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Monday, November 20, 2017


So many Russians so little time

by digby

Here's a list of Trump associates' Russian contacts during the campaign.  Well, the ones we know about anyway:

October 2015: Russian developer Giorgi Rtskhiladze emails Michael Cohen hoping to begin a development deal with the Trump Organization. Cohen passes, because the organization was already working on a project in Moscow.

Dec. 10: Michael Flynn, an early Trump supporter who would eventually be named national security adviser, travels to Moscow for an event honoring the Kremlin-backed news outlet RT. There, he participates in a banquet during which he shares a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

January 2016: Cohen emails Putin’s spokesman seeking help with the real estate development project in Moscow. That project is eventually abandoned.

March 24: George Papadopoulos, recently tapped by the campaign to serve as a foreign policy adviser, meets in London with a Russia-connected professor and a woman introduced to him as “Putin‘s niece” — in reality, a student named Olga Polonskaya.

April 11: Paul Manafort emails Konstantin Kilimnik about leveraging his position with the campaign.

April 18: Papadopoulos is introduced to Ivan Timofeev of the Russian International Affairs Council. Over the next few weeks, Timofeev and Papadopoulos try to work out a meeting between Trump and Putin.

April 26: Papadopoulos is told that the Russians have “dirt” on Clinton in the form of emails.

April 27: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, meets with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a campaign event at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel. Jeff Sessions, then a senator and eventually Trump’s attorney general, may have greeted Kislyak as well.

May: Alexander Torshin, a senior official in the Russian central bank, expresses his desire for a Trump-Putin meeting by asking a friend to contact the campaign. The emailed offer is titled, “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” and includes an invitation for Trump to meet Torshin at an NRA convention in Louisville, later in the month.

Kushner rejects the overture, reportedly writing: “Most likely these people then go back home and claim they have special access to gain importance for themselves. Be careful.”

May 20 or 21: Donald Trump Jr. sits next to Torshin at an event associated with the National Rifle Association convention.

May 21: Manafort forwards an email from Papadopoulos about a Trump-Putin meeting to his colleague, saying that any such trip “should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

June: Cohen is invited to attend an economic forum in St. Petersburg, where “he could be introduced to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, top financial leaders and perhaps to Putin.” He declines.

June 6: Trump Jr. may have spoken by phone with Emin Agalarov, a musician and developer who worked with the Trumps on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump Jr. and Agalarov each claim not to remember speaking, but the following day a meeting is set up between Trump Jr. and other campaign staffers predicated on the sharing of information detrimental to Democrat Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

June 9: That meeting happens. It includes Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort. They meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer linked to the Russian government, and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has ties to Russian intelligence.

July 7: Manafort offers to brief Deripaska.

July 7: Carter Page, identified by Trump as an adviser on foreign policy, travels to Moscow — with the campaign’s blessing — for an event.

July 18: At an event at the Republican National Convention, Sessions and Kislyak greet each other.

July 20: At another convention event, Page and Kislyak talk.

Sept. 8: Sessions and Kislyak meet again, this time in Sessions’s Senate office. At some point, Sessions and Kislyak apparently discuss the campaign.

Oct. 11: Trump Jr. gives a speech in Paris to a group linked to Russian interests. One of the organizers later briefs the Kremlin on the event.

Dec. 1: Flynn and Kushner meet with Kislyak at Trump Tower. At this meeting, they allegedly discuss setting up a secret communications system between Trump’s team and Moscow.

Dec. 8: Page again travels to Moscow for an event.

Dec. 13: Kushner, apparently at Kislyak’s urging, meets with Sergey Gorkov, head of the Russian bank VEB, which is under sanctions. The next day, Gorkov travels to Japan, where Putin was visiting.

Dec. 25: Flynn texts Kislyak.

Dec. 29: Flynn speaks with Kislyak multiple times, apparently discussing the imminent imposition of new sanctions by the U.S. government, partly in response to Russian meddling in the campaign.

Click over to the article to see an excellent chart
showing all this.

We don't know the extent to which the campaign was in on the various Russian propaganda and hacking operations. But it's very clear that they were in contact and that Russian actors were eager to work with them on something.

Also, keep in mind that Trump himself simply cannot say a bad word about Putin or indicate that there was anything wrong with what happened in 2016. Some of that can theoretically be attributed to ego and vanity --- but the Putin worship was there from the beginning of the campaign and he has never deviated from it even a little.

Just saying.


They can say he didn't say it, but it's true nonetheless

by digby

I'm talking about this report that H.R. McMaster said his boss is dumb:

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mocked President Trump’s intelligence at a private dinner with a powerful tech CEO, according to five sources with knowledge of the conversation.

Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz — who has been mentioned as a candidate for several potential administration jobs — McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.

A sixth source who was not familiar with the details of the dinner told BuzzFeed News that McMaster had made similarly derogatory comments about Trump’s intelligence to him in private, including that the president lacked the necessary brainpower to understand the matters before the National Security Council.

Both Oracle and the Trump administration heatedly denied the comments that Catz later recounted.

“Actual participants in the dinner deny that General McMaster made any of the comments attributed to him by anonymous sources. Those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster's actual views,” said Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

I could easily see him saying it. I could just as easily see someone lying about it to cause a rift between McMaster and Trump. But it doesn't really matter. He is an idiot and a dope who has the intelligence of a kindergartener and he does not have the necessary brainpower to understand matter before the NSC. Nobody needs McMaster to say it privately. He's a fucking moron and everyone knows it.


QOTD: Kellyanne

by digby

She truly is soulless. A week ago she said, "there is no Senate seat worth more than a child."

Now she's changed her mind:

Conway: Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don't be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime. Weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners ---

Kilmeade: So vote Roy Moore?

Conway: -- Doug Jones is a doctrinaire liberal, which is why he is not saying anything and why the media are trying to boost him.

Kilmeade: So, vote Roy Moore?

Conway: I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through. And the media --- if the media were really concerned about all these allegation, and that's what this is truly about, and the Democrats, Al Franken would be on the heap of bygone half funny comedians. He wouldn't be here on Capitol Hill. He still has his job. What's Bob Menendez doing back here? That's the best my state of New Jersey can do huh, Doocy? You live there. Let me tell you something, this guy, Doug Jones, is a doctrinaire liberal.

There you have it. No word on how much fun it is to work for the admitted pussy-grabber in the White House. But he'll sign tax cuts so it's all good.

I wish I believed that this would finally end the right's self-righteous blather about "family values" and "honor and dignity" but it won't. You can see how that works with Conway blithely saying that Franken and Menendez should be drummed out of the Senate in the same breath that she defends a former district attorney and judge who preyed upon underage girls so blatantly that the people at the mall were warned about him. And, again, she works for the man who was credibly accused of the same kind of physical assault he bragged about on tape by at least 16 women.

None of this will change their sanctimonious attacks on liberals in the future. They are unconcerned with being called hypocrites. It's simply a weapon they use to bludgeon the other side which does care about hypocrisy. This has been obvious for many years but this episode illustrates their game in living color. They are able to twist their opponents into pretzels with this sort of thing.

I'm sure Trump laughed when Kellyanne did her little projection jiujitsu this morning and gave her a big kiss when he saw her. She was talking directly to him.



Ivanka's shady dealings

by digby

I wrote about the first daughter's shady business dealings for Salon this morning:

Social media had a bit of fun this week-end making fun of this Thanksgiving table tweet from Ivanka Trump's "lifestyle" brand:

It is a bizarre looking display and twitter went to town:

But in all the merriment about Ivanka's questionable taste and the juxtaposition between the tax cuts for the wealthy she's helping to sell and the lives of all those blue collar workers her father supposedly represented with his allegedly "populist" campaign, few people have stopped to ask how it can possibly be that a top adviser to the president still owns a "lifestyle" company in the first place. We have become so inured to the outright corruption of this White House that we simply accept the tact that all the Trumps and Kushners have merged their business interests with their jobs working for the president.

It's not just the first family either. The NRCC is just coming right out and putting money directly into Donald Trump's pocket now:

In case you were wondering, the Trump Hotel is doing very, very well what with lobbyists and foreign dignitaries spending huge wads of cash there over the past year. Imagine that.

Scions Don Jr and Eric are handling the business with Trump himself looking over some quarterly reports while Ivanka has supposedly withdrawn from day to day involvement with the family business and her own company. Nonetheless, Ivanka's brand is everywhere and she is still looked upon by the media as the quintessential Trump woman: a beautiful, brilliant businesswoman with great style and exceptional savvy.

But it turns out that her brand, like her father's, is more hype than substance. She is beautiful and and her style is admired by many. But her business history is nothing to be proud of. Recent investigations into the Trump real estate empire show that she had been involved in the company's most suspicious dealings with shady oligarchs and mobbed up money launderers. If Donald Trump is in the crosshairs of federal investigators for nefarious financial transactions with disreputable characters, his daughter will inevitably be caught in that same net.

Reuters and NBC reported over the week-end on a particularly unsavory deal in Panama called the Trump Ocean Club, which Donald Trump dubbed Ivanka's "baby." It was the Trump organization's first international hotel venture in 2007 and she was the lead family member on the project working closely with a Brazilian development broker named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira.  He put together much of the financing for the deal and let's just say it wasn't exactly on the up and up.

Involved in Ivanka's "baby" was a money launderer from Colombia, currently in jail in the US,  a Ukranian human trafficker and a Russian investor who was jailed just a few years before for kidnapping and threatening murder in Israel. Noquiera himself was arrested in Panama on unrelated fraud charges and fled the country and there are still four criminal cases pending over the Trump project. Ivanka claims to not remember the man despite the fact that she even made a promotional video with him.

Another notorious Ivanka project was the 2014 Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan which she personally oversaw. This was the project that the New Yorker reported a few months ago was partially funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and served as a cash laundromat for the country's dictatorship. And this was no hands-off arrangement. She and the company were heavily involved in all the details from the type of wood paneling to be used to the landscaping. According to experts this was unusual for this sort of deal and indicates a level of personal attention that exposed the Trump organization to serious legal trouble.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act requires that American companies not make profits from illegal activities overseas and simply saying you didn't know where the money was coming from isn't good enough. They have put people in jail for doing business with money launderers in Azerbaijan in recent years. The courts have held that a company needn't be aware of specific criminal behavior but only that corruption was pervasive. It's not reasonable to believe that the Trumps were unaware of the business culture in the country. Neither is it likely that they were unaware that the family they were in business with were known as “The Corleones of the Caspian." After all, as the New Yorker reported:
In May, 2012, the month the Baku deal was finalized, the F.C.P.A. was evidently on Donald Trump’s mind. In a phone-in appearance on CNBC, he expressed frustration with the law. “Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do,” he said. “It’s a horrible law and it should be changed.” If American companies refused to give bribes, he said, “you’ll do business nowhere.”
Clearly, he knew exactly what kind of assignment he'd given his daughter.

Several Senators have called for an investigation into this project, which was finally shelved after Trump was elected. According to Think Progress, "at some point earlier this year, Ivanka removed all information about the Azerbaijan project from her website, although it remains available via Internet Archive."

When you look into the rest of her history in business the story repeats itself over and over again. The company has licensed the Trump name in places known for networks of money launderers and as the anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness reported, "the result is that Trump’s current wealth has depended in part on securing significant infusions of untraceable foreign funds.”

It's very difficult to believe that the Trumps didn't know that they were involved in these massive corruption schemes. The evidence was right in front of their eyes. And now that evidence is right in front of an investigative team that has a mandate to go wherever the evidence takes them and Ivanka Trump is as legally vulnerable as her husband and the rest of her family.


From the "I could shoot someone on 5th Avenue" files

by digby

Good morning!

Just put your fingers in your ears and sing "lalalalalala" and everything is fine.

Shooting gallery America

by Tom Sullivan

Yemen has the second-highest per capita firearm ownership in the world. The country with the highest in the world is the U.S. Us.

Researcher Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama examined databases for mass shootings across the world starting with the University of Texas clock tower shooting in 1966. The criminologist wanted to verify which country had the most mass shootings. He defined them as acts by individuals, not groups, who attacked others in public with firearms, "killing not only someone they had a grudge against, but also random strangers or bystanders." Organized terrorism or acts of genocide fall outside the definition.

As one might expect, the United States came in first. Lankford spoke to Public Radio International's "The World":

"We had 31 percent of these offenders, despite the fact that we only have about 5 percent of the world's population. So, we have well more than our share. And of course, that's very concerning for a variety of reasons."

Lankford says comparing the US with other large countries shows how serious America's gun problem is: "China and India would be two clear examples, and yet they don't have anywhere near the public mass shooter problem that we do."
Lankford's research is contained in his report, "Public Mass Shooters and Firearms: A Cross-National Study of 171 Countries." Examining homicide rates, GDP, level of urbanization, and other factors didn't produce a correlation between the countries with the most mass shootings. Per capita firearm ownership did:
"I was a little surprised that it wasn't attributable to other things, like homicide rate or suicide rate. So, if you look at this on an individual level, these people are committing acts of homicide and they're often committing acts of murder-suicide and they're using firearms. But if you look cross-nationally, there are a lot of countries with more homicides and suicides than we have. And yet, they don't have this problem. It really was the firearms, and I was surprised at the strength of that statistical association."
Yemen ranks second in the rate of gun ownership, but with half the U.S. ownership rates. Yet the 11 mass shootings Lankford counted are not only different in number, as reporter Tik Root explained:
“The shootings that happen seem to have more relation to either tribal conflict or an ongoing dispute with something,” Root says. “The shootings that I heard about or saw in Yemen usually had maybe more of an explanation than they do in the US. You didn’t hear the mental health argument as much as usually a clear reason why somebody had used their gun.”
Root had lived in Yemen before civil war broke out in 2015, and told "The World" at open-air gun markets, one could buy most anything "from pistols to automatic weapons to [rocket-propelled grenades] RPGs. I saw tank shells and I’m told if you ask the right person you could get a tank itself."

There is something else that makes the U.S different from other countries Lankford studied, something he didn't mention on air: the National Rifle Association. Yemen sounds like an NRA wet dream.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Uranium scandal 101

by digby

Joe Conason took on the thankless task of explaining why the "Uranium One" psuedo-scandal is total nonsense. He does a good job of it:

As special counsel Robert Mueller prepared to indict two of the President's top former aides last month, and began to subpoena information from the White House, his campaign and members of his family about possible collusion with Russia, Donald Trump issued a tweet that bordered on hysteria:

"The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!"

Responding to that presidential scream, Republicans on Capitol Hill, right-wing media outlets and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are doing something. Working together, they have revived the discredited "Russian uranium" accusations against Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as the foundation that bears their names.

Their unsubtle purpose is to distract public and press attention from the ongoing probe of connections between Trump and the Kremlin with a conspiracy theory that envelops the Clintons, the Obama administration, the FBI, and Mueller himself — all with the aim of discrediting the investigation of Trump.

It is an implausible tale, full of logical inconsistencies and false assertions, that dates back to 2015, when Steve Bannon was head of Breitbart News and also ran a small Florida nonprofit called the Government Accountability Institute.

Looking ahead to Hillary Clinton's likely nomination for President on the Democratic ticket, Bannon and author Peter Schweizer had put together a book called "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich," which charged that the former President and his wife had benefited from corrupt deals involving their foundation.

The book was a tendentious work, replete with errors and omissions, but it benefited from a pre-publication bonanza when the New York Times publicized one of its most sensational charges on the paper of record's front page. For reasons best known to its editors, the Times agreed to an "exclusive deal" with Schweizer that led to a 4,400-word front-page article with the vague but suggestive headline "Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal." The story hinted at serious wrongdoing with implications for national security.

These were the dots connected:

Through a complex series of business deals, Russia had obtained control of a portion of U.S. uranium reserves, using a Vancouver-based company called Uranium One. Some of the Canadian investors who profited from the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom, the Russian state-owned atomic energy corporation, had given millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

Russia's acquisition of American uranium had been approved by the State Department while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State. And Bill Clinton had received a $500,000 fee for a speech delivered in Moscow at a bank that had some connection with Uranium One.

What weakened that apparently damning story was a single big flaw: Hillary Clinton never had the sole authority to sign off on the sale of Uranium One to the Russians, but held only a single seat on a government panel that included members from nine agencies, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

That committee had voted unanimously in favor of the deal, which had also required and obtained the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state of Texas, then governed by Republican Rick Perry (later chosen by Trump to serve as secretary of energy).

Although "Clinton Cash" attributed a "central role" to Hillary, she hadn't participated at all in the Uranium One decision. According to the assistant secretary of state who represented her on the inter-agency panel, "Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter."

Knowledgeable observers of CFIUS say that its decisions are dominated by the Pentagon and the Treasury Department, which chairs the committee, not by State.

And those nine agencies had approved the sale of the remainder of Uranium One to the Russians in 2013, again unanimously, several months after Hillary Clinton had left government. That sale also required additional approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Canadian regulators.

So neither of the Clintons could have been bribed to approve Uranium One, because they had nothing to sell. And Frank Giustra, the billionaire Canadian mining investor who was by far the biggest foundation donor connected with Uranium One, had divested his holdings in the company years before it was sold.

Lame as it was, however, the Uranium One story helped launch "Clinton Cash" onto the bestseller lists and stoked the Hillary-hating narrative of the Trump campaign. After Trump's election victory the story faded — until its recent reappearance on in right-wing media outlets like Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting and, of course, the presidential Twitter feed, as a cudgel against Mueller and his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

Now, it is hyped by Fox talking heads as "the biggest scandal of the century," which former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka says should send Hillary Clinton to the electric chair like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the Soviet spies who stole American atomic secrets.

But in order to discredit Mueller, right-wing journalists have expanded the initial version into an even more convoluted and mysterious tale.

Unfortunately, there's more. It's what Roger Stone and David Bossie call "the bank shot" to use this trumped up story to discredit Robert Mueller who was the FBI Director at the time. But in order to follow this convoluted bullshit tale, you should probably read it. This whole mess is only going to get worse. They cannot govern. This is what they do.

That hilarious chart at the top is not a joke. It was prepared by Louis Gohmert, the stupidest man in the House, to "explain" the scandal. In case you don't find it to be obvious, here's Stephen Colbert to explain it all to you:

Cleared up? I thought so ...



What exactly were Trump and Flynn up to anyway?

by digby

I'm fascinated by this latest twist in the Mueller investigation about Trump, Flynn and the 15 million dollar kidnapping plot. Trump obviously knew about it and tried to get Comey to go easy on his pal anyway. But what if he actually ok'd it? It sure seems to be something he'd think was so much winning...

When President Donald Trump allegedly tried to stop the FBI investigation of his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, was Trump aware of Flynn’s meetings with Turkish officials? If so, it could significantly increase the president’s exposure to political liability and legal wrongdoing involving obstruction of justice.

A crucial part of the timeline is the reported efforts of the White House to stop the investigation of Flynn in late March.

On Valentine’s Day, the president asked FBI Director James Comey if he could see his “way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” according to Comey’s congressional testimony and contemporaneous notes (Trump has denied this, but Donald Trump Jr. has essentially confirmed it). What would Trump have wanted Comey to let go exactly? So far the media has focused on federal investigators’ probe at the time into whether Flynn lied to the FBI. But at the same time there was also a federal investigation into Flynn’s work on behalf of Turkey—and the White House knew about it. We also now know that on Sept. 19, 2016, and in mid-December, Flynn reportedly met with senior Turkish officials, and is alleged to have discussed the prospect of kidnapping and secretly removing a U.S. resident, cleric Fethullah
Gülen, from the United States into Turkey’s custody. If Trump knew about the Turkey meetings—or what might have been discussed—at the time of the Feb. 14 exchange with Comey, that would raise a “different order of problem for the president,” Ben Wittes exclaimed on Lawfare’s podcast. Wittes is right.

Here are a number of data points on the timeline, as well as statements provided to Just Security by former CIA Director James Woolsey’s spokesperson, that might clarify what the White House knew and when it knew it.

It is not only important to understand what the president knew on Feb. 14, but also what he became aware of in the weeks and months afterward. That’s because Trump reportedly took additional steps to try to stop the investigation of Flynn following the Oval Office meeting with Comey. A crucial part of the timeline, for example, is the reported efforts of the White House to stop the investigation of Flynn in late March 2017 and the revelation of Flynn’s September 2016 meeting with Turkish officials around that same time.

Even if the president had no knowledge of the potential kidnapping meetings, if he tried to obstruct the federal investigation into Flynn’s work as an agent of a foreign government (Turkey), it would significantly raise the prospect of legal and political liability beyond his potential liability for obstructing the Russia-related investigation.

Reviewing this timeline, the mounting evidence of Flynn having been a paid foreign agent for Turkey seems likely to have figured into Trump’s calculus in relieving him of duty. The White House knew of the threatening nature of an active federal investigation of Flynn’s work on behalf of Turkey when the president allegedly asked Comey to “let Flynn go” on Feb. 14. Finally, the information contained in Flynn’s filing as a foreign agent in early March was likely on the minds of White House senior officials when they reportedly attempted to get top intelligence officials to intervene with Comey to drop the Flynn investigation that month.

These claims may sound strong when stacked together. But they are also each qualified and relatively modest all things considered. That’s because we don’t know the full picture. Even if Flynn’s foreign agent filings were on senior officials’ minds, they may have acted for other reasons, for example. And when they reportedly asked top intelligence officials to get Comey to halt the Flynn investigation, maybe they limited their inquiry to the Russia-related part. All that said, there’s a mountain of information here that raise serious questions and lend circumstantial support to our conclusions.

This seems like Trump all the way down to me. Flynn is crazy and Trump believed that as president he was immune from all laws. (He still thinks that if the president does it it's not illegal when it comes to outright corruption.) I find it entirely plausible that he thought this was an awesome plan and told Flynn to go for it.


Update on Church Shooter: No Charges, Keeps Gun and Carry Permit

by Spocko
TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn. — An 81-year-old man who accidentally shot his wife and himself at church while showing off his gun won't face charges or lose his carry permit, police said Friday.

Wayne Reid shot himself in the hand and his 80-year-old wife, Kathy, through the abdomen around 1 p.m. ET Thursday while showing off his Ruger pistol to a fellow parishioner at First United Methodist Church.
"As far as I know, he'll get to keep it," police Chief Russ Parks said of the firearm. "No one who was in the church is wishing to press charges, and we in the police department think they've suffered enough." USA Today
After a church shooting congregations talk about what should be done to prepare. They talk about the benefits and costs of various responses.

Congregations in different parts of the country choose different solutions. For example, The River at Tampa Bay Church, choose to be heavily armed.

If you are a member of a church discussing the issue this week, you should look at all the costs and benefits of various responses. In addition to talking to experts in safety and security, you should contact your insurance agent AND your legal counsel.

I've been contacting insurance companies this week wondering what they recommend to congregations. Off duty police? Licensed private security? Their own security force composed of people with concealed guns?

I've asked them how they calculate the risks and then the premium costs for the different configurations.

In the meantime I've been looking at other costs. I don't know all the details of Wayne Reid's case in Tennessee. Maybe he's a super rich guy with great insurance, but I wonder:
  • Who pays for that 50 mile helicopter flight to Knoxville for his wife?  The average patient bill from Air Methods, according to an analysis of national research in Consumer Reports, rose from $13,000 in 2007 to $50,000 in 2016.  (Tennessean )

    If they are on Medicare, how much of this flight is covered? 
  • Did the man have extra insurance because he is carrying a concealed weapon in public? Doubtful. Remember, gun owners aren't required to have any liability insurance.
  • Does the Church have liability coverage? 
Maybe the entire community is fine with absorbing the medical costs instead of putting the financial responsibility back on the man who brought his gun to church, or on the church that decided to allow this person, with his level of training, in the church while carrying a gun.

Praise the Lord and pass the collection plate!


Bannon made him do it

by digby

This isn't an uncommon rap in politics but it's fatuous no matter who gives it. Here's Steve Bannon preparing to lose --- and saying that he's actually winning because he "forced" the people he challenged to reckon with his big swinging movement. It's the wingnut version of win-win.

Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist, said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is "picking up his game" amid threats to his power posed by the "insurgency movement" led by President Trump.

In an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis that aired Sunday, Bannon blasted McConnell for what he described as lackluster support for Trump's agenda, but noted that the majority leader has worked more aggressively in recent weeks to confirm judicial nominees, pass a budget and push forward a tax-reform plan.

"Now that he's afraid, now that he sees that the grass-roots movement — whether it's in Alabama or Arizona or Tennessee or Mississippi — is going to replace his cronies like [Sens.] Jeff Flake [R-Ariz.] and Bob Corker [R-Tenn.], now he's scared, and now he's trying to move more federal judges through the system and really trying to cleave to President Trump's plan," Bannon said.

Bannon, who left his White House post in August, has railed against McConnell — and the GOP establishment more broadly — vowing to oust him as majority leader and install lawmakers more closely aligned with Trump's brand of conservatism.

Movements can change a party, obviously. Trumpism isn't one them unless you believe that massive tax cuts for the rich have become a GOP priority because Trump is more openly cretinous and incompetent than any other president in history. That's what he's brought to the table, nothing else. Old Mitch is just doing what they would have done if Jeb Bush or John McCain were president. Trumpism had nothing to do with it.


So Nobly Advanced ....

By Dennis Hartley

On this date in 1863, President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg address, which opens with: “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Earlier today, channeling the spirit of this rich tradition of presidential eloquence, our current commander-in-chief Donald Trump tweeted:

I’m sorry, memory fails … what was that Civil War all about again?



QOTD: Dr Nobody

by digby

“I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like villains from the 'James Bond' [movies]. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful 'James Bond' movie,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday."


Inside the dossier

by digby

The Guardian's Luke Harding has written a book about how Trump walked into Putin’s web. This long read about "the inside story of how a former British spy was hired to investigate Russia’s influence on Trump – and uncovered explosive evidence that Moscow had been cultivating Trump for years" is well worth your time.

Here is an excerpt about the dossier:

After Trump became the presumptive nominee in May 2016, Singer’s involvement ended and senior Democrats seeking to elect Hillary Clinton took over the Trump contract. The new client was the Democratic National Committee. A lawyer working for Clinton’s campaign, Marc E Elias, retained Fusion and received its reports. The world of private investigation was a morally ambiguous one – a sort of open market in dirt. Information on Trump was of no further use to Republicans, but it could be of value to Democrats, Trump’s next set of opponents.

Before this, in early spring 2016, Simpson approached Steele, his friend and colleague. Steele began to scrutinise Paul Manafort, who would soon become Trump’s new campaign manager. From April, Steele investigated Trump on behalf of the DNC, Fusion’s anonymous client. All Steele knew at first was that the client was a law firm. He had no idea what he would find. He later told David Corn, Washington editor of the magazine Mother Jones: “It started off as a fairly general inquiry.” Trump’s organisation owned luxury hotels around the world. Trump had, as far back as 1987, sought to do real estate deals in Moscow. One obvious question for him, Steele said, was: “Are there business ties to Russia?”

Paul Manafort, who Steele started investigating in spring 2016. Last month Manafort was indicted on 12 charges including conspiracy against the United States.
Paul Manafort, who Steele started investigating in spring 2016. Last month Manafort was indicted on 12 charges including conspiracy against the United States. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP
Over time, Steele had built up a network of sources. He was protective of them: who they were he would never say. It could be someone well-known – a foreign government official or diplomat with access to secret material. Or it could be someone obscure – a lowly chambermaid cleaning the penthouse suite and emptying the bins in a five-star hotel.

Normally an intelligence officer would debrief sources directly, but since Steele could no longer visit Russia, this had to be done by others, or in third countries. There were intermediaries, subsources, operators – a sensitive chain. Only one of Steele’s sources on Trump knew of Steele. Steele put out his Trump-Russia query and waited for answers. His sources started reporting back. The information was astonishing; “hair-raising”. As he told friends: “For anyone who reads it, this is a life-changing experience.”

Steele had stumbled upon a well-advanced conspiracy that went beyond anything he had discovered with Litvinenko or Fifa. It was the boldest plot yet. It involved the Kremlin and Trump. Their relationship, Steele’s sources claimed, went back a long way. For at least the past five years, Russian intelligence had been secretly cultivating Trump. This operation had succeeded beyond Moscow’s wildest expectations. Not only had Trump upended political debate in the US – raining chaos wherever he went and winning the nomination – but it was just possible that he might become the next president. This opened all sorts of intriguing options for Putin.

In June 2016, Steele typed up his first memo. He sent it to Fusion. It arrived via enciphered mail. The headline read: US Presidential Election: Republican Candidate Donald Trump’s Activities in Russia and Compromising Relationship with the Kremlin. Its text began: “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in the western alliance.”

“So far TRUMP has declined various sweetener real estate business deals, offered him in Russia to further the Kremlin’s cultivation of him. However he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.

“Former top Russian intelligence officer claims FSB has compromised TRUMP through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him. According to several knowledgeable sources, his conduct in Moscow has included perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB.

“A dossier of compromising material on Hillary CLINTON has been collated by the Russian Intelligence Services over many years and mainly comprises bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls rather than any embarrassing conduct. The dossier is controlled by Kremlin spokesman, PESKOV, directly on Putin’s orders. However, it has not yet been distributed abroad, including to TRUMP. Russian intentions for its deployment still unclear.”

The memo was sensational. There would be others, 16 in all, sent to Fusion between June and early November 2016.

Vanity Fair noticed one particular little bread crumb:

In December of last year, Steele informed Luke Harding, a journalist for the Guardian, that “the contracts for the hotel deals and land deals” between Trump and individuals with the Kremlin ties warrant investigation. “Check their values against the money Trump secured via loans,” the former spy said, according to a conversation detailed in Harding’s new book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. “The difference is what’s important.”

According to his book, Steele did not elaborate on this point to Harding, but his implication was clear: it’s possible that Trump was indebted to Russian interests when he descended Trump Tower’s golden escalator to declare his candidacy. After the real-estate mogul suffered a series of bankruptcies related to the 2008 financial crisis, traditional banks became reluctant to loan him money—a reality he has acknowledged in past interviews. As a result, the Trump Organization reportedly became increasingly reliant on foreign investors, notably Russian ones. As Donald Trump Jr. famously said in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

The significance of such transactions is not lost on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Citing a person familiar with the F.B.I. probe, Bloomberg reported in July that Mueller’s team is investigating a series of deals Trump struck, including the Trump Organization’s failed SoHo development that involved Russian nationals, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and the president’s sale of a Palm Beach estate in 2008. All three deals have drawn scrutiny for their ties to Russian interests; as Craig Unger outlined for the Hive, the 2014 Trump SoHo development is likely of interest to Mueller thanks to the involvement of Felix Sater—a Moscow-born, Russian-American businessman who did time for stabbing a man in the face with a margarita glass—and the now-defunct company he worked for, the Bayrock Group. Similarly, Russian developer Aras Agalarov, whose son Emin helped broker the controversial Trump Tower meeting last June between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, paid $20 million to bring Miss Universe to Moscow. And Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev bought the Florida mansion for a staggering sum of $95 million in 2008—despite Trump having paid just $41 million for the property four years prior.

Trump has cautioned that he would view any attempt by Mueller to dig into his past business deals as out of bounds. But the former F.B.I. director has a broad mandate from the D.O.J. to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”—suggesting that Trump’s deals with Russians fall under Mueller’s purview. Nor is Mueller’s tack in following the money limited to Trump. The indictments the special prosecutor brought against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy and longtime business associate Rick Gates included conspiracy to launder money and seven counts of improper foreign banking and financial reporting. (Both Manafort and Gate have denied the charges.)

Since media outlets published the Steele dossier last January, Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits alike have sought to discredit it. In recent weeks, Trumpworld has latched onto the revelation that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign indirectly bankrolled Steele’s investigative work—which he conducted for Washington-based intelligence firm Fusion G.P.S.—through the law firm Perkins Coie. They have argued that the dossier’s origins not only make it invalid, but are indicative of a larger anti-Trump conspiracy. Steele, however, stands by his work. While the former MI6 agent acknowledged that no piece of intelligence is 100 percent airtight, Harding noted that Steele told friends he believes the 16 memos he delivered to Fusion to be “70 to 90 percent accurate.”

MSNBC is reporting that Rob Goldstone, the publicist who set up the Trump Tower meeting and helped arrange the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013 is going to be speaking with Mueller soon. I'd imagine he'll be quite the interesting witness.



More greatness to come

by Tom Sullivan

Graphic: Vox.

Maybe we should go back and try government of, by, and for people again. Regular people. Not billionaires. Not artificial persons that, by human design, operate at the level of appetite and instinct. Just a suggestion.

Because — hang onto your wallets — the Republican tax "cut" passed the House and is headed for a vote in the Senate after Thanksgiving. If you are not uneasy, you should be. Whatever happens. Likely, the GOP tax plan is headed into territory Republicans plowed earlier in the year with their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare. That's both in terms of prospects for the tax bill's failure and because Republicans are trying for the nth time to repeal Obamacare.

By knocking out one of the legs of the three-legged stool that holds up the ACA, they hope to engineer its collapse. By eliminating the individual mandate that supports eliminating the pre-existing conditions disqualifier and holds down the cost of sliding-scale health care subsidies that make the insurance affordable (in theory), premiums will rise and millions will lose coverage.

A small price to pay, they believe, for lowering the corporate tax rate and delivering on tax cuts.

"The numbers are in and it’s clear: this tax bill helps the rich and hurts everybody else," Adam Davidson writes at The New Yorker. Run by the chairs of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Taxation report on the bill's impacts paint it, says Davidson, "much like a teaser rate on a new credit card." There will be an immediate payoff for the middle class for the first few years, but those payoffs erode quickly for those below median income.

By 2021, those making between twenty thousand and thirty thousand dollars a year are paying considerably more in taxes, those between thirty thousand and two hundred thousand see their benefit shrinking, and those making more start to see their taxes falling. By 2027, every income level below seventy-five thousand dollars a year sees a tax increase, while everybody above that level sees a continued decrease, with the greatest cut in taxes accruing to those making more than a million dollars a year.
Or you could believe Senate Finance Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). He comes from poor people.

The other teaser — that cutting corporate tax cuts somehow will trickle down to the little people — flies in the face not just of history (Republicans have tried this before more than once), but of well-established corporate behavior. Players with any shame would not go out in public and peddle this with a straight face. Which would not include White House economic advisor Gary Cohn Gary Cohn, formerly with Goldman Sachs, who embarrassed himself trying before a roomful of CEOs last week.

Kimberly Clausing, an economist at Reed College, spoke to NPR's Elise Hu last week on the non-effects of tax cuts on job and wage growth:
KIMBERLY CLAUSING: A lot of what's holding back investment right now has nothing to do with a scarcity of after-tax profits. In fact, if you look at multinational firms, most of them have record-high after-tax profits compared to earlier years or earlier decades. Instead, what seems to be holding back investment is lack of good investment opportunities.

So for instance, if the middle class is struggling, that gives you fewer items that you could sell to the middle class and then less incentive to invest in factories to make those items. So I think most companies are not so much wanting for funds but wanting for things to invest in.
That is, demand drives the economy, not supply. Put more money in workers' hands, not through tax cuts, but through paychecks, and the economy will expand. Implementing a $15 minimum wage was supposed to hurt Seattle's small businesses. But at least its restaurant scene is booming. Chef Edouardo Jordan cannot think of expanding because of a labor shortage. Rents in downtown Seattle are climbing, too. But, The Stranger's Charles Mudede comments snideley, you won't find academic studies "about how rising commercial rents are hurting Seattle's economy."

Clausing commented on Cohn-ish trickle-down boosters behind the “Tax Cuts And Jobs Act”:
CLAUSING: I think what's interesting here is that if you look at the people who are marketing this tax plan, they're often marketing it as if it will help workers through a sort of a trickle-down mechanism. But if you went straight to the workers instead and gave them benefits from the tax cut - whatever tax cut you're going to have - that's I think more likely to trickle up and help corporate America by giving the middle class more money to spend on goods and services and by making those investments worthy opportunities for firms.
"It’s a Ponzi scheme,” one Wall Street executive told Vanity Fair's William D. Cohen, who writes:
Executives know there’s no mechanism in the G.O.P. tax plan to reward them for passing those savings along to their employees, who Paul Ryan has estimated would get an average $4,000 raise (over a decade) as a result of corporate largesse. The labor market has tightened considerably—the unemployment rate is at a 15-year low—and the stock market is starting to level off. The word on the street, though, isn’t that higher corporate profits will lead to higher wages; rather, it’s all about buybacks: Goldman says stock buybacks will hit $590 billion in 2018, while Merrill Lynch predicts half of all repatriated cash would go to buybacks or acquisitions. It’s a sugar high that might extend the market rally temporarily, but will deepen the rot in our economic cavity.
“Will this be the first tax cut in American history that actually results in a recession?” Cohen's executive asked. Eliminating deductibility of state and local taxes (including property taxes) isn't just a direct transfer of wealth to red states that voted for the sitting president, and a way to punish states that didn't. It could drive down real estate values by 10 to 17 percent, wiping out a massive amount of homeowner equity, depress consumer spending, and trigger a recession, Cohen warns.

Just the greatness voters wanted.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


But he plays one on TV-Bill Nye: Science Guy (***)

By Dennis Hartley

In a nonsensical world such as ours, it somehow makes perfect sense that it took a Cornell-educated Boeing engineer-turned late night TV sketch comic-turned-goofy kid’s science show host to become logic’s ultimate champion in the sometimes downright insane public debate amongst (alleged) adults regarding human-caused global warming.

Such is the long strange trip of one Bill Nye, aka “The Science Guy”, recounted in a new “warts and all” documentary from co-directors David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg called (wait for it) Bill Nye: Science Guy. While the filmmakers’ non-linear structure (which vacillates abruptly between eco-doc, non-chronological biography and NOVA-style science lesson) takes acclimation, there does seem to be a method to the madness.

Is there “madness” behind Nye’s transition from the bubbly “Science Guy” persona to the relatively more glum-faced crusader we have seen in more recent years taking the science deniers to task? Even the film’s subject himself is unsure of exactly “who” he is at times; as revealed in a fascinating segment where Nye is interviewed by neuroscientist Heather Berlin, who is conducting a study on the effects of celebrity and fame on the brain and the psyche. She sees in Nye “a great test case” with which to explore her thesis. After admitting that the pressures of fame have made him “close [himself] off” to a certain extent in his public and personal life, Nye begins to act and look palpably uncomfortable.

As if to further assure us of no hagiographic intent, the film makers allow some of their subject’s former TV collaborators to dish some passive-aggressive disgruntlement that suggests Nye’s desire for fame and fortune (in the early days, at least) may have trumped any altruistic intentions to bring science to the masses. That said, there are still a number of admirers like Neil deGrasse Tyson on camera to praise Nye and his accomplishments.

My favorite part is where Nye goes to Kentucky for a public debate with anti-evolutionist Ken Ham. Nye first takes us along on a tour of Ham’s Creation Museum, where he finds one particular exhibit suggesting dinosaurs and humans co-existed at the same time to be “very troubling”. Luckily, for viewers like myself who are fully ready at this point to begin hurling objects at the screen, an antidote is administered soon thereafter with a shift back to reality (and sanity) when Nye attends the National Science Teacher’s Conference.

There are also some genuinely touching moments, like during a family visit, when Nye reveals that his brother and sister struggle with Ataxia, a rare neurological disease that affects balance and gait. While it is a hereditary affliction in his family (his father had it), Nye has never shown any signs of having the affliction himself. Consequently, he admits to suffering from a kind of “survivor’s guilt”, which has haunted him all of his adult life.
Another chunk is devoted to examining Nye’s current “day job” as CEO of The Planetary Society, which was co-founded by his mentor Carl Sagan (Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, who co-wrote the original 1980 PBS series Cosmos and is the creator-producer-writer of the 2014 sequel Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, also makes an appearance in the film).

While they may not have crafted a definitive portrait of Nye, the filmmakers do manage to pass on his “Science Guy” persona’s infectious enthusiasm for the joy of discovery. And it did leave me with the comforting thought that he’s one of the good ones who are out there, holding up the line of defense against blind superstition and purposeful disinformation. In light of the current state of our union, we need all the help we can get.

Previous posts with related themes:

Greedy Lying Bastards
Carbon Nation
Chasing Ice

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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On Twitter

--Dennis Hartley

They finally got Clinton to resign

by digby

Hillary Clinton, that is:


Where did the Pizzagate conspiracy come from?

by digby

This is the best article I've read about the propaganda/fake news phenomenon I've seen yet. It attempts to unravel the inane Pizzagate conspiracy and it's fascinating. The article talks about the first twitter message about the conspiracy and traces it back to a right wing nut in Joplin Missouri who unconvincingly claims her account was hacked. She's a piece of work but it's pretty clear that the whole thing didn't originate with her.

That's where the story really begins:

On a pair of anonymous message boards, we found several possible seeds of Pizzagate. On July 2nd, 2016, someone calling himself FBIAnon, who claimed to be a "high-level analyst and strategist" for the bureau, hosted an Ask Me Anything forum on 4chan. He claimed to be leaking government secrets – á la Edward Snowden – out of a love for country, but it wasn't always clear which country he meant. At various times, he wrote, "Russia is more a paragon of freedom and nationalism than any other country" and "We are the aggressors against Russia." FBIAnon's secrets were about the Department of Justice's inquiry into the Clinton Foundation, which federal prosecutors never formalized. "Dig deep," he wrote. "Bill and Hillary love foreign donors so much. They get paid in children as well as money."

"Does Hillary have sex with kidnapped girls?" a 4channer asked.

"Yes," FBIAnon answered.

Another possible germ of Pizzagate appeared online about 10 hours before Katz posted her story on Facebook. TheeRANT describes itself as a message board for "New York City cops speaking their minds." Virtually everyone on the site uses an identity-masking screen name. Favorite topics include police body cameras (bad) and George Soros (worse). On October 29th, 2016, someone calling himself "Fatoldman" posted that he had a "hot rumor" about the FBI investigation.
"[T]he feds were forced to reopen the hillary email case [because] apparently the NYPD sex crimes unit was involved in the weiner case," Fatoldman wrote. "On his laptop they saw emails. [T]hey notified the FBI. Feds were afraid that NYPD would go public so they had to reopen or be accused of a coverup."

Someone posted the news to a law enforcement Facebook group. From there, a user called Eagle Wings (@NIVIsa4031) posted it to Twitter. Eagle Wings' profile picture shows a smiling middle-aged woman above the description "USAF Vet believes Freedom Soars." Among her more influential followers are former deputy assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka and former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, who actually shared a separate Eagle- Wings tweet last year. Eagle Wings' enthusiastic following likely has something to do with membership in "Trumps WarRoom," a private group of online activists who share and amplify political messages. Participants told Politico's Shawn Musgrave that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of pro-Trump rooms coalesced during the campaign. "The members aren't stereotypical trolls," Musgrave tells me. "Most are baby boomers." A lot are women from the Midwest.

But Eagle Wings is not a typical political enthusiast, says Woolley, who directs research at the Institute for the Future's Digital Intelligence Lab. She tweets too often (more than 50,000 times since November 2015) to too many followers (120,000 as of November 2017). "Without a shadow of a doubt," he says, "Eagle Wings is a highly automated account [and] part of a bot network" – a centrally controlled group of social-media accounts. To explain how they work, Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, uses a shepherding analogy. "A message that someone or some organization wants to 'trend' is typically sent out by 'shepherd' accounts," he says, which often have large followings and are controlled by humans. The shepherds' messages are amplified by 'sheepdog' accounts, which are also run by humans but can be default-set "to boost the signal and harass critics." At times, the shepherds personally steer conversations, but they also deploy automation, using a kind of Twitter cruise control to retweet particular keywords and hashtags. Together, Nimmo says, the shepherds and sheepdogs guide a herd of bots, which "mindlessly repost content in the digital equivalent of sheep rushing in the same direction and bleating loudly."

Whether Katz repeated something a herd of bots was bleating, or repackaged tidbits found on other parts of the Internet, her Facebook post was the "human touch" that helped the fake news story go viral. The "tell," says Watts, was what happened next. Most of us post into Internet oblivion. But about 12 hours after Katz shared her story, a Twitter user named @DavidGoldbergNY tweeted a screenshot of her post, twice – adding, "I have been hearing the same thing from my NYPD buddies too. Next couple days will be -interesting!"

It's literally unbelievable and yet we know what eventually happened. Aside from that cretinous moron getting elected, some kook took his AR-15 and went to the Pizza parlor looking for Hillary Clinton's kidnapped kids and shot the lock off of a storage door.

The fact that millions of people are trafficking in theselies is a huge problem and I haven't got the faintest idea about how to fix it. People believe what they want to believe and there are some actors in this world who are ready to give them what they want in order to advance their own agenda. Indeed, a whole population has been primed by talk radio and right wing media to accept a certain kind of propaganda with no questions asked. We are all susceptible to confirmation bias but this is on a level that approaches brainwashing.It's very, very disturbing.

Read the whole thing or listen to the Reveal podcast discussing it here.



Chris Hayes lays out the sexual harassment and assault evidence against Donald Trump

by digby

It's just a helpful little reminder of all the women who came forward to accuse Donald Trump on camera:

And that doesn't even include his ex-wife who said he raped her when he was angry that the plastic surgeon she'd sent him to botched his scalp reduction hair transplant surgery in 1989.

This was all aired just a year ago. 63 million people didn't care. I doubt they care now.



Ivanka's Law is toxic

by digby

But get this:

Republicans really can't afford to give up on the tax bill, after suffering an embarrassing defeat on their health care effort. But when something is as central to their agenda as the tax rewrite, they're going to have serious headaches if they can't win more support with the public.

Uhm, maybe these serious headaches might be worse than being "embarrassed?" Like the fact that they are going to cause millions of people to pay more in taxes, critically degrade higher education and health care so that Ivanka gets a tax break? Those kind of "headaches?"

We know that their donors are demanding that they deliver and that's why they're doing this. So, let's not pretend it's anything other than that. Many of them realize that Donald Trump has destroyed their party and this is their last chance to pay back their rich benefactors and perhaps secure a future for themselves outside of politics.

This is a political crisis. But you knew that.


So him

by digby

Charles Blow found this video of Trump that illustrates his future presidency so perfectly:


When party becomes religion

by Tom Sullivan

"This is what happens when party becomes almost a religion," MSNBC's Joy Reid told Chris Hayes last night on "All In." Reid was commenting on the GOP's defense of Alabama's Roy Moore and acceptance of a Republican president with a lengthy history of sexual misconduct. "We don't care how low he takes this country, how low he takes our party," she said, or "what a scoundrel he is, what a scam artist he is, what a con man. And literally, it can be a child molester as long as it's a Republican ... Nothing comes before party ever. Ever."

The Republican Party and the country didn't sink to these depths overnight. The right has, over decades, acculturated its base to lies as one of the basic food groups. Our sitting president is simply the main course.

Fear has been a conservative staple from the early days of the Cold War, the Birchers, and before. Robert Kagan noted before the election last year how "resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger," the core of the now-president's message, had incubated inside the party for years.

I recounted how creepy the appearance of "Rush rooms" was in the early 1990s, and how the dittoheads at work marinated their brains in his toxic message all day, every day.

As Rush faded, Fox News ascended. Fox News has been a propaganda channel for decades now. The "Fair and Balanced" network has dropped that branding and, with few exceptions, any pretension that what it presents is news. Where once there were Rush Rooms at lunch, now every other bar, restaurant, and public space has a telescreen broadcasting the message approved by Minitrue and News Corp.

Conservative chain emails have faded as well, replaced by Facebook. Through the Cold War years, we'd been warned that the communists would try to undermine America from within using propaganda and disinformation. With the emails, fathers and uncles were trafficking in it, passing them on to family and friends as instructed at the bottom of each. What made chain emails popular was they maligned people senders hated. With forward after forward, they built a discomforting community of resentment. I have a collection:

Now, out of those 200 chain emails, maybe three or four are not outright lies, distortions, and smears. Easily debunked on Google in the time it takes to attach your email list and forward to all your friends. They are lies and, deep down, right wingers know it. Yet they pass them along dutifully, almost gleefully. They know it's wrong and they don't care.
Their purpose was to get people angry and keep them angry about real and imagined slights committed against them by political enemies. After last year's election and the revelations about Russian ads on Facebook, one wonders if some weren't once drafted in St. Petersburg. The First Amendment has been weaponized and used against us.

Mr. “And when you're a star, they let you do it” is simply a walking, talking, tweeting version of the conservative chain email. His fans don't care if what he says is true so long as he attacks the people they hate and gives them approval to do the same.

David Brooks argued the other day that "naked liberalism" has undermined the social contract. He defines naked liberalism as an assumption shared by both right and left that "if you give people freedom they will use it to care for their neighbors, to have civil conversations, to form opinions after examining the evidence." The right wants to maximize economic choice while the left hopes to maximize lifestyle choice (in which Brooks glosses over both positions). This position, "all freedom and no covenant," he believes, maximizes personal freedom while undercutting the bonds that hold a society together:
Freedom without covenant becomes selfishness. And that’s what we see at the top of society, in our politics and the financial crisis. Freedom without connection becomes alienation. And that’s what we see at the bottom of society — frayed communities, broken families, opiate addiction. Freedom without a unifying national narrative becomes distrust, polarization and permanent political war.
Or worse. "[P]eople will prefer fascism to isolation, authoritarianism to moral anarchy." In pursuing individual and economic freedom, we have sacrificed the bonds that held human society together for millennia. "Congressional Republicans think a successful tax bill will thwart populism," he writes. "Mainstream Democrats think the alienation problem will go away if we redistribute the crumbs a bit more widely." These band-aids aren't likely to hold back the erosion.

People under 40 get that these aren't solutions, Brooks writes. I must agree. Steve Bannon wants to tear down the entire edifice and start from scratch, an answer not so different from one we heard from certain quarters on the left last fall. So far, Democrats haven't offered a more compelling, healing narrative.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Friday Night Soother: Bearcats!

by digby

Perth Zoo is celebrating the birth of the first Binturong cubs in the Zoo’s 119-year history.

Two cubs, a male and a female, were born September 6 to mother, Selasa, and father, Rabu. The parents arrived at the Zoo from Singapore Zoological Gardens, in 2016, to establish a Perth Zoo Binturong family.

Perth Zoo Keeper, Marty Boland, said, “It’s very exciting to welcome two rare Binturong cubs, less than 12 months after their parent’s arrival in Australia.”

“Binturongs are capable of delaying their pregnancy after mating until they feel the environmental conditions are favourable. So, it’s great to see that Selasa is feeling secure and content here in WA!”

“She is a first time Mum, but has been lovingly tending to her offspring in the nest box and also allowing us to photograph the cubs’ progression. She’s even trusted us to handle her cubs to quickly weigh them.”

“They tip the scales just over one kilogram, a good weight for Binturong infants,” said Marty.

The new arrivals recently opened their eyes, and they are beginning to take in the world around them. Zoo Keepers expect they will start exploring their exhibit in coming weeks and become more visible to the public.

Marty continued, “Visitors who are unsure of where to catch a glimpse of the Binturong family may smell them first. They are famous for their strong odor, which is often likened to popcorn!”

The Binturong (Arctictis binturong), also known as a Bearcat, is a viverrid that is native to South and Southeast Asia.

Binturongs are omnivorous, feeding on small mammals, birds, fish, earthworms, insects and fruits.

The estrous period of the Binturong is 81 days, with a gestation of 91 days. The average age of sexual maturation is 30.4 months for females and 27.7 months for males. The Binturong is one of approximately 100 species of mammal believed by many experts to be capable of embryonic diapause, or delayed implantation, which allows the female of the species to time parturition to coincide with favorable environmental conditions. Typical litters consist of two offspring, but up to six may occur.

It is uncommon in much of its range, and has been assessed and classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List due to a declining population trend that is estimated at more than 30% over the last three decades. The main threat to the species is severe destruction of habitats in their native parts of the world.

Those wanting to help save Binturong from extinction are encouraged to “adopt” one of Perth Zoo’s cubs. Zoo adoption packages ensure more funds are poured into giving wildlife a chance of survival. More information can be found at: www.perthzoo.com.au