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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

The Netherlands Welcomes Trump, in his own words. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

... CW: We're the laughingstock of the world. But, like us, others have to laugh so they don't cry or scream or hunker down in a suvivalist's crouch.

Los Angeles Times: "The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were revealed this morning in Los Angeles. 'La La Land' did what 800-lb gorillas are supposed to do: dominate the Oscar nominations tally, pulling down 14, including actor, actress, director and picture. Ava Duvernay’s '13th' joins 'O.J.: Made in America' among best documentary feature nominees, continuing our ongoing conversation about race in the United States. Speaking of which, with Viola Davis, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga getting acting nominations, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely not be so white." This article includes a complete list of the nominees.

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

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Friday
Feb242017

The Commentariat -- February 25, 2017

Drip, Drip, Drippity, Drip, Drip. Greg Miller & Adam Entous of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia.... Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said. The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories.... White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed that the White House communicated with officials with the aim of contesting reporting on Russia, but maintained that the administration did nothing improper. The decision to involve those officials could be perceived as threatening the independence of U.S. spy agencies..., as well as undercutting the credibility of ongoing congressional probes. The effort also involved senior lawmakers with access to classified intelligence about Russia, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.... Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he called CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Burr to express his 'grave concerns about what this means for the independence' of the investigation." -- CW

** Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: "The White House on Friday barred news outlets -- including CNN, the New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times – from attending an off-camera press briefing held by spokesman Sean Spicer...." According to Jeremy Diamond of CNN, the AP & Time boycotted the briefing after learning of the ban. "The Wall Street Journal, which did participate in the briefing, said in a statement that it was unaware of the exclusions and 'had we known at the time, we would not have participated, and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future.' The Washington Post did not have a reporter present at the time of the gaggle." AND here's the icing on the cake: "White House Deputy Comms. Dir. Raj Shah denies reports of a gaggle block against CNN, NYT, Politico and others: — ErikWemple February 24, 2017." Emphasis added. CW: What all those reporters saw happening never happened. Get it? They're "fake news," so they made it up.  Are you going to believe the Trumpoids or a dozen reporters? ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "White House press secretary Sean Spicer barred reporters from several large media outlets from participating in a scheduled press briefing Friday. Two months ago, in a panel discussion, he insisted that open access for the media is 'what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.'” -- CW 

... Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations were prohibited from attending a briefing by President Trump’s press secretary on Friday, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps. Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer only allowed in reporters from a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended.... The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the press corps, quickly rebuked the White House’s actions." -- CW  ...

... CW: There's been a lot of discussion about whether news organizations should attend the White House Correspondents' annual dinner. I say they should all attend, but disinvite the SCROTUS & anyone from his administration of Mad Hatters. ...

... CW: Spicer is looking tough now, beating up on MSM reporters, which is the way Donaldo wants his wise guys to appear. Apparently what upset the SCROTUS the most about Melissa McCarthy's SNL portrayal of Spicer was her double X chromosomes. The Trumpernator thinks girls are weaklings. So you kinda have to hope Trump will explode when he discovers this photo of Spicer playing the sweet, fluffy Easter bunny during a Dubya-era Easter Egg Roll. Aww! So cute & cuddly! Hippity hop, Spicey. Thanks to MAG for the photo:

     ... CW Update. Just so the SCROTUS wouldn't miss seeing Fluffy Cottontail there, I sent him a copy of the photo.

Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "President Trump intensified his slashing attack on the news media during an appearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, reiterating his charge that 'fake news' outlets are 'the enemy of the people.' The opening portion of the president’s free-range, campaign-style speech centered on a declaration of war on the news media — a new foil to replace vanquished political opponents like Hillary Clinton. 'They are very smart, they are very cunning, they are very dishonest,' Mr. Trump said to the delight of the crowd packed into the main ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just south of Washington." (Also linked yesterday afternoon, the story has been updated.) ...

I love the First Amendment — nobody loves it more than me. -- Donald Trump, during his lying liar CPAC speech ...

He means, "... nobody loves it more than I." But it's still a lie, even if you gussy it up with grammatical English. -- Constant Weader

... Eric Levitz of New York: "Trump Praises First Amendment, Calls for Media Suppression and Fewer Protests." The headline says it all.

I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people, I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. I said, ‘Give me a break.’ Because I know the people, I know who they talk to. There were no nine people. -- Donald Trump, in his CPAC speech ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: The story with nine sources was by the WashPo and "set in motion a series of events that ended in [Michael] Flynn’s departure from the Trump White House." The Post got the story right, but the White House kept flubbing its response until somebody pushed Flynn out the door, effectively confirming the Post revelation:

Everything we published regarding Gen. Flynn was true, as confirmed by subsequent events and on-the-record statements from administration officials themselves. The story led directly to the general’s dismissal as national security adviser. Calling press reports fake doesn’t make them so. -- Marty Barron, WashPo executive editor, today

     ... CW: Drumpf has to be the most irresponsible president in American history. The real reason he's attacking the media: journalists already have & will continue to catch him in some unpresidented messes, ones from which he could not escape without having discredited the media. ...

... Trumpinocchio Keeps Telling the Same Damned Lies. Glenn Kessler & Michelle Lee of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Maryland was littered with some of the president’s favorite and frequently cited falsehoods. Here’s a roundup of 13 of his more dubious claims, listed in the order in which he made them." -- CW 

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The White House has confirmed that its chief of staff spoke with top FBI officials about the bureau’s inquiry into links between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia – a conversation which appears to violate justice department rules to ensure the integrity of investigations. The administration had sought to push back against reports from CNN and the Associated Press that the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had asked the FBI’s top two officials to rebut news reports about Trump allies’ ties to Russia. But in doing so, the White House on Friday acknowledged that Priebus, the FBI director, James Comey, and deputy director, Andrew McCabe, had discussed what the FBI knew about Russian ties to the Trump presidential campaign.... Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee – which is also investigating Trump’s ties to Russia – called on Comey to explain the communications.... Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said Priebus 'has committed an outrageous breach of the FBI’s independence' and 'tainted the integrity of the FBI'.” -- CW ...

... Greg Sargent: "President Trump just unleashed another fearsome fusillade of tweets, this time blasting the FBI directly for failing to control leaks. 'The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time,' Trump said. 'They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S.' Trump closed with a demand that the leakers be caught: 'FIND NOW.' Trump’s rage is misdirected. Whatever culpability the FBI bears for its leaking, the better target for Trump’s anger right now is the White House itself. The news Trump was apparently responding to is a self-inflicted White House wound. As CNN first reported [linked below]..., Reince Priebus personally asked the FBI to publicly debunk recent media reports of contacts between Russia and Trump campaign aides during the campaign.... Former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller argued to Chris Hayes last night that Priebus should step down over his conduct, because it was 'absolutely inappropriate' and 'crosses every line.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: This is how sociopathy works: instead of getting mad at yourself or your allies for doing something wrong, you get mad at the tattletales who brought your misdeeds to light. Nothing is ever your fault. I have to say that I did not think Trump would behave in this infantile way once he got the Top Job. I thought there would be plenty of signs of his various pathologies, sure, but that on the whole, he would at least try to "act presidential." Apparently, "President" is a role he is unable to play. ...

... Matthew Nussbaum & Louis Nelson of Politico: "The president’s [Twitterstorm] comes on the same day that at least two cable news channels, CNN and MSNBC, devoted significant airtime to reports that the FBI had refused to publicly dispute news that individuals associated with Trump had been in touch with senior Russian intelligence officials during last year’s presidential campaign. CNN first reported Thursday evening that chief of staff Reince Priebus had asked the FBI to throw cold water on a New York Times story about campaign contacts with Russia, but that the FBI declined. The Associated Press reported a similar story Friday morning. The White House pushed back intensely on the story, laying out a timeline of how it said the communication with the FBI went down, but its own account has shifted over the past 24 hours." -- CW 

Here's another fine example of President Irresponsible. Tim Egan: "Yesterday’s dams are trying to hold back tomorrow’s climate. And what are we doing about it? We’re building a wall along the Mexican border to fix a problem that’s already taken care of itself. A wall that could cost upward of $30 billion.... For Republicans on the Trump train, America First is something you shout at foreigners, not a design for a better country." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... AND This. The New York Times Editors excoriate Trump & J.B. Sessions III for inexcusably reviving private, for-profit federal prisons. Trump & JBSIII are just two nasty old white guys who have never done one good thing in their lives. ...

... More of the Same. Kevin Carey in the New York Times: "The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform. But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.... It’s rare to see efforts to improve test scores having the opposite result.... The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of 'school choice,' the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less 'private' that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work." As for Betsy & her Boss, they don't give a flying fuck about the evidence. -- CW 

Mark Lander & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "President Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser has told his staff that Muslims who commit terrorist acts are perverting their religion, rejecting a key ideological view of other senior Trump advisers and signaling a potentially more moderate approach to the Islamic world. The adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, told the staff of the National Security Council on Thursday, in his first 'all hands' staff meeting, that the label 'radical Islamic terrorism' was not helpful because terrorists are 'un-Islamic,' according to people who were in the meeting. That is a repudiation of the language regularly used by both the president and General McMaster’s predecessor, Michael T. Flynn.... To outside observers, the administration’s approach to the world appears increasingly schizophrenic." -- CW ...

... Steven Simon & Daniel Benjamin, in a New York Times op-ed, write a scathing indictment of the So-Called Ruler's so-called "expert" on the Middle East or Islam or something, Sebastian Gorka, late of Breitbart "News." "Getting rid of Mr. Gorka should be an early priority."

Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "A military judge in North Carolina ruled on Friday that while President Trump’s campaign-trail calls for the execution of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were 'troubling,' his statements had not prejudiced the Army’s case against the sergeant, and that he saw no reason to dismiss the serious charges against him. Sergeant Bergdahl, 30, faces a court-martial as soon as April on charges of desertion, which carries a potential five-year sentence, and endangering troops sent to search for him, which carries a potential life sentence. The charges came after he walked off his remote Army outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban for five years, until President Obama approved a deal to swap him for five detainees from Guantánamo Bay prison. While campaigning last year, Mr. Trump repeatedly denounced Sergeant Bergdahl as a 'dirty rotten traitor,' and even mimicked the sound of a rifle as he pantomimed a firing squad executing him. After Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, Sergeant Bergdahl’s lawyers asked the military judge handling the case, Col. Jeffery R. Nance of the Army, to dismiss the charges. They said a fair trial was now impossible.... In his ruling on Friday, Judge Nance wrote that Mr. Trump’s statements 'were disturbing and disappointing,' and carried a 'problematic potential' for the case. But the judge concluded: 'No reasonable member of the public ... would believe that because candidate Trump said those troubling things and is now President Trump, the accused has been or will be denied a fair trial.' Sergeant Bergdahl’s chief defense lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, said he would appeal the ruling to the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday.” ...

     ... CW: Judge Nance pretty much ruled that everybody knows that the SCROTUS is an irresponsible blowhard & no "reasonable" person would pay attention to his BS. I guess he got that right.

Thanks to everyone responsible for bringing this to us, including PD Pepe:

 

 

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The Washington Post added a new phrase beneath its online masthead this week — 'Democracy Dies in Darkness' — and the commentary flowed immediately. The slogan quickly trended on Twitter.... It was fodder for a few late-night cracks from Stephen Colbert, who suggested some of the rejected phrases included 'No, You Shut Up,' 'Come at Me, Bro' and 'We Took Down Nixon — Who Wants Next?'... The paper’s owner, Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, used the phrase in an interview with The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, at a tech forum at The Post last May. 'I think a lot of us believe this, that democracy dies in darkness, that certain institutions have a very important role in making sure that there is light,' he said at the time, speaking of his reasons for buying the paper. Bezos apparently heard the phrase from legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward....But Woodward, who has used the phrase in reference to President Nixon for years, said he didn’t coin it; he read it some years earlier in a judicial opinion in a First Amendment case.... Woodward’s source appears to be Judge Damon J. Keith, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, who ruled in a pre-Watergate era case that the government couldn’t wiretap individuals without a warrant. In his decision, Keith apparently coined a variation on The Post’s motto, writing that 'Democracy dies in the dark.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: Keith, who will be 95 years old this year, is still serving as a Senior Judge for the Sixth District.

William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents investigating Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising questioned Mr. de Blasio for four hours Friday as part of a criminal inquiry into whether he or other officials traded beneficial city action for political donations." -- CW 

The Audacity of Dopes. AP: "The Mexican government made clear to visiting US emissaries that it will not accept deportees from third countries under any circumstances, the interior secretary said on Friday. Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said in an interview with Radio Formula that the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the homeland security secretary, John Kelly, asked Mexican officials during their Thursday visit if they would host deportees from other countries while their immigration cases are processed in the US. 'They can’t leave them here on the border because we have to reject them. There is no chance they would be received by Mexico,' he said." -- CW  

Thursday
Feb232017

The Commentariat -- February 24, 2016

Afternoon Update:

CW: This morning I sent the SCROTUS a tweet to let him know what the UT chancellor thought of Drumpf's attack on the media. Here's how the president* responded:

Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "President Trump intensified his slashing attack on the news media during an appearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, reiterating his charge that 'fake news' outlets are 'the enemy of the people.' The opening portion of the president’s free-range, campaign-style speech centered on a declaration of war on the news media — a new foil to replace vanquished political opponents like Hillary Clinton. 'They are very smart, they are very cunning, they are very dishonest,' Mr. Trump said to the delight of the crowd packed into the main ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just south of Washington." ...  

I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people, I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. I said, ‘Give me a break.’ Because I know the people, I know who they talk to. There were no nine people. -- Donald Trump, in his CPAC speech ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: The story with nine sources was by the WashPo and "set in motion a series of events that ended in [Michael] Flynn’s departure from the Trump White House." The Post got the story right, but the White House kept flubbing its response until somebody pushed Flynn out the door, effectively confirming the Post revelation:

Everything we published regarding Gen. Flynn was true, as confirmed by subsequent events and on-the-record statements from administration officials themselves. The story led directly to the general’s dismissal as national security adviser. Calling press reports fake doesn’t make them so. -- Marty Barron, WashPo executive editor, today

     ... CW: Drumpf has to be the most irresponsible president in American history. The real reason he's attacking the media: journalists already have & will continue to catch him in some unpresidented messes, ones from which he could not escape without having discredited the media. ...

Greg Sargent: "President Trump just unleashed another fearsome fusillade of tweets, this time blasting the FBI directly for failing to control leaks. 'The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time,' Trump said. 'They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S.' Trump closed with a demand that the leakers be caught: 'FIND NOW.' Trump’s rage is misdirected. Whatever culpability the FBI bears for its leaking, the better target for Trump’s anger right now is the White House itself. The news Trump was apparently responding to is a self-inflicted White House wound. As CNN first reported [linked below]..., Reince Priebus personally asked the FBI to publicly debunk recent media reports of contacts between Russia and Trump campaign aides during the campaign.... Former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller argued to Chris Hayes last night that Priebus should step down over his conduct, because it was 'absolutely inappropriate' and 'crosses every line.'” -- CW ...

     ... CW: This is how sociopathy works: instead of getting mad at yourself or your allies for doing something wrong, you get mad at the tattletales who brought your misdeeds to light. Nothing is ever your fault. I have to say that I did not think Trump would behave in this infantile way once he got the Top Job. I thought there would be plenty of signs of his various pathologies, sure, but that on the whole, he would at least try to "act presidential." Apparently, "President" is a role is in unable to play.

... Here's another fine example of President Irresponsible. Tim Egan: "Yesterday’s dams are trying to hold back tomorrow’s climate. And what are we doing about it? We’re building a wall along the Mexican border to fix a problem that’s already taken care of itself. A wall that could cost upward of $30 billion.... For Republicans on the Trump train, America First is something you shout at foreigners, not a design for a better country." -- CW 

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The Washington Post added a new phrase beneath its online masthead this week — 'Democracy Dies in Darkness' — and the commentary flowed immediately. The slogan quickly trended on Twitter.... It was fodder for a few late-night cracks from Stephen Colbert, who suggested some of the rejected phrases included 'No, You Shut Up,' 'Come at Me, Bro' and 'We Took Down Nixon — Who Wants Next?'... The paper’s owner, Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, used the phrase in an interview with The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, at a tech forum at The Post last May. 'I think a lot of us believe this, that democracy dies in darkness, that certain institutions have a very important role in making sure that there is light,' he said at the time, speaking of his reasons for buying the paper. Bezos apparently heard the phrase from legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward....But Woodward, who has used the phrase in reference to President Nixon for years, said he didn’t coin it; he read it some years earlier in a judicial opinion in a First Amendment case.... Woodward’s source appears to be Judge Damon J. Keith, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, who ruled in a pre-Watergate era case that the government couldn’t wiretap individuals without a warrant. In his decision, Keith apparently coined a variation on The Post’s motto, writing that 'Democracy dies in the dark.'” -- CW ...

... CW: Keith, who will be 95 years old this year, is still serving as a Senior Judge for the Sixth District.

*****

While Juggling Nuclear Football, Confused Old Man Living Alone in Big White House Speaks to Reporter. Steve Holland of Reuters: "... Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal is at the 'top of the pack,' saying the United States has fallen behind in its weapons capacity. In a Reuters interview, Trump also said China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea 'very easily if they want to,' ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang's increasingly bellicose actions.Trump also expressed support for the European Union as a governing body, saying 'I'm totally in favor of it,' and for the first time as president expressed a preference for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but said he would be satisfied with whatever makes the two sides happy." -- CW ...

... digby: "Hey happy days. Trump reiterated today that he plans to start another nuclear arms race.... And if it comes down to a mindgame between Trump and Putin, I think I'd have to bet on the ex-KGB agent over the gibbering imbecile." -- CW 

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Thursday celebrated what he called 'a military operation' to round up and deport undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes or caused violence in the United States. 'We’re getting gang members out, we’re getting drug lords out, we’re getting really bad dudes out of this country — and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before,; Trump told a group of several dozen manufacturing executives during a policy discussion at the White House. Trump brought up immigration enforcement as he discussed the trip Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are taking to Mexico this week. Trump said he told Tillerson, 'That’s going to be a tough trip, because we have to be treated fairly by Mexico.'” -- CW ...

... Actually, Mr. SCROTUS, No. Azam Ahmed, et al., of the New York Times: "In the White House, President Trump was telling American chief executives that the days of being treated unfairly by Mexico — on trade, on immigration, on crime — were over. 'You see what’s happening at the border: All of a sudden for the first time, we’re getting gang members out,' Mr. Trump said. 'And it’s a military operation.' But in Mexico, his Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly, was saying the opposite, trying to tamp down fears of a military operation and assuring the public that American soldiers would not be used to police the border. 'I repeat: There will be no use of military in this,' Mr. Kelly said at a news conference on Thursday, appearing with Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state.... 'Let me be very, very clear,' Mr. Kelly added, assuring Mexicans that the rules for deporting people from the United States had not fundamentally changed. 'There will be no, repeat no, mass deportations.'” CW: So what Kelly is saying is that the boss is a Big Fat Liar & his Cabinet-level appointees are going to ignore him. Well, that's reassuring. ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg: "Trump has laid the legal basis for mass deportations, and Kelly has organized his department to conduct them. In addition, he seeks a drastically larger deportation force.... Demagogy is always frightening. But like its local variant, bullying, it's also boring and predictable. Trump sows fear and division routinely, because he benefits from directing his supporters' attention toward enemies. He may benefit from scapegoating immigrants, but the U.S. will not. Businesses will suffer. Wealth will be lost. The character of the nation will be challenged, and likely sullied.... Why: not for national security, not in pursuit of law and order, not because the American public demands it, but simply because an insecure president is desperate to appear 'strong,' and undocumented immigrants are easily bullied." -- CW 

Jamelle Bouie: "During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to make 'every dream come true' for his supporters. He pledged to restore factories and jobs, to lift the country into an ill-defined (but racially exclusive) 'greatness.' But so far, he’s done little but provoke mass opposition to his agenda and deep skepticism — even hostility — from the press, to say nothing of continued scrutiny over his business entanglements and the growing questions around his ties to Russia. There’s no question that the Trump administration has an expansive vision: that it wants to remake the United States in its image. And there’s no doubt that it will deal heavy blows to existing norms and institutions. But if there’s hope for opponents, it’s that all of this is clearly tempered by dysfunction and simple, almost anodyne, incompetence." -- CW 

Melissa Taboada of the Austin American-Statesman: "[University of Texas] System Chancellor Bill McRaven on Tuesday night said President Trump’s recent description of the media as 'the enemy of the American people' must be challenged and 'this sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.'" CW: Yes, but isn't McRaven just a typical softy liberal elite whiney egghead of the ilk that is always complaining about "strong leaders"? Well, maybe not: "McRaven, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, is former commander of the Special Operations Command. He made the comment during the inaugural event of the Communication and Leadership Speaker Series at UT’s Belo Center for New Media. McRaven, who has served as chancellor for two years, is also a UT journalism alumnus. During his lecture, McRaven said the country needs journalists now more than ever before and they must continue to hold others accountable." Also, too: "He oversaw the team that captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.... And the biggie: He directed the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed." -- CW  

New York Times Editors: “'President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the L.G.B.T.Q. community,' the White House said in a statement on Jan. 31. Then along came Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During his first week in office, Mr. Sessions halted the Justice Department’s efforts to defend in court the legality of the Obama administration’s guidance to school districts on how to provide a safe and inclusive environment for transgender students. A key part of that guidance advised school officials to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity. This week, Mr. Sessions and the Department of Education rescinded the guidance entirely." -- CW ...

 

Re-privatizing "Justice." Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "The Justice Department said Thursday that it would continue to use private, for-profit prisons to house thousands of federal inmates, scrapping an Obama administration plan to phase them out because of problems.... In a memo released on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prison officials to keep using the private prisons. He also withdrew a policy set out last August by Sally Q. Yates, then the deputy attorney general, who had ordered prison officials to phase out the use of the private facilities. Ms. Yates’s order had followed a report from the Justice Department inspector general about safety and security concerns with the operations at private prisons, along with other issues. The private prisons 'compare poorly to our own bureau facilities' in a number of areas and do not save much money, Ms. Yates wrote as she ordered them phased out." -- CW 

Jim Sciutto, et al., of CNN: "The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14. The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "I wonder if anyone in the Trump White House even understands how inappropriate this is? They might not. Partly it's because they're so inexperienced, and partly it's because they've all been marinating in the Trump worldview that you're a chump if you let delicate moral sensibilities get in the way of hitting back against your enemies.... If this is true, it's no excuse. I'm just curious. If Priebus knew this was wrong, it's hard to believe that he would have pressed the bureau multiple times, even knowing that it was almost certain to leak eventually. In other words, at best they're muttonheads. At worst they're casually corrupt. Take your pick." -- CW ...

... AND notice how Priebus invokes anonymous sources in the same breath he criticizes the NYT for using anonymous sources. -- CW 

Philip Rucker: "Stephen K. Bannon ... said Thursday that the new administration is locked in an unending battle against the media and other globalist forces to 'deconstruct' an outdated system of governance. In his first public speaking appearance since Trump took office, Bannon made his comments alongside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at a gathering of conservative activists." CW: It's pretty clear Mr. Smarty Pants has no idea what the word "deconstruct" means, but since deconstruction renders texts chaotic & meaningless, it is quite appropriate for him to claim, even if he doesn't intend to, that he is going to leave the country with a chaotic & meaningless system of governance. ...

... David Smith of the Guardian: "Trump is 'maniacally focused' on fulfilling his campaign pledges, Bannon warned, predicting a daily fight against the media he has branded as the opposition party. 'The mainstream media ought to understand something: all those promises are going to be implemented,' Bannon told a gathering of thousands of conservatives near Washington on Thursday...." CW: Yeah, well, we knew Bannon & the Trumpster were maniacs. But since Trump has already backed off a number of his campaign pledges, it appears the Maniac-in-Chief doesn't have much focus.

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "A group of law professors from around the country has filed a professional misconduct complaint against White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, a graduate of George Washington University Law School who was admitted to the D.C. Bar in 1995. The letter, filed with the office that handles misconduct by members of the D.C. Bar, said Conway should be sanctioned for violating government ethics rules and 'conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,' the letter says. The 15 professors, who specialize in legal ethics, cite several incidents, including a television interview in which Conway made the 'false statement that President Barack Obama had "banned" Iraqi refugees from coming into the United States for six months following the "Bowling Green Massacre,’” and the use of her position to endorse Ivanka Trump products." -- CW 

Jeff Stein of Newsweek: "An embattled White House terrorism advisor whose academic credentials have come under widespread fire telephoned one of his main critics at home Tuesday night and threatened legal action against him, Newsweek has learned. Sebastian Gorka, whose views on Islam have been widely labeled extremist, called noted terrorism expert Michael S. Smith II in South Carolina and expressed dismay that Smith had been criticizing him on Twitter, according to a recording of the call provided to Newsweek. 'I was like a deer in the headlights,' Smith, a Republican who has advised congressional committees on the use of social media by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, tells Newsweek. 'I thought it was a prank. He began by threatening me with a lawsuit.'... Questions about Gorka’s views and credentials to speak authoritatively on Islam and terrorism were severely criticized in lengthy feature articles in The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in recent days. He also received a wave of unfavorable publicity in January 2016 when he was arrested for trying to pass through a TSA checkpoint at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. carrying a loaded handgun.” -- CW 

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "This week’s congressional town halls have repeatedly found Republicans hedging their support for the new president’s agenda — and in many cases contradicting their past statements. Hostile questions put them on record criticizing some of the fights Trump has picked or pledging to protect policies such as the more popular elements of Obamacare. And voters got it all on tape, promising to keep hounding their lawmakers if they falter." -- CW 

Darius Tahir of Politico: "Former House Speaker John Boehner predicted on Thursday that a full repeal and replace of Obamacare is 'not what’s going to happen' and that Republicans will instead just make some fixes to the health care law. Boehner, who retired in 2015 amid unrest among conservatives, said at an Orlando healthcare conference that GOP lawmakers were too optimistic in their talk of quickly repealing and then replacing Obamacare." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "After years to prepare, [Paul] Ryan finally unveiled what was supposedly the outline of a health care plan. It was basically a sick joke: flat tax credits, unrelated to income, that could be applied to the purchase of insurance. These credits would be obviously inadequate for the lower- and even middle-income families that gained coverage under Obamacare, so it would cause a huge surge in the number of uninsured. Meanwhile, the affluent would receive a nice windfall. Funny how that seems to happen in every plan Mr. Ryan proposes.... Mainly they hate Obamacare for two reasons: It demonstrates that the government can make people’s lives better, and it’s paid for in large part with taxes on the wealthy." -- CW 

Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Immediately after the November election, Democrats were divided over how to handle Mr. Trump, with one camp favoring all-out confrontation and another backing a seemingly less risky approach of coaxing him to the center with offers of compromise. Now, spurred by explosive protests and a torrent of angry phone calls and emails from constituents — and outraged themselves by Mr. Trump’s swift moves to enact a hard-line agenda — Democrats have all but cast aside any notion of conciliation with the White House. Instead, they are mimicking the Republican approach of the last eight years — the 'party of no' — and wagering that brash obstruction will pay similar dividends." ...

     ... CW: Not. the. Same. Thing. Obama was overtly & repeatedly willing to work with Republicans and insert conservative ideas into liberal-leaning laws. Trump has brought us Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt & Neil Gorsuch & his only "outreach" to Democrats has been to invite them over to his new digs to tell them what a winner he is. But thanks for the both-sides-do-it story of the day, gentlemen!

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that most Americans are against much of the Trump-GOP agenda. CW: And yet, and yet. Democrats are too incompetent to take advantage of the fact that the majority of American voters agree with them.

John Stoehr, in the New Haven Register: U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing hate groups: "... white nationalist groups take advantage of laws protecting nonprofit organizations from taxation if they contribute to the greater good. Churches, orchestras, and even political action committees should be protected from taxation as long as they provide benefits that cannot be furnished by private enterprise. I’d argue that white nationalists are the enemy of the greater good. But the IRS chafes at such value judgments." Via Paul Waldman. ...

     ... CW: I hate to tell Stoehr, but the IRS is right: if the Congress is going to exempt certain types of organizations from paying taxes, it can't pick & choose from among the group which entities get the breaks. The fault lies with Congress, not with the IRS. And Congress has a good reason for singling out political action groups for tax-exempt status: those groups feed the kitties of Congresscritters. Stoehr fails to identify the underlying problem: campaign finance laws. It is too facile to argue that taxpayers should not be supporting hate groups but it's okay if we support Karl Rove & Koch Brothers-funded orgs because the Rove/Koch ilk is a more benign kind of hate group.

Evan Osnos, David Remnick & Joshua Yaffa write a long New Yorker feature on the new Cold War. CW: I haven't had a chance to read it, but I'm sure it's more than worthy of a read.

Alex Griswold of Mediaite: "Fox News host Sean Hannity recently shared a tweet calling Republican Arizona Senator John McCain a 'globalist war criminal' and linking to a fake news story about the senator. 'Wow if true,' Hannity tweeted Wednesday night.... The tweet Hannity shared links to notoriously inaccurate conservative site Gateway Pundit." Hannity has since deleted the tweet & tweeted an apology to Sen. McCain. "In related news, Gateway Pundit has just been granted White House press credentials." -- CW 

Emily Langer of the Washington Post: "Alan Colmes, a top-rated television commentator who, as co-host with conservative Sean Hannity of 'Hannity & Colmes,' became best known as the liberal in the 'lion’s den' of Fox News, has died at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 66. His wife, Jocelyn Elise Crowley, said that he died late Feb. 22 or early Feb. 23. The cause was lymphoma." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Reid Wilson of the Hill: "Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Thursday signed an executive order blocking state law enforcement agencies from detaining undocumented immigrants at the request of federal officials, days after the Trump administration began ramping up immigration enforcement actions. Inslee’s order prevents state agencies from discriminating against or refusing service to those in living the country illegally. It also blocks those agencies from spending state resources to create or enforce a registry of citizens on the basis of religious affiliation.The order blocks the Washington State Patrol and the state Department of Corrections from detaining anyone solely on the basis of immigration status.... Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) on Wednesday ordered agencies in his state to refuse detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement." -- CW 

Making the First Amendment a Crime. Howard Fischer of Arizona Capitol Media Service: "Claiming people are being paid to riot, [Arizona] Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened. SB1142 expands the state’s racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others. But the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association — and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated. And what’s worse, said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is that the person who may have broken a window, triggering the claim there was a riot, might actually not be a member of the group but someone from the other side." -- CW 

Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post: "A 51-year-old man faces first-degree murder charges after shooting three men in an Olathe, Kan., bar Wednesday night, police say, reportedly telling two of them, local Garmin engineers from India, to 'get out of my country.' One of the Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died in the hospital later from his wounds. Authorities would not classify the shooting as a hate crime, but federal law enforcement officials said Thursday they are investigating with local police to determine if it was 'bias motivated.' Adam W. Purinton, 51, of Olathe, was also charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting two other patrons at Austin’s Bar and Grill: Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, Kan., and 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who tried to intervene.” -- CW

Wednesday
Feb222017

The Commentariat -- February 23, 2016

Who Could Be Worse than Betsy DeVos? Why, Donald Drumpf & Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. Jeremy Peters, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump on Wednesday rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, overruling his own education secretary and placing his administration firmly in the middle of the culture wars that many Republicans have tried to leave behind. In a joint letter, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.... The question of how to address the 'bathroom debate,' as it has become known, opened a rift inside the Trump administration, pitting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos against Attorney General Jeff Sessions." CW: Nice to know that our bullies have the guts to stand up to children. ...

... German Lopez of Vox: "The decision upholds a promise ... Donald Trump made on the campaign trail, but comes as a major blow to LGBTQ groups who over the past few weeks pleaded with the administration to keep the guidance in place. And it means that trans students, who endure disproportionate levels of bullying and discrimination in public schools, and their parents will no longer be able to turn to the guidance for official support.... The letter revoking the guidance, however, includes a small glimmer of hope, reportedly on DeVos’s insistence: It says schools must create a safe environment for all students, including, it notes, 'LGBT students.'” -- CW 

The Economic Costs of a Single Trump "Initiative." Patricia Laya of Bloomberg: "... Donald Trump’s sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants will strain an already tight U.S. job market, with one study suggesting that removing all of them would cost the economy as much as $5 trillion over 10 years. That represents the contribution of the millions of unauthorized workers to the world’s largest economy, about 3 percent of private-sector gross domestic product, according to a recent paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research. At an average of $500 billion in output a year, removing all such immigrants would be like lopping off the equivalent of Massachusetts from the U.S. economy, said study co-author Francesc Ortega." -- CW 

The Do-Nothing President. John Harwood of CNBC: "Last year, candidate Donald Trump promised to repeal Obamacare and give Americans a better, cheaper replacement. Last month, President-elect Trump vowed, 'we'll be filing a plan' as soon as the Senate confirmed his Health secretary. But, post-confirmation, Health Secretary Tom Price has told House Republicans 'the administration wouldn't be sending us a bill' after all, said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Instead, Cole added, the White House 'will cooperate and provide input into what we do.' Two weeks ago, Trump said at the White House that 'we're going to be announcing something over the next, I would say, two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax.' But House Republicans do not expect the president to announce his own tax plan; instead, they anticipate he will simply align himself with theirs." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: The same day Trump said his administration would be sending a healthcare proposal to the Hill in March, his Health Secretary Tom Price told Rep. Tom Cole the administration would not send Congress a bill. "In a normal organization — the kind where a leader can be left unaccompanied for a few hours without his subordinates fearing he will descend into a television-binge-fueled social-media meltdown — it could be assumed that the highest-ranking official’s word would override that of his appointed department leader. Given that it’s Trump, basically everybody would assume that Price is the one who knows what he’s talking about and the president is making things up." -- CW 

... Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "The disparity between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his appointments has cheered many Republicans and left Democrats fearing that he will not only renege on his promises to protect the government’s largest entitlement programs but that he will also slash programs he did not mention on the campaign trail that offer food, housing and child care support for the poor.... 'He made a pledge and sort of delineated himself from the rest of the Republican field by saying these things. Everything he’s done since he’s been elected is very worrisome,' [sad Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).]” Already, Mr. Trump’s budget office has hinted at cuts to come in a memo that singled out the Legal Services Corporation, which helps the poor manage legal issues, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which targets economic development in some of the poorest parts of the country. The memo also said that AmeriCorps, a program that puts volunteers into poor communities, would be zeroed out, and that the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a nonprofit organization focused on urban development, would see its budget cut substantially." ...

     ... CW: There are at least four factors at play here. (1) Trump doesn't care; (2) his "promises" are just sales pitches: (3) he has no understanding whatsoever of the policy positions of his Cabinet members & he doesn't intend to learn; (4) no matter what they do, Trump will be oblivious to their actions unless the media can drum up enough negative coverage of particular matters. ...

... NEW. Greg Sargent: Trump will likely sell out his working-class white base." -- CW 

Managing the Mad King. Tara Palmeri of Politico: "... Donald Trump’s former campaign staffers claim they cracked the code for tamping down his most inflammatory tweets, and they say the current West Wing staff would do well to take note. The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.... Part of the current problem is Trump is still adjusting to his new circumstances and has plenty of time to stew over negative reviews as he spends time alone in the evenings and early mornings...." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "And so Trump’s staff essentially outsources the job of circulating pro-Trump alternative facts to the right-wing media in order to dissuade the president from doing it himself and thereby tarnishing his brand. The president is therefore not only the subject but also the object of his own staff’s propaganda campaign." -- CW 

Brian Beutler: Trump administration lies are designed to destabilize the media, and the media are biting by published the Trump lies, then being subjected to claims of reporting "fake news." -- CW 

Ken Vogel, et al., of Politico: "A purported cyber hack of the daughter of political consultant Paul Manafort suggests that he was the victim of a blackmail attempt while he was serving as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign chairman last summer. The undated communications, which are allegedly from the iPhone of Manafort’s daughter, include a text that appears to come from a Ukrainian parliamentarian named Serhiy Leshchenko, seeking to reach her father, in which he claims to have politically damaging information about both Manafort and Trump." -- CW 

The Hollow Man as President. Dana Milbank: "Trump’s first month in office has come with dozens of bomb threats to Jewish organizations, a further unleashing of anti-Semitism in social media and, in St. Louis over the weekend, the toppling of some 200 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery. No surprise here: Trump fanned anti-Semitism through his campaign’s well-documented use of anti-Jewish imagery and stereotypes, topped by his hiring of an ally of the white-nationalist alt-right movement as his chief strategist and the White House’s decision to edit out any reference to Jews in its statement recalling the Holocaust." Milbank does on to detail mike pence's responses -- he visited both Dachau & a Jewish cemetary in Missouri that had been brutally vandalized -- & Donald Trump's non-responses -- he talked about his electoral college win & said a question about the attacks was insulting before finally issuing a this-must-stop statement -- to the attacks. "Pence’s genuine response is what heals — not more banalities from a man who won’t 'stop' anything." -- CW 

Rumana Ahmed via The Atlantic: "I Was a Muslim in Trump's White House - I told [Trump’s senior NSC communications advisor, Michael Anton] I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim... It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a 'weakness,' and Islam as 'incompatible with the modern West.'"-- LT

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Vice President Pence is in the process of selecting members for a White House task force investigating President Trump's unproven claims that millions of cases of voter fraud cost him the popular vote in last year's election. White House press secretary Sean Spicer mentioned the development with little fanfare during Wednesday's press conference." CW: Just imagine the nimrods pence will select for this fantasy "task force." I'm sure tinfoil hats are part of the dress code for the group.

Coral Davenport & Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday. The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health. Senate Democrats tried last week to postpone a final vote until the emails could be made public, but Republicans beat back the delay and approved his confirmation on Friday largely along party lines. The impolitic tone of many of the emails cast light on why Republicans were so eager to beat the release. And although the contents of the emails were broadly revealed in The New York Times in 2014, the totality of the correspondences captures just how much at war Mr. Pruitt was with the E.P.A. and how cozy he was with the industries that he is now charged with policing." -- CW 

Carol Morello & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration in its first month has largely benched the State Department from its long-standing role as the pre­eminent voice of U.S. foreign policy, curtailing public engagement and official travel and relegating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to a mostly offstage role. Decisions on hiring, policy and scheduling are being driven by a White House often wary of the foreign policy establishment and struggling to set priorities and write policy on the fly. The most visible change at the State Department is the month-long lack of daily press briefings, a fixture since John Foster Dulles was secretary of state in the 1950s. The televised question-and-answer session is watched closely around the world.... Tillerson has also been notably absent from White House meetings with foreign leaders.... Former State Department officials, from Republican and Democratic administration alike, say his performance reflects the disarray in the White House.... The biggest factor is the confusing lines of communication and authority to the White House, and Trump’s inclination to farm out elements of foreign policy to a kitchen Cabinet of close advisers." -- CW 

Whatever Happened to Kellyanne? Dylan Byers of CNN: "Kellyanne Conway, once the most visible spokesperson for the Trump White House, was sidelined from television appearances for a week for making statements that were at odds with the administration's official stance, White House sources told CNNMoney on Wednesday. Conway, who is scheduled to appear on Fox News on Wednesday night, has not given a television interview since early last week. On that Monday, she told MSNBC that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had the president's 'full confidence.' Hours later, Flynn resigned. The following day, Conway claimed Flynn had offered to resign, even though White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had asked Flynn for his resignation. Those statements, which came amid existing public scrutiny over Conway's credibility, led the president and his top advisers to conclude that her appearances were doing more harm than good for the administration, the sources said.... White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders ... dismissed the suggestion that Conway had been sidelined." -- CW 

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee says she is open to requesting President Trump’s tax returns as part of the panel’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 elections. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine made the remark to a local radio program on Wednesday in which she stated that “many of the members” on the Intelligence panel will formally request that ousted national security adviser Michael T. Flynn testify before the committee." -- CW ...

... See No Evil.... Rachel Bade & John Bresnahan of Politico: "House Republicans next week plan to derail a Democratic resolution that would have forced disclosure of ... Donald Trump's potential ties with Russia and any possible business conflicts of interest, according to multiple House sources. Seeking to avoid a full House vote on the so-called 'resolution of inquiry' — a roll call that would be particularly embarrassing and divisive for the right — Republicans will send proposal by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to the House Judiciary Committee for a panel vote on Tuesday, two Democratic sources said. The GOP-controlled committee is expected to kill the resolution. Without committee action, obscure parliamentary procedures would allow Democrats to call the resolution to the floor for a vote by the full House. But rejection by the Judiciary panel all but assures the measure will never see a floor vote." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "The Republican Party has largely decided to cover for Donald Trump’s massive corruption, grotesque lies, and manifest unfitness for office. But few of them have gone quite so far, or quite so cravenly, as Rand Paul. The junior senator from Kentucky, and onetime hope of the extremely short-lived 'libertarian moment' in American politics, has not only attached himself to Trump, but is actively snuffing out whatever faint stirrings of opposition his colleagues can muster.... Every authoritarian requires spineless lackeys who will attack his dissidents. In Trump’s Republican Party, the authoritarian’s best friend is the libertarian." -- CW 

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "Donald Trump’s justice department has indicated it will seek to prevent the new deputy CIA director from telling a court about her role in Bush-era torture. In a Wednesday filing in a federal court in Washington state, a team of US attorneys and justice department officials said the government 'anticipates asserting the state secrets privilege' to prevent Gina Haspel from being deposed by two former CIA contractor psychologists. The psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, are battling a lawsuit by representatives for four men who seek to hold them liable for torture they experienced in secret CIA prisons. Mitchell and Jessen designed for the CIA the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program that three of the men endured and which killed one of them. As part of their defense, Mitchell and Jessen are seeking depositions from several former CIA officials, in order to claim that their actions ought to be immunized because they were working in service of the US government." -- CW 

Max Greenwood of the Hill: "Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) faced a wave of opposition during a town hall meeting on Wednesday, as droves of protesters jeered and heckled him over topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. At one point, one attendee asked everyone in the audience who had been affected by Obamacare to stand up, prompting what appeared to be hundreds of people to rise from their seats." CW: Oh, why must people in touch with reality keep bothering these nice scum-baggity public servants? ...

... Steve M.: "It struck me there's an enormous difference between these protests and those of seven or eight years ago, in that these are about reality. The Tea Party was complaining about taxes going through the roof and masses of Mexicans invading our country when taxes had in fact been going down for years and Mexicans had started migrating in the opposite direction.... The Chris Cillizzas and Adam Nagourneys who don't feel they're being paid to know anything about real life since how does that impact the horse race anyway?" -- CW ...

MIA: Cowardly Liars. Brenna Williams & Paul Murphy of CNN: "Some Americans would like you to believe their Republican members of Congress have mysteriously gone missing. Those constituents have turned to some creative ways to voice their displeasure.... Missing congressman notices have been photographed on milk cartons and posted to the @WhereIsPaulCook [R-Calif.] Twitter account and website.... Another California congressman who hasn't been seen at a town hall recently is Rep. Darrell Issa.The high-profile Republican failed to show up for a town hall on the repeal of Obamacare, a town hall he had never committed to attending. Hundreds protested, erupting in 'Where is Darrell?' chants." And so forth. -- CW 

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Top lawyers from former President Barack Obama’s White House have launched a group aimed at keeping President Trump ethical, according to a new report. United to Protect Democracy already boasts a $1.5 million operating budget and plans to double its five staff members in the coming months, Politico said Thursday." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Brownbackistan Survives Attempted Coup. Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post: "Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s ambitious tax overhaul — which slashed taxes for businesses and affluent households, leading to years of budget shortfalls — narrowly survived a mutiny Wednesday afternoon when about half of Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in an effort to overturn it. Brownback, a Republican who once called his tax policy a 'real-live experiment' with conservative principles, had vetoed a bill that would have repealed the most important provisions of his overhaul. While the state House voted to override the veto earlier in the day, proponents of the bill came up three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed in the Senate.... The state is facing a $350 million budget shortfall.... For both Brownback and his critics, the changes are a model for the policies that Republicans in Washington, D.C., might pursue on a national level now that they are in control of the federal government.... [Paul] Ryan’s and Trump’s proposals for tax reform have important features in common with Brownback’s policies.... Ryan's [tax] proposal would cost the government by about $2.5 trillion over a decade, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center." -- CW 

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "Months after a protest of the Dakota Access oil pipeline swelled into a movement that drew thousands of people and national attention, most of the remaining demonstrators left the protest camp ahead of deadline Wednesday, leaving a few dozen to face possible arrest. Even before the 2 p.m. evacuation deadline imposed last week by North Dakota’s governor, the main protest camp had already turned into a muddy pit, the ground soggy with melted snow. Authorities said 10 people in the area were arrested Wednesday. Between 25 and 50 people were believed to still be at the camp on Wednesday evening, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) said during a news conference, though he said this was only an estimate because officials did not know for sure." -- CW 

Wednesday
Feb222017

The Commentariat -- February 22, 2016

Michael Shear & Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "President Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes. Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations. The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Mr. Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of 'criminal aliens' and warning that such unauthorized immigrants 'routinely victimize Americans,' disregard the 'rule of law and pose a threat' to people in communities across the United States." -- CW ...

... Nicholas Kulish, et al., of the New York Times outline the key elements of the new draconian immigration policies. -- CW ...

...** New York Times Editors: "The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, issued a remarkable pair of memos on Tuesday. They are the battle plan for the 'deportation force' President Trump promised in the campaign. They are remarkable for how completely they turn sensible immigration policies upside down and backward. For how they seek to make the deportation machinery more extreme and frightening (and expensive), to the detriment of deeply held American values.... The targets now don’t even have to be criminals.... Mr. Kelly promised before his confirmation to be a reasonable enforcer of defensible policies. But immigrants have reason to be frightened by his sudden alignment with Mr. Trump’s nativism." -- CW ...

... "A Streak of Cruelty." Washington Post Editors: "IN THE fiscal year that ended last fall, the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended on the southwestern border was just a quarter the number in 2000 and less than half the annual count during most of George W. Bush’s administration. Although last year’s apprehensions in the Southwest rose from the previous year — largely because of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America seeking refugee status — the overall number was among the lowest since the turn of the century. Nonetheless, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has somehow conjured what he called a 'surge of illegal immigration at the southern border [that] has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States.' Mr. Kelly’s unfounded rhetoric is contained in a memorandum, released Tuesday, that provides an inventive rationale to justify the Trump administration’s overbroad expansion of deportation efforts.... Deterrence is a fair goal if achieved by humane means. In this case, the administration’s policies will break up families and harm people leading peaceable lives." -- CW ...

... Nahal Toosi of Politico: "President Donald Trump's blunt diplomatic touch is creating new headaches for the deeply troubled U.S.-Mexico relationship. The Trump administration riled Mexican officials by choosing Tuesday — on the eve of visits by the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to Mexico City — to release sweeping guidelines on deportations and a border wall." ...

... Madison Pauly of Mother Jones: "Immigration agents sparked panic across the country last week, when a series of high-profile operations made it clear that a new era of crackdowns on undocumented immigrants had begun...But given that America's detention system for immigrants has been running at full capacity for some time now, where is the president going to put all of these people before deporting them? In new jails, for starters. In the same executive order that called for the construction of a southern border wall, Trump instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to build out its sprawling network of immigration detention centers. Starting 'immediately,' his order said, ICE should construct new facilities, lease space for immigrants alongside inmates in existing local jails, and sign new contracts—likely with private prison companies. The scale of that expansion became clearer on February 5, when the Los Angeles Times reported on a memo... [that] called for raising the number of immigrants ICE incarcerates daily, nationwide, to 80,000 people. Last year, ICE detained more than 352,000 people. The number of detainees held each day, typically between 31,000 and 34,000." --safari ...

... Paulina Firozi of the Hill: "Activists unfurled a 'Refugees Welcome' banner on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday afternoon. The National Park Service said the banner was placed just before 1 p.m., and rangers took it down after determining they could remove it without damaging the pedestal, according to reports. It is illegal to attach banners to national monuments and the United States. Park Police are reportedly looking to identify the suspects who affixed the banner, which measured approximately 20 feet by 3 feet." CW: Yeah, it's a pretty good idea to hunt down & jail people for expressing the exact same message the Statue of Liberty embodies.

Ed Mazza of the Huffington Post: "White House adviser Stephen Miller said ... Donald Trump’s new travel ban will accomplish much the same thing as the old one.... Miller said the White House will issue a new order soon, but it will include only 'minor technical differences.' 'Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,' Miller said on Tuesday’s broadcast of 'The First 100 Days' on Fox News. 'But you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court.' Miller insisted that 'nothing was wrong with the first executive order' and dismissed the rulings against it as 'flawed' and 'erroneous.'” CW: Yes, the Constitution does pose a "minor technical" difficulty.

The America Me First Presidency. Danny Hakim & Sui-Lee Wee of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump has cast himself as the anti-globalist president. But Donald Trump, the businessman, is a different story. During the campaign, Mr. Trump’s organization continued to file dozens of new trademarks, in China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Indonesia, and one of his companies applied for trademark protection in the Philippines more than a month after the election.... His trademarks in recent years have covered all manner of potential products.... Even last week, the government in China, where his companies have filed for at least 126 trademarks since 2005, announced it was granting Mr. Trump rights to protect his name brand for construction projects, affirming a decision made in November. The contrast with his hard-line anti-globalism since taking office is stark. During his first weeks as president, Mr. Trump denounced China and Mexico for unfair trade practices and derided the European Union as 'basically a vehicle for Germany.' He ended American involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership .., and said he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. 'Trump seems to be the archetypal businessman with mercantilist instincts,' Dani Rodrik, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, said in an email. “‘Open your market for me to do business in it, but you can have access to mine only on my terms."’” -- CW ...

of CNN: "Donald Trump has a vast online portfolio of domain names -- digital addresses that foreshadowed his political career, business projects and accusations of unethical behavior. Before he reached the White House, Trump's company had laid claim to at least 3,643 website domains, according to internet records gathered by CNNMoney. The buying spree continued as he ran for president. Trump bought 93 of them after he launched his presidential campaign.... Trump has also grabbed names that could be used against him, including TrumpFraud.org and TrumpScam.com." -- CW 

Jonathan Chait of New York: "Donald Trump is an authoritarian by instinct. He displays the classic traits of an authoritarian personality — a man obsessed with domination and humiliation, and unable to tolerate cognitive dissonance...The prospect that President Trump will degrade or destroy American democracy is the most important question of the new political era. It has received important scholarly attention from two basic sources, which have approached it in importantly different fashions...If Trump has a plan to crush his adversaries, he has not yet revealed it. His authoritarian rage thus far is mostly impotent, the president as angry Fox-News-watching grandfather screaming threats at his television that he never carries out. The danger to the republic may come later, or never. In the first month of Trump’s presidency, the resistance has the upper hand." --safari

Uri Friedman of The Atlantic: "President Donald Trump has made national security a centerpiece of his agenda, justifying policies ranging from a travel ban to close relations with Russia. But the United States is now more vulnerable to attack than it was before Trump took office, according to the man who served as George W. Bush’s crisis manager on 9/11. 'In terms of a major terrorist attack in the United States or on U.S. facilities, I think we’re significantly less ready than we were on January 19,' said Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations...'I’ve never seen anything quite like it,' said Clarke, who spent 30 years in government, of the current turbulence at the National Security Council.... Clarke’s assessment is also based on the background of the council’s leaders...'I don’t know that there’s a single person [on Trump’s National Security Council] who’s ever had a senior position managing a national-security crisis out of Washington,' Clarke said." --safari

Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post demonstrates, by using Trump's much ballyhooed but fake infrastucture plan as an example, of why Trump can't govern & Barack Obama could and did. -- CW 

Josh Dawsey of Politico: "Donald Trump regularly assailed President Barack Obama for playing golf, then spent the first weekends of his own presidency doing just that. He attacked Obama for using Air Force One to campaign, and did it over the weekend just a month into the job. He mocked Obama for heading out of Washington at taxpayer expense, but appears to have no qualms about doing so himself. One month in, Trump is using the presidency to boost his political and personal goals — not breaking laws or ethics rules, experts say, but ignoring his past criticisms and vows. 'Donald Trump has zero worry about contradicting himself, because he does it all day long,' said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who has met with Trump." -- CW ...

I'm going to be working for you, I'm not going to have time to go play golf. -- Donald Trump, at an event in Virginia, August 2016 ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Of the 31 days he has been in office, President Trump has spent six of them on a golf course. That amounts to one-fifth of his tenure, including three of his five weekends, as commander in chief.... The White House goes to considerable lengths to keep Mr. Trump’s golf game away from scrutiny.... The rub, of course, is that Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized his predecessor, Barack Obama, for playing too much golf." -- CW ...

... Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "The three Mar-a-Lago getaways, combined with the hundreds of thousands of public dollars spent on Secret Service protection during two international trips Trump’s adult sons have taken to promote their father’s business, cost taxpayers about $11.3 million over the first month’s of Trump’s presidency, according to the UK-based Independent. President Obama, by contrast, spent an average of $12.1 million on travel each year." --safari

Dana Milbank: "Trump’s Stalinist labeling of the media [as the 'enemy of the American people'] is his latest attempt to delegitimize the structures of civil society, following similar attacks on the courts and the intelligence community. We in the press are an easy mark because we’re already held in low esteem. In this case, the charge, using the universal language of autocrats, probably shouldn’t be dignified with a refutation.... So let’s pause to remember: We [journalists] are all the American people. And we all love our country." -- CW 

Philip Bump of the Washington Post demonstrates how Press Secretary Sean Spicer mimics Trump's nationalistic, racist worldview by making up stuff & deflecting pointed questions. ...

... Cool New Way to Defend the Indefensible. Callum Borchers of the Washington Post. "White House press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to find his groove Tuesday. What's his new secret? When President [Donald] Trump says something indefensible, just pretend he said something else...Here is the first question Spicer received at Tuesday's news briefing, from LifeZette's Jim Stinson: 'I was curious if the president regrets or wants to clarify his characterization … of the media as an enemy of the American people.'...And here is how Spicer responded: 'I think the president has been very clear that certain outlets have gone out of their way to not represent his record accurately, and it is a concern to him.' Cool. But Trump didn't actually say what Spicer said he said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

    ... Akhilleus. Oops. When facts make the boss look bad (like, all the time), just lie and make up some other bullshit. It's gonna be a loooong four years.

Reuters: "In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America’s 'steadfast and enduring' commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks. Bannon, these people said, signalled to Germany’s ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and favoured conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.... The encounter unsettled people in the German government, in part because some officials had been holding out hope that Bannon might temper his views once in government and offer a more nuanced message on Europe in private. One source briefed on the meeting said it had confirmed the view that Germany and its European partners must prepare for a policy of “hostility towards the EU”. --safari

Jeremy Herb of Politico: "... Donald Trump's new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, needs Senate confirmation to remain a three-star general in his new post. His job, like virtually all those in the West Wing of the White House, doesn't need Senate approval. But his decision to remain on active duty as a three-star Army general will require Senate approval. Under the military’s arcane system for ranking three- and four-star generals and admirals, the ranks are considered temporary and tied to the position, so when officers move jobs they have to be reconfirmed by the Senate at that rank. Federal law allows for the president to appoint generals and admirals to “positions of importance,” but also requires Senate confirmation within 60 days." -- CW 

Elizabeth Preza of Raw Story: "Melania Trump revised her defamation lawsuit against Mail Online after she was widely criticized for describing her role as the First Lady as a 'unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' to launch 'multi-million dollar business relationships' as 'one of the most photographed women in the world,' the New York Post reports. Trump’s lawyers filed an amended complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Post reports...In the amended lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers removed the 'product categories' that were allegedly damaged by the Mail Online article, which included 'apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.... A spokeswoman for Trump denied the First Lady hoped to make money off her role in the government." --safari

Trip Gabriel, et al., of the New York Times: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (RTP-Tenn.), "who represents a safe Republican seat west of Nashville, was among the latest wave of Washington lawmakers to face angry constituents in what, inevitably but perhaps prematurely, has been called a progressive echo of the Tea Party anger that boiled over in town halls eight years ago. During the first weeklong recess of the new Congress, many Republicans have chosen not to hold events at all, wary of protests that might greet them.... Others gamely faced the music, including Representative Dennis A. Ross of Florida and Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who faced largely hostile audiences on Tuesday in districts that, like Ms. Blackburn’s, had strongly endorsed Mr. Trump at the polls.... Mr. Trump added his own voice to the criticism on Tuesday. 'The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!' — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Feb. 21, 2017." -- CW ...

... Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who drew national notice after complaining that women were 'in my grill' because he was reluctant to hold a town hall meeting, finally relented and came face to face with those women — and plenty others — at a raucous public event Tuesday night. Brat held the meeting in a tiny town in Nottoway County, a rural community carried by Trump in November.... For a little more than an hour, Brat was heckled nonstop as he fielded questions on health care, President Trump’s policies and the border wall. His answers seemed to antagonize most in the crowd of 150, who yelled back at him, at points drowning him out and prompting a few of his supporters to leave early in disgust." -- CW ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday pushed back on protesters at a speech in Kentucky, declaring that 'winners make policy and losers go home.' Speaking in Lawrenceburg, Ky., McConnell was met by nearly 1,000 protesters, some of whom chanted 'No ban, no wall, Mitch McConnell take our call,' the Associated Press reported." -- CW 

Ed Kilgore of New York: "The Senate landscape in 2018 is insanely pro-Republican. GOP control of the upper chamber could very well survive even a Democratic electoral tsunami. Since all House seats are up in 2018, GOP control there is significantly more vulnerable, but thanks to gerrymandering and superior “efficiency” in the distribution of voters, Democrats will have an uphill battle to win the net 24 seats necessary for a flip in control — and with it the ability to thwart the Trump/GOP agenda. Nate Cohn appears to think it’s too much of a reach even if Trump’s approval ratings stay roughly where they are today...So while it is hard to deny that Trump is amazingly unpopular for a new president, unless his approval ratings trend farther down the way even those of popular presidents typically do, his party may not suffer the kind of humiliation Democrats experienced in 2010." --safari

Mark Stern of Slate: "On Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to review the constitutionality of Thomas Arthur’s impending death by lethal injection, effectively clearing the way for Alabama to execute him. Only two justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, would’ve considered Arthur’s constitutional claims. To emphasize her disgust with the court’s nondecision, Sotomayor penned a dissent, joined by Breyer, explaining why Alabama’s treatment of Arthur likely violates the Constitution. Her mordant opinion reaffirms her deep skepticism of lethal injection’s legality—and cements her position as the court’s chief critic of state efforts to wriggle around the Constitution and inflict punishments that are almost certainly 'cruel and unusual.'” -- CW 

... Mark Stern: "On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect assault weapons an extraordinary decision keenly attuned to the brutal havoc these firearms can wreak. Issued by the court sitting en banc, Tuesday’s decision reversed a previous ruling in which a panel of judges had struck down Maryland’s ban on assault weapons and detachable large capacity magazines. Today’s ruling is a remarkable victory for gun safety advocates and a serious setback for gun proponents who believe the Second Amendment exempts weapons of war from regulation." Thanks to cakers for the link. -- CW 

Elliot Hannon of Slate: "A federal judge, on Tuesday, put a halt on Texas’ effort to cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood services in the state. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks’ preliminary injunction temporarily stopped the state’s effort to defund the reproductive health non-profit, which gained momentum after anti-abortion activists released secretly recorded, highly edited videos in 2015 that were contrived to make the organization look like it was profiting off the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Texas grand jury; that has not fazed Republican lawmakers however." -- CW 

Matt Shuham of TPM: "An FEC commissioner repeated her demand Tuesday that the White House provide proof for its claims that thousands of people were bused from Massachusetts into New Hampshire to vote illegally in the 2016 election. She also defied a letter from a Koch brothers-funded group that asked that she be investigated for her actions. The commissioner made a similar demand for proof last week. The statement cites a group funded by the Koch brothers, Cause of Action, which sent a letter Tuesday to the inspector general of the FEC, requesting an investigation into what it claimed was Weintraub overstepping her authority as a commissioner." --safari

Besty Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "A pillar of famously liberal Silicon Valley is underwriting Washington’s biggest gathering of conservatives. Sources with direct knowledge of the matter tell The Daily Beast that Facebook made a six-figure contribution to CPAC, the yearly conference for conservative activists which will feature President Donald Trump, White House advisor Steve Bannon, NRA president Wayne LaPierre, and other right-wing favorites. Facebook’s contribution is worth more than $120,000, according to our sources. Half of that is cash, and the other half is in-kind support for CPAC’s operations. Facebook will have a space at the conference for attendees to film Facebook Live videos, and will also train people on best practices for using the social network and Instagram." --safari...

... Jessica Valenti of the Guardian: "It’s odd to watch conservatives distance themselves from the writer Milo Yiannopoulos because he condoned child sex abuse. After all, they just elected a president who has a history of making inappropriate sexual comments about children – including his own daughter – and was accused of walking into the dressing rooms of changing teenagers.... The truth, though, is that this is an issue not so much about one hateful writer, but about conservatives’ tolerance and support of hateful ideology more generally...The only thing this latest controversy proves is that supporting Yiannopoulos was never about “free speech”. Those who canceled his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and pulled his book because they found what he said about children abhorrent are essentially conceding that everything he said previously was tolerable. That the racism, misogyny, xenophobia were just fine." --safari ...

... Dave Weigel & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "The conservative movement in America now belongs to President Trump. Thousands of activists will arrive in Washington this week for an annual gathering that will vividly display how Trump has pushed the Republican Party and the conservative movement toward an 'America first' nationalism that has long existed on the fringes.... This year’s CPAC schedule represents a marked shift toward Trump’s politics and penchant for showmanship.... Meanwhile, the libertarian flavor of the conference during the Obama years has faded." -- CW ...

... Steve Peoples of the AP: "... the conservative movement is in flux as thousands of adherents prepare to gather in suburban Washington for its largest annual gathering. Not long ago, the conference showcased the far-right fringe and the Republican Party's rigid devotion to conservative ideology. Yet in the age of unfiltered Trump, CPAC may be outflanked by the likes of [Milo] Yiannopoulos and the president's chief counselor, Steve Bannon, whose confrontational brand of Republican politics ignores decades of conservative orthodoxy on key issues. Conservative leaders interviewed by The Associated Press this week described a clash between their sincere optimism over the Republican Party's extraordinary success last fall and pangs of anxiety over its uncertain direction." -- CW ...

...Too Horrible for Breitbart. Adios, Milo. Edward Helmore of the Guardian: "Rightwing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has resigned from Breitbart News, a day after he was dropped by his publisher and lost a speaking engagement at a conservative conference, over comments he made that appeared to endorse sex between 'younger boys' and older men." -- CW ...

... Sophie Gilbert of the Atlantic: "In only now canceling [Milo Yiannopoulos]’s book deal, [Simon & Schuster] is left with no goodwill, no payday, and no valid reason for working with him in the first place." -- CW

Dana Liebelson of the Huffington Post: "School administrators in a 93 percent white  Maryland county recently asked high school teachers to take down pro-diversity posters  from classrooms because they perceived them as 'political' and 'anti-Trump,' a school spokesperson told The Huffington Post." Some students are fighting back. -- CW  

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Michelle Celarier of Slate: "The Trump era could ignite a golden age for politically connected multilevel marketing companies — or what critics (and John Oliver) say are often merely disguised pyramid schemes, illegal enterprises in which people primarily earn money by recruiting others instead of by selling products to the public.... Regulating these companies, with their legions of independent salespeople, is difficult for the toughest regulatory regimes. And the Trump era will be anything but that.... Even though the FTC continues to say such claims are deceptive, MLM companies are notorious for making ludicrous promises of wealth that can still be found all over the internet. It’s not dissimilar to what Trump has promised his followers." -- CW 

Emma Graham-Harrison of the Guardian: "Toxic political rhetoric with echoes of 1930s hate speech is stirring up violence worldwide – including in the UK and US, Amnesty International has warned. Kerry Moscoguiri, Amnesty UK’s director of campaigns, said that campaigning for the Brexit referendum 'was a particular low point, with all too real consequences' – pointing to a 57% spike in reported hate crime the week after the vote...But the UK was not alone in seeing vicious rhetoric targeting the most vulnerable, as 2016 saw leaders worldwide peddling 'the dangerous idea that some people are less human than others', according to Amnesty’s director of crisis research Tirana Hassan.... The attacks threaten not just human lives but the value system enshrined in international law after the second world war, warned the NGO." --safari

Madison Park of CNN: "A total of 214 people have been indicted so far on felony rioting charges in connection with the Inauguration Day protests in downtown Washington." -- CW  

Beyond the Beltway

Sandy Tolan of The Daily Beast: "'We are using public and military employees to do the private work of a pipeline company,' said North Dakota Democratic state Sen. Tim Mathern. Mathern said the state has borrowed tens of millions of dollars from the Bank of North Dakota to fuel the police presence. Hundreds of state police, county sheriff’s deputies from seven states, and the North Dakota National Guard have essentially served as a private security force for the Fortune 500 company, Energy Transfer Partners...North Dakota’s taxpayer-funded aggression, with enthusiastic backing from the Trump administration, is now at the center of a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit and a United Nations fact-finding tour to Standing Rock...Six decades after tear gas, dogs, police batons, and hoses were turned on nonviolent civil rights marchers in the Deep South, those same tactics are deployed on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters in the Northern Plains. By all appearances, North Dakota has become the Selma of the North. And in a nod to Jim Crow, North Dakota lawmakers recently passed a package of new bills that would make it a crime to wear a mask during demonstrations, and a felony if you cause $1000 or more in damages while protesting. Another proposed bill would make it legal for motorists to “unintentionally” run over and kill protestors in the road." --safari

Alice Ollstein of TPM: "North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who narrowly unseated Republican Pat McCrory in November, announced Tuesday that he is reversing course in a major voting rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The state will no longer defend a series of voting restrictions passed in 2013 by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by McCrory that a federal appeals court has ruled constitute unconstitutional 'race-based vote suppression.'" -- CW 

Way Beyond

Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "Prosecutors in Ukraine are investigating whether a member of Parliament committed treason by working with two associates of President Trump’s to promote a plan for settling Ukraine’s conflicts with Russia. In a court filing on Tuesday, prosecutors accused the lawmaker, Andrii V. Artemenko, of conspiring with Russia to commit 'subversive acts against Ukraine,' in particular by advancing a proposal that could 'legitimize the temporary occupation' of the Crimean peninsula. Russia forcibly annexed the peninsula in 2014, a step that Ukraine, the United States and other governments have refused to recognize; Mr. Artemenko said his proposal would allow Ukraine to formally cede control of the territory to Russia, at least temporarily." -- CW 

Reuters via the Guardian: "The former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang has been sentenced to 20 months in jail for misconduct in public office, making him the most senior city official to be imprisoned in a ruling some said reaffirmed the territory’s vaunted rule of law. The sentencing on Wednesday brings an ignominious end to what had been a long and stellar career for Tsang before and after the 1997 handover to Chinese control, service that saw him knighted by the outgoing British colonial rulers. 'Never in my judicial career have I seen a man falling from such a height,' said high court justice Andrew Chan in passing sentence." --safari

Milena Veselinovic and Darran Simon of CNN: "Montenegro's chief special prosecutor has told a local TV station authorities believe Russian security services were involved in a plot to kill the country's then-prime minister and overthrow the government last October. Milivoje Katnic said Montenegro officials have evidence that Russia's Federal Security Service was involved in the failed coup, according to his statements Sunday on Atlas TV. The allegation drew an immediate rebuke and denial from Russian officials. Katnic said the plot was an attempt to stop Montenegro from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO." --safari