The Ledes

Thursday, September 21, 2017.

New York Times: "Lillian Ross, who became known as the consummate fly-on-the-wall reporter in more than six decades at The New Yorker, whether writing about Ernest Hemingway, Hollywood or a busload of Indiana high school seniors on a class trip to New York, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 99." ...

... Ross's New Yorker obituary, by Rebecca Mead, is here.

 

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mlb/miami-marlins/article104073926.html#storylink=cpy
The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "Jake LaMotta, an iron-jawed boxer who brawled his way to the world middleweight championship in 1949 and whose tempestuous life was compellingly portrayed in an Oscar-winning performance by Robert De Niro in the film 'Raging Bull,' died Sept. 19 at a rehabilitation facility in Aventura, Fla. He was 95, according to his family, although some records indicate he may have been a year older. A daughter, Christi LaMotta, announced his death in a Facebook post but did not provide additional details."

New York Times: "Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico with a one-two punch of high winds and driving rain on Wednesday, and sent thousands of people scrambling to shelters. Electricity was knocked out on the whole island, a spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management said. The authorities warned weary residents not to let down their guard, because flash flooding and mudslides could be more deadly than the initial winds from the storm, now a Category 2 system."

New York Times: "Early Wednesday, the director of Mexico’s civil protection agency, Luis Felipe Puente, said on Twitter that 216 people had been killed, revising an earlier toll of 248. Eighty-three people were killed in Mexico City, Mr. Puente said. Rescuers were frantically digging out people trapped under rubble, including the children buried beneath their school, volunteers at the scene said Tuesday night. At least 21 students were believed to have been killed in the collapse of the school."

New York Times: "Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 storm early Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and winds of up to 155 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. Shortly after 6 a.m., the eye of the storm hit Yabucoa in southeastern Puerto Rico after crossing the United States Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm. It had weakened slightly but remained 'extremely dangerous,' the center said."

CNN: "Tropical Storm Jose is losing strength, but marching on.The storm formerly known as Hurricane Jose is still lurking in the northeastern US coast, packing winds of 65 mph and the threat of flooding.By early Wednesday, Jose was 195 miles away from Nantucket, Massachusetts, after dumping rain in North Carolina's Outer Banks and Virginia as it passed by the day before. 'Jose weakens as it moves over cooler ocean waters,' the National Hurricane Center said. 'Dangerous surf and rip currents along the US East coast will continue for several more days.' CNN affiliate WAVY-TV producer David Craft posted photos of cars partially submerged under water on streets in Norfolk, Virginia."

Public Service Announcement

September 9: The New York Times reports that Equifax is doing nothing to protect you if hackers to its system gained access to your personal information. In fact, Equifax has a plan to make money on your misfortune. Reporter Ron Lieber has some suggestions about what you can do to protect yourself from Equifax & its hackers. Equifax is providing no good way to find out if you've been affected; it is apparently just trying to hook as many suckers as it can into getting a "free" account, but you can bet it won't stay free. Read the story if you'd like to feel helpless & enraged.

The New Yorker has links to Lillian Ross's stories here. The New Yorker is subscription-only but allows non-subscribers to read six stories a month, so if you're not a subscriber, you may want to open the page in a private window.

Some highlights of the Emmys:

... To watch the whole monologue, go to YouTube & type something like "stephen colbert monologue emmys". There are quite a few pirated copies up right now, but CBS will certainly take them down, so none will be posted here. The Washington Post has some of the transcript here.

The Trumpster gets his Emmy:

Kim Weeks in the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton revealed this week she turned to an esoteric breathing technique popular among yogis to heal from her devastating election loss.... By bringing this kind of breath work into the mainstream, Clinton has introduced the world to a practice that has both proven mental and physical health benefits.... In nadi shodhana, the process of literally alternating breathing between the right and left nostril also helps balance the right and left brain, the right and left lungs, and the right and left sides of the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Okay, I tried it. I can do the left nostril but not the right. That stressed me out.

Hill: "Melissa McCarthy brought home an Emmy this weekend for her memorable impression of former press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. The actress won an Emmy for best comedy actress on a comedy series at the Emmy’s creative arts awards Sunday, according to the Associated Press. The awards are a precursor to the main show next weekend." Spicer panned McCarthy's impression.

New York Times: "Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, plans to step down from the magazine in December after a 25-year tenure, leaving the role that established him as a ringmaster of the Hollywood, Washington and Manhattan power elite. Mr. Carter’s influence stretched from the magazine and entertainment worlds into finance, literature and politics, where President Trump, a target of Mr. Carter’s poison pen for decades, still bristles at the mention of his name. One of the few remaining celebrity editors in an industry whose fortunes have faded, Mr. Carter — famous for double-breasted suits, white flowing hair and a seven-figure salary — is a party host, literary patron, film producer and restaurateur whose cheeky-yet-rigorous brand of reporting influenced a generation of journalists.... Spy[a magazine Carter co-founded,] took special glee in attacking Mr. Trump, whom the magazine memorably deemed a 'short-fingered vulgarian.' (The insult stuck: just last week, Mr. Trump referred to his 'too big' hands during a visit to Houston.)"

New York Times: "Tronc, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, announced on Monday that it had acquired The Daily News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid that for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage. The deal represents the end of an era for The News, which was long a voice for New York’s working class. It may also signal the end of the political influence of its owner, the real estate magnate Mortimer B. Zuckerman, who often used the paper’s bold, front-page headline — known as 'the wood' — for commentary about candidates and politicians, locally and nationally."

Guardian (Sept. 4): "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child, Kensington Palace has announced. The announcement was made as the duchess was forced to cancel an engagement on Monday because of extreme morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum."

Speaking of Finland, as we were in relation to Donald Trump's complete lack of concern about Russian aggression, a remark he repeated in front of President Sauli Niinistö of neighboring Finland, because who cares?, the Finnish police procedural "Bordertown," which is streaming on Netflix is pretty good. Not sure if it comes dubbed, but Mr. McCrabbie & I like to listen to languages, so we were fine with subtitles. The "bordertown" borders Russia. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie 

The only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Constant Comments

Wednesday
Sep202017

The Commentariat -- September 21, 2017

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has asked the White House for documents about some of President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and F.B.I. director, according to White House officials. Mr. Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Mr. Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the F.B.I. director had relieved 'great pressure' on him.... Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.... In July, when The Times put questions about the meeting to the White House, Mr. Trump and senior administration officials prepared a response on Air Force One that made no mention of the meeting’s real purpose, saying instead that it focused on Russian adoptions." ...

... Josh Marshall: "With this new information, I must again raise that hour long interlude on Air Force One two days prior to Comey’s dismissal.... That weekend and on that plane ride home, [Trump] had the all star class of Trump toadies: Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, KT McFarland, Stephen Miller and Dan Scavino. The worst and the stupidest.... It was on a weekend stewing with them that Trump made his decision that Comey had to go – one his DC staffers were unable to warn him off of. Those conversation that weekend and the particularly the one that kept the six on the tarmac for an hour that Sunday evening must be where the most unvarnished and inane conversations about the need to fire Comey took place." ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "It’s been clear for months that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is also examining whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice while he was in office. [New York Times reporter Michael] Schmidt only mentions three of [the] 13 [topics Mueller's team is examining], but those three are revealing — and indicate that Mueller’s interest in the obstruction angle is very serious indeed.... Schmidt’s report reminds us that the actions of the president of the United States are at the center of all this...." ...

... Update. Carol Leonnig & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post report on most of the "areas of interest" Mueller's team is exploring in regard to Trump, White House staff & campaign officials: "The requests broadly ask for any document or email related to a series of highly publicized incidents since Trump became president.... [In addition to the topics the NYT report lists,] Mueller also asked for any email or document the White House holds that relates to [Paul] Manafort.... Mueller has also asked for records about meetings then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates held with White House counsel Don McGahn in late January to alert him to Justice Department concerns about [Michael] Flynn...." Also, investigators are wondering how Sean Spicer came up with his false claim about the "real reason" for firing Jim Comey. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What I find surprising is that Mueller's team seems to be relying heavily on information journalists have already illuminated. Here's one exception:

... Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: "Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions. Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.... Investigators believe that the exchanges, which reflect Manafort’s willingness to profit from his prominent role alongside Trump, created a potential opening for Russian interests at the highest level of a U.S. presidential campaign.... Several of the ex­changes, which took place between Manafort and a Kiev-based employee of his international political consulting practice, focused on money that Manafort believed he was owed by Eastern European clients."

Aaron Blake, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump delivered a brief speech to African leaders Wednesday at the United Nations, and in the span of about 800 words, he twice conjoined the names of two countries, Namibia and Zambia, creating the nonexistent nation of 'Nambia,' and told the leaders that many of his friends go to Africa to 'get rich.'”

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Medlar & I had a brief disagreement about Nambia. Medlar thought Nambia was where the Lion King lived. I was pretty sure it was a country ruled by Eddie Murphy's father. Anyhow, I conceded to Medlar & agreed that Nambia would be a good place for the Lyin' King to live out his days after he is deposed. A fake country for a fake president.

Simon Denyer of the Washington Post: "China rebuked President Trump on Wednesday after he threatened to 'totally destroy' North Korea if necessary, a warning that may have undermined the chances­ of peace but also gave Beijing an easy opportunity to seize the moral high ground. Beijing has consistently blamed not just Pyongyang but also Washington for what it sees as its hostile policies toward the regime. It argues that U.S. hostility has helped to push North Korea’s rulers into a corner and talk of total destruction only reinforces that narrative."

Wife of Internationally-Infamous Bully Opposes Bullying. Louis Nelson & Rebecca Morin of Politico: "First lady Melania Trump on Wednesday called on the international community to better protect and support children, speaking out against bullying and urging parents and leaders around the world to 'come together for the good of our children because through them, our future will be defined.'”

Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "Scott Pruitt’s round-the-clock personal security detail, which demands triple the manpower of his predecessors at the Environmental Protection Agency, has prompted officials to rotate in special agents from around the country who otherwise would be investigating environmental crimes. The EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has summoned agents from various cities to serve two-week stints helping guard Pruitt in recent months. And while hiring in many departments is frozen, the agency has sought an exception to hire additional full-time staff to protect Pruitt.... The practice has rankled some employees and outside critics, who note that the EPA’s criminal enforcement efforts already are understaffed and that the Trump administration has proposed further cuts to the division."

Dan Diamond & Rachana Pradhan of Politico: "In a sharp departure from his predecessors, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took private jets on five separate flights for official business, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel. The secretary’s five flights, which were scheduled between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, took him to a resort in Maine where he participated in a Q&A discussion with a health care industry CEO, and to community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to internal HHS documents. The travel by corporate-style jet comes at a time when other members of the Trump administration are under fire for travel expenditures, and breaks with the practices of Obama-era secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States.... Current and former staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say Price has been taking private jets to travel domestically for months." ...

... Daniella Diaz & Rene Marsh of CNN: "Democrats say they are planning to look into a report about Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price taking five work-related trips on private jets last week, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars more than had he flown commercial. Price ... has vowed to cut wasteful spending in his agency.... 'I would remind Secretary Price that taxpayer funds are not meant to be used as a jet-setting slush fund," Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., the top Democrat on the House energy and commerce panel, said in a statement Wednesday. 'There is no reason to be regularly chartering private flights at the taxpayers' expense between commercially serviced routes such Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia.' He said Democrats plan to ask the HHS inspector general to review Price's travel."


Kimmel Knows More About Graham-Cassidy Than Graham & Cassidy Know. Dan Diamond
: "In the war of words between Jimmy Kimmel and Sen. Bill Cassidy, the late-night host has the better grasp of health policy, health care analysts say.... 'This guy, Bill Cassidy, he just lied right to my face,' Kimmel said [in his Tuesday night monologue]. He then listed four pledges that Cassidy made when he appeared on Kimmel’s show in May, including a promise to lower health costs for Americans and to oppose insurance companies’ lifetime caps on coverage that Kimmel said would no longer be guaranteed under the new legislation.... Cassidy countered Wednesday that the talk-show host didn’t grasp the nuances of his legislation. “I am sorry he does not understand,” the senator told CNN on Wednesday morning.... [Lindsey] Graham on Wednesday defended his colleague, telling NBC News that Kimmel's monologue was 'absolute garbage' and parroted 'liberal talking points.'... But experts say that Cassidy and Graham’s bill can't guarantee those protections and that Kimmel’s assessment was basically accurate because of the flexibility the bill gives states to set up their own health care systems. For example, health insurers could hike premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions if their states obtain waivers from Obamacare regulations — as Kimmel said.... The proposal’s significant cuts to Medicaid and other changes to the ACA’s regulations would lead to dramatic reductions in coverage for adults too, analysts say." ...

... Jeff Stein of Vox: "Republican senators are struggling to articulate why they are rushing to pass their last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare over the next 10 days before running into their September 30 deadline. In interviews with Vox on Tuesday, nine Republican senators primarily argued that their 'Hail Mary' bill ... would return federal power to the states, giving them greater flexibility to improve their health systems locally.... Far less clear is exactly how Graham-Cassidy would pull off this feat without resulting in millions of Americans losing their insurance — and the number of millions is still unknown, since any vote would likely have to come before the Congressional Budget Office completes its analysis of the bill.... Some members of the upper chamber acknowledged that the spending changes might have a big impact, but argued their home states would not be negatively impacted." ...

... Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "What’s new [in the Graham-Cassidy bill], thanks to the Affordable Care Act, is a discrepancy in state-by-state funding that would be flattened out by the block grants. Most states used the ACA’s funding to expand Medicaid; some Republican-run states, liberated by the Supreme Court’s decision to make the funding optional, did not. As a result, 14 of the 15 states that would stand to gain from block grants are run by Republicans; Democratic megastates including California, New York and Massachusetts would lose billions of dollars, a feature both Graham and Cassidy have talked up to conservatives." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In other words, Graham & Cassidy are rewarding Republican-run states for screwing their constituents. And they're proud of it. ...

... Robert Pear of the Washington Post: "The health insurance industry, after cautiously watching Republican health care efforts for months, came out forcefully on Wednesday against the Senate’s latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, suggesting that its state-by-state block grants could create health care chaos in the short term and a Balkanized, uncertain insurance market.... The two major trade groups for insurers, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans, announced their opposition on Wednesday to the Graham-Cassidy bill. They joined other groups fighting the bill, such as the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, AARP and the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society. In the face of the industry opposition, Senate Republican leaders nevertheless said they would push for a showdown vote next week on the legislation...." ...

... Katie Jennings of Politico: "Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday that he opposes the latest Senate plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.... 'I oppose Graham-Cassidy because it is too injurious to the people of New Jersey,' Christie told reporters standing outside an addiction treatment center in Somerset County. 'I’m certainly not going to support a bill that takes nearly $4 billion from people in the state.'” ...

... Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "In an appearance at the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers event, [President] Obama focused on the revived fight over Obamacare, as Republicans push toward a vote in the Senate on their latest attempt to repeal his signature health care achievement. 'Those of you who live in countries that already have universal health care are trying to figure out what’s the controversy here,' Obama said, jabbing at 'people trying to undo that progress for the 50th or 60th time' with a bill that raises costs. 'It is aggravating,' Obama said, 'and all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or common-sense rationale, it frustrates.'” ...

... Elana Schor of Politico: "The liberal activists roused into the streets by ... Donald Trump are revving up for one last campaign to save Obamacare.... From a new six-figure advertising campaign by the pro-Obamacare group Save My Care to a flurry of rallies planned on the ground, the left is throwing everything it can at the new repeal bill from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)." ...

... WTF? Mrs. McCrabbie: So now every interested party opposes this draconian bill: health insurance consumers (i.e., the public), by a huge majority; healthcare providers, overwhelmingly; healthcare advocacy organizations; even health insurance providers, because the bill would create such a mess. And health industry experts, because they say it would harm millions. Who likes it? Trump & most (but not all) elected Republicans (and probably Steve Doocy & Sean Hannity). WTF is the matter with these Republicans? Are they truly in denial about the bill's effects? Do they hate President Obama so much that they're willing to commit political suicide to spite him? Do they want their constituents to be financially ruined and/or die? Is somebody paying off Republicans? Sometimes it makes sense to pass unpopular legislation -- civil rights laws, the Affordable Care Act itself, for instance -- because that legislation works toward improving the lives of millions of Americans and moves in the direction of democratic ideals. But when a proposed law is guaranteed to hurt millions of Americans? Did I ask What the Fuck?

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "In a sentencing memo, the government asked a judge to give [Anthony] Weiner, 53, a prison term of 21 to 27 months in a case that enmeshed him in an F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton last year before the presidential election. Mr. Weiner, who is to be sentenced on Monday, could receive up to 10 years in prison on one count of transferring obscene material to a minor, a 15-year-old girl with whom he exchanged lewd texts over several months in early 2016."

Tuesday
Sep192017

The Commentariat -- September 20, 2017

** "#AlwayTrump." Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "No matter how he leaves the White House, we'll never be rid of Trump — and all that he represents about America.... To wish for Trump to go away is to believe that the forces underlying his rise to power will somehow cease to exist. But his success will only serve to inspire imitators.... We [must] put aside our delusion of returning to a world without Trump and see him for what he is: a symptom of something deep and intractable in the American psyche that was not caused by a single election, and cannot be cured by one." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: It's useful to remember that the majority of the founders of the U.S. were the rabble of Europe. Especially in the South, but in the Northeast as well, "immigrants" were the prisoners & riffraff the British chose to send far, far away. Many were prisoners of war, so they might not have been so bad (altho those happy few, those bands of brothers, tended to be riffraff, too). But others were just plain prisoners, jailed for crimes (though some of the "criminals" were merely debtors). These ancestors passed on their reasonable distrust of government & of societal niceties down through the generations. To make matters worse, the "better class" of immigrants -- those who received large land grants, for instance -- contributed their admiration for feudal arrangements & inherited entitlements. Their descendants still think they have a right to rule those outside the "tribe" without interference from do-gooder liberals who would deprive them of the freeeedom to abuse others. Heer is right; Trumpism will not go away. It has always been with us.

Trump Is "An Embarrassment to the United States." David Nakamura & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "President Trump warned the United Nations in a speech Tuesday that the world faces 'great peril' from rogue regimes with powerful weapons and terrorists with expanding reach across the globe, and called on fellow leaders to join the United States in the fight to defeat what he called failed or murderous ideologies and 'loser terrorists.'... Trump offered a hand to fellow leaders but also called on them to embrace 'national sovereignty' and to do more to ensure the prosperity and security of their own countries. Over and over, he stressed the rights and roles of 'strong, sovereign nations' even as they band together at the United Nations.... Trump also called the U.N.-backed Iran nuclear deal 'one of the worst and most one-sided' agreements ever, and 'an embarrassment' to the United States. His voice rising, Trump strongly hinted that his administration could soon declare Tehran out of compliance. That could potentially unravel the accord.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump offered the General Assembly a strikingly selective definition of sovereignty, threatening to act aggressively against countries like North Korea, Iran and Venezuela..., yet saying almost nothing about Russia, which seized territory from its neighbor Ukraine, and meddled in the American presidential election. But more important than how he defined sovereignty was Mr. Trump’s adoption of the word itself — language more familiar to small countries.... America, he said, would no longer enter into 'one-sided' alliances or agreements. It would no longer shoulder an unfair financial burden in bodies like the United Nations.... It was a defiant speech, peppered with threats and denunciations.... But it was more remarkable for how Mr. Trump departed from decades of bipartisan foreign-policy consensus. Even if they fell short, American presidents have generally staked out a global role for the United States in confronting the world’s problems.... Some foreign-policy experts said Mr. Trump’s definition [of sovereignty] was problematic because he applied it inconsistently.... His failure to mention Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was in keeping with his general reluctance to criticize Moscow. But it was nevertheless remarkable, given that few actions constitute a more direct threat to American sovereignty than that one." Trump did briefly, if obliquely criticize Russia & China.

... Greg Jaffe & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Trump was selective in his view of bad actors — North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Venezuela — whose sovereignty should not be respected. He made little mention of China or Russia, congratulating both on their recent U.N. vote for more sanctions, and offered a glancing mention of Ukraine.... In a puzzling attack against communism and socialism, Trump limited his criticisms to Cuba and Venezuela, ignoring China, the world’s communist behemoth.... The speech was animated by a bellicosity and swagger that is unusual for the world body.... He said that if the United States was compelled to defend itself or its allies that it would obliterate North Korea, a policy articulated by earlier administrations, albeit not in such Strangelovian terms.... [Mrs. McC: Get ready to LOL.] In previewing the speech for reporters, one senior White House aide described it as 'a deeply philosophical address.'...” Roll over, John Locke. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Making the World Unsafe Again. Robin Wright of the New Yorker has perhaps the best analysis of Trump's U.N. speech & its likely effects. None of it is good news. ...

... It Probably Sounded Better in the Original Russian." Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast: "If you liked the #MAGA speech that the American president just delivered to the UN, you’ll love the original version": the one Vladimir Putin delivered in 2015. "Whatever nexus between Putin and Trump exists for Robert Mueller to discover, the evidence of their compatible visions of foreign affairs was on display at the United Nations clearer than ever, with Trump’s aggressive incantation of 'sovereignty, security and prosperity' as the path to world peace.... Trump’s vision of an America that does less abroad – aside from issue apocalyptic threats – and tolerates more is one that removes obstacles to a resurgent, aggressive Russia." ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "President Trump’s address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday may have been the most hostile, dangerous, and intellectually confused — if not outright dishonest — speech ever delivered by an American president to an international body. It began — as all Trump speeches must begin, it seems — with a boast of how much better life in America has been since his election: stock market up, unemployment down, military stronger. This was a clue that the speech, though sometimes couched in the language of international principles ... was really going to be about Trump — and Trump’s dark vision of what the world should look like." Read on. ...

... Juan Cole: "It is very odd that you would blame the survival of the al-Assad regime on Iran alone and not bring up Russia. Russia has spent way more in Syria than Iran and has used its Aerospace Forces for intensive bombing over 2 years, a much bigger military impact than Iran’s. And Trump himself keeps saying Arabs need strongmen to rule them." ...

Nicholas Fandos & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday abruptly postponed an interview with President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, shortly after the publication of his opening statement, which asserted his innocence and defended the president. Mr. Cohen was prepared to tell the committee’s investigators that the president’s critics were using rumors and innuendo about Russian interference in the election in an attempt to undercut Mr. Trump’s presidency. But senators shut down the closed-door hearing, accusing Mr. Cohen of 'releasing a public statement' despite 'requests that he refrain from public comment.'... The senior members of the committee, Senators Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, issued a statement saying that they would reschedule Mr. Cohen’s appearance and that he would appear publicly.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Paul Waldman states the obvious: "Trump just made it harder to get North Korea to give up nukes.... There may be no way to convince Kim that there’s a better future that could await him and his country if he gives up his weapons. But he certainly won’t believe it if Trump is so loudly trashing the Iran nuclear deal and threatening to pull out of it at the earliest opportunity. Why would Kim ever believe a thing he says?"


Evan Perez &
of CNN: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is reaching back more than a decade in its investigation of Paul Manafort, a sign of the pressure Mueller is placing on ... Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.The FBI's warrant for a July search of Manafort's Alexandria, Virginia, home said the investigation centered on possible crimes committed as far back as January 2006, according to a source briefed on the investigation. The broad time frame is the latest indication that Mueller's team is going well beyond Russian meddling during the campaign as part of its investigation of Trump campaign associates. Manafort, who has been the subject of an FBI investigation for three years, has emerged as a focal point for Mueller." ...

... Randall Eliason in a Washington Post op-ed: "Reports that the FBI wiretapped former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort ... [constitute] a big deal primarily because of what it takes to obtain such a wiretap order. The warrant reportedly was issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A FISA warrant requires investigators to demonstrate to the FISA court that there is probable cause to believe the target may be acting as an unlawful foreign agent.... The search warrant executed at Manafort’s home in July was ... a significant step in the investigation. Unlike a grand jury subpoena, the search warrant required [Robert] Mueller’s team to demonstrate to a judge that a crime probably had been committed." ...

... David Caplan & Mike Levine of ABC News: "Special counsel Robert Mueller's staff has interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as part of the Justice Department's Russia probe, ABC News has confirmed. The interview took place in either June or July, according to a source familiar with the matter. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Rosenstein had been interviewed. Mueller's investigators report to Rosenstein, who oversaw the Justice Department's Russia investigation following the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Asked whether Rosenstein might have to recuse himself from the matter, a Department of Justice spokesman said in a statement Tuesday, 'As the Deputy Attorney General has said numerous times, if there comes a time when he needs to recuse, he will. However, nothing has changed.'"


Sheila Kaplan & Eric Lipton
of the New York Times: "The scientist nominated to head the federal government’s chemical regulatory program has spent much of his career helping businesses fight restrictions on the use of potentially toxic compounds in consumer goods. That record is expected to figure prominently in a Senate confirmation hearing for the scientist, Michael L. Dourson, who critics say is too closely tied to the chemical industry to be its chief regulator. The source of the concern is a consulting group that Mr. Dourson founded in 1995, which has been paid by chemical companies for research and reports that frequently downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds.... If confirmed, Mr. Dourson would oversee the review of some chemicals produced by companies that his firm used to represent.... Mr. Dourson has a popular sideline as a writer of books that combine Bible stories with his views on science. His series, 'Evidence of Faith,' is an examination of the intersection of evolution and bible history." Mrs. McC: Oh, gawd.

Deirdre Walsh of CNN: "House Speaker Paul Ryan urged the Senate to pass the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, calling the proposal 'our best, last chance to get repeal and replace done.' If it passed the Senate, Ryan said, he would bring it straight to the House floor vote a vote." ...

... Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Republican leaders pressed toward a showdown vote. And they choked off separate bipartisan efforts to shore up health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, hoping to give Republican senators no alternative but to vote for repeal." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'd just like to note here that this bill is specifically designed to punish residents of states that signed up for ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. As Pear & Kaplan note, "Under the legislation, states with high health care costs — especially if they expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — would generally lose money, while low-cost states that did not expand Medicaid would gain." The bill's sponsors have admitted that's the point. Again, from the NYT report: "Mr. Graham and Mr. Cassidy have cited Maryland as a state that, in their view, has been receiving more than its fair share of money under the Affordable Care Act." Maryland's governor, Larry Hogan, a Republican, opposes the bill. ...

... Sean Sullivan, et al., of the Washington Post: "The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a major blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate. But it was unclear whether it would ultimately derail the attempt, as key Republican senators including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they had yet to make up their minds. The collective criticism from 10 governors arrived as Vice President Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to rally support for the bill.... 'We ask you not to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment and renew support for bipartisan efforts to make health care more available and affordable for all Americans,' the governors said in their letter. They added that they prefer a bipartisan push to stabilize the insurance marketplaces that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been negotiating. The governors who signed the bill are particularly notable, since some are from states represented by Republican senators who are weighing whether to back the bill. Among them: Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I), who holds some sway over Murkowski, a potentially decisive vote who opposed a previous Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "The Graham-Cassidy Amendment ... Violates the Precept of 'First Do No Harm.'" "Bruce Jaspen in Forbes: "The American Medical Association joined a parade of patient advocates, healthcare groups and the largest senior lobby to oppose the Republican-led Senate’s latest effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, saying it would lead to millions losing coverage and hurt Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.... But the AMA, AARP and a growing chorus of groups say Graham-Cassidy is no different than earlier failed legislative attempts in that it would lead to millions of Americans losing their coverage. The groups also accused Republicans of short-circuiting the legislative process by not having hearings on Graham-Cassidy." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... the [Republican] Party leadership is looking to ram through the Graham-Cassidy bill before the American public realizes how awful it is. Rushing the bill through this way is about the only way it could pass. Several previous Republican bills were doomed by the Congressional Budget Office, which issued analyses detailing how the plans would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health-insurance coverage. By waiting until last week to finalize their bill, Graham and Cassidy didn’t leave the C.B.O. enough time to do a proper scoring before a vote is taken.... By targeting the low-paid, the sick, and the infirm, the legislation would create hundreds of billions of dollars in budget savings; these could then be applied to Republican tax cuts aimed primarily at rich households and corporations." ...

     ... Affordable Health Care? Ha Ha Ha. Cassidy: "... by stripping away the subsidies for the purchase of policies, abolishing the employer and individual mandates, getting rid of the lifetime caps on health-care outlays, and allowing insurers to force people with preëxisting conditions to pay more.How much more? According to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, opioid addicts and people with rheumatoid arthritis would face surcharges of more than twenty thousand dollars a year. (That’s in addition to the regular premiums.) For people with serious heart conditions, the surcharge would be more than fifty thousand dollars a year. And for those with metastatic cancer, it would be more than a hundred and forty thousand dollars." ...

I’ve never felt better about where we’re at. -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, on the vote count for his bill ...

Graham feels good about killing sick people. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie 

... Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "The Senate Health Committee chairman on Tuesday released a statement ending a bipartisan effort to find an ObamaCare fix amid a new GOP push to repeal the law. 'During the last month, we have worked hard and in good faith, but have not found the necessary consensus among Republicans and Democrats to put a bill in the Senate leaders’ hands that could be enacted,' Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in the statement. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumers's (D-N.Y.) office dismissed Alexander's statement about the bipartisan efforts, saying the announcement Tuesday was 'not about substance' while pointing to the last-ditch GOP repeal push being led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). 'We gave them many of the things they asked for, including copper plans and wide waiver authority. The Republican leadership is so eager to pass Graham-Cassidy that they’re scuttling a balanced, bipartisan negotiation,' Schumer spokesman Matt House said in a statement.... Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the top Democrat on the committee, had tried to keep the talks alive.... Alexander ... also blamed Sen. Bernie Sanders‘s (I-Vt.) announcement of single payer legislation last week for creating a partisan atmosphere as well." ...

... Paul Waldman: "Putting blame on the Democratic single payer bill is utter baloney — that bill won’t even get a committee hearing for years. One hundred percent of the fault here lies with the Republicans. And this was, believe it or not, a good-faith effort by some in both parties to stabilize the exchanges. But to the infinitely cynical Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump, that couldn’t be tolerated." (Full comment.)

Dana Milbank: "... recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: sit down and shut up. This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, made sexism safe again, giving license to shed 'political correctness' and blame troubles on minorities, immigrants and women. Trump’s golf tweet [where he seems to hit Hillary Clinton with a golf ball, knocking her down] no doubt was inspired by the attention Clinton has gotten for her new book, which has been met with a predictable response: wishing the woman who won the popular vote would 'shut up and go away' — as Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld put it. Many reviewers and commentators said similar. The public disagrees; the book is a No. 1 bestseller.... When Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) rose on the House floor this month to oppose an amendment by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Young twice called Jayapal, 51, a 'young lady,' and said she 'doesn’t know a damn thing.' (Young later apologized.)... Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)..., at two different hearings in July shut down Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) when she aggressively questioned witnesses. Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, ordered her to be silent and lectured her about 'courtesy.' And this, in turn, echoed ... Mitch McConnell’s infamous silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on the Senate floor in February when she read a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing Jeff Sessions.... Male senators reading the letter received no rebuke.... In the White House last week..., Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the only woman in a room with 10 men, twice tried to answer a question. Both times, she was spoken over. Finally, the former speaker of the House broke through. 'Does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?' she asked.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hillary's book is a bestseller & probably not because she bought thousands of copies of it herself. See yesterday's Commentariat for context.

Richard Paddock & Hannah Beech of the New York Times: "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of Myanmar, stood before a room of government officials and foreign dignitaries on Tuesday to at last, after weeks of international urging, address the plight of the country’s Rohingya ethnic minority.... In her speech, delivered in crisp English and often directly inviting foreign listeners to 'join us' in addressing Myanmar’s problems, she steadfastly refused to criticize the country’s military, which has been accused of a vast campaign of killing, rape and village burning. 'The security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the code of conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians,' she said.... As she spoke, more than 400,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority long repressed by the Buddhists who dominate Myanmar, had fled a military massacre that the United Nations has called a 'textbook example of ethnic cleansing.'” ...

... Amanda Taub of the New York Times: "In Myanmar, the Rohingya have long been demonized as outsiders in their own country. They have been present in Myanmar since the 12th century, according to Human Rights Watch. But excluding them from the nation, and later even from legal citizenship, has long been a political tool, part of the process of defining the nation by deeming some outside it." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Remember that millions of Americans, including the POTUS*, want the U.S. to become a "white, Christian nation." Also, too, there are only a few ethnic groups who have been in the Americas, & in the U.S. particularly, since the 12th century. White Christians were not among them. The ancestors of many Hispanics, on the other hand, were. Donald Trump is proud of his heritage. It's mostly foreign.

Monday
Sep182017

The Commentariat -- September 19, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Trump: "An Embarrassment to the United States." David Nakamura & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "President Trump warned the United Nations in a speech Tuesday that the world faces 'great peril' from rogue regimes with powerful weapons and terrorists with expanding reach across the globe, and called on fellow leaders to join the United States in the fight to defeat what he called failed or murderous ideologies and 'loser terrorists.'... Trump offered a hand to fellow leaders but also called on them to embrace 'national sovereignty' and to do more to ensure the prosperity and security of their own countries. Over and over, he stressed the rights and roles of 'strong, sovereign nations' even as they band together at the United Nations.... Trump also called the U.N.-backed Iran nuclear deal 'one of the worst and most one-sided' agreements ever, and 'an embarrassment' to the United States. His voice rising, Trump strongly hinted that his administration could soon declare Tehran out of compliance. That could potentially unravel the accord.” ...

... Greg Jaffe & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Trump was selective in his view of bad actors — North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Venezuela — whose sovereignty should not be respected. He made little mention of China or Russia, congratulating both on their recent U.N. vote for more sanctions, and offered a glancing mention of Ukraine.... In a puzzling attack against communism and socialism, Trump limited his criticisms to Cuba and Venezuela, ignoring China, the world’s communist behemoth.... The speech was animated by a bellicosity and swagger that is unusual for the world body.... He said that if the United States was compelled to defend itself or its allies that it would obliterate North Korea, a policy articulated by earlier administrations, albeit not in such Strangelovian terms.... [Mrs. McC: Get ready to LOL.] In previewing the speech for reporters, one senior White House aide described it as 'a deeply philosophical address.'...” Roll over, John Locke.

Sean Sullivan, et al., of the Washington Post: "The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a major blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate. But it was unclear whether it would ultimately derail the attempt, as key Republican senators including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they had yet to make up their minds. The collective criticism from 10 governors arrived as Vice President Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to rally support for the bill.... 'We ask you not to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment and renew support for bipartisan efforts to make health care more available and affordable for all Americans,' the governors said in their letter. They added that they prefer a bipartisan push to stabilize the insurance marketplaces that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been negotiating. The governors who signed the bill are particularly notable, since some are from states represented by Republican senators who are weighing whether to back the bill. Among them: Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I), who holds some sway over Murkowski, a potentially decisive vote who opposed a previous Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act."

Nicholas Fandos & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday abruptly postponed an interview with President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, shortly after the publication of his opening statement, which asserted his innocence and defended the president. Mr. Cohen was prepared to tell the committee’s investigators that the president’s critics were using rumors and innuendo about Russian interference in the election in an attempt to undercut Mr. Trump’s presidency. But senators shut down the closed-door hearing, accusing Mr. Cohen of 'releasing a public statement' despite 'requests that he refrain from public comment.'... The senior members of the committee, Senators Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, issued a statement saying that they would reschedule Mr. Cohen’s appearance and that he would appear publicly.”

*****

NEW. The New York Times has a "live briefing" of Trump's remarks before the U.N. this morning. It's embarrassing.

Peter Baker & Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday opened his first visit to the United Nations since taking office with a polite but firm call for the 72-year-old institution to overhaul itself and a veiled threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement. In a meeting with counterparts from around the world, Mr. Trump said the United Nations had grown too bureaucratic and ineffective and should reorient its approach. He complained that spending and staff at the United Nations had grown enormously over the years but that 'we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.'... Asked by reporters whether he would withdraw [from the Iran agreement], Mr. Trump said, 'You’ll see very soon. You’ll be seeing very soon.' He added: 'We’re talking about it constantly. Constantly. We’re talking about plans constantly.' The president has until mid-October to certify under an American law whether Iran is complying with the deal, a certification he has grudgingly made twice already this year but that he has told advisers he does not want to make again. If he were to refuse to do so, it could potentially unravel the agreement.” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: These constant I'm-Gonna-Surprise-Yous are getting pretty grating, especially since the surprises -- pulling out of the climate accord, screwing DREAMers -- invariably suck. ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: Trump "honors" organizations like the U.N. & the CIA by ... talking about himself. Bump provides numerous examples. Mrs. McC: It's quite all right to occasionally offer a personal anecdote. President Obama, when talking up the Affordable Care Act, for instance, often referred to his gratitude to nurses who helped his newborn daughter Sasha. But Trump's references to others are nearly only about himself.


Sharon LaFraniere
, et al., of the New York Times: Robert Mueller's team has come down hard on Paul Manafort & a few others who may have undisclosed knowledge of Russian election-tampering. In their early morning raid of Manafort's apartment, federal agents gained entry by picking the lock of his front door. “The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.... 'They seem to be pursuing this more aggressively, taking a much harder line, than you’d expect to see in a typical white collar case,' said Jimmy Gurulé, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor. 'This is more consistent with how you’d go after an organized crime syndicate.'... It is unusual for a prosecutor to seek a search warrant against someone who, like Mr. Manafort, had already put his lawyer in contact with the Justice Department.... To be allowed to pick the lock and enter the home unannounced, prosecutors had to persuade a federal judge that Mr. Manafort was likely to destroy evidence.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The story has been updated to include the assertion that the Mueller team told Manafort he would be indicted. ...

     ... Evan Perez, et al., of CNN: "US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official.... The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to ... Donald Trump. Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources.... Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive. A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine's former ruling party.... The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources. The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year. Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI's efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. The FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power." ...

     ... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Manafort has a residence in Trump Tower, but it’s unclear if the FBI surveilled him there. Still, according to Trump supporters, the important take away from these reports isn’t that the president’s former campaign manager may have engaged in illegal activity, but that Trump was right when he claimed 'Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory.'”

... Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "House and Senate investigators have grown increasingly concerned that Facebook is withholding key information that could illuminate the shape and extent of a Russian propaganda campaign aimed at tilting the U.S. presidential election, according to people familiar with the probe.... Investigators believe the company has not fully examined all potential ways that Russians could have manipulated Facebook’s sprawling social media platform. A particularly sore point among Hill investigators is that Facebook has shared more extensive information — including ads bought through fake Russian accounts — with special counsel Robert S. Mueller...."


Laurence Tribe & Ron Fein
in a Washington Post op-ed: "Trump’s pardon of [Joe] Arpaio can — and should — be overturned.... When the Constitution says that the president 'shall have Power,' that does not mean unlimited power. It means power that is not inconsistent with other parts of the Constitution. It means power that is not inconsistent with other parts of the Constitution. For example, the Constitution says 'Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes,' but that doesn’t mean Congress can tax white people at a different rate than black people.... Trump’s pardon of Arpaio should trigger congressional hearings on whether it constitutes an impeachable offense. But it strains logic to suggest that, although a president can be removed from office for an unconstitutional pardon, the pardon itself must be judicially enforced. By pardoning Arpaio for his willful disobedience of a court order to stop violating Arizonans’ constitutional rights, Trump has pulled the republic into uncharted waters. Our best guide home is the Constitution."

The Earth v. Trump. Emily Atkin of the New Republic: "Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in Manhattan this week, the Trump administration is doubling down on its pledge to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark climate accord. At the same time, U.S. climate leaders — and some foreign representatives — are discussing how the other 170 countries party to the deal might make America pay for breaking its promise to reduce emissions. At the opening ceremony of Climate Week NYC on Monday—less than a mile away from the U.N. meeting — former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers raised the idea of a 'border adjustment carbon tax.' Under this plan, each country that signed the Paris agreement would institute a carbon tax. Countries that don’t have one—i.e., the United States—would face financial penalties levied on exports and imports.”

Alex Shepard of the New Republic: How did The Art of the Deal get on the New York Times best-seller list in the first place? Trump bought thousands of copies.

Joe Davidson of the Washington Post: "The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is examining the extraordinary and politically suspect reassignment of dozens of Senior Executive Service (SES) members. The OIG’s review is in response to a request from eight Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They asked for the probe after one Interior senior executive, Joel Clement, wrote a Washington Post article that said he was reassigned and 'retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities.'”

Glenn Thrush & Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times: "In an interview on Monday morning, [Sean] Spicer said he now regrets one of his most infamous moments as press secretary: his decision to charge into the White House briefing room in January and criticize accurate news reports that President Barack Obama’s inauguration crowd was bigger than President Trump’s. 'Of course I do, absolutely,' Mr. Spicer said." His Emmys cameo was arranged & rehearsed in secret. ...

... Frank Bruni of the New York Times is incensed by Spicer's Emmy appearance and what he describes as Hollywood's embrace of Spicer. Spicer's Big Lie about Trump's inauguration crowd size "was precisely and perfectly emblematic of Trump’s all-out, continuing assault on facts and on truth itself. And it signaled Spicer’s full collaboration in that war, which is arguably the most dangerous facet of Trump’s politics, with the most far-reaching, long-lasting consequences." Mrs. McCrabbie: Bruni is right, of course, but I'm not too irritated by Spicer's participating in a joke at his own expense. What does anger me is something else Bruni writes: "Spicer and [Corey] Lewandowski will be fellows at Harvard, never mind their volitional submission to someone whose lack of character, grace and basic maturity was just affirmed anew by his retweet of a video of him hitting a golf ball into Hillary Clinton and knocking her over." There's nothing funny about that. Harvard's embrace of celebrity, even if the celebrity is a pariah, suggests one of the oldest colleges in the country has become an unserious university.

E-Mails! Kobach Runs Afoul of State AND Federal Law. Bryan Lowry & Hunter Woodall of the Kansas City Star: "Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s use of private email for a presidential commission could bring him into conflict with a 1-year-old state law meant to increase government transparency. Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor, told ProPublica last week that he was serving on ... Donald Trump’s voting fraud commission as a private citizen rather than as Kansas secretary of state and that he was using his personal gmail account for commission business rather than his official state account. Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor and vice chair of the commission, said using his state account would be a 'waste of state resources.' The ProPublica report scrutinized the use of private email by commission members and their possible violation of a federal statute that requires any federal government business conducted by private email to be forwarded to a government address within 20 days.... If Kobach is serving on the commission in his official capacity as Kansas secretary of state, then all of his emails related to the commission would be available to the public under the [Kansas] 2016 law. The May announcement from the White House on the formation of the commission noted his position as Kansas secretary of state." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh, questions abound. Does Kobach have a private server? Has he deleted his so-called "personal" e-mails? Will the House set up 27 investigative committees? Will mike pence testify or will he claim executive privilege? Will we see subpoenas, or do we have to wait for Russia to hack Kobach's e-mail account?

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article173996136.html#storylink=cpy”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article173996136.html#storylink=cpy

Say, What Are Uday & Qusay Doing These Days?

... Secret Service, No. Nicholas Fandos & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Donald Trump Jr. ...  has elected to forgo protection by the Secret Service, according to a senior administration official, and another top White House official is losing hers. The agency ceased protecting Mr. Trump, who lives in New York City and is an executive at the Trump Organization, last week. Mr. Trump, an avid camper and hunter, was said to be seeking more privacy than he can expect with a contingent of agents accompanying him everywhere. It was not immediately clear whether the decision applied to his family; he and his wife, Vanessa, have five children. Mr. Trump could not be reached, and the White House did not return a message seeking comment. Additionally, Kellyanne Conway ... will no longer be covered by agents, according to an administration official briefed on the matter. The two cases are unrelated." ...

... Secret Events, Yes. Dan Alexander of Forbes: "The charity formerly known as the Eric Trump Foundation apparently held a secret event at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York on Monday, even though the Eric Trump Foundation remains under investigation by the office of the New York state attorney general. The charity, which was renamed Curetivity, is legally allowed to raise money as the investigation continues. But its choice of venue seemed to be an act of defiance. Eric Trump had previously falsely stated that his charity got to use his family’s assets '100% free of charge,' but a June story in Forbes magazine debunked that claim and sparked a state investigation into the organization. It is not clear who will cover the costs for Monday's event."


This Will Make You Sick. Robert Pear
of the New York Times: "Just when the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act appeared to be dead, a last-ditch push to dismantle the law could be nearing a showdown vote in the Senate, and a handful of Republicans insist they are closing in on the votes. The effort received a jolt of energy on Monday when Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, a Republican, strongly endorsed the latest repeal bill. That put pressure on Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who cast the deciding vote in July that seemed to stop the repeal movement, but who has said he would seriously consider the views of his governor. The leaders of the latest repeal effort, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, say their drive is gaining momentum. But it is still a long shot. Under their bill, millions could lose coverage, Medicaid would see the same magnitude of cuts that earlier repeal bills extracted, and insurers in some states could charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions." ...

     ... See especially Ian Millhiser's analysis of the bill, linked in yesterday's Commentariat. Bill & Lindsey's excellent plan is great for insurance companies: they can rake in the dough but won't have to assume any, um, risk. If you're healthy, your premiums might be affordable. But if you get sick, the insureers will just raise your premiums to cover all your medical expenses. That's not insurance; that's a racket. ...

... ** Judy Stone, in Forbes, reports on the horrifying provisions of the Graham-Cassidy bill. It's worse than the failed efforts to repeal ObamaCare. Mrs. McC: Graham-Cassidy is not "repeal & replace": it's repeal & end Medicaid. ...

... Kim Soffen of the Washington Post: "The proposal, crafted by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), essentially turns control of the health-care markets over to the states. Rather than funding Medicaid and subsidies directly, that money would be put into a block grant that a state could use to develop any health-care system it wants.... The Medicaid expansion and subsidy funding would be cut sharply compared to current spending, going to zero in a decade.... The cuts would hit liberal states the hardest, according to a report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. This is largely because they tend to be the biggest spenders on health care...." ...

... Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and the March of Dimes on Monday came out in opposition to the latest Senate GOP bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare. They are among 16 groups that released a joint statement criticizing the bill, which Republican sponsors say is nearing the 51 votes necessary for passage. 'This bill would limit funding for the Medicaid program, roll back important essential health benefit protections, and potentially open the door to annual and lifetime caps on coverage, endangering access to critical care for millions of Americans,' the groups wrote in a statement. 'Our organizations urge senators to oppose this legislation.'” ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times is in for a big disappointment. "... John McCain’s Senate colleagues are going to test him once again. And the health insurance of millions of Americans depends on the outcome.... Graham-Cassidy, risks the Senate’s credibility again. There has been none of the regular process that McCain demanded, not even a Congressional Budget Office analysis. No major medical group — not doctors, nurses, hospitals or advocates for the treatment of cancer, diabetes or birth defects — supports the bill. Passing it would violate every standard that McCain laid down.... It would be a tragedy for the country if he were now willing to take away decent health care from millions of people. It would be a tragedy for him if he went back on his word so blatantly. I remain hopeful that he will stay true to it." ...

... As We Feared. Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that he supports a newer version of an ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, throwing some support behind the last-ditch effort. McCain said he backs a bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would convert ObamaCare spending into block grants for states. Asked if he supported it, McCain told reporters, 'Yes. You think I wouldn't be?' Graham is one of McCain's closest friends." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Pardon my cynicism, but it wouldn't surprise me if McCain's "no" vote on the last repeal bill were simply a gift to Lindsey Graham, who at the time was already finalizing the blueprint for the even more draconian Graham-Cassidy monstrosity. ...

Emily Steel of the New York Times: "Fox News, which for more than a year has dealt with the fallout from an embarrassing sexual harassment scandal, was sued on Monday by the political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, who claimed that she had been raped by the longtime anchor Charles Payne and was then retaliated against by the network after she came forward with her allegation. Mr. Payne, the host of 'Making Money' on Fox Business, returned to the air this month after the network suspended him in July pending an investigation into his conduct. Upon his return, the network said that it had completed the investigation, which began after Ms. Hughes took her allegations to the network in late June.... Ms. Hughes, a regular guest on Fox News and Fox Business from 2013 through 2016, asserted that after she ended the relationship with Mr. Payne, the network blacklisted her. After she reported her allegations against him, she said, the network leaked a story to the news media about a romantic affair between Ms. Hughes and Mr. Payne."

Beyond the Beltway

Doug Moore of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Police used a technique called kettling on Sunday night to box in about 100 people at a busy downtown intersection and arrest them for failing to disperse. It’s a tactic used to corral a group of people who fail to follow police orders. St. Louis police took the action after several windows were broken and concrete planters and trash cans overturned. But some of those caught in the box made by rows of officers said police overstepped their bounds, using excessive force and chemical spray on people who were not protesting, including residents trying to get home and members of the media. As police closed in from all sides, they struck their batons in unison on the pavement, in a cadence march.... Those bused to the jail seemed confused by what was happening, [a protest leader] said. Pedestrians were arrested along with legal observers, protesters, a freelance photographer and a doctor, he said."

Way Beyond

of the New York Times: "On Monday, the first glimmers of information began to surface about the two young men who are suspects in the crude bombing of an Underground subway train on Friday morning, in what the authorities have called a terrorist attack.... The arrests came as a shock here in Sunbury-on-Thames, a middle-class suburb in Surrey, just west of Greater London, where the two men had stayed with foster parents, Ronald and Penelope Jones. The couple — he is 88 and she 71 — have been lauded for sheltering hundreds of young people, many from broken or troubled homes, over four decades starting in 1970. In 2009, they were named members of the Order of the British Empire, an honor conferred for 'outstanding achievement or service to the community.'”

Sunday
Sep172017

The Commentariat -- September 18, 2017

Fuctupmind. POTUS* Promotes Violence against Women. Again. Christina Caron of the New York Times: "Serious work beckons, but so does Twitter, and on Sunday morning the temptation to share a fan’s GIF that showed Mr. Trump golfing and the ball striking Hillary Clinton proved too much to resist.... The tweet stoked outrage online, generating more than 11,000 replies, many of which condemned the president’s promotion of violent imagery toward Mrs. Clinton, who, as a former first lady, has lifetime Secret Service protection.... But it was also celebrated by Trump supporters, who admonished 'crooked Hillary' and accused Mr. Trump’s critics of lacking a sense of humor.... The GIF, which was created by splicing two videos, shows Mr. Trump swinging a golf club and the ball striking Mrs. Clinton in the back as she boards a plane, knocking her forward. The imagery of Mrs. Clinton tripping in the aircraft’s doorway was from 2011, shot when she boarded a flight in Yemen.... It’s not the first time one of the president’s tweets has made light of violence." Includes GIF. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Nearly everything Trump does can be pegged to an age group. Sometimes it's "senile," but usually it's somewhere between two years old and 14. This tweet was definitely in the 12-14-year-old range: a boy that age is confused about & afraid of girls & his prefrontal cortex isn't fully developed, so he may lash out at the objects of his fear or suggest violence against these scary girls. ...

... Alicia Melville-Smith of BuzzFeed: "President Trump on Sunday morning retweeted a doctored video showing him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball — from an account that makes racial, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBT comments." ...

... Luke Barnes of ThinkProgress: "The post, by Twitter user Fuctupmind was part of a slew of early morning retweets of pro-Trump memes by the Pre[si]dent. Fuctupmind has previously pedaled in a number of far-right conspiracy theories, including the belief that Obama is a Muslim, and that Hillary Clinton was involved in the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.... The account has also consistently made racist comments as well as posted memes and GIFs of Hillary Clinton showing her as weak and demented. Fuctupmind also uses Gab, a social media platform which is popular with white nationalists.... Trump has a long history of retweeting accounts which push hateful, white nationalist agendas.... There’s speculation among researchers as to how much of pro-Trump Twitter is part of a grassroots movement, and how much of it is driven by automated bots. According to the New Democrat Network think tank, 'Several forms of anaylsis, including TwitterAudit, count nearly half of all Trump’s followers as fake users.'” ...

... Caroline Orr of Shareblue: "Humiliated by the small number of supporters that turned out for Saturday’s supposed 'Mother of All Rallies' in Washington D.C., Donald Trump started his Sunday by obsessively tweeting about the woman who beat him by 3 million votes in November. This is nothing new for Trump, who cannot seem to let go of his fixation even ten months after the election. Within a span of 30 minutes early Sunday morning, Trump retweeted 6 tweets from fan accounts, including one tweet about the 'haters' who are 'jealous of his success,' and another showing a fictional 2020 electoral map." All that besides the post promiting violence against Clinton. ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "At a time when Trump’s public approval ratings have tumbled and he is taking fire from conservatives for flirting with bipartisanship on immigration, the president’s promotion of ... outlandish content — created and distributed by his most ardent supporters — aims to rally his far-right political base.... Critics said Trump has not only coarsened and debased the nation’s dialogue, but also that he has promoted xenophobia and anti-Semitism." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I don't think Trump is aiming at the far right; it's possible to be ultra-conservative & not be anti-Semitic, xenophobic & misogynistic. Trump is aiming at the deplorable losers who share his sick "values." He's just bullying people & specific groups of people, and he thinks it's fun. ...

... Caroline Orr: "In an interview on CNN’s 'State of the Union' Sunday morning, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley defended Donald Trump’s reckless tweeting about the subway bombing in London, saying it was a result of the president’s emotions. Just after the bombing on Friday, Trump tweeted that the suspected terrorists 'were in the sights of Scotland Yard,' which many observers interpreted as criticism of London’s law enforcement agency for letting the suspects slip through the cracks. Others pointed out that Trump was either leaking confidential information — or simply making it up.... When CNN’s Dana Bash asked Haley about the tweet on Sunday, the U.N. ambassador claimed that Trump didn’t mean any harm by the tweet, but that sometimes 'he gets emotional.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Emotional? Trump used Twitter to bash a key ally & to promote his Muslim ban. This is just the usual careless, bullying, xenophobic, opportunistic rants of the incompetent, small-minded jerk we have come to know & despise.

Overheard at BLT Steak. Peter Baker & Ken Vogel of the New York Times: "President Trump’s legal team is wrestling with how much to cooperate with the special counsel looking into Russian election interference, an internal debate that led to an angry confrontation last week between two White House lawyer.... The debate in Mr. Trump’s West Wing has pitted Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation. Mr. Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the emails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes of quickly ending the investigation — or at least its focus on Mr. Trump. Mr. McGahn supports cooperation, but has expressed worry about setting a precedent that would weaken the White House.... The friction escalated in recent days.... [A New York Times reporter overheard] Mr. Cobb ... talking about a White House lawyer he deemed 'a McGahn spy' and saying Mr. McGahn had 'a couple documents locked in a safe' that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation.... John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Waiting for Trump to accuse BLT Steak & the NYT of wiretapping the tables. He can at least set up a commission to investigate the acoustics at the liberal steakhouse. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "This is of particular concern to McGahn because he may also be a witness in the Russia probe. McGahn signed on to the Trump team during the campaign, and [special counsel Robert] Mueller wants to interview him about matters like Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian officials and Comey’s dismissal. As West Wing viewers know, the president doesn’t have the same attorney-client privilege with government lawyers as he does with private attorneys, so McGahn’s disclosures could put him in legal jeopardy."

Richard Gowan in Politico Magazine: Donald Trump despises the U.N., possibly because its management nixed Trump's development plans -- including his proposal to rehab the U.N. bulding -- in the late 1990s & early 2000s. But now he needs the international organization to him "win" against North Korea & other antagonists, so he's occasionally playing nice.

David Fahrenthold, et al., of the Washington Post: "Trump’s divisive political career is reshaping a key — and previously apolitical — part of his business empire. Trump-owned hotels and clubs have long made money by holding galas and other special events. Now, their clientele is changing. Trump’s properties are attracting new customers who want something from him or his government. But they’re losing the kind of customers the business was originally built on: nonpolitical groups who just wanted to rent a room. This summer, 19 charities canceled upcoming events at Mar-a-Lago — a major blow to that club’s business — after the president said there were 'fine people' among white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right protesting ... in Charlottesville. Dozens of other clients have left since Trump entered the 2016 presidential race.... For the Trump Organization, a potentially troubling trend is emerging ... as Trump's presidency has grown more polarizing. The Post’s review could not determine if the Trump Organization’s special-event business is growing or shrinking overall. But it did show, clearly, that one part of that business is thriving. The business of political events.... At least 27 federal political committees — including Trump’s reelection campaign — have flocked to his properties.... At Trump’s D.C. hotel, there have also been a slew of events involving groups that have come to Washington to influence policy decisions."

David Siders of Politico: "Ripping into Donald Trump in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, California lawmakers passed measures urging Congress to censure the president, bucking his immigration policies and seeking to force him to release his tax returns. They also formally called on Trump 'to publicly apologize to all Americans for his racist and bigoted behavior.' If there was any question about the location of the nerve center of the anti-Trump resistance, it was settled with a defiant fusillade of legislation Friday and Saturday memorializing California’s antipathy toward the president.” Siders doesn't speculate on whether or note Gov. Jerry Brown will sign all of the bills, tho he writes that the 'sanctuary state' bill was weakened before passage to gain ... Brown’s support.

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Trump modify 10 national monuments created by his immediate predecessors, including shrinking the boundaries of at least four western sites, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post. The memorandum, which the White House has refused to release since Zinke submitted it late last month, does not specify exact reductions for the four protected areas Zinke would have Trump narrow — Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou — or the two marine national monuments — the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll — for which he raised the same prospect. The two Utah sites encompass a total of more than 3.2 million acres, part of the reason they have aroused such intense emotions since their designation."

Burgess Everett & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "Obamacare repeal is on the brink of coming back from the dead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his leadership team are seriously considering voting on a bill that would scale back the federal government’s role in the health care system and instead provide block grants to states, congressional and Trump administration sources said. It would be a last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare before the GOP’s power to pass health care legislation through a party-line vote in the Senate expires on Sept. 30." ...

... The Graham-Cassidy Uninsurance Bill. Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "According to an analysis shared by Andy Slavitt, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, an estimated 32 million people could lose health coverage by the end of the decade if Graham-Cassidy becomes law.... In essence, an insurer could take someone’s money for years while that individual is healthy. Then, on the day that that person is diagnosed with cancer, jack up their premiums so high that they are no longer affordable.... Health 'insurance' under Graham-Cassidy, in other words, would no longer provide any real insurance whatsoever." ...

... Stealth Repeal. Paul Krugman: "The sponsors of the Graham-Cassidy [repeal & replace health insurance] bill now working its way toward a Senate vote claim to be offering a moderate approach that preserves the good things about Obamacare. In other words, they are maintaining the G.O.P. norm of lying both about the content of Obamacare and about what would replace it. In reality, Graham-Cassidy is the opposite of moderate. It contains, in exaggerated and almost caricature form, all the elements that made previous Republican proposals so cruel and destructive. It would eliminate the individual mandate, undermine if not effectively eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and slash funding for subsidies and Medicaid. There are a few additional twists, but they’re all bad — notably, a funding formula that would penalize states that are actually successful in reducing the number of uninsured.... Yet there is a real chance that Graham-Cassidy, which is similar to but even worse than previous Republican proposals, will nonetheless become law, because not enough people are taking it seriously.... So if you care about preserving the huge gains the A.C.A. has brought, make your voice heard." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Only three GOP senators voted against the most recent repeal bill: McCain, Murkowski & Collins. & if even one of them votes in favor of Graham-Cassidy, ObamaCare isgone. McCain is best buddies with Graham, the main architect of the bill. I do see a clear & present danger.

Beyond the Beltway

Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "During an interview with a Corpus Christi radio station on Friday, Rep.Blake Farenthold (R-TX) vowed to personally boycott the University of Texas at Austin until the school reinstalls the Confederate statues it took down last month...In an earlier part of the interview, Farenthold took aim at so-called “Antifa” protesters who have taken to the streets in opposition to white nationalists...Referring to the fact that some Antifa protesters wear masks, Farenthold said that 'if you’re not willing to show your face for your cause, that’s probably a good indication that there’s something wrong with your cause.'" --safari: He's obviously too dim to catch the irony of his KKK brethren.