Sunday, February 19, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

I mean I'm not really sure what else has to be said here, but the notion of a Trump regime quid pro quo with Russia is looking very, very damning right about now.

A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.

Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul D. Manafort.

At a time when Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, and the people connected to him, are under heightened scrutiny — with investigations by American intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. and Congress — some of his associates remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the scenes.

Mr. Trump has confounded Democrats and Republicans alike with his repeated praise for the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, and his desire to forge an American-Russian alliance. While there is nothing illegal about such unofficial efforts, a proposal that seems to tip toward Russian interests may set off alarms.

It's hard to ignore the stench of corruption here, given what else we know about Russia and its interference in US elections in favor of Trump. And the Ukraine story only gets worse.

The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Mr. Cohen asked.

But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.

“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Mr. Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sater said they had not spoken to Mr. Trump about the proposal, and have no experience in foreign policy. Mr. Cohen is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in an F.B.I. counterintelligence examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement officials; he has denied any illicit connections.

The two others involved in the effort have somewhat questionable pasts: Mr. Sater, 50, a Russian-American, pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Mr. Artemenko spent two and a half years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically motivated.

This story is rotten to its core, and it keeps coming back to Trump and his deals with the Russians.  They have serious leverage over him and have used that leverage at every stage of Trump's campaign. They continue to exercise it now.  Trump has surrounded himself with people tied to Putin.  At this point the corruption is getting too bad to ignore.

We'll see if anyone acts.

One Night In Sweden Makes An Orange Man Stupid

Attacks are made up but the cost ain't free.
You'll find the fake news and the orange man looped it
And if you're lucky you're an okay Swede,
I can feel a story sliding up to me.

Swedes reacted with confusion, anger and ridicule on Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump that suggested that something terrible had occurred in their country.

During a campaign-style rally on Saturday in Florida, Mr. Trump issued a sharp if discursive attack on refugee policies in Europe, ticking off a list of places that have been hit by terrorists.

“You look at what’s happening,” he told his supporters. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

Not the Swedes.

Nothing particularly nefarious happened in Sweden on Friday — or Saturday, for that matter — and Swedes were left baffled.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump did not state, per se, that a terrorist attack had taken place in Sweden.

But the context of his remarks — he mentioned Sweden right after he chastised Germany, a destination for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and deprivation — suggested that he thought it might have.

“Sweden,” he said. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.”

Contrary to Mr. Trump’s allegations, nearly all of the men involved in terrorist assaults in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, in Brussels on March 22 last year, and in Nice, France, on July 14, were citizens of France or Belgium.

As the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted, Twitter users were quick to ridicule Mr. Trump’s remark, with joking references to the Swedish Chef, the “Muppets” character; Swedish meatballs; and Ikea, the furniture giant.
And so Trump embarrasses the country internationally yet again, because he has the ignorance of Dubya and none of the self-control.  It's amazing what this man doesn't know and doesn't choose to learn, and he's surrounded himself with people just as ignorant and incurious.

But hey, this is who we elected: a man with no public office experience whatsoever, and we thought it would be a good idea somehow.  Well, I take that back: more than 70 million of us though it was an abysmal idea, but apparently that wasn't enough.

Sunday Long Read: The Lost Treasures Of Princess Pamela

This week's Sunday Long Read comes from Mayukh Sen at Food52, the story of Princess Pamela and her tiny apartment soul food restaurant in Manhattan in the late 60's and 70's, how she became a word-of-mouth legend, and how she vanished into that legend.  Decades later her recipes are being republished in their full glory.

Princess Pamela didn’t let just anyone into her restaurant. She ran her Little Kitchen out of her railroad apartment in an Alphabet City walkup, one floor above a Chinese takeout joint with an eleven-fingered delivery boy.

This was the Manhattan of 1965. Would-be patrons would buzz apartment 2A and Princess Pamela, who claimed her real name was Pamela Strobel, would creak the door open, revealing little more than her eyes. She would accost her prospective clientele with questions: Who were they? Were they from the South, like she was? Sometimes, she didn’t have to ask; she just had a feeling about them the minute she saw their face.

If she knew you, though, chances were you’d be able to shout her name from the ground outside and she’d just throw a key down. And getting in was like scoring drugs. The joint was far from spacious; it was no bigger than 120 square feet, and capacity didn’t exceed 15. But she treated it like her hamlet. Inside were corrugated ceilings, black fridges, checked shamrock green tablecloths, Jewish memorial candles, and derelict chairs donated by do-gooders she knew in the neighborhood. Over time, the restaurant’s cerulean walls would be decorated with the portraits of those who’d passed through, from Gloria Steinem to the Rothschilds, Ringo Starr to Diana Ross.

Once you sat down, Ada Spivey, the Little Kitchen’s meek and spindly cook, would come take your order before retreating to the backroom to make some dishes, likely sweet potato and collards. The menu fluctuated according to Princess Pamela’s mood. You weren’t a customer at her restaurant; you were a guest in her home. She certainly expected you to behave as such. If you went up to use the bathroom without asking, she’d walk right into the stall and drag your ass out. Did you think the chairs were wobbly? If you complained, Princess Pamela, firm and irate, would hiss to Ada, instructing her to feed you and get you out immediately. If you gave Princess Pamela lip, she’d banish you entirely.

If you stayed deep into the night, she’d lock the door and turn away anyone else who buzzed in, telling them that the restaurant was closed. She’d exit to a back room and emerge wearing a red wig and tight, gold lamé dress. The lights would dim, and this cramped room would turn into a jazz salon. Surrounded by a group of male percussionists, including her sometime lover Bobby Vidal, Princess Pamela would sing with a voice that sounded like a nightcap.

Whatever food the restaurant did serve didn’t suggest the encyclopedic breadth of her 1969 cookbook. Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook, originally published by Signet Books before falling out of print for 45 years, was a tome of 147 recipes sourced from the life she’d led for four decades. She was a mettled, plucky girl from the South Carolina town of Spartanburg who was orphaned at 10, left home on her own when she was 13, and worked in restaurants until she reached New York in her early 20s, when she decided to start a business of her own.

The book’s recipes are tenaciously, unrepentantly Southern. It's a compendium of pork spoon bread and peanut butter biscuits, ham hocks and oxtail ragus, catfish stews and giblet gravies, pickled pig’s feet and roast opossum. For decades, though, the only prints of Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook were pumiced paperbacks that would dissolve in your hands.

It has taken nearly half a century for this to be rectified. Next week, Rizzoli is set to release a handsome hardcover reissue of the book. The rehabilitation effort has been spearheaded by Matt and Ted Lee, two siblings better known as the proprietors of the Lee Bros. They first encountered her cookbook in 2004, when they bought it from a used bookstore. The Lees fell in love with the book, considering it a manuscript of integrity and poetry.

And anyone who says food cannot be art or history or culture, well you've never had collard greens and chitlins.  More power to Princess Pamela to see her work endure for a new generation.

Maybe If We Were Nicer To The People Okay With Racism

That's the argument that NY Times Sunday columnist Sabrina Tavernise is making.  Once again Republicans are pretty upset that despite total control of the government, that liberalism still exists and that mean ol' those people are still trying to make them feel bad for electing Trump.

Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump. As a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican. But some things are making him feel uncomfortable — parts of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, for example, and the recurring theme of his apparent affinity for Russia.

Mr. Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Mr. Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way. Every time Mr. Medford dips into the political debate — either with strangers on Facebook or friends in New York and Los Angeles — he comes away feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority.

“We’re backed into a corner,” said Mr. Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’ ”

He added: “I didn’t choose a side. They put me on one.”

Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right. In recent interviews, conservative voters said they felt assaulted by what they said was a kind of moral Bolshevism — the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one. Disagreeing meant being publicly shamed.

Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.

“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Mr. Trump is a little like saying in the 1950s that you were gay. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”

Mr. Youngquist stayed in the closet for months about his support for Mr. Trump. He did not put a bumper sticker on his car, for fear it would be keyed. The only place he felt comfortable wearing his Make America Great Again hat was on a vacation in China. Even dating became difficult. Many people on Tinder have a warning on their profile: “Trump supporters swipe left” — meaning, get lost.

He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”

“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Mr. Youngquist said.

Conservatives have gotten vicious, too, sometimes with Mr. Trump’s encouragement. But if political action is meant to persuade people that Mr. Trump is bad for the country, then people on the fence would seem a logical place to start. Yet many seemingly persuadable conservatives say that liberals are burning bridges rather than building them.

So, I guess I should shut the blog down or something, because we made "moderate Trump voters" feel bad and they would totally vote for Democrats if we were much nicer about having our rights stripped, our families split up, our neighborhoods dismantled, our drinking water polluted, our places of worship damaged, our lives taken by police and our bodies monitored.

But guys named Bryce can't wear their MAGA hats, so I guess we got what we deserved.  Don't worry Bryce, there will be several fewer million liberals who will be allowed to vote in 2020, so keep on being you. 
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