Donald Trump is taking credit for backing off his administration's proposal to allow big game trophies into the Unites States and acting like it makes him a hero. He's no hero and neither are his sons.
But still, it's good news that they won't be doing the sick they they were going to do. So there's that.
Here are some lions and elephants in the wild for us to enjoy:
People who want to kill these magnificent creatures are sociopaths.
Vanity Fair's big story this week giving details of "May 10 meeting in the Oval Office where the president betrayed his intelligence community by leaking the content of a classified, and highly sensitive, Israeli intelligence operation to two high-ranking Russian envoys, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov."
This was the original story from last May in the Washington Post:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump’s decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and National Security Agency.
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
Recall that this was the unannounced meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister held the morning after he fired Comey and which he only allowed the Russian press to attend. That was the meeting where he told them he'd fired Comey because he was a "nut job" and that now the pressure was off of him about Russia.
Seriously people, what would he have to do to make Republicans think there might be something odd going on with Trump and Russia?
Josh Marshall notes the Vanity Fair piece and adds:
We’re seeing a lot of coverage today of reports that US intelligence officials warned their Israeli counterparts to be careful sharing information with Donald Trump because he might be compromised by the Russians. This is not new information. Indeed, it is an example of just how much and how early we’ve known about the crisis in the White House, with still relatively little attention being given to the fact of it.
This news was first reported in January in the Israeli press – and not just in the Israeli press but in the English language Israeli press, so readily accessible in the United States. Indeed, a number of publications including TPM picked up this news at the time. Here’s a January 13th post of mine excerpting a key passage from the English language version of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The unnamed top US intelligence official told his Israeli intelligence counterparts that Vladimir Putin had ‘leverages of pressure’ over then President-Elect Trump and that they should be cautious giving him or those working for him sensitive intelligence because it might end up in the hands of the Iranians.
He also notes that everything points to Trump being blackmailed. It does. Or at least to the fact that Trump believes he could be blackmailed.
In case you were wondering what the significance of the Flynn news this week-end, this piece by former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade will fill you in:
The report by the New York Times that Michael Flynn has withdrawn from a joint defense agreement with President Donald Trump might indicate that he is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. If so, this could be a significant turning point in the investigation.
First, what is a joint defense agreement? A joint defense agreement is a pact among attorneys for multiple targets or subjects in a criminal case in which they agree to share information. The agreement may be written or unwritten. Any joint defense agreement will be defined by its explicit terms, but generally, under such an agreement, attorneys have a duty to keep the confidences of all of the clients covered by the agreement. The attorneys also have a duty to avoid conflicts of interest as to any of the clients. The attorneys can compare notes, allocate work efficiently by dividing tasks and avoiding duplication, and develop a unified strategy.
The main advantage of joint defense agreements is that the information that they share is protected by a form of the attorney-client privilege, known by some courts as a joint interest privilege. These agreements can help targets or subjects sidestep the so-called “prisoner’s dilemma,” in which they must decide in a vacuum whether to help each other by remaining silent or betray each other by cooperating with authorities. When subjects or targets form a unified defense strategy, it is more difficult for prosecutors to “flip” targets, and use them as cooperators against their co-conspirators.
In the special counsel’s investigation, it has been reported that members of the administration have entered into a joint defense agreement. This makes sense because as they field requests from Mueller and his team for documents and interviews, they can work together to share the work and develop a unified defense strategy.
But what does it mean if Flynn has decided to withdraw from the defense agreement? It could mean that he and his attorney have decided that his interests have diverged from the other members of the agreement. Perhaps Flynn and his attorney have decided to pursue a different strategy. For example, they may decide against voluntarily turning over documents and instead to litigate disclosure issues in court. But such details can usually be worked out within the defense team. For that reason, it seems more likely that Flynn has withdrawn from the agreement because he has decided to cooperate with Mueller to provide truthful information and possibly testimony in exchange for leniency for any crimes of which he is convicted.
Recent reports suggest that Flynn has significant exposure to criminal prosecution. Mueller effectively fired a shot against Flynn’s bow when he charged Paul Manafort with violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act, among other offenses. Similarly, reports say that Flynn belatedly filed notice with the Department of Justice regarding his own lobbying work for the government of Turkey. Even more concerning, other reports indicate that Flynn participated in meetings to discuss the kidnapping and rendition to Turkey of cleric Fethullah Gulen from his refuge in Pennsylvania. Gulen is a rival of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The congressional testimony of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates in May provides further evidence of criminal exposure for Flynn. Her testimony about Flynn’s contacts with Russians suggest that his conversations may have been intercepted by a wiretap authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This surveillance could yield a great deal of incriminating information about Flynn and his contacts with Russia on behalf of the Trump team. Yates was careful to protect classified information during her testimony, so we do not know all of the details about his conversations, but Yates testified that she was concerned that Flynn was “compromised.” If so, he could be charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government while serving as a U.S. government official.
We don't really know what he's doing. But Flynn is in the crosshairs for some very, very serious crimes including this news that he may have been involved in a kidnapping plot for 15 million dollars. People tried to warn Trump that he was crazy as a loon and he didn't listen. In fact, they seemed to be very much on the same page.
Flynn was very, very close to Trump during the campaign, the transition and the first few weeks in the White House. He knows things.
Why was President Trump so intensely focused on protecting Michael Flynn?
You’ll recall that Flynn was supposedly fired because he lied to Vice President Pence about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign and the transition, claiming he had only exchanged pleasantries with them when in fact they had discussed substantive policy matters, something Pence then repeated to the media. This was always an odd explanation for the firing. Even more odd was the fact that immediately, President Trump began telling anyone who would listen what a great guy Michael Flynn is and how unfair the whole mess was to him.
Given that Trump is not known for being loyal to those who work for him, that was rather curious. Donald Trump looks out for Donald Trump, and if you become a liability to him, he’ll very quickly start acting as though he barely knew you. Now consider what Trump proceeded to do with regard to Michael Flynn:
The day after Flynn resigned, Trump asked FBI Director James B. Comey to stop investigating the former national security adviser. “I hope you can let this go,” Comey reported Trump saying in a memo he wrote immediately after their meeting.
Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats to intervene with Comey to get him to back off his investigation of Flynn.
Unlike with previous aides who have displeased him, after he fired Flynn, Trump made a very public show of praising him to the media.
Months after Flynn was fired and as the investigation was accelerating, Trump kept in contact with Flynn. “I just got a message from the president to stay strong,” Flynn told friends at a dinner in April.
In May, Trump scolded his staff for criticizing Flynn to the media and had his spokesmen issue statements lavishly praising Flynn.
It’s almost as though Trump wanted to make sure Flynn didn’t turn on him.
I will speculate wildly here that I would be wondering if Trump didn't approve that 15 million dollar kidnapping plot. He is just that dumb and --- he's a man who has shown over and over again that the only attention he ever paid to politics was watching "the shows" on cable news. He had no ethical boundaries in business and he didn't understand that they existed in government either. In fact, he's still making money out of the oval office as we speak and there seems to be little appetite by the congress to do anything about it.
This plot would easily be one that Trump and his crazy pal Flynn would think was very, very clever. Flynn had a vendetta against the Intelligence Community and Trump is a fucking moron. That's exactly the kind of thing they'd believe was a very excellent way to conduct foreign policy.
Operation Rescue fundraises for Roy Moore. Of course.
Women's rights activists have always said that the "pro-life" zealots are hostile to women and girls. Their insistence that even victims of incest be forced to give birth to their own siblings was a clue. Here we have them making their priorities clear:
Fellow Pro-Life American,
Radical abortionists, working hand-in-hand with the Obama-Clinton machine, are targeting pro-life hero and conservative Christian candidate for Senate Roy Moore.
And establishment Republicans, led by spineless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have abandoned him in his time of need! Roy Moore needs the support of pro-life grassroots conservatives like you and me more than ever. Can I count on you to help us come to Judge Moore's defense and continue fighting for life against radical enemies with your most generous gift of $25, $50, $100, $250, or more today?
I know Judge Roy Moore to be a dedicated Christian and social conservative who will not compromise on matters of life.
He is staunchly pro-life and a fearless defender of religious freedom.
Judge Moore is being unfairly targeted by unproven allegations cooked up by pro-abortion Democrats. And unfortunately, his poll numbers are starting to take a hit.
But even worse than these dirty politics is the betrayal by the Republican Establishment. They have abandoned this pro-life hero, leaving him to fend for himself. Mitch McConnell would rather Alabama send a pro-abortion leftist to Washington than this proven defender of life!
We can't leave Judge Moore to fight this battle alone.
After forty years in public service, Roy Moore would be one of our strongest advocates in the Senate.
We can count on him to fight for pro-life legislation at every opportunity, to advocate on behalf of pro-life Supreme Court Justices, to work toward defunding Planned Parenthood, and to stand in the gap for the unborn.
Establishment Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for jumping to rash conclusions and not standing by this conservative Christian.
Roy Moore has been abandoned by the GOP and needs our support if he's going to win on December 12.
The attacks are only going to increase the closer we get to Election Day, so we need to do everything we can in our national PR campaign in support of Judge Moore.
But, we need your emergency gift of $25 or more if we're going to roll out this national strategy and ensure pro-life hero Roy Moore is elected in Alabama. Can we count on you to stand with this pro-life hero in this critically important special election? Thank you for your support, and please keep Judge Moore in your prayers.
Operation Rescue is a terrorist organization. Roy Moore is being supported by terrorists.
But you knew that. And they know it. And tens of millions of Americans are cheering them on.
The release of a highly anticipated Bollywood blockbuster has been delayed after a politician from India's governing party offered a bounty of $1.5 million for the heads of the movie's star and director amid outcry that the film distorted Hindu legend.
The movie “Padmavati” — depicting the life of legendary 14th-century queen Padmini — sparked the latest in a string of flash points from right-wing groups that perceive more clout under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has courted Hindu nationalists as part of his political base.
Often Hindu outrage is stoked by little more than rumors, including deadly riots and vigilante violence over false claims that Muslims were killing cows sacred to Hindu culture. But this time with the film, the reason for the outrage is even more puzzling.
Members of the Rajput Karni Sena, a group associated with the warrior Rajput caste, claim it misrepresents history by depicting a love affair between the queen and a Muslim invader. The group is further upset that the queen's midriff is exposed in a song sequence. They have called for a nationwide strike and backed the death threats against star Deepika Padukone and the film's director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
But Bhansali insists that the plot has no such love scene. And the movie trailer pays ample homage to Rajput bravery and their role in resisting Muslim armies.
The death threats — against one of India's most popular actresses and a prominent filmmaker — brought quick backlash. They were sharply denounced by leaders of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, and the home minister in the southern Karnataka state, Ramalinga Reddy, ordered protection for Padukone and her family.
Also at stake are the boundaries for the world's most prolific film industry, in which some directors have increasingly tried to push back against decades of film censorship for political reasons.
Chief ministers of a number of states demanded that controversial scenes be removed before the film is screened. The movie's producers have indefinitely delayed the film's release.
The news agency ANI reported that Surajpal Amu, a state-level media coordinator of the BJP, told a rally Sunday: “We will reward the ones beheading [Padukone and Bhansali] with Rs 10 crore, and also take care of their family’s needs.” A crore signifies 10 million rupees.
Amu repeated the statement to the Indian Express. Video from the rally also showed Amu saying, “There's no need to discuss making cuts to the film. We won't allow it to play in theaters at all.”
An official from the BJP condemned Amu and said the party was considering taking legal action against him.
“It’s absolutely appalling. What have we gotten ourselves into? And where have we reached as a nation?” said the actress Padukone, who plays the leading role of Queen Padmavati and who recently appeared in “XXX: Return of Xander Cage” alongside Vin Diesel.
There's nothing at all suspicious about this. Why do you ask?
The Trump administration really is slow-walking the Russia sanctions. I'm sure it's just a coincidence:
For months, a bipartisan group of senators has put pressure on the administration over its reluctance to move forward on enacting new sanctions against Russia. The law stipulating those sanctions—which President Trump was forced to sign in August after the legislation passed with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate—has come under direct assault from the White House, dating back to the dog days of summer when it was first being crafted.
More recently, though, the Trump administration blew past an Oct. 1 deadline to issue guidance on how it would implement the sanctions, which will target individuals and entities in the Russian defense and intelligence sectors in retaliation for its election meddling and incursions into eastern Europe.
When lawmakers asked questions about the delay, they were left in the dark. It was only after Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) pressed Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan directly late last month during a phone call that the State Department belatedly issued guidance on how it would implement the sanctions—26 days after it was due. Corker—who has been locked in his own feuds and disagreements with Trump—got results. But it shouldn’t have even reached that point, lawmakers argue.
“I don’t accept the premise that the president can ignore Congress, and that we can’t enforce that,” Cardin said. “The president has a constitutional responsibility to carry out the laws that we pass. That’s a constitutional responsibility. And he’s violating the Constitution if he doesn’t carry it out.”
Yeah? Well, so what?
Cardin and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, have threatened procedural tactics including blocking Trump’s nominees to key foreign policy and national security positions. The reality, though, is that Congress is close to powerless in compelling the administration to act.
“While we may not be able to directly enforce it, I understand that we have limits as to how we can enforce. Congress doesn’t have a military that’s under our command,” Cardin added. “The president does. But we have purse strings that are under our command. And we could use that. We have a lot of power that we can exercise.”
But you'll notice freedom is out as a presidential shibboleth. This president doesn't care about freedom so much as winning. Instead of parading around the mess hall in person with a plastic turkey, the sitting president graced troops with his telepresence:
"Everybody's talking about the progress you've made in the last few months since I opened it up,” Trump said about his decision to add a small number of troops to the 16-year long conflict in Afghanistan. “We opened it up, we said go ahead, we’re going to fight to win. We're not fighting anymore to just walk around, we're fighting to win. And you people, you’ve really turned it around in the past three to four months like nobody’s seen and they are talking about it. So thank you very much, brave, incredible fighters.”
“We’re being talked about as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win,” Trump said. “But we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before. They were letting you play even. We’re letting you win.”
Which, of course, is only possible because Himself is in the White House.
The Thanksgiving teleconference got under the skin of at least one retired general:
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, took issue with Trump’s comments and aired his discontent shortly after on CNN, where he serves as a military analyst.
“We have been winning,” Hertling said. “You’re talking to soldiers and military personnel around the world who have been in this fight for 17 years, and to suddenly be told they’re winning now when they weren’t winning before is somewhat insulting.”
But we can probably cut the sitting president some slack. His mind has been elsewhere lately.
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
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.