It’s difficult to believe, but today is kind of slow news day, compared to most of the days we’ve lived through in the past four years. Naturally, what news there is today is mostly awful.
The story getting the most attention right now is the bomb blast in Nashville. Here’s the latest:
Nashville police officers were first called to a report of shots fired, police said. There was no evidence of shots fired, but “there were announcements coming” from an RV saying a potential bomb would detonate within 15 minutes, police said.
The recording only began playing a short time after police reported to the scene, a law enforcement official told ABC News.
Officers were working to evacuate nearby buildings when, around 6:30 a.m., the RV exploded, blowing out the windows of nearby buildings.
Human remains have been found at the scene of the explosion in downtown Nashville, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.
The remains have not been identified and it’s unclear whether they’re identifiable.
“We found tissue that we believe could be human remains,” Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said at a press conference Friday evening. “We’ll have that examined and we’ll be able to tell you from that point.”
A woman’s voice warned downtown residents to evacuate before the Christmas morning explosion that rocked Nashville, according to witness who described hearing the chilling message before fleeing with her family.
Betsy Williams, who owns the Melting Pot building on Second Avenue, lived in a loft apartment on the third floor of the building near the center of the blast.
Williams said she left the area after she heard the recording play a countdown to the explosion.
At least three people were injured in the explosion, according to authorities. A police officer in the area, who was responding to reports of suspicious activity in the area, was knocked to the ground by the blast.
Police said the explosion came from an RV that was parked on Second Avenue, in the midst of a business and entertainment district. Police spokesman Don Aaron confirmed the warning came from the RV.
The blast sent black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company’s office tower, a landmark in downtown.
“We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron said. He said earlier that some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give details.
AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it. The blast interrupted service, but the company declined to say how widespread outages were.
The AT&T outages site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Several police agencies reported that their 911 systems were down because of the outage, including Knox County, home to Knoxville about 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Nashville.
AT&T said that it was bringing in portable cell sites and was working with law enforcement to get access to make repairs to its equipment. The company noted that “power is essential to restoring” service.
The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the explosion. Later Friday, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority said most flights were resuming but advised passengers to check with their airline for updates due to possible delays.
The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.
Trump is busy shirking his responsibilities, playing golf and tweeting as Americans die or go hungry and jobless, while facing evictions.
Expanded unemployment benefits were set to lapse for millions of struggling Americans on Saturday, a day after President Trump expressed more criticism of a $900 billion pandemic relief bill that was awaiting his signature and would extend them.
The sprawling economic relief package that Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support would extend the amount of time that people can collect unemployment benefits until March and revive supplemental unemployment benefits for millions of Americans at $300 a week on top of the usual state benefit.
If Mr. Trump signs the bill on Saturday, states will still need time to reprogram their computer systems to account for the new law, according to Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project, but unemployed workers would still be able to claim the benefits.
Further delays could prove more costly. States cannot pay out benefits for weeks that begin before the bill is signed, meaning that if the president does not sign the bill by Saturday, benefits will not restart until the first week of January. But they will still end in mid-March, effectively trimming the extension to 10 weeks from 11.
Mr. Trump blindsided lawmakers on Tuesday when he hinted he may veto the measure, which he decided at the last minute was unsatisfactory. The most pressing issue prompted by the president’s delay was the fate of unemployment benefits. At least a temporary lapse in those benefits is now inevitable.
The country is also facing a looming government shutdown on Tuesday and the expiration of a moratorium on evictions at the end of the year because of the president’s refusal to sign the bill.
Here’s what Trump is stewing about at the moment. Raw Story: Trump buried for whining Melania didn’t get enough fashion magazine covers — as he sits on COVID aid bill.
With all that is going on in the U.S. during Christmas week — COVID-19 infections on the rise, a desperately needed COVID-related aid package being held hostage by the president, extended unemployment insurance about to run out, families facing evictions — Donald Trump took time out from his busy holiday vacation at Mar-a-Lago to complain that his wife Melania didn’t get fashion magazine cover stories he feels she deserves.
Linking to a tweet from right-wing Breitbart, that read, “The elitist snobs in the fashion press have kept the most elegant First Lady in American history off the covers of their magazines for 4 consecutive years,” the preside t added “The greatest of all time” by which he presumably meant the first lady, before adding the requisite “Fake news!”
Commenters who were already criticizing the president for two days of golfing while they hunker down in their homes over fears of the spreading pandemic, piled on the president for his bizarre sense of priorities.
Maybe it’s because Melania is ugly inside and out? Click the link to read sample tweets.
Trump is also planning to try to pardon himself and push for inappropriate investigations, according to The Guardian:
William Barr’s abrupt move to leave his post as attorney general this week has spurred fears among Department of Justice veterans that Donald Trump will put new pressures on Barr’s successor to do him big and potentially risky political and legal favors.
Former justice department officials say they are worried Trump will lean on Barr’s less experienced successor, the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, to push policies which Trump has suggested he backs, including naming special counsels to investigate President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and using the DoJ to investigate Trump’s baseless charges of widespread election fraud.
Critics also fear Rosen could face pressure from Trump to help obtain a legal opinion that would allow Trump to pardon himself by reversing a justice department opinion that dates back to the Nixon era and bars a presidential self-pardon. Such a move would probably trigger widespread outrage.
Mounting concerns that Trump will try to squeeze favors from Rosen, who became Barr’s deputy AG in early 2019 without previous DoJ experience, stem partly from Trump’s post-election anger at Barr, despite being arguably his strongest cabinet ally in the run-up to the November election.
And what if Trump tries to stay in the White House after Biden’s inauguration? Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair: No One Knows How to Get Trump to Leave the White House in January.
Donald Trump was soundly defeated by Joe Biden, his efforts to overturn the results have been wildly unsuccessful, and the electoral college has made his loss official. In two weeks, lawmakers will meet to certify Biden’s win—and a longshot challenge Trump’s allies in the House are planning is unlikely to stop the inevitable. Constitutionally and legally, Trump will have no constitutional or legal claim to the White House.
But what if, after all that, he just…refuses to leave? What if he refuses to pack his shit and go back to Mar-a-Lago? What if he chains himself to the Resolute Desk? That prospect may sound comically outlandish, and is indeed unlikely to come to pass. But it’s hardly as far-fetched as it might seem, as Trump refuses to concede and continues to insist he won last month’s election in a “landslide.” In fact, he has actually raised the idea with aides recently, as CNN reported. And while few advisers think he’ll actually go through with it, no one really knows what would happen if he does try to overstay his welcome.
According to the Daily Beast on Wednesday, the Secret Service isn’t so sure what it would do, either. One former agent suggested he’d get dragged out like any other civilian would be if they were in the Oval Office unauthorized. “I guess by law he would be a trespasser,” the former agent told the outlet. “We’d have to escort him out.” But the Secret Service and the military may be reluctant to take part in what would be such a dramatic scene, and could take more subtle action, like pressing his inner circle or Republican officials and family members to make him leave. “The Service and the military would just not want to get involved,” another former official said. “It’s not our role.” It could also simply do the equivalent of changing the locks: “When the staff leaves on January 19, don’t let them back into the complex the next day,” an ex-agent said. “He can’t do anything without his staff.”
Again, this is all (thankfully) hypothetical at this point, and the chances of it becoming more than that are still likely remote. But it’s hard to avoid engaging with the prospect as Trump goes to greater and greater lengths in his effort to remain in power, even though a record number of American voters told him to get lost and the electoral college formalized his loss. “It’s scary,” an administration official told CNN.
More at the link.
A few more reads to check out:
Ed Pilkington at The Guardian: How real is the threat of prosecution for Donald Trump post-presidency?
The Daily Beast: Three Paths This Coronavirus Nightmare Could Take.
The New York Times: One Vaccine Side Effect: Global Economic Inequality.
The New York Times: A ‘Great Cultural Depression’ Looms for Legions of Unemployed Performers
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you had a nice, relaxing day yesterday. Take care and stay safe!
The election has been over for weeks, but Trump is determined to continue making our lives miserable until the bitter end. He plans to troll Biden’s inauguration, and begin running for president again as soon as he leaves the White House. We may not be rid of him until the day he dies.
I have been having trouble sleeping again, despite feeling exhausted. I’m tense much of the time, worried about what is going to happen next. I think it’s likely that millions of Americans are going to be suffering from PTSD for some time after the years of abuse we have suffered at Trump’s hands. Even formerly loyal Republicans are getting sick of his whining.
President Trump, who still refuses to concede to President-elect Joe Biden despite how his legal battles contesting the legitimacy of the election process have fallen flat, appeared to call up Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) as the governor certified the battleground state’s election results on Monday.
Arizona’s certification of its election results on Monday handed the state’s 11 electoral votes to Biden and cemented the swearing-in of Senator-elect Mark Kelly, a Democrat who defeated Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), this week.
Ducey, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel (all of whom are Republican) witnessed secretary of state Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, certify the state’s election results as required by state law….
Last July, Ducey told reporters that he changed his ringtone to “Hail to the Chief” to alert him when the White House is calling.
Resnik noted that specific ringtone was heard while Ducey was in the middle of certifying the state’s results. The Arizona governor appeared to silence the call.
Raw Story:‘It’s over’: Joe Biden’s win is certified in all key states — and Donald Trump can’t handle the truth.
Since Nov. 7, the result of the 2020 presidential race has been clear: Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump by a substantial enough margin that the outcome has never really been in doubt by serious observers. But on Monday, the results met a new official threshold as Arizona and Wisconsin became the final decisive swing states to certify their votes.
“All six key states have now certified their election results with Joe Biden as the winner,” said attorney Marc Elias, who has been involved in key election law cases for the Democratic Party. “Trump and his allies remain 1-39 in court.”
In addition to the newly certified swing states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Georgia have also certified Biden as the winner. Georgia is still undergoing a recount, but it is not expected to affect the result, especially since the state has already conducted an audit of the ballots, carried out by hand, that affirmed a margin for Biden of more than 12,000 votes. Trump also funded recounts of two counties in Wisconsin, which likewise reaffirmed Biden’s win. Certifications are also being carried out in swing states Trump won and states where the presidential election outcome was never really in doubt.
Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post: Trump is an ego monster. Republicans, don’t let him consume you.
Maybe it’s not pure, unadulterated cynicism. Maybe soon-to-be-former President Trump is having a genuine existential crisis. I’d feel sorry for the friends and family who have to be around him right now, if they weren’t such sycophants and grifters. It must be a bumpy ride.
In his desperation to avoid being forever labeled a loser, Trump is pursuing a futile course of action that only causes him to lose to President-elect Joe Biden again and again. Trump was declared the loser slightly after Election Day; he loses repeatedly and decisively in court; he loses in recounts and then demands re-recounts, which he will also lose. So much losing!
With Trump, it’s generally wise to assume the basest motives. Maybe he is actually trying to bully Republicans into nullifying the election and helping him stage what would amount to an authoritarian coup d’etat. Maybe he is spitefully trying to make life as difficult as possible for the new administration by delegitimizing Biden’s victory in the eyes of many voters. Maybe he is reinforcing his cult-leader control over his followers in what amounts to a massive act of hostage-taking, hoping to use them as human shields against potential criminal investigations or prosecutions — or as sources of ongoing profit.
But perhaps, on some level, Trump simply cannot accept that in an election that saw Republicans do well overall — gaining seats in the House, retaining control of statehouses, winning Senate seats that polls indicated they would almost surely lose — the man at the top of the ticket got creamed by more than 6 million votes.
“So I led this great charge, and I’m the only one that lost?” Trump tweeted Sunday. “No, it doesn’t work that way. This was a massive fraud, a RIGGED ELECTION!”
But yes, it does work that way. And no, of course the election wasn’t rigged. What happened was that voters turned out in record numbers for the specific purpose of kicking Trump out of the White House. It was a massive act of rejection, a clear message sent by more than 80 million of Trump’s fellow citizens: Go away.
But it looks like he will never go away until he either dies or his dementia advances to the point where he can no longer tweet or call in to right wing TV and radio.
Trump may actually want to overturn the election, but he’s also using his ridiculous legal “strategy” to wring more money from his cult followers.
The New York Times: Trump Raises $170 Million as He Denies His Loss and Eyes the Future.
President Trump has raised about $170 million since Election Day as his campaign operation has continued to aggressively solicit donations with hyped-up appeals that have funded his fruitless attempts to overturn the election and that have seeded his post-presidential political ambitions, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The money, much of which was raised in the first week after the election, according to the person, has arrived as Mr. Trump has made false claims about fraud and sought to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
Instead of slowing down after the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign has ratcheted up its volume of email solicitations for cash, telling supporters that money was needed for an “Election Defense Fund.”
In reality, the fine print shows that the first 75 percent of every contribution currently goes to a new political action committee that Mr. Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, which can be used to fund his political activities going forward, including staff and travel. The other 25 percent of each donation is directed to the Republican National Committee.
A donor has to give $5,000 to Mr. Trump’s new PAC before any funds go to his recount account.
Still, the Trump campaign continues to urgently ask for cash. On Monday, Mr. Trump signed a campaign email that breathlessly told supporters that the end of November — nearly four weeks after Election Day — represented “our most IMPORTANT deadline EVER.”
More details at the NYT link.
Meanwhile, Trump’s “legal team” and his media sycophants are becoming more and more unhinged.
Tim Miller at The Bulwark: Trump Lawyer: Former DHS Senior Official Should Be Executed.
On Monday President Trump’s campaign lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova said that fired Trump cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs should be executed for saying that the election was the “most secure in United States history.”
DiGenova, appearing on the Howie Carr show, which simulcasts on Newsmax, took aim at Krebs as an aside during a wheels-off segment full of false claims about how the United States election had been rigged.
“Anybody who thinks that this election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity [for Trump]. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot,” diGenova said.
This is not just a random Parler troll trying to get attention. This is an attorney speaking on behalf of the President of the United States’ re-election campaign. And while it may read like a macabre joke, the direct nature of diGenova’s comments make it impossible to interpret as anything other than a real wish/threat against a public servant for offering truthful testimony.
Joe diGenova should get a visit from the FBI.
And then there’s Lou Dobbs, suggesting on live TV that Trump must take “drastic action.” Media Matters: Lou Dobbs calls on Trump to take “drastic action” over non-existent election fraud.
LOU DOBBS (HOST): And as I said at the outset of the broadcast, Sidney, this is no longer about just voter fraud or electoral fraud. This is something much bigger. And this president has to take, I believe, drastic action, dramatic action to make certain that the integrity of this election is understood or lack of it, the crimes that have been committed against him and the American people. And if the Justice Department doesn’t want to do it, if the FBI cannot do it, then we have to find other resources within the federal government. We’ve got to rise above this because the nation itself — this is an assault on the core of a democracy, any democracy. Our ability to cast a secret ballot. Your thoughts, Sidney, as we wrap up here.
SIDNEY POWELL: That’s exactly right, Lou. It affects the bedrock of our democratic republic. It can’t be allowed to stand and, frankly, I’m about to think the entire FBI and the entire Department of Justice need to be hosed out with Chlorox and fire hoses.
As Trump whines about losing the election, his trophy wife has been busy doing something she hates: choosing ugly “decorations” for the White House for Christmas.
First lady Melania Trump on Monday morning revealed this year’s White House CNN, in which she complained about preparing for the holidays at the White House.and theme: “America the Beautiful.” The unveiling comes after secret recordings from June 2018 were aired by
The first lady announced the decorations on Twitter with a 1-minute video showcasing the festive halls and rooms of the White House. The White House also issued the video and a press release about the reveal on Monday.
“During this special time of the year, I am delighted to share ‘America the Beautiful’ and pay tribute to the majesty of our great Nation,” the first lady tweeted. “Together, we celebrate this land we are all proud to call home.” [….]
This year’s decorations may just be theof the Trump presidency, following the public release in October of the first lady’s expletive-filled 2018 complaints about planning for the holiday at the White House.
“I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” She said in the leaked audio that was secretly recorded by Trump’s former senior adviser and friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. “But I need to do it, right?”
Monica Hesse at The Washington Post: Everything we needed to know about Melania Trump is in those bewildering Christmas decorations.
I can’t wait to get rid of this trailer trash family. They remind me of the Beverly Hillbillies.
That’s all I have for you today. I know I skipped the really serious stories, but I’m reaching the limit of how much horror I can handle first thing in the morning.
Take care Sky Dancers! We will get through this together some how some way.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’m going to borrow something–well steal it directly–with attribution to my friend and writer Michael Tisserand. It’s a reference to Dorothy Parker which is a hell of a lot better to read about than anything I can find on a Monday Morning in Trumpist America. It’s also a one word reminder for me to get my horticulture class finished up shortly despite that the weather here is really messing with everything except my damn banana trees. Michael wins the internet for the entire month of July with his tweet hands down! (See below).
So, let’s do the background work for Michael’s punchline in which Dorothy is brilliant and Michael is spot on. You can see his tweet below and how he revamped it for the bizarre announcement that Melania has suddenly taken an interest in revamping the Rose Garden.
There is substantive evidence that Dorothy Parker created the horticulture pun while she was participating in a word game at a party. She may have spoken it during a meeting of the famed Algonquin Round Table. These gatherings were held regularly by a group of columnists, playwrights, actors and other bright individuals at lunch within the Algonquin Hotel in New York City between roughly 1919 and 1929.
The earliest evidence, however, appeared several years later in 1935 in the widely-syndicated column of Walter Winchell. The actual pun was too taboo to print in a newspaper in the 1930s; hence, Winchell’s comment was curiously cryptic. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
Dorothy Parker can make up a sentence containing the word “Horticulture,” but hardly here.
A month later another gossip columnist named Harrison Carroll printed an elliptical comment that also linked Parker to the pun without sharing with readers the details of the witticism: 2
What was Dorothy Parker’s priceless offering when the gang at the James Gleason party were playing one of those “make a sentence with a word” games and someone suggested “horticulture”?
Special thanks to top researcher Bill Mullins who located the two citations given above.
The earliest account presenting a full version of Parker’s remark that QI has located was published in 1962 in a magazine of arts and literature called “Horizon”. An article by the prominent drama critic John Mason Brown referred to two puns. The first quip was based on the word “meretricious”, and an exploration of its provenance is available in another entry here. The second jest was ascribed to Parker: 3
Frank Adams’s solving the problem of building a sentence around “meretricious” with “Meretricious ‘n’ a Happy New Year,” and Mrs. Parker’s solving the same problem with “horticulture” by coming up with “You may lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think”—these and a hundred others of their kind may by now have become enfeebled by familiarity. But they were born of a moment, and meant for that moment, and at that moment they were triumphant.
In addition to wordplay with “horticulture” Parker cleverly refashioned a very old English proverb about stubbornness: You may lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. As noted previously, when Parker delivered her joke it was too racy to be reprinted in contemporaneous books or periodicals published for a wide audience.
So, given those disastrous–albeit not permanent–Christmas displays where she ruins the White House annually, I can only wonder how dark and deranged the nation’s First Illegally visa’d sex worker will make the Rose Garden. My guess is this is another attempt to distract us from the miserable job her Sugar Daddy has done on everything and his continued assault on civil liberties as well as his massive grifting enterprise.
And then, not to mention the folks around him like crank Economist Peter Navarro who felt inclined to mock Dr. Fauci’s first pitch today.
“You know, the only thing I regret is Dr. Fauci’s pitch the other day at Opening Day. I felt bad for him,” Navarro said. “But I always look forward, and we’re all part of the team. And he actually tells people to wear the masks, and my job is to get them made.”
All the best people! All the BEST! People! Be BEST!
Okay, enough levity. It’s back to the Sugar Daddy billing it all to us and the depths of depravity he brings to this country.
So, I don’t often read Town & Country, but when I do I make sure the article is almost as cheeky as Dorothy Parker. “How Brooks Brothers Became a Symbol of What Not to Wear to the Revolution. That notorious “Ken and Karen” couple from St. Louis politically slimed a 202-year-old staple of American belonging. Is it still Ok to wear sensible chinos and a pink polo?”
Clothes are not the only politicized aspect of our appearances now—nor were they ever; hair is also a prominent battleground. During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette’s signature powdered pouf was copied by the bourgeoisie, but it was reviled by the starving sans-culottes, who saw it as a wasteful indulgence, another representation of her to loucheness and profligacy.
A more modern hairdo once popular with hipsters is the shaved/faded sides and long-on-top look, or grown-out “high and tight” once favored by everyone from Macklemore to David Beckham. That, too, has been appropriated by far-right figurehead Richard Spencer and his ilk, who have taken to wearing it with Brooks Brothers suits, because Nazis used to wear the hairdo to look tidy under their helmets.
The New York Times once dubbed it the “Hitler Youth,” but it has since gone on to be nicknamed the “Fashy Haircut”—short for fascist, natch—and some of its adherents seem blithely unaware of the politics telegraphed by their coiffure. In 2016, the Washington Post once noted the irony of white nationalists “sporting a hairstyle that’s already been repurposed in the 21st century by young people whose ethos is radical safe-space inclusiveness, not ethnophobic separatism with eugenic undertones.”
In the context of today, that misdirection is precisely the point. The alt-right has intentionally become more sophisticated about blending in, substituting red tank tops and MAGA hats with more ambivalent iconography, the kind of fungible avatars that can be taken at face value, or interpreted as dog whistles if weaponized.
Arguably, another head of hair that looks suspect in the current climate is worn by perennially corporate hyper-conservatives like Jared Kushner. It’s the third-grade-picture-day, combover haircut that announces you have a turtle in your lunchbox and get to wear big boy pants because you haven’t wet the bed in weeks. It’s hair that looks excessively Boy Scouty and feckless precisely because it isn’t, like when predatory octopods camouflage themselves by mimicking the ocean floor.
For maximum due diligence, ask yourself a few difficult questions before opting for the old standbys when getting dressed for your next Zoomtinis. Remember that something that looks “safe” on the surface rarely is. We must all make sacrifices during times of (culture) war, but dressing in flip flops and pajama bottoms is arguably better than walking out of your house looking like you want to annex the Sudetenland.
The McCloskeys, by the way, are looking at a possible felony for what the Circuit Attorney’s Office in St. Louis called unlawful use of a gun “in an angry or threatening manner.” The fashion police, however, has not yet pressed charges, though a guilty verdict seems like a foregone conclusion.
And of course, having enough money to eke a roof and essentials during a global pandemic and a country wide depression is just too much for Republican Senators who want every one back lifting that bale and toting that barge. Maybe they should be forced to find a job in this environment. After all, they caused it.
From WAPO: “GOP, White House aim to temporarily reduce weekly unemployment benefit from $600 to $200. House Democrats have proposed keeping $600 benefit in place through January but the program is set to expire later this week; $200 would be bridge as states move to new system.”
“We have unemployment running out, we have renter protection running out, we have state and local governments going into new month and won’t have the money and will lay off thousands and thousands of people,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday morning on MSNBC. “We’re at all these cliffs and we still at this very moment don’t have a plan from the Republicans. We want to sit down and negotiate. But you can’t negotiate with a ghost.”
Given the difficulty of reaching agreement on the multiple contentious issues at play, Meadows and Mnuchin suggested over the weekend that Congress might need to pass a narrow bill including just the unemployment insurance, schools money and liability provisions.
Democrats have rejected that approach, and McConnell has yet to publicly embrace it, either.
The legislation will exclude the payroll tax cut President Trump had demanded, which Senate Republicans opposed. But it is expected to include language related to the FBI headquarters building that is diagonal from Trump’s hotel in downtown D.C. It was unclear exactly what the language would say, but Trump has said he wants to see a new headquarters building built on the site, and his administration killed a plan to relocate the headquarters to the suburbs.
The legislation also appeared likely to contain a number of other provisions pushed by a variety of Senate Republicans, which could potentially help secure more votes. These include a bill by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) aimed at bringing production lines back to the U.S. from China. Graham predicted over the weekend that half of Republicans wouldn’t support a new coronavirus spending bill.
Legislation by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on increasing incentives for advanced chip manufacturing also was being eyed for inclusion, as was a bill by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act.
Nothing like the smell of bacon in the morning!!! Grifters gotta grift!!!
The plan does include an August payment to all of another $1200. The generosity and humanity underwhelms! So Greg Sargent has an interesting hypothesis up today. Is this just Click Bait or Wishful Thinking? “How Fox News may be destroying Trump’s reelection hopes”. This is also from WAPO.
It would be a peculiarly apt form of poetic justice if the entity that has done so much to help President Trump run this country into the ground — Fox News — ends up playing an outsize role in helping destroy his chances at reelection.
Yet that may be exactly what’s happening.
This possibility is thrust upon us by two remarkable new reports: one in The Post illuminating Trump’s unsettled mental universe as he grapples with the new coronavirus surge, and one in the New York Times reporting that his law enforcement crackdowns are only accelerating more protests in response.
For Trump, Fox News has two functions: With some exceptions, it largely functions as his “shameless propaganda outlet,” as Margaret Sullivan put it, aggressively inflating his successes and faithfully pushing his messages. When Fox occasionally departs from this role, Trump rages at it as a form of deep betrayal.
Okay, so this is enough for me today. But hey, we got the whole week and at least until January to endure all this pettiness, meanness, greed, law breaking, … oh, go ahead! Add to that list!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
For once I can begin a post with some upbeat stories.
Chicago Tribune: llinois approves Equal Rights Amendment, 36 years after deadline.
The Illinois House voted Wednesday night to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment more than 45 years after it was approved by Congress, putting it one state away from possible enshrinement in the U.S. Constitution amid potential legal questions.
The 72-45 vote by the House, following an April vote by the Senate, was just one more vote than needed for ratification. It does not need the approval of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said he supports equal rights but was faulted by Democrats for not taking a position on the ERA….
As has been the case for decades, the legislative debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was fraught with controversy. Opponents largely contended the measure was aimed at ensuring an expansion of abortion rights for women. Supporters said it was needed to give women equal standing in the nation’s founding document.
Opponents also contended the measure may be moot, since its original 1982 ratification deadline has long since expired. Supporters argued, however, that the 1992 ratification of the 1789 “Madison Amendment,” preventing midterm changes in congressional pay, makes the ERA a legally viable change to the constitution.
Read the whole thing at the link above. Some history:
On March 22, 1972, the Senate approved the Equal Rights Amendment, which banned discrimination on the basis of sex. The amendment fell three states shy of ratification.
In 1923, three years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, suffragist Alice Paul drafted an amendment to guarantee equal rights for women. Known as the Equal Rights Amendment or the Lucretia Mott Amendment, it stated, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”
The amendment was presented to Congress in 1923, and re-introduced to every session of Congress for nearly 50 years. It mostly stayed in committee until 1946, when a reworded proposal, dubbed the Alice Paul Amendment, lost a close vote in the Senate. Four years later, the Senate passed a weaker version of the amendment that was not supported by ERA proponents.
Opposition to ERA came from social conservatives and from labor leaders, who feared that it would threaten protective labor laws for women. Support for the amendment increased during the 1960s as the Civil Rights Movement inspired a second women’s rights movement. The National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966, led to movement for the passage of ERA.
In 1970, Rep. Martha Griffiths of Michigan succeeded in getting the ERA out of committee and before Congress for debate. The House of Representatives passed the amendment without changes 352-15 in 1971. The Senate passed the amendment on March 22, 1972, a day after voting against any proposed changes.
The passed amendment read: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
The second bit of good news, from The Washington Post: Virginia General Assembly approves Medicaid expansion to 400,000 low-income residents.
The Virginia legislature voted Wednesday to make government health insurance available to 400,000 low-income residents, overcoming five years of GOP resistance. The decision marks a leftward shift in the legislature and an enormous win for Gov. Ralph Northam (D), the pediatrician who ran on expanding access to health care.
Virginia will join 32 other states and the District in expanding Medicaid coverage. The measure is expected to take effectJan. 1.
“This is not just about helping this group of people,” said Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach), one of four Republicans in the Senate who split from their party to join Democrats and pass the measure by a vote of 23 to 17. “This is about getting out there and helping to bend the cost of health care for every Virginian. . . . It is the number one issue on our voters’ minds. By golly, it ought to be the number one issue on the General Assembly’s mind.”
Another Republican who broke ranks, Sen. Ben Chafin (Russell), is a lawyer and a cattle farmer from a rural district where health care is sorely lacking.
“I came to the conclusion that ‘no’ just wasn’t the answer anymore, that doing nothing about the medical conditions, the state of health care in my district, just wasn’t the answer any longer,” he said.
After the Senate vote, the House of Delegates approved the measure by 67 to 31 as the chamber erupted in cheers.
Also from the WaPo: Why Virginia’s Medicaid expansion is a big deal.
It’s another nail in the coffin for efforts to repeal Obamacare and a fresh reminder of how difficult it is to scale back any entitlement once it’s created. Many Republicans, in purple and red states alike, concluded that Congress is unlikely to get rid of the law, so they’ve become less willing to take political heat for leaving billions in federal money on the table.
Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.
Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.
As President Trump steps up efforts to undermine the law, from repealing the individual mandate to watering down requirements for what needs to be covered in “association health plans,” the administration’s willingness to let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients has paradoxically given a rationale for Republicans to flip-flop on an issue where they had dug in their heels.
One of the laws creates a statewide individual mandate, which will require all New Jerseyans who don’t have health coverage through a government program like Medicare or their jobs to buy a policy, or pay a fee at tax time.
The landmark federal health care law, better known as Obamacare, imposed the mandate to ensure younger and healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance will buy-in and share costs.
But the tax package approved by the Republican-led Congress and signed into law by Trump will end the mandate in 2019. The requirement was one of the more distasteful parts of the law for lawmakers and the public who believe it allowed government to intrude into people’s lives.
State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, one of the prime sponsors of the law, said keeping the mandate “was needed to maintain a foundation for the insurance market and to allow the success of the ACA to continue.”
The resistance is making progress!
In other news, The Daily Beast reports that Trump wanted Howard Stern to speak at the 2016 Republican convention, according to his interview last night with David Letterman (emphasis added).
Letterman doesn’t spend much time on the subject of Trump, a person whom Stern has spent more time interviewing than anyone else on the planet, the host does ask the “King of All Media” how he feels about Trump’s tenure as president.
“Well you know, it was a very awkward kind of thing, because Donald asked me to speak at the Republican National Convention,” Stern reveals. “And he would call me from the campaign trail very often, and say, ‘Are you watching?’ I was tickled by this, because I really kind of felt, deep in my heart, that this campaign was really more about selling a book, or selling a brand. I didn’t really understand that he would really want to be president.” [….]
Stern continued: “I was put in a very awkward position of having to say publicly—and to him—that I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I always have been, and I was honest with Donald. I said, ‘Donald, you also supported Hillary.’ And I do consider Donald a friend but my politics are different.”
The AP has an interesting story on Republican efforts to protect Jeff Sessions’ job.
In private meetings, public appearances on television and late-night phone calls, Trump’s advisers and allies have done all they can to persuade the president not to fire a Cabinet official he dismisses as disloyal. The effort is one of the few effective Republican attempts to install guardrails around a president who delights in defying advice and breaking the rules.
It’s an ongoing effort, though not everyone is convinced the relationship is sustainable for the long term….
The case that Sessions’ protectors have outlined to Trump time and again largely consists of three components: Firing Sessions, a witness in Mueller’s investigation of obstruction of justice, would add legal peril to his standing in the Russia probe; doing so would anger the president’s political base, which Trump cares deeply about, especially with midterm election looming this fall; and a number of Republican senators would rebel against the treatment of a longtime colleague who was following Justice Department guidelines in his recusal.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said that he will not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general nominee if Sessions is fired.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Melania Trump has missing from the public eye for 20 days now. Yesterday her husband apparently decided to send a message from her Twitter account, but he forgot to make the language sound like her.
A few more stories to check out:
Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times: Trump Immigration Policy Veers From Abhorrent to Evil.
The Washington Post: Trump plans to impose metal tariffs on closest U.S. allies.
The New York Times: For ‘Columbiners,’ School Shootings Have a Deadly Allure.
The Daily Beast: What Happened to Jill Stein’s Recount Millions?
The New York Times: How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’
As usual, there’s way too much news out there this morning. In Trump world, there’s never an opportunity to catch your breath and focus on one important thing. I can’t cover everything, so here are some random stories that caught my interest.
Cecile Richards has a new book out–Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead: My Life Story–and she included some creepy revelations about Jared and Ivanka Kushner. People Magazine: Planned Parenthood CEO Says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Offered ‘Bribe’ to Stop Abortions.
In a riveting passage from Cecile Richards’ new memoir, the Planned Parenthood chief says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were, during Donald Trump’s 2016 transition as president-elect, so eager to be recognized as shrewd political dealmakers that the soon-to-be first daughter and her husband made an offer that felt like a “bribe”: an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for its agreement to stop providing abortions.
Richards says she “reached out” to Ivanka at the suggestion of a friend, in hopes of finding an ally in the Trump White House. Ivanka insisted on bringing Jared, so Richards asked her husband Kirk Adams to come with her.
According to a statement from Planned Parenthood given to Time.com, the purpose of the meeting “was to make sure that Ivanka Trump fully understood the important role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care to millions of people and why it would be a disastrous idea to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.”
After Richards explained this, she writes that Kushner told her Planned Parenthood “had made a big mistake by becoming ‘political.’ ”
“The main issue, he explained, was abortion,” Richards writes. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”
According to Make Trouble, Kushner said that if Richards agreed to the plan then funding could increase, but he urged them to “move fast.”
“If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it was now. Jared and Ivanka were there for one reason: to deliver a political win,” she writes. “In their eyes, if they could stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions, it would confirm their reputation as savvy dealmakers. It was surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women’s rights for more money. It takes a lot to get Kirk mad, but it looked like his head was about to explode.”
Richards explained that there was “no way” Kushner’s proposal would work and that they’d continue to fight for funding.
“‘Our mission is to care for women who need us, and that means caring for all of their reproductive needs — including safe and legal abortion,’” she recalls saying.
Can you imagine the nerve? In Trump world, everything is about money. These people can’t even begin to conceive of the notion that there are people with personal values that are non-negotiable.
There’s another new book about Trump world–this time by Trump booster Ronald Kessler. Still, a few embarrassing tidbits are coming out in advice of its release date.
According to journalist Ronald Kessler in his new book, The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, when Kushner addressed reporters during a live television appearance, President Trump told the aides watching with him, “Look at Jared, he looks like a little boy, like a child.”
Kessler also claims that Trump once told Kushner and his daughter, Ivanka, that “they never should have left New York,” and he “made it clear to them that he would not mind if they gave up their White House roles.” [….]
Trump calling Jared “a child” seems rather unfair. Not only has president given his son-in-law a set of absurdly stratospheric, decidedly adult responsibilities, Kushner clearly looks more like a haunted doll than a little boy.
Kessler writes that Kellyanne Conway is the “number one leaker” in the White House except for Trump himself, who leaks as as an “anonymous source” to specific reporters in hopes of positive coverage. According to Kessler, Melania Trump is an important adviser to her husband, and she once “walked out on” Trump in 1998 when she found out he was cheating on her. Now you don’t have to read the book, which reported is filled with Trump boosterism.
Luke Harding, who wrote the terrific book Collusion, has a new piece on Paul Manafort’s machinations at The Guardian: Former Trump aide approved ‘black ops’ to help Ukraine president.
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort authorised a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine’s former president, featuring “black ops”, “placed” articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, and anonymous briefings against Hillary Clinton.
The project was designed to boost the reputation of Ukraine’s then leader, Viktor Yanukovych. It was part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort carried out by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych’s embattled government, emails and documents reveal.
• Proposing to rewrite Wikipedia entries to smear a key opponent of the then Ukrainian president.
• Setting up a fake “thinktank” in Vienna to disseminate viewpoints supporting Yanukovych.
• A social media blitz “aimed at targeted audiences in Europe and the US”.
• Briefing journalists from the rightwing website Breitbart to attack Clinton, when she was US secretary of state.
Manafort’s Ukraine strategy anticipates later efforts by the Kremlin and its troll factory to use Twitter and Facebook to discredit Clinton and to help Trump win the 2016 US election. The material seen by the Guardian dates from 2011 to 2013.
Read the rest at The Guardian.
Another interesting long read from The Guardian by Donna Ladd: Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America’s white gangs. It’s a portrait of one man–Benny Ivy–who as a kid joined “one of the oldest and largest white gangs in the US, the Simon City Royals.”
The Royals’ roots date to Chicago’s North Side in 1952, when two violent white “greaser” gangs – the Ashland Royals and Simon City – guarded Simon Park turf as Puerto Ricans moved in.
Early greasers were immigrants, often Italian, maligned by wealthier whites for greasing machines in blue-collar jobs. In 1968, the greasers united as the Simon City Royals, often rumbling with the nearby Latin Kings as well as the white supremacist Gaylords. (Their rhetoric is familiar: a Gaylords nostalgia websitecalled Latino gangs “storage bins for illegal immigrants”.)
The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the 1970s, when they joined the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members.
But by the 1980s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed.
Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state.
Surveys of young Americans have shown that 40% identifying as gang members are white, but police tend to undercount them at 10% to 14% and overcount black and Hispanic members, says Babe Howell, a criminal law professor at City University of New York who focuses on crime and race.
“Police see groups of young white people as individuals, each responsible for his or her own conduct, and hold young people of color in street gangs criminally liable for the conduct of their peers,” she says.
Much more at the link.
Trump is insisting on sending National Guard troops to the southern border because he heard about a so-called “caravan” of migrants marching across Mexico. We now have a “president” who uses to executive ordered to deal with fake crises. Trump probably doesn’t know that U.S. troops can’t take any actions against people to enforce domestic laws because of the Posse Commitatus Act. So he’s sending the troops down there anyway instead of just letting them train to do their real jobs. So what about this “caravan?”
The New York Times: ‘You Hate America!’: How the ‘Caravan’ Story Exploded on the Right.
It was the kind of story destined to take a dark turn through the conservative news media and grab President Trump’s attention: A vast horde of migrants was making its way through Mexico toward the United States, and no one was stopping them.
“Mysterious group deploys ‘caravan’ of illegal aliens headed for U.S. border,” warned Frontpage Mag, a site run by David Horowitz, a conservative commentator.
The Gateway Pundit, a website that was most recently in the news for spreading conspiracies about the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., suggested the real reason the migrants were trying to enter the United States was to collect social welfare benefits.
And as the president often does when immigration is at issue, he saw a reason for Americans to be afraid. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” a Twitter post from Mr. Trump read.
The story of “the caravan” followed an arc similar to many events — whether real, embellished or entirely imagined — involving refugees and migrants that have roused intense suspicion and outrage on the right. The coverage tends to play on the fears that hiding among mass groups of immigrants are many criminals, vectors of disease and agents of terror. And often the president, who announced his candidacy by blaming Mexico for sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States, acts as an accelerant to the hysteria.
That’s the fake story, now for the real story.
The New York Times: Inside an Immigrant Caravan: Women and Children, Fleeing Violence.
MATÍAS ROMERO, Mexico — With a sarcastic half-smile, Nikolle Contreras, 27, surveyed her fellow members of the Central American caravan, which President Trump has called dangerous and has used as a justification to send troops to the border.
More than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, waited patiently on Wednesday in the shade of trees and makeshift shelters in a rundown sports complex in this Mexican town, about 600 miles south of the border. They were tired, having slept and eaten poorly for more than a week. All were facing an uncertain future.
The migrants, most of them Hondurans, left the southern Mexican border city of Tapachula on March 25 and for days traveled north en masse — by foot, hitchhiking and on the tops of trains — as they fled violence and poverty in their homelands and sought a better life elsewhere.
This sort of collective migration has become something of an annual event around Easter week, and a way for advocates to draw more attention to the plight of migrants.
But this particular caravan caught the attention of Mr. Trump, apparently after he heard about it on Fox News. In a Twitter tirade that began Sunday, he conjured up hordes of dangerous migrants surging toward the border. He demanded that Mexican officials halt the group, suggesting that otherwise he would make them pay dearly in trade negotiations or aid cuts.
Mr. Trump even boasted that his threat had forced Mexico’s government to halt and disperse the caravan participants. But there was no evidence of that on Wednesday.
Read the rest at the NYT.
What stories are you following today?