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

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

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

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America."

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody."

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings."

Click on the picture to see larger image.... AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress."

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco."

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers."

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends."

Constant Comments

Friday
Aug182017

The Commentariat -- August 19, 2017

Nahal Toosi & Eliana Johnson of Politico: "Top administration officials in favor of sending more troops to Afghanistan teamed up ahead of a high-level meeting on Friday to persuade ... Donald Trump to step up American military involvement in the 16-year-old war, two sources told Politico. Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser H.R. McMaster rehearsed their pitch heading into the Camp David strategy session.... But as of Friday evening, the president had not announced a decision on his plans for Afghanistan.... And no announcement appeared imminent. The two sources — an administration official and a senior White House aide — also confirmed that Erik Prince, founder of the former Blackwater private security firm, had been scheduled to attend the session but that ... McMaster ... blocked Prince... at the last minute.... Prince has been urging the administration publicly and privately to outsource much of the war effort — which primarily involves training and advising Afghan security forces. Prince had the backing of Steve Bannon, who was ousted Friday from his role as the chief White House strategist."

... Larry Buchanan, et al., of the New York Times name "the top White House officials who resigned, or were fired, dismissed or reassigned. Mr. Trump also fired James B. Comey as director of the F.B.I. and Sally Q. Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration who was serving as his acting attorney general." ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "... it’s remarkable that Trump has burned through so many of his choices for senior jobs in less than seven months in office. For instance, his predecessor Barack Obama went through four official chiefs of staff and one interim one over his eight years in office — something Trump mocked at the time: '3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can't manage to pass his agenda. — Donald J. Trump January 10, 2012' Trump is far exceeding that pace — not just for his own chief of staff (who had the shortest stint of anyone since the position was created) but for a whole swath of top-level White House jobs." ...

... Julia Wong of the Guardian: "In his first post-White House interviews, Steve Bannon ... made clear that he had no intention of going quietly. 'I’ve got my hands back on my weapons,' the former White House chief strategist, who returned as executive chairman of Breitbart News late Friday afternoon, told the Weekly Standard. 'I built a f[uck]ing machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.'” ...

The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over. -- Steve Bannon, to the Weekly Standard, Friday afternoon

If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents -- on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America. -- Steve Bannon, to Bloomberg News, Friday afternoon ...

... Peter Boyer of the Weekly Standard: “'On August 7th , I talked to [Chief of Staff John] Kelly and to the President, and I told them that my resignation would be effective the following Monday, on the 14th,' [Steve Bannon] said. '“I’d always planned on spending one year. General Kelly has brought in a great new system, but I said it would be best. I want to get back to Breitbart.' Bannon says that with the tumult in Charlottesville last weekend, and the political fallout since, Trump, Kelly, and he agreed to delay Bannon’s departure, but that he and Kelly agreed late this week that now was the time for Bannon to leave. Bannon may have resigned, but it was clear from the time that Kelly became chief of staff that Bannon’s remaining time in the West Wing was going to be short.... It is plainly Bannon’s view that his departure is not a defeat for him personally, but for the ideology he’d urged upon the president....” ...

... Joshua Green, et al., of Bloomberg News: "According to a person close to Bannon, he met Wednesday with conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies and a major financial supporter of both Trump and Bannon’s efforts. The two mapped out a path ahead for Bannon’s post-White House career and discussed how Trump could get his agenda back on track. The following evening, Mercer and several other major Republican donors had dinner with Trump to share their thinking, and Mercer also had a private meeting with Trump to pledge to redouble his efforts to support Bannon and advance Trump’s agenda.... Moving Bannon outside the White House raises new risks. Even if he continues to support the president, he may become aggressive in attacking the administration’s more traditional Republican players and policies. He has ample access to funding through his close relationships with Mercer and other major Republican donors.... Sebastian Gorka, a Bannon ally who previously worked with him at Breitbart News, also may face removal from his post as a counter-terrorism aide to the president, said two people with knowledge of the situation.... House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called Bannon’s ouster 'welcome news, but it doesn’t disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance.'” ...

... Michael Grynbaum & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Stephen K. Bannon, who left his post on Friday as President Trump’s chief strategist, has resumed his role as chairman of Breitbart News, the provocative right-wing website that propelled him to national fame. Hours after his departure from the White House was announced, Mr. Bannon led the evening editorial meeting of his former publication, Breitbart said on its website. 'The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today,' the editor in chief of Breitbart, Alex Marlow, said in a statement." ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Mr. Trump win the 2016 election, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede: "Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday. 'White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,' the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. 'We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.'” ...

... Ashley Parker, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump has decided to dismiss his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest, according to two people familiar with the move. Trump had been under mounting pressure to dispatch with Bannon...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede: "President Trump on Friday dismissed his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest, according to multiple administration officials." ...

... Jeremy Diamond, et al., of CNN: "Bannon was supposed to be fired two weeks ago, a White House official told CNN's Jeff Zeleny, but it was put off. CNN reports the President equivocated after an initial plan was to fire Bannon and then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at same time, the official says, because Rep. Mark Meadows, the influential chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and others urged Trump to keep him on board. The interview [with Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect] this week was enough for Meadows to change his view, a person close to him says." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Madison Kircher of New York: "Over on 4chan, users are discussing whether or not they’ll continue to support Trump now that Bannon is gone. While there’s some support for a Bannon-free Trump administration, the bulk of comments mourn the senior strategist in some, uh, colorful language.... There’s a similar conversation happening over on Reddit, too. Though it’s slightly — thank you, moderators — more tame.... Meanwhile, Twitter reaction has been everybody making the same joke about Trump taking down a pro-Confederacy statue at the White House."

Maggie Haberman & Ken Vogel of the New York Times: "President Trump dined on Thursday night at his Bedminster golf club with a handful of the right’s most generous donors, as he tried to build support for his hobbled legislative agenda amid mounting criticism from within his own party, three people briefed on the dinner said. The dinner was scheduled weeks ago as part of a donor-outreach initiative by the Trump administration as it prepares an overhaul of the tax code, according to several people involved in the planning. But it came as the White House is struggling to move past the racially charged controversy that Mr. Trump fueled in the wake of the deadly white supremacist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Va." ...

Bryan Bender & Negassi Tesfamichael of Politico: "Military leaders have hastened to denounce racism amid the furor over ... Donald Trump’s defense of white supremacists who violently rallied last week around a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. But they are also presiding over their own controversial symbols of the Confederacy — including 10 Army bases named for generals who commanded armies of the slave-holding South during the Civil War, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Rucker in Alabama. On Friday, a group of mostly African-American Democrats in the House proposed legislation that would require the defense secretary to rename any military property 'that is currently named after any individual who took up arms against the United States during the American Civil War or any individual or entity that supported such efforts.' They argued that the names undermine the military's commitment to American values of 'freedom, equality, and democratic governance.' The office of the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, told Politico that he too he supports renaming bases named for Confederates." ...

... Gail Collins wants to put a remove-by date on publicly-situated statues. ...

... Jonah Bromwich of the New York Times: "The mother of the woman who was run down by a car during violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., said Friday that after seeing President Trump’s comments equating white supremacist protesters with those demonstrating against them, she does not wish to speak with him. 'I’m not talking to the president now; I’m sorry,' Susan Bro said. 'After what he said about my child.' In an interview on ABC’s 'Good Morning America,' Ms. Bro said that she had initially missed several calls from the White House, the first of which came during the funeral of her daughter, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed when a man drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters on Saturday. She said that she had been too busy with the funeral and working to set up a foundation in her daughter’s name to watch the news until Thursday night. That was when she saw footage of Mr. Trump’s explosive Tuesday news conference, in which he said that there was 'blame on both sides' for the violence in Charlottesville.'” ...

... Paul Waldman. It doesn't matter whether or not Donald Trump is a racist. He "is the most racially divisive president in our lifetimes — and it’s not even close. From literally the moment he began his presidential campaign in 2015, he has spread racist ideas, made racist arguments, appealed to racist sentiments, enacted racist policies, and encouraged the most repugnant racists in American society to become more vocal and visible.... .... So Steve Bannon may be gone, but we shouldn’t let that fool us into thinking that the Trump administration has undergone some kind of transformation. We’ll know that something has truly changed if the Justice Department displays a genuine commitment to upholding civil rights, or if the administration dials back on its vote suppression efforts, or if the president himself stops making statements that bring so much joy to the most detestable hatemongers in American society.... I don’t know about you, but I’m not expecting much." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Adam Kelsey of ABC News: "Businessman Carl Icahn announced on Friday that he will step away from his role as a special advisor to ... Donald Trump on regulatory reform issues -- a decision he claims was made to avoid the suggestion of conflicts of interest by critics of the administration.... The announcement from Icahn, the founder and majority shareholder of conglomerate Icahn Enterprises, comes days after a number of business leaders resigned from the White House's American Manufacturing Council in the aftermath of Trump's response to last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The American Manufacturing Council disbanded on Wednesday, as did a second, separate panel of CEOs, dubbed the Strategic and Policy Forum. Icahn's letter made no mention of Charlottesville." ...

... Max Greenwood of the Hill: "The pastor of a New York megachurch said Friday that he has resigned from President Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board, citing 'a deepening conflict in values' with the administration. Rev. A.R. Bernard, who leads the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, said in a statement that he had 'quietly stepped away' from the panel several months ago, but submitted his formal resignation on Tuesday.... It was not immediately clear if Bernard had formally resigned from the panel because of the president's comments on Tuesday, in which he equated white nationalists to the counter-demonstrators who had gathered in Charlottesville to oppose them. The pastor signed onto a Monday letter from the Commission of Religious Leaders fiercely condemning hate groups in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville." ...

... Nancy Scola of Politico: "More business executives are departing en masse from Trump administration advisory positions, with a new set of resignations from a Commerce Department advisory board following an exodus from two business groups advising the White House, which then disbanded both of them. More than half of the members of the 15-person Digital Economy Board of Advisors, an expert board set up last year by the Obama administration to help the federal government navigate the digital economy, are known to have resigned this week in the wake of ... Donald Trump's controversial comments about the violence last week in Charlottesville, Va., that left one person dead." ...

... Drew Harwell & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Susan G. Komen on Friday joined a growing exodus of organizations canceling plans to hold fundraising events at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, deepening the financial impact to President Trump’s private business amid furor over his comments on Charlottesville. The major exits now mean seven of the club’s biggest event customers have abandoned it in a matter of hours, likely costing the Trump business hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue or more" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Maggie Haberman: "James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of a frequent ally of President Trump’s, condemned the president’s performance after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League. In an email on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed as authentic by a spokesman for Mr. Murdoch’s company, the Fox scion gave an extraordinarily candid statement against the white supremacist sentiment that swept through Virginia last weekend. It was also the most outspoken that a member of the Murdoch family has been in response to the week’s events.... '... I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists....'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Another advisory group is walking away from ... Donald Trump after his equivocation on neo-Nazis and white supremacists, with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigning en masse Friday morning. 'We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions,' members write in a joint letter to Trump obtained by Politico, which ends by calling on the president to resign if he does not see a problem with what’s happened this week. The first letter of each paragraph of the letter spells out 'Resist.'... The 17-member committee was appointed by President Barack Obama and hasn't met under Trump, but it has continued work on some of its programs." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "... none of the [Charlottesville] marchers soared so high or crashed so hard as Chris Cantwell, who became the ivory-skinned, gun-toting star of a documentary about Charlottesville that aired Monday on HBO — and a week later is better known as the 'weepy white supremacist' or 'weeping Nazi' who got banned from OkCupid."

Aram Roston of BuzzFeed: "Federal prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller are focusing keenly on the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and are trying to determine his intent when he attended a controversial June 9, 2016, meeting with a Russian lawyer, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Trump Jr. has acknowledged that he was looking for negative information about Hillary Clinton when he, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, met with the lawyer. But he claimed he did not receive any useful opposition research. The source familiar with the investigation said that prosecutors have been trying to determine exactly what information was provided and are scrutinizing Trump Jr.’s statements about the meeting. Requesting or accepting anything of value for a presidential campaign from a foreign national violates federal election law, legal experts told BuzzFeed News."

Tracy Jan of the Washington Post: "The person President Trump tapped this summer to oversee one of the largest regions under the Department of Housing & Urban Development is a longtime Trump family employee with no experience in housing, according to the one-page résumé Lynne Patton submitted as part of the transition. Patton began working for Trump’s son Eric in 2009 as the vice president of his foundation and as his primary aide. She oversaw all aspects of his business, charity and personal obligations. That included his home and spousal responsibilities as well as coordinating events. She was promoted in 2012 to be the Trump family’s senior aide and chief of staff, serving as the principal contact between the family members and all corporate partners, heads of state and high-end donors. Specifically, she worked for the Trump children, Donald Jr., Tiffany, Ivanka and Eric and his wife, Lara. During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Patton worked as his senior adviser and family liaison.... In June, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, an acclaimed neurosurgeon with no expertise in housing policy either, charged Patton with running the agency’s regional office overseeing New York and New Jersey. Her appointment stirred controversy because of her lack of experience and the fact that Trump has a 4 percent stake in a Brooklyn development, Starrett City, that is the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex.... Patton has officially recused herself from any decisions involving the Starrett City housing development, signing a 'conflict of interest disqualification' memorandum on July 12." 

Way Beyond the Beltway

James McAuley, et al., of the Washington Post: "Spain was seized Friday with the realization that it had incubated a large-scale terrorist plot, as authorities across Europe mounted a manhunt following the deadliest attacks to strike the country in more than a decade: two vehicle assaults in Barcelona and a Catalan coastal town. Investigators say they believe that at least eight people plotted the attacks, putting them at a level of sophistication comparable to major strikes in Paris and Brussels in recent years. Other more recent attacks in London, Berlin and the southern French city of Nice were perpetrated by individuals operating largely on their own. Spanish counterterrorism officers were scrambling to untangle the terrorist network, which involved at least four Moroccan citizens under age 25, according to intelligence officials. In addition to those four, authorities have detained three Moroccan men and a Spaniard." 

Friday
Aug182017

Circle of Evil

By Akhilleus


As President Brownshirt continues his very public kissyfacing with Nazis, and more white supremacy marches of hate and violence are planned across the country, it might be instructive to see where the Nazis got some of their most heinous ideas about race in the first place.

Surprise! They got them from America. I guess this is another example of American Exceptionalism. Nazis thought we were exceptionally good at fucking over non-Aryan races. After all, we had our own ethnic cleansing period (Indian Wars) that lasted over 200 years, and had enslaved a completely different race, all at the same time. Whew. That is some serious white supremacy going on there. Where else on earth were there better examples of how to use laws and public policy to screw other human beings of different races?

According to history.com, "'America in the early 20th century was the leading racist jurisdiction in the world,' says [James Q.]Whitman, who is a professor at Yale Law School. 'Nazi lawyers, as a result, were interested in, looked very closely at, [and] were ultimately influenced by American race law.'

In particular, Nazis admired the Jim Crow-era laws that discriminated against black Americans and segregated them from white Americans, and they debated whether to introduce similar segregation in Germany."

The Jim Crow era, you may recall, was a time when most of the now revered monuments to white people stepping black people were erected. Those monuments for which Trump demonstrates such sentiment.

But there was a problem. American laws didn't go far enough. Here's why. Blacks were already poor and oppressed. Jews in Weimar Germany were in much better shape, socially and economically. So, what to do? Who had the answer to this thorny problem?

Again...We did.

"Nazis were more interested in how the U.S. had designated Native Americans, Filipinos and other groups as non-citizens even though they lived in the U.S. or its territories. These models influenced the citizenship portion of the Nuremberg Laws, which stripped Jewish Germans of their citizenship and classified them as 'nationals.'"

And another big plus for Hitler were American miscegenation laws.

"'America had, by a wide margin, the harshest law of this kind,' Whitman says. 'In particular, some of the state laws threatened severe criminal punishment for interracial marriage. That was something radical Nazis were very eager to do in Germany as well.'"

This was that state's rights thing that Confederates are still up in arms about. The right to screw others (and to put the kibosh on other kinds of screwing). And we're still seeing it in the way wingers have set about destroying voting rights for Americans who might not vote for their approved candidates.

Ohhhh....Nazis loved them some American ideas about race. And we have returned the favor by loving the updating of those ideas as they've been filtered back to the US and which now find approval from the American President.

Everything old (and evil) is new again. And the ideas and concepts about racism that influenced one of the most deadly regimes in world history are being revived and held up the president as models of social engagement.

That's how we roll in Trump's Amerika.

Thursday
Aug172017

The Commentariat -- August 18, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Mr. Trump win the 2016 election, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon." ...

     ... New Lede: "Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday. 'White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,' the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. 'We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.'” ...

... Ashley Parker, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump has decided to dismiss his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest, according to two people familiar with the move. Trump had been under mounting pressure to dispatch with Bannon...." ...

     ... New Lede: "President Trump on Friday dismissed his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest, according to multiple administration officials." ...

... Jeremy Diamond, et al., of CNN: "Bannon was supposed to be fired two weeks ago, a White House official told CNN's Jeff Zeleny, but it was put off. CNN reports the President equivocated after an initial plan was to fire Bannon and then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at same time, the official says, because Rep. Mark Meadows, the influential chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and others urged Trump to keep him on board. The interview [with Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect] this week was enough for Meadows to change his view, a person close to him says." ...

... Paul Waldman. It doesn't matter whether or not Donald Trump is a racist. He "is the most racially divisive president in our lifetimes — and it’s not even close. From literally the moment he began his presidential campaign in 2015, he has spread racist ideas, made racist arguments, appealed to racist sentiments, enacted racist policies, and encouraged the most repugnant racists in American society to become more vocal and visible.... .... So Steve Bannon may be gone, but we shouldn’t let that fool us into thinking that the Trump administration has undergone some kind of transformation. We’ll know that something has truly changed if the Justice Department displays a genuine commitment to upholding civil rights, or if the administration dials back on its vote suppression efforts, or if the president himself stops making statements that bring so much joy to the most detestable hatemongers in American society.... I don’t know about you, but I’m not expecting much." ...

... Drew Harwell & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Susan G. Komen on Friday joined a growing exodus of organizations canceling plans to hold fundraising events at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, deepening the financial impact to President Trump’s private business amid furor over his comments on Charlottesville. The major exits now mean seven of the club’s biggest event customers have abandoned it in a matter of hours, likely costing the Trump business hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue or more" ...

... Maggie Haberman: "James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of a frequent ally of President Trump’s, condemned the president’s performance after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League. In an email on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed as authentic by a spokesman for Mr. Murdoch’s company, the Fox scion gave an extraordinarily candid statement against the white supremacist sentiment that swept through Virginia last weekend. It was also the most outspoken that a member of the Murdoch family has been in response to the week’s events.... '... I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists....'" ...

... Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Another advisory group is walking away from ... Donald Trump after his equivocation on neo-Nazis and white supremacists, with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigning en masse Friday morning. 'We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions,' members write in a joint letter to Trump obtained by Politico, which ends by calling on the president to resign if he does not see a problem with what’s happened this week. The first letter of each paragraph of the letter spells out 'Resist.'... The 17-member committee was appointed by President Barack Obama and hasn't met under Trump, but it has continued work on some of its programs." ...

     ... Via P. D. Pepe.

*****

Giles Tremlett, et al., of the Guardian: "Spanish policeman shot dead five suspected terrorists in the coastal town of Cambrils, southwest of Barcelona, after they drove over pedestrians as part of what appeared to be a second terror attack. Some of the suspects, who were travelling in an Audi A3, were wearing what appeared to be explosive belts in a rampage that took place hours after a van had mowed down shoppers and tourists in Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas district, killing 13 and wounding about 100. Friday’s attack in Cambrils, in which six bystanders and a policeman were also wounded, came at the end of 24 hours of shocking violence along the Catalan coast, which the police said was the work of a terrorist cell determined to 'kill as many people as possible'.... The police ... later carried out controlled blasts on suspected explosive devices, amid reports the suspects had been wearing suicide vests.” ...

... Anne-Sophie Bolon, et al., of the New York Times: "A van driver deliberately zigzagged into a crowd enjoying a sunny afternoon on Barcelona’s main pedestrian mall Thursday, killing at least 13 people and leaving 80 lying bloodied on the pavement. It was the worst terrorist attack in Spain since 2004, and was at least the sixth time in the past few years that assailants using vehicles as deadly weapons have struck a European city.... Two people were later arrested, including a Moroccan man whose identification documents had been used to rent the van. But the Barcelona police said neither was believed to be the driver, who remained at large. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault...." ...

... The Guardian's live updates of the attacks in Catalonia are here.

... Michael Shear & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Despite ongoing rebukes over his defense of white supremacists, President Trump defiantly returned to his campaign’s nativist themes on Thursday. He lamented an assault on American 'culture,' revived a bogus, century-old story about killing Muslim extremists and attacked Republicans with a renewed vigor." ...

... Economist: "Mr Trump’s inept politics stem from a moral failure.... Mr Trump’s seemingly heartfelt defence of those marching to defend Confederate statues spoke to the degree to which white grievance and angry, sour nostalgia is part of his world view.... Instead of grasping that his job is to honour the office he inherited, Mr Trump is bothered only about honouring himself and taking credit for his supposed achievements.... Mr Trump is not a Republican, but the solo star of his own drama. By tying their fate to his, [Republican officials] are harming their country and their party. His boorish attempts at plain speaking serve only to poison national life." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... even assuming that Trump will survive this latest horror show, as he has survived many previous ones, his Presidency will be further diminished and tarnished.... By dint of his pigheadedness, or prejudice, or both, he has moved onto political ground that makes it virtually impossible for other people in influential positions, such as C.E.O.s, or the heads of other organizations, or senior government officials, or celebrities, or even his own Cabinet members, to stand with him, or even to be seen to coöperate with him. That is what happens when a President throws away his own legitimacy.... The fate of the Confederacy was settled more than a hundred and fifty years ago, and right now, Trump’s Presidency seems headed to a similarly ignominious ending." ...

... Frank Rich: "Yes, the confirmation that an American president is a racist bully whose empathy is mainly reserved for either neo-Nazis or neo-Stalinists has prompted an uptick in public expressions of outrage by some GOP politicians, but words are toothless. These few rhetorical defections are not enough of a revolt to get us to the endgame — the endgame not being impeachment (never going to happen) but Trump’s implosion.... With few exceptions, so-called GOP leaders are the same Vichy collaborators they’ve been since Trump seized the party’s presidential nomination. Notably pathetic, as always, is Paul Ryan.... What we’re seeing now is the stain spreading to administration personnel who were supposed to be better than this.... Keep in mind that [Trump] managed to both threaten nuclear war and embrace neo-Nazis while on vacation. Wait until he gets 'back to work.'” ...

... Brian Beutler: "It would be a stretch to say that Paul Ryan was a beacon of moral clarity during the presidential campaign, but the Republican House speaker’s standards have actually regressed considerably since then.... Ryan and other Republicans distancing themselves from Trump are objecting to Trump’s conduct more weakly now than they have in the past, and barely trying to conceal their true motives.... There are no moral exemplars with power over Trump, and most have subverted national interests by appeasing Trump in pursuit of their own narrow ones." ...

     ... Via Marvin S. ...

... Paul Krugman: Comparing Trump to Caligula is unfair .. to Caligula.

Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, Thursday ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Hours after an apparent terrorist attack in Barcelona, President Trump on Thursday recycled a largely discredited Internet tale that he promoted on the campaign trail as a way to call attention to what he has called 'radical Islamic terrorism.' In a Twitter message, Trump instructed his 36 million followers to look to the example of  Gen. John J. Pershing, who is said, in stories circulating online, to have dipped bullets in pigs' blood to execute Islamic terrorists in the Philippines whose religion forbid contact with the animals. The story has been found to be unsubstantiated by numerous fact-checkers in the media. But Trump first told the story during a campaign rally in February 2016, as he defended his position of supporting methods of torture, such as waterboarding, on terrorist suspects.” ...

Even if we put aside Trump’s strained relationship with reality, let’s not lose sight of the underlying point the president is eager to emphasize: in his mind, war crimes and mass executions are effective and worthwhile elements of an effective national security strategy. -- Steve Benen ...

... Louis Jacobson & Aaron Sharockman of Politifact: "This story is a fabrication and has long been discredited,' said Brian McAllister Linn, a Texas A&M University historian.... 'I am amazed it is still making the rounds.'... 'Even if the tale is true, the pacifying effect that Trump claims is nonsense,' said Michael H. Hunt, an emeritus historian at the University of North Carolina.... The region 'remained in constant unrest during the period of American rule and into the period of independence, right down to the present.'... Trump said that Pershing stopped "radical Islamic terror" for 35 years. Of the eight historians we checked with the first time we heard Trump speak about Pershing, all were at least skeptical that the specific tales of Pershing actually took place, and some expressed disbelief even more forcefully than that. But more critically, the historians took issue with Trump’s suggestion that the tactic -- if it was even used at all -- actually worked to end tensions, noting that unrest persisted for years."

Jane Perlez & Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "The Trump administration plunged America’s Asian alliances into new confusion Thursday with conflicting signals over how to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat, as the chief White House strategist [Steve Bannon] said a military solution was impossible. Three other leading officials of the administration — its top military general [Gen. Joseph Dunford] on a visit to China, and its defense secretary [Jim Mattis] and secretary of state [Rex Tillerson] in Washington — effectively contradicted him, emphasizing that Mr. Trump was prepared to take military action if necessary. The mixed messages about North Korea policy added to the sense of disarray coming from the White House, where Mr. Trump appeared to have all but forgotten the crisis a week after he threatened an ad hoc 'fire and fury' response to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, if he menaced the United States."

Fred Imbert of CNBC: "U.S. equities fell on Thursday on concerns President Trump's recent controversies will make it less likely for Congress to work with him to pass business-friendly legislation. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 274.14 points, or 1.2 percent, for its biggest drop since May 17, to close at 21,750.73. The index also snapped a four-day winning streak.... The index started falling earlier on fears that Gary Cohn, a business friendly advisor to the president, could resign his role as director of National Economic Council because of Trump's remarks following the violent protests in Charlottesville, VA." ...

Wasn’t this supposed to be Infrastructure Week at the White House? Somehow it turned into Confederate Appreciation Week. -- Paul Waldman ...

... John Wagner of the Washington Post: "A White House advisory council on infrastructure on Thursday became the latest casualty of the pique of business leaders over President Trump’s response to the hate-fueled violence in Charlottesville.... On Thursday, the White House announced that the Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure, which it said 'was still being formed,' would not move forward, meeting the same fate as the the manufacturing council and the Strategy and Policy Forum." ...

... Drew Harwell of the Washington Post: "Three fundraising giants decided to pull events from President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach on Thursday, signaling a direct blowback to his business empire from his comments on Charlottesville’s racial unrest. The American Cancer Society, a high-dollar client at the club since at least 2009, cited its 'values and commitment to diversity' in a statement on its decision to move an upcoming fundraising gala. Another longtime Mar-a-Lago customer, the Cleveland Clinic, abruptly changed course on its winter event only days after saying it planned to continue doing business at Mar-a-Lago.... The American Friends of Magen David Adom, which raises money for Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross, also said it would not hold its 2018 gala at the club 'after considerable deliberation,' though it did not give a reason. The charity had one of Mar-a-Lago’s biggest events last season...." ...

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has been one of the most outspoken GOP Trump critics in Congress, expressed displeasure with Trump’s response to the deadly weekend violence in Charlottesville and warned that if the president does not change his behavior, 'our nation is going to go through great peril.' 'The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,' the senator told reporters in Tennessee. 'And we need for him to be successful.'” ...

Shawna Thomas of Vice News: "In an interview with Vice News on Thursday, [Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)] condemned the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville and questioned the president’s moral authority following the tragedy. 'I’m not going to defend the indefensible…[Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.' Scott added that  the president hasn’t reached out to him to discuss Charlottesville." Scott is "the only black Republican in the Senate...." ...

... Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "... conservative hosts who have been generally supportive of Trump have spent the week endorsing his evolving message.... On Wednesday’s episode of 'Tucker Carlson Tonight,' there was a second consecutive night of questions about why Trump, not left-wing protesters, was the focus of criticism.... Much of [the criticism of Trump], Sean Hannity said, was a distraction from the racist past of the Democratic Party, a well-known bit of history which in conservative media is frequently claimed to be obscure.... And on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh argued that criticism was being lobbed at Trump to 'nullify the election.'...” ...

... Eric Levitz: "Trump’s personal hypocrisy on [commemorative monuments] is expansive. Beyond his own attempts to change Civil War history for fun and profit [by erecting a plaque on one of his golf courses to "commemorate" a Civil War battle that never happened], the president has also ordered the Department of the Interior to consider the removal or resizing of 30 national monuments — so as to make room for fossil-fuel extraction, among other things.... Like Trump’s plaque, Confederate monuments were born of a desire to rewrite the past for present convenience. This point should be obvious.... The South may have lost the Civil War, but it won the battle over how it would be remembered.... The statue of [Robert E.] Lee that brought white supremacists to Charlottesville last weekend wasn’t built to commemorate the Confederacy’s loss, but Jim Crow’s triumph.... Lee is not so widely memorialized because he was a uniquely racially progressive Confederate general, but because he was not.... We can either accept that monuments to Robert E. Lee are an affront to our nation’s highest values or that those neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were right about what those values truly are. Or else we can keep changing our history to suit the needs of reactionary, rich white fools...." ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox on the "huge problem" of likening Robert E. Lee to George Washington: "In fresh tweets Thursday morning, Donald Trump, a life-long New Yorker with no personal or familial connection whatsoever to the Confederate States of America, once again stood up for the principle that honoring the leaders of a 19th century rebellion whose goal was to entrench the institution of chattel slavery is similar to honoring the founders of the United States of America.... The big-picture point of the pantheon of American founders is to celebrate the good things about them.... [Thomas] Jefferson is in the pantheon because he wrote the Declaration of Independence and because of his wartime diplomatic service. Alexander Hamilton is in the pantheon because he wrote the Federalist Papers and laid the foundations of the American political economy. Washington is in the pantheon because he was the military leader of the successful war of independence and because he established the peaceful transfer of power from president to president.... Confederate leaders, by contrast, are being celebrated purely for doing something bad." ...

Ed Kilgore: "... there’s one prominent display of Confederate statuary that to an even greater extent represents unsuppressed rebel yells in the very heart of the Republic the Confederacy sought to destroy: the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Via a law passed, ironically, during the Civil War itself, states are allowed to place two statues of their choice in the collection. There are at least ten ex-Confederates currently so honored, and Senator Cory Booker has announced he will introduce legislation to have them removed.... As time went by and Jim Crow became a hardened part of the national landscape, southern states roused themselves to exercise their 'right' to put the images of former traitors ... in the national statuary collection."

David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Felix Sater, one of Donald Trump’s shadiest former business partners, is reportedly preparing for prison time — and he says the president will be joining him behind bars. Sources told The Spectator‘s Paul Wood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s deep dive into Trump’s business practices may be yielding results. Trump recently made remarks that could point to a money laundering scheme, Wood reported. 'I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?' the president said. Sater, who has a long history of legal troubles and is cooperating with law enforcement, was one of the major players responsible for selling Trump’s condos to the Russians."

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "The Navy plans to relieve the two top officers and the senior enlisted sailor of a destroyer that collided with a freighter off the coast of Japan in June, killing seven sailors in one of the sea service’s deadliest accidents in years.... About a dozen sailors over all face career-killing administrative actions as a result of the accident, Admiral [Bill] Moran said at a briefing at the Pentagon."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Justice Neil M. Gorsuch ... is scheduled to address a conservative group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington next month, less than two weeks before the court is set to hear arguments on Mr. Trump’s travel ban. Stephen Gillers, an expert on legal ethics at New York University, questioned the justice’s decision to speak at the hotel, which is at issue in lower-court cases challenging the constitutionality of payments to Mr. Trump’s companies."

Sheri Fink of the New York Times: "A settlement in the lawsuit against two psychologists who helped devise the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal interrogation program was announced on Thursday, bringing to an end an unusual effort to hold individuals accountable for the techniques the agency adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks. Lawyers for the three plaintiffs in the suit, filed in 2015 in Federal District Court in Spokane, Wash., said the former prisoners were tortured at secret C.I.A. detention sites. The settlement with the psychologists, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, came after a judge last month urged resolving the case before it headed to a jury trial in early September. The plaintiffs — two former detainees and the family of a third who died in custody — had sought unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. The terms of the settlement are confidential." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Wednesday
Aug162017

The Commentariat -- August 17, 2017

Afternoon Update:

William Booth, et al., of the Washington Post: "A driver swerved a van onto a pedestrian area Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, ramming into crowds and leaving at least 13 people dead and more than 50 injured scattered along a stretch of tree-shaded sidewalk. Authorities described the incident as a terrorist attack." ...

... Giles Tremlett of the Guardian: "A van has crashed into a crowd of people in central Barcelona, causing an unknown number of injuries, with local media reporting at least one armed man had subsequently entered a restaurant in the area. Spanish police, who said they were treating the incident as a terrorist attack, said several people were injured in the 'massive crash' on Las Ramblas.... Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the centre of Barcelona, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrianised path in the centre of the street, but cars can travel on either side." ...

... The Guardian has live updates here.

Sheri Fink of the New York Times: "A settlement in the lawsuit against two psychologists who helped devise the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal interrogation program was announced on Thursday, bringing to an end an unusual effort to hold individuals accountable for the techniques the agency adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks. Lawyers for the three plaintiffs in the suit, filed in 2015 in Federal District Court in Spokane, Wash., said the former prisoners were tortured at secret C.I.A. detention sites. The settlement with the psychologists, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, came after a judge last month urged resolving the case before it headed to a jury trial in early September. The plaintiffs — two former detainees and the family of a third who died in custody — had sought unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. The terms of the settlement are confidential."

*****

Michael Shear, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump found himself increasingly isolated in a racial crisis of his own making on Wednesday, abandoned by the nation’s top business executives, contradicted by military leaders and shunned by Republicans outraged by his defense of white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, Va.... The president’s top advisers described themselves as stunned, despondent and numb. Several said they were unable to see how Mr. Trump’s presidency would recover, and others expressed doubts about his capacity to do the job. In contrast, the president told close aides that he felt liberated by his news conference.... On Wednesday, even Fox News, a favorite of the president’s, repeatedly carried criticism of Mr. Trump. One Fox host, Shepard Smith, said that he had been unable to find a single Republican to come on-air to defend Mr. Trump’s remarks.... One aide who felt energized by the president’s actions was ... Stephen K. Bannon...." ...

... Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: “... Republicans are in hiding, apparently unsure how to answer questions about President Trump's response to last weekend's violence in Charlottesville — and unwilling to try. 'We invited every single Republican senator on this program tonight — all 52,' Chuck Todd said on MSNBC's 'MTP Daily' on Wednesday. 'We asked roughly a dozen House Republicans, including a bunch of committee chairs, and we asked roughly a half dozen former Republican elected officials, and none of them agreed to discuss this issue with us today.' That's about 70 rejections altogether, and other news anchors had the same experience on Wednesday — even on Fox News.”

      ... Via Patrick. To watch the video, you may have to sign in to prove your age. If so, & that's too much of a hassle, you can view the video here. At 9:30 pm ET Wednesday, the video had nearly 3 million viewers. ...

... Harriet Sinclair of Newsweek: "A neo-Nazi who said he was 'ready for violence' at the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has released footage of himself weeping after learning there is allegedly a warrant out for his arrest. Christopher Cantwell, who was followed during the gathering of neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacists and alt-right for a 22-minute documentary for VICE, showed off his guns to journalist Elle Reeve and boasted: 'I'm carrying a pistol, I go to the gym all the time, I'm trying to make myself more capable of violence.' However, in mobile phone footage uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday, Cantwell said he was terrified after learning the police wanted to speak with him.” Includes video.

Ellie Silverman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Those who loved Heather Heyer, along with strangers who have already elevated her into a symbol of defiance in the face of hate, gathered Wednesday at her memorial service to remember her as a born defender of justice who died for showing up when her beliefs demanded it. 'They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,' said Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, sparking an ovation from a packed theater in downtown Charlottesville that lasted nearly a minute and a half." ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Thursday mourned the loss of 'beautiful statues and monuments' in the wake of the violent clashes in Charlottesville during a white supremacist demonstration protesting the planned removal of a statue depicting Confederate military commander Robert E. Lee." ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump slammed Sen. Lindsey Graham Thursday.... 'Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer,' Trump wrote online, breaking his message up into two posts. 'Such a disgusting lie. He just can't forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!'” ...

... Politico: "... Donald Trump attacked Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake as 'toxic' on Thursday, just days before the president will visit Phoenix for an upcoming rally. 'Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!' Trump tweeted Thursday morning, minutes after he also rebuked GOP South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham over criticism of the president’s Charlottesville response. Ward, who unsuccessfully ran against Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2016, announced in October that she’ll run against Flake in 2018." ...

You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent. . . . You had a lot of people in that [white nationalist] group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know — I don’t know if you know — they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. President Trump, remarks during a news conference on infrastructure, August 15

President Trump twice claimed that counterprotesters lacked a permit to demonstrate in Charlottesville. But they did have permits for rallies — and they did not need one to go into or gather near Emancipation Park, where white nationalists planned their rally. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post 

... Michael Schmidt & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "President Trump’s personal lawyer on Wednesday forwarded an email to conservative journalists, government officials and friends that echoed secessionist Civil War propaganda and declared that the group Black Lives Matter 'has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.' The email forwarded by John Dowd, who is leading the president’s legal team, painted the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in glowing terms and equated the South’s rebellion to that of the American Revolution against England.... 'You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,' the email reads, 'there literally is no difference between the two men.'... Mr. Dowd received the email on Tuesday night and forwarded it on Wednesday morning to more than two dozen recipients, including a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security, The Wall Street Journal editorial page and journalists at Fox News and The Washington Times.... 'You’re sticking your nose in my personal email?' Mr. Dowd told The Times in a brief telephone interview. 'People send me things. I forward them.' He then hung up. The email’s author, Jerome Almon, runs several websites alleging government conspiracies and arguing that the F.B.I. has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists.” ...

... AP: "Vice President Mile Pence is cutting short his trip to Latin America so he can join the president at a meeting about North Korea. The White House announced Wednesday that Pence would travel to Camp David with the president on Friday to meet with the White House national security team to discuss South Asia strategy." ...

... Jill Colvin of the AP: "Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday skirted questions about ... Donald Trump's comments voicing sympathy for Charlottesville protesters, but said he stands with the president nonetheless. Pence wouldn't say during a press conference in Chile whether he agrees with Trump that there were 'fine people' among the white supremacists, KKK members and neo-Nazis who took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, and whether 'both sides' were to blame for the deadly violence between white supremacists and counterdemonstrators, as the president claimed." ...

The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It's against our Values and everything we've stood for since 1775. -- Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, in a tweet ...

... W. J. Hennigan of the Los Angeles Times: "America's top-ranking military officers spoke out forcefully against racial bigotry and extremism, a rare public foray into domestic politics that revealed growing unease at the Pentagon with some of President Trump's policies and views. The members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the senior uniformed brass of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force -- all posted messages on their official Twitter accounts to denounce the far-right extremists behind Saturday's violence in Charlottesville, Va. The messages did not mention Trump, who is the commander in chief, by name. But the rebuke seemed clear in several posts given the bipartisan furor over Trump's insistence Tuesday that 'both sides' were at fault for the violence." ...

... Jena McGregor of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s relationship with the American business community suffered a major setback on Wednesday as the president was forced to shut down his major business advisory councils after corporate leaders repudiated his comments on the violence in Charlottesville this weekend. A slew of corporate chieftans announced they were resigning from the councils in recent days after they said Trump was slow to condemn white supremacy groups. On Twitter, Trump said it was his decision to disband both councils. 'Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum. I am ending both,' he tweeted." At 1:30 pm, this is a breaking news story, which is likely to be expanded later. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Gelles, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump’s main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president’s controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, 'rather than put pressure' on executives. The quick sequence began late Wednesday morning when Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants in the business community, organized a conference call for members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum. After a discussion among a dozen prominent C.E.O.s, the decision was made to abandon the group altogether, said people with knowledge of the details of the call." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dan Diamond of Politico: "The president's tweet followed the announcements Wednesday that the leaders of Minnesota-based 3M and Campbell Soup had quit his manufacturing council, while a second strategic and advisory group was on the verge of collapse. 'Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,' said Denise Morrison, the head of Campbell Soup, who became the 8th executive to announce in a statement that she was leaving the manufacturing council.... Inge Thulin, the CEO of Minnesota-based 3M, announced earlier in the day that he was leaving the manufacturing council." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Patti Domm & Jacob Pramuk of CNBC: "Members of ... Donald Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum have agreed to disband the group, sources told CNBC, as corporate backlash mounts against the president. The business advisory council made up of top business leaders is separate from Trump's manufacturing council, which several business leaders left this week.... After the members agreed to disband and condemn Trump's statements, the president said he would end both the Strategic and Policy Forum and the manufacturing council." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "After Trump finished speaking [Tuesday], the rebukes from congressional Republicans started rolling in all over again. Some, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Will Hurd of Texas, criticized the president directly in tweets and statements. Others, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, withheld Trump’s name even if their target was obvious. 'We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive,' Ryan tweeted. 'This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Amy Wang of the Washington Post: "President Trump's off-the-rails Tuesday news conference — in which he once again blamed 'both sides' in Charlottesville, effectively undoing his earlier conciliatory remarks — earned him another wave of backlash from world leaders Wednesday." ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: " Mr. Trump’s refusal Tuesday to pass an explicit moral judgment on the violence in Charlottesville seemed a genuine reflection of his beliefs. Certainly, it is similar to his refusal to condemn the tactics of autocrats like President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines or President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.... Mr. Trump’s predecessors, going back to George Washington, have all tried, with varying degrees of success, to summon Americans to a higher moral purpose.... Barack Obama, appealed to the best in Americans through a heartbreaking succession of police shootings and racially motivated killings. He often invoked the notion of grace — never more indelibly than in Charleston, S.C., after a white supremacist gunned down nine people, all African Americans, during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church." ...

... Ashley Parker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "The uproar [over Trump's support of white supremacists] — which has consumed not only the White House but the Republican Party — left [Chief of Staff John] Kelly deeply frustrated and dismayed just over two weeks into his job, said people familiar with his thinking. The episode also underscored the difficult challenges that even a four-star general faces in instilling a sense of order around Trump, whose first instinct when cornered is to lash out, even self-destructively.... Some aides and confidants privately described themselves as sickened and appalled, if not entirely surprised, by Trump’s off-the-cuff comments. And the president watched, furious, as a cascade of chief executives distanced themselves from him, prompting the dissolution of his major business advisory councils....Those close to [top economic advisor Gary] Cohn described him as 'disgusted' and 'frantically unhappy,' although he did not threaten to resign." ...

... Gail Collins: "Admit it — during the campaign you did not consider the possibility that if a terrible tragedy struck the country involving all of our worst political ghosts of the past plus neo-Nazism, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz would know the appropriate thing to say but Donald Trump would have no idea. George W. Bush would have been at the funeral for the slain civil rights demonstrator in a second. About the best Trump could do was to praise Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, for writing 'the nicest things' about him. Bro did indeed express appreciation for the president’s denunciation of 'those who promote violence and hatred.' That was his written-by-someone-else statement, which preceded the despicable impromptu version."

... Marc Fisher of the Washington Post: "From his first public controversy in the 1970s, when the federal government sued Trump and his father over discriminatory rental practices in their New York real estate empire, to the opening salvo in his 2016 presidential campaign, when he said that Mexicans entering the United States were criminals and 'rapists,' Trump has regularly fanned the flames of racial controversies.... Those who’ve worked with Trump for many years say he also has a history of making rough, stereotyping comments about racial minorities. John O’Donnell, who was president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, said Trump blamed blacks for his financial problems.... 'The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.... Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is; I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.'”

     ... Lyrics by Woody Guthrie, who was a tenant of Fred Trump's, performance by Ryan Harvey.

I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed that color line
Here at his Beach Haven family project

... Jonathan Swan of Axios: "On Tuesday night, while Gary Cohn was fuming about President Trump's latest comments, Steve Bannon was excitedly telling friends and associates that the 'globalists' were in mass freakout mode. Today, Bannon reveled in the disbanding of the president's business council, seeing this as yet more evidence that the Trump administration is at odds with the 'Davos crowd,' as Bannon often calls these corporate elites, in a voice dripping with contempt. Bannon saw Trump's now-infamous Tuesday afternoon press conference not as the lowest point in his presidency, but as a 'defining moment,' where Trump decided to fully abandon the 'globalists' and side with 'his people.' Per a source with knowledge: 'Steve was proud of how [Trump] stood up to the braying mob of reporters' in the Tuesday press conference." ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "Previously on the Bizarro World version on The West Wing, Steve Bannon’s far-right campaign to get the national security adviser [H. R. McMaster] fired appeared to be backfiring.... But Wednesday’s episode ended with a shocking twist: in a call back to the dramatic departure of Anthony Scaramucci after he called The New Yorker to share some profane thoughts about his co-workers, Bannon called Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect and shared his own unfiltered, possibly career-ending musings." Hartmann reports various theories about what Bannon game was. ...

... Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect was "stunned" to get an unsolicited email from Steve Bannon's aide requesting a meeting re: U.S.-China trade policy. A phone interview ensued: "Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: 'There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it....'... Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right.... He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: 'Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.' 'These guys are a collection of clowns,' he added. From his lips to Trump’s ear. 'The Democrats,' he said, 'the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.'” ...

... Jonathan Chait questions the rationales of Trump's aides who have tried to cover up his rampant racism & other horrible views. ...

Nolan McCaskill & Marc Caputo of Politico: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Miami to trash Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a 30-minute speech on Wednesday criticizing Chicago’s 'sanctuary city' policy, Sessions used Miami-Dade County as a foil to accuse Emanuel of neglecting murder rates associated with undocumented immigrants and putting federal funds at risk.... Sessions rebutted the claim from Chicago officials that sanctuary-city policies help reduce crime by pointing to a lack of evidence and the city’s low murder investigation clearance rate.... Emanuel responded swiftly, vowing not to 'cave to the Trump administration’s pressure' because they are morally, factually and legally wrong.... Miami-Dade County in January went out of its way to accommodate ... Donald Trump’s new policy by agreeing to honor detainee requests for all inmates booked into the county jail. Previously, the county had refused to honor the requests for nonserious offense suspects...."

Trump Wars. Episode 4: A New Hope. "Senior communications adviser Hope Hicks has been named as the interim White House communications director, a White House official told pool reporters Wednesday. The official added in a statement that the administration will 'make an announcement on a permanent communications director at the appropriate time.' The role of communications director has been vacant since Anthony Scaramucci was ousted from the position shortly after John Kelly took over as chief of staff last month.... The White House has had difficulty filling the role of communications director." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: "Difficulty filling the role...?" I wonder why. So here we have another rank amateur taking over one of the most important jobs in any administration. I'm sure her experience working on fashion lines and resort PR projects will come in handy. "Nazis in Charlottesville? Oh, I don't know about Nazis, but over here we have a lovely champagne pink peignoir, an Ivanka original, sure to make the little woman in your life feel desirable!" Poor Hope. More Trump chum. And I don't mean as a buddy. Her primary job, if I remember correctly, was printing out online stories about Trump's greatness and circling his name in yellow hi-liter to comfort his roiling ego. The Trump White House is rapidly coming to resemble a crumbling monarchy in its last days, the dyspeptic, paranoid monarch cutting off heads right and left, and surrounding himself with obsequious, sycophantic lackeys who help pour boiling oil on the heads of peasants trying to storm the castle. 

Li Zhou & John Hendel of Politico: "Antitrust lawyer Joseph Simons is ... Donald Trump's pick to lead the Federal Trade Commission, according to three people familiar with the decision. Simons is co-chairman of the antitrust group at the law firm Paul Weiss and served as director of the FTC's competition bureau during the George W. Bush administration."

Perry Stein of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration has dismantled aspects of Obama’s legacy, big and small — including the Capital Bikeshare station that was installed on the White House grounds at the request of the Obama administration."

John Solomon of the Hill: "Julian Assange told a U.S. congressman on Tuesday he can prove the leaked Democratic Party documents he published during last year’s election did not come from Russia and promised additional helpful information about the leaks in the near future. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who is friendly to Russia and chairs an important House subcommittee on Eurasia policy, became the first American congressman to meet with Assange during a three-hour private gathering at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been holed up for years. Rohrabacher recounted his conversation with Assange to The Hill.... Rohrabacher said he had information to share privately with ...Donald Trump. Assange has suggested in the past that Russia wasn’t the source of his leaked information. Tuesday marked the first time he has engaged with a U.S. lawmaker."

Ari Berman of Mother Jones: "On Tuesday..., a federal court ruled that congressional districts drawn by Texas Republicans after the 2010 election were enacted with 'racially discriminatory intent' against Latino and African American voters. This is the seventh time since 2011 that a federal court has found that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters, through its redistricting plans and strict voter ID law. This repeated finding of intentional discrimination means that federal courts could once again require Texas to clear any changes to voting laws or procedures with the federal government — a requirement that was in place until the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Margaret Hartmann: "The mayor of Phoenix, Arizona said on Wednesday that one good way to keep the peace would be delaying a visit from the president. Hours earlier, President Trump promoted his Phoenix rally, which is scheduled for Tuesday night.... Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, released a statement saying he’s 'disappointed' that Trump is holding a campaign rally so soon after the violence in Charlottesville, and requesting that he delay the visit. He added that if President Trump is coming to Phoenix to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for defying an order to stop using racial profiling, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation.'"

... Beyond the Beltway

Janell Ross, et al., of the Washington Post: "City officials across the country are nervously trying to figure out how to avoid becoming the next Charlottesville as alt-right leaders and white nationalist groups vow to stage more rallies in coming days.... Cities also are grappling with what to do about their Confederate monuments, an issue that has suddenly become much more urgent.... Violence is at the center of the concerns, and the Charlottesville rally showed law enforcement authorities that they need to be better prepared. Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, noted that many of the people who came to Charlottesville wore helmets and carried shields. 'These guys, the shields that they showed up with . . . you don’t bring that stuff to a demonstration to just express a view,' Stephens said. 'You bring that there prepared for violence. Why else would you have them?'... Colleges have been resisting attempts to have rallies on their campuses, and in the days after the Charlottesville violence, schools including Texas A&M and the University of Florida canceled events tied to white nationalist groups that were scheduled for the week of Sept. 11.” ...

... Erin Edgemon of al.com: "The Alabama Attorney General's Office has filed a lawsuit against the city of Birmingham and Mayor William Bell for violating state law and covering a Confederate monument in Linn Park.... Bell told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the city's legal department reviewed the law. He said the plywood barrier doesn't break the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.... Following the violent incident involving white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va., Bell said the plywood barrier was installed to protect the monument from possible vandalism from either side.... The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law in 2017, prohibits the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument located on public property which has been in place for 40 or more years, the AG's office stated."