The Virtual Pub Is Open

image of a pub Photoshopped to be named 'The Beloved Community Pub'
[Explanations: lol your fat. pathetic anger bread. hey your gay.]

Belly up to the bar,
and be in this space together.

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An Observation

"Bernie marched with Dr. King!" was up in my mentions on Twitter again today. For the eleventy-seventh time.

It's interesting, ahem, to me that the same people who tell me over and over and over that Bernie Sanders marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s don't seem to give a single shit that Hillary Clinton stood in front of the world thirty years more recently and said: "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all. And among those rights are the right to speak freely, and the right to be heard."

I'm just saying. If history matters, it matters.

And, not for nothing, but no one is remembered for being in attendance at her landmark speech.

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The Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by soccer balls.

Recommended Reading:

Sarah: The Tale of the Dictator's Daughter and Her Prince

Jordie: Private Prison Company Gets Contract for Immigrant Detention Center

Mikki: [Content Note: White supremacy; colonialism; abuse] Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard on DAPL Protests and Seventh Generation Activists

Rae: Nine Hideous Creatures That Deserve Your Unconditional Love

Michael: [CN: Animal harm] As Whales Die in Record Numbers Along the Atlantic Coast, the Mystery Deepens

Celebitchy: The New Heineken 'Worlds Apart' Commercial Doesn't Need Pepsi to Hold Its Beer

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

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Updated: On Jane Sanders and the FBI/DOJ Investigations of Burlington College

Note:This post was updated at 7.30 blog time to reflect new information suggesting Jane Sanders is under direct investigation.

Yesterday, the Vermont Digger broke the news that Burlington College has been under investigation in the last year by both the Department of Justice and the FBI. The investigations appear to be related to financial misdoings which occurred while Jane Sanders was president of the institution. The Vermont Digger filed a public records request to see emails related to the probe, and has also interviewed several people familiar with the investigations. As Morgan True writes:

[Yves] Bradley, the board chair, said Thursday that he was aware of an FBI investigation into Burlington College for more than a year. He said he and other board members were informed of the inquiry by Coralee Holm, who was at that time dean of operations and advancement.

Holm and others connected to the college were subpoenaed by the FBI, according to Bradley. Agents told Holm she could inform the board of trustees that an investigation was taking place, but she was directed not to provide any further information, Bradley said.

Bradley, the board chair, said he has no information about what the FBI is investigating. Still, he speculated that the probe indeed relates to the school’s purchase of its former North Avenue campus. “At the end of the day, it’s got to relate back to the purchase of the land by the college,” he said.

[Board Member Tom] Torti said he too suspected, based on “rumors” he had heard, that the investigation related to the 2010 purchase of the Burlington College campus.

Asked to describe the rumors, Torti said they related to “the purchase of Burlington College and how the money came about, going back to what a lot of us scratched our heads about who came to the board after (the purchase), which was what were they thinking and how did this all make sense financially.”

The land purchase in question is the purchase of 33 acres on Lake Champlain, formerly owned by the Archdiocese of Burlington. As president of Burlington College, Jane Sanders spearheaded a push to buy the property via a $6.7 million dollar loan. In September of 2015, the Vermont Digger brought to light that Sanders obtained this loan by seriously misrepresenting the college’s finances. Morgan True again:

Sanders told People’s United Bank that the college had $2.6 million in pledged donations to support the purchase of the former Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington property on North Avenue. The college, however, received only $676,000 in actual donations from 2010 through 2014, according to figures provided by Burlington College.

That’s far less than the $5 million Sanders listed as likely pledges in the loan agreement, and less than a third of the $2.14 million Sanders had promised People’s Bank the college would collect in cash during the four-year period.

Two people whose pledges are listed as confirmed in the loan agreement told VTDigger that their personal financial records show their pledges were overstated. Neither were aware that the pledges were used to secure the loan.

This reporting helped prompt a complaint by Vermont Republican Party Vice-Chair Brady Toensing, who in January 2016 demanded a federal investigation into the finances of the college. When Burlington College closed its doors suddenly in May of 2016, a good deal of blame swirled around Jane Sanders and the misrepresentations in the loan arrangements.

I have, as you can imagine, a few thoughts about this.

First, none of this unfolding story has been a surprise to me. In June of 2015, as I was writing Looking For Bernie, I ran across lots of local newspaper stuff about Burlington College and Jane. I didn’t include any of it, for the simple reason that husbands and wives are different people. While Bernie and Jane have collaborated in his political life, I couldn’t see that he played any role in her professional life as an academic administrator. Had Jane Sanders emerged as his major advisor on higher education policy, or if she’d written his free college plan, things would be different. As far as I could tell, that was never the case. Furthermore, until the story came out in January 2016 about her misrepresentation of financial records, this looked to me more like a case of poor judgement, not any wrongdoing.

My goal was an intersectional feminist critique of Bernie Sanders’ record, not a smear of his family, or a vetting of his overall political viability. The latter was the job of professional journalists, very few of whom evinced interest in a deep investigation into Bernie Sanders and his family’s background. So be it.

As time went on, I saw plenty of signs that the GOP was preparing to attack Jane Sanders over her time at Burlington College. Had Bernie won the nomination, they were laying the groundwork for a major scandal, especially after it had been run through the Breitbart/InfoWars propaganda machines.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound and Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt lying on the floor beside one another, their muzzles turned toward each other
Puppehs. ♥

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 99

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:

I covered a few bits of big news earlier here.

Lots of stuff on the Russia investigations, especially around Michael Flynn, today...

By way of reminder, Flynn, Trump's erstwhile National Security Advisor resigned (or was fired, depending on who you talk to) after it was made public that he'd discussed sanctions on calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition.

It was later revealed that Flynn had also done "consulting work" for Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, who has ties to Putin. Flynn accepted nearly $600,000 in payment while he was serving as a top adviser to Trump's campaign. In fact, Flynn was still making his payments to his contractors on that consulting work "a month after Trump named him as national security adviser."

Further, it was discovered that, in 2015, Flynn was paid $45,000 by a Kremlin-backed news outlet to give a speech in Moscow, but he failed to disclose that payment a month later when he filed the paperwork to renew his security clearance, despite the fact that explicitly advised not to accept payment from a foreign government without permission and that he would need to report any income from foreign governments.

So, that's a brief summary of Flynn's chicanery. The current focus is on the $45k from the Moscow speech.

Following Sean Spicer's press briefing yesterday, during which he incredibly laid the blame for Michael Flynn on the Obama administration, because the Obama-era Justice Department originally issued his security clearance (never mind that the Obama administration subsequently fired him, which is a big red flag), Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he will recuse himself from any investigation of Flynn.

Meanwhile, Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has long led the charge on calling for investigations into Russian interference in the election, publicly said (and rightly so) that the White House is running interference for Flynn, and further made plain that they damn well knew about his behavior:
The White House has so far declined requests from both congressional Republicans and Democrats to provide the House Oversight Committee with internal documents related to Mr. Flynn.

White House officials argued that they did not have all the documents, and that those they did have were too sensitive and were irrelevant to congressional investigators.

"I honestly don't understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn," Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House panel, said at a news conference on Thursday.

Mr. Cummings released both the Pentagon inspector general's letter to the committee and the October 2014 letter from the Pentagon instructing Mr. Flynn to seek approval before taking any payments from a foreign government.
The White House knew, or should have known. Their excuses are bullshit. Their excuses on Flynn have always been bullshit.

And their obfuscation and obstruction on Flynn, looks an awful lot like their obfuscation and obstruction, with help from Congressional Republicans, on every other part of the investigations into interference from and collusion with Russia.

At Politico, Donna Brazile writes, "The Russia Investigations Are a Joke."
What if they gave a probe, and nobody probed?

During the 2016 elections, America was subjected to the most serious cyberattack in our nation's history: a methodical assault by a hostile foreign power on the legitimacy of our elections, our government, our institutions, and even the very concept of Western democracy.

And the attacks have continued since Election Day—both in this country and against our European allies, who are currently conducting their own elections under the constant threat of Russian meddling.

It seems like nobody is doing anything about it. Worse—they're pretending that they are. There are currently multiple investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible involvement by the Trump campaign. But all of them are compromised to one degree or another by incompetence, listlessness, and deliberate foot-dragging. Congress is completely failing to live up to its responsibilities for oversight and to function as a separate and co-equal branch of government. Partisan politics has poisoned inquiries on both the House and Senate side.
Brazile is spot-on: It's even worse that there is a pretense of investigation when behind it is no meaningful investigation whatsoever. We must get to bottom of this. But we probably never will, because the Republicans are fucking cowards without an ounce of genuine patriotism.

* * *

[Content Note: Anti-choice garbage; homophobia] Caitlin MacNeal at TPM: Trump to Appoint Anti-Abortion Leader Charmaine Yoest to Post at HHS.
Donald Trump on Friday announced that he will appoint Charmaine Yoest, the former president of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, as the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

In her position, which does not require confirmation in the Senate, Yoest would help shape the department's communications strategy.

Yoest is currently a fellow at American Values, a conservative group that opposes abortion and supports "traditional marriage." She got her start in politics during the Reagan administration. From there she moved to the ultra-conservative Family Research Council and later served on Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.

While she served as president of Americans United for Life, one of the most well-known anti-abortion groups in the country, Yoest was a prominent leader for the anti-abortion movement. As the New York Times noted in a 2012 profile of Yoest, AUL was responsible for one-third of state legislatures' anti-abortion bills between 2011 and 2012.
Terrific. Let me say once more: This is why some of us continue to insist on "playing identity politics." Because the fucking president insistently obliges us to.

* * *

Meanwhile, Trump is still preoccupied with winning the election, because he doesn't know how to run the country and thus hasn't had a win since.


Also:

screen cap of tweet from Fox & Friends about Elizabeth Warren criticizing President Obama, which Trump has RTed

Great job, everyone! This is a perfect outcome.

* * *

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Alec Macfarlane and Taehoon Lee at CNN Money: Trump Says South Korea Should Pay for $1B Missile Defense System. "Trump wants South Korea to foot the bill for a $1 billion U.S. missile defense system and is threatening to kill the free trade deal between the two countries. His comments aren't sitting well with officials in South Korea, a key American ally in Asia. One foreign policy expert called the remarks 'shameless.' 'I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they pay,' Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. 'That's a billion dollar system.' He was talking about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which is being deployed in South Korea in an effort to reduce the threat from North Korean missiles. The THAAD deployment has already caused tensions inside South Korea and hurt the country's relations with China. Trump's comments are likely to further complicate the situation."

[CN: Anti-choice terrorism] Sofia Resnick at Rewire: Following Increased Anti-Choice Protests, Bomb Threat Reported at Virginia Building Housing Abortion Clinic. "Two signs, reading 'Bomb Bomb Bomb' and 'Bomb Bomb,' were left near the door of an office building in Falls Church, Virginia, on Thursday afternoon, according to the owner of the abortion clinic housed in that building.The sheets of paper, which local police are investigating as a bomb threat, triggered the building's second evacuation of the day. In the morning, in response to reports of smoke and the sound of explosions from employees in the building, local firefighters had discovered what a spokesperson for the Falls Church Police told Rewire were exploded firecrackers."

[CN: Guns; video may autoplay at link] Kevin Liptak at CNN: Trump Seeks Conservative Revival at NRA. "On the eve of his 100th day in office, [Donald] Trump hopes a speech to the National Rifle Association can help renew his standing among a conservative base wary after watching the President reverse course on a series of campaign promises. His address Friday amounts to a return for Trump to the type of staunchly conservative setting that he used as a candidate to appeal to Republican voters. It's the first time a sitting US president has spoken at an annual meeting of the NRA since Ronald Reagan addressed the group in 1983."

Kenneth P. Vogel and Josh Dawsey at Politico: Lewandowski's Firm Appears to Offer Trump Meetings. "A firm co-founded by Donald Trump's original campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appears to have been pitching clients around the world by offering not only policy and political advice, but also face time with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and senior members of their administration, according to documents and interviews. A document provided to an Eastern European politician by an international consulting firm that Lewandowski co-founded this year promises to arrange 'meetings with well-established figures,' including Trump, Pence, 'key members of the U.S. Administration,' and outside Trump allies."

Tarini Parti at BuzzFeed: The Convicted Con Artist of the Winter White House. "An admitted fraudster who owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to his victims has had access to [Donald] Trump through his wife, who is the guest reception manager of Mar-a-Lago, the Winter White House. ...The tale of the Rinkus couple—one a repeat felon and the other a Trump employee who interacts regularly with top government officials—raises the curtain on the way Trump's sprawling business holdings can sweep minor figures into his political orbit. For a man with a serious criminal record, Ari Rinkus has been in remarkably close proximity to the president. He has parlayed that access—and the perception of access—to his own advantage, sources said, while pursuing potentially lucrative government contracts on behalf of a foreign company."

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

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This Is a Science Story. It Is Definitely Not a Metaphor.

Sandrine Ceurstemont at New Scientist: Female Dragonflies Fake Sudden Death to Avoid Male Advances.

Female dragonflies use an extreme tactic to get rid of unwanted suitors: they drop out the sky and then pretend to be dead.

Rassim Khelifa from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, witnessed the behaviour for the first time in the moorland hawker dragonfly (Aeshna juncea). While collecting their larvae in the Swiss Alps, he watched a female crash-dive to the ground while being pursued by a male.

The female then lay motionless on her back. Her suitor soon flew away, and the female took off once the coast was clear.

"I was surprised," says Khelifa, who had never previously seen this in 10 years of studying dragonflies.

Female moorland hawkers are vulnerable to harassment when they lay their eggs since, unlike some other dragonflies, they aren't guarded by their male mates. A single sexual encounter with another male is enough to fertilise all eggs and copulating again could damage their reproductive tract.

...He observed 27 out of 31 females plummeting and playing dead to avoid males, with 21 of these ploys successful. Plunging at high speed is risky though, and according to Adolfo Cordero-Rivera at the University of Vigo in Spain, it may be a strategy that they use only in areas with lots of dragonflies. "Females may only behave in this way if male harassment is intense," he says.

Few animals have been caught feigning death to trick suitors. The behaviour has been seen in a species of spider (the males use it to improve their chances of mating), two species of robber fly, and a type of mantis.

Playing dead to avoid predators, however, is more common and has been observed in dragonflies. "It's likely that females expanded its use to overcome male coercion," says Khelifa.
"You can't harass me! I'm dead!"

Being a lady dragonfly sounds like a rough gig! Imagine having to pretend to be dead just to avoid "intense male harassment" and "male coercion." I can only assume the lady dragonflies had to resort to this strategy after decades of pretending to read a book and traversing their territory with earbuds firmly in place failed to deter the determined males.

This reminds me of another of my favorite science stories, which is also definitely not a metaphor:
In his book A Primate's Memoir, Sapolsky studied the activities and lifestyle of the Forest Troop to explore the relationship between stress and disease. In typical baboon fashion, the males behaved badly, angling either to assume or maintain dominance with higher ranking males or engaging in bloody battles with lower ranking males, which often tried to overthrow the top baboon by striking tentative alliances with fellow underlings.

Females were often harassed and attacked. Internecine feuds were routine.

Through a heartbreaking twist of fate, the most aggressive males in the Forest Troop were wiped out. The males, which had taken to foraging in an open garbage pit adjacent to a tourist lodge, had contracted bovine tuberculosis, and most died between 1983 and 1986. Their deaths drastically changed the gender composition of the troop, more than doubling the ratio of females to males, and by 1986 troop behavior had changed considerably as well; males were significantly less aggressive.

After the deaths, Sapolsky stopped observing the Forest Troop until 1993. Surprisingly, even though no adult males from the 1983–1986 period remained in the Forest Troop in 1993 (males migrate after puberty), the new males exhibited the less aggressive behavior of their predecessors.
Not a metaphor and definitely not a cautionary tale warning that a steady diet of poisoned garbage may eventually oblige the lady baboons to take over.

[H/T to Trudy.]

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Every Day of Trump's Presidency Is a New Fresh Hell

Speaking of the president who is utterly unprepared and has no idea what the fuck he's doing, these are the opening paragraphs of a piece for Reuters by Stephen J. Adler, Jeff Mason, and Steve Holland:

He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

[Donald] Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

"I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump told Reuters in an interview. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."
Rage. Seethe. Boil.


In fact, I am so tired of this dreck that I only have enough energy left to crawl into a giant cannon and fire myself directly into the sun so I don't have to hear any more of this shit!

As I have been saying over and over, like the brokenest of broken records that I am, the fact that Trump is an unprepared, incompetent disaster with no fixed principles is good news for those of us who don't want to see his domestic policy enacted, but bad news for everyone who needs a United States president to handle foreign policy with the preparedness, competency, and delicacy it requires.

To wit: The second iteration of the Republican's "healthcare" bill has been temporarily shelved, because they still can't get it done, although they're going to keep trying to get enough of their caucus on board to pass it. (So keep making those calls!)

But also: Trump said yesterday, "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely. ...We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult."

Remember what I just said yesterday? "We've got a sitting president who is a compulsive liar with a brittle ego, and whose only good press has been for bombing. ...[His administration seems to be saying]: We're going to try the diplomacy we have repeatedly said and keep saying was a failed policy, except we're going to do it much worse, so then when it fails, we can blame former presidents for forcing us to take military action we definitely totally for sure are so sad to take."

With every domestic policy failure comes an increased likelihood that the ratings-obsessed Trump will resort to the only thing that garners him favorable coverage: Military action.

Because governing is indeed very difficult, as he's finding out, and he is far too lazy and inept to bother to learn how to do it well. So instead he's just going to keep complaining about how hard his life is, and then instruct his military commanders to do things that make other people's lives infinitely worse.

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And Now Bernie Sanders Criticizes President Obama, Because Of Course He Does

Following days of criticism, from both conservatives and progressives, of President Barack Obama for getting a reported $400,000 speaking fee to speak to a health conference, Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in last night.

I think it just speaks to the power of Wall Street and the influence of big money in the political process.

I think it's unfortunate. President Obama is now a private citizen and he can do anything he wants to, but I think it's unfortunate.

You have the former president of Goldman Sachs, is now the chief financial advisor for President Trump, and then you have this, so I think it's unfortunate.
That is not a coherent argument. That is a vague aspersion cast via insinuation, made by comparing very unlike things.

Sanders invokes Wall Street, big money, the political process, Goldman Sachs, and Trump, none of which are relevant to private citizen Barack Obama speaking to a conference on an area of his expertise, and hopes that the optics of mendaciously tying all of these things together will suffice.

And, for many of his supporters, it will.

It does not, however, suffice for me. I am incredibly angry that Sanders is using his increasing visibility to make such a deeply irresponsible and dishonest argument against the former president.

"It's unfortunate." Why? That Trump has chosen Gary Cohn to chair the National Economic Council (which is indeed gross) is not actually relevant to Obama speaking to a health conference, even if it is being sponsored by a Wall Street firm—specifically because one exists inside "the political process" and one does not.

If Sanders is going to position himself as a progressive leader, he has to do more than make nebulous, unsubstantiated, and unexplained accusations. He can't just drop a bunch of unconnected dots and allow people he's cultivated to be reflexively suspicious of "the establishment" to connect those dots by filling in the cavernous gaps in his criticism with conspiracy theories and misplaced resentments.

This is the big leagues. With more visibility comes more responsibility. And more scrutiny.

I expect more from people who assert themselves to be progressive leaders.

We've already got a president who is utterly unprepared and has no idea what the fuck he's doing. The last thing we need is a self-anointed resistance leader who displays the same unpreparedness and expects to coast by on arguments that are abject horseshit.

We need serious people. And this commentary is anything but serious.

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Open Thread

image of a pink couch

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

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker FloraFlora: "What is something you do all the time that you sometimes forget whether you have done yet and so you have to check in some way? (e.g., Did I brush my teeth yet this morning? When I now have coffee so I can't just taste minty mouth and so I have to go check is my toothbrush wet)."

I am terrible about remembering whether I took my thyroid pill in the morning. This would be solved, of course, if I just got into the habit of using a daily pill dispenser. But because I haven't, for literally no good reason at all, I end up counting the remaining pills and figuring out how many there should be based on when I picked up the prescription. (Which, naturally, is always on the last day the previous month ran out, because procrastination.)

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Well, I Don't Like the Optics of THIS


Y'all, I am super depressed about the future this week.

The only people who actually know what they're doing are being relegated to the sidelines because they're neoliberal establishment monsters or whatever, and people with dangerously simplistic policy fantasies are taking over, on both sides of the aisle, by relentlessly harassing out of participating anyone who has real, practical experience and hard-earned expertise to match.

Increasingly, it doesn't seem like there's much room for complex, intersectional thinkers in our politics at all anymore, and that is deeply troubling to me.

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The Make-Up Thread

Here is your semi-regular make-up thread, to discuss all things make-up and make-up adjacent.

Do you have a make-up product you'd recommend? Are you looking for the perfect foundation which has remained frustratingly elusive? Need or want to offer make-up tips? Searching for hypoallergenic products? Want to grouse about how you hate make-up? Want to gush about how you love it?

Whatever you like—have at it!

* * *

Another make-up adjacent item from me this time: Bed Head's "A Wave We Go" Adjustable Deep Waver. (As always, I'm not affiliated with Bed Head in any way, nor am I getting anything in exchange for this recommendation. I just like the product!)

image of me sitting on my porch with wavy hair

I took this pic to show off my new specs (they are gigantic and I love them!) to distant friends, but pictured is also the result of my first go with the Deep Waver.

I've never had good luck with styling implements on my fine, straight hair, so the fact that this styler did exactly what I'd hoped and the waves also held was amazing! I didn't use any prep product before the waver; this was just after washing my hair the night before and letting it air dry. If you use product, apparently the waves will be even more pronounced.

Also, as y'all know, I have no interest in major hair efforts, lol. This thing is reeeeally easy and quick, in addition to actually working on my hair.

And now Shaker catvoncat's and my twindom is complete.

Anyway! What's up with you?

* * *

Please note, as always, that advice should be not be offered to an individual person unless they solicit it. Further: This thread is open to everyone—women, men, genderqueer folks. People who are make-up experts, and people who are make-up newbies. Also, because there is a lot of racist language used in discussions of make-up, and in make-up names, please be aware to avoid turns of phrase that are alienating to women of color, like "nude" or "flesh tone" when referring to a peachy or beige color. I realize some recommended products may have names that use these words, so please be considerate about content noting for white supremacist (and/or Orientalist) product naming.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of three bowls that look like cat faces
Feeding time at Shakes Manor just got a lot cuter.

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat eating out of one of the bowls
Wee Sophs having breakfast.

I originally got the bowls because I was tired of there never being small plates in the cupboard when we needed them, because they'd all been used for cat breakfasts and dinners, lol, and also because I wanted bowls to help contain the spillage that got everywhere from the cats pushing their food off the edges of the plates.

The bowls have satisfied both requirements! And, in an unexpected bonus, it's ADORABLE when they're eating, because it looks like they're giving kisses to the cats on the bowls. Hahaha. Cat lady enjoyments!

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 98

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:

Vera Bergengruen at McClatchy: Hawaii Threatened by North Korea Now, U.S. Commander Tells Congress.
The Pentagon needs to consider deploying new anti-ballistic missile systems and a defensive radar to Hawaii to protect against a growing threat from North Korea, the top U.S. military officer in the Pacific told Congress on Wednesday.

"Kim Jong-Un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today, in my opinion," Adm. Harry Harris, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee. "I have suggested that we consider putting interceptors in Hawaii that...defend (it) directly, and that we look at a defensive Hawaii radar."

...Harris was repeatedly questioned by lawmakers from Hawaii on the threat posed to their state.

The current defense architecture "is sufficient to protect Hawaii today, but it can be overwhelmed," he cautioned. "Somewhere, we would have to make a decision about which missiles to take out, and that's a hard decision."

Harris warned that North Korea's testing is picking up speed and becoming more aggressive; the country conducted more than 20 ballistic missile tests last year.

"North Korea vigorously pursued a strategic strike capability in 2016," he told lawmakers on Wednesday. "Kim's strategic capabilities are not yet an existential threat to the U.S., but if left unchecked, he will gain the capability to match his rhetoric."
This may be true, in which case it's scary, or it may not be true, in which case it's scary for a different reason.

In recent memory, there was a president who lied us into a war (one of many reasons not to valorize George W. Bush). Bush proved definitively that a U.S. president could lie the nation into war and get away with it. Now we've got a sitting president who is a compulsive liar with a brittle ego, and whose only good press has been for bombing.

So is this information accurate? Or is it invented, or exaggerated, to justify military action? We have no way of knowing for sure.

But the warmongers are certainly banging the war drums.
A statement on Thursday from the South Korean president's office said Seoul and Washington had agreed "to swiftly take punitive measures" against North Korea in the event of more provocation, following a telephone conversation between the US national security adviser, HR McMaster, and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin.

"The two sides pledged that in the event of additional strategic provocation by the North to swiftly take punitive measures, including a new UN security council resolution, that are unbearable for the North," the statement said.

It followed Wednesday's joint statement from the US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, secretary of defence James Mattis, and director of national intelligence Dan Coats, that said [Donald] Trump would pressure Pyongyang "by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners" – an approach adopted by the past three US administrations.

It also said past efforts had failed to stop the advance of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.
Translation: We're going to try the diplomacy we have repeatedly said and keep saying was a failed policy, except we're going to do it much worse, so then when it fails, we can blame former presidents for forcing us to take military action we definitely totally for sure are so sad to take.

I desperately hope I am wrong.

* * *

[Content Note: Bigotry] Tim Alberta at Politico: Social Conservatives Are 'Over the Moon' About Trump.
The first 100 days of Trump's presidency have been pocked with disappointment for various constituencies: Immigration hawks haven't seen funding for a border wall; Obamacare haters haven't seen a repeal-and-replace bill pass either chamber of Congress; Wall Streeters haven't seen a realistic plan for overhauling the tax code; protectionists haven't seen China tagged a currency manipulator; and America-Firsters have seen neither NATO pushed aside nor the Middle East placed on the presidential back-burner.

The one group Trump has paid outsized attention to—and consistently delivered for—is the social conservative movement. He reinstated and even toughened the Mexico City Policy, which eliminates U.S. funding for international NGOs that perform abortions. He rescinded President Barack Obama's protections for transgender students to use preferred bathrooms in public schools. He signed legislation that routs federal money away from Planned Parenthood. He cut off funding to the U.N. Population Fund, which critics say has long supported coercive abortions in China and other countries. He stockpiled his administration with pro-life evangelical Christians in critical roles, including Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services, Betsy DeVos as education secretary, and Mike Pence as vice president. And, most significantly, he appointed Neil Gorsuch, a conservative originalist in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to the United States Supreme Court.

Once a punch line in conservative circles and a walking worst-case-scenario for many on the religious right, Donald Trump has emerged in the early days of his administration as something else entirely: a crusader for traditional social values.
This is why people like me continue to insist on "playing identity politics." Because the fucking president still is.

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Laurel Raymond at ThinkProgress: Flynn Was Warned Against Accepting Foreign Payments, But He Did It Anyway. "Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) just released three damning new documents on former Trump administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The documents, provided by the Department of Defense, show that the Pentagon warned Flynn in 2014 that he could not legally take money from foreign governments without getting permission in advance. The same documents also confirm that Flynn did not ask for permission before taking payments—emoluments—from Russia. Flynn, despite the warning, accepted the payments and failed to disclose them on his application for security clearance in 2016. He similarly failed to disclose his lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government."

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post: Trump's Lies Are Working Brilliantly; This New Poll Proves It. "As we stumble toward the 100-day mark of the Trump presidency, [Trump's] frequent assaults on the news media appear to have taken on a distinct purpose. ...[Trump] has insisted that the press is misrepresenting his record, while also vastly inflating it himself—thus preparing his voters to dismiss everything they are being told about his historic lack of accomplishments. A new Post-ABC News poll suggests that this may be working for Trump. It finds that enormous majorities of his voters believe the news media regularly publishes false stories. Even bigger majorities of them believe the news media's falsehoods are a bigger problem than the Trump administration's falsehoods are."

[CN: Nativism] Julio Ricardo Varela at Latina USA: DHS Says Publishing Names of Children for Detained Immigrants Database Was 'Lapse in Privacy Protocols'. "After being alerted Wednesday evening by Latino USA that a new online database of detained immigrants for the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE) included names of children as young as two years old, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said late Wednesday night that 'a lapse in privacy protocols' has been rectified. ...At 8:27pm ET, Latino USA emailed DHS about why minors were included in this database, which, according to a April 26 DHS press release, was 'an automated service being launched today that will help victims track the immigration custody status of illegal alien perpetrators of crime.'"

Matt Shuham at TPM: Trump Floats Breaking Up 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "Donald Trump floated the idea of breaking up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, misidentifying it yet again as the court responsible for the nationwide injunction issued Tuesday against his executive order regarding so-called sanctuary cities. 'There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit,' Trump told the Washington Examiner in an interview. 'It's outrageous.'"

Ed Kilgore at New York Magazine: Zombie Trumpcare Getting a Chilly Reception From Senate Republicans. "As House Republicans get excited about the possibility of passing a revised version of the American Health Care Act (a.k.a. Trumpcare), attention is beginning to shift to the Senate, where the House bill is about as welcome as an STD. Normally in a situation like this, where a party's president is 100 percent invested in a piece of legislation, you would look for scattered signs of internal opposition among that party's senators and speculate as to whether the White House could wear it down. But there is nothing scattered about Senate Republican misgivings over Trumpcare: It appears to be endemic." This is good news, but also should be rightly viewed as an urgent indication to CALL YOUR SENATORS, especially if they are Republican, and let them know you strongly oppose this legislation.

[CN: Worker exploitation] Drew Harwell at the Washington Post: Workers Endured Long Hours, Low Pay at Chinese Factory Used by Ivanka Trump's Clothing-Maker. "Workers at a factory in China used by the company that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump's fashion line and other brands worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62 a week, according to a factory audit released Monday. The factory's 80 workers knit clothes for the contractor, G-III Apparel Group, which has held the exclusive license to make the Ivanka Trump brand's $158 dresses, $79 blouses and other clothes since 2012."

[CN: Homophobia; disablist language] Karoli Kuns at Towleroad: Anti-Gay Alabama Justice Roy Moore Running for Jeff Sessions' Senate Seat. "Surprise! Alabama's Number One Homophobe and Hater, Judge Roy Moore is running for Jeff Sessions' Senate seat, according to the Associated Press. Remember now, Moore is the guy who was suspended as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because he refused to honor the United States Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. His regard for the laws and Constitution are only limited by his narrowly-defined (and mostly [aggressively indecent]) worldview."

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

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Butch Goes to Stays in Trumpland to Talk to Hillary Voters

Hey, my favorite assortment of feminist bats! It's me, Butch Pornstache, here with some more pearls of wisdom for ya!

Except this time, they aren't coming from my brain, but the brains of a bunch of ladies!

See, since that dipshit Trump is closing in on his first 100 days of ruining the country and probably the whole damn world, a bunch of media outlets are sending reporters to interview Trump voters in places like where I live, to see how they think he's doing.

SPOILER ALERT: They think he's doing great because their thinkers are broken!

And since Liss is too busy writing TL;DR essays about Hillary Clinton and attending to other ladynerd business, she dispatched me to talk to some Clinton voters to get their take (HOT LADY HOT TAKES) on how Trump has been doing, since no one in the real media seems to give a dog fart about their opinions.

So I took my trusty tape recorder, which I keep on hand at all times to record my best thoughts, like "Handlebar BEARD" and "Pickles?" (they're not all winners), and I journeyed out to find some local femifarts to interview.

I found one in my living room. Once I'd convinced my ex-wife/fiancée Tammy that was I not trying to record her to relaunch my old late-'90s radio show, "Butch's BMX Hour and Tammy Getting on My Nerves," she agreed to an interview.

I asked her the question I asked every confirmed Clinton voter I found: "How do you think that asshole Donald Trump's presidency has gone his first fumblefucked 100 days?"

Tammy Pornstache, 48: "You remember that time you spilled motor oil all over the garage and then for some godforsaken reason thought that peanut butter would soak up the oil, and you just smeared it all around and made an even huger mess, then gave up and fucked off to O'Tooterly's for a beer, and the dog licked it up, because you know how he loves peanut butter, and barfed all over the entire house, and I had to take him to the vet and spend the $3,000 I wanted to use on a vacation to Branson getting his guts fixed, and another $450 getting industrial cleaners to deal with the garage, and I couldn't even send you to your mom's because she was still pissed about your setting fire to her shed with a blowtorch, so I was just stuck with your dumb ass even though I was madder than all hell? Pretty much that."

I found my next subject (JOURNALISM) in the kitchen. My stepmom Cheryl gave the same answer Tammy did, though, and I ain't gonna transcribe that shit twice.

Then I headed over the YWCA, where I interviewed some ladies who were just leaving their Zumba swim class, whatever that is.

Peggy Lorpus, 52: "How do I think he's doing?! What kind of question is that?! I think he's doing a terrible job, like anyone with any goddamned sense! Jesus Christ! Is this what journalism has come to—just asking a bunch of random people what they think about how Trump is doing?! Christ on a stick, no wonder this country is a goddamned dumpster fire!"

Abby Dooley, 39: "Fuck him! Can I say fuck? Fuck him! FUUUUUUUCK! We are so fucked! FUCK!"

Shondra Reeves, 47: "I miss Obama. We were supposed to have to have President Hillary." [Quiet sobbing.]

I then headed over to a bar called "Chicks," where, back in my single days (LADIES), I never had any luck picking up girls, even though I was usually the only guy in the joint.

Latisha Dunbar, 38: "Do you want a long answer, or a short one?" [I assured her I preferred a short answer.] "Fuck, man. That's what I think of his first 100 days. Just fuck, man. We're fucked."

Rose O'Keefe, 29: "The best thing I can say is that he hasn't blown us all to shit yet. But I expect that he will sooner rather than later."

Sadie Winkle, 52: "Maybe he'll die soon." [I gotta be honest: I didn't catch everything she said, because I was PRETTY STOKED to be in the presence of local royalty. I mean WINKLE FUCKING CREEK was named after her family, man!]

Cathy Lorde, 67: "Maybe he'll die soon. If not, hopefully I will."

That shit was getting pretty depressing, so I headed over to the urgent care clinic, where I found a bunch of nurses smoking out back.

Tina Sanchez, 59: "Shit shit, fuck, shit, I hate his face, I can't even stand to look at him. He's ruining everything. I will never see a woman president in my lifetime. Shit."

Janet Dwibble, 41: "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeggghhhhrrreeeee!" [Best transcription of the sound she made at the mention of Trump's name. SORRY.]

Barb Dengleback, 62: "The whole lot of 'em—Trump, Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, all those creepy kids—should be flushed down the toilet! Get ridda all of 'em! We barely survived 100 days; I don't even know how we'll survive four years. Hillary, take the wheel!"

By this time, the nurse ladies were clutching each other and crying, so I took that as my cue to leave.

I forgot to turn off my recorder, so there was one more quote, but I couldn't tell who said it, since I was walking back to my bike at the time.

"FUCKING MEN."

Readers, this journalist finds it hard to disagree! Partly because of all the pictures of dudes and zero ladies calling the shots at the White House, but mostly because I have detected through my investigative work that lots of women are very angry about Donald Trump, and I am not about to cross them.

You're welcome, CNN.

Pornstache: OUT.

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Trump's War on Immigrants

[Content Note: Nativism.]

Last month, I wrote about White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon rhetorically asking "Don't we have a problem with legal immigration?" before answering his own question: "Twenty percent of this country is immigrants. Is that not the beating heart of this problem?"

I noted that the Trump administration's war on immigrants would not stop with people who are undocumented, nor with a ban on Muslim refugees; that it was only the start of their nativist assault on immigrants, and that it would only be a matter of time before they started coming after people who are documented immigrants and refugees.

In the interim, the Department of Justice "has taken the rare step of seeking to strip a convicted terrorist of his U.S. citizenship as he serves the last several years of a 20-year prison sentence for plotting to destroy New York's Brooklyn Bridge."

And now, the Trump administration is before the Supreme Court arguing that a U.S. citizen, Divna Maslenjak, an ethnic Serb who was granted refugee status after being persecuted in Bosnia, should have her citizenship revoked because she she lied about her husband's military service.

So here we are. Adam Liptak at the New York Times: Justices Alarmed by Government's Hard-Line Stance in Citizenship Case.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. tried to test the limits of the government's position at a Supreme Court argument on Wednesday by confessing to a criminal offense.

"Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone," the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught.

The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest.

"If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, 'Guess what, you're not an American citizen after all'?" Chief Justice Roberts asked.

Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. "Oh, come on," he said.

The chief justice asked again whether someone's citizenship could turn on such an omission.

Mr. Parker did not back down. "If we can prove that you deliberately lied in answering that question, then yes," he said.

The exchange was among several moments of indignation and incredulity during the argument in Maslenjak v. United States, No. 16-309. Several justices seemed taken aback by Mr. Parker's unyielding position that the government may revoke the citizenship of Americans who made even trivial misstatements in their naturalization proceedings.

...Chief Justice Roberts added that the government's position would give prosecutors extraordinary power. "If you take the position that not answering about the speeding ticket or the nickname is enough to subject that person to denaturalization," he said, "the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want."
Emphasis mine.

That is precisely the point: The Trump administration is seeking the extraordinary power to denaturalize anyone they want.

Fortunately, it appears as though the Supreme Court isn't inclined to give them that power. But the mere fact that the Trump administration is seeking it is chilling.

And I don't believe for a moment that, if SCOTUS doesn't hand it to them, they'll give up on their expansive war on immigrants. Which is very, very worrying.

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We Are So F#@ked

There is a dynamic in lots of public schools so common that it's a pop culture fixture: Students get assigned a group project, and they're jumbled into groups they don't choose themselves. Everyone hopes to get put into the group with the Smart Girl—a real Leslie Knope—because they know she'll just do all the work herself and do it better than anyone else in the class.

If you're reading this blog, there's a pretty good chance that you were that girl. (Or her male counterpart.) And, if you weren't, you were probably one of the kids who would hope to be in her group, or do your best in whatever group with which you got stuck.

You almost certainly weren't the self-aggrandizing bully who insisted on leading his group, despite the fact that he hasn't cracked open a book all semester and doesn't want to do any of the work—just wants to boss everyone else around and intimidate them into doing all the work while he flirts with someone who isn't even his girlfriend.

In the last election, U.S. voters decided to give the bully a chance and told the Smart Girl to get lost. Except the project wasn't a multimedia presentation on The Old Man and the Sea. It was running the country.

And it turns out that wasn't a very good idea. What a shock.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece titled "Trump Was and Remains Catastrophically Unprepared for the Presidency," which opened with a tweet quoting Hillary Clinton, that I fear I will have occasion to repost a million times over the next four years.


What's prompted its appearance once more is a piece at Politico, by Josh Dawsey, Shane Goldmacher, and Alex Isenstadt: "The Education of Donald Trump."

It is another terrifying peek behind the gold curtains at a man who has no fucking clue what he's doing, has empowered people he trusts (namely his kids) over people with anything resembling expertise or even competence in governance, has no fixed principles, and doesn't care about outcomes or consequences, except for whether he gets good media coverage.
It was classic Trump: Confident, hyperbolic, and insistent on asserting control.

But interviews with nearly two dozen aides, allies, and others close to the president paint a different picture—one of a White House on a collision course between Trump's fixed habits and his growing realization that this job is harder than he imagined when he won the election on Nov. 8.
Repeatedly, we've heard how Trump didn't imagine that being president was all that difficult. It is an unfathomable admission, reported as fact without alarm, by a political press who, like anyone with sense, could see plain as day that Trump was catastrophically unprepared before the election, but chose to abet his rise anyway.

And trust that if Hillary Clinton had been elected and then inexplicably started grousing that being president was more difficult than she thought, it would not be reported without explicit comment, or treated like "a rookie mistake."
As president, Trump has repeatedly reminded his audiences, both public and private, about his longshot electoral victory. That unexpected win gave him and his closest advisers the false sense that governing would be as easy to master as running a successful campaign turned out to be. It was a rookie mistake.
Ahem.
From the indignity of judges halting multiple executive orders on immigration-related matters—most recently this week—to his responses to repeated episodes of North Korean belligerence, it's all been more complicated than Trump had been prepared to believe.

"I think he's much more aware how complicated the world is," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who serves as an informal administration adviser. "This will all be more uphill than he thought it would be because I think he had the old-fashioned American idea that you run for office, you win, then people behave as though you won."
People withholding criticism of a president who obviously and ominously has no idea what he is doing, just because that president won, is not an "old-fashioned American idea." It's an idea born of the belligerent egotism of authoritarian despots.
As Trump is beginning to better understand the challenges—and the limits—of the presidency, his aides are understanding better how to manage perhaps the most improvisational and free-wheeling president in history. "If you're an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins," said one Trump confidante. "To talk him out of doing crazy things."

...One key development: White House aides have figured out that it's best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be—and especially how it will play in the press.

"You don't walk in with a traditional presentation, like a binder or a PowerPoint. He doesn't care. He doesn't consume information that way," said one senior administration official. "You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like."
Elsewhere in the piece, Trump's pal Chris Ruddy is quoted as saying: "Trump is a guy of action. He likes to move. He doesn't necessarily worry about all the collateral damage or the consequences." Indeed not! The only outcome that seems to matter to him at all is what headlines he's going to get—and that is very troublesome for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the media doesn't seem all that concerned about any Trump coverage that isn't good for their ratings.

So we have a president who doesn't know what he's doing and governs for ratings, and a media who covers that president in way that's good for their ratings. Meanwhile, who the fuck is interested in doing what's good for the American people?

And even if someone in the Trump administration empowered with telling the president pros-and-cons children's stories about complex issues did want to do what's good for the American people, ain't no one in sight who knows how to make good governance happen anyway!
"I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here," one White House official said of these early months. "But this shit is hard."
*jumps into Christmas tree*

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Hello!

Please enjoy this video of Schnitzel the Dachshund leading her friend Chief the Connemara Pony on a nice little walk!


Video Description: A wee black-and-tan dachshund holds a red braided lead in her mouth, which is attached to a harness being worn by a white Connemara pony. A woman's voice calls, "Come on, Nit!" and the dachsy walks toward her, with the pony following behind, and it is ADORABLE.

[H/T to Iain.]

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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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