On a dark night at the tail end of last winter, just a month after the inauguration of the new American president, an evening when only a sickle moon hung in the Levantine sky, two Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters flew low across Jordan and then, staying under the radar, veered north toward the twisting ribbon of shadows that was the Euphrates River. On board, waiting with a professional stillness as they headed into the hostile heart of Syria, were Sayeret Matkal commandos, the Jewish state’s elite counterterrorism force, along with members of the technological unit of the Mossad, its foreign-espionage agency. Their target: an ISIS cell that was racing to get a deadly new weapon thought to have been devised by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the Saudi national who was al-Qaeda’s master bombmaker in Yemen.
It was a covert mission whose details were reconstructed for Vanity Fair by two experts on Israeli intelligence operations. It would lead to the unnerving discovery that ISIS terrorists were working on transforming laptop computers into bombs that could pass undetected through airport security. U.S. Homeland Security officials—quickly followed by British authorities—banned passengers traveling from an accusatory list of Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptops and other portable electronic devices larger than a cell phone on arriving planes. It would not be until four tense months later, as foreign airports began to comply with new, stringent American security directives, that the ban would be lifted on an airport-by-airport basis.
In the secretive corridors of the American espionage community, the Israeli mission was praised by knowledgeable officials as a casebook example of a valued ally’s hard-won field intelligence being put to good, arguably even lifesaving, use.
Yet this triumph would be overshadowed by an astonishing conversation in the Oval Office in May, when an intemperate President Trump revealed details about the classified mission to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and Sergey I. Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Along with the tempest of far-reaching geopolitical consequences that raged as a result of the president’s disclosure, fresh blood was spilled in his long-running combative relationship with the nation’s clandestine services. Israel—as well as America’s other allies—would rethink its willingness to share raw intelligence, and pretty much the entire Free World was left shaking its collective head in bewilderment as it wondered, not for the first time, what was going on with Trump and Russia. (In fact, Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election.) In the hand-wringing aftermath, the entire event became, as is so often the case with spy stories, a tale about trust and betrayal.
Do read on. It's a fascinating look at what our imbecile president has wrought.
It's a cliche to point out that any Democrat would be impeached for doing something like this. Instead, they are trying to put the president's defeated rival in prison for a made up scandal, a case of projection so yuuuuge that it fills the entire night sky.
Now, think about this:
On the cloudy spring morning of May 10, just an uneasy day after the president’s sudden firing of F.B.I. director James B. Comey, who had been leading the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, a beaming President Trump huddled in the Oval Office with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak.
And, no less improbably, Trump seemed not to notice, or feel restrained by, the unfortunate timing of his conversation with Russian officials who were quite possibly co-conspirators in a plot to undermine the U.S. electoral process. Instead, full of a chummy candor, the president turned to his Russian guests and blithely acknowledged the elephant lurking in the room. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” he said, according to a record of the meeting shared with The New York Times. “He was crazy, a real nut job.” With the sort of gruff pragmatism a Mafia don would use to justify the necessity of a hit, he further explained, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Yet that was only the morning’s perplexing prelude. What had been an unseemly conversation between the president and two high-ranking Russian officials soon turned into something more dangerous.
“I get great intel,” the president suddenly boasted, as prideful as if he were bragging about the amenities at one of his company’s hotels. “I have people brief me on great intel every day.”
He quickly went on to share with representatives of a foreign adversary not only the broad outlines of the plot to turn laptop computers into airborne bombs but also at least one highly classified operational detail—the sort of sensitive, locked-in-the-vault intel that was not shared with even Congress or friendly governments. The president did not name the U.S. partner who had spearheaded the operation. (Journalists, immediately all over the astonishing story, would soon out Israel). But, more problematic, President Trump cavalierly identified the specific city in ISIS-held territory where the threat had been detected.
As for the two Russians, there’s no record of their response. Their silence would be understandable: why interrupt the flow of information? But in their minds, no doubt they were already drafting the cable they’d send to the Kremlin detailing their great espionage coup.
So why? Why did a president who has time after volatile time railed against leakers, who has attacked Hillary Clinton for playing fast and loose with classified information, cozy up to a couple of Russian bigwigs in the Oval Office and breezily offer government secrets?
Any answer is at best conjecture. Yet in the search for an important truth, consider these hypotheses, each of which has its own supporters among past and current members of the U.S. intelligence community.
The first is a bit of armchair psychology. In Trump’s irrepressible way of living in the world, wealth is real only if other people believe you’re rich. If you don’t flaunt it, then you might as well not have it.
So there is the new president, shaky as any bounder might be in the complicated world of international politics, sitting down to a head-to-head with a pair of experienced Russians. How can he impress them? Get them to appreciate that he’s not some lightweight, but rather a genuine player on the world stage?
There’s also the school of thought that the episode is another unfortunate example of Trump’s impressionable worldview being routinely shaped by the last thing he’s heard, be it that morning’s broadcast of Fox & Friends or an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. As advocates of this theory point out, the president was likely told that one of the issues still on his guests’ minds would be the terrorist explosion back in October 2015 that brought down a Russian passenger plane flying above Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. With that seed planted in the president’s undisciplined mind, it’s a short leap for him to be off and running to the Russians about what he knew about an ISIS scheme to target passenger aircraft.
Yet there is also a more sinister way to connect all the dots. There are some petulant voices in official Washington who insist that the president’s treachery was deliberate, part of his longtime collaboration with the Russians. It is a true believer’s orthodoxy, one which predicts that the meeting will wind up being one more damning count in an indictment that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will ultimately nail to the White House door.
But, for now, to bolster their still very circumstantial case, they point to a curiosity surrounding the meeting in the Oval Office—U.S. journalists were kept out. And, no less an oddity, the Russian press was allowed in. It was the photographer from TASS, the state-run Russian news agency, who snapped the only shots that documented the occasion for posterity. Or, for that matter, for the grand jury.
Something is rotten in Mar-a-lago and it isn't the delicious chocolate cake.
Trump's Thanksgiving comments to the Coast Guard makes Sarah Palin sound like Lincoln. Below is the transcript. You can watch it here if you prefer. Personally I can't bear to listen his voice today:
"It is an honor to be here. I have to tell you, you know. The Coast Guard always respected, but if you're looking at it as a brand, there's no brand that went up more than the Coast Guard with what happened in Texas, and I would say in particular, Texas has been incredible. You saved 16,000 lives. Nobody knows that. 16,000 lives. In fact when I first heard the number, I said, you mean like 600? 500? 16,000 lives in Texas.
So as bad as that hurricane was, and that was bad one. That was a big water job, right? It kept coming in and going back they couldn't get rid of it. They'd never seen it. I guess it was the biggest water dump they've ever seen. But when you've got 16,000
[inaudible, Trump turns around to face the crowd] big groups of people
[inaudible, Trump turns back around] but when you've got 16,000, that's really something. And then Florida hit. And you know that went very well, you know that went pretty well, right? The job you did in Florida. And then Puerto Rico. I really mean that, I think that there's no brand of any kind, I don't just mean a military brand, that's gone up more than the Coast Guard. Incredible people. You've done an incredible job. I love coming in here and doing this with you today. I think it's — we have to keep you very well fed. This is good stuff. It's an honor. This is the first lady, you know.
Melania Trump: Happy Thanksgiving.
Trump: We went together to Texas. We saw what you were doing. You just followed that storm, right next to that storm. You saved so many people. I still haven't figured out how people take their boats out into a hurricane. Some day you'll explain it. Jean was just telling me they actually do it to to save their boat in many cases. They're not thinking about their life. They're thinking about their boats. They go out in a boat and think think they have a wonderful boat. They've had it for years. It can weather anything and then they have 25-foot waves crashing down. And that would be the end of that. You saved a lot of people. I want to thank you. On behalf of the whole country and on behalf of us, what a job you've done. Thank you very much.
I'll also take questions. Should we leave the media here? To do the questions or should we tell the media? It's Thanksgiving. Let's let the media stay. Anybody have any questions about the country, how we're doing or any of those things? Wow. I love it when you don't. That means you're doing great. I love that. That's the greatest. The press I know doesn't have any questions. If you do, we won't take them but that's already. The press has plenty of questions.
The country's doing really well. Stock market, all time high. This is all good stuff. I just spoke to a lot of your friends in Afghanistan and Iraq. We spoke to the USS Monterey. Great ship, great missile ship. We spoke to a lot of different folks, from the Air Force, to the Army, just now, a little while ago at Mar-a-Lago. The telecommunication systems [inaudible] we go live to Iraq, live to Afghanistan, and it's really incredible. I told them, our country is doing great. You folks are fighting so hard and working so hard. It's nice that you're working for something that's really starting to work. We've cut back so much on regulation and all the waste and the all of the abuse.
The stock market on Friday hit the all-time high. The highest it's ever been, ever. In your whole long life, the stock market is higher than it's ever been. And that means your 401(k)s and all the things you have. You know whether it's, even if you're in the military. You have a country that's starting to turn. We want to have a strong country.
We want have a country where I can buy new Coast Guard cutters and not have to worry about it, alright. And that's what we're doing, we're building up wealth so we can take care of our protection. And we're ordering tremendous amounts of new equipment, we're at $700 billion for the military. And you know they were cutting back for years, they jut kept cutting, cutting cutting the military. And you got lean, to put it nicely, depleted was the word, and now it's changing.
The Navy, I can tell you, we're ordering ships, with the Air Force i can tell you we're ordering a lot of planes, in particular the F-35 fighter jet, which is like almost like an invisible fighter. I was asking the Air Force guys, I said, how good is this plane? They said, well, sir, you can't see it. I said but in a fight. You know, in a fight, like I watch on the movies. The fight, they're fighting. How good is this? They say, well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it. Even if it's right next to them, it can't see it. I said that helps. That's a good thing.
But I mean we have equipment that — nobody has the equipment that we have. And it's sad when we're selling our equipment to other countries but we're not buying it ourselves. But now that's all changed. And I said, the stuff that we have is always a little bit better too. When we sell to other countries, even if they're allies you never know about an ally. An ally can turn. You're going to find that out. But I always say make lives a little bit better. Give it that extra speed, a little bit — keep a little bit — keep about 10% in the bag. We have -- nobody has what with we have. That's what we're doing. We're really proud of the Coast Guard and I'm very proud -- I walked in today and Jean said, the day I got elected, the following morning, they were putting up the statement that I made right on your front door and I came in and the first thing I noticed, of course, I said wow, look at that. I said, did you put that up just for me because I happen to be coming here today? And you did that the first day. That tells me something. That tells me something.
Let's go, fellas. Come on. Let's get up here. Let's get up here. Yeah. This is good stuff." Trump then served sandwiches.
I was originally going to do a post this week about my “top 10 Thanksgiving movies”, but after pondering it for a spell, all I could come up with was The House of Yes, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Ice Storm , Planes, Trains and Automobilesand Alice's Restaurant. After that, I had nuthin’ (A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving ? But that’s TV.) Oh, I suppose there are many more titles out there (wasn’t there like, a Walton family Thanksgiving thingie?) but apparently they would not be among my favorites. One movie theme that I can more easily relate to, however, is movies about food (or containing at least one memorable eating scene). Hey, everyone’s gotta eat, right? So, chew on these:
Big Night-This is one DVD that I have brought along to many a social gathering and repeatedly foisted on friends and relatives, because after all, it’s important to “…take a bite out of the ass of life!” (as one of the film’s characters points out with great veracity). Two brothers, one an enterprising businessman named Secondo (Stanley Tucci, who also co-wrote and co-directed) and his older sibling Primo (Tony Shalhoub), a gifted chef, open an Italian restaurant but quickly run into financial trouble. Possible salvation arrives via a dubious proposal from a more successful competitor (played with much aplomb by Ian Holm). The fate of their business hinges on Primo’s ability to conjure up the ultimate godhead Italian feast. And oh, what a meal he prepares (you’d better have some pasta and ragu handy-or your appestat will be writing checks that your duodenum will not be able to cash, if you know what I’m sayin’). The wonderful cast includes Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, Liev Schreiber, Allison Janney, and Campbell Scott (who co-directed with Tucci). A virtually unrecognizable Marc Anthony (the Latin pop superstar) lurks in the kitchen throughout as Primo’s cooking/prep assistant, with nary a line of dialogue.
Comfort and Joy-Another delightful, quirky trifle from Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth (Local Hero, Gregory's Girl). An amiable Glasgow radio personality (Bill Paterson) gets unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend on Christmas Eve, which throws him into an existential crisis, causing him to take a sudden and urgent inventory of his personal and professional life. Soon after lamenting to his GM that he wants to do something more “important” than his chirpy morning show, serendipity drops him into the middle a of a potentially hot “investigative journalism” story-an escalating “war” between two local rival ice-cream dairies. Chock full of Forsyth’s patented low-key anarchy and extremely dry one-liners. As a former morning DJ, I can tell you that the scenes depicting “Dickie Bird” doing his show are very authentic, which is rare on the screen. It will take days to get the ice cream van’s loopy theme music out of your head.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover-A gamey, visceral and perversely piss-elegant fable about food, as it relates to love, sex, violence, revenge, and uh, Thatcherism from writer-director Peter Greenaway (who I like to refer to as “the thinking person’s Ken Russell”). Michael Gambon really chews up the scenery (figuratively and literally) as a vile and vituperative British underworld type who holds nightly court at his “front” business, a gourmet restaurant. When his bored trophy wife (Helen Mirren, in a fearless performance) becomes attracted to one of the regular diners, a quiet and unassuming bookish fellow, the wheels are set in motion for quite a twisty tale, culminating in one of the most memorable scenes of “just desserts” ever served up on film. The opulent set design and cinematographer Sacha Vierny’s extraordinary use of color combine to lend a rich Jacobean texture to the proceedings. Look for the late, great 80s pub rocker Ian Dury (“Sex & Drugs & Rock ’n’ Roll”) in a small part as one of the crime lord’s associates.
Delicatessen-This film is so…French. A seriocomic vision of a food-scarce, dystopian future society along the lines of Soylent Green, directed with great verve and trademark surrealist touches by co-directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (The City of Lost Children). The pair’s favorite leading man, Dominique Pinon (sort of a sawed-off Robin Williams) plays a circus performer who moves into an apartment building with a butcher shop downstairs. The shop’s proprietor seems to be appraising the new tenant with, shall we say, a “professional” eye? In Jeunet and Caro’s bizarro world, it’s all par for the course (just wait ‘til you get a load of the vegan “troglodytes” who live underneath the city streets). One particular sequence, involving a wildly funny, imaginatively staged sex scene, stands on its own as a veritable master class in the arts of film and sound editing
Diner-This wondrous, episodic slice-of-life dramedy marked writer-director Barry Levinson’s first feature film back in 1982, and it remains his best, IMHO. A small group of twenty-something buddies converge for Christmas week in 1959 Baltimore. One is recently married, another is about to get hitched, and the others are still playing the field and deciding what to do with the rest of their life. They are all slogging fitfully toward that last, “no turning back” portal to “adulthood”. The most entertaining scenes take place at the group’s favorite meeting place, a local diner, where the comfort food of choice is French fries with gravy (mmm…French fries with gravy). Levinson has a great gift for writing dialog, and it’s all the little details that make the difference here; like a cranky appliance store customer who refuses to upgrade to color TV because he saw Bonanza at a friend’s house, and decided that “…the Ponderosa looked fake”. This film was more influential than it gets credit for; Tarantino owes a debt of gratitude (see below) as well as the creators of TV’s Seinfeld. It also helped launch film careers for Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern, Timothy Daly, Steve Guttenberg and Paul Reiser.
Eat Drink Man Woman-Or as I once dubbed it: “I Never Stir-Fried for My Father”. This was director Ang Lee’s more substantive follow-up to his enjoyable, but relatively fluffy crowd-pleaser The Wedding Banquet (another good food flick). Lee treads on Wayne Wang territory in this beautifully acted dramedy about the clash of traditional vs. modern values within Chinese culture. An aging master chef, who is losing his sense of taste (ah, savor the irony) stringently follows a tradition of preparing an elaborate feast every Sunday, which his three grown (and single) daughters are required to attend. Dysfunctional family angst ensues around these mandatory gatherings, as you might expect. As the story unfolds, Lee reveals the bittersweet truths and universality of family dynamics, which transcends culture and geography. Only caveat: An hour after you watch it, you’ll be hungry for a second feature (I’m KIDDING). You know I’m a kidder.
My Dinner with Andre- Boy, this one is a tough sell to the uninitiated. “An entire film that nearly all takes place at one restaurant table, with two self-absorbed New York intellectuals pontificating the whole time- ‘yak, yak, yak, yak’? This is entertaining?!” Actually, um, yes-it is. Quite surprisingly so. The late great director Louis Malle took a bold artistic gamble with this movie that pays off in spades. Although ostensibly a work of “fiction”, Malle’s two stars, theatre director Andre Gregory and actor-playwright Wallace Shawn, essentially play themselves (the pair collaborated on the screenplay). A rumination on art, life, love, the universe and everything, the film is not so much about the food itself, but more of a love letter to the lost art of erudite dinner conversation.
Pulp Fiction-Although the universal popularity of this Quentin Tarantino opus is largely owed to its hyper-stylized mayhem and the ultra-hip, creatively salty iambic pentameter spouted by the characters, I have always felt it to be a closer cousin to Diner than to, say, The Asphalt Jungle(I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out). Think about it: The film’s crucial opening and closing scenes take place in a diner, with characters conducting animated, eclectic conversations over plates of food. In Mia and Vincent’s protracted sequence at the theme restaurant, the camera gives us fetishistic close-ups of their decidedly all-American eats (“Douglas Sirk steak. And a vanilla coke.”). There’s that classic exchange between Vincent and Jules regarding “Le” Big Macs in France, Jules’ voracious hijacking of poor hapless Brett’s “Big Kahuna” burger, and Fabienne pining wistfully about her longing for blueberry pancakes. Even the super efficient Mr. Wolfe takes a few seconds out of his precisely mapped schedule to reflect on the pleasures of a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. I think this definitely qualifies as a food flick!
Tampopo-Self billed as “The first Japanese noodle western”, this 1987 entry from writer-director Juzo Itami (A Taxing Woman) is all that and more. Nobuko Niyamoto is superb as the title character, a widow who has inherited her late husband’s noodle house. Despite her hard work and sincere effort to please customers, Tampopo struggles to keep the business afloat, until a deux ex machina arrives-a truck driver named Goro (Tsutomo Yamazaki). After one taste, Goro pinpoints the problem-her noodles are bland (in his personal “code of the east”, bland noodles are an aesthetic crime). No worries-like the magnanimous gunslinger of the old west, Goro decides to take Tampopo on as a personal project, and mentor her on the Zen of creating the perfect noodle bowl. A true delight from start to finish, offering keen insight on the relationship between food, sex and love.
Tom Jones (-Truly, doth I really need to explain? Good sirs and madams, I prithee, just watch this morsel…and enjoy:
Quinnipiac polled Americans on some of the questions that might come up over dinner today and what you might expect from your relatives of different political stripes:
American voters say 63 - 26 percent they hope to avoid discussing politics when visiting with family or friends this Thanksgiving, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.
Voters 18 to 34 years old say 72 - 22 percent that they don't want a side dish of politics with their turkey, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. Men want to avoid politics 58 - 30 percent and women say can the controversy 67 - 22 percent.
The way people talk about politics is contributing to violence in the U.S., American voters say 69 - 27 percent.
American voters disapprove 52 - 42 percent of some National Football League players choosing to kneel during the National Anthem. Men disapprove 54 - 39 percent while women disapprove by a narrow 49 - 44 percent.
But voters say 67 - 31 percent that NFL players have the right to protest by taking a knee. There is virtually no gender gap, but a wide partisan gap: Supporting players' rights are Democrats 88 - 11 percent and independent voters 69 - 29 percent. Republican voters say 58 - 39 percent that players do not have the right to protest.
Sandwiched in with the turkey, 44 percent of American voters, including 50 percent of men and 39 percent of women, plan to watch football this Thanksgiving.
Because of the NFL player protests, 27 percent of voters are watching less football these days, while 66 percent say they are watching about the same amount.
"Fed up with the daily dose of political heartburn and starving for a little holiday harmony, American voters say feed me turkey not politics," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "The holiday season begins with a conflict-weary public.
"Most voters don't approve of NFL players taking a knee in protest, but two-thirds say players have a right to protest and 27 percent of voters/viewers are exercising their right to turn off the game."
Only 17 percent of American voters say they are less likely to watch football because of reports of severe brain damage among NFL players.
There is a wide gender gap as voters say 50 - 45 percent that if they had children they still would let them play full contact football. Men say 60 - 35 percent they would let their children play. Women say no 53 - 41 percent. Feeling Thankful About the Economy
A total of 74 percent of American voters describe their personal financial situation as "excellent" or "good," while 25 percent say "not so good" or "poor." President Donald Trump's policies are helping their personal finances, 21 percent of voters say, as 23 percent say these policies are hurting them and 54 percent say Trump policies are not making much difference.
A total of 58 percent of voters say the nation's economy is "excellent" or "good," while 41 percent say the U.S. economy is "not so good" or "poor."
Former President Barack Obama is more responsible for the state of the nation's economy, 43 percent of voters say, while 41 percent say President Trump is more responsible.
The state of the stock market is "excellent" or "good," 72 percent of voters say, while 14 percent say "not so good" or "poor." Trump is more responsible for the state of the stock market, 50 percent of voters say, as 28 percent say Obama is more responsible.
A total of 66 percent of American voters say the nation's job market is "excellent" or "good," while 31 percent say "not so good" or "poor." Trump is more responsible for the state of the job market, 45 percent say, while 41 percent say Obama is more responsible.
Only 44 percent of voters say the state of wages in the U.S. is "excellent" or "good," while 53 percent say wages are "not so good" or "poor." Trump and Obama share responsibility for the state of wages, as 38 percent point to Obama and 36 percent say Trump is more responsible.
I would just avoid conversation about the world altogether. It can only cause problems. Gossip about family, talk about work, exchange recipes and childcare/lawncare tips, share memories and leave it at that.
The country has always had political differences and sometimes it's been bad enough to erupt in political violence. So far, we haven't seen that. But there is no doubt that Donald Trump is tearing this country apart in ways that we have not seen a leader do in many moons. I have no idea where it's going but wherever it is, it's risky.
As you run off, stay in, or run around for your Thanksgiving celebration, ponder two maps that I find "sticky." I can't get the mixed signals out of my head.
Axios this morning presents 10 things to ponder about America's political polarization. Number 9 considers the large parts of America left behind by the economy, whatever that means. Outside evangelical eschatology, "left behind" refers to communities that last November helped elect to the White House a chief executive with zero experience in government. The press believes economic distress was a major factor. (Axios calls it a "major election theme.") But we'll come back to that.
First, a conversation I overheard this week between two tech professionals. One shook his head and railed against a seminar he'd heard of meant to teach pointy-headed executives they need not have a technical background to successfully manage a tech firm. Guess who he voted for to manage the country?
After breaking down the demographics, the economics, and breaking down the breakdown, EIG concludes (emphasis mine):
It is also worth noting where economic and demographic factors intersect. For example, minority groups formed a majority of the population in 92 percent of the distressed counties carried by Clinton, while whites formed a majority of the population in 92 percent of distressed counties won by Trump. And 99 percent of the prosperous counties won by Trump were majority-white, compared to only 84 percent of those carried by Clinton.
These important distinctions about how different groups of people or places broke on the margins should not obscure the fact that both candidates assembled economically diverse bases of over 60 million voters apiece. President Trump may have won the largest shares of voters [in] struggling locales, but the largest proportion of his overall votes came from prosperous counties. Similarly, large shares of Americans in distressed and otherwise lagging counties voted for Clinton.
Economic distress may have been a major election narrative, but the data suggests it is more narrative than law of nature. We prefer stories with identifiable heroes and villains, but nature keeps flinging ambiguity and nuance our way.
Distressed communities index map via Axios.
The top map is organized by counties, and counties tend to be larger but less populous in the Plains and Mountain states. But if economic distress was a governing factor in the presidential election, just looking at the maps, what was the difference that made the electoral difference in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota? Or in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio? Or between Wyoming and New Mexico?
I don't know, of course, but the economic distress narrative seems more lazy than explanatory. And unhelpful for explaining the guy who thinks you need a tech background to run a tech company, but not a government background to run a government.
That's not say progressives should throw up their hands and write off red states and distressed communities that voted PLUTOCRAT in 2016. There are good reasons not to that have less to do with the presidency than with control of the next redistricting, state legislatures, and Congress.
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
A Minnesota man accused of committing war crimes when he commanded a Nazi-led unit during World War II contributed thousands of dollars to the Republican National Committee, a Daily Beast review of federal campaign records found.
Michael Karkoc is wanted for arrest in Poland after the country’s war crimes prosecutors said they are “100 percent” certain that Karkoc commanded a SS company and that there was “no doubt” that his men razed two Polish villages, killing 40 civilians. In July, Poland requested Karkoc’s extradition from the U.S. and is waiting for a decision. (The Justice Department said it does not comment on extradition requests.)
In June 2013, the Associated Press reported Karkoc was a SS officer and that one of his men told Soviet investigators that his unit had been ordered to “liquidate all the residents” of the village of Chlaniow, Poland, resulting in the deaths of men, women and children.
After the AP published its exposé, Karkoc made three separate contributions to the Republican National Committee totaling $3,850 between September 2013 and May 2014. These are the only federal campaign contributions he has made, according to available records.
The RNC did not respond to a request for comment.
Karkoc’s son, Andriy Karkos, told The Daily Beast the contributions were made only because Karkoc has been a “lifelong Republican.”
“He has a picture of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in his bedroom,” Karkos said.
Asked to explain his father’s affinity for the GOP, Karkos replied: “Republicans oppose communists…Under FDR, the White House was penetrated by Soviet agents of influence.”
“I’m assuming he voted Republican [in the 2016 presidential election],” Karkos added, remarking that he sees no reason for his father to have changed his support for the GOP.
I had a landlord who was a Polish immigrant of that generation and he worshiped Ronald Reagan too. I don't think he was a an actual Nazi. But he could have been. He certainly didn't like Jews. But then he also believed so fervently in his rights as a "property owner" that he would come into my apartment day or night even when I was sleeping and there was nothing I could do to convince him that I had rights too. He would wave his deed in my face and scream "This is my house! I own this! You own nothing!" So, he may not have been a Nazi but he was at the very least a Paulite.
Asking David Bossie if doing something to help the GOP win is worth it "at any cost" is kind of hilarious. There is nothing on this earth he wouldn't do to win. He is a ruthless political assassin and I would not be surprised if he's putting together oppo on the Roy Moore accusers right now.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade called out Citizen United President David Bossie after he asserted that Alabama Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore must win even though he is accused of molesting underage girls.
During a Wednesday interview on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade asked Bossie if President Donald Trump had done the right thing by endorsing Moore.
“Absolutely,” Bossie replied. “We have to win this Senate race.”
“At any cost?” Kilmeade interrupted.
“Well, I don’t know what that means, Brian,” Bossie snapped. “But I think that the cost of this election of having a liberal Democrat who is for open borders and for gun confiscation and for abortion on demand is not what the people of Alabama want.”
“I think that tax reform becomes endangered if we lose a Senate seat,” he added.
“The Young Republicans say, ‘I’m not voting for him,'” Kilmeade interrupted again. “The GOP doesn’t support him, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell doesn’t support him. So, it’s the lesser of two evils?”
“The people of Alabama get to vote,” Bossie remarked, curbing his defense of Moore. “And I think that’s the important takeaway is that the people of Alabama have the next couple of weeks to decide.”
Many years back (before the pumpkin spice craze) on Thanksgiving eve I ran this recipe for Pumpkin Cake on the blog and received a very nice note from Washington Post journalist Karen Tumulty saying that she'd been tooling around the web for something to bake and tried it and liked it. Ever since then I've called it Karen Tumulty cake.
It's easy even for non bakers and it really is very good.
* 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
* 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar,
* 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
* a 10-inch nonstick bundt pan
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bundt pan generously.
Sift flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, ginger and vanilla in another bowl.
Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, just until smooth.
Spoon batter into pan, then bake until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.
Whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake, sprinkle with chopped walnuts (keep a little icing in reserve to drizzle lightly over walnuts) then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.
The flavors actually improve with time so you can make it ahead if you like.
I wrote about the latest action to feed Trump's obsession to rid America of all foreigners for Salon this morning. But because he doesn't really understand who is foreign and who isn't he's got a little problem:
President Trump issued two presidential pardons on Tuesday and to the nation's great relief they didn't go to anyone named Manafort or Flynn. They were for a couple of other turkeys called Drumstick and Wishbone and in his usual classy fashion he joked around about how he loved to rescind his predecessor's orders and had looked into withdrawing the pardons for last year's turkeys but was told he couldn't do it. He seemed quite pleased with himself.
Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans not feeling quite so happy this Thanksgiving. The Trump administration dropped a lovely bombshell this week on the 58,000 Haitians who came to America after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 as part of the temporary permit program and told them they have to leave.
Recall that these Haitians were displaced by a massive earthquake in 2010 that killed over 100,000 people and destroyed an estimated 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings.There were so many bodies they had to be buried in mass graves. Nearly all infrastructure, including communications airport, roads and power were destroyed. Cholera broke out and killed more than 8,000 people. In other words the country was decimated.
The disaster was so monumental that help and pledges came in from all over the world. But the task has been overwhelming and corruption has been rife, particularly in one egregious case involving the American Red Cross which NPR and Pro Publica reported in 2015 had mismanaged $500 million dollars that had been donated for disaster relief and rebuilding of the country with very little to show for it. Seven years later the country has barely begun to fully recover, at least partly due to the fact that much of the help they were promised never materialized.
Haiti is one of the most impoverished countries in the world and the poorest in the Americas. It has a population of 11 million and the average life expectancy is only 50 years. According to the World Bank, "more than 6 million out of 10.4 million (59%) Haitians live under the national poverty line of US$2.41 per day and over 2.5 million (24%) live under the national extreme poverty line of US$1.23 per day." It is not exactly the land of opportunity.
Nonetheless, the Trump administration has decided that despite the fact that many of these people have American children and are working and contributing to the country they have to go back. They are determined to deport as many people as possible regardless of their circumstances, what they are facing in their home countries and how much they have enriched our communities. For now this seems to be the final word for these Haitians but Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin, Chris Van Hollen and Dianne Feinstein have proposed legislation to protect undocumented immigrants living under temporary protected status in the future by allowing them to apply for permanent legal status after three years. It's unlikely this will ever pass with the immigrant hating Trump in the White House but it could happen if the Democrats take control in 2020.
And that could happen as a direct result of such harsh and cruel policies. Right now Puerto Rico is still in the midst of a catastrophe not all that different from what happened in Haiti in 2010. It has not faced the massive loss of life because there was warning of the hurricane and people were able to prepare. But the broken infrastructure and loss of basic necessities in the disaster's wake is also devastating. And in this case, the island is an American territory which could have expected the kind of professional, efficient disaster relief that any American state would receive.
We know that didn't happen in the immediate aftermath. The response to Hurricane Maria was a disgrace and if the administration wasn't plagued with scandals, gaffes, investigations, palace intrigue and non-stop misconduct and incompetence, the president's reaction to the disaster and his behavior when he went to visit would have been the low point. We've already seen one glaring example of corruption with the rewarding of a very expensive contract to restore power to an inexperienced friend of Trump's interior secretary Ryan Zinke. (The project is a mess.)That's just one of many shocking examples of Trump's malfeasance, almost forgotten now in the avalanche of news that's happened since.
However, Puerto Rico is still in serious crisis. The unofficial death toll as gathered by CNN is around 500 people. The LA Times reports that economist Tony Villamil, an expert in Puerto Rico, believes that it “going to take a decade at minimum for the island to recover and regain some sense of normalcy.The ports, the power grid, the highways all need to be rebuilt with significant improvements. There needs to be a strong public-private sector relationship that is developed to help in these efforts.”
To date Congress has approved $5 billion in aid for Puerto Rico. Governor Ricardo Rossello has requested nearly $94 billion more. The chances of that happening with this GOP congress are remote, to say the least. Their priority is placating their wealthy benefactors with gigantic tax cuts.
The people of Puerto Rico are Americans and like every other American,they can move wherever they want. And that is exactly what they are doing. The government's poor response has people leaving the island at a rate of 2,000 people a day. According to the NY Times, 168,000 Puerto Ricans have emigrated to Florida since the hurricane and many more are expected. And since they know very well that the island is being neglected and it's presumed it will take years to repair, they are putting down roots on the mainland.
Unlike the Haitians and Nicaraguans who are in the US on a temporary permit, they can stay. They can go to school, work, and start businesses. They can also remember who it was that threw paper towels when he came to the island for a photo op and then never bothered to talk about the crisis again.
And they can do something else once they take up residency on the mainland: vote.
President Trump is in Florida for Thanksgiving. At some point during his sumptuous feast perhaps the fact that he only won the state by 1.2% in the last election will come up in the conversation and maybe someone will mention that next time the state will be filled with new voters whose lives were upended by hurricane Maria. He will ask how long before they can be deported back to the island and someone will tell him that they can stay as long as they like. It might just ruin his holiday.