Organization could end up being indicted in New York. Perhaps that will force Trump out even if the Republicans protect him from impeachment.

NBC News: Probe of Trump’s charity could crash ‘like a Mack Truck’ into his real estate empire.

The Trump Foundation and the Trump Organization shared much more than President Donald Trump’s last name.

And that’s why, experts said, the New York state investigations into the charity could envelop the president’s namesake business.

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

“Nothing but overlap here. It all was held so tightly by he and his family members,” NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC News.

“I don’t think there will be any investigative daylight between what the New York state authorities and investigators are looking into with respect to the foundation vs. the organization vs. anything else involving business dealings that have the name ‘Trump’ attached to them,” he said, predicting that the foundation investigation will “crash through (the Trump Organization) like a Mack Truck.”

Wouldn’t that be fun to watch? A bit more:

Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor and NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst, said that because some of the same people alleged by the state attorney general of persistent illegal activity in running the charity are also involved with the president’s business, there is reasonable justification in broadening the investigation.

“It is likely that the investigation into the Trump Foundation has sufficiently overlapped with the Trump Organization that (state) investigators would be justified in extending their investigation into the Trump Organization,” he said.

The foundation itself had no employees, instead relying on Trump Organization staffers to cut its checks. Prior to taking office in 2017, Trump turned over day-to-day control of his business to his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Both sons were among the charity’s board members, while Weisselberg was listed as its treasurer.

Meanwhile Trump is trying to use the government shutdown to post pone the emoluments case against him in Virginia.

Politico: Trump lawyers, citing shutdown, ask court for delay in emoluments case.

Lawyers for President Donald Trump are invoking the government shutdown to seek a delay in a court case over claims that Trump is illegally profiting from business his Washington hotel does with foreign countries.

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

Justice Department attorneys representing Trump asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to postpone indefinitely all further filings in an appeal related to a suit that the governments of Maryland and Washington, D.C., filed over Trump’s alleged violation of the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments.

The government’s brief is not due until Jan. 22, but DOJ lawyers asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., to put the appeal on ice until the shutdown ends.

“The Department does not know when funding will be restored by Congress,” Justice lawyers wrote. “Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property’. … Undersigned counsel for the Department of Justice therefore requests a stay of briefing on the President’s mandamus petition until Congress has restored appropriations to the Department.”

I don’t understand why the DOJ is defending Trump for illegally profiting from his office.

If you have some extra time today here are two long reads on immigration to check out.

A long read from ProPublica: He Drew His School Mascot — and ICE Labeled Him a Gang Member. How high schools have embraced the Trump administration’s crackdown on MS-13, and destroyed immigrant students’ American dreams.

Another long read from The Washington Post: When death awaits deported asylum seekers. Ronald Acevedo waited eight months for asylum in Arizona. Days after he was deported, he was found dead in the trunk of a car.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?