Thursday Reads: The Usual Insanity Reigns in Trump World

Good Afternoon!!

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.

The Cut: Trump Reportedly Called Jared Kushner a ‘Little Boy.’

According to journalist Ronald Kessler in his new bookThe 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.

The strategies included:

 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.

A Central American woman gives water to a baby as a large group of immigrants sets up camp for a few days at a sports center in Matias Romero in Mexico’s Oaxaca state late Monday. (Felix Marquez / Associated Press)

“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.

“Imagine that!” said Ms. Contreras, a Honduran factory worker hoping to apply for asylum in the United States. “So many problems he has to solve and he gets involved with this caravan!”

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? 

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Lazy Saturday Reads

Mostly empty area for Trump speech in Pensacola, FL last night

Good Afternoon!!

The snow has finally begun falling here, and now they say it will continue all night and into tomorrow. We expect around 6-8 inches. That still may not be as bad as what happened down where JJ lives in Georgia and other parts of the South. The LA Times reports: Snowmen in Alabama? Sledding in Mississippi? From Texas to Georgia, snow blankets the South.

Snow blanketed a vast swath of the Deep South on Friday, triggering a flurry of winter weather warnings that closed businesses and schools, canceled hundreds of flights and caused traffic gridlock. It also unleashed a flurry of snowman construction and sledding in places more accustomed to sunshine than snow.

The storm dropped a rare coating of snow as far south as Brownsville, Texas — near the border of Mexico — up through southern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the southern Appalachians.

“This is an unusual event — to see snow falling this early in the season all the way from Texas and the Gulf Coast region to Georgia,” said Laura Pagano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Atlanta/Peachtree City office. “It has happened before, but not often.”

More than 200,000 customers across the region lost power as snow downed branches and power lines.

People walk along Shiloh Road in Kennesaw after a snowstorm hit metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

Since I can’t go out, I plan to escape into a good book. I finished reading Luke Harding’s excellent Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and I’ve begun reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser.

Fraser is a brilliant writer, and so far the book is fascinating. She adds context to the sentimental version of Wilder’s life portrayed in the “Little House” books. Of course in many ways it’s a tragic story of the horrendous treatment of Native Americans as well as the hardships suffered by poor people like the Ingalls family who were lured west by promised of free or cheap land. Anyway, I’m glad to have a good book to help me escape from our dreadful current reality.

As the mainstream media continues to demonstrate the tremendous progress the Mueller investigation has been making, the Trump state media made up of Fox News, Breitbart, and other right wing outlets has turned up the heat with their fake news.

Please read this excellent piece by Jonathan Chait: The Mueller Investigation Is in Mortal Danger. Chait opens by describing the process by which the GOP first claims to be shocked by bad behavior (e.g. the Access Hollywood tape), but within begins denying and finally excusing that same behavior. We’ve seen this again and again, and now it’s happening with Roy Moore. Here’s the gist of Chait’s argument:

The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.

The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.

Peter Strzok

The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller.

His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions.

It’s happening, folks. Yesterday we learned that Hope Hicks was interviewed by Mueller’s team all day Thursday and Friday. Hicks knows everything that has happened. There is no way Trump is going to sit still while she either tells the truth or may get caught in a lie and have to cooperate with Mueller. The investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump and his family.

The New York Times: F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives.

F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.

The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers….

Hope Hicks with Trump and Kushner

After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious.

The meetings with Ms. Hicks, what the F.B.I. calls a “defensive briefing,” went beyond the standard security advice that senior White House officials routinely receive upon taking office. Defensive briefings are intended to warn government officials about specific concerns or risks.

Meanwhile, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Justice Department has announced “investigations” into fake scandals like Planned Parenthood supposedly selling fetal body parts and the Uranium One non-scandal. And the GOP Congress is going to turn the sexual harassment scandal into a Democratic problem. The Democrats pushed Al Franken out without due process for minor accusations that may have been orchestrated, and now more Democrats are going to be revealed as abusers so the public will forget about Trump and Moore.

Roll Call: Exclusive: Taxpayers Paid $220K to Settle Case Involving Rep. Alcee Hastings.

The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.

Alcee Hastings

Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.

Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.

“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” the congressman said in a statement Friday night. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”

Hastings said that the lawsuit that Packer filed against him and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee were ultimately dismissed.

“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” he said.

Will another member of the Black Caucus be forced out now?

Sarah Kendzior issued a stark waning this morning in response to this tweet:

Here’s a Trump scandal; will it gain any traction? The New York Times: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.

A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Ryan Zinke

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.

“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”

But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.

In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”

There is soooo much news today. I’ll have to add some links in the comment thread, but I’ll end this post with the latest NYT gossipy insider report on Trump’s defensive maneuvers: Inside Trumps Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.

Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.

Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in bedclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.

As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.

For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.

Read more about the madman in the White House at the NYT link.

What stories are you following 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.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Mary Cassatt’s Mothers and Children (Plus News)

Reine Lefebre And Margot Before A Window, Mary Cassatt

Reine Lefebre And Margot Before A Window, Mary Cassatt

Happy Weekend!

The best way to have a happy weekend might be to go into a cocoon and isolate yourself from the outside world and the ugly things that are happening in it. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it. I’ve become addicted to knowing what’s going on out there.

What has really been bugging me for the past couple of days is the way law enforcement agencies and the media refuse to label even horrendously violent acts like the attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs “terrorism.”

It seems the only events that get that designation are those involving Muslim attackers. In my estimation a violent attack that kills and injures a number of people and “terrifies” the surrounding community should be called terrorism, because that’s exactly what it is.

How can the attacks on abortion clinics not be “terrorism” when they obviously are designed specifically to frighten doctors, nurses, and other health care workers into not getting involved in reproductive health care and women into not having abortions?

What is “Terrorism” and What Isn’t?

Mary Cassatt Mother nursing baby

Here’s the official explanation from NPR: Why the Planned Parenthood shooting isn’t legally referred to as ‘domestic terrorism.’

To some in the community, the attack resembled an act of domestic terrorism, sparking a debate over what to call Robert Lewis Dear’s rampage even before he was taken into custody.

But the legal system may not resolve that question.

Dear faces state charges of first-degree murder, and the federal criminal code has no specific, catchall charge for acts of domestic terrorism. That means federal prosecutors pursuing charges for ideologically motivated violence often turn to other statutes — such as those for firearms, explosives, hate crimes or murder — to cover offenses that could arguably be labeled as terror. The punishment may be the same, but generally without the branding more typically associated with international terrorism.

“There has long been some interest in defining acts of domestic terrorism as terrorism. It’s become quite a partisan issue,” said William Yeomans, an American University law fellow and former high-ranking official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

But given the number of laws already available to federal prosecutors, he added, “Whether it’s domestic terrorism or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

Mary Cassatt - Mother and Sara Admiring the Baby

Mary Cassatt – Mother and Sara Admiring the Baby

Well then the definition needs to be changed, because focusing only on acts by people of one particular religion–Islam–is going to lead to terrorist attacks against Muslims, whether they get the label “terrorism” from the FBI or not. Saying it doesn’t matter is just plain stupid. It matters.

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:

I didn’t need to know a thing about Syed Rizwan Farook’s and Tashfeen Malik’s religious beliefs or political ideologies to know that this was an act of terrorism, because I fail to understand how we can legally define one or more people picking up weapons and opening fire on civilians as anythingbut an act of terror, irrespective of their reasons.

(Unless it happens in a war zone, in which case it is a war crime and an act of terror.)

And I have a real goddamn problem with the fact that it only became “officially” an act of terrorism once they were connected to a particular religion and particular ideology, but had it been another religion and another ideology, it just would have been the inexplicable actions of mad people.

This selective elevation to a terrorist act of only certain religions and ideologies is harmful. And the people it harms the most are those who broadly share identifying traits with the elevated terrorists.

Our government is being deeply hypocritical when it urges bigots not to blame all Muslims for acts of terror committed by Muslims, but refuses to identify as acts of terror the same sort of crimes committed, for the same ugly reasons, by Christians. If the government doesn’t want all Muslims smeared as terrorists, then it needs to stop limiting to Muslims its elevation to terrorism of religiously-motivated mass murder

Here’s another example. This white guy isn’t a threat to anyone, according to law enforcement.

Breakfast in Bed, Mary Cassatt

Breakfast in Bed, Mary Cassatt

NY Daily News: Police find 8,300 rounds of ammo, assault rifle and body armor in home of Long Island man who impersonated Air Marshal.

He had a fake federal air marshal ID in one pocket, a Ruger .380-caliber pistol in the other and was driving around Long Island with ballistic body armor and a loaded AR-15 assault rifle. He also had an arsenal of weapons at his gated home.

But don’t worry folks, Mark Vicars wasn’t a threat to anyone, Nassau County officials insisted Friday.

The amount of firepower is comparable to what terror couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had during the massacre they committed Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif.

“At this time we don’t see any immediate threat to the public,” Nassau County Police Department spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun told reporters.

Seven illegal firearms, three high-capacity magazines and 8,300 rounds of ammunition were found in the 49-year-old’s SUV and Syosset home after an exhaustive search, police confirmed.

Yet cops don’t believe that Vicars was up to anything nefarious — except for masquerading as a federal agent.

“We don’t see any nexus to any terrorism at this time,” LeBrun said, adding that no anti-American literature or links to terrorism were found at his home.

Mother_Berthe holding her baby, Mary Cassett

Mother_Berthe holding her baby, Mary Cassett

This idiotic labeling situation must be remedied, and we need to pressure our elected representatives and the White House to get it done.

The Media Sucks

Anyway, the media clearly has forgotten about the people who were killed and injured by a fanatic in Colorado Springs, because they now have Muslim attackers and their families to examine in disgusting detail.

In their rush to get “scoops,” MSNBC forced their way (along with other reporters) into the apartment that was occupied by the two deceased shooters in the San Bernardino massacre and showed images of personal property and information belonging to family members on live TV.

Mashable: Journalists storm San Bernardino shooters’ apartment after landlord pries open door.

In a surreal scene, a swarm of local and national media entered the apartment where San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik lived after the landlord tore off a piece of plywood that was blocking the door.

News outlets, including MSNBC, BBC, CBS News and CNN, broadcast live scenes as reporters toting cameras and microphones pushed through the open door and reported from inside the apartment in Redlands, California.

One MSNBC reporter was seen examining items left on the suspects’ desk, at one point picking up a child-rearing book. CNN journalists described seeing driver’s licenses, social security cards and shredded documents inside the residence. A group of photographers zeroed in on a pile of papers that were laid out on a bed.

The Family, Mary Cassatt

The Family, Mary Cassatt

What the hell?!

Another camera crew panned over a crib; the couple had a 6-month-old daughter. A CNN correspondent picked up prayer beads.

It appeared that members of the public were inside the apartment as well. One man lingered holding a large soda. A child was seen wandering throughout the home. Another opened the refrigerator and peered inside.

MSNBC even showed ID cards and family photographs on camera. According to the landlord, he didn’t invite the media in. “They rushed,” he said. Fortunately, the FBI later said they had cleared the apartment and it was no longer an active crime scene.

Slate’s Justin Peters says that good reporters should grab opportunities like this one, but still had some harsh words for MSNBC.

MSNBC Was Right to Enter the Shooters’ Apartment. They did what good reporters do: poke around.

During the walk through the apartment, which producers said was opened to the media by the couple’s landlord, a NBC News reporter held up photos of unidentified children, a bank document, and a driver’s license on live television.

As MSNBC’s Kerry Sanders walked through the apartment, where police had earlier recovered 12 pipe bombs and more than 1,400 rounds of ammunition, he expressed disbelief that the killers would have toys and stuffed animals for their young child.

The apartment was crowded by camera crews and other journalists all digging through the home. Sanders eventually found a pile of family photos, including what appeared to be passport photos of an unidentified woman, which he promptly suggested were the first images of Malik seen by the public.

“I’m going to guess these are the photographs of Malik. So this is the first – this may be – OK,” he said on air. “But we don’t know. We don’t know if that’s her.”

Maternal Caress, Mary Cassatt

Maternal Caress, Mary Cassatt

WTF?!

Andrea Mitchell encouraged Sanders to hold one photo up and get a “tight shot” of other pictures, including a portrait of a woman in traditional dress, as Sanders continued to guess where and for what occasion the photos were taken.

“Let’s make sure we don’t see the children, let’s not show the child,” a clearly uncomfortable Mitchell eventually interjected. “Let’s cut away from that.”

In a bedroom where credit cards and IDs were shown spread out on a bed, the camera quickly zoomed in on a California driver’s license. MSNBC did not appear to blur out a woman’s personal details as Sanders read the name on the driver’s license.

I think I’m going to be sick. MSNBC “apologized” after it was too late to protect innocent children and other family members who were not involved in the shooting. TPM:

After MSNBC treated viewers on Friday to a live look inside the San Bernardino shooters’ apartment, the network said they “regret” showing photos of children and identification cards during the live broadcast.

While the apartment was thick with camera crews and journalists all rifling through Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeem Malik’s Redlands, California home, MSNBC was the most heavily criticized for its broadcast. NBC News reporter Kerry Sanders showed close-up photos of children and held up a women’s driver’s license during the live shot.

Read the statement at TPM if you’re interested.

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


Lazy Saturday Reads: Another Domestic Terrorist Attack

People are escorted away after a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP)

People are escorted away after a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP)

Good Morning!!

A terrorist is in custody after he attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado yesterday, but not before he murdered a policeman and two “civilians” and injured nine more people. As we’re all aware, Colorado Springs is a hotbed of right wing “Christian” evangelical groups.

Here’s the latest from Reuters: Police name suspect in Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting.

The suspect in a deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was named on Saturday as Robert L. Dear, 57, the Colorado Springs Police public affairs’ section said in a Tweet.

The gunman who stormed the clinic on Friday killed three people and wounded nine others before surrendering to police after a bloody siege lasting several hours inside the facility, authorities said.

Local news media reported that Dear was being held without bail.

Robert L. Dear mugshot

Robert L. Dear mugshot

As police traded gunfire with Dear, people in local businesses were told to shelter in place.

The rampage, which took place at a clinic that provides women’s health services including abortions, was believed to be the first fatal attack on a U.S. abortion provider in six years. Police have not discussed the suspect’s motives.

The assailant in Colorado Springs, Colorado’s second largest city, was armed with a rifle when he entered the clinic – a site repeatedly targeted for protests by anti-abortion activists – and opened fire shortly before noon on Friday, authorities said.

Police swarming the scene pursued the assailant into the building, trading gunfire with the suspect as authorities tracked their movements from room to room by watching live video feeds from security cameras mounted inside.

Officers closing in on the gunman managed to finally talk him into giving himself up inside, and he was taken into custody more than five hours after the violence began.

Planned Parenthood released a statement in response to the terrorist attack on their clinic in Colorado Springs.

“The heart of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) is broken tonight as we try to make sense of the horrific tragedy that struck our beloved health center in Colorado Springs, today. Our thoughts are with the all those who were impacted and particularly the families of the two civilians and one heroic law-enforcement officer whose lives were lost. We are grateful to report that all our staff are safe and accounted for and are hoping for the best possible outcomes for the others wounded in this attack.

“We are thankful to our security personnel and to the Colorado Springs Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, and the UCCS campus officers, who came to our aid and served with such selfless valor. Their fast response, strength, and bravery undoubtedly saved countless lives today. We also appreciate that our Colorado Springs staff responded quickly following our security protocols.

“The information regarding the gunman’s motive remains unknown as does whether Planned Parenthood was targeted deliberately. PPRM’s top priority will always be the safety of our patients and staff. We maintain strong security measures and always work closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure our very strong safety record.

“We share the concerns of many Americans that the continued attacks against abortion providers and patients, as well as law enforcement officers, is creating a poisonous environment that breeds acts of violence. But, we will never back away from providing critical health care to millions of people who rely on and trust us every day.

Robert L. Dear in handcuffs after shooting rampage.

Robert L. Dear in handcuffs after shooting rampage.

Read the rest at the link. I think we can guess Dear’s motive, but I suppose we’ll have to wait to know for sure.

President Obama also released a statement.

Business Insider: ‘This is not normal’: Obama releases emotional statement on Planned Parenthood shooting.

President Barack Obama released a statement on Saturday calling for gun control in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the day before.

“This is not normal,” Obama said. “We can’t let it become normal.”

He then called to curtail the “easy accessibility of weapons of war” for some people.

“If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them,” Obama continued.

“Period,” he added. “Enough is enough.”

Unfortunately these mass shootings have become regular events in the U.S. That is our “normal” now.

718

The media has been uncharacteristically hesitant to speculate on Dear’s motive.

USA Today: Gunman’s motive in Planned Parenthood shootings unclear.

Police were trying to determine Saturday why a middle-aged gunman in hunting gear allegedly went on a wild shooting spree inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three people, including a police officer.

The suspect, identified as Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of North Carolina, surrendered to officers after a five-hour ordeal Friday in which he fired randomly at people in the clinic and roamed the halls shooting through walls with an assault-style rifle.

“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,”

You’d think by this time reporters could have found out some information about this guy, wouldn’t you? Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of good information in the USA Today article.

One Republican Congressman demanded an apology from Planned Parenthood head Vicki Cowart while the attack was still ongoing. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite:

Police have finally taken a shooter into custody after the five-hour siege at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs that has left at least three people dead, including one police officer. It was while that siege was still going on, though, that Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger decided to take to CNN’s air and demand an apology from Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, if the perpetrator turned out not to be an anti-abortion terrorist.

“When I heard that statement, I thought that was very premature. We may find out this person was targeting Planned Parenthood. If we find out he was not targeting Planned Parenthood, I would fully expect an apology from the Planned Parenthood director for saying that.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger

Rep. Adam Kinzinger

That was at about 6 pm, while there was still gunfire being reported at the scene. There is a long history of terrorism against Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers in this country, but the statement Kinzinger is referencing [see Planned Parenthood statement excerpted earlier in this post] actually points out that the motive is as yet unknown, and yet is still true no matter what this shooter’s mysterious motive turns out to be.

Here’s some background on Garrett Swasey, the police officer who was killed in the shootout. CNN via KTXS ABC 12: Slain officer was once champion skater.

Swasey, 44, was one of three people killed Friday when a gunman attacked at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

The married father worked for the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and was on campus Friday morning when the shooting started 10 miles away. He rushed to the scene to support a city police officer who was under fire, the university said in a statement….

Officer Garrett Swasey

Officer Garrett Swasey

Swasey had been with university police for six years, authorities said. But long before that, he was a junior national couples ice dancing champion, The Denver Post reported.

He and his partner won the junior national championship in Orlando in 1992, the paper cited university spokesman Jared Verner as saying. A few years after the championship win, Swasey performed in a musical skating show in Maine.

As the community mourns the fallen officer, the University of Colorado football team will observe a moment of silence during its game Saturday.

I’ll end with this piece from Mother Jones: The New, Ugly Surge in Violence and Threats Against Abortion Providers.

Three people were shot dead and nine injured Friday at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, the first time since 2009 that anyone has been killed in an incident linked to activity at an abortion clinic. The attack comes amid an exponential increase in threats and violence against abortion providers since the release of a series of viral—and widelydebunked—videos.

While police have not discussed the alleged motives of the suspect, who has been arrested, the attack began at the clinic. According to authorities the gunman entered the facility Friday afternoon and began shooting. During an hours-long standoff, he exchanged fire with police, killing one officer.

Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal issue, harassment, threats, and attacks against abortion providers, their staff, and facilities have surged dramatically across the country, according to new numbers from the National Abortion Federation.

The clinic attacked on Friday is part of the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains affiliate, which was featured in the Center for Medical Progress’ videos.

“Since the series of highly-edited, misleading anti-abortion videos was released in July, we have seen an unprecedented increase in hate speech and threats against abortion providers” says Vicki Saporta, the president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, which has been tracking violence against providers since the 1970s.

“We have been quite worried that this increase in threats would lead to a violent attack like we saw” on Friday, she added.

Please go read the whole thing at Mother Jones.

What else is happening? I hope to see your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Chaos, Turmoil, and Crazies

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

Good Afternoon!!

We are living through chaotic times; and the way I see it, we can trace our problems back to Republicans. The drug war and the prison industrial complex began with Richard Nixon; our economic problems began with Ronald Reagan; and the turmoil in the Middle East began with George W. Bush.

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

One of the cartoons (see right) that JJ posted last night says it all about Bush and his neocon buddies. The chaos on Capital Hill? That traces back to the Tea Party–a response to the election of a black President by the wingnuts and religious fundamentalists that Bush and Rove enabled.

Can order and harmony ever emerge from the chaos we’re living in right now? I don’t know, but my guess is it will take a very long time. It might require the destruction of the Republican Party as we know it.

Yesterday’s resignation by House Speaker John Boehner is likely to make things even worse in Washington. Josh Marshall’s take: Lord of the Flies on Capitol Hill.

While there are certainly internecine and factional rivalries in the Democratic party, it’s all but impossible to imagine the outpouring of celebration, schadenfreude and smackdowning that is greeting the retirement of Speaker John Boehner. Even a kind word on the day of his retirement appears beyond the ability of most of those he led. Yes, there’s been base clamoring against Nancy Pelosi and even more at certain times with Harry Reid. But it simply doesn’t compare to the angry joy we’re seeing now toward a quarter-century member of the House. The only analogue I can think of is the enmity that grew toward Joe Lieberman. But of course, by that time he wasn’t even a Democrat anymore, let alone one of the party’s top leaders.

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

Of course the resemblance to Lord of the Flies stems from the juvenile behavior of the “crazies” in the House. Some of them–see Ted Cruz, for example–have even been able to destroy the traditional courtesy of the Senate.

AP via ABC News: Boehner’s Departure Raises Question: Can House GOP Be Led?

The gulf between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans has grown so wide that it just swallowed up the speaker of the House, and may threaten the entire Republican Party and Congress itself.

The question now is whether anyone can tame the House’s rabble-rousing faction, in the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign rather than face a possible vote to depose him. The stakes are sky-high, given the critical deadlines looming to keep the government running and raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

With the GOP presidential contest riding an anti-establishment wave, it’s almost mandatory for the candidates to denounce Republican congressional leaders at the first sign of any potential compromise with Democrats. Dealmaking is that much tougher in Congress, even as some fear it could harm the party’s chances at the White House in 2016.

The long-running drama of establishment vs. insurgency played out anew Friday on Capitol Hill as tea party conservatives cheered Boehner’s announcement that he will leave his job at the end of October. The move will ensure that the government stays open into December because the 13-term Ohio lawmaker rejected conservative demands to dare President Barack Obama to veto a government spending bill that cuts money for Planned Parenthood.

But Boehner’s announcement only puts off that fight and others, and promises a chaotic leadership struggle that may result in new leaders facing the same fundamental problem: a core group of 30 or so conservative lawmakers repulsed by compromise and commanding enough votes to stymie leadership plans, despite the GOP’s immense majority.

Turmoil, Michael Lang

Turmoil, Michael Lang

The only possible solution is for the Democrats to retake the House.

Bobby Jindal used Boehner’s resignation to make another futile attempt to get support from the crazies. From Talking Points Memo:

“Mitch McConnell, it’s your turn,” Jindal said to loud applause.

The Louisiana governor said he was “actually angrier with the Republicans than with the Democrats” because they “don’t do the things they say they’re going to do.”

“It is time to fire these clowns and restore order once and for all,” he said.

This from the clown who destroyed Louisiana.

A few more reactions to the Boehner resignation:

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Politico: Resignation triggers all-out leadership scramble.

CNN: John Boehner’s resignation spells trouble for Jeb Bush.

John Avlon at The Daily Beast: GOP’s Kamikaze Caucus Takes Out John Boehner.

Slate’s XX Factor: In the End, Maybe John Boehner Just Didn’t Love Fetuses Enough.

Mother Jones: Admit It: You’re Kinda Going to Miss John Boehner.

The latest crazy caucus obsession is their effort to defund Planned Parenthood–even to the point of shutting down the government if they don’t get their way. Here in the reality-based world real people will be badly hurt if this effort succeeds.

Crazy Obsession

Sarah Kliff at Vox:  Stat check: No, women couldn’t just “go somewhere else” if Planned Parenthood closed.

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

The “defund Planned Parenthood” movement has a standard response to the question of where women would go if their local clinic closed: somewhere else.

“There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country,” Jeb Bush said at last week’s Republican primary debate. “I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government.”

Other Republicans make a similar claim. A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that Planned Parenthood’s funding could be diverted to “community health centers and other entities providing health services without abortions.” And on paper, it sounds plausible that 13,000 clinics might be able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s 2.7 million patients who get government help paying for birth control and other reproductive health services.

But a Vox review of academic research, recent Planned Parenthood closures in Texas, and interviews with half a dozen health policy experts suggests the opposite. Historically, researchers have found that when Planned Parenthood clinics close, other clinics do not step up to fill the gap. Meanwhile, when there are fewer reproductive health clinics available, women get less reproductive health care — from birth control to cancer screenings to STD testing and treatment. Unintended pregnancies would likely increase, too.

So while many politicians like to assert that women can “go somewhere else,” the consensus in the literature shows a different picture. Higher-income women will find alternatives. But a sizable minority of Planned Parenthood’s patients, particularly low-income women, would lose access to medical services.

But Republicans couldn’t possibly care less about poor women–or women in general, for that matter.

Saudi Sex Crimes

Police in Los Angeles a Saudi prince for sexual assault a couple of days ago after a woman reported him for attacking her. From The Daily Mail:

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

A Saudi Prince sexually abused and beat at least three women during a three-day party in his $37 million Beverly Hills home, a new lawsuit claims.

The graphic new allegations against Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, were filed by his alleged victims on Friday night.

It comes two days after the monarch, who does not have diplomatic immunity, was arrested on suspicion of forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him.

From the LA Times: More women accuse Saudi prince after his arrest on sex crime charge, LAPD says.

A Saudi prince who allegedly tried to force a female worker to perform a sex act on him inside a Beverly Glen residence has now been accused of attacking other women in the home, according to Los Angeles police and court records.

Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 29, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of forced oral copulation of an adult.

Police said Friday that they are investigating claims that Al-Saud also preyed on other women on the estate.

Detectives “found more victims who were also alleging crimes against Mr. Al-Saud,” Officer Drake Madison said.

Al-Saud, 28, was detained by police for hours Wednesday afternoon as officers investigated a reported disturbance inside the 22,000-square-foot residence about 12:45 p.m., Madison said.

He was held on suspicion of false imprisonment, sexual assault and battery. He was booked on suspicion of forcing the oral copulation of a worker inside the residence, Madison said. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Three women have sued Al-Saud:

A civil lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court on Friday claims he attacked other women inside the home for several days.

The suit, filed by three women only identified as Jane Does, accuses him of “extreme,” “outrageous,” and “despicable” behavior that started Monday and ended in his arrest.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and claims Al-Saud inflicted emotional distress, assault and battery, sexual discrimination and retaliation against the workers, among other allegations. The attorneys who filed the suit did not return calls seeking comment.

Moon Happenings

Tomorrow night there will be a total eclipse of the moon at the same time as a blood moon or a supermoon or something.

Lunar eclipse of this year's supermoon (Boston Globe)

Lunar eclipse of this year’s supermoon (Boston Globe)

From AL.com: Blood moon, harvest moon, supermoon: What’s the difference?

Sunday’s full moon has a lot going for it — almost too much.

Not only will it be 2015’s harvest moon, but it will also be a supermoon and a blood moon and coincide with a total lunar eclipse.

According to NASA it’s the first time in more than 30 years a supermoon has coincided with a lunar eclipse.

That’s a lot to pack in a night.

So what is the difference between a harvest moon, a blood moon and a supermoon?

Read all about it at the link.

And from The Boston Globe, meteorologist and horticulturist David Epstein explains Everything you need to know about the supermoon eclipse Sunday September 27th.

There is an eclipse Sunday evening and after so many days of clear skies and mild temperatures, it’s going to be a tough break if clouds disrupt us from seeing it. As of right now, there should be enough clear spots in the sky to see the eclipse quite well. I’ll be updating weather conditions on Twitter @growingwisdom. I put the details of the eclipse later in this entry. Let’s discuss the supermoon thing first.

Although words like “super moon” and “rare” are used in eye catching headlines. These terms aren’t what astronomical professionals will use to describe this event. While these phenomena don’t happen all the time, they have happened before and will certainly happen again. I enjoy teaching about astronomical events, and while meteorologists aren’t astronomers the cool occurances in the sky often fall to us to explain.

From Sky and Telescope

From Sky and Telescope

Epstein’s message is that this is an interesting event, but not as big a deal as the media is claiming.

Sunday’s moon is the closest encounter with Earth until November 14, 2016. The full moon on November 14, 2016, will be the closest full moon (356,509 kilometers) until November 25, 2034 (356,448 kilometers). So yes, these things are interesting, but not all that uncommon.

Not So Super
In a recent article in the Evening Sun, Ian Clarke, director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College told the newspaper the following, “Take a quarter and hold it 103 inches away from you. That’s the apparent size of the moon relative to us, as we see it. Take that same quarter, and bring it 5 inches closer, 98 inches away from you. That’s the effect of the Supermoon, he said.” As you can see, this isn’t the celestial event of the century.

Eclipse
What’s happening Sunday evening is an eclipse of the moon, in its full state, while making its closest approach of the year. The eclipse begin at 8:11 p.m. ET. The moon will be fully covered at at 10:11 p.m. ET, peaking at 10:47 p.m. ET. The moon stays covered until 11:23 p.m.ET, and the eclipse will end at 12:27 a.m ET.

You only need to look towards the east to watch this event. There aren’t any special glasses or special precautions to take. However, if you are driving, pay attention to the road, not the moon. During the time the Earth gets in the way of the Sun’s light from illuminating the moon, the moon will take on a reddish hue. This is why you are hearing the term “blood moon” associated with this eclipse.

Read more at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.


Monday Reads: The Struggles Continue

0158
Good Morning!

Those of you that know me also know that my most profound and motivating interest lay with social justice issues. I think I was profoundly impacted by watching the evening news as a child. I still remember watching body counts from Vietnam and the images of small children being attacked by hoses and police dogs in places I couldn’t believe were associated with my country. Julian Bond–one of the most vibrant and high profile leaders of the civil rights movement–died on Saturday at the age of 75. His life stands as a tribute to all that has been gained and as a reminder of all the work that continues as we strive to ensure that all our citizens achieve equal status under the law and equal access to economic well being, knowledge, and power.  Bond was also a leader in the anti-war movement as one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He leaves a tremendous legacy of social justice.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, where Bond served as president in the 1970s, announced his death in a statement on Sunday. The SPLC said Bond died Saturday evening in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

“With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” the center’s statement read. “He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”

The Associated Press writes: “The Nashville, Tenn., native was considered a symbol and icon of the 1960s civil rights movement. As a Morehouse College student, Bond helped found [SNCC] and as its communications director, he was on the front lines of protests that led to the nation’s landmark civil rights laws.”

Bond played a major role in sit-ins and freedom rides and the 1963 March on Washington.

The New York Times says: “He moved from the militancy of the student group to the top leadership of the establishmentarian N.A.A.C.P. Along the way, he was a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer, college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.”

When he was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1965, the chamber refused to seat him, citing his support for a group that called U.S. actions in Vietnam “murder.” He took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in his favor. The Times notes that he spent his two decades in the state’s legislature, “mostly in conspicuous isolation from white colleagues who saw him as an interloper and a rabble-rouser.”

In 1986, Bond ran against his long-time friend and SNCC co-founder John Lewis to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, but was narrowly defeated in runoff.

6762-004-F361DF9CI can only hope to eventually achieve his status of “interloper and rabble-rouser” for justice.  There are many recent events that remind us that none of the struggles in which Bond interloped and rabble roused are solved or even ameliorated.  Even after the disastrous adventures of both Vietnam and Iraq, we continue to have folks who study and bark for war.  Here’s a good example of some one in Democratic leadership who does both and should be very ashamed that he shills for constant war mongering.   As Josh Marshall points out, Chuck Schumer is smarter than his actions and words on the Iran deal.  Decision-making on such vital interests should not be captive to vast, foreign lobbying interests or folks that profit from perpetual violence.

Fareed Zakaria had a column out yesterday dissecting and demolishing New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s argument for opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. I won’t try to duplicate his arguments on the merits. I don’t think I can improve on them. But I have wanted for the last week to address Schumer’s decision.

As you may know, in the midst of last week’s Fox-GOP-Trump debate, Schumer leaked the news that he planned to vote against the deal when it comes before the Senate for review. There are a few things to say about the manner of the leak. As the Senator himself would no doubt agree, no one is more adept, experienced, or desirous of press attention than Schumer. The timing was no accident. It seemed aimed at creating as little splash as possible. Given his status as a prominent, senior, and outspokenly pro-Israel Senator from New York, there is only so much that he could do to limit the impact and reaction. But this was clearly an attempt to do so. And it did get buried to some degree in the Trump Debate/GOP Meltdown/Blood Drama. Schumer has also said that since this is his position, he will of course lobby others to follow his lead. But he has done so not altogether convincingly. Take all this together and I think it is possible that Schumer believes this to be a free vote for him personally – that he can vote in opposition, either knowing that it will pass (sustain a presidential veto) or at least that he won’t be blamed for it going down.

 We’ll know after the vote how that all shook out. And in terms of what one makes of Schumer, there is some difference over what the truth turns out to be. Just after Schumer’s announcement, James Fallows said that it was one thing for Schumer to vote this way himself but if he lifts a finger to lobby other senators against the deal, he should be disqualified from becoming the next Senate Majority/Minority Leader, an office he very much wishes to fill.

I would take it a step further. I think Schumer should be disqualified on the basis of this decision alone. In fact, I would personally find it difficult to ever vote for Schumer again as my Senator, though I doubt he’ll lose much sleep over that since he is amazingly entrenched as New York’s senior senator.

julian-bond-martin-luther-king-voteIt’s obvious when politicians are more beholden to the patron class rather than citizens.  It truly amazes me that one of our major parties no longer even supports voting rights.  This is something that has been unthinkable for the decades since Kennedy and Johnson pushed the Voting Rights Act forward.

On July 20, 2006, the United States Senate voted to renew the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years. The vote was unanimous, 98 to 0. That followed an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, which passed it by a vote of 390 to 33. President George Bush signed the renewal with apparent enthusiasm a few days later.

This bipartisan support for the Voting Rights Act — first enacted into law 50 years ago this month by Lyndon B. Johnson — was not unusual; indeed, it was the rule throughout most of the legislation’s history on Capitol Hill. And if you want to understand how dramatically Congress’s partisan landscape has changed in the Obama era, it’s a particularly useful example.

 As it happens, two bills introduced in the past two years would restore at least some of the act’s former strength, after the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, which significantly weakened it. And both are languishing, with no significant Republican support and no Republican leader willing to bring them to the floor for a vote. What was, less than a decade ago, an uncontroversial legislative no-brainer is now lost in the crevasse of our partisan divide.

Given the number of Black Americans killed by police actions, it’s difficult to understand how Republican shills like Dr. Ben Carson can continue to say that Planned Parenthood is the number one murderer of Black people. Of course, Republicans these days have spurious notions of “people”.  They let black children starve and languish while spending tremendous efforts to protect clusters of cells.  Here’s an ABC report that shows some reporters actually do due diligence and fact check the outrageous statements of some politicians.    NPR has also debunked this blatant lie.

ABC’s Martha Raddatz debunked GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s claim that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by targeting black communities.

On the August 16 edition of ABC’s This Week, Carson spoke with Raddatz on the campaign trail in Iowa. Raddatz asked Carson about his controversial comments he made on August 12, when he said Planned Parenthood is targeting African-American communities to control their population by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.” Raddatz debunked this claim, saying, “Planned Parenthood estimates that fewer than five percent of its health centers are located in areas where more than one-third of the population is African-American” …

The most telling thing about the pushback on all social justice strides these days is Donald Trump’s standing in Republican Polls get_item_viewer_imageand his angry white man shtick showing that much of it is blowback against modernity and rational thought.

Many insiders were sure that Trump would be widely disavowed after charging that undocumented Hispanics, even the ones who aren’t rapists, are “bad. They’re really bad.” When this didn’t do Trump in, just as many, maybe more, were certain he would be cashiered after his disparagement of McCain. It didn’t work out that way, and Trump went into the first debate leading the national polls among Republicans. Then came his gynecological speculations about Kelly, and the political media were steadfast in their conviction that now, at last, he had crossed a red line that no red state partisan could accept. It was perfectly OK for him to carry the torch for birtherism, to vilify an entire ethnicity, to impugn the reputation of a decorated veteran — but now he had insulted Megyn Kelly of Fox News! He was done, washed up, toast, and the sober pundits whose eternal vigilance safeguards our liberty could finally turn their attention to “serious” candidates such as Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.

As I write this, the most recent post-debate polling shows Trump on top with a 10-point lead over his nearest rival.

When you repeatedly get something wrong, you need an explanation — an account of your error that gets you back on track by identifying its source. (It goes without saying that the preferred account attributes the error to something other than ignorance on your part.) In our present case, that explanation is the meme, repeated ad taedium if not ad nauseam, that the GOP base likes Trump because he seems asangry as it is. His pugnacious manner, his willingness to insult opponents — or just anyone who disagrees with him — his brusque tone and dismissive gestures: All these things, we’re told, are like catnip to the Republican faithful. Mostly older and white and male, and wholly pissed-off, these folks are tired of namby-pamby politicians who whine about “bipartisan solutions” and want to find ways to “work with the other side.” They want someone who calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, and who sees, as they do, that “the other side” largely consists of fools, traitors and knaves. Trump, it turns out, is their tribune.

As explanations go, this one isn’t completely off-track. It does get one (very important) thing right: the GOP base is mad as hell. But as a theory of Republican politics, it’s sort of like attempts to attribute the Napoleonic Wars to Bonaparte’s shame over his small stature. There has to be something more than anger at work in the GOP, because anger alone doesn’t explain the distinctive shape of its obsessions. The real question is this: What is it angry about?

As we think about the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s–the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the rights for immigrant workers movement, the anti-war movement, the GLBT movement– we can see the strides made.  But, each time we lose a leader of those movements, we gain a perspective that we have miles and miles to go before we can sleep. There are many forces that would like to erase all of that progress. Many of them sit on the Supreme Court.  Many of them sit in statehouses, Congress, and governor’s offices.   We must be vigilant and persistent in pursuit of human dignity.

The Struggles continue.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?