In other words, showy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute for actual, coherent policies. Indeed, their main lasting effect can be to squander a government’s credibility. Which brings us to last week’s missile strike on Syria.
The attack instantly transformed news coverage of the Trump administration. Suddenly stories about infighting and dysfunction were replaced with screaming headlines about the president’s toughness and footage of Tomahawk launches.
But outside its effect on the news cycle, how much did the strike actually accomplish? A few hours after the attack, Syrian warplanes were taking off from the same airfield, and airstrikes resumed on the town where use of poison gas provoked Mr. Trump into action. No doubt the Assad forces took some real losses, but there’s no reason to believe that a one-time action will have any effect on the course of Syria’s civil war.
In fact, if last week’s action was the end of the story, the eventual effect may well be to strengthen the Assad regime — Look, they stood up to a superpower! — and weaken American credibility.
Here’s some breaking news that isn’t about war and government corruption. April the giraffe has finally given birth!
After months of anticipation for one pregnant giraffe and hundreds of thousands of obsessed viewers, April just made good.
“It’s happening!” Animal Adventure Park owner Jordan Patch yelled into a camera from his car about 7:30 Saturday morning. “We are in labor 100 percent!”
There had been false starts before, but not far away in a pen in Upstate New York, two hooves were peeking out of April’s backside.
Then a head.
Then at 9:55 a.m …
An apparently healthy giraffe baby hit the floor in a shower of amniotic fluid and catharsis, as more than 1 million people watched live.
Half an hour later, the not-so-tiny infant took its first wobbly steps across a pen that’s been live-streamed 24 hours a day for nearly two months.
Then it flopped delightfully back to the floor and submitted to a tongue bath from its mother.
We still don’t know if the calf is a boy or girl giraffe. Read more at the WaPo.
Here’s a report from The Upshot at the NYT on research that shows that social programs are good for the economy: Supply-Side Economics, but for Liberals.
Certain social welfare policies, according to an emerging body of research, may actually encourage more people to work and enable them to do so more productively.
That is the conclusion of work that aims to understand in granular detail how different government interventions affect people’s behavior. It amounts to a liberal version of “supply-side economics,” an approach to economics often associated with the conservatives of the Reagan era.
Those conservative supply-siders argued that cutting taxes would lead businesses to invest more, unleashing faster economic growth as the productive capacity of the nation increases. In the emerging liberal version, government programs enable more people to work, and to work in higher-productivity, higher-income jobs. The end result, if the research is correct, is the same: a nation that is capable of growing faster and producing more.The clearest example of a program that appears to increase labor supply and hence the United States’ economic potential is the earned-income tax credit (E.I.T.C.), first enacted in 1975 and expanded several times since then. It supplements the income of low-income workers, and numerousstudies find that its existence means more Americans work than would in its absence.
For example, there was a major expansion of the program that was passed in 1993 and phased in over the ensuing years. Jeffrey Grogger of the University of Chicago finds that it was a major driver of higher employment among single mothers. By 1999, his researchsuggests, 460,000 more women who headed their household were working than would have been without the E.I.T.C. expansion. That is more, in his estimates, than the number of such women who were pulled into the work force by welfare reforms or a booming economy during that decade.
Child care subsidies appear to work the same way. It’s a pretty straightforward equation that when government intervention makes child care services cheaper than they would otherwise be, people who might otherwise stay home raising their children instead work. More women work in countries that subsidize child care and offer generous parental leave than in those that don’t.
Please go read the whole thing.
All eyes have been on North Korea for the past couple of days as the country celebrates the anniversary of its founding with a huge parade on Saturday.
North Korea paraded its military might Saturday in a massive public display that experts said showed new capabilities for its long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Kim Jong Un did not speak during the huge event, which celebrates the birthday of North Korea’s founding ruler Kim Il Sung, but another top official, Choe Ryong Hae, warned that the North would stand up to any threat posed by the United States.
Choe said President Donald Trump was guilty of “creating a war situation” on the Korean Peninsula by dispatching U.S. forces to the region.
“We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack,” Choe added.
The parade, the annual highlight of North Korea’s most important holiday, came amid growing international worries that North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a major missile launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM capable of reaching U.S. shores.
North Korea displayed what appeared to be new long-range and submarine-based missiles on the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father, Kim Il Sung, on Saturday, as a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.
Missiles appeared to be the main theme of a giant military parade, with Kim’s grandson, leader Kim Jong Un, taking time to greet the commander of the Strategic Forces, the branch that oversees the missile arsenal.
A U.S. Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the United States.
Trump would love to be able to parade military equipment through the streets of Washington DC, as we learned from leaks about his inauguration plans. I have no doubt he’d love to be a dictator like Kim Jong-Un or Vladimir Putin.
The Washington Post: Trump delights in watching the U.S. military display its strength.
Amid the often jarring inconsistency of President Trump’s foreign policy, one thing has always been crystal clear: He loves a big show of American military force.
“You gotta knock the hell out of them — Boom! Boom! Boom!” Trump said of Islamic State terrorists at a January 2016 rally in Iowa, punctuating each “boom” with a punch of his fist.
That same impulse has been apparent over the past 10 days as Trump pummeled a Syrian air base with cruise missiles, threatened military action against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and praised the U.S. military’s first-ever use of a massive 11-ton bomb, nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” to kill Islamic State militants in Afghanistan.
“So incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius,” Trump said Tuesday of the missile strike in Syria. “Our technology, our equipment is better than anybody by a factor of five.”
As he searches for a coherent foreign policy during his first months in office, Trump has celebrated but often inflated the effect of military actions. The massive shows of strength, at times, have seemed to be a strategy unto themselves.
Remember during the campaign, when Trump kept telling us our military was “depleted?” Suddenly it’s the greatest show on earth, according to the man who took 5 draft deferments during the Vietnam war.
Meanwhile sane people are just hoping Trump doesn’t start World War III.
The Atlantic: North Korea and the Risks of Miscalculation.
Not long after the United States Navy dispatched a carrier strike group in the direction of the Korean peninsula following a North Korean missile test last week, Pyongyang vowed to counter “the reckless act of aggression” and hinted at “catastrophic consequences.” The remarks came amid rising tension in the region as satellite images seem to indicate that North Korea is preparing for a possible sixth nuclear test, and as U.S. President Donald Trump warns that North Korean President Kim Jong Un is “doing the wrong thing” and that “we have the best military people on earth.”
There’s nothing particularly unusual about this sort of creative, bellicose rhetoric from the North Korean regime, which routinely threatens to do things like turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” or fire “nuclear-armed missiles at the White House and the Pentagon—the sources of all evil.” North Korea needs to be taken seriously as a hostile regime in artillery range of a close U.S. ally, and potentially in missile range of another. But its leadership lobs threats so promiscuously and outlandishly that one can build in a discount factor—there’s a long track record of unrealized North Korean threats to judge by. In that context, the probability that any given one will be realized is quite small….
What’s different now is Donald Trump. Whereas many of his predecessors steered sedulously clear of escalatory rhetoric, preferring to treat various North Korean leaders as recalcitrant children at worst or distasteful but nevertheless semi-rational negotiating partners at best, Trump has threatened North Korea via Twitter, declaring that the regime is “looking for trouble.” As my colleague Uri Friedman pointed out Thursday, three successive presidents prior to Trump, since the Clinton administration considered military action against the North’s then-nascent nuclear program, have opted for trying negotiations rather than risk a strike. It’s apparent that none succeeded in halting the nuclear program’s progress. But it’s equally apparent that the kind of massive conflagration on the Korean peninsula that world leaders are now warning against has been avoided since 1953.
For allies, enemies, and observers alike, though, Trump appears to be a wild card,and self-avowedly so. Even foreign-policy positions that are “predictable” for an American president—condemning the use of chemical weapons in war, say, or not deriding NATO as obsolete—were unanticipated reversals from this particular president. Trump himself has said that America needs to be more “unpredictable;” as Kevin Sullivan and Karen Tumulty reported in The Washington Post this week, he has made it so, leaving diplomats to ask what exactly the White House intends to do on issues ranging from border-adjustment taxes to Russia. (Russians are themselves confused: A foreign ministry spokeswoman told my colleague Julia Ioffe and other journalists this week: “We don’t understand what they’re going to do in Syria, and not only there. … No one understands what they’re going to do with Iran, no one understands what they’re going to do with Afghanistan. Excuse me, and I still haven’t said anything about Iraq.”)
Read more at The Atlantic link.
One more important foreign policy read from Anne Applebaum at the WaPo: Yes, Rex Tillerson, U.S. taxpayers should care about Ukraine. Here’s why.
“Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” That was the question that Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, was heard to ask at a meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers, America’s closest allies, a day before his visit to Moscow this week. We don’t know what he meant by that question, or in what context it was asked. When queried, the State Department replied that it was a “rhetorical device,” seeking neither to defend nor retract it.
If Tillerson were a different person and this were a different historical moment, we could forget about this odd dropped comment and move on. But Tillerson has an unusual background for a secretary of state. Unlike everyone who has held the job for at least the past century, he has no experience in diplomacy, politics or the military; instead he has spent his life extracting oil and selling it for profit. At that he was successful. But no one knows whether he can change his value system to focus instead on the very different task of selling something intangible — American values — to maximize something even more intangible: American influence.
So what’s Applebaum’s answer to Tillerson’s question?
It’s an explanation that cannot be boiled down to bullet points or a chart, or even reflected in numbers at all. I’m not even sure it can be done in a few paragraphs, but here goes. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 were an open attack on the principle of border security in Europe. The principle of border security, in turn, is what turned Europe, once a continent wracked by bloody conflicts, into a safe and peaceful trading alliance in the second half of the 20th century. Europe’s collective decision to abandon aggressive nationalism, open its internal borders and drop its territorial ambitions made Europe rich, as well as peaceful.It also made the United States rich, as well as powerful. U.S. companies do billions of dollars of business in Europe; U.S. leaders have long been able to count on European support all over the world, in matters economic, political, scientific and more. It’s not a perfect alliance but it is an unusual alliance, one that is held together by shared values as well as common interests. If Ukraine, a country of about 43 million people, were permanently affiliated with Europe, it too might become part of this zone of peace, trade and commerce.Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an aggressive, emboldened Russia increasingly threatens European security and prosperity, as well as Europe’s alliance with the United States. Russia supports anti-American, anti-NATO and indeed anti-democratic political candidates all across the continent; Russia seeks business and political allies who will help promote its companies and turn a blind eye to its corrupt practices. Over the long term, these policies threaten U.S. business interests and U.S. political interests all across the continent and around the world.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. If you’re celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful day. It’s also a long weekend here in Boston, because Monday is Patriot’s Day and the running of the Boston Marathon. I plan to relax and enjoy what I hope will be peace and quiet. I’m still getting used to the traffic noise and police sirens in my new apartment. (My old neighborhood was quiet every weekend and dead on long weekends.)
Have a great weekend Sky Dancers!
It’s difficult to keep up. I try to set aside interesting items and with in a few minute or hours they are dated! It’s also challenging to keep up with the number of things being passed, signed, and appointed that are hostile to modernity,women, immigrants, civil rights, and science and knowledge in general. Today’s list includes removing Consent Degrees that reform urban police departments, taking funds from all planned parenthood activities, and letting churches become SuperPacs. Oh, and White Nationalists have the sads about Steve Bannon.
Some of the interesting illustrations today come from a Rev. Branford Clarke’s illustration in the 1926 book Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty and another propaganda book called Heroes of the Fiery Cross. I thought it fitting we remind people of what kind of evil can lurk behind religious extremists. The first set of illustrations is aimed directly at Catholicism which shows that there’s an internecine battle between Christian brands .
I’ve also included a Dr. Seuss cartoon from a similar period sending up the idea of the “America First” movement from the WW2 period. I think you can see today’s Deplorables are definitely throwbacks from the darkest parts of our country’s history. Notice the anti-immigrant movement at that time concentrated on sorting out right and wrong type Europeans around WW2. It was the Chinese prior to that. Some of these illustrations are propaganda. Others are political cartoons of the period fighting the same sentiments we see today.
Betsy DeVos is a total nutter. So, why wouldn’t she bring on people who are just like her. This is from ProPublica. “DeVos Pick to Head Civil Rights Office Once Said She Faced Discrimination for Being White. Candice Jackson’s intellectual journey raises questions about how actively she will investigate allegations of unfair treatment of minorities and women.” I really have a difficult time understanding how upper middle class white people think they’re oppressed by minorities.
The new acting head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights once complained that she experienced discrimination because she is white.
As an undergraduate studying calculus at Stanford University in the mid-1990s, Candice Jackson “gravitated” toward a section of the class that provided students with extra help on challenging problems, she wrote in a student publication. Then she learned that the section was reserved for minority students.
“I am especially disappointed that the University encourages these and other discriminatory programs,” she wrote in the Stanford Review. “We need to allow each person to define his or her own achievements instead of assuming competence or incompetence based on race.”
Although her limited background in civil rights law makes it difficult to infer her positions on specific issues, Jackson’s writings during and after college suggest she’s likely to steer one of the Education Department’s most important — and controversial — branches in a different direction than her predecessors. A longtime anti-Clinton activistand an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian, she has denounced feminism and race-based preferences. She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by, an economist who decried both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Jackson’s inexperience, along with speculation that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will roll back civil rights enforcement, lead some observers to wonder whether Jackson, like several other Trump administration appointees, lacks sympathy for the traditional mission of the office she’s been chosen to lead.
Her appointment “doesn’t leave me with a feeling of confidence with where the administration might be going,” said Theodore Shaw, director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law, who led Barack Obama’s transition team for civil rights at the Department of Justice.
The attack on Women and their Healthcare continues with abandon.
There was a stealth signing of an anti-Planned Parenthood law. The Hyde Amendment has longed banned Federal Funds from supporting any abortion services but many in the religious nut crowd believe birth control is abortion and follow the lies of extremists who insist taxpayer money supports the procedure.
President Donald Trump privately signed a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans.
The bill, which the usually camera-friendly President signed without any media present, reverses an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding money from facilities that perform abortions, arguing that many of these facilities also provide other family planning and medical services.
The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives, though, goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women’s health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions and Planned Parenthood says 3% of the services it provides are abortions
The signing comes weeks after Vice President Mike Pence, a social conservative who regularly touts his anti-abortion stances, cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate after two Republicans opposed the measure.
“(Women’s) worst fears are now coming true. We are facing the worst political attack on women’s health in a generation as lawmakers have spent the past three months trading away women’s health and rights at every turn,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.
So far, we’ve seen no camera opportunities for signings for the Planned Parenthood funding freeze, undermining gun background checks by allowing the mentally ill easy access, removing transgender protections and a Muslim Ban. We’re also seeing a tax bill that includes a provision to let churches support political candidates. This is a move that most certainly runs afoul of the First Amendment but the religious nuts in this country don’t appear to care about anything but installing christofascism on us.
As Republicans struggle to craft a sweeping tax package — a process already rife with political land mines — they are preparing to add another volatile element to the mix: a provision that would end a six-decade-old ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates.
The repeal of the “Johnson amendment” is being written into tax legislation developed in the House of Representatives, according to aides. President Trump has vowed to “totally destroy” the provision at the behest of evangelical Christians who helped elect him.
The inclusion of the repeal in broader tax legislation could bolster its chances. A stand-alone bill would almost certainly face a filibuster in the Senate, where opponents fear the measure would effectively turn churches into super PACS.
There is some indication that Bannon and the out-of-the-linen-closet White Nationalists are despairing of Trump’s latest moves and forays into conventional NeoCon policies.
Politico has spoken with several nationalist Trump supporters who are already feeling disillusioned with what they’ve seen from the president, especially in the wake of former Breitbart editor Steve Bannon’s demotion from the National Security Council.
“It was like, here’s the chance to do something different — and that’s why people’s hopes are dashed,” Lee Stranahan, a former Breitbart News editor, tells Politico. “There was always the question of, ‘Did he really believe this stuff?’ Apparently the answer is, ‘Not as much as you’d like.’”
There is a lot of scuttlebutt and gossip around Bannon these days. This is from the Politico bit on Bannon and his merry band of Bigots. Remember, nutter Rebekah Mercer loves her some Bannon. Will they go rogue?
Meanwhile, Bannon could launder more salacious hits through the tabloids. “You go National Enquirer on them,” said blogger Mike Cernovich, a self-described student of Bannon’s work who said he has discussed the eventuality of Bannon’s firing with people close to him.
“There’s sex scandals people are sitting on,” Cernovich said. “All the gossip and drama and stuff that might be a little more personal is going to get leaked.”
Trump mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, Bannon’s chief patron, spent much of Friday at the offices of Cambridge Analytica — a data firm in which her family is invested and on whose board Bannon sat before joining the White House — exploring potential gigs for Bannon should he be fired, according to The New York Times.
Cernovich speculated that Bannon could, with the help of Cambridge Analytica’s data, move from the personal to the political by identifying his enemies’ most vulnerable allies in Congress and encouraging challengers to run for their seats. “There will be big primary campaigns against them,” Cernovich said. “It will be Eric Cantor-style warfare.”
Several people familiar with Bannon’s modus operandi said he would be unlikely to take on Trump directly, preferring instead to shift blame toward others while leaving the door open to a rapprochement with the president — at least at first.
“In Steve’s dream scenario, he would depart, things would fall apart even more so, and Trump would beg him to come back to fix it,” Bardella said.
Otherwise, Trump could eventually find himself directly in Bannon’s cross hairs, some said.
“We would see House and Senate races in 2018 to, you know, go after Trump’s agenda,” said internet troll Charles Johnson, an ally of Bannon who worked for him at Breitbart. “Everything would slow down. His presidency would essentially be over. Bannon is more than just a man. He is honestly something of an idea because he represents something that both the establishment and the left-wing media hate.”
Some analysts believe that the departure of Bannon would create virtual war on Trump’s blue collar supporters.
If Bannon leaves the White House, his departure might be viewed as the end of Trump as a defender of blue-collar Americans. In fact, though, we are dealing more in perceptions than in reality. Behind the mask, Trump never really showed serious interest in transforming the basic Republican agenda to help struggling Americans.On Wednesday, Trump reversed himself on his tough rhetoric about China when he said that he no longer planned to get rid of the Export-Import Bank. The GOP plan to replace Obamacare, which has failed to gain enough votes to pass the House, would take away benefits from some of Trump’s lower income supporters. And his proposed budget also would have drawbacks for parts of Trump’s base.In many of the rural areas that voted for Trump, residents would experience cuts to senior centers, after-school programs, farm services and infrastructure spending for towns and more.Trump’s plans to weaken government regulation — although a boon to financial services and fossil fuel executives — also may not help his base. The benefits might “trickle down,” but right now the verdict is out.Trump promised to break with traditional approaches to politics so that he could uplift the “forgotten” Americans suffering from the elimination of manufacturing jobs and rising inequality.Trump promised to break with traditional approaches to politics so that he could uplift the “forgotten” Americans suffering from the elimination of manufacturing jobs and rising inequality. But, in fact, he’s behaving like a classic Republican politician.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that consent decrees between the federal government and local police departments on reforming police activities can lower police morale.
Sessions’ comments come after he ordered the Justice Department earlier this month to review all existing consent decrees. The decrees are formal agreements between the federal government and local police departments overseen by a federal court.
Sessions made comments on “The Howie Carr Show,” a New England-based conservative radio program.
“I do share your concern that these investigations and consent decrees have the, can turn bad. They can reduce morale of the police officers,” Sessions said. “They can push back against being out on the street in a proactive way. You know New York has proven community-based policing, this CompStat plan, the broken windows, where you’re actually arresting even people for smaller crimes — those small crimes turn into violence and death and shootings if police aren’t out there.”
“So every place these decrees, and as you’ve mentioned some of these investigations have gone forward, we’ve seen too often big crime increases,” Sessions continued. “I mean big crime increases. Murder doubling and things of that nature. It’s just, we’ve got to be careful, protect people’s Civil Rights. We can’t have police officers abusing their power. We will not have that. But there are lawful approved, constitutional policies that places — New York is — the murder rate is well below a lot of these other cities that aren’t following these tactics.”
At the time, former Attorney General Eric Holder explained his department would attempt to negotiate a “consent decree” with municipal leaders and, in absence of a settlement, sue in federal court to compel action. Seeing no immediate reform–outside of several notable resignations and firings in Ferguson–and demanding an extension that covers all 90 jurisdictions in St. Louis County, social justice advocates were ho-hum when the department released its findings in Cleveland last December and, more recently, announced a similar investigation would be conducted in Baltimore.
The truth is more than 20 U.S. cities are now under a consent decree, meaning they have agreed to work with the Justice Department’s civil rights division to—in effect—reform themselves. The legally binding actions outlined are specific and stem from rigorous fact-finding. In recent days, the city of Cleveland entered a similar agreement, and current Attorney General Loretta Lynch signaled she will lead an investigation into the Baltimore police department after Freddie Gray was killed in police custody.
Cleveland has been embroiled in controversy since the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November and the acquittal of police office Michael Brelo in the fatal shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Brelo was among 13 officers who unleashed a stunning 137 rounds on the unarmed suspects as they sat in their car. The city was already under a “pattern and practice” investigation at the time of both incidents.
So the question remains: how effective are such measures?
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed in 1994, has proven to be one of the most significant pieces of justice-related legislation enacted over the last 20 odd years. It is most widely known for its problematic measures, including the so-called “three strikes” law that mandates life imprisonment for three-time offenders. Signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, that aspect has disproportionately fueled the mass incarceration of African American men.
However, the law also handed the civil rights division the ability to pursue police agencies if they demonstrate a “pattern and practice” of violating the Constitutional rights of the people they are sworn to serve and protect—including the use of excessive force, racial profiling, and policing-for-profit schemes. The extraordinary language came just three years after Rodney King was beaten by four LAPD police officers. It was a response to a national outcry that the federal government do more to hold law enforcement agencies accountable when local authorities fail.
The prevalence of third-party videotape, which grew exponentially in the years since Rodney King with the advent of smartphone technology and the ubiquitous nature of surveillance cameras, has afforded investigating agencies with a bevy of tangible evidence. Relying on an officer’s statement, as North Charleston, South Carolina police had initially done in the case of patrolman Michael Slager, is no longer the end of the inquiry. Slager, who was unaware that a bystander recorded him, made a flurry of false statements related to the death of Walter Scott. When a tape emerged of him standing calmly in a footpath and shooting Scott five times in the back, he was arrested and charged.
This is definitely a huge concern for those of us that live in urban areas where police practices have been anything but enlightened. It’s been a major way of putting all levels of government and the communities in a place where reform is possible.
Now it’s in jeopardy along with many other things.
So, the one bit of rumors coming from left wing media that seems terrifically exciting is that there are about to be arrests in the T-Russia Spy-O-Rama.
The claim first came from @SheWhoVotes, a Twitter user who is also a Constitutional lawyer and has a solid track record. She tweeted today that she’s “Hearing from intelligence insiders that [New York State Attorney General Eric] Scheiderman is working closely with intel. They’re going to take out the entire three ring circus” (link). This was then quickly validated with the words “Fact check: true” by Louise Mensch, a former member of British Parliament who is now a political journalist, and whose inside sources have been consistently correct about the FISA warrants in the Trump-Russia investigation going back to last fall.
My feet are doing a jig over this one:
Last Minute Update:
This is a developing story.
Also: Today is JJ’s birthday. Happy Birthday to our favorite cartoon maven.
Now to the news that was breaking when I started this post.
In my Saturday post, I tried to connect some dots to demonstrate that Trump’s almost benign missile strike on Syria was likely orchestrated in coordination with Russia. Today that seems even more likely, as the new of Trump-Russia connection pile up almost daily.
The missile strike was on Friday night. Since then, we’ve learned damning information about former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page. The distraction caused by Trump’s military action hasn’t lasted long.
Remember that secret handwritten ledger found in Ukraine that listed payments of $12.6 million to Manafort? That NYT story led to Manafort being sidelined by the campaign.
Associated Press: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout.
Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.
Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity.
Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.
The two payments came years before Manafort became involved in Trump’s campaign, but for the first time bolster the credibility of the ledger. They also put the ledger in a new light, as federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been investigating Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe as part of a larger anti-corruption probe.
Last night the New York Times reported that right after he resigned from the Trump campaign, he took out millions in loans from Trump-connected companies.
Aug. 19 was an eventful day for Paul Manafort.
That morning, he stepped down from guiding Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, after a brief tenure during which Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, Democrats’ emails were hacked and the campaign’s contacts with Russia came under scrutiny. Dogged by revelations about past financial dealings in Ukraine, Mr. Manafort retreated from public view.
But behind the scenes, he was busy with other matters. Papers were recorded that same day creating a shell company controlled by Mr. Manafort that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser. They were among $20 million in loans secured by properties belonging to Mr. Manafort and his wife.
The purpose of the loans is unstated in public records, although at least some of them appear to be part of an effort by Mr. Manafort to stave off a personal financial crisis stemming from failed investments with his son-in-law.
The transactions raise a number of questions, including whether Mr. Manafort’s decision to turn to Trump-connected lenders was related to his role in the campaign, where he had agreed to serve for free.
That is on top of accusations of money laundering by Manafort and evidence that he made a deal with a Russian oligarch to provide services that would “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” according the AP.
Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Manafort is negotiating to retroactively register as a foreign agent.
Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair for Donald Trump, has signaled that he plans to register as a foreign agent for his past work on behalf of political figures in Ukraine.
If he files, Manafort would become the second former senior Trump adviser in recent weeks to retroactively acknowledge the need to disclose foreign work. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser, filed a disclosure last month saying he had done work on behalf of Turkish interests.
A spokesman for Manafort said Wednesday that the longtime political consultant considered a new filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) after receiving “formal guidance recently from the authorities” regarding work he and a colleague had performed on behalf of Ukrainian political interests.
And then there’s Carter Page.
The Washington Post on Tuesday: FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page.
The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.
This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.
Yesterday Page gave a bizarre interview to CNN.
Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser on President Donald Trump’s campaign, declined repeatedly Wednesday to confirm or deny the FBI had interviewed him yet.
“I have nothing to say about any ongoing investigations,” Page said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
Page’s CNN interview came a day after the Washington Post reported the FBI had received a warrant to surveil him in summer 2016 as part of the federal investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the presidential race….
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions, and until there’s full evidence and a full investigation has been done, we just don’t know,” Page said.
Pressed on FBI questioning, he wouldn’t say if he had been interviewed by the FBI, but said that he looked forward to supporting congressional investigations into the matter.
In interviews as recently as February, Page had said the FBI had not questioned him, but in his CNN interview he declined to answer.
This morning Page spoke to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos: Carter Page: ‘Something may have come up in a conversation’ with Russians about US sanctions.
Page said he briefly said “hello” to one of the school’s board members.
When Stephanopoulos asked whether in any of his conversations Page suggested that Trump would be open to easing sanctions on Russia, Page initially said, “I never offered that” but then said, “I don’t recall every single word.”
Stephanopoulos pressed, “It sounds like from what you’re saying it’s possible you may have discussed the easing of sanctions.”
“Something may have come up in a conversation,” Page replied. “I have no recollection, and there’s nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.”
“Someone may have brought it up,” he continued. “And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.”
“We’ll see what comes out in this FISA transcript,” he said.
Well, that’s interesting. Page is hedging his bets in case the wiretaps picked up something damning. That guy is a real weirdo. Earlier he told ABC News that he believes “Obama targeted him as a ‘dissident’.”
My guess is that Page, Manafort, and Flynn are already talking to the FBI or soon will be. Notice we haven’t heard anything from Flynn since the last dust-up.
As always, since Trump became POTUS, there is way too much news! A few more stories to check out, links only:
Letter to Editor, Chicago Tribune: I was on United flight 3411. Here’s what I saw.
Charlotte Observer: NC lawmaker calls Abraham Lincoln a ‘tyrant’ like Hitler.
Rich Lowry at Politico: When Jared Wins.
Gene Lyons at The National Memo: Does Trump Expect To Fool America With A Pro Wrestling Feud?
The Washington Post: Inside Bannon’s struggle: From ‘shadow president’ to Trump’s marked man.
Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday despite the insanity.
I thought there would be plenty of cartoons today, with Spicer giving such a platter of goods yesterday, and tRump with his “Cake Boss” moment this morning.
The only other reporter to raise any eyebrows was Ashley Parker from Washington Post…
Another day, another gaffe by Press Secretary Sean Spicer — this one arguably his worst one yet. During his Tuesday briefing, while discussing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, he said “You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” When given the opportunity to clarify, he only elaborated, “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Ashad [sic] is doing … he brought them into the Holocaust Centers, I understand that.”
And just as the words came out of his mouth, reporters April Ryan and Ashley Parker reacted, well, pretty much exactly how you’d expect any person watching to.
Well, actually…look around, no one else seems to be reacting to the Hitler comments.
Then of course you have this:
And what the fuck is Maria Bartiromo laughing and giggling about?
This is an open thread.
Boston Boomer is under the weather today, so I’m bringing you the round up for the day.
First up I have to start this thread with a little tongue in cheek;
Okay, now let’s get serious.
Why do I get the feeling the passengers that were “randomly” chosen for United to “reaccommodate” perhaps had a little more than a random pick behind it?
People are rallying around the passenger who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight on Sunday, in response to what many see as attempts to vilify a victim.
On Tuesday, the Louisville Courier-Journal published an article reporting that the passenger, David Dao, “has a troubled history in Kentucky.” The article cites past drug-related felonies in the early 2000s, noting that the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure allowed Dao to resume practicing medicine in 2015.
Soon after the article published, many people took to social media to criticize the Courier-Journal for seemingly attempting to justify an incident in which Dao was dragged from United Express Flight 3411 by law enforcement officers. Dao suffered injuries to his face, and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
None of this man’s past has anything to do with the atrocious treatment he received…but I would not put it past the company to have orchestrated the chosen 4 for just this possible situation. I bet that is part of the protocol. Pick people that can be exploited negatively in the press if you need to…
More tweets of anger at CJ and support of David Dao at that link.
Onward to the shooting and murder of two people at a California primary school.
I mentioned in a comment last week that my dad is part of this survival group, and that there was a rumor going on about the strike force heading to the Korean Peninsula…well, last night he told me the new rumor is that China is dealing with a huge number of refugees from North Korea flooding into the country because of the fear that tRump is going to blow Kim Jong Un off the planet.
I don’t know, the shit is hitting the fan.
I had to do it…
But here are some news links about all that shit.
As for the Syria and Putin and Assad shit. (The word shit has become my go to expression for everything lately, you can take a look at some of these updates.
It is all so disturbing.
Thursday evening, Trump attacked Syria, a sovereign country, with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This act of war was done without Congressional authorization, even after Trump’s August, 2013, tweet that “Obama needs Congressional approval” before attacking Syria in nearly-identical circumstances.
The following morning, headlines like this one appeared in the business press: Raytheon, maker of Tomahawk missiles, leads premarket rally in defense stocks:
Defense and energy stocks dominated the list of premarket gainers on the S&P 500 Friday, led by Tomahawk missile-maker Raytheon Corp., after U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian air base overnight.
Donald Trump apparently owns Raytheon stock. In May, 2016, Trump reported to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that he owned Raytheon stock. Interestingly, this FEC report does not appear to include the extensive web of offshore anonymous shell corporations Trump uses to mask assets.
Since that filing Trump’s assets have not been sold with the proceeds placed into a “blind trust,” and there is no public record of his having otherwise sold the stock. Not only that, but Trump is able to draw cash from his “trust” at any time. He could literally have pocketed cash from his gains from attacking Syria.
Read the rest at the link.
But tRump is not only profiting on the attack in Syria. He is making money on his time off, away from, the White House:
Again, I can’t believe that nothing has been done to move forward with impeachment.
The Sessions’ Justice Department had tried to stop the ruling.
Margaret Atwood—author of The Handmaid’s Tale and dozens of other novels, short-story collections, children’s books, works of poetry and criticism, and the new comic-book series Angel Catbird—is the subject of a lengthy and insightful profile in The New Yorker. She speaks briefly on Donald Trump’s presidency, telling New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead, “If the election of Donald Trump were fiction… it would be too implausible to satisfy readers.” It’s an insightful viewpoint from the writer of speculative fiction (her preferred term over “science fiction”), who’s penned arguably the most influential speculation through the lens of patriarchy. Atwood goes on to say:
Fiction has to be something that people would actually believe. If you had published it last June, everybody would have said, “That is never going to happen.”
This study looks like an interesting read….
Why did the Arab spring fail? Despite a number of revolutions in the Arab world, in the end only Tunisia emerged as a functioning democracy. Results from an interdisciplinary research project at the University of Gothenburg indicate that the problem might be traced partially to the lack of women’s civil rights in the region.
A new study published in the European Journal of Political Research discusses the importance of women’s rights for countries to become democratic. The researchers used a dataset developed by V-Dem, a research institution cohosted by the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) and the University of Notre Dame (USA). The dataset includes the state of democracy in 177 countries over the years 1900 to 2012.
The study demonstrates that countries do not become fully democratic without political and social rights for women. This is particularly true for the Arab Spring countries, where the failure to foster women’s rights compromised any attempt at democratic governance in the area.
According to Professor Staffan Lindberg, director of the V-Dem Institute, the result is important because it shows that democratic development is not gender blind: societies transitioning from authoritarian regimes strongly need women in order to develop functioning democratic governments.
This next link is for Dak, another grave for you.
The desert bloom from space….is something to see.
And I will end it on that note.
This is an open thread. I hope BB starts to feel better, and that y’all have a good afternoon.
I’m dealing with the death of my cousin Ruthie who was closest to me in age and always put in charge of me when I was little in our nearly weekly visits to Kansas City. She died yesterday of ALS which is a disease that is horrid beyond measure and requires a lot of further research to unwind. Death is natural and inevitable but we should be able to find ways of better dealing with horrifying deadly diseases. While the Trump budget is finding ways to give the extremely wealthy more tax cuts and fund more military publicity stunts, its priorities are shameful when it comes to the CDC, funding basic scientific and medical research, and anything that has to do with making medical help available to people that truly need it.
President Donald Trump’s plan to cut billions of dollars in funding to medical and scientific research agencies would cost the country countless jobs, stall medical advances and threaten America’s status as the world leader in science and medicine, advocates said Thursday.
“Cutting the funding in this way will have devastating and generation-long effects,” said Dr. Clifford Hudis, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents cancer specialists.
“[Medical research] is a fundamental driver of American economic strength and it is being compromised here,” Hudis told NBC News. “It’s a jobs program.”
Multiple organizations expressed shock and disappointment at Trump’s budget proposal, which adds $54 billion in defense spending but would slash nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, which funds most basic medical research in the country, as well as eliminate entirely dozens of other agencies and programs.
It would cut the overall Health and Human Services department budget by 18 percent, including the 20 percent budget reduction at NIH, and reassign money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to states.
Most cancer drugs get their start in the basic research funded by the NIH and often done in NIH labs.
“The targeted therapies, the immunotherapies, the conventional chemotherapy drugs — all of these things have roots in the NIH,” Hudis said.
Meanwhile, Team Gleason–including some friends of mine hoping to raise funds to find an ALS cure–is running in the Crescent City Classic this weekend in a subevent called the Race for Team Gleason. My cousin was active in events raising funds for ALS Research. (My friends Cait and Caroline are running in Ruthie’s honor this Saturday! You can get to the donation page here. All proceeds to go Steve Gleason’s ALS efforts!)
Why do we have to have fundraisers for everything but freaking war in this country?
So, I’ve been crying last night and today. Ruthie paved the way for lots of stuff for me. Just as she helped me spend nights away from home in her bedroom and big girl twin beds, she introduced me to Pet Sounds and using juice cans for hair rollers. She got a great job in high school at the local mall at a dress store. I got to visit her at work in all her blue eye shadow, page boy hair, and A-line dress glory and was totally awed. The idea of working during school was a total scandal to my mother and she went on about it for weeks. I’m not sure what exactly passed between then and me 5 years later but my mother had no problem with me working at the local dress store at the local mall when I hit sweet 16.
There are so many people in our lives that should’t die of ALS or many currently deadly diseases. As a country, we’ve had priorities to get rid of tuberculosis and polio, and make AIDS a chronic disease and not a death sentence. With money and research, we get it done. I decided to write about Ruthie and her struggle with ALS in light of many things. Least among them is this.
The Trump administration has failed to fill crucial public health positions across the government, leaving the nation ill-prepared to face one of its greatest potential threats: a pandemic outbreak of a deadly infectious disease, according to experts in health and national security.
No one knows where or when the next outbreak will occur, but health security experts say it is inevitable. Every president since Ronald Reagan has faced threats from infectious diseases, and the number of outbreaks is on the rise.
Over the past three years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has monitored more than 300 outbreaks in 160 countries, tracking 37 dangerous pathogens in 2016 alone. Infectious diseases cause about 15 percent of all deaths worldwide.
But after 11 weeks in office, the Trump administration has filled few of the senior positions critical to responding to an outbreak. There is no permanent director at the CDC or at the US Agency for International Development. At the Department of Health and Human Services, no one has been named to fill sub-Cabinet posts for health, global affairs, or preparedness and response. It’s also unclear whether the National Security Council will assume the same leadership on the issue as it did under President Barack Obama, according to public health experts.
This administration has time for golf galore. It has time to sign executive orders decimating equal pay for women and the rights of GLBT to be free from discrimination, and to demand ways government can be shredded to bits so the planet is essentially made uninhabitable. It has time for costly publicity stunts to remove public attention and press attention from its never growing list of scandals and conflicts of interest. It has no time for governing or policy for American people.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.
In a statement Monday, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.
A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a yet-to-be named senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions’s statement said.
I’ve long reached the “PopEye Point”. The Senate Nuclear option just installed a terrible SCOTUS judge because Mitch McConnell. We now have a President that lost the popular vote by a historically huge margin and a Supreme Court Judge that couldn’t muster the usual vote.
Gorsuch’s confirmation once again gives the Supreme Court a majority of Republican appointees, as it had before Scalia’s death, last February. But Ginsburg (who was appointed by Bill Clinton) is eighty-four; Anthony Kennedy (the Court’s swing vote, appointed by Reagan) is eighty; and Stephen Breyer (a Clinton appointee) is seventy-eight. If Trump has the opportunity to replace any of these three, much less all of them, the ideological balance of the Court will be transformed for at least a generation.
Gorsuch was quietly installed by Trump today with very little notice.
The confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has left shattered political conventions in its wake: the refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, the first partisan filibuster of a high court nominee, and the demise of the Senate filibuster for judges altogether.
All this smashed political pottery shows not only how polarized our politics have become, but how dramatically the stakes of filling a vacant Supreme Court seat have increased. Three key factors arebehind this.
First, the average tenure of a justice is much longer now. From 1941 to 1970, justices served an average of about 12 years. But from 1971 to 2000, they served an average of 26 years.
That figure has increased only since 2000. When John Paul Stevens retired from the court in 2010, he had served 35 years. When Antonin Scalia died, he had served 30 years. Anthony M. Kennedy has served 29 years, Clarence Thomas 26 years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg 24 years, and Stephen G. Breyer 23 years. Presidents who might serve only four years can have influence decades later if they can appoint someone to the Supreme Court.
Second, precisely because justices serve so much longer, vacant seats arise less often. From 1881 to 1970, a vacancy arose on average once every 1.7 years. But since 1970, a seat has become vacant only once every three years or so. In the first era, a two-term president typically would appoint four or five justices, or more than half the court. But since 1970, a two-term president would typically appoint two or three justices.
The longer period between vacancies also means that some presidents will not appoint any Supreme Court justices at all. Jimmy Carter was the first president to complete one term without having made a single appointment. If George W. Bush had been a one-term president, the same would have happened to him.
Gorsuch has a chance to fuck us over for a very long time. He’s likely to join the other religious extremists in a Taliban-like imposition of whackadoodle presumed gawdly law aka Hobby Lobby.
The most anticipated case in the April sitting is probably Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a case about whether a state constitutional provision that prevents state funds from going to religious institutions violates the federal Constitution — both the clause protecting the free exercise of religion and the clause guaranteeing the equal protection of the laws. Here a church that contains a playground applied for a state program that helps nonprofits resurface their playgrounds. The church was denied access to the program because of its status as a church, and it argues that this is unconstitutional.
I’d say the other big cases to watch right now are the various challenges to the president’s second travel ban executive order. Both the 4th Circuit and the 9th Circuit will hear arguments in May on the constitutionality of the travel ban. Whatever happens in those cases, the losing party is virtually certain to seek Supreme Court review. Although the court doesn’t typically hear cases between April and October, it’s certainly not unheard of for it to do so — and I think it’s quite possible here, in particular if the administration loses and asks the court to act quickly. The court could also rule without hearing arguments.
So, this is about all I have room for today in me. I’m hoping to get some work done and find some peace by leaving the TV off and walking away from the news on the internet if I can.
Please, send some money to Team Gleason or to any other group of people fighting horrible diseases. It appears that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done unless it sends money directly to the Trump Family Syndicate.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
This has to be quick, a link dump because I have so much going on at home.
God help us….
Oh yeah, fucking hell….God help us….
Controversy has swirled around Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump’s top counterterrorism advisers, ever since he attended the president’s Jan. 20 Inaugural Ball wearing the honorary medal of Hungarian nationalist organization Vitezi Rend.
NBC News traveled to Hungary to dig deeper into Gorka’s ties with the group, speaking with members of the organization as well as with locals who knew him when he lived there.
“When he appeared on U.S. television … with the medal of the Vitez Order … it made me really proud,” Vitezi Rend spokesman Andras Horvath said in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Vitezi Rend is also known as the Order of Vitez.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday suggested that in order to deter further electoral meddling, Russia “needs to confront” its own interference in the 2016 U.S. election as well as upcoming elections in Europe.
“This is something that Russia needs to confront themselves and I think examine carefully as to how this is helping them achieve their longer-term objectives,” Tillerson said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He said the U.S. will “continue to talk with” Russian officials “about how this undermines any hope of improving relations not just with the United States,” but suggested self-reflection will be a stronger deterrent than external pressure.
“It’s pretty evident that they are taking similar tactics into electoral processes throughout Europe and so they’re really undermining any hope for improved relations with many European countries as well,” Tillerson said.
Every day, I say to myself. Why?
And my anxiety and depression gets worse!
Below are even more depressing links and videos.
And I guess, there is aways this…
That is all, if I have time I will stop by and comment…This is an open thread.