Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker IrishUp: "Staircase wit: Do you have a great retort/response you didn't think of until just a little too late?"

Probably! But in appropriate fashion, I can't think of it right now, lol.

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Wednesday Links!

This list o' links brought to you by arches.

Recommended Reading:

Laura Parker at National Geographic: We Made Plastic. We Depend on It. Now We're Drowning in It.

Byshera Williams at Bust: Sephora Shows What It Means to Do Ally Work with Free Classes for Trans and Nonbinary People

Laura Wagner at Deadspin: Roger Federer Says Serena Williams Is the Greatest Tennis Player of All Time, Period

Kristy Puchko at Pajiba: [Content Note: Moving GIF at link — bottom of post] Ava DuVernay Has No Time for Male Director Tears

Russell Brandom at the Verge: [CN: Nativism] The ACLU Is Suing ICE for More Information on Its License Plate Reader Contract

Yasmin Tayag at Inverse: Sinkhole on White House Lawn Reveals a Very Deep-Seated Problem in D.C.

George Dvorsky at Gizmodo: Pterodactyls Probably Didn't Fly Like We Think They Did

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

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Trump Doubles Down on "Animals" Comment; Members of His Administration Amplify the Eliminationism

[Content Note: Dehumanization; eliminationism; nativism.]

Last week, Donald Trump called undocumented immigrants "animals," then claimed he was only talking about members of the gang MS-13, as if dehumanizing, eliminationist language is okay just as long as it's directed at people you don't like.

Today, Trump traveled (back) to Long Island, where he launched into a gross diatribe, doubling down on his vicious rhetoric. He again called MS-13 "animals," lied about their having killed a police officer, and naturally continued to ignore that children are routinely roped into MS-13 and disallowed from leaving.

Further, Trump was joined by:

  • ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan, who defended and reiterated Trump's "animals" comment, saying: "I think you're being kind. Animals kill for survival. MS-13 kills for sport."

  • Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan, who referred to members of MS-13 as "savages."

  • Rep. Pete King, who called MS-13 members "horrible, vicious, rotten murderers."

  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who reinforced Trump's comment on "alien children" — "They look so innocent. They're not innocent." — with this incoherent mess: "We're letting people in who are creating problems. We're letting people in who are gang members. We're also letting people in who are vulnerable. Many of these alien children who have no parents, no family structure...develop gang ties."
This is utterly vile.

I am genuinely sorry for the people who have been harmed, or whose loved ones have been harmed, by individual members of MS-13 — just as I am genuinely sorry for anyone who has been harmed by violence of any kind.

I couldn't be more filled with grief and anger about school shootings, and yet I do not use eliminationist rhetoric to dehumanize the misogynist and white supremacist groups with which they're frequently affiliated.

The president and members of his administration and members of his party can share those people's agony and rage without engaging in eliminationist rhetoric. (And let us note that they only "share" the agony and rage of people whose loss neatly coincides with their political agenda.)

But even if Trump et. al. are genuinely angry about the victims of MS-13: It is possible to be angry without engaging in othering.

* * *

On a final note, I just want to register my alarm that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was echoing Trump's language of "alien children," even if he tried to couch it with some measure of concern — especially given that FBI Director Christopher Wray oversaw the approval of Jared Kushner's security clearance today, too.


I don't like the optics here. It looks like Rosenstein and Wray went to the White House with heads full of steam and came away cowed and doing Trump's bidding very visibly.

The thing is, as you may recall, just a couple of weeks ago, Rosenstein said that people "have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted."

I believed that. I don't think Rosenstein is easily cowed, at all.

So the fact that he said publicly and defiantly that he was being threatened, but wouldn't be deterred, makes me believe that Trump threatened him and Wray with something that wasn't directed at them personally.

That is, I think Trump threatened to do something to the citizenry. I don't know what it could be, but I can imagine him threatening anything from using the military on civilians to dismantling the FBI and Justice Department altogether.

(I mean: Kirstjen Nielsen is a Trumpian placeholder if ever I saw one. He wants Rudy Giuliani in there, running a national militarized law enforcement arm of the executive branch so bad even I can taste it.)

The point is, we often wonder where all the patriots have gone, with good reason. But patriots act on behalf of We the People. And they may be negotiating with a terrorist president who is holding us hostage.

And we don't even know it.

What we do know, however, is that Trump is capable of it. And far worse.

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Jared Kushner Gets Permanent Security Clearance

Jared Kushner, who has had to update his financial disclosure forms dozens of times because of his failure to fill them out correctly in accordance with federal law — and whose error-riddled and evasive disclosure forms prompted CREW spokesperson Jordan Libowitz to tell Newsweek that it is "mind-boggling how someone can have that many errors and that many amendments and keep their job" — has just been granted the permanent security clearance which has eluded him for more than a year of service in the White House.

Jared Kushner, [Donald] Trump's son-in-law and adviser, has been granted his permanent security clearance, a person briefed on the matter said on Wednesday, ending a period of uncertainty that had fueled questions about whether Mr. Kushner was in peril in the special counsel investigation.

Mr. Kushner's F.B.I. background checks had dragged on for a year. White House officials were adamant that the lengthy process was not unusual for a government official who has a complicated financial history and many foreign contacts. But the delay became a distraction and, with the special counsel investigating some of Mr. Kushner's meetings with Russian officials, it left open the question of whether investigators had uncovered evidence that made him a security threat.
Not good. Not good at all.

Earlier this month, I wrote: "Something I and others, including and especially my friend Sarah Kendzior, have noted is that Jared Kushner is a litmus test both for how effectively the nation's checks and balances are keeping kleptocracy at bay and also for the urgency and efficacy of Mueller's investigation. As long as Kushner, who has demonstrably broken federal law by lying on disclosure forms, retains a job in the White House, we should all be very concerned about the potential for meaningful accountability, from any source."

Welp.

I have seen people positing that perhaps Kushner is cooperating with Mueller. That is extraordinarily unlikely.

If Kushner had been busted on crimes so serious that his best option is to cooperate with Mueller, it's improbable that he'd still be given a top secret security clearance. Security clearances aren't granted for appearances' sake, particularly not when it would require top-level intelligence operatives to somehow secretly babysit 24/7 the person to whom they were issued to make sure he's not using that access to collude with a foreign adversary.

The fact is, this a very bad sign. There's no sugarcoating it, I'm afraid.

Kushner getting his security clearance, despite brazen violations of federal law and investigation for collusion and corruption, is profoundly discouraging. To put it mildly.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat standing on my leg, looking out the window

My lap is the perfect platform for getting a good look at the birds out the living room window. Apparently.

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 489

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

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

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

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Earlier today by me: This Is What a Slide into Authoritarianism Looks Like. And late yesterday, ICYMI: More on Paul Campos' Trump-Broidy Theory and Michael Cohen's Business Partner Strikes Deal with Federal Prosecutors to Avoid Prison.

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

Let's start with some good news, care of Andy Towle at Towleroad: Federal Court Rules in Favor of Transgender Student Gavin Grimm, Refuses to Dismiss His Case. "A federal appeals court handed a victory to transgender student Gavin Grimm in the four year battle against the Gloucester County School Board which made its way to SCOTUS before that court handed it back to the lower courts without considering it. On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia denied the school board's motion to dismiss the case. ...Wrote Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen: 'There were many other ways to protect privacy interests in a nondiscriminatory and more effective manner than barring Mr. Grimm from using the boys' restrooms. The Board's argument that the policy did not discriminate against any one class of students is resoundingly unpersuasive.'" [Background here and here.]

* * *

With so-called allies like these...


Seriously, Democrats: Do not hand Trump and the Republicans bipartisan legislative victories. Just don't do it. And don't use your reelection prospects as an excuse for this failure, because the whole reason we want to (re)elect Democrats is so they act like Democrats. We don't vote for you to act like Republicans. Christ.

* * *

Sabrina Siddiqui at the Guardian: Trump Escalates Attacks on FBI as He Fights Back Against Russia Inquiry.
Donald Trump has dramatically escalated his attacks on the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the US election, and his fightback against the Department of Justice reached a turning point this week with aspects of the inquiry itself now being investigated.

The president's growing frustration with special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry now appears to be having an impact at high levels.

Trump's fresh offensive came as reports indicated an FBI informant was in contact with several Trump campaign officials in 2016. Trump swiftly seized on the news to claim, without evidence, that the FBI had planted a spy within his campaign and demanded that the DoJ investigate the matter.

Now a meeting will be held on Thursday between top government officials and two senior Republican lawmakers — but no Democrats — to allow the Congressmen to review classified information relating to claims the FBI deployed a confidential source to gather information on Trump's presidential campaign, the White House said on Tuesday afternoon.
[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Justin Sink at Bloomberg: White House Bars Democrats from Meeting on Russia Investigation Records.
Two House Republican leaders — and no Democrats — will meet with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Thursday to discuss records the lawmakers have demanded related to the Russia investigation. White House officials also won't participate.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the meeting on Tuesday with House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy. She said it had been arranged by Chief of Staff John Kelly, following a meeting Monday between [Donald] Trump, Wray, Coats, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

...Sanders said Democrats weren't included in the meeting because they hadn't requested the records themselves, and suggested reporters ask them why they should be "randomly invited."
[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Philip Bump at the Washington Post: There Is No Evidence for 'Spygate' — But There Is a Reason That Trump Invented It. "'Spygate' is no more robust a theory than 'tapped phones'-gate, but it's more important now because the political stakes are so much higher. Trump will stick with it for a while — unless something else pops up that might be a more effective foil for him or a better way to undercut the legitimacy of the FBI. That's really the game, of course: If the FBI is investigating him, then it's necessary to present as much evidence as possible that the FBI is biased in doing so."

Bump's piece is very good in tying together all the various threads of Trumpworld's conspiracy theory around the FBI "spying" on his campaign. If you need to understand any of the pieces or players, I highly recommend his piece.

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] S.V. Date at the Huffington Post: Giuliani's New Stance on Russian Collusion: So What? It's Not Illegal. "His client insists there was 'NO COLLUSION' with Russia to win the presidency, but Donald Trump's lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has a new theory of the case: What's the big deal if he did? In a recent interview with HuffPost, Giuliani initially disputed the notion that Trump's daily citing, in the final month of his campaign, of Russian-aligned WikiLeaks and its release of Russian-stolen emails constituted 'colluding' with Russia. 'It is not,' Giuliani said. Then he switched tacks. 'Okay, and if it is, it isn't illegal... It was sort of like a gift,' he said. 'And you're not involved in the illegality of getting it.'" Except, yeah, that sort of "gift" is actually illegal, too. In the giving and the receiving.

You can be sure that Giuliani actually knows this, by the way. This is just fodder for the base, who don't know or understand the law and thus readily believe that Trump is just being pursued unfairly ("WITCH HUNT!") by Bob Mueller.

Margaret Hartmann at NYMag: Leaks Suggest White House Plan to Purge Leakers Won't Go as Planned. "Nearly two weeks ago, a White House communications staffer dismissed Senator John McCain's concerns about the incoming CIA director's stance on torture by quipping, 'It doesn't matter, he's dying anyway.' Since [Donald] Trump is opposed to apologies — particularly when they involved his war hero political foe — the White House refused to publicly acknowledge that it's not cool to make fun of a senator battling brain cancer. Instead, they focused on admonishing communications staffers for leaking a remark made during a private meeting, and embarked on a quest to figure out who shared the comment with reporters. Both of these efforts were promptly leaked to the press."

I think it's worth considering, ahem, that the McCain "leak" was deliberately leaked like many of the other leaks about which Trump pretends to be angry. What evidence on Maude's green earth is there that Trump wouldn't be delighted for the world to know his White House's position on John McCain is "we're glad he'll die soon"? That sounds 100% like something Trump would proudly say himself, except that he would have added some eugenics-soaked bullshit about his own good health and virility.

* * *


Tami Abdollah at the AP: Critics See No End to Foreign Favors to Trump Businesses. (I'm pretty sure that the people who want the favors see no end to it, either, much to their delight.)
Ethics watchdogs and political adversaries called last week's events a blatant case of Trump appearing to trade foreign favors to his business for changes in government policy, exactly the kind of situation they predicted would happen when the real estate mogul turned politician refused to divest from his sprawling business interests."

And they say that such dealmaking will likely become business as usual, unchecked by a Republican-led Congress, court cases that could take years, and a public that hasn't gotten too excited about the obscure constitutional prohibition on the president accepting emoluments, or benefits, from foreign governments without congressional approval.

"It's an issue that seems highly technical and complex, and is difficult to link to everyday lives," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who is heading up an emoluments lawsuit brought by about 200 or so members of Congress.

"But when you bring it home to the reason for the emoluments clause, namely to prevent conflicts of interest, so the president will act only for the benefit of the United States, not for his own self-interest, then people should understand that his taking that benefit compromises his priorities," Blumenthal said.
And potentially compromises the safety, security, and very sovereignty of the nation.


Nicole Lafond at TPM: Israeli Intel Company Worked with Cambridge Analytica to Win Business with U.S. Government. "An Israeli intelligence company called Psy-Group formed a partnership with [Donald] Trump's campaign data firm, the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, in order to win business deals with the U.S. government after the election, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Psy-Group — which is owned by Joel Zamel, a person of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe — signed a memorandum of understanding in December 2016 with Cambridge Analytica, people familiar with the matter told the WSJ. The plan was for the two firms to work together to share intelligence and social media services, while also helping each other win government contracts." Oh.


[CN: Sexual assault; rape culture]


[CN: White supremacy]


Francella Ochillo at Colorlines: Why the Marriage of Sinclair and Tribune Is a Credible Threat to Our Democracy.
If it succeeds, the proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media could change dinner-table conversations across the country. Harkening back to a time when a few broadcasters controlled the airwaves, this merger would give one entity direct access to over 70 million Americans who still rely on free television and local news as a primary resource.

When we are constantly bombarded with stories about corrupt cabinet officials, felony indictments, abuse of taxpayer dollars, and a total disregard for the rule of law, it is hard to appreciate the significance of this merger. Lawmakers have repeatedly asked regulators to explain how it would serve the public's interest. They are also concerned that this deal will result in higher prices for consumers.

If approved by antitrust regulators, the Sinclair merger would create the largest broadcast company in history. Here are the staggering statistics: Sinclair would own or operate 215 stations in 102 markets, giving the company a broadcast presence in 72 percent of U.S. households.

Considering Sinclair's history of acquiring local stations and centralizing news operations, the new broadcast behemoth would be able to determine which community efforts receive media attention, harden political viewpoints, and define what constitutes a terrorist threat—all from its Maryland headquarters. Couple that unprecedented market power with Sinclair's standard operating procedure to feature stories through a conservative lens, and the proposed merger is a direct threat to journalistic integrity and promises to widen the chasms of partisanship even deeper.
Shiver.

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

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Today in the Continued Absurdity of Being a Woman in a Misogynist Culture

I am very excited about the upcoming major motion picture Oceans 8, starring fully one zillion amazing women. It's about thieves who commit an elaborate heist.

That's not a spoiler — that's the premise of all the Oceans movies: The original 1960's Rat Pack Ocean's 11; the 2001 Clooney Pack remake Ocean's 11; its two sequels, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen; and now the all-lady version, Ocean's 8.

They're stylish crime capers! That's the whole point.

But Frank Sinatra and George Clooney were probably never asked if they weren't encouraging young boys to go into a life of crime, like the cast of Ocean's 8 were. Yes, really.

Midway through Ocean's 8, there's a scene where Sandra Bullock's exquisitely coated Debbie Ocean faces a mirror and reminds herself why she's decided to rob the Met Gala: not for man, not for herself, she says, but for the 8-year-old girl out there who could be inspired to lead a life of crime. At an extravagant press conference for Ocean's 8 held next to the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art today, one reporter asked the cast if they really were trying inspire 8-year-old girls with their work. What effect would these "strong female roles" have? "Encouraging children to crime," Cate Blanchett deadpanned.
ILY, Cate Blanchett.

The line in the film is a send-up of the very dynamic that apparently played out at this promotional event: The expectation that women must always be centrally occupied with representing womanhood, especially with regard to the example we're setting for girls.

What about the children? is something privileged men get to demand of us (and of marginalized men), but never have demanded of them, no matter how depraved their behavior or the policies they support. (*cough* gun proliferation *cough*)

Visible women must never be allowed to be imperfect, and imperfect women must never be allowed to be role models.

Rinse and repeat forever.

In any case, it isn't only Cate Blanchett who's smarter than this shit.
Mindy Kaling then took the conversation in another direction, pointing out that the film provides positive representation of another, noncriminal sort in the fact that the characters are "orchestrating a crime, rather than fighting over a man." Sandra Bullock pointed out that there is a man the characters in Ocean's 8 fixate on, but more because he's a target, not a love interest. The film aces the Bechdel test and probably earns a heap of extra credit on the assignment. "Our conversations are not about that man, and I think that's very exciting," Kaling said.

..."To an 8-year-old girl, maybe we're not trying to say, 'Go have a life of crime,'" Anne Hathaway added, "but we're saying, 'Go do what you want; there's space for you.'"
And in that space will be someone asking stupid questions. But keep doing what you want, anyway, girls.

Never let stupid questions make you question yourself. Take that piece of unsolicited advice from your Auntie Liss straight to the bank.

Or, you know, to your thieves' den, if that's your jam. You do you.

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Stacey Abrams Wins!

Yesterday was another primary day in a number of states, and Stacey Abrams, of whom I'm a big fan, won the Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary, putting her one step closer to making history as the nation's first Black female governor. YAYAYAYAY! At her victory party, she told her supporters: "We are writing the next chapter of Georgia history, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard, and no one is uninspired. Now let's go get it done."

And in Texas, Lupe Valdez won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, becoming the first openly gay and first Latina candidate to win a major party nomination for governor. "She told cheering supporters in Dallas that she's not deterred by conventional wisdom that she faces long odds against Gov. Greg Abbott, a well-funded incumbent. 'Please tell me when I didn't have an uphill battle,' she said."

Woot!

I am still very uncertain that we are going to have free and fair elections in November, given that there has been zero effort on the federal level to address Russian meddling — with the possible exception of the sitting president inviting even more of it.

But I'm going to enjoy these victories for now.

Please feel welcome and encouraged to share in comments other primary results that excited or disappointed you.

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This Is What a Slide into Authoritarianism Looks Like

[Content Note: Disablist language.]

In three parts:

1. Donald Trump started the day, as usual, with a disgorgement of heinous tweets, including this trash:


I'm not even sure what he's threatening here, but the President of the United States just tweeted "what goes around, comes around" as though that is perfectly normal. It is not normal. None of this is normal.

It is, however, increasingly familiar:


Indeed.

2. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: Inside Trumpworld, a Bizarre Counter-Narrative Takes Hold.
Donald Trump's demand that the Justice Department investigate the F.B.I. for surveilling aides who were in contact with Russian intelligence agents — or, as he alleges, putting "spies in my campaign" — marks an inflection point in his standoff with special counsel Robert Mueller. "The F.B.I. thing really set him over the edge," longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who is himself entangled in the investigation, recently told me. "He's a little rusty, but he's on offense. And it's always better to be on offense than defense."

Trump's scorched-earth strategy has been in place since Rudy Giuliani replaced Trump's long-suffering lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb. At first, it looked as if it were careening off course, as Giuliani gave off a series of erratic and combative interviews. Some speculated that Trump might be unhappy with his performance, but sources I spoke to say Trump is pleased. This is the plan. "Rudy doesn't do anything without Trump's permission," said one Republican close to the White House. The strategy grew out of conversations Trump has held in recent weeks with a group of outside advisers that include Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, Sean Hannity, Dave Bossie, and Corey Lewandowski, among others. "People think Trump is angry, but he likes the direction this is going," an outside White House adviser said.

According to people familiar with Trump's thinking, his team is attempting to build the case that anti-Trump forces in the F.B.I. entrapped his advisers using informants to plant evidence about Russian collusion. The theory goes that the F.B.I. later used these contacts with the Russians to delegitimize his presidency. Trump's advisers say the intelligence community believed Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, but in case she didn't, they concocted this elaborate plot to remove Trump from office. "Just when you think it can't get stranger, it does," a Trump adviser told me. Stone claims the anti-Trump conspiracy includes senior intelligence officials from the Barack Obama administration. "The guy who will end up burning in all this is [former C.I.A. director] John Brennan," Stone told me. "If I were him I'd break the capsule and swallow it now. That psychopath is going down."
Phew. Okay, a few things:

A. Roger Stone is a shitbag. He's been a stain on American politics since the Nixon administration, and, in that time, he has said a lot of despicable things, but admonishing John Brennan to kill himself is right at the top of a very long and horrendous list.

B. House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes is serving as an advisor to the president on his defense strategy, even as his committee is meant to be investigating him. That is audaciously corrupt.

C. That Trump is pleased with Giuliani's strategy is precisely what I've been saying, even as certain commentators haughtily sniffed that people like me were "Rudy Face Plant Truthers." Whooooooops.


Being wrong about this stuff, over and over, has consequences. Demeaning as crazy "truthers" people who have been and continue to be right about this administration also has consequences. And yet (disproportionately) white, male political writers keep confidently being wrong and arrogantly mocking the (primarily) women who keep getting things right. Maybe it's time to listen to women.

3. Caroline O. shared this clip of journalist Lesley Stahl sharing a chilling (if entirely unsurprising) exchange she had with Donald Trump:

Transcript: Before the interview, I met with him in Trump Tower — and he really is the same off-camera that he is on-camera. [grins] Exactly the same. And at one point he started to attack the press. And it's just me and my boss and him in his — he has a huge office. And he's attacking the press. And there were no cameras, there was nothing going on, and I said, "You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You're doing it over and over, and it's boring and it's — it's time to end that, you know, you've won the nomination, and, uh, why do you keep hammering at this?" And he said, "You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you." He said that. So. Put that in your head for a minute. Yeah.
Put it in your head for longer than a minute. Put it there forever.

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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

Suggested by Shaker h2o_girl: "Is there a public or semi public figure that inspires you that we should know about? If so please introduce them."

I mean, I'm pretty much telling you about people who inspire me all the time, whether in posts about them or by recommending their work. So instead I will just link this incredible Twitter thread in which the terrific Cat Pausé recommends 100 Rad Fatties. (Disclosure: I am among them, but that's not why I'm recommending it. Obviously, if you're here, you've already heard of me!) There are a lot of admirable and inspiring folks on that list, so check it out!

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Michael Cohen's Business Partner Strikes Deal with Federal Prosecutors to Avoid Prison

Five years probation is a significant improvement on a possible 125-year maximum prison sentence:

A significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, [Donald] Trump's personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Under the agreement, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, will avoid jail time, and will assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter.

...Mr. Freidman has been Mr. Cohen's partner in the taxi business for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions.

Mr. Freidman, who was disbarred earlier this month, had been accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny — all B felonies. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Instead, he appeared in court in Albany on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes; he faces five years of probation if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, the judge, Patrick Lynch of Albany County court, said during the roughly 20-minute proceeding.
If he fulfills the terms of his agreement. Which means assisting federal prosecutors as needed. Cough.

Again: I hope all of this matter at some point! That would be amazing.

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Stephanie Beatriz Is Awesome

image of Stephanie Beatriz, a thin Latina woman with a pink streak in her hair, to which text has been added reading: 'I #ShowUp because representation matters'
[Via Stephanie Beatriz on Instagram.]

I mean, if you're watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, you don't need me to tell you that Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Det. Rosa Diaz, our favorite bisexual hardass with a giant heart of flinty gold, is awesome. But I'm saying it anyway, because it can't be said enough!

Anyway. Read this Vulture interview with her. Which is terrific. Because she's awesome.

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More on Paul Campos' Trump-Broidy Theory

Two weeks ago, I linked in the We Resist thread a detailed piece by Paul Campos at NYMag, in which he laid out his theory that former deputy RNC finance chair Elliott Broidy was taking the fall for Donald Trump in the second hush payment arranged by Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Per a Wall Street Journal report in April, it was Broidy for whom Cohen ostensibly arranged the hush payment with former Playmate Shera Bechard. But Campos suspects, and has laid out his case, that it was actually Trump on whose behalf Cohen made the agreement and Broidy made the payment.

Today, Campos has a follow-up: Hey, Look: More Evidence That Broidy May Have Been Covering for Trump in That Playmate Affair.

The AP exposé only strengthens the evidence for my hypothesis: The first payment from Broidy came two days before the meeting that apparently helped him ink a nine-figure deal with a foreign country — a deal based in no small part on his access to, and influence on, Trump.

If it's difficult to imagine Broidy being willing to take the fall for Trump's affair with Bechard and then paying her a seven-figure sum, it's much simpler to imagine it simply as a perfectly timed and fantastically profitable bribe.
The whole thing is worth your time to read, particularly so you can understand the quid-pro-quo that Campos has uncovered.

I will just highlight one additional bit (emphases mine):
Four days after after the raid on Cohen's office, on April 13, The Wall Street Journal published a story claiming that this David Dennison, in the NDA signed by Shera Bechard, was none other than Elliott Broidy — despite its being precisely the same pseudonym Trump had used in the Stormy Daniels NDA.

The paper's basis for its scoop was this: Whoever leaked the existence of the Bechard NDA to the Journal also asserted that the agreement was between Bechard and Broidy. The Journal's reporters confronted Broidy, and Broidy immediately confessed to having had a long-running affair with Bechard, and subsequently agreeing to pay her $1.6 million to buy her silence about it. The first payment of the agreement was supposed to be due on December 1, 2017. That is the story Broidy told the Journal, and that story has, remarkably enough, become accepted as simple fact. Indeed, the AP concludes its bombshell exposé of Broidy's machinations by observing that Broidy had gotten Shera Bechard pregnant, and had "agreed to pay her $1.6 million to help her out, as long as she never spoke about it."

...It's also important to keep in mind that the only hard evidence for Broidy's claim that his payoff to Bechard wasn't actually a straight-up bribe of the president of the United States continues to be Broidy's own assertions. (My repeated attempts to get Bechard's current attorney, Peter Stris, to comment on this matter have been unsuccessful.) Journalists — including those AP reporters who pulled together such a remarkable and important story — might want to be cautious about taking Broidy's word on the matter at face value.
Broidy's word is the only "proof" we have that the payoff was made to silence Shera Bechard as a result of Broidy having an affair with her and subsequently paying for an abortion. (Bechard is, of course, bound by an NDA tied to the payment.) But Broidy has a massive incentive to lie: $600 million in contracts from the United Arab Emirates and continued access to a president (access on which those lucrative contracts are based) who might only remain president as long as the truth about the affair remains concealed.

As I said before, I don't know if Campos' theory is true, but I do find it credible.

And then there's this: I don't imagine that the ultra-paranoid Trump would allow Cohen to use his preferred pseudonym for another client. That detail alone makes me inclined to believe Campos is right, frankly.

I always thought that was very strange: Trump is too paranoid to allow that sort of thing, in case anyone ever did figure out one "David Dennison" was him, because then they'd reasonably suspect all the David Dennisons were him.

Which is exactly what people would be thinking, if Broidy hadn't volunteered his own head on a platter.

Welp.

[H/T to Shaker SKM.]

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Daily Dose of Cute

My sweet little boo keeping me company while I was feeling poorly over the weekend. If I'm stuck on the couch with a nasty bout of chondritis, Zelly is just as happy to keep me company as she is when I can run around the yard with her. I love this dog, and I am very lucky that she loves me back.

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt lying with her chin and paws on my hip, while I'm lying on the couch
image of Zelda from another angle

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 488

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

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

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

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

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Earlier today by me: Trump Has Two Unsecured Phones, Because Security Is "Inconvenient" and This Is a Real Thing in the World.

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

Caroline Kelly and Liz Stark at CNN: Former Trump Co-Chairman on Meeting FBI Source: Like Sitting in 'Faculty Lounge Talking About Research'.
Former Trump campaign national co-chairman Sam Clovis broke his silence on the possible FBI confidential source on the Trump campaign during recent appearances on an Iowa radio show, telling listeners he was concerned that the source had been trying to plant an audit trail for investigators to later use to justify surveillance warrants.

Clovis said the two had met over coffee on Sept. 1, 2016, at a DoubleTree hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

"The meeting was very high level; it was like two faculty members sitting down in the faculty lounge talking about research," Clovis said Monday on the "Simon Conway Show." "There was no indication or no inclination that this was anything other than just wanting to offer up his help to the campaign if I needed it."

..."The thing that's unsettling to me," Clovis explained, was the source's apparent motivation "to establish an audit trail from the campaign or somebody associated with the campaign, back to those Clinton emails — whether or not they existed, we don't know."

"The FBI and the Department of Justice, they were attempting to create something that did not exist and there was no evidence that it existed," he added, "to create an audit trail that would lead investigators on something. Then they would have justification to go back for their FISA warrants and all their other things."
So, a couple of things:

1. Was there nothing to the totally conversational meeting (clearly something Clovis is saying to defend himself) or was it "unsettling" because the source was trying to set up the campaign (clearly something Clovis is saying to defend Trump)? It can't be both. Either the source was just talking, or the source was fishing.

2. This bullshit about "creating an audit trail" is truly absurd, even by Trumpian standards. So the theory is that the FBI sent in a mole to plant evidence in order to justify FISA warrants to find evidence that they planted? Hoo boy. Their theory of innocence is getting so convoluted I'm not sure the MAGA drips will understand it, even once it goes through the Sean Hannity Simplification Machine.

3. Part of this theory is based on the idea that if the FBI was so worried about Russian infiltration, then why didn't they just warn Donald Trump? The thing is: They did. And, at the time of that briefing, he was warned to report to the FBI any suspicious contacts. He did not. To the contrary, the Trump campaign was allowing "walkers" like Carter Page to join the campaign because they were desperate for even remotely credible bodies.

Essentially, the Trump administration continues to believe there exists no reason that any intelligence agency or Congressional committee or special counsel had or has to investigate them. Which is laughable.

This is, after all, a president who, as a candidate, stood at a podium and invited Russians to hack the U.S. State Department, in order to harm his opponent. That isn't normal. That is disloyalty so profound that it alone warrants investigation. And it's merely the tip of a colossal iceberg.

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"I honestly can't believe I have to keep doing this," writes Warner at the top of the memo. Yeah. That's a club with a whole lotta members.

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I love Howard Dean.

Natasha Geiling at ThinkProgress: EPA Bans Certain Reporters from Covering a National Summit on Chemicals. "On Tuesday morning, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt greeted a crowed of nearly 200 at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The attendees were there for a national summit on polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances — also known as PFAS, a class of chemicals linked to potentially serious health impacts with long-term exposure. But absent from the summit's introductory statement were reporters from several news outlets, including the Associated Press, CNN, and E&E News. One reporter with the Associated Press was allegedly forcibly removed from the EPA headquarters after trying to enter to report on the summit." The assaults on the press continue unabated, then.


Matt Cagle and Nicole A. Ozer at the ACLU: Amazon Teams up with Law Enforcement to Deploy Dangerous New Face Recognition Technology. "The company has developed a powerful and dangerous new facial recognition system and is actively helping governments deploy it. Amazon calls the service 'Rekognition.' Marketing materials and documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states reveal a product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights. Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces, according to Amazon. Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance. According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a 'common use case' for this technology." Yikes.

Jessica Mason Pieklo at Rewire.News: Texas Is Once Again Violating Federal Voting Rights Law, Court Rules. "Judge Garcia ordered Texas to change its online process by July 2018 to allow people to simply check a box indicating they wish to register or update their voter registration information when they use the state's online portal to renew their driver's license or change their address. Garcia ordered the state to submit to the court a proposed educational campaign to inform the public about the changes to the online voter registration process. Officials have two weeks to comply with that portion of Garcia's order. He also ordered the state to conduct monthly compliance audits until 2019 and to provide annual updates to the Texas Civil Rights Project of information on the number of voter registrations that were the result of the online process as well as any complaints the state has received about the online voter registration and renewal process."

This is a pretty excellent example of why Trump and the Republican Party are trying to stack the judiciary as swiftly as possible. Judges are the last bulwark against their attempts to wholly undermine free and fair elections.

The last besides We the People, that is. In good resistance news...


You can keep up with the Poor People's Campaign on Twitter by following @UniteThePoor.

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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I just came across this Sausage, Spinach, and White Bean Soup crockpot recipe, looking for a way to use up some beans I've got, and it looks so yummy. I may have to make that before it gets too warm for soup!

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This Is a Real Thing in the World


Not since the glorious Ronpaulbuxxx of yore have I seen such a magnificent specimen!

(This is why bitcoin will ALWAYS be inferior. Can bitcoin offer me a commemorative cryptocoin of this historic meeting? I DIDN'T THINK SO.)

Obviously, everything about this is perfect: How beautiful it is, how perfect the likeness of the two stunning leaders, how classically authoritarian it is, what a superb money-making opportunity it is for a totally uncorrupt White House and an ethical AF president who definitely isn't exploiting the office for his own personal wealth or glory, how classy it is (although I admit it could use a little more gold).

But this is definitely my favorite part:


Methinks I spy a silver fox who's angling to get a coin of his own! Don't worry, Pence — all the great authoritarians get them, so it's only a matter of time.

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Trump Has Two Unsecured Phones, Because Security Is "Inconvenient"


This is such a serious problem — and so obviously serious that I can't imagine I would even need to explain why it's so serious, nor that I could possibly convince anyone who's chosen to remain unconvinced.

All there is left to say is:

image of a nuclear explosion to which I've added text reading BUT HER EMAILS

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Open Thread


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

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