Tuesday Reads: The Humiliation of the Fake “President”

Good Morning!!

 

As if the fake “president” didn’t have enough humiliations to deal with this morning, Time Magazine has delivered a crushing blow to his ego, announcing Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists as their “Person of the Year.”

The Washington Post: Time’s Person of the Year: ‘Guardians’ of the truth, including slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Time magazine has announced its 2018 Person of the Year is “The Guardians,” four individuals and one group — all journalists — who this year helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world.

They are the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributing columnist who was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland; journalist Maria Ressa, the CEO of the Rappler news website, who has been made a legal target in the Philippines; and journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for nearly a year for their work exposing the mass killing of Rohingya Muslims.

“As we looked at the choices, it became clear that the manipulation and the abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year’s major stories, from Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley,” Time magazine editor Edward Felsenthal said on the “Today” show Tuesday morning, where the announcement was made.

“The manipulation and abuse of truth” is a pretty clear reference to Trump’s governing style.

Here’s Time’s cover story: The Guardians and the War on Truth.

The stout man with the gray goatee and the gentle demeanor dared to disagree with his country’s government. He told the world the truth about its brutality toward those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it.

Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.

But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?

Khashoggi put his faith in bearing witness. He put it in the field reporting he had done since youth, in the newspaper editorship he was forced out of and in the columns he wrote from lonely exile. “Must we choose,” he asked in the Washington Post in May, “between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?” Khashoggi had fled his homeland last year even though he actually supported much of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agenda in Saudi Arabia. What irked the kingdom and marked the journalist for death was Khashoggi’s insistence on coming to that conclusion on his own, tempering it with troubling facts and trusting the public to think for itself.

Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen. Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.

Trump and his gullible son-in-law Jared Kushner won’t be happy about this. Plus, yesterday CNN published quotes from the transcript of the recording of the Kashoggi murder: ‘I can’t breathe.’ Jamal Khashoggi’s last words disclosed in transcript, source says.

“I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.

The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.
During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him.

“I can’t breathe,” Khashoggi says.

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

The transcript notes the sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered by a saw, as the alleged perpetrators are advised to listen to music to block out the sound.

And, according to the source, the transcript suggests that a series of phone calls are made. Turkish officials believe the calls were placed to senior figures in Riyadh, briefing them on progress.

Nick Ayers and John Kelly

In other humiliations, the fake “president” decided to humiliate Chief of Staff John Kelly by announcing his firing without any warning, and then the fake “president” was in turn humiliated by his choice to replace Kelly. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair:

On Friday night, members of Donald Trump’s West Wing gathered for drinks at the Trump International Hotel following a holiday dinner at the White House. As they mingled in the lobby, Bill Shine, Stephen MillerKellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and others grappled with the latest West Wing upheaval: Trump had changed the plan and fired Chief of Staff John Kellyearlier that afternoon. “It got back to Trump that Kelly was bad-mouthing him and Trump had decided he’d had enough. His attitude was, ‘fuck him,’” an attendee told me.

Kelly’s defenestration surprised few people—Trump had wanted to fire him for months—but the lingering problem had been finding a replacement whom Trump felt comfortable with (and who wanted the job). “The president really wanted someone he knows. He didn’t want to gamble,” a former West Wing official said. After weeks of lobbying by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump had been convinced that Mike Pence’s 36-year-old chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was the best candidate. On Friday afternoon, Trump met with Ayers, Pence, and Kelly and finalized the transition, a source briefed on the meeting said. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday.

But Trump’s frustration with Kelly boiled over after Kelly pressed him to name his deputy Zachary Fuentes interim chief of staff. “Trump didn’t like how Kelly was trying to dictate the terms of his departure,” a Republican briefed on the discussions told me. Trump blew up the carefully orchestrated announcement and told reporters on Saturday as he walked to Marine One that Kelly would be leaving by the end of the year. “John wanted to announce his own departure. This was a humiliation,” a former West Wing official said.

Trump’s impulsive announcement quickly became an even bigger problem when it turned out that Kelly’s replacement was not sewn up; Ayers surprised Trump later that day by insisting that he only wanted the job short term. “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said.

And to make sure the humiliation of the fake “president” was complete, Ayers announced his departure on Twitter.

Now Trump is left with no one to humiliate in the formerly prestigious Chief of Staff job. The Washington Post: ‘There was no Plan B’: Trump scrambles to find chief of staff after top candidate turns him down.

After announcing the exit of his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and being turned down by his pick to replace him, Nick Ayers, Trump found himself Monday in an unexpected predicament — scrambling to recruit someone to help run the executive branch of the federal government and guide the administration through the political tumult and possible legal peril ahead.

“Will you be my Chief of Staff?”

In any White House, the chief of staff is arguably the most punishing position. But in this White House — a den of disorder ruled by an impulsive president — it has proved to be an especially thankless job. The two people to hold the job were left with their reputations diminished after failing to constrain the president, who often prefers to function as his own chief of staff.

Three members of Trump’s Cabinet who have been discussed inside the West Wing as possible chiefs of staff — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer — each signaled Monday that they were not interested in the position.

Considerable buzz has centered on two other contenders. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) noted his interest in the job by issuing a statement saying that “serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor.”

“It is not something I have been campaigning for,” Meadows told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill, adding that his phone “blew up” after the Ayers news broke. “The president has a good list of candidates. I’m honored to be one of those.”

And acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, who traveled with Trump to Kansas City, Mo., last week , is seen by the president and his allies as a loyalist.

But Trump’s advisers and aides cautioned that there was not yet a front-runner.

Although aides said the president is committed to finding a replacement for Kelly before the Christmas holiday, they said he has been vacillating — casting about in all corners for potential picks and frustrated by news coverage depicting his White House as a place where talented people do not want to work.

Why would anyone want to work for Trump? I guess it will have to be someone whose reputation is already in tatters. I can’t imagine anyone who has hopes for a future career being interested. That description could apply to Whitaker, but how could he get a security clearance when he’s associated with a company that is under investigation for fraud?

Of course Trump is claiming he has multiple applicants for the job.

Hahahahahahahaha!

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

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Lazy Saturday Reads

Henri Lebasque, Girl Reading and Vase of Flowers, 1915

Good Morning!!

George Bush the elder died last night at age 94. I’m not going to lie and say I’m grieving.

During Watergate Bush was Nixon’s RNC chairman and supported him to the bitter end; but once the White House tapes came out, he urged Nixon to resign. Bush served about a year as CIA director under Gerald Ford. As Vice President, Bush famously claimed to have been “out of the loop” while Oliver North and the gang were running guns and drugs during the Iran-Contra affair. As president, Bush pardoned

…former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, former CIA Central American Task Force Chief Alan D. Fiers, Jr., former CIA Deputy Director for Operations Clair E. George, and former CIA Counter-Terrorism Chief Duane R. Clarridge. The Weinberger pardon marked the first time a President ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness, because the President was knowledgeable of factual events underlying the case.

He also refused to be interviewed by the special counsel. That quote is from the Walsh report on Iran-Contra.

In 1992, Walter Pincus wrote in The Washington Post:

Buried among 1,700 pages of notes written by then-Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger during the Iran-contra affair is one referring to a January 1986 meeting at which Weinberger voiced opposition to covert arms sales to Iran in the presence of George Bush, then the vice president.

Blue Girl Reading, Frederick C. Frieseke, 1935

The note, which appears to contradict Bush’s repeated assertion that he was never present when either Weinberger or then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz objected to the arms sales, is among classified documents being reviewed for possible use in Weinberger’s upcoming trial, according to informed sources. The note is important because it confirms earlier testimony by Shultz placing Bush at the January meeting.

Questioned again lately by reporters about Iran-contra, Bush sought to dismiss further discussion of his role in the worst political scandal of the Reagan administration. But new information emerging from court cases and congressional records since Bush last ran for president has cast fresh doubt on his assertions that he was “out of the loop,” generally uninvolved in and largely unaware of the most controversial Iran-contra operations.

There are numerous indications in the documentary record that Bush was at meetings where decisions were taken in the mid-1980s about both the secret sale of arms to Iran and some of the covert efforts to aid the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Polls have shown that the public is skeptical of the president’s denials of involvement.

That was written before Bush issued the pardons.

As president, Bush started the Persian Gulf War in order to protect Saudi Arabia after Iraq took over Kuwait. He decided to leave Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq, and of course that led George Bush the younger to attack Iraq again in 2003, leaving us mired in the Middle East ever since.

As we watch Trump suck up to Saudi Arabia, we can forget that the Bushes also loved the Saudis and protected them after the 9/11 attacks. I could go on, but I won’t. Here are some obituaries of George H.W. Bush if you want to read the good stuff:

The New York Times: George Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94.

The Washington Post: George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States, dies at 94.

The Guardian: George HW Bush, former US president, dies aged 94.

Gari Melchers, Lady Reading

One good thing I will say about Bush: he didn’t like Trump.

“I don’t like him. I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.” – George H.W. Bush on Donald Trump After he voted for Hillary Clinton.

Other News

The Wall Street Journal has a scoop on the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi: CIA Intercepts Underpin Assessment Saudi Crown Prince Targeted Khashoggi.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, who oversaw the team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment.

The Saudi leader also in August 2017 had told associates that if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” according to the assessment, a communication that it states “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.” [….]

Excerpts of the Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment, which cites electronic intercepts and other clandestine information, were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The previously unreported excerpts reviewed by the Journal state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.” It added: “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order.”

Girl Reading, Charles Edward Perugini (1834-1918)

The electronic messages sent by Prince Mohammed were to Saud al-Qahtani, according to the CIA. Mr. Qahtani supervised the 15-man team that killed Mr. Khashoggi and, during the same period, was also in direct communication with the team’s leader in Istanbul, the assessment says. The content of the messages between Prince Mohammed and Mr. Qahtani isn’t known, the document says. It doesn’t say in what form the messages were sent.

No wonder Trump refused let CIA director Gina Haspel report to Congress.

There are lots of stories about former Trump fixer Michael Cohen today. Cohen’s attorneys released his full sentencing memo (pdf) last night. For a summary, check out this Twitter thread from Adam Klasfeld.

CNN reports that if Trump had been nicer to his former lawyer, Cohen might not have flipped: Cohen believed Trump would pardon him, but then things changed.

After a March 2018 visit to Mar-a-Lago, the President’s private club in Florida, Cohen returned to New York believing that his former boss would protect him if he faced any charges for sticking to his story about the 2016 payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, according to one source with knowledge. Trump was also at Mar-a-Lago at the time of Cohen’s visit.

Another source said that after the April 2018 FBI raid on Cohen’s office and home, people close to the President assured Cohen that Trump would take care of him. And Cohen believed that meant that the President would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message. It is unclear who specifically reached out to Cohen….

Oda with Lamp, Christian Krohg Norwegian, 1852-1925

Following the raid on Cohen’s home and office, Cohen’s attorneys had a legal defense agreement with Trump and his attorneys. During this time, there was a steady flow of communication between the two sides, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

At first, publicly, Trump seemed very supportive of his former attorney. On the day of the raid, Trump said Cohen was “a good man” and that the investigation reached “a whole new level of unfairness.” He unloaded on law enforcement, calling the raids “a disgraceful situation.”

But in the days that followed the raid, one source says, things started heading south with the President.

Trump started to distance himself from Cohen. And when Trump appeared on “Fox and Friends” two weeks after the raids and said that Cohen only did a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work, Cohen knew the game had changed. According to one source, Cohen knew that things had changed and he acted to protect his family — and himself.

Politico: Cohen claims ‘regular contact’ with Trump legal team when crafting false statement to Congress.

…Michael Cohen said Friday he was in “close and regular contact” with Trump’s White House staff and legal team when he prepared a statement for Congress that he now says falsely downplayed Trump’s effort to land a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a filing seeking a lenient sentence, Cohen’s attorneys say his false statement to Congress — which Cohen pleaded guilty to on Thursday — was based on Trump and his team’s efforts to “portray contact with Russian representatives” by Trump, his campaign or his company “as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.”

Jarne Gissel 1962

“Seeking to stay in line with this message, Michael told Congress that his communications and efforts to finalize a building project in Moscow on behalf of the Trump Organization, which he began pursuing in 2015, had come to an end in January 2016, when a general inquiry he made to the Kremlin went unanswered,” Cohen’s lawyers Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester write.

But “Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications,” they wrote. “He and [Trump] also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel.”

The Daily Beast: Cohen: Trump Knew I Called Kremlin for Help With Trump Tower Moscow.

Another bombshell lobbed by Michael Cohen exploded late Friday night: He says he told Donald Trump about a phone call to the Kremlin asking for the Russian government’s help to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2016.

And Cohen also claims he was talking to Trump’s lawyers and White House staff in 2017 while he crafted a misleading statement to Congress seeking to cover up the truth about the Moscow project and the level of Trump’s involvement.

If this is true, former White House Counsel Don McGahn could be in trouble for witness tampering. I wonder what his talked with Mueller’s team have been like?

There are quite a few stories on fake AG Matthew Whitaker too. Some links to check out:

The Washington Post: Trump’s acting attorney general once referred to the president’s behavior as ‘a little dangerous’ and ‘a little outlandish.’

Yahoo News: How one accountant links Whitaker’s nonprofit to network of dark money groups.

The New York Times: Whitaker’s Ascent at Justice Dept. Surprised Investigators of Firm Accused of Fraud.

Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Crooked Attorney General Stonewalled Probe Into His Crooked Firm.

Above the Law: Let’s Take A Closer Look At Purported Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s Super Sketchy Finances.

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

 


Monday Reads: Life in War Time

From the creative mind of my friend John Buss @repeat1968

Hello Dear Sky Dancers!

We couldn’t even have a peaceful thanksgiving holiday without the mayhem and mishap placeholder in the White House creating chaos through his policy weakness. Yes, he may have been off golfing and stealing money from the taxpayer to enrich his family crime syndicate, but some terrible things happened yesterday and I just can’t ignore them.

From WAPO: ‘These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas.’

A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She’s barefoot, dusty, and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she’s just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents.

A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads.

The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider-angle photo fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the images, which provoked outrage and seemed at odds with President Trump’s portrayal of the caravan migrants as “criminals” and “gang members.”

Trump officials said that authorities had to respond with force after hundreds of migrants rushed the border near Tijuana on Sunday, some of them throwing “projectiles” at Customs and Border Protection personnel.

A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by U.S. border agents. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

I can hardly speak about how wrong this is on all levels. Seeking Asylum is a legal process outlined in treaties we’ve signed. I don’t even know if we’ve got an experience basically lobbing chemical weapons across the border into the country of an ally. I did read this at the same WAPO article:

Trump’s response in an early-morning tweet on Monday was to call for Mexico to return the migrants to their home countries, and to again threaten to “close the border permanently.”

That’s never been done, and experts interviewed by The Washington Post on Sunday night knew of no provision explicitly allowing Trump to permanently close the borders. Most of the border, with the exception of designated crossings, is already closed, which doesn’t stop migrants from entering.

So it probably would not solve Trump’s problems with asylum seekers, who, by law, must be allowed to present their claims if in fact they are able to cross the border anywhere.

“This is yet another of several Trump attempts to change what he disparagingly calls the policy of ‘catch and release’ without or against legal authority,” said Yale Law School’s Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the State Department during the Obama administration. “All have been blocked. What he does not understand,” Koh said in an email, “is that everyone crossing our Southern border is not illegally present. Those with valid asylum claims have a legal right to assert those claims and remain.”

Closing the border “permanently” or otherwise would conflict with the asylum laws, agreed Peter S. Margulies, an immigration law expert at Roger Williams University School of Law.

Had the migrants made it to the border and presented themselves as asylum seekers, U.S. officials would have been required by federal law to consider their claim before sending them back to Mexico. Indeed, they are required to do so whether the migrants cross at a designated point of entry or anywhere else.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar forcefully reminded Trump of that law last week when he issued a nationwide restraining order against the president’s plan to consider asylum requests only from migrants who cross at legal checkpoints. It was Tigar’s ruling that prompted Trump to lash out last week against the “Obama judge” and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which in turn brought a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Trump’s legal options appear limited. “The border is very long,” Margulies told The Post. But if the administration can “stop people just short of the border, there’s a better argument that those people are not entitled to asylum. I think it would be terrible policy and I think it would be morally repugnant,” he said, “but the administration would be on better legal footing.”

Attempting to stop them short of the border appears to be just what Trump may be planning.

I usually don’t copy and paste this much from one source, but the article by Tim Elfrink and Fred Barbash–accompanyied by heart-wrenching photos–was difficult to chop up into small excerpts.

These are really dark times. We now have more children in ICE custody than ever before. The attacks on families seeking aslyum overshadowed this report on jailing children on CBS and Sixty Mintues.

Lee Gelernt: It became such a horrific scene that they started telling the parents, “Oh, your child is just going to take a shower, or just going to get some medical treatment,” and then the parent would never see the child again.

Lee Gelernt is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. In July, he convinced a federal judge to order the reunification of the children. But when the government realized it lost track of many of the parents, the Trump administration told the court reuniting the families was the ACLU’s problem.

Lee Gelernt: The government took these children away from their parents, and then deported hundreds and hundreds of the parents without the children. The judge said, “These parents need to be with their children.” And the government said, “Well, if you wanna find the parents, we don’t know where they are. Let the ACLU look for them.”

This is the Homeland Security order to arrest and detain all adults who crossed illegally to seek asylum. The copy released to the public was censored by the administration. But we’ve obtained what the White House didn’t want the public to see. The document reveals that child separation began nine months earlier than the administration acknowledged. There was a pilot program in the busy “El Paso sector” from “July to November 2017”. We don’t know how many children were taken in those five months. The censored part of the memo explains a reason for the policy — deterrence — as it “will have the greatest impact on current flows” [of immigrants.]

But Cecilia Munoz says the Obama administration found that deterrent messages failed to turn back immigrants.

Cecilia Munoz: And the reason for that is, if your child was told today by the gangs, “Your life is at risk unless you start running drugs for us.” You’re thinking much more about their safety today and tomorrow than you’re thinking about, “What’s going to happen once we get to our destination?”

Jeff Sessions: We are not going to let the country be overwhelmed.

Security was the stated reason for the policy change. One top White House official called immigration an existential threat to America. But Homeland Security’s inspector general found the chaotic implementation of the policy undermined law enforcement. The report says, “instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children.” And those officers weren’t prepared for their new role, according to Scott Shuchart, who recently left Homeland Security.

We lurch from consitutional and humanitarian crises–of his creation–to the incredible audacity of authoritarian regimes who feel empowered by the lawlessness and transactional greed of what is supposedly the leader of the free world. Russian seized Ukrainian navl ships over the weekend.

Russia has fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian forces. A number of Ukrainian crew members were injured.

Each country blames the other for the incident. On Monday Ukrainian MPs are due to vote on declaring martial law.

The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters.

The Russians placed a tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

During a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as “unprovoked and crazy”.

Emboldened by the ineffective foreign policy of Trump and his penchant for adoring strongman, Putin continues to annex the Ukraine.

Tensions in the Sea of Azov have been simmering for months and this weekend its waters came to the boil.

Russian ships opened fire at three Ukrainian naval vessels Sundayafter they attempted to enter the sea.

Ukrainian media reported that 23 crew members were detained, including six who were injured, and the vessels seized.

Kiev’s navy is hugely outgunned and outnumbered by Moscow. Ukraine responded by putting its forces on high alert.

Some Western experts say the Kremlin’s tactics in the Sea of Azov are straight out of the Kremlin playbook.

Analysts have been warning for months that the Azov, which is just under half the size of Lake Superior, is the latest example of Russia carrying out “creeping annexation” — where borders are subtly shifted to take territory, or in this case waters, from former Soviet allies.

There is other quite serious news today.

From the AP: “GM to slash 14,700 jobs in North America”

General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won’t be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.

About 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck plants.

Another headline from WAPO: “In the United States, right-wing violence is on the rise”. In other words, something wicked this way comes. His reign is the Pandimonium Carnival.

Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.

This year has been especially deadly.Just last month, 13 people died in two incidents: AKentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.

This month brought two more bodies: A military veteran who had railed online against women and blacks opened fire in a Tallahassee yoga studio, killing two women and wounding five. All told, researchers say at least 20 people have died this year in suspected right-wing attacks.

From ABC News: Jared Kushner pushed to inflate Saudi arms deal to $110 billion: Sources: It’s obvious the Saudis have been bailing out his bad business deals. How many foreign interests own the Trump Family Crime Syndicate?

President Donald Trump‘s reluctance to hold Saudi leadership accountable for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi stemmed from a partly aspirational $110 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudia Arabia that was inflated at the direction of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, according to two U.S. officials and three former White House officials.

Kushner, in a bid to symbolically solidify the new alliance between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia while claiming a victory on the president’s first foreign trip to Riyadh, pushed State and Defense officials to inflate the figure with arms exchanges that were aspirational at best, the officials said. Secretary of Defense James Mattis supported Kushner’s effort and ultimately endorsed the memorandum, according to a former NSC official familiar with the matter.

“We need to sell them as much as possible,” Kushner told colleagues at a national securitycouncil meeting weeks before the May 2017 summit in Saudi Arabia, according to an administration official familiar with the matter.

nother U.S. official said there was a back and forth between Kushner and Department of Defense and State officials on how to get to a larger number because the officials initially told Kushner that realistically they had about $15 billion worth of deals in works, based on the Saudi government’s interest in a THAAD system and maintenance of other systems.

But even that order has not been fulfilled.

The Saudis have bypassed the September deadline for one of the pricier items on the list – the THAAD or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system. A Defense Department spokesperson said the sale has not been finalized.

The question is what are the Trumps getting out of this deal?

From Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast: “Trump Ramped Up Drone Strikes in America’s Shadow Wars. In his first two years in office, Donald Trump launched 238 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia—way beyond what the ‘Drone President’ Barack Obama did.”

The U.S. president inherited a remotely piloted weapon of death from his predecessor. In his earliest period in office, he used this lethal robot force promiscuously, sharply escalating attacks on suspected terrorists away from his declared wars. As time went on, his use of drone strikes in those places diminished.

Barack Obama? Well, yes. But a look at available statistics for drone strikes on America’s undeclared battlefield shows that this description also applies to Donald Trump.

In 2009 and 2010, Obama launched 186 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and especially Pakistan. Donald Trump’s drone strikes during his own first two years on the three pivotal undeclared battlefields, however, eclipse Obama’s—but without a corresponding reputation for robot-delivered bloodshed, or even anyone taking much notice. In 2017 and 2018 to date, Trump has launched 238 drone strikes there, according to data provided to The Daily Beast by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the drone-watchers at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London.

Those numbers come with a slew of asterisks. The number of drone strikes on the full-fledged acknowledged battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have, ironically, proven far more difficult to track than those in shadow war zones—and knowledgeable observers like Chris Woods of the UK’s Airwars organization believe that the true center of the drone strikes is found there. Additionally, the death toll from those strikes in shadow war zones, especially of civilians, is at best a rough estimate.

This week probably has had some of the most devastingly awful news for world peace we’ve seen in ages. It’s really gotten to me today. What a wicked bunch of people put in a wicked man to turn the world more wicked. And it’s happening in our name with our tax dollars …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today


Lazy Caturday Reads: Bookstore Cats (And News)

Good Afternoon!!

California is burning and we have no national leadership. The current death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California stands at 71, with more than 1,000 missing. Trump is going to California, not to help or comfort, but to educate politicians and firefighters about what they did and are doing wrong. Politico:

Trump said he will be meeting Saturday with Gov. Jerry Brown, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and emergency workers across the state.

“I want to be with the firefighters and the FEMA first responders,” Trump said, anticipating that he would likely be returning to the White House at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, “or something like that.”

The president also hinted at some potentially confrontational discussions he might engage in Saturday with California’s elected leaders, including on the state’s forest management efforts.

“I’ve been saying that for a long time this could have been a lot different situation, but the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there’s no question about it,” Trump said. “It should have been done many years ago, but i think everybody’s on the right side. It’s a big issue.”

Yesterday Trump explained his theory to Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

So is Trump bringing a rake with him?

Read About the Wildfires

Reuters: Teams search for 1,000 missing in California’s deadliest wildfire.

PARADISE, Calif., Nov 17 (Reuters) – Forensic recovery teams searched for more victims in the charred wreckage of the northern California town of Paradise on Saturday as the number of people listed as missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire topped 1,000.

Remains of at least 71 people have been recovered in and around the small Sierra foothills town 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco. It was home to nearly 27,000 residents before it was largely incinerated by the blaze on the night of Nov. 8.

Adams Avenue Book Store in San Diego, CA, Bartleby

The disaster already ranks among the deadliest U.S. wildfires since the turn of the last century. Eighty-seven people perished in the Big Burn firestorm that swept the Northern Rockies in August of 1910. Minnesota’s Cloquet Fire in October of 1918 killed 450 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has blamed the recent spate of fires on forest mismanagement, was due to visit the fire zones on Saturday to meet displaced residents. Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom planned to join Trump on his tour.

Authorities attribute the high death toll from the blaze – dubbed “Camp Fire” – partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little advance warning, driven by howling winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.

More than a week later, firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 45 percent of the blaze’s perimeter. The fire covered 142,000 acres (57,000 hectares), fire officials said.

Besides the toll on human life, property losses from the blaze make it the most destructive in California history, posing the additional challenge of providing long-term shelter for many thousands of displaced residents.

The BBC has a timeline of the destruction of Paradise, CA: California wildfires: The day Paradise burned down. Here’s the introduction:

“Heavenly father, please help us.”

Sitting in the back seat of the car her husband was driving, Brynn Parrott Chatfield’s entire field of vision was filled with flames as she prayed.

Only the thin strip of road in front of them remained unburned.

Shades of orange, white, purple and pink burst out on both sides, hundreds of small fires all burning at the same time, low on the ground and up and over the trees.

“Please, help us to be safe.”

A wave of embers rose up from the surface of the road and struck their front windscreen. Brynn’s husband Jeremy drove calmly on down the middle of the road; no-one would be coming towards them into the fire.

“I’m thankful for Jeremy and his willingness to be brave…”

By now, no road was visible, and only a dense orange cloud could be seen in front of the car. Then suddenly, it cleared, and the fires seemed to scatter.

Clear skies opened up, the last embers bounced off the windscreen and the fire was finally behind them.

As a helicopter flew overhead, carrying water to try and douse the flames, Jeremy and Brynn knew they had made it out alive.

Soon after, almost nothing would remain of their hometown, Paradise, and the fire they fled in north-east California would become the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

This is the story of how the fire spread.

More reads on the California disaster:

The Guardian: California’s DIY firefighters battle alone as the richest hire private teams.

The New York Times: As Inmates, They Fight California’s Fires. As Ex-Convicts, Their Firefighting Prospects Wilt.

The New York Times: Air Quality in California: Devastating Fires Lead to a New Danger.

The Los Angeles Times: California fire: If you stay, you’re dead. How a Paradise nursing home evacuated.

The New York Times: Everyone Is Talking About the California Wildfires. Read These Books on How to Fight Them.

Trump Is Fueling White Supremacist Extremism

David Neiwert at The Washington Post: Right-wing extremists are already threatening violence over a Democratic House. The introduction:

Seeking a more lenient sentence for Patrick Eugene Stein’s plot to murder hundreds of Somali immigrants in a small Kansas town, Stein’s attorneys turned to a novel strategy: They blamed the inspiration for his actions on Donald Trump.

“The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president,” the lawyers wrote.

Stein and his two cohorts planned their attack to take place the day after the November 2016 election. Anticipating a Hillary Clinton victory, the three Kansans wanted to make a violent first strike against her presidency by setting off a set of Timothy McVeigh-style truck bombs at a Muslim immigrant community in Garden City, then gunning down survivors as they fled.

The plot had been exposed, and the men arrested, a few weeks before they intended to carry it out. It took place amid a national environment in which far-right militiamen had been vowing a violent resistance to a potential Clinton administration. That resistance was, at least temporarily, mooted by Trump’s victory.

But those same rumblings can now be heard from the very same far-right factions, likewise threatening violence, in response to this month’s takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats. There is legitimate reason for concern that right-wing terrorist violence will continue and perhaps increase — and that extremists could soon begin targeting politicians in office, especially if Trump singles them out for scorn.

Read the Rest at the WaPo. Neiwert is the author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.

Lucian K. Truscott IV at Raw Story: Donald Trump isn’t our president — he is the Jefferson Davis of a new red state confederacy in a slow-motion civil war.

In 1861, they were cadets from the Citadel Military Academy in South Carolina. On January 9, of that year, they were manning an artillery battery on Morris Island, an uninhabited island in Charleston Harbor when they fired on the United States steamship Star of the West, which was attempting to resupply the American garrison at Fort Sumter. The shots they fired that day, along with the bombardment of the fort by the Confederate States Army beginning on April 12 of that year, are generally considered by historians to be the first shots fired in what became the American Civil War.

In 2017, they were members of the so-called “alt-right” — white supremacists, neo-nazis, neo-confederates, white nationalists, and neo-fascists who were in Charlottesville for the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. On the night of August 11, 2017, as many as 200 of them marched carrying burning torches through the campus of the University of Virginia chanting white supremacist slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” When they reached the statue of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, they clashed with a group of students who had surrounded the statue. The alt-right demonstrators swung and threw their torches and used pepper spray against the counter-protestors, injuring several.

The next day, the alt-right demonstrators marched through Charlottesville carrying Confederate and Nazi flags chanting “white lives matter,” “Jewish media is going down,” and “make America great again.” Many demonstrators were armed, some with semi-automatic assault-style rifles. They clashed again with counter-protestors, and at 1:45 p.m., a white supremacist demonstrator identified as James Alex Fields Jr. drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

She was not the first to die in the new civil war. Already dead were black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina; a native of India in Olathe, Kansas; an Army lieutenant in College Park, Maryland; and many others.

But the death of Heather Heyer would become a focus of the violence and killing in the new civil war, because President Trump would put it there.

More at Raw Story (originally pubABlished at Salon).

More to Explore:

The Washington Post: Confederate pride and prejudice. Some white Northerners see a flag rooted in racism as a symbol of patriotism.

HuffPost: D.C.’s Neo-Nazi Brothers Were Hiding In Plain Sight.

ABC Action News Tampa: 39 suspected gang members charged in major drug, gun trafficking investigation in Pasco.

Jackson Free Press: Hyde-Smith Accepts $2,700 Donation from Notorious White Supremacist.

Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince

Yesterday someone leaked the news that CIA has concluded that MBS ordered the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month in Turkey. The New York Times reports:

Bücherdorf Mühlbeck, Germany

The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials.

The C.I.A. made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.

The C.I.A. has believed for weeks that Prince Mohammed was culpable in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing but had been hesitant to definitively conclude that he directly ordered it. The agency has passed that assessment on to lawmakers and Trump administration officials.

The change in C.I.A. thinking came as new information emerged, officials said. The evidence included an intercept showing a member of the kill team calling an aide to Prince Mohammed and saying “tell your boss” that the mission was accomplished. Officials cautioned, however, that the new information is not direct evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the assassination, which was carried out in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Undoubtedly the leak was motivated by Trump’s defense of MBS and his suggestion that another long-time U.S. resident Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen should be handed over to Turkey most likely to be tortured and killed.

NBC News: If Trump sacrifices Fethullah Gulen to protect Saudi Arabia, he will make a mockery of the U.S. extradition system.

In the unending swirl of shocking statements and decisions by the Trump administration, the latest scoop by NBC News could easily get lost. But it is nonetheless jaw dropping to hear reports that the administration may be thinking about surrendering to Turkish demands to extradite a long-time U.S. resident for the sake of placating Turkey and protecting Saudi Arabia in the wake of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder.

According to four people interviewed by NBC, the White House has instructed the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to find a way to remove Fethullah Gulen, a former ally-turned-foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan claims Gulen was the mastermind behind a failed coupagainst him in 2016. The elderly Gulen has lived in rural Pennsylvania for close to 20 years. He is a green card holder, or permanent resident of the U.S., and he adamantly denies Turkey’s accusations. But Trump presumably hopes that if he turns Gulen over to Turkey, Erdogan will return the favor by easing his campaign against Saudi Arabia, an important American ally that has been under intense scrutiny following the Khashoggi killing.

U.S. authorities have already reviewed Turkey’s two-year-old extradition request and found it without merit. But Trump, in an effort to help Saudi Arabia diffuse the Khashoggi crisis, is weighing whether or not to both sacrifice a man and make a mockery of the extradition system.

More Stories to Check Out

The Washington Post: Trump says he’ll speak with CIA about Khashoggi killing.

Politico: Trump hails Saudis as ‘spectacular ally’ in wake of CIA Khashoggi reports.

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


Monday Reads: WTF did Trump Voters do?

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’d like to continue to ignore the absolute breakdown of rule of law and sanity brought on by a group of outraged wypipo that just want their football and lives to be mired in some perverse black and white 50s sitcom, but it’s hard with headlines reading like an Orwellian Dystopia.

While Floridians and other survivors of hurricanes the last 2 seasons struggle to find water, food, and access to the things of basic civilization, T-Rump continues to golf at his various properties and travel to provide Hate Fest opportunities for aggrieved wypipo with random women leaders being targeted for the shouts of “lock her up”.  This kind of behavior would shame any sane person.  The word sane is the key idea here.

I’d like to say who are these people, but then it’s pretty obvious that I went to high school and university with a lot of them and used to sit in church pews surrounded by them. I’m not sure what wiring got crossed in their brains, but I don’t want to understand them, I want them to slink back under their rocks.

That pretty much sums it up.  KKKremlin Caligula just keeps showing himself to the world and about 20% of the population keeps acting like this is great and normal.  But then, most of them also believe in a literal garden of Eden and zombie Jesus born of a virgin when there’s absolutely no proof of any of that. It seems like everything done by Republicans encourages their psychotic breaks so the donor class gets to pillage the country of treasure and resources.  The VOX op ed piece is written by Matthew Yglesias.

President Trump trusts Kim Jong Un but not American climate scientists. He knows more about NATO than Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. He thinks the European Union was created to take advantage of America on trade. And he isn’t sure whether or not Vladimir Putin is involved in assassinations.

In short, his sit-down interview with 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl revealed the president of the United States to be grossly dishonest, woefully ill-informed, and congenitally incapable of admitting error or demonstrating any kind of moral or intellectual growth.

He is, in other words, totally unfit for high office and fairly obviously so. Even more amazingly, despite Stahl covering an incredibly wide range of issues, she broke essentially no new ground. Every terrible, disqualifying thing he said was something he’s said before.

Donald Trump says a lot of things that aren’t true

Portrait

That doesn’t include what’s going on with Saudi Arabia which is acting like an entitled Trump Voter with the actual ability to blackmail the country and its Placeholder in the Oval Office. Trump basically said that the murdered Saudi Journalists might have been killed by “rogue” killers and that the King said they didn’t do it. Oh, great!  It’s the believe a crazed dictator over all the evidence SNL skit redux!

For 45 years, it’s been considered out of bounds for Saudi Arabia. But all of a sudden, Riyadh made what many read as a veiled threat to use the kingdom’s oil wealth as a political weapon — something unheard of since the 1973 Arab embargo that triggered the first oil crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, said on Sunday it would retaliate against any punitive measures linked to the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi with even “stronger ones.” In an implicit reference to the kingdom’s petroleum wealth, the statement noted the Saudi economy “has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”

Roger Diwan, a longstanding OPEC watcher at consultant IHS Markit Ltd., said the Saudi comments broke “an essential oil market taboo.”

While few think that Saudi Arabia is prepared to follow through, even the suggestion of using oil as a weapon undermines Riyadh’s long-standing effort to project itself as a force for economic stability. Jeffrey Currie, the head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Inc., said Middle East tensions impacting the oil market have now “broadened to include Saudi Arabia.”

The images today should remind the older among us of the 1970s gas crisis.

In October 1972, a year before the U.S. oil crisis began, Atlantic author Steward Udall issued a warning, predicting a looming fuel shortageUdall, a former Secretary of the Interior for the Kennedy Administration, believed the auto industry was in an unsustainable growth pattern based on the folly that cheap gas prices would persist indefinitely. He saw American oil production reaching a plateau and worried about the stability of the Middle Eastern market:

Meanwhile, back to those “rogue killers” and the man who is totally shameless about spouting alternative facts.

President Donald Trump on Monday suggested that “rogue killers” may be responsible for the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, while also dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

“We are going to leave nothing uncovered,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “With that being said, the king firmly denied any knowledge of it. … I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows? We’ll try getting to the bottom of it very soon. His was a flat denial.”

In case any one needs to be reminded, the Saudi Royal Family are not nice people and the attacks on 9/11 were instigated by Saudis.  And, why do we continually kiss up to brutal regimes?  Are we really still in bed with craven dictatorships?  Of course, we are!!!!

So there was Crown Prince Mohammad at an April soirée at Mr. Murdoch’s vineyard in Bel Air, Calif. Guests included the Walt Disney Company’s chairman, Robert A. Iger; the studio chief at Warner Bros., Kevin Tsujihara; and the actors Morgan Freeman and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who overshared on Instagram that he was “blown away to be told about the level of love the Saudi people have for me.”

As the guest of honor at a Page Six-worthy dinner at the producer Brian Grazer’s Santa Monica home, the crown prince discussed Snapchat’s popularity in his kingdom with the Snap chief Evan Spiegel;Vice’s Shane Smith; Amazon’s chief — and Washington Post owner — Jeff Bezos and the agent-turned-mogul Ari Emanuel.

Mr. Emanuel, an organizer of the evening, had reason to celebrate: the Saudis planned a $400 million investment in Endeavor, his entertainment holding company. (In light of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, Endeavor is reassessing the deal, according to a person with knowledge of Mr. Emanuel’s thinking, who shared it only on condition of anonymity.)

Vanity Fair noted at the time that the festivities were not marred by talk of civilian deaths in Yemen from Saudi-led airstrikes; the crown prince’s “anti-corruption” move to imprison scores of Saudi businessmen, including the owners of Saudi television networks and key rivals, at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton; or the five-year prison sentence the Saudi royal court handed the journalist Saleh al-Shehi for criticizing the government.

The embrace between the American establishment and the leader known as M.B.S. was set to continue in Riyadh later this month at a business conference hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed. The sponsors, partners and participants of the conference — known informally as “Davos In The Desert” — included a number of media companies: CNBC, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, CNN and Fox Business Network.

With the exception of Fox, which is reviewing its participation, all of those organizations pulled out as the Khashoggi story climbed most-viewed article lists and drew cable coverage. The story’s popularity was helped along by its thriller-like qualities, which included the allegation that the journalist’s body was dismembered with the aid of a bone saw before it was removed from the consulate.

So much for that little fairy tale happy ending. But one still wonders why the Bible Belt continues to lose its license to smug righteousness with its unholy alliance with D’oh Hair Furor?   I don’t usually quote Maggie Habberman because I think she’s basically an overpaid gossip columnist but here we go. Why don’t the unhinged hatefests that are happening quite a few times a week turn off people who say they believe in the biblical Jesus?  I mean really?  Where in the bible does Jesus say “lock her up”?

Sharon Hurd didn’t know that President Trump had used the phrase “dumb Southerner” to describe his attorney general, but hearing it didn’t bother her.

“We’re ready for somebody to be that outspoken, because he seems to be getting the job done,” said Ms. Hurd, 73, a retiree who once owned a restaurant and a gift shop, standing on a street corner about an hour after Mr. Trump’s rally ended here this month. “He doesn’t try to take his words and make them please everybody, and I think that Southern people are noticing that.”

Few things have appeared to test the bond between Mr. Trump and the South, a political coupling of a thrice-married New Yorker and voters in the Bible Belt that seemed unlikely from the start. The president’s swing this month through deep-red Tennessee and Mississippi, where he basked in the warmth of supporters at political rallies, confirmed that despite the scandals and chaos that have churned out of the White House, their relationship endures.

“It is ironic that the warrior that they have found is a billionaire from New York, but he really speaks their language fluidly,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member and party strategist based in Mississippi.

“I don’t think it’s about any specific set of policy positions, but it’s about somebody being a warrior for folks,” he said.

The relationship offers Mr. Trump benefits as well. In Johnson City, Tenn., and in Southaven, Miss., this month, Mr. Trump was far removed from bruising headlines about the special counsel investigation into possible campaign collusion with Russia, his personal finances or allegations of affairs.

And although Mr. Trump often paints a rosy, and sometimes distorted, picture of his support, his descriptions of mutual love with his voters match reality in parts of the South — particularly outside cities and suburbs. In his 2016 victory, he won every Southern state but Virginia. In Tennessee, public polling shows his approval rating is close to 60 percent, far greater than his national average.

I don’t get it and I’m not sure why continually writing about these people does much good for any of us other warn us that there are zombies living among us.  Oh, and then there’s this little shit show coming to my streets this week.  These walking specimens of human excrement have already terrorized the streets of NYC and Portland this week.  We’re not happy to be hosting them.

Newly released video reportedly shows the moment members of the far-right group the “Proud Boys” attacked anti-fascist protesters.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Metropolitan Republican Club on New York City’s Upper East Side Friday night, where Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was scheduled to give a speech.

As the event was letting out, some of the attendees allegedly assaulted some of the so-called “Antifa” protesters.

Here’s from the Portland event.

Far-right groups Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer,clashed with anti-fascist protesters in Portland, Ore. on Saturday night.

Patriot Prayer, an Oregon-based group, was holding a rally in downtown Portland yesterday; after several hours of clashes, video footage shows, an antifa protester sprays one of the far-right group members with pepper spray, setting off further violence.

The incident appears to have taken place outside Kelly’s Olympian bar and follows similar violence at the hands of Proud Boys on Friday night in New York City. According to Twitter user @itsmikebivins, the violence in Portland was “way worse” than the violence in New York.

“Right-wingers were clubbing people with clubs,” @itsmikebivins continued. Portland police confirmed that the incident was part of violence that occurred between the groups throughout the day, and involved “hard-knuckled gloves, firearms, batons and knives.”

These idiots are like a cross between Clock Work Orange’s “droogies” and freaking NAZI Brownshirts with a dash of KKK thrown in, but hey, it’s liberals that are angry mobs!

Anyway, I will stay home and away from the TV news as much as possible.  My safe zone is the actual horror movies being shown on SYFY this month instead of the horror reality show that has overtaken our country.

Be excellent to each other.  Oh, and Elizabeth Warren does have Native American Heritage but I don’t want to play in to the all the American Indian Lore that’s floating around this story.   The only question to me is will Trump pony up the million to her chosen charity and will every one just go out and vote already!!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Bizarro World News

Good Afternoon!!

I’m having another one of those mornings when my head is spinning from trying to sort out all the nutty news out there. We truly are living in Bizarro World now. If you want proof, just try reading Carter Page’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee (pdf). I’ve read some of it, and hope to read more this afternoon. Some insights journalists have noted:

The Washington Post: Trump adviser sent email describing ‘private conversation’ with Russian official.

Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign whose visit to Moscow during the election has drawn scrutiny, sent an email to fellow Trump aides during his trip describing “a private conversation” with a senior Russian official who spoke favorably of the Republican candidate, according to records released late Monday by congressional investigators.

The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only Page also wrote that he had been provided “incredible insights and outreach” by Russian lawmakers and “senior members” of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s administration during the trip.

The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only exchanged brief greetings with the senior Russian official, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, after he delivered a speech at a Russian university.

In his July 2016 note, Page wrote that Dvorkovich had “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to a vast range of current international problems.”

Page had withheld the email from the Committee, claiming a 5th Amendment right to turn over some information while holding back anything that would incriminate him. Page was unaware that the Committee already had his emails.

Page’s email was read aloud by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) when Page met behind closed doors last week with the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 president election….

Confronted with his email, Page told the committee that he had not meant that he met with any officials but rather that he had learned of their views about the U.S. election from local media and scholars. He maintained that his interaction with Dvorkovich consisted of a brief greeting, and that he had learned his views on the campaign while listening to Dvorkovich’s public address. Page told the committee that he had not worked with the Russians to hack emails or otherwise influence the election.

OK . . . ??  Page’s testimony reads like something written out of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.

Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: Carter Page’s testimony is filled with bombshells — and supports key portions of the Steele dossier.

Page revealed during his testimony that he met with both members of Russia’s presidential administration and with the head of investor relations at the state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft during his trip to Moscow last July.

He also congratulated members of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team on July 14 for their “excellent work” on the “Ukraine amendment” — a reference to the Trump campaign’s decision to “intervene” to water down a proposed amendment to the GOP’s Ukraine platform….

Page also revealed that Trump campaign adviser Sam Clovis had asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement upon joining the campaign — and that he discussed his July Moscow trip with Clovis both before he went and after he returned.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff confronted Page with an email he wrote on July 8 from Moscow to Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon saying that he had received “incredible insights and outreach from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here.”

Former British spy Christopher Steele wrote in the dossier that an “official close to Presidential Administration Head, S. IVANOV, cornfided in a compatriot that a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, DIVYEKIN (nfd) also had met secretly with PAGE on his recent visit.”

The birth certificate translation service can significantly change a document’s graphical layout, often requiring additional space to accommodate different character counts or writing directions. Also, the foreign patent filing has specific requirements and nuances for each country.

According to that official in the dossier, Diveykin told Page that the Kremlin had a dossier of kompromat on Hillary Clinton that they wanted to give to the Trump campaign.

Read the rest at Business Insider.

NBC News: Carter Page Coordinated Russia Trip With Top Trump Campaign Officials.

Former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, who has come under scrutiny in the investigation of Russian election interference, told a House committee that he sought permission for a July 2016 trip to Moscow from senior Trump campaign officials, and reported to other Trump officials about the trip when he returned.

It’s long been known that Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, but he has said it was in his private capacity, unrelated to his role with the Trump campaign.

Page, whose sworn testimony was released Monday night, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that he sought permission to make the trip from campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and also notified Hope Hicks, who is now the White House communications director.

Lewandowski told Page he was clear to go on the trip as long as the travel was not associated with his work on the campaign, Page told the committee.

Page also acknowledged that he had been aware that another volunteer campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had been meeting with a professor with links to the Kremlin, according to the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Check out this lengthy Twitter thread for more details on Page’s testimony.

And a reminder:

Charles Pierce: We’re Again Testing How Much Bullsh*t American Politics Can Withstand. Enter Carter Page.

Prior to Carter Page’s bravura piece of surreal performance art on Monday before the House Select Committee On Intelligence, there was Casey Stengel in 1958confounding the Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee that was looking into removing professional baseball’s exemption from the country’s anti-trust regulations. And then, 15 years later, Tony Ulasewicz, the hangdog ex-NYPD cop-turned-Nixonian bagman, explained to Sam Ervin and the special committee looking into Watergate how he handled the payoffs to the original Watergate burglars—including the piquant detail that, while he was roaming Washington with paper bags full of cash, he wore a subway motorman’s change dispenser on his belt because he was doing so much business in public phone booths.

But neither of them came anywhere close to the kung-fu fighting that Page did with the English language on Monday. The committee wisely released a transcript of Page’s testimony, and chunks of it were flying around the Intertoobz all Monday night. I found that the best way to read it was to dim all the lights and play all my Hawkwind albums really loud.

There’s just so much chewy goodness. For example, Page refers to the “so-called Putin regime,” but has no compunction of referring to “the Obama-Clinton regime” without the qualifying modifier. He also seems to believe that the Senate “Gang of Eight” was an actual gang, with Harry Reid as its jefe. His testimony begins with a long letter he’d written in response to the committee. Here, from that letter, he presents as evidence that he and the Russians were guiltless of ratfcking the 2016 election the fact that he is not yet wealthy.

If our government had a better understanding of Russia and the way business is now conducted in Russia, the 2016 Dodgy Dossier which alleged that I should have received a multi-million dollar bribe after President Trump’s victory in November would have been easily dismissed as a work of fiction by these supposed subject-matter experts.

The letter also refers to the “gangster tactics” of “the transnational veritable organized crime network that Reid leveraged during the Clinton/Obama regime,” so you can pretty much figure out that we’ve turned a pretty dark bend in a pretty strange river.

Read the rest at the Esquire link above.

Other Bizarro World News:

Something strange is happening in Saudi Arabia and it seems likely Trump and Jared Kushner are involved. David Ignatius wrote on Sunday:

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he’s cracking down on corruption. But the sweeping arrests of cabinet ministers and senior princes Saturday night looked to many astonished Arab observers like a bold but risky consolidation of power.

MBS, as the headstrong 32-year-old ruler is known, struck at some of the kingdom’s most prominent business and political names in a new bid to gain political control and drive change in the oil kingdom. By the count of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel, the arrests included 11 princes, four ministers and several dozen others.

Jared Kushner. Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. General Raheel Sharif at the US-Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh in May 2017.

“He’s creating a new Saudi Arabia,” said one Saudi business leader contacted Sunday. He noted that the anti-corruption campaign follows other aggressive but controversial moves, including a royal decree allowing women to drive and limits on the religious police.

“This is very risky,” the business leader said, because MBS is now challenging senior princes and religious conservatives simultaneously. The executive, who strongly supports MBS’s liberalization efforts, worried that “he’s fighting too many wars at once.”

This followed a secret visit by Kushner in October.

MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.

Bloomberg: Trump Undercuts His Advisers Again With Saudi Tweets.

President Donald Trump again showed how quickly his tweets can outrun U.S. foreign policy planning, after he backed Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince over the arrests of dozens of officials before the State Department had completed its review of the moves.

While Trump had talked with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about Saudi Arabia as they toured Tokyo together Nov. 5 and 6, there was no formal consultation before he tweeted early Tuesday that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “know exactly what they are doing.” [….] A second tweet said “some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”

Trump and Kushner are running their own foreign policy out of the White House, probably based on their business interests.

The Intercept: CIA Director Met Advocate of Disputed DNC Hack Theory–at Trump’s Request.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

CIA DIRECTOR MIKE Pompeo met late last month with a former U.S. intelligence official who has become an advocate for a disputed theory that the theft of the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign was an inside job, rather than a hack by Russian intelligence.

Pompeo met on October 24 with William Binney, a former National Security Agency official-turned-whistleblower who co-authored an analysispublished by a group of former intelligence officials that challenges the U.S. intelligence community’s official assessment that Russian intelligence was behind last year’s theft of data from DNC computers. Binney and the other former officials argue that the DNC data was “leaked,” not hacked, “by a person with physical access” to the DNC’s computer system.

In an interview with The Intercept, Binney said Pompeo told him that President Donald Trump had urged the CIA director to meet with Binney to discuss his assessment that the DNC data theft was an inside job. During their hour-long meeting at CIA headquarters, Pompeo said Trump told him that if Pompeo “want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to me,” Binney said.

A senior intelligence source confirmed that Pompeo met with Binney to discuss his analysis, and that the CIA director held the meeting at Trump’s urging.

Pompeo and Trump are apparently running an alternative CIA investigation!

Finally, The Guardian reports from the Paradise Papers: Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Robert Mercer

Eighteen months before guiding Donald Trump to election victory, Steve Bannon delivered the opening shot in the ruthless Republican campaign to paint their Democratic opponent as corrupt.

The future White House chief strategist produced a book in May 2015 accusing Hillary Clinton of trading favours for donations to her charitable foundation. Its questionable central charge, on the sale of a uranium company to Russia, recently became the subject of a House inquiry and feverish talk on conservative media.

But the financial arrangements of another foundation, which bankrolled Bannon’s creation of the book, Clinton Cash, have received less scrutiny.

Leaked documents and newly obtained public filings show how the billionaire Mercer family built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.

The offshore vehicle was part of a network of companies in the Atlantic tax haven of Bermuda led by Robert Mercer, the wealthy hedge-fund executive and Bannon patron whose spending helped put Trump in the White House and aided a resurgence of the Republican right.

Read the rest at The Guardian link.

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


Lazy Saturday Reads: Signs of Life After the Snowpocalypse

 crocus snow

Good Morning!!

I can’t wait for spring flowers and warmer weather, can you tell? I have all the symptoms of Spring fever, including inability to concentrate on anything serious, like politics or plane crashes. But I’ll do my best to give you some interesting links on this lazy late March Saturday.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Amanda Knox has finally been freed to live her life without the bizarre Italian legal system breathing down her neck. From the Chicago Tribune: Amanda Knox conviction thrown out by Italian court, closing legal saga.

Amanda Knox, who maintained that she and her former Italian boyfriend were innocent in her British roommate’s murder through multiple trials and nearly four years in jail, was vindicated Friday when Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions once and for all.

“Finished!” Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova exulted after the decision was read out late Friday. “It couldn’t be better than this.”

The surprise decision definitively ends the 7½-year legal battle waged by Knox, 27, and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, 31, to clear their names in the gruesome 2007 murder and sexual assault of British student Meredith Kercher.

The supreme Court of Cassation panel deliberated for 10 hours before declaring that the two did not commit the crime, a stronger exoneration than merely finding insufficient evidence to convict. Instead, had the court-of-resort upheld the pair’s convictions, Knox would have faced 28 ½ years in an Italian prison, assuming she would have been extradited, while Sollecito had faced 25 years.

“Right now I’m still absorbing what all this means and what comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that’s been given to me,” Knox said late Friday, speaking to reporters outside her mother’s Seattle home.

This case has made me grateful that in the U.S. Constitution contains a double jeopardy clause.

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Things are getting really ugly in Yemen. From The Washington Post: How the Yemen conflict risks new chaos in the Middle East.

The meltdown in Yemen is pushing the Middle East dangerously closer to the wider regional conflagration many long have feared would arise from the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring revolts.

What began as a peaceful struggle to unseat a Yemeni strongman four years ago and then mutated into civil strife now risks spiraling into a full-blown war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran over a country that lies at the choke point of one of the world’s major oil supply routes.

With negotiators chasing a Tuesday deadline for the framework of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, it seems unlikely that Iran would immediately respond militarily to this week’s Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, analysts say.

But the confrontation has added a new layer of unpredictability — and confusion — to the many, multidimensional conflicts that have turned large swaths of the Middle East into war zones over the past four years, analysts say.

The United States is aligned alongside Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and against them in Yemen. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who have joined in the Saudi offensive in Yemen, are bombing factions in Libya backed by Turkey and Qatar, who also support the Saudi offensive in Yemen. The Syrian conflict has been fueled by competition among all regional powers to outmaneuver one another on battlefields far from home.

Scary. All this because George W. Bush lied us into two needless, unwinnable wars.

Crocus in Boston

Ahramonline: Arab leaders pledge support to Yemen.

Although Saturday’s Arab League summit was due to cover a range of regional topics, the ongoing crisis in Yemen took the lead spot as the summit opened with speeches from Arab leaders.

A Saudi-led military offensive is underway against targets held by Houthi rebels in the turmoil-hit country, with the backing of a number of Arab states.

In his opening speech, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that military action was  “inevitable” to restore legitimate rule in Yemen.

El-Sisi also said that Egypt has accepted a proposal by a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to form a joint Arab military force to counter the “unprecedented threats” facing the region’s stability.

Arab foreign ministers agreed on a draft resolution to form a joint Arab military force to counter growing security threats in the region. The proposal requires the endorsement of the Arab leaders during the two-day summit this weekend.

Saudi’s King Salman vowed in his opening speech that the military intervention will not stop until Yemen is stable and safe. The monarch said that Saudi Arabia supports the Hadi government’s legitimacy in Yemen and wants stability for the Yemeni population.

He further stated that the situation in the region necessitates an Arab coalition to fight terrorism.

More details from CNN: Arab League to discuss military operation in Yemen.

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The Wall Street Journal on the incredibly selfish, suicidal co-pilot of that crashed Germanwings jet: Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Concealed Depression From Airline.

BERLIN—Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who crashed an airliner into a French mountainside, was being treated for depression, a fact he concealed from his employer, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Mr. Lubitz had been excused from work by his neuropsychologist for a period that included the day of the crash, this person told The Wall Street Journal, but he decided to ignore the advice and reported to work.

The Germanwings tragedy highlights a broader industry dilemma: reliance on pilots themselves to disclose serious physical or psychological ailments to their employer—and what can happen when secrecy urges or privacy considerations trump full disclosure, safety and medial experts say.

Despite mandatory, regular medical exams—supplemented by company-specific safeguards intended to periodically check on aviators’ skills and psychological state—airlines ultimately depend on employees to honestly assess and report when they shouldn’t be flying.

In return, Germanwings, a unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and many other airlines around the globe promise to avoid punishing pilots who comply with that guiding principle.

Read more at the WSJ. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, this guy could have just shot himself or jumped out of a high window, but instead he decided to take 149 other people–including babies and high school kids–with him when he committed suicide.

Life after Snowpocalypse

A few stories on the terrible explosion in NYC’s East Village:

Newsweek: A Slice of New York City History Goes Up In Smoke.

An explosion in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday injured an estimated 25 people and destroyed a row of landmarked buildings that have held meaning for generations of New Yorkers. At one time the mayor’s residence was there, and another building housed an iconic vintage-clothing store made popular in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan.

“It’s a real tragedy. It was scary,” says Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council. “It’s shocking when this happens in an area that’s so close-knit. People really live on the streets here, in a good way. There’s a real community.”

City officials say the March 26 explosion happened at 121 Second Avenue and also damaged the neighboring buildings at 119, 123 and 125. The buildings all were awarded landmark status in October 2012 as part of a designation of an East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. The buildings in that district date mostly to the mid- to late 1800s, a time when wealthier New Yorkers started moving uptown and selling off their properties, which were often turned into tenement housing.

European immigrants began moving into the area in large numbers in the second half of the 19th century. An early influx consisted mostly of Germans, and the area became known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe moved there too and established a vibrant theater district.

“The East Village and the Lower East Side are remarkable in that they’ve seen successive waves of immigrants and new populations coming in and really shaping and affecting the physical environment, bringing with them their social clubs, their gathering places,” Bankoff says.

By the middle of the 20th century, the Village became an epicenter for artists and bohemians.

The historic district, one of 114 in the city, runs north-south from around East 7th Street to East Second Street and east-west from First and Second avenues to the Bowery.

crocuses-in-snow

Click on the above link to continue reading. More details on the fire at ABC News: NYC Building Fire: Restaurant Owner Smelled Gas Before Massive Explosion, Officials Say.

From The New Yorker, a thoughtful and interesting essay on living in the East Village by Sarah Larson: The East Village Fire: Love Saves the Day.

Finally, one of the passengers in the GOP Clown Car, faux libertarian Rand Paul, opens his big mouth and spews nonsense and hate.

From Charles Pierce’s “Stupid for Lunch” cafe: Rand Paul’s Take On Defense Spending. In which the cafe staff starts the five minute clock for Senator Rand Paul.

The staff at the Cafe has a small clock in one particular booth. The booth is reserved for Senator Rand Paul, whenever he stops by for a quick lunch, for which he invariably undertips, when he doesn’t try to beat itout the back door.

Time was when Senator Aqua Buddha entertained us all — five minutes at a time — about how the country was wasting its money on a whole mess of sophisticated boom-boom. The staff knows when to begin the countdown and they begin invariably to whisper again…

Continue reading at the link.

Atheist Ayn Rand must be spinning in her grave over this from TPM.

Rand: ‘Moral Crisis’ Led To Gay Marriage, US Needs Religious Revival.

“Don’t always look to Washington to solve anything,” Paul said during a private prayer breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club.

“In fact, the moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage.”

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Raw Story: Rand Paul calls for ‘tent revivals’ to resolve the ‘moral crisis’ of gay marriage.

“The moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some other sort of marriage, ” he explained. “I think the exhortation to try and change people’s thoughts has to come from the countryside.”

The libertarian lawmaker then took a slightly religious turn, saying “You know, I’ve said this before, we need a revival in the country.”

“We need another great awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, you know,’reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform’.”

In a recent interview with Brett Baier of Fox News, Paul admitted that the use of the term ‘marriage’ for same sex couples offends him.

Watch the video at Raw Story. Honestly, I think that cartoon JJ post last night is beginning to make sense. Someone must have put LSD in Rand’s grits when he was a kid. Why would anyone vote for this wacko?

I’d write about the latest “revelations” about Hillary’s emails, but I don’t want to completely depress myself. I have to believe this will all die down before the 2016 primaries.

What have you been hearing and reading? Let us know in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of March. April is coming soon!