It's a Lang Lane That Hasna a Turnin'

[The title of the post is a Scottish saying — "it's a long road that never changes direction" — which means don't lose hope; things can't go in the same direction forever.]

image of a teaspoon in a snow globe, with the words 'Happy Teaspoons to all...and to all a good fight.'

We're taking next week off, and will be back on Tuesday, January 2, at which time we will resume our regularly scheduled abundance of political news, cute things, threads of support and solidarity, and resistance.

See you then!

Unless, of course, something major happens with the clusterfucktastrophe known as the Trump Administration, in which case you may see me sooner. But I sure hope not! For all our sakes!

[My thanks to JupiterPluvius for the phrase used in the image.]

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Matilda the Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat, in close-up, lying on the couch looking dreamy

Tils just can't stop thinking about Tony. Wondering where he could be, who he is with, what is he thinking, is he thinking of her, and whether he'll ever return someday.

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 337

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.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Judge Rules Congress Should Do Something About Trump.

[Content Note: Update on October mass shooting in Vegas; death; injury; guns.] Yesterday, the Clark County coroner's office released the cause of death for each of the 58 victims killed by Stephen Paddock on October 1 in Las Vegas. Because of the scope of death and injury, and because the massacre was waged on a large crowd, many people speculated at the time that some of the deaths may have been due to trampling. But in a gruesome commentary on the efficacy of Paddock's weaponry, every one of the 58 people killed died from at least one gunshot wound.

Rachel Crosby at the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports:
In his first interview since the Oct. 1 shooting, Coroner John Fudenberg said it took his office so long to release the information because his staff was striving for accuracy and wanted to update the families first.

"Because of the impact that this incident had on our community, and the attention that this incident received, it became very important for us to ensure that all of the families had the information prior to us releasing it to the public," said Fudenberg, who responded to the scene the night of the shooting.

Most of those killed at the Route 91 Harvest festival died from a single gunshot wound, according to the coroner's office. Six died from multiple wounds.

Hundreds of others were injured but survived.

Of the homicide victims, 18 died from at least one gunshot wound to the head, 21 died from at least one gunshot wound to the chest, 15 died from at least one gunshot wound to the back, and three died from a gunshot wound to the neck.

Rocio Guillen of Corona, California, was the only person who died from a gunshot wound to the leg.
Fucking hell. My condolences, again and always, to the families, friends, colleagues, and communities of those who were killed. My thoughts are also with those injured and/or traumatized during the shooting.

Separately, the coroner's office also ruled Paddock's death a suicide.

* * *

Martin Belam at the Guardian: U.S. Ambassador to Netherlands Describes Own Words as 'Fake News'. "Trump's new choice for ambassador, Pete Hoekstra, who was only sworn in by the vice president, Mike Pence, on 11 December, was being interviewed for current affairs programme Nieuwsuur by reporter Wouter Zwart. Zwart says: 'You mentioned in a debate that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands, and that cars and politicians are being set on fire in the Netherlands.' Hoekstra replies: 'I didn't say that. This is actually an incorrect statement. We would call it fake news.' Hoekstra is then shown clips of him saying: 'The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burnt, there are politicians that are being burnt...and yes there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.' Challenged about having called this 'fake news,' Hoekstra then went on to deny to Zwart that he had in fact used the phrase 'fake news.' [Which he'd literally used moments before.—Liss] 'I didn't call that fake news. I didn't use the words today. I don't think I did.'"

Zwart's expression of disbelief after Hoekstra says this. OMG. This is the state of diplomacy under the Trump regime. We are an international disgrace and a laughingstock. With good reason. Sob.

Kevin Robillard, Nancy Cook, and Cristiano Lima at Politico: Republicans Plan Mega Marketing Push to Sell Unpopular Tax Plan. "Conservative groups are planning a multimillion-dollar effort to sell the GOP's tax cut law, hoping the American electorate can learn to love the party's signature — but massively unpopular — legislative achievement. ...The Koch network will launch a multimillion-dollar push next year to sell the bill, with paid advertising and town halls to educate voters. A major GOP super PAC is planning to spend $10 million to protect House members. And another group, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, plans to spend the majority of its $1 million annual budget selling the tax plan next year, according to one of the group's founders, Stephen Moore, a distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation and an informal economic adviser to the president."

Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa at the Washington Post: Trump Advisers Vent Frustrations About 2018 Strategy as President Listens. "The gathering saw tempers flare as aides vented their frustrations with electoral defeats this year and concerns about the 2018 political map, according to several people with knowledge of the discussion. Complaints about the president's political operation and the Republican National Committee boiled over, playing out in front of the president as an inner-circle drama. The late-afternoon meeting — attended by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, counselor Kellyanne Conway, political director Bill Stepien, marketing and data specialist Brad Parscale, communications director Hope Hicks, and political consultant and confidant Corey Lewandowski, among others — quickly became a griping session for Lewandowski and others about the way the White House manages the GOP and handles its planning for what is sure to be a hotly contested campaign season, people familiar with the meeting said."

Though you may be inclined to delight at reports of turmoil in Trump's White House, this type of discord will ultimately only result in Trump feeling increasingly insecure about his inner circle and doubling down on his reactionary authoritarianism as a result. That's no good for any of us.

Caitlin MacNeal at TPM: Top Trump Aide Rick Dearborn to Leave White House Early Next Year. "Rick Dearborn, a deputy chief of staff and key aide to [Donald] Trump, will leave the White House in early 2018. ...News of Dearborn's departure followed the announcement that Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell will leave the White House early next year. More departures are expected at the beginning of Trump's second year in office." One year on the resume and OUT.

Devlin Barrett, Ellen Nakashima, and Carol Leonnig at the Washington Post: FBI's Top Lawyer Said to Be Reassigned. "The FBI's top lawyer, James Baker, is being reassigned — one of the first moves by new director Christopher A. Wray to assemble his own team of senior advisers as he tries to fend off accusations of politicization within the bureau." What a remarkable lede. Wray is axing the top lawyer in a profoundly political move to avoid accusations of politicization. LOL. Welcome to the other side of the looking glass.

[CN: Nativism; child abuse] Caroline Bankoff at NY Mag: Trump Administration Might Start Separating Undocumented Parents and Children. "The Department of Homeland Security is considering separating parents and children who are caught entering the United States illegally. Officials say that the potential new policy is intended to discourage families from trying to come to the U.S. via the border with Mexico. Currently, families taken into custody along the border are either kept together at a DHS detention center or released and given a court date. Under the changes being considered, adults and kids would be sent to separate facilities. White House chief of staff John Kelly previously suggested the idea back when he was head of the DHS, but claimed to have abandoned it after it became clear that it sounded too cruel." I hate this administration so much.

* * *

Raphael Satter, Jeff Donn, and Nataliya Vasilyeva at the AP: Russian Hackers Targeted More Than 200 Journalists Globally.
The Associated Press found that Lobkov was targeted by the hacking group known as Fancy Bear in March 2015, nine months before his messages were leaked. He was one of at least 200 journalists, publishers, and bloggers targeted by the group as early as mid-2014 and as recently as a few months ago.

The AP identified journalists as the third-largest group on a hacking hit list obtained from cybersecurity firm Secureworks, after diplomatic personnel and U.S. Democrats. About 50 of the journalists worked at The New York Times. Another 50 were either foreign correspondents based in Moscow or Russian reporters like Lobkov who worked for independent news outlets. Others were prominent media figures in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics, or Washington.

The list of journalists provides new evidence for the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Fancy Bear acted on behalf of the Russian government when it intervened in the U.S. presidential election.
That 200 journalists were targeted doesn't mean 200 were successfully hacked. But some number were. And I'm very curious to know how much overlap there is, if any, between journalists who were successfully hacked and journalists who have been shit-canned for "sexual misconduct."

Because evidence of sexual harassment and/or assault in the hands of Russian hackers is prime blackmail material. That means:

1. Publications could have had an additional incentive to stop protecting journalists who were vulnerable to extortion. The "sea change" we're seeing, at least in political media, could be less about some newfound priority to keep women safe and more about keeping news organizations safe from Russian infiltration via compromised men.

2. We know that some outlets started working on big takedowns a year ago or more. (Matt Lauer quit right before an expose long in the works on him was about to be published, for example.) It occurs to me that it's possible Russian hackers posed as anonymous tipsters. What better way to sow discord in U.S. newsrooms than have reporters reporting on each other, no less largely along gendered lines? And, of course, to sow discord among their readership, as well. We know the Kremlin tried to exploit racial divisions. This could have been a strategy to exploit gender divisions among the populace, too.

3. It also occurs to me that journos on whom hackers had blackmail material because of "sexual misconduct" could have also been extorted to color their coverage of Clinton. Remember Lauer's famously bad performance at the Commander in Chief forum? Now that he has been exposed, his wife is divorcing him and planning to take him to the cleaners. He had both professional and personal reasons to do the bidding of anyone who was trying to compromise him.

Maybe it really is just as simple as misogynist men covered Clinton in a misogynist way, and now they're getting their comeuppance via karma and the bravery of the women they victimized.

But given that we know Russia targeted dozens of U.S. journalists, it's worth asking the question if the Kremlin's campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton leveraged accessed evidence of predatory men's abuse to enlist their service to the cause.

* * *

Speaking of which... [CN: Sexual harassment and assault. Covers entire section.]

Cora Lewis at BuzzFeed: Five Women Are Accusing a Top Left-Leaning Media Executive of Sexually Harassing Them. "Don Hazen has been an executive at left-leaning media outlets since the 1980s, first helming the influential Mother Jones magazine as publisher and in 1997 starting AlterNet, an online outlet publishing and syndicating reporting on 'the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, and health care issues.' But five women journalists have told BuzzFeed News that Hazen sexually harassed them while they worked for AlterNet... A sixth journalist said she was sexually harassed by him, though she wasn't his employee at the time. After BuzzFeed News asked Hazen and the board of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet's nonprofit parent, for comment, the board returned a statement on Wednesday saying Hazen has been placed on 'indefinite leave' as a result of the accusations."

Jon Levine at the Wrap: Young Turks' Founder Cenk Uygur Apologizes for 'Ugly,' 'Insensitive' Old Blog Posts.
Young Turks creator and host Cenk Uygur made multiple graphic and disparaging remarks about women in his early days as a blogger, including saying that women were genetically 'flawed' because they don't want to have sex often enough.

...In an entry from 2000, Uygur complained about not having enough sex while living in Miami: "It seems like there is a sea of tits here, and I am drinking in tiny droplets. I want to dive into the whole god damn ocean," he wrote. "Obviously, the genes of women are flawed. They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully."

...In a a post archived in 2003, he wrote about carousing with numerous women in New Orleans while drunk.

"I had one of the best nights of my life at Mardi Gras. I kissed over 23 different women, saw and felt countless breasts, and was in a wonderful drunken stupor thanks to my friend John Daniels," reads the post.

John Daniels is sometimes used as a nickname for Jack Daniels whiskey. Uygur told TheWrap that all of the behavior he described had been consensual.
Mm-hmm. I'm sure he recalls asking "over 23" women if he could kiss them and "countless" women if he could fondle their breasts while he was in a "drunken stupor." Sounds legit. As legit as this shit:

And while we're on the subject of how reprehensibly misogynistic the Dirtbag Left is, here's a timely reminder that Chapo Trap House's Felix Biederman still has not apologized to me for mocking me for being a rape survivor and then lying about me. Nor has Jon Lovett, or anyone at Pod Save America, apologize to me for having Felix on as a guest, even after publicly telling me that he does "care about this and take it seriously," right before ignoring me and never responding to me when I pointed out he did not understand how ugly Felix's treatment of me had been and that he had not apologized.

Meanwhile, these assholes all continue to raise more per month for their shitty podcasts than I make in an entire year trying to dismantle the rape culture, so progressives are still doing the most for women.

Anyway! More disgusting abuser news...

Caitlin MacNeal at TPM: House Ethics Committee Says It Will Expand Probe into GOP Rep. Farenthold. "The House Ethics Committee on Thursday announced that it will expand its investigation into Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) to examine allegations that he lied to the committee and improperly used House resources for campaign work. ...The committee is already investigating sexual harassment allegations that several former staffers have made against Farenthold. Other former employees in recent weeks have accused the congressman of creating a hostile work environment and making sexually demeaning and other abusive remarks to his aides."

Sam Levin at the Guardian: As Google AI Researcher Accused of Harassment, Female Data Scientists Speak of 'Broken System'. "The allegations against [Steven Scott, a senior artificial intelligence (AI) researcher at Google], who declined to comment, has shone a harsh light on harassment in the male-dominated field of statistics, data science, and machine learning. Some said misconduct was common — especially at conferences that blend professional work with socializing — and that serial harassers rarely face consequences. In some cases, sexual misconduct has pushed women out of the field altogether. Beyond the personal devastation, there is long-term damage for machine learning and AI, a sector that is dramatically reshaping society, sometimes with powerful technology plagued by harmful biases."

Yashar Ali at the Huffington Post: The Miss America Emails: How the Pageant's CEO Really Talks About the Winners. "Many prior winners, or as they're called, 'formers,' consider the pageant a wonderful, wholesome activity for young women. But Haskell's behavior behind closed doors shows he regularly maligned, fat-shamed, and slut-shamed the former Miss Americas, calling them shocking names and in one case laughing at the suggestion that one of the women should die." Jesus fucking Jones.

Denise Petski at Deadline: Mark Schwahn Fired from The Royals Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations. "The Royals' creator/executive producer/showrunner was suspended last month following sexual harassment allegations against him made by the female cast and crew of his previous series, One Tree Hill. Now the network, producer Lionsgate TV, and Universal Cable Productions have opted to fire him. 'We have concluded our investigation and Mark will not be returning to The Royals,' Lionsgate said in a statement."

Jocelyn Gecker at the AP: Famed Conductor Accused of Sexual Misconduct. "In separate interviews with The Associated Press, the accusers provided detailed accounts of incidents they say occurred between 1985 and 2010 in a moving car, [world-renowned conductor Charles Dutoit]'s hotel suite, his dressing room, an elevator, and the darkness of backstage. The women accuse the 81-year-old artistic director and principal conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of sexual misconduct on the sidelines of rehearsals and performances in five cities — Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Saratoga Springs, New York. Within hours of the story's release Thursday, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony severed all ties with Dutoit."

BBC News: Sylvester Stallone Denies Rape as Police Investigate. "Santa Monica police said they were examining a complaint of sexual misconduct dating from the 1990s. The Rocky star said the allegation was 'completely fabricated.' His lawyer, Martin Singer, said a woman had filed a police report 'alleging a rape that occurred 27 years ago. My client categorically disputes the claim,' Singer continued. ...A 'thorough investigation' will be made before the case is presented to the district attorney, [Santa Monica police spokesman Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez] said. Lt Rodriguez told the Reuters news agency the accusation could fall within California's complex statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions of sexual abuse. Offences must generally be prosecuted within 10 years, Reuters said." Stallone has been accused of sexual assault at least once before, but he has never faced charges.

* * *

And finally, some good resistance news...

Keith L. Alexander and Ellie Silverman at the Washington Post: Not-Guilty Verdicts for First Six People on Trial in Violent Inauguration Day Protests. "The first six people to face trial in Inauguration Day protests that turned destructive in the nation's capital were acquitted of all charges, a victory not only for the defendants but also for advocates who argued the government overreached in its effort to prosecute more than 200 people arrested as they marched through the city. Following a nearly four-week trial and two full days of deliberations, a D.C. Superior Court jury delivered not-guilty verdicts Thursday on multiple charges of rioting and destruction of property." Fuck yeah!

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

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Misogyny; disablist language; spoilers for The Last Jedi at link.]

"Regarding female heroes: Did you not see everything that came out of Ghostbusters? That is why. I'm sick and tired of men being portrayed as idiots. There was a time we ruled society and I want to see that again. That is why I voted for Donald Trump."—Some dipshit who claims responsibility "for tanking the Rotten Tomatoes audience score" of The Last Jedi, because girls have cooties.

Throughout the course of our conversation [with the moderator of a Facebook page called Down With Disney's Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys], the self-identified member of the "alt-right" claimed that Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) is a "victim of the anti-mansplaining movement," that Poe and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) are in danger of being "turn[ed]" gay, and that men should be reinstated as rulers of "society."

...The page moderator HuffPost spoke to, who did not provide his name, said he launched this supposed bot campaign to protest the way "The Last Jedi" diverges from the franchise's so-called Expanded Universe.

"There were supposed to be a trilogy of books and then some after set in the Legends canon. But [Lucasfilm executives] Kathleen Kennedy and Pablo Hidalgo wanted to pursue their own feminst [sic] agenda," he wrote.
Nothing delights me more than when misogynists can't enjoy something because there are TOO MANY awesome women in it.

I thought it was phenomenal! Of course, I didn't have a seething resentment of women obstructing my enjoyment.

[Let's keep spoilers out of this thread, for readers and moderators who haven't yet had a chance to see the film. Thanks!]

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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.

* * *

In a few days, I'm going to see a friend who moved to Britain a few months ago and is returning for a visit, and I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE HIM YAYAYAYAYAY!!!

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Judge Rules Congress Should Do Something About Trump

Two cases which had been filed against Donald Trump for violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, accusing him of benefitting from foreign gifts while holding public office, have been dismissed. Josh Gerstein at Politico reports:

U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels ruled that the two suits were fatally flawed because the plaintiffs failed to show injury directly related to the use of Trump's properties by foreign officials and governments.

Daniels, who sits in Manhattan and is an appointee of President Bill Clinton, also said the issue was one that Congress should police, not the courts.

"As the only political branch with the power to consent to violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, Congress is the appropriate body to determine whether, and to what extent, Defendant's conduct unlawfully infringes on that power," the judge wrote. "If Congress determines that an infringement has occurred, it is up to Congress to decide whether to challenge or acquiesce to Defendant's conduct. As such, this case presents a non-justiciable political question."
Daniels can tell Congress to do something all day long, but they're not going to do it.
One of the cases dismissed Thursday was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, along with a group of employees and owners of hospitality businesses like restaurant and hotels. The other suit, brought as a class action on behalf of members of the public, was filed by an individual New York attorney, William Weinstein.

Daniels concluded that all the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.

Of course, the only thing we stand to lose is our country, nothing with a dollar amount, so who cares.

*jumps into Christmas tree*

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Open Thread

image of a pink couch

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

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Question of the Day

What do you value most in a friendship?

The safety to be entirely myself. And that is what I try to give my friends (and everyone, really) in return.

That doesn't mean that I expect to be able to behave however I want without consequence or that I will tolerate all manner of garbage from other people. To the absolute contrary, I want my friends to have high expectations of me, and hold me to them — because that is how I become my best self.

It means that I can be vulnerable, and not be taken advantage of. That I can fuck up, and be forgiven (provided I make meaningful amends). That I can be flawed, and still loved.

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A Periodic Reminder That Mike Pence Is the Worst

Previously, in case you had the good fortune of remaining unaware of the Pences' marriage code until this moment: This Isn't Charming, Especially in a Professional Context.

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U.S. Cities Addressing Homelessness with One-Way Tickets out of Town

This is a long and important read by the Guardian's Outside in America team: Bussed Out: How America Moves Its Homeless. I strongly encourage you to bookmark it for when you have time to settle in and read the whole thing.

Part of the reason it's so critical, troublingly, is because the tax bill just passed by the Republicans is merely one piece of the onslaught they are going to wreak on the remaining shreds of the social safety net. Fewer social services will inevitably mean an increase in homelessness.

Which means we need to find meaningful solutions. One-way bus tickets out of town ain't among them.

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Fundraising Reminder

image of a white piggy bank wearing black glasses accompanied by text reading: 'Shakesville End-of-Year Fundraiser'

In case you missed it, two weeks ago I posted Shakesville's End-of-Year Fundraiser. There is more information at the link, but the basic gist is this: If you value my work here and/or on Twitter, please remember that Shakesville is run exclusively on donations. I need your support, if you are able to chip in.

This is the last reminder of the year, and now I'll return to every other month reminders.

Thank you so much to everyone who has already donated and/or set up (or increased) a subscription. I am so appreciative. ♥

Once again, let me emphasize that I don't want anyone to feel obliged to contribute financially, especially if money is tight. One of the things I hate most about fundraising is knowing that it might make some people feel bad, if they want to donate but aren't able. I would never presume to tell you how to feel, but please know that I don't want you to feel bad.

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

I was searching Bitmoji for a cute "thank you" pic with which to end this message, but I found this one instead, and it made me laugh VERY HARD, so here it is!

cartoon version of me pictured leaping out a toilet, surrounded by pink hearts

WHY DOES THIS EVEN EXIST LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL??? "Hi, just popping out of a toilet to say I love you!"

Thank you, Shakers. From the bottom of my heart. And my toilet.

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Enough of This Garbage. ENOUGH.

[Content Note: Anti-feminism.]

Not ten days after the Washington Post credited Kellyanne Conway for Merriam-Webster making "feminism" their word of the year, CNN is running a piece (to which I am not linking, but it's easy enough to find if you are so inclined) with the appalling headline: "In 2017, Trump Revived Feminism, Saved Satire, and Reinvigorated Journalism."

I'm sure that satirists and journalists are none too happy about that headline, either, but I'll leave that to them to sort out. Naturally, I'm primarily concerned with the claim that Trump "revived feminism."

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Olivia the White Farm Cat in close up
Ms. Olivia Twist, chilling on my lap.

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

Open Wide...

We Resist: Day 336

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.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Rogue Republicans Conspire to Protect Trump and Virginia Election: Now No Votes Matter.

David Smith at the Guardian: Trump Will Personally Save up to $15m Under Tax Bill, Analysis Finds. "Analysis by a leading Washington thinktank, the Center for American Progress (CAP), finds that changes to business rules will save Trump roughly $11m to $15m per year, while an amendment to the estate tax — the tax on the transfer of an estate of a deceased person — would potentially save his heirs $4.5m. ...Along with Trump himself, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary; Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration; Betsy DeVos, the education secretary; Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary; and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, will benefit to the tune of $4.5m from changes to the estate tax, according to the CAP."

And it's not just Trump and his minions, of course. [Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] John W. Schoen at CNBC: Dozens of Lawmakers Stand to Reap a Tax Windfall Due to a GOP Loophole. "The measure — added late Friday to the $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts — reduces the tax rate on 'pass-through' income derived from real estate. Owners of such businesses are allowed to 'pass through' the profits from these enterprises to their individual tax returns, which lowers the amount of tax they owe. Those benefits will now go to roughly four dozen Republican House and Senate members who voted for the bill, according to an analysis of personal financial disclosures for CNBC by the Center for Responsive Politics. They include Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee and Vern Buchanan of Florida." How lucky for them.

John T. Harvey at Forbes: The Simple Illogic of the Tax Bill. "I've received numerous requests to break down the tax bill in terms of the exact impact on each affected group, but I don't see the point. The problem isn't in the details; it's in the lack of economic logic governing its overall structure. Precisely where the holes were in the Titanic wasn't nearly as significant as the fact that they were there at all."

* * *

Ben Riley-Smith at the Telegraph: U.S. Making Plans for 'Bloody Nose' Military Attack on North Korea. "America is drawing up plans for a 'bloody nose' military attack on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons programme, The Telegraph understands. The White House has 'dramatically' stepped up preparation for a military solution in recent months amid fears diplomacy is not working, well-placed sources said. ...Three sources — two former US officials familiar with current thinking and a third figure in the administration — confirmed military options were being worked up."

Jane Onyanga-Omara at USA Today: North Korea Vows to Retaliate over U.S. WannaCry Accusation. "North Korea vowed to retaliate Thursday after the White House accused it of being behind the WannaCry ransomware attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world earlier this year. Thomas P. Bossert, homeland security adviser to [Donald] Trump, wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week that 'after careful investigation' the U.S. 'publicly attributes the massive 'WannaCry' cyberattack to North Korea.' ...In a statement carried by state media, North Korea's Foreign Ministry said it had nothing to do with the attack and would never tolerate such 'reckless' allegations. It did not say how it would respond. 'The Trump administration is inciting an extremely confrontational atmosphere by even concocting a plot against us at this delicate moment when the situation on the Korean Peninsula is at the crossroads of nuclear war or peace,' a ministry spokesman said."

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Andy Sharp at Bloomberg: North Korea Begins Tests to Load Anthrax onto ICBMs, Report Says. "North Korea has begun tests to load anthrax onto intercontinental ballistic missiles, Japan's Asahi newspaper reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified person connected to South Korea's intelligence services. The report said the testing involves ensuring the anthrax survives the immense temperatures generated during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. North Korea has a stockpile of between 2,500 tons to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, and is capable of producing biological agents such as anthrax and smallpox, South Korea has previously said."

Adam Taylor and Tim Meko at the Washington Post: What Made North Korea's Weapons Programs So Much Scarier in 2017. "Building on decades of tests, North Korea has made remarkable technological gains in the past year, despite diplomatic and economic isolation. In the space of just a few months, Pyongyang conducted tests that showed it had boosted the range of its ballistic missiles and increased the yield of its nuclear weapons, as well as other more subtle advances that shocked outside observers. North Korea tested only one nuclear weapon this year, as opposed to two last year. However, the size of the weapon tested Sept. 3 dwarfed all previous tests — most experts agree that the bomb's yield, or the energy generated by the blast, was at least 140 kilotons. Some respected analysts have even pegged it at 250 kilotons. If the higher estimate is true, that would mean that North Korea has a bomb almost 17 times the size of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945."

And let's be frank here: A big part of what has made North Korea, and its weapon program, so much scarier in 2017 is the fact that the United States president so clearly wants a fucking war with North Korea and continually tries to provoke that nightmare into existence.

North Korea having a nuclear weapon of any size is scary. North Korea having a nuclear weapon and being taunted into using it by the leader of a global superpower is even scarier.

* * *

Peter Beaumont at the Guardian: Trump Threatens to Cut Aid to Countries over U.N.Jerusalem Vote. "Donald Trump has threatened to withhold 'billions' of dollars of US aid from countries which vote in favour of a United Nations resolution rejecting the U.S. president's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. His comments came after the US ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning that she will be 'taking names' of countries that vote for a general assembly resolution on Thursday critical of the announcement which overturned decades of US foreign policy. Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump amplified Haley's threat. 'Let them vote against us,' he said. 'We'll save a lot. We don't care. But this isn't like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,' he said. 'We're not going to be taken advantage of any longer.'"

Al Jazeera News: Erdogan: Mr. Trump, Turkey's Democracy Is Not for Sale. "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the international community to teach the United States 'a good lesson' in an upcoming U.N. General Assembly vote on Washington's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ...'Mr Trump, you cannot buy Turkey's democratic will with your dollars. Our decision is clear,' Erdogan said at a cultural awards ceremony in Ankara on Thursday. 'I call on the whole world: Don't you dare sell your democratic struggle and your will for petty dollars. I hope and expect the U.S. won't get the result it expects from there (the U.N.) and the world will give a very good lesson to the U.S.,' Erdogan added."

Patrick Wintour at the Guardian: Trump's Bullying and Bluster on Jerusalem Is Bad News for the United Nations. "If soft power, in the words of Joseph Nye, 'is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion,' then Trump has become the ultimate exponent of hard power diplomacy. ...But there has been something qualitatively different about the US treatment of fellow member states over Jerusalem. The line of attack is so populist, so redolent of a protection racket, that it can only be aimed at a domestic audience rather than an external one. As countless diplomats have warned in the past 24 hours, it will also be counter-productive, only deepening US isolation."

* * *

Tom Winter, Pete Williams, and Ken Dilanian at NBC News: Prosecutors Ask FBI Agents for Info on Uranium One Deal. "On the orders of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Justice Department prosecutors have begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News. The interviews with FBI agents are part of the Justice Department's effort to fulfill a promise an assistant attorney general made to Congress last month to examine whether a special counsel was warranted to look into what has become known as the Uranium One deal, a senior Justice Department official said."

Even Fox News' Shep Smith has debunked this trash, but still they are pursuing it because LOCK HER UP LOCK HER UP LOCK HER UP.

It would be great, by the way, if members of the political press wouldn't help them by conceding their mendacious frames:

For fuck's sake.

* * *

Stephanie Baker and Irina Reznik at Bloomberg: Mueller Is Looking into a U.S. Foundation Backed by Russian Money. "The foundation, called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative (HRAGI), offers a window into Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics before the presidential election. It was financed by $500,000 in donations, mostly from wealthy Russians with ties to Petr Katsyv, deputy director of Russian Railways and a longtime acquaintance of Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika. Rather than a nonprofit helping unite Americans with Russian adoptees, the foundation was a lobbying vehicle against sanctions. 'This whole organization is a sham and a front to pursue the Russian government's objectives,' said Bill Browder, a U.S.-born fund manager whose accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, died in a Russian prison after accusing Russian officials of fraud. Browder, founder of Hermitage Capital Management, persuaded the U.S. to pass the Magnitsky Act sanctioning Russian officials implicated in his death."

Murray Waas at Foreign Policy: White House Counsel Knew in January Flynn Probably Violated the Law. "The White House turned over records this fall to special counsel Robert Mueller revealing that in the very first days of the Trump presidency, Don McGahn researched federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments, according to three people with direct knowledge of the confidential government documents. The records reflected concerns that McGahn, the White House counsel, had that Michael Flynn, then the president's national security advisor, had possibly violated either one or both laws at the time, according to two of the sources. The disclosure that these records exist and that they are in the possession of the special counsel could bolster any potential obstruction of justice case against [Donald] Trump."

Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: A Trio of House Republicans Lobbing Attacks on Mueller Have Been in Touch with the White House. "A House Republican [Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio] who has repeatedly characterized special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and the FBI more broadly, as biased and politically motivated indicated on Wednesday that he has spoken with the White House about Mueller's probe. ...Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, the first lawmaker to openly demand that Mueller be fired, discussed the special counsel probe with Trump aboard Air Force One earlier this month ahead of a rally in Florida. ...Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, another House Judiciary Committee member who put forward a provision in August that would have severely limited the scope and funding of Mueller's probe, was also on the flight with Gaetz and Trump." The collusion was right out in the open, and so is the obstruction.

Further on the subject of Mueller's investigation, here are three more things:

1. Sarah Kendzior writes on Twitter:
I'm less worried about Mueller being fired than about Mueller showing conclusive evidence of criminal acts and there being no repercussions for the incriminated. Trump confessed to obstruction of justice multiple times. Kushner and Sessions were caught lying on their clearance forms about foreign contacts. Those are merely two examples of open, serious offenses for which there's been no penalty.

Many anticipate firing of Mueller as a breaking point that will spur protests and sink Trump. Do not count on that. It is possible Mueller will be fired. What is worse is if crimes openly committed by Trump and admin — obstruction of justice, perjury, lying on federal forms — go unaddressed and many elude indictment.

There are MANY more crimes at play here — ranging from financial crimes dating back decades to treason — but they're largely suspected. Other crimes are not in question. That those who've committed, at best, severe breaches of protocol and more likely, illegal actions, not only remain in power but control the mechanisms of power should concern you greatly. They are acting with impunity in every respect, with no concern for public opinion or for the rule of law. They are behaving like a consolidated autocratic regime.

This is why I was adamant a year and a half ago that this needed to be investigated thoroughly and people who committed open offenses held to account quickly, before consolidation took hold. 2016 was your best bet. They may not fire Mueller — because it's unnecessary. If someone like Kushner — who is a huge ongoing risk to national security -- can hold power unchallenged, then true accountability is in question.

...But just as people had a massive failure of imagination earlier, they are failing to envision an outcome worse than Mueller's dismissal — that his findings could be both extraordinarily damning yet ultimately inconsequential in terms of who holds power.

...When you warn the public that Trump seeks to shut down the Mueller probe, the subtext is that this is a lawless regime who will abuse power so as not to be held accountable for blatant crimes.
2. Me, also on Twitter, with more on the idea that it will empower Trump if Mueller's investigation does not result in his removal:
If Mueller finishes his probe and doesn't conclude that Trump, Pence, and Sessions did anything prosecutable, despite so much evidence of collusion, they're going to claim exoneration, which is a real worry, for a few reasons.

First, because lots of people are invested in some magical outcome of Trump, Pence, and basically the entire administration being swept from office. That is not going to happen, and if nothing at all happens, there will be widespread disillusionment.

Secondly, because a long investigation followed by a conclusion that allowed the top of the executive branch to claim total exoneration is essentially what happened with Fitzgerald's investigation of BushCo in the Plame outing. Mueller's investigation is like Fitz's on steroids.

When Libby was the biggest fish nabbed by Fitz, people were disillusioned AND BushCo was wildly empowered. They behaved with even more contempt for the rule of law than they had been previously. And they were amateurs compared to this lot. Imagine what will happen if/when Trump is empowered in the same way. It's going to get ugly. It could, frankly, be even worse than a Constitutional crisis provoked by Trump firing Rosenstein, or pressuring him/his replacement to fire Mueller.

Any way this plays out, the outcome is going to be troubling. And that has everything to do with the fact that Congressional Republicans refuse to do their job of delivering checks and balances on the executive.
3. Greg Sargent, at the Washington Post, with more on the idea that Democrats are doing the work of conveying that the Trump administration is a lawless regime (to borrow Kendzior's words) who must be held accountable:
The Post's Paul Kane reports this morning that despite their rhetoric downplaying this possibility, House Democrats are privately preparing for a possible effort to impeach [Donald] Trump, should they regain the majority.

That's excellent news. This is exactly what Democrats should be doing — right now.

Not just because an impeachment battle might actually happen, but also for another reason: Democrats will need to find a more effective way to talk to the American people about the serial degradation of our democracy we are seeing in the Trump era, for the good of the party, yes, but also for the good of the country.

...[I]t's perfectly plausible that there actually will be a constitutional crisis in coming weeks or months. We don't know if Trump will try to remove special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, but some of his friends and advisers believe this a genuine possibility: Trump's lawyers are telling him he'll be exonerated soon, but if not, Trump may go into "meltdown." If that happens, we just don't know how congressional Republicans will respond. Right now, they should be sounding a loud, clanging alarm, and they simply are not doing this in any meaningful sense.

Even if it doesn't happen, Mueller could end up finding very serious, albeit not criminal, wrongdoing. We don't know how Republicans would respond to that, either. If Republicans punt in either scenario and don't act in the face of obviously impeachable offenses, Democrats will have to take the lead in making a big case to the country about why Trump's aggregate misconduct has crossed over into a legitimate basis for undoing the effects of the election. This is a difficult and complicated business, and Democrats should be preparing for it, with a current effort to grapple with the totality and larger significance of that misconduct, which is, if anything, mounting.
On that note:

This is closer to the action I wanted to see announced in Senator Mark Warner's address on the floor of the Senate yesterday. It's still not as strong as I'd like, but I feel slightly more reassured knowing that the Democrats have a plan. Make the case.

* * *

Today in Facebook is ruining the planet: Julia Angwin, Noam Scheiber, and Ariana Tobin at ProPublica: Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers from Job Ads. And Lauren Etter, Vernon Silver, and Sarah Frier at Bloomberg: How Facebook's Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda. These are both really important exposés, and I hope you will take the time to read them both in their entireties.

[CN: Addiction; neglect; death] Lenny Bernstein and Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post: Fueled by Drug Crisis, U.S. Life Expectancy Declines for a Second Straight Year. "American life expectancy at birth declined for the second consecutive year in 2016, fueled by a staggering 21 percent rise in the death rate from drug overdoses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. The United States has not seen two years of declining life expectancy since 1962 and 1963, when influenza caused an inordinate number of deaths. In 1993, there was a one-year drop during the worst of the AIDS epidemic. ...The development is a dismal sign for the United States, which boasts some of the world's highest spending on medical care, and more evidence of the toll the nation's opioid crisis is exacting on younger and middle-aged Americans, experts said."

[CN: Disease; death; image of suffering child at link] Colin Dwyer at NPR: 'A Hideous Milestone in the 21st Century': Cholera Cases in Yemen Pass 1 Million.
It has been roughly eight months since cholera first took hold in war-torn Yemen. In that brief span, the waterborne disease has exacted a staggering toll on the country's population — and that toll only continues to rise by the day.

The number of suspected cases of cholera has crossed one million, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced Thursday. Of those who have contracted the disease since April, the World Health Organization believes more than 2,200 people have died of it — almost a third of whom are children.

In its announcement on Twitter, the ICRC was left nearly speechless, elaborating on its confirmation with just three words: "This is devastating."

...[Y]ears of war and eroding infrastructure have left Yemen teetering on the brink of an abyss.

Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition supported by the U.S. has conducted an airstrike campaign to dislodge the Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel group that seized large expanses of the country, including the capital. Caught between the warring sides have been the Yemeni civilians, who have suffered as the violence disrupted food supplies, undermined access to clean water, and diminished the capacity of medical facilities — when they've managed to stay open at all.
Goddammit. Sob.

* * *

Let me end with a wee bit of good news...

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

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Virginia Election: Now No Votes Matter

Yesterday, I brought you the story of the dramatic one-vote win in Virginia's House of Delegates. It was a happy story about how democracy still matters and every vote counts.

Today, it's a story about how the Republicans are killing democracy and everything is terrible.

Naturally, the Republicans, who are both terrible losers and haters of free and fair elections, couldn't tolerate the results of the recount, so they challenged the result in court. And you can guess what happened next.

Jim Morrison, Fenit Nirappil, and Gregory S. Schneider at the Washington Post: Virginia Court Tosses One-Vote Victory That Briefly Ended GOP Majority in House.

Control of Virginia's legislature hung in limbo Wednesday after a three-judge panel declined to certify the recount of a key House race, saying that a questionable ballot should be counted in favor of the Republican and tying a race that Democrats thought they had won by a single vote.

"The court declares there is no winner in this election," Newport News Circuit Court Judge Bryant L. Sugg said after the panel deliberated for more than two hours.

He said that the ballot in question contained a mark for Democrat Shelly Simonds as well as a mark for Republican Del. David Yancey but that the voter had made another mark to strike out Sim­onds's name.
The public was not allowed to get a look at the ballot in question, but reporter Jordan Pascale gave us a rendering:

During the recount, it was counted as a vote for Simonds thrown out as invalid. (Thank you to @Resisterhood for the correction!) Republicans claimed it was a vote for Yancey, and the Court agreed. So now the seat which had gone to Simonds by one vote is instead a tie.

And the mechanism for resolving it is absolutely ludicrous, as Pascale explains:
Politicos, mark your calendars for Wednesday Dec. 27.

That's the day the Virginia Board of Elections will randomly pick the winner of the high stakes and tied 94th House District race.

...The winner will be picked under a procedure that has been used for decades to determine the order of candidates on the ballot each election, Alcorn said.

* Pieces of paper with each candidate's name will be printed and cut to the same size.
* The slips will be placed in old film canisters that the Election Department has on hold.
* Those canisters will go into a bowl and be thoroughly shaken up.
* Then a board member will pick one and that person declared the winner.
That is no way to choose the winner of a democratic contest, no less one in which the control of the state legislature hangs in the balance.

Now, instead of an election in which literally every vote counted, it's turned into an election in which literally none of them will count.

Peak 2017. Sob.

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Here Is Something Nice

image of Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness at the beach, taking a selfie
[Image via Hugh Jackman on Instagram.]

Hugh Jackman has always spoken about Deborra-Lee Furness, to whom he's been married for 21 years, in the most charming way. And, in a new interview with People, he's at it again, reminding us that there are still nice things in the world.
The actor opened up about his 21-year marriage to wife Deborra-lee Furness during the latest edition of The Jess Cagle Interview (streaming now on People TV), saying one of the reasons he loves their relationship so much is because they formed their bond before the Wolverine star became famous.

"One of the great pieces of fortune in my career, it started late, but that Deb and I were already set together, a team, madly in love, like literally before it all happened," Jackman tells PEOPLE's editor-in-chief Jess Cagle. "We can kind of see all the ups and downs for what they are. Our priority is our family, and we're there for each other no matter what."

The Greatest Showman actor, 49, says he actively reminds himself that he wouldn't be where he is today without his wife. Calling Furness, 62, his "rock," Jackman says he always makes his wife a priority — no matter what the occasion may be.

"Even at the Oscars, I walk out, I put my hand on my heart and I always look to Deb in the audience," he says. "Straight afterwards, I will not see anybody in my dressing room until Deb's been in. Because that is my foundation, that is the rock, that is the foundation of our family, and therefore my life."

..."Underneath the surface where it's real, and where it's still and where it's deep, that is the love I have with Deb."
Where it's still and where it's deep. This resonates with me strongly.

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Rogue Republicans Conspire to Protect Trump

This is an absolutely extraordinary betrayal — and the leadership of the Republican Party is not going to do a damn thing about it, because their vaunted patriotism is a fucking lie:

A group of House Republicans has gathered secretly for weeks in the Capitol in an effort to build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly — and perhaps criminally — mishandled the contents of a dossier that describes alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, according to four people familiar with their plans.

A subset of the Republican members of the House intelligence committee, led by Chairman Devin Nunes of California, has been quietly working parallel to the committee's high-profile inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. They haven't informed Democrats about their plans, but they have consulted with the House's general counsel.
That would be the same Devin Nunes who had to "step aside" from the Russia investigation because he completely destroyed his credibility by running interference for the White House during the investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, which he chairs, of Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Nunes was a member of Trump's executive transition committee, and thus should have recused himself from this investigation in the first place. Then he behaved with such egregious partiality, he was forced to remove himself from the investigation. And now he's leading a secret group "to highlight what some committee Republicans see as corruption and conspiracy in the upper ranks of federal law enforcement."
That final product could ultimately be used by Republicans to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether any Trump aides colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign — or possibly even to justify his dismissal, as some rank-and-file Republicans and Trump allies have demanded. (The president has said he is not currently considering firing Mueller.)

Republicans in the Nunes-led group suspect the FBI and DOJ have worked either to hurt Trump or aid his former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, a sense that has pervaded parts of the president's inner circle. Trump has long called the investigations into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election a "witch hunt," and on Tuesday, his son Donald Trump Jr. told a crowd in Florida the probes were part of a "rigged system" by "people at the highest levels of government" who were working to hurt the president.

...Nunes' office declined to comment about the effort, but he has aired his suspicions about the law enforcement agencies before.

"I hate to use the word corrupt, but they've become at least so dirty that who's watching the watchmen? Who's investigating these people?" he said in a Fox News interview earlier this month. "There is no one."
That just the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee — who, it turns out, is "investigating these people" — arguing that he is literally above the law.

At this point, it's not just that Republicans in the House and Senate are failing to hold Trump accountable; they are actively working to impede and discredit anyone who is.

Their job is to provide checks and balances on the presidency. It is not to protect the president from consequences of unethical and possibly illegal behavior, which might additionally be treasonous.

That Donald Trump believes he is above the law is vile enough. That the rest of his deplorable party agrees is chilling.

One man does not subvert our democratic norms and systems to usher in authoritarianism on his own. He has help, and lots of it. The Republican Party is willing, even eager, to provide all the help that Trump needs.

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Open Thread

image of a yellow couch

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

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Question of the Day

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

LOL YES! Because I am a stutterer and an awkward weirdo, so planning out what I'm going to say in all different types of conversations, on the telephone or otherwise, helps me to be slightly less goofy. Sometimes. Hahaha.

[Got an idea for a Question of the Day? Suggest it here!]

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The Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by snowflakes.

Recommended Reading:

Jason Fagone: The Most Awesome Codebreaker in World War II Was a Woman

(In case you missed my Q&A with Jason, check it out here!)

Shay Stewart-Bouley: [Content Note: White supremacy] Let's Talk Racism and Next Steps

Fannie Wolfe: [CN: Internet abuse/harassment] You Are Doing Emotional and Human Labor for Your Fave Social Media Sites

Maddie Stone: [CN: Spoilers for The Last Jedi] The Amazing Earth Science Behind The Last Jedi's New Mineral World

Vivian Kane: [CN: Racism; classism; disablism; misogyny; fat hatred] No Really, How Does Film Critic/Human Train Wreck Rex Reed Still Have a Job?

The Shameful Narcissist: Games of Christmas Past

Monica Roberts: Only Eight Weeks to the Black Panther Debut!

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

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Glenn Thrush Will Not Be Fired by New York Times

[Content Note: Sexual harassment/assault.]

A month after Laura McGann first reported that New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush had hit on at least four young female colleagues, groped and tried to kiss them, and spread damaging rumors about them in retaliation for refusing his sexual advances, the Times has completed its internal investigation and found that Thrush "acted offensively" but not so offensively that he should lose his job over it.

Instead, he will be suspended for two months and then moved to a different department.

In a statement, Mr. Baquet said the company had completed its inquiry and found that Mr. Thrush had "behaved in ways that we do not condone."

"While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired," Mr. Baquet said.

Mr. Baquet also said Mr. Thrush was undergoing counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation on his own and that he would receive training "to improve his workplace conduct."

"We understand that our colleagues and the public at large are grappling with what constitutes sexually offensive behavior in the workplace and what consequences are appropriate," Mr. Baquet added. "Each case has to be evaluated based on individual circumstances. We believe this is an appropriate response to Glenn's situation."
No, it isn't. It's a terribly inappropriate response.

Not only are the consequences woefully insufficient, but Baquet's insistence on soft-pedaling Thrush's sexual harassment and assault as "sexually offensive behavior in the workplace" is grossly misrepresentative, given that, in one instance, he literally pursued one female colleague through the streets after drinks at a bar until she burst into tears.

And, as my friend Erica Barnett notes, the Times has decided to foist Thrush "on a different set of women" by merely moving him to a different department.

Women shouldn't be obliged to pay the price for this man to keep his career. For fuck's sake.

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Warner to Speak About Mueller

I have no idea what this will be about, but here's a thread, in case it's a biggie. Or in case it's not. Ugh.

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"Celestial Driftwood"

an artist's rendering of 'Oumuamua, a 'cigar-shaped' asteroid
Artist's rendering of 'Oumuamua by M. Kornmesser, care of the ESO.

I love this article by Nicole Mortillaro for the CBC about 'Oumuamua, the "bizarrely shaped" interstellar asteroid "ejected from another stellar system, just passing through ours."

Mortillaro, who is the CBC's Senior Science and Technology Writer, writes in a way that makes her subject eminently accessible to the average reader, and right in her bio is something that strongly resonates with me: "As an amateur astronomer, Nicole can be found looking up at the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe."

This piece is particularly great, and includes a terrific interview with Michele Bannister of Queen's University Belfast, who's the lead author of a new study about 'Oumuamua (which means "messenger from afar who arrived here first" in Hawaiian).
'Oumuamua, which is about 400 metres long and 40 metres wide, raises many questions Bannister would love to answer.

"I would like to know what its home star system looked like," she said. "I want another one. I want to know this object isn't unusual. Is it statistically a reasonable example of what we expect to see wandering the cosmos?"

...When 'Oumuamua was first discovered, astronomers believed it was likely a comet. That's because as stellar systems form, most of the objects thrown into space are comets, leftover bits made up of water and dust. Asteroids, on the other hand, are mostly rocky remnants and much less common.

But as 'Oumuamua neared the sun, the familiar tail that comets produce didn't appear, an indication that it's mostly rock.

As 'Oumuamua makes its way out of the solar system at roughly 38 kilometres a second, tumbling from end to end, researchers still aren't sure exactly where it came from.

"It moves like a piece of driftwood on the tide," Bannister said. "It's really celestial driftwood."

Scientists are also pointing lots of instruments at 'Oumuamua, to see if they detect anything, just in case it turns out to be an alien aircraft.

And why not? Especially with stuff like this in the news!

Geez, what I wouldn't give to have Hillary Clinton as president, opening up government files on the subject of unexplained aerial phenomena, and being super competent and decent so I had plenty of time to write and think about space coolness instead of panicking 23 hours of every day about what Donald Trump and the Republican Party will do to destroy us next.

Which reminds me... I have lots of burning questions about 'Oumuamua, but none as urgent as this: Can I hitch a ride?

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting on the dining room table, looking intently out the window
"One day, you will be mine, birds. One day, you will be mine."

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 335

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.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Thieves Came in the Night.

So, here's where we are: The GOP doesn't care at all about passing a historically unpopular piece of legislation, right after losing a Senate seat in Alabama and control of the Virginia legislature. They are truly governing like they know they will never face voters in free and fair elections again.

And Mike Pence's "prayer" for Trump sounded like a benediction or a eulogy. They don't care if he goes. The coup is well under way, and Pence is ready to step in and play pretend (small-d) democratic president while actually being a vicious, aggressive autocrat.

The $1.5 trillion the GOP and their donor class is stealing with this bill will be used to enact austerity programs that will turn this country into a Social Darwinian hellscape. Good luck to all of us finding ways to organize dissent now that Net Neutrality is no more.

And meanwhile our foreign policy is a garbage disaster: We've got no functional diplomatic system anymore; the president is a reckless provocateur; and the Republican Party is a bunch of sickening traitors who don't give a fuck that Russia continues to meddle in our business and subvert our democracy, and will probably mount a major attack on our infrastructure in the near future.

And I don't know how we're going to mount a meaningful resistance to this onslaught, but I will promise you that I'll be here resisting as mightily as I can for as long as I'm able.


Casey Quinlan at ThinkProgress: The GOP Tax Bill Hurts K-12 Schools and the Quality of Higher Education. "Experts on K-12 and higher education policy say the tax bill is a giveaway to corporations and could hamper public investment in K-12 schools and public universities. The finally bill doesn't include a change to teacher tax deductions — which was eliminated in a House bill last month — so teachers can still deduct $250 for supplies they buy out of their own pockets. The provision on a tax on tuition waivers for graduate students was also removed. But the overall picture for students is grim, said Ben Miller, senior director for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress. 'You're definitely seeing folks breathe a sigh of relief because these narrow provisions are gone,' Miller said. 'But it's like saying, 'Thank god my paper cut healed while someone cut off my arm.' The long-term damage of the overall bill is quite bad.'"

Akiba Solomon at Colorlines: Patrisse Cullors Discusses How the Tax Bill May Impact the Reproductive Health of Women of Color, Particularly Black Women. "Paul Ryan has blatantly said that he will make cuts to entitlements after the tax bill passes. This tax bill will add more than a trillion dollars to the national deficit, and we can guess that they're going to use that to justify these cuts to entitlements. We know that the first thing to cut — by both parties — are programs for poor and working class people, particularly those [identified with] people of color. So the first cuts will likely be from programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP. Women's reproductive health care will be among the first to be cut."

Sarah O'Brien at CNBC: These Changes Under the GOP Tax Plan Affect Homeowners. "After the many twists and turns that the Republican tax-overhaul legislation has taken thus far, it might be unclear to homeowners what's in store for them. In a nutshell, not much that will help them save more on taxes. ...On top of making modifications to the mortgage interest deduction, the bill limits the deductibility of property taxes and state and local income taxes to a combined $10,000. In states such as New York and California where home prices and property taxes are high, this change means some homeowners could face bigger tax bills beginning next year. And if you were thinking about prepaying some of your 2018 state and local income taxes to take advantage of current law, which is more generous, forget about it. The bill specifically disallows it."

Tim Fernholz at Quartz: The GOP Tax Bill Is a Massive Victory for Globalization. "Critics, even those who favor lower corporate rates, fear this bill will increase existing incentives for companies to employ tax havens. Under the new law, companies pay a minimum tax on global income, designed to prevent them from shifting intellectual property (and profits) to low-tax jurisdictions overseas. But the hastily written new rules create a loophole for companies to skirt that minimum tax by investing in factories and other routine operations outside the United States. ...Even if the loopholes can be fixed, many experts expect the move to empower multinationals to demand new tax concessions in other jurisdictions, driving a global race to the bottom."

Will Wilkinson at the New York Times: The Tax Bill Shows the G.O.P.'s Contempt for Democracy. "[T]he open contempt for democracy displayed in the Senate's slapdash rush to pass the tax bill ought to trouble us as much as, if not more than, what's in it. In its great haste, the 'world's greatest deliberative body' held no hearings or debate on tax reform. The Senate's Republicans made sloppy math mistakes, crossed out and rewrote whole sections of the bill by hand at the 11th hour, and forced a vote on it before anyone could conceivably read it. ...At a time when America's faith in democracy is flagging, the Republicans elected to treat the United States Senate, and the citizens it represents, with all the respect college guys accord public restrooms."

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[Content Note: Sexual assault; child abuse. Covers entire section.]

Jason Wilson at the Guardian: The Texas Boys Were Beaten, Abused, Raped; Now All They Want Is an Apology. "Rick, Steve, and six other men the Guardian spoke to named staff members responsible for the abuse, which lasted from the 1950s until at least the early 1990s. They say the abuse went beyond them, and was systemic, affecting hundreds of others who went through the ranch. They say Lamont Waldrip, a long-serving superintendent, was one of the worst abusers. Last month, at the behest of a wealthy donor who wrote a cheque for $1m to build a new dormitory, the ranch named the new building Waldrip House. ...For the survivors who want to make the ranch accountable for the abuse — and have been encouraged to break their silence after Steve Smith brought them together in a Facebook group — this is an unbearable affront."

Dawn C. Chmielewski at Deadline: Gary Goddard Accused of Sexual Misconduct by 8 Former Child Actors. "Eight former child actors from a Santa Barbara theater group have come forward to accuse their former mentor, Broadway producer and theme park designer Gary Goddard, of molestation or attempted molestation in the 1970s. Since actor Anthony Edwards wrote a painful first-person account of his abuse on Medium, describing how Goddard allegedly preyed on him and other young aspiring actors in the theater troupe, others have came forward to support his account, including Mark Driscoll and Bret Nighman. A total of eight people described Goddard's advances — straying hands on thighs, fondling on darkened Disneyland rides, sexual abuse during overnight stays — and the psychological aftermath."

Melanie Schmitz at ThinkProgress: Paul Ryan Was Asked If Trump's Accusers Are Liars; His Response Was Abysmal. "'Look, I don't even know what all these accusations are,' Ryan said, when asked whether he agreed with the White House's claim that all the women were liars. 'I'm focused on fixing Congress. I'm focused on my job, where I work, making this institution safe. I want my daughter to be able to grow up in an economy, to go into work — public or private sector work — she's not being harassed, she's being empowered. That's what I'm focused on, I'm not focused on this other stuff.'" There's more at the link, and it's just as shitty.

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Ed O'Keefe at the Washington Post: Democrats Unlikely to Force DACA Vote This Week, Probably Averting Shutdown.
Democrats are backing away from a pledge to force a vote this month over the fate of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, angering activists but probably averting the threat of a government shutdown at a critical moment in spending negotiations with Republicans and President Trump.

With a deadline of midnight Friday to pass spending legislation, dozens of Democrats had vowed to withhold support if Republicans refused to allow a vote on a measure, known as the Dream Act, that would allow roughly 1.2 million immigrants to stay legally in the United States.

But a group of vulnerable Democratic senators facing reelection in conservative states next year aren't willing to go that far — meaning the party is unlikely to muster the votes to block the spending bill.

"We've got to get it done, but I'm not drawing a line in the sand that it has to be this week versus two weeks from now," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who faces reelection next year in a state that Trump won by more than 18 points. Other Democrats facing similar head winds echoed that sentiment, including Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). Trump won those states by 42 and 19 percentage points, respectively.
Okay, but the point of it being this week is that the threat of a shutdown provided immense leverage to Democrats, who are the minority party. In a week when the Republicans can put aside all their differences to universally pass their grotesque tax bill, Democrats should be more inclined than ever to do the same to protect millions of the nation's most vulnerable members. Fuck this.

Bob Dreyfuss at the Nation: Maxine Waters Connects the Dots on Trump, Deutsche Bank, and Russia. "For Waters, and perhaps for Mueller, too, the question is: Are these two things related? Did Trump, Kushner, and their partners — along with others in Trump World, including Paul Manafort, Gen. Michael Flynn, and Wilbur Ross, the billionaire who serves as Trump's commerce secretary — benefit from illegal Russian money that flowed through Deutsche Bank? If so, does [Donald] Trump have a hidden obligation to Russia or to Russian oligarchs? And why did the official US investigation of Deutsche Bank's illegal transactions, conducted under the auspices of Jeff Sessions's Justice Department, go 'dormant' earlier this year? Those questions are especially relevant because of two major, recent transactions between Deutsche Bank, Trump, and Kushner."

Peter Beaumont at the Guardian: U.S. Will 'Take Names of Those Who Vote to Reject Jerusalem Recognition'. "The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has warned UN members she will be 'taking names' of countries that vote to reject Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a letter seen by the Guardian, Haley told countries — including European delegations — that she will report back to the US president with the names of those who support a draft resolution rejecting the US move at the UN general assembly on Thursday, adding that Trump took the issue personally. Haley writes: 'As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the U.S. take this vote personally. The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us,' she continued."

Jonathan Capehart at the Washington Post: 'Trump's Benghazi': Frederica Wilson Wants the Truth About What Happened to La David Johnson in Niger. "'The American people need to know what happened to Sgt. La David Johnson. And I think that his family needs to know what happened to Sgt. La David Johnson.' Two months after Johnson was killed during a mission in Niger, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) still has questions. 'It's sort of like a coverup,' she said in the latest episode of 'Cape Up.' 'And from the very beginning, I was calling it 'Mr. Trump's Benghazi.'' This episode with Wilson comes just before Johnson's mother complained about not being properly briefed by the Pentagon during a CNN interview on Monday. Wilson told me the family is being given information 'that's not matching' information being reported in the press, which has led to many questions."

[CN: Trans hatred; child abuse] Amy Littlefield at Rewire: 'Medical Malpractice': Catholic Bishops Urge Parents, Doctors to Withhold Care for Transgender Kids.
Acceptance can be a matter of life and death for transgender people. When they are accepted by their families, trans people are less likely to face a range of negative experiences, including attempting suicide. That hasn't stopped the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious leaders from issuing an open letter that effectively encourages parents to reject their transgender children, and deny them access to gender-affirming care.

The letter, entitled "Created Male and Female: An Open Letter from Religious Leaders," denies the existence of transgender people, claiming that "human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one's sex as male or female."

It appears to urge medical institutions to withhold gender-affirming care for children.

"Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can 'change' their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults," the letter claims. "Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of 'first, do no harm.'"

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized the intrusion of religious judgment in medical care.

"They are urging parents and medical providers to withhold affirming psychological and medical care and to put off limits even the consideration of affirming psychological or medical care," Tobin told Rewire. "That is medical malpractice."
Samantha Cooney at Time: Model Lauren Wasser Faces Another Leg Amputation Because of Toxic Shock Syndrome. "Model Lauren Wasser will likely lose both of her legs to toxic shock syndrome — and she wants other women to be more aware of what they're putting in their bodies. ...Now, the model is advocating for legislation, introduced in May by Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, that will require the National Institutes of Health to conduct or support research to determine the safety of ingredients in feminine hygiene products. ...New York University microbiology professor Philip Tierno told TIME last year that there's little scientific research on the health risks related to tampon use." Because misogyny.

Sarah Roberts, Ashish Premkumar, and Monica McLemore at Rewire: The CDC's Language Ban Is More Than an Attack on Words — It's an Attack on Basic Public Health Values. "Last Friday, the Washington Post reported that senior members of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counseled analysts to avoid using seven words in future budget and supporting documents that would be disseminated to CDC partners and to Congress: 'evidence-based,' 'science-based,' 'vulnerable,' 'entitlement,' 'diversity,' 'transgender,' and 'fetus.' Two days later, CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald and a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — which oversees the CDC — both argued that no bans on words existed and that the entire story was a 'mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process.' Despite the seeming about-face from both the HHS and CDC, the concern among the medical and public health community still remains..."

In a terrific act of resistance... Andy Towle at Towleroad: Human Rights Campaign Projects CDC's Banned Word List on Facade of Trump Hotel. LOL ROCK THE FUCK ON.

I'm gonna end it on a high note!

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

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