Monday Reads: Death has a sense of Irony

Under the Orange Tree, Berthe Morisotsot, 1889

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Folks may think they’re done with Covid-19, but Covid-19 is not done with us.  I’m thinking of JJ and her daughter Bebe who struggled with the virus and lost dear friends.  Covid deniers in the US and other places have made hell on earth for the rest of us with their blatant acts to ensure its spread.  Not only do they cough on you, but they seem hell-bent on proving themselves right. Well, another one bites the dust. Death may take a vacation, but it also has a deep sense of Irony. That’s my literary take, but the deal is you can’t fight scientific findings with Iron Age folk tales. You do not want to see people dying of anything, but most of all, from stupidity. This is from The Daily Beast. “Conservative Activist Dies of COVID Complications After Attending Anti-Vax ‘Symposium’.”

“I am truly heartbroken to learn that my dear friend Kelly Canon has passed away from complications from Covid pneumonia. Just yesterday around 4pm she told a group of friends that she definitely felt better and that the docs had told her she had ‘turned the corner’ with improved blood test results. She was talking about wanting to come home. Later last night she developed an acute abdominal issue, was given pain meds and put on the ventilator,” wrote Maggie Clopton Wright“

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More recently, Canon had been an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and pandemic-related restrictions. In one of her final Facebook posts, Canon shared several links to speeches she attended at a “COVID symposium” in Burleson in early December devoted to dissuading people from getting the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available. The event was organized by God Save Our Children, which bills itself as “a conservative group that is fighting against the use of experimental vaccines on our children.”

Canon had shared similar content on Twitter, where her most recent post was a YouTube video featuring claims that the coronavirus pandemic was “planned” in advance and part of a global conspiracy.

As news of her death spread Tuesday, pro-vaccine commentators flooded her Facebook page with cruel comments and mocking memes, while her supporters unironically praised her for being a “warrior for liberty” to the very end.

I’m not sure she deserves to be mocked, but her example is not one to follow. That may not be the case in this Congress.

Berthe Morisot,
Julie Manet picking cherries, 1891

Since I’m already on this topic, I might dive in fully. This is from Common Dreams.  “Christian Nationalism vs. the Separation of Church and State. The Founding Fathers wisely recognized what religion would become in the hands of charlatans: a theatrical performance and political tool to hypocritically showboat their “piety” as a way to manipulate voters for political gain.”

What a sorry little God he would be if he weren’t more open-minded than his closed-minded children who insult him by their demeaning image of him and use that caricature as their puppet who “reveals” to them alone what he wants for their country or political party!

Whether such proselytizing zeal is disguised aggression, megalomania, or repressed self-doubt that feels both threatened and driven to convert others to dispel that doubt, these are very dangerous people and should never be part of government or have their theological views of the Second Coming guide an administration’s foreign policy toward Israel and that tinderbox of the Middle East.

And yet, unbeknownst to themselves, these individuals render the nation an inestimable service by being a constant reminder of the very reason for upholding this Separation of Church and State. The Founding Fathers believed that religion was, and must always remain, a private affair because bringing the volatility of “religious enthusiasm” into the public arena would only trivialize religion and destabilize a nation. They feared the political effects of interdenominational feuding, the polarization caused by doctrinal differences, the demonization of dissenters, and the eruption of religious intolerance and hatred.

There was also a second reason why the Founders feared religion in politics — the rise of religious opportunists who would inflame political passions to promote themselves. Religion would become in the hands of these charlatans a theatrical performance and political tool to hypocritically showboat their “piety” to manipulate voters for political gain.

An unscrupulous politician could disguise his lack of convictions by holding his finger to the wind to determine which way the wind was blowing and telling his audience whatever he thought it wanted to hear. This individual well understood the art of inciting “enthusiasm” or hysteria toward some plan of action and call it “the Will of God.”

The Founders would have blanch­ed at politicians returning to their constituents and pandering to their sincerely held religious convictions to gain a following or court popularity — not that they couldn’t take part in religious services as private citizens, but not as representatives of their government lest people think they were lending the prestige of their office to their particular church or religion.

These Founders also knew their Bible, as it played such a pivotal role in their 18th-century world. They knew of Christ’s admonition in Mat­thew 6 about not playing the hypocrite by standing on the street corner and making a public display of one’s piety, for one would have already received one’s reward. Instead, one should withdraw to one’s room, close the door, and in privacy pray to God as grandstanding didn’t count as prayer with the Lord! As experienced men of the world, they knew only too well how politicians might cynically abuse religion to seek power and votes.

They were also highly educated, even erudite, men, especially Thomas Jefferson, whose library contained a Who’s Who of “great authors,” one of whom was the celebrated French playwright Moliere, author of “Tartuffe,” the embodiment of religious hypocrisy. It is both an uproarious romp into the glacial regions of inner emptiness, as well as a manual for observing the bobbings and weavings of unctuous sanctimony raised to high art.

In that great patrician school of Parisian sophistication, it was thought that the only way to effect moral change was never by sermons but by ridicule. Many don’t mind being considered a scoundrel, but never a fool! Castigat ridendo mores (“Comedy corrects manners”) was the essence of Moliere’s art that skewered human folly by laughter alone.

This caustic mockery of his characters and the gales of laughter that broke forth from the audience were much more effective in pillorying vice than sermons delivered from Notre Dame’s pulpit. Moliere, the French Aristophanes, was and always has been a moral institution for the French, who can laugh at themselves in his characters with no loss of face.

Jefferson and his colleagues well understood that some members of government might be tempted to play Tartuffe on the political stage. One Tartuffe, or a group of them, could do untold harm to a nation by using religion for political ends. To the educated, the 18th century was an age of taste and decorum, moderation and dignity, and everything had its proper place. Religion especially could never be allowed to be vulgarized or cheapened by demagogues toying with people’s religious emotions.

There would be no limit to their unbridled ambition and religious hypocrisy in saying whatever would ingratiate themselves to the favor and trust of an audience. So profound was their cynical abuse of religion for being elected that they would wax rhapsodic on the metaphysical subtleties of Hottentot theology if they thought it would secure them a “leg-up” over their political rivals at election time.

I must admit that I’ve never understood the religious right, the moral majority, or the radicalism of Emp-ty G.  One line of my father’s family–Huguenote French Protestants and Jewish folks–fled Alsace Lorraine after the region after the Catholic Church was handed all their belongings and began the persecution of both groups when Napolean handed them the region. Both sides of my family had signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, so I had a firm grounding in staying out of another’s religion.  I was horrified by Pat Robertson’s minions when they moved on Iowa and captured the Reagan version of the Republican Party.

Renoir, Girls Picking Flowers in a Meadow, about 1890

This depressing article was in the New York Times today. “How Kevin McCarthy Forged an Ironclad Bond With Marjorie Taylor Greene. The close alliance that has developed between the speaker and the hard-right Georgia Republican explains his rise, how he might govern, and the heavy influence of the extremes on the new House G.O.P. majority.” I had difficulty understanding Phyliss Schafly’s actions and speech back in the day, but this new group of right-wing women is beyond explanation.  It just seems this entire group just will do anything for attention.

Days after he won his gavel in a protracted fight with hard-right Republicans, Speaker Kevin McCarthy gushed to a friend about the ironclad bond he had developed with an unlikely ally in his battle for political survival, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

“I will never leave that woman,” Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican, told the friend, who described the private conversation on the condition of anonymity. “I will always take care of her.”

Such a declaration from Mr. McCarthy would have been unthinkable in 2021, when Ms. Greene first arrived on Capitol Hill in a swirl of controversy and provocation. A former QAnon follower who had routinely trafficked in conspiratorial, violent and bigoted statements, Ms. Greene was then widely seen as a dangerous liability to the party and a threat to the man who aspired to lead Republicans back to the majority — a person to be controlled and kept in check, not embraced.

But in the time since, a powerful alliance developed between Ms. Greene, the far-right rabble-rouser and acolyte of former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. McCarthy, the affable fixture of the Washington establishment, according to interviews with 20 people with firsthand knowledge of the relationship, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it.

Their political union — a closer and more complex one than has previously been known — helps explain how Mr. McCarthy rose to power atop a party increasingly defined by its extremes, the lengths to which he will go to accommodate those forces, and how much influence Ms. Greene and the faction she represents have in defining the agenda of the new House Republican majority.

“If you’re going to be in a fight, you want Marjorie in your foxhole,” Mr. McCarthy said. Both he and Ms. Greene agreed to brief interviews for this article. “When she picks a fight, she’s going to fight until the fight’s over. She reminds me of my friends from high school, that we’re going to stick together all the way through.”

It is a relationship born of political expediency but fueled by genuine camaraderie, and nurtured by one-on-one meetings as often as once a week, usually at a coffee table in Mr. McCarthy’s Capitol office, as well as a constant stream of text messages back and forth.

Mr. McCarthy has gone to unusual lengths to defend Ms. Greene, even dispatching his general counsel to spend hours on the phone trying to cajole senior executives at Twitter to reactivate her personal account after she was banned last year for violating the platform’s coronavirus misinformation policy.

Ms. Greene, in turn, has taken on an outsize role as a policy adviser to Mr. McCarthy, who has little in the way of a fixed ideology of his own and has come to regard the Georgia congresswoman as a vital proxy for the desires and demands of the right-wing base that increasingly drives his party. He has adopted her stances on opposing vaccine mandates and questioning funding for the war in Ukraine, and even her call to reinvestigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to show what she has called “the other side of the story.”

Young Girl Holding a Basket, 1891, Berthe Morisot

This does not bode well.

Yesterday was supposed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade. Instead, the same group is not happy with its’ overturn. They’ve moved on to more extremism under their limited view of Christianity. Vice President Kamal Harris gave a rousing speech on the need to protect women’s abortion rights.  This is from NPR. “On 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Kamala Harris urges federal abortion protections.”

Vice President Kamala Harris commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by imploring Americans to work to enshrine abortion rights into law.

“For nearly 50 years, Americans relied on the rights that Roe protected,” Harris said at a speech delivered in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday. “Today, however, on what would have been its 50th anniversary, we speak of the Roe decision in the past tense.”

The landmark Supreme Court decision on Jan. 22, 1973, guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion for nearly half a century. The U.S. Supreme Court officially reversed Roe v. Wade in June, which immediately rolled back abortion rights in almost half of the states, and led to many more restrictions. In speaking in Florida, Harris, the nation’s first female vice president, delivered a speech in a state which passed a 15-week abortion ban into law.

In her speech, Harris spoke directly to the anti-abortion rights policies implemented by Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and state officials.

After the Food and Drug Administration changed a rule to allow retail pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion pills, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration reportedly sent a letter out to pharmacists telling them that dispensing the abortion pill could lead to criminal charges.

“Here, in Florida, health care providers face prison — prison! — for up to five years for simply doing their job,” Harris said. “And now the state has also targeted medication abortion, and even threatened Florida pharmacists with criminal charges if they provide medication prescribed by medical professionals.”

President Biden moved to support legal access to chemical abortions.

Fillette portant un panier, Young Girl Holding a Basket, 1888, Berthe Morisot

This is from The Guardian. “In a more just world, this would be the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, written by Moira Donegan.  Until last year, Roe made it more possible for women’s lives to be determined by their choices, not merely by their bodies”

If the supreme court hadn’t overturned it last June, undoing a longstanding precedent and inflicting untold harm to women’s well-being and dignity, Sunday 22 January would have been the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Over those 50 years, Roe changed American life dramatically. Abortion became a routine part of life, a resource people planned their lives around having. In contrast to its political controversy, abortion in the Roe era was – as it is now – aggressively common. Approximately one in four American women will have an abortion at some point in the course of their reproductive lives.

The figure lends credence to the pro-choice assertion that everyone loves someone who had an abortion – and the accompanying quip that if you think you don’t know a woman who has had an abortion, you really just don’t know any women who trust you enough to tell you. But part of the legacy of Roe is not just that these women you know and love have been able to have freer, healthier, more volitional lives, but also that their abortions, for many of them, are not worth confessing. For most, abortions were not tragedies to be whispered about, or life-altering moments of shame, but banalities, choices to which they were unquestionably entitled, and from which they could move unconflictedly on. But Roe is gone. Now, for many women, these choices are crimes.

It’s worth reflecting on what we had during those 49 years. While it stood, Roe offered a promise: that women’s lives need not be circumscribed by so-called “biological destiny”; that gender – its relations, performances, and obligations – might not be something that is imposed on women, but something that they take up and discard on their own terms. In the Roe era, this frank entitlement by women to determine the courses of their own lives was the decision’s greatest legacy. Individual women’s distinction and determination, or their conflictedness and confusion, or their ambivalence and exploration: once, before Roe, these parts of a woman’s personality almost didn’t matter; they were incidental eccentricities along the inevitable road to motherhood. Roe made it more possible for women’s lives to be determined by their characters, not merely by their bodies.

It is easy to speak of Roe’s impact in material terms – the way it enabled women’s long march into paid work and into better paid work, how it was a precondition for their soaring achievements in education and the professions, their ascents into positions of power and influence. So little of the vast and varied lives of twentieth-century American women could have been achieved in the absence of abortion or birth control – these women, their minds and careers, are gifts the nation could never have received if they’d been made to be pregnant against their wills, or made to care for unplanned, unlonged-for babies.

But it is less easy to discuss the sense of dignity that Roe gave to American women, the way that the freedom to control when and whether they would have children endowed American women, for the first time, with something like the gravitas of adults. Roe opened a door for women into dignity, into self-determination, into the still wild and incendiary idea that they, like men, might be endowed with the prerogatives of citizenship, and entitled to chart the course of their own lives.

Mid-Century, Roger Etienne, Man In a Flower Hat

This is from the ACLU.” Roe’s 50th Year Undid Its Promise”.

On this anniversary episode, we are going to look at the reality that people are facing in a post-Roe America, both those seeking care and those providing it. Without Roe, a key component of reproductive care has become illegal or restricted for more than 20 million people, throwing many into painful and life-threatening situations. We are joined by Community Organizer, Kaitlyn Joshua, who experienced firsthand how new restrictions on abortion endanger the lives and well-being of pregnant people, and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OB-GYN, reproductive health educator, author, and Executive Director of Mayday Health, an organization focused on providing information on abortion access and options for people, regardless of where they live.

You may listen to the podcast at the link.

I think we have enough today to discuss and think about.  By the way, you reap what you sow.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Peter Harskamp

By Peter Harskamp

Happy Caturday, Sky Dancers!!

There’s a crazy Qanon-related event going on in Pennsylvania right now that is getting very little media coverage. I only learned about it from Twitter posts by Ron Filipkowski, a “Fmr Fed Prosecutor & Repub; now Defense Att & Democrat” from Florida who focuses his Twitter feed on on exposing the insanity of the far right.

The event is part of Michael Flynn’s “Reawaken America Tour.” The guests include a “who’s who” of crazy right wing religious nuts and Trump followers. Eric Trump is appearing at the meeting that is going on now in Lancaster, PA, and Trump himself even made a brief appearance by phone.

From yesterday’s PennLive: ReAwaken America tour hits Lancaster, and the audience finds uplift amid the angst.

If you’ve never been it’s hard to explain exactly what the “ReAwaken America” tour, which rolled into Spooky Nook event center outside Lancaster Friday, actually is.

It is part political rally for sure, especially in the month before a national mid-term election: Attendees repeatedly were reminded of the need to create a political wave coming that drives Democrats and weak Republicans from office this fall.

They even delighted in a minute or so with former President Donald J. Trump, who took a cellphone call from his son, Eric, during Eric’s mainstage presentation.

“We love you all,” the former president said to his unseen fans and followers. “And we’ll be back doing things that… We’re going to bring this country back because our country’s never been in such bad shape as it is now.”

It is part Christian crusade: The program is peppered with charismatic pastors from around the country, all of whom in one way or another called on the audience to take up arms – metaphorically speaking – in a spiritual war between good and evil.

Vladimir Dunjić - Serbian painter, 1957

By Vladimir Dunjić – Serbian painter, 1957

Good, in this barnstorming roadshow produced by Oklahoma entrepreneur Clay Clark, is the vision of an America built on its traditional Judeo-Christian heritage; one where there are only two genders, schools stick to Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, and everyone has the freedom to get vaccines or wear masks if, when and where they want.

The mantle of Christian Nationalism was repeatedly and lustily cheered Friday….

Evil, generally speaking, is assigned to a loosely-organized coalition of tech, business, media and government leaders whose success is determined by their ability to make money and lord over a passive population.

PBS’s Frontline and AP have been investigating this right-wing “christian” movement and filming a documentary: Michael Flynn’s ReAwaken Roadshow Recruits ‘Army of God.’

By the time the red, white and blue-colored microphone had been switched off, the crowd of 3,000 had listened to hours of invective and grievance.

“We’re under warfare,” one speaker told them. Another said she would “take a bullet for my nation,” while a third insisted, “They hate you because they hate Jesus.” Attendees were told now is the time to “put on the whole armor of God.” Then retired three-star Army general Michael Flynn, the tour’s biggest draw, invited people to be baptized….

Flynn warned the crowd that they were in the midst of a “spiritual war” and a “political war” and urged people to get involved.

ReAwaken America was launched by Flynn, a former White House national security adviser, and Oklahoma entrepreneur Clay Clark a few months after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol failed to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Attendees and speakers still insist — against all evidence and dozens of court rulings — that Donald Trump rightfully won.

Fabrice Backes, 1968, French artist

Fabrice Backes, 1968, French artist

Since early last year, the ReAwaken America Tour has carried its message of a country under siege to tens of thousands of people in 15 cities and towns. The tour serves as a traveling roadshow and recruiting tool for an ascendant Christian nationalist movement that’s wrapped itself in God, patriotism and politics and has grown in power and influence inside the Republican Party.

In the version of America laid out at the ReAwaken tour, Christianity should be at the center of American life and institutions. Instead, it’s under attack, and attendees need to fight to restore the nation’s Christian roots. It’s a message repeated over and over at ReAwaken — one that upends the constitutional ideal of a pluralist democracy. But it’s a message that is taking hold.

A poll by the University of Maryland conducted in May found that 61% of Republicans support declaring the U.S. to be a Christian nation.

This is from PBS News Hour, September 7, 2022: Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn ‘at the center’ of new movement based on conspiracies and Christian nationalism.

BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — The crowd swayed on its feet, arms pumping, the beat of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” thumping in their chests. The people under the revival tent hooted as Michael Flynn strode across the stage, bopping and laughing, singing the refrain into his microphone and encouraging the audience to sing along to the transgressive rock anthem….

The retired lieutenant general, former national security adviser, onetime anti-terrorism fighter, is now focused on his next task: building a movement centered on Christian nationalist ideas, where Christianity is at the center of American life and institutions.

Flynn brought his fight — a struggle he calls both spiritual and political — last month to a church in Batavia, New York, where thousands of people paid anywhere from a few dollars to up to $500 to hear and absorb his message that the United States is facing an existential threat, and that to save the nation, his supporters must act.

Flynn, 63, has used public appearances to energize voters, along with political endorsements to build alliances and a network of nonprofit groups — one of which has projected spending $50 million — to advance the movement, an investigation by The Associated Press and the PBS series “Frontline” has found. He has drawn together election deniers, mask and vaccine opponents, insurrectionists, Proud Boys, and elected officials and leaders in state and local Republican parties. Along the way, the AP and “Frontline” documented, Flynn and his companies have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for his efforts.

The AP and “Frontline” spoke with more than 60 people, including Flynn’s family, friends, opponents, and current and former colleagues, for this story. The news organizations also reviewed campaign finance records, corporate and charity filings, social media posts and similar open-source information, and attended several public events where Flynn appeared. Reporters examined dozens of Flynn’s speeches, interviews and public appearances. Flynn himself sat down for a rare on-camera interview with what he calls the mainstream media.

Click the link to read about the Flynn interview and some of what he had to say.

Dreaming, by Didier Lourenço, Spanish

Dreaming, by Didier Lourenço, Spanish

On October 19, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an op-ed by Rev. Jennifer Butler, who attended one of these crazy events: ReAwaken America proves that Christian nationalism isn’t Christian.

It was August, and I was in the midst of thousands of far-right faithful who had flocked to Batavia, N.Y., halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, for a two-day event. The headliners were Christian nationalist pastors and former Trump official, Michael Flynn.

The ReAwaken America Tour is currently working its way across America to reawaken Christian nationalism, and it will stop just before midterms in Manheim, Pa., fromOct. 21-22, and feature Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano.

As a Christian pastor who went to Batavia at the invitation of deeply concerned local faith communities, the clerical collar and cross around my neck were my passport into this strange world. I was deeply concerned by what I saw.

The ReAwaken America speeches touted antisemitic, racist, sexist, and homophobic beliefs in the name of Christianity. Speeches were rife with apocalyptic and polarizing predictions of God’s vengeance befalling a wide range of opponents, including the founder of the World Economic Forum, President Joe Biden, and New York Attorney General Leticia James, who had written a letter to the tour’s local host, Pastor Paul Doyle, voicing concern that this event could spur violence. In the parking lot, I spotted a bus painted with the words “Patriot Street Fighter,” along with an image of a man in body armor with a bludgeon in his hand and the words “Get in the Fight” written in the red font of horror movies.

These ReAwaken “revivals” are one of the increasing attempts to mainstream Christian nationalism, a radical political ideology built on the myth that the American republic was founded as a Christian nation and must remain that way. The message is taking hold: 61% of Republicans now support declaring the U.S. a Christian nation.

Christian nationalism is not new. It has been present since our nation’s founding. Its resurgence in recent years is buoyed by politicians like Donald Trump, and business and political allies who seek to consolidate power by manipulating large swaths of mostly white Christians, sowing division and discontent. And violence.

Its recycled conspiracy theories have motivated recent deadly domestic terrorist attacks that targeted Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, African Americans at a bible study in Charleston, S.C., and a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., Latinos shopping in El Paso, Texas, and Sikhs at worship in Oak Creek, Wisc.

Read the rest at the link.

In other news, the justice system is closing in on Trump.

The Washington Post: Fraud-related criminal trial against Trump Organization to start Monday.

NEW YORK — Trump Organization, former president Donald Trump’s namesake company, is set to go on trial Monday for alleged tax crimes — the result of a lengthy investigation into the company and its executives related to fraud and other potentially illegal business practices.

Kira Panina, WhimsicalTrump is not charged personally and the portion of the investigation for which he still could face criminal charges is not yet concluded by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigators….to date, the only charges filed have been against the Trump Organization, its subsidiary Trump Payroll Corporation and its longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.

Weisselberg in August pleaded guilty to 15 countstied to an alleged longtime fraud scheme within the organization and is required to testify in the criminal trial as part of a plea agreement.

Prosecutors say the case focuses on what they describe as a 15-year tax cheating scheme involving untaxed benefits like luxury cars and expensive apartments for company executives including Weisselberg, who has been painted as the linchpin to the tax avoidance operation. Weisselberg began his employment at the Trump Organization in 1973.

Before rising to chief financial officer, Weisselberg, a career Trump Organization employee, was an accountant and comptroller. Weisselberg was among a set of executives who “received substantial portions of their income through indirect and disguised means,” according to an indictment that was filed on July 1, 2021….

Weisselberg, who had been slated to stand trial alongside the corporate entity, was promised a sentence of five months in jail if he testifies against the company. He had been facing up to 15 years in prison.

The company is alleged, under Weisselberg’s supervision, to have maintained two sets of books in an effort to conceal the perks that he and others received as compensation. He personally avoided paying $900,000 in taxes based on underreporting of compensation.

There’s more information at the link.

This is from Raw Story–a summary of a Bloomberg story that is behind a paywall: Revealed: Trump employee agreed to plead guilty and tell the truth in Trump Org case — to avoid prison

Weisselberg — who was responsible for the company’s finances during the period being examined — accepted a guilty plea in an effort to stay out of prison for an extended time, but is expected to spill the beans on how the company operated, with a focus on perks provided to top executives provided in such a way as to avoid federal taxes at the behest of Donald Trump.

As Bloomberg’s Greg Farrell wrote, “Trump is not on trial in the case, brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and if the company is found guilty, it would have to pay back taxes and fines totaling about $1.6 million. A conviction of Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp., the two entities charged, wouldn’t put the parent company out of business. But it will be the first trial involving the firm since Trump left office.”

According to former U.S attorney Barbara McQuade, “The world is about to see just how the Trump Organization ran its business.”

She added, “This is a significant case. The criminal charges are against Trump’s corporation, which is a small private company, but Donald Trump is the Trump Organization.”

Noting that Trump is already involved in a $250 million real estate fraud case filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, Farrell added that, in this case, “Weisselberg, 75, agreed this summer to plead guilty to 15 charges in exchange for a maximum jail term of five months. He is required to testify truthfully, or the deal is off and he could face years in prison.”

Natsuo Ikegami, Japanese artist

By Natsuo Ikegami, Japanese artist

It looks like Trump is in deep trouble in the election interference case against him in Georgia. From Jonathan Swan at Axios: Exclusive: Emails reveal warning to Trump team about fraud claims.

A senior White House lawyer expressed concerns to President Trump’s advisers and attorneys about the president signing a sworn court statement verifying inaccurate evidence of voter fraud, according to emails from December 2020obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The emails shed new light on a federal judge’s explosive finding Wednesday that Trump knew specific instances of voter fraud in Georgia had been debunked, but continued to tout them both in public and under oath.

—  While the judge’s opinion stemmed from litigation related to the House’s Jan. 6 committee, the Justice Department is also conducting a criminal investigation into Trump and his allies’ scheme to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

—  Eric Herschmann, the former White House lawyer who cautioned Trump’s outside attorneys about the inaccurate allegations of voter fraud in Georgia, was subpoenaed this summer to testify in the DOJ investigation.

You’re likely already familiar with this:

Background: U.S. District Court Judge David Carter is presiding over the House Jan. 6 committee’s attempt to subpoena communications from conservative lawyer John Eastman, one of the architects of the scheme to overturn the election.

   —  After a review of hundreds of emails that Eastman claimed were privileged, Judge Carter determined some should be turned over to the Jan. 6 committee — finding they were “sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

   — In one email cited in Judge Carter’s opinion, Eastman told Trump’s team that the president had been made aware that some of the allegations and evidence of voter fraud used in a Georgia election lawsuit were inaccurate.

   — That suit was later moved to federal court. “For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate,” Eastman wrote, according to the judge’s order.

This is a very long article for Axios, so head over there if you want to know more.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a great weekend everyone!!


TGIF Reads

Image

Charles Burchfield, “July Sunlight Pouring Down”, 1952, Watercolor on paper

Good Day

Sky Dancers!

Today’s art is from Charles Burchfield whose ethereal water colors of nature have always had a calming effect on me.  Water color is my favorite medium and I love painting landscapes and old buildings.  I always find his play of light to be fascinating. That’s hard to do with water color. You get one chance at it.

According to Burchfield’s friend and colleague Edward Hopper, “The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best.”

Those times were not simpler for most folks. There are always plagues and famines and wars.  However, this is the first time we look at Americana from the viewpoint of living through a nightmare of a leader who is not the least bit suited for the job a minority of the population shove him into.  I cannot wait to be rid of him one way or another and whatever gets him out of our lives quickly.

Polls continue to show the displeasure is not limited to us.  This is from Politico: “Poll shows Trump’s coronavirus approval at all-time low. The president remains reluctant to acknowledge the disease’s threat as he keeps pushing to restart the U.S. economy.”

Support for President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit an all-time low, according to a new survey, with a similarly substantial majority of Americans also disapproving of his response to widespread racial unrest.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday reports that a record 67 percent of respondents now disapprove of “the way Donald Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus,” while only 33 percent approve — the widest gulf in public sentiment since ABC News and Ipsos started surveying on the pandemic in March.

Dawn of Spring, ca. 1960s. Watercolor, charcoal, and white chalk on joined paper mounted on board,

It’s still disheartening that fully 1/3 of those respondents appear to be adherents to the kind of white christian nationalism that brands the Trumpist regime and supporters into the KKK corner of life.   What’s also disheartening is that the kind of blatantly fictional conspiracy theories and fairy tales embraced by these people seems to be still selling in some corners that send representatives to Congress.  This is from Media Matters: “QAnon may be coming to Congress, and journalists need to be ready”. This article describes the odd views of ““Gun-toting” restaurateur Lauren Boebert who beat an incumbent Republican in the Colorado primary.

In many ways,  Boebert and other QAnon-following candidates have been normalized in the press. FiveThirtyEight published an article about the likelihood that Republican women will increase their representation in Congress with the November elections, and used a photo of Boebert. Her fringe beliefs are not mentioned anywhere in the article or accompanying tweet.

When The New York Times wrote about Boebert’s victory, it made a passing reference to her support of QAnon, saying in the lead that she’d “spoken approvingly of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon.” It wasn’t until the 11th paragraph that the movement got mentioned again, and even that was framed in the context of how “Democrats immediately went on the attack” for her support of QAnon.

Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan has reported extensively on the QAnon movement, and he has identified two concepts that journalists need to understand when reporting on this movement. The first has to do with QAnon-supporting candidates and the need to probe their actual beliefs. “Some of these candidates seem to see QAnon and its supporters as an explicit political constituency to appeal to for support, and are trying to use existing QAnon infrastructure to do so, such as using QAnon hashtags (particularly #WWG1WGA) and going on QAnon YouTube channels,” he says. “So they seem to be treating a far-right conspiracy theory group tied to violence and flagged by the FBI as some normal voting block when it’s clearly not.”

The second issue is that reporters often seem unaware of, or aren’t reporting on, the actual number of QAnon-supporting candidates who are progressing in their races. Kaplan says, “I keep seeing just a few specific candidates mentioned over and over regarding those who made it out of primaries or to primary runoffs (Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jo Rae Perkins), when it’s way more than that; it’s at least 14 candidates that made it out of primaries to the ballot in November or to primary runoffs (and that’s leaving out independent/write-in candidates).”

 

Image

Charles Burchfield, “Purple Vetch and Buttercups”, 1959, Watercolor over charcoal,

 

This shows you exactly how far Trump thinks he can go unchecked.  Via CNN: “Trump implies he’s ready to grant clemency to Roger Stone”. 

Trump is widely expected to pardon or commute Stone’s sentence, according to at least half a dozen sources close to the President.

>Asked by Fox News host Sean Hannity whether he’s considered a pardon or commutation for Stone, Trump said during a phone interview, “I am always thinking.”

“You’ll be watching like everyone else in this case,” he said.

In another interview, with radio host Howie Carr, Trump decried Stone’s treatment at the hands of law enforcement and said he may grant his clemency plea.

“He was framed. He was treated horrible. He was treated so badly,” Trump said.

Probably the most heinous thing Trump is doing right now is turning America’s school children into political props for his culture war.  This is an Op Ed by Michelle Goldberg writing at the NYT: “Trump Threatens to Turn Pandemic Schooling Into a Culture War. The president might sabotage parents’ best hopes for getting their kids back to school.”

Instead, Donald Trump has approached the extraordinarily complex challenge of educating children during a pandemic just as he’s approached most other matters of governing: with bullying, bluster and propaganda.

While doing nothing to curb the wildfire spread of the coronavirus, he has demanded that schools reopen and threatened to cut off funding for those that don’t. On Wednesday, he tweeted that the guidelines for reopening schools from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “very tough & expensive,” adding, “I will be meeting with them!!!” Mike Pence then suggested that the guidelines would be revised. On Thursday the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said they wouldn’t be, but later, seeming to give into pressure, said the guidelines should be seen as recommendations, not requirements.

Also on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gestured toward a plan of coronavirus-inspired school choice that would punish public schools that don’t fully reopen. Without offering details, she said families could take the federal money spent at these schools and use it elsewhere. She’s long wanted to give public money to private schools; perhaps she thinks this coronavirus has given her the chance.

 

 

 

Check out New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi’s piece “The Unburdened Believer”.  There’s a lot of creepy here.

Trump’s central case for reelection — the strong economy — has evaporated faster than the tear gas the administration sprayed on peaceful demonstrators outside the White House in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 130,000 Americans and counting, and the shutdowns have left millions out of work. Trump publicly worked through his grief in phases: denial, semi-acceptance, promotion of bad medical advice, denial once again, then promotion of overly rosy recovery projections. Meanwhile, he has responded to the nationwide civil unrest that erupted after Floyd’s killing by circulating far-right conspiracies, calling for more violence, defending iconic losers of the Confederacy, sharing a video in which one of his supporters shouted “White power!,” and attempting halfheartedly to cast Biden as a far-left extremist.

Trump has struggled to offer his campaign a message behind which to organize. For Trump, this would never mean formulating a case to prove that voters are better off now than they were four years ago or something similarly normal. It would mean coming up with an effective way to bully his opponent. In the 2016 Republican primary, this meant Lyin’ Ted and Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb(!). In the general, it meant Crooked Hillary and the Fake News media vs. the Deplorables. In 2020, “Sleepy Joe” hasn’t quite caught on. Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary who now hosts some kind of low-rent faux Fox News program on a D-list far-right cable channel, recently talked about this with Dick Morris. The issue with Trump’s “sleepy” message is that sleepy might sound pretty appealing to some voters right now, fatigued by the chaos of the Trump years. On Fox News, Ari Fleischer, a White House spokesman under George W. Bush, and Matt Schlapp, a Trump-campaign surrogate, had a conversation about the issue, too. They agreed that “sleepy” wasn’t working, that the president needed to go back to the drawing board and focus on something else. Kellyanne Conway has suggested that the campaign’s focus on Biden as senile and losing it might put off older voters. These allies of the president are offering campaign-strategy notes in public, on television, because that’s how you get through to him.

And so in walks Hogan Gidley, the new spokesman for the reelection effort — a job that recently belonged to Kayleigh McEnany, who in April became Gidley’s boss when she was named White House press secretary. In a normal White House, the position would’ve gone to Gidley. The ambition of any deputy, after all, is to replace the principal under which the deputy serves. Gidley has served under three press secretaries: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and now McEnany. (So much for the patriarchy!)

Gidley, now 43, arrived at the White House as a supporting character in the volatile second season. A onetime broadcast-journalism major at Ole Miss and a student of political media, he ended up reporting on Mike Huckabee for a TV station in Little Rock, Arkansas, before defecting to the dark side to join the then-governor’s staff. “He’s got professional integrity. He will never do something that is wrong or immoral,” Huckabee told New York. “But, at the same time, he’s a person that, if he takes a check from someone in a job, he’s gonna be loyal to that person.” In the next breath, Huckabee addressed the question that hangs over any human shield for this president. “If it ever gets to where he can’t, then maybe he’ll find something else. But he’s not gonna go out and burn his bridges.”

When Mike’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, replaced Sean Spicer as press secretary, she brought along her “big brother” Hogan as a special assistant to the president. In the very West Wing that inspired a tell-all book called Team of Vipers, he’s distinguished himself as “a golden retriever,” “a great teammate,” and “a really sweet person,” in terms that were repeated by more than half a dozen current and former White House staffers who spoke to New York. Across the board, but never on the record, Gidley’s colleagues described him as a nonthreatening force for good, for making things run a tiny bit smoother in what can charitably be described as the very definition of a hostile work environment — a happy-to-be-here functionary who keeps things light and in perspective. However, these qualities can sometimes read more like haplessness than virtue.

Sun and Rocks, 1918-50. Watercolor and gouache on paper,

I would really like a nice quiet weekend but I imagine I’m going to start hearing the sound of perpetual sirens.  Any one who knows me heard me say I am not going anywhere until at least two weeks after 4th of July because I want to see what Memorial Day and the 4th drag into town with all this reopening stupidity.  Well,  it reignited our Covid -19 upward trend.  So, ask me again when we get a few weeks after Labor Day.  I’m staying my fat ass home.

This is from NPR News Baton Rouge.

Louisiana is now one of the leading states in the nation for most new coronavirus cases.

It ranks third in the U.S. this week for most new cases per capita on a rolling seven-day average, according to new data from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It’s a trajectory that could spark another shutdown.

Louisiana’s jump to the top of the list for most new coronavirus cases cannot be explained by increased testing. Hospitalizations grew by more than 50 percent over the last two weeks, and the percentage of positive tests in the state has also been rising. On Thursday the latter rate hit 12 percent positive — over the 10 percent threshold set by the state for safe opening in Phase 2. The 7-day rolling average is 8.7 percent, according to AH Datalyitcs.

But that could already be too high. The World Health Organization’s recommended goal is 5 percent. A high positivity rate indicates that the virus’s spread is too great for contact tracing to work — and that’s assuming contact tracing is actually being broadly embraced by the public, which hasn’t been the case in Louisiana.

Dr. Vin Gupta, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington, is among the medical experts warning that contact tracing is now useless across much of the U.S. because the virus has already spread too widely.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has “lost all the gains made in June” and is “now seeing some numbers that rival our peak back in April.”

And while Texas, Florida and Arizona are seeing higher increases in hospitalizations, Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon and assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said it could be a matter of time.

“My worry is that Louisiana may just be a few weeks behind Texas and Arizona and Florida, unless more concerted efforts are taken,” he said.

It’s unclear whether there’s public appetite for that — or even to abide by the guidelines already in place. Health officials say that as the state reopened — too many people have ignored public health guidelines, particularly around wearing masks and keeping distance. Bars in particular have become a key source of outbreaks.

“Frankly, it’s been really, really frustrating. Because just a few weeks ago, we were in a really, pretty good place,” said Suan Hassig, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University.

“The curve is going to bounce back up if we don’t keep jumping on it and stomping it down.”

I’m no epidemiologist but frankly,  I knew opening the damned bars would send us into a spike.  The mayor backed off a little and put some size limits but we still have indoor eating,  Short term Rentals, and open bars although you can’t drink at the bar.  They’ve put them outside which is highly unpleasant in a neighbor even at the best of times.

And we have this too look forward to!  Climate change hoax again … right?

 

So, I hope it’s going better where you are.  Keep letting us know you’re safe!  If you’d like to see the Whitney Showing of Burchfield: Heat Waves in a Swamp please go to this page and enjoy  a teaching led tour!.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Monday Reads: Pick your Trumpian Poison Pill for Democracy in the USA

Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo died in federal custody after they fled to the US from Guatemala. (CNN)  Felipe Gómez Alonzo was excited to come to the U.S. He thought he might get his own bicycle. His mom and dad let him make the trip after he got upset that his dad might leave without him. He died on Christmas Eve in our government’s custody. He was 8.  Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin liked to climb trees. She jumped when her dad told her she could come with him to the U.S. She thought she might get her first toy; she’d just got her first pair of shoes. She died on December 8 in our government’s custody. She was 7.

Well, it’s Monday Sky Dancers!

It’s getting extremely rough to watch the headlines these days in this country and above all, about this country.  I do not care what people that voted for Trump think. I only hope they are all extremely ashamed of what they’ve done to our country.  They probably won’t be, however, since most of them are so wrapped up in their state of  white muffin rage being focused on nothing but their self-created wretchedness and looking for others to blame.

I’m not sure what horrid news to headline first but our real President tweeted out our most pressing issue this morning. We have to stop killing and torturing children in the name of Trumpism which this day also means OUR names.

Trump defended his actions with immense and cruel lies on Sunday to “journalist” Chuck Todd.  Here’s the headline from USA Today. “Trump defends conditions for detained migrant kids, blames Obama for family separations; fact checkers call foul.”

When questioned by interviewers about migrant children detained at the southern border, President Donald Trump has tried to steer the blame toward the previous administration, saying former President Barack Obama initiated the policy of separating those children from their caregivers, even though fact checkers have consistently found that claim to be false

During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” which aired Sunday, Trump told host Chuck Todd that he “inherited separation from President Obama” and that “I was the one that ended it.”

“When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn’t have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that put them together,” he told Telemundo’s José Díaz Balart in an interview that aired Thursday.

And on Thursday he told Time magazine that “I inherited separation” and “I’m the one that put the families back together.”

But, according to FactCheck.org, “previous administrations did not have a blanket policy to prosecute parents and separate them from their children.” It was after the Trump administration announced its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy in April 2018, in which everyone who illegally entered the U.S. was referred for criminal prosecution, that thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents.

 

Charles Blow of the NYT writes today: “Trump’s ‘Concentration Camps’. The cruelty of immigrant family separations must not be tolerated.”

I have often wondered why good people of good conscience don’t respond to things like slavery or the Holocaust or human rights abuse.

Maybe they simply became numb to the horrific way we now rarely think about or discuss the men still being held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial, and who may as well die there.

Maybe people grow weary of wrestling with their anger and helplessness, and shunt the thought to the back of their minds and try to simply go on with life, dealing with spouses and children, making dinner and making beds.

Maybe there is simply this giant, silent, cold thing drifting through the culture like an iceberg that barely pierces the surface.

I believe that we will one day reflect on this period in American history where migrant children are being separated from their parents, some having been kept in cages, and think to ourselves: How did this happen?

Why were we not in the streets every day demanding an end to this atrocity? How did we just go on with our lives, disgusted but not distracted?

Thousands of migrant children have now been separated from their parents.

As NBC News reported in May:

“At least seven children are known to have died in immigration custody since last year, after almost a decade in which no child reportedly died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

Homeland Security’s own inspector general has described egregious conditions at detention facilities.

And, last week, an attorney for the Trump administration argued before an incredulous panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit that toothbrushes, soap and appropriate sleeping arrangements were not necessary for the government to meet its requirement to keep migrant children in “safe and sanitary” conditions.

As one of the judges asked the attorney:

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you do something other than what I described: Cold all night long. Lights on all night long. Sleep on the concrete floor and you get an aluminum blanket?”

Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez loved playing the piano and the bass. His family called him Goyito. He had 8 brothers and sisters. One of them, Edgar, had special needs. Carlos came to the U.S. to help support Edgar.
He died on May 20 in our government’s custody. He was 16.

Here’s a report from ABC News: “Doctor compares conditions for unaccompanied children at immigrant holding centers to ‘torture facilities'”.

From sleeping on concrete floors with the lights on 24 hours a day to no access to soap or basic hygiene, migrant children in at least two U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities face conditions one doctor described as comparable to “torture facilities.”

The disturbing, first-hand account of the conditions were observed by lawyers and a board-certified physician in visits last week to border patrol holding facilities in Clint, Texas, and McAllen, a city in the southern part of the state.

The descriptions paint a bleak image of horrific conditions for children, the youngest of whom is 2 1/2 months old.

“The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,” the physician, Dolly Lucio Sevier, wrote in a medical declaration obtained exclusively by ABC News.

Lucio Sevier, who works in private practice in the area, was granted access to the Ursula facility in McAllen, which is the largest CBP detention center in the country, after lawyers found out about a flu outbreak there that sent five infants to the neonatal intensive care unit.

This is unacceptable and each one of us should be on the phone to our Senators and Representative to end this now.

Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle hadn’t seen her mom in 9 years. She came here to see her mom. She was hospitalized soon after she got here. Her mom asked for Darlyn to be released to her. The government refused.
She died on September 29 in our government’s custody. She was 10.

The NYT’s had this report a few days ago: ” ‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children.”

A chaotic scene of sickness and filth is unfolding in an overcrowded border station in Clint, Tex., where hundreds of young people who have recently crossed the border are being held, according to lawyers who visited the facility this week. Some of the children have been there for nearly a month.

Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met, the lawyers said. Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.

Most of the young detainees have not been able to shower or wash their clothes since they arrived at the facility, those who visited said. They have no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap.

“There is a stench,” said Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, one of the lawyers who visited the facility. “The overwhelming majority of children have not bathed since they crossed the border.”

I’ve actually reached the point where I think it’s necessary for all the living Presidents, their families, and as many other senior level officials that they can gather need to go to the border and put a name to it.  We’re operating Torture Centers for Children and I can’t think of a better group to shame this government.  Yes, that’s a radical thought because usually retired Presidents don’t get involved with the business in Washington and another administration unless asked. But, this is a radically different time with a radically different group in charge. Only true leadership can trump Trumpism.

There is another news today including massive leaks of Team Trump’s inability to get legitimate security clearances and a huge number of red flags that should have disqualified the lot of them.  Exclusive from Axios: “Exclusive: Leaked Trump vetting docs”.

Nearly 100 internal Trump transition vetting documents leaked to “Axios on HBO” identify a host of “red flags” about officials who went on to get some of the most powerful jobs in the U.S. government.

Why it matters: The massive trove, and the story behind it, sheds light on the slap-dash way President Trump filled his cabinet and administration, and foreshadowed future scandals that beset his government.

Some highlights:

  • Scott Pruitt, who ultimately lost his job as EPA Administrator because of serial ethical abuses and clubbiness with lobbyists, had a section in his vetting form titled “allegations of coziness with big energy companies.”

  • Tom Price, who ultimately resigned as Health and Human Services Secretary after Trump lost confidence in him in part for stories about his use of chartered flights, had sections in his dossier flagging “criticisms of management ability” and “Dysfunction And Division Has Haunted Price’s Leadership Of The House Budget Committee.”

  • Mick Mulvaney, who became Trump’s Budget Director and is now his acting chief of staff, has a striking assortment of “red flags,” including his assessment that Trump “is not a very good person.”

  • The Trump transition team was so worried about Rudy Giuliani, in line for Secretary of State, that they created a separate 25-page document titled “Rudy Giuliani Business Ties Research Dossier” with copious accounting of his “foreign entanglements.”

  • One red flag for Gen. David Petraeus, who was under consideration for Secretary of State and National Security Adviser: “Petraeus Is Opposed to Torture.”

Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez’s mother brought him to the U.S. to get him medical care for a condition that left him unable to walk.
He died on May 14 in our government’s custody. He was 2.

Yes, well, that explains why we have children in Torture Camps.

Here’s some more tidbits. I suggest you go read the entire summary of the mess.

The RNC researchers identified some striking “Red Flags.”

  • The first red flag for Rex Tillerson, who became Trump’s first Secretary of State, was about Russia. “Tillerson’s Russia ties go deep,” it read.
  • One red flag for Fox News host Laura Ingraham, considered for White House press secretary: “Ingraham said people should wear diapers instead of sharing bathrooms with transgender people.”
  • One heading in the document about Kris Kobach, in the running for Homeland Security Secretary, listed “white supremacy” as a vulnerability. It cited accusations from past political opponents that he had ties to white supremacist groups.
  • Vetters had unique concerns about Gary Cohn. “Some Say Cohn Has An Abrasive, Curt, And Intimidating Style,” they wrote, citing a Bloomberg piece. “He Would Sometimes Hike Up One Leg And Plant His Foot On A Trader’s Desk, His Thigh Close To The Employee’s Face, And Ask How Markets Were Doing.”

Some of the contenders were strikingly swampy — even by the RNC vetters’ standards.

  • Seema Verma, who Trump appointed as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had this paragraph near the top of her vetting form: “Verma was simultaneously advising Indiana ($3.5 million in contracts) on issues impacting how it would spend Medicaid funds while she was also being paid by a client that received Medicaid funds. Ethics experts have called the arrangement a conflict of interest that potentially put Indiana taxpayers at risk.”
  • Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Agriculture Secretary, had a vetting form with sections labeled “Business conflicts of interest” and “Family conflicts of interest.” It noted that “Perdue is the owner of Houston Fertilizer and Grain, a company that has received contracts from the Department of Agriculture.”

The documents point to Trump’s willingness to meet with — and sometimes hire — people who had harshly criticized him. The vetting team often put these denigrations at the top of the documents. A source with direct knowledge told me many of these documents were handed to Trump; he knew about the insults, and picked the insulters anyway.

  • Nikki Haley, who became Trump’s U.N. ambassador, had a note that she’d said Trump is everything “we teach our kids not to do in kindergarten.”

  • Ryan Zinke, who became Interior Secretary, had described Trump as “un-defendable.”

  • Rick Perry, Energy Secretary, had voluminous vetting concerns: “Perry described Trumpism as a ‘toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition,'” the vetters noted.

Juan de León Gutierréz was shy, a good student. When he missed class to help his dad harvest coffee, he’d run to catch his teacher after school to explain his absence.
He died on April 30 in our government’s custody. He was 16.

We know that Trump is a disaster. Here is a Bloomberg headline from Timothy O’Brien: “Trump Suffers a Triple Fail on Iran, Mexico and Immigration. The president’s solo initiatives on Iran, Mexico and immigrants were all abandoned before taking effect. Twitter bravado is a terrible way to govern.”

In a word, President Trump was never going to become “presidential.” It was inevitable instead that he would find himself most interested in frequenting the corridors of power that allowed him to operate independently. That’s not an uncommon phenomenon for presidents, but in Trump’s case it’s uniquely perilous because no president in the modern era has been as ill-informed, unhinged and undisciplined as the current one. None has been as needy, nor as willing to playact without remorse while making the most consequential of decisions.

To help demonstrate the point, Trump has given the world a trifecta of sorts in recent weeks involving trade with Mexico, a military strike in Iran, and government raids on the homes of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Trump launched all three episodes with public threats and bravado showcased on Twitter, embroidered them with promises of imminent and decisive action, and tethered them to the notion that complex challenges can be solved with blunt force wielded by a single man. He then abruptly abandoned all three provocations just before they were to take effect.

In early June, Trump threatened, via Twitter, to impose onerous tariffs on Mexico if it failed to help solve the immigration and humanitarian crisis spilling over from Central America and into the U.S. His own political party and the business community brought him to heel within a week and he abandoned the tariff threat on the eve of imposing it. Mexico didn’t agree to substantially change any new policing activities along the border. But in the few days that his threat stood, Trump managed to destabilize financial markets and nearly upended a global trade and supply chain that supported legions of businesses and millions of people on both sides of the border.

Last Thursday, Trump noted on Twitter that “Iran made a very big mistake!” when it shot down a U.S. drone that Iran claimed had crossed into its airspace. Later that same day the president authorized a military strike against the country, only to call it off when, reportedly, he became aware that as many as 150 might be killed. While Trump is now embracing tougher economic sanctions against Iran, he has exposed deep divisions among his national security and military advisers. He’s also proven himself to be dangerously unpredictable to allies whose help he still needs if he wants to see substantial long-term changes gain traction in Iran and the rest of the Middle East.

To top it off, Trump barely gave observers time to digest his abandoned military strikes before he engaged in a bit of Orwellian doublespeak. “I never called the strike against Iran ‘BACK,’ as people are incorrectly reporting,” he said on Twitter on Saturday. “I just stopped it from going forward at this time!”

The same day – on Twitter, of course – Trump said he also had decided to postpone raids on the homes of about 2,000 undocumented immigrant families living in the U.S. who had already received deportation orders. This came on the heels of Trump’s threats earlier in the week – made just before he traveled to Florida to kick off his 2020 presidential campaign – to deport “millions” of immigrants (a figure that vastly overstated what his immigration officials were considering, but might have been reassuring for Trump’s political base to hear).

Trump said he postponed the raids because Democrats had asked him to wait so they could discuss other policy options with him. But the postponement was also reportedly due, in part, to concerns that Trump’s telegraphing of specifics about the raids had jeopardized the safety of immigration officers and the welfare of children potentially caught up in the sweeps.

In any event, the brinksmanship and escalation that marked Trump’s public blustering on tariffs and Iran had a decidedly more obscene quality when deployed against a population of migrants left vulnerable and rootless by the drug wars and economic uncertainty that have engulfed much of Central America. The president’s vacillating, set against a backdrop of an administration already under fire for separating migrant families at the southern border and jailing children and teenagers in squalid detention centers, may harden both sides in the border debate and prevent Congress from overhauling immigration laws in tandem with the White House.

Expect Trump’s cartwheeling to continue. It’s who he is.

Here’s the source of these portraits of children who came to our country with hope and died in negligence from our Trumpian horror.

I really didn’t want to put up all these today to overwhelm you as much as I am overwhelmed. I just remember that a year ago I was protesting this shit. These children have died since that protest. That’s not working. It’s time to do more. Write or call your representatives in Washington DC and demand something be done. Scream! Cry! Tell them you’ll work against them when they come up for re-election. Let everyone know we need to end all this now.

If that’s now you, maybe you can write a check to help.

Remember, Trump is promising massive round ups in most major cities. Find out if there’s any way you can help in your city.  He’s supposedly put this off but the date he’s given is our Independence Day Weekend.  That should horrify any of us.

In immigration news, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Friday it would start a mass roundup of immigrants starting Sunday under the name “family op,” targeting 10 cities. On Saturday, amid national outcry, President Trump backtracked on that plan, saying he would delay the deportations by two weeks and put the onus on Democrats to make changes to immigration policy if they wanted to avoid the plan from going ahead. But some media reports claim that the delay was prompted by a leak by acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan or his staff, which could have compromised the plan.

Democratic lawmakers accused the Trump administration of using the threat of mass deportations as a bargaining chip to push its immigration agenda. Texas Congressmember Joaquin Castro said, “The threat to knock and drag people away from their families and out of their communities shouldn’t be a negotiation tactic for an American president.”

New Orleans and many other cities are refusing to aid ICE in this action.  See if your city is on that list.

 

Look at the type of people we’re up against!

From Motherly: “10 powerful ways we can help immigrant children separated from their parents.”

This has a good list of places to write checks to and support.  Remember, thoughts and prayers do nothing!! This is a good person to have the last word today.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today!