Trump Hands Putin Another Gift

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:28 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous at the Washington Post: Trump Ends Covert CIA Program to Arm Anti-Assad Rebels in Syria, a Move Sought by Moscow.
[Donald] Trump has decided to end the CIA's covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

...Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump's interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests.

...After the Trump-Putin meeting, the United States and Russia announced an agreement to back a new cease-fire in southwest Syria, along the Jordanian border, where many of the CIA-backed rebels have long operated. Trump described the limited cease-fire deal as one of the benefits of a constructive working relationship with Moscow.
To describe this as "a move long sought by Moscow" is an understatement. My friend (and expert in this area) Leah McElrath explains:
By ceasing U.S. military aid to anti-Assad forces in Syria, Trump gave Russian Putin a gift Russia has sought for more than a century: Earlier this year, Putin signed a treaty with Assad to establish and expand a naval base on the coast of Syria that is allowed to house up to eleven nuclear-powered warships at a time for 49 years, with ability to extend for another 25 years.

Historically, a central geopolitical goal for Russia has been to conquer enough territory to obtain a warm-water port for itself which will enable it to reach the Mediterranean Sea and, from there, the Atlantic Ocean. The vast majority of its extensive coastline is in the north in cold-waters that tend to freeze over. The warm-water coastal areas in Russia front land-locked seas.

So, by withdrawing the relatively minimal support provided by the U.S. to the anti-Assad forces, the likelihood of Assad killing everyone who is left opposing him in Syria is much higher. And Putin gets Russia its warm-water port after more than a century of effort by the country, as it has moved through its various iterations as an empire, a socialist union, and an authoritarian federation.
This is, of course, the second long-sought gift Trump has delivered to Putin, the first being subversion the of U.S.-Germany alliance. As I noted in May: "Trump is working very hard to undermine goodwill with our NATO allies, with a special insult to Germany. Since the end of WWII, Russia has had an explicit objective of busting up the U.S.-German alliance, because the combined strength of the U.S. and Germany, in both military might and democratic cultural influence, provided a check on the empiric aspirations of the Soviet Union, now Russia. Trump's subversion of the U.S-Germany relationship is providing a dangerous opening to Putin, who has already made abundantly clear his intent to rebuild Russia's reach with his annexation of Crimea and moves in Ukraine."

Aspirations about which two female world leaders — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May — have explicitly warned Trump. (Three female world leaders, if we count Hillary Clinton. Which we should.) But one of the problems with choosing a rank misogynist to run the country is that he won't listen to women, especially when he's also a disloyal scofflaw who is intent on making Putin's wish fulfillment the centerpiece of his presidency.

So here we are.

One last item: Last month, I detailed the curious history of this "work with Russia to defeat IS in Syria" foreign policy approach — and how, before the 2016 election, joining forces with Russia to defeat ISIS was not a mainstream position, on either side of the aisle, because, as Hillary Clinton explained during the second presidential debate, Putin "isn't interested in ISIS" and Russia's assault on Aleppo was instead intended to destroy Syrian rebels opposed to Assad's regime.

Nonetheless, during the 2016 election, the one in which Russia interfered with the objective of critically weakening Clinton, every single one of her leading opponents suggested working with Russia in some manner, using the justification of joining forces to defeat ISIS.

Her Democratic primary opponent Bernie Sanders, and all of her general election opponents — Donald Trump, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson — all four from across the political spectrum, and all four with campaign ties to Russia, each offered a policy of aligning with Russia, with the rationale of defeating ISIS, a foreign policy position that was not being advocated by any serious politicians before the 2016 election.

And a rationale that has never made, and continues to make, no sense based on the most basic understanding of Russia's objectives and alliances in Syria.

Trump, whose campaign appears to have received the most direct help from Russia and may have colluded with Russia during the election, is now the president. And so he is the one who is now enacting this "futile and dangerous" policy.

Hillary Clinton was the only candidate who we can be certain never would have handed this gift to Putin.

Dirty-Minded Decorators

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Jen

Aw, look at the sweet cake for Sarah-Maude's second birthday:



Although, those balloons look a little odd, don't they? Let's take a closer look...

[eyes bulging] Great Scott! Hide the children!!

And I KNOW you see what I see, people, so don't even try to accuse me of having my mind in the gutter. It's the Fireman cake all over again.

Eric N., thank goodness this was for a safely oblivious 2-year-old. Still, given how obvious those balloons are, I'm pretty sure I'd steer clear of this bakery in the future. Unless it was for a bachelorette party, of course.


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Comic for July 20, 2017

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:59 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting on my lap looking up at me with a serious expression
"Pet me."

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

I've got some stuff to do this afternoon, so I will be taking the rest of the day off. I'll see you back here tomorrow!

The Democracy Killers, Part Two

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:00 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Part One.]

I have said once or twice or thrice or four times or a million times now that the Republican Party is currently behaving like a party who believes they will never have to be accountable to voters again.

Exhibit Three Jillion:

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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Of course he did. Karen DeYoung and Philip Rucker report at the Washington Post:
After his much-publicized two-and-a-quarter-hour meeting early this month with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, [Donald] Trump chatted informally with the Russian leader for up to an additional hour later the same day.

The second meeting, undisclosed at the time, took place at a dinner for G-20 leaders, a senior administration official said. At some point during the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump approached alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter.

...The dinner conversation with Putin was first reported Monday by Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, in a newsletter to group clients. Bremmer said the meeting began "halfway" into the meal and lasted "roughly an hour." The senior administration official said it began with the dessert course, but did not comment on its length.

Pool reporters covering Trump noted that his and Putin's motorcades were among the last to leave the event, departing within minutes of each other just before midnight.

Trump lashed out at the media for reporting on his undisclosed meeting with Putin, saying the "fake news" was "sick" and "dishonest."
And, as per usual, that is projection. It isn't the press reporting this undisclosed meeting who are sick and dishonest; it's the President of the United States, who continues to try to conceal his interactions with a foreign adversary and its president, who is sick and dishonest.

I don't even know what else to say anymore. Unless and until the Republican Party has had enough of this rank disloyalty from the president — and clearly that isn't going to happen anytime soon, since most of them are just as disloyal and the rest are fucking cowards — there is nothing I can do except document the horror of watching our democracy slide away under the stomping feet of a vile tyrant.

I Present to You: Bernie Sanders

Jul. 19th, 2017 08:30 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Via Ryan Adams, I saw last night that Bernie Sanders did an interview on MSNBC with Ari Melber, during which Melber asked him if he would do things differently during the 2016 Democratic primary, knowing what we know now about Russian hacking and their attempts to disrupt the democratic process.

First Sanders was evasive, and then he was very blunt indeed: "Of course we knew that they were trying to cause divisiveness within the Democratic Party. That's no great secret."

Yep. That's just Bernie Sanders flatly admitting that his campaign knew the Russians were trying to influence the Democratic primary (against Hillary Clinton). Note that means he didn't bother to alert his supporters to the fact that they were being used as agents in Russia's disinformation campaign — and why would he, since he chose to leverage it to his advantage.

At 4:00 in the video, Melber says he wants to "turn to Russia, the hacks, 2016...but look at it on the Democratic primary side." He brings up the DNC hack and notes that emails from that hack were used to call for then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's resignation, and that Sanders was one of the people who called for her resignation based on those hacked emails. Melber asks: "When you look back at that, which happened after the leaks, she did ultimately get ousted right before the convention — what we didn't fully know then that is so understood now is that those were partly operations of Russia, according to U.S. intelligence. Did you, in a way, benefit from that, and would you do it differently then, knowing what we know now?"

Sanders replies, "Well, knowing what we know now, you know, doesn't help me figure out what I would've done back then." He then goes into a long (and entirely correct) monologue about how Russian hacking is "unacceptable" and is intended to destabilize our democracy, and that Russia must "pay a price for that. That cannot be allowed to continue."

At 5:35, Melber tries again: "But at the time, I mean, it does look different in hindsight. Did you know then that this might have been part of their design — was to leak these emails precisely so there would be more riffs in the Democratic Party?"

Sanders replies, "What we knew is — well, of course we knew that. And of course we knew that they were trying to cause divisiveness within the Democratic Party. That's no great secret."

At that point, Melber moves on to the next subject.

There is nothing I can say that I haven't already said dozens of times before about this guy. I strongly suggest the Democratic Party immediately replace him as chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and quit pretending that Sanders' behavior is anything but a malignancy within the party that needs to be removed.

Initial Discomfort

Jul. 19th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Jen

Monograms can add that perfect crowning touch of elegance to your wedding cake.


Or, they can look like this:

Proof that sometimes it's better to quit before letting your five-year-old write on the cake.


Still, it could be worse.

The monogram could match the rest of the cake:

Hey, it's not easy to make tinfoil look this good.


If you do find a mistake in your cake's monogram, don't panic. There are plenty of seamless ways for your baker to fix the error.

This isn't one of them.


Now, I'm all for sharing new words, broadening folks' horizons, furthering education, etc, but if you have to explain to the baker of your wedding cake what a monogram is - a "T, J, and H" put together, for example - then maybe, just maybe, a few alarm bells should go off.

Or I suppose you could just take your chances.

After all, what could go wrong?




At least the quotes add a little something "extra."


Thanks to today's wedding wreckporters Anony M., Hilary R., Cyndi P., & Cyndee M., who think all bakers should be required to ask, "Can I quote you on that?"


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Comic for July 19, 2017

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:59 pm
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Question of the Day

Jul. 18th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Suggested by Shaker Sue Kerr: Did your family watch/read the news when you were young? Did they take a paper? Have a preferred news station? Did they include you in these habits?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

Maude Save Me

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Trump has never shown an interest in policy detail. Ever. And still there are members of the press who are "surprised" by his lack of interest in policy detail.

You know, if the press had actually focused on policy for more than six seconds during the entire campaign, instead of drooling over "optics" for 18 months, perhaps more people would have noticed that Trump DOESN'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT SHIT AND DOESN'T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING.

Just a thought.


Jul. 18th, 2017 10:22 pm
tealin: (think)
[personal profile] tealin
I have pretty much always drawn while listening to the radio. From my first Harry Potter drawings, done behind the counter of a rarely-visited gift shop with mandatory country music playing, through a few years of film and musical soundtracks and half the Vancouver Public Library's collection of audiobooks, to the discovery of Radio 4 and all that. I need a chew toy to distract the verbal half of my brain and let the bit doing the spatial/fine motor work get on with it.

Once before I've had to make do without much to listen to: In 2007, long after I'd got used to having a computer at my desk with all its streaming and/or distracting opportunities, I interned at James Baxter's studio, the upper floor of an old warehouse and last preserve of analogue animation desks in LA. The other interns had laptops, but I only had my tiny iPod Nano, and after a week or two I'd memorised pretty much everything on it. But an odd thing happened when I ran out of external stimulation, and my Left Brain's clamour for distraction was perforce denied long enough: it shut up and went away to do its own thing, and good lord did I ever get a lot done.

I've been in the same position the last couple of days. I'm in Bristol doing a few days on-site at the studio for which I've been freelancing, doing rotations, the sort of work on which I most "need" something to listen to, and during which I get most of my radio listening done. I do have my laptop with me, just in case, but have not turned it on yet, nevermind accessed the WiFi. And my brain is doing the same thing. It's a little bit miraculous: I thought I was another casualty of our hyper-distracted age, yet here I am, doing relatively tedious work in a silent room, perfectly content.

It's made me resolve to turn off as much as I can when I get back home. I can't imagine going fully without the radio, as it does help to keep me on task when the infinite distractions of working from home (snacks, chores, errands, etc) come knocking, but I need to budget other distractions much more strictly. They aren't doing me much good, anyway – certainly less than what I'd gain with improved concentration and productivity.

Funny how these lessons keep coming back around every few years until you learn them ...

Here Is Something Nice

Jul. 18th, 2017 04:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Mark Freeley was walking his dogs, Storm and Sara, along the beach near the Long Island Sound when Storm ran off and jumped into the water after detecting a deer fawn in need of help. He swam to the struggling baby and grabbed her by the neck, dragging her to shore, where Storm proceeded to nudge and paw the panting deer, trying to help her recover.

image of a large white dog lying beside a deer fawn on a rocky beach

Freeley then wisely contacted an animal rescue team to help.
When Frank Floridia and Erica Kutzing of the Strong Island Animal Rescue League tried to get close to the deer, however, the skittish animal ran into the water again — this time, swimming even further out than before.

Floridia jumped into the water to save it.

"It was a do-or-die situation," the rescuer told the New York Daily News. "I really didn't have much of a choice. If I didn't go in the water, the deer would've died."

Thankfully, Floridia managed to bring the deer back to land. He and Kutzing then transported it to the Star Foundation, a Long Island nonprofit animal rescue organization.
In a Facebook update, the Strong Island Animal Rescue League reported the deer "will receive fluids, feedings, and when old enough she will be released back into the wild. She has a few superficial wounds from her exciting day but will survive."

Rescuer Kutzing says of the heroic dog who started this remarkable rescue: "I think we could all learn something from Storm. If we just learn to treat each other nicely and look out for each other, despite our differences, the world would be a better place."

And how. Good dog.

Kids Today

Jul. 18th, 2017 03:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Content Note: Transphobia.]

Teenager Jasper Behrends defied the administrators at his northern Virginia high school and kept doing the art he wanted to do, even though the vice principal told him "although he had 'no problem' with the LGBTQ theme, there is a 'time and a place' for 'these things' and that it did not belong in public schools."

Imagine being the kind of person who tells a transgender student that their school is neither the time nor the place for art about being transgender.

An educational institution that doesn't acknowledge individual students' lived experiences is not only creating a missed opportunity for privileged students and engaging in a cruel neglect of marginalized students, but it's providing a poor education.

Despite that bullshit:

On behalf of the College Board, I am pleased to inform you that your artwork has been selected for inclusion in the 2017-2018 AP® Studio Art Exhibit. The exhibit is produced annually by the AP Program to honor and celebrate the work of outstanding AP Studio Art students.
Jasper "earned the highest possible score on his Studio Art Exhibit." And will undoubtedly go on to do better things with his life than be a shitbird to students one is meant to support and protect.

Congratulations, Jasper. Your art is exquisite.
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