Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I’ve talked to people from several places around Texas and they have the same eerie fog that we’ve got here in New Orleans. Foggy is also a good description for my brain activity today. It’s also foggy in Minnesota. Nothing seems clear at the moment.
Four US Senators are urging Senator Al Franken to reconsider his resignation over alleged sexual misconduct. It’s a rare day I’m in agreement with Joe Manchin.
“What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats,” said West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast to post on Tuesday.
Franken’s unusual timeline — in his departure announcement he said he’d go “in the coming weeks,” without setting a date — has fed the fleeting hopes that there’s still time to reverse course. However, Tina Smith, Minnesota’s Democratic lieutenant governor, was named last week as his appointed successor.
People familiar with Franken’s plans said he has not changed his mind and intends to formally resign in early January. He praised the selection of Smith and has begun working with her on the transition.
At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider resigning, including two who issued statements calling for the resignation two weeks ago and said they now feel remorse over what they feel was a rush to judgment.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who urged Franken not to step down to begin with — at least not before he went through an Ethics Committee investigation — said the Minnesota senator was railroaded by fellow Democrats.
An Amtrack train derailed this morning outside of Seattle. It actually dropped from a raise overpass onto a section of I-5. It is also drizzly and foggy up there too. The cause, extent of damages, and the number of folks injured are unknown. There are eyewitness accounts indicating there are cars beneath the fallen cars.
The Amtrak train car fell from an overpass, landing on the I-5 highway outside Seattle. All lanes of traffic have been closed.
Authorities have not yet confirmed the extent of casualties. But witnesses say several people have been injured.
Local news stations report that this was the inaugural run of the new high-speed rail line.
The crash occurred around 07:30 (15:30 GMT), about 45 minutes into train 501’s journey between Portland and Seattle.
Before the crash, it was travelling at more than 80mph (130kmh), with at least 75 people aboard.
It is unclear if it landed on any cars below, but CNN reports that several cars are crushed below the train.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
David Leonhardt has a great Op Ed up in the NY Times about the Republican Tax Plan and how it will exacerbate income in equality. Here is one significant finding of three provided in the piece.
The great tax-cutting revolution of the last half-century hasn’t actually been a tax-cutting revolution for most Americans.
True, they have benefited from a series of cuts in income-tax rates, signed by Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. At the same time, though, another tax has been rising. It is the quiet giant of federal tax policy: the payroll tax.
It funds Social Security and Medicare, and it has been rising in response to the aging of society and rising medical costs. It increased from 2 percent just after World War II to 6 percent in 1960 to 12.4 percent in 1990, where it is today. It has risen so much that it’s now the largest tax that 62 percent of American households pay — larger than the income tax, which gets much more attention.
The increases in the payroll tax have more than offset the declines in the income tax for most middle-class and poor families. They now face higher total tax rates than a half-century ago.
Kremlin Caligula and his krazy krewe of kooks have developed a new Security Strategy that doesn’t include climate change. It also has weird language for traditionally hostile nations like China and Russia.
The White House will unveil a new national security strategy that, according to multiple reports, will break with the Obama administration by declining to recognize climate change as a threat to national security interests.
Why it matters: The report is the latest sign of how the Trump administration, in addition to unwinding domestic global warming rules, has made a sharp rhetorical break with its predecessor when it comes to the geo-politics of climate change.
Buzz: The New York Times points out that climate will surface in the report in a section on embracing U.S. “energy dominance.” The Federalist reported Friday that the strategy will note that “[c]limate policies will continue to shape the global energy system” but will also state:
“U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth, energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests. Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.”
It also underscores the mixed messages from the administration on how to assess climate change.
President Donald Trump will declare that China and Russia are competitors seeking to challenge U.S. power and erode its security and prosperity, in a national security strategy he will lay out in a speech on Monday.
“They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence,” according to excerpts of Trump’s strategy released by the White House.
Still no word about the cyber threat to our elections and the capture of the administration by our ‘competitor’ Mother Russia.’
Twitter has announced new rules designed to promote safety and reduce “hateful conduct and abusive behavior”. Will it ban Kremlin Caligula?
Today, we will start enforcing updates to the Twitter Rules announced last month to reduce hateful and abusive content on Twitter. Through our policy development process, we’ve taken a collaborative approach to develop and implement these changes, including working in close coordination with experts on our Trust and Safety Council.
New Rules on Violence and Physical Harm
Specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people is in violation of our policies. Our new changes include more types of related content including:
- Accounts that affiliate with organizations that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes. Groups included in this policy will be those that identify as such or engage in activity — both on and off the platform — that promotes violence. This policy does not apply to military or government entities and we will consider exceptions for groups that are currently engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution.
- Content that glorifies violence or the perpetrators of a violent act. This includes celebrating any violent act in a manner that may inspire others to replicate it or any violence where people were targeted because of their membership in a protected group. We will require offending Tweets to be removed and repeated violations will result in permanent suspension
We shall see.
What’s on your reading and blogging list? How’s the weather and end of the year stuff going?
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m sick and tired of the media’s coverage of “sexual assault.” I was already tired of hearing about it, but this whole thing with Al Franken using a lot of cerazette is just plain ridiculous. How many days now has it been the top story on cable TV? It feels like a month. What he did was stupid and disgusting, but I’ve heard enough. Franken apologized and wrote a personal letter to the “victim.” She said she accepts his apology.
Should Franken resign? No fucking way! Should we spend interminable days relitigating the charges against Bill Clinton from 20 years ago? No thanks. What Clinton did was disgusting too, but he went through years of investigations and was impeached for Christ’s sake. Enough!
Until Donald Trump resigns, the media needs to lay off Franken. Unless a bunch more women come forward to accuse him, it doesn’t look like he’s predator on the scale of Moore or Trump. We know that numerous other men in the House and Senate are guilty of sexual harassment. How about doing some investigative reporting to find out the names of these men and publish them?
We live in a culture in which women are beaten, raped and murdered on a daily basis. Let the media focus on that for a week. But it won’t happen. They prefer to use the rampant violence against women in this country as entertainment. And this 24/7 coverage of sexual harassment is happening for the same reason–entertainment and ratings. After the past couple of weeks, I’m feeling like I want to resign from the human race.
Meanwhile, the abuser-in-chief is stealing money hand over fist from taxpayers and trying to “reform” the tax code to give himself billions more.
Did you watch Richard Engel’s special on Trump’s Panama tower? If not, I highly recommend you check it out. Some interesting reading on just one place where Trump is reaping the rewards of his massive corruption. Some recommended reading on the subject:
Global Witness: Narco-A-Lago: Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club Panama. An excerpt:
The warning signs were there from the outset. The Trump Ocean Club, one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals to date, was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a period when Panama was known as one of the best places in the world to launder money. Whole neighborhoods in Panama City were taken over by organized crime groups, and luxury developments were built with the purpose of serving as money laundering vehicles.
Moreover, investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely. Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere. In most countries, regulation is notoriously lax in the real estate sector. Cash payments are subject to hardly any scrutiny, giving opportunistic and unprincipled developers free rein to accept dirty money.
In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy – and possibly dirty – money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010. Trump received a percentage of the financing he helped secure, and a cut on the sale of every unit at the development.
He and his family have made millions of dollars more from management fees and likely continue to profit from the Trump Ocean Club. Eager for the project’s success, Trump and his children have participated directly in marketing with help from one of the best marketing agencies, management, and even project design. According to broker Ventura Nogueira, Trump’s daughter Ivanka attended at least 10 meetings with him and project developer Roger Khafif.
A large number of those involved with the Trump Ocean Club in its early phase were Russian and Eastern European citizens or diaspora members. In an interview with NBC and Reuters, Ventura Nogueira said that 50 percent of his buyers were Russian, and that some had “questionable backgrounds.” He added that he found out later that some were part of the Russian Mafia.
Two more articles:
Lots of news has been breaking on the Russia investigation. For example, The AP is just out with a new scoop: Moscow meeting in June 2017 under scrutiny in Trump probe.
Earlier this year, a Russian-American lobbyist and another businessman discussed over coffee (checkout this smart coffee cup that was given to me https://www.fastcodesign.com/90150019/the-perfect-smart-coffee-cup-is-here) an extraordinary meeting they had attended 12 months earlier: a gathering at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s son, his son-in-law and his then-campaign chairman.
The Moscow meeting in June, which has not been previously disclosed, is now under scrutiny by investigators who want to know why the two men met in the first place and whether there was some effort to get their stories straight about the Trump Tower meeting just weeks before it would become public, The Associated Press has learned.
Congressional investigators have questioned both men — lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Ike Kaveladze, a business associate of a Moscow-based developer and former Trump business partner — and obtained their text message communications, people familiar with the investigation told the AP.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team also has been investigating the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which occurred weeks after Trump had clinched the Republican presidential nomination and which his son attended with the expectation of receiving damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. A grand jury has already heard testimony about the meeting, which in addition to Donald Trump Jr., also included Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and his then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The focus of the congressional investigators was confirmed by three people familiar with their probe, including two who demanded anonymity to discuss the sensitive inquiry.
One of those people said Akhmetshin told congressional investigators that he asked for the Moscow meeting with Kaveladze to argue that they should go public with the details of the Trump Tower meeting before they were caught up in a media maelstrom. Akhmetshin also told the investigators that Kaveladze said people in Trump’s orbit were asking about Akhmetshin’s background, the person said.
How much more evidence do we need to know that Russia has basically taken over our goverment?We’re living in a dystopian nightmare, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday. The world is laughing at us because Trump is rapidly turning the U.S. into a tinpot dictatorship. I’d like to just curl up in my apartment and escape into books, and I may just do that this weekend.
One way to escape the present and perhaps put our situation in perspective is to read dystopian novels, which I love. Louise Erdrich has just published one, and Elle has an interview of her by Margaret Atwood: Inside the Dystopian Visions of Margaret Atwood and Louise Erdrich.
Louise Erdrich, member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, author of more than 20 novels, most of them revolving around an Ojibwe community in North Dakota, won the National Book Award for The Round House (2012), a crime thriller, and was a Pulitzer Finalist for The Plague of Doves (2009), a murder mystery. But when a galley of her new novel, Future Home of the Living God (HarperCollins, out now), came across ELLE’s desk, it seemed to us that Erdrich had gone where she’d never quite gone before.
She’s written a novel—a wonderful, creepy, dystopian novel—in which women become prized, and quickly enslaved, for their ability to produce healthy babies. The pregnant protagonist of the novel, Cedar, an Ojibwe adoptee, is on the run, evading the white male evangelical government that wants to sever her from life as she knows it and use her body to produce healthy babies. Click here
Yes, it sounds familiar, doesn’t it—unless you’ve been living under a rock and missed
The Handmaid’s Tale cleaning up at the Emmys, or the fact that the book by the great Margaret Atwood has been on Amazon’s list of its top-20 most-read books for months.
So who better to interview Erdrich about her new novel than Atwood? Lo and behold: They agreed! Over the summer, the two writers—one in Toronto, one in Minnesota—amid jaunts to the Arctic and Winnipeg, engaged in a cross-border digital interview about the novel, their prophetic fears, politics, climate change, and why we idealize Canada.
Click on the link to read the interview. More dystopian fiction suggestions:
Literary Hub: 30 Dystopian Novels by and About Women.
ShortList: The 20 best dystopian novels.
Another way to escape is to read about earlier times. Here’s an interesting book review I came across yesterday at The New Republic: Little House, Small Government. How Laura Ingalls Wilder’s frontier vision of freedom and survival lives on in Trump’s America.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the “Little House on the Prairie” books, lived a good two decades of her 90 years in a covered wagon going west. Only in late middle age did she become the author of the most successful series for children ever written about the settling of the American frontier. In the stories these books tell, the Ingalls family embodies that extraordinary hunger for pioneering that, through the second half of the nineteenth century, sent a few million men, women, and children out into the prairies and mountains of the mid- and far West to farm, raise cattle, mine for silver, pan for gold. One and all, they went in search of a life free from the restraints of the socialized world, to a place where survival depended on the exercise of one’s own wit and strength and backbreaking labor.
Ultimately, that same drive to be alone with the wilderness got converted to a founding myth of individualism, out of which emerged an ideology that visualized freedom from government as an equivalent of freedom itself. The descendants of that myth are among us still. If Laura Ingalls Wilder were alive today she would be a member of the Tea Party. She would almost certainly have voted for Donald Trump, many of whose followers yet believe that he will restore to them the dubious glory of the frontier America that Wilder so passionately celebrated in her books.
Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder is an impressive piece of social history that uses the events of Wilder’s life to track, socially and politically, the development of the American continent and its people. The frontier, by definition, has always been a place just beyond the point where land meets sky. In America that longing to move beyond the horizon, which is common to all cultures, became not only synonymous with an idea of the national character, but a vital ingredient in the American brand of democracy. The historian Frederick Jackson Turner ardently believed, in fact, that “that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism” attributed to the frontier was the major influence on American democracy’s development.
What the people in the covered wagons did not grasp was that to a large extent they were pawns in the hands of political and business interests—especially those of the railroads—that needed to see ground broken across the entire continent. The pioneers never understood the hucksterism behind the “go west, young man” rhetoric that urged them to go where none had gone before, with no hard knowledge of what actually lay before them. All the pioneers knew—in their fantasies, that is—was that just over the horizon lay adventure, opportunity, possible wealth, and certain freedom.
As a kid, I read every one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series that began with Little House in the Big Woods and ended with These Happy Golden Years. Oh how I’d love to go back that innocent time in my life for one day. But then, maybe it wasn’t as great as I remember it. The reviewer includes another book about the American frontier that isn’t as joyful as Wilder’s nostalgic tales:
Agnes Smedley’s autobiographical novel Daughter of Earth, published in 1929, gave its readers an altogether different look at the same set of experiences. “I write of the joys and sorrows of the lowly,” she begins, “of those who die … exhausted by poverty, victims of wealth and power…. For we are of the earth and our struggle is the struggle of earth.” Smedley’s masterful work of realism concentrates on everything that Laura Ingalls Wilder either ignores, leaves out, or flatly denies. In this book, capitalism makes a mockery of the illusion of freedom-just-ahead—the promise that sent millions traveling west during those same years when the Ingallses were loading and unloading their covered wagon and then loading it once again.
Smedley was born in 1892 in Missouri into a family of farmers who labored long days in the field and never seemed to get ahead. The father, like Charles Ingalls, was handsome and restless. A lover of music and tall tales, he was possessed of “the soul and imagination of a vagabond,” Smedley wrote. The open road called to him. The mother, unlike Caroline Ingalls, desperately did not want to leave the farm but the father wore her down and at last they packed up and headed out. “And from that moment,” Smedley writes, “our roots were torn from the soil and we began a life of wandering, searching for success and happiness and riches that always lay just beyond—where we were not. Only since then have I heard the old saying ‘Where I am not, there is happiness.’”
The father did not want to homestead; rather, he thought to join the army of miners, loggers, and teamsters who were rushing west right alongside the settlers. Missouri, Colorado—on the Smedleys moved, from one mining camp to another, always working like dogs, always being cheated of their wages, always just barely surviving. “Existence meant only working, sleeping, eating … and breeding…. A book was a curiosity … a newspaper was a rarity; to read was a recreation of the rich.”
The family joined the exploited underclass that got the country built. Men like Smedley’s father, with all his brute strength and hunger of spirit, never realized that they were forever up against the exploitation of the owners of the mines and the railroads, who had the government in their pockets. Smedley himself proved an ignorant and frightened man, helpless before a world he could not fathom, much less define himself against. In time he loses his taste for the songs and the stories that sustained him; he becomes a bully, starts to drink, and beats his wife. Of her mother, old at 30, Smedley writes, “her tears … they embittered my life!” It is above all the hardness of the narrator’s voice that makes Daughter of Earth so unlike anything Wilder could have imagined. For Smedley, the ideology of American individualism proved a bitter punishment, for Wilder the fulfillment of what she took to be a God-given promise.
My grandparents and great grandparents helped settle the Dakota territory. I’d love to read those books. I already have a stack of things I want to read though. There’s never enough time.
I know this is a weird post. I think Trump is slowly driving me insane. What stories are you following today? Any book recommendations?
Well, good afternoon. Obviously, any blog post that begins with a title like this one has is just trying to make a joke out of a few very serious news articles…which I happily bring to you in this evening’s news reads.
The same state that brought you Bachmann, check out another Minnesotan, Al Franken as he Destroys Focus On The Family Witness, Exposes Misuse Of HHS Study | ThinkProgress
During this morning’s Senate DOMA hearings, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) destroyed Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery’s argument that children are better off with opposite-sex parents by demonstrating how Minnery misrepresented an HHS study. The study — which Minnery cited to oppose marriage equality — actually found that children do best in two-parent households, regardless of the parents’ gender.
Click that link to ThinkProgress to watch the video.
So here is some more disturbing news, this time from the Lone Star State. Disturbing in that it involves Rick Perry’s foreign policy education, instructed by none other than Donald Rumsfeld himself. Be afraid…be very afraid…Rumsfeld had role in Perry meeting – Ben Smith – POLITICO.com
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld helped organize Rick Perry’s foreign policy and national security briefing in Austin last Wednesday, Rumsfeld’s staff confirmed today.
Perry’s aides have been tight-lipped about the gathering, which National Review reported included former Rumsfeld aides Doug Feith, Daniel Fata, and William Luti, as well as the magazine’s Andrew McCarthy and others . But I’m told Rumsfeld helped steer Perry’s staff to the low-key advisory group, and his detainee adviser Cully Stimson was also invited, but couldn’t attend.
Oh great, as if Perry’s Jesus/God prayerfest fasting fundraising party wasn’t bad enough.
Go ahead and give this Colbert Clip a minute of your time:
Tuesday July 19, 2011
God Calls Rick Perry to RunWith the tough challenges facing America, Rick Perry thinks it’s time to hand it over to God and ask Him to jump in.
I’d embed the video if I could…a bit of comic humor for you all. Honestly, humor is the only thing that is getting me through all this crap lately.
Update: Here’s the video embed… Vodpod videos no longer available.
And speaking of crap, yes this next video clip shows us what NBC’s Today Show believes is newsworthy, you know…if I was a woman anchor over on the Today Show, I would have to put my foot down on this story. Today Show Breasts | Why Do Men Like Boobs | Large Boobs | Mediaite
I don’t know the exact figures, but I’m pretty sure the Today Show airs on NBC for about 42 hours every day. With that much time to fill, you’d think some of the content may strain for substance. Not the case, however, as you could see by today’s Today in which the show sought to answer a question that’s been challenging great thinkers for centuries: “Why do breasts turn men into boobs?”
I’m sure all the camera guys who shot b-roll for this segment must have been really excited. You know, for helping with great journalism and all.
Today’s investigating was so good for this piece that they answered their central question in the first minute, showing an interview with sexologist Logan Levkoff who explained everything:
“The fixation on breasts starts with this evolutionary blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah? Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.”
I apologize if that transcription wasn’t perfect. I got distracted because Levkoff is a woman and therefore has breasts.
Give the rest of that post by Jon Bershad a read, it made me chuckle…if only men would pay more attention to women’s health issues, other than focusing on women’s breasts…ah, I am preaching to the choir…I know.
It is obvious that Ohio Governor Kasich doesn’t give a damn about the health and welfare of the women in his state. Ohio Governor Signs 20 Week Abortion Ban | RH Reality Check
Ohio has become the latest state to ban almost all abortions after 20 weeks, even prior to viability and without any exception for the health of the mother. Republican Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law today, making it the second major new abortion restriction to go on the books this session.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, released the following statement condemning the new law:
“Once again, Governor Kasich put politics over the safety of Ohio women by signing an anti-abortion bill that lacks adequate health protections. When a pregnancy endangers a woman’s health, or there are serious complications, politicians shouldn’t interfere. This intrusive new law will force women who face serious health problems later in their pregnancies to wait until their lives are in jeopardy before a doctor can legally terminate their pregnancy and has no exception to provide care for women carrying a fetus with a severe anomaly. Ohio is on the fast track to becoming the most dangerous state in the country for pregnant women.”
Yes, read that statement again: “Ohio is on the fast track to becoming the most dangerous state in the country for pregnant women.”
Come on people, this is the USA, not some country that degrades and devalues their women citizens…/snark
And in that respect, I will end with this request from Planned Parenthood.
Yesterday I got a mass email from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. So here is the gist of the email. Give this link to PPAction a click and send a message to HHS.
No co-pay birth control for millions of women in America is within reach. Right now, the Dept. of Health and Human Services is deciding whether or not to require new insurance plans to cover birth control with no co-pays. We’re almost there — add your name to Planned Parenthood’s petition:
So what else is going on in your world today?