Friday Tightie Whitie Snow Blindness: “He has otherwise lived a blameless life.”

It’s Mueller Friday!

We live in a Thugocracy these days. I have a series of headlines that should not be normal headlines for any news items applying to the United States of America.  This includes a federal judge giving a rich white guy a pass on a career of selling out his country to the Russians for incredible sums of money.  People that smoke and sell small bags of weed have done more time for that crime than Paul Manafort will  for the absolute malice with which he treated the elections and the people of our country.  Of course, he’s white, he’s rich, and he just bilked us out of money and freedom. It wasn’t like he lifted a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter from a convenience  store to feed himself.  If he were caught doing that while black he likely would’ve been shot dead.

Franklin Foer–writing for The Atlantic--provides this lede:  “The ‘Otherwise Blameless Life’ of Paul Manafort. Trump’s former campaign chair has always acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him.”    The judge in the Virginia Court proved Manafort’s assumption correct.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was kicked out of the lobbying firm he co-founded, accused of inflating his expenses and cutting his partners out of deal

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort came to adopt the lifestyle and corrupt practices of his Ukrainian clients as his own.

In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.

In an otherwise blameless life, he found himself nearly $20 million in debt to a Russian oligarch. Instead of honestly accounting for the money, he simply stopped responding to the oligarch’s messages.

In an otherwise blameless life, he tried to use his perch atop the Trump campaign to help salvage his sorry financial situation. He installed one of his protégés as the head of the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America. His friend allegedly funneled $125,000 from the super PAC to pay off one of Manafort’s nagging debts.

There’s more on this list at the link.  And there are more “this isn’t normal” headlines in every paper.  Let’s sample a few.

More on this story that BB covered yesterday: Congress, DHS investigating if U.S. border agents targeted journalists NBC News and KNSD revealed Wednesday that U.S. border agents in California had a list of reporters, lawyers and activists to be questioned at the border.

The list includes 10 journalists, seven of them U.S. citizens, a U.S.-based attorney and others labeled as organizers and “instigators,” 31 of whom are American.

The Homeland Security Committee, led by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D.-Miss., asked CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to provide a copy of the list with the 59 names, a copy of any dossiers on the individuals, an explanation of why each person was included on the list, an account of who had been stopped for screening and an account of any cell phone seizures.

“The appearance that CBP is targeting journalists, lawyers, and advocates, and particularly those who work on immigration matters or report on border and immigration issues, raises questions about possible misuse of CBP’s border search authority and requires oversight to ensure the protection of Americans’ legal and constitutional rights,” the letter said.

CBP said Thursday the DHS Inspector General is investigating the list. CBP is part of DHS.

From the Daily Beast: “CLEAN-CUT KIDS, ‘Whiter Every Election Cycle’: How Identity Evropa, a Far-Right Hate Group, Joined the GOP. According to leaked chat logs, the white-supremacist group has actively reinvented itself as a ‘respectable’ group in order to entice Republicans.”

The white nationalist group Identity Evropa is so cozy with the Republican Party that members led their College Republican clubs and campaigned in support of GOP congressional candidates.

At least one Identity Evropa fan, who is not a member of the group, attended CPAC last weekend where he demanded an autograph from a leftist podcaster who, tripping on acid, signed the book “eat shit.”

Identity Evropa is a fascist organization. Its members have been involved in violent street brawls, including 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. While other white supremacist organizations imploded after the rally, Identity Evropa attempted to cast aside the alt-right’s tarnished image and rebrand as a “clean-cut” organization. The makeover was an attempt to appeal to the mainstream Republican Party, according to chat logs released Wednesday by the media collective Unicorn Riot.

But despite its new face, the group stayed true to its fascist heart, the leaked conversations reveal.

From  Axios:  “Scoop: White House leak to House Dems on Jared and Ivanka’s clearances.”   I still can’t believe we let this pair of grifters represent us abroad and we let them near the White House Silver.

From a White House source, the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide, according to a senior Democratic aide involved in handling the documents.

Why it matters: The Trump administration’s problems with leaks will now benefit Congress, making it harder for the White House to withhold information from Democratic investigators.

The news: The White House this week rejected the committee’s request for documents on the process for granting security clearances to staffers.

  • The twist: But the House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process, from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018, on how both Kushner and Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances.

  • The senior Democratic aide who was involved in handling the documents told Axios that two staffers on the Oversight Committee said the documents are “part of the puzzle that we would be asking for” from the White House, “so we appreciate having this upfront.”

     

And we got more folks …

From the Miami Herald this morning: “Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted.

Seated at a round table littered with party favors and the paper-cutout footballs that have become tradition at his annual Super Bowl Watch Party, President Donald Trump cheered the New England Patriots and his longtime friend, team owner Robert Kraft, to victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3.

Sometime during the party at Trump’s West Palm Beach country club, the president turned in his chair to look over his right shoulder, smiling for a photo with two women at a table behind him.

The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.

Nineteen days after Trump and Yang posed together while rooting for the Patriots, authorities would charge Kraft with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter that Yang had founded more than a decade earlier.

From The New Yorker today and Susan B. Glasser:  “The “Enemies of the People” Have a Few Questions for the President. The White House press briefing is dead. It was awful, but we should still mourn it.”

The Administration, of course, never formally announced that it was killing off the White House press briefing—that would have caused too great an outcry. But that is nonetheless what it has done, as Trump himself admitted in a January tweet, saying that “the reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the ‘podium’ much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.” The last official briefing by Sanders was on January 28th; it was the first such briefing in forty-one days. All told, there was one press briefing in November, one in December, two in January, and none at all in February, or, so far, in March. This is not just a White House policy. The State Department, which used to give a near-daily press briefing that was considered significant by journalists from around the world, had six “department press briefings” briefings in November, two in December, none in January, two in February, and one so far in March.

This is not how it should work in a democracy, and there is no explanation other than a bad one for why this is happening. The Administration’s elimination of regular on-the-record press briefings is part of a broader war on truth and transparency by a President who will go down as the most publicly mendacious American leader we’ve yet had. (Trump’s epic speech at cpac over the weekend was both the longest and, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker, the most untruthful of his tenure, clocking in at more than two hours and approximately a hundred lies, misstatements, and falsehoods.)

That highlighted sentence part is one I keep repeating daily right after I say “What Fresh Hell is this?” “This is not how it should work in a democracy …”

In news related to the disappearance of the White House Briefing we now have the disappearance of Bill Shine who is the ex Fox Executive acting as the de facto White House Communications Director.  We got a really nice bunch of background on Shine in Jane Mayer’s article at the beginning of the week.  This is from CNN.

White House deputy chief of staff and de facto communications director Bill Shine has stepped down to join the Trump campaign, press secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement Friday.

Shine, a former Fox News executive, joined the White House in July 2018, the sixth person to fill or be tapped for the top communications role. Jason Miller, Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony Scaramucci and Hope Hicks all came before him.

He offered his resignation to President Donald Trump on Thursday but was spotted on the White House South Lawn on Friday ahead of the President’s trip to Alabama. He will be joining the 2020 re-election campaign as a senior adviser.

“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life. To be a small part of all this President has done for the American people has truly been an honor. I’m looking forward to working on President Trump’s re-election campaign and spending more time with my family,” Shine said in a statement.

Shine has been shuttled over to the Trump  version of CREEP to probably wine and dine Fox news so it can continue to act as a State propaganda outlet for Trump.  The Why is not known but Fox lost any right to a Democratic Campaign debate over the news. 

I seriously can’t take much more of this.  We’ve just devolved into a Banana Republic so quickly that I feel we should all be wearing Panama hats and smoking cigars while we wait in our bread lines.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?  I’m hoping for some better results from Manafort in the DC court  which is U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman to whom I dedicate all these beautiful tarot card illustrations of justice.  Come on Mueller!  Come on Amy!!  Come on Democratic Congressional Hearings!  Who will rid us of these meddlesome kleptocrats?

 

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Friday Reads: Days as Bleak as the White House Holiday Decorations

Good Afternoon!

It’s cold. It’s sleeting. It’s gray. It snowed in Baton Rouge and a few places north of Lake Pontchartrain.  I’m officially in and over winter.  I can’t seem to get warm. I can’t warm up to anything going on in this country either.  I’m sending a dear friend to check out a property on Key Peninsula at least 20 miles from most forms of civilization. There’s a wine store, a dispensary, and a Japanese-owned grocery shop/cafe close with foodstuff. Other than that I’ll have tall trees, a lake, and JoEmma State Park.  This one is way doable so I’m hopeful I can head to the blue wall of safety. Oh, and a working fireplace/stove.  It’s as bleak as the White House Holiday Decorations or Siberia right now.  Take your choice.

I’ll start out with one custom made for our resident psychologist up at WAPO.  “I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump. He tells far more lies, and far more cruel ones, than ordinary people do.”

Nearly two-thirds of Trump’s lies (65 percent) were self-serving. Examples included: “They’re big tax cuts — the biggest cuts in the history of our country, actually” and, about the people who came to see him on a presidential visit to Vietnam  last month: “They were really lined up in the streets by the tens of thousands.”

Slightly less than 10 percent of Trump’s lies were kind ones, told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else. An example was his statement on Twitter that “it is a ‘miracle’ how fast the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were able to find the demented shooter and stop him from even more killing!” In the broadest sense, it is possible to interpret every lie as ultimately self-serving, but I tried to stick to how statements appeared on the surface.

Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That’s a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones. The most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants’, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging. For example, he proclaimed that John Brennan, James Clapper and James Comey, all career intelligence or law enforcement officials, were “political hacks.” He said that “the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close.” He insisted that other “countries, they don’t put their finest in the lottery system. They put people probably in many cases that they don’t want.” And he claimed that “Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities.”

The Trump lies that could not be coded into just one category were typically told both to belittle others and enhance himself. For example: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for reelection in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”

The sheer frequency of Trump’s lies appears to be having an effect, and it may not be the one he is going for. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from late October showed that only 35 percent  of voters believed that Trump was honest, while 51 percent said he was not honest. (The others said they didn’t know or had no opinion.) Results of a Quinnipiac University poll from November were similar: Thirty-seven percent of voters thought Trump was honest, compared with 58 percent who thought he was not.

There are man cruel, inhuman policies on the Republican agenda and in its budget and tax bill. Paul Krugman points out its “War on Children”. I’m not a deist so I can’t speak to how those folks feel on how they believe that they’ll be judged on how we treat the least of us, but I’d say this is a straight to eternal damnation ticket.

What’s the problem? The other day Senator Orrin Hatch, asked about the program (which he helped create), once again insisted that it will be funded — but without saying when or how (and there don’t seem to be any signs of movement on the issue). And he further declared, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.” Then he voted for an immense tax cut.

And one piece of that immense tax cut is a big giveaway to inheritors of large estates. Under current law, a married couple’s estate pays no tax unless it’s worth more than $11 million, so that only a handful of estates — around 5,500, or less than 0.2 percent of the total number of deaths a year — owe any tax at all. The number of taxable estates is also, by the way, well under one one-thousandth of the number of children covered by CHIP.

But Republicans still consider this tax an unacceptable burden on the rich. The Senate bill would double the exemption to $22 million; the House bill would eliminate the estate tax entirely.

So now let’s talk dollars. CHIP covers a lot of children, but children’s health care is relatively cheap compared with care for older Americans. In fiscal 2016 the program cost only $15 billion, a tiny share of the federal budget. Meanwhile, under current law the estate tax is expected to bring in about $20 billion, more than enough to pay for CHIP.As you see, then, my question wasn’t at all hypothetical. By their actions, Republicans are showing that they consider it more important to give extra millions to one already wealthy heir than to provide health care to a thousand children.

Justice in the USA is only available to the privileged. It can also be avoid by the donor class and most violent folks wearing blue and sporting a badge.   Russia and now, Wells Fargo, are dodging sanctions for damaging our country.

The new acting head of the U.S. consumer finance watchdog is reviewing whether Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) should pay tens of millions of dollars over alleged mortgage lending abuse, according to three sources familiar with the dispute.

The San Francisco-based bank said in October that it would refund homebuyers who were wrongly charged fees to secure low mortgage rates – a black mark against a lender which has already been roiled by scandal over its treatment of customers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had been investigating the mortgage issue since early this year, said one current and two former officials. The agency accepted an internal review from Wells Fargo and set settlement terms in early November, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak about internal discussions.

But that matter and roughly a dozen others are in question now that Mick Mulvaney, the agency chief tapped by President Donald Trump, has said he is reviewing the CFPB’s prior work.

Richard Cordray, the former CFPB director who initiated the Wells Fargo action, approved the terms of a possible settlement before stepping down, said the sources.

That proposal envisions a Wells Fargo payout of tens of millions of dollars but likely short of the record, $100 million payout the bank made to the CFPB last year over a phony accounts scandal, sources said.

The pseudo Justice Department led by the World’s oldest living Confederate Widow is going to waste money investigating Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue.  Isn’t great to be obsessed with zygotes while letting  thousands of living children die unnecessarily?

The Justice Department is taking steps to investigate Planned Parenthood, The Daily Beast has learned.

The head of Justice’s office of legislative affairs has sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking for documents from its investigation of Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue practices. The Daily Beast reviewed the letter, which says the requested documents are “for investigative use.”

Planned Parenthood for America did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. The organization’s website says that only a few of its affiliates share fetal tissue with researchers, and that criticisms of the practice are a “smear campaign.” In October 2015, after undercover videos highlighting Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue programs generated outrage, the organization announced it would stop accepting any reimbursement from researchers for fetal tissue.

The Justice Department’s request refers to a report that the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans released last December, called “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy.” That report discusses how biomedical research corporations contracted with Planned Parenthood affiliates for fetal tissue. It mentioned contracts between those corporations and several Planned Parenthood affiliates, including Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and Planned Parenthood of Northern California. The report detailed the “specimen service fees” that biomedical researchers charged for tissue from a 20-week-old fetus –– $325 for a fetus’s brain, $650 for two eyes –– and questioned whether the biomedical research corporations ultimately profited from their disbursement of fetal tissue. It called for the Justice Department to investigate the matter.

At the time, Planned Parenthood said Grassley’s report did not demonstrate any wrongdoing.

Next up on the Republican Agenda, availability of tax dollars to train clergy and republican candidates on proper ways to stalk children and assault women.

So, the Jerusalem decision is dragging the world into Kremlin Caligula’s dark chaotic mind.  The UN has convened an emergency meeting. Republican Ptomac Fever is now a world wide plague.

The UN Security Council has convened an emergency session to discuss Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has led to deadly clashes in Palestine and strong condemnation from world leaders.

Eight countries called for the emergency meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, as Palestinians protested across the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip against the US president’s decision throughout the day.

Several countries resoundly condemned the US’ unilateral move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including Olof Skoog, Sweden’s UN ambassador, who said the decision is fuelling tension and instability in the region.

Trump’s declaration “goes against the plea of many friends of the US and Israel, however it does not affect the position of Sweden, the European Union or the wider international community” on the status of Jerusalem, said Skoog.

Violent clashes have erupted since Trump’s slurry, spit-filled speech.  A diverse number of religious leaders have begged the US to reconsider. This includes the Pope.  I think he’s hoping for massive terrorist attacks from extremists, frankly.

Clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank and over the Israeli-Gaza border, where one Palestinian was killed.

Tensions are high in the wake of Mr Trump’s announcement. His policy shift was hailed by Israel but condemned across the Arab and Islamic world.

The UN’s Middle East envoy warned of a risk the conflict would escalate.

“There is a serious risk today that we may see a chain of unilateral actions, which can only push us further away from achieving our shared goal of peace,” Nickolay Mladenov told an emergency UN Security Council meeting, by videocall from Jerusalem.

He called on all parties to engage in “constructive dialogue” and “reign in radical elements”.

While the meeting was going on, the Israeli army said it had intercepted a rocket launch from Gaza, but there had been “no casualties and no damage”.

Western allies of the US have disavowed Mr Trump’s move, which reversed decades of US neutrality on the status of Jerusalem.

Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The US became the first country to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital since the foundation of the state in 1948.

The State Department is having none of that or the threats to pull the US Team out of the Winter Olympics in in South Korea.

After the White House and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations weighed in this week on the United States’ participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the U.S. State Department joined the discussion on Friday.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert tweeted Friday morning: “We have a longstanding and successful relationship with the Republic of #Korea. We support their efforts to ensure that a safe and successful winter games will take place. We look forward to cheering on @Team USA at #PyeongChang2018.”

 Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday appeared on Fox News and said it was an “open question” as to whether U.S. Olympic athletes would compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

On Thursday, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent mixed signals, first saying at a press briefing that, “no official decision has been made” but, “I know that the goal is to do so.” Within the hour, Sanders posted an update on Twitter, writing that, “The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.”

My guess he’s doing to be in solidarnost with his boy crush Putin.

So, this is a must read.  Maternal mortality in the US rivals Banana Republic levels. This is especially true for women of color.  “Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why” on NPR.  Racial Disparity in outcomes happens across income lines.  This is a significant finding.

In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 300 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.

That imbalance has persisted for decades, and in some places, it continues to grow. In New York City, for example, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to the most recent data; in 2001-2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. Researchers say that widening gap reflects a dramatic improvement for white women but not for blacks.

The disproportionate toll on African-Americans is the main reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate is so much higher than that of other affluent countries. Black expectant and new mothers in the U.S. die at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, the World Health Organization estimates.

This is appalling and policy must be swift to change this.

Southern California is burning to a crisp. The Santa Anna’s are making them difficult to contain.  I have a friend who has been in a shelter for 4 days with her pets and husband.  She let us know this morning that he house was still standing but the homes 2 doors on either side of her were smoldering rubble. I have family in jeopardy also.  This is really scary.

Red flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, and high wind warnings are in effect for mountain and valley areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Winds gusted to over 60 mph in Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Gusts were in the 30 to 50 mph range in San Diego County. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits. Relative humidity in San Diego on Thursday afternoon was just 5 percent.

They will likely join Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as forgotten Americans.  Welcome to Dystopia! Welcome to our post-Orwellian nightmare!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump “Values” Are Not American Values

postcard

Good Afternoon!!

Here’s something we can do right away to let the PEOTUS know how we feel about his decision to install a white supremacist in the White House. A friend invited me to join this Facebook group that is asking people to send postcards from their states to Trump Tower between November 26 and 28. I sent invitations to my Facebook friends, so many of you will be getting them. Here’s the plan:

**IMPORTANT: Please do not send your postcard until NOV 26th**

**PUBLIC PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/

Instructions to participate:

1. Get a postcard from your state – any picture that represents your state.
2. In the message section, write this simple message: NOT BANNON!
3. Sign your name if you wish
4. Address it as follows:
Donald Trump
c/o The Trump Organization
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
5. Affix a stamp – you can use a 35 cent postcard stamp, or a normal letter stamp.
6. Take a picture of your postcard that you can share on social media using the hashtag #stopbannon #postcardavalanche
7. Drop it in the mail between Saturday, Nov 26th and Monday, Nov. 28th to create a concentrated avalanche of postcards.

If you can’t send yours until later, don’t let that stop you.

**IF YOU CANT INVITE, WE RECOMMEND USING THE PUBLIC PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/

boston-postcard

Now invite, invite, invite! The more voices we can get in the mail, from the more states, the better. To make it go viral we will all need to share the details with our sphere of influence in whatever ways we feel comfortable. Feel free to copy and paste the details or even post your own public event. The more the merrier!

If you are unfamiliar with Steve Bannon, he is a white supremacist who is also the head of a factoring companies that proliferates misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic views. The Donald is about to make him chief White House strategist. We have to stand up for American values against this man!

Let’s go national and send a message the old fashioned way!

Here’s something else people are doing. From the Indianapolis Star: 46,000 people have donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name since the election.

People on social media, ranging from regular Janes to celebrities, have been passing around Mike Pence’s official contact information.

Why?

To encourage others to make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name and send him a notification of the gift.

Planned Parenthood confirmed that people are putting their money where their tweets are. Of more than 200,000 donations made to Planned Parenthood since the election, 46,000 have been made in the vice president-elect’s name, according to the organization.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about what happened to VP elect Pence last night. From the LA Times: Mike Pence gets booed as he arrives for performance of ‘Hamilton.’

Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, took a break from planning the next administration on Friday night by attending the popular Broadway show “Hamilton.”

Though Pence received a smattering of applause when he arrived, the New York audience mostly greeted the Indiana governor with boos….

The hip-hop musical about one of the country’s founding fathers, with its multicultural cast and tale of immigrant pride, has been a favorite of liberals. One of its songs was first performed at the White House when creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was a guest of President Obama.

From Rolling Stone: Watch ‘Hamilton’ Cast’s Powerful Plea to Mike Pence.

Pence had initially received an icy reception from the New York audience, with video of the Indiana governor being roundly booedupon entering the Richard Rodgers Theater quickly circulating on social media.

However, upon the show’s curtain call, the cast and crew of Hamilton, led by actor Brandon Victor Dixon, had a strong message to deliver to the VP-elect. “There’s nothing to boo here, we’re all here sharing a story of love,” Dixon said. “We have a message for you, sir.”

“Vice President-elect Pence, welcome. Thank you for joining us at Hamilton – An American Musical. We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the production, then again thanked Pence for attending a show featuring a “diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.” “We don’t have to fight one another. The beautiful part of this country is… we don’t have to agree, but we gotta live here, baby, and share with one another,” Dixon added.

Watch the video at the LA Times or Rolling Stone link.

PEOTUS has already sent two whiny tweets claiming that Pence was “harassed.”

PEOTUS is not a fan of the first amendment to the Constitution. I wonder if he realizes how millions of people are going to greet his inauguration? He is going to hear a lot of boos in the next four years–if he lasts that long. He’d better get used to it. This isn’t Venezuela or Nazi Germany yet.

Meanwhile, the Trump organization is already well on the way to turning the U.S. Government into a kleptocracy. You probably saw that photo of Ivanka Trump sitting in on a meeting between her father and the Japanese Prime Minister. Ivanka’s husband was there for part of the meeting too.

Think Progress: This isn’t just a photo of Ivanka Trump. It’s a middle finger to democracy.

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Donald Trump is leveraging his new position as president-elect to empower his business empire — and he’s doing it publicly.

We’ve known for some time that Trump didn’t plan to actually resolve the unprecedented conflicts his far-flung business interests presented.

Instead of liquidating his assets and placing them in a Qualified Diversified Trust, as President Bush did, or investing in index funds and government bonds, as President Obama did, Trump has done nothing.

He’s waved away concerns about conflicts-of-interest, saying that he would just hand over control of his business interests to his children.

He called this a “blind trust” but it is actually the opposite. A blind trust is when you hand marketable assets over to a neutral third party to control. The contents of the trust, since they can be traded at any time by the administrator, are soon unknown to you. Trump knows what his assets are and says he is handing them to his children.

Immediately after Trump’s election, he named three of his adult children — Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. — to his transition team. This means the same people running the Trump Organization will also be choosing the top officials in the Trump administration.

Now he is taking things a step further. In his first meeting with a head of state, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump invited his daughter Ivanka — who will likely serve as acting CEO of his companies — to participate.

Trump could have kept Ivanka’s participation private. Instead, his team handed out a photo featuring Ivanka.

Please go read the rest. They are thumbing their noses at all that is decent and ethical.

And remember that Trump hotel in Washington DC–right near the White House? Foreign leaders and diplomats will soon be able to bribe the President of the U.S. by staying in that hotel on their official visits. They will be able to do the same by staying in other Trump branded hotels and patronizing his golf courses and other businesses.

Washington Post: For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be.

Trump International Hotel, Washington DC

Trump International Hotel, Washington DC

About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel.

The event for the diplomatic community, held one week after the election, was in the Lincoln Library, a junior ballroom with 16-foot ceilings and velvet drapes that is also available for rent.

Some attendees won raffle prizes — among them overnight stays at other Trump properties around the world — allowing them to become better acquainted with the business holdings of the new commander in chief.

“The place was packed,” said Lynn Van Fleit, founder of the nonprofit Diplomacy Matters Institute, which organizes programs for foreign diplomats and government officials. She said much of the discussion among Washington-based diplomats is over “how are we going to build ties with the new administration.”

Back when many expected Trump to lose the election, speculation was rife that business would suffer at the hotels, condos and golf courses that bear his name. Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president.

Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.

Read more at the link, but prepare to be nauseated.

That’s all I have the strength for today. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, have courage and hold onto your values for dear life.


The Austerity Plot

The only thing that has lessened my hysteria about the crazy Simpson Bowles plan, the shrieking about a fiscal cliff, the repeated insanity about the US federal government boehnermcconnell_500_363_293going “bankrupt”, and the continuing insistence that the people that benefited most from unrealistic policy moves over the last 30 years shouldn’t kick in their fair share for our civilization is the conversation that goes on within the community of economists.  Economists know it’s insanity. There’s a lot of agreement that most of the media hysteria and political power playing around this entire deficit hysteria is mostly a plot form “obscenely rich men” who just simply want more of everything we have.  Here’s some excellent analysis and points by Lynn Stewart Parramore.

New York magazine calls it a “Mass Movement for Millionaires.” The New York Times’ Paul Krugman sums up the idea : “Hey, sacrifice is for the little people.”

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is a huge, and growing, coalition of powerful CEOs, politicians and policy makers on a mission to lower taxes for the rich and to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid under the cover of concern about the national debt. The group was spawned in July 2012 by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, architects of a misguided deficit reduction scheme in Washington back in 2010. By now, the “fixers” have collected a war chest of $43 million. Private equity billionaire Peter G. Peterson, longtime enemy of the social safety net, is a major supporter.

This new Wall Street movement, which includes Republicans and plenty of Democrats, is hitting the airwaves, hosting roundtables, gathering at lavish fundraising fêtes, hiring public relations experts, and traveling around the country to push its agenda. The group aims to seize the moment of the so-called “fiscal cliff” debate to pressure President Obama to concede to House Republicans and continue the Bush income tax cuts for the rich while shredding the social safety net. The group includes Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Honeywell’s David Cote, Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, Delta Airlines’ Richard Anderson, Boeing’s W. James McNerney, and over 100 other influential business honchos and their supporters.

Corporations represented by the fixers have collected massive bailouts from taxpayers and gigantic subsidies from the government, and they enjoy tax loopholes that in many cases bring their tax bills down to zero. Sometimes their creative accountants even manage to get money back from Uncle Sam. For instance, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, Boeing has paid a negative 6.5 percent tax rate for the last decade, even though it was profitable every year from 2002 through 2011.

These CEOs talk about shared sacrifice, but it seems that they don’t intend to share anything but your retirement money with their wealthy friends. As New York magreports:

“Most on-the-record comments are a mishmash of platitudes about shared sacrifice and working together for the good of the country. But interviews with a number of organizers and CEO council members point to a massive networking effort among one-percenters — one that relies on strategically exploiting existing business relationships and appealing to patriotic and economic instincts.”

defyinggravity_500It is outrageous to think that a country that has been suffering from decades of ever increasing income inequality, exorbitant CEO pay,  and financial crises triggered by corporate and financial industry corruption should lead to calls that the victims should pay more than perpetrators–who are also the pirates that profiteered–for the damages done to the public treasury.  There is a full on assault for everything that’s defined as America progress since the 20th century.  The majority of Americans–we poor, huddled masses–are losing the assault.  We’ve lost the conversation in the halls of congress and to the media that appears to be joined at the hip with its plutocratic enablers.

It’s obvious Republican leaders have no idea of what they speak and are only talking from points they feel will tingle the fingers of their donor base. The ink is barely dry on the Romney loss and the 2016 Republican candidates are already on the run.  All of them are basically running on the same crap rejected just weeks ago with the exception of trying to find a kinder gentler way to spin the obvious hatred of any one that’s not a rich white male.  Most of them don’t even care about learning about the issues.  They only want to find a message that will sell to their privileged constituents.

As Jonathan Chait points out, Bobby Jindal — who is supposed to be one of the intellectual leaders of his party — has just published an op-ed on the cliff that sure looks as if he has no idea whatsoever what the cliff is about. There’s nothing in that piece even hinting that the looming problem is spending cuts and tax increases that will shrink the deficit too soon; and his big policy ideas would actually make the lurch to austerity worse. It’s not just the idea of a balanced budget amendment, which would force harsh austerity every time the economy goes into recession; putting a cap on spending as share of GDP would do the same, because you’d have to cut spending whenever GDP went down.

You really have to wonder how someone who’s a major political figure could be this uninformed — but you have to wonder even more about the state of mind that induces you to write an op-ed about a subject you don’t comprehend at all.

But this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to a supposed GOP star. In the early stages of the Republican primary, Tim Pawlenty — a supposed thoughtful conservative — published an op-ed based on the premise that public-sector employment was booming; in fact, it was plunging. And, of course, Mitt Romney made statements — about the 47 percent, about Benghazi — that he clearly thought were smart and well-informed, but were in fact flatly false.

I think it comes back to the epistemic closure issue. Even supposedly well-informed people on the right get their “facts” from the likes of the Heritage Foundation. Probably Jindal never talks to anyone who will quietly explain that the fiscal cliff is a problem because, well, Keynesian economics is basically right, and you really don’t want austerity in a depressed economy. So he has some vague notion that it’s about the wages of fiscal irresponsibility, which it isn’t, and apparently believes that he knows enough to pontificate.

Now, there’s talk of doing something very fiscally unsound to give the Republicans a trophy.   Will Democrats actually take the imprudent action to increase the Medicare age just to get the Republicans to move on something, anything?  Ezra Klein–hosting for Rachel Maddow–points out the incredibly unpopular policy is also terrible fiscal policy because it will cost more to cover the change than it saves.

Despite the fact it’s unpopular, republicans really want to make cuts in medicare and want to raise the age by two years from 65 to 67. that’s also super unpopular…What’s weird is it’s always presented as the height of fiscal responsibility even though it’s fiscally irresponsible. Which brings us to the challenge. why raising the age does not save you very much money and is probably a bad policy idea in under two minutes…The seniors turning to private insurance will have to pay more from the same coverage. 3.7 billion more in the first year of the policyit’s a terrible policy, but because obama care and employers and others are there to catch a lot of these people, it might get more votes while doing less harm to seniors than the alternatives.

The basic reasoning behind all of this is the continual need by the Republicans to serve their richest of the rich and the inability of the rich to EVER GET ENOUGH MONEY and Power.  It’s a zero sum game for them and they seem to want every one else to lose.  The worst of these offenders have installed themselves on Wall Street.  They still keep pushing the idea that Social Security is insolvent and going bankrupt when it is not.  These are also the guys that would love to access that big pool of money for their gambling schemes.

“Fix” means cut : When they say “fix” Social Security, they mean cut Social Security. Fixers want to convince the public that a well-managed, hugely popular program that does not add to the deficit (it’s self-funded) is somehow in crisis and requires intervention in the form of various cutting schemes. They seek this because many of the rich do not want to pay taxes for Social Security, and financiers want very much to move toward privitization of retirement accounts so they can collect fees on such accounts.

It is surreal that any elected official could still hold and trumpet these ideas after they were sincerely stomped on by the electorate just weeks ago.  But the deal is that the rich just cannot get enough and they are willing to drive the country into developing country status to get more.  The United State continues to nosedive on lists of quality of life. What exactly will it take to get jerks like the Koch Brothers back into their evil box?

Here’s an excellent essay that sums up what’s wrong with the country these days by  James Kenneth Galbraith.  He mentions the importance of the our stagnant wages but goes one further.  The very things that gave us our strong middle class after the Great Depression and up to the Reagan years are our social contracts with each other.  These programs are under attack today like never before.

The real threat to the middle class is not there, it’s in the erosion of the programs I just mentioned. That is to say, it’s in the attack on the public schools, it’s in the squeeze on higher education, it’s in the threat to Social Security. When you look at housing, you have a very large unambiguous loss. Millions of people have been displaced, but many, many more have lost the capital value of their homes. They won’t be able to sell and retire on the proceeds.

So I think there is a threat to the middle class, but if I were talking about it in political terms, I wouldn’t be giving an abstract statistical picture of wages. This doesn’t connect to people’s experiences. If I were designing the boilerplate rhetoric of a popular movement, I would take a blue pencil to these statistical formulations. I don’t like the stagnant median wage argument—I think it obscures what actually happened. And I don’t particularly care for the “one percent” argument. I understand it has a certain power, but one can be much more precise about what it is you want to attack, and what it is you want to preserve and to build. I would cut to the chase: we need to tear down the financial sector and rebuild it from scratch in a very different way.

In our current situation, the financial sector makes its money by destroying, not by building. When one frames the issue that way, and when you try to explain to people why that’s so, I think they have a much clearer picture of what they’re facing and what should be done. Occupy Wall Street wasn’t wrong to focus on Wall Street. That was exactly right. But talking in terms of the “one percent”—which, after all, would be about 3.1 million people—doesn’t clarify what is truly at issue. What do people care about? People care about their public services, they care about their schools, they care about the environment in which they live, they care about safety, they care about the terms of student loans, they care about health care and retirement. When one talks about those issues, I think you connect much more effectively than by addressing this in terms of “the middle class,” which is itself a very abstract term.

We are going to come to a point of decision fairly soon as to whether the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society survive. It is a straightforward question: do we insure the whole population against old age, disability, or the loss of their income, or not? Do we provide a decent standard of health care and long-term care for the elderly and people in the final phases of life, or not? Is this a community that provides this as a matter of common insurance, or isn’t it?

We need to buck up whoever we can to say no to compromises that include our basic social safety programs.  We should go over the fiscal cliff rather than give Republicans trophies that will ruin our society in the long run.


Late Night Post: a Rogue and/or Broken Nation

There’s a pretty good amount of twitter chatter and blog posts on these thoughts at interfluidity by steve randy waldman. I understand the draw because I’ve had very similar thoughts and expressed many of them recently. I thought this would be a good discussion post to follow BostonBoomer’s last post too since it’s very much related to the post called “an echo”.

I no longer trust my own government to be the provider of a civilized society. No government is perfect or without corruptions. But in 2007, I thought I lived in a remarkably well-governed nation that had gone off-kilter under a small and mean administration. In 2011, I view my government as the sharp edge of an entrenched kleptocracy, engaged in ever more expansive schemes of surveillance and arrogating powers of ever less restrained brutality. At a visceral level, I dislike President Obama more than I have disliked any politician in my lifetime, not because he is objectively worse than most of the others — he is not — but because he disproved my hypothesis that we are a country with basically good institutions brought low by poor quality leadership. Whenever I hear the President speak and am impressed by the quality of his intellect, by his instinct towards diplomacy and finding common ground and rising above petty struggles, I despair more deeply. Not just because a leader of high quality failed to restore passably clean and beneficient government. It is worse than that. The kleptocracy has harnassed this man’s most admirable qualities and made them a powerful weapon for its own ends. He has rebranded as “moderate”, “adult”, “reasonable”, practices such as unaccountable assassination lists and Orwellian nonhostilities. He has demostrated that the way grown-ups get things done in Washington is by continually paying off thieves in suits. Perhaps it is unfair to blame Barack Obama for all this. Maybe he has done the very best a person could do under our present institutions. But then it is not unfair to detest the institutions, to wish to see them clipped, contained, or starved.

This message is followed by a mea culpa expressing profound regret for supporting the Bush Administration and the Iraq War.  Also, there’s a link to the Salon article“The due-process-free assassination of US citizens is now a reality” from Glenn Greenwald which is something we’ve previously discussed.  What drug me to the post was a response over at The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorfer who was just quoted on BB’s post.  We’re treated to some of the top ten abysmal hits of the past few years.  The bailout of banks while their bad business models still wreck havoc on our neighbors and in our cities and towns is there.  The normalization of torture and spying on citizens is listed plus a few other things that I’ve come to view as a bigger problem now than the issues surrounding Watergate and Vietnam were then.

We’ve been lied to before.  We’ve had a few of our citizen’s rights stomped about but nothing quite so systematic and unchecked.  It also seems that our institutions and especially our courts were resilient enough to stand their grounds in the past.  There were people who stood on our principles.  I’m not seeing any institutional response to the lying and executive branch power grab from Congress or the Courts or the loudest and most followed parts of the Media.

We’ve had absolutely no recompense or justice for the atrocities against liberty that we’ve experienced since 9/11. None at all.  This is what led Fiedersdorfer to ask if we were suffering from rogue leadership or broken institutions.  What ever the source, we’ve been acting like a rogue and broken nation for nearly a decade and it’s as worrisome as it is depressing.  He argues that we’ve had broken leadership during this century and that our institutions will heal.  I only wish I had his optimism.

Before pinning the blame on American institutions, let’s ponder how radically different the status quo would be if we merely adhered to longstanding laws and norms, rather than permitting our leaders to flout them in the name of protecting us from terrorism or financial collapse.

Had the Bush Administration followed the law, it never would have tortured prisoners or started secretly spying on American citizens without a warrant. If Barack Obama was as committed to fulfilling our treaty obligations as pushing his domestic agenda in an optimized political climate, he’d have investigated and prosecuted the Bush officials complicit in torture. As President Reagan wrote upon sending the Convention Against Torture to the Senate that ratified it, “Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today. The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

In Libya, where Obama violated the War Powers Act, and in various countries where President Obama is waging undeclared drone wars, more scrupulous adherence to the law would force radical changes in American behavior — as would a modicum of congressional leadership, since the body has for years abdicated its responsibility. The Founders envisioned three branches of government acting as checks on one another, the members of each zealously guarding their authority and pushing back against excesses committed by their fellow branches.

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