Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker RachelB: "To what unanswerable question do you most want an answer?"

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The Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by ravioli.

Recommended Reading:

Kate: Women Saving the Planet: Kayla DeVault of Navajo Nation

Ari: The False Comfort of Neil Gorsuch's Constitutional 'Originalism'

Ragen: [Content Note: Fat hatred] Charging Fat Folks Extra for a Pedicure?

Deepa: [CN: Islamophobia] New San Francisco Ordinance Keeps the City from Cooperating with Any Religion-Based Registry

Nicole: There's No One Way to Be a Social Worker

TLC: [CN: Trans hatred] Transgender Community Pushes Back as Anti-Transgender Bills Advance in State Legislatures Nationwide

Rae: NASA Experiment Could Solve a Mystery About DNA in Space

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

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Rep. Devin Nunes Is Why We Need an Independent Investigation of the Trump Administration

As you may recall my saying once or twice or three zillion times, Congressional investigations into the Trump administration's ties to Russia are insufficient. We need an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate, because otherwise the Republican majority on any investigating committee will control the process.

Proving the most troubling case in point, today Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who ran interference for Trump during his committee's hearing this week, held an impromptu press conference at which he asserted "that the intelligence community 'incidentally collected' information about members of [Mr.] Trump's transition team outside of its investigation into Russia's interference in the U.S. election." Further:

Nunes claimed that the information was "widely disseminated" among intelligence agencies and that the identities of Trump staffers were "unmasked."

Nunes said he was "alarmed" by these reports from the intelligence community, though he repeatedly noted that staffers' communications appeared to be collected "legally" in the course of "normal, foreign surveillance." He said they took place in November, December and January, following the election.

Nunes left many other details hazy, citing the classified nature of the reports he said were brought to his attention "by sources who thought we should know it" following Monday's open hearing on Russia's involvement in the 2016 election.

Most notably, he first affirmed and then hedged his answers to questions about whether Trump's personal communications were caught up in the incidental collection.

Asked by CNN's Manu Raju if the President was "also part of that incidental collection," Nunes said yes and nodded.

He was cagier when MSNBC's Kasie Hunt followed up, asking whether Trump's "personal communication" were part of the incidental collection.

"It's possible," Nunes said. "We won't know until we get the information on Friday."

The California Republican said that the White House had not been briefed on any of that information, to his knowledge. He said he planned to speak to Trump about it Wednesday afternoon, arguing "they need to see it."
And then, in an extraordinary move, he briefed the White House about his claims, in a desperate bid to give Trump cover on his totally unjustified and unsubstantiable claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

Which, naturally resulted in Trump saying he felt somewhat vindicated: "I somewhat do [feel vindicated]. I must tell you, I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found, but I somewhat do."

Meanwhile, Trump is already fundraising off of Nunes' wildly inappropriate mischaracterization.

Nunes then held a second press conference, during which he doubled-down on this extraordinary bullshit:
Reporters asked him if it was "appropriate" for him to discuss details of classified surveillance reports with Trump and the press, particularly without first consulting his committee's ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), about the content of these reports.

Nunes defended his conduct, claiming the intelligence reports he has seen have "nothing to do with the Russian investigation" and that he had a "duty" to tell the President about "possible surveillance activities."

The California lawmaker left the door wide open when asked if the surveillance he was referring to was politically motivated.

"What I have read bothers me and I think it should bother the President himself and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate," he said.

He also said the President "is concerned, and he should be."

Asked if he could "rule out" that former President Barack Obama or officials in his administration were involved, he replied, "No, I cannot."
This is genuinely unprecedented behavior. The Chair of a Congressional committee tasked with investigating the White House publicly did an end-run around his committee members, debriefed the president they're investigating, and then made a public statement about the president's right to know and right to be concerned.

What. The. Fuck.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democratic member on the committee, released a statement excoriating Nunes:
This afternoon, Chairman Devin Nunes announced he had some form of intercepts revealing that lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials included information on U.S. Persons, potentially including those associated with President Trump or the President himself. If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been. Indeed, it appears that committee members only learned about this when the Chairman discussed the matter this afternoon with the press. The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.

As to the substance of what the Chairman has alleged, if the information was lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials, that would mean that U.S. Persons would not have been the subject of surveillance. In my conversation late this afternoon, the Chairman informed me that most of the names in the intercepted communications were in fact masked, but that he could still figure out the probable identity of the parties. Again, this does not indicate that there was any flaw in the procedures followed by the intelligence agencies. Moreover, the unmasking of a U.S. Person's name is fully appropriate when is it necessary to understand the context of collected foreign intelligence information.

Because the committee has still not been provided the intercepts in the possession of the Chairman, it is impossible to evaluate the Chairman's claims. It certainly does not suggest—in any way—that the President was wiretapped by his predecessor.
Nunes, who was a member of Trump's executive transition committee, should have recused himself from this investigation in the first place. His very involvement is inappropriate, for the exact reasons that such recusals are standard procedure: Because often people who have a conflict of interest cannot remain partial.

Nunes isn't even pretending to be impartial.

He is Exhibit A in why we need a special investigation, and Reason #1 why we'll never get it.

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The More Information About Manafort We Get, the More Questions I Have About the 2016 Election

This is a long one, but it's important, so settle in...

The AP's Jeff Horowitz and Chad Day have reported on a major story regarding Donald Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who has long been at the center of questions about ties to Russia. I strongly encourage you to read the entire thing, as I'm just going to focus on a few pieces of the much more comprehensive article.

This is the central piece of the reporting:

Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings, and news coverage inside the United States, Europe, and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."
Okay. So, three important notes.

First, this is indeed a contradiction of Manafort's previous claims that he never worked for Russian interests. Manafort needs to be questioned about his ties to Russia, under oath, in Congressional hearings immediately.

Secondly, 2006, the year Manafort signed the $10 million annual contract, was also the year that Manafort started living in Trump Tower.

Third, Deripaska was a supporter and financial backer of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin then-prime minister of Ukraine, for whom Manafort also worked for nearly a decade. Yesterday, as I mentioned, the Washington Post's Andrew Roth reported on new documents reportedly showing that Manafort "laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan." That disgraced ex-leader is Viktor Yanukovych.

(I'll come back to that.)

Naturally, Manafort continues to deny that his work for Deripaska had to do with anything but some business and personal consulting.
In a statement to the AP, Manafort confirmed that he worked for Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as "inappropriate or nefarious" as part of a "smear campaign."

"I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments," Manafort said. "My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia's political interests."
Except. As the AP story also notes, "One strategy memo to Deripaska was written by Manafort and Rick Davis, his business partner at the time. In written responses to the AP, Davis said he did not know that his firm had proposed a plan to covertly promote the interests of the Russian government. ...He took a leave of absence from the firm in late 2006 to work on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign."

Which brings us to something about which I wrote last July:
In April, Franklin Foer wrote an extensive profile of Manafort, in which Foer details Manafort's decades-long relationship with Trump, which has spanned the former's career of advising some of the most despicable tyrants around the globe. In the piece, he recalls the time that Manafort "snookered" John McCain into aiding him in "undermining American policy."

Manafort's business partner, lobbyist Rick Davis, was one of McCain's top advisers. Manafort's and Davis' work in Ukraine was so concerning that, in 2008, a staffer on the National Security Council called McCain to ask him to help "dial back" Manafort and Davis, because: "By promoting enemies of the Orange Revolution, they were undermining American policy." But McCain had already been taken in by them.
That year, the pair had consulted on behalf of pro-independence forces in the tiny principality of Montenegro, which wanted to exit Serbia and become its own sovereign republic. On the surface, this sounded noble enough, so noble that McCain called Montenegro's independence the "greatest European democracy project since the end of the Cold War."

A report in the Nation, however, showed that the Montenegrin campaign wasn't remotely what McCain described. The independence initiative was championed by a fantastically wealthy Russian mogul called Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska had parochial reasons for promoting independence. He had just purchased Montenegro's aluminum industry and intended to buy broader swaths of its economy. But he was also doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin, on whose good graces the fate of all Russian business ultimately hangs. The Nation quoted Deripaska boasting that "the Kremlin wanted an area of influence in the Mediterranean."
Got that? Manafort and Davis (who was running McCain's campaign) manipulated the Republican nominee to lend his support, under the auspices of "yay freedom," to a geopolitical event designed to enrich Putin and his allies.

And that was hardly the end of it.
Manafort and Davis didn't just snooker McCain into trumpeting their client's cause; they endangered him politically, by arranging a series of meetings with Deripaska, who the U.S. had barred from entering the country because of his ties to organized crime. In 2006, they steered McCain to attend a dinner with the oligarch at a chalet near Davos, where Deripaska speechified for the 40 or so guests. (The Washington Post reported that the oligarch sent Davis and Manafort a thank-you note for arranging to see the senator in "such an intimate setting.") Seven months later, Manafort and Davis took McCain to celebrate his 70th birthday with Deripaska on a yacht moored in the Adriatic.
And now, two presidential cycles later, Manafort is running Donald Trump's campaign.
The first point in recounting this history is to underline that Manafort's claim his "work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia's political interests" is utterly false.

The second point is to note that the 2016 cycle was not even the first time Manafort has tried to entangle a U.S. presidential candidate in pro-Russian policy. He tried it before, with John McCain, way back in 2006.

When, I will note, it was presumed that the Democratic nominee that year would be—you guessed it—Hillary Clinton.

Vladimir Putin's hatred of Hillary Clinton is well-known. As I've previously observed:
Russia's meddling wasn't just intended to try to install Trump as a puppet, but also to seek vengeance on Hillary Clinton:
When mass protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin erupted in Moscow in December 2011, Putin made clear who he thought was really behind them: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

With the protesters accusing Putin of having rigged recent elections, the Russian leader pointed an angry finger at Clinton, who had issued a statement sharply critical of the voting results. "She said they were dishonest and unfair," Putin fumed in public remarks, saying that Clinton gave "a signal" to demonstrators working "with the support of the U.S. State Department" to undermine his power. "We need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs," Putin declared.
That history is important—because it explains why Putin orchestrated election interference on behalf of Clinton's opponent, even if Trump himself wasn't aware of it. (He was aware of it.)
Much of Putin's animosity toward Clinton stems from her time as Secretary of State—but his animus extends back beyond her tenure at State, for the same reasons Obama wanted her as his Secretary of State. By that time, she was already well-established as a diplomatic powerhouse, having, for example, played a crucial role in the Irish peace process.

Putin had good reason not to want Hillary Clinton as the United States president, because she was a clear threat to his empiric aspirations. Further, Putin believes the Bill Clinton administration exploited the political weakness that resulted from the fall of the Soviet Union. That grudge is as old as Kosovo. As a result, he almost certainly wanted to prevent a second Clinton presidency.

That is not to suggest that Putin wasn't motivated by the oft-cited subversion of U.S. democracy to destabilize a key player on the global stage, keen to keep him in check. To the absolute contrary, Putin's campaign against Hillary Clinton was a central part of that.

After all, Putin knows she's the most qualified candidate ever to run for the U.S. presidency, too.

Earlier this week, FBI James Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers both confirmed during Congressional testimony that Putin's goal was not just to undermine faith in our democracy, and not just to help Trump win, but to hurt Clinton. Here is Comey explicitly confirming that:
REP. MIKE CONAWAY: The conclusion that active measures were taken specifically to help [Donald] Trump's campaign—you had that by early December? You already had that conclusion?

COMEY: Correct. That they wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him. I think all three we were confident in, at least as early as December.
One of their chief strategies was hacking. According to the assessment of U.S. intelligence, Russians were responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee, and for dissimating hacked DNC emails via WikiLeaks. U.S. intelligence agencies and cybersecurity experts also believe that Russian intelligence was behind the hacking and release of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's emails.

A second primary strategy was propaganda: "Russia's increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery—including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human 'trolls,' and networks of websites and social-media accounts—echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers."

The anti-Clinton propaganda that proliferated social media during the campaign was not just pro-Trump, but also pro-Bernie Sanders.

Just 11 days ago, Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis at the Huffington Post detailed the "fake news tsunami" that infected pro-Sanders Facebook groups.
Bev Cowling, 64, saw a sudden deluge of requests to join the Sanders Facebook groups she administered from her home in Toney, Alabama. All of a sudden, they were getting 80 to 100 requests to join each day. She and the other administrators couldn't vet everyone, and the posts started getting bizarre. "It came in like a wave, like a tsunami," she said. "It was like a flood of misinformation."

Cowling, a retired postal worker, said some of her Facebook group members were ready to believe the bogus news links. "People were so anti-Hillary that no matter what you said, they were willing to share it and spread it," she said. "At first I would just laugh about it. I would say, 'C'mon, this is beyond ridiculous.' I created a word called 'ridiculosity.' I would say, 'This reeks of ridiculosity.'"

But Cowling got pushback. She was called a "Hillbot" and a Trump supporter. She ended up removing dozens of members who refused to stop pushing conspiracy theories. "I lost quite a few friends," she said.
There were countless people who were primed by three decades of right-wing attacks on Clinton (and of course the all-too familiar misogyny incessantly wielded against her) to hate her, and they ate up every crumb of the avalanche of mendacious garbage being served up by Russian ratfuckers.

Now, this is where things get even more complicated, and I want to just state plainly that I am not trying to insinuate anything. If I intend to say something, I will state it plainly. The information that follows are facts, about which I have questions, but not conclusions.

Donald Trump was not Clinton's only 2016 opponent whose campaign was being run by a former adviser to the pro-Putin former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych.

At the same time Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was working for Yanukovych, so was Sanders chief strategist Tad Devine. In fact, Devine and Manafort were collaborating, including during the period were Manafort's aforementioned money-laundering for Yanukovych took place. (To be abundantly clear: Devine is not implicated in that at all.)

Devine, who convinced Sanders to run as a Democrat, reached out to Manafort at least once that we know of during the 2016 U.S. presidential election: To try to arrange the ill-fated debate proposed between Trump and Sanders.
Devine knows campaign chairman Paul Manafort from, among other things, their collaboration on the campaign of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. According to campaign aides, the morning after Trump was on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Weaver asked Devine to give Manafort a call to see if they could actually make the debate happen. They were already fielding offers from most of the networks—including a producer for Stephen Colbert, who wanted to host the debate on his own late night show.

Manafort laughed, said it was a joke, but then again, Trump was on his plane, and he had no idea what the candidate would do. The answer turned out to be a statement killing the speculation. Manafort left a voicemail for Devine saying he'd won over Trump. Devine never called him back.
To be clear, as I noted at the time, the entire charade was an exercise in trying to make Hillary Clinton look bad, because she refused to agree to a debate with Sanders in California. So, the one time we know that Devine and Manafort communicated, it was to orchestrate something that was explicitly to harm Clinton.

At this point, I expect some people are wondering if I'm going to acknowledge that the Podesta Group, a lobbying and public affairs firm founded by brothers Anthony Podesta and John Podesta—the latter of whom was, as mentioned above, Clinton's campaign chair—also did work for Yanukovych. They did indeed. But: John Podesta was working for the Obama administration at that time, not as a consultant.

Notably, there was another member of the Clinton campaign who did consulting in Ukraine: Chief strategist Joel Benenson. Except he did not work for Yanukovych, but Yanukovych's rival, former Parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became Prime Minister of Ukraine after Yanukovych was ousted in 2014.

To recap: Both Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chair, and Tad Devine, Sanders' chief strategist, worked for the pro-Putin Viktor Yanukovych. Joel Benenson, Clinton's chief strategist, worked for Yanukovych's anti-Putin rival Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, at which time Yatsenyuk became Prime Minister, the same year that Devine goes to work for Sanders. (Manafort onboarded with the Trump campaign later.)

So, two U.S. strategists worked for a pro-Putin Ukrainian, then each went to work for U.S. presidential campaigns whose chief opponent, in both cases, was Hillary Clinton, who is virulently hated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Then both of those campaigns are given a huge assist by Russian hacking and a massive disinformation campaign orchestrated by Russian intelligence.

Now, just to be extremely clear that I'm not suggesting a straight-up equivalence between the two campaigns, let me point out a couple of major differences.

1. Tad Devine has not been accused of any illegal activities in association with his work for Yanukovych, unlike Paul Manafort.

2. Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump.

But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny.

Manafort is one piece of a bigger puzzle. Maybe there is nothing more to find, but the only way to know that with certainty is to look.

I am concerned by the questions that are raised by a long-time target of Putin's ire facing two opponents whose key campaign staff both worked for a Putin ally, and whose campaigns were given a direct assist by Russian interference that intelligence agencies have concluded was, in part, explicitly to derail her.

I am concerned that both of those opponents ran on major-party tickets that were a departure from their previous party affiliations. Sanders was elected as an independent, and identified as an independent for 26 years in Congress, then ran as a Democrat at Devine's urging, and immediately returned to being an independent after the election. Trump used to be a Democrat, but switched to donating heavily to Republicans after Obama was elected—in that same election in which Manafort convinced McCain to sing the praises of Oleg Deripaska's independence initiative in Montenegro.

I am concerned that the facts compiled here make me suspicious that something much bigger than we've even begun to comprehend went on during the 2016 presidential election, and that I don't have enough insight into what happened to quell those suspicions, because the people ostensibly tasked with protecting the integrity of our elections and democratic institutions aren't interested in meaningful investigation of what happened. Or didn't.

I don't want to be suspicious. I don't want to sound or feel like a conspiracy theorist, just for compiling and reporting facts. What I want is answers.

[My thanks to the other contributors who offered valuable input on this piece.]

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Attack at UK Houses of Parliament

[Content Note: Violence; death.]

The Guardian: Houses of Parliament Attack: Four Dead Including Police Officer.

Four people have died, including a police officer, and at least 20 people were injured in a major terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament, the Metropolitan police have confirmed.

Mark Rowley, the head of counter-terrorism at the Met, said a police officer had been killed after being stabbed by a lone attacker attempting to enter the House of Commons. The suspect was shot and killed.

Two other people died moments earlier, when the attacker drove a vehicle at speed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, near parliament, at about 2.40pm on Wednesday.

Rowley said at least 20 people, including three officers, were hurt in the attack on the bridge.

[A diplomatic source told Reuters:] "The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge hitting and injuring a number of members of the public, also including three police officers on their way back from a commendation ceremony. The car then crashed near to parliament and at least one man armed with a knife continued the attack and tried to enter parliament."

"Sadly, I can confirm that four people have died. That includes the police officer protecting parliament and one man we believe to be the attacker, who was shot by a police firearms officer. The officer's family have been made aware. At least 20 people have been injured."
My condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of those who died. My thoughts are with the people who were injured; those who escaped without physical harm but have been traumatized by the attack; and with the whole community.

Although I have seen the attack described as a terrorist attack, there is no official information I've yet seen that details the nature of the terrorism. I've also, as of this writing, not seen any information about the attackers or their motives.

The Guardian has live updates here.

Please feel welcome to use this thread to share updates, and, as always, let's keep it an image-free thread. Thanks.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Olivia the White Farm Cat chilling on the back of the sofa
Is there anything better than a big ol' fat cat butt? No!

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 62

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 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.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

There is more news about former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his ties to Russia. I will have a dedicated piece on that news later today.

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk at ABC News: Russian Mafia Boss Still at Large after FBI Wiretap at Trump Tower. The key takeaway here, however, is: "For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money-laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower in New York. The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world's most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov."

[CN: Injury] Mike Hayes at BuzzFeed: A Russian Lawyer Involved in a U.S. Prosecution Mysteriously Plunged from His Apartment Window. "A Russian lawyer who was a witness in a US federal court case connected to the largest money-laundering scheme in Russian history was hospitalized after plunging four stories on Tuesday in Moscow, a spokesman said. There are conflicting reports about what happened to the lawyer, Nikolai Gorokhov. His spokesman, William Browder—who was an alleged victim in the money-laundering scheme—says he was 'thrown from the fourth floor of his apartment building.' Russian media, often controlled by the state, says he 'fell while he and workers were trying to lift a Jacuzzi into his apartment.' ...Last week, after plenty of drama, Trump fired Preet Bharara, the high-profile US attorney who was handling the case."

[CN: Death] CBS News: Possible U.S. Strike Allegedly Kills 33 Civilians in School. "The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which relies on an extensive network of contacts on the ground in Syria and which generally proves a reliable source of information on the war, said coalition aircraft 'most likely' carried out the strike but did not explain how it reached that conclusion. ...The reports about the strike in Mansoura come less than a month after the same monitoring groups said a U.S.-led coalition aircraft had hit a village just east of Raqqa, killing at least 20 civilians."

Ju-min Park at Reuters: North Korea Missile Test Fails, U.S. and South Say, as Tensions Simmer. "A North Korean missile appeared to have exploded on Wednesday just after it was launched, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said after detecting the latest in a series of weapons tests by the nuclear-armed state that have alarmed the region. ...The increasing frequency of the missile tests has fueled a growing sense of urgency over how to respond to the isolated, unpredictable state. North Korea launched four ballistic missiles from near its west coast on March 6 and this week conducted a rocket engine test that its leader, Kim Jong Un, said opened 'a new birth' of its rocket industry."

The Editors at the Wall Street Journal: A President's Credibility. "If [Donald] Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We're not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods. ...Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump's approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn't show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he's a fake President."

Susan E. Rice at the Washington Post: When the White House Twists the Truth, We Are All Less Safe. "The foundation of the United States' unrivaled global leadership rests only in part on our military might, the strength of our economy and the power of our ideals. It is also grounded in the perception that the United States is steady, rational, and fact-based. To lead effectively, the United States must maintain respect and trust. So, when a White House deliberately dissembles and serially contorts the facts, its actions pose a serious risk to America's global leadership, among friends and adversaries alike."

Hey, remember when Judge Gorsuch insisted he was a fair judge? Well, he gave away the game today.


Speaking of Gorsuch... Glenn Thrush at the New York Times: 'I'll Criticize Judges,' Trump Says, Hours After a Scolding for Doing Just That. "Hours after Mr. Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court declared during Senate confirmation hearings that he was 'disheartened' about Mr. Trump's unrestrained attacks on the judicial branch, the president was at it again, calling out the federal judges who have halted his second executive order banning travel from certain predominantly Muslim nations. 'Somebody said I should not criticize judges. O.K. I'll criticize judges,' Mr. Trump said on Tuesday night at a fund-raising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee—reiterating his pique at a federal court judge in Hawaii who last week placed a stay on his second travel order."

Nik DeCosta-Klipa at Boston and 4 Other Massachusetts Cities Included on ICE's First Sanctuary City List. "Five Massachusetts cities, including Boston, are among the jurisdictions listed as uncooperative in a new public list released by federal immigration officials Monday. ...It is unclear whether there are any immediate policy implications of being included on the federal list. [Mr.] Trump has pledged to defund sanctuary cities—a tactic that would appear to run into legal roadblocks, if not widespread challenges."

K.K. Rebecca Lai, Troy Griggs, Max Fisher, and Audrey Carlsen at the New York Times: Is America's Military Big Enough? "Trump has proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which he said would be 'one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.' ...Trump has not articulated a new mission that would require a military spending increase. This has left analysts wondering what goals he has in mind. ...Gordon Adams, a former senior White House national security budget officer, said, 'Unless you decide you're going to war—and going to war soon—nobody keeps a large military.'"

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Blair Miller at ABC Denver: Former Colorado GOP Chair Steven Curtis Charged with Voter Fraud. "The former chair of the Colorado Republican Party is charged with forgery and voter fraud for allegedly forging his wife's mail-in ballot from last year's election, according to court records and sources. ...Curtis spoke about voter fraud ahead of last year's election. 'It seems to be, and correct me if I'm wrong here, but virtually every case of voter fraud I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats,' he told KLZ 560. ...The Colorado Secretary of State's Office says this is the only voter fraud case that has ended in charges stemming from last year's election."

[CN: LGBT erasure] Zack Ford at Think Progress: Trump Administration Erases LGBT People from Survey of Older Adults. "This week, the Department of Health and Human Services arbitrarily decided to just stop counting LGBT people in two critical surveys, eliminating vital data collection that could be used to help address the health disparities that LGBT people are known to experience."

Charles Ornstein at ProPublica: We Fact-Checked Lawmakers' Letters to Constituents on Health Care. "As the debate to repeal the law heats up in Congress, constituents are flooding their representatives with notes of support or concern, and the lawmakers are responding, sometimes with form letters that are misleading. A review of more than 200 such letters by ProPublica and its partners at Kaiser Health News, Stat, and Vox, found dozens of errors and mischaracterizations about the ACA and its proposed replacement. The legislators have cited wrong statistics, conflated health care terms, and made statements that don't stand up to verification."

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

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Shaker Gourmet

Whatcha been cooking up in your kitchen lately, Shakers?

Share your favorite recipes, solicit good recipes, share recipes you've recently tried, want to try, are trying to perfect, whatever! Whether they're your own creation, or something you found elsewhere, share away.

Also welcome: Recipes you've seen recently that you'd love to try, but haven't yet!

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It's Past Time for Dems to Get Serious About Propaganda

[Content Note: References to sexual assault]

One of the major stories this election was "fake news," or more properly, propaganda. The latest round of revelations on the Russia investigations reveals a probe into whether Breitbart, InfoWars, and other American conservative propaganda sites were actively assisting Russian bots and operatives. This, on top of Ben Shreckinger's terrific piece at Politico, World War Meme, offers a frightening look into how twisted and intense the coordinated propaganda efforts against Hillary Clinton really were.

4¢han's Gamergaters received open support from Breitbart as they spread vicious hate against Clinton and her supporters, driving us underground via the harassment they've perfected from years of anti-feminist harassment. Their propaganda network—memes made by 4¢han, spread across social media, repeated at Breitbart and by hundreds of Russian-linked fake news sites—may not have been sophisticated, but it provided repetition and enlargement, powerful propaganda weapons that make sure no one escapes the barrage of negative narratives.

And yet, it's striking to me how little of this seems to be seeping into the postmortems of 2016 and the discussions of rebuilding the Democratic party. The influence of Russian and conservative propaganda, along with James Comey's FBI investigation were problems, is acknowledged. But the "real" is constantly defined as Hillary was a "terrible," candidate, a "flawed" candidate, etc. If only we'd nominated somebody else, anybody else—Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders! BernieWouldaWon! The problem is the corrupt, out-of-touch, wealthy Democratic Party, and so on, and so forth.

The fantasy that Clinton was a terrible candidate masks the reality that she was actually a very good candidate. One whom propaganda managed to almost totally destroy.

And it will happen with the next very good candidate too.

"Better candidates" won't solve this.

Now, that is not to deny mis-steps from the Clinton campaign—and there were some, though not the kind that sink elections. That is not to deny that Clinton's policies didn't please everyone—but no candidate I have ever voted for has done that. And it's most certainly not to deny the role that misogyny played in making people willing to believe the propaganda, nor to deny the Democrats have a very thin bench, and need to work hard to identify strong new candidates for the national as well as state and local scenes.

But consider what Liss was saying to me earlier (and which I share with her permission):

The thing about Hillary Clinton that everyone fucking ignores is that all those investigations which were used to create the illusion of corruption ALL FOUND that she had done nothing wrong. They were partisan witch hunts that turned up nothing. Which absolutely hurt her, but also made her the most thoroughly vetted candidate in history. They didn't turn up anything "new" on her during the entire 18 month campaign.

We aren't going to get a candidate like that again. Not one who is so well-vetted. Not one who is so clean. Not one who is so well-known. Think of how well-known and well-vetted she was, and what propaganda was STILL able to do to her. Now imagine what they can do to someone with legit skeletons in their closet who doesn't have the global recognition she has.

This is new territory, and yet the American left generally, so far as I can see, is reluctant to face this reality.

To be clear: The Republican Smear Machine is nothing new. And it's helpful to remember that they don't shy away at making shit up, nor at attacking strengths in order to turn them into weaknesses. The despicable purple Band-aids used to mock John Kerry's war wounds and the smears against the Clinton Foundation (despite its financial transparency) are two examples. But the intense coordination of the GOP smears with propaganda outlets, Russian bots and trolls, and the Gamergate meme element is something new. I doubt the GOP would have come up with the notion that Hillary Clinton was a predator of children without the 4¢han gang, who, according to the Politico story, made up the pizza-Hillary-child-predator attacks because they themselves call child p0rnography "cheese pizza."

The perfect candidate will not save us. Because, remember the goal: It's not just to defeat a candidate, but to weaken him or her. For the Russians, it's to weaken faith in the democratic process itself.

Consider this: If Clinton had managed to pull it out somehow, think how the propaganda could have been parlayed into a "cloud of doubt." The GOP were already planning to press forward with their FBI investigations. She'd have been dealing with child p0rn accusations and other rumors designed to make her not just disliked, but utterly despised, demonized, discredited, much as Obama was for 8 years on the far right. The Tea Party would have been galvanized again.

As it was, how many people stayed home or voted 3rd Party because "they were the same"? That, in itself, is a Russian triumph: Managing to convince American voters that a lifelong public servant with a solid record of helping women and children was the same as a multiple-bankruptcy real estate developer/reality star whose past—by his own confession—is littered with harassment and assault.

Consider the claim that BernieWouldaWon. This is based on many things, but there's a base assumption that he wasn't "flawed" or "tarnished" or whatever word we are using today. That Clinton's "flaws" brought her down.

Now, let's grant that Sanders, or any other Hypothetical Perfect Dem, has not been the target of GOP lies for a quarter century. That helps.

But let's also recognize that Sanders enjoyed an easy primary. For all the claims of how vicious the Clinton campaign was, the fact is that they remembered the rule: Never harm a primary opponent so badly it will wound them in the general. The GOP would have no such compunction—nor would the Russians, the propaganda "news," or the meme-makers.

And yes, they would have had plenty of material. Remember, the goal isn't just to defeat the Democrat. It's to discredit him or her and democracy itself.

Don't believe me? Okay. Let's play Bernie Woulda Been Flawed. How would that go down? Well, here's a few samples.

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Three Percent

Eric Plutzer and Michael Berkman at the Washington Post: New Poll: Only 3% of Trump Voters Regret Their Vote.


There is no comparison in this article to previous polling about voting regrets 60 days into a president's administration, quite possibly because such polling has never been done. (Which itself is telling.)

Without that comparison, we have no idea if three percent is historically a high or a low number. It just sits there without context. It's "only" three percent compared to one hundred percent.

The authors note that "media attention to the #trumpregrets phenomenon is very misleading. For Trump's supporters, any news reports that his first weeks as president have been rocky, unpresidential, or worse have hardly mattered. There is virtually no regret."

But there is also no mention in this article that Trump's approval rating now sits at 39 percent, having plummeted six points in nine days. How does that interact with voting regret? Is one a clearer measure of support for Trump than the other?

It is indeed foolish to overstate the abandonment of Trump by his hardcore supporters. But it's misleading to suggest that three percent is a virtually incidental number.

Three percent of Trump's popular vote total of 62,979,636 translates into 1,889,389 people.

One headline is: "Only 3% of Trump Voters Regret Their Vote."

Another is: "Almost Two Million Trump Voters Regret Their Vote Only 60 Days into His Presidency."

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Open Thread

image of a red couch

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

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Question of the Day

Which animated character best represents you, however you would define that?

image of Velma from Scooby-Doo
Velma. Obviously.

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Your Best Photograph

If you're a photographer, even if a very amateur one (like myself), and you've got a photo or photos you'd like to share, here's your thread for that!

It doesn't really have to be your best photograph—just one you like!

Please be sure if your photo contains people other than yourself, that you have the explicit consent of the people in the photos before posting them.

* * *

Here's one I took a few months ago of the light from a very pink sunset reflecting off our white fence.

image of a section of a white picket fence at dusk, with the sides of the pickets lit up in pink sunlight

I've never seen it awash in a pink glow like that before or after, so I was very pleased to capture this moment.

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A Long Time Coming

Sarah Kendzior has another terrific piece today, about the confirmation that Trump's campaign is under investigation for collusion with the Russians: At Long Last, a Forum Where Trump Cannot Escape the Truth.

Since July 27, 2016—the day Mr. Trump told Russia at a news conference that they would be rewarded for releasing Hillary Clinton's e-mails—Mr. Trump's primary mode of public communication has been Twitter. He held no news conferences between July, 2016 (the same month, as Mr. Comey revealed Monday, that his campaign fell under FBI investigation) and his inauguration. Even after taking office, pressers have been rare. Instead, Mr. Trump tweets, reducing everything from threats to foreign countries to domestic conspiracy theories to ruminations on The Apprentice, all in 140 characters or less.

Twitter has proven an ideal medium for a narcissistic liar under federal investigation. Mr. Trump's tweets cannot be ignored: he is the President, and every tweet has the potential to tank stocks and inflame foreign powers.

But it is difficult for journalists to challenge the tweets directly. Mr. Trump's Twitter is a press conference without a press.

...During the hearing, that power began to wane. From the opening questions, focusing on the President's tweeted fabrications about a wiretapped Trump Tower, to the midway debunking of his own tweet about the hearing, the medium no longer became a tool of propaganda, but a means of self-indictment.

...Flagrant lies are how autocrats flaunt power: it is not merely the message of the lie that matters, but its shameless delivery, as it implies that both public reaction and truth itself are irrelevant to the regime's hold.

On Monday, that grip loosened as Mr. Trump encountered a narrative he could not spin. The President has a new reality TV show; only this time around, reality itself is the star.
There is much more at the link; I highly recommend reading Sarah's piece in its entirety.

Reaching this point has indeed been a long time coming. On Twitter, Matt McDermott published a terrific thread documenting how the Clinton campaign tried in vain last summer to raise the alarm about Russian intereference. They were right, and they were roundly dismissed—in some cases even openly ridiculed.

They were also accused of trying to "distract" from the DNC leaks, by pointing out evidence that a foreign government was meddling in our election.

Last July, I wrote this piece: The Real Story of the DNC Email Leak is Trump's Terrifying Ties to Russia. It may be hard to believe, looking at that now, how much of the information currently being investigated was available way back then. But it was. At the time, I wrote:
If what comes out of this story is somehow, once again, that Hillary Clinton is History's Greatest Monster, then we are well and truly fucked.

Because right now, the only person standing between a man who is possibly (and likely) compromised by a foreign government, and whose aides have already changed the Republican platform in a way that benefits that government, is Hillary Clinton. And hers is the only campaign raising that alarm.

If you look at that and think it's her campaign doing the distracting, I despair for our collective future. I really do.

The people and the press had a chance to pay attention to this stuff when we still had a chance of averting the U.S. president being investigated for collusion with a foreign government. But nearly everyone took a hard pass, and now he's the sitting president, and here we are, in a situation so unprecedented that we're not even sure how to wrap our heads around it.

And the cynical partisans of the GOP Congressional caucus are tasked with accountability, and have no desire to actually hold anyone accountable. Because their only loyalty is to the preservation of power, not to this country. That should be abundantly clear by now.

Relatedly, this is the thought that won't abandon its post at the forefront of my thought:

What I mean by that is: We may never have come to this place if Trump and his staff and his associates had not brazenly flaunted the law and our democratic norms. If they'd better concealed their miscreancy, we might not have arrived at the precipice of truth.

(As if to prove my point, as I was writing this, I saw a Washington Post piece on new documents that reportedly show former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort "laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan." The piece notes: "The documents were left behind in a safe, [Serhiy Leshchenko, lawmaker and journalist] said, adding that Manafort's signature and his company seal were proof that the documents were authentic.")

It was a long time coming, but it may never have come at all, if Trump et. al. hadn't made it impossible to ignore.

Because there were so many people in positions of power who desperately wanted to ignore it.

That should shake us all, no matter how this turns out.

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Check Out These Badasses!

[Content Note: War on agency.]

Catherine Pearson at the Huffington Post: Women Wore 'Handmaid's Tale' Robes to the Texas Senate Floor.
On Monday, the Texas Senate considered several abortion-related bills, including Senate Bill 415, a regulation that would effectively ban a safe and common procedure used for second trimester abortions, which anti-choice legislators have taken to calling a "dismemberment abortion ban." It passed and will now head to the House.

The Senate also inched forward with SB 25 ― a bill that would effectively allow doctors to lie to pregnant [people] if they detect a fetal anomaly and are concerned their patients might opt for abortion. It will likely head for a final vote on the floor this week.

But in the Senate chambers on Monday, a group of Texas women were having none of it. The activists arrived decked out in full red robes, an homage to characters in "The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood's classic (and distressingly relevant) feminist tome.
Not all superheroes wear capes. BUT SOME DO.

Among the women who participated were two of my friends (whose identities I'm sharing with their permission): @meadowgirl and @ohthemaryd (who, as some of you may recall, has guest-posted at Shakesville on several occasions). These women are genuine badasses, and I am so proud to know them.

Looking at the pictures on social media of their visible but quiet protest, I got chills at the way their still, silent presence was like a haunting of the legislators conspiring to take away their rights.

They were specters and witnesses.

Republicans, we see you.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting beside me on the couch, her paws on my leg, looking alert at something out the window
Sophie is ALERT to all dangers out the window!

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 61

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 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.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Ron Nixon at the New York Times: U.S. Limits Devices for Passengers on Foreign Airlines From Eight Countries.
Passengers on foreign airlines headed to the United States from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries have been barred from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone under a new flight restriction enacted on Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack.

The Department of Homeland Security said the restricted items included laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers, and games bigger than a phone. The restrictions would not apply to aircraft crews, officials said in a briefing to reporters on Monday night that outlined the terms of the ban.

The new policy took effect at 3 a.m. E.D.T. on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by airlines flying to the United States from airports in Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

It applies only to flights on foreign carriers, and not American-operated airlines.
That last line is important, because how could this remotely be defended on a security basis if American-operated carriers are excluded? Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman explain at the Washington Post:
It may not be about security. Three of the airlines that have been targeted for these measures — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — have long been accused by their U.S. competitors of receiving massive effective subsidies from their governments. These airlines have been quietly worried for months that Trump was going to retaliate. This may be the retaliation.

These three airlines, as well as the other airlines targeted in the order, are likely to lose a major amount of business from their most lucrative customers — people who travel in business class and first class. Business travelers are disproportionately likely to want to work on the plane — the reason they are prepared to pay business-class or first-class fares is because it allows them to work in comfort. These travelers are unlikely to appreciate having to do all their work on smartphones, or not being able to work at all. The likely result is that many of them will stop flying on Gulf airlines, and start traveling on U.S. airlines instead.

As the Financial Times notes, the order doesn't affect only the airlines' direct flights to and from the United States — it attacks the "hub" airports that are at the core of their business models. These airlines not only fly passengers directly from the Gulf region to the United States — they also fly passengers from many other destinations, transferring them from one plane to another in the hubs. This "hub and spoke" approach is a standard economic model for long-haul airlines, offering them large savings. However, it also creates big vulnerabilities. If competitors or unfriendly states can undermine or degrade the hub, they can inflict heavy economic damage.
This, they add, is a form of "weaponized interdependence." That is, Trump is exploiting the fact that we now "live in an interdependent world, where global networks span across countries, creating enormous benefits, but also great disparities of power. As networks grow, they tend to concentrate both influence and vulnerability in a few key locations, creating enormous opportunities for states, regulators, and nonstate actors who have leverage over those locations."

If you're thinking: That does not seem like a reasonable or just way for the U.S. president to behave, you are correct! It is not. And it will further erode what little remaining shred of moral standing the U.S. has around the world.

Which, in turn, makes us less safe.

So it's extra rich that the Trump administration is trying to pass off this shit as a security measure.

* * *

David Nather at Axios: Trumpcare Gets a Makeover, But Not an Extreme One. "So after all of that talk about big changes to the House Obamacare replacement bill, Republican leaders skipped some of the biggest ones they could have made. They did give some concessions to conservatives and moderates in the manager's amendment [pdf] they released last night, but they also did a lot of punting. ...The biggest actual changes the House GOP is making: States can now choose Medicaid per capita caps or block grants; there will be an optional Medicaid work requirement (with extra federal funds for states that do it); there will be a more generous Medicaid inflation adjustment for the costs of elderly and disabled; Obamacare taxes get repealed a year earlier. The punty change: A reserve fund to beef up the tax credit, especially for the low-income elderly, but no actual change to the tax credit. That's up to the Senate. What they left out: It doesn't end the Medicaid expansion earlier, as conservatives wanted."

In short: It's still garbage.

Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times: Trump's Weary Defenders Face Fresh Worries. (Boo hoo.) "By the afternoon the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, had systematically demolished [Trump's] arguments in a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president. Even a close ally of Mr. Trump, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, conceded that 'a gray cloud' of suspicion now hung over the White House by the end of the day's hearings. ...But it's the obsessiveness and ferocity of Mr. Trump's pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse."

Meanwhile... Reuters: Rex Tillerson Will Reportedly Miss NATO Talks for China Meeting and Visit to Russia. "US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, US officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow's concerns ahead of theirs. ...Trump has often praised Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Tillerson worked with Russia's government for years as a top executive at Exxon Mobil Corp and has questioned the wisdom of sanctions against Russia that he said could harm US businesses."

David Leonhardt at the New York Times: All the President's Lies. "The big question now is not what Trump and the White House are saying about the Russia story. They will evidently say anything. The questions are what really happened and who can uncover the truth. The House of Representatives, unfortunately, will not be doing so. I was most saddened during Comey's testimony not by the White House's response, which I've come to expect, but by the Republican House members questioning him. They are members of a branch of government that the Constitution holds as equal to the presidency, but they acted like Trump staff members, decrying leaks about Russia's attack rather than the attack itself. ...Our president is a liar, and we need to find out how serious his latest lies are."

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon at McClatchy: FBI's Russian-Influence Probe Includes a look at Breitbart, InfoWars News Sites. "Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as 'bots,' to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said. The bots' end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. ...Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia's operatives."

Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker at the Washington Post: Trump Faces His Hardest Truth: He Was Wrong. "James B. Comey—the FBI director whom Trump celebrated on the campaign trail as a gutsy and honorable 'Crooked Hillary' truth-teller—testified under oath Monday what many Americans had already assumed: Trump had falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping his headquarters during last year's campaign. Trump did not merely allege that former president Barack Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower, of course. He asserted it as fact, and then reasserted it, and then insisted that forthcoming evidence would prove him right. But in Monday's remarkable, marathon hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey said there was no such evidence."

Derek Hawkins at the Washington Post: Andrew Napolitano Reportedly Pulled from Fox News over Debunked Wiretapping Claims. Fox News has reportedly pulled legal analyst Andrew Napolitano from the air over his baseless claim, repeated by [Donald] Trump, that British intelligence officials spied on Trump at the request of President Barack Obama. Napolitano, a regular face on Fox News, has not appeared on the network since Thursday and will not be a guest in the near future, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press reported Monday, citing anonymous sources. ...The move would distance Fox News from allegations that British officials, as well as National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers, have denounced as false."

In other news, Mother Jones' Russ Choma and Andy Kroll continue to hammer away on Trump's conflicts of interests: The Trump Organization Says It's Vetting Deals for Conflicts—But Refuses to Say How. "Robert Weissman, president of the good-government group Public Citizen, says the Chen deal raises questions about whether any real vetting happened. 'Here, where we actually need extreme vetting, it appears to be absent,' he says. 'It's absolutely unclear if [Bobby Burchfield, a Washington-based corporate lawyer serving as the Trump Organization's outside ethics adviser] or anybody else is doing anything pursuant to what they alleged they would do. And if they are, we don't know what it is. But we should not presume it's happening.'"

NBC News: Trump's Business Is in Violation of New York City Law. "Donald Trump's business, The Trump Organization, is in violation of New York City law, NBC News has learned. The Trump Tower skyscraper located at 725 Fifth Avenue—where [Donald] Trump and Melania live in the penthouse apartment and his two eldest sons work in offices just below—is not registered this year with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed on Tuesday. Property owners of certain residential buildings are required by law to register annually by Sept. 1, but Trump Tower's registration expired in 2016 and The Trump Organization never renewed it."

[Content Note: Islamophobia] Tom Namako, Hannah Allam, and Talal Ansari at BuzzFeed: An Anti-Muslim Leader Says She's Going to the White House. "Brigitte Gabriel, one of the most influential anti-Muslim leaders currently in America, said Monday evening she has a meeting at the White House. Gabriel—who once said 'every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim'—founded the group ACT for America in 2007. The White House said that it did not have any information regarding a meeting with Gabriel." I'll bet.

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

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On Gorsuch

Judge Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court confirmation hearing continues today, and I'll be frank with you: I feel pretty depressed about it. I'm (possibly unduly and definitely uncharacteristically) pessimistic that anything will stop his confirmation. Which is making it difficult for me to even pay attention to it.

Part of it is just the lingering agita that Merrick Garland was denied his opportunity to have a confirmation hearing. His seat was stolen. The rank injustice of that still bothers me, to put it mildly.

Part of it is the demoralization at the thought of this jerk (or some other jerk, if it weren't him) being nominated to the Court, and bringing with him all of his jerk positions.

And then there's the part where Gorsuch perfectly embodies what I call the perfidy of civility. He presents himself to the committee as a calm, measured person, despite the fact that he is a gross extremist who will roll back rights for marginalized people, given half a chance.

In this morning's session, for example, he glossed over his radically regressive views with this garbage, responding to a question from Senator Dianne Feinstein:

GORSUCH: Senator, the bottom line, I think, is that I'd like to convey to you, from the bottom of my heart, is that I'm a fair judge. And I think if you ask people at the Tenth Circuit, "Is he a fair judge?", you're gonna get the answer that you got yesterday, from both Senator Bennet and Senator Gardner. And from General Katyal. And the same answer you got from Senator Allard and Senator Salazar ten years ago. And, Senator, I can't guarantee you more than that, but I can promise you absolutely nothing less.

The saccharine tone he uses. From the bottom of my heart. He's a fair judge. Ugh.

Fair to whom, exactly?

But this is how it goes. A conservative with extremist, harmful views shows up in a suit with a tidy haircut and promises that he's a nice guy, and a fair guy, and we're meant to believe his transparently dishonest treacle, instead of letting his atrocious record inform us about who he really is.

It's a sham. And I hate every second of it.

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How Politics Works

Last night, I spent my evening at a meeting of the local Democrats, who are preparing for an election this year. It was a good turnout, and everyone was pretty confident about our chances of regaining a governing majority.

Some of the candidates were there, and they introduced themselves with short, unprepared statements. But mostly, the discussion was about phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, social media, voter registration, pushback against gerrymandering, get out the vote efforts, and covering the polls on primary and election days.

We talked about the different ways we could volunteer: Donate money or talents, host a fundraiser, campaign door-to-door with the candidates, host a barbecue and invite our neighbors to meet the candidates.

All the many ways to do outreach; the best ways to fit our circumstances and strengths.

In a local election, in a small town, there is no grand media strategy. The candidates have to get themselves in front of people, to make their case. And then it's about getting people to the polls, for an election they may not even know is happening.

This is the stuff that makes politics happen.

The thing is, Iain and I were the youngest people there, save for a young Black woman and a young Black man, who are running for the school board.

There wasn't a single young white person running for office or even showing up.

Now, I've heard an awful lot the past two years from young white people (especially) about how they want to change the Democratic Party. They're angry about the way things are done; they think the party isn't progressive enough.

And as I looked around that room last night, I thought: Welp, this is where you're supposed to be. But none of y'all were there.

This isn't a scolding; it's an invitation. Be your future.

Change happens from the bottom up, not the top down. Many of the pressing issues in your community will be solved (or not) based on who is elected at the local level.

And local issues necessitate their own understanding of effective solutions. Breaking up the banks did not come up as a potential solution to the local school funding crisis.

That's not snide. It's a serious observation about the limitations of exclusive focus on national politics.

Further to that point, I will (again) recommend this terrific piece by Josie Helen on who's responsible for mass incarceration: "If you want to fix mass incarceration but you don't know the name of your local district attorney—or you don't know when the primary is, or who is opposing them—you are making the biggest mistake you can make as a voter and as a responsible citizen."

It's but one example of many that highlight the import of local politics.

With federal funding for so many critical community programs on the chopping block, it's going to be more important than ever for progressives to get involved in local politics, to help our communities. To support the candidates who will make decisions that affect those communities.

I have volunteered my time and talents for local candidates. I have marched with candidates in local parades. I have offered my home to host fundraisers and cook-outs. I have posted signs in my yard. I have shown up, as and when I can.

Sitting in a church eating Oreos and talking about the mechanics of local elections, as I did last night, is not as exciting as being part of a screaming throng at a massive Bernie rally. But this is how shit actually gets done. It's boring and it's work.

If you're someone who wants to see change in politics, do the work. Show up.

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This Is Not Normal

Annie Karni at Politico: Ivanka Trump Set to Get West Wing Office as Role Expands.

Ivanka Trump, who moved to Washington saying she would play no formal role in her father's administration, is now officially setting up shop in the White House.

The powerful first daughter has secured her own office on the West Wing's second floor — a space next to senior adviser Dina Powell, who was recently promoted to a position on the National Security Council. She is also in the process of obtaining a security clearance and is set to receive government-issued communications devices this week.

In everything but name, Trump is settling in as what appears to be a full-time staffer in her father's administration, with a broad and growing portfolio — except she is not being sworn in, will hold no official position and is not pocketing a salary, her attorney said.

Trump's role, according to her attorney Jamie Gorelick, will be to serve as the president's "eyes and ears" while providing broad-ranging advice, not just limited to women's empowerment issues. Last week, for instance, Trump raised eyebrows when she was seated next to Angela Merkel for the German chancellor's first official visit to Trump’s White House.

...People close to Ivanka Trump said that she sees nothing unusual about the arrangement — it's simply how she has worked with her father for years, as a senior official at the Trump Organization and as Donald Trump's partner on "The Apprentice."

But in the White House, the unprecedented arrangement for a child of the president has raised new questions about potential conflicts of interest — and about why Ivanka Trump can't simply join the administration as a government employee. Her husband, Jared Kushner, serves as an official senior adviser in the White House and was sworn in, but his hiring also raised questions of whether it violated anti-nepotism laws.
There is much more at the link.

This is not normal, and it should not be normalized. Ivanka Trump has no business getting a White House security clearance or meeting with foreign dignitaries. Her husband has no business being a senior adviser in the White House. Her brothers have no business still running their father's company and striking business deals while he is president.

As Aphra noted yesterday, there are members of the press losing their shit over Chelsea Clinton writing a children's book and at the mere thought of Chelsea Clinton running for office.

There is a legitimate dynasty worth worrying about in this country. Their last name, however, is not Clinton.

And the issue is not merely the valid concerns about nepotism, conflicts of interest, and access to state secrets. It's also that this is further evidence of Trump's deeply paranoid and authoritarian style. Dictators who trust no one often elevate their children to prominent leadership positions, because they are more easily controlled and prioritize loyalty to their parent over loyalty to country, or anything resembling good governance. Note that Ivanka will reportedly "serve as the president's eyes and ears."

This is extremely worrying. And it may seem a small thing compared to the dozens of other subversions of democratic institutions and introduction of fascism, but it's more important than it may appear.

We should not accept this. It is not normal.

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