Sunday, December 10, 2017

Last Call For Haley And The Comments

After being made to look stupid and foolish by being the Trump regime grunt to float the notion that the US would be dropping out of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea in February because of "security issues with North Korea" (and totally not because Putin and the Russians were kicked out for doping and Russia demanded Trump abandon them in order to delegitimatize the Games) UN Ambassador Nikki Haley suddenly has an issue with her boss, the serial abuser of women.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday, in light of a growing number of probes into sexual misconduct against lawmakers, that "the time has come" to start bringing "a conscience" to the situation surrounding the treatment of women in the workplace as well as on Capitol Hill.

When asked what she thinks of the "cultural shift" taking place in the U.S., Haley said she is "incredibly proud of the women who have come forward." 
"I'm proud of their strength. I'm proud of their courage," Haley said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

Haley's comments came after three lawmakers in one week, including Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, announced they would step down from office following allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. 
When asked to assess similar allegations of misconduct leveled against President Trump during the 2016 campaign, Haley replied, "Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with."

"I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up," she added.

Considering the White House's official position on the more than dozen women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct is "every single one of these women is lying and should not be believed" Haley's statement is a serious problem for the Trump regime now.

How much of a problem remains to be seen, but this is the first real crack in the unified regime defense of Trump's admitted sexual assault.  I have a feeling that the first woman that the regime will "hear and deal with" is Haley herself.

Meanwhile, Democrats are at least starting to say in the post-Franken era that Trump should actually resign, to his credit, Bernie Sanders did on Twitter last week but now NJ Dem Sen. Cory Booker has called for Trump to resign.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker called on President Donald Trump to resign Saturday night over the allegations of sexual harassment that have dogged him since the presidential campaign.

Booker made the comments at a campaign appearance in Alabama for Democratic candidate Doug Jones, who is locked in a tight race against a Republican candidate facing his own allegations of sexual abuse, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. 
Sen. Al Franken resigned this week under growing pressure from members of his own party after multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. But Booker said Trump’s record was worse. 
“I just watched Sen. Al Franken do the honorable thing and resign from his office. My question is, why isn’t Donald Trump doing the same thing — who has more serious allegations against him, with more women who have come forward. The fact pattern on him is far more damning than the fact pattern on Al Franken,” Booker said in an interview with VICE News.

Oregon Dem. Sen Jeff Merkley is also calling for Trump's resignation.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley on Thursday called on President Trump to resign due to accusations by multiple women that Trump sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. 
"The president should resign because he certainly has a track record with more than 17 women of horrific conduct," Merkley said during an appearance on MSNBC's Meet The Press. Merkley joins Sen. Bernie Sanders in calling for Trump to quit his office. Sanders said Thursday that Trump should "think about resigning" because he faces multiple sexual misconduct allegations.

This is a no-brainer for all Democrats in DC right now:  Al Franken and John Conyers (and Republican Trent Franks now) resigned over much less.  When does Trump step down?

Trump Cards, Con't

Earl Ofari Hutchinson makes the case that while 2017 has been an overall disaster for Trump and America, here in December Donald Trump is winning.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write and admit: Trump is winning. In the brief space of a week, he won a brief court fight to shove Mick Mulvaney to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mulvaney wasted no time in unhinging a spate of consumer protection rulings, regulations, and personnel hires made during the Obama years.

His SCOTUS pick, Neil Gorsuch, eagerly cast a vote to impose the Muslim travel ban. His EPA head, Scott Pruitt, delivered a couple million acres of public monument land in the West to oil, gas, and coal industry developers. Trump busily continues to pack the federal judiciary with a parade of ultra-conservative, strict, constructionist Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia clones.

He switched gears and backed alleged pedophile Alabama judge Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, who almost certainly will win. The Republican National Committee, which had practically declared Moore a pariah, quickly jumped in and said it would back him. He got another sweet perk when Senate Democrats turned with a vengeance on Minnesota Senator Al Franken and virtually ordered him out of office. His subsequent resignation got rid of a pesky thorn for Trump. Franken had a big voice, lots of name recognition and popularity, and was not afraid to take shots at Trump.

He pooh-poohed the guilty plea of his former National Security Advisor Mike T. Flynn as no big deal while shouting “no collusion, no collusion” and got away with it.

He got his tax heist for the rich and corporations through the Senate, and as an extra bonus, brought his long-held dream of dumping the Affordable Care Act closer to reality when the Senate tacked on a provision to the bill wiping out the mandate requirement. When the markets took another tick up he crowed even louder that he was the man who brought the good times rolling to America. As always, he did all this with the sheepish connivance of much of the mainstream media, which is always off to the races in giving round-the-clock coverage to his self-serving, vapid tweets as if they were the word from the Mount.

And Roy Moore's coming victory Tuesday will only make this worse.  There should be ten million people on the National Mall screaming for Trump's resignation.  There should be nationwide strikes grinding entire regions of the country to a halt.  There should be a National Day of Rage every day until Trump and the GOP are gone for good.

But we lost that chance.  We're just trying to make it to the next day, now.  We've been beaten down for so long and with such stunning force that any brief period where we're not being directly kicked in the crotch looks like a victory to us, and as Hutchinson points out, even if Trump resigned tomorrow, in less than eleven months he has done generational, if not lifetime damage to the country that we may never be able to fix.

We are now led by an "addled couch potato" who chain-slams a dozen Diet Cokes and 4-8 hours of FOX News daily and golfs all the time

We have no future but destruction.  It's just a question now of how awful the damage will be.

And 2018?  It will be worse.  Far worse.

Sunday Long Read: When Birth Becomes Death

Dr. Shalon Irving was a black research epidemiologist in Atlanta, her area of expertise focused on why black women in the United States have a maternal mortality rate so high that it approaches Mexico or Uzbekistan. She had friends, family, insurance, a good hospital, training to see issues, and yet three weeks after she gave birth to her daughter Soleil in February, she died.

She was far from being alone.

In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortalityin the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.

That imbalance has persisted for decades, and in some places, it continues to grow. In New York City, for example, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to the most recent data; from 2001 to 2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. Researchers say that widening gap reflects a dramatic improvement for white women but not for blacks.

The disproportionate toll on African Americans is the main reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate is so much higher than that of other affluent countries. Black expectant and new mothers in the U.S. die at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, the World Health Organization estimates.

What’s more, even relatively well-off black women like Shalon Irving die or nearly die at higher rates than whites. Again, New York City offers a startling example: A 2016 analysis of five years of data found that black college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school

The fact that someone with Shalon’s social and economic advantages is at higher risk highlights how profound the inequities really are, said Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who met her in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and was one of her closest friends. “It tells you that you can’t educate your way out of this problem. You can’t health-care-access your way out of this problem. There’s something inherently wrong with the system that’s not valuing the lives of black women equally to white women.”

For much of American history, these types of disparities were largely blamed on blacks’ supposed innate susceptibility to illness — their “mass of imperfections,” as one doctor wrote in 1903 — and their own behavior. But now many social scientists and medical researchers agree, the problem isn’t race but racism.

The systemic problems start with the type of social inequities that Shalon studied — differential access to healthy food and clean drinking water, safe neighborhoods and good schools, decent jobs and reliable transportation. Black women are more likely to be uninsured outside of pregnancy, when Medicaid kicks in, and thus more likely to start prenatal care later and to lose coverage in the postpartum period. They are more likely to have chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension that make having a baby more dangerous. The hospitals where they give birth are often the products of historical segregation, lower in quality than those where white mothers deliver, with significantly higher rates of life-threatening complications.

Those problems are amplified by unconscious biases that are embedded throughout the medical system, affecting quality of care in stark and subtle ways. In the more than 200 stories of African-American mothers that ProPublica and NPR have collected over the past year, the feeling of being devalued and disrespected by medical providers was a constant theme. The young Florida mother-to-be whose breathing problems were blamed on obesity when in fact her lungs were filling with fluid and her heart was failing. The Arizona mother whose anesthesiologist assumed she smoked marijuana because of the way she did her hair. The Chicago-area businesswoman with a high-risk pregnancy who was so upset at her doctor’s attitude that she changed OB-GYNs in her seventh month, only to suffer a fatal postpartum stroke. 

There are systemic biases in our medical system, just like there are in education, criminal justice, finance, and everything else.  And as it often is with black folks, that racism is fatal. The subject of black women and childbirth is actually much worse, because of how invisible black women are when it comes to policy in America. The deck is so stacked that we don't even think about it.

But it's there.  And it's one of the most egregious examples of institutionalized racism I've seen in America.  Black lives matter so little that they are snuffed out when giving birth.

The Darkest Timeline

I know at this point people are probably sick of hearing me compare the alt-right to the Nazi party of 1930's Germany but not only do they keep inviting the comparison, they revel in it

On the way to Richard Spencer’s top-secret white-supremacist conference on November 19, a young African-American woman drove me in her Uber from Washington, DC, to the rolling hills of Maryland horse country. On the peaceful drive past large, beautiful estates, she told me how she’d had to work three jobs—as a DHL courier, Amazon-warehouse deliverywoman, and Uber driver—just to continue to live in ever-more-expensive DC, where she’d grown up. When we finally got to the winery that Spencer’s National Policy Institute had booked, Mike Enoch of the Daily Shoah podcast, who promulgated the slur “dindu nuffins” for African Americans, was holding forth on the horrors of “corporate neoliberalism.” 
Then Eli Mosley of the campus group Identity Evropa, who calls Jews “oven-dodging…kikes,” took Enoch one further: “We need to be explicitly anti-capitalist. There’s no other way forward for our movement.” As 60 mostly young, male racists gathered around him, Mosley, whose real name is Elliott Kline, confidently predicted, “Twenty eighteen is going to be the year of leftists joining the white-nationalist movement!” 
These were clear examples of the alt-right’s seductive, and highly contradictory, new emphasis on economic issues. Fascism has often incorporated a pretense of holding “socialist” positions, but some members of the alt-right seem to genuinely believe that the racist state they’re fighting for will benefit what one recently called “the proletariat.” 
That same afternoon, in an interview in the winery’s unheated barn, Spencer said, “I support national health care. Becoming alt-right means…we have duties to our fellow [white] people. And the trillions spent in insane wars, I would much rather spend that on something that is immediately useful to whites.” About the concept of a guaranteed minimum income provided by the government, Spencer told me, “I actually really like this idea.” In the whites-only, Jews-out, no-votes-for-women ethnostate that he is trying to create, Spencer said, “We need to have a kind of altruism. We need to be willing to take care of people and not simply think of ourselves as individuals who can acquire as much wealth as possible.” 
A few minutes later, Spencer’s co-panelists told the gathering exactly who “the capitalists” and “the corporations” were who were hurting “the people”: “Jewish interests,” Enoch, whose real surname is actually Peinovich, enunciated deliberately. 
This cosmopolitan clique of elites!” he boomed, as Spencer giggled. “The left will not…name the people behind this…but we can!” he went on. “We can…speak for white Americans who don’t want to sacrifice any more of their children for Jewish wars!” 
Yes, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Trump’s bombing of Syria, had become “Jewish” wars to the white people in the barn, some of them veterans. To Enoch/Peinovich, it seemed that any unnecessary, unjust, or imperialist war had been secretly started by the Jews. 
“This rootless! cosmopolitan! clique!” Peinovich vociferated, as Spencer nodded vigorously and laughed. On Twitter and his podcasts, Peinovich frequently exhibits a sadistic streak when he goes after individual women, Jews, and people of color. On one podcast, he attacked criticisms of rape as “this bullshit fantasy of the media, academic elite.… It’s been done, it’s what happens.… Whatever.” But here, in addition to his usual violent bombast, Peinovich spoke with what appeared to be real passion about the enormous misery that George W. Bush’s wars had wrought. His voice quaking, the bearded founder of the white-nationalist blog The Right Stuff said, “I’m against these wars, which…are not [in] our interests.” Kline, an Army veteran, added, “You want to know why there’s so much PTSD, drug abuse, suicide…among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Because they come back and they don’t know why. ‘Why were we there, what did I do, why did my friends die?’ The answer is no more of these wars!” Then Kline screeched, “Jewish wars!” 
Next, the white nationalists went after the Trump-backed Republican tax plan. “We need to reduce taxes on the Apple Corporation that is sitting on $200 billion!” Spencer mocked the GOP. “They just don’t have enough money!” While Spencer blasted the plan as “stupid.…Reaganite nostalgia,” Peinovich talked about how hard it is to live in this culture, where “everything” runs the risk of getting “corporatized and capitalized.” The Upper East Sider said, sounding haunted, “Everything is empty and fake.… One of the great struggles that everyone has in this corporate neoliberal world is for meaning in their life. Our struggle provides that for us. Everything else is empty…but our movement.”

And this is why I shake my head when the left says "We need to emphasize the class struggle" and pretend racism and misogyny are ancillary to that, because there's a group already using that tactic and they're much more effective at selling it to the kind of folks that argument appeals to.

America 2017 as Germany 1937 is very, very apt.  And there's little to make me think America 2018 won't be Germany 1938, either. And I'm far from the only voice making this comparison.

Former President Barack Obama urged voters this week to stay engaged in democracy, warning that complacency was responsible for the rise of Nazi Germany. 
"You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we've seen societies where that happens," Obama said at the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday, according to video of the event. 
"Now, presume there was a ballroom here in Vienna in the late 1920s or '30s that looked and seemed as if it, filled with the music and art and literature that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. An entire world was plunged into chaos," Obama said. "So you got to pay attention -- and vote."

I only hope we can find a way to derail these assholes, because if we don't do it and soon we're heading for absolute destruction.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tales Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

VICE News and HBO sent Republican pollster Frank Luntz to Alabama this week to talk to Moore voters, and to a person they believe the women that came forward to accuse Roy Moore of decades of sexual misconduct are all paid liars.

Twelve conservative voters gathered inside a Birmingham coffee house Thursday for a candid discussion about the Alabama senate race.

During the frank discussion, some said they were voting for him primarily because he is not Doug Jones. But other participants dismissed the allegations against Moore and excusing others by reasoning that behavior now seen as unacceptable wasn’t a problem in Alabama decades ago.

The panel was compiled and moderated by Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster well known for arranging focus groups with GOP voters.

“Forty years ago in Alabama, there’s a lotta mamas and daddies that would be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney,” one voter said. “The women’s reputations were questionable at the time,” another voter said.

“There was still clothes on,” she added, dismissing allegations made by a woman who said Moore molested her when she was 14 years old. “As soon as the girl said she wasn’t comfortable, he took her home.”

If you want to know why I think Roy Moore will win easily on Tuesday, it's because white Republican "Christian" assholes like this are 100% motivated to show up at the polls to elect him, and by doing so "prove" they are right and that the "the liberals" are the liars and criminals here. 2016 proved hate voting beats logic in America now.

Being Doug Jones, a Democrat, was worse than being Roy Moore, accused child molester. Period.  Full stop. 

How can you possibly reach people like that?

The one thing I hope Democrats learn from Tuesday, whether Doug Jones win by some miracle of turnout or not, is that there are tens of millions of American voters that will never, under any circumstances, vote for the Democrats.

They are lost to you.  Stop pursuing them.  Get the people who you can still reach and get them to the polls.

The Prince Of Loot

I've talked several times on the blog about Erik Prince, the closest we've got to a James Bond villain/video game bad guy around, founder of Blackwater security and the kind of guy who has his own private army for hire.  He's neck deep in Russia too, having pitched his services to some of our friends in the Gulf and using his contacts there to arrange off-the-record meetings with Moscow. His sister, Betsy DeVos, married into the Amway fortune and is now Secretary of Education, and Erik wanted to hustle his way into replacing the US military in Afghanistan. 

It's that last part that the crew at BuzzFeed News have a story on this week, having obtained the presentation that Prince made to the US military and as you can probably expect from a mercenary warlord literally named Prince, it's all about looting the country.

Controversial private security tycoon Erik Prince has famously pitched an audacious plan to the Trump administration: Hire him to privatize the war in Afghanistan using squads of "security contractors." Now, for the first time, Buzzfeed News is publishing that pitch, a presentation that lays out how Prince wanted to take over the war from the US military — and how he envisioned mining some of the most war-torn provinces in Afghanistan to help fund security operations and obtain strategic mineral resources for the US. 
Prince, who founded the Blackwater security firm and testified last week to the House Intelligence Committee for its Russia investigation, has deep connections into the current White House: He’s friends with former presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, and he’s the brother of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary. 
Prince briefed top Trump administration officials directly, talked up his plan publicly on the DC circuit, and published op-eds about it. He patterned the strategy he's pitching on the historical model of the old British East India Company, which had its own army and colonized much of Britain's empire in India. "An East India Company approach," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "would use cheaper private solutions to fill the gaps that plague the Afghan security forces, including reliable logistics and aviation support." 
But the details have never been made public. Here is the never-before-published slide presentation for his pitch, which a source familiar with the matter said was prepared for the Trump administration.

One surprising element is the commercial promise Prince envisions: that the US will get access to Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals such as lithium, used in batteries; uranium; magnesite; and "rare earth elements," critical metals used in high technology from defense to electronics. One slide estimates the value of mineral deposits in Helmand province alone at $1 trillion. 
The presentation makes it plain that Prince intends to fund the effort through these rich deposits. His plan, one slide says, is "a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle." The slides also say that mining could provide jobs to Afghans.

It's the best of "the oil will pay for the war!" days of Dubya.  Only it's rare earth metals.

And man, this slide show is something.

"What is laid out in the slides is a model of an affordable way for the US to stabilize a failed state where we are presently wasting American youth and tens of billions of dollars annually," a Prince spokesperson emailed BuzzFeed News Thursday.

Defense Secretary James Mattis “did meet with Mr. Prince earlier this year,” a Defense Department spokesperson said. “He meets with people all the time to listen and hear new ideas.” The CIA declined to comment. It’s been widely reported that the Pentagon pushed back against Prince’s concept, and that national security adviser H.R. McMaster was opposed to it as well. 
Prince currently runs a Chinese security and logistics company, as BuzzFeed News has previously reported. Still, in his pitch to America's policymakers, he plays the US against China. One slide, devoted to "market manipulation in rare earth elements," presents China as dominating the market for the valuable minerals. 
Ironically, the statement from Prince's spokesman that said Prince's Chinese company, Frontier Services Group, would participate in the Afghanistan plan, and "would provide logistics support to the extractive firms with secure transportation and camp support."

Not only will Prince help you get the loot, he'll help you move it as well.  I mean mercenary armies already have to be pretty good at large-scale logistics, right?  For a percentage of the take, that is.

A pretty good scam if you ask me.  Guess Trump didn't get enough of the pie to pursue it.  He's all about real estate, not commodities.  Can't build a luxury hotel on a strip mine, ya know.  Bad neighborhood.

The Shine Comes Off The Orange

The latest comprehensive polling from Pew Research shows Donald Trump is in far worse position than he was in February.  In other words, Trump being in the mid-40s was, as many of us predicted, the high point of the regime's popularity.

Trump’s job rating of 32% is lower than those of recent presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan near the end of their first year in office. In follow-up questions, those who approve of Trump were asked if he has done things that have disappointed them, while those who disapprove (63% of the public) were asked if he has done things they have been happy with. 
Overall, 37% of Trump approvers cite something Trump has done to disappoint them (62% say they can’t think of anything). In December 2009, by comparison, somewhat fewer (30%) of those who approved of Barack Obama’s job performance said there was something Obama had done that had made them unhappy; at the time, Obama’s job approval was 49%. 
The criticisms raised by Trump supporters are quite different from those cited by Obama’s backers eight years ago. About a quarter (26%) say they have been disappointed by aspects of Trump’s personal style, with 14% specifically mentioning his use of Twitter or social media. An identical share (14%) points to his behavior or speech. Only 13% of those who approve of Trump cite a disappointment related to policy. 
In December 2009, disappointments among those who gave Obama a positive job rating were mostly about policies, not Obama’s personal style. Just 5% of those who approved of Obama cited an aspect of Obama’s personality or style, while 29% said they had been disappointed by policies such as Afghanistan or health care. 
Among the majority of Americans who disapprove of Trump’s job performance, 14% say there is something he has done that they have been happy with (84% say they are unable to think of anything). The most frequent responses focus on Trump’s domestic policies (8%), while just 3% mention his personal style. Eight years ago, a higher share of those who disapproved of Obama (24%) said there was something they had been happy with; as with Trump, most who disapproved of Obama’s job performance in 2009 cited policies, rather than his style, as what they had been happy with.

But the most interesting part is that Trump is starting to lose his core supporters.  After all, he doesn't have much of anyone else to lose as his numbers keep dropping.

Since February, Trump’s job approval has ticked down among Republicans, Republican leaners

You catch that?  Trump has a big drop with moderate Republicans,  losing 16 points with them down to 55% approval.    He's also lost a huge chunk, 17 points, with white evangelical Christians, down from 78% approval to 61%.

But he's now underwater with non-college white voters, down from 56% to 46%.  That's the big one.

And that overall 32% approval rating?  Trump is the least-liked president in generations.  Here's the thing though, there's room for it to fall even further should Mueller drop the hammer.

Of course, there's also plenty of room for a Dubya-style boost into the 70-80% range should we end up in a Great Patriotic War or something.  If there's anyone left after the bombs drop to praise him, that is.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Time for our pretty regular Friday round-up of this week's news dumps on Trump/Russia collusion, and once again our star is America's favorite knucklehead son, Donald Trump Jr.  Young Donnie can't seem to tell the truth, and he was grilled this week by the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors, and the conversation was on Donald Trump Jr's conversations with WikiLeaks.  CNN posted a story on an email Junior got on it, but The Washington Post followed up on the CNN story, clarifying that the email in question was sent September 104h, not on September 4th of last year, meaning it was after the DNC leak was made public.

A 2016 email sent to President Trump and top aides pointed the campaign to hacked documents from the Democratic National Committee that had already been made public by the group WikiLeaks a day earlier. 
The email — sent the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2016 — noted that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC” and included a link and a “decryption key,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. 
The writer, who said his name was Michael J. Erickson and described himself as the president of an aviation management company, sent the message to the then-Republican nominee as well as his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top advisers.
The day before, WikiLeaks had tweeted links to what the group said was 678.4 megabytes of DNC documents. 
The full email — which was first described to CNN as being sent on Sept. 4, 10 days earlier — indicates that the writer may have simply been flagging information that was already widely available.

The message also noted that information from former secretary of state Colin Powell’s inbox was available “on” That development, too, had been publicly reported earlier that day. 
Alan S. Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr., described it as one of “a ton of unsolicited emails like this on a variety of topics.” 
Futerfas said Erickson was unknown to Trump Jr. or the campaign. The message was one of thousands turned over to the House Intelligence Committee and others investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, emails that included spam and junk emails. Trump Jr. was asked about the email Wednesday, when he spent about seven hours behind closed doors answering questions from members of the committee. 
“The email was never read or responded to — and the House Intelligence Committee knows this,” he said. “It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email.” 
Futerfas said that he and Trump Jr. had been required to surrender their electronic devices during the interview for security reasons. He expressed anger that details of the session leaked out before it had even concluded.

“We are concerned that these actions, combined with the deliberate and misleading leak of a meaningless email, undermines the credibility of the serious work the House Intelligence Committee is supposedly undertaking,” he said.

And while CNN definitely got it wrong (again) it doesn't change the fact that the Trumps are in real trouble.  Meanwhile, Jon Chait believes the Mueller firing is imminent:

The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.

The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s carelessness and has also worked for Mueller. 
His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions. 
When Mueller was appointed, legal scholars debated whether Trump had the technical authority to fire him, but even the majority who believed he did assumed such a power existed only in theory. Republicans in Congress, everyone believed, would never sit still for such a blatant cover-up. 
Josh Blackman, a conservative lawyer, argued that Trump could remove the special counsel, but “make no mistake: Mueller’s firing would likely accelerate the end of the Trump administration.” Texas representative Mike McCaul declared in July, “If he fired Bob Mueller, I think you’d see a tremendous backlash, response from both Democrats but also House Republicans.” Such a rash move “could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency,” Senator Lindsey Graham proclaimed. 
In August, members of both parties began drawing up legislation to prevent Trump from sacking Mueller. “The Mueller situation really gave rise to our thinking about how we can address the current situation,” explained Republican senator Thom Tillis, a sponsor of one of the bills. By early autumn, the momentum behind the effort had slowed; by Thanksgiving, Republican interest had melted away. “I don’t see any heightened kind of urgency, if you’re talking about some of the reports around Flynn and others,” Tillis said recently. “I don’t see any great risk.” 
In fact, the risk has swelled. Trump has publicly declared any investigation into his finances would constitute a red line, and that he reserves the option to fire Mueller if he investigates them. Earlier this month, it was reported that Mueller has subpoenaed records at Deutsche Bank, an institution favored both by Trump and the Russian spy network.

Both the Strzok poutrage and Deutsche Bank financial dealings lead Chait to believe that this is a concerted effort to influence Trump to pull the trigger on his Saturday Night Massacre, and a GOP that not only blithely accepts Roy Moore but actively champions him won't take any action whatsoever when he does.

If that's the case, it's a good think Mueller is taking precautions.

As Mueller’s probe has gotten closer to Trump’s inner orbit, speculation has risen over whether Trump might find a way to shut it down. The Flynn deal may make that harder. For one thing, it shows that Mueller is making progress. “Any rational prosecutor would realize that in this political environment, laying down a few markers would be a good way of fending off criticism that the prosecutors are burning through money and not accomplishing anything,” says Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor now at Duke Law School.

The Flynn plea also makes it difficult for Trump to fire Mueller without inviting accusations of a cover-up and sparking a constitutional crisis, says Michael Weinstein, a former Department of Justice prosecutor now at the law firm Cole Schotz. “There would be a groundswell, it would look so objectionable, like the Saturday Night Massacre with Nixon,” Weinstein says, referring to President Richard Nixon’s attempt to derail the Watergate investigation in 1973 by firing special prosecutor Archibald Cox. 
Even if Mueller goes, his team is providing tools that other prosecutors or investigators can use to continue inquiries. Flynn’s deal requires him to cooperate with state and local officials as well as with federal investigators. That includes submitting to a polygraph test and taking part in “covert law enforcement activities.” Mueller also has provided a road map to state prosecutors interested in pursuing money laundering charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. 
Mueller’s case against Manafort lays out a series of irregular wire transfers made from Manafort’s bank accounts in Cyprus to a variety of companies in the U.S. The sums that Manafort transferred suggest the possibility that some of the money was diverted for other purposes. Mueller stopped short of filing charges related to where the money went. But by including the details in his indictment, he left open the possibility of bringing charges in a follow-up indictment and perhaps left breadcrumbs for state authorities to pursue.

Mueller's not stupid, he knows Trump is going to try to fire him and end the investigation.  I'm confident he has mutually assured destruction tactics set up just in case.

Let Them Eat Austerity

With Republicans feeling very confident now that they can pass their horrid tax scam bill, talk is moving towards the long-predicted other shoe dropping: Paul Ryan's cruel and draconian austerity budget for 2018.  Republicans are feeling so confident right now that Ryan is openly saying now that he will destroy Medicare, Medicaid, and federal welfare programs and he fully expects to make it happen.

The House GOP caucus plans to work on entitlement reform next year as a way to "tackle the debt and the deficit," according to House Speaker Paul Ryan. 
Speaking to Ross Kaminsky on his talk radio show, the Wisconsin Republican said Wednesday that the House would be working to reform health care entitlements in 2018, calling them "the big drivers of our debt," during a discussion about the Republican tax bill. 
"Tax reform grows the economy," Ryan said. "So we basically planned in this term three big budget bills: two entitlement reform bills, one economic growth tax reform bill. The first one passed the House, failed the Senate, this one, both tax bills have passed the House and the Senate, we're on track with that, and then next year we're going to have to get back at entitlement reform." 
Ryan specifically mentioned Medicare as being the "biggest entitlement that's got to have reform." 
"Really, what it is is we need to convert our health care system to a patient-centered system, so that people have more choices, we have more competition," Ryan later said. 
Ryan also noted that, in addition to health care, the GOP plans to work on reforming the US welfare system
"We think it's important to get people from welfare to work," Ryan said. "We have a welfare system that's basically trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work, and we've got to work on that." 
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders responded to Ryan's comments critically on Twitter, arguing that the Republican Party planned to pay for its tax bill with cuts to entitlements. 
"There it is. Paul Ryan just admitted that after providing $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1% and large corporations, Republicans will try to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and help for the most vulnerable Americans," Sanders wrote.

I have plenty of problems with Sanders, but he's 100% right about Ryan's plans.  As it is the GOP tax bill will make hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over the next decade, and Republicans will not stop the carnage there.  Anyone my age or younger can forget about retirement or health care at age 70, and that's if we make it there at all.

This is why tens of millions of Americans, including myself, said that we needed Hillary Clinton to stop Ryan and the GOP from doing exactly what they are planning right now. Another four years of gridlock would be preferable to Ryan's scorched earth economics and trillion in austerity spending cuts.

Instead, America said "Hey, let's elect Trump, he's a populist.  He won't screw us over."

Still feeling good about that choice, guys?

The GOP Handmaid's Tale Simulator, 2017 Edition

What a lot of guys don't get about harassment is that it's about power at its core, power derived from being an employer or political figure or religious figure or from other sources, that is being used against women to put them in situations that makes them powerless.  It's not always physical, although it most often is.  It can very much be verbal, social, mental, and/or emotional or a combination of that too.  Any situation where you have power over somebody else can be harassment.

That brings us to the latest iteration of the GOP's Handmaid's Tale Simulation program, apparently being run out of Arizona Rep. Trent Franks's office.

Arizona Republican Trent Franks said Thursday he is resigning from Congress effective Jan. 31 amid an Ethics Committee investigation into discussions he had with two female staffers about surrogacy.

In a lengthy statement Thursday evening, Franks said he and his wife struggled with fertility.

“I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable,” Franks said. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”

Rather than allowing “a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most,” he said he had notified House leadership he would resign effective Jan. 31. 
Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s office said in a statement the speaker had accepted Franks’ resignation letter. Ryan was first briefed about the allegations Nov. 30. In a meeting with Franks the following day, he told the Arizona lawmaker he needed to step down and Ryan later referred the allegations to the House Ethics Committee.

“The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House,” Ryan’s office said.

Franks said that in “this current cultural and media climate,” he was “deeply convinced” he would be unable “to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation.”

The Arizona Republican said he had “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”

That's right, Franks asked not one, but at least two of the female staffers in his office if they would bear his children as surrogates.  And he thought nothing of it.  I can certainly appreciate the struggles and heartbreak of infertility, but you don't get to ask one of your employees if you can rent their wombs, especially if you're a public servant.  That's a brutal misuse of power over employees and over women.

And given the speed at which Franks is resigning (imagine that, a Republican resigning over harassment of women) and his statements, I believe honestly that it didn't even occur to Franks at the time that this was a wildly awful idea, that it would (correctly) be perceived as Franks believing he has agency over the uterus of a female employee because "Hey, I'm Trent Franks, I'm so awesome that surely you want to help your boss have children" and that he thought they would say yes, otherwise he wouldn't have asked in the first place.

That level of stunning arrogance is astounding.  And note that Franks's statement mentioned "former subordinates", women who had come to work for him but left, obviously over being asked to give Franks not only their work but their bodies as well, as if he was entitled to them.

I'm not sure what kind of level of privilege you have to have in order to say to yourself that it's okay to ask an employee about having your kid for you, but nobody with that broken a soul needs to be anywhere near politics or near making laws for anybody, but especially laws for what women are allowed to do with their bodies. Of course Franks voted for the latest House GOP legislation calling for a national ban on abortion procedures later than 20 weeks.

[UPDATE] And Franks is resigning immediately due to this story:

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks allegedly made unwanted advances toward female staffers in his office and retaliated against one who rebuffed him, according to House GOP sources with knowledge of a complaint against him. 
The allegations, which reached Speaker Paul Ryan and top GOP leaders in recent days, led to Franks' sudden resignation this week. Franks originally announced that he would resign on Jan. 31, 2018. But just hours after POLITICO inquired about the allegations, he sped up his resignation and left office Friday.

The sources said Franks approached two female staffers about acting as a potential surrogate for him and his wife, who has struggled with fertility issues for years. But the aides were concerned that Franks was asking to have sexual relations with them. It was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization. Franks opposes abortion rights as well as procedures that discard embryos. 
A former staffer also alleged that Franks tried to persuade a female aide that they were in love by having her read an article that described how a person knows they’re in love with someone, the sources said. One woman believed she was the subject of retribution after rebuffing Franks. While she enjoyed access to the congressman before the incident, that access was revoked afterward, she told Republican leaders.

Scumbags, all of them.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Last Call For Who's The Boss?

I mentioned last week that the growing battle over the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was in full effect, as Richard Cordray left the agency to run for Governor in Ohio.  He left the agency to its deputy director, but Trump appointed his budget direct Mick Mulvaney to run the agency.

A federal court sided with Mulvaney, and within a week, the "Consumer" has all but been removed from the title of the agency, it's now very much the Financial Protection Bureau.

The defanging of a federal consumer watchdog agency began last week in a federal courthouse in San Francisco. 
After a nearly three-year legal skirmish, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau appeared to have been victorious. A judge agreed in September with the bureau that a financial company had misled more than 100,000 mortgage customers. As punishment, the judge ordered the Ohio company, Nationwide Biweekly Administration, to pay nearly $8 million in penalties. 
All that was left was to collect the cash. Last week, lawyers from the consumer bureau filed an 11-page brief asking the judge to force Nationwide to post an $8 million bond while the proceedings wrapped up. 
Then Mick Mulvaney was named the consumer bureau’s acting director. 
Barely 48 hours later, the same lawyers filed a new two-sentence brief. Their request: to withdraw their earlier submission and no longer take a position on whether Nationwide should put up the cash. 
It was a subtle but unmistakable sign that the consumer bureau under Mr. Mulvaney is headed in a new direction — one that takes a lighter touch to regulating the financial industry. The reversal is part of a broad push by the Trump administration to unfetter companies from Obama-era regulations.
Inside the agency, change has been swift. Mr. Mulvaney briefly stopped approval of payments to some victims of financial crime, halted hiring, froze all new rule-making and ordered a review of active investigations and lawsuits. Some, he has indicated, will be abandoned
“This place will be different, under my leadership and under whoever follows me,” Mr. Mulvaney said Monday about an agency that he previously denounced as a “sad, sick” example of bureaucracy gone amok. 
Mr. Mulvaney took over leadership of the bureau, created in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, less than two weeks ago. The abrupt resignation of Richard Cordray, the bureau’s longtime director, who had been appointed by President Barack Obama, set off an extraordinary public fight for control of the agency. The battle pitted Mr. Mulvaney, who was named acting director by President Trump, against Leandra English, the bureau’s deputy director under Mr. Cordray. While Mr. Trump can appoint his own director, confirmation could take months. Until then, the acting director is in charge. 
Last week, a federal judge ruled in Mr. Mulvaney’s favor, denying an emergency motion that Ms. English had filed to stop the White House from selecting a temporary director. The lawsuit is continuing. 
The bureau has been investigating Santander, the giant Spanish bank, for overcharging auto loan customers. Given the tenor of recent conversations inside the bureau, agency lawyers suspect the investigation could be shelved under Mr. Mulvaney, according to four people with knowledge of the case who requested anonymity to discuss an investigation. 
Raschelle Burton, a spokeswoman for Santander, said the company was not aware of any planned lawsuit from the C.F.P.B.

By the time the matter gets to the Supreme Court -- if they even bother to take it up -- Mulvaney will have long ended the agency's investigations and will have wrecked any hope of consumers getting their money back from the banks.

Mulvaney wasn't brought in to streamline the agency.  He was brought in to dismantle it.  And there's every reason to believe the GOP will find a way to eliminate the agency sooner rather than later.  Remember the Dubya days, where industry regulators were tasked to protect industries from lawsuits?  We're back to that with a vengeance.

But hey, this is what the country voted for, right?

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Michael Flynn is the gift that keeps on Robert Mueller, that is.  His major problem is he could never keep his mouth shut, especially when it comes to how smart he is.  And while conservatives point to the lack of conspiracy charges against Flynn so far as "proof" there was no Trump campaign collusion with Russia, the reality is far, far different.

Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as one of the Trump administration’s first acts, according to an account by a whistle-blower made public on Wednesday. 
Mr. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistle-blower. The account is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately, and suggests that Mr. Flynn had a possible economic incentive for the United States to forge a closer relationship with Russia. 
Mr. Flynn had worked on a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but remained close with the people involved afterward. On Inauguration Day, according to the whistle-blower, Mr. Flynn texted the former business associate to say that the project was “good to go.” 
The account is detailed in a letter written by Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. In the letter, Mr. Cummings said that the whistle-blower contacted his office in June and has authorized him to go public with the details. He did not name the whistle-blower.

Remember, Mueller isn't the only investigatory body looking at Trump and Russian collusion, it's important not to forget that.  Yes, Mueller almost certainly knows everything that the House Oversight Committee, Senate Judiciary, and House Judiciary Committees know, but he's not going to leak anything directly.  Democrats on these committees, well, they made it clear that they're not bound by such fetters.

“These grave allegations compel a full, credible and bipartisan congressional investigation,” Mr. Cummings wrote. 
Mr. Flynn has been under investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, for calls he made last December to Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time. Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about the nature of his calls, during which the men discussed the sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia.

In his letter, Mr. Cummings also said that his staff had been in consultations with Mr. Mueller’s team, which brought the criminal charge against Mr. Flynn. Staffers for the special counsel asked Mr. Cummings not to make the whistle-blower’s account public until “they completed certain investigative steps,” he wrote. 
According to the account detailed in the letter, the whistle-blower had a conversation on Inauguration Day with Alex Copson of ACU Strategic Partners, a company that hired Mr. Flynn in 2015 as an adviser to develop a plan to work with Russia to build nuclear power plants throughout the Middle East. Mr. Flynn served as an adviser until June 2016. 
During the conversation, Mr. Copson told the whistle-blower that “this is the best day of my life” because it was “the start of something I’ve been working on for years, and we are good to go.” Mr. Copson told the whistle-blower that Mr. Flynn had sent him a text message during Mr. Trump’s inaugural address, directing him to tell others involved in the nuclear project to continue developing their plans.

Clearly Flynn, as national security adviser, believed Russian sanctions would be eliminated under the Trump regime and that the projects he was working on, mainly these Russian nuclear plants in the Middle East, would be a cakewalk.

He of course was wrong.

Whether or not Mueller can prove that in court is something for another day, but the right is dreaming if it thinks Mueller and the various Congressional Committees are bluffing.  Again this is going to be a political fight in the end, and indeed the Flynn indictment is starting to make Americans realize that there's something fundamentally wrong with this regime, as a new CBS News poll finds.

Most Americans think former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's guilty plea and cooperation with the special counsel is a serious issue for the Trump administration, including a third of Republicans. But most Republicans see the Russia investigation overall as politically motivated.

Americans divide in their views on the Russia investigation: eight in 10 Republicans call it politically motivated, while three in four Democrats say it is justified. 
Some Republicans – just over four in 10 - do think it's at least somewhat likely that senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia, but they are less likely than Democrats to think that Flynn's guilty plea is a serious issue for the administration.
Overall, most Americans think the whole situation is an important issue to the country, but fewer Republicans think that.

Americans who think the Russia investigation is justified overwhelmingly see the Flynn matter as serious. But even the more than four in 10 who view the investigation as politically motivated also think the Flynn matter is a serious issue for the administration.

The big number in that CBS poll: 67% of Americans overall believe the Trump regime had improper dealings with Russia.  That two-thirds figure includes 43% of Republicans.  Two out of three Americans believe there was collusion, guys.  We're not at a critical mass where the GOP will drop support of Trump yet, but we're getting awfully close, and Trump knows it. 

This week in Trump's foreign policy proves that.

BREAKING: Justice For Walter Scott

Two-and-a-half years ago I predicted that former South Charleston cop Michael Slager would never be found guilty of murder for shooting unarmed black man Walter Scott in the back eight times as Scott ran away, and in a bystander's mobile phone video Slager appeared to plant "evidence" at the scene after Scott was killed. 

Slager plead guilty to a federal violation of civil rights charge in May after the jury in his state trial was deadlocked.  I had little hope that federal charges would amount to much, even though Slager was possibly facing a life sentence for murder one.  Slager and his lawyers obviously thought the same and they had every reason to believe that Slager would get off lightly, if serve any time at all.

Today a federal judge ruled that Michael Slager will be sentenced to prison for murder.

Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager has been sentenced to 19 to 24 years in prison for the deadly shooting of unarmed black man Walter Scott. 
U.S. District Judge David Norton ruled today that the former officer committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. The judge's sentencing decision comes after Slager, who is white, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights offense. 
Slager shot and killed Scott on April 4, 2015, while Slager was an officer with the North Charleston Police Department. Witness video that surfaced shortly after the encounter appeared to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. He was fired from the force after the shooting. 
Slager was charged in South Carolina with murder and pleaded not guilty. During the murder trial, Slager's attorney said his client shot Scott because he was in fear for his life. In 2016, the case ended in a mistrial. The state retrial and federal trial were expected to take place this year, but instead, in May Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott's civil rights in federal court, ending the federal case against him and also resolving the state charges that were pending after the mistrial. 
The judge's ruling today followed several days of testimony, including from Feiden Santana, the witness who filmed the shooting, and Judy Scott, Walter Scott's mother.

I'm good with this, if not ecstatic.  There are federal judges that still can see obvious abuses of power by police in America and can deliver justice.  But keep in mind as I said recently that if Donald Trump has his way, federal courts will be packed with hundreds of new terrible right-wing judges with lifetime tenures.

And then black lives truly won't matter anymore.

Olympic Levels Of Trolling

I'm sure there's still readers out there who still don't believe that the Trump regime is taking orders from the Russians, but I'm going to make another case for that here: this week the Russians were kicked out of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea in February as the International Olympic Committee dropped the hammer on Putin and Russian sports doping in Sochi in 2014. The Atlantic's Julia Ioffe:

In rigging the Olympics, Putin got what he wanted—a successful event and a winning medal count—but the conspiracy that Russia needed to get there inevitably surfaced, and now 11 of those 33 medalists have been stripped of their prizes. Others will be given medals in their stead at Pyeongchang Olympics. Russian sport officials, like Mutko, are now banned from the Olympics for life. Russian athletes won’t be able to compete in Winter Olympics under their flag—athletes proven to be clean can compete under a neutral flag. In fact, neither the Russian anthem nor the Russian flag will appear in Pyeongchang.

In October, Putin, anticipating the IOC’s decision, said that this would be “a humiliation for the country.” Humiliation, a word echoed by many Russians when the punishment was handed down on Tuesday, the same word in the mouths of so many Russians in the wake of the Vancouver flop. Humiliation is a particular obsession for Putin, the fear of it informing his posturing at home and abroad. Before Americans spoke of making America great again, Russians spoke of Putin raising Russia up off its knees, a two-decade exercise of expunging the humiliation of the Soviet collapse. Sochi and the elaborate doping scheme used there was intended to do just that, to erase the humiliation of Vancouver, to show that Russia had restored its historic glory, to end the international mockery and disdain. Instead, like so many of Russia’s moves under Putin, it achieved the opposite. Yet again, the glitz turned out to be a sloppy front for the rot.

It may have been an impressive, FSB-orchestrated operation, but what did it get them? After Vancouver, Russia may have been smarting with the perceived humiliation of performing below their own expectations—but after Sochi, the Russian flag won’t fly at the next Olympics at all. Russian officials are busy denouncing this kind of Olympic Games as hopelessly “hobbled” and “not even the Olympics,” while others call for a full boycott by the clean Russian athletes. This wasn’t what Sochi was supposed to achieve. This is a humiliation far worse than Vancouver’s; this is pariah status. Except that Russia was already a pariah for its actions in Ukraine and for meddling in America’s 2016 presidential election, both of which made Russia’s position in the world more complicated, not less. If Putin is the omniscient mastermind many Americans imagine him to be, surely he would have anticipated this?

When I was last in Moscow, a military analyst told me that, after two decades of post-Soviet Western mockery, Russia had decided that, since no one in the West was going to love it, at least they’d fear it. But what comes after that, when the consequences set in and the fear turns to loathing condescension? Isn’t that … humiliating?

So where am I going with this?  The Olympic world humiliated Putin, so now Putin will do everything he can to turn the 2018 Winter Games into an international joke.  That apparently starts with the US suddenly floating the idea to drop out of the Olympiad.

Whether US athletes will be able to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea remains an "open question," US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday night. 
The Winter Olympics are set to be held Feb. 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The situation with neighboring North Korea, which has grown increasingly hostile while pursuing its nuclear ambitions, is "changing by the day," Haley said on Fox News, making the security of US athletes uncertain. 
Still, Haley said she believes President Donald Trump's administration will work to "find out the best way" to make sure the athletes are protected. 
"I think those are conversations we are going to have to have, but what have we always said? We don't ever fear anything, we live our lives," Haley said. "And certainly that is a perfect opportunity for all of them to go and do something they have worked so hard for. What we will do is, we will make sure that we're taking every precaution possible to make sure that they're safe and to know everything that's going on around them." 
Asked if it's a "done deal" that US athletes will be able to attend the Olympics, Haley said: "There's an open question. I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have -- whether it's Jerusalem or North Korea -- it's about, how do we protect the US citizens in the area?"

Suddenly, a day after the Russians were banned from the 2018 games in South Korea, the security of US athletes at the games is "an open question".  And if the security of the mightiest nation on earth is in question, maybe nobody else will be safe at the games either.  If the Trump regime may not send a delegation because of "security" then what do they know is coming? Maybe that makes everyone else nervous.  Maybe they shouldn't send delegations either, it's "too risky".

And suddenly it's not Russia being punished.  It's everyone, starting with host nation South Korea.

Putin may have his revenge.  And he may very well get it now if the US drops out of the Games.  Now, it's maybe a trial balloon, but I'm betting if the IOC were to change its mind about Russia, maybe the US would decide that the Games have to go on in the Olympic Spirit.

I can't prove of course that this is what happened, that Putin picked up the phone and called Trump and said "You need to threaten to pull out of the Olympics over North Korea".

But there are never coincidences this big at this level of the game.
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