Lazy Caturday Reads: Black Cats and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day!

On Black Cat Appreciation Day, August 17, black cats could use a good spin doctor. They’re so sleek and seductive with their all-knowing yellow eyes, that black cats seldom get positive publicity even though they’re just as adorable as other cats. So, who’s to blame for this negative black cat spin? Superstition! During the Middle Ages, people (mainly the Catholic Church) saw witches as shape-shifting black cats and the damage was done.

Today, pop culture loves black cats.  There’s the sarcastic Thackery Binx in  “Hocus Pocus”,  Salem, in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Pyewacket in the classic ”Bell, Book and Candle.” It’s National Black Cat Appreciation Day with big ups to America’s sultry, mysterious and mostly, sweet black cats!

In Other News . . .

By Irina Kalentieva, 1965

Former Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci is now predicting that Trump won’t be on the ballot in November 2020.

William D. Cohan interviewed Scaramucci for Vanity Fair: “Oh My God, This Jackass”: The Mooch Explains Why He Thinks Trump is “Crazy,” “Narcissistic,” and a “Paper Tiger” Who Will Drop Out By March 2020. Some highlights:

Cohan: But what was the moment the scales actually fell from your eyes?

Scaramucci: The red line was the racism—full-blown racism. He can say that he’s not a racist, and I agree with him, okay? And let me explain to you why he’s not a racist, ’cause this is very important. He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that’s why he has no empathy. That’s why he’s got his thumb up in the air when he’s taking a picture with an orphan. That’s why when someone’s leaning over the desk and asks [Nobel Prize–winning human rights activist Nadia Murad], “Well, what happened to your family members?”—they were murdered—he just looks at her and says, “Okay, when are we getting coffee here?”

You know, he doesn’t look at people—and by the way, if you and I were in his field of vision and he had a cold and the two of us had to die for him to get a Kleenex, you’re fucking dead. I mean, there’s no chance. You understand that, right?

Cohan: And then there’s the mental element, right?

The Black Cat, by Christian Schloe

Scaramucci: I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he’s becoming more petulant; he’s becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he’s sweating, his body’s not doing well. It’s obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? And he doesn’t listen to anybody. And just think about this, okay? There’s no one—there’s no Jim Mattis; there’s no Gary Cohn; there’s no one to check him anymore. Whatever my differences were with General John Kelly, after he left, this thing has completely unspooled….

He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.

Of course Scaramucci isn’t the first to predict that Trump will have to drop out. Tom Joseph has been documenting Trump’s rapidly advancing dementia symptoms on Twitter for a long time now. Here’s his latest thread on the subject:

Check out his Twitter feed to read more.

Last Tuesday Trump gave a speech to union workers in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t supposed to be a campaign event, but he turned it into one. The Washington Post:

 President Trump criticized the media, mocked his Democratic challengers, critiqued the Academy Awards, lamented losing money while president and boasted of his poll numbers while visiting a construction site here to give remarks about U.S. energy production.

The president spoke for more than an hour, meandering between his prepared remarks and a campaign-style speech listing grievances and currying votes. He touched on his 2016 victory in Pennsylvania, his love of trucks, “fake news,” China, trade, immigration, the Green New Deal, windmills, the Paris climate accord, former president Barack Obama’s $60 million book deal, Iran, veterans and New York energy policies.

Pierrot et le Chat, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Standing in a room full of construction workers in the middle of the day, many wearing their fluorescent work vests, Trump urged them to support his reelection and to convince their union leaders to do the same…..

Trump’s visit to Royal Dutch Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex here, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was an official White House trip intended to promote the administration’s energy policies.

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the workers were told they would have to attend the speech or lose a day’s pay. They were also ordered not to protest.

The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.

“Your attendance is not mandatory,” said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid.

That company and scores of other contractors on site and their labor employees all have their own contracts with Shell. Several said the contracts stipulate that to get paid, workers must be onsite.

Portrait of Mo von Haugk, 1932 – Conrad Felixmüller, (German 1897-1977)

Those who decided not to come to the site for the event would have an excused but non-paid absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher explained that the workers onsite have a 56-hour workweek, with 16 hours of overtime built in. That means those workers who attended Mr. Trump’s speech and showed up for work Friday, meeting the overtime threshold, were being paid at a rate of time and a half, while those who didn’t go to hear the president were being paid the regular rate, despite the fact that both groups did not do work on the site Tuesday.

Show up to cheer for Trump or lose a day’s pay and overtime to boot.

Yesterday, The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush reported that President Obama tried to caution Joe Biden about running for president in 2020 and has been warning Biden that he needs younger advisers.

The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.

“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.

In the boudoir, 1869, Lucius Rossi

Mr. Obama has said he will not make an endorsement in the primary, and has offered every candidate his counsel. But he has taken an active interest in the inner workings of his friend’s campaign, to an extent beyond anything offered to other candidates.

In his interactions with Mr. Biden — the pair had a quiet lunch in Washington last month — Mr. Obama has hammered away at the need for his campaign to expand his aging inner circle.

He has communicated his frustration that Mr. Biden’s closest advisers are too old and out of touch with the current political climate — urging him to include more younger aides, according to three Democrats with direct knowledge of the discussion.

Biden also met with Biden’s advisers and issued a warning:

In March, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Biden’s top campaign advisers, including the former White House communications director Anita Dunn and Mr. Biden’s longtime spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, to his Washington office for a briefing on the campaign’s digital and communications strategy with members of his own staff, including his senior adviser, Eric Schultz.

When they were done, Mr. Obama offered a pointed reminder, according to two people with knowledge of his comments:

Win or lose, they needed to make sure Mr. Biden did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.

Well Biden has already put his foot in his mouth numerous times, but he’s still leading in the polls. I can only hope voters will wake up before the primaries begin.

Katherina Goncharova – Midday Dream

Yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu banned Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from traveling to Israel, after he was egged on by Trump. Later in the day, Netanyau told Tlaib she could come to visit her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank, with certain restrictions on her freedom of speech. Tlaib declined to accept the conditions. Now Democrats in the House are considering an official response.

The Miami Herald: House Democrats weigh action against U.S. and Israel ambassadors over banned visit.

Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering action against top emissaries of the Israeli government and the Trump administration for their roles in Israel’s decision to bar two House members from entering the country.

About a dozen lawmakers, including senior Jewish members, began discussions on Friday morning over ways to communicate a “deep lack of confidence and trust” in Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

The group is weighing issuing a statement of no confidence in Dermer and opening an inspector general investigation into Friedman’s conduct, the sources said.

Israel banned Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend, provoking outrage among Democrats and several Republicans, including some who have harshly criticized the two lawmakers on policy grounds.

So . . . that’s it for me. what stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

As usual, there’s way too much important news to cover today. I long for the days when Obama was president and there weren’t scandals and outrages every single day including Saturdays and Sundays.

Overhead view of the shelter for migrant children in Clint, TX

After the public response to Trump’s concentration camps/torture chambers for children on border, NBC News reports: Almost 300 migrant children removed from Texas facility described as ‘appalling.’

Almost 300 migrant children have been removed from a border patrol facility in Texas after media reports of lawyers describing “appalling” and potentially dangerous conditions, Department of Homeland Security officials told NBC News….

The children who were removed were being held at a border station in Clint, Texas. Some were wearing dirty clothes covered in mucus or even urine, said Elora Mukherjee, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School. Teenage mothers wore clothing stained with breast milk. None of the children had access to soap or toothpaste, she said.

The children have been taken to a tent detention camp also in El Paso, Texas, where they will remain under the custody of Border Patrol until they can be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the DHS officials said. The Associated Press first reported on the conditions at the facility.

But will conditions be better in the tent camp? Who knows? Reporters aren’t allowed in to report on Trump’s concentration camps. The Washington Post: Migrant children are suffering at the border. But reporters are kept away from the story.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Clint, Texas is seen in this undated image from Google Maps.

News stories emerged last week about squalid conditions at a Border Patrol detention facility housing about 300 migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border. The media accounts described the facility in Clint, Tex., near El Paso, that houses children separated from their parents by order of the Trump administration.

Apart from their appalling specifics, the stories were notable for one element: They were all based on secondhand accounts. Reporters were unable to see the facilities themselves or speak to any of the children. Instead, they relied on descriptions provided by lawyers and advocates who were granted access under a legal settlement with the Border Patrol.

The blackout on press access has left Americans largely in the dark about conditions in government facilities designed to handle migrants who have crossed the border. Photographs and TV images are both rare and often dated. Rarer still are interviews with federal agency managers and employees and with the children themselves.

Journalists, government officials and migrant advocates agree that permitting reporters to see the facilities firsthand would change public perceptions about the treatment of migrants. There’s disagreement, however, about how it would change.

“If journalists had access to the detention centers at the border where children are being held in filthy conditions, those centers would not exist,” said Elora Mukherjee, an attorney who interviewed children at the Texas facility and described them to reporters last week. “If videos were released there would be massive changes” because the public outcry would be enormous.

From left: Meagan O’Toole-Pitts, Ashley Cortez, Oliver Cortez, and his father, Mark Cortez, attempt to drop off diapers and toys for detained children at the immigration detention center in Clint. Courtesy of Armando Martinez Photography

The Boarder Patrol won’t even accept donations from people who want to help the children, according to The Texas Tribune.

Oh, and good old Melania chose yesterday to tweet about helping children. Raw Story: Melania Trump ripped for bragging about helping children while her husband runs concentration camps for kids. “Be best” like her husband the child abuser and rapist?

Two more important stories on this topic:

Damon Linker at The Week: Trump’s border policy: If cruelty isn’t the point, what is?

Dahlia Lithwick and Margo Schlanger at Slate: What You Need to Know About the Crisis at the Border.

Big media largely ignored or downplayed E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against Trump. Now multiple outlets are asking why it wasn’t treated as front page news.

Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: Have we become numb to Trump’s loathsomeness?

When we look back on June 2019, we’ll say that this was the time when a credible allegation of rape was made against the president of the United States, and he had already shown himself to be such a loathsome character that it was treated as a third-tier story, not worthy of much more than a passing mention here and there in the news.

After New York magazine published author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s account last Friday of an encounter she says she had with Trump in a Bergdorf Goodman that ended with him raping her in a dressing room, many of our most important news outlets reacted with only minor interest. Most of the nation’s biggest newspapers — aside from The Post — left it off on their front page the next day. None of the five Sunday shows mentioned it at all.

There are many reasons to find Carroll’s allegation credible. She’s a fairly well-known public figure. Her description of what happened to her — him slamming her against a wall, mashing his face against hers, yanking down her tights, and penetrating her — accords not only with the allegations of multiple other women but Trump’s own words on that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he bragged that he can sexually assault any woman he pleases. “I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Yet Trump’s position on Carroll’s allegation is the same he has taken on all the others: She’s a liar. He doesn’t say it was a misunderstanding or it was consensual, just that she’s a liar.

A liar and somehow not the sort of woman he would choose to rape, according to Trump.

The New York Times: ‘She’s Not My Type’: Accused Again of Sexual Assault, Trump Resorts to Old Insult.

Mr. Trump said that E. Jean Carroll, who wrote for years for Elle magazine, was “lying” when she said that he threw her up against a wall and forced himself on her in the mid-1990s, and he insisted that he did not know her.

“I’ll say it with great respect,” he said in an interview with The Hill, a Capitol Hill news organization. “No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, O.K.?” [….]

In the Hill interview, Mr. Trump said Ms. Carroll was making up the story. “Totally lying. I don’t know anything about her,” he said. “I know nothing about this woman. I know nothing about her. She is — it’s just a terrible thing that people can make statements like that.”

Mr. Trump in the past has rejected other sexual assault accusations by asserting that the women who accused him of taking advantage of them were not attractive enough to engage in such behavior.

“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” Trump told supporters at a campaign event in 2016 after a woman accused him of putting his hand up her skirt while on an airplane. “You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.” As the crowd laughed, he said, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.”

Of course Carroll is very much his “type.” She was a blonde beauty queen and a cheerleader, for cripes sake.

Look at the photos. I’d say she fits the mold, wouldn’t you? Here’s another take on this story at The Atlantic: The Cruel Paradox at the Heart of E. Jean Carroll’s Allegation Against Trump.

Yesterday, the dotard in chief issued new sanctions against Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who has been dead for 20 years. Iran responded that the Trump administration is “afflicted with mental retardation.” CBS This Morning: Iran leaders lash out at White House over “idiotic” new sanctions.

Officials in Iran lashed out on Tuesday at the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, casting doubt on any hope of an imminent diplomatic end to the standoff over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. President Hassan Rouhani called the new U.S. sanctions “outrageous and idiotic,” and suggested the Trump administration was “afflicted by mental retardation” for imposing them.

The country’s foreign ministry spokesman said the latest move by the U.S. brought a “permanent closure” to any hope of diplomacy between the two nations.

President Trump imposed the new sanctions on Monday. For the first time they target Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly, barring his access to the international financial system. The punitive measures — which add to a long list of financial sanctions already slapped on Tehran by Mr. Trump since he pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year — also target other officials.

Rouhani mocked Mr. Trump over the sanctions, saying: “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”

CBS News White House correspondent Ben Tracy says the latest statements from Iran are further evidence that President Trump’s strategy, of forcing the Islamic Republic to change its behavior by strangling its economy, is not working.

Oh, and Trump is still thinking about cutting off military aid to Japan. Bloomberg: Trump Muses Privately About Ending Postwar Japan Defense Pact.

President Donald Trump has recently mused to confidants about withdrawing from a longstanding defense treaty with Japan, according to three people familiar with the matter, in his latest complaint about what he sees as unfair U.S. security pacts.

Trump regards the accord as too one-sided because it promises U.S. aid if Japan is ever attacked, but doesn’t oblige Japan’s military to come to America’s defense, the people said. The treaty, signed more than 60 years ago, forms the foundation of the alliance between the countries that emerged from World War II….

Exiting the pact would jeopardize a postwar alliance that has helped guarantee security in the Asia Pacific, laying the foundation for the region’s economic rise. Under the terms of its surrender in World War II, Japan agreed to a pacifist constitution in which it renounced the right to wage war….

Scrapping the treaty would risk ceding security of the Western Pacific to China and potentially spurring a fresh nuclear arms race, if Japan decided it needed to protect itself from nuclear-armed neighbors. It would also call into question the U.S.’s military commitments to Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and a host of other allies around the world.

This man is really really old.

Joe Biden is still leading in the polls as we approach the first Democratic primary debate on Wednesday and Thursday, so here are a couple of interesting pieces on Biden.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Joe Biden Doesn’t Look So Electable in Person.

On Saturday, Joe Biden was one of 20 presidential candidates to speak at a Planned Parenthood forum in Columbia, S.C., held right next door to the state’s Democratic convention. It was just a couple of weeks after he’d reversed his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion. One of the moderators asked him what he’d say to pro-choice voters who have concerns about his mixed record on the issue.

This was part of his answer: “The fact of the matter is that we’re in a situation where mortality rate for poor women and black women, here in this state, 26.5 percent of the, 24, 25.6 people, who of 100,000 who need, who end up dying as a consequence of birth, it’s absolutely absurd.” (He was referring to South Carolina’s maternal mortality rate, which is 26.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.)

Seeing Biden on the stump often feels like watching an actor who can’t quite remember his lines. Even if you don’t support him, it’s hard not to feel anxious on his behalf.

I had the chance to watch Biden campaign three times over the weekend, when almost the entire Democratic field descended on Columbia. On Friday he appeared at the famous fish fry held by Congressman Jim Clyburn. The next day he was at the Planned Parenthood event and at the state convention.

Biden speaks at James Clyburn’s fish fry.

His performance was unnerving. I don’t want Biden to be the nominee for ideological reasons, but polls show him far ahead, and if he’s going to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer against Donald Trump, I want him to be a strong one. He didn’t seem strong in South Carolina.

Donald Trump, of course, also speaks in gibberish, but with a bombastic unearned confidence; rather than flailing around for the right figure he makes one up. Biden, by contrast, was just shaky. And while there’s great affection for him on the ground, there’s little excitement. You can see why his campaign has been limiting his public events and why he’s been avoiding the press.

The Washington Post: Once the poorest senator, ‘Middle Class Joe’ Biden has reaped millions in income since leaving the vice presidency.

Biden points out on the presidential campaign trail that he was often the poorest member of the United States Senate, and for at least a decade has referred to himself as “Middle Class Joe.” But since leaving office he has enjoyed an explosion of wealth, making millions of dollars largely from book deals and speaking fees that ranged to as much as $200,000 per speech, public documents show.

As Biden traveled the country before announcing his presidential campaign this spring, his sponsors provided VIP hotel suites, town cars and professional drivers, chartered flights and travel expense reimbursements that for some of his appearances reached at least $10,000 per event, according to contracts obtained by The Post through public records requests.

The Washington Post found at least 65 instances in which Biden gave a speech or appeared at a book event; in at least 10 instances he did not take a fee, although in some of those cases he was reimbursed for travel expenses. Biden’s campaign said he has given less than 50 paid speeches, but declined to be more specific about exactly how many he delivered, or how much he earned in total.

I’d better wrap this up; this post is getting way too long. What stories are you following today?


Fresh Hell Friday Reads: “He will Kill us All’

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Well, the Iran Situation is turning into the usual Trumpian Clusterfuck. And, this is what some Dems on Facebook. etc want in his place:

“Grampa Simpson runs for president”

The concern, as articulated by his Democratic rivals and a wave of harsh online commentary, is that Biden sees contemporary America through a distorting haze of nostalgia.

I watched the Battle for Winterfield again last night. I can’t seem to get enough of the haunting “Night King” composition by Ramin Djawadi. I also keep looking for Arya to creep up behind what passes for our President these days with something that vaporizes him. Plus, there’s Joe imploding as he usually does to a chorus of but he’s our only hope. Voters of American, if Joe Biden is your answer you are asking the wrong damned question! The Grampa Simpson take is from politico and the keyboard of John F. Harris.

As thunderbolts crash around him, Joe Biden is facing an urgent question: What exactly is the rationale for his presidential candidacy?

The answers given by Biden sympathizers usually are rooted in character and personal history. Here is a decent man who has lived long and seen a lot, through setbacks and tragedy, and knows enough to understand and defend the timeless virtues that are so absent but also so needed in modern Washington. Late in life, the man and moment are in harmony at last for a heroic final chapter.

I’m sorry but Biden’s record in Congress and his habit of serially plagiarizing others, his treatment of Dr. Hill, and his damn inability to apologize for being totally insensitive to the feelings of others is disqualifying. A decent man does none of those things. A decent man realizes when what he says and does hurts others intentionally or not and he freaking APOLOGIZES and he makes amends and he works to never EVER do it again!

The hope is that voters will embrace Biden as a kind of American Churchill.

The past 24 hours raise, not for the first time, a more painful possibility: Grampa Simpson is running for president.

“There’s not a racist bone in my body,” Biden bristled indignantly on Wednesday evening. But that wasn’t the primary concern about a 76-year-old’s paean to his youthful past, in which conscientious senators like himself supposedly could work productively and with “civility” even with segregationists like James Eastland and Herman Talmadge.

The concern, as articulated by his Democratic rivals and a wave of harsh online commentary, is that Biden sees contemporary America through a distorting haze of nostalgia, that his values and assumptions were shaped by the last generation or even the one before that, that after many years in public life he still lacks the self-awareness or self-discipline to wonder whether modern voters will find his vagrant ruminations about the past as interesting or relevant as he does.

I’m not voting for fucking Joe Biden and I’m not going to be bullied into it or pleaded into it or kumbayah’d into it. Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.

Biden, during 48 years on the national scene, has never had an especially strong ideological profile: He’s been a reasonably centrist Democrat for all of them. When he has deviated it was usually in right-leaning directions, as with his opposition to forced busing for integration in the 1970s or his support for expanding crimes covered by the death penalty in the 1990s.

Or his treatment of women and his real views on Abortion rights.

This history means that the most likely answer to the “why Biden” challenge will rest on character. The evidence of the past couple days—redundant to evidence amassed over several decades—is that if voters are going to embrace Biden’s character they must also embrace or overlook his penchant for the cringe-worthy remark. And realize that often the most cringey remarks will flirt with racial themes.

And misogynist and handsy. And yeah, totally ignoring any one at any time when it’s inconvenient for him.

Now, about the problem of Trump and his inability to have a cogent thought, any kind of strategy, and finding good people that can do that for him. This is the headline I woke up to from the NYT: “Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back.” Sort’ve sounds like a headline made for an impotent, senile old man doesn’t it? Only this one is not just playing with himself. He is the Commander and Chief and that should make all of us very afraid. Did some bad men shoot down your unmanned toy?

Yes he charged forward and then pulled out. Brave Brave Sir Donald! Dumb Dumb Sir Donald! This piece is written by the usual suspects: Michael D. Shear, Eric Schmitt, Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman.

President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.

There’s no adult in charge of the Pentagon right now. WTF? Why even think about this unless John Bolton is sitting on your shoulder whispering sweet war diatribes in your ear?

Jacqueline Alemany writes this for WAPO :Power Up: Impeachment, Iran, Immigration: Trump’s “I” word trifecta”

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: Reps. Sean Casten (Ill.), Katie Porter (Calif.) and Tom Malinowski (N.J.) are three Democrats who knocked off Republicans to win their seat in 2018 and take back the House majority. As of this week, they’re also now all in favor of initiating impeachment proceedings against President Trump, despite the potential electoral consequences.

  • “I didn’t run for Congress to impeach the president” is becoming a common disclaimer for those members who are hesitant to launch formal impeachment proceedings against the president.
  • Trickle effect: The momentum for impeachment keeps growing as slowly, more Democrats come out in favor of an official inquiry because they are defending their oversight function under the Constitution. That despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) firm opposition to formal impeachment proceedings.
  • The tally: Seventy-three lawmakers are now in favor of beginning impeachment proceedings, per a running list being kept by my colleagues J.M. Rieger, Amber Phillips and Kevin Schaul.

These are a lot for a person with a sound mind to deal with but I can’t even begin–and wouldn’t want to be there–to wander through the mind of Dotard Donald. You order your military on a mission and THEN you worry about fucking casualties? If this doesn’t move the impeachment meter, we’ve got no hope for the republic.

President Trump ordered an attack on Iran on Thursday in retaliation for the downing of a surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz but called the operation off just before it was due to occur because it would have caused extensive casualties, he said Friday.

In a series of morning tweets, Trump said he called off strikes on three Iranian sites minutes before they were to be launched because he was informed of the likely loss of life among Iranians.

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump tweeted. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”

Such a death toll was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” Trump wrote, adding: “I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”

Trump’s Friday morning tweets appeared to gloss over the fact that he was the one, as commander in chief, who had ordered the retaliation against Iran in the first place.

Iran said Friday the United States had “no justification” for a retaliatory strike and vowed to respond “firmly” to any U.S. military action.

Look. Old white men have been making bad decisions and failing upwards for way too long. They’ve been using the rest of us and ignorning what it does to us on the way.. Today just really reminds me of why it’s necessary to look for a leader that knows what it takes to face a complete uphill battle and still get there. It’s time for a different brand of leadership. I’m tired of being scared to death by ego and sheer incompetence.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Listen to this haunting background to the peak of the Battle for Winterfall and enjoy the work of this very talented musician and composer.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This morning’s big news is that Iran shot down a U.S. drone. From The Guardian:

A full-scale model of The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned plane

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that they had used a surface to air missile to shoot down what they called a US “spy” drone they claimed was flying in the country’s airspace.

US Central Command confirmed that one of its unmanned aircraft had been taken down, but said it was in international airspace. A CentCom spokesman, Capt Bill Urban said it was a US navy Global Hawk surveillance drone, which had been downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz at 11.35pm GMT.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace,” Urban said.

The US military accused Iran last week of firing a missile at another drone that responded to the oil tanker attacks near the Gulf of Oman.

Tensions in the Gulf have been heightened since 13 June, when the US accused Iran of attacking two tankers in the the Gulf of Oman with mines. The US military released footage it said showed the Iranian military removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of the tankers. There have also allegedly been Iranian-inspired attacks on US oil and military assets in Iraq, and increasingly sophisticated weaponry being fired into Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels.

The Iranian state news agency said the downed drone was an RQ-4 Global Hawk. “It was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south,” the Revolutionary Guards’ website added.

Now here’s a delicious story about how karma caught up with fake christian Jerry Falwell Jr.

Miami Herald: How cut-rate SoBe hostel launched Jerry Falwell Jr. ‘pool boy’ saga, naked picture hunt.

Giancarlo Granda and Jerry Falwell Jr. at Cheeca Lodge

The photograph shows Giancarlo Granda, a handsome, 20-something pool attendant whom Jerry and his wife, Rebecca, 52, befriended at the Fontainebleau hotel in 2012, and within months, would set up as part-owner and manager of a $4.7 million South Beach hostel.

It was an unusual partnership: The president of the largest Christian university in the world, a school that prohibits gay sex, agreeing to operate a Miami Beach hostel, regarded as gay friendly, in conjunction with a “pool boy” with virtually no hotel management experience after they met at the storied Fontainebleau, a favored South Florida vacation ground for the Falwells. Yet there they were, not only business partners but mingling socially at Cheeca, an idyllic, exclusive resort in the Keys.

The relationship between the Falwells and Granda forms the backdrop of an improbable Miami story that is causing political ripples beyond South Florida. It involves a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, the “pool boy” as he is described in the lawsuit, the comedian Tom Arnold, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now imprisoned political fixer, naked photographs — and a Miami father and son who say they were defrauded in a real estate deal then forced to change their names due to “threats.”

The gist of the story is that photos of Falwell’s wife in “various stages of undress” have turned up in the court case. The Herald has seen three of them. These are the photos that Michael Cohen supposedly helped Falwell cover up.

Jerry Fallwell Jr. and his wife Becki

The timing of Cohen’s alleged photo-recovery mission roughly preceded Falwell’s pivotal evangelical endorsement of Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, which Cohen says he helped engineer. Ted Cruz, who became the last candidate standing in the fight to deprive Trump of the Republican nomination, wanted to land that endorsement for himself. That he didn’t get it remains a sore point with some of his backers and a source of curiosity, including speculation that the “pool boy” saga and the presidential endorsement could be somehow related.

“You have the chancellor of the largest Christian university in the world in South Beach, which is not exactly a hot spot for evangelicals to take a vacation, [who buys] a piece of property for someone with no business experience. There is something odd there,’’ said Rick Tyler, former spokesman for Cruz.

Tyler said that Falwell assured him that he had no intention of endorsing anyone in the primary in part because his board at Liberty University wouldn’t permit it. So Tyler and others on the Cruz campaign were caught off guard when Falwell suddenly endorsed Trump in January 2016 — a week before the crucial Iowa caucuses and at a time when Cruz and Trump were mounting a fight for key endorsements from powerful leaders on the religious right.

“Clearly, something changed that led him to endorse Trump, and I would like to know what that was,’’ said Tyler, who is now an MSNBC commentator.

Read the rest at the link above.

Joe Biden continues to get shoot himself in the foot with his 1970’s attitudes.

The Washington Post: Biden faces backlash over comments about the ‘civility’ of his past work with racist senators.

Racist Senator James Eastland

Joe Biden faced a growing backlash Wednesday from prominent Democrats — and a bit of second-guessing within his own campaign — over comments in which he proudly described his history of working hand-in-hand in the Senate with avowed racists.

Biden’s remarks, which came at a fundraiser Tuesday night in which he said one segregationist senator “never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’ ” seemed intended to highlight a central argument of his presidential candidacy: that he knows how to bring unity to a polarized nation.

Interestingly, segregationists Biden talked about working with–James O. Eastland and Herman Talmage– were Democrats, so he wasn’t even working “across the aisle.” Even Biden’s advisers were disturbed by his remarks.

As seemingly random as it was for Biden to reference Sen. James O. Eastland, a long-ago deceased segregationist senator from his own party, some in Biden’s campaign had heard him discuss this relationship before — and warned him against mentioning it in public. Eastland, who represented Mississippi in the Senate from the early 1940s to 1978, often said that African Americans were “an inferior race.”

Aides said they had urged Biden to find a less toxic example.

Apparently, another way that Biden resembles Trump (besides being an old white man who excuses racism) is that he doesn’t listen to his advisers.

From The New York Times:

Senator Kamala Harris of California said the former vice president “doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country,” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said Mr. Biden should immediately apologize for using segregationists to make a point about civility in the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris of California said the former vice president “doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country,” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said Mr. Biden should immediately apologize for using segregationists to make a point about civility in the Senate….

Yet for much of the day, Mr. Biden and his campaign appeared publicly unbowed and intent on defending, or at least explaining, his worldview of politics, which is rooted in his early days in the Senate when, he said, legislators who disagreed still worked together….

“Apologize for what?” he said Wednesday evening before appearing at a fund-raiser in Maryland, adding that he “could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more.”

Asked by reporters about Mr. Booker’s demand that he apologize for his remarks, Mr. Biden said: “Cory should apologize. He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.”

Calling an African American Senator and presidential candidate “Cory” is not a good look either.  If Biden keeps this up, he’s going to crash and burn just like he did in 2008 and 1988.

More karma: another white male candidate faces a reckoning on race.

Wesley Lowery at The Washington Post: Back home in South Bend, Buttigieg faces ‘his nightmare.’

Lowery writes that Pete Buttigieg was “the surprise success of the 2020 presidential campaign” until he got bad news from South Bend, IN, where he is mayor.

A white police officer had shot and killed a black man early Sunday. Buttigieg canceled several days of campaign events — including an LGBTQ gala in New York — and rushed back to Indiana to “be with the South Bend community,” in the words of a campaign spokesman.

Pete Buddigieg faces his worst nightmare

Instead of showcasing But­tigieg’s ability to lead through a crisis, however, the shooting is exposing what has long been considered an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy: his frosty relationship with South Bend’s black residents. Since arriving on Sunday, Buttigieg has alienated the family of the dead man, Eric Logan, 54, skipped a vigil at the scene of the shooting, and sought advice from outsiders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York.

On Wednesday, Buttigieg finally made his first extended public remarks about the shooting, appearing at South Bend police headquarters to lecture the city’s new cadet class about the importance of turning on their body cameras when they interact with members of the public. During Sunday’s shooting, the officer’s camera had been turned off.

“This is his nightmare,” said Jorden Gieger, a community organizer who is close to Logan’s family. “You have to imagine the first thing he said to the police chief was, ‘You all had one job: Don’t shoot a black guy while I’m running for president.’ ”

Head over to the WaPo to read the rest.

A story from Courthouse News that adds evidence for the meme that in the Trump administration, the cruelty is the point: Feds Tell 9th Circuit: Detained Kids ‘Safe and Sanitary’ Without Soap.

The Trump administration argued in front of a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday that the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, despite a settlement agreement that requires detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

Trump concentration camp for immigrant children

All three judges appeared incredulous during the hearing in San Francisco, in which the Trump administration challenged previous legal findings that it is violating a landmark class action settlement by mistreating undocumented immigrant children at U.S. detention facilities.

“You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?’” U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asked the Justice Department’s Sarah Fabian Tuesday.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher also questioned the government’s interpretation of the settlement agreement.

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” Fletcher asked Fabian. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”

The settlement at issue came out of Jenny Lisette Flores v. Edwin Meese, filed in 1985 on behalf of a class of unaccompanied minors fleeing torture and abuse in Central America.

Read more at the link.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: No More Finger-Wagging Old White Men, Please.

Good Morning!!

Did you see the disturbing interaction between Joy Reid and Joe Biden at the Poor People’s Campaign forum? I didn’t watch it, but Rachel Maddow showed the clip last night.

Hundreds of women reacted on Twitter, calling Biden’s body language intimidating and his tone condescending. I agree.

Two male authors at CNN said Biden “forcefully pushed back against criticism that he is naïve to think Democrats can work with Republicans in Congress,” seemingly missing Biden’s threatening body language.

Here’s another Biden interaction with a woman that was posted on Twitter:

The Daily Dot: Voter behind Biden finger photo says they were ‘shocked’ by candidate’s actions.

We all know those people who say, “no one is a bigger feminist than I am” yet go on to show through their actions that they are anything buta feminist. A recent photo of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden pointing a finger in a womxn‘s face illustrates this type of character perfectly. And, hopefully, the memes emerging from this photo will put a spotlight on the former vice president’s policies concerning reproductive rights, abortion, and assault.

K.C. Cayo, who goes by @thelocalmaniac8 on Twitter, shared the now-viral photo of Biden—who is currently campaigning in Iowa—pointing a finger in their face with the caption, “Told Biden we need someone stronger on reproductive justice, and after his reversal on the Hyde Amendment, we asked him to protect assault survivors. He said, ‘nobody has spoken about it, done more, or changed more than I have.’ I told him we deserve better.”

Just what we need–another finger-wagging white male in his 70s. More from the Daily Dot story:

Cayo told the Daily Dot in a direct message on Twitter that they were “overwhelmed and excited” by the response to the photo, which was taken by Sarah Pearson. “I’m glad that survivors of sexual assault are finding that my experience resonates so much with them, and that we were able to capture Biden’s true colors,” they said….

“When it was happening, I was shocked—we all were,” they said. “This was not supposed to be a ‘gotcha!’ moment…this was supposed to be a candid discussion about why people like us were wary of his policies and voting record, followed by a question about how he would protect womxn by reforming and restructuring our courts to keep people like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh off of it.”

“Our conversation never got that far,” Cayo continued. “He continued to change the subject to VAWA, got increasingly agitated, leaned close, raised his hand, and raised his voice.”

And where did Biden get the idea that he can get Republicans to work with him? Why didn’t he do it during his eight years as Vice President if he’s so confident?

According to The Washington Post, Obama administration veterans are mystified:

While Biden often cited his relationship with Obama, he left some members of the Obama administration frustrated with his promises to cooperate with Republicans.

Joy-Ann Reid, an MSNBC host who moderated the session, asked Biden how he would pass his plans through a stubborn Congress — in particular, how he would work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who makes little secret of his satisfaction at blocking Democratic initiatives.

Biden bristled at the suggestion that his approach was misguided. As he wound through his response, Biden moved nearer to Reid, who was seated, and leaned over her.

“Joy-Ann, I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to think we have to work together,” Biden said. “The fact of the matter is, if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive branch. Zero.” He added that “you can shame people into doing the right thing.”

Biden’s suggestion that he could persuade McConnell to cooperate prompted skepticism from those who have interacted with McConnell. Alyssa Mastro­monaco, a former Obama deputy chief of staff, tweeted, “maybe you can shame people. you can’t shame McConnell. it would be dope to find a path to greater bipartisanship but this isn’t that path.”

I will never vote for Biden. Never.

The youngest white man in the presidential race is having facing some trouble back home in South Bend. USA Today: Buttigieg cancels campaign events after fatal police shooting in South Bend.

Pete Buttigieg this week canceled several campaign events after returning to South Bend, Indiana, following a police-involved shooting that left a black man dead.

South Bend resident Eric Logan was shot early Sunday after the police responded to a report that a suspicious person was going through cars, the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office said, according to the Associated Press.

Logan was confronted by a police officer in a vehicle at an apartment building parking lot, the AP reported. The prosecutor’s office said Logan exited the vehicle and approached the officer with a knife raised and the officer opened fire, according to the AP. The name and race/ethnicity of the officer were not released.

Logan, 54, died at a hospital and an autopsy was scheduled for Monday.

Eugene Scott at The Washington Post: Police shooting in South Bend will put scrutiny on Buttigieg’s handling of race and police.

Buttigieg has spent the past few months trying to convince black voters that he hears, and understands, their concerns when it comes to issues of police violence against people of color — and that he will work to address those concerns if elected president.

During Buttigieg’s 2015 State of the City address, he used the phrase “all lives matter,” which critics say displayed a lack of awareness or a lack of sensitivity about the ongoing tensions between law enforcement and communities of color:

There is no contradiction between respecting the risks police officers take every day in order to protect this community and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses. We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.

“All Lives Matter” is a phrase often used to counter the argument made by those invoking “Black Lives Matter,” a slogan used to draw attention to police brutality against black people. The young mayor has said he was trying to acknowledge that police are worthy of respect for putting their lives on the line while also acknowledging implicit biases in the criminal justice system harm people of color.

Click the link to read much more about Buttigieg’s history with African Americans in South Bend.

Last night Trump sent a disturbing tweet about mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

some people on Twitter referenced Kristallnacht in reference to Trump’s threat.

The Washington Post: Trump vows mass immigration arrests, removals of ‘millions of illegal aliens’ starting next week.

President Trump said in a tweet Monday night that U.S. immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting “next week,” an apparent reference to a plan in preparation for months that aims to round up thousands of migrant parents and children in a blitz operation across major U.S. cities….

Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets. In 2018, Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, Calif., with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.

Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the “rocket docket.”

In April, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were ousted after they hesitated to go forward with the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness and the risk of public outrage from images of migrant children being taken into custody or separated from their families.

It’s difficult to know if there really is such a plan for next week or if this is just bluster ahead of Trump’s hate rally in Florida tonight, where is supposedly announcing his run for reelection again. If he sees today’s Orlando Sentinel, he’ll have a nasty surprise.

Our Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump | Editorial

Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign.

We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.

Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent.

Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.

So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.

Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is.

It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

There was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career.

Not so for Trump, who claimed in 2017 that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally (they didn’t). In 2018 he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat (it is). And in 2019 he said windmills cause cancer (they don’t). Just last week he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from his campaign’s internal polling (it didn’t).

According to a Washington Post database, the president has tallied more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.

Click the link to read the rest.

More stories of possible interest, links only:

The New York Times: Paul Manafort Seemed Headed to Rikers. Then the Justice Department Intervened.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Crickets. They’re Gone” Why the Mercers, Trump’s Biggest 2016 Backers, Have Bailed on Him.

The New York Times: Kremlin Warns of Cyberwar After Report of U.S. Hacking Into Russian Power Grid.

Yahoo News: Shanahan’s confirmation hearing for defense secretary delayed amid FBI investigation.

Politico: Pentagon sending 1,000 more troops as tensions with Iran grow.

Politico: Trump prepares to bypass Congress to take on Iran.

Politico: The House committee quietly racking up oversight wins against Trump.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Tuesday Reads: Enemies of the People (Trump, Barr, and the NYT)

Good Morning!!

The New York Times has really bitten the dust this time. Yesterday they announced they will no longer run any political cartoons. Not only are NYT editors terrified of offending Trump and his base, but also they clearly have no sense of humor.

Chapette reacted to his firing at his personal website: The end of political cartoons at The New York Times.

All my professional life, I have been driven by the conviction that the unique freedom of political cartooning entails a great sense of responsibility.

In 20-plus years of delivering a twice-weekly cartoon for the International Herald Tribune first, and then The New York Times, and after receiving three OPC awards in that category, I thought the case for political cartoons had been made (in a newspaper that was notoriously reluctant to the form in past history.) But something happened. In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Last week, my employers told me they’ll be ending in-house political cartoons as well by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon – not even mine – that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world.

I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow. This requires immediate counter-measures by publishers, leaving no room for ponderation or meaningful discussions. Twitter is a place for furor, not debate. The most outraged voices tend to define the conversation, and the angry crowd follows in.

Cartoon by Chappette

In 1995, at twenty-something, I moved to New York with a crazy dream: I would convince the New York Times to have political cartoons. An art director told me: “We never had political cartoons and we will never have any.“ But I was stubborn. For years, I did illustrations for NYT Opinion and the Book Review, then I persuaded the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (a NYT-Washington Post joint venture) to hire an in-house editorial cartoonist. By 2013, when the NYT had fully incorporated the IHT, there I was: featured on the NYT website, on its social media and in its international print editions. In 2018, we started translating my cartoons on the NYT Chinese and Spanish websites. The U.S. paper edition remained the last frontier. Gone out the door, I had come back through the window. And proven that art director wrong: The New York Times did have in-house political cartoons. For a while in history, they dared.

Along with The Economist, featuring the excellent Kal, The New York Times was one of the last venues for international political cartooning – for a U.S. newspaper aiming to have a meaningful impact worldwide, it made sense. Cartoons can jump over borders. Who will show the emperor Erdogan that he has no clothes, when Turkish cartoonists can’t do it ? – one of them, our friend Musa Kart, is now in jail. Cartoonists from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Russia were forced into exile. Over the last years, some of the very best cartoonists in the U.S., like Nick Anderson and Rob Rogers, lost their positions because their publishers found their work too critical of Trump. Maybe we should start worrying. And pushing back. Political cartoons were born with democracy. And they are challenged when freedom is.

I agree that this isn’t just about cartoons. Trump is succeeding in his war against the press, and the editors of the New York Times are helping him. Twitter commentary from two cartoonists:

Thread from Pat Bagley. More tweets on Twitter

Continuing on the subject of press freedom, CNN’s Jim Acosta has a book out: The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America. Sam Donaldson reviewed the book at CNN:

Reading Jim Acosta’s new book “Enemy of the People” is like watching a train wreck in progress, with passengers bracing for the inevitable crash.

Friends and critics agree we have never seen a president like Donald J. Trump, whose disdain, even contempt and apparent hatred for many members of the press is almost daily on display.
Acosta cites instance after instance when this President and many of his staff show that they are bent on interfering with the ability of reporters to bring the public an accurate account of the administration’s stewardship.

For most of his adult life, President Trump courted the press, lived for its attention, even for a time pretended he was someone else when calling reporters to sing Trump’s praises. Whether now he truly believes that the mainstream press, as he says, reports “fake” news and is the “enemy of the American people,” or that such language is simply part of a tactic meant to stoke the anger of his “base” while escaping an objective accounting of his actions doesn’t matter. The effect is to undermine the credibility of the media, leaving him free to pursue policies that harm us at home and abroad….

History shows that tyrants and would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press. And that is why the First Amendment to our Constitution specifically forbids government from interfering with the work of the press.

Read the rest at CNN. I don’t know if I’ll read Acosta’s book, but what Donaldson has to say is vitally important.

I’m feeling so discouraged about the Democratic primary. There are far too many candidates and the ones leading the pack are pathetic. Biden, Buttigieg and Sanders? Please. At this point, I think Trump will win a second term unless his dementia gets so bad the press finally has to begin writing about it.

Eugene Robinson writes at The Washington Post: We don’t need 23 presidential candidates. There’s another important role to fill.

Dear Democratic presidential candidates: I know all 23 of you want to run against President Trump, but only one will get that opportunity. If you truly believe your own righteous rhetoric, some of you ought to be spending your time and energy in another vital pursuit — winning control of the Senate.

I’m talking to you, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who would have a good chance of beating incumbent Republican Cory Gardner. I’m talking to you, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who could knock off GOP incumbent Steve Daines. I’m even talking to you, Beto O’Rourke, who would have a better chance than any other Texas Democrat against veteran Republican John Cornyn.

And I’m talking to you, too, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, even though you haven’t jumped in. You came within a whisker of being elected governor, and you have a national profile that would bring in a tsunami of campaign funds. You could beat Republican David Perdue — and acquire real power to translate your stirring eloquence into concrete action.

I agree that we absolutely need Senate candidates, but the even greater problem is the candidates that are topping the polls. Biden, Sanders, and even Warren are too old. Biden and Sanders have far too many negatives in their past histories. Buttigieg is too inexperienced, and can you really imagine him beating Trump? More from Robinson on the importance of winning the Senate:

As the Republican Party has long understood, it’s all about power. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could not care less about lofty words and high ideals. Coldly and methodically, he has used his power to block widely supported progressive measures such as gun control, to enact a trickle-down economic agenda that favors the wealthy and to pack the federal bench with right-wing judges whom we’ll be stuck with for decades.

We all remember how McConnell refused even to schedule hearings for President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, ostensibly because the vacancy occurred during an election year. Were you surprised when he said recently that if a seat were to come open in 2020, he would hasten to confirm a replacement? I wasn’t. That’s how McConnell rolls. He exercises his power to its full extent and is not bothered by what you or I or anyone else might think. Charges of hypocrisy do not trouble his sweet slumber.

McConnell is not going to be reasoned, harangued or shamed into behaving differently. The only way to stop him is to take his power away, and the only way to do that is for Democrats to win the Senate.

Another danger we face is Cover-Up General Barr’s hostile takeover of the Justice Department. NBC News reports: New details of Barr’s far-reaching probe into ‘spying’ on Trump 2016 campaign.

The Justice Department on Monday offered new insight into what it called a “broad” and “multifaceted” review of the origins of the Russia investigation, and sought to assure lawmakers that the probe ordered by President Donald Trump would work to protect sensitive intelligence at the heart of it.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said the investigation — referred to throughout as a “review” — would evaluate whether the counterintelligence investigation launched in 2016 into potential contacts between foreign entities and individuals associated with Donald Trump’s campaign “complied with applicable policies and laws.”

“There remain open questions relating to the origins of this counterintelligence investigation and the U.S. and foreign intelligence activities that took place prior to and during that investigation. The purpose of the Review is to more fully understand the efficacy and propriety of those steps and to answer, to the satisfaction of the Attorney General, those open questions,” Boyd wrote.

DOJ announced in May that Attorney Gen. William Barr had assigned John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, to oversee a review long called for by Trump into whether the Russia probe, launched in the heat of the presidential campaign, was influenced by politics and whether established protocols were followed involving the surveillance of Trump campaign officials.

A counterpoint from former CIA Chief of Station John Sipher at The Washington Post: Trump’s conspiracy theories about intelligence will make the CIA’s job harder.

President Trump’s attempts to craft a public narrative that a government conspiracy was aimed at his presidential campaign moved off Twitter and into the real world of official documents last month. Trump issued a directive assigning Attorney General William P. Barr to probe the origins of the Russia investigation, giving Barr the authority to declassify secret intelligence. As the president stated, “We’re exposing everything.”

The order directly undercuts Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who is responsible for both protecting and potentially releasing intelligence. And it suggests that Trump is still disputing the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The president hardly needs to create a public furor to determine what the intelligence community knew about Russian interference, when they knew it or how they learned it. The CIA would gladly provide detailed briefings to him, the attorney general or anyone Trump might request one for. There are well-established means of sharing information within the executive branch. If the president wants to see the specific intelligence, he can.

But that’s not what Trump wants, is it?

But a private inquiry would not provide Trump with the political weapon of a public scapegoat. If he’s looking to discredit the intelligence behind the unanimous assessment by U.S. agencies in 2016 — since affirmed by the Mueller report, numerous indictments and no shortage of public evidence — he seems to want someone to blame. The recent directive hints at Trump’s eagerness to find a CIA version of his favorite targets at the FBI: James B. Comey, Peter Strzok, Bruce Ohr, Andrew McCabe or Robert S. Mueller III’s “angry Democrats.”

Creating a boogeyman inside the CIA is probably an effective tool if Trump’s goal is to persuade voters that he faced a “coup” and that the Russian attack was a “hoax,” as he has claimed. The necessary secrecy of the CIA’s activities makes it easy to spin a conspiracy and scare the public. A weaponized charge can appear simple and compelling, while the CIA’s ability to respond is limited; the issues involved are complicated and hard to explain in the length of a tweet. It is not hard to whip up fear and assume the worst of a powerful and shadowy secret agency if the most powerful man in the world is willing to deceive the public in the process.

That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Dali Atomicus, by Salvador Dali and Philippe-Halsman (photographer)

Good Morning!!

I would love to know who is leaking info about Michael Flynn. Apparently Flynn reached out to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz while he was supposedly cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

CNN: Flynn contacted GOP Mueller critic while cooperating with special counsel.

While he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted at least one member of Congress who was publicly criticizing the special counsel probe, according to messages obtained by CNN.

Flynn sent Twitter direct messages to Rep. Matt Gaetz, encouraging the Florida Republican to “keep the pressure on.” It’s not clear if Flynn sent additional messages to other lawmakers.
“You stay on top of what you’re doing. Your leadership is so vital for our country now. Keep the pressure on,” Flynn wrote in an April 2018 message to Gaetz, which was obtained by CNN.

By Amy Hill

On the evening Flynn sent the message to Gaetz, the lawmaker had appeared on Fox Business’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” where he criticized the Mueller investigation.

“We’ve got to play a far stronger role in exposing the hypocrisy at the Department of Justice,” Gaetz said in the April 3, 2018, appearance. “With no evidence of collusion, with no evidence of any crime whatsoever, they unleashed Bob Mueller to go investigate things that happened before Donald Trump was even contemplating running for president.”

That same hour, Flynn sent Gaetz the direct message.

Gaetz also received a message in February of this year. On the day that Attorney General William Barr was confirmed, Flynn sent Gaetz GIFs of a bald eagle and an American flag, without any accompanying text.

Flynn is still “cooperating,” and he hasn’t been sentenced yet. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, new information has been revealed by order of the judge in Flynn’s case Emmet Sullivan. Did the DOJ leak the incriminating info about Flynn contacting Gaetz in response to the new Mueller report info to make Flynn look bad? I wonder what Judge Sullivan will have to say about this?

There’s also this Devin Nunes tweet from 2016:

Here’s another interesting story I missed from a couple of days ago. This one is about Felix Sater, who was involved with Trump for years and, along with Michael Cohen working on the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Natasha Bertrand at Politico: Judge confirms Trump associate gave feds Osama bin Laden’s number.

A federal judge has confirmed for the first time that Felix Sater, a former Donald Trump business associate who drove Trump Tower Moscow negotiations during the 2016 election, helped the U.S. government track down Osama bin Laden.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Percy, by David Hockney, 1970-71

During a hearing on Thursday in the Eastern District of New York — held as part of a lawsuit brought by First Look Media to unseal records related to Sater’s longtime cooperation with the government on various national security issues — Judge I. Leo Glasser said the media group already knew all of the “very interesting and dangerous things” Sater had done through his decade as an FBI informant.

“He cooperated,” Glasser said. “And you know what he did over the 10, 11 years, because you told me that you know. He provided the telephone number of Osama bin Laden. He has done an awful lot of very interesting and dangerous things.”

The detail is just another bizarre side plot that has emerged over the two-plus years that federal investigators, lawmakers and journalists have tried to uncover every detail about possible interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 election. The probes have put spotlights on a cast of figures in Trump’s extended orbit, many of whom possess unusual backgrounds.

Trump’s “Roy Cohn” AKA Cover-Up General Bill Barr appeared on state TV on Friday to publicly trash the investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Barr Again Casts Doubt on Russia Inquiry’s Origins, Aligning With Trump’s Attacks.

Still Life with Cat And Lobster 1962 Painting by Pablo Picasso; Still Life with Cat And Lobster 1962 Art Print for sale

When Attorney General William P. Barr described the early stages of the Russia investigation as “spying” on the Trump campaign, he prompted questions about whether he had used that word spontaneously — or whether he was deliberately fueling conspiracy theories.

That question flared anew on Friday after Mr. Barr went even further in casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation in two interviews that, by design or coincidence, provided fresh ammunition for President Trump and allies to attack law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Mr. Barr told Fox News he had been asking whether “government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” in opening the Russia inquiry. “A lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” he added.

And he doubled down on the innuendo-laden formulation he used in congressional testimony last month, telling The Wall Street Journal, “Government power was used to spy on American citizens.”

The statements were the latest in a series of actions and comments by Mr. Barr expressing skepticism about how the F.B.I. began investigating during the 2016 presidential campaign whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia’s election interference. The attorney general has appointed a federal prosecutor to review aspects of the investigation, rather than await the results of an independent inspector general inquiry due in the coming weeks, and he has invoked the term “spying” on multiple occasions.

Grey Matter, by Amy Jo Hill

Are we stuck with Joe Biden as the 2020 Democratic nominee for president? The media in general seems to believe he’s the anointed one. But anointed by whom? Obama hasn’t endorsed him. Who really wants this guy to be POTUS?

Jill Filipovic at The New York Times: Does Anyone Actually Want Joe Biden to Be President?

The most important requirement for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee? Electability. It matters more, we keep hearing, than nominating a candidate who has good policies. It matters more than nominating a candidate with a track record of passing progressive legislation. It certainly matters more than nominating a candidate who could be the first female president.

Unfortunately, very few people who say they are putting electability first seem to understand what “electability” means, or what today’s electorate actually looks like.

Case in point: In a field crowded with nearly two dozen candidates, no answer to the electability question is offered more regularly and with more conviction than “Joe Biden.”

Mr. Biden, whose campaign officially kicks of this Saturday in Philadelphia, is the kind of guy you could see sitting behind a big desk, acting as a wise custodian of our democracy without posing any threat of changing much. He is from one of those scrappy Rust Belt cities fetishized by so many pundits — people who believe that the imaginary working-class white voter who is going to deliver the White House to the Democrats wants Joe Biden, which is what, in turn, makes Joe Biden electable.

But what about the rest of us–Democrats who aren’t white males living in the rust belt? What about women who still dream of a women president in their lifetimes? We don’t count when it comes to “electability” supposedly. Read more at the NYT.

At The Daily Beast, Adam Howard tries to explain Biden’s current appeal to African Americans: Why Black Voters Are Gravitating to Biden.

Haiku, by Albena Vatcheva

Now, with Obama’s blessing if not his formal endorsement, Biden has sought the presidency himself for the third time in 30 years, and this time, he’s enjoying a solid and in some case growing lead over a historically huge field of Democratic contenders. The backbone of his support comes from the most reliable and one of the most coveted Democratic primary voting blocs: African-Americans.

Most of the cable news commentary has approached this fact with the condescending assertion that Biden’s black support is mostly due to name recognition and his proximity to Obama. Some have suggested that older black voters, who are traditionally more moderate, may be attracted to his centrism.

But these hot takes overlook something less tangible and quantifiable: how much the sincere, integrated friendship of Biden and Obama (and their families) was cathartic and inspirational. It was the personification of the post-racial utopia some hoped Obama’s election victories would deliver but never did, and probably never could.

Their platonic bromance provided comfort during the confounding period when Obama’s popularity seemed to grow simultaneously with the rise and improbable election of a man who championed a racist campaign to discredit him.

Howard suggests that Biden could loose African American support as the campaign goes on. He doesn’t specifically address the attitudes of black women or provide any evidence for his arguments. The piece is based on his own personal opinions. I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.

I’ll end with this article at The Washington Post on Nevada, where women are now in control of the legislature: Where women call the shots.

by Amy Hill

She didn’t plan to say it. Yvanna Cancela, a newly elected Democrat in the Nevada Senate, didn’t want to “sound crass.” But when a Republican colleague defended a century-old law requiring doctors to ask women seeking abortions whether they’re married, Cancela couldn’t help firing back.

“A man is not asked his marital status before he gets a vasectomy,” she countered — and the packed hearing room fell silent.

Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices.

Cancela, 32, is part of the wave of women elected by both parties in November, many of them younger than 40. Today, women hold the majority with 23 seats in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate, or a combined 52 percent.

No other legislature has achieved that milestone in U.S. history. Only Colorado comes close, with women constituting 47 percent of its legislators. In Congress, just one in four lawmakers is a woman. And in Alabama, which just enacted an almost complete ban on abortion, women make up just 15 percent of lawmakers.

The female majority is having a huge effect: More than 17 pending bills deal with sexual assault, sex trafficking and sexual misconduct, with some measures aimed at making it easier to prosecute offenders. Bills to ban child marriage and examine the causes of maternal mortality are also on the docket.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?