Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker AmeliaEve: "What do you wish you had known before you started your current job? Would you have chosen a different job if you had known?"

How hard it was going to be, in so many unexpected ways. I would still choose it again. I feel like I choose it again every day, when I sit down at my desk and set to work.

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Throwback Thursdays

image of me in a green dress and a speckled black and white coat with a perm at age 17

Me, with my date, whom I've cropped out of the photo, posing for pictures before we head off to the winter dance, known as "the Snowball" (har har), in 1991. I was 17; wearing my recycled gown from the junior prom the year before, which I'd just had chopped to tea length (cheap-ass 4eva); and, yes, sporting a winter coat that had pleather points on the padded shoulders. AND LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL PERM!

[Please share your own throwback pix in comments. Just make sure the pix are just of you and/or you have consent to post from other living people in the pic. And please note that they don't have to be pictures from childhood, especially since childhood pix might be difficult for people who come from abusive backgrounds or have transitioned or lots of other reasons. It can be a picture from last week, if that's what works for you. And of course no one should feel obliged to share a picture at all! Only if it's fun!]

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Pelosi Is Coming for Your Taxes, Trump

Ginger Gibson at Reuters:

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that members of congress from her party will seek to obtain [Donald] Trump's tax returns when they take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January — a move the White House is likely to strongly resist.

The House Ways and Means Committee will "take the first steps" toward obtaining the documents, said Pelosi, who has the backing of her members to become speaker of the House next month. As it is likely to be a challenging process, it will be up to the committee to figure out how to proceed, she said.

"There is popular demand for the Congress to request the president's tax returns," she told reporters in the Capitol. "I'm sure the White House will resist and so the question is where do we go from there."
I don't care how unlikely it is that we will ever get to see those tax returns; I want the Democrats to keep trying and trying and trying until they either get them or cause Trump to explode with frustration into a cloud of poop emojis.

You know those videos of people who picked up some horrendo parasite and now you can see the worms crawling under their skin? That's what I want Nancy Pelosi's entire vision board to look like for the next two years.

Get under his skin and stay there, wriggling.

I'm pretty sure we're on the same page.

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Discussion Thread: Self-Care

What are you doing to do to take care of yourself today, or in the near future, as soon as you can?

If you are someone who has a hard time engaging in self-care, or figuring out easy, fast, and/or inexpensive ways to treat yourself, and you would like to solicit suggestions, please feel welcome. And, as always, no one should offer advice unless it is solicited.

* * *

I am going to go to run around the backyard with the dogs and awe at Dudley's sprinting and melt at Zelda's grin and laugh at their silly antics, all of which brightens and lightens me. It is the easiest, most accessible, and cheapest self-care I do!

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting in a stream of sunshine in the threshold between the dining room and living room, with her ears lit up from behind by the light
Sophie with glowing ears.

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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We Resist: Day 693

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures (plus the occasional non-Republican who obliges us to resist their nonsense, too, like we don't have enough to worry about) is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Earlier today by me: Newt Gingrich on Shortlist for Trump's Chief of Staff and Trump Cancels White House Holiday Party for Press and Vietnamese Refugees Are the Next Target of Trump's War on Immigrants.

Here are some more things in the news today...

Erin Banco at the Daily Beast: Get Ready for Mueller's Phase Two: The Middle East Connection. "Over the past year, the indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas have largely been connected, in one way or another, to Russia. But now, special counsel Robert Mueller's office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries' attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast. In other words, the 'Russia investigation' is set to go global." Coooooooool I hope this investigation lasts forever while Donald Trump destroys the entire planet.

Shannon Pettypiece and Kevin Cirilli at Bloomberg: Cohen Will Talk After Mueller Probe Is Complete, Lawyer Says. "Michael Cohen, the former lawyer and fixer for [Donald] Trump, is willing to reveal publicly what he knows about his former client once Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is complete and findings are released, Cohen's lawyer said Wednesday. 'There will come a time after Mr. Mueller is done with his work that Michael Cohen will be sitting in front of a microphone before a congressional committee and what he has to say about the truth will be judged by the members of Congress listening and then will be up to people to decide whether he has got the facts or not,' Cohen attorney and spokesman Lanny Davis said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio's Sound On."

That part of the story is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so, but this part deserves equal notice, at least: "Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress and Mueller's investigators about the timing of a proposed Trump tower in Moscow and Trump's involvement in the project. Davis said that false testimony was shared with the White House before Cohen submitted it to Congress and it is possible Trump was aware at the time that Cohen would make false statements. 'Mr. Trump and the White House knew that Michael Cohen would be testifying falsely to Congress and did not tell him not to,' Davis said."

As my friend Leah McElrath noted on Twitter: "This implicates EVERYONE who participated in vetting the perjurious material." It sure does.

Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen at CNN: Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina Admits to Engaging in Conspiracy Against U.S. "Maria Butina admitted in federal court Thursday morning to engaging in a conspiracy against the United States. Butina, 30, was accused of working to infiltrate Republican political circles through groups such as the National Rifle Association to bolster Russian interests. Butina said she acted 'under direction of' a Russian official whom CNN has identified as Alexander Torshin." I think we can 86 the "alleged" modifier now, folks.

David Corn and Dan Friedman at Mother Jones: Did Michael Flynn Try to Strike a Grand Bargain With Moscow as It Attacked the 2016 Election? I was particularly interested to read this bit:
There has been no public information, via the Mueller investigation or other sources, regarding Flynn's interactions with Kislyak during the 2016 campaign when he was Trump's top adviser on national security matters.

Yet two Flynn associates tell Mother Jones that Flynn has informed friends and colleagues that prior to Election Day he spoke with Kislyak about how Trump could work productively with Russia if he won the presidency.

One of these Flynn associates, who each asked not to be identified, notes that Flynn said he discussed with Kislyak a grand bargain in which Moscow would cooperate with the Trump administration to resolve the Syrian conflict and Washington would end or ease up on the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine.

The other Flynn associate says Flynn said he had been talking to Kislyak about Syria, Iran, and other foreign policy matters that Russia and the United States could tackle together were Trump to be elected. A third Flynn associate recalls that shortly after the election, Flynn told him he had been in contact with Kislyak about Syria — but without stating whether that was before or after Election Day.
We've known since June of 2017 that Flynn had proposed a shared military communications channel with Russia, justifying it by suggesting a joint fight against the Islamic State. It was at that time that I first observed the curious emergence of the "work with Russia to defeat IS in Syria" foreign policy position during the 2016 election.

Before the 2016 election, joining forces with Russia to defeat ISIS was not a mainstream position, on either side of the aisle, because, as Hillary Clinton explained during the second presidential debate, Putin "isn't interested in ISIS" and Russia's assault on Aleppo was instead intended to destroy Syrian rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad's regime. Then, during the election in which Russia intervened with the express purpose of defeating Clinton, every one of her opponents from across the political spectrum — her Democratic primary opponent, and her general election Republican, Libertarian, and Green Party opponents — each offered a policy of aligning with Russia, with the rationale of defeating ISIS.

Clinton was also the only candidate who did not have someone with ties to Putin working on her campaign, or a previous campaign. Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Sanders' chief strategist Tad Devine had previously worked in collaboration for pro-Putin former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. Roger Stone was an advisor on Johnson's 2012 campaign, and continued to speak enthuiastically about Johnson in 2016. And Stein rather famously had dinner with Putin herself.

Also at that dinner? Michael Flynn — who then used that curiously shared rationale of defeating ISIS to argue for allying with Russia when his candidate won the White House. And who has now pleaded guilty as part of Bob Mueller's investigation into Russian collusion, and is providing "substantial assistance" with "several ongoing investigations," including the Russia probe and at least one secret criminal investigation.

Probably one (Trump) and possibly two (Trump and Sanders) of those former opponents of Clinton are going to be running again in 2020. It's time to revisit those positions on Russia and Syria, which I identified a year and a half ago as a possible tell about Russian influence within campaigns. Some hard questions need to be asked.

And we should expect serious answers from Bernie Sanders if he intends to run again.

* * *

One of the stranger foreign policy stories I've been following has been the Trump Regime's disposition toward Venezuela. Specifically, Mike Pence's fixation on Venezuela.

Pence has had a hate-boner for Venezuela ever since President Barack Obama shook Hugo Chavez's hand (which, by the way, led to one of the most satisfying humiliations of Pence, care of Hillary Clinton, naturally — back when Pence was a shitty congressman from Indiana before he was its shitty governor before he was the shitty vice-president). And he brought this hostility to the White House with him: Back in August of 2017, for example, I noted Pence was obsessively tweeting about Venezuela.

At the time, I asserted that Pence appeared to be war-shopping in Venezuela on behalf of the Trump Regime, and it turned out I was right. In July of this year, the AP reported that Trump wanted to know why the U.S. couldn't or shouldn't just invade Venezuela.

In May, I noted an NBC News report about the U.S. canceling Venezulans' tourist visas at an unsual rate, "for no apparent reason," suggesting it was related to Trump's and Pence's continued hostility toward Venezuela — which, I predicted, would probably remain a target for the Trump Regime as long as they continue to pursue foreign policy objectives that have a high risk of causing a conflagration that cuts off the U.S. from major oil resources in the Middle East.

Then in September, I mentioned Pence having issued a strong warning to Venezuela during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, after Venezuela positioned troops along the border of Colombia. Pence said: "Let me be clear: The United States of America will always stand with our allies for their security. The Maduro regime would do well not to test the resolve of the President of the United States or the American people in this regard."

In November, National Security Advisor John Bolton referred to Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as "the Troika of Tyranny," as he announced a new, more aggressive policy toward Latin America.

This week, Russia sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela: "Russia's Defense Ministry said a pair of Tu-160 bombers landed at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas on Monday following a 6,200-mile flight. It didn't say whether the bombers were carrying any weapons and didn't say how long they would stay in Venezuela."

(See Olga Lautman for more on Venezuela's involvement with Russia, facilitated by the Trump Regime. Olga notes that Nelson Martinez, former oil minister of Venezuela and former head of the state oil and gas company PDVSA, which was involved in the scheme described in the aforelinked thread, was just found dead in prison.)

Yesterday, in comments, I linked this piece by Tom Phillips at the Guardian: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Accuses White House of Direct Role in Assassination Attempt. "At a press conference in the presidential Miraflores palace in Caracas, Maduro said he had 'no doubt' that the U.S. government had ordered and authorized the botched strike against him last August with explosive-laden drones and continued to plot against him. He offered no evidence to support the allegations."

And today, Phillips reported on Twitter: "Venezuela's foreign minister has summoned diplomats to warn them of U.S.-backed plot to invade. 'This is the last thing the Bolivarian revolution seeks. But if any force enters Venezuela, Venezuelan men and women will wage the mother of all battles to resist it.'"

I don't know where this is all leading, but I feel that, if something does happen between the United States and Venezuela, it's going to feel to the vast majority of Americans like it's coming out of nowhere. And it isn't.

I'm going to keep you informed, which is the least — and, frustratingly, also the most — that I can do on this topic.

* * *

[Content Note: Addiction disclosure; sexual harassment]

I've already seen a lot of people asking about these reports (the veracity of which I cannot establish): "Why now?"

Pence is pulling out all the stops, is my guess why now. He's the one with all the RNC connections, and they're the ones who probably cut the deals with people to keep quiet.

[CN: Gun violence] Jacqueline Howard at CNN: Gun Deaths in U.S. Reach Highest Level in Nearly 40 Years, CDC Data Reveal. "Gun deaths in America have reached a record high. Nearly 40,000 people in the United States died by guns last year, marking the highest number of gun deaths in decades, according to a new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WONDER database. ...CNN replicated that analysis and found that 39,773 people died by guns in 2017, which is an increase of more than 10,000 deaths from the 28,874 in 1999."

[CN: War on agency] Elham Khatami at ThinkProgress: Michigan's Lame-Duck GOP Legislature Passed a Ban Limiting Access to the Abortion Pill. "While most Michigan residents were sleeping Thursday morning, the state's lame-duck GOP legislature passed a measure that would ban doctors from prescribing the abortion-inducing pill via internet webcam. ...The middle-of-the-night vote is one of several steps the Republican-controlled state House has taken recently to roll back progressive policies or implement conservative measures before Michigan's new Democratic governor, attorney general, and secretary of state take office."

[CN: Nativism] Tina Vasquez at Rewire.News: Reproductive Justice Advocate to Request Political Asylum as Trump Administration Tries to Deport Her. "An undocumented reproductive justice and immigrant rights activist targeted by federal immigration agencies for her humanitarian work is set to attend court Tuesday, where she's seeking political asylum. Alejandra Pablos' hearing comes after years in immigration limbo. ...UPDATE: On Tuesday, the social justice organizing network Mijente announced that a federal immigration court ordered Alejandra Pablos to be deported. In a statement, Pablos said this is not the end of her fight." Another example of targeting activists in the war on immigrants.

[CN: Nativism] Joanna Walters at the Guardian: 'I Must Continue': Statue of Liberty Climber Patricia Okoumou Still Protesting Despite Facing Prison. "Patricia Okoumou, the protester who scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July in an audacious protest against the Trump administration's separation of migrant families, faces the prospect of federal prison when she goes on trial in New York next week. ...But despite her impending trial, Okoumou has continued her protest. ...Okoumou [who is now a full-time activist] described the incident last month where migrants, including young children, were teargassed by the US at the border as 'an atrocity.' 'When they can do this and they get away with it, it makes me realize I must continue with acts of civil disobedience. It's cruel; it's reprehensible,' she said." RESIST.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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Vietnamese Refugees Are the Next Target of Trump's War on Immigrants

[Content Note: Nativism.]

The Trump Regime's war on immigrants is a key plank in their vile agenda of wretched malice. The next target in this ever-expanding war are Vietnamese refugees, many of whom have lived in the United States for virtually their entire lives.

Charles Dunst and Krishnadev Calamur at the Atlantic report:

The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades — many of them having fled the country during the Vietnam War.

...In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law — meaning they are all eligible for deportation.

...The administration last year began pursuing the deportation of many long-term immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, and other countries who the administration alleges are "violent criminal aliens." But Washington and Hanoi have a unique 2008 agreement that specifically bars the deportation of Vietnamese people who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995 — the date the two former foes reestablished diplomatic relations following the Vietnam War.

The White House unilaterally reinterpreted the agreement in the spring of 2017 to exempt people convicted of crimes from its protections, allowing the administration to send back a small number of pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants, a policy it retreated from this past August. Last week, however, James Thrower, a spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Hanoi, said the American government was again reversing course.

...Many pre-1995 arrivals, all of whom were previously protected under the 2008 agreement by both the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were refugees from the Vietnam War. Some are the children of those who once allied with American and South Vietnamese forces, an attribute that renders them undesirable to the current regime in Hanoi, which imputes anti-regime beliefs to the children of those who opposed North Vietnam. This anti-Communist constituency includes minorities such as the children of the American-allied Montagnards, who are persecuted in Vietnam for both their ethnicity and Christian religion.
Just to be clear: Many of these are people who fled Vietnam after working with U.S. troops during the war, and would be in danger of persecution if they were forced to return to Vietnam.

I oppose and resist this policy with fervor. And I take up space in solidarity with immigrant families across this nation, including the Vietnamese refugees and immigrants who have become the target of the Trump Regime's vicious nativist malice.

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Trump Cancels White House Holiday Party for Press

Grumpy Trumpy isn't in the holiday spirit: "Donald Trump has become the president who stole Christmas after canceling the annual festive party for the White House press. The decades-old tradition would see reporters and the president put aside their differences for one night for a lavish party that would see spouses and family invited to drink and be merry. ...One of the main events of the parties was picture-taking sessions in which the president and first lady would pose with guests in front of a Christmas tree, with the White House sending out the photos."

Last year, Trump begrudgingly held the party, but refused to pose for any pictures. This year, according to a Fox News report, it's canceled altogether.

To be frank, the White House holiday party for the press is one of a number of examples of the problematic coziness of the Beltway press with the politicians they are meant to be holding accountable. Pix with the prez at Crimbo is access journalism at its worst.

The president shouldn't even have the need to cancel the party, because journalists should be boycotting any social engagements with a regime that is waging war on the free press, undermining trust in public institutions, and inventing their own "alternative facts" to foment informational chaos.

However, irrespective of the fact that this event should never have existed in the first place and should find no self-respecting journalist wanting to attend anyway, the fact that Donald Trump is simply canceling it is evidence of his escalating hostility toward the free press, and that is deeply troubling.

He does not want to be held accountable, and he cannot bear to mingle with the people tasked with doing it. Further, he wants them to feel unwelcome, and that is nothing a president should ever be communicating to the press — nor to the public about the press.

This is the behavior of authoritarians, and it should not be dismissed with the increasingly common shrug because "that's just Trump."

I certainly hope this latest insult to the press will finally be the thing that makes them reconsider just how chummy they want to be with the Trump Regime.

But it probably won't.

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Newt Gingrich on Shortlist for Trump's Chief of Staff

Ugh this guy never fucking goes away: Newt Gingrich is reportedly on the shortlist of people being considered to be Donald Trump's next chief of staff.

Yesterday, Trump tweeted: "Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position." Which, like every other sensible person on the planet, I find difficult to believe.

My guess is that the shortlist is very short indeed.

It's probably something like:

1. Newt Gingrich
2. John Barron
3. David Dennison
4. John Miller
5. Tronald Dump
6. A cheeseburger
7. A can of Diet Coke
8. An Ivanka Trump handbag
9. A gold toilet
10. Rudy Giuliani
11. A pile of garbage

There aren't a whole lot of things that could make the Trump Regime even worse, but "more Newt Gingrich" is definitely on that shortlist, too.

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Open Thread

image of a yellow couch

Hosted by a yellow sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Suzy: "If your life had a narrator, who would it be?"

Betty White.

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Wednesday Links!

This list o' links brought to you by school spirit.

Recommended Reading:

Your Fat Friend at Medium: [Content Note: Fat hatred and intersecting bigotries] A Draft Agenda for Fat Justice (This piece is from July, but I missed it at the time, so I'm sharing it now!)

Ann Bauer at Dame: [CN: Sexual assault; rape apologia; gaslighting] There's a Predator in My Building

Maryn McKenna at the Guardian: [CN: Images of ticks at link] What Is Behind the Spread of a Mysterious Allergy to Meat?

Patrick Svitek at the Texas Tribune: Julián Castro Forms Presidential Exploratory Committee, Sets Jan. 12 Announcement

Andy Towle at Towleroad: Incredible Footage Shows Orcas Playing with Swimmer in the Wild

And finally... Mimi Matthews at Bust: This 19th Century English Poet Laureate Gave His Cats the Most Elaborate Names

I miss you, Ms. Olivia Twist! ♥

Leave your links and recommendations in comments. Self-promotion welcome and encouraged!

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Discussion Thread: How Are You?

I'm hanging in there. Friends keep texting me to ask how I'm doing, and that's what I keep telling them: I'm hanging in there.

And I am.

It's the truth. And it's easier than saying: I am still just racked with grief about losing Olivia, but every day gets easier, because time gives us the gift of resilience, so that our hearts can go on loving.

To be honest, I can't think of a better way to honor Olivia than to keep loving tenaciously and abundantly, from a place of replenishing joy. So I am trying to do that.

We were able to fix my laptap with a new battery (yayayayay!), and our new washer and dryer have arrived, so that's a couple of problems solved.

I continue to loathe the Trump Regime with the fiery power of ten thousand suns.

I am grateful for my husband, for our home, for my friends, for all the times they make me laugh, and for Sophie, Dudley, and Zelda.

I am also, as always, glad for this community. Anyone who wants to join me in another enormous virtual group hug is welcome.

How are you?

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Listen, the news is tough, and we all need moments of escape from the horror to recuperate and prepare for the next onslaught, and I can talk about shoes all the livelong day, so welcome to the OMG SHOEZ thread.

Got a favorite pair of shoes you want to share? Bought a new pair about which you're super excited? Have a recommendation to make, or want to caution us away from a purchase you regret? Want to solicit suggestions for a specific event, a foot issue, an elusive something for which you've been hunting? Having trouble finding something particular on a budget? Have at it in comments!

* * *

I'm sorry it's been awhile since the last OMG SHOEZ thread, but I haven't had any new shoes to show off. And I still don't — which is why I'm featuring a favorite pair of old shoes today!

I got this pair of Softspots a few years ago, and I have worn the hell out of them:

image of the bottoms of my legs and feet; I'm wearing a pair of blue jeans and brown slip-on shoes, with scuffed tops

Although lots of people (quite understandably) hate the look of any scuffed shoes, I think the scuffs on this weathered material just add character, so I don't even worry about them.

The shoes have a little heel on them, but the soles are, like all of Softspots' shoes, extremely comfortable. I have walked countless miles in these things.

image of my feet from the same angle, with one foot turned slightly to the side so the black heel is visible

They have held up so well. Still incredibly comfy, and the soles remain in great condition. Love them!

So, that's what up with me! What's up with you?

(As always: I am not affiliated with nor am I receiving compensation from any of the brands or shoe retailers mentioned in this thread. Any shoes and/or retailers I recommend is just because I really like 'em!)

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt standing in the backyard with a grin on her face and her eyes shut, looking very happy
Happy Dog is happy because IT'S A DAY!

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

Open Wide...

We Resist: Day 692

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures (plus the occasional non-Republican who obliges us to resist their nonsense, too, like we don't have enough to worry about) is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Earlier today by me: Important End-of-Year Fundraiser and Not-Breaking News: Trump Is a Lying Dirtbag and What Are We Even Doing? and Michael Cohen Sentenced to 36 Months.

Here are some more things in the news today...

Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, and Sam Stein at the Daily Beast: Trump Springs Shutdown Stunt on Chuck and Nancy, Makes Everything Worse. "Trump’s heated on-air jostling with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the Oval Office on Tuesday was supposed to be private. But the president, at the last minute, decided otherwise. ...The result was a dramatic confrontation in which Trump managed to give Schumer and Pelosi exactly what they wanted — only, it was on national TV. ...[Some] questioned the political prudence of Trump preemptively taking the blame for a government shutdown. 'It wasn't great,' said one top GOP aide who has been though several shutdown fights. 'But he's an unconventional president.'" That's certainly one way of putting it.

[Content Note: Murder] Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton at Reuters: Trump Says He's Standing by Saudi Crown Prince Despite Pleas from Senate. "Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he stood by Saudi Arabia's crown prince despite a CIA assessment that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and pleas from U.S. senators for Trump to condemn the kingdom's de facto ruler. Trump refused to comment on whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder, but he provided perhaps his most explicit show of support for the prince since Khashoggi's death more than two months ago. 'He's the leader of Saudi Arabia. They've been a very good ally,' Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office. Asked by Reuters if standing by the kingdom meant standing by the prince, known as MbS, Trump responded: 'Well, at this moment, it certainly does.'"

Luke Barnes at ThinkProgress: Prime Minister Theresa May Faces Open Rebellion from Her Own Party. "After being forced on Monday to call off a crucial Brexit deal vote, Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday faced a vote of no-confidence, which could remove her from power if enough Conservative (Tory) Members of Parliament support it. The vote was triggered when 48 Tory MPs wrote a letter demanding the vote. May will be forced to step down if 158 of the Conservative Party's 315 MPs support it. If she wins the vote, which is set to take place at 1 p.m. EST, she cannot be challenged for another year." What a mess.

* * *

[CN: Nativism. Covers entire section.]

Hamed Aleaziz at BuzzFeed: The Number of People ICE Arrested at Their Jobs Skyrocketed Last Year. "Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made nearly 10 times as many immigration arrests at workplaces in the last year than they did in the previous fiscal year, a massive increase that was highlighted by the agency in data released Tuesday. The statistics indicate that a shift undertaken by Trump administration to crack down on workplace violations has resulted in a massive jump in arrests of people at their jobs and in the number of requests authorities have made to companies to prove that their workers are in the country legally."

Daniella Silva at NBC News: ICE Arrested 170 Immigrants Seeking to Sponsor Migrant Children. "Federal authorities have arrested 170 immigrants who came forward seeking to sponsor migrant children in government custody, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said. ICE said Tuesday that the arrests were of immigrants suspected of being in the United States illegally and took place from early July to November. They were the result of background checks conducted on potential sponsors of unaccompanied migrant children placed under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. More than two thirds of those arrested — 109 in total — had no criminal record, the agency said."

Vanessa Romo at NPR: Customs and Border Protection Paid a Firm $13.6 Million to Hire Recruits; It Hired 2. "A scathing report by the Office of the Inspector General revealed that a consulting company hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fill thousands of new jobs to satisfy [Donald] Trump's mandate to secure the southern border is 'nowhere near' completing its hiring goals and 'risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.' The audit found that as of Oct. 1, CBP had paid Accenture Federal Services approximately $13.6 million of a $297 million contract to recruit and hire 7,500 applicants, including Customs and Border Protection officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Interdiction agents. But 10 months into the first year of a five-year contract, Accenture had processed only 'two accepted job offers,' according to the report." Another example of how the Trump Regime's nativist agenda is one giant grift for mercenaries.

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed: The Trump Administration Just Asked the Supreme Court to Let It Enforce Its New Asylum Ban. "The Trump administration went to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking an order that would allow it to enforce its new policy barring asylum claims by those who cross into the country at the southern border without authorization. ...The two-part policy change involved the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security issuing a new rule asserting that those who violate a presidential order restricting entry along the southern border of the United States (that had not, at that point, been issued) 'would not be eligible for asylum.' Then, Trump issued the order. ...U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar halted enforcement of the policy change — issuing a temporary restraining order in the days before Thanksgiving. 'Whatever the scope of the President's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,' Tigar wrote."

* * *

Speaking of Republicans and crime... Kate Riga at TPM: New NY Attorney General Promises Wide Swath of Investigations into Trump and Family. "Letitia James, the freshly elected New York attorney general, is promising comprehensive investigations into [Donald] Trump and his family, with a focus on his real estate holdings and Trump Organization. According to a Wednesday NBC News report, this vow is in line with James' campaign, which included a push to pass a bill to to change the state's double jeopardy laws and blunt the power of possible presidential pardons. 'We will use every area of the law to investigate [Donald] Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,' James told NBC News."

Meanwhile... [CN: Misogynoir; sexual abuse; deadly violence] Kay Wicker at ThinkProgress: Cyntoia Brown Was Given 51 Years for a Crime She Committed as a Child; Her Story Is Not Uncommon.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Cyntoia Brown, a sex-trafficking victim who was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery when she was 16 years old, must serve 51 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

Brown was convicted in 2006 for the murder of 43-year-old Johnny Allen, a man who had hired her as a sex worker when she was a teenager. After Allen drove Brown to his home, she allegedly resisted his advances. At one point, Brown claimed she thought Allen was reaching for a gun to kill her and pulled a gun out of her bag instead, shooting and killing him.

Prosecutors claimed Brown had gone with Allen in order to rob him. Her lawyers argued that Brown, a runaway who had been raped, abused, and forced into prostitution by a man named "Kut Throat," was acting out of self defense.

Brown was subsequently charged with one count of first degree premeditated murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of "especially aggravated robbery." She was tried as an adult and convicted two years later.

Brown's story is not unique. In her home state of Tennessee, she's one of at least 183 people serving life without parole for crimes committed as a child. It is estimated that there are around 2,100 people serving out sentences without parole for crimes committed as juveniles nationwide, according to The Sentencing Project, a D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for a fair and effective criminal justice system.
Two Americas within the criminal justice system, just like everywhere else.

* * *

Shawn Boburg and Anu Narayanswamy at the Washington Post: Trump Has Blasted Mueller's Team for Political Donations, But Attorney General Nominee William P. Barr Has Given More Than $500,000. "Trump has repeatedly derided prosecutors investigating potential coordination between his presidential campaign and Russia as 'angry Democrats,' pointing to their past political donations as proof of bias. But William P. Barr, Trump's nominee to lead the Justice Department and oversee the Russia investigation, would be by far the most prolific political donor to step into the country's top law enforcement post in at least a quarter-century, according to a Washington Post analysis. Barr has donated more than $567,000 in the past two decades, nearly all to GOP candidates and groups, federal records show."

Rachel Bergman at the Sunlight Foundation: In Overhaul of Webpage, Information About Ways to Apply Is Gone. "A few weeks after the start of the Open Enrollment period to sign up for Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage, which runs from November 1 to December 15, 2018,'s 'Apply for Health Insurance' webpage was altered. Information about two ways to apply is now missing and has been replaced by a new list of application options and links, including a link for 'Help On Demand,' a third-party consumer assistance referral system, operated by a for-profit software company, BigWave Systems. ...Two of the options — to enroll by phone and by mail — have been completely removed."

Alyza Sebenius at Bloomberg: U.S. Companies Targeted by Possible North Korean Hackers. "Hackers have targeted dozens of companies, mostly based in the U.S., in a sophisticated cyber espionage campaign that may be connected to the North Korean government, according to a report published Wednesday. The attackers have tried to penetrate the computer networks of at least 87 companies in the nuclear, defense, energy, and financial industries since late October, according to research by internet security company McAfee Inc. The report didn't name any of the businesses. ...McAfee has shared its findings with the companies, global law enforcement agencies, and the cybersecurity industry." Please, let's put everything on the cloud. It is such a good idea. (It is not a good idea.)

Chris McGreal at the Guardian: As Climate Change Bites in America's Midwest, Farmers Are Desperate to Ring the Alarm. "On 23 November, the National Climate Assessment warned of 'substantial damages' across the U.S. in the coming years from increasing wildfires in the west to flooding in the east. But the sharpest rise in temperatures will be between the coasts as the midwest endures longer and hotter summers, heavier rains, and droughts that collectively are predicted to significantly reduce U.S. agricultural production. 'Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability,' said the 1,600-page report, the work of 13 federal agencies."

Sameer Rao at Colorlines: Artists Protest Whitney Museum Exec's Weapons Connections. "Members of Art V War, an artist and activist group, protested the Whitney Museum of American Art's vice chairman and his ownership of a controversial defense company — which supplied the tear gas that border agents recently deployed against Central American asylum seekers — by installing an unauthorized work at the New York City museum [on December 10]. ...The paper points readers to a hashtag, #WhitneyTearGas, and Shimunov's petition demanding that the museum's board and administrative leaders denounce Kanders' 'oppression profiteering.' The petition also calls for Kanders to resign."

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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Michael Cohen Sentenced to 36 Months

Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison. That is quite a sentence, even considering his cooperation, for the number and severity of crimes he committed.

By comparison, former Bush administration official Scooter Libby, who was indicted following Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of U.S. spy Valerie Plame, was convicted of two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice in a grand jury investigation, and one of the two counts of making false statements to federal investigators, and he was sentenced to 30 months.

Cohen got only 6 months more.

I'm a prison abolitionist; I take no pleasure from seeing anyone go into our profoundly abusive prison system. (Even though I realize Cohen will do his time in a white collar space that is much safer than the average U.S. prison.) So it's not like I want Cohen to have more prison time, but, at the same time, I don't like how comparatively minor his sentence is.

As I've said before, trading such comparatively minor sentences for information to get to truths about the president that have long been evident to anyone paying attention doesn't feel like justice to me.

It just feels bleak, in the same way everything else related to the Trump Regime does.

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What Are We Even Doing?

Ruth Clegg and Manveen Rana at the BBC: Is U.S. Military Cloud Safe from Russia? Fears over Sensitive Data.

A technology company bidding for a Pentagon contract to store sensitive data has close partnerships with a firm linked to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, the BBC has learned.

The Jedi project, a huge cyber-cloud which could ultimately store nuclear codes, has already sparked security fears.

Viktor Vekselberg, who is close to the Kremlin, has links to C5, a group of cyber-investment companies which has worked closely with the leading bidder, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Both C5 and AWS say C5 is not involved in the Jedi bid in any way.

All bids for the cloud are sealed. The Pentagon refused to comment, stating that information about companies involved could not be disclosed.

...Mr Pienaar, the man behind the C5 group, is a well-connected South African with business ties to a wealth of illustrious names.

The board of one of his flagship companies, C5 Capital, features a roll call of some of the most influential and trusted figures in military and security circles on both sides of the Atlantic.

He also has links to Viktor Vekselberg, who is on the U.S. sanctions list for his close ties to Vladimir Putin.
As I noted on Twitter: This entire project seems like a full-tilt trash idea (nuclear codes in the cloud?! JFC), and that's BEFORE we get to the part where they're subcontracting out the tech, and BEFORE Kremlin-tied oligarchs were allowed to bid on the contract!

Setting aside for the moment that a company with ties to a sanctioned oligarch who's pally with Putin was even allowed to bid on the contract, what in god's teeth is the Pentagon doing proposing to keep military secrets on a cloud?!

John Weiler, director of the Washington-based IT procurement group IT-AAC, is quoted in the article, saying: "I would not store my most personal data, nor would my fellow colleagues, in a commercial cloud, period, the end."
He says there are huge risks to storing such classified information on a public, commercially-held cloud run by just one company.

"We have our nuclear codes; where our troops are going to be from one day to the next. If the cloud's security is breached, then our enemies could use our information against us. They could be waiting for us."
This is so aggressively stupid that it seems designed to have a ready-made excuse for a transfer of sensitive military information to our enemies meant to look precisely like that entirely predictable failure.

I realize that sounds paranoid, but the notion that the sitting president could be colluding with Vladimir Putin to undermine democracy globally sounded paranoid once upon a time, too, so.


As David Lee Sloth (!!!) observed on Twitter: "AYFKM? Russia goes back to using typewriters for sensitive data & our dipshits want to put our security data in the cloud?? SMH." Yeah. That's about the shape of it.

And as incredible as it seems, it might not even matter — because there's a good possibility Russia already has access to our nuclear codes.

As I mentioned in October, a Government Accountability Office report found that U.S. weapons systems are stunningly vulnerable to hackers, many of whom can hack our systems without alerting the military teams who manage them.

And, once again, I am reminded of that December 2016 article at the New Yorker by Eric Schlosser: "World War Three, by Mistake." This paragraph, in particular:
Strict precautions have been taken to thwart a cyberattack on the U.S. nuclear command-and-control system. Every line of nuclear code has been scrutinized for errors and bugs. The system is "air-gapped," meaning that its networks are closed: someone can't just go onto the Internet and tap into a computer at a Minuteman III control center. At least, that's the theory. Russia, China, and North Korea have sophisticated cyber-warfare programs and techniques. General James Cartwright — the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command who recently pleaded guilty to leaking information about Stuxnet — thinks that it's reasonable to believe the system has already been penetrated. "You've either been hacked, and you're not admitting it, or you're being hacked and don't know it," Cartwright said last year.
Everything is not fine. Not at all.

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Not-Breaking News: Trump Is a Lying Dirtbag

[Content Note: Nativism.]

Yesterday, after Donald Trump behaved like a feral shitwheel during his meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, I remarked: "Trump's morning tweetshitz about Nancy Pelosi are going to be epically awful." And so they are.

He led off with this gem: "Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!"

It's deceivingly hinged, by Trumpian standards — but that doesn't make it any less vile. Embedded within those 29 words is the lie, disgorged relentlessly by Trump, that immigrants are a bigger threat than domestic terrorists, and thus that border security is a more pressing issue than gun control.

That lie serves not only to try to deflect his own accountability for the constant bloodshed caused by mass murderers in the United States, where easy access to high-powered deadly weaponry remains an urgent public safety issue that the president and his party ignore, but also serves to extend his campaign of stochastic terrorism against immigrants and refugees.

By again implying that they are disproportionately likely to commit acts of terrorist violence, Trump is again putting a brightly colored target on their backs — knowing full well that among his fevered cultists are armed bigots who will preemptively attack if they hear often enough that immigrants pose a terrorist threat.

It's the most grotesque circle: Trump is telling a damnable lie that conceals it is conservative straight white cis male citizens who pose the gravest terrorist threat in the U.S., which will further radicalize people in that very demographic.

And he's blaming Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer for public acts of violence, because they don't want to waste money building his "great wall," which would serve as little more than monument to his incendiary lies.

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Important End-of-Year Fundraiser

image of a white piggy bank wearing black glasses, into which three pennies are falling, accompanied by text reading: 'Shakesville End-of-Year Fundraiser | Your donations are necessary to support Shakesville's daily content & vibrant community in an ad-free space.'

This is a critical fundraiser to keep Shakesville going.

As I have been before, I want to be very blunt with y'all: To keep doing this job, and to keep Shakesville a safe ad-free space, I need to be making enough through donations to support myself, independently. Although Iain and I combine resources, like many couples, I don't want to find myself in a place where I couldn't support myself on my own if I needed and/or wanted to.

The past couple of years, it has been the year-end fundraiser that gets me — barely — past that threshold and gives me some resources to get through lean months the rest of the year.

So, once again, this is a critical fundraiser for me, in order to keep Shakesville going.

I don't mean for that to sound like an ultimatum: I'm just trying to be as straightforward as possible. Writing content, managing the community, moderating comments alongside the other mods, and engaging with readers via email and social media is a full-time job. I can't do this and hold down another job. I tried it, most of 2016, and it nearly ended me.

So this gig has to pay me a livable wage for my time, and enough to pay contributors for their work, or I need to find another way to make a living.

And just to be abundantly clear: I'm not looking to get rich off this work. I simply want to make enough money that I am able to support myself modestly, in exchange for my full-time labor.

So, if you value the content and/or community in this space, please consider setting up a subscription or making a single end-of-year contribution.

Please click the button below to make a one-time donation:

Or use the below dropdown menu to choose set up a recurring monthly donation:

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I cannot afford to do this full-time for free, but, even if I could, fundraising is also one of the most feminist acts I do here. I ask to be paid for my work because progressive feminist advocacy has value; because women's work has value.

So! If you value my work here and/or on Twitter, please remember that Shakesville is run exclusively on donations. I would certainly be grateful for your support, if you are able to chip in.

Thank you to each of you who donates or has donated, whether monthly or as a one-off. I am deeply appreciative. This community couldn't exist without that support, truly. Thank you.

My thanks as well to everyone who contributes to the space in other ways, whether as a contributor, a moderator, a guest writer, a transcriber, and/or as someone who takes the time to send me a note of support and encouragement, some cool art, or anything else you think might give me a smile or fill my lungs with air. (You're usually right!) This community couldn't exist without you, either.

Finally and essentially: Please note that I don't want anyone to feel obliged to contribute financially, especially if money is tight. There is a big enough readership that no one needs to donate if it would be a hardship, and no one should ever feel bad about that.

I mean that. We're all in this thing together.

One of the things I hate most about fundraising is knowing that it might make some people feel bad, if they want to donate but aren't able. I would never presume to tell you how to feel, but please know that I don't want you to feel bad.

What I want is for you to know that, some days, your kind words are the only thing that keeps me going. I need money to survive. It is your encouragement that keeps me doing this work. You support me in many ways, and I am immensely thankful for them all. ♥

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