The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, September 15, 2019.

New York Times: "Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88."

Public Service Announcement

September 5: Washington Post: "State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call." The NPR story is here.

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":

 

Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Sunday
Sep152019

The Commentariat -- September 16, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Richard Pérez-Peña & Saudi Arabia said Monday that Iranian weapons were used in aerial strikes over the weekend that interrupted much of the kingdom’s oil production, and that the attacks were not launched from Yemen, home of the Houthi rebel faction that has claimed responsibility for the them. The claims, made without supporting evidence, appeared to move the Saudis closer to directly blaming Iran, a chief ally of the Houthis, for the attacks on Saturday.... United States officials have said that Iran was responsible for the attacks on Saturday.... The Americans offered no evidence of Iranian involvement..., and they did not say who was directly involved in carrying out the strikes or from where they were launched.... President Trump on Monday took to Twitter to suggest that Tehran could not be believed...." Mrs. McC: Now there's the pot calling the kettle black. ~~~

~~~ Martha Raddatz & Katherine Faulders of ABC News: "... Donald Trump and senior administration officials met at the White House on Monday to discuss how to respond to the attack on a Saudi oil facility that the U.S. has blamed on Iran, according to three senior administration officials.... Saudi military spokesperson Col. Turki al-Malki said on Monday that initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used in the attack and that those weapons were not launched from inside Yemen." ~~~

~~~ Megan Specia of the New York Times: "Iran has dismissed the possibility of a meeting between the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and President Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week, the country’s state-run news media reported on Monday."

Lauren Fox, et al., of CNN: "Days before Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, a Democratic senator [-- Chris Coons (Delaware) --] urged the FBI to reach out to a witness who had key information about alleged misconduct by the nominee while at Yale, according to a letter obtained by CNN.... An aide familiar with the letter told CNN that the FBI acknowledged receipt of Coons' letter at the time, but the senator never heard more beyond that.... The letter comes as The New York Times reported over the weekend that the Times had interviewed more individuals who had corroborated the allegation of Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate who alleged Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a dorm room party. The Times also reported that there was another previously undisclosed allegation raised by Max Stier, a Yale classmate who told the Times that he had witnessed Kavanaugh engage in another, similar incident. [[CNN confirmed that the witnessed referenced in Coons' letter was Stier.] CNN is not reporting any details of the accusation and has not independently corroborated the account."

Darren Samuelsohn in Politico Magazine: "A document Hillary Clinton helped write nearly a half century ago has returned from the dead to threaten the man she couldn’t vanquish in 2016. The bizarre, only-in-D.C. twist centers on a congressional report penned by a bipartisan team of young attorneys that included Hillary before she was a Clinton and written in the throes of Watergate.... [Lawmakers then] had little understanding of how to try and remove Richard Nixon from the White House. So they tapped Clinton and a team of ambitious staffers to dive into the history of impeachment, stretching back to the 14th century in England[.]... The resulting document became a centerpiece of the congressional push to drive [Nixon] from office.... Republicans [resurrected the memo in the late 1990s] to bolster their unsuccessful bid to oust Clinton’s’ now-husband, President Bill Clinton. Then it faded from public conscience — again.... [Today,] the 45-year-old report has become a handbook House Democratic lawmakers and aides say they are using to help determine whether they have the goods to mount a full-scale impeachment effort against ... Donald Trump...."

~~~~~~~~~~

Kareem Fahim, et al., of the Washington Post: “President Trump said Sunday that the United States was prepared to respond to the devastating attacks on two oil installations in Saudi Arabia that halved the state oil company’s production output, while Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was responsible. 'There is reason to believe that we know the culprit,' Trump said in a tweet Sunday evening. He said the United States was 'locked and loaded depending on verification.' Trump did not name Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Saturday, or specify whether he was contemplating a military response. He said he was waiting to hear from the Saudis on 'who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!'” CNN's story is here. Mrs. McC: "Locked & loaded"? There is an eight-year-old in charge of the military. He is playing president, and he's terrible at it. ~~~

~~~ Martha Raddatz of ABC News: "Iran launched nearly a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones from its territory in the attack on a key Saudi oil facility Saturday, a senior Trump administration official told ABC News Sunday. It is an extraordinary charge to make, that Iran used missiles and drones to attack its neighbor and rival Saudi Arabia, as the region teeters on the edge of high tensions.... The Trump administration, in particular Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has blamed Iran for the attack since Saturday, but so far, there's been no public accusation that Iran launched missiles.... Critics condemned Trump's threat to act, especially at the Saudis' behest. Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan, a former Republican and now Independent, tweeted, 'Under our Constitution, the power to commence war lies with Congress, not the president and certainly not Saudi Arabia. We don’t take orders from foreign powers.'" ~~~

     ~~~ AND there's this from Raddatz's report: "The risk of conflict seemed lower less than a week ago, with the departure of hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton and Trump seeming to embrace the possibility of talks with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly later this month in New York. Pompeo said Tuesday that Trump was 'prepared to meet with no preconditions.' But in a reversal Sunday, Trump tweeted it was 'incorrect' to say he was willing to meet without conditions, blaming the 'fake news' despite his repeated statements saying so. In July 2018, the president first said 'no preconditions ... If they want to meet, I'll meet -- anytime they want.'" ~~~

~~~ Max Boot in the Washington Post: "The Houthi rebel group in Yemen assumed responsibility [for the attacks on Saudi oil installations], but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame on Iran. This is a claim that Iran denies and that few may take on faith given how often the administration has lied about even minor matters. President Trump and his aides just tried to falsify information about a hurricane. Why believe them about an attack in the Middle East? Nevertheless, it appears, based on the sophistication of this attack, that Iran is indeed the real culprit.... Whoever the culprit, this attack offers yet more evidence that Trump’s Middle East policy has failed. At the root of the problem is Trump’s decision to outsource Middle East leadership to Israel and Saudi Arabia — unlikely allies united by their mutual (and understandable) antipathy toward the Iranian regime.... A sponsor of terrorism and a heinous human rights abuser, Iran deserves an outsize share of the blame for destabilizing the Middle East. But Trump has only aggravated the crisis by blindly backing his friends in Israel and Saudi Arabia. The attack on Saudi oil production is only the latest blowback — and far from the last."

David Edwards of the Raw Story: “White House aide Kellyanne Conway on Sunday insisted that Democrats do not have a 'constitutional basis' to embarrass ... Donald Trump by conducting an impeachment inquiry. 'Stop the nonsense of harassing and embarrassing this president and the people around him when you have no constitutional or legal basis to do so,' she said.” Mrs. McC: Maybe KellyAnne should ask her husband the lawyer about that. (Also linked yesterday.)

Alicia Cohn of the Hill: "The New York Times on Monday added a correction to a report accusing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. The correction notes that friends of the woman allegedly involved in the incident with Kavanaugh during law school say she does not recall it. The Times in the story published Saturday reported a former classmate of Kavanaugh's named Max Stier said he witnessed the now-judge expose himself and force another female classmate to touch his penis at a dorm party. The Times said it corroborated the story with two other officials who had heard the same report from the former classmate, Stier. However, the woman involved in the alleged incident did not speak to the Times and, according to the correction, her friends say she does not recall that it happened.... Trump also noted the story correction on Monday morning, tweeting: 'DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT THESE HORRIBLE PEOPLE WILL DO OR SAY. They are looking to destroy, and influence his opinions - but played the game badly. They should be sued!'" ~~~

     ~~~ Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: And Trump kept on blasting. ~~~

~~~ Sandra Garcia of the New York Times: “Several Democratic presidential candidates called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Sunday after The New York Times published new information about allegations of sexual misconduct against him, while Republican leaders condemned the reporting as irresponsible and defended him.... The Senate Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on Twitter, that the 'far left’s willingness to seize on completely uncorroborated and unsubstantiated allegations during last year’s confirmation process was a dark and embarrassing chapter for the Senate.'... [Besides Harris & Castro, whose comments are below, candidates Elizabeth Warren & Bernie Sanders also called for Kavanaugh's impeachment.] The Times was roundly criticized for a tweet — which was later deleted — made on its Opinion account on Saturday about the essay that read: 'Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun. But when Brett Kavanaugh did it to her, Deborah Ramirez says, it confirmed that she didn’t belong at Yale in the first place.' [James Dao, deputy editorial page editor for The Times,] said the tweet 'was clearly offensive and never should have gone out and we sincerely apologize.'” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: No, what "was clearly offensive" was "having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party." What's clear to me is that Kavanaugh's purpose was to humiliate young women. While I don't know who the third woman cited in the Times report is, in Ramirez & Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh chose low-status women to humiliate. He probably would not have dared pull these grotesque stunts on the most popular girls, but a poor Hispanic student & a lower-class girl were perfect targets for sexual assaults he thought were funny. Kavanaugh is not only a serial sexual offender, a misogynist & a perjurer; he's also a bully. And bullies are horrible judges. ~~~

~~~ Chas Danner of New York: "At least six Democratic presidential candidates have released statements calling for the impeachment or removal of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh after new details supporting and adding to the sexual misconduct allegations against him were revealed over the weekend. [That would be Castro, Harris, Warren, Sanders, O'Rourke & Buttigieg.]... Kavanaugh will in all likelihood need no rescuing from impeachment. There has only been one impeachment of a Supreme Court justice in American history, back in the 1800s, and no justice has ever been removed from the Court. It’s not reasonable to expect that one could be now either — particularly in the current political environment. The successful impeachment, conviction, and removal of Kavanaugh would require Democrats taking back the White House, keeping the House (where they already can’t agree to impeach Trump,) and obtaining a like-minded supermajority in the Senate (where Democrats barely have a chance to win even a simple majority in 2020.)"

I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached. -- Kamala Harris, in a tweet today

It’s more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He should be impeached. And Congress should review the failure of the Department of Justice to properly investigate the matter. -- Julian Castro, in a tweet Saturday night ~~~

~~~ Max Burman & others of NBC News cover the basics of the NYT story & reactions. "Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath last year that the first time he heard of Ramirez’s allegation was in a Sept. 23 article in The New Yorker. But according to text messages obtained last year by NBC News, in the days leading up to Ramirez' public allegation Kavanaugh and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim."

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday urged President Trump to endorse House-passed gun measures and pledged to join him for a 'historic signing ceremony at the Rose Garden' if the legislation is passed. The Democratic leaders said in a joint statement that they spoke with Trump by phone Sunday morning at their request, 200 days after the House passed H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112. The two measures, which would expand federal background checks for gun purchases and transfers, represent the first major firearm restrictions to advance in a generation. Trump has threatened to veto both measures.... [This morning, we made it clear to the president that any proposal he endorses that does not include the House-passed universal background checks legislation will not get the job done, as dangerous loopholes will still exist and people who shouldn’t have guns will still have access,' Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement.” Politico's story is here.

Horse Bites Veep. Or Not. Lesley Clark of McClatchy News in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer (Sept. 13): “Vice President Mike Pence says Triple Crown winner American Pharoah bit him hard enough on the arm during a 2018 visit to Kentucky that he nearly collapsed. But farm manager Dermot Ryan, who was there as Pence was presented with an American Pharoah halter, said Friday it would be out of character for a horse he described as 'sweet.'” (Also linked yesterday.)

Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: “According to a report from Wall Street Journal, Republican lawmakers are working behind the scenes to rein in Donald Trump’s penchant for declaring tariffs willy-nilly depending on how he feels about other countries and their leaders at any given time. As the president trade war rages on — impacting manufacturers, farmers and consumers alike — Republicans looking at the 2020 election are desperate to turn around a U.S. economy that looks headed for a recession. According to the Journal, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran (R) is deeply disturbed by the ongoing devastation due to the president’s trade moves, saying, 'This has gone on longer than I think people expected it. And so the financial consequences are increasing.' Moran along with Republican Sen, Chuck Grassley (IA), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, are meeting with other members of their party and making plans to reach out to Democrats.... According to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who is pushing legislation requiring Trump to seek congressional approval before imposing tariffs, the law is on the legislator’s side. 'The Constitution is very unambiguous,' he explained. 'It assigns Congress the responsibility for regulating commerce with other countries and setting tariffs, and yet we’ve significantly delegated that to the president.'” The Wall Street Journal report is here.

Jan Hoffman & Mary Walsh of the New York Times: "Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, the drug widely seen as igniting the opioid crisis, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sunday night, a move at the center of the company’s efforts to shield itself and its owners from more than 2,600 federal and state lawsuits. The terms of the filing, which include a proposed resolution of most of those cases, are expected to be fiercely contested by a group of 26 states that have refused to settle with Purdue and are intent on pursuing the company’s owners, the Sacklers, considered one of the wealthiest families in the United States. A showdown in bankruptcy court in White Plains could come as early as this week.... The filing itself comes scarcely 48 hours after an announcement late Friday afternoon by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, that her office had uncovered almost a billion dollars in previously undisclosed wire transfers from Purdue to private accounts held by one of the Sacklers." The AP story is here.

Presidential Race 2020

Allan Smith & Mike Memoli of NBC News: "Former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday made his most expansive speech yet on race, calling on the nation to live up to its founding ideals and saying that silence on racism amounts to complicity. 'There can be no realization of the American Dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery,' Biden told churchgoers in Alabama while delivering the keynote address at services marking the 56th anniversary of the deadly bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church." ...

~~~ Charles Blow of the New York Times: "... Biden’s positioning on racial issues has been problematic.... It’s not what Biden says in prepared remarks that’s problematic, it’s what he says off the cuff and under pressure that to me reveal an antiquated view on racial matters and racial sensitivities.... His language belies a particular mind-set, one of a liberal of a particular vintage. On the issue of race, it is paternalistic and it pities...."

That Time Joe Faced Down Corn Pop. Mary Papenfuss of the Huffington Post: “Reactions on Twitter went viral Sunday after a writer challenged a story Joe Biden often tells about how he successfully confronted an armed black gang member named 'Corn Pop' at a swimming pool — after calling him ["Esther," after swimmer Esther Williams]. Michael Harriot, a senior writer at The Root, kicked off the ruckus Saturday tweeting his suspicions about the 1962 incident involving the 'Romans' gang leader that Biden has repeated several times, including in his autobiography. The controversy was also fueled by a clip posted in a tweet by a columnist from the right-wing Daily Caller. But CNN found a 2016 obituary for 'Corn Pop' and quoted a former mayor of Wilmington, Delaware, where the pool was located, who said Corn Pop, 'real as the moon in the sky,' was confrontational. The former mayor  — and others — also heard of the confrontation at the time. In addition, a CNN fact check by reporter Daniel Dale confirmed that the 'Romans' gang existed at the time in Wilmington.... '(The “problem” with the Corn Pop story isn’t if it is true or not, but why on earth he feels the need to TELL it, repeatedly. What it means to him and why. What message is conveyed and how and at whose expense and whose gain) [-- Martha Crawford, in a tweet].”


Margot Sanger-Katz
, et al., of the New York Times: "Early this summer, Congress appeared on its way to eradicating the large medical bills that have shocked many patients after emergency care. The legislation to end out-of-network charges was popular and had support from both sides of the aisle. President Trump promised his support. Then, in late July, a mysterious group called Doctor Patient Unity showed up. It poured vast sums of money — now more than $28 million — into ads opposing the legislation, without disclosing its staff or its funders. Trying to guess who was behind the ads became something of a parlor game in some Beltway circles. Now, the mystery is solved. The two largest financial backers of Doctor Patient Unity are TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare, private-equity-backed companies that own physician practices and staff emergency rooms around the country, according to Greg Blair, a spokesman for the group.... TeamHealth was acquired in 2016 by the private-equity firm Blackstone Group in a deal valued at $6.1 billion. And last fall, in one of the largest takeovers of the year, the private-equity giant KKR spent $9.9 billion to acquire Envision Healthcare.... The proposed legislation, which may advance to floor votes this year, is potentially bad for business for TeamHealth and Envision." Thanks to Patrick for the link. See also Patrick's commentary in yesterday's thread. (Also linked yesterday.) 

Chris Isidore of CNN: "The United Auto Workers union said Sunday that its members at General Motors will walk out by midnight [Sunday, Sept. 15] if the automaker does not meet its demands, setting the stage for the nation's first auto strike in 12 years. A union statement suggests the two sides are still very far apart in negotiations for a new contract.... But negotiations come as the union is hit by a scandal involving misappropriation of union funds, and in some cases, union officials accepting bribes from officials at Fiat Chrysler. Nine people associated with the union or Fiat Chrysler have already pleaded guilty to federal charges. Last week, the Detroit News reported the union's president, Gary Jones, was the unnamed union official identified in the most recent indictment as 'UAW Official A.'... Experts say the scandal will make it more difficult to get rank and file union members at the automakers to ratify any tentative deal reached by union leadership." Mrs. McC: Say, maybe the Artful Dealmaker could step in & negotiate a contract. At least he knows from corruption. ~~~

     ~~~ Update. Tim Stelloh & Rachel Elbaum of NBC News: "Tens of thousands of auto workers across the country went on strike Sunday night after negotiations faltered between their union and General Motors. The strike began at 11:59 p.m. ET., with as many as 50,000 United Auto Workers at dozens of facilities from Michigan to Texas expected to participate. Union spokesman Brian Rothenberg told the Associated Press on Sunday night that negotiations would resume on Monday morning, even as the strike went forward."

Zach Dorfman, et al., of Yahoo! News: "On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government.... The Obama administration’s public rationale for the expulsions and closures — the harshest U.S. diplomatic reprisals taken against Russia in several decades — was to retaliate for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But ... both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community." ...

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: You may recall that nearly as soon as he took office, Trump began preparations for returning the two spycom centers to Russia. (I don't think this ever happened. Apparently FBI briefers convinced Trump that returning the properties would not be "America First"-y. That is, intelligence officials have to use subterfuge to manipulate Trump into doing what any real president would do as a matter of course.)

Will Climate Deniers Pay Attention Now? Thor Benson of the Daily Beast: “As climate change spurs increasingly destructive wildfires in California, insurance companies have begun to deem certain parts of the state too risky to cover. But this particular offshoot of the climate crisis isn’t just a problem for residents of the Golden State. Climate experts warn that areas across the country are becoming more prone to natural disasters, putting homes at risk in more ways than one. According to new data, over 340,000 California homeowners lost property insurance coverage between 2015 and 2018 due to wildfires that are increasing in frequency and intensity. But that’s just a sample of what’s to come. 'We’re looking at entire zones now that are just totally uninsurable,' Jesse Keenan, a Harvard lecturer who focuses on urban development and climate adaptation, told The Daily Beast. 'I see no end to the challenges for insurance when it comes to climate change,' Jason Thistlethwaite, a professor of environment and economics at the University of Waterloo, added. 'Flooding is another area where you’re going to see a lack of availability and affordability.'” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe if climate change directly hits people in their pocketbooks, they'll wake up & smell the methane. If your home is uninsurable, not only are you subject to financial losses for any reason -- like, say, a car rams into your house -- but also you can't sell the house because potential buyers won't be able to obtain mortgages without property insurance.

Saturday
Sep142019

The Commentariat -- September 15, 2019

Late Morning Update:

David Edwards of the Raw Story: “White House aide Kellyanne Conway on Sunday insisted that Democrats do not have a 'constitutional basis' to embarrass ... Donald Trump by conducting an impeachment inquiry. 'Stop the nonsense of harassing and embarrassing this president and the people around him when you have no constitutional or legal basis to do so,' she said.” Mrs. McC: Maybe KellyAnne should ask her husband the lawyer about that.

I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached. -- Kamala Harris, in a tweet today

It’s more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He should be impeached. And Congress should review the failure of the Department of Justice to properly investigate the matter. -- Julian Castro, in a tweet Saturday night

Horse Bites Veep. Or Not. Lesley Clark of McClatchy News in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer (Sept. 13): “Vice President Mike Pence says Triple Crown winner American Pharoah bit him hard enough on the arm during a 2018 visit to Kentucky that he nearly collapsed. But farm manager Dermot Ryan, who was there as Pence was presented with an American Pharoah halter, said Friday it would be out of character for a horse he described as 'sweet.'”

Margot Sanger-Katz, et al., of the New York Times: "Early this summer, Congress appeared on its way to eradicating the large medical bills that have shocked many patients after emergency care. The legislation to end out-of-network charges was popular and had support from both sides of the aisle. President Trump promised his support. Then, in late July, a mysterious group called Doctor Patient Unity showed up. It poured vast sums of money — now more than $28 million — into ads opposing the legislation, without disclosing its staff or its funders. Trying to guess who was behind the ads became something of a parlor game in some Beltway circles. Now, the mystery is solved. The two largest financial backers of Doctor Patient Unity are TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare, private-equity-backed companies that own physician practices and staff emergency rooms around the country, according to Greg Blair, a spokesman for the group.... TeamHealth was acquired in 2016 by the private-equity firm Blackstone Group in a deal valued at $6.1 billion. And last fall, in one of the largest takeovers of the year, the private-equity giant KKR spent $9.9 billion to acquire Envision Healthcare.... The proposed legislation, which may advance to floor votes this year, is potentially bad for business for TeamHealth and Envision." Thanks to Patrick for the link. See also Patrick's commentary below.


Read more here: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article235066162.html#storylink=cp

~~~~~~~~~~

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times on "Margaret Atwood's dystopia, and ours." Atwood's new novel The Testaments is a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. “'The Testaments' .. would be a literary event in any period; in ours, it’s a cultural phenomenon.... 'Writing dystopias and utopias is a way of asking the reader the question, “Where do you want to live?’” Atwood said when I talked to her last year. 'And where you end up living is going to depend partly on what you do now.' 'The Testaments,' it turns out, isn’t a dystopian work at all. It’s utopian. By the time it’s over..., the rigidly patriarchal Republic of ... Gilead is a relic, and scholars in a more enlightened time are studying the women who subverted it. Praise be! Our descendants should be so lucky.”

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker: "Donald Trump keeps winning. He is waging war against government and expertise — two of the constant targets of his campaign rage — and both American and international institutions are the losers. Consider two recent, unrelated events: the Supreme Court order that cleared the way for extreme restrictions on the right to seek asylum, and the appointment of a thirty-year-old administrative assistant as the United States’ new envoy to the Middle East.... Contempt for expertise and disdain for the ways of government are integral to the Trumpian worldview, in which procedure exists only to thwart the President and experts only complicate things, solely in order to keep plain folk out. During his campaign, Trump claimed to keep only his own counsel on foreign policy—a commitment to ignorance and impulsiveness that he apparently demonstrated by ousting his third national-security adviser this week."

** Supreme Perjurer. New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin & Ms. Ramirez’s legal team gave the F.B.I. a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence. But the bureau — in its supplemental background investigation — interviewed none of them, though we learned many of these potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the F.B.I. on their own. Two F.B.I. agents interviewed Ms. Ramirez, telling her that they found her 'credible.' But the Republican-controlled Senate had imposed strict limits on the investigation.

Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro said Saturday that ... nonprofit owner Max Stier's allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a party before other students pressed him against a female student, forcing his genitals to come in contact with her hand, should be investigated. 'Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a shame to the Supreme Court. This latest allegation of assault must be investigated,' he tweeted." ~~~

~~~ Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "President Trump in an early morning tweet on Sunday said 'Radical left Democrats' and the 'LameStream Media' want to scare Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh into 'turning Liberal.' 'Now the Radical Left Democrats and their Partner, the LameStream Media, are after Brett Kavanaugh again, talking loudly of their favorite word, impeachment,' he tweeted. 'He is an innocent man who has been treated HORRIBLY. Such lies about him. They want to scare him into turning Liberal!'... Trump in a follow-up tweet early Sunday said Kavanaugh should 'start suing people for liable,' suggesting that the Justice Department should 'come to his rescue.' 'The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop?' he asked. 'They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!'” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: “Suing for liable”??? How about “suing for lie-able”? After all, no chance Brett would prevail in a suit for libel. Update: The spelling of "libel" in both the body of the story & Trump's tweet has been corrected. Daniel Politi of Slate reports on the original tweet.

Christian Vasquez of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday said he discussed a potential mutual defense treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call just days before the Israeli election.... Netanyahu has been exploring a defense alliance with the U.S. for some months now, according to reports, and the issue is seen as a potential boost to his re-election bid. The Israeli elections are scheduled to take place Tuesday."

Alex Horton of the Washington Post: “Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden and once-possible heir to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, was killed in a U.S. counterterror operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, President Trump said Saturday — more than a month after officials suggested he was killed. Osama bin Laden’s son was 'responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups,' President Trump said in a statement released by the White House. His death is a blow to al-Qaeda’s leadership acumen, Trump said, and symbolic given the connection to his slain father, who was killed in a Navy SEAL raid on his Pakistani refuge in 2011.” The CNN story is here. (Also linked yesterday.)

Ted Hesson of Politico: "An internal memo prepared by a top Trump immigration official [-- USCIS Policy and Strategy Chief Kathy Nuebel Kovarik --] recommends that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services be stripped of its authority to delay deportations for undocumented immigrants receiving treatment for serious medical conditions. The Trump administration in August quietly halted its processing of such requests, which are known as 'deferred action.'... USCIS' authority to grant deportation relief through deferred action dates back to the creation of the Homeland Security Department in 2003."

Presidential Race 2020

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden committed to publicly releasing his medical records before the Iowa caucuses after questions of whether the 76-year-old former vice president is fit for the rigors of the presidency and to take on ... Donald Trump, aged 73, in a grueling 2020 campaign."

Sara Fischer of Axios: "More than 1,000 accounts across several different social media platforms with suspicious, bot-like characteristics helped push quote tweets, a tweet that is retweeted but additional text is added, from Donald Trump campaign accounts during the third primary debate, according to an analysis provided to Axios by social media intelligence company Storyful. Those tweets accounted for the top 3 most-shared links across several social media platforms, including Facebook, Reddit, etc., during the debate.... Despite attempts by social media companies to weed out malicious behavior online, automated accounts are still driving a large part of the social conversation around political events.

~~~ Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: “... Saturday, the Sanders campaign said it had 'already reached out to a Nevada senate office for case work help.'”


Erik Ortiz
of NBC News: "'Saturday Night Live' remained silent Friday after the growing furor that one of its newest cast members has a history of racist and homophobic remarks. The controversial comments — made by standup comedian Shane Gillis in a podcast video uploaded a year ago — surfaced Thursday on social media, just hours after 'SNL' announced his hiring, and led some fans to demand the long-running sketch comedy show drop him ahead of the new season.... In clips from 'Matt and Shane's Secret Podcast,' which have been removed from its YouTube channel, Gillis and his co-host denigrate Chinatown and Chinese food, speak in caricature Asian accents and make sexist comments about Asian women. Gillis also uses an ethnic slur used to describe the Chinese. Gillis has taken part in other recorded conversations in which he mocks an Asian boy with Down syndrome and uses homophobic slurs about other comedians." Mrs. McC: Somehow, I don't think I'm going to find that guy funny. (Also linked yesterday.) 

Blake Montgomery of the Daily Beast: “While MIT engages in damage control following revelations the university’s Media Lab accepted millions of dollars in funding from Jeffrey Epstein, a renowned computer scientist at the university has fanned the flames by apparently going out of his way to defend the accused sex trafficker — and child pornography in general. Richard Stallman has been hailed as one of the most influential computer scientists around today..., but his eminence in the academic computer science community came into question Friday afternoon when purportedly leaked email excerpts showed him suggesting one of Epstein’s alleged victims was 'entirely willing.'... A deep dive into his writings shows this isn’t the first time Stallman has expressed such questionable views.... He has written dozens of posts on his personal website in favor of legalizing pedophilia and child pornography for more than 15 years.”

WNDU South Bend, Indiana: "Police say 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains were found on the property of Ulrich George Klopfer, a late abortion doctor who used to operate a South Bend clinic. Klopfer died on Sept. 3. On Sept. 12, the Will County (Illinois) Coroner’s Office received a call from an attorney representing his family. They reported finding fetal remains among Klopfer's personal property and requested proper removal. Will County sheriff’s detectives, crime scene investigators and representatives from the coroner’s office went to the address and were directed to an area of the property where 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains were located. The coroner’s office took possession of the remains. There is no evidence that any medical procedures were conducted at the property, according to the sheriff's office, and the family is cooperating fully with the investigation."

The Indiana Medical Licensing Board voted to suspend Klopfer's medical license indefinitely back in 2015. He operated the Women's Pavilion in South Bend, as well as abortion clinics in Fort Wayne and Gary.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Yemen, Saudi Arabia. Jon Gambrell of the AP: "Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field Saturday, sparking huge fires at a vulnerable chokepoint for global energy supplies. It remained unclear hours later whether anyone was injured at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field or what effect the assault would have on oil production. Rising smoke from the fires at the sites could be seen by satellites. The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis in the war against a Saudi-led coalition comes after weeks of similar drone assaults on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure, but none of the earlier strikes appeared to have caused the same amount of damage. The attack likely will heighten tensions further across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers."(Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Update. Ben Hubbard, et al., of the New York Times: “Drone attacks claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia on Saturday, damaging facilities that process the vast majority of the country’s crude output and raising the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies. The attacks immediately escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a standoff between the United States and Iran, even as key questions remained unanswered — where the drones were launched from, and how the Houthis could have managed to hit facilities deep in Saudi territory, some 500 miles from Yemeni soil. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of being behind what he called 'an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply' and asserted that there was 'no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.' He did not, however, say where the attacks were launched from, and the Saudis themselves did not openly accuse Iran.”

Friday
Sep132019

The Commentariat -- September 14, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Jon Gambrell of the AP: "Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field Saturday, sparking huge fires at a vulnerable chokepoint for global energy supplies. It remained unclear hours later whether anyone was injured at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field or what effect the assault would have on oil production. Rising smoke from the fires at the sites could be seen by satellites. The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis in the war against a Saudi-led coalition comes after weeks of similar drone assaults on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure, but none of the earlier strikes appeared to have caused the same amount of damage. The attack likely will heighten tensions further across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers." The New York Times story is here.

Erik Ortiz of NBC News: "'Saturday Night Live' remained silent Friday after the growing furor that one of its newest cast members has a history of racist and homophobic remarks. The controversial comments — made by standup comedian Shane Gillis in a podcast video uploaded a year ago — surfaced Thursday on social media, just hours after 'SNL' announced his hiring, and led some fans to demand the long-running sketch comedy show drop him ahead of the new season.... In clips from 'Matt and Shane's Secret Podcast,' which have been removed from its YouTube channel, Gillis and his co-host denigrate Chinatown and Chinese food, speak in caricature Asian accents and make sexist comments about Asian women. Gillis also uses an ethnic slur used to describe the Chinese. Gillis has taken part in other recorded conversations in which he mocks an Asian boy with Down syndrome and uses homophobic slurs about other comedians." Mrs. McC: Somehow, I don't think I'm going to find that guy funny.

Alex Horton of the Washington Post: “Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden and once-possible heir to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, was killed in a U.S. counterterror operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, President Trump said Saturday — more than a month after officials suggested he was killed. Osama bin Laden’s son was 'responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups,' President Trump said in a statement released by the White House. His death is a blow to al-Qaeda’s leadership acumen, Trump said, and symbolic given the connection to his slain father, who was killed in a Navy SEAL raid on his Pakistani refuge in 2011.” The CNN story is here.

~~~~~~~~~~

Kyle Cheney of Politico: “The nation's top intelligence official is illegally withholding a whistleblower complaint, possibly to protect ... Donald Trump or senior White House officials, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff alleged Friday. Schiff issued a subpoena for the complaint, accusing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire of taking extraordinary steps to withhold the complaint from Congress, even after the intel community's inspector general characterized the complaint as credible and of 'urgent concern.' 'A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the [inspector general] determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never,' Schiff said in a statement.... In addition, Schiff slammed Maguire for consulting the Justice Department about the whistleblower complaint 'even though the statute does not provide you discretion to review, appeal, reverse, or countermand in any way the [inspector general's] independent determination, let alone to involve another entity within the Executive Branch.'... The initial whistleblower complaint was filed last month, and Schiff indicated that it was required by law to be shared with Congress nearly two weeks ago."

All the President*'s Scandals

David Shortell of CNN: "The Justice Department said Friday that a request to a federal court from House Democrats seeking access to secret grand jury material underlying special counsel Robert Mueller's report should be turned down because the lawmakers have 'come nowhere close to demonstrating a particularized need' for the information.... Specifically, the lawmakers are seeking the unredacted Mueller report, as well as transcripts of grand jury testimony related to ... Donald Trump's knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and links between members of his campaign and Russians. Lawmakers also want any grand jury testimony related to Trump's knowledge of any potential 'criminal acts' by him or his associates." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: As Jerry Nadler said on MSNBC Friday night, the DOJ's argument is akin to arguing that prosecutors shouldn't be allowed to give evidence to a jury because the jury hasn't made a decision yet on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal appeals court has resurrected the first lawsuit ... Donald Trump faced over claims that his business dealings violated the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, which bars federal officials receiving payments from foreign governments. On Friday, a panel of the New York-based 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 2-1, that a district court judge erred in 2017 when he dismissed a lawsuit challenging profits Trump has received from foreign officials doing business with his Washington, D.C., luxury hotel and other Trump-branded properties. The suit also took issue with Trump Organization licensing arrangements approved by foreign governments. The new 2nd Circuit decision sharply rejected a ruling two months ago from another federal appeals court, the Richmond-based 4th Circuit, which tossed out a similar emoluments suit filed in Maryland. Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval said the 4th Circuit and his dissenting 2nd Circuit College Judge John Walker regarded the suits with too much skepticism because they appeared to be politically motivated." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Matt Zapotosky & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "The legal team for Andrew McCabe has asked federal prosecutors in D.C. whether a grand jury had rejected their bid to indict the FBI’s former acting director on charges of lying to investigators, pointing to media inquiries and news accounts detailing a series of unusual events in the case." CNN's report is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Morgan Chalfant & Olivia Beavers of the Hill: “The Justice Department inspector general has completed an internal review on whether the FBI complied with the law and its own policies while applying for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page during the 2016 election. Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in a letter to members of Congress on Friday that his office had 'reviewed over one million records and conducted over 100 interviews' in connection with the inquiry and is in the early stages of finalizing its report. Horowitz wrote that he has submitted a draft of the 'factual findings' of the inquiry to the Justice Department and FBI for a classification review, after which the inspector general’s office will begin the process of preparing final classified and public drafts of the report.... Horowitz did not provide any details on the findings, nor did he offer a timeline on when a report might be released to the public.... The inspector general disclosed in May 2018, at the request of congressional Republicans, that he would review whether the Justice Department and FBI complied with legal requirements and followed appropriate policies and procedures in applying to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for a warrant related to 'a certain U.S. person,'” that person widely known to be Page.

Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: "With Congress mulling legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia for its attack on the 2016 American election, an important Russian bank [-- Vnesheconombank, known as VEB --] connected to Vladimir Putin’s government has turned for help to a well-positioned lobbyist in Washington: a Trump insider and former Republican House member named John Sweeney. In August Sweeney signed a whopping contract to lobby on behalf of this bank to stave off sanctions from the US government.... An early Trump backer, Sweeney led Trump’s successful primary campaign in New York. Sweeney served on Trump’s presidential transition team, helping to vet potential senior national security and intelligence officials, ambassadors, and political appointees for multiple agencies.... A December 13, 2016 meeting between ... the bank’s chairman ... and Jared Kushner was scrutinized as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.... The exact purpose of the meeting remains unclear. VEB claims the meeting was purely business-oriented, related to Kushner’s real estate work. Kushner told Mueller’s office it was diplomatic."

Justin Rohrlich of Quartz: "US Border Patrol deputy chief Scott Luck will be celebrating his retirement later this month with a private party at president Donald Trump’s lavish golf resort in Virginia, according to a flyer for the event.... A source with access to the Washington, DC building within which Border Patrol headquarters is located said the flyers are hanging on the walls of the office. One insider at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Border Patrol, questioned not only the optics of holding the gala dinner for Luck at a property owned by the president but also the $75 cost to attend. An announcement for the event was sent out to employees via official government email.... Last year, the Border Patrol Foundation, a nonprofit that honors Border Patrol agents who have been killed in the line of duty, moved its annual dinner from the Marriott to the Trump International Hotel in DC. Luck was a keynote speaker at the event." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie BTW: In case you didn't know it -- I didn't until last week -- the Constitution includes a "domestic emoluments clause" a/k/a "presidential emoluments clause" in addition to the now-better-known foreign emoluments clause. Article II, Section 1, Clause 7: "The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed by the parents of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich against Fox News over its role in an alleged scheme to falsely link Rich to the disclosure of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Friday that a lower-court judge was wrong to dismiss the suit in which Joel and Mary Rich alleged they were targeted by Fox, its reporter Malia Zimmerman and a wealthy Texas money manager, Ed Butowsky, in a bizarre scheme to drag the Riches’ murdered son into an international controversy over hacked Democratic emails."

Barr Completes the Politicization of the DOJ. Katie Benner of the New York Times: “The Justice Department will present one of its most prestigious awards to the lawyers who worked on the highly contentious Supreme Court nomination process of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. Next month, Attorney General William P. Barr will present the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service to those who worked 'to support the nomination' of the judge, according to an email reviewed by The New York Times.... Typically, the distinguished service honor, the department’s second highest, is given to employees who worked on significant prosecutions, rather than on judicial nomination processes.”


Courtney Kube
of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's plan to pay for his proposed border wall by taking funds from more than four dozen Air Force military construction projects poses various national security risks for the U.S. armed forces, according to a report compiled by the U.S. Air Force.... The report, obtained by NBC News, details the importance of each of the 51 military projects chosen by the Trump administration to lose their funding, including construction of a new gate to address a growing security concern at an overseas U.S. base [in Turkey and] projects to build facilities to safely store more than $1 billion in munitions overseas...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Steve Benen of MSNBC: “The president said on Wednesday he had five leading contenders to replace John Bolton at the post. He upped that number yesterday, telling reporters during a brief Q&A there are now 15 people on his list. 'A lot of people want the job. And we – it’s a great job. It’s great because it’s a lot of fun to work with Donald Trump. And it’s very easy, actually, to work with me. You know why it’s easy? Because I make all the decisions. They don’t have to work.'... First, when Trump said 'a lot of people' want to serve as the next national security adviser, that’s almost certainly not true. He used nearly identical language after firing Defense Secretary James Mattis, and that was because the White House was struggling to find a new Pentagon chief at the time. He felt the need to lie to obscure the embarrassment.... Second, the fact that Trump described the White House national security adviser as basically a do-nothing gig in which someone simply watches the president make decisions says a great deal about how things work – or fail to work – in the current West Wing.... The president who doesn’t read intelligence briefings and ignores national security experts seems oddly proud of the idea that his national security advisers 'don’t have to work.' Not to put too fine a point on this, but shouldn’t they have to work?... Finally, the idea that people find it 'fun' and 'easy' to work for Trump is belied by all kinds of evidence. The Washington Post had a striking report this week on the president’s 'sometimes Kafkaesque management style.'”

People said what’s with the lightbulb? I said here’s the story. And I looked at it, the bulb that we’re being forced to use, number one to me, most importantly, the light’s no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst. -- Donald Trump, Thursday ~~~

~~~ Cheeto Man. Rebecca Tan of the Washington Post: “... according to professional photographers and makeup artists, energy-saving lightbulbs are probably not to blame. It is true that bulbs have different light temperatures, but the effect this has on someone’s complexion is typically not very significant, said Jocelyn Augustino, a D.C.-based freelance photographer.... If bulbs were responsible for casting a warm glow, anything white in a photo of the president — including the background, a white shirt, or even his teeth — should also be orange.... 'You can see that even when his teeth are white, his skin is orangey-red,' [portrait photographer Tamzin] Smith said. 'It’s definitely not the lighting.' The president’s skin tone, said makeup artist Jason Kelly, is more likely the result of artificial tanning and an overapplication of bronzer, a type of powder or cream designed to give a tanned look.”

The New American Diplomacy. Connor Mannion of Mediaite: “... Donald Trump reportedly does have a 'favorite dictator,' having called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that to a crowd at last month’s G-7 Summit. According to The Wall Street Journal, Trump called out to a large crowd 'Where’s my favorite dictator?' while waiting to meet el-Sisi at the multinational summit. Officials told the Journal that they were stunned but believed the president made the comment jokingly. It’s unclear if el-Sisi heard Trump.”

Nancy Cook of Politico: "At a mid-August fundraiser in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Ivanka Trump was asked to name the personality traits she inherited most from her parents. Without much of a pause, Trump told the crowd of roughly 120 high-end donors that her mother gave her an example of how to be a powerful, successful woman. And her father? He passed onto her his moral compass, she said, according to two event attendees." Mrs. McC: Yeah, I think we sorta knew that, but it's still surprising to learn that Ivanka has admitted it. Thanks to Ken W. for the link. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

I’m sad to know that the hero of 9/11 has become a liar. -- Judith Nathan Giuliani, on Rudy ~~~

~~~ Soap Opera Break. Sarah Nir of the New York Times: “Last spring, divorce proceedings began for the Giulianis [--Rudy & Judy --] after 16 years of marriage, setting off a rancorous battle that, like most everything Mr. Giuliani touches, demanded attention. In caustic legal proceedings this summer, the separated couple has battled over things as prosaic as her kitchen renovations and as rarefied as his splurges — $7,131 on fountain pens and another $12,012 on cigars.... A primary issue is Mr. Giuliani’s current income. His wife believes that Mr. Giuliani left his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, in 2018, a month after the divorce was filed, and chose to work for President Trump pro bono in order to reduce any future alimony.... Swirled into the current divorce proceedings is more scandal-ready fodder: intimations of Mr. Giuliani’s involvement with yet another woman.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

"National Tragedy." Samuel Gilbert of the Guardian: "Construction of a 30ft-high section of Donald Trump’s border barrier has begun in the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument in southern Arizona, a federally protected wilderness area and Unesco-recognized international biosphere reserve. In the face of protests by environmental groups, the wall will traverse the entirety of the southern edge of the monument. It is part of the 175 miles of barrier expansion along the US-Mexico border being funded by the controversial diversion of $3.6bn from military construction projects.... According to CBP, in the 2019 fiscal year there have been 14,265 apprehensions in the Tucson sector, where the Organ Pipe wall is going up, compared to 51,411 in the nearby Yuma sector of Arizona and over 205,000 in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.... 'What is being proposed is bulldozing one of the most biologically diverse regions of the entire United States,' said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center. 'Walling off these precious places would be a colossal mistake and a national tragedy.'" --safari: We're sacrificing our national biosphere for Donald Trump's vanity, and it's sickening.

Emily Holden of the Guardian: "The Trump administration is finalizing plans to allow oil and gas drilling in a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that has been protected for decades. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will offer leases on essentially the entire 1.6m-acre coastal plain, which includes places where threatened polar bears have dens and porcupine caribou visit for calving. Drilling operations are expected to be problematic for Indigenous populations, many of which rely on subsistence hunting and fishing. The Democrat-controlled House just hours earlier passed legislation to protect the area, but Republicans in the majority in the Senate are highly unlikely to approve the bill." --s

Sam Stein of The Daily Beast: "As Washington D.C. institutions go, Public Citizen rates among the more anodyne.... The group is known for its liberal-minded crusades on such unglamorous topics as campaign finance reform and consumer safety.  But for some period of time over the past few years, Public Citizen found its website being categorized as — well — porn by an internet filtering service used by a major government agency. Since April, Public Citizen has been in litigation with the Department of Education over what it claims to be a violation of its First Amendment rights. At issue was a truly bizarre and unexpected revelation that took place earlier in the year when officials with the group visited the department to discuss separate matters. Attempting to access their own website from the Department of Education’s WiFi network, Public Citizen attorneys realized they were being blocked from doing so, with a note popping up that said accessing www.citizen.org was 'in violation of your Internet usage policy'.... [T]he Department’s web filtering company was categorizing them as an 'advocacy organization' — which they are — and, for some inexplicable reason, advocacy organizations were being placed under the 'adult/mature content' categorization, right alongside porn and gambling." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So Betsy DeVos thinks good-government groups are porn? It does make sense, if in a bizarre way.

Presidential Race 2020

Jonathan Chait writes a depressing assessment of the state of the Democratic race. He thinks Biden is the only centrist candidate who has a chance of winning the nomination, & Biden is as retro as the vinyl he plays on his record-player. "Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have dropped out of the left-wing arms race and begun positioning themselves as heirs to the Obama style of optimism and uplift. But ... the fact that both Harris and Booker are trying to squeeze into the same political space increases the probability that neither will achieve escape velocity.... If Biden isn’t up to this, he needs to collapse soon enough for another mainstream liberal Democrat like Booker or Harris to take his place. Yet it’s at least as easy to imagine he will stay in the race, locking down the party’s center, while Sanders and Warren continue to try to outflank each other on the left. There’s still some time for the race to change. At the moment, the most dire scenario looks disconcertingly real."

The Problem Wasn't the "Record Player." Jeff Greenfield in Politico Magazine: The post-debate commentariat pounced on [Joe Biden's] 'record player' comment, noting that it suggested a lack of familiarity with more modern-day devices.... It was viewed mostly as a proxy for his age, a self-inflicted wound from a candidate stuck somewhere in the 1970s technologically. But by Friday morning, attention had begun to shift to the broader and far more culturally fraught implications of what Biden was saying: Did he mean that black parents depended on an army of white people with degrees to help them raise their kids?... Biden’s lead in the polling rests in substantial measure on his enormous strength in the African-American community.” ~~~

~~~ ** Jamil Smith of Rolling Stone: Democrats need an antiracist nominee against a racist like Donald Trump. The third debate confirmed that the former vice president isn’t up to the task." Smith sums up Biden's response to a moderator's question: Biden was "a) first appearing to treat the mere mention of an old segregationist quote of his as ridiculous, then b) responding to a question about repairing the legacy of slavery by saying that the government needs to have teachers go into the homes of kids in poor schools to teach the parents how to raise those children.... It’s the kind of paternalistic racism that has so long existed in both liberal and conservative circles, and was on Thursday night spilling out of the mouth of the former vice president on the campus of an HBCU [a predominantly black university].... I should mention that there is a c): Biden never truly gave the question any serious consideration.... He chose to ... proselytize about record players in the homes of poor families of color who need the teachers to raise their kids for them. Who chooses to do that in a party that needs black voters to win?... [Biden] can trumpet his Obama associations all he wishes, but after that debate, it comes across merely as the 'I have a black friend' excuse.... If defeating Trump in 2020 is as important to Biden as he so often claims, he should end his campaign and remove himself from contention for president.” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Both Greenfield & Smith publish the Q&A in this exchange in full, and it's worth reading the particulars. Although Smith alluded to it, neither explored something I found jarring in Biden's response: the assumption that black people are poor & uneducated. That was much closer to true when Biden entered politics, but today there is a huge black middle- and upper-middle class. (Joe could ask his black friends Barack & Michelle.) Automatically assuming black = poor is a very white thing to do. And incorrect.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post: "The question isn’t merely whether Biden has the stamina for a grueling campaign, or whether Biden will be able to handle debates with Trump. It’s also whether Biden or indeed other Democrats are prepared for the massive onslaught of absolutely brutal and distortive attacks that Trump and his propaganda apparatus will wage on this particular front — attacks that you can be certain will include all sorts of shamelessly propagandistic media manipulation and outright disinformation tactics.... The episode at the debate that raised all the concerns about Biden’s long-term fitness did actually happen: Biden’s answer to a question about slavery really was a rambling mess that detoured into strange comments about record players.... Worries about Biden’s age and stamina are not unreasonable, given all we’ve seen."

Frank Bruni of the New York Times argues that even though Elizabeth Warren did not have her most effective debate night, she demonstrated why she has nowhere to go but up. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Michael Shear of the New York Times: “Moments after Democrats took the debate stage on Thursday night, President Trump delivered a rambling and disjointed 68-minute speech accusing the news media and the 'radical left' of wanting to destroy America.... Intended as counterprogramming to the 10 Democratic candidates debating in Houston, the president’s speech hit virtually every one of his usual political lines as he careened between prepared remarks, ad-libbed attacks and boasts about his record.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

ABC & Republicans Thought This Was a Good Idea. Grace Segers of CBS News: "A dramatic ad targeting Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aired during the third Democratic debate on Thursday, comparing Ocasio-Cortez's support for democratic socialism to the brutal Khmer Rouge communist regime in Cambodia. The ad shows a picture of the young congresswoman bursting into flame to reveal a picture of a pile of skulls. The narrator of the ad, onetime Republican congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng, is the daughter of Cambodian immigrants. 'This is the face of socialism and ignorance,' Heng says in a voiceover as the picture of Ocasio-Cortez burns.... The ad was produced by New Faces GOP, a newly created Republican super PAC.... Ocasio-Cortez immediately slammed the ad, saying: 'Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren't racist.' '... What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP's white supremacist case,' Ocasio-Cortez wrote in another tweet.... 'GOP's message: No policy, no facts, just displays of violence + corporations like @ABCNetwork & Sinclair who amplify them. They profit from burning my likeness on TV. But who pays for heightened security? Who answers the phones for the threats resulting from a violent, false ad?' Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Friday morning." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ~~~

~~~ Aris Folley of the Hill: “Twitter users pushed the 'BoycottABC' hashtag into the social platform’s top trending items on Friday after a Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate aired an ad from a GOP super PAC that showed a photo of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) being set on fire.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Dom Phillips
of the Guardian: "Brazil’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, will meet a rightwing US advocacy group that denies climate change, just four days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Salles will meet representatives from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) at the headquarters of the US Environmental Protection Agency on 19 September.... The meeting was immediately condemned by environmentalists, who said it showed that the government of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, had no commitment to fighting the climate crisis. News of the meeting emerged a day after Brazil’s foreign minister questioned the scientific proof for global warming in a convoluted speech in Washington. Addressing the Heritage Foundation, Ernesto Araújo said 'there is no climate catastrophe' and described efforts to fight climate change as a plot to destroy national sovereignty." --safari: I'm beginning to think we need a new moniker for "Axis of (Climate) Evil" to name and shame bad actors, with the US first on the list.

Kate Taylor of the New York Times: "... a federal judge in Boston sentenced [actor Felicity] Huffman to 14 days in a federal prison on Friday. She was the first parent to face punishment in a scheme in which nearly three dozen wealthy people are accused of using lies and bribes to smooth their children’s way into prestigious colleges.... Judge [Indira] Talwani also imposed a $30,000 fine, supervised release for a year and 250 hours of community service." ~~~

     ~~~ David Matthews of the New York Daily News: "Following Felicity Huffman’s conviction in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, lawyers for the actress requested she spend her two-week sentence at a minimum-security, cushy northern California prison. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will make the ultimate decision...."

Beyond the Beltway

Florida for Sale. Steve Contorno of The Tampa Bay Times: "Three Duke Energy lobbyists were to join Gov. Ron DeSantis in mid February [for a round of golf], a precious opportunity for the utility to get face time with Florida’s new governor weeks after he took office. Internal documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times reveal that Duke’s lobbyists didn’t just request the governor’s time. They were supposed to pay for it, too.... Days after the golf outing, Duke made a $75,000 donation to the Republican Party of Florida, which Wiles described in a memo as 'interchangeable' with DeSantis’ political committee.... Other documents reviewed by the Times established prices donors could pay to interact with DeSantis or his wife, Casey. Golf in a foursome? $25,000. Golf one-on-one with DeSantis? $100,000. A 10- to 15-minute meeting? $25,000. A dinner event? $150,000. One hour of an “intimate and high dollar” gathering? $250,000." --s