The Ledes

Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

New York Times: "Robert M. Pirsig, whose 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,' a dense and discursive novel of ideas, became an unlikely publishing phenomenon in the mid-1970s and a touchstone in the waning days of the counterculture, died on Monday at his home in South Berwick, Me. He was 88." -- CW 

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, April 23, 2017.

Los Angeles Times: "Erin Moran, the former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms 'Happy Days' and 'Joanie Loves Chachi,' died Saturday at age 56." -- CW 

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

Public Service Announcement

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

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

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

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

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Monday
Apr242017

The Commentariat -- April 25, 2017

Afternoon Update:

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Emmarie Heutteman & Adam Goldman of the New York Times: "Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, may have violated federal law by not fully disclosing his business dealings with Russia when seeking a security clearance to work in the administration, the top oversight lawmakers from both parties in the House said Tuesday. The troubling finding came after Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah and chairman of the House oversight committee, and other lawmakers on the panel reviewed classified documents related to Mr. Flynn, including the form he filled out in January 2016 to renew his security clearance, known as a SF-86.... 'As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,' Mr. Chaffetz said. 'And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law.'... Mr. Chaffetz and [Rep. Elijah] Cummings [D-Md.] also said White House officials refused their request to turn over other internal documents related to the hiring and firing of Mr. Flynn.” -- CW 

*****

David Sanger & William Broad of the New York Times: "Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports that conclude the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks. That acceleration in pace — impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago — explains why President Trump and his aides fear they are running out of time. For years, American presidents decided that each incremental improvement in the North’s program — another nuclear test, a new variant of a missile — was worrisome, but not worth a confrontation that could spill into open conflict. Now those step-by-step advances have resulted in North Korean warheads that in a few years could reach Seattle." -- CW ...

... Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: "Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea. All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday.... Aides said they were working with the White House to schedule a similar briefing for the House of Representatives.... Wednesday's briefing was originally scheduled for a secure room at the Capitol, but ... Donald Trump suggested a shift to the White House, congressional aides said." ...

     ... CW: In other words, the "rare briefing at the White House" is part of The Donald Trump Show, starring Donald Trump. Trump doesn't go to Congress; Congress comes to Trump. If they're lucky, Trump  won't make the senatorial supplicants crawl up the White House steps in gratitude for his magnifitude.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Suddenly, a spending bill that was meant to be a mere legislative grace note to much larger health care and tax policy bills has become the centerpiece of another down-to-the-wire battle.... President Trump has turned a sure thing into a major drama, with a Friday night deadline before much of the government shuts down.... Mr. Trump intervened [in Congress's spending plans], insisting on using the bill to get a down payment on a wall at the Mexican border that even many Republicans are leery of and that he has long insisted would be paid for by Mexico. He appeared to soften his demand late Monday, saying he would settle for additional funds for border security — potentially including at least part of the wall, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity." -- CW ...

... Brian Beutler: "It is unprecedented in the modern era for an appropriations fight to end in a government shutdown when one party has full control..., but Trump’s particular mix of incompetence, narcissism, and poor judgment is potent enough to confound basic game theory.... To secure border-wall funds from Congress before day 100, Trump is actually flirting with two different modes of extortion. The first one, which hasn’t been expressed as a formal threat, is that he will not sign spending legislation unless it funds the wall; the second, which he tweets about frequently, is that unless Democrats agree to fund the border wall, he will sabotage the Affordable Care Act by freezing billions of dollars in insurance subsidies the law authorizes to reduce out-of-pocket costs for the near-poor.... We will know within a few days whether Trump will quietly swallow another humiliating defeat, or whether he will provoke a crisis in futile pursuit of a border-wall victory.... But it has to be one or the other." -- CW ...

     ... BUT. Steve M.: Given the ignorance of voters, "if a shutdown happens, we shouldn't assume that Trump and the GOP will get all the blame." -- CW ...

     ... CW: PLUS which, Trumpbots will think Trump was right to hold out for funding the wall, no matter what the cost & inconvenience to the lazy bums who suck on the government teat.

 

... Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "... the mismatch between the disrupter president and what has been a business-as-usual, do-little Congress seems especially evident as the 100-day mark of the administration nears.... [Trump] tweeted twice on Monday about the wall. 'The wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others),' he wrote. 'If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be. #BuildTheWall.' Hours later, he tweeted about health care. 'If our healthcare plan is approved, you will see real healthcare and premiums will start tumbling down. Obamacare is in a death spiral.' About that time, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was briefing reporters, noting that health care will come to a vote when House leaders determine that they have the votes to pass it. In other words, no promises when." CW: Worth noting, as Balz does not, that Trump's tweets were all ridiculous lies. ...

... Chad Terhune of Kaiser Health News: "... the health care industry ... helped lift the country out of the Great Recession and, partly due to the Affordable Care Act, it now employs 1 in 9 Americans — up from 1 in 12 in 2000.... The country has grown increasingly dependent on the health sector to power the economy.... Thirty-five percent of the nation’s job growth has come from health care since the recession hit in late 2007, the single-biggest sector for job creation.... In cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and St. Louis, health care has replaced dying industries like coal and heavy manufacturing as a primary source of new jobs.... As ... Donald Trump seeks to fulfill his campaign pledge to create millions more jobs, the industry would seem a promising place to turn. But the business mogul also campaigned to repeal Obamacare and lower health care costs — a potentially serious job killer." Via Paul Waldman. ...

     ... CW: Very important points, Chad. But Trump isn't listening. First, you're writing this stuff down, and Trump doesn't read. You need to get yourself on "Fox & Friends." Second, it probably still wouldn't do any good, because all Trump wants is a "win"; he doesn't give a flying fuck about the effects of the words in the bill he signs. Third, healthcare jobs aren't just for "manly white guys," and those are the only jobs that matter. Fourth, you're citing facts & stats, which are, as you must know, "fake news." ...

... Amy Goldstein & Scott Clement of the Washington Post: "In strategy and substance, the American public disagrees with the course that President Trump and congressional Republicans are pursuing to replace the Affordable Care Act with conservative policies, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House. These would allow states to choose whether to keep the ACA’s insurance protection for people with preexisting medical problems and its guarantee of specific health benefits. Public sentiment is particularly lopsided in favor of an aspect of the current health-care law that blocks insurers from charging more or denying coverage to customers with medical conditions." ...

     ... CW: And Donald Demento considers passage of the bill to be a "win." But then, he won't find out what the public thinks of this impending "win" because ...

I never thought I had the ability to, and who used to treat me great by the way, when I played the game. I never thought I had the ability to not watch what is unpleasant, if it's about me. Or pleasant. But when I see it's such false reporting and such bad reporting and false reporting that I've developed an ability that I never thought I had. I don't watch things that are unpleasant. I just don't watch them. -- Donald Trump, to Julie Pace of the AP

 

Julie Davis & Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "President Trump has instructed his advisers to make cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent a centerpiece of his tax-cut blueprint to be unveiled this week, according to people with knowledge of his plans, even if that means a significant reduction in revenue that could jettison his campaign promise to curb deficits.... The White House is planning to formally roll out its tax plan on Wednesday..., following a prolonged period of confusion in which he and his top advisers sent mixed messages about what elements they favored and how the tax cut would be structured.... The 15 percent rate is lower than what House Republicans proposed in the tax cut blueprint being pitched by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, and it could be difficult to move through Congress." -- CW ...

... The Donald Trump Show Is Just a Show, Ctd. Kevin Drum: "... it's all theater. On Wednesday we'll get a vague description of 'broader principles' that will include gigantic cuts in the top rates for both individuals and corporations, along with just enough eye candy for the middle class that Trump can pretend it's a tax cut for everyone. It will basically be a campaign document with a few extra tidbits so that Trump can claim to have released his 'tax plan' during his first hundred days." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "The Trump administration’s announcement that it will support a gigantic tax cut, rather than 'tax reform,' is exactly the outcome that’s been inevitable from the beginning. Given that the Republican effort to dismantle Obamacare imploded, it is tempting to assume that a similar fate awaits the Trump tax cuts. But this misunderstands the modern Republican Party, which remains fanatically devoted to the cause of regressive tax cuts, and which is very likely to pass Trump’s plan, or something like it." -- CW 

The Donald Trump Show Is Just a Show, Ctd. Sabrina Siddiqui & Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "... an analysis of Trump’s executive actions as he nears the 100th day of his presidency on Saturday – which thus far includes 25 executive orders, 24 memorandums and 20 proclamations – show that Trump’s actions are more cosmetic than they are substantive. Many of the actions establish big goals, but few provide legislative prescriptions. They order agency reviews and studies, ask for recommendations or tinker at the margins of existing law. 'A lot of it is for show,' said Cristina Rodríguez, a law professor at Yale University who covers constitutional and administrative law." --CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... what Trump’s fixation with executive orders actually reveals is how little he and his party understand about how government works and what it takes to bring about long-lasting change.... If Republicans wish to pretend that Trump is really making America great again by signing pieces of paper asking people who work for him whether they have any ideas how to make America great again, more power to them.... But why have they grown so fixated with executive orders in the first place? One answer is that they have internalized their own propaganda from the previous administration. After the 2010 midterms deprived Barack Obama of a workable (or even functional) congressional majority, he shifted his attention to executive orders.... Republican opponents denounce[d] these orders in overwrought terms, as oppressive and even unconstitutional.... Once Trump won, Republicans assumed he could undo everything Obama did." -- CW 

Man Living in White House Tweets Something. Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Monday decried a set of polls released over the weekend as 'fake news' conducted by media outlets whose polling about last year’s presidential election had proven incorrect. 'The two fake news polls released yesterday, ABC & NBC, while containing some very positive info, were totally wrong in General E. Watch!' Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Digby has a must-read in Salon about Trump & the media's "dangerous, symbiotic relationship." CW: The institutionalization of a sort of inverse Judith Miller Syndrome seems as much a threat to democracy as any of Trump's authoritarian leanings. (Instead of you-scratch-my-back, etc., it's you're-a-disaster/you're-fake-news.) Also, if you missed it, read Steve M., linked yesterday, on Liz Spayd, the NYT's so-called "public editor." ...

... ** Charles Pierce on Trump's AP interview. His riff on the "(unintelligible)" parts is mighty amusing. Pierce's conclusion: "There is a serious problem here and, from my seat, there's no [one] in this administration to ... find out if the president's incoherent domestic policy, and his incoherent foreign policy, and his incoherence in thought and speech, are all related to each other in deeply perilous ways." -- CW 

David Cohen of Politico: "Vice President Mike Pence will be back in Washington from his Pacific trip Tuesday, one day earlier than scheduled, it was announced Sunday night. According to a pool report late Sunday, one of Pence's aides 'cited the amount of issues on deck in Washington this week — between health care, the continuing resolution and tax reform.' The vice president had been scheduled to visit the USS Arizona memorial at the Pearl Harbor site in Hawaii on Tuesday, but he will be leaving Hawaii on Monday instead." CW: Of course pence is leaving Hawaii posthaste. No self-respecting Trumpie would waste his time on "an island in the Pacific." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

What we are doing is dealing with another bad act on the part of the Canadians. -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, on imposing tariffs on Canadian softwood imports ...

... Ana Swanson & Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration announced on Monday that it is planning to impose a roughly 20 percent tariff on softwood lumber imported from Canada, a new escalation of trade tensions with America's northern neighbor. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview that his department had reached a preliminary decision to impose the tax, the administration's first major trade action against Canada. Ross portrayed the action as a tough measure to punish Canada after President Trump declared last week that 'we can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers.'... The ruling is the latest salvo in a decades-long battle between Canadian and American lumber producers.... A report in the Toronto Star on Monday evening said Canada did not immediately plan to retaliate.... Jeffrey Schott, a former Treasury official and trade negotiator, said the tariff would likely translate into higher costs for U.S. consumers.” CW: So, good for big American lumber producers, not so good for you & me.  

"Joint Session." Dana Milbank: "Marijuana users are feeling a bit paranoid about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s threats to crack down on states (and the District) that have legalized marijuana. So on Monday, at 'high noon,' activists gathered on the Capitol lawn for what they called a 'joint session,' and they appealed to a higher authority. They brought in a 'ganjapreneur,' a 'hemperor,' a Rastafarian and a dozen activists wearing what looked like Keebler elf hats — and they held a 'religious ceremony' for the protection of their sacred herb." Milbank goes on to discuss JeffBo's disdain for weed. -- CW 

Ian Millhiser Tells AG to Get a Lawyer: "The Justice Department threatened to cut off grant funding to eight cities on Friday  —  unless those cities provide more support to federal officials trying to crack down on undocumented immigrants. But DOJ’s threat is unconstitutional and is highly unlikely to survive a lawsuit.... Under the Supreme Court’s 'anti-commandeering doctrine,' the feds cannot order a state or local government to participate in a federal program. Thus, while a state or municipality may voluntarily agree to have its police force participate in federal immigration enforcement, state and local governments also have an absolute right to refuse to do so." Millhiser elaborates on the nuances. -- CW 

Aggressively begging foreign countries to funnel money straight into Trump's pocket is a clear violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause, but that's precisely what the State Department is doing by openly promoting one of the Trumps' private businesses. It's a gross abuse of taxpayer resources and flagrant violation of the law from an administration that thinks rules don't apply to them. -- Shripal Shah of American Bridge, a Democratic firm, Monday ...

Why is @realDonaldTrump's State Dept promoting the President's private club? #Trump100Days -- Nancy Pelosi, in a tweet

They’re just shamelessly promoting his products on U.S. government, taxpayer-financed websites. And we know that Mar-a-Lago has benefited from President Trump being elected president. -- Jake Tapper of CNN

... The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Dan Merica of CNN: "The State Department has removed a blog post that touted ... Donald Trump's personally owned private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago. The post was available to all embassies through Share America, a State Department program for US embassies.... In a markedly promotional blog post from April 5 that could eventually benefit the President's bottom line, should it spur membership or foreign visits, the embassy writes that the property has 'become well known as the President frequently travels there to work or host foreign leaders.'" -- CW 

The Two Faces of Mike Pompeo. Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "Donald Trump's administration has taken a tough stance on WikiLeaks in recent weeks.... No Trump administration official went further in condemning the group than CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who, in a speech two weeks ago, called WikiLeaks a 'hostile intelligence service.'... Pompeo, however, repeatedly cited [WikiLeaks] to attack Hillary Clinton during the campaign." -- CW 

Connie Bruck of the New Yorker does some deep reporting on Steve Bannon's brilliant Hollywood career. It was a total bust, one failure after another, punctuated by disturbing tales of misogyny & mendacity. Even the well-known "Bannon made millions on 'Seinfeld' residuals" story seems to be untrue. Thanks to Nancy for the link. The story is compelling, but you may want to shower after reading it.

Your Chart of the Day:

Via the New York Times.

... CW: That's right. There are only 160K coal miners' jobs in the whole country. That's less that a middling month's jobs growth. A blip. If I were a coal miner (or a coal miner's daughter), instead of acting as a prop in a Trump photo-op, I'd be fighting to shut down the mines & get my people & me some cushy solar jobs. I don't care how tough & manly a guy might look coming up out of a mine shaft, there is no valor in stupid. ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox writes more elegantly of the need to pull Trumpbots out of their fake nostalgia stupor & remind them that the "good old days" were in fact days of significant change, & that areas seeking economic improvement always have recognized & worked to meet new challenges rather than wallowed in the past. CW: Paul Ryan's little rant about the "hammocks of complacency and dependence" really apply much better to the GOP's sales pitch than to way most social service programs are designed to work. It's just that GOP paeans to the past are cost- and results-free.


Brian Stelter
of CNN: "Former White House press secretary Josh Earnest ... doesn't 'feel a ton of sympathy' for the new press secretary ... because 'Sean's not the victim of a bait and switch.... He knew what he was getting into.'... Spicer's first three months in the job have been marred by missteps, misstatements and controversies. Many reporters and observers have expressed concerns about his credibility." Earnest said his own job was different from Spicer's because he -- Earnest -- didn't work for a thin-skinned liar. -- CW ...

... Ah, yes, we well remember those bygone days when the President of the United States was not just truthful & tough but also smart, dignified, gracious, caring, responsible, careful, good-humored & handsome. ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Former President Barack Obama returned to his adopted home on Monday for his first public event since leaving the White House, pledging to work toward preparing the next generation of political leadership in America." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CSPAN has video of the full event here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Isaac Arnsdorf of Politico: "The Turkish man who gave Mike Flynn a $600,000 lobbying deal just before ... Donald Trump picked him to be national security adviser has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin, according to court records. The man, Ekim Alptekin, has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri 'David' Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government, according to three people with direct knowledge of the activities." -- CW ...

... Tom LoBianco & Laura Jarrett of CNN: "Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is set to testify May 8 before a Senate judiciary investigation into Russia's interference in last year's elections.... Yates' appearance before the Sen. Lindsey Graham-led Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism would mark her second time when the former Obama appointee has been called to the Hill to testify on Russia's meddling. Yates has been invited to testify before the House intelligence committee May 2, in a high-profile public hearing." -- CW ...

... Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "More than three months after the Senate Intelligence Committee launched its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — including allegations of collusion by associates of President Trump — the panel has made little progress and is increasingly stymied by partisan divisions that are jeopardizing the future of the inquiry, according to multiple sources involved in the probe. The committee has yet to issue a single subpoena for documents or interview any key witnesses who are central to the probe, the sources said. It also hasn’t requested potentially crucial evidence — such as the emails, memos and phone records of the Trump campaign — in part because the panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has so far failed to respond to requests from the panel’s Democrats to sign letters doing so, the sources said." -- CW 

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Bill O'Reilly may be off cable "news," but he has his very own Webcast wherein he claimed last night that "the truth will come out" about "unfounded allegations" of sexual abuse. ...

... MEANWHILE, Tucker Carlson, who took over O'Reilly's timeslot at Fox "News," made a smarmy appeal to O'Reilly's fanbase:

Beyond the Beltway

Julie Turkewitz & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "Arkansas executed two convicted murderers on Monday night, the first time in almost 17 years that any state has executed two inmates on the same day, as the state carries out a series of capital punishments before one of its lethal injection drugs expires.Jack H. Jones Jr. died at 7:20 p.m. local time, and Marcel Williams at 10:33 p.m., both from the injection of a three-drug combination, after a flurry of failed, last-ditch appeals. -- CW  

Jacob Carpenter of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Terrill Thomas spent seven straight days holed up in a solitary confinement cell with no running water, slowly withering away.... As the days wore on, he grew weak and dehydrated. He lost nearly 35 pounds and turned quiet, never asking for or receiving medical attention. Barely two hours into his eighth day in solitary, jail staff found Thomas, 38, dead on his jail cell floor, the result of profound dehydration. Prosecutors on Monday began the process of publicly airing the circumstances surrounding Thomas' death in April 2016, opening their inquest into whether any jail staff should be criminally charged for failing to help him." -- CW 

Zach Kyle of the Idaho Statesman: "Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, is suing Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who says the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was a hoax, 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government and Chobani imports migrant rapists to Twin Falls. Chobani sued Jones and his InfoWars website on Monday in Idaho District Court in Twin Falls, where the company operates the largest yogurt plant in the world. The lawsuit said Jones, his network, and InfoWars’ Twitter feed and YouTube channel repeatedly published false information linking Chobani, owner Hamdi Ulukaya and Twin Falls to a sexual assault case involving refugee children at a Twin Falls apartment complex. Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, has drawn threats for advocating for immigrants and refugees." -- CW ...

... BTW, Jones decided the midst of a custody trial be a good time to tell his fans, "I’d already had probably – I hate to brag, but I’m not bragging, it’s actually shameful – probably 150 women, or more, that’s conservative. I’d already had over 150 women." Jonathan Tilove of the Austin Statesman seems a bit skeptical. -- CW 


Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/business/article146411289.html#storylink=cpy

Way Beyond

Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report.... Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords.... Unlike the attacks aimed at Mrs. Clinton’s staff, those directed at the Macron camp ... failed to gain access to any email accounts used by the candidate or his lieutenants." ...

    ... CW: Macron is a first-time candidate, yet he & his camp had in place cybersecurity systems (and staff) that were apparently far more effective than Clinton's & the DNC's. That's American exceptionalism for you.

Sunday
Apr232017

The Commentariat -- April 24, 2017

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Former President Barack Obama returned to his adopted home on Monday for his first public event since leaving the White House, pledging to work toward preparing the next generation of political leadership in America." -- CW ...

... CSPAN has video of the full event here.

Man Living in White House Tweets Something. Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Monday decried a set of polls released over the weekend as 'fake news' conducted by media outlets whose polling about last year’s presidential election had proven incorrect. 'The two fake news polls released yesterday, ABC & NBC, while containing some very positive info, were totally wrong in General E. Watch!' Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning." -- CW 

David Cohen of Politico: "Vice President Mike Pence will be back in Washington from his Pacific trip Tuesday, one day earlier than scheduled, it was announced Sunday night. According to a pool report late Sunday, one of Pence's aides 'cited the amount of issues on deck in Washington this week — between health care, the continuing resolution and tax reform.' The vice president had been scheduled to visit the USS Arizona memorial at the Pearl Harbor site in Hawaii on Tuesday, but he will be leaving Hawaii on Monday instead." CW: Of course pence is leaving Hawaii posthaste. No self-respecting Trumpie would waste his time on "an island in the Pacific."

*****

Alissa Rubin of the New York Times: "In France’s most consequential election in recent history, voters on Sunday endorsed Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen — one a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand — both outsiders but with starkly different visions for the country, early returns and projections indicated. The result was a full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties, setting the country on an uncertain path at a critical moment when France’s election could also decide the future of the European Union. The two candidates appeared to be headed to a runoff on May 7." -- CW ...

     ... The Times' "rolling analysis" of the vote is here. -- CW ...

... Angelique Chrisafis of the Guardian: "Emmanuel Macron has told ecstatic supporters in Paris that he intends to govern for all of France as he emerged from a first-round vote as the clear favourite to become the country’s next president. Appearing at his campaign headquarters in Porte de Versailles with his wife Brigitte after projections gave him a slender lead over Marine Le Pen on Sunday, Macron delivered a speech that, at times, sounded like he had won the vote outright." -- CW ...

     ... Here's the Guardian's liveblog. ...

... Adam Nossiter of the New York Times: "Not since World War II has the anti-immigrant far right been closer to gaining power in France. With her second-place finish on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, Marine Le Pen has dragged her National Front party from the dark fringes of its first 40 years. But that remarkable accomplishment is so alarming to so many in France that as soon as the preliminary results were announced at 8:01 p.m., virtually all of her major opponents in the 11-person race called for her defeat in the second-round runoff on May 7. They implored their supporters to vote for the candidate projected to come out on top on Sunday, the centrist, pro-European Union former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, a political novice and outsider." ...

... Nate Silver of 538 looks at Le Pen's chances of prevailing in the runoff. He concludes they are slim. -- CW 


One Hundred Days of Solipsism. David Remnick
of the New Yorker: Trump's "Presidency has become the demoralizing daily obsession of anyone concerned with global security, the vitality of the natural world, the national health, constitutionalism, civil rights, criminal justice, a free press, science, public education, and the distinction between fact and its opposite.... Impulsive, egocentric, and mendacious, Trump has, in [a hundred days], set fire to the integrity of his office.... Every day brings another outrage or embarrassment.... During his first hundred days in office, Trump has not done away with populist rhetoric, but he has acted almost entirely as a plutocrat." Read on. CW: The truth will make you sick. ...

... Now contrast Remnick's assessment with that of one Donald J. Trump. The AP posted the full transcript of its interview with Trump conducted Friday, with the exception of an off-the-record interruption....

     ... CW: Haley S. found the interview "horrifying." I dunno, Haley; the "(unintelligible)" parts were refreshing. Besides the incessant lying and exaggerating, a big part of Trump's problem, believe it or not, is that he doesn't know how to boast. Most of us can highlight our accomplishments without sounding like obnoxious blowhards & whiney brats, & without demeaning & insulting others. We know not to say, "Everyone says I'm the best, blah blah." We know in what context we can exult, "Whupped his ass!" (to close allies, off the record & not, for pete's sake, again & again), & when we must say, "I was gratified by how well things worked out for us." Trumpbots like Trump because they're gauche & rude, too, & they think his grotesquely bad manners justify or at least help normalize their own. ...

     ... Ha Ha. Steve M. thinks Trump is a poet! CW: Take that, Haley (and MAG -- see today's Comments)! ...

... Where's the Love? Sad! Josh Marshall of TPM: "Over recent months, I’ve several times noted that President Trump thought that once he won the election, everybody would love him.... Nowhere to date has he said it more clearly, more openly. It comes in this AP interview and it turns on his press coverage: 'I used to get great press. I get the worst press. I get such dishonest reporting with the media. That’s another thing that really has — I’ve never had anything like it before. It happened during the primaries, and I said, you know, when I won, I said, “Well the one thing good is now I’ll get good press.” And it got worse. (unintelligible) So that was one thing that a little bit of a surprise to me. I thought the press would become better, and it actually, in my opinion, got more nasty.'" [Emphasis original] -- safari ...

... Ashley Parker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post on Trump's TV viewing -- he watches cable news, mostly Fox, about four hours a day, like many elderly white Foxbots who are, you know, retired. "... Those Trump tweet-storms, which contain some of his most controversial utterances, are usually prompted by something he has seen on television just moments before. The president, advisers said, also uses details gleaned from cable news as a starting point for policy discussions.... But Trump’s habits have consequences far beyond being the quirky, unchanging ways of a 70-year-old man.... Foreign diplomats have urged their governments’ leaders to appear on television when they’re stateside as a means of making their case to Trump, and U.S. lawmakers regard a TV appearance as nearly on par with an Oval Office meeting in terms of showcasing their standing or viewpoints to the president." ...

... The Day Care President. David Ferguson of RawStory highlights Trump's weird TV-watching habits, based on Parker & Costa's report.  --safari ...

... Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump is going on an executive order frenzy in the final week of his first 100 days. By Friday, Trump will have signed at least 32 executive orders — the most signed in the first 100 days of a new administration since World War II.... Trump, used to getting his own way in his business career, is frustrated that Congress won't bend to his will.... Trump's filled his administration with guys like Gary Cohn and Wilbur Ross who are used to having their orders followed. They, like Trump, regard Washington and the folks who've spent their careers here as hacks. Team Trump is learning to love the executive order — the tool that gives them instant gratification. Here are the executive orders coming this week, per a White House source with direct knowledge." -- CW 

Bloomberg News: "Chinese President Xi Jinping called for restraint on North Korea in a phone call with Donald Trump, who also spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the U.S. and Japan began joint naval drills in the region. Xi -- in his second confirmed phone conversation with Trump since their summit this month -- urged all parties to avoid any actions that might exacerbate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, state broadcaster China Central Television said Monday. Abe told reporters following a separate call with Trump that he had praised the U.S. leader’s policy of keeping all options on the table for countering the North Korean threat.... Speculation is once again mounting over whether North Korea will conduct a sixth nuclear test Tuesday to mark a key date on the nation’s calendar -- this time the 85th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army." ...

     ... CW: As I speculated last week, it appears Japan did know where the "lost" Carl Vinson was, even tho our own So-called President* didn't. Looks as if Japanese intelligence is more reliable than Fox "News" "intelligence." ...

... James Pearson & Steve Holland of Reuters: "North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising tension as U.S. President Donald Trump prepared to call the leaders of China and Japan. The United States ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to mounting concern over the North's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies." -- CW 

 

No, They Don't Know What They're Doing. Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "Top Trump administration officials are giving out differing accounts of a tax plan that the president has promised will be released Wednesday, calling into question whether they have ironed out some of the most difficult components of any proposal.... Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday suggested Wednesday’s announcement would pursue a long-term overhaul of the tax code.... But on Sunday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appear to cast doubt on Mnuchin's statements, saying the White House still hadn't decided whether to pursue a long-term or short-term tax overhaul." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "... Mr. Trump sold himself to voters as unorthodox as well as effective. He was going to be a different kind of president, a consummate deal-maker who would transcend the usual ideological divide. His supporters should therefore be dismayed, not just by his failure to actually close any deals, but by the fact that he evidently has no new ideas to offer, just the same old snake oil the right has been peddling for decades.... Whatever the details, Trumptax will be a big exercise in fantasy economics. How do we know this? Last week Stephen Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told a financial industry audience that 'the plan will pay for itself with growth.'... Why ...  does [supply-side economics] persist? Because it offers a rationale for lower taxes on the wealthy — and as Upton Sinclair noted long ago, it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. Still, Donald Trump was supposed to be different. Guess what: he isn’t.” -- CW ...

... The Donald Trump Show Is a Show. Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "During Mr. Trump’s campaign, the fate of more than 2,000 Carrier jobs that the company wanted to move to Mexico from Indiana ... were Exhibit A in his attacks on the free-trade policies of his predecessors.... President-elect Trump announced on Thanksgiving that he was near a deal with Carrier’s corporate parent, United Technologies, to save the [jobs].... Thanks to public pressure from Mr. Trump and a generous package of tax breaks negotiated by Gov. Mike Pence, now the vice president, Carrier did agree to keep making some of its furnaces in Indianapolis, preserving roughly 800 of 1,400 jobs there. But '[their] plant in Huntington[, Indiana,] operated by United Technologies Electronic Controls, or UTEC, was not part of that deal — nor would it be helped by the 'buy American' mandate for federal infrastructure projects that Mr. Trump promised in Wisconsin last week. And by early next year, the components used for furnaces still assembled in Indianapolis will come instead from Monterrey, Mexico, where it takes a day to earn what workers here make in about an hour.... For the most part, the workers do not fault Mr. Trump for failing to preserve their jobs, even as he took credit for keeping the Indianapolis plant open." -- CW 

Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "Looming above Washington as Congress and the White House attempt to avert a funding shutdown in only five days’ time, Donald Trump’s central campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border threatens to bring the US government to a halt this week in a national display of dysfunction." -- CW ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "President Trump and his top aides applied new pressure Sunday on lawmakers to include money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in a must-pass government funding bill, raising the possibility of a federal government shutdown this week. In a pair of tweets, Trump attacked Democrats for opposing the wall and insisted that Mexico would pay for it 'at a later date,' despite his repeated campaign promises not including that qualifier. And top administration officials appeared on Sunday morning news shows to press for wall funding, including White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said Trump might refuse to sign a spending bill that does not include any." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Swan’s Axios newsletter: "Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," asked [Reince] Priebus whether the administration would veto a government funding bill if there's not money in it to fund Trump's border wall. Priebus' response here was telling: 'It will be enough in the negotiation for us to move forward with either the construction or the planning, or enough for us to move forward through the end of September to get going on the border wall and border security in regard to border patrol....' ... Between the lines: By refusing to demand funding for the bricks-and-mortar 'wall,' Reince tipped his hand. Trump can't stomach a shutdown on his watch, so he'll likely take a 'win' on some form of funding for border security, even if it's not specifically for building the wall." --safari ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "Is the President already pre-failing his 'border wall or the your annual physical gets it' hostage drama shakedown?...Now it seems that the White House may be trying to moonwalk away from the threat." --safari: Marshall cites Swan's report. ...

... Tracy Jan & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Despite more than a year of campaign rhetoric about a 'big, beautiful wall' spanning the entirety of the southern border, the Trump administration plans to start with a much less ambitious footprint focusing only on the most highly trafficked corridors, according to a Department of Homeland Security planning document. Identified as 'high priority' in the document are the border sectors of the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas -- encompassing Rio Grande City, McAllen and Weslaco -- as well as El Paso, Tucson and San Diego." CW: I see an extravagant ribbon-cutting ceremony in our future; no wide shots, please.

No, They Don't Know What They're Doing, Ctd. Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration is struggling to explain precisely what it intends to do about people who are in the country illegally. President Trump told the Associated Press on Friday that the 'dreamers' — people brought into the country illegally as children and now protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program put in place under President Barack Obama — should 'rest easy' and not worry about deportation. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, echoing comments he made last week, said Sunday that anyone in the country illegally could be deported.... When ... George Stephanopoulos ... asked whether ... 'dreamers' can rest easy, Sessions answered, 'Well, we'll see. I believe that everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported; however, we've got — we don't have the ability to round up everybody, and there's no plans to do that.' That stance tracks what Sessions said during another recent television interview when asked about a 23-year-old man who had 'dreamer' status and has been deported to Mexico, according to immigration advocates and lawyers. Sessions said he didn't know why the man had been deported but added, 'We can’t promise people who are here unlawfully that they’re not going to be deported.'” -- CW ...

... It's Funny to Diss a State, Especially Hawaii (and You Know Why). Molly Nagle of ABC News: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions says people should lighten up about controversial comments he made earlier this week about the state of Hawaii. When asked by ... George Stephanopoulos ... about why he referred to Hawaii as an 'island in the Pacific,' Sessions responded 'nobody has a sense of humor anymore.'" -- CW 

Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast: "Everyone spent the weekend talking about the big New York Times James Comey piece, an informative (and infuriating) tick-tock about what was going through the FBI director’s head last year as he said what he said about Hillary Clinton — and didn’t say what he didn’t say about Donald Trump.... But here’s another takeaway for you...: If the Times is to be believed — and stories like this one, based on 30 interviews, might get some facts wrong but are generally accurate in the gist of what they convey — Comey was often motivated by fear. Fear of how a certain group would react.... We also see at least one instance in which he feared the anger of his own agents.... Kevin Drum made this point over the weekend. But Drum didn’t emphasize what is to me the most telling thing, which is that there is one group Comey appears not to have feared at all: Democrats." --safari ...

     ... CW: Tomasky is probably half-right. I'd submit that the "group" Tomasky did not fear was a particular woman and/or the women who identified with & supported her. It would not occur to him to worry about how women reacted to his "manly" decisions. ...

... CW BTW: I'm not surprised it didn't occur to Tomasky that Comey's "fears" were not exactly gender-neutral. I told a friend this weekend about a particular, unconscious bias I have noticed against women. Very often I link an article that regular commenters miss & link later. But here's the rub: it appears (based on my unscientific observation), that most of the linked stories readers overlook & re-link are written by women. It happened again today (and no, I'm not referring to MAG's link at the top of today's thread -- she & I read & linked David Remnick's analysis simultaneously). If you wonder why the major print media have few women columnists, it might be because they've actually run the numbers.

"War Porn." digby: "There are a couple of polls out today [Sunday] to measure the first hundred days. It's not good news for the Donald.... They show that he's the least successful president at the hundred day mark of any president since they've been measuring. And he comes up short by a huge margin. It would appear that showing yourself to be an ignorant, cretinous, corrupt, flim-flam man isn't all that impressive.... Unfortunately, the one thing he got high marks for is the one thing the president and his cabinet full of Generals can unilaterally put to good use once they see it's all he's got: '... Sixty-two percent of Americans say they support the Trump administration's recent military action in response to the Syrian government's chemical-weapon attack against its own people....' ... I want to give the news media a big shout-out for their help in that. Their delirious coverage of the 'beautiful' Syrian strikes and declarations that 'Donald Trump became president tonight' undoubtedly jacked those numbers up for Trump. So, once again, we can see the contours of how a half-wit GOP president, elected under dubious circumstances, may rise above it: war, aided and abetted by the media which gets big, big ratings for war porn and where major careers are made." -- CW 

The Russia Connection. Farcical "Investigation" Edition. Tim Mak of The Daily Beast: 'The Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russia’s election interference is supposedly the best hope for getting the public credible answers about whether there was any coordination between the Kremlin and Trump Tower. But there are serious reasons to doubt that it can accomplish this task, as currently configured.... The probe currently appears to be moving at a pace slower than prior Senate Intelligence Committee investigations.... No interviews have been conducted with key individuals suspected of being in the Trump-Russia orbit.... This is despite the committee’s leadership giving off a bipartisan, cooperative impression to the public.... Of the seven staffers so far assigned to review classified documents related to the Russia investigation, none of them has prosecutorial or investigative experience.... Most of them lack a background in Russia expertise. Not one of the seven is a lawyer." --safari

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "President Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history — and Democrats are hoping to keep it that way. While negotiating this week with the White House on a plan to avoid a government shutdown and strongly opposed to any new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are planning to lead a series of events designed to call out Trump’s work and words on the economy, trade, health-care reform and his vows to 'drain the swamp' in Washington.... Pelosi got to work Sunday, telling NBC’s 'Meet the Press' that as a candidate, Trump 'promised jobs. Show us the jobs. Where’s his infrastructure bill? There are many promises, made promises, broken.'” -- CW 

Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post: "Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez became the first head of the party to demand ideological purity on abortion rights, promising Friday to support only Democratic candidates who back a woman’s right to choose.... Perez’s statement follows the DNC’s controversial embrace of Heath Mello, a Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, whose  years-long history of voting against abortion rights in the state Legislature drew fire from progressives this week.... Perez initially defended the DNC’s acceptance of an anti-abortion Democrat.... But Perez changed course Friday and delivered a big victory to the reproductive rights movement, saying that he 'fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health' and that 'every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.'” -- CW 

No, They Don't Know What They're Doing, Ctd. Brandon Carter of The Hill: "President Trump planned to have dinner with the justices of the Supreme Court on Thursday evening, but the White House said Sunday evening the event will take place on a future date because of scheduling conflicts...Presidents hosting Supreme Court justices for dinner isn’t unusual." --safari: But completely fucking up the schedule sure is. Drumpf must have had an episode of Fox & Friends to watch instead. ...

    ... CW: I'm with Sen. Schatz (D-Hawaii) on this: "Why would the Supreme Court agree to do this? I can think of no legitimate reason to dine with a litigant.... — Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 23, 2017"

A Profile in Courage. I am travelling in very out of the way places. So I marched on Saturday on my own, feeling and looking ridiculous. A girl did come over to me and asked if I knew any scientists. I said I am one and she looked at me wonderfully. -- Gloria, in yesterday's thread

(As I recall, Gloria is a physicist, but I've forgotten her specialty. -- Constant Weader)

Losers' Remorse. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "A new Washington Post-ABC News poll ... shows more buyer's remorse for Trump's opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton. And were the 2016 election held again today, it shows Trump would avenge his popular-vote loss. While just 4 percent of Trump's supporters say they would back someone else if there was a redo of the election, fully 15 percent of Clinton supporters say they would ditch her.... Against the backdrop of stories about how Trump hasn't delivered what his supporters thought he would, it's notable how much his backers are sticking by their candidate, relative to his opponent. There is basically no real defection to the one candidate who could have delivered a different result." -- CW 

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Lizzie Spayd Took an Ax & Gave Times Readers 40 Whacks. Steve M.: "Liz Spayd, the public editor of The New York Times, is proud of the paper's outreach to Donald Trump's America, and she thinks you're a narrow-minded bubble-dweller if you have a problem with any aspect of it, regardless of the merits." ...

     ... When Hackery & Quackery Collide. CW: Once again, Spayd proves that she thinks her job is defending her employer & knocking the readers she is supposed to represent in an ombudswoman-y way. She is not, per se, a "public editor"; she a Times apologist. And it looks as if "A Lot of the News That's Unfit to Print" goes into podcasts & the editorial pages.

Brian Stelter of CNN: "For a long time Alisyn Camerota was reluctant to describe the dark side of working at Fox News.... In an interview on CNN's 'Reliable Sources,' Camerota said publicly for the first time that she was one of Ailes' targets. 'Yes, Roger Ailes did sexually harass me,' Camerota said." Includes video. Read on or listen. CW: Every woman will get exactly what Camerota experienced....

... David Ferguson of RawStory: "Former Fox News contributor Debbie Schlussel says Fox News host Sean Hannity tried to pressure her into accompanying him to his hotel room for sex, according to a bombshell report from KFAQ radio.... Schlussel told radio host Pat Campbell that she and Hannity attended a live taping together in Detroit and after the show, Hannity propositioned her, trying to lure her back to his hotel room.... Fox News employees have told journalists that executives are bracing for more women to come forward with stories about the culture of sexual harassment and bullying at the network in the weeks and months to come." --safari ...

     ... CW: I passed on this one. Schlussel is a hard-core right-wing Islamophobe (via Karoli Kuns of Crooks & Liars), & there's been no reporting on her allegations against Hannity. As Kuns writes, "... who knows, maybe there's something to it?" That's where we are on it.

Way Beyond the Beltway

The U.N., Where the Theater of the Absurd is Real. Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "Saudi Arabia was elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The addition of the Gulf nation was first flagged by UN Watch, a nongovernmental body that monitors the United Nations. The Commission on the Status of Women’s main mission is to assess the challenges to reaching gender inequality, according to the U.N. website. The organization’s executive director slammed the election, which occurred in a secret vote during the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council.... Saudi Arabia, a top U.S. ally, is also on the U.N. Human Rights Council." -- CW 

Sunday
Apr232017

The Commentariat -- April 23, 2017

March for Science, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Getty image.Oliver Milman of the Guardian: "Hundreds of thousands of climate researchers, oceanographers, bird watchers and other supporters of science rallied in marches around the world on Saturday, in an attempt to bolster scientists’ increasingly precarious status with politicians.... More than 600 marches took place around the world, on every continent bar Antarctica, in events that coincided with Earth Day. The marches, the first of their kind, were officially non-political. They were however conceived by three US-based researchers – Caroline Weinberg, Valorie Aquino and Jonathan Berman – after Trump’s inauguration. Organizers have said science is 'under attack' from the Trump administration.... Marchers [in Washington, D.C.,] held a range of signs. Some attacked Donald Trump, depicting the president as an ostrich with his head in the sand or bearing the words: 'What do Trump and atoms have in common? They make up everything.'” -- CW  ...

... Joel Achenbach, et al., of the Washington Post: "Thousands of people gathered in the rain Saturday on the soggy grounds of the Washington Monument to turn Earth Day into an homage to science. After four hours of speeches and musical performances, they marched down Constitution Avenue to the foot of Capitol Hill, chanting 'Build labs, not walls!' and 'Hey, Trump, have you heard, you can’t silence every nerd!'” -- CW ...

... Nicholas St. Fleur of the New York Times: "Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who helped expose lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., and who spoke in Washington, called the protest the beginning of a movement to ensure that governments do not dismiss or deny science. 'If we want to prevent future Flints, we need to embrace what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come in terms of science and technology,' Dr. Hanna-Attisha said in an interview. What began as a movement by scientists for scientists has drawn in many science enthusiasts, young and old." -- CW ...

... At the Washington, D.C., event Emily Atkin of the New Republic interviewed Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), "the only PHD scientist in Congress." -- CW ...

... Evan Allen & Milton Valencia of the Boston Globe: "A crowd of thousands booed a vision of a world without science: The Environmental Protection Agency’s staff cut by a third, its science by half. Dirty water, polluted air, unchecked climate change. 'As Americans, as New Englanders, as Boston Strong -- we care about our natural world!' shouted Gina McCarthy, the recently departed head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, as she addressed the March for Science Saturday on Boston Common, which drew enough science supporters to pack the Common along Charles Street from Boylston to Beacon." -- CW ...

... Eric Lacitis of the Seattle Times: "In Seattle, they held up homemade signs: 'Climate change is real.' 'No "alternative facts" in real science.' 'There is no Planet B.' 'Funding science is patriotic.' 'Mr. President, science gave us Rogaine.' Right in the middle was a 97-year-old man in a wheelchair.... He was Eddy Fischer, professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of Washington and Nobel Prize co-winner in 1992 for physiology or medicine.... Of the Trump administration, Fischer noted, 'I know very little about politics. I’m appalled by some of the statements coming out of them.' He talked about Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health (lose funding by 18 percent) and the Environmental Protection Agency (budget cuts of 31 percent, and elimination of a quarter of its workforce).” -- CW ...

... Ryan Stanton of M[ichigan]Live: "... several thousand people participated in the Ann Arbor March for Science on Saturday, April 22, gathering on the University of Michigan campus for a rally before marching through the streets of downtown.... State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, who spoke during the rally, estimated there were easily more than 10,000 people there, possibly as many as 15,000." -- CW ...

... Rose in Michigan: "The turnout [in Ann Arbor] was better than some of us expected, the signs were brilliant and often hilarious, the speakers were excellent, and the weather was perfect. Several of us from our small 'resistance cell' as we think of it attended and each of us found something different to be most impressed with. One person was, in his words, stunned by the number of marchers. Another was blown away by the speeches by a state representative from Ann Arbor and a former science teacher, and I...well I was really impressed with the successor to the pussy hat that I saw on a couple women. The only way to describe it is "the brain hat." It's a knit hat that looks incredibly like the human brain. There was no publicity for it, but there is a pattern for it on Ravelry, a knitters' website." -- CW ...

... Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker (April 12): "A White House characterized by flaming incompetence has nevertheless managed to do one thing effectively: it has trashed years’ worth of work to protect the planet.... [How so?] The simplest answer is that money focusses the mind. Lots of corporations stand to profit from Trump’s regulatory rollback, even as American consumers suffer.... But, while money is clearly key, it doesn’t seem entirely sufficient as an explanation.... 'Climate change denial is not incidental to a nationalist, populist agenda,' [Amanda] Erickson argues. 'It’s central to it.'... The fundamental idea behind the environmental movement — the movement that gave us Earth Day in the first place — is that everything, and therefore everyone, is connected.... Two qualities that clearly have no place in [Trump's] muddled, deconstructive Administration are caution and restraint. As a result, the planet, and everything on it, will suffer.” -- CW 


Jonathan Martin
of the New York Times: Sen. Bernie "Sanders and the new leadership of the Democratic National Committee touched a party sore spot this week when they took their 'Unity Tour' to Omaha [, Nebraska,] to rally for a mayoral candidate who opposes abortion rights. Mr. Sanders, repurposing the themes of his presidential bid, told a crowd of about 6,000 on Thursday night that the candidate, Heath Mello, 37, would be a future star in the Democratic Party.... Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a prominent abortion rights advocacy group, called it a betrayal, especially of the women who have fueled the 'resistance' that has energized Democrats.... 'It tells your most active political base that we’re just negotiable political property,' Ms. Hogue said of the statement sent by Mr. Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s new deputy chairman, who appeared with Mr. Mello.... Mr. Sanders has emerged as the most popular active politician in America, according to a new survey by Harvard University and Harris Insights and Analytics, and his presence is demanded in Democratic campaigns no matter the political tint of the region. Yet his recent moves have infuriated some progressives.” -- CW 

Daniel Marans of the Huffington Post: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized the security threats to a speaking event by conservative pundit Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley that prompted the school to postpone the talk. 'I don’t like this,' Sanders told The Huffington Post after speaking at a rally for Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello on Thursday night. 'Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.'” -- CW 

Trump Goes Low. Again. Chas Danner of New York: "... Donald Trump, instead of attending next weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C., will instead compete with it by hosting yet another campaign-style rally for himself. Trump tweeted the news himself on Saturday, saying the Pennsylvania rally would be 'BIG.' The event will also mark Trump’s 100th day in office, and according to a senior White House official who spoke with Politico, its purpose is to provide some counterprogramming to what is sure to be a barrage of negative media surrounding Trump’s decidedly unproductive presidency. On track to not achieve a single one of his campaign-pledged accomplishments for the first 100 days, Trump called the metric a 'ridiculous standard' on Friday.... In February, Trump announced that he would not be attending the dinner, making him the first president to skip the annual event — which presidents usually headline — since President Reagan abstained in 1981 while recovering from an assassination attempt. (He still gave a speech by phone.)" CW: There has seldom been a better reason to tune in to CSPAN. ...

... Ben Schreckinger & Hadas Gold of Politico: "The great secret of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is that Trump’s war on the media is a phony one, a reality show that keeps his supporters fired up and distracted while he woos the constituency that really matters to him: journalists.... Basic slip-ups leave White House correspondents skeptical that the administration has any master plan to neuter the press. 'Mostly they’re just reactive and incompetent,' said one.... On top of the sloppiness, there is the lying.... The biggest change ushered in by this White House, and the one welcomed by reporters across the board, is the weakening of its control over the narrative through indiscriminate leaking.... 'If I ever saw six White House aides quoted in a story and didn’t know who they were, I would freak the fuck out,' said Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s first director of White House communications. 'The fact that they got 18 in a [recent Washington Post] story is phenomenal.'... White House officials have further damaged their credibility by decrying anonymous sources, as [Reince] Priebus did in February, when it is widely known that he and every other member of the senior staff speak regularly to reporters on background.... One reporter said he has been surprised to find that background information from Trump White House officials is more reliable than what they say on the record, a reversal from previous administrations that he has covered.” CW: Kind of a fun story, if you don't take governance seriously.

Robert Borosage of The Nation: "Donald Trump’s totemic first 100 days in office have been greeted with brutal reviews. Ironically, the most positive comments involve the neck-snapping series of flip-flops Trump has sprung on signature populist issues. The chattering classes have greeted these with deep sighs of relief. In their view, the 'axis of adults,' as neo-conservative Max Boot puts it, has taken control. The marauding Rasputin, Steve Bannon, has been rebuked. The 'corrupt political establishment' that Trump railed against has taken hold. Rather than relief, this should worry anyone concerned about the future of the country. And Trump’s casual shedding of his agenda makes a fundamental reassessment among Democrats all the more imperative...But among the punditry, this retreat has been widely applauded." --safari ...

     ... safari: IMO Borosage is overly harsh on his critiques of the Obama administration (why couldn't he just solve all the nation's problems at once!and conveniently forgets the Democrats had to "work" with the greatest obstructionist party ever. That said, his calls for Democratic self-reflection are important. ...

... Ron Insana of CNBC: "A review of Donald Trump's business career would lead one to say that he has always over-promised and under-delivered. Whether his long list of bankruptcies in the ever-profitable casino business, the failures of his 'university,' steak, vodka or clothing lines, there has been a history of putting himself first, while ignoring the needs of his constituents. We may be seeing that play out in his approach to government, as well. As in business, Trump has a constituency of one … himself … just ask his stock and bond investors, his suppliers, contractors, laborers, or even his customers. Unlike Trump, they rarely, if ever, participated in the 'upside' of Trump-branded products.... The folks who voted for President Trump, thus far, have nothing to show for it.... In strict economic terms, some of his signature legislative goals, while keeping his campaign promises, would no doubt hurt the very people he proclaimed to help." -- CW ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "With all the chaos and dysfunction at the top, the Administration’s many pro-corporate regulatory initiatives are being somewhat overlooked by both the media and the public at large. This is wrong: these are decisions and actions that will have harmful consequences, and Trump’s own supporters will be among those hurt." -- CW ...

... Juan Cole: "Trump’s [budget] cuts will not only make us sick and retard the technological advances that make our lives more convenient, he will harm us in precisely the area he imagines himself to champion– US competitiveness. You don’t compete with the rest of the world by giving an extra $54 billion to the military and deeply cutting research and development (R&D) funding. The National Science Foundation observes that China, South Korea and India are putting enormous government money into R&D, as well as investing in science education and the production of skilled science and engineering students. Trump, in contrast, gave away US education to Betsy DeVos, who ruined Michigan K-12 education and wants Americans brought up in fundamentalist charter schools.... The day when China outspends the US on research and development annually is just around the corner, and Trump’s budget would bring it even more quickly.... The global share of the US in high-tech manufacturing? 29%. The global share of China in high-tech manufacturing? 27%!" --safari

Nikita Vladimirov of the Hill: "Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Saturday accused President Trump of 'politicizing' the position of Surgeon General after the Trump administration fired Dr. Vivek Murthy, an appointee of President Obama, the previous day. 'Dr. Murthy is another in a long list of political targets by the Trump administration. U.S. Surgeons General are not supposed to be fired mid-term. They have served administrations of both political parties because keeping Americans safe and healthy isn’t a partisan issue,' Murphy said in a statement." -- CW ...

... Dr. Murthy makes a statement on his Facebook page. You'll have to log in to read it, which is annoying. -- CW 

Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "Days after a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution’s 'emoluments clause' added more plaintiffs, the House Oversight Committee is requesting the Trump Organization turn over documents detailing what processes Trump’s business has implemented, if any, to make sure the president isn’t profiting from foreign governments.... On Friday, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to Sheri Dillon — the lawyer who detailed how Trump planned to avoid conflicts of interest during a January 11 news conference — asking her to detail how that plan is being implemented by no later than May 12.... Dillon said that Trump’s plan ... is 'to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury.' But as of March 17, the Trump Organization hadn’t donated any foreign profits, according to USA Today." --safari

David Ferguson of RawStory: "A profile of First Lady Melania Trump [by Evgenia Peretz] in Vanity Fair magazine paints the former model as bored and disinterested with the duties of First Lady and sources close to Mrs. Trump say that she has been dragged along behind her husband’s political ambitions against her will.... While many presidential wives have taken advantage of their platform to promote an agenda close to their heart, friends of Melania’s say the First Lady isn’t particularly devoted to any charity or cause.... 'She was passionate about… Well, I can’t think what she was passionate about,' said old friend Lisa Bytner.... Unlike the president’s elder daughter Ivanka, who has 'an intense personal will to power' — and a new West Wing office — Melania appears wholly disinterested in everything to do with Washington. This might be to blame for reported tensions in the first family, said Peretz. 'Two sources in fashion and media have observed a frostiness between the two,' she reported." --safari ...

... Here's the Vanity Fair article, which is full of concrete examples that demonstrate how sad and pathetic these two soulless beings are. Drumpf's whole entourage (sauf the littlest of course) is such a perverted façade of fakery, it's mind-boggling. --safari

Sorry, Donald, We Don't Care about Your 100 Stinking Days. Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "House leaders told GOP lawmakers Saturday that they plan to devote their energy in the coming week to keeping the federal government open, conspicuously avoiding an immediate commitment to take up health care despite pledges to do so by conservatives and the White House. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), speaking on a conference call with GOP members Saturday afternoon, offered no specific plan on how or when lawmakers might see details of a new proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which White House officials suggested might receive a vote by Wednesday." -- CW 

New York Times Editors: "... it’s worth paying special attention to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s vote late Thursday night to deny a stay of execution for Ledell Lee, an Arkansas man who was sentenced to death in 1995 for murdering a woman named Debra Reese with a tire thumper. After Justice Gorsuch, along with the four other conservative justices, denied his final appeal without explanation, Mr. Lee, who maintained his innocence until the end, was executed by lethal injection.... In short, the first significant decision by Justice Gorsuch, who was sworn in to office less than two weeks ago, was the most consequential any justice can make — to approve a man’s killing by the state. That man, like so many others condemned to die around the country, was a walking catalog of reasons the American death penalty is a travesty." -- CW: I don't know whether or not Lee was actually guilty of murder, but we know five Supreme Court "Justices" who are. 

Eli Rosenberg of the New York Times: "American Airlines suspended a flight attendant after an altercation on Friday in which the attendant took a stroller from a woman traveling with two young children and then argued with other passengers. The episode was captured, in part, on video. The encounter, at San Francisco International Airport, occurred while the woman was boarding a Texas-bound flight. The attendant, whose name was not released by the airline, grabbed the stroller from the woman, who was carrying 15-month-old twins, a passenger who was nearby said.... American’s relatively quick suspension of the attendant contrasted sharply with the response by United [to an incident in which security guards violently removed a passenger from his seat & injured him], which was criticized for initially appearing to blame the passenger, Dr. David Dao, and taking 'full responsibility' for the episode only after more than a day of public condemnation." -- CW 

Way Beyond the Beltway

Jon Henley of the Guardian: "Voting is under way in the first round of an unpredictable French presidential election whose outcome could prove crucial for the future of a deeply divided country and a nervous European Union.... The top two finishers from the 11 candidates in the first round will advance to a runoff on 7 May to decide the next president after a tense and tight election dominated by the economy, jobs, immigration and national identity." -- CW 

Lock 'em all up? Jamil Chade of the Guardian: "What began as an investigation into the former state oil company Petrobras in 2014 soon also became a criminal process about the organisation of the two mega-events [the World Cup and summer olympics], paid for mostly with public funds and presented to citizens as a reason to be proud. The latest release of official documents by the Brazilian federal supreme court, seen by the Observer, shows that the venues were not only cathedrals of new world records but are alleged to have channelled millions of dollars worth of bribes.... Three months after the Olympic circus had closed its tent and left the country, the state of Rio de Janeiro gave clear evidence that it was bankrupt. In November 2016, the state government came up with a proposal that showed the sheer extent of the crisis, as well as who would have to foot the bill. Pensions started to be taxed, social programmes were cut and salary increases were cancelled. Overall, the economy of Brazil entered its worst recession, with unemployment affecting 13 million people." --safari: The scale of alleged corruption is astronomical. A true Trump dream.

Saturday
Apr222017

The Commentariat -- April 22, 2017

NEW. Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times: "An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 30 current and former law enforcement, congressional and other government officials, found that while partisanship was not a factor in [FBI Director Jim] Comey’s approach to the two investigations [of Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton], he handled them in starkly different ways. In the case of Mrs. Clinton, he rewrote the script, partly based on the F.B.I.’s expectation that she would win and fearing the bureau would be accused of helping her. In the case of Mr. Trump, he conducted the investigation by the book, with the F.B.I.’s traditional secrecy." -- CW 

NEW. Rebecca Morin of Politico: "The United States will honor an Obama-era agreement with Australia to help resettle Syrian refugees, despite the Trump administration not favoring the arrangement, Vice President Mike Pence announced Saturday. 'President Trump has made it clear that we'll honor the agreement — that doesn't mean we admire the agreement,' Pence said during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney, according to the Associated Press." -- CW 

Alan Rappeport & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump promised on Friday that he would unveil a 'massive' tax cut for Americans next week, vowing a 'big announcement on Wednesday,' but he revealed no details about what is certain to be an enormously complicated effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code.... Mr. Trump told The Associated Press in the interview that his tax reductions would be 'bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.'... His announcement surprised Capitol Hill and left Mr. Trump’s own Treasury officials speechless as he arrived at the Treasury offices to sign directives to roll back Obama-era tax rules and financial regulations. Earlier in the day, when reporters asked Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, how far away a tax overhaul proposal was, he said he could not give an answer. 'Tax reform is way too complicated,' he said." ...

     ... CW: Trump is coughing up shit, as usual. The story's punchline comes later: "But despite Mr. Trump’s statement on Friday that his tax overhaul 'really formally begins on Wednesday,' White House officials quickly cautioned against high expectations that Mr. Trump would provide the legislative text of a detailed tax plan next week. Instead, a senior administration official said the president would release only the 'parameters' that Mr. Trump expected a tax plan to follow in the long congressional debate that would surely follow." Trump counts on his base not to know the difference between his musings on a Trump gold-rimmed paper napkin (a/k/a "parameters") & a 2,000-page tax bill. 

Alan Rappeport : "President Trump ordered his Treasury Department on Friday to review measures put in place by the Obama administration, setting the stage for a rollback of regulations that were intended to curtail corporate tax evasion and prevent another financial crisis. The executive order and two presidential memorandums come as Mr. Trump is scrambling for achievements as the 100-day mark in the White House approaches. Frustrated by the slow pace of action in Congress on his goal of overhauling the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation law and the fact that his mission of rewriting the tax code remains in limbo, Mr. Trump is attempting to take matters into his own hands.... Undoing the rules would appear to be at odds with Mr. Trump’s campaign pledge to reduce incentives for companies to invert [i.e., merge with foreign companies to take advantage of lower tax rates abroad]." CW: "Setting the stage" for another financial crisis is a great "achievement" to "scramble for." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Matt Yglesias: "... the broader significance of Trump’s executive sort-of order is as a statement of priorities — a clear flashing light that the notion of a Trump-era GOP as an economically populist 'workers’ party' is dead, and business interests rule the roost.... Trump’s order does not rescind any [Obama-era] rules. It merely orders a 'review' of them.... The financial services executive order is meaningful primarily for clarifying what the exact meaning of the rising clout of 'globalists' inside the White House is." -- CW 

Julie Pace of the AP: "... Donald Trump waded into France's upcoming elections Friday, saying he believes an attack on police officers this week will help Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate. In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump said that while he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen, the attack played to her strengths. 'She's the strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France,' Trump said in the Oval Office interview. 'Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.' U.S. presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas election. But Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer, saying, 'Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. I'm no different than you.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** "He Probably Saw It on TV." Dana Milbank: "There has been much speculation about Trump’s nonsense talk about his 'armada.' Administration officials suggested a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House.... I put the question to my former colleague Tom Ricks, military writer and national security specialist at the New America Foundation. Ricks’s hypothesis: Trump didn’t have any idea where his armada was. 'He probably saw it on TV.'... This would appear to be another disturbing case of life imitating cable news.... At home as well as abroad, people are coming to recognize this emperor’s state of undress.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Let that sink in. The Man Living in the White House has no idea what the President is doing. He "finds out" by watching Fox "News." This, you will remember, is the same way he "found out" President Obama was "tapping his wires." ...

... William Steakin of AOL.com: "... a group of psychiatrists claimed on Thursday at a conference at Yale University that ... Donald Trump has a 'dangerous mental illness' and is not fit to be president of the United States.... Dr. John Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist and advisor to psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said during the conference that the president is 'paranoid and delusional.'" Thanks to Marvin S. for the link. ...

... Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: "Our problem is not Trump Derangement Syndrome; our problem is Deranged Trump Self-Delusion. This is the habit of willfully substituting, as a motive for Trump’s latest action, a conventional political or geostrategic ambition, rather than recognizing the action as the daily spasm of narcissistic gratification and episodic vanity that it truly is. The bombing of Syria, for instance...,  was ... simply a reaction to an image, turned into a self-obsessed lashing out that involved the lives and deaths of many people. It was a detached gesture, unconnected to anything resembling a sequence of other actions, much less an ideology.... Similarly, the current revival of a repeal-and-replace plan for Obamacare is clearly empty of all value, in its promoter’s mind, save that of publicity. It was painfully, absurdly apparent, in the last go-around, that Trump had no idea what Obamacare actually consists of or how it works, or what the Republican replacement bill did or how it worked, or, indeed, how medical insurance works in the first place.... The one appetite that he does have is for announcing his authority through violence, a thing capable of an unimaginable resonance and devastation." -- CW 

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Pamela Brown, et al., of CNN: "The FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials. The new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election, not only through email hacks and propaganda but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. The intelligence led to an investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians." -- CW ...

Leah McElrath of Shareblue: "Only one week after the Guardian quoted British sources as saying there was 'specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion' between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, United States government officials are now being cited reporting U.S. intelligence supports the likelihood that 'Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers … to infiltrate the Trump campaign.' Much of the new report focuses on Carter Page, a former foreign policy advisor for Donald Trump, as a possible Russian operative and notes that the FBI had Page 'on their radar for at least four years.'” -- CW 

David Fahrenthold of the New York Times Washington Post: Trump's unkept pledges to charities & even his pattern of non-giving foretold how he would "govern": with unkept campaign promises, short-sighted "policies" and little interest in concerns of those outside his limited circle of "peers." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "... absent a spending deal with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, next Saturday the government will shut down.... 'Next week is going to have quite high drama,' a top White House official, who sounded excited by the coming clash, told me. 'It’s going to be action-packed....'... Yesterday..., Mick Mulvaney, a Republican and former congressman who was one of the House members who agitated for the 2013 shutdown and is now Trump’s budget director, announced that 'elections have consequences.'... Mulvaney suggested that if Trump didn’t get his defense spending and border wall ... then the federal payments ... that pay for health insurance for millions of Americans under Obamacare had to be cut from the spending bill.... The White House, which is trying to force another vote on an Obamacare repeal, seems desperate to either win some of Trump’s priorities in a deal next week, or force a government shutdown that it can blame on Democrats." -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of the New York: "'The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it,' Donald Trump once paid someone to write. 'That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.' If his nostrils aren’t clogged, Chuck Schumer should be getting a big whiff of vital fluid right about now. With the government set to run out of funds at the end of next week, congressional leaders were making steady progress toward a new, bipartisan spending bill — when the White House barged into negotiations with a list of weighty demands.... Trump has informed Democrats that he is deeply concerned about the optics of his 100th day. He has then ordered them to vote for his monument to American xenophobia — or else, he will force the government to shut down … on the morning of his 100th day." --safari

Caitlin McNeal of TPM: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday afternoon announced that the Treasury Department would not grant ExxonMobil a waiver from U.S. sanctions to resume its drilling ventures in Russia. 'In consultation with President Donald J. Trump, the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions,' Mnuchin said in a statement." --safari

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Escalating a threat to withhold grants from state and local governments that block the police from telling federal authorities about undocumented immigrants in custody, the Trump administration sent letters Friday to nine jurisdictions telling them they were obligated to prove compliance. The recipients, which included New York City, were identified in a May 2016 Justice Department inspector general report as having local rules or regulations that interfere with the ability of police or sheriffs to communicate with federal immigration authorities, about the status of prisoners in their custody." -- CW  (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Making up Stuff to Justify Xenophobia & Racial Animus. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump’s presidency has always been predicated on a shaky link between undocumented immigrants and crime.... There’s no strong evidence that there’s a link between immigrants and crime beyond a number of salacious anecdotes.... On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered the administration’s latest attempt to link crime to undocumented immigrants.... The Justice Department’s announcement reads, in part: '[M]any of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime. The number of murders in Chicago has skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent from the 2015 levels....' ... But not many of those murders are linked to illegal immigration.... The more important point is that these nine jurisdictions are not among those with the most severe crime problems in the United States." -- CW ...

... Josh Marshall: "If [Sessions' sanctuary cities memo] were one deception it might be dismissed. But of course it is not. It is a single illustrative example of deception as policy, one peep in a symphony of lies that President Trump, Attorney General Sessions and all their fellow travelers and appointees use regularly to sell their anti-immigrant crackdown and attempt to return to the ‘tough on crime’ policies of the past." -- CW 

Kleptocracy Comes to America, via Democracy Now! --safari

... Ivanka Trump: Hypocrite Extraordinaire. Michael Daly of The Daily Beast: "As a mom, Ivanka Trump feeds her three kids organic food.... As a hotel executive, she helped institute Trump Wellness, which includes organic meals, especially for children.... But Ivanka Trump is also the president’s daughter and now an official White House adviser. She was silent when the Trump administration gave a last-minute reprieve to a pesticide [chlorpyrifos] that was slated for a total ban after more than two dozen scientific studies found it to be a neurotoxin that very likely affects the development of children’s brains, most particularly if the exposure is prenatal.... Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris ... is the head of President Trump’s new American Manufacturing Council. Dow donated $1 million to the Trump inaugural committee. Dow also happens to be the leading producer of chlorpyrifos.... For Ivanka Trump to be silent while dedicated scientists are slandered is for her to be party to what her actions as a mom demonstrate that she knows to be a lie." --safari

Henry Kissinger gives one of Time's "100 most influential people" Jared Kushner a thorough panning. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post reads between the lines. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

(... CW: Speaking of undesirable political "dynasties," T.A. Frank of Vanity Fair writes an entirely fair takedown of Chelsea Clinton's vanity. Title: "Please, God, stop Chelsea Clinton from Whatever She Is Doing." Really, Chelsea is god-awful, & if you're fond of her, assuming you're not a cousin or close friend, try to suppress or redirect your affections.)

Tom Price Fires Top U.S. Doctor. Melanie Eversley of USA Today: "The White House administration on Friday dismissed U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.... [According to the HHS statement announcing Murthy's firing,] 'Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, who is the current Deputy Surgeon General, will serve as the acting Surgeon General....'" CW: Trent-Adams is not a medical doctor but holds advanced degrees in nursing & health policies. Maybe Price, who is a medical doctor, thinks a lady nurse will just "naturally" follow his orders & direction. 

Trumpifying Government, Ctd. Elizabeth Preza of RawStory: "The CIA’s liaison to the White House was abruptly fired from his role after clashing with National Security Council member Ezra Cohen-Watnick, one of three sources who provided documents to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA). The Guardian reports the Marine officer, who was responsible for 'bringing relevant White House officials … into the loop about cover operations,' was told in mid-March he did not need to come to work the next day.... Despite [Michael] Flynn’s resignation, Cohen-Watnick remains loyal to the former Trump adviser; according to the Guardian, he belongs to a 'clique' among national security staff bitingly referred to as the 'Flynnstones.' '[Officials at the CIA] hate him.... One source said Cohen-Watnick is appearing to 'operationalize' the NSC, where the council goes around Congress, directly to the White House." --safari ...

...Trumpifying Government, Ctd. David Ferguson of RawStory: "A longtime State Department official has been removed from office and reassigned after her loyalty to President Donald Trump was questioned by right-wing media outlets. Politico.com reported on Friday that Sahar Nowrouzzadeh — a civil service officer and co-architect of the Iran nuclear deal — had been working since July of 2016 on the Secretary of State’s policy team as an advisor and strategist.... Nowrouzzadeh’s assignment was slated to last a year, but after attacks on her appeared at the Conservative Review and 'alt-right' white nationalist hub Breitbart.com, she was abruptly reassigned.... Nowrouzzadeh is an American, born in the U.S. to parents of Iranian descent. She joined the government in 2005 under the George W. Bush administration." --safari

Rachel Maddow delves into Trumplandia "Pay For Play" foreign policy. --safari

Jamelle Bouie: "[The] elevation of black art and black performance, from the first black president, was a statement of inclusion, a declaration that the story of American achievement is also the story of black art forms and black excellence.... [White House] meetings [with black artists] weren’t political per se, but they were part of Barack Obama’s politics.... A photo from one of [Donald Trump's] meetings ... shows the president at his desk with five visitors. To his right, musician Kid Rock with fiancée Audrey Berry. To his left, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, musician Ted Nugent, and Nugent’s wife, Shemane Deziel. If cultural representation is part of what the president does, then these visitors reflect Trump’s base.... But there’s more at work in this picture than just representation.... Palin ... was a demagogue who attacked Obama as a racialized other, a quasi-foreigner who 'palled around with terrorists.'... [Kid Rock's] image is rooted in a similar culture of opposition and resentment, where you fly the Confederate flag and tell black protesters to 'kiss my ass.'... Nugent ... made racism his signature during the Obama years.... Donald Trump ... ran a racist campaign, meeting with men and women who sell racial defiance to an angry multitude of white Americans.... That image, of Trump and his visitors gathered around the Resolute desk in the Oval Office... , [is] an attack on Obama, his legacy, and the ethos of inclusion he brought to the White House.” -- CW ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock are totally classless people. First of all, hats in the Oval Office.... When a photo emerged once of Obama not wearing his suit jacket in the Oval, a right-wing freakout ensued.... Now we come to that photo with Hillary’s portrait. They’re making kind of obscure hand gestures.... It should have occurred to them — and it certainly should have occurred to the person who was escorting them around, who may have been Donald Trump himself, at least according to what Nugent told the Times — that this was totally inappropriate White House behavior.... No party has a monopoly on public rectitude or manners. But the permissible bounds of our political discourse are such that one side can get away with the kind of childish stuff the Trump-loving troika got up to, while the other side can’t." -- CW 

** Allan Nairn of The Intercept: "Associates of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in a campaign that ultimately aims to oust the country’s president.... The move against President Joko Widodo (known more commonly as Jokowi), a popular elected civilian, is being impelled from behind the scenes by active and retired generals.... Prominent supporters of the coup movement include Fadli Zon, vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives and Donald Trump’s main political booster in the country; and Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who is building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta.... This account of the movement to overthrow President Jokowi is based on dozens of interviews and is supplemented by internal army, police, and intelligence documents I obtained or viewed in Indonesia, as well as by NSA intercepts obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden." --safari...

... Nairn adds details: --safari

"There's No Planet B." Joel Achenbach, et al., of the Washington Post: "Earth Day has arrived, and so has the March for Science. Tens of thousands of people — scientists and “friends of science,” as organizers put it — are expected to gather this morning on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Lab coats are optional. Entrances open at 8 a.m., teach-ins start at 9 a.m., the formal rally starts at 10 a.m., and then at 2 p.m., after the speeches and musical performances, the participants will march down Constitution Avenue to Union Square at the foot of Capitol Hill." -- CW ...

     ... Among other places you can watch live is the front page of the Washington Post. -- CW 

... Yeah, the Weather Is Political. Jason Samenow of the Washington Post: "Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t officially begin until June 1, but 2017’s edition is off to a premature start thanks to the formation of Tropical Storm Arlene. Arlene formed Thursday in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, some 815 miles west of the Azores. Early Friday, it was moving westward at more than 30 mph with maximum sustained winds near 50 mph. But Arlene is not expected to be around for long. The National Hurricane Center expects it to get absorbed by a nearby nontropical storm and dissipate later Friday. As it’s no threat to any land, Arlene is more or less just a curiosity for forming so early in the year." -- CW 

John Ellement of the Boston Globe: "Two Harvard University researchers announced Friday that they have found a second parchment manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence in a tiny records office in southern England. The only other parchment copy is maintained by the National Archives in Washington, D.C., researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen said in a statement. The newly discovered document — which the two have dated to the 1780s — was found in the town of Chichester archives, and is believed to have originally belonged to Duke of Richmond who was known as the 'Radical Duke,’ for the support he gave to Americans during the Revolutionary War, the researchers said." -- CW ...

... Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times: "Ms. Allen and Ms. Sneff’s conference presentation will focus on their leading candidate for person behind it: James Wilson, a Pennsylvania lawyer and one of the strongest nationalists at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, who probably commissioned the parchment." Read on. -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway, Florida Edition

Amazing Coincidences Aren't Ethics Violations. Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel: "A state ethics panel on Friday decided not to look further into a complaint against Attorney General Pam Bondi over her solicitation of a campaign donation from President Donald Trump in 2013.... Her office at the time was considering what to do about complaints lodged about Trump University, a real estate investment seminar that many customers say was worthless and swindled them out of thousands of dollars.... Bondi personally asked Trump for a campaign donation in August 2013. Trump’s charity, the Trump Foundation, issued a $25,000 check to her political committee the following month.... During the campaign, Trump aides admitted that the donation from his charity — which violated a federal ban on charities giving political donations — was a mistake." --safari

Matthew Haag of the New York Times: "A Florida state senator who unleashed an expletive-laden rant over drinks with two other lawmakers this week, uttering a racial slur for black people and other vulgarities, resigned from his position on Friday. State Senator Frank Artiles, a Republican from Miami-Dade County, apologized the day after the episode, saying on Tuesday that he let his 'temper get the best of me.'... The profane tirade occurred on Monday night at the exclusive Governors Club in Tallahassee during a conversation at a table with several people, including two other state senators, Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston, both Democrats who are black.” -- CW ...

... Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald: "... the long list of expenditures [Frank Artiles] filed with the Florida Division of Elections by Artiles’ political committee, Veterans for Conservative Principles, also raised some questions.... Heather Thomas, a former Hooters calendar girl and waitress at 101, a restaurant and bar in Tallahassee, was paid $2,000 [by the committee] between March and June of last year. The expense report lists the purpose as 'consultant.' Her friend, Brittney Singletary, is a waitress at Stetsons on the Moon in Tallahassee. She was paid $1,500 with three checks covering three of the same dates and listing the same purpose.... Artiles resigned Friday after charges that he violated Senate conduct rules with a profanity-laced tirade at a Tallahassee bar this week.... The complaint was filed by Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, who was with Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. Artiles referred to Gibson as a 'bitch,' and a 'girl' and made reference to some white Republican senators as 'niggas.' Thurston withdrew the complaint Friday after Artiles’ resignation." -- CW 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article146029094.html#storylink=cp"

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article146029094.html#storylink=cpy

Way Beyond the Beltway

James McAuley & William Branigin of the Washington Post: "French authorities on Friday identified a small-time criminal, apparently inspired by the Islamic State, as the perpetrator of a deadly attack on police officers in a shooting that set France on edge and darkened the final day of campaigning in the country’s pivotal presidential election. Despite a promise not to campaign following the attack Thursday night on Paris’s renowned Champs-Élysées boulevard, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen reinforced her anti-immigrant message in a Friday speech, calling on the French government to immediately reinstate border checks and expel foreigners being monitored by the intelligence services." The assailant was "a 39-year-old of Algerian descent who was born in the Paris suburbs, had a criminal record and was well-known to authorities." CW: In other words, he was French. ...

... Natalie Nougayrède of the Guardian: [In France, "[p]opular resentment, fears and frustrations set the stage for a major political upheaval, almost 60 years after De Gaulle founded the country’s Fifth Republic.... The very essence of France’s democracy hangs in the balance, as well as the survival of the 60-year-old European project. Much of what is at work resembles the trends that produced Brexit in Britain and Trump in the US – not least the disgruntlement of those who feel they have lost out to globalisation. But there are also specific, distinct elements of a collective French identity crisis." --safari

Mujib Mashal of the New York Times: "A day after a lethal Taliban assault on an Army base in northern Afghanistan, an official said on Saturday that at least 140 soldiers had been killed, making it the single deadliest known attack on an Afghan military base in the course of the long war." -- CW 

AP in the Guardian: "At least 12 people were killed overnight following looting and violence in Venezuela’s capital amid a spiraling political crisis, authorities in Caracas said Friday.... Two days of massive protests on the streets of Caracas against the government of Nicolás Maduro spilled into a violent night in several parts of the city, with residents in El Valle witnessing repetitive gunfire, street barricades set aflame and more than a dozen businesses looted." --safari...

     ...safari: Keep an eye on Venezuela and the Trump "Doctrine" of being sold to the higghest bidder. See Rachel Maddow's slush fund piece above for the connections.