Mostly Monday Reads

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s a strange day in this country when I’m tweeting Bill Kristol quoting Liz Cheney. But here we are. Your vote really counts more than ever. Be sure you have a plan and means to do it!

This sticker is one of my favorites on my file cabinet of stickers by my desk. I have voted yet, but I will walk up Poland Avenue to the old fire station to vote as I usually do. The poll workers there know that I dedicate my vote to my Grandmothers, who could not vote until they were well into their 30s. I believe these wonderful ladies are there because they grew up when voting black meant Jim Crow laws stopped their parents and grandparents.

I’ve never felt closer to being disenfranchised as I do now. New Orleans has been a safe place to exercise all your rights, but Louisiana is quick to halt that. Nothing was more dismaying to me than passing the uptown Women’s Health Center closed down tight.  We cannot take anything for granted anymore.

Vote like your life depends on it because it does!

And nothing says KKK-style voter suppression than this tweet from a Navy Veteran with his grandson asleep in the back seat.

More oldies but goodies from my desk and file cabinet to you!!

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk, sermon, and prayer and saving my life and yours …

This is from Bob Woodward and the Washington Post: “The Trump Tapes: 20 interviews that show why he is an unparalleled danger.”  It’s about what’s at stake. I may not be able to listen to that sing-songy fountain of ignorance, but I will read the transcripts.

In more than 50 years of reporting, I have never disclosed the raw interviews or full transcripts of my work. But after listening again to the 20 interviews I conducted with President Donald Trump during his last year as chief executive, I have decided to take the unusual step of releasing them. I was struck by how Trump pounded in my ears in a way the printed page cannot capture.

In their totality, these interviews offer an unvarnished portrait of Trump. You hear Trump in his own words, in his own voice, during one of the most consequential years in American history: amid Trump’s first impeachment, the coronavirus pandemic and large racial justice protests.

Much has been written about that period, including by me. But “The Trump Tapes,” my forthcoming audiobook of our interviews, is central to understanding Trump as he is poised to seek the presidency again. We spoke in person in the Oval Office and at Mar-a-Lago, as well as on the phone at varying hours of the day. You cannot separate Trump from his voice.

In the summer of 2020, for example, when the pandemic had killed 140,000 people in the United States, Trump told me: “The virus came along. That’s not my fault. That’s China’s fault.”

Voting all the way down the ticket has never been more critical. My mother’s home state of Missouri shows why. This is from the Springfield News-Leader, written by Nurse Trudy Busch Valentine: “Missouri’s extreme abortion ban is un-American.”

As a nurse, I have helped care for people during the most difficult moments of their lives, including women who had just lost pregnancies. But no matter whose bedside I was at, I knew that every patient deserved the same fundamental thing: the freedom to make their own private health care decisions, including decisions about abortion and birth control.

Tragically, here in Missouri, women and families no longer have that freedom. Just six minutes after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Eric Schmitt became the country’s first attorney general to trigger a near-total abortion ban. Missouri’s law is so extreme that it mandates women and girls who become pregnant through rape or incest stay pregnant. That kind of government overreach is un-American and a violation of all Missourians’ right to privacy and freedom.

As a nurse, mother, and grandmother, I know no one chooses to terminate a pregnancy lightly. It is a heartbreaking and personal decision made with no good alternative: rape survivors recovering from trauma, women with pregnancies that could kill them, and families devastated with news that the fetus is not viable. These are people who deserve privacy and compassion during a gut-wrenching, emotional process. The last thing they and their doctors need is fewer choices, the threat of prosecution, and politicians mandating their health care options. And we must remember Schmitt’s extreme abortion ban especially hurts those among us who have the least — people who can’t afford to take off work and who don’t have resources to get to another state.

If politicians like Eric Schmitt can take away our basic freedom to control our own bodies, what right comes next? Do we want to live in a world where politicians can reach into our private lives and dictate our most private decisions?

Women lined up to vote for the first time in New York after the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Florida is another state where rights are disappearing daily. This is from The Daily Beast. “Florida Puts Raging MAGA Moms on Book-Banning Council.”

In the name of “curriculum transparency,” Florida’s Republican-controlled state government has appointed several anti-gay and anti-mask conspiracy theorists to take charge of a new effort at public schools: banning books.

This hastily assembled censorship council—tasked with retraining public school librarians to abide by new restrictions—is the latest ploy in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ crusade to upend the state’s education system.

But the council was also staffed under suspicious circumstances, with the state Education Department ignoring its own call for official candidates from local school districts and instead filling most of the slots with right-wing activists who have a history of proposing book bans. One was even nominated by a religious activist with close ties to the DeSantis administration a week before the department publicly called for candidates, according to government emails, hinting at secret coordination between them.

“It calls into question the process that the Florida State Board of Education is trying to implement. It raises significant transparency questions,” said Megan Uzzell at Democracy Forward, which obtained those government emails.

While the “parent workgroup” is only getting started, the Education Department’s recent meeting in Orlando last week revealed how the state is positioning itself to spread those controls from school libraries to teachers’ classrooms.

As the meeting ended, Clinton McCkracken, the head of the Orange County teachers union, made a comment to another parent: “I don’t know what to tell my teachers.”

The recent episode began with an Aug. 12 memo from Education Department senior chancellor Jacob Oliva. The memo called for local school districts to nominate “parents of students in K-12 schools for representation on a workgroup”—one charged with creating mandatory “training” that would guide librarians statewide on how to follow new library censorship rules signed into law by Gov. DeSantis earlier this year. School districts had a week to submit the names of qualified nominees.

The Education Department passed on nearly 100 potentially qualified applicants with relevant experience, records show. In Brevard County alone, it ignored the five submissions made by the bipartisan local school board, including the nomination of a former elementary school assistant principal, the director of Eastern Florida State College’s tutoring centers, and the administrator of a local scholarship fund.

One of the worst Republican Candidates in the country is undoubtedly Doug Mastriano “How did Doug Mastriano publish a PhD-earning thesis that critics allege is full of problems? Critics argue Doug Mastriano received a Ph.D. from the University of New Brunswick under questionable circumstances. The school recently opened an independent review, years after academics began flagging his doctorate-earning thesis; Johanna Chisholm investigates.”

The following two stories are from The Independent.

And it’s not just Mr Mastriano’s work as a historian that’s been called out for allegedly moulding narratives to fit his own personal – and political – persuasions. His pursuit of righting the academic history of Sgt York seemed to presage his own race for the Pennsylvania governor’s mansion.

In the months before and after announcing his candidacy for governor, the GOP hopeful has acted as a megaphone for spreading Donald Trump’s Big Lie, taken to social media to amplify QAnon conspiracy theories and dispersed misinformation about Covid-19 all while sitting as an elected official in Pennsylvania.

Should he win in the November midterms, the election-denying candidate has indicated he also plans to upset the very democratic process that made him a state senator.

 

You may follow live updates on the Trump Crime Organization Trial today. “Trump news – live: Trump Organization trial begins as ex-president rails against ‘puppet for China’ McConnell.  Ex-president faces increasing legal pressure on multiple fronts.”

 

Donald Trump’s business, the Trump Organization, will face trial in New York today on allegations that it helped executives avoid income taxes on their pay. The trial is part of the same case that has ensnared the organization’s CFO, longtime Trump associate Allen Weisselberg.

The trial comes just after he was officially subpoenaed by the January 6 select committee. The former president has been given until 4 November to provide the committee with documents, and it is aiming to take “one or more days of deposition testimony” circa 14 November.

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney has vowed she will not let him turn his testimony into a “circus”.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has railed against his favourite target Mitch McConnell, calling the Senate minority leader “old crow” and accusing him of being a “puppet” for China.

I just want them all to go away!  Trump needs to be locked up in a place for the criminally insane, along with most of his followers!

Just Vote them into obscurity!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Monday Before The Storm Reads

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Mountain Living in Autumn. 23⅝ x 17¾ in (58.4 x 43.2 cm). Estimate $200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in Fine Chinese Paintings on 19 March 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Mountain Living in Autumn.

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

A busy week is in store for us!  It includes yet another stage packed with Democratic candidates “debating” and more impeachment hearings.  The impeachment hearings are especially BFDs because the star witnesses are central to the plot Trump cooked up to get the Ukrainians to chase down a conspiracy theory and interfere in the 2020 election for him.

Here’s a new story from CBS in keeping with all the Trumpist Corruption surrounding US Foreign Policy: “Possible pay-to-play scheme for ambassador role in Trump administration uncovered by CBS News”.

A CBS News investigation has uncovered a possible pay-for-play scheme involving the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, San Diego billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate half a million dollars as his confirmation in the Senate hung in the balance, chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

When Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas in September, Manchester wanted to help. So the San Diego real estate developer, who prefers the nickname “Papa Doug,” loaded up his private jet with supplies and headed for the hard-hit Caribbean country where he owned a home – and hoped to soon be serving as U.S. ambassador.

A Trump supporter, Manchester donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. He was offered the Bahamas post the day after Mr. Trump was sworn in. Manchester said Trump told him, “I should probably be the ambassador to the Bahamas and you should be president.”

Then, for two and a half years, Manchester’s nomination stalled in the Senate.

His Bahamas relief trip caught the attention of the President. Trump tweeted, “I would also like to thank ‘Papa’ Doug Manchester, hopefully the next Ambassador to the Bahamas, for the incredible amount of time, money and passion he has spent on helping to bring safety to the Bahamas.”

Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, obtained exclusively by CBS News, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”

Shin – Hanga Hasui Kawase Japanese Woodblock Print 1946 Snow Storm At Shiobara

Well, there’s a situation that should be looked at by the FBI.  But how far will it go with Trump Fuckboi Bill Barr as AG?  The vast majority of Americans, however, know wrong when they see it as suggested by this ABC Poll: “70% of Americans say Trump’s actions tied to Ukraine were wrong: POLL”.  However, move on down to the idea of punishing the illegitimate POTUS and the results are less enthusiastic.

An overwhelming 70% of Americans think President Donald Trump’s request to a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, which sits at the heart of the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, was wrong, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds.

A slim majority of Americans, 51%, believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely.

In addition to the 51%, another 19% think that Trump’s actions were wrong, but that he should either be impeached by the House but not removed from office, or be neither impeached by the House nor convicted by the Senate. The survey also finds that 1 in 4 Americans, 25%, think that Trump did nothing wrong.

Still, nearly 1 in 3, 32%, say they made up their minds about impeaching the president before the news broke about Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

John Constable RA, Rainstorm over the Sea

Rainstorm over the Sea, ca. 1824-1828 John Constable RA (1776 – 1837)

Meanwhile, Trump continues to be a tempest in a teapot when it comes to attacking every one that doesn’t share his view of his “perfect” calll.  This is from NBC News: “Trump’s impeachment ire turns on Pompeo amid diplomats’ starring roles. Impeachment hearings have created a rift between the president and one of his staunchest allies in the administration.”

The impeachment inquiry has created the first rift between President Donald Trump and the Cabinet member who has been his closest ally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to four current and former senior administration officials.

Trump has fumed for weeks that Pompeo is responsible for hiring State Department officials whose congressional testimony threatens to bring down his presidency, the officials said. The president confronted Pompeo about the officials — and what he believed was a lackluster effort by the secretary of state to block their testimony — during lunch at the White House on Oct. 29, those familiar with the matter said.

Inside the White House, the view was that Trump “just felt like, ‘rein your people in,’” a senior administration official said.

Trump particularly blames Pompeo for tapping Ambassador Bill Taylor in June to be the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, the current and former senior administration officials said.

Taylor has provided the House Intelligence Committee with some of the most damaging details on the White House’s effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating one of the president’s potential rivals in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden.

A crack in the seemingly unbreakable bond between Trump and Pompeo is striking because Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, is viewed as the “Trump whisperer” who has survived — and thrived — working for a president who has routinely tired of and discarded senior members of his team.

But the impeachment inquiry has put Pompeo in what one senior administration official described as an untenable position: trying to manage a bureaucracy of 75,000 people that has soured on his leadership and also please a boss with outsized expectations of loyalty.

Chiura Obata (American, b. Japan, 1885–1975), Dust Storm, Topaz, March 13, 1943, watercolor on paper

US Ambassador Gordon Sondland is also taking the heat as seen in this Daily Beast analysis: “Gordon Sondland Stepped In ‘and Things Went Really Off the Rails’. “Erratic,” “very emotional,” and “lots of yelling.” Those are some of the words used to describe Sondland’s performance in a White House meeting with top Ukrainian officials. ‘  Sonderland will testify on Wednesday and has had to adjust his story and testimony as the folks who witnessed his acts and words testified.

Ukrainian officials arrived at the White House on July 10 expecting something approaching normal. They were in Washington for a scheduled meeting with then-National Security Adviser John Bolton with a plan to propose a new path for U.S.-Ukrainian relations under the umbrella of energy and security cooperation. All seemed to go well—until U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stepped in. “That’s when things really went off the rails,” one person in the room said.

It’s been widely noted in testimonies by multiple House impeachment witnesses that Sondland interrupted the conversation between Bolton and the Ukrainians when he suggested that the Kyiv officials open investigations into Hunter Biden and the gas company he worked for if they wanted President Volodymyr Zelensky to land a White House meeting with Donald Trump.

Ukrainian officials arrived at the White House on July 10 expecting something approaching normal. They were in Washington for a scheduled meeting with then-National Security Adviser John Bolton with a plan to propose a new path for U.S.-Ukrainian relations under the umbrella of energy and security cooperation. All seemed to go well—until U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stepped in. “That’s when things really went off the rails,” one person in the room said.

It’s been widely noted in testimonies by multiple House impeachment witnesses that Sondland interrupted the conversation between Bolton and the Ukrainians when he suggested that the Kyiv officials open investigations into Hunter Biden and the gas company he worked for if they wanted President Volodymyr Zelensky to land a White House meeting with Donald Trump.

Bolton immediately cut the get-together short, witnesses said, in an attempt to save what had until then been a normal meeting. But what’s been less clear—until now—is what happened moments later, when Sondland guided the Ukrainians into the White House’s Ward Room. Three individuals familiar with the conversation described what happened next.

Sondland continued to not just relay, but demanded ferociously, that the Ukrainians open the Biden investigations, saying it was the only chance for Washington and Kyiv to develop any further meaningful relationship, two individuals with knowledge of Sondland’s overtures said.

Sondland raised his voice several times in his attempt to persuade the Ukrainian officials sitting across from him, including Andriy Yermak, a close aide to Zelensky, and Zelensky’s then-national security adviser Oleksandr Danylyuk. One individual told The Daily Beast that Sondland “got very emotional,” adding that “there was lots of yelling.” Another individual called the meeting “erratic” and said the Ukrainians began to ignore Sondland and instead turned to Fiona Hill, who ran the National Security Council’s Russia desk at the time, for clarification on Washington’s messaging.

Biss, Earl (1947-1998) “Storm Riders” Oil on Canvas

Fiona Hill also testifies this week.  The AP has found some evidence of the stress and duress experienced by the Ukrainians over the Trumpist Regime’s demands.

Despite his denials, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was feeling pressure from the Trump administration to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden before his July phone call with President Donald Trump that has led to impeachment hearings.

In early May, staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, including then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, were briefed on a meeting Zelenskiy held in which he sought advice on how to navigate the difficult position he was in, according to two people with knowledge of the briefings.

He was concerned that Trump and associates were pressing him to take action that could affect the 2020 U.S. presidential race, the people said. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic and political sensitivity of the issue.

The briefings show that U.S. officials knew early that Zelenskiy was feeling pressure to investigate Biden, even though the Ukrainian leader later denied it in a joint news conference with Trump in September. The officials said in their notes circulated internally at the State Department that Zelenskiy tried to mask the real purpose of the May 7 meeting __ which was to talk about political problems with the White House __ by saying it was about energy, the two people said.

Congressional Republicans have pointed to that public Zelenskiy statement to argue that he felt no pressure to open an investigation, and therefore the Democrats’ allegations that led to the impeachment hearings are misplaced.

So, this week’s hearings should send the Russian Potted Plant back to Walter Reed for another fake physical for sure. While several Dem candidates have been able to purchase their way to a ticket to the debate stage on Wednesday night, one voice will be missed.   So far, he’s still in.  This analysis is by New York Magazine’s Zak Cheney-Rice.

The great tragedy of Julián Castro’s presidential campaign is that it’s happening during Donald Trump’s presidency. Democratic strategists and voters alike are so fixated on ousting the commander-in-chief that panic has consumed the primary, driven above all else by anxiety about which candidate is the most likely to defeat him. Joe Biden has benefitted in an outsized manner from this worry. He’s coasted to the top of most polls on sheer familiarity and goodwill generated by his relationship with Barack Obama, despite signs of mental decline exacerbating his well-documented tendency toward gaffes. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have cornered the market on leftists and progressive voters, respectively, who feel that class warfare from below will not just oust Trump but upend the society that gave him rise.

These three candidates combined command the allegiances of more than half of prospective primary voters, according to most polls, leaving little room for the remainder of an unprecedentedly vast, diverse, and perpetually expanding field to gain traction. Which is a shame, because a different cycle might’ve been more amenable to a candidate like Castro, whose singular perspective on racism and justice would, in a better world, find him in the upper tier of candidates. Alas, it looks increasingly like it wasn’t meant to be: Politico reported late Wednesday that the former Housing Secretary and San Antonio mayor has failed to qualify for the November debate, making him the only active candidate to participate in last month’s debate in Ohio who won’t make the trip to Atlanta. The deadline to qualify was midnight, and the threshold was receiving donations from 165,000 unique contributors, plus hitting 3 percent in four DNC-approved polls or 5 percent in two conducted in the early states. Castro reached the fundraising goal but didn’t eclipse 3 percent in a single poll. This is emblematic of his broader campaign, which has consistently found him hovering around 1 percent.

There’s been no announcement yet about Castro’s next move, though failure to qualify for a debate has been a death knell for other campaigns this cycle, like that of Kirsten Gillibrand. Beto O’Rourke’s low polling numbers similarly prompted him to drop out of the race last month. One can attribute Castro’s shortfall to several factors — his relatively low national profile, his specificity of vision in a cycle where mass appeal is prioritized, his identity as a Mexican-American at a time when candidates are vying for support from a majority-white electorate that backed Trump, whose animus toward Latinos was a vital part of his success. But his failure to gain traction also belies the most admirable feature of his campaign: He’s sought to differentiate himself not by convincing voters of his attractiveness to white suburban Wisconsinites or sanctimonious Never Trumpers, but by promising to advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable among us, particularly black and brown people caught up in the criminal-legal system.

Image result for paintings by masters storm

Luigi Crisconio CAPRI, SEA STORM IN MARINA PICCOLA

Has Louisiana shown us a way to beat Trump and his cronies in upcoming elections?  I was part of the GOTV actions and it was huge and effective.  I have to say that Bel Edwards winning a second term was a relief. But, he’s not the candidate I’ve been most aligned with or most proud of supporting. I did know that he was the right candidate for this crazy state.

I’d like to thank every single African American Voter in the state and the massive support by the Black community organizers. It wouldn’t have happened with out them.   Getting out the black vote is key which is why every Dem pol needs to realize #BlackVotesMatter.

Another key  to victory was the suburbs in the large cities.  It’s pretty clear that a number of voters in suburbs are not enthusiastic about Trump.  The black vote and suburban vote in three key Louisiana Cities–New Orleans, Shreveport, Baton Rouge–virtually disappeared on the Republicans.  Again, I’d like to say that JBE is not what we would consider a Democratic Candidate.  He reminds me a lot more of middle of the country Republicans prior to the takeover of the party by White Evangelical religions nutters.  He’s a small town son of its sheriff who hunts and supports the second amendment.  He is one of the worst governors ever on Reproductive Rights but he did expand medicaid and overall, he was definitely the only choice we really had.  Rispone gave speeches like an unrepentant racist at a KKK rally.  His ads were far worse.  The Caddo Parish Magrat rally undoubtedly turned out the high Caddo Parish AA vote.

Experience in both Louisiana and other races like Kentucky might prove useful in planning for 2020.  I suggest candidates and the party itself take very good notes.

Not only were Republicans less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by President Donald Trump, but African-Americans voters were more motivated to turnout. From the New York Times:

“Forcing Trump down people’s throats in television, mail and radio produced a backlash among Democratic voters, especially African-Americans,” said Zac McCrary, a pollster on Mr. Edwards’s campaign, alluding to Mr. Rispone’s Trump-centric message. “The intense negatives outweigh the intense positives for Trump, which speaks to the turnout.”\

State and local Democrats were more careful targeting their message, linking Mr. Rispone to Mr. Trump on radio stations with black audiences and in tailored mailers.

Over at The Resurgent, Erick Erickson makes two points worth considering. First, we now have two cases in which suburban voters have been selective their displeasure, discerning the Trump-like from the traditional conservative:

Like in Kentucky, the GOP swept the state except that race. That race was, in fairness, most closely identified with the President and some voters did react there. But this also gives a path forward for the GOP. Consider that in Louisiana, the state legislature is now the most conservative legislature it has ever had. The GOP disconnected from Trump did just fine in the state.

Secondly, the GOP has a substance abuse problem — in that a party built around a single personality has no use for substantive policy that allows voters to think well of themselves:

Voters want a reason to vote for someone, not against someone else. President Trump needs to spend way more time giving voters reasons to vote for him, not just against the Democrats. The GOP needs to as well. The party seems out of ideas and that is in large part because the President can turn on a dime so no one wants to stake out a position on public policy.

So, that’s it for me today!

What’s on your reading and blogging list?