Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker BellsBromeliad: "What do you do when you're just so fucking sad all the time? When you can't stop crying? How do you get through the day when you're overwhelmed by all the bad?"

For me, it depends on the cause of the So Fucking Sad.

If it's something situational that I know will eventually pass, I do what I can to try to resolve the problem, and distract myself when the pieces I can't control start to overwhelm me. My key distractions are music and comedy, whether it's stand-up, films, or TV shows.

If it's something that won't change, for example the death of a loved one, I just allow myself to feel bad as long as I need to, and I give myself permission to say out loud that I'm sad and why, knowing that time is the only thing that will bring a space in which I feel better again.

If it's external stuff, like the work I do every day, some of which impacts me directly and personally and some of which makes me profoundly sad even if it doesn't touch my life intimately, I tend to dig in harder and try to find ways to engage in harm mitigation for other people, even if it's nothing bigger than validating what they're feeling. Trying to make other people feel better is an important way, for me, of coping.

I've only ever had one episode of can't-get-out-of-bed-for-weeks depression, my last semester of college. I dealt with it then by not dealing with it at all. I hid. I stayed in bed. I cried. I felt ashamed of myself. I nearly flunked out of school (and would have, if my ex hadn't been talking to my professors and bringing my papers to them). Nothing helped, because I didn't seek help. I just stayed in bed until one day I got out again. If that were to happen now, I would deal with it very differently (I hope), seeking out professional assistance.

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Just Go Read This

Bob Collins at MPR NewsCut: A Longing for Mr. Rogers. Particularly the story shared by threaded tweets at the end of Collins' piece. Blub.

[H/T to Shaker GoldFishy.]

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Fat Fashion

This is your semi-regular thread in which fat women can share pix, make recommendations for clothes they love, ask questions of other fat women about where to locate certain plus-size items, share info about sales, talk about what jeans cut at what retailer best fits their body shapes, discuss how to accessorize neutral colored suits, share stories of going bare-armed for the first time, brag about a cool fashion moment, whatever.

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As I might have mentioned once or twice or three million times, I love hats! Here I am wearing a sunhat that Iain purchased for me while we were on holiday—and, proving that great accessories don't have to cost a fortune, this beauty was only twenty bucks!

image of me on holiday in a wide-brimmed sunhat

Unfortunately, for twenty bucks, you get a one-size-fits-all hat, which was a little big for me, so it wasn't super functional in the wind, lol. But it did keep the sun off my face, and I felt super cute to boot.

One of the things I have always loved about accessories is that I can usually find something that feels special, even when my clothing options have been limited.

Anyway! As always, all subjects related to fat fashion are on topic, but if you want a topic for discussion: Have you learned how to rock accessories because of limitations in your wardrobe options?

Have at it in comments! Please remember to make fat women of all sizes, especially women who find themselves regularly sizing out of standard plus-size lines, welcome in this conversation, and pass no judgment on fat women who want to and/or feel obliged, for any reason, to conform to beauty standards. And please make sure if you're soliciting advice, you make it clear you're seeking suggestions—and please be considerate not to offer unsolicited advice. Sometimes people just need to complain and want solidarity, not solutions.

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Bernie Sanders, Underpants Gnome of Revolution

Another day, another white dude crediting Bernie Sanders with all things progressive.

Under the subheadline “Bernie Sanders lost the primary but reshaped his [sic] party,” Ben Smith at Buzzfeed has written a remarkable work of historical (fan) fiction that credits Bernie Sanders’ primary performance for a Clinton-allied think tank writing a plan for investing in American infrastructure.

So you’re forgiven if you missed the big development on the Democratic Party policy front: the call for “a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.” That plan, titled “A Marshall Plan for America,” came not from Bernie Sanders but from the Center for American Progress, the Clintonite Washington think tank John Podesta led. The proposal breaks in tone and substance with the Clinton–Obama focus on an economy led and dominated by the private sector.

Now I love these alternative histories where Germany wins World War I or something, but I am not sure I understand the point of writing one where Hillary Clinton didn’t pitch a massive infrastructure plan during the 2016 election. The one detailed here. That one.

And the really interesting thing about this alternate universe is if it’s not one white dude who gets credit, it’s another:

Democrats’ opportunity is to deliver on the explicit and implicit promises that Trump abandoned once he was elected: expanded and improved health care and large-scale jobs programs, cost no object.

It’s the Trump and Bernie show, promising magic white dude stuff! Never mind the boring lady with plans to make it happen and to pay for it! Whether that's Hillary Clinton or Neera Tanden, who co-wrote the proposal the article begins with and is briefly quoted. I wonder what she--a female person of color--would think about all the White Dude Magic in the rest of the article.

I guess I'll never know, because Smith has many white dudes to quote! How about a white dude from one of the whitest states in the union?

“What happened in the presidential campaign is that Bernie ran explicitly in support of a Medicare-for-all approach” — a simple framework for single-payer — “and what the politicians saw is that voters were fine with that,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a longtime advocate of single payer.

“It’s inclusive and it doesn’t get us into the identity politics divisions that are problematic,” he said. “It gets us into inclusive politics.”

Yes, that’s right folks. Nothing says ‘inclusive’ like deriding voting rights, reproductive justice, the safety of trans folk, same sex marriage, Islamaphobia, nativism, police violence against African-Americans—you know, identity politics. It’s much more inclusive to focus on issues that directly affect white men! Take it from a straight, Christian white man, he’d know!

P.S. Mr. Welch, the plan the article started with specifically cites the need to protect civil rights--"identity politics"--alongside strengthening the economy, because we can do both.

But it really takes the cake to claim that Sanders’ primary performance has given the Democrats cover for anything, other than white dudes’ tiresome insistence on re-writing history to center themselves.

Bernie Sanders lost the primary. It wasn’t especially close. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the primary by 12%. In 2008, Barack Obama actually lost the popular vote to Clinton, by 1%. Now that’s close, and a testament to the fact that (a) Hillary Clinton is pretty great and (b) she’s not unstoppable if a candidate has the right stuff. Barack Obama did, Bernie Sanders didn’t.

And one of the reasons Bernie lost the primary is that when push came to shove, he didn’t have plans.

Because Bernie Sanders is the Underpants Gnome of Revolution.

South Park’s gnomes have plans to steal underpants, then follow an unknown second step, then get to step 3: PROFIT. Similarly, Sanders preaches that we have to want [liberal thing] very much and then somehow [that liberal thing] will happen. We know it won’t involve wheeling and dealing and making compromises, because that’s what neoliberal $HILL$ do, amirite? Amirite?

Back here in the real world, I remember the primary and Bernie Sanders’ utter inability to explain how he was going to achieve even some of his most talked-about goals. In Sanders Fanfic Universe, the New York Daily News interview never happened, but back here on Earth-1, I have receipts:

Daily News: Now, switching to the financial sector, to Wall Street. Speaking broadly, you said that within the first 100 days of your administration you'd be drawing up...your Treasury Department would be drawing up a too-big-to-fail list. Would you expect that that's essentially the list that already exists under Dodd-Frank? Under the Financial Stability Oversight Council?

Sanders: Yeah. I mean these are the largest financial institutions in the world….

Daily News: And then, you further said that you expect to break them up within the first year of your administration. What authority do you have to do that? And how would that work? How would you break up JPMorgan Chase?

Sanders: Well, by the way, the idea of breaking up these banks is not an original idea. It's an idea that some conservatives have also agreed to.

You've got head of, I think it's, the Kansas City Fed, some pretty conservative guys, who understands. Let's talk about the merit of the issue, and then talk about how we get there.

Right now, what you have are two factors. We bailed out Wall Street because the banks are too big to fail, correct? It turns out, that three out of the four largest banks are bigger today than they were when we bailed them out, when they were too-big-to-fail. That's number one.

Number two, if you look at the six largest financial institutions of this country, their assets somewhere around $10 trillion. That is equivalent to 58% of the GDP of America. They issue two-thirds of the credit cards in this country, and about one-third of the mortgages. That is a lot of power.

And I think that if somebody, like if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, he would look at that. Forgetting even the risk element, the bailout element, and just look at the kind of financial power that these guys have, would say that is too much power.

Hey, we got all the way to Zombie Teddy Roosevelt, and you know what? He didn’t actually answer the question. He didn’t say how he would do it. And he got called on it.

Daily News: Okay. Well, let's assume that you're correct on that point. How do you go about doing it?

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don't know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Allow me to observe: this is not a peripheral issue for Sanders. Breaking up the banks was in every fucking speech. And he’s not sure what authority the Fed has now, or even if he’s going to have legislation passed where Congress the directly grades banks or of if the legislation will give the Secretary of the Treasury authority.

Proceed, Senator.

Daily News: How? How does a President turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the Treasury turn to any of those banks and say, "Now you must do X, Y and Z?"

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

Sanders: Yeah. Well, I believe you do.

Now the Daily News wants to know what will happen to the employees and assets of JPMorgan. Sanders’ answer:

Sanders: What I foresee is a stronger national economy. And, in fact, a stronger economy in New York State, as well. What I foresee is a financial system which actually makes affordable loans to small and medium-size businesses. Does not live as an island onto themselves concerned about their own profits. And, in fact, creating incredibly complicated financial tools, which have led us into the worst economic recession in the modern history of the United States.

Daily News: I get that point. I'm just looking at the method because, actions have reactions, right? There are pluses and minuses. So, if you push here, you may get an unintended consequence that you don't understand. So, what I'm asking is, how can we understand? If you look at JPMorgan just as an example, or you can do Citibank, or Bank of America. What would it be? What would that institution be? Would there be a consumer bank? Where would the investing go?

Sanders: I'm not running JPMorgan Chase or Citibank.

Daily News: No. But you'd be breaking it up.

Sanders: That's right. And that is their decision as to what they want to do and how they want to reconfigure themselves. That's not my decision. All I am saying is that I do not want to see this country be in a position where it was in 2008, where we have to bail them out. And, in addition, I oppose that kind of concentration of ownership entirely.

You're asking a question, which is a fair question. But let me just take your question and take it to another issue. Alright? It would be fair for you to say, "Well, Bernie, you got on there that you are strongly concerned about climate change and that we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. What happens to the people in the fossil fuel industry?"

That's a fair question. But the other part of that is if we do not address that issue the planet we’re gonna leave your kids and your grandchildren may not be a particularly healthy or habitable one. So I can't say, if you're saying that we’re going to break up the banks, will it have a negative consequence on some people? I suspect that it will. Will it have a positive impact on the economy in general? Yes, I think it will.

And that was the day Bernie Sanders admitted he actually had no plans for how to break up banks or transform the fossil fuel industry and not a clue what to do about the workers who would be displaced when he did so.

Also. Those very untrustworthy big banks are to be trusted to figure out how to break themselves up (I guess) and the reconfigure themselves somehow (I guess?) This is not serious policy. And remember: this is his signature theme, and has bee his signature theme for years.

Just one more quote so you can appreciate the full gloriousness of the Underpants Revolution, though the entire thing is worth a read if you haven’t.

Daily News: Well, it does depend on how you do it, I believe. And, I'm a little bit confused because just a few minutes ago you said the U.S. President would have authority to order...

Sanders: No, I did not say we would order. I did not say that we would order. The President is not a dictator.

Daily News: Okay. You would then leave it to JPMorgan Chase or the others to figure out how to break it, themselves up. I'm not quite...

Sanders: You would determine is that, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. And then you have the secretary of treasury and some people who know a lot about this, making that determination. If the determination is that Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail, yes, they will be broken up.

Daily News: Okay. You saw, I guess, what happened with Metropolitan Life. There was an attempt to bring them under the financial regulatory scheme, and the court said no. And what does that presage for your program?

Sanders: It's something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.

”It’s something I have not studied.” Oh.

Now maybe the Brocialist left is untroubled by these lack of plans, because they’re insulated by privilege from so many things that those of us with “identities” have to deal with. But if you want to see what this kind of thinking brings when it comes to enacting a political agenda, look no further than our current president.

Trump has the advantage of both houses of Congress being from his own party. So what, exactly, was stopping him from achieving his big goals in his first 100 days? Could it be a total lack of plans, and a total lack of the political ability to broker compromises? I’m not trying to discount the very real effects of the Resistance, nor downplay the strategies the Democrats are desperately employing as a minority party in order to save the Republic. Nor how bad it is for those suffering from what he has managed to do. But imagine if Trump were actually good at compromise and if he had an actual plan for, say, building a wall with Mexico. We’d be in some even deeper shit than the Aegean stables of oppression we’re trying to muck out now.

Bernie Sanders’ agenda, of course, is infinitely preferable to Donald Trump’s. But that doesn’t mean his plans for achieving it were much ever more realistic. And his political negotiating skills haven led to an unremarkable record of legislative success, though, to be fair, he’s surely better than Trump in that regard.

So no, back here in the real world, it’s not at all strange that a Clinton-allied think tank is drafting pragmatic progressive policy that involves an ambitious public infrastructure plan, with attention given to how it might be implemented and paid for. Rather than showing that Bernie Sanders pushed the party left, or whatever ridiculous assertion white men are making today, it means that Hillary Clinton’s economic agenda, which was always progressive, is serving as a base for new plans in the age of Trump, plans that in no way mean abandoning intersectional civil rights concerns.

Nor is it surprising that a Clinton-allied think tank would formulate plans designed to woo reachable Trump supporters. Because, again, I know we're supposed to put the entire campaign down the Memory Hole and pretend that she didn't give a fuck about the white working class, but in fact, she specifically addressed their concerns.

"We're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people," Clinton said. "Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we've got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don't want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on."

Don't remember that quote? Maybe because the media spent months promoting the special Republican edit of it, which only included the sentence rpeceding it, saying "we're going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs." Funny how that works. Turns out evil Hillary was actually addressing white working class concerns. She just didn't give them White Man Magic as an answer. And who can forget this?

But the other basket -- and I know this because I see friends from all over America here -- I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas -- as well as, you know, New York and California -- but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

Huh. It's almost as if Hillary Clinton was reaching out to those actually feeling economically anxious, without pretending that there were no racists among Trump voters. But you'd never know that in the GOP/Sanders memory Hole, where all she did was to (correctly) label Trump's neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate base a "basket of deplorables."

The fact is that Hillary Clinton's words and actions were never without care for the Trump demographic. She just didn't lie to them, nor did she erase the concerns of the Democratic base of people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and others with identities along various axes of oppression. And most Democrats are continuing that approach. But now the Democrats must also take into consideration fixing the economic and social hole that Trump and the GOP are set on digging the country into, rather than starting from the relatively stable platform of Obama’s last year in office. If plans become more ambitious than Hillary Clinton's 2016 platform, it is from necessity, not because of Bernie's White Man Magic.

And how will Democrats ever be in a place to enact that agenda? By doing all the things we “identity” folk are doing right now: resisting Trump’s terrible edicts, pressuring our legislators, fighting to protect voting rights, campaigning hard and raising money for Democrats in 2017 and 2018, registering new voters and doing our damnedest to get them to the polls. If you ever get tired of the Underpants Revolution, white dudes, maybe you could see your way to giving us boring old ladies some help with the real work.

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Obama v. Trump at Yad Vashem

President Obama visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, when he was running for president in 2008. His inscription in the guestbook reads: "I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again.' And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit. Barack Obama, 23 July 2008."

Donald Trump visited on Monday. His inscription reads: "It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends—so amazing & will never forget! Donald Trump." Melania's signature appears just below his.

Spot the differences indeed. One looks like the words of a president leaving his considered thoughts on the pages of history. The other looks like the words of a B-list reality TV star quickly scratching some bullshit on a cocktail napkin for a fan.

Which is what Trump is. Unfortunately, he is also a president.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't very significant. There are a lot bigger things about which to worry than Trump being a tacky, ineloquent, unserious dipshit in a guestbook.

Often it's these smaller distinctions that really affect me. Of course President Barack Obama would never have engaged in any of the overwhelming corruption (and possible treason) that Donald Trump has. That's so abundantly evident that it virtually doesn't even register emotionally.

But reading their words juxtaposed like that. Damn. For some reason, that's the sort of thing that really evokes in me a pointed grief about just how much we've lost.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound wrapped in a blanket on the sofa
Dudley snuggled in "his" blanket. (Note his tail sticking out, lol.)

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 124

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.

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Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: The Latest on the Trump Investigations.

Today, former CIA Director John Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee. He said, in part: "I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals, and, it raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals."

He also detailed how U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating last summer, but that information (unlike the information about Anthony Weiner's fucking laptop) was never made available to the public.

—along with their talented colleagues from the FBI, NSA, and the office of the DNI, tracked and exposed Russian active measures against our presidential election.

When it became clear to me last summer that Russia was engaged in a very aggressive and wide-ranging effort to interfere in one of the key pillars of our democracy, we pulled together experts from CIA, NSA, and FBI in late July, to focus on the issue, drawing in multiple perspectives and subject matter experts with broad expertise to assess Russian attempts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

The purpose was the ensure that experts from key agencies had access to information and intelligence relevant to Russian actions, so we could have as full an appreciation as possible on the scope, nature, and intentions of this Russian activity.

The experts provided regular updates and assessments through the summer and fall, which were used to inform senior U.S. officials, including President Obama. The work also was leveraged for the intelligence community assessment that was completed in early January, under the aegis of the Director of National Intelligence.

Second: It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process, and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they not do so.
Brennan notes that intelligence experts were pulled together in late July. By way of reminder, that was the same month in which [CN: video autoplays] Trump invited the Russians to hack us, saying: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

There is much more from the hearing, but I'll leave it there for now, because this is a stone cold fact:

Relatedly, Matt Zapotosky and Matea Gold at the Washington Post report: Justice Department Ethics Experts Clear Mueller to Lead Russia Probe. "Justice Department ethics experts have concluded that newly appointed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III can oversee the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election—even though his former law firm represents several people who could be caught up in the matter, authorities announced Tuesday. ...Mueller, a former FBI director, had worked for the past three years in the Washington office of WilmerHale, a prominent law firm whose lawyers represent former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump's daughter Ivanka and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mueller resigned from the firm after Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed him last week to oversee the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election." Welp.

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The other big news today is Trump's budget proposal, which is straight-up villainy.

Damian Paletta and Robert Costa at the Washington Post: Trump's Budget Proposal Slashes Spending by $3.6 Trillion over 10 Years. (Emphasis mine.)
Trump on Tuesday will propose cutting federal spending by $3.6 trillion over 10 years, a historic budget contraction that would severely ratchet back spending across dozens of programs and could completely reshape government assistance to the poor.

The White House's $4.094 trillion budget request for fiscal 2018 calls for cuts that hit Medicaid, food assistance, and other anti-poverty programs. It would cut funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides benefits to the poor, by roughly 20 percent next year.

All told, the budget would ­reduce spending on safety-net programs by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.
And how is the administration defending this despicable wealth redistribution upward plan?

Fuck these people. Fuck this disgusting narrative that sets people who need government assistance and "taxpayers" apart as mutually exclusive groups. Many of the people who need government assistance are also federal taxpayers. Fuck this deadly avarice and the shitty goblins who use it as their primary governing protocol.

Goddammit. I am so fucking angry about this, and I feel so completely impotent to do anything about it. We are being governed by vile scoundrels, and the devastating havoc they wreak will do lasting damage that will take a very long time to undo.

Speaking of damage not easily unwound, lots of folks are having a chuckle over this story about a belligerent white man in a MAGA cap being greeted by chants of "Lock him up!" as he was escorted off a flight, but the empowered entitlement that white male Trump voters (in particular, but not exclusively) feel after Trump's election is something, too, that will have lingering consequences that won't be easily contained.

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[CN: War on agency] Teddy Wilson at Rewire: Texas Republicans Advance Sweeping Abortion Restrictions. "Texas lawmakers in the Republican-controlled house voted Friday to create the state's the most sweeping abortion restrictions since the passage of the omnibus anti-choice bill known as HB 2. After six hours of debate on Friday night, lawmakers passed a bill that would prohibit certain types of abortion procedures, codify state regulations requiring the burial or cremation of fetal tissue as well as banning the sale of fetal tissue, and create additional reporting requirements for physicians who provide abortion care."

[CN: Homophobia] Andy Towle at Towleroad: Gay Couple and Their 3 Kids Denied 'Family Boarding' Privileges by Southwest Airlines. "A gay man says he was stopped and 'humiliated' by a Southwest Airlines gate attendant in Buffalo who told him, his spouse, and their three kids that they could not board because 'it's for family boarding only.' ...'[M]y spouse looked up and said, 'Well, we are a family. It's myself, my spouse, and our three children.' She said it's family boarding only and got very sarcastic.'"

[CN: Police brutality; racism; guns; death.] In September 2016, Tyre King, a a 13-year-old Black boy from Columbus, Ohio, was fatally shot by a police officer. At Colorlines, Kenrya Rankin now reports: Grand Jury: No Charges For Cop Who Killed Tyre King. "The Columbus Dispatch reports that the jury proceedings lasted two days and included appearances from 15 to 17 witnesses. Family attorneys with Walton and Brown issued a statement following the decision. In it, the family says it is 'saddened and completely dissatisfied with how the entire investigation was handled by the City of Columbus, the Columbus Division of Police and the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office,' and alleges bias in how evidence and witnesses were presented to the jury."

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

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TV Corner: Master of None

screen cap of Aziz Ansari as Dev and Alessandra Mastronardi as Francesca in Season Two of Master of None

I finished season two of Aziz Ansari's Netflix series Master of None last night, and there is so much I loved about it.

I love that it's a show set in New York with a cast that actually represents what New York City looks like. I loved the entire arc with Bobby Cannavale: I saw exactly where that was headed, and it's saying something that I trusted it would handled well. I love that it's a show written by people who love people.

Without giving away any spoilers, the Thanksgiving episode (with guest star Angela Bassett!) was one of my favorite episodes of both seasons.

screen cap of Angela Bassett as Catherine and Lena Waithe as Denise in Season Two of Master of None

After we finished season two, I said to Iain, "Between Parks & Rec and Master of None, Aziz Ansari has teleported directly to the top of my Please Don't Turn Out to Be a Fucking Creeper list." You get it.


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The Latest on the Trump Investigations

It looks like James Comey wasn't the only person Donald Trump tried to pressure to influence the FBI's investigation into his campaign's possible collusion with Russia.

Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima at the Washington Post: Trump Asked Intelligence Chiefs to Push Back Against FBI Collusion Probe After Comey Revealed Its Existence.

Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

...In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, according to people familiar with the matter. The officials said the White House appeared uncertain about its power to influence the FBI.

"Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?" one official said of the line of questioning from the White House.

...Current and former officials said that Trump either lacks an understanding of the FBI's role as an independent law enforcement agency or does not care about maintaining such boundaries.
I suspect it's not an either-or situation. Trump almost certainly lacks an understanding of the FBI's role and doesn't care. That confluence of ignorance and belligerence is pretty much the defining feature of his presidency.

Once again, I wonder why it is that an administration whose members continually insist that there is no validity to the allegations they colluded with Russia would try to shut down an investigation that would exonerate them, if what they are asserting is true.

Especially since they are well aware that Congressional Republicans are eminently willing to run interference for them. There is zero chance of the majority party fixing an investigation to their disfavor, so it seems that the Trump administration would have a vested interest in allowing the investigations to go forward and alleviate the cloud of suspicion.

It's almost like maybe they do have something to hide. Huh.

Speaking of which...

Ned Resnikoff at ThinkProgress: Michael Flynn Said to Have Lied to the Pentagon About His Russia Connections.
On the same day former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn rejected a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena by asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee issued a letter saying Flynn misled the Department of Defense in order to cover up links to the Russian government.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote to Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) that the committee "has in our possession documents that appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal."

Specifically, Flynn allegedly told the Pentagon that he had been paid by "U.S. companies" for a December 2015 trip to Moscow, when in fact he received $45,000 from the Russian state-owned media company RT.

If Flynn did in fact lie to investigators, he could face "up to five years in prison," the New York Times reports.
Chaffetz, meanwhile, has "said he will postpone a hearing scheduled for Wednesday after speaking with former FBI Director James Comey, who had been invited to testify. 'Spoke with Comey. He wants to speak with Special Counsel prior to public testimony. Hearing Wed postponed. @GOPoversight,' Chaffetz tweeted." Hrm.

Trump, for his part, is busily lawyering up. Welp.

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Bombing in Manchester; IS Claims Responsibility

[Content Note: Terrorism; injury; death.]

Last night, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at an arena in Manchester, UK, an explosion was set off, killing at least 22 people and injuring 59 others, some seriously.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, though there is no evidence yet of international coordination; IS now frequently claims responsibility for terrorist acts committed by individual radicalized actors. Police are investigating whether the killer was part of a network. The explosion is also being investigated as a suicide bombing, as it is believed the bomber was carrying and detonated an improvised explosive device (IED).

Two of the victims have been identified: 18-year-old Georgina Callander, who was a health and social care student, and 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, who was attending the concert with her mother and sister, both of whom are reportedly still being treated for their injuries.

Additional names of those killed will be released throughout the day as they are identified and their families notified.

The Guardian is posting live updates here.

My condolences to the families, friends, and communities of those who were killed. My sympathies to the injured, and to the survivors who were not physically injured but must process this extraordinary trauma. I am so sorry.

My heart always aches after any terrorist attack. Manchester is hitting me particularly hard. Of places on the Earth that have produced things which have made my life better, Manchester is right at the top of the fucking list.

This blog, originally named Shakespeare's Sister, is a Virginia Woolf reference coming by way of a Smiths song—a Manchester band. The last X Sentence on Page Y we did, mine was from the autobiography of a Manchester United player—a football team I love so much that an old photo from one of their matches hangs in my living room. Davy Jones was from Manchester—a member of The Monkees, the first concert I ever saw. James, a band I love so much that I own a jacket on which I painted their iconic daisy, is from Manchester. Joy Division. New Order. Oasis. The Happy Mondays. Simply Red. Swing Out Sister. Inspiral Carpets. The Ting Tings...

That this heinous act was carried out in Manchester, at a music concert, is unbearable. Not that it would have been any less so anywhere else. It's just the particular symbolism of hitting this particular town in this particular way. Fuck.

I don't know how to end this, so I'll just end it by linking to this: "Our response will be to try to contain the blast, by showing that the overwhelming majority of people remain kind, decent, and big-hearted. This is not a platitude. It is a political response."

My heart is with you, Manchester. On this day and always.

[NOTE: Please feel welcome and encouraged to share updates and additional information in comments. As always following such an event, let's keep this an image-free thread. Thanks.]

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Open Thread

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

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Lostshadows: "What are you reading?"

I am currently reading Hold Me, by Courtney Milan. And it's really fucking good!

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The Monday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by post-it notes.

Recommended Reading:

Aiyana Bailin: [Content Note: Ablism] What the Fidget Spinners Fad Reveals About Disability Discrimination

Alex Heeney and Mary Angela Rowe: [CN: Misogyny] The Perils of Writing While Female

Erin White: [CN: Family dysfunction] Boundaries Matter: Shitty Parents and Other Family Members Are Not Worth Your Sanity

Steven Novella: Inoculating — Against Misinformation

Luis Damian Veron: [CN: Homophobia; white supremacy] Dublin Gay Bar Hit with Homophobic, Neo-Nazi Graffiti

Sidney Fussell: Pennsylvania's New Body Camera Policy Would Allow Officers Unrestricted Access to Film in Homes

Ragen Chastain: [CN: Fat hatred] Gym Gone Wild: Fatshaming Kids as a Marketing Ploy

Swapna Krishna: On Star Trek: Discovery and Michelle Yeoh's Accent

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

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Discussion Thread: Good Things

One of the ways we resist the demoralization and despair in which exploiters of fear like Trump thrive is to keep talking about the good things in our lives.

Because, even though it feels very much (and rightly so) like we are losing so many things we value, there are still daily moments of joy or achievement or love or empowering ferocity or other kinds of fulfillment.

Maybe you've experienced something big worth celebrating; maybe you've just had a precious moment of contentment; maybe getting out of bed this morning was a success worthy of mention.

News items worth celebrating are also welcome.

So, whatever you have to share that's good, here's a place to do it.

* * *

Here is some tentative good news: U.S. Supreme Court Agrees NC Lawmakers Created Illegal Congressional District Maps in 2011. I say it's tentative good news because: "It was not immediately clear what impact the decision would have on lingering questions over the districts used to elect the state legislature, and whether lawmakers will have to draw new maps and hold legislative elections in 2017." Still. This is a far better outcome than the Supreme Court ruling the other way.

And here is a good thing:

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I Mean

The town of Palm Beach has announced that a sinkhole has opened up in front of Mar-a-Lago: "A 4' x 4' sinkhole has formed on Southern Boulevard directly in front of Mar-a-Lago. It appears to be in the vicinity of the newly installed water main. West Palm Beach Utilities distribution crews have secured the area and will most likely need to do some exploratory excavation today. One lane is closed but the road remains open. Please pay attention to signs."

"Please pay attention to signs." No kidding.

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Dear Gloria Steinem, I Am Pro-Abortion. Sincerely, Liss.

Maggie Mallon at Glamour: Gloria Steinem: It's 'Ridiculous' to Say That Someone Is 'Pro-Abortion'.

On Tuesday [Gloria Steinem] spoke at Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio's centennial gala and fundraiser, where was greeted by about 40 demonstrators outside of the event who were protesting the women's health care organization (said one 19-year-old woman: "[Steinem] is in there helping Planned Parenthood raise money to kill more human beings"). Prior to Tuesday's gala, both Steinem and Planned Parenthood were blasted by the antiabortion group Ohio Right to Life: Steinem was called a "radical pro-abortion icon" and the health care provider was labeled "dehumanizing."

But despite the protests, Steinem was nonplussed.

"If they supported me, I'd know I was doing something wrong," Steinem told the AP, referring to the antichoice group. "It's obviously ridiculous to say somebody is 'pro-abortion.' Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, 'I think I'll have an abortion. It's a pleasurable experience.' The question is not pro-abortion or antiabortion, the question is who makes the decision: a woman and her physician, or the government."
I understand what Steinem was trying to say—that no person wants to be in the position of needing an abortion.

But that is not what she said. She said: "It's obviously ridiculous to say somebody is 'pro-abortion.'"

Well, call me obviously ridiculous, then, because I am pro-abortion.

And to be frank, in an era in which Democratic leaders are talking about abortion access as a negotiable policy, I will say even more loudly that I am pro-abortion.

No matter how obviously ridiculous anyone may think my position to be.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt sitting in the kitchen with a big grin
Happy Dog is sooooo happy!

She is looking to the side because I was reaching toward the treat jar while I was taking the picture, lol. Just following my hand, making sure that she was going to get a treat, as they always do when they come back in from being in the backyard. Zelda usually sits or stands politely for her treats, which is why I was able to snap this adorbz pic of her in that moment. Dudley, meanwhile, was galloping around like a loose pinball, and will only sit for his treat once I force him to, like the big old meanypants that I am.

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 123

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:

Earlier today by me: Trump on the Road and Trump vs. the Intelligence Community.

Donald Trump just did an absolutely incredible thing, revealing that the source of the top-level classified info he shared with the Russians was Israel.

He did indeed! And he did it literally unprompted. Just volunteered the information.

This guy is a wreck. An extremely dangerous wreck.

* * *

[Content Note: White supremacy; violence; death; video may autoplay at link] Carrie Wells at the Baltimore Sun: Police, FBI Investigating University of Maryland Killing as Possible Hate Crime.
Authorities are investigating whether the stabbing death of a black college student who was visiting the University of Maryland during graduation weekend was a hate crime.

The chief of the university police said Sunday the suspect, a white University of Maryland student, is a member of a racist Facebook group. An FBI official said the federal agency will assist with the investigation.

The victim, identified by police Sunday as Richard Collins III, was due to graduate from Bowie State University this week. The Calvert County man had completed ROTC in college and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army on Thursday, according to school officials and a family spokesman. He was 23.

Police have charged Sean Christoper Urbanski, 22, of Severna Park with first-degree murder in the attack. He was being held without bail.

...Collins was waiting with two other students for an Uber ride outside the Montgomery Hall dormitory on Regents Drive near U.S. 1 at about 3 a.m. Saturday when he was attacked. ...Collins' friends told police they heard the suspect scream as he approached them.

The suspect said "Step left, step left if you know what's best for you," police wrote in charging documents. Collins said "no," police wrote. The suspect continued to approach, and stabbed him once in the chest.

Police said initially there was no indication that race played a role. But University Police Chief David Mitchell said information about the Facebook group was brought to their attention on Sunday.

The group, called "Alt-Reich Nation," contained racist posts, he said.

"When I look at the information that's contained on that website, suffice it to say that it's despicable, it shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, persons of Jewish faith and especially African-Americans," Mitchell said.
I will say again: Donald Trump did not invent white supremacy, but he sure as fuck is doing everything he can to empower it. And that has consequences.

[CN: Stalking; doxxing; anti-Semitism] On that very note... Ryan Broderick at BuzzFeed: Trump Supporters Have Built a Document with the Addresses and Phone Numbers of Thousands of Anti-Trump Activists. "The document posted by kanuke7 has since been removed, but according to a copy of it obtained by BuzzFeed News, it contains the names, addresses, and phone numbers of thousands of people, as well as links to their social media accounts."

This is rank intimidation. And Trump continues to empower that shit, too, with his own fascistic behavior. We are in a dark time, and it's only going to get worse.

* * *

Daniel Hemel at Take Care: Why Hasn't Rod Rosenstein Recused Himself from the Russiagate Probe? "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should recuse himself from the probe into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia and the President's apparent attempt to obstruct the FBI's inquiry. Rosenstein himself played a key role in the events at the center of the controversy, and his continued involvement casts a shadow over the ongoing investigation."

Associated Press: AP Source Says Flynn Will Invoke Fifth Amendment. "Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday as he notifies the Senate Intelligence committee that he will not comply with a subpoena seeking documents. That's according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. ...Legal experts have said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the personal documents without immunity because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so. Flynn has previously sought immunity from 'unfair prosecution' to cooperate with the committee."

Caitlin MacNeal at TPM: White House Trying to Block Ethics Office from Seeing Former Lobbyists Hired by Administration. "The White House is trying to keep the Office of Government Ethics from viewing documents detailing which former lobbyists have been hired by the Trump administration for positions in the federal government, the New York Times reported Monday morning. The Trump administration asked Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, to withdraw his request for copies of the waivers for former lobbyists, arguing that Shaub did not have the legal authority to make such a request... Shaub told the New York Times that he was surprised by the White House's response to his request. 'It is an extraordinary thing,' he said. 'I have never seen anything like it.'"

Simon Maloy at the Week: The Trump White House Is Collapsing. "All of the administration's self-made crises are pushing the people on the inside to break ranks and feed dirt to reporters. An administration cannot expect to function properly under these circumstances. The White House is just oozing poison at this point, and the growing toxicity is undermining everything the president and his aides are trying to do. The accelerating Russia investigation paired with Trump's penchant for political self-destruction guarantee that things won't improve any time soon."

And, naturally, as the White House is embroiled in chaos and corruption, their domestic agenda continues to be fucking horrific, even as it receives comparatively little attention.

Damian Paletta at the Washington Post: Trump to Propose Big Cuts to Safety Net in New Budget, Slashing Medicaid and Opening Door to Other Limits.
Trump's first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump's budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements "for able-bodied Americans" could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.

...The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn't be learned.

...After The Washington Post reported some of the cuts Sunday evening, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump was pulling "the rug out from so many who need help."

"This budget continues to reveal [Donald] Trump's true colors: His populist campaign rhetoric was just a Trojan horse to execute long-held, hard-right policies that benefit the ultra wealthy at the expense of the middle class," he said.

* * *

Another cool snapshot from Trump's trip abroad...

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

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TV Corner: The Keepers

[Content Note: Violence; sexual assault; death; Christian supremacy.]

This weekend, I watched The Keepers, a 7-episode documentary series on Netflix about the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik and the subsequent cover-up. Her murder remains unsolved. The series introduces us to the potential suspects and one very important motive: Sister Cathy had discovered that Father Joseph A. Maskell, the counselor at the Catholic girls' school at which she was a teacher was sexually abusing students and allowing other men to sexually assault them in his office.

That is the most frank way I can describe what was happening, but the extent of the abuse was vast and horrific. It is difficult to watch the survivors recount their abuse. It is also important, and, for me personally, validating and ultimately an extremely positive experience to spend time with the women, former students of Sister Cathy's, who are survivors and investigators.

image of Jean Wehner, an older white woman, from The Keepers
Jean Wehner, a former student of Sister Cathy's and survivor of abuse
who has fought for decades for accountability from the Catholic Church.

Unlike the other notable true crime docuseries and podcasts of late, this is a victim-centered crime series, which makes it very different and very special. Here, we get the perspective of crime survivors and families of the dead—including the family of Joyce Malecki, a young woman who was killed just days after Cesnik in the same neighborhood, and was a parishioner of the aforementioned priest. Here, there are no narratives about hero cops, but a stark representation of how survivors are so often failed in such extraordinary ways.

Watching The Keepers, I was (and remain) awed by the tenacious courage of these survivors, even as I am angry that they have been obliged to be courageous, and of the woman who was likely killed for being their advocate.

I also thought, over and over, of all the times I've written about rape culture and gotten pushback that's some variation of, "No one condones rape." The hell they don't. And this documentary series is one of the best exposures of the terrifying vastness of institutional rape culture.

For all of us who have been gaslighted, ignored, disbelieved, turned away by the institutions supposed to protect us, The Keepers is so personal, and so important.

It reminds us that none of us is alone. And that is not justice. But it is real.

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Trump vs. the Intelligence Community

I have long been concerned about Trump's war on the intelligence community and where it would lead. On Friday, I detailed my emerging concern that it has led to what is effectively dueling coups between the Trump administration and the national security bureaucrats:

The intelligence community has its own reasons for wanting to consolidate its own power, which has frequently been abused. There is no history which suggests that the IC, given increased power through any means, is inclined to subsequently relinquish it.

(As an aside, if you want a good picture of what governance seized by intelligence can become, look no further than Russia: Putin is former KGB.)

The way this power struggle is currently shaping up, there are no good outcomes. Just less awful ones.

At the end of this, unless something fundamentally changes from a battle between the White House and the intelligence community (started long ago by Trump), I don't believe any result is going to be a net positive for democracy.
On Friday night, I did a little media analysis tweeting (thread begins here), during which I made this observation, with regard to many of the Big Scoops that are centered around leaks from eager leakers:

Over the weekend, with a hat tip to Shaker SKM, I read this important piece at Harper's by Michael J. Glennon, a professor of international law at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a former counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The piece starts with a history of the origins and elevation of the national security bureaucracy in the United States, before Glennon provides the context for the concerns I have expressed (emphases mine):
Clearly the public has a right to know whether a president is telling the truth if he claims that his predecessor ordered that he be illegally wiretapped. The public also has a right to know whether the president's staff illegally coordinated with a foreign government during the election campaign or lied to the FBI about foreign contacts. But consider the price of victory if the security directorate were somehow to establish itself as a check on those presidential policies—or officials—that it happened to dislike. To formally charge the bureaucracy with providing a check on the president, Congress, or the courts would represent an entirely new form of government, a system in which institutionalized bureaucratic autocracy displaces democratic accountability. What standing would Trump's critics have to object to bureaucratic supremacy should an enlightened president come along, in some brighter time, and seek to free them from the "polar night of icy darkness" that Max Weber warned is bureaucracy's inevitable end point? Where then would they turn, having consecrated the security directorate as their final guardian?

As a creature of the people's elected institutions, the bureaucracy was never intended to be a coequal of Congress, the courts, and the president. Bureaucracy doesn't even appear in the constitutional design that emerged from Philadelphia in 1787. Under the Constitution, power is delegated to the intelligence bureaucracy, not by it. Like other departments and agencies, an intelligence organization can exercise only those powers given to it by its constitutionally established creators. Those who would counter the illiberalism of Trump with the illiberalism of unfettered bureaucrats would do well to contemplate the precedent their victory would set. This perilous precedent would be the least of it, however, should the bureaucracy emerge triumphant. American history is not silent about the proclivities of unchecked security forces, a short list of which includes the Palmer Raids, the FBI's blackmailing of civil rights leaders, Army surveillance of the antiwar movement, the NSA's watch lists, and the CIA's waterboarding. No one passingly familiar with this record of abuse and misconduct could seriously contemplate entrusting these agencies with responsibility for preserving the nation's civil and political liberty. Without constitutional accountability, what reason is there to believe that they would not quickly revert to their old ways, particularly should a national emergency provide plausible justification? Who would trust the authors of past episodes of repression as a reliable safeguard against future repression?

…Some of Trump's antagonists blithely assume that the security bureaucracy will fight him to the death, but it has never faced the raw hostility of an all-out frontal assault from the White House. If the president maintains his attack, splintered and demoralized factions within the bureaucracy could actually support—not oppose—many potential Trump initiatives, such as stepped up drone strikes, cyberattacks, covert action, immigration bans, and mass surveillance. Security managers tend to back policies they see as ratcheting up levels of protection; that's why such programs are more easily expanded than scaled back.
Glennon outlines a scenario in which Trump emerges victorious in this battle, and "a revamped security directorate could emerge more menacing than ever, with him its devoted new ally."

Essentially, if what we are seeing is not an attempt to stop Trump, but a fight by a bureaucracy marginalized by Trump's hostility merely to restore their own influence, this could culminate in a detente in which the intelligence community rewards Trump's deescalation—signaled by a willingness to attend briefings, for example—by signing off on his worst authoritarian instincts and attendant policies.

The question, to which we don't have a definitive answer, is whether the national security bureaucracy is fighting for us (and the preservation of the nation's democratic institutions) or for themselves.

Are they really patriots, or just another entity wrestling for power?

Naturally, individual people within that apparatus have different motivations. But the overwhelming agenda does not appear, to me, to be the heroic patriotism that many regard it to be.

That is most evident, perhaps, in imagining what may happen if Trump is indeed ousted, aided by his own legitimate corruption and abuses of power. Should Mike Pence ascend to the presidency, I don't imagine that this war would continue. I imagine instead that Pence, who has been diligently attending the intelligence briefings that his boss disdains, would find an immediate ally in the intelligence community.

And we would be left wondering where all those imagined patriots had gone.

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