Wednesday Reads: Get Rid of It

 

One thing about binge watching a TV show that is all about how to get away with murder, you begin to obsess about ways to rid yourself of a body. And when you also have a tree crew working at your house at 7am in the morning, after only getting a couple of hours sleep from your all day gluttony of murder and mayhem…watching a tree that is way larger than the size of a human…being shredded into little itty bitty pieces by one of those huge tree chippers…a Vermeer , well of course your mind takes it a step further.

I still cannot bring myself to keep up with the latest news, I don’t want to see the way tRump is working his way out of this…I am grateful that today is cartoon day.

The Establishment: 12/06/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - The Establishment

Flynn Guilty Plea: 12/05/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Flynn Guilty Plea

Government Handout: 12/03/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Government Handout

Senate Tax Bill: 12/02/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Senate Tax Bill

12/06/2017 Cartoon by Charlie Daniel

Cartoon by Charlie Daniel -

12/04/2017 Cartoon by Charlie Daniel

Cartoon by Charlie Daniel -

12/06/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

12/05/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

Remember: Nate Beeler is a right leaning (cough) cartoonist.

12/03/2017 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

RNC Roy Moore Endorsement: 12/06/2017 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - RNC Roy Moore Endorsement

12/06/2017 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

12/05/2017 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

12/06/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

Nick Anderson cartoon: 12/05/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

Nick Anderson cartoon: 12/02/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

11/30/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

12/02/2017 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

Soylent Greenbacks: 12/06/2017 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Soylent Greenbacks

HIDDEN IN BILL: 12/01/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - HIDDEN IN BILL

12/06/2017 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

 

This is an open thread…

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Tuesday Reads: Too Much News!

Good Morning!!

Today is another day when there is so much news that my head is spinning. Even though so much is happening, I’m going to focus on Trump Russia news. I’ll add more news links in the comment thread.

Breaking last night:

Robert Mueller’s team withdrew their support for a bail agreement that had been reached with Paul Manafort:

Federal prosecutors asserted Monday that a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Trump’s campaign, has been “assessed to have ties” to Russian intelligence — the first time the special counsel has alleged a Trump official had such contacts.

The statement came as prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III withdrew their support for a joint bail deal filed last week that would have released Manafort from home detention and GPS monitoring while he awaits trial on charges including money laundering and fraud.

In the four-page filing Monday, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann urged the judge to reject the bail deal, arguing that Manafort and a Russian colleague have been secretly ghostwriting an English-language editorial that appeared to defend Manafort’s work advising a ­Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

They said Manafort worked on the draft as recently as last week with “a long-time Russian colleague . . . who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.” They indicated they would file further supporting evidence under seal….

The Russian colleague was not identified in court papers. However, Manafort has had a long-standing Russian employee named Konstantin Kilimnik who ran Manafort’s office in Kiev during the 10 years he did consulting work there.

You can read the full court filing here.

K.T. McFarland, who worked closely with Michael Flynn during the Trump transition and became his deputy national security adviser may have lied during her confirmation hearing. The New York Times: McFarland’s Testimony About Russia Contacts Is Questioned.

A leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned on Monday whether a high-ranking official in Donald J. Trump’s transition team had been deceptive over the summer about her knowledge of discussions between Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, and a former Russian ambassador.

K. T. McFarland served on the presidential transition team before becoming the White House deputy national security adviser. In July, she was questioned in writing by Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, on whether she had ever spoken to Mr. Flynn about his contacts with Sergey I. Kislyak, who was then the Russian ambassador to Washington, before Mr. Trump took office.

“I am not aware of any of the issues or events described above,” Ms. McFarland wrote in response, sidestepping a direct answer to the question.

An email exchange obtained by The New York Times indicates that Ms. McFarland was aware at the time of a crucial Dec. 29 phone call between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak that was intercepted by American intelligence. During that call, Mr. Flynn urged Moscow to respond cautiously to sanctions just imposed by the Obama administration for Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

Read more at the NYT.

NPR: 2016 RNC Delegate: Trump Directed Change To Party Platform On Ukraine Support.

Diana Denman, a Republican delegate who supported arming U.S. allies in Ukraine, has told people that Trump aide J.D. Gordon said at the Republican Convention in 2016 that Trump directed him to support weakening that position in the official platform….

Denman is scheduled to meet this week with the House and Senate Intelligence committees to discuss what she saw, said two sources familiar with the briefings.

Investigators in Congress and elsewhere want to ask the San Antonio-area woman about how her proposal supporting Ukraine changed in the course of last year’s convention….

The revision to Denman’s proposed amendment to the Republican platform scaled back the party’s position on pro-Western elements in Ukraine — from supporting supplying weapons for fighters there to a more general assistance.

The issue is of interest to investigators in Congress and the team working for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller because the idea of arming Ukrainians in the fight against pro-Russian separatist forces was staunchly opposed by the Russian government — and, it seems, the Trump campaign as well.

The fallout from Trump’s weekend tweet about Michael Flynn continues. The Washington Post: Trump lawyer says president knew Flynn had given FBI the same account he gave to vice president.

President Trump’s personal lawyer said Sunday that the president knew in late January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador.

Trump lawyer John Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official. The vice president said publicly at the time that Flynn had told him he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian diplomat — a statement disproved by a U.S. intelligence intercept of a phone call between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Trump was aware of the issue a couple of weeks before a conversation with then-FBI Director James B. Comey in which Comey said the president asked him if he could be lenient while investigating Flynn, whom Trump had just fired for misleading Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian.

According to notes kept by Comey, Trump asked if he could see “his way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” Trump fired Comey in May.

In a pre-dawn tweet Sunday, Trump issued a fresh rebuttal to Comey, writing: “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” The tweet was part of a running commentary from Trump that began Saturday, a day after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and indicated he would cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Now Dowd is trying to argue that the president cannot commit obstruction of justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer of the government. I don’t think that will fly, since both Nixon and Bill Clinton were charged with obstruction in impeachment hearings.

Breaking this morning:

Bloomberg: Mueller Subpoenas Trump Deutsche Bank Records.

Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.

“Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating authorities in all countries,” the lender said in a statement to Bloomberg Tuesday, declining to provide additional information.

Deutsche Bank for months has rebuffed calls by Democratic lawmakers to provide more transparency over the roughly $300 million Trump owed to the bank for his real estate dealings prior to becoming president. Representative Maxine Waters of California and other Democrats have asked whether the bank’s loans to Trump, made years before he ran for president, were in any way connected to Russia. The bank previously rejected those demands, saying sharing client data would be illegal unless it received a formal request to do so. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

The Guardian: Trump’s personal banking information handed over to Robert Mueller.

Donald Trump’s banking information has formally been turned over to Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating whether the president’s campaign conspired with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election.

Deutsche Bank, the German bank that serves as Trump’s biggest lender, was forced to submit documents about its client relationship with the president and some of his family members, who are also Deutsche clients, after Mueller issued the bank with a subpoena for information, according to multiple media reports. The news was first reported by Handelsblatt, the German newspaper.

The revelation makes it clear that Mueller and his team are investigating the president’s finances. Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, is also a client….

Legal experts who are following the investigation said it showed Mueller was “following the money” in his search for possible links between the presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

It also indicated that any investigation into Trump personally may not be limited to the question of whether or not the president sought to obstruct justice when he fired the former FBI chief James Comey.

Instead, said Ryan Goodman, a New York law professor and former Pentagon counsel, it showed that Mueller was possibly examining whether the president could be compromised by Russian interests.

Jared Kushner is also involved with Deutsche Bank, and he apparently “forgot” to report a huge loan he got from them shortly before the election. Vox: Mueller appears to be looking deep into Trump’s finances.

The real estate company owned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, finalized a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank one month before election day as part of a refinancing package for one of Kushner’s company’s properties in Times Square.

The bank has also been linked to criminal activity. In January 2017, Deutsche Bank received $630 million in penalties because it was involved in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme that involved the bank’s Moscow, New York, and London branches, CNN reports.

One last scary story:

It’s from The Intercept, but it was also covered by Buzzfeed recently.

The Intercept: Trump White House Weighing Plan for Private Spies to Counter “Deep State” Enemies.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”

Oliver North, who appears frequently on Trump’s favorite TV network, Fox News, was enlisted to help sell the effort to the administration. He was the “ideological leader” brought in to lend credibility, said the former senior intelligence official.

Some of the individuals involved with the proposals secretly met with major Trump donors asking them to help finance operations before any official contracts were signed.

The proposals would utilize an army of spies with no official cover in several countries deemed “denied areas” for current American intelligence personnel, including North Korea and Iran. The White House has also considered creating a new global rendition unit meant to capture terrorist suspects around the world, as well as a propaganda campaign in the Middle East and Europe to combat Islamic extremism and Iran.

This is another boondoggle proposed by a company located in Whitefish, Montana. Read the rest at the link.

What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: Naughty Folks Beware!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I spent some time Saturday Night watching the Krewe of Krampus wander the neighborhood. I’m a big fan of the new found interest of claiming the history and pagan roots of the season. It’s so much better than all crass consumerism floating around the modern day holidays. I love Europe’s twist on the Anti-St Nick.  It lets me extend the Halloween season a bit which I’ve come to appreciate more than I did as a kid.

A mangled, deranged face with bloodshot eyes tops a furry black body. Giant horns curl up from his head, displaying his half-goat, half-demon lineage. Behind this terror, a dozen more stomp through the snow of the streets of Lienz, Austria, among a din of cowbell jangles. The creatures dash through the streets, chasing giggling children and adults alike, poking them with sticks and scaring some with the realization that they were naughty this year.

Krampus himself historically comes around the night of December 5, tagging along with St. Nicholas. He visits houses all night with his saintly pal. While St. Nick is on hand to put candy in the shoes of good kids and birch twigs in the shoes of the bad, Krampus’ particular specialty is punishing naughty children. Legend has it that throughout the Christmas season, misbehaved kids are beaten with birch branches or can disappear, stuffed into Krampus’ sack and hauled off to his lair to be tortured or eaten.

“The Krampus is the yin to St. Nick’s yang,” Seghers tells Smithsonian.com. “You have the saint, you have the devil. It taps into a subconscious macabre desire that a lot of people have that is the opposite of the saccharine Christmas a lot of us grew up with.”

In fact, Krampus’ roots have nothing to do with Christmas. Instead, they date back to pre-Germanic paganism in the region. His name originates with the German krampen, which means “claw,” and tradition has it that he is the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel. During the 12th century, the Catholic Church attempted to banish Krampus celebrations because of his resemblance to the devil. More eradication attempts followed in 1934 at the hands of Austria’s conservative Christian Social Party. But none of it held, and Krampus emerged as a much-feared and beloved holiday force.

I’m totally happy getting rid of the Romanization of culture.  As a student of history, I have to say that most of what they did was turn perfectly good science and shamanism into bland mindlessness.  These kinds of traditions show us how far we have and haven’t come.

I have a vivid memory of my friend hanging off a door horizontally, her nails digging into the wooden frame as a giant, fur-covered beast with demonic red eyes and giant fangs pulled her into the cold December night.

A few feet away, a girl was sobbing while a horned monster whipped her with branches.

Kids everywhere were screaming and crying, desperately seeking safety.

We were eight years old, and the whole thing was arranged by our parents.

Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, is an ancient Austrian tradition that is also celebrated in Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. Basically, Santa, or Sankt Nikolaus (St. Nicholas), comes around with his devils (or Krampuses) in tow.

He is there to determine whether kids have been naughty or nice — but in this case, being naughty has severe consequences: a run-in with his demon assistants.

So there are some folks that Krampus and his minions should stick in their baskets and take straight to hell.  There’s Roy Moore the teenage predator deplorable from Alabama who was thrown off the bench quite a few times for not following the US Constitution .

A couple of weeks ago, the three biggest newspapers in Alabama splashed the same tough editorial across the tops of their front pages.

“Stand for Decency, Reject Roy Moore,” read the bold headline in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, all part of Alabama Media Group. Arguing that the credible sexual-misconduct charges against the former judge, a Republican, disqualified him, it endorsed Democrat Doug Jones for U.S. Senate.

Some readers cheered, and some disagreed enough to cancel their subscriptions.

But at a small-town daily in eastern Alabama, top editor Troy Turner wouldn’t even consider running such an editorial.

“I would have bullet holes in my windows,” said Turner, who grew up not far from the Opelika-Auburn News, where he supervises an 11-member newsroom staff. After starting there as a cub reporter in the 1980s, he came back in 2015 after holding high-ranking editing posts from New York City to New Mexico.

What’s more, he said, his own staff has mixed views about Moore. Not everyone is convinced about the allegations first reported by The Washington Post last month. Four women said Moore pursued them romantically as teenagers. And one, Leigh Corfman, said Moore touched her sexually and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear when she was 14 and he was in his early 30s.

Still, this 12,000-circulation paper, which has won numerous statewide awards for excellence, has not ignored the issue.

Instead, mindful of how people feel throughout conservative Lee County (named after the Confederate general), it has taken a cautious approach.

Turner wrote an editorial last month calling for Moore to step down as a candidate, concluding that he could not be an effective senator. Its headline, too, was bold: “It’s time for Roy Moore to step aside for Alabama.”

There are pockets of common sense in Alabama.  Then, there are folks that think they’re christians but really are just fodder for Krampus.

Moore, who is neck and neck in polls with Democrat Doug Jones in the unpredictable special Senate election in Alabama on December 12, has been accused by several women of inappropriate sexual relationships while they were teenagers. Proceeding with a playbook that recalls Trump’s after the Access Hollywood tape came out last year, Moore has vehemently denied every allegation, maintaining that every woman who has come forward is lying. In a state consistently hostile to Democrats, this defiant strategy has been at least somewhat effective; a poll released on Sunday showed that 71 percent of Alabama Republicans believe the charges are made up.

After the initial allegations came out, almost every major national Republican disavowed Moore  but not President Trump. The man who has now taken to denying observable reality about his own past with women made it clear to his advisers that he was skeptical of Moore’s accusers. “Roy Moore denies it,” he said. “And, by the way, he gives a total denial. And I do have to say, 40 years is a long time.”

Still, the White House hadn’t explicitly offered the divisive Republican its support, though Trump has knocked Doug Jones on Twitter and Kellyanne Conway gave Moore a quasi-endorsement on Fox & Friends in November.

Though Trump has said he will not campaign personally for Moore, he is holding a rally this Friday in Pensacola, Florida, which is close to the Alabama state border, and Moore has encouraged his supporters to attend. It was only a matter of time before Trump stopped playing coy and expressed his true affinity for the man who has been disbarred twice for flouting federal law.

Deplorable Kellyanne Conway is always in the middle of the worst of the worst. How she and Sisterwife Huckabuck face their children at night is beyond my comprehension. It’s a daily grind to see who can lie for Kremiln Caligula the most.  He’s got an entire team lined up to explain how he really didn’t say that or mean that. It’s gone beyond Orwellian to pathological.  Here’s this morning’s example abetted by the Trump Propaganda Outlet known as Faux News.

During a morning hit on Fox & Friends, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was knee-deep in her standard anti-media jeremiad when she dropped a pretty damning nugget that had been promoted on the same channel just the day before. She claimed that “MSNBC didn’t even cover the Kate Steinle murder verdict. Not a single minute, even according to your graphic.”

And just for clarity, here is said graphic:

The thing is that she — and the Fox & Friends Weekend report from yesterday — are 100% false, and can easily be proven as much.

Some background…On Sunday morning’s episode of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth had on as guest Bre Payton, who is described as the “culture and millennial politics reporter” by her employer The Federalist.  Together they discussed their frustration that MSNBC completely ignored Friday’s verdict in the Kate Steinle tragedy,ostensibly as evidence of the network’s biased coverage.

But a very simple search of transcript archive TV Eyes clearly shows that MSNBC covered the story three specific times on Friday. It also came up once on Sunday during MSNBC Live. 

They’re also scrambling to say Trump didn’t write or tweet his admission of guilt this weekend on a matter related to Flynn too.

President Trump believed that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn probably told the FBI the same lies that he told Vice President Mike Pence.

In journalism, we are taught to avoid using too many words like “believed” and “probably,” but this is the only way to describe the latest spin coming from Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. It is meant to clean up a much less nuanced tweet Trump sent, saying he had to fire Flynn “because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, had already taken the blame for drafting the tweet. But now, according to The Washington Post, Dowd is also saying that “Trump knew generally that Flynn’s account to the FBI and Pence (his claim to have never spoken with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions) were similar…”

Pardon me if I don’t see how this latest revelation helps Dowd’s client. Even with this new explanation, we are left with the impression that Trump assumed Flynn had committed a felony. That didn’t stop Trump from pressuring then-FBI director James Comey to go easy on him—or from firing Comey when he didn’t.

I’m no legal scholar, but the distinction that Trump believed something as opposed to knowing it might not quell the allegations that he obstructed justice.

Perhaps this is why Dowd is now telling Axios that “the president cannot obstruct justice.” (Or, as Richard Nixon said, “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

Then, there’s the entire Comrade Trumpinsky thing with ruining US Diplomacy and influence.  That’s pretty Kramups-worthy.

In response to Russia’s election hacking, the U.S. expelled not just one, but 35 spies posing as diplomats — the strongest response ever to a cyberattack against the U.S.

In addition, President Obama made a public statement on the expulsions, calling them a “necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.” Both the magnitude of the sanctions and the public condemnation by the president was intended to send as sharp a rebuke as possible to Russia’s attack on our democracy.

As Flynn’s plea deal reveals, the Trump transition team immediately made a concerted effort to undermine the signal that the United States was sending. In particular, Flynn, with the approval of “senior transition officials” (identified in reporting as Jared Kushner and Katie McFarland), sought to discourage Russia from escalating the situation. Flynn reportedly promised that the Trump administration’s foreign policy goals would be more conciliatory.

By relaying this message covertly (and in spite of a “pointed request” by the Obama administration to avoid sending mixed signals to foreign officials), the Trump team negated the message being sent by the United States to Russia — and effectively put its stamp of approval on Russia’s efforts.

The repercussions of the Trump team’s covert efforts are not merely symbolic; they have also had serious long-term consequences on our intelligence capabilities against Russia. After secretly “reassuring” Russia that it need not worry about facing consequences, the Trump administration did not deliver. In July, Congress passed (and the president after much delay signed) a sanctions bill against Russia. Putin, either angry for being misled or having to save face from taking no action at all in December (or both), retaliated much more forcefully than he likely would have otherwise. Russia expelled 775 American diplomats in response, severely crippling our intelligence and diplomatic apparatus in that country.

I believe Trumpinsky is a Russian asset.  It may be knowingly. It may be due to his severe mental issues as discussed by BB in an earlier post. However, his reaction to any Russian news–and especially within the last few days--has been simply over the top.

Then there’s Russia, where the White House’s own lawyer is creating legal headaches – if you believe official accounts.

President Donald Trump’s reaction is to lash out at his own FBI and Hillary Clinton, noise that only builds a case by the special counsel, if he chooses to go there.

Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a Trump friend, summed up the stakes on “This Week”: “Robert Mueller poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency.

The president may control where things go from here, to an extent.

He’s started directly attacking the FBI which makes me wonder what he’s saying to the oldest living confederate widow whose currently serving as Attorney General.  What kind of pressures are raining down her Keebler elfishness? Sally Yates has finally spoken.

Mr Trump posted a barrage of criticism on Sunday morning, saying the FBI’s reputation was “in tatters” and was the “worst in history”, while again accusing it of failure in its treatment of his former opponent for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

Mrs Clinton was investigated by the FBI ahead of the election after it emerged she had used a private email server to conduct state department business, but no charges were brought against her or her team.

The president seized on news that an FBI officer had been dismissed from the investigation after he was discovered to have made anti-Trump remarks in text messages, tweeting: “Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE’ Now it all starts to make sense!”

Mr Trump denies that his team colluded with Russia to get him elected, but four members of his inner circle have now been charged as part of the FBI inquiry lead by Robert Mueller.

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates hit back at Mr Trump, tweeting that “the dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve better” and that the “only thing in tatters is the president’s respect for the rule of law”.

Here’s an MSNBC Time line on the recent Michael Flynn stuff.

To recap: Flynn spoke to Russia’s ambassador about a UN vote and sanctions against Russia, and Flynn lied to the FBI about the conversations. Flynn didn’t act alone (his conversations came after discussions with Kushner and McFarland). And the day after Flynn resigned, Trump talked to Comey about “letting this go.”

Then, on Saturday, Trump tweeted this: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” Why this is significant: It’s an admission that he KNEW Flynn lied to the FBI, and he KNEW THAT when he had his conversations with Comey.

“You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril. I would be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I would watch this,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday on CBS. Added Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on “Meet the Press” yesterday: “I think what we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.”

After the tweet, Trump lawyer John Dowd said he composed the tweet for Trump, and he later acknowledged to NBC’s Kristen Welker that it was the only tweet he ever composed for the president. Our question: Will Dowd admit he wrote that tweet under oath?

Meanwhile, our nation turns its terrified eyes to Jared Kushner who is in deep doo doo. He continues to demonstrate his inability to fill out a simple government form.

Jared Kushner failed to disclose his role as a co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, a time when the group funded an Israeli settlement considered to be illegal under international law, on financial records he filed with the Office of Government Ethics earlier this year.

The latest development follows reports on Friday indicating the White House senior adviser attempted to sway a United Nations Security Council vote against an anti-settlement resolution passed just before Donald Trump took office, which condemned the structure of West Bank settlements. The failure to disclose his role in the foundation—at a time when he was being tasked with serving as the president’s Middle East peace envoy—follows a pattern of egregious omissions that would bar any other official from continuing to serve in the West Wing, experts and officials told Newsweek.

Completely submerged SOS Tillerson is definitely pissed at him.  Trumpinsky may be undermining Kushner’s Peace efforts already. 

And the ambassador, Ron Dermer, one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants, confirmed in a rare on-the-record conversation that Trump this week is likely to take a controversial step by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—a move that Palestinians have threatened will blow up any talks even before they start.

Not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a “farce,” Dermer said, characterizing Trump’s likely decision to change that as sending a message to the Palestinians of: “Hey, wake up. Understand that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. You have to deal with that reality.” But Arab leaders have braced for public protest, and several Middle East officials with whom I have spoken in recent days said they had not been formally consulted by Kushner and Trump on the move and worried it would backfire. “It sure would make things a lot harder,” one key administration supporter from the Arab world told me.

If anything, Dermer seemed more adamant about the prospect for a new round of military conflict between Israel and the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah than about the outlook for Kushner’s peace process. “The chances of military confrontation are growing,” he said when I asked about a possible fight in neighboring Syria or Lebanon, and in fact Israeli jets reportedly hit targets inside Syria last week. “I don’t want to tell you by the year or by the month. I’d say even by the week. Because the more they push, we have to enforce our red lines … So in taking action to defend ourselves, you don’t know what could happen. But I think it’s higher than people think.”

Yup. I think the Word is ripe for a big time Krampus comeback.  So much naughty. Not a lot of a nice.  I’ve got a pretty long list of folks just itching for a Krampus abduction.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Reads: Trying to disappear into the void…

 

After the Senate passed that monstrous #TaxScamBill , I needed to evaporate into myself…if that is even possible. From the moment I saw a tweet saying it was a done deal, I put away the phone. I have not turned on my laptop. I haven’t even watched the news channels. In fact, I was awake the last 24 hours watching old episodes of How to Get Away With Murder. (Seriously, if that is not evaporating into the void, I don’t know what else is.)

Today, it is 3:30…and I wake up to find out more shit has hit the fan. tRump has gone on a Twitter tirade, but even on MSNBC, the tone is strange. Like…it is never gonna happen. tRump is never going to go down. Honestly.  Will we ever learn?

 

I will just highlight a few tweets from today:

 

 

And then there is this:

Operative Offered Trump Campaign ‘Kremlin Connection’ Using N.R.A. Ties – The New York Times

I am going back to my Netflix feed.

This is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: “A Historic Tax Heist” — NYT Editorial Board

Good Morning!!

Republicans are celebrating their tax cut “victory” this morning, but the fight isn’t over yet. The bill still has to be reconciled with the House version and then voted on again by the House and Senate. I have to admit I’m pretty depressed about it, so this post will largely be a link dump.

The Week: The GOP’s massive tax overhaul is a monstrosity.

In a truly wild and dizzying Friday night and Saturday morning in Washington, Senate Republicans committed collective political suicide by passing a deeply detested tax bill they were still writingseemingly moments before they jammed it through on a party-line vote with no hearings and no meaningful input from a public that hasn’t even seen the text of the legislation.

As dawn broke Friday over the undrained swamp, it looked like the tax legislation was still in trouble, with Republican senators Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Susan Collins (Maine) all wavering. ­­­And as of Friday night, the text of this bill, which will restructure the entire American tax system and its economy, had not yet been released to the public, leaving Democratic senators and outside analysts guessing as to which radioactive provisions would be in it, which would be left out, and exactly where various tax levels would be set. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted a photo Friday evening of amendments that would be voted on shortly and that she had to obtain from lobbyists rather than her colleagues across the aisle. The absurdity was almost unspeakable.

As the day wound down, Senate holdouts, especially those who were lionized by the left as principled heroes during July’s failed ObamaCare vote, had fallen in line and said they would vote to slash taxes on corporations, trustafarians, and hedge fund managers while raising them on poor, working class, and middle class Americans. Together these titans of high-minded values said they were ok with their colleagues’ plan to peel a bunch of hundred dollar bills off of America’s dwindling wad of national cash and stuff them directly into the pockets of their billionaire bankrollers.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

Regular order? On Wednesday, John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was fine sending this diabolical, 479-page Dybbuk through the Senate even though no one in the chamber had time to read it even once. Democratic pleas to at least postpone the vote until Monday so that our national leaders might actually skim the legislation were ignored. Protecting Medicaid for vulnerable Alaskans? When it came time to screw the poor, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was totally cool with it as long as she could trash the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with oil drilling in return. Collins, who was wavering Thursday, voted for the bill in the end, all but giving the finger to the Mainers who gave her those airport standing ovations after she stopped TrumpCare. Flake got on board when the White House made some meaningless promise to him that he would be part of any “conversation” about a DACA resolution later this year. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only final holdout.

At the end of the day, Republicans revealed that their entire caucus is bereft of dignity, shame, honor, and any commitment to a single thing any of them have ever said in public about how laws should be made in the United States.

Read it and weep.

Mother Jones: Senate Passes Sweeping Tax Bill That Overwhelmingly Benefits the Wealthiest Americans.

There were a smattering of last-minute changes tucked into the nearly 500-page bill, but the core of it is quite simple: a permanent tax cut for corporations combined with much smaller, and temporary, benefits for everyone else. Over the next decade, the $1.4 trillion tax cut would disproportionately reward the wealthiest Americans while piling on the national debt—which in turn will likely be used by Republicans as a justification for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Before the individual cuts expire in 2026—ending the bill’s most charitable years—the top 1 percent would receive slightly more of the tax cut than the bottom 60 percent of Americans combined. Without the individual tax cut, the top 1 percent would get start getting 61 percent of the benefits. And at that point, the vast majority of middle-class taxpayers would receive essentially nothing, or end up paying higher taxes….

Republicans say they’ll eventually extend those individual cuts. But there is good reason to doubt that. The United States will be facing unprecedented debt levels when it comes time to renew the cuts. The annual deficit would be $1.4 trillion in 2025, up from about $700 billion today. The Senate bill asks Americans to trust that a future Congress, comprised of different members, will continue to ignore deficits.

Supposedly the bill includes a lot of completely nonsensical policy changes, including defining life as beginning at conception. We already know that the bill basically repeals Obamacare and throws 13 million people off health insurance. It also cuts Medicare, and the Republicans will use the inevitable budget deficits to push for cuts in Social Security and more cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

The Washington Post: GOP eyes post-tax-cut changes to welfare, Medicare and Social Security.

High-ranking Republicans are hinting that, after their tax overhaul, the party intends to look at cutting spending on welfare, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and other parts of the social safety net.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said recently that he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on government programs. Last month, President Trump said welfare reform will “take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.”

As Republicans advocate spending cuts, they have frequently cited a need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.

“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this week.While whipping votes for a GOP tax bill on Thursday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) attacked “liberal programs” for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans’ money.

“We’re spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” Hatch said. “Now, let’s just be honest about it: We’re in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don’t help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don’t help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”

Hatch and his buddies want to “help” the poor and elderly by letting them die in the streets. Or maybe they’d decide that the right to life ends at birth.

The latest CBO score was released just before the vote, and it predicts the same results as the previous one. The Hill reports: CBO: Senate tax bill increases deficit by $1.4 trillion.

The Senate GOP tax plan will increase the deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over a decade, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO score comes as senators are already voting on amendments to the legislation and are expected to pass the bill in the early morning hours of Saturday.

The legislation, according to CBO, would have the largest deficits between the 2019 fiscal year and the 2022 fiscal year.

The finding comes as GOP senators have largely ignored warnings that their tax plan would increase the deficit. Republicans argue that economic growth will more than make up for any increases to the national debt.

It could be a lot worse than that. What domestic or foreign students will be able to earn doctorates in the U.S. if they have to pay taxes on the tuition that Universities waive in return for grad student labor? Corporations will continue ship jobs overseas and channel their profits to their shareholders. This bill is likely to throw our economy into another tailspin. I’ll leave it up to Dakinikat to discuss that.

The Washington Post lists some of the disagreements between the House and Senate versions of the bill that will have to be resolved: Here are 7 differences Republicans must resolve between their tax bills. They include the ACA individual mandate, the estate tax, the expiration of individual tax cuts, the child tax credit, the mortgage interest deduction, the new tax brackets, and the timing of the corporate tax cuts. Of course it’s possible Ryan could decide to try to get the House to pass the Senate version as is. We’ll have to wait and see.

The New York Times Editorial Board: A Historic Tax Heist.

With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.

Read the rest at the link. I’m sure more details about the tax scam will come out over the weekend. Meanwhile, if you live in a red state, please let your Senators and Representatives know how enraged you are.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Flynn Friday Reads

Good Very Late Afternoon!

It’s been a strange day! First, I had to show up at the Civil Court for jury duty sign up.  Then, my computer took what seemed like an eon for updates.  Meanwhile, we have a guilty plea from Mike Flynn and news of cooperation.  Additionally, we have information that Jared Kusner–at the very least–ordered him to contact the Russian Ambassador.  We are also on the verge of the US Senate passing the most dishonest “tax reform” that we’ve ever seen.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea Friday for lying to the FBI is alarming news for Donald Trump. But the first person it’s likely to jeopardize will be the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Two former officials with the Trump transition team who worked closely with Flynn say that during the last days of the Obama administration, the retired general was instructed to contact foreign ambassadors and foreign ministers of countries on the U.N. Security Council, ahead of a vote condemning Israeli settlements. Flynn was told to try to get them to delay that vote until after Barack Obama had left office, or oppose the resolution altogether.

That is relevant now because one of Flynn’s lies to the FBI was when he said that he never asked Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, to delay the vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. The indictment released today from the office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller describes this lie: “On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.”

James Comey waxes philosophically. Sally Yates has not weighed in yet.

Flynn has promised Bob Mueller that he will cooperate fully.  Flynn must tell Mueller everything. His tenure with Kremlin Caligula was long and was during strategically important time.

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

The stunning turn comes as Flynn, who is cooperating with investigators in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his back-channel negotiations with the Russian ambassador – talks that occurred before Trump took office. The Special Counsel made the plea agreement public Friday morning.

A close confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

“It has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in a statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.”

24174235_10156058649118447_3657890784704400571_nThere’s some talk within the beltway that Trump himself instructed Flynn to reach out to the Russians.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is expected to testify that President Trump instructed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, according to a report by ABC News.

Flynn is saying that Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians,” ABC’s Brian Ross said Friday, just moments after Flynn entered a guilty plea for lying about his contact with Russians during the presidential transition period.

 

ABC appears to be the first on many of these stories. We’re not sure who the “close confidant” is, but they are talking to Ross.

A close confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

“It has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in a statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.”

Richard Frankel, a former senior aide to Flynn and an ABC News contributor, said Flynn made his decision to cooperate under immense pressure, but he believes it is the right move for the country.

“I don’t know how much General Flynn knows about any criminal activity that took place during the campaign or in the White House,” said Frankel, who also served in a senior role at the FBI. “However, General Flynn was a top adviser to President Trump in the campaign and a top adviser to him when he entered into the WH so if there are bodies buried so to speak, General Flynn would know about them in my opinion.”

Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI about the nature of his conversations with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Those conversations led Russian officials to temper their response to increased U.S. sanctions, according to the charging documents.

The charge means Flynn could face up to five years in prison.

 

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

 

 

So, in other news of the Deathwatch for the US country, Constitution ,and the economy we are on the verge of the Senate passing a terrifically awful “tax” bill. There’s only one hold out Republican.  We can only hope things get truly fucked up in the resolution process.

The tax bill hit snags in the Senate late Thursday, as Republicans worked on ways to ease the concerns of deficit hawks. Leaders were still scrambling for votes.

But within the GOP, leaders are confident that once the tax bill is passed, they can strike a quick deal to waive the federally mandated cuts. But Democrats deeply opposed to the tax bill aren’t making any promises they’ll agree to bail out their rivals — raising the risk of a historic gutting of government programs.

“This would be unprecedented,” said William Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former GOP Senate staffer with expertise on the budget. “The law never envisioned that we’d eliminate programs.”

GOP leaders are asking moderates like Susan Collins (R-Maine) to back the tax package with the mere promise that lawmakers can find a bipartisan solution during an already divisive year-end crunch that could lead to a government shutdown.

One senior House GOP source was confident a deal on spending would go through. “A statutory PAYGO sequester has never happened, and we will prevent one from being triggered,” the source said, adding that Congress has until the end of the year to work it out.

The far reach of the Republican tax plan is the consequence of limitations placed on Congress under the “pay-as-you-go” rule. The decades-old law, revamped during the Obama presidency, requires Congress to offset the cost of each piece of legislation or risk spending cuts painful to both parties.

Lawmakers have repeatedly voted to waive this rule, a total of 16 times, for major bills like the Obama-era stimulus and multiple tax cut packages under George W. Bush.

The GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax plan would trigger $150 billion in cuts to domestic programs every year for a decade if Congress doesn’t step in, according to the CBO. That would include $25 billion from the money Medicare pays health care providers, still some people that doesn’t have insurance prefer to try to maintain good health with healthy habits like diet and supplements as kratom capsules.

So, I’m making this short so we can talk during the evening News!

Just one more thing!

Happy Birthday Boston Boomer!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today!


Thursday Reads: America’s Ongoing Crisis Has Reached Emergency Levels

Good Morning!!

The media is finally waking up to the fact that the “president” of the U.S. is not just a pathological liar, not just a sociopath and a malignant narcissist–he is actually suffering from a serious thought disorder with delusions.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional.

The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birthplace, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular-vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.

He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times report Trump repeatedly has denied the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)

It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.

His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating — rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)

If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental-health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us have expected.

Gee, no kidding. It was obvious during the campaign that Trump was nuts, to use a technical term. Now people in the media are waking up to the reality of the situation when it may well be too late. BTW, a person can be a liar and delusional at the same time.

Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker at The Washington Post: Trump veers past guardrails, feeling impervious to the uproar he causes.

President Trump this week disseminated on social media three inflammatory and unverified ­anti-Muslim videos, took glee in the firing of a news anchor for sexual harassment allegations despite facing more than a dozen of his own accusers and used a ceremony honoring Navajo war heroes to malign a senator with a derogatory nickname, “Pocahontas.”

Again and again, Trump veered far past the guardrails of presidential behavior. But despite the now-routine condemnations, the president is acting emboldened, as if he were impervious to the uproar he causes.

If there are consequences for his actions, Trump does not seem to feel their burden personally. The Republican tax bill appears on track for passage, putting the president on the cusp of his first major legislative achievement. Trump himself remains the ­highest-profile man accused of sexual improprieties to keep his job with no repercussions.

Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.

Rucker and Parker quote from Trump’s speech in Missouri last night:

In Missouri, he was talking about taxes, but he might as well been describing his mind-set.

“Hey, look, I’m president,” Trump said. “I don’t care. I don’t care anymore.”

 

The Hill: Scarborough: Trump allies told me he has dementia.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on Thursday that people close to President Trump told him during the campaign that Trump has “early stages of dementia.”

During MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Scarborough said Trump is “completely detached from reality.”

“You have somebody inside the White House that the New York Daily News says is mentally unfit,” Scarborough said.

“That people close to him say is mentally unfit, that people close to him during the campaign told me had early stages of dementia.”

Scarborough said the country is closer to war on the Korean Peninsula than most Americans know.

“We heard this months ago, that we are going to have a ground war in Korea, they believe that inside the White House for a very long time,” Scarborough said.

“If this is not what the 25th Amendment was drafted for,” he added, referring to the amendment that covers presidential succession and the response to a president with disabilities.

Hey Joe, why didn’t you say this during the campaign??

Last night during his speech in Missouri, Trump gave a clear demonstration of how jumbled his thought process is. Someone put the words “rocket fuel” on the teleprompter and he veered off into an attack on Kim Jong Un.

 

The Hill: ‘Art of the Deal’ co-author: Trump ‘losing his grip on reality.’

“But what it means in simple terms is he’s losing his grip on reality,” Schwartz told MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber” when asked about Trump’s reported suggestion that the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape may not be real.

“His reality testing is really poor and I believe that’s exactly what’s going on,” Schwartz added.

Schwartz described “a dramatic change” in Trump from when he co-authored the book with him to how the president speaks now.

“He is more limited in his vocabulary. He is further from as I say- this connection to what is factual and real. He is more impulsive. He is more reactive. This is a guy in deep trouble,” said Schwartz.

He also said that many employees at the White House are “hostages to a cult leader.”

“When you watch Sarah Huckabee Sanders right now, you really feel as if you’re watching somebody who is being brainwashed, or has been brainwashed,” Schwartz said, referencing the White House press secretary.

Mike Allen at Axios: The White House expects Trump to get even more outrageous.

What we’re hearing: Officials tell us Trump seems more self-assured, more prone to confidently indulging wild conspiracies and fantasies, more quick-triggered to fight than he was during the Wild West of the first 100 days in office.

   .  Imagine Trump if he signs a huge tax cut into law, which seems likely, amid soaring stocks and rising economic growth.
  .  Imagine if Roy Moore wins in Alabama, which seems likely, too. It surely won’t humble Trump — or hem him in.
  .  He’s like the Incredible Hulk, after the media and Mueller made him mad.

I could go on and on posting articles from members of the media who are finally waking up to reality, but is it too late?

Even Ezra Klein is writing about impeachment: The case for normalizing impeachment.

In recent months, I have grown obsessed with a seemingly simple question: Does the American political system have a remedy if we elect the wrong person to be president? There are clear answers if we elect a criminal, or if the president falls into a coma. But what if we just make a hiring mistake, as companies do all the time? What if we elect someone who proves himself or herself unfit for office — impulsive, conspiratorial, undisciplined, destructive, cruel?

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are in thrall to the cult of “tax cuts” that will remake the entire U.S. economy and way of life. Unfortunately John McCain just announced that he’s voting for tax scam. It looks like we’re completely screwed.

Marco Rubio, quoted at Financial Advisor: Rubio: Offset Tax Cuts By Reducing Social Security, Medicare Benefits.

Tax reform is only one piece of the overall puzzle needed to revitalize the American economy, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told a group of Washington, D.C., lobbyists and policy analysts this morning at a Politico Playbook Interview sponsored by the Financial Services Roundtable. The other part? Reduce the deficit and offset the cost of the reform, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at $1.3 trillion.

“I analyze this very differently than most,” Rubio told the crowd. “Many argue that you can’t cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit. But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future,” the senator said.

If lawmakers can act strategically sooner rather than later to come up with some combination of reforms to reduce benefits and raise retirement age, the pain of change and reduced benefits will be greatly mitigated, said the lawmaker who ran for president in 2016 and is once again sounding presidential.

Oh really?

“We don’t need to reduce benefits on current retirees or even near-term retirees, but we can make changes for future generations such as mine, and do so in a way that people can prepare for, so the changes will barely be felt,” Rubio said.

As much as 23 percent of Social Security benefits and 14 percent of Medicaid benefits could disappear by 2034 unless Congress acts, according to a the most recent report from trustees. Without a political fix, future retirees could experience a 23 percent reduction in benefits or a 20 percent increase in payroll taxes to fund the shortfalls, the trustee analysis found.

“Tax reform is the economic component of this equation,” said Rubio, who expressed doubts that there will be a government shutdown. “When more people are working, there are more taxpayers and more revenue, but that alone won’t be enough. You are still going to have a debt problem in the absence of spending cuts.”

The New York Times: It Started as a Tax Cut. Now It Could Change American Life.

The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.

Click on the link to read the rest.

They are doing this without any real analysis of what the disastrous effects will be. The New York Times again: Ahead of Vote, Promised Treasury Analysis of Tax Bill Proves Elusive.

In pitching the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, has said repeatedly that the plan will pay for itself through a surge of economic growth and that over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us.”

Mr. Mnuchin has promised that Treasury will release its analysis in full. Yet, just one day before the full Senate prepares to vote on a sweeping tax rewrite, the administration has yet to produce the type of economic analysis that it is citing as a reason to pass the tax cut.

Those inside Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, which Mr. Mnuchin has credited with running the models, say they have been largely shut out of the process and are not working on the type of detailed analysis that he has mentioned. An economist at the Office of Tax Analysis, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his job, said Treasury had not released a “dynamic” analysis showing that the tax plan would be paid for with economic growth because one did not exist.

Instead of conducting full analyses of tax proposals, staff members have been running numbers on individual provisions or policy ideas, like lowering the tax rate on so-called pass-through businesses and figuring out how many family farms would benefit from the repeal of the estate tax. Activity has picked up more recently as Treasury has sought to provide technical assistance to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office for their estimates.

There is simply no analysis that could make this bill look like anything but a giant monstrosity designed to take money from the middle and working classes and had it over to a few rich people like Donald Trump and his pals.

Finally, from the NYT Editorial Board: The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks.

The Senate tax bill, a 515-page mammoth, was introduced just last week, and the chamber could vote on it as soon as Thursday. This is not how lawmakers are supposed to pass enormous pieces of legislation. It took several years to put together the last serious tax bill, passed in 1986. Congress and the Reagan administration worked across party lines, produced numerous drafts, held many hearings and struck countless compromises. This time it’s not about true reform but about speed and bowling over the opposition in hopes of claiming a partisan victory. The country ought to be dismayed by the way senators like Bob Corker, Susan Collins and Ron Johnson appear to be backing away from their principled objections based on half-measures promised by President Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that will not address its big flaws.

This rush to the Senate floor has been orchestrated by Mr. McConnell, following the same playbook he used in the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The longer people have to study the details, the less likely the bill is to pass. People should know by now about the big stuff: the giant permanent corporate tax-rate cut, the small and temporary tax cuts for the middle class, the repeal of the A.C.A.’s individual mandate and the $1.4 trillion added to the federal deficit over 10 years. But other provisions are not as well understood and deserve to be called ou

Please go read the whole thing.

I really worked myself into a frenzy today just reading these articles. I’m going to have to relax for awhile and take some deep breaths. What stories are you following today?