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

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- 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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Saturday
Apr292017

The Commentariat -- April 30, 2017

 

We cannot ignore the rhetoric that has been employed by the president about who we are and what we do. We are not fake news. We are not failing news organizations. And we are not the enemy of the American people. -- Jeff Mason, President of the White House correspondents' association, after which he received a standing O ...

... Monica Hesse of the Washington Post: "The White House Correspondents’ Association punched back this weekend against an administration that has denigrated it, attempted to discredit it and, ultimately, snubbed it by becoming the first administration in decades to skip out on the annual bread-breaking between the White House and the reporters who cover the presidency.... Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ... acted as senior statesmen for their profession with remarks at the podium. Journalism should be 'the best obtainable version of the truth,' Bernstein said, sharing his strategy for covering politicians: 'When lying is combined with secrecy, there is a pretty good roadmap in front of you. . . . Yes, follow the money, but also follow the lies.' He sang the praises of 'incremental reporting,' the tedious stories that inch a larger story forward, and said that he viewed this type of work as important, 'especially now.'” -- CW ...

Quick presidential update: I’m doing quite well, thank you. History’s been kinder to me than many of you thought. For the longest time, I was considered the worst president of all time. That has changed — and it only took 100 days. I needed eight years, all  catastrophic flood, a war built on a lie, an economic disaster. The new guy needed 100 days. -- Will Ferrell, impersonating President George W. Bush at "Full Frontal"'s "Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner"

Here's the full text of "Dubya"'s remarks. ...

... Elahi Izadi of the Washington Post: "Samantha Bee’s live 'Full Frontal' event in Washington certainly was no White House correspondents’ dinner. There was no president, at least a sitting one, and there wasn’t really dinner.... But that’s what she promised with her 'Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,' which taped hours before Saturday’s formal event across town and will air on TBS [Saturday night] at 10 p.m.... Bee spent more than an hour paying homage to a free and functional press ('from the failing New York Times to the failing pile of garbage BuzzFeed' to ProPublica, which 'sounds Mexican'); skewering sensational media practices; and evoking an alternate reality where Hillary Clinton is commander in chief and George W. Bush delivers President Trump takedowns. Which is to say: Will Ferrell showed up as a surprise special guest to reprise his famed Dubya impersonation." -- CW ...

Nicholas Fandos the New York Times: "Tens of thousands of demonstrators, alarmed at what they see as a dangerous assault on the environment by the Trump administration, poured into the streets [in Washington, D.C.,] on Saturday to sound warnings both planetary and political about the Earth’s warming climate. Starting at the foot of the Capitol, the protesters marched to the White House, surrounding the mansion while President Trump was inside on his 100th day in office. Once there, the demonstrators let out a collective roar, meant to symbolically drown out the voices of the administration’s climate change deniers." -- CW ...

... Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "On a sweltering hot day, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in Washington on Saturday for the latest installment of the regular protests that punctuate the Trump era. This large-scale climate march marks President Trump’s first 100 days in office, which have been punctuated by multiple rollbacks of environmental protections and Obama climate policies.... Temperatures could exceed 90 degrees and possibly set a record for April 29 in the District, which would amplify the movement’s message. On the eve of the march, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was beginning an overhaul of its website, which included taking down a long-standing site devoted to the science of climate change...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** AND on the 101st Day.... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump on Saturday invited the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to the White House, embracing an authoritarian leader who is accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and who crudely disparaged Mr. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Mr. Trump had a 'very friendly conversation with Mr. Duterte,' according to a statement issued by the White House late Saturday. It said that the two leaders 'discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.' In fact, Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted in the deaths of several thousand people suspected of using or selling narcotics, as well as others who may have had no involvement with drugs. Human rights groups and many Western governments have condemned Mr. Duterte for the bloody campaign.” Read on. ...

     ... CW: Just when I thought Trump couldn't shock me. To treat our democratic allies as dirt & to boast of having "a very friendly conversation" with a murderous dictator is a bridge too far. The Duterte invitation should be a tipping point, even for Republicans. Because I have a vivid imagination, I can imagine even Mitch McConnell & Paul Ryan's saying this is too much.

** The Resistance, Ctd. Sarah Kendzior in the Globe and Mail (Toronto): "Under President Trumpthe American Dream is a going-out-of-business sale. That this bad bargain – which Mr. Trump tried to push forth through a series of largely unsuccessful executive orders – has not fully taken hold is only because of the refusal of Americans to accept it.... Mr. Trump is an autocratic leader struck down by a democratic society and what is left of a democratic government. There is no guarantee that future efforts to stop them will be successful, as he and his administration may try to rewrite the laws in a way that allows them to break them.... The 100 days have shown Mr. Trump's failures to be not a natural result of incompetence, but of vigilance that citizens and officials must continue to apply if they want to keep their republic. A new translation of Dante's The Inferno bears the lines: 'Forget your hopes. They were what brought you here.' This is good advice for those living in Mr. Trump's special hell. The era of hope and change is over. The era of resistance and resolve is now." --safari

Jake Tapper: No, Mr. Prez, you did not have the toughest 100 days:

 

 

Still Crazy After All These Days. Mark Landler: "President Trump came to a farm expo center [in Harrisburg, Pa.] on Saturday to celebrate his first 100 days in office by bathing in the support of his bedrock supporters, reprising the populist themes of his campaign, and savaging a familiar foe: the news media. In a rally timed to coincide with an annual dinner of the White House press corps in Washington, which he declined to attend, Mr. Trump laced into what he referred to as ;the failing New York Times,; as well as CNN and MSNBC, which he accused of incompetence and dishonesty.... The crowd responded with a chorus of boos and chants of 'CNN sucks,' some turning to jeer reporters. Mr. Trump was interrupted several times by protesters, who were escorted out of the arena by the police, under a rain of catcalls and shouts that recalled the most bitter days of the campaign.... But his rally on Saturday took on a darker hue, filled with anger and resentment. He touched on familiar themes of lawless immigrants, unfair trade deals and a corrupt Washington establishment." -- CW ...

... Daniel Politi of Slate: "... Donald Trump marked his 100th day in office with a speech that sounded more like a campaign address filled with empty promises than one given by someone who has been sitting in the Oval Office for a couple of months. The address was everything we’ve come to expect from Donald Trump at this point, with lots of focus on him, lots of lies, and a parallel reality in which everything in his disastrous administration is just going peachy. There was even some evident lying about attendance, just like on Day One of his presidency. On Saturday, Trump insisted there were lots of people waiting outside to get in and he 'broke the all-time record' in the arena, even though there were lots of empty seats in the arena.... We will not fail, we will never fail, we are Americans and the future belongs to us[, Trump said near the end of his speech]. Yes, he had used that same line in his speech at CPAC, and yes, it is creepily reminiscent of a song sung by a young Nazi in Cabaret.” --

     ... CW: If you read the linked Guardian story about Trump's CPAC speech & watch the video below (which Politi links last), you can't help but see what Trump has in mind. (Aaron Blake of the WashPo, in a post linked yesterday, makes the point, too.) And if the crowd in Harrisburg has its way, well, ...

 

... BTW, Samantha Bee noticed Trump's affinity for the Nazi theme 100 days ago. And if you want to see Trump making the white supremacist hand signal (related story linked below), the clip Bee runs of Trump giving his "American Carnage" inaugural address is full of sign language.

Donald Trump, in a Washington Post op-ed: "One hundred days ago, I took the oath of office and made a pledge: We are not merely going to transfer political power from one party to another, but instead are going to transfer that power from Washington, D.C., and give it back to the people. In the past 100 days, I have kept that promise — and more." CW: That, of course, is a yuuuge lie, and as far as I read.

     ... Update: James S. recommends the comments.

digby: Trump "seems like he's really losing it. Not that he ever had it together. He's always been a whiner and never made much sense. But it seems to be worse than usual." digby highlights Trump's claim that he "couldn't care less about golf."

Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "The Trump administration has reaffirmed that the United States will pay for a missile defense battery it is deploying in South Korea, despite President Trump’s recent statement that he wanted Seoul to cover the cost, officials here said Sunday. Mr. Trump caused alarm here on Thursday when he told Reuters that he wanted South Korea to pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as Thaad, which is being installed as a defense against North Korean missiles. According to South Korea, the two allies had agreed that the Americans would pay for the system and its operation and maintenance, with Seoul providing land and supporting infrastructure." --safari

Rebecca Morin of Politico: "President Donald Trump on Saturday invited Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. Duterte has been criticized following an aggressive crackdown on drug users and dealers in the South-east Asian country, which human rights groups have said included the use of death squads...Trump had praised Duterte's hardline stance on the campaign trail, after the Obama administration had condemned it." --safari

Matt Stevens of the New York Times: "As President Trump took the stage to champion the Second Amendment at a National Rifle Association convention on Friday, a United States senator sought to counter his message by unleashing a Twitter storm using the names, ages and pictures of gun violence victims. Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who has fought for increased gun control since the 2012 school massacre in his home state, posted on Twitter on Friday morning to urge his followers not to watch Mr. Trump’s speech and instead, 'think about who we are fighting for.'... In a statement on Friday to The New York Times, he said he had started the tweet storm because he knew that “the substance” of the gun-control debate would get 'totally lost' amid coverage of the president’s speech in Atlanta.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

I think, you know, the filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with. -- Donald Trump, on Fox "News," aired Friday ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Trump is frustrated with the pace of legislation after 100 days, and his answer is that he wants to change the rules.... It suggests a president, yet again, who doesn't agree with his own powers being limited or even questioned. Remember when senior policy adviser Stephen Miller declared 'the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned?' This is more of that kind of attitude. He wants more power — and he wants it quickly. We're a far cry from the presidential candidate who decried President Obama's executive orders, suggesting they were an indication of a weak leader who couldn't bend Congress to his will. Trump is now admitting that he can't bend Congress to his will, but he blames the system rather than himself. Who knew governing was so tough, right?" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Idiocracy. Stuart Leavenworth of McClatchy, via RawStory: "His name is David Longly Bernhardt, and he's worked as the top lobbyist for California's Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural entity of its kind in the nation. He has sued the Interior Department and helped write legislation on behalf of his client. Largely because of his services, Westlands has paid Bernhardt and the law firm where he works $1.27 million since 2011. On Friday, the Trump administration announced it was nominating Bernhardt to serve as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. If confirmed by the Senate, Bernhardt will be in a position to influence decisions that could benefit his former client." --safari

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: "Pope Francis urged the United States and North Korea on Saturday to defuse their increasingly tense standoff and avert a potentially horrific conflict. 'I call on them, and I will call on them, as I have on leaders of different places, to work to resolve their problems through diplomatic avenues,' Pope Francis said, speaking aboard his plane as he returned to Rome from a trip to Egypt. Noting that North Korea’s missile program was not a new concern, he added that 'things have gotten too hot' and suggested that 'the United Nations has the duty to reassume, a little, its leadership because it’s been watered down.'” -- CW 

Irin Carmon, in a Washington Post op-ed: "If a conservative majority on the Supreme Court reverses or weakens Roe, it’s easy to see what happens next. Fifteen states have pre-Roe abortion bans still on the books; four have automatic “triggers” to outlaw the procedure if the precedent falls. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that 57 percent of women of reproductive age live in states that oppose abortion rights. Only 17 states have 'secure' laws protecting abortion rights if the court overturns the 1973 decision, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights." Carmon lists reasons it is more likely women will be prosecuted for having illegal abortions. -- CW 

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Emily Shugerman of the (U.K.) Independent: "Two conservative journalists have sparked outcry on social media by making what some have interpreted as a white supremacist hand symbol at a recent visit to the White House. Freelance journalist Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Russian news outlet Sputnik, posed for a picture behind the podium in the White House briefing room. In the photo, they are making a hand sign that can be used to signify 'white power.' 'Just two people doing a white power hand gesture in the White House,' Fusion senior reporter Emma Roller tweeted, alongside a screenshot of the picture.'” Fairbanks claims Puerto Rican heritage & denies she was making a white-power sign. CW: Yep, these people should definitely have White House press credentials.

** Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Joe Romm of Think Progress: "The very first column the New York Times published by extreme climate science denier Bret Stephens is riddled with errors, misstatements, unfair comparisons, straw men, and logical fallacies." Romm breaks down the mistakes Stephens wrote in a sentence that "sets the record for most errors in a single sentence ever published in the New York Times.... The column is so deeply flawed that New York Times reporters and news editors immediately started slamming it on twitter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dana Nuccitelli of the Guardian: "Yesterday, New York Times subscribers were treated to an email alert announcing the first opinion column from Bret Stephens, who they hired away from the Wall Street Journal. Like all Journal opinion columnists who write about climate change, Stephens has said a lot of things on the subject that could charitably be described as ignorant and wrong. Thus many Times subscribers voiced bewilderment and concern about his hiring, to which the paper’s public editor issued a rather offensive response." -- CW ...

... The Eddie Haskell of the New York Times. Steve M.: Stephens is "still telling readers that they're wrong if they accept the scientific consensus on global warming. He's still arguing that advocates for a strong response are tyrants drunk with power. But he's trying to sell this argument to people who believe the science, so he's conceding some of their points. He didn't do that when he was writing for Fox-watching captains of industry on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. When he was writing for them, he told them that climate change isn't science, it's religion.... As bad as the first column is, it's Stephens as Eddie Haskell, pretending to be civilized in Mrs. Cleaver's presence." CW: Thanks, NYT! ...

... No Words Minced. Juan Cole: "At the same time that protests were mounted in cities across the US and the world, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency under denialist, shyster lawyer, and generally miserable human being Scott Pruitt removed its Climate Change web page.... So the climate marchers got stabbed in the back, predictably, by the very government agency that should be protecting their children.... Make no mistake about it. Brett Stephens is shamelessly purveying a falsehood. His like deliberately and skillfully deploy the techniques the cigarette companies used to deflect the science on lung cancer. It is known that liberals are open-minded, willing to concede the other person’s point of view, willing to entertain self-doubt. Denialists, like a criminal who profiles the victim before striking, have been trained to play on these traits.... Brett Stephens at the NYT is the essence of fake news. The New York Times gave us the Iraq War with phony stories about aluminum tubes and Iraqi nuclear bomb projects, and biological weapons on bumpy Winnebagos on Iraq’s potholed roads. The paper has a lot of great and honest reporters, but a little bit of arsenic can ruin an otherwise fine meal." --safari...

... CW: I linked Stephens' column, for no good reason, yesterday. If you were wondering how Stephens might respond to well-earned criticism of his blatantly-flawed column, Here's the answer: "After 20 months of being harangued by bullying Trump supporters, I'm reminded that the nasty left is no different. Perhaps worse." That's right: no fair picking on me with facts. Then some name-calling. There is no more twisted mind than the mind of a right-wing self-identified "authority" on something. They can neither reason for themselves nor "listen to reason."

Beyond the Beltway

Bob Brigham of RawStory: "Only days before absentee ballots will be mailed to Montana voters, the only statewide congressional election of 2017 has been thrown into pandemonium following revelations that GOP nominee Greg Gianforte invests in Russian companies under U.S. sanctions.... Gianforte is facing Democrat Rob Quist, who is an iconic figure in Montana. Montana’s lone congressional seat was vacated when Ryan Zinke was confirmed as Interior Secretary. Republicans have held the seat since former Democratic Party Congressman Pat Willians announced he would retire after winning his 9th term during the 1994 GOP landslide. [A]bsentee ballots for the May 25 special election going out on Monday.... While Republicans are going all-in to hold the seat, Politico reporter Elena Schneider had a bombshell report on national Democrats withholding cash from Montana’s special election." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

Knowledge Is Power -- and That's a Problem. Weston Phippen of the Atlantic: "Turkey blocked access to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on Saturday, citing a law that allows the government to ban certain websites for the protection of the public. The news is another measure in which President Tayyip Erdogan has tightened control on the country since last year’s failed coup. Since then, the president has suspended 120,000 police officers, civil service employees, and judiciary workers. He has forced the closure of dozens of media organizations. And he has also arrested more than 40,000 people on accusations of being tied to terrorist groups. The move also comes shortly after Erdogan won a vote earlier this month that greatly expanded his powers.... The state-run Anadolu Agency quoted an official from the ministry of transport who said the government blocked the site because it was part of a 'coordinated smear campaign.' The article went on to say a Wikipedia entry claimed Turkey was aligned with various terrorist organizations." -- CW 

Angela Giuffrida of the Guardian: "As [Gessica Notaro] returned home from dinner with friends on 10 January, the 28-year-old had acid thrown in her face, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend Jorge Edson Tavares, 29...The case has captured the public’s attention in a country where attacks involving cheap and easily obtainable corrosive liquids are on the rise. There were 27 registered assaults in 2016, compared with eight in 2013, according to data provided by police to SOS Stalking, an organisation set up to support the victims of harassment. This figure may pale in comparison with England, where in London alone there were 454 such attacks last year. But within the context of Italy’s high rate of femicide – 116 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners between January and November last year, according to figures from the national statistics agency – the phenomenon is worrying.... Italy introduced laws in 2013 to crack down on violence against women after being shamed by a UN report, which said domestic violence was the country’s “most pervasive form of violence”." --safari

Saturday
Apr292017

The Commentariat -- April 29, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "On a sweltering hot day, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in Washington on Saturday for the latest installment of the regular protests that punctuate the Trump era. This large-scale climate march marks President Trump’s first 100 days in office, which have been punctuated by multiple rollbacks of environmental protections and Obama climate policies.... Temperatures could exceed 90 degrees and possibly set a record for April 29 in the District, which would amplify the movement’s message. On the eve of the march, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was beginning an overhaul of its website, which included taking down a long-standing site devoted to the science of climate change...." -- CW 

Matt Stevens of the New York Times: "As President Trump took the stage to champion the Second Amendment at a National Rifle Association convention on Friday, a United States senator sought to counter his message by unleashing a Twitter storm using the names, ages and pictures of gun violence victims. Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who has fought for increased gun control since the 2012 school massacre in his home state, posted on Twitter on Friday morning to urge his followers not to watch Mr. Trump’s speech and instead, 'think about who we are fighting for.'... In a statement on Friday to The New York Times, he said he had started the tweet storm because he knew that “the substance” of the gun-control debate would get 'totally lost' amid coverage of the president’s speech in Atlanta.” -- CW 

I think, you know, the filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with. -- Donald Trump, on Fox "News," aired Friday ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Trump is frustrated with the pace of legislation after 100 days, and his answer is that he wants to change the rules.... It suggests a president, yet again, who doesn't agree with his own powers being limited or even questioned. Remember when senior policy adviser Stephen Miller declared 'the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned?' This is more of that kind of attitude. He wants more power — and he wants it quickly. We're a far cry from the presidential candidate who decried President Obama's executive orders, suggesting they were an indication of a weak leader who couldn't bend Congress to his will. Trump is now admitting that he can't bend Congress to his will, but he blames the system rather than himself. Who knew governing was so tough, right?" -- CW 

** Joe Romm of Think Progress: "The very first column the New York Times published by extreme climate science denier Bret Stephens is riddled with errors, misstatements, unfair comparisons, straw men, and logical fallacies." Romm breaks down the mistakes Stephens wrote in a sentence that "sets the record for most errors in a single sentence ever published in the New York Times.... The column is so deeply flawed that New York Times reporters and news editors immediately started slamming it on twitter." ...

... CW: Stephens' column, for no good reason, is linked below. If you were wondering how Stephens might respond to well-earned criticism of his blatantly-flawed column, Here's the answer: "After 20 months of being harangued by bullying Trump supporters, I'm reminded that the nasty left is no different. Perhaps worse." That's right: no fair picking on me with facts. Then some name-calling. There is no more twisted mind than the mind of a right-wing self-identified "authority" on something. They can neither reason for themselves nor "listen to reason."

*****

"Face-plants, Falsehoods, & Flip-flops." Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monhly documents "100 horrors in the last 100 days." -- CW ...

I never realized how big it was. Every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. . . . So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all. -- Donald Trump, last week, on the surprising "bigness" of the federal government ...

... The Great Pretender. Dana Milbank: So what does [Trump] do now that he is in a job that is so hard running a government that is so big? He pretends. He has developed an elaborate fantasyland in which everything goes according to plan." Milbank assembles a list of Trump's remarks about how things are working out: "none is entirely true." CW: Most are risible. ...

...The MisEducation of Dumbo. Josh Marshall of TPM: "In honor of the impending hundredth day of Donald Trump’s presidency, I wanted to compile what will hopefully be a definitive list “Nobody could have known” Trump statements." --safari...

... Jonathan Chait: "Trump may have few traditionally defined achievements so far, but he has redefined the institution he occupies.... The most shocking degradation of office is the lowering of the standards of the office he has carried out.... The president is childlike, impulsive, ignorant, and ostentatiously lazy.... He has constructed a full-on nontransparent oligarchy.... Trump’s Republican allies have shut down Democratic bills to compel the president to disclose his tax returns, and raised no objection as his family has used his office to leverage their brand across the country and the globe. They have likewise slow-walked investigations into whether his campaign colluded openly with Russian hackers, or whether it was simply the unwitting beneficiary.... Trump has held his base because he still commands the loyalty of party officials, and within the conservative news bubble he remains the decisive, alpha-male executive he played (and still tries to play) on television.... The implicit threat of exposing Trump to investigations is the lever Republicans in Congress have to ensure his fealty to conservative movement dogma rather than adopt more moderate and popular policies." -- CW ...

... New York Times Editors: "It was fitting that President Trump closed out his first 100 days in another bumbling attack on Obamacare, trying and failing to jam a bill through the House this week that had no chance of passing the Senate, just to create the illusion of action.... If only this administration could simply play as comedy, as pratfalls and double takes. Unfortunately, the saga of health care also reveals the capacity of Mr. Trump to do harm, through incompetence and indifference, if not effective action.... His determination to leverage his office to expand his commercial empire is the only objective to which Americans, after 100 days, can be confident this president will stay true." -- CW  ...

...Josh Marshall of TPM: "When we consider the 100 day marker, it is not so much that Trump has accomplished virtually nothing of substance. It is that nothing of substance is really underway either. That’s the key thing. On Monday, President Trump’s 102 day in office, he will begin from more or less a cold start, as though the first three months hadn’t happened. The difference is that he’ll face a calendar that is far less friendly to legislation and he’ll have squandered whatever degree of good will, momentum or confidence he had from congressional Republicans in his ability to be an effective President." --safari...

... M.J. Lee of CNN: "Former President Barack Obama hailed the political resilience of his signature health care law at a private event Thursday, pointing out that Obamacare is now more popular than his successor trying to repeal it: President Donald Trump.... Trump has recorded historically low approval ratings for a new president, while public opinion on the health care law has improved gradually amid Republican efforts to get rid of it.... Trump has a 44% approval rating heading into his 100th day in office, according to a new CNN/ORC poll this week -- the lowest approval rating of any newly elected president at this stage. In that survey, 36% said they approve of the way Trump is handling health care policy, and 47% said they favored Obamacare." -- CW ...

The president’s plan right now is something that every American should worry, hopefully, about how it’s going to affect them. --Sean Spicer, Thursday, "answering" a reporter's question about how Trump's tax "plan" would affect his own tax obligations

... Audrey Carlsen, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump could save tens of millions of dollars in a single year under his proposed changes to the tax code, a New York Times analysis has found.... These estimates ... do not take into account other potential planning techniques that wealthy taxpayers often use." The reporters illustrate how Trump could realize the tax savings. CW: If, as David Cay Johnston suspects, it was Trump himself who leaked the top pages of his 2005 returns to him, this article reveals the folly of his leak.

Trump Bump? Make That Trump Slump. Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "The Commerce Department provided on Friday its first statistical snapshot of the American economy in the first quarter, the gross domestic product estimate.... The economy barely grew, expanding at an annual rate of only 0.7 percent. The growth was a sharp decline from the 2.1 percent annual rate recorded in the final quarter of last year. It was the weakest quarterly showing in three years. Consumption, the component reflecting individual spending, rose by only 0.3 percent, well below the 3.5 percent rate in the previous quarter.... The first-quarter performance upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ana Swanson & Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post: "President Trump came into office promising to make the economy grow at rates the United States hasn't seen for decades. On Friday, as the government reported that the U.S. economy expanded in the first quarter at its slowest pace in three years, he got a glimpse of just how far he has to go.... Friday's report also noted that consumer spending grew at just 0.3 percent in the first quarter, the slowest pace since 2009. Reduced spending at all levels of government weighed on GDP, as did a strong dollar that lowered exports and increased imports.... Long-term changes in the economy, including demographic trends such as the aging U.S. labor force, will also complicate Trump's bid for rapid economic growth, the experts say." --CW ...

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post: Trump is adjusting his policies to help his base, sometimes at the expense of blue states: "One of the most persuasive arguments advisers can make to Trump is that something will benefit his voters. There’s something deeply tribal about it.... Ending the deduction for state and local taxes [as Trump proposed in his tax "plan"], which allows individuals to subtract their home-state levies from their federal taxable income, would disproportionately hurt people who live in blue states and not make much difference for his voters in red states." -- CW 

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump revived one of his most derogatory insults on Friday, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as 'Pocahontas' during an address here to the National Rifle Association.... Trump brought up Warren while talking about the 2020 presidential election in which Warren could be a Democratic candidate — and potentially the party’s nominee.... 'It may be Pocahontas,' Trump said, adding: 'She is not big for the NRA.'” -- CW 

EPA Website Gets a Scrubbing -- No More Climate Science Info. Chris Mooney & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening its website would be 'undergoing changes' to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information. One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions." -- CW ...

(... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Climate-change skeptic Bret Stephens begins his new career at the nation's top opinion-page real estate by arguing it's a good idea to be skeptical of the certainty of climate change. Thanks, New York Times!) -- CW 

Maria Sachetti & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "About half of the 675 immigrants picked up in roundups across the United States in the days after President Trump took office either had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses, mostly drunken driving, as their most serious crimes, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.... The raids were part of a nationwide immigration roundup dubbed Operation Cross Check, which accounts for a small portion of the 21,362 immigrants the Trump administration took into custody for deportation proceedings from January through mid-March.... Critics say immigration agents instead have also targeted students, parents of U.S. citizens who do not have serious criminal records and minor offenders.... President Barack Obama also deported thousands of people who never committed crimes, but toward the end of his administration, he imposed strict new rules that prioritized the arrest of criminals." ...  

     ... CW: If you take into account that some of these traffic arrests were likely the results of DWMs -- Driving While Mexican -- and many of those arrested probably didn't have the means to fight the charges, the report looks even more dismal.

North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet yesterday ...

... Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "North Korea fired another ballistic missile early Saturday morning, but it exploded within seconds of being launched, American and South Korean defense officials said.... North Korea is clearly making progress and has the political will, if not the technology just yet, to improve its missile technology." -- CW

Katherine Faulders & Ryan Struyk of ABC News: "... Donald Trump is blaming former President Barack Obama for not fully vetting Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn after it was revealed that Flynn received payments from foreign governments without approval from military officials in 2014.... Flynn maintained a top secret security clearance even after he was pushed out of his Obama administration role at the Pentagon in 2014." -- CW ...

... Morgan Winsor of ABC News: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions said 'you don't catch everything' in reference to the Trump transition team's vetting of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn," -- CW ...

... digby: "The administration is blaming the Obama administration for re-issuing [Flynn's] security clearance in May of 2016 which is kind of hilarious. Just imagine what kind of shitshow would have ensued if they hadn't. It's fair to assume that any new president ought to take a very close look at their new National Security Adviser no matter what, especially since it was obvious he's crazy as a fucking loon. This was already obvious. He'd been fired for it in the Obama administration. Trump knew this and didn't care because Flynn was his boy and he was out there calling Hillary Clinton a pedophile on TV so that made him the perfect top national security adviser. Sessions was the campaign's foreign policy advisory committee chairman so he knew Flynn well and thought he was a good man too." -- CW ...

... The Russia Connection, Ctd. Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The UK government was given details last December of allegedly extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow, according to court papers. Reports by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, on possible collusion between the the Trump camp and the Kremlin are at the centre of a political storm in the US over Moscow’s role in getting Donald Trump elected. It was not previously known that the UK intelligence services had also received the dossier but Steele confirmed in a court filing earlier this month that he handed a memorandum compiled in December to a 'senior UK government national security official acting in his official capacity, on a confidential basis in hard copy form'.... The December memo alleged that four Trump representatives travelled to Prague in August or September in 2016 for 'secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers', about how to pay hackers secretly for penetrating Democratic party computer systems and 'contingency plans for covering up operations'.” -- CW 

 

In Extraordinary Move of Unprecedented Valor & Foresight, GOP Passes One-Week Spending Bill. Kelsey Snell, et al., of the Washington Post: "A short-term spending agreement to keep the federal government open for another week overwhelmingly passed Congress on Friday. The House voted 382 to 30 on Friday to approve the deal and the Senate unanimously approved it a short time later. House and Senate negotiators are set to work through the weekend to finalize a longer-term deal that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

The Glory Days of a Golden Boy, Gone Awry. Paul Waldman: "This was supposed to be a time of joy and progress for the Republican Party's golden boy, Paul Ryan.... But 100 days in, things aren't looking quite so glorious. In fact, not only has no legislation of consequence been passed, Ryan is looking like such a screwup that his own political future is in doubt.... A recent Pew Research Center poll put Ryan's approval rating at 29 percent, with 54 percent disapproving.... The surprise wasn't that Republicans were unable to come up with a plan that would be cruel enough to satisfy their most conservative members yet not produce a political disaster. The surprise was that they, and Ryan in particular, were so unprepared." -- CW 


Nancy Cook
, et al., of Politico: "The controversial president of The Heritage Foundation, former Sen. Jim DeMint, will soon be out of a job, following a dispute with board members about the direction of conservative think tank, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. Some Heritage board members believe that DeMint has brought in too many Senate allies and made the think tank too bombastic and political — to the detriment of its research and scholarly aims. There's also a sense that he's made the institution too much about himself.... A handful of Heritage staffers close to DeMint, who came over from the Senate with him, are also expected to leave the think tank in what two sources called a 'purge.'" -- CW 

The DisUnited Methodist Church. Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "The United Methodist Church’s highest court has ruled that the consecration of its first openly gay bishop violated church law, compounding a bitter rift over homosexuality that has brought the 13-million-member denomination to the brink of schism. In a 6-to-3 vote made public on Friday, the church’s Judicial Council found that a married lesbian bishop and those who consecrated her were in violation of their 'commitment to abide by and uphold the church’s definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality.'” -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Ed Pilkington & Jacob Rosenberg of the Guardian: "Lawyers for the four men executed by Arkansas in the past week were set on Friday to ask a federal judge to force the state to preserve evidence from its death chamber. The request, the first step towards a thorough investigation, came amid fears that the prisoners might have been subjected to excruciating pain, tantamount to torture. Arkansas’ unprecedented burst of executions – it tried to carry out eight in 11 days – is over. But it has re-inflamed opposition to the death penalty in the US and sparked a major legal battle, involving drug companies objecting to the use of their products to kill people, that could have long-term consequences." -- CW 

Thursday
Apr272017

The Commentariat -- April 28, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Trump Bump? Make That Trump Slump. Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "The Commerce Department provided on Friday its first statistical snapshot of the American economy in the first quarter, the gross domestic product estimate.... The economy barely grew, expanding at an annual rate of only 0.7 percent. The growth was a sharp decline from the 2.1 percent annual rate recorded in the final quarter of last year. It was the weakest quarterly showing in three years. Consumption, the component reflecting individual spending, rose by only 0.3 percent, well below the 3.5 percent rate in the previous quarter.... The first-quarter performance upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017." -- CW 

In Extraordinary Move of Unprecedented Valor & Foresight, GOP Passes One-Week Spending Bill. Kelsey Snell, et al., of the Washington Post: "A short-term spending agreement to keep the federal government open for another week overwhelmingly passed Congress on Friday. The House voted 382 to 30 on Friday to approve the deal and the Senate unanimously approved it a short time later. House and Senate negotiators are set to work through the weekend to finalize a longer-term deal that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September." -- CW 

*****

NOTICE: If you are reading this page and you are not Donald Trump, you would be a far, far better president than the Man Living in the White House.

CW P.S. Plan to do some catch-up later this morning.

Trumpity-Doo-Dah Days. Josh Dawsey, et al., of Politico: "... interviews with nearly two dozen aides, allies, and others close to the president paint a ... picture ... of a White House on a collision course between Trump’s fixed habits and his growing realization that this job is harder than he imagined.... Trump’s critics and supporters alike are equally flummoxed about what this president stands for.... 'If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,' said one Trump confidante. 'To talk him out of doing crazy things.'...White House aides have figured out that it’s best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be – and especially how it will play in the press.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Heist. Julie Davis & Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "President Trump’s proposal to slash individual and business taxes and erase a surtax that funds the Affordable Care Act would amount to a multitrillion-dollar shift from federal coffers to America’s richest families and their heirs.... The outline that Mr. Trump offered on Wednesday — less a tax overhaul plan than a list of costly cuts with no price tags attached, rushed out by a president staring down his 100-day mark in office — calls for tax reductions for individuals of every income level as well as businesses large and small. But the vast majority of benefits would accrue to the highest earners and largest holders of wealth, according to economists and analysts...." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "... why would the White House release such an embarrassing document? Why would the Treasury Department go along with this clown show? Unfortunately, we know the answer. Every report from inside the White House conveys the impression that Trump is like a temperamental child, bored by details and easily frustrated when things don’t go his way.... What we’re looking at here isn’t policy; it’s pieces of paper whose goal is to soothe the big man’s temper tantrums. Unfortunately, we may all pay the price of his therapy." -- CW ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "What do you do if you’re a historically unpopular new president, with a record low approval rating by 14 points, facing investigations into the way Russia helped you get elected, with the media judging your first 100 days in office as the weakest of any modern president? Why, you announce a tax cut! And in your self-absorbed way, you announce a tax cut that will hugely benefit yourself. Imagine those millions saved!... Trump’s new tax 'plan' (more like an extremely vague plan for a plan) is an irresponsible, shameless, budget-busting gift to zillionaires like himself.... This isn’t tax policy; it’s a heist." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... digby: "... it's interesting that [administration officials] decided it was a good idea to put out a sheet of paper with a vague blueprint laying out tax cuts for Donald Trump and his family that makes it clear they didn't give a second thought to the question of how it would affect the average working family. I assume they thought this would be popular.... Amid increased press scrutiny of Trump’s falsehoods and failings, do Trump’s assaults on the media — and the related widespread belief among Trump voters that the media regularly produces false stories — further bond them to Trump and make them more likely to believe he’s succeeding? It’s possible." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Tim Egan: "The Trump family and assorted cronies are using the highest office in the land to stuff their pockets.... Donald Trump’s presidency may look like a theater of incompetency: armada going in the wrong direction, forgetting what country he bombed but remembering what he had for dessert, major promises broken with a shrug.... But one thing Trump has accomplished in his first 100 days is ensuring that his family can use the vast reach of the federal government for private gain.... This week Trump proposed a huge tax cut for himself and the businesses he and his family own. He would have saved $31 million, in the one year for which we have his tax return, under his plan. At the same time, he wants to take away college scholarships for the poor and gut funding for cancer research." -- CW ...

Trump Tells WashPo He Doesn't Know What He's Doing from Moment to Moment. Ashley Parker, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump was set to announce Saturday, on the 100th day of his presidency, that he was withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement — the sort of disruptive proclamation that would upend both global and domestic politics and signal to his base that he was keeping his campaign promise to terminate what he once called 'a total disaster' and 'one of the worst deals ever.' 'I was all set to terminate,' Trump said in an Oval Office interview Thursday night. 'I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it.'... As news of the president’s plan reached Ottawa and Mexico City in the middle of the week and rattled the markets and Congress, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and others huddled in meetings with Trump, urging him not to sign a document triggering a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA.... Trump’s declaration to withdraw from NAFTA, followed by his abrupt turnabout, was the latest in a series of sudden policy shifts and outright reversals in the frenzied lead-up to his 100th day in office....” -- CW ...

... Kirk Semple & Elisabeth Malkin of the New York Times: "... on Wednesday, the suggestion from the White House that Mr. Trump was finalizing an executive order to begin the process of withdrawing the United States from Nafta revealed a ... Mexico ... that was learning to live with what it considers Mr. Trump’s bluster and stagecraft — and not inclined to publicly react too quickly. 'It seems like he’s sitting at a poker table bluffing rather than making serious decisions,' said Senator Armando Ríos Piter, a Mexican legislator. 'In front of a bluffer, you always have to maintain a firm and dignified position.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Trump Tells WashPo He Doesn't Know What He's Doing Someplace Else. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump threatened to terminate the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea in an interview Thursday night, declaring that the five-year-old accord with a key ally was 'a horrible deal' that has left America 'destroyed.' During an Oval Office interview about trade policy in North America, Trump served notice that he is looking to disrupt an important partnership in the tumultuous Asia-Pacific region as well — even with Seoul on edge because of North Korea’s escalating military provocations." -- CW 

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Dan Lamothe & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The P entagon’s top watchdog has launched an investigation into money that former national security adviser and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn received from foreign groups, members of the House Oversight Committee said Thursday. The Pentagon office will try to determine whether Flynn 'failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving' the payments, according to an April 11 letter from Defense Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman. In the past, the Pentagon has advised retiring officers that because they can be recalled to military service, they may be subject to the Constitution’s rarely enforced emoluments clause, which prohibits top officials from receiving payments or favors from foreign governments." -- CW ...

I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don’t get it. After the president fired him for lying. It does not make any sense, and it makes the American people think the White House has something to hide. -- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Thursday ...

... Laurel Raymond of ThinkProgress: "Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) just released three damning new documents on ... Michael Flynn. The documents, provided by the Department of Defense, show that the Pentagon warned Flynn in 2014 that he could not legally take money from foreign governments without getting permission in advance. The same documents also confirm that Flynn did not ask for permission before taking payments  —  emoluments  —  from Russia. Flynn, despite the warning, accepted the payments and failed to disclose them on his application for security clearance in 2016. He similarly failed to disclose his lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.... According to Cummings, the new documents also contradict Flynn’s lawyer’s claim on Tuesday that Flynn actually had received proper permissions from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) before a trip to Moscow in December 2015." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Vanessa Neumann of The Daily Beast: "The oil company’s half-million donation to Donald Trump’s Inaugural Committee wasn’t illegal. But it certainly wasn’t moral. And the cash may have come from the Kremlin, at least indirectly. Recently released Federal Election Commission filings show that Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (known as PDVSA) gave Trump more money than Shell or Walmart. The donation is unusual for PDVSA: Citgo had not donated to previous presidential inaugural committees.... Citgo’s donation to the Trump Inaugural Committee and the horrifying images emerging from Venezuela’s weeks of brutally repressed protests ... are connected: Russian money and influence is behind both of them.... The Inaugural Committee donation came days after Citgo (a Delaware-incorporated company with operational headquarters in Houston) mortgaged 49.9 percent of its holdings to Rosneft, an oil company controlled by the Kremlin." --safari

Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast: "Tuesday, Trump issued yet another executive reversal, this time instructing the Department of the Interior to review President Obama’s designations of national monuments. The monuments in question aren’t historic plaques on forgotten battlefields, but over 553 million acres of natural areas that Obama had protected from development — plus 219 million more set aside by Presidents Clinton and Bush. The response from environmental groups was swift.... Trump may not have been able to repeal Obamacare or build a border wall, but he can be proud of being the brownest president ever to occupy the White House. It’s clear who really benefits from this order: oil and gas companies, mining companies, and big agriculture. But since it might also create a few dozen mostly-temporary jobs in those industries, Trump can sell it as putting America back to work...In the case of the monuments reversal, the Executive Order is carefully worded—unlike, for example, the immigration orders, which have thus far failed to withstand judicial review." --safari...

     ... safari: Me thinks it mighty suspicious this Executive Order is actually legitimately worded. I'm smelling some ALEC skunks in the bushes ...

... Alexander Kaufman of the Huffington Post: The retailer "Patagonia on Wednesday threatened to sue the White House over an executive order that instructs the Department of the Interior to review any national monuments designated since 1996. The high-end outdoor apparel retailer, which has been embroiled in a bitter fight over the future of two monuments declared in the waning days of Barack Obama’s presidency, slammed President Donald Trump, insisting that he lacks the authority to rescind designations by his predecessors.... The retailer began stepping up its political activity just before the November election, spending $1 million on a get-out-the-vote campaign and completely shutting down its operations on Election Day. After the election, it donated all $10 million of its Black Friday sales to environmental causes." --safari

Tom Nichols, in a USA Today op-ed: "President Trump’s record in his first 100 days, by any standard of presidential first terms, is one of failure.... Not surprisingly, Trump is at this point the most unpopular new president in the history of modern polling.... At the same time, 96% of Trump voters say they have no regrets about their choice.... Too many Trump supporters do not hold the president responsible for his mistakes or erratic behavior because they are incapable of recognizing them as mistakes.... There is a more disturbing possibility here than pure ignorance: that voters not only do not understand these issues, but also that they simply do not care about them. As his supporters like to point out, Trump makes the right enemies, and that’s enough for them. Journalists, scientists, policy wonks — as long as 'the elites' are upset, Trump’s voters assume that the administration is doing something right.... When voters choose ill-informed grudges and diffuse resentment over the public good, a republic becomes unsustainable." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Nichols threw is some both-siderisms, which I chose to ignore.

Kelsey Snell & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Despite pressure from the White House, House GOP leaders determined Thursday night they don’t have the votes to pass a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act and will not seek to put their proposal on the floor on Friday. A late push to act on health care had threatened the bipartisan deal to keep the government open for one week while lawmakers crafted a longer-term spending deal. Now, members are likely to approve the spending bill when it comes to the floor and keep the government open past midnight on Friday." -- CW ...

... Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The House appeared unlikely to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act ahead of President Trump’s 100th day in office as Republican leaders struggled on Thursday to round up the necessary support for their revised health care bill from balking Republican moderates.... The reservations from numerous lawmakers showed the difficulty that Republican leaders face in trying to push through a repeal bill: While revisions to their bill won over conservative hard-liners in the Freedom Caucus this week, those same changes threatened to drive away other members, even some who supported the first version." -- CW ...

... Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: "President Trump and House Republicans, in their rush to resuscitate a bill rolling back the Affordable Care Act, are increasingly isolating themselves from outside input and rejecting entreaties to work collaboratively, according to multiple healthcare officials who have tried to engage GOP leaders.... But they continue to refuse to reach out to Democrats. Even Senate Republicans have been largely sidelined, though their support will be crucial to putting a measure on Trump’s desk. And senior House Republicans and White House officials have almost completely shut out doctors, hospitals, patient advocates and others who work in the healthcare system, industry officials say, despite pleas from many healthcare leaders to seek an alternative path that doesn’t threaten protections for tens of millions of Americans." --safari

Stephen Adler, et al., of Reuters: "... Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute. 'There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,' Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview...." CW: Apparently "major major" has replaced "yuuuge" & "bigly" in Trumpian lexicon. I thought Major Major was a fictional character. Maybe Trump saw a clip of the film Catch 22 & confused it with his daily vocabulary lesson. ...

 

... Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration is willing to bargain directly with North Korea over ending its nuclear weapons program, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday, an apparent shift in policy aimed at strengthening international resolve against what the Trump administration considers a growing menace. 'Obviously, that will be the way we would like to solve this,' Tillerson said in an interview with NPR scheduled to air Friday, when the United States is convening an unusual high-level meeting at the United Nations devoted to the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal." -- CW 

Cindy Carcamo of the Los Angeles Times: "The Trump administration’s online database of immigrants in detention was supposed to help the public search for potential criminals. But when it launched Wednesday, an immigration attorney noticed something unusual: babies.... By late Wednesday evening, the department had fixed the problem. But concerns remained about the amount of private information still easily available to the public, including potential asylum applicants whose identities are supposed to be confidential under DHS policy.  The searchable database is the latest effort by the Trump administration to spotlight crimes committed by immigrants who are in the country illegally. It was launched under a high-profile rollout of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE...." OR, as Paul Waldman more accurately labels the project, "Office of Stirring Up Hate and Fear Against Immigrants." CW: Anyhow, be on the lookout for marauding gangs of toddlers.

AND Chris Cillizza, who moved from the WashPo to CNN last month, has gone over the parapet & down the Yellow Brick Road. I checked, & nowhere on the page can I find any notice that Cillizza's post is an ad paid for by the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). -- CW 

If You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go. Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: Delta Airlines removed a man from a flight because during a delayed takeoff, where the plane was not moving, he used the restroom. The pilot later announced to passengers, in effect, that a full bladder was a security risk. CW: You may have had a similar experience. I've read generalized reports on the frequency of flight delays where passengers were told they had to sit for two hours on planes with locked restrooms. Of course flight attendants were passing out beverages during the two hours. I hope the guy sues Delta under the Geneva Convention.

Missy Ryan & Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "Two U.S. service members were killed during operations against the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Thursday. Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the deaths occurred overnight in Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, where a small but virulent Islamic State cell poses a threat to Afghan and U.S. coalition forces." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "Arkansas executed a death-row inmate late Thursday night in the state’s fourth lethal injection in eight days, concluding a frantic execution schedule officials said was needed to carry out death sentences before one of their deadly drugs expired. The aggressive timetable drew international scrutiny and criticism, pushing Arkansas into the epicenter of American capital punishment as it attempted to carry out an unprecedented wave of executions. Court orders ultimately blocked half of the scheduled lethal injections, including a second that had also been scheduled for Thursday night, even as the state was able to resume executions for the first time in more than a decade." -- CW 

Separate but Not Equal. Emma Brown of the Washington Post: "A federal judge has ruled that a predominantly white Alabama city may separate from its more diverse school district, even though the judge concluded that the action was motivated by race and sent messages of racial inferiority and exclusion that 'assail the dignity of black schoolchildren.'... Judge Madeline Haikala of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham — who oversees Jefferson County’s desegregation efforts — issued a ruling late Monday that fully satisfied neither side, charting a path forward for a breakup that she said had been 'deplorable' in some ways.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jamie Hale of the Oregonian: "Organizers of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade announced Tuesday that the event will be canceled, for fear that the east Portland parade could be disrupted by 'the type of riots which happen in downtown Portland.' Originally scheduled this Saturday, April 29, the parade is meant to highlight the local community and businesses along Southeast 82nd Avenue, aiming to turn around the negative perception many people have of the area. It started in 2007 and has since become a popular event on the Rose Festival calendar.... At least two protests were planned for the day of the parade, one by Oregon Students Empowered and another by Direct Action Alliance. Both events were mentioned in an email sent to parade organizers on Saturday, threatening to shut down the event with hundreds of protesters in the street." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Way Beyond

Robery Mackey of The Intercept: "France's Jewish community is watching the second round of this year’s presidential election with profound unease, as Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front has unveiled plans to ban the ritual slaughter of animals for kosher and halal meat and promoted a deputy who has been accused of praising an infamous Holocaust denier. Le Pen temporarily stepped aside this week as the leader of the extreme nationalist party ... as part of an effort to present a more moderate face in the general election.... That attempt was immediately spoiled, however, by the revelation that the former associate of her father she put in charge of the party, Jean-François Jalkh, told a scholar in 2000 that he did not accept evidence that the Nazis used the pesticide Zyklon B to murder Jews in the death camps." --safari

Thursday
Apr272017

The Commentariat -- April 27, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Dan Lamothe & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon’s top watchdog has launched an investigation into money that former national security adviser and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn received from foreign groups, members of the House Oversight Committee said Thursday. The Pentagon office will try to determine whether Flynn 'failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving' the payments, according to an April 11 letter from Defense Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman. In the past, the Pentagon has advised retiring officers that because they can be recalled to military service, they may be subject to the Constitution’s rarely enforced emoluments clause, which prohibits top officials from receiving payments or favors from foreign governments." -- CW ...

I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don’t get it. After the president fired him for lying. It does not make any sense, and it makes the American people think the White House has something to hide. -- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Thursday ...

... Laurel Raymond of ThinkProgress: "Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) just released three damning new documents on ... Michael Flynn. The documents, provided by the Department of Defense, show that the Pentagon warned Flynn in 2014 that he could not legally take money from foreign governments without getting permission in advance. The same documents also confirm that Flynn did not ask for permission before taking payments  —  emoluments  —  from Russia. Flynn, despite the warning, accepted the payments and failed to disclose them on his application for security clearance in 2016. He similarly failed to disclose his lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.... According to Cummings, the new documents also contradict Flynn’s lawyer’s claim on Tuesday that Flynn actually had received proper permissions from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) before a trip to Moscow in December 2015." -- CW 

Missy Ryan & Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "Two U.S. service members were killed during operations against the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Thursday. Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the deaths occurred overnight in Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, where a small but virulent Islamic State cell poses a threat to Afghan and U.S. coalition forces." -- CW 

Trumpity-Doo-Dah Days. Josh Dawsey, et al., of Politico: "... interviews with nearly two dozen aides, allies, and others close to the president paint a ... picture ... of a White House on a collision course between Trump’s fixed habits and his growing realization that this job is harder than he imagined.... Trump’s critics and supporters alike are equally flummoxed about what this president stands for.... 'If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,' said one Trump confidante. 'To talk him out of doing crazy things.'...White House aides have figured out that it’s best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be – and especially how it will play in the press.” -- CW

Nicholas Kristof: "What do you do if you’re a historically unpopular new president, with a record low approval rating by 14 points, facing investigations into the way Russia helped you get elected, with the media judging your first 100 days in office as the weakest of any modern president? Why, you announce a tax cut! And in your self-absorbed way, you announce a tax cut that will hugely benefit yourself. Imagine those millions saved!... Trump’s new tax 'plan' (more like an extremely vague plan for a plan) is an irresponsible, shameless, budget-busting gift to zillionaires like himself.... This isn’t tax policy; it’s a heist." -- CW ...

... digby: "... it's interesting that [administration officials] decided it was a good idea to put out a sheet of paper with a vague blueprint laying out tax cuts for Donald Trump and his family that makes it clear they didn't give a second thought to the question of how it would affect the average working family. I assume they thought this would be popular.... Amid increased press scrutiny of Trump’s falsehoods and failings, do Trump’s assaults on the media — and the related widespread belief among Trump voters that the media regularly produces false stories — further bond them to Trump and make them more likely to believe he’s succeeding? It’s possible." -- CW ...

... Tom Nichols, in a USA Today op-ed: "President Trump’s record in his first 100 days, by any standard of presidential first terms, is one of failure.... Not surprisingly, Trump is at this point the most unpopular new president in the history of modern polling.... At the same time, 96% of Trump voters say they have no regrets about their choice.... Too many Trump supporters do not hold the president responsible for his mistakes or erratic behavior because they are incapable of recognizing them as mistakes.... There is a more disturbing possibility here than pure ignorance: that voters not only do not understand these issues, but also that they simply do not care about them. As his supporters like to point out, Trump makes the right enemies, and that’s enough for them. Journalists, scientists, policy wonks — as long as 'the elites' are upset, Trump’s voters assume that the administration is doing something right.... When voters choose ill-informed grudges and diffuse resentment over the public good, a republic becomes unsustainable." ...

     ... CW: Nichols threw is some both-siderisms, which I chose to ignore.

Kirk Semple & Elisabeth Malkin of the New York Times: "... on Wednesday, the suggestion from the White House that Mr. Trump was finalizing an executive order to begin the process of withdrawing the United States from Nafta revealed a ... Mexico ... that was learning to live with what it considers Mr. Trump’s bluster and stagecraft — and not inclined to publicly react too quickly. 'It seems like he’s sitting at a poker table bluffing rather than making serious decisions,' said Senator Armando Ríos Piter, a Mexican legislator. 'In front of a bluffer, you always have to maintain a firm and dignified position.'” -- CW 

Separate but Not Equal. Emma Brown of the Washington Post: "A federal judge has ruled that a predominantly white Alabama city may separate from its more diverse school district, even though the judge concluded that the action was motivated by race and sent messages of racial inferiority and exclusion that 'assail the dignity of black schoolchildren.'... Judge Madeline Haikala of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham — who oversees Jefferson County’s desegregation efforts — issued a ruling late Monday that fully satisfied neither side, charting a path forward for a breakup that she said had been 'deplorable' in some ways.” -- CW 

Jamie Hale of the Oregonian: "Organizers of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade announced Tuesday that the event will be canceled, for fear that the east Portland parade could be disrupted by 'the type of riots which happen in downtown Portland.' Originally scheduled this Saturday, April 29, the parade is meant to highlight the local community and businesses along Southeast 82nd Avenue, aiming to turn around the negative perception many people have of the area. It started in 2007 and has since become a popular event on the Rose Festival calendar.... At least two protests were planned for the day of the parade, one by Oregon Students Empowered and another by Direct Action Alliance. Both events were mentioned in an email sent to parade organizers on Saturday, threatening to shut down the event with hundreds of protesters in the street." -- CW 

*****

Gail Collins captures the essence of the Trump administration. It's amazing how, again & again, "A Day in the Life of Donald" is so comically absurd.

Trump Proves He Can Write One-Page Wish List for the Wealthy in Only 100 Days. Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Wednesday proposed a dramatic overhaul of the tax code, calling for sharply lower rates for individuals and businesses but also eliminating key tax breaks. The proposal is a one-page outline – key details are left incomplete – but it presents an initial offer to begin negotiations with lawmakers, as White House officials believe reworking the tax code is one of their biggest priorities to boost economic growth.... Many budget experts believe the White House’s plan would reduce federal revenues by so much that it would grow the debt by trillions of dollars in the next decade, growing interest costs and slowing the economy." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Me Me Me Me Me. Eric Levitz: "Since Trump took office, he has provided countless demonstrations of the insatiable avarice he proudly advertised [during his campaign]. The president has shamelessly refused to put any meaningful distance between himself and his globe-spanning business interests, while directing millions of public dollars into the coffers of his own properties, and using his bully pulpit to promote his daughter’s fashion line. But all that tasteless, unprecedented, norm-sha[ttering stuff is small potatoes. For Donald Trump, the real payday lies in simply passing a personally tailored version of the Republican Party’s regressive agenda. On Wednesday, the president unveiled his plan for 'reforming' the corporate tax code. And the cornerstone of that proposal is a giant tax cut for corporations — and an even bigger one for businesses like his own.... Trump’s plan is a blueprint for a raid on the federal treasury — one that would deliver the lion’s share of its spoils to the wealthiest individuals and businesses in the United States, while tossing a few bucks in hush money to the witnesses in the middle class." Levitz provides a useful breakdown of what's on that one page Trump wrote. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Munchin Has No Idea What One-Page Doc Means. Morgan Winsor of ABC News: "Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told ABC News today that he couldn’t say how Donald Trump's sweeping tax overhaul plan would affect the president personally, while also declining to guarantee that middle-class families wouldn't pay more under the proposal. 'I can't make any guarantees until this thing is done and it’s on the president's desk. But I can tell you, that’s our number one objective in this,' Mnuchin said on ABC News' 'Good Morning America.'" -- CW ...

... The Audacity of Greed. New York Times Editors: "... the skimpy one-page tax proposal [Trump's] administration released on Wednesday is, by any historical standard, a laughable stunt by a gang of plutocrats looking to enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s future.... The outcome cannot be good. There are legitimate reasons to run deficits, including lifting the economy in tough times, strengthening the military against proven threats and building or rebuilding public infrastructure. Borrowing trillions of dollars to provide a huge windfall for people at the top is not one of those reasons." -- CW 

Sarah Westwood of the Washington Examiner: "President Trump said Wednesday that he has 'absolutely' considered proposals that would split up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges have blocked two of his executive actions. 'Absolutely, I have,' Trump said of considering 9th Circuit breakup proposals during a far-ranging interview with the Washington Examiner at the White House. 'There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous. Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit. And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations.... Because they know that's like, semi-automatic,' Trump said." -- CW ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... Trump seems to be under the impression that if the Ninth Circuit went away, he’d stop having all these legal problems with his executive orders.... Aside from all that, Trump does not seem to have the foggiest idea why these godless liberal judges from hippie-land keep ruling against him.... A pretty cursory glance at all the adverse decisions on the travel ban should inform Trump that the problem was ... with the things he said during the campaign that suggest the order was an implicit effort to impose a blatantly unconstitutional Muslim ban. He might eventually prevail on that issue if it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, but he has no one but himself to blame until then. As for the new decision on the sanctuary cities order, all his ranting and raving about murderous immigrants has almost nothing to do with the legal issues, which involve the contradiction between his attorneys’ claim his order is intended to be merely symbolic, and his own (and his attorney general’s) claims they will strip the sanctuary cities of any and all federal funds." -- CW ...

of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Wednesday denounced as 'ridiculous' a court ruling blocking his effort to withhold federal funds from cities and towns that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities.... In a series of tweets, Trump vowed that the White House was ready to bring the case to the Supreme Court and blasted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which was part of legal decisions blocking Trump’s travel restrictions on several Muslim-majority countries. 'First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities — both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!' Trump wrote.... U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick — who imposed a temporary nationwide injunction against Trump’s Jan. 25 order — does not serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, though those judges would review his decisions. In an earlier statement, the White House took aim at Orrick, saying his ruling 'unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our nation' and claiming it will give legal cover to underworld networks including sex traffickers and human smuggling operations. 'This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge,' the White House statement said.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Words Matter, Ctd. Derek Hawkins of the Washington Post: "When a long list of comments from President Trump, his surrogates and his spokesmen shows up in a federal court ruling, it’s fair to say it can only mean one thing: a constitutionally questionable executive order is about to get a judicial smackdown. That was true in March, when federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland suspended Trump’s travel ban, saying the administration had showed a clear animus toward Muslims, despite government lawyers’ claims to the contrary. And it was true Tuesday, when U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick of California temporarily froze Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities, ruling that a case could be made that it violated the Constitution.... In his ruling, the judge pointed to a February interview between Trump and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, in which Trump called the order 'a weapon' to use against cities that tried to defy his immigration policies.... The judge also cited news conferences in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to 'claw back any funds' awarded to a city that violated the order." -- CW 

Tara Palmeri of Politico: "The Trump administration is considering an executive order on withdrawing the U.S. from NAFTA, according to two White House officials. A draft order has been submitted for the final stages of review and could be unveiled late this week or early next week, the officials said. The effort, which still could change in the coming days as more officials weigh in, would indicate the administration’s intent to withdraw from the sweeping pact by triggering the timeline set forth in the deal. The approach appears designed to extract better terms with Canada and Mexico.... Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s National Trade Council, drafted the executive order in close cooperation with ... Steve Bannon." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Damian Paletta & Todd Frankel of the Washington Post: "President Trump told the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Wednesday that the United States would not be pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement 'at this time,' opening the door to future negotiations on the same day that Trump was considering signaling a strong intent to withdraw as a potential way of bringing the parties together at the deal-making table. Trump spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late Wednesday afternoon after reports circulated during the day that the president was contemplating withdrawing from NAFTA." -- CW ...

     ... Paul Waldman: "If I were Canada and Mexico I wouldn’t be filled with terror. It’s obvious by now that Trump negotiates using a lot of bluster and threats, which he eventually backtracks from." -- CW 

It was an okay briefing. -- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee)

I, frankly, don't understand why it's not easier to bring four people here than it is to take 100 there. -- Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

We learned nothing you couldn't read in the newspaper. -- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)

It felt more like a dog and pony show to me than anything else. I guess it has something to with this 100 days in office. -- Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) ...

... David Nakamura & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "President Trump and his top national security advisers briefed congressional lawmakers Wednesday on what a senior aide called the 'very grave threat' posed by North Korea, but they offered few details about the administration’s strategy to pressure Pyongyang.... Trump and Vice President Pence briefly addressed the senators at the beginning of the meeting. When they left, senators heard from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence; and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.... Several members of Congress said the administration remained vague about its efforts to confront Pyongyang beyond tougher talk from Trump.... Although the briefing was sobering, it was not revelatory, some of the participants said." -- CW ...

... The Briefest of Briefings. Kaili Gray of Shareblue: "After the highly unusual move of inviting the entire Senate to the White House for a national security briefing on North Korea, Donald Trump spent all of 14 minutes with the senators, according to several White House reporters.... His meeting lasted 4 minutes longer than the 10 minutes he said it took him to learn that 'it’s not so easy' to understand North Korea and its relationship with China." -- CW 

More on Sleazebags, Inc., the Company Now Operating the U.S.A. Following a Hostile Takeover. Jesse Drucker of the New York Times: "For much of the roughly $50 million in down payments [Jared Kushner & his family real estate business made on Manhattan buildings in 2012, he] turned to an undisclosed overseas partner. Public records and shell companies shield the investor’s identity. But, it turns out, the money came from a member of Israel’s Steinmetz family, which built a fortune as one of the world’s leading diamond traders.... The family’s most prominent figure, is the billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is under scrutiny by law enforcement authorities in four countries.... Dealings with the Steinmetz family could create complications for Mr. Kushner. The Justice Department, led by Trump appointees, oversees the investigation into Beny Steinmetz.... The Kushner Companies appear to have carried out a public scrubbing of its Steinmetz associations. But the Kushners have not stopped making deals with the Steinmetz family.... [Kushner's] firm has taken part in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions over the last decade, many of them backed by foreign partners whose identities he will not reveal." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ta-ta, Net Neutrality. We Hardly Knew Ye. Cecilia Kang of the New York Times: "The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday outlined a sweeping plan to loosen the government’s oversight of high-speed internet providers, a rebuke of a landmark policy approved two years ago. The chairman, Ajit Pai, said high-speed internet service should no longer be treated like a public utility with strict rules, as it is now. Instead, he said, the industry should largely be left to police itself. The plan is Mr. Pai’s most forceful action in his race to roll back rules that govern telecommunications, cable and broadcasting companies.... But he is certain to face a contentious battle with consumers and tech companies that rallied around the existing rules, which are meant to prevent broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast from giving special treatment to any streaming videos, news sites and other content.... The [2015] rules were intended to ensure an open internet, meaning that no content could be blocked by broadband providers and that the internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Ivanka Trump ... said in an interview aired on Wednesday that the United States might need to admit more refugees from Syria, a pointed public departure from one of her father’s bedrock populist positions. Ms. Trump’s comments, which seemed to question the basis for President Trump’s two executive orders that tried to bar migrants from Syria and other predominantly Muslim nations, set off a minor scramble in the West Wing. Advisers grappled with a political problem unique to Mr. Trump’s family-business White House: how to manage an officially empowered daughter who is prone to challenging elements of the president’s conservative agenda.... Two advisers to Mr. Trump, who declined to be identified talking about an internal White House dispute, described the statement as a political misstep." -- CW ...

... Mike Allen of Axios: "Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.... Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.... President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter's idea, and she has consulted with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way." --safari...

     ... safari: How many statues of donald will he have commissioned with this massive slush fund? Maybe a bust for the whole family? Hopefully the sculptor stays true to Melania's death glare and adds in some Medusa snake hair for flare. ...

    ... CW Note: According to the Thrush-Haberman report linked above, "Ms. Trump — who will promote the initiative through public and media appearances — will not solicit funds or have authority over how the money is spent, according to a senior administration official.... Funding decisions will be made by corporate donors and the participating countries, including Canada, Germany and several Middle Eastern nations." See also related article by Adele Stan, linked below.

Congress Plays Kick-the-Can. Sarah Ferris of Politico: "House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen late Wednesday released a short-term spending bill that would give lawmakers an extra week to strike a final deal and avert a government shutdown. In announcing the stopgap bill, top Republican appropriators in both chambers said lawmakers are close to an agreement that would fully fund the government through September, but they need more time to hash out final details before the Friday deadline for fiscal 2017 funding. Both spending committee chairmen — Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) — said lawmakers have made 'substantial progress' toward an agreement. Frelinghuysen added that a short-term bill is needed to 'finalize' the package." ...

     ... CW: Take a look at the accompanying photo of Frelinghuysen. Although Frelinghuysen is an old-money nabob with deep, deep roots in New Jersey, he just looks like some fictional character named Rodney Frelinghuysen, maybe one of the hapless criminals in a "Fargo" episode. Life isn't fair, even to the luckiest of duckies. 

Rebecca Shabad of CBS News: "The White House on Wednesday afternoon notified lawmakers that it will continue Obamacare payments despite threatening to cut them off next month, in a step forward for negotiations over a government-wide spending package.  These payments are made to health insurers to help low-income people enrolled under the health care law with out-of-pocket expenses." -- CW ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The House Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-liners who were instrumental in blocking President Trump’s plan to repeal the health care law, gave its approval to a new, far more conservative bill than the one that failed in the House last month. That backing breathed new life into Republican efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, but it was not clear that the revised legislation — which the Trump administration still hopes to see on the House floor this week — could garner the Republican votes needed to pass and move on to the Senate, where its fate is grim." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Caitlin Owens & Jonathan Swan of Axios: "There is now discussion on the Hill and in the White House about a health care vote this Friday. The House whip team is busy counting moderate votes and gauging support within the caucus.... A Friday health care vote isn't 'outside the realm,' Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker told Axios, adding that people are discussing a Friday vote and things are 'even trending that direction.'" -- CW: Of course "health care bill" is a misnomer. ...

... Tommy Christopher of Shareblue: "In their desperation for a legislative win in the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency, Republicans have hastily cobbled together an even worse health care plan than the one that failed a few weeks ago. The new plan is crueler, and ... appears to throw even more people off of their insurance, while making it less comprehensive and more expensive for those who can still afford it. But just as they exempted themselves from paying the lion’s share of their own premiums in the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have slipped in a provision to protect themselves from their new law’s attacks on your health care. While the state where you live could opt to charge you more because of your age or medical condition, or drop essential benefits like maternity care, those changes would not apply to members of Congress and their staff[.]" See Sarah Kliff's report, linked below. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ed Kilgore: "So: House Republicans are not only failing to make themselves subject to the same laws as the Americans whose health care coverage they are seeking to reduce: they are going out of their way to keep Obamacare — you know, that tyrannical and insanely expensive system they are so determined to destroy. This is the kind of unforced error of which legislative fiascos are made. And it’s not like Zombie Trumpcare was doing that well even before the revelation that House Republicans considered it sauce for the taxpayer goose, but not for the congressional gander." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... digby: "They're special, vital people who need those protections. The rest of us don't. We're expendable. This is a very revealing moment and one which would be nice to see blown up in the media. It's so hard for anything specific to penetrate that it's difficult to make that happen. But it is a powerful illustration that Republicans know exactly what their plan is going to do to people." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kevin Drum: "I'm not normally too bothered by political hypocrisy, but this really jumps the shark. Back in 2009, Republicans gleefully proposed an amendment to Obamacare that would make it apply to Congress. They apparently figured that this would show up Democrats who didn't want to eat their own dog food. But no: Democrats were perfectly willing to be covered by their own law. They ... voted for the amendment, and Republicans were then stuck using Obamacare for their insurance.But now that they're in charge, Republicans are dead set on not eating their dog food. And who can blame them? Their dog food sucks." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Adele Stan of the American Prospect: "Ivanka [Trump] carries the water for a regime branded 'Trump' that is oppressive to women of all kinds — all in the name of what she calls feminism.... To women invested in a system of white patriarchy, Ivanka symbolizes a triumph — a woman living richly with almost all the freedom she could ever want so long as she moves within rather rigid parameters.... Having done a cost-benefit analysis, she concluded that the deal works for her, so she’s happy to sell out women around the globe, American women of limited means who need screenings for women’s cancers and other diseases, and women who are sick of being paid less than a man for doing the same work. What Ivanka is selling is far more dangerous than it appears, wrapped as it is in pastels and good lighting.... INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY IS not a new thing, and the Trumps have already benefited mightily from it, given the data gleaned from exit polls.... [Fifty-three] percent of white women in the electorate ... voted for [Donald Trump]." -- CW ...

... Yo, Democratic Men: Women's Rights Are Human Rights. Jodi Jacobson in Rewire: "That [Heath] Mello[, anti-abortion Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska,] was put on the national stage as a paragon of progressive values came as a sucker punch to reproductive rights advocates who have been fighting incessant battles against Republicans, yes, but also against Democrats, the latter of whom have too often proven complicit in restricting access to essential health care.... When women’s rights leaders protested, party leaders very quickly trotted out the most common Democratic Party shibboleths — with the least basis in fact — to quell the firestorm.... The first people to effectively tell women to sit down were [Bernie] Sanders and DNC chair Tom Perez — both of whom should have known better and who later reversed course to publicly support reproductive rights, because, let’s face it, a great deal of PAC money and organizing power is involved." Via Paul Waldman. -- CW ...

... Medical Discovery: It Pays to Have a Penis. Kathryn Vasel of CNN: "Among all physicians, females earn an average of 74 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to a new report from Doximity, a social network for healthcare professionals. That translates to female physicians earning roughly $91,000 less a year than their male counterparts. Among all full-time workers in the U.S., women earned an average of around 82 cents for every dollar men made in 2016, according to the Labor Department. Even when broken down by medical specialty, there is no area where women earn as much as men." -- CW 

Jeremy Peters & Thomas Fuller of the New York Times: "Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she is canceling her planned speech at the University of California, Berkeley, because she had lost the backing of conservative groups that had initially sponsored her appearance. Ms. Coulter, in a message to The New York Times, said, 'It’s a sad day for free speech.'... Late on Tuesday, the conservative group that was helping Ms. Coulter in her legal efforts to force Berkeley to host her, Young America’s Foundation, said it could no longer participate. 'Young America’s Foundation will not jeopardize the safety of its staff or students,' the group said.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Beyond the Beltway

Liliana Segura & Jordan Smith of The Intercept: "The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission after more than a year of work has recommended that a moratorium on carrying out capital punishment in the state be continued indefinitely. 'It is undeniable that innocent people have been sentenced to death in Oklahoma,' the report concludes.... It is not the first time a report has found deep problems with the death penalty in Oklahoma. A blistering grand jury report released last year found myriad failures by state officials entrusted to carry out lethal injection. But this is a more far-reaching review." --safari

Way Beyond

Robert Mackey of The Intercept: "Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France’s far-right National Front..., is eager to offer his daughter [Marine Le Pen] some advice, whether she wants it or not: to win, she needs to drop the facade of moderation and 'campaign à la Trump,' by channeling the anger of disaffected working-class voters who have abandoned mainstream parties for the far-left as well as the far-right.... 'That’s to say, a wide-open campaign, very aggressive against those who are responsible for the decay of the country, whether right or left.'" --safari

Martin Chulov, et al. of the Guardian: "Large numbers of foreign fighters are abandoning Islamic State and trying to enter Turkey, with at least two British nationals and a US citizen joining an exodus that is depleting the ranks of the terror group...Dozens more foreigners have fled in recent weeks, most caught as they tried to cross the frontier, as Isis’s capacity to hold ground in Syria and Iraq collapses.... Officials in Turkey and Europe say an increasing number of Isis operatives who have joined the group since 2013 have contacted their embassies looking to return. Other, more ideologically committed members are thought to be intent on using the exodus to infiltrate Turkey and then travel onwards to Europe to seek vengeance for the crumbling caliphate, raising renewed fears of strikes on the continent." --safari