The Wires

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

On Request:

David Remnick of the New Yorker remembers its publisher S.I. NewHouse, Jr.

Janet Malcolm of the New Yorker profiles Rachel Maddow. Mrs. McC: Maddow was right the first time about the canisters.

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

Mrs. McCrabbie: When the Emmy folks are looking to give out prizes next year, they should think Jimmy Kimmel.

Some highlights of the Emmys:

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

Former star of "The Apprentice" finally gets his Emmy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

Monday
Oct232017

The Commentariat -- October 23, 2017

Afternoon Update:

... Kristine Phillips & Freedom du Lac of the Washington Post: "Making her first public comments since she took the call from Trump last week — on the same day her husband’s remains were flown back to the United States — [Myeshia] Johnson recalled that the president said her husband 'knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways. And it made me cry. I was very angry at the tone of his voice, and how he said it.' She added: 'I didn’t say anything. I just listened.' Trump on Monday disputed Johnson’s account, characterizing his conversation with her as 'very respectful.' 'I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!'” ...

     ... Mrs McCrabbie: Let me think, whom do I believe? The apolitical new widow of an American soldier or a guy who tells a whopper -- in public -- an average of five times a day? That of course does not include the many fibs he surely tells off-the-record. ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: The headline on Politico's story is "Trump spars with widow of slain soldier about condolence call." I'm no historian, but I'll bet a headline that reads "[President] spars with widow of slain soldier" is a first in American history.

Naomi Jagoda of the Hill: "President Trump on Monday tweeted that changes won't be made to 401(k) plans after reports that congressional Republicans were considering a major alteration to the retirement accounts in forthcoming tax-reform legislation." Mrs. McC: I would not count on taking this or any other Trump promise to the bank.

Tom Hunter & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News. The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller's inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources. As special counsel, Mueller has been tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta's company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine's image in the West.... Tony Podesta is the chairman of the Podesta Group and the brother of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chairman. John Podesta is not currently affiliated with the Podesta Group and is not part of Mueller's investigation."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Larry Harmon, a software engineer who lives near Akron, Ohio..., sometimes he stays home on Election Day, on purpose.... It turned out that Mr. Harmon’s occasional decisions not to vote had led election officials to strike his name from the voting rolls. On Nov. 8, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the officials had gone too far in making the franchise a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.... The question for the justices is whether two federal laws allow Ohio to cull its voter rolls using notices prompted by the failure to vote. The laws prohibit states from removing people from voter rolls 'by reason of the person’s failure to vote.' But they allow election officials who suspect that a voter has moved to send a confirmation notice."

Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: "Megyn Kelly waded back into territory she vowed to leave behind on Monday, saying on her new NBC morning program that she complained about Bill O’Reilly while she was an anchor at Fox News but was ignored. In an extraordinary monologue, Kelly went after O’Reilly, her former bosses and colleagues, accusing the network of fostering a toxic culture for its female employees. 'O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false,' Kelly said during 'Megyn Kelly Today.' 'I know because I complained.'” ...

... It's All About Bill. Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: “'It’s horrible what I went through, horrible what my family went through,' Bill O’Reilly said of the sexual harassment allegations that cost him his job at Fox News. Mr. O’Reilly spoke on the record to my colleagues Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt, addressing the latest reporting on a $32 million settlement he reached with a longtime network analyst." An audio tape of the conversation follows.

What happens when an 11-year-old Cub Scout asks a Colorado Republican state senator about her far-right votes on gun control? (a) He earns a merit badge in politics; (b) The den leader throws him out. Check the link to verify your answer, which I'm sure you got right.

*****

Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump campaigned as one of the world’s greatest dealmakers, but after nine months of struggling to broker agreements, lawmakers in both parties increasingly consider him an untrustworthy, chronically inconsistent and easily distracted negotiator. As Trump prepares to visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday to unify his party ahead of a high-stakes season of votes on tax cuts and budget measures, some Republicans are openly questioning his negotiating abilities and devising strategies to keep him from changing his mind. The president’s propensity to create diversions and follow tangents has kept him from focusing on his legislative agenda and forced lawmakers who might be natural allies on key policies into the uncomfortable position of having to answer for his behavior and outbursts."

Charles Blow: "Donald Trump has a particular taste for the degradation of racial, ethnic and religious minorities and women — and God forbid those identities should overlap — as a way a playing out his personal sense of racial, sexist, and patriarchal entitlement. And as he degrades, he plays to those very same entitlements in the base that elected him. This has manifested itself most recently in a despicable episode in which Trump became embroiled in a controversy — mostly of his own making! — over an unacceptable call he made to a pregnant widow of one of four soldiers killed in a still-murky attack in Niger." See especially Blow's analysis of how Trump uses the military as an instrument of his racism & sexism. ...

... Kali Holloway in RawStory: "Racism is the Trump administration’s magic wand, a device it uses, to great effect, to dazzle its base, whose own proud bigotry dispenses with the need for suspension of disbelief. In the face of controversies and criticism, Trump race-baits not just for cynical political reasons—though that’s part of it—but because he, too, is deeply racist, so much that his presidency is basically a live-action revenge fantasy against the country’s first black president.... And if there was any question about whether Chief of Staff John Kelly endorses Trump’s targeting of women of color, recent events show this an all-hands-on-deck team effort." --safari ...

... Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post: "In defending his boss, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly gratuitously attacked Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), derisively referred to her as being like 'empty barrels,' misrepresented her conduct at a dedication of an FBI building and, even when film of the event showed his characterization to be utterly false, did not apologize. Kelly deemed it appropriate to restrict questions to reporters with a connection to a Gold Star family, as if one group of Americans (and their readers and viewers) is more worthy than another. However, when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders warned reporters not to criticize Kelly (or his slander of Wilson), the administration took on the creepy aura of a military junta.... Kelly and Trump seem to actually have a lot in common. They both display disdain for the press and contempt for critics. Kelly rails at treatment of ('sacred') women but enthusiastically serves a president who serially insults and abuses women. Rather than address criticism, Kelly and Trump both like to pull rank, treat critics as their lessers and react indignantly when anyone questions their motives.... Congress should ... bar generals from acting in civilian capacities in the White House." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: "Good for Rubin. It has troubled me that since Kelly's attack on Wilson, many liberal pundits have tiptoed in criticizing Kelly. Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, for instance, framed the attack as one that was a blow to Kelly's reputation as a result of his Trumpification; that is, a blow to the way others perceive him, not as an illumination of who he is. Gene Robinson was on the teevee saying that “both sides” could be right, both sides being Kelly & Wilson. Others have knocked themselves out thanking Kelly for his military service & reiterating his laudable reluctance to speak about his son's death, before tossing in some polite criticism of his press room remarks.

President Bone Spurs. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "After a week in which President Trump endured not-so-veiled criticisms from his two predecessors as president and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), McCain delivered another broadside that seems clearly aimed at Trump — in the most personal terms yet. McCain, whose status as a war hero Trump publicly and controversially doubted as a 2016 presidential candidate, appeared to retaliate in kind against the president in a C-SPAN interview about the Vietnam War airing Sunday night. 'One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,' McCain said. 'That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.' Trump received five deferments during Vietnam: four for his studies in college, and one for — you guessed it — bone spurs in his heel.” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Trump's attacks, especially the pre-emptive ones, usually are backhanded compliments of sorts. He claimed McCain wasn't heroic because Trumpenheiden was & is a coward. He called Hillary crooked because Trumpencrookster is dishonest to his core. Trump's need to get up & defeat President Obama every day derives from Trump's fear that Obama represents the new U.S. -- a country where race doesn't define a person AND where black men rival white men for white women's isexual favors. All of these attacks derive from Trump's own real or perceived shortcomings.

Make Foreigners Rich Again? Rebekah Entralgo of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump’s tax plan fulfills a request the GOP establishment has long wanted: a significantly lowered corporate tax rate...According to new analysis from Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center...roughly 35 percent of U.S. corporate stock is owned by foreign investors. Slashing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent would translate to a tax cut for these investors worth $70 billion dollars, a cut three times the tax break that households in the middle income quintile would get under Trump’s tax plan." --safari

Robin Fields & Joe Sexton of ProRepublica: "The questions are straightforward, with public health implications that would seem impossible to shrug off. How many American women die each year from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth? How many of these deaths are preventable?...The answers are central to any true picture of U.S. maternal health, and an essential tool in limiting such tragedies going forward...Yet because of flaws in the way the U.S. identifies and investigates maternal deaths...[F]or the last decade, the U.S. hasn’t had an official annual count of pregnancy-related fatalities, or an official maternal mortality rate." --safari

Today's reports of GOP tactics to knee-cap Democracy

**Ari Berman of Mother Jones: "On election night, Trump carr[ied] Wisconsin by nearly 23,000 votes. The state, which ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, saw its lowest turnout since 2000..Clinton’s stunning loss in Wisconsin was blamed on her failure to campaign in the state...The impact of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received almost no attention...We will never be able to assign exact proportions to all the factors at play. But a year later, interviews with voters, organizers, and election officials reveal that, in Wisconsin and beyond, voter suppression played a much larger role than is commonly understood." Read on. --safari...

...Democracy alert. Ian Milhiser of ThinkProgress: "In 2010, when Republican power was at its low point, two GOP strategists devised a bold plan. By pouring tens of millions of dollars into state legislative races, they hoped to capture key swing states during a redistricting year — and then draw maps that would lock in Republican control of the House and of state legislatures for a decade. They named this plan “REDMAP.” It worked...Now, one of the architects of REDMAP — Ed Gillespie...is running to be the governor of Virginia. Should he prevail, he will benefit from the gerrymandered maps that give his party a firm grip on the Virginia House of Delegates. And he will have the opportunity to extend REDMAP’s success into another decade in Virginia." --safari...

...Andy Kroll of Mother Jones has a long piece on Sinclair Broadcasting's long-game effort to bring right-wing Fox "News"-style propaganda to your local news channels. --safari

For real? Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "The Environmental Protection Agency is expanding the number of security personnel dedicated to protecting agency chief Scott Pruitt by 12, raising the administrator’s total security detail to 30 guards...No previous EPA administrator has ever received a 24/7 security detail." --safari

Mission Creep. Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the chamber’s most hawkish members, told host Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he didn’t know until recently that a thousand U.S. troops are stationed in Niger...And he made the admission when Todd pressed him on whether Congress needs to vote on an Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) for that mission...That AUMF, which sailed through Congress after the attacks on 9/11 has been used as legal justification for numerous campaigns beyond counteracting the Taliban in Afghanistan; most prominently in Syria to target ISIS and, now, as far-flung as Niger." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

AP: "Japan’s leader has scored a major victory in national elections that returned his ruling coalition to power in decisive fashion. Japanese media said Monday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and a small coalition partner had together secured at least 312 seats in the 465-seat lower house of parliament, passing the 310-barrier for a two-thirds majority. Four seats remained undecided."

Luke Barnes of ThinkProgress: "The President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, crudely insulted reporters by showing off a replica AK-47 with the inscription “for journalists” — less than a week after an investigative journalist in Malta was killed by a car bomb. Zeman brandished the fake assault rifle during a press conference on Friday, as Czechs voted to elect populist billionaire Andrej Babis as prime minister...Critics however are concerned that Babis’ media dominance — he owns two of the country’s leading newspapers and a radio station — will lead to conflicts of interest. In addition to Babis’ success, the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD) made surprising gains in the election, potentially positioning them as the country’s political kingmakers." --safari...

...Shaun Walker of the Guardian: "A well-known Russian journalist [Tatyana Felgenhauer, the deputy editor of Ekho Moskvy radio station] is in hospital after being stabbed in the neck by an intruder at work...Ekho Moskvy is one of the few outlets for independent journalism in Russia, featuring reports and discussions sharply critical of the Kremlin...The attacker’s motivation was not immediately clear...A news report on Russian state television this month singled out Ekho Moskvy and Felgenhauer personally as working to advance foreign interests in Russia before presidential elections next March." --safari

Sean Ingle of the Guardian: "A former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team has revealed that more than 10,000 of the country’s athletes were involved in a systematic doping programme across all sports – and that every one of China’s medals in major tournaments in the 1980s and 90s came from performance‑enhancing drugs...Xue Yinxian...is seeking political asylum in Germany...China has long been linked with accusations of doping – although never before on this scale. In February athletes linked to the controversial track coach Ma Junren, whose athletes broke 66 national and world records, said they had been forced to take performance-enhancing drugs...Ma always claimed his athletes’ success was down to hard training at high altitude in Tibet, turtle blood and caterpillar fungus." --safari

Sunday
Oct222017

The Commentariat -- October 22, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Mitch Throws the Ball into Donnie's Court. Rebecca Morin of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he would bring the Alexander-Murray bipartisan health care bill to the floor if ... Donald Trump said he would sign it. 'I'm not certain yet, what the president is looking for here but I'll be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it,' McConnell said on CNN's 'State of the Union.' Speaking with Dana Bash, McConnell (R-Ky.) said he has not heard from the president on what kind of health care bill Trump would sign."

Just Kidding, Sick People! Politico: "Betty Price, the wife of former HHS Secretary Tom Price, is defending her comment about quarantining people with HIV as an attempt to be provocative about a public health crisis. The physician and Georgia state legislator says she does not favor quarantining people with HIV or AIDS." Mrs. McC: Well, "provocative," yes. But more along the lines of monstrous.

A history of Russian racial meddling. Julia Ioffe of The Atlantic: "During the Cold War, the Kremlin similarly sought to plant fake news and foment discontent, but was limited by the low-tech methods available at the time...The Soviets planted misinformation about the AIDs epidemic as a Pentagon creation...as well as the very concept of a nuclear winter...[P]laying on racial tensions inside the United States [isn't] a new Russian tactic. In fact, it predates even the Cold War...The point then, as it was in 2016, was to discredit the American system, to keep the Soviets (and, later, Russians) loyal to their own system instead of hungering for Western-style democracy." --safari

*****

Everything Donald Trump Does Is Corrupt. John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump plans to spend at least $430,000 of his personal funds to help cover the mounting legal costs incurred by White House staff and campaign aides related to the ongoing investigations of Russian meddling in last year’s election, a White House official said. The Washington Post reported last month that the Republican National Committee had spent roughly that amount to pay lawyers representing Trump and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in the multiple investigations.... The White House's and campaign aides' legal costs are expected to balloon well beyond what Trump is putting forward.... The arrangement drew immediate criticism from Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, who suggested on Twitter that it is rife with potential conflicts. 'A potential witness or target of an investigation (and boss of investigators) paying for legal fees of other potential witnesses or targets?' Shaub wrote."...

... Runs in the Family. Celeste Katz of Newsweek, via RawStory: "Ivanka Trump's federal financial disclosure report doesn't mention her past involvement with the charitable foundation that bears her family's name — and which remains under investigation for self-dealing.... [E]ven after multiple updates, Ivanka Trump's financial disclosure form appears to make no mention of her time as a director of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating for fraud." --safari

Mrs. McCrabbie: Some White House staffer(s) ghost-wrote a USA Today op-ed in the name of Donald Trump, promoting his tax-cuts-for-the-rich bill. I doubt if Trump read it & he certainly didn't edit it, because nowhere in it does the word "amazing" appear. Also too, the piece is fordevoid of Me, Myself & I, but it has lots of "we"s. (This will probably be the last op-ed that staffer writes for Trump.) Anyhow, the fact that you don't see a link here is not an oversight.mrs 

John Wagner: "President Trump on Saturday downplayed the significance of Russian-bought Facebook ads, which leading lawmakers investigating election meddling have said were intended to influence last year’s campaign and divide Americans. 'Keep hearing about "tiny" amount of money spent on Facebook ads,' Trump said on Twitter, before taking aim at U.S. television networks. 'What about the billions of dollars of Fake News on CNN, ABC, NBC & CBS?' Trump later wrote that Facebook was on the side of Democrat Hillary Clinton, not him. 'Crooked Hillary Clinton spen[t] hundreds of millions more on Presidential Election than I did,' Trump tweeted.” ...

... Tom Porter of Newsweek, via RawStory: "The suicide of GOP operative and financier Peter W. Smith — who was found non-responsive in a room in the Rochester Hotel, Minnesota, in mid-May — is now the focus of investigators probing Russia’s alleged bid to tip the 2016 presidential election in Trump's favor.... Investigators will be seeking to clarify whether Smith was acting as unofficial Trump campaign operative, or was a fantasist.... Smith was not the only [MichaelFlynn associate engaged in the desperate hunt for Clinton's emails. Last week The Guardian reported that conservative activist Barbara Ledeen turned to the dark web to obtain Clinton's emails in 2015." --safari

Ultimate Asshole. E.A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "All five living former U.S. presidents are set to participate in a fundraiser for hurricane relief efforts on Saturday, but they won’t be joined by the current job holder — President Donald Trump is marking the occasion at his golf course." --safari

Presidential Sabotage. Tara Culp-Hessler of ThinkProgress: "The uninsured rate had been on a steady downward trajectory since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, hitting historic lows over the past several years. But Gallup’s most recent report, released Friday, found the uninsured rate has risen 1.4 percentage points since the end of 2016. That works out to be almost 3.5 million more Americans going without insurance this year." --safari

Akela Lacy of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday continued the White House's ongoing war of words with Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) over his response to the deaths of four U.S. troops in Niger. 'I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!' President Trump tweeted Saturday morning." Mrs. McC: If you want to know what they're saying on Fox "News" but you can't stand to watch, just check TrumpyTweets. As for "killing the Democrat Party," I'd say Wilson is showing people how she stands up for her constituents. We need a few hundred representatives who are more like Wilson. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "We learned this week that, even if you maintain the most sympathetic view of why ... ex-generals continue to serve Trump, there is no way to work for him without paying the Trump tax on one’s reputation.... The White House chief of staff maligned a congresswoman, whose only crime seemed to be criticizing Trump, with a series of lies." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sorry, but Kelly volunteered to pay the tax. He should have gone out there to tell the truth & left it at that. It was enough to corroborate Wilson's account of the Trump-Johnson conversation & refute Trump's, and this he did. Kelly's attack on Wilson was as unconscionable as it was superfluous: not only was every bit of it a lie, he called her a name -- an "empty barrel" -- attacking not just her supposed remarks but her character. He also essentially accused Wilson (and, by extension, Myeshia Johnson) of being sacriligious when he said Wilson violated some "sacred" celestial rite by listening in on her friend's conversation with Trump, even as he implicitly excused himself & other unnamed White House staff who were doing the same damned thing. But to what end? What public policy purpose does it serve to have a presidential chief of staff trash a member of Congress? Kelly's sanctimonious presser was -- in a much less hilarious way -- just a more egregious version of Sean Spicer's debut performance in which he insisted, contra all evidence, that the crowd at Trump's inauguration was way larger than the crowd at Obama's first swearing-in. Like Spicer, Kelly told an obvious lie, but Kelly also smeared two specific people -- a Congresswoman & the widow of a soldier slain in battle. ...

Marco Chown Ovedet al. of The Toronto Star: "How every investor lost money on Trump Tower (but Donald Trump made millions anyway). Donald Trump called himself a 'genius' for investing in Toronto’s Trump Tower. Behind the scenes, he had no money on the line. The inside story of an unlikely bankruptcy, and the investors who lost everything when they bet on the Trump brand.... In the last decade, more than 400 condominium towers of 14 storeys or more have been successfully built in Toronto.... Industry insiders and analysts interviewed for this story could identify only one that went bankrupt after completion: the Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto." --safari

Karen Tumulty, et al., of the Washington Post: As some high-profile men -- Harvey Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly & Roger Ailes -- finally have paid for the consequences of sexually abusing women -- Donald Trump's accusers wonder why he has gotten away with similar behavior. See also story, linked below, on O'Reilly's $32MM settlement.

Scott Pruitt Is Killing Me. No, Really. Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "A scientist who worked for the chemical industry now shapes policy on hazardous chemicals. Within the E.P.A., there is fear that public health is at risk.... Iln late May ... a top Trump administration appointee insisted upon the rewriting of a rule to make it harder to track the health consequences of ... [a] chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, [which] has been linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders and other serious health problems. The revision was among more than a dozen demanded by [a Trump] appointee, Nancy B. Beck, after she joined the E.P.A.’s toxic chemical unit in May as a top deputy. For the previous five years, she had been an executive at the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association."...

... ** War on Truth. David Ferguson of RawStory: "More and more, President Donald Trump’s administration appears to believe that it is above media scrutiny — or at least beyond the reach of press whose agenda doesn’t include puffing up the president. The New York Times on Saturday [linked above] published an article about how recently hired industry insiders are loosening the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s rules on multiple poisons.... [W]hen the Times contacted the agency for more information, spokeswoman Liz Bowman gave a response.... 'No matter how much information we give you, you would never write a fair piece,' Bowman said in an email. 'The only thing inappropriate and biased is your continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.'" --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Certainly other public officials & their representatives have felt this way about some disreputable rags, but I have never seen such a contemptuous refusal to cooperate with, or at least comment on, a matter of vital public interest when one of the top news outlets in the U.S. calls. Any responsible Department head would fire Bowman before Monday. But Scott Pruitt is the furthest thing from responsible.

Betsy Gets Out Her Red Marker. Moriah Balingit of the Washington Post: "The Education Department has rescinded 72 policy documents that outline the rights of students with disabilities as part of the Trump administration’s effort to eliminate regulations it deems superfluous.... The documents, which fleshed out students’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act, were rescinded Oct. 2.... Advocates for students with disabilities were still reviewing the changes to determine their impact."


O Really, O'Reilly? Emily Steel & Michael Schmidt
of the New York Times: "Last January, six months after Fox News ousted its chairman amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network’s top-rated host at the time, Bill O’Reilly, struck a $32 million agreement with a longtime network analyst [-- Lis Wiehl --] to settle new sexual harassment allegations, according to two people briefed on the matter — an extraordinarily large amount for such cases. Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly.... It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him. Despite that record, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with Mr. O’Reilly, and in February granted him a four-year extension that paid $25 million a year.... But by April, the Murdochs decided to jettison Mr. O’Reilly as some of the settlements became public and posed a significant threat to their business empire." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: But remember, people, there are still some sacrilegious clerks at Target or someplace who will be saying "Happy Holidays" within the month. Luckily, we have a guy of O'Reilly's high moral character fighting to save us from these unholy devils.

Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Times: The accounts of 38 women portray film producer-director-writer "James Toback as a man who, for decades, sexually harassed women he hired, women looking for work and women he just saw on the street. The vast majority of these women — 31 of the 38 interviewed — spoke on the record. The Times also interviewed people that the women informed of the incidents when they occurred." Mrs. McC: Unfortunately, Whipp provides details. I could not keep reading.

Beyond the Beltway

With Obama's "Re-education camps" Defeated, Dr./Mrs. Tom Price Wants to Establish HIV Colonies. Politico: "The lawmaker wife of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price asked this week whether the government could quarantine people with HIV to limit transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. Betty Price, a Georgia state representative from the Atlanta suburbs, made the inquiry during a Georgia House of Representatives study committee meeting about barriers to accessing adequate care. Price, an anesthesiologist, raised the question during an exchange with the director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV/AIDS epidemiology section.” Mrs. McC: This has been the top story on Politico for much of the day Saturday. I'd guess that most readers – even those familiar with Dr. Betty's husband Dr. Tom -- can't believe any human being could be such a monster. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... As Forrest M. asks, "Wouldn't it be better to work on getting a little more money for research and treatment? No, I guess not."

WTF? E.A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "Residents of one Texas town [Dickinson, Texas] are being asked to make an unusual promise in exchange for hurricane relief funds — they have to vow not to boycott the nation of Israel.... According to the grant application posted on the city’s website for the Dickinson Harvey Relief fund, those interested will need to refrain from boycotting Israel, now or in the near future." --safari

Greg Garrison of AL.com tells the story of whistleblower, Dana Johnson, and the strict requirements of her Christian homeless shelter in Birmingham, Alabama, "[S]he was told all women at the shelter must attend the same church. For three consecutive Sundays, she and other residents boarded a van and attended worship services at the Woodlawn branch of the Church of the Highlands, Alabama's largest church.... When she got a job, Johnson, 47, said she was also told she was required to tithe, or donate 10 percent of her income. She was told to go to a bank, get a money order and make it payable to the Church of the Highlands, she said." --safari

GOP's War on Media. Esme Cribb of TPM: "A Montana Republican official on Thursday said she 'would have shot' the reporter Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) body-slammed a day before he was elected to office. 'If that kid had done to me what he did to Greg, I would have shot him,' Karen Marshall, the vice president of programs for Gallatin County Republican Women, said on the 'Voices of Montana' radio program." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you recall, "what he did to Greg" was pose a polite question of public interest (the scoring of a GOP healthcare repeal bill) to a candidate for Congress -- at a public event. Most people would call that "doing his job," a job which, BTW, is so important to the functioning of government that the Founders gave that job special status in its First Amendment to the Constitution. I hope some nice shut-in will embroider the First Amendment on a couple of pillows & send them to Marshall & Liz Bowman of the EPA.

Way Beyond

Raphael Minder of the New York Times: "The escalating confrontation over Catalonia’s independence drive took its most serious turn on Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced that he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid. It was the first time that Spain’s government had moved to strip the autonomy of one of its 17 regions, and the first time that a leader had invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — a broad tool intended to protect the 'general interests' of the nation. The unexpectedly forceful moves by Mr. Rajoy, made after an emergency cabinet meeting, thrust Spain into uncharted waters as he tried to put down one of the gravest constitutional crises his country has faced since embracing democracy after the death of its dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Friday
Oct202017

The Commentariat -- October 21, 2017

Afternoon Update:

With Obama's "Re-education camps" Defeated, Dr./Mrs. Tom Price Wants to Establish HIV Colonies. Politico: "The lawmaker wife of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price asked this week whether the government could quarantine people with HIV to limit transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. Betty Price, a Georgia state representative from the Atlanta suburbs, made the inquiry during a Georgia House of Representatives study committee meeting about barriers to accessing adequate care. Price, an anesthesiologist, raised the question during an exchange with the director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV/AIDS epidemiology section.” Mrs. McC: This has been the top story on Politico for much of the day Saturday. I'd guess that most readers – even those familiar with Dr. Betty's husband Dr. Tom -- can't believe any human being could be such a monster. ...

     ... As Forrest M. asks, "Wouldn't it be better to work on getting a little more money for research and treatment? No, I guess not."

Akela Lacy of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday continued the White House's ongoing war of words with Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) over his response to the deaths of four U.S. troops in Niger. 'I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!' President Trump tweeted Saturday morning." Mrs. McC: If you want to know what they're saying on Fox "News" but you can't stand to watch, just check TrumpyTweets. As for "killing the Democrat Party," I'd say Wilson is showing people how she stands up for her constituents.

O Really, O'Reilly? Emily Steel & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "Last January, six months after Fox News ousted its chairman amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network’s top-rated host at the time, Bill O’Reilly, struck a $32 million agreement with a longtime network analyst [-- Lis Wiehl --] to settle new sexual harassment allegations, according to two people briefed on the matter — an extraordinarily large amount for such cases. Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly.... It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him. Despite that record, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with Mr. O’Reilly, and in February granted him a four-year extension that paid $25 million a year.... But by April, the Murdochs decided to jettison Mr. O’Reilly as some of the settlements became public and posed a significant threat to their business empire."

Raphael Minder of the New York Times: "The escalating confrontation over Catalonia’s independence drive took its most serious turn on Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced that he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid. It was the first time that Spain’s government had moved to strip the autonomy of one of its 17 regions, and the first time that a leader had invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — a broad tool intended to protect the 'general interests' of the nation. The unexpectedly forceful moves by Mr. Rajoy, made after an emergency cabinet meeting, thrust Spain into uncharted waters as he tried to put down one of the gravest constitutional crises his country has faced since embracing democracy after the death of its dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975."

*****

Today in the Kakistocracy:

Trump World Runs on Venom, Spite & Sadism. Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Millions of Americans with insurance through the Affordable Care Act could find themselves locked into health plans they do not want for the coming year because of the Trump administration’s schedule for the enrollment season that starts in less than two weeks. The complication arises when people who already have health plans under the law are automatically re-enrolled in the same plan. In the past, a few million consumers each year have been auto-enrolled and then were sent government notices encouraging them to check whether they could find better or more affordable coverage. This time, according to a federal document obtained by The Washington Post, the automatic enrollment will take place after it is too late to make any changes. Auto-enrollment will occur immediately after the last day of the ACA sign-up season, which the Trump administration has shortened, leaving the vast majority of such consumers stranded without any way to switch to a plan they might prefer." Emphasis added.

David Choi of Business Insider: "... Donald Trump said White House chief of staff John Kelly was 'offended' that a Congresswoman was listening to the commander in chief's condolence call to the widow of one of the four US soldiers in Niger.... 'He was so offended, because he was in the room when I made the call and so were other people,' Trump said. 'And the call was a very nice call. He was so offended that a woman would be — that somebody would be listening to that call.'" ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Okey-dokey. It's "offensive" that "somebody ... a woman" would listen to a conversation which unnamed White House staffers also overheard. I suppose that's not a double standard because a despot & his minions are way more equal than others. ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "[Sarah Sanders] on Friday aggressively defended chief of staff John Kelly’s accusations against a Florida congresswoman, denying that he had misrepresented her remarks during a FBI field office dedication and slamming the famously behatted Rep. Frederica Wilson as 'all hat, no cattle.'"

... John Wagner of the Washington Post: "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a reporter Friday that it would be 'highly inappropriate' to get into a debate with 'a four-star Marine general' over whether he misstated facts." It's worth reading the whole report of the exchange. Mrs. McC: I have never or seldom heard such arrogant horseshit."...

     ... Brandon Carter of the Hill: "Old tweets posted by President Trump in which he attacked generals resurfaced Friday after the White House said it was 'inappropriate' to criticize them.... In July 2016, Trump called out retired four-star Gen. John Allen, saying he 'failed badly”'in the fight against ISIS and called his record 'BAD.'... In September of last year, Trump also attacked retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell for 'his weak understanding of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: And what about that time a year ago when Trump told Matt Lauer, "I think the generals have been reduced to rubble.... They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.” Then he insinuated he would fire them and get "different generals." How "appropriate" was that, Ms. Huckleberry?

     ... MEANWHILE, it would be swell if one of those great patriots roaming around the White House would endow Ms. Huckleberry with a pocket Constitution – that one where civilians control the military & not the other way around. Wait till she gets to the First Amendment! Wow, there's this freedom of the press part where journalists get to question the authorities – even if the authorities are 4-star generals. And maybe somebody could slip her a copy of Lincoln's Gettysburg address – it's short enough for 4th-graders to memorize! I hope Ms. Huckleberry doesn't get all confused by that last part about government of the people, by the people and for the people. Did I mention Lincoln was a Republican? Most people don't know that. ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "A video of a 2015 dedication of an FBI building in South Florida shows that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was wrong when he stated Thursday that Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) had boasted of securing funding for the project. Kelly's criticism of Wilson, during which he referred to her as an 'empty barrel,' drew swift denials from the congresswoman's staff and denunciations from her supporters, who said the retired Marine Corps general was inaccurate and out of line. A White House spokesman issued a statement Thursday evening saying the White House stands by Kelly's account.... [Kelly said in the briefing that Wilson] 'talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million,'... But a video from the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale of Wilson's remarks at the April 10, 2015, dedication shows that she said no such thing.... Wilson did recount [at the dedication ceremony, which Kelly also attended] how she went into 'attack mode' to ensure that Congress and Obama expedited a bill to name the building after two fallen FBI agents.... When initially told that such legislation could take as long as a year, Wilson recalled, 'I said — I’m a school principal — and I said, excuse my French, "Aw, hell no, we’re going to get this done.'” Wilson spread credit to others for helping in the effort, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). She also told the stories of the heroism of the two agents." ...

... The New York Times report, by Yamiche Alcindor & Michael Shear, is also a good read.

     ... The Sun-Sentinel video of Wilson's full speech is here. ...

Dear Gen. Kelly, A word of unsolicited advice: the next time you plan to go out & lie about somebody, make sure there's no video tape. Hint: if prominent public figures attend an event of local interest, there's apt to be a recording. s/Mrs. Bea McCrabbie. P.S. You did make a total ass of yourself, you know, and you won't be able to live it down.

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I'll bet Kelly is writing his letter of apology to Wilson right now. And Ms. Huckleberry is phoning up reporter Chip Reid to apologize, too. Oh, no, turns out she was ready with a follow-up lie. From Wagner's report: "Pressed on the discrepancy Friday by veteran CBS News correspondent Chip Reid during the daily news briefing, Sanders said that Wilson had 'also made quite a few comments that day that weren’t part of that speech and weren’t part of that video that were also witnessed by the many people who were there.' Asked by Reid what those comments were, Sanders characterized them as 'exactly' what Kelly had described during his appearance in the briefing room Thursday.” Tarring & feathering is way too good for that giant, lying sack of shit. ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: It's possible that Kelly truly did not remember what Wilson said in her speech. Unless somebody says something unusual, I don't necessarily remember what-all s/he said a couple of years later; I may recall only a "general impression" of the tone & thrust of the speech. But if Kelly "misremembered" what Wilson said, it's because his impression of Wilson's remarks was highly negative, so negative that it morphed in his mind to something different -- and worse. So you have to ask yourself what caused Kelly's negative feelings about Wilson. Was she too assertive? Too "unsacred"? Too powerful? Too black? Whether Kelly purposely made up the gist of his attack on Wilson or if he accidentally "forgot," he has exposed himself as just another Trump sycophant willing to trash Trump's critics with lies, galling sanctimony, and more than a touch of misogyny & racism. If he thought his little speech would change some hearts & minds, he was right. I had not formed an opinion of his character before, and now I have. As his boss would say, "It's not good." ...

... Washington Post Editors: "WHITE HOUSE Chief of Staff John F. Kelly owes Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) an apology.... To bolster [his negative] characterization [of Wilson], he offered up his remembrance of the dedication of the FBI building in memory of two FBI agents who had been killed in the line of duty. He claimed Ms. Wilson used the occasion to take unseemly credit for securing federal funding for the building.... Mr. Kelly got it all wrong. [Wilson] did not say she got money for the building. She was generous and graceful in sharing credit for how legislation naming the building was fast-tracked. And she spent most of her nine-minute speech praising the FBI agents killed in a gunfight with drug dealers." ...

... Dara Lind of Vox: "... when Kelly waxed nostalgic about the days when certain things were 'sacred' — women, religion, and battlefield sacrifice — he wasn’t just echoing the complaints of so many who support Donald Trump.... He was saying that there are Americans who have kept the flame of American greatness alive — those who serve the country for a living — and that the best thing the rest of America can do is keep a respectful distance. Maybe it’s an understandable bit of chauvinism from a career Marine. But that doesn’t stop it from being a worrisome attitude when it becomes an unquestioning fealty to anything those people can do while in uniform. Kelly’s rhetoric can be reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s character Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men — 'I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it' — but Jessup was the villain." ...

... John Donnelly of Roll Call: "In the hours after ... Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email. The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate — but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy. Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year [as he said], the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.... Since [Trump made his false claim], the Associated Press contacted 20 families and found that half had not heard from Trump.... The internal document also sheds light on how the White House staff, on this and other occasions, has had to go into damage-control mode when the president makes inaccurate statements." ...

... Hey, Don't Forget It's "Character Counts Week"! How'd That Go? David Graham of the Atlantic: "First the president, and then his chief of staff, made a series of easily disprovable false claims. Trump, by needlessly calling attention to his condolences to soldiers, revealed himself to have been negligent. Meanwhile, his untruths about both calling the soldiers and, based on [John] Kelly’s account, the content of his call have managed to somehow even further degrade his honesty. Kelly, too, has besmirched himself. Like H.R. McMaster, he entered the Trump administration enjoying nearly universal respect.... Kelly is demonstrating how quickly the job of defending Trump can destroy a carefully earned reputation. Between his own inaccurate account of the Florida event and [Sarah] Sanders’s doubling down on his version, reporters will now know just how seriously to take Kelly when the White House next sends him out to try to clean things up." ...

... Steve M. is not worried about a military coup. He thinks Trump is too cowardly to engineer it.

... Weird Update. Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: Lara Trump -- wife of Eric -- told Fox "News" she had read a transcript of the conversation between her fat fucking father-in-law & Mrs. Johnson, and she pretty much confirmed what Rep. Wilson & John Kelly said about the conversation. "Lara Trump, paraphrasing the conversation, says her father-in-law told Johnson 'your husband went in to battle, you know, knowing that he could be injured, knowing that he could be killed.'... It’s also unclear why Lara Trump [-- who is not a government official & does not work in the White House --] would have access to official White House transcripts of the call while the general public does not.... Update: ... Sarah Sanders denies there is a transcript of the call.” Who are you going to believe? Somebody dumb enough to marry Eric or somebody who stands on a podium & lies most every day of the week? Its' a conundrum. ...

... Oh, Mah Stahs & Gahtahs. Mrs. Wilson Has Given Mr. Graham the Vapahs. Addie Baird of ThinkProgress: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Friday that Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) 'started something that was rude' by questioning Trump about his comments to a Gold Star widow. '[Wilson] is not a big fan of the president,' Graham said, talking to reporters at the Capitol Friday. 'I think she started something that was rude. I would never do that.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh, like that time way last month when you accused Jimmy Kimmel of spouting "absolute garbage" even though the "absolute garbage" was actually your own bill?

Brianna Ehley, et al., of Politico: "... Donald Trump overrode his own advisers when he promised to deliver an emergency declaration next week to combat the nation’s worsening opioid crisis. 'That is a very, very big statement,' he said Monday. 'It's a very important step. ... We're going to be doing it in the next week.' Blindsided officials are now scrambling to develop such a plan, but it is unclear when it will be announced, how or if it will be done, and whether the administration has the permanent leadership to execute it, said two administration officials.... Trump’s off-script statement stunned top agency officials, who said there is no consensus on how to implement an emergency declaration for the drug epidemic, according to interviews with officials from the White House, a half dozen federal agencies, state health directors and lobbyists.”

Trump Erases Advice & Consent Clause from Constitution. Andrew Restuccia & Nahal Toosi of Politico: "The Trump administration is pushing the limits of an obscure federal law that restricts nominees from serving in federal positions before they’re approved by the Senate. A Politico review has identified four officials at three different agencies doing substantially similar work to the position for which they have been nominated – despite not yet getting a green-light from the Senate.... Lawyers and other experts said the moves – including by the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget – to have unconfirmed nominees show up for work appears to skirt the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which prohibits most people who have been nominated to fill a vacant government position from performing that office’s duties in an acting capacity." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This idea of checks & balances among the three branches of government is so 18th century.

When the President Does It, It's to Protect His Own Interests. Seung Min Kim & John Bresnahan of Politico: "... Donald Trump has personally interviewed at least two potential candidates for U.S. attorney positions in New York, according to two sources familiar with the matter — a move that critics say raises questions about whether they can be sufficiently independent from the president.... The Southern District of New York is an especially notable position since it has jurisdiction over Trump Tower. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney there, has said he had been told that Trump would keep him on despite the change in administrations. Yet he was among those abruptly fired by Trump in March. 'It is neither normal nor advisable for Trump to personally interview candidates for US Attorney positions, especially the one in Manhattan,' Bharara tweeted Wednesday.... Documents submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year showed Trump met with Jessie Liu, the candidate for U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, earlier this spring as she was being interviewed for the federal prosecutor post.... 'The U.S. attorney for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York — like the U.S. attorney for Washington D.C. — would have jurisdiction over many important cases, including those involving President Trump’s personal and family business interests,' [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein [D-Cal.] said in a statement Thursday. She added: 'There’s no reason for President Trump to be meeting with candidates for these positions, which create the appearance that he may be trying to influence or elicit inappropriate commitments from potential U.S. attorneys. U.S. attorneys must be loyal to the Constitution — not the president.'” ...

... "The Extraordinary Arrogance of Trump." Paul Callan of CNN: "The President has the legal right to conduct such interviews because as the nation's chief executive he is the nominal head of the entire Justice Department and is also the highest ranking law enforcement authority in the United States.... Exercising this right, though, is an act of extraordinary arrogance by a President who should have learned a lesson from the Comey and Bharara fiascos. The real question many will have is whether the President is using personal interviews to either demand or inspire loyalty from his newly minted federal legal top guns."

Thursday
Oct192017

The Commentariat -- October 20, 2017

Paul Ryan at last night's Al Smith dinner:

Brad Reed of the Raw Story: "... Donald Trump on Friday falsely claimed that a recent rise in crime in the United Kingdom was because of the country’s refusal to fight 'radical Islamic terror.' 'Just out report: "United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror,”' Trump wrote on Twitter Friday. 'Not good, we must keep America safe!'... However, as the Telegraph notes, much of the violent crime spike is due to increased gang-related activities, and not because of Islamist terrorism. Given Trump’s botched interpretation of the data, many U.K. politicians were quick to slam the president for making faulty assumptions that further revealed his own ignorance.”

Eugene Scott of the Washington Post: John "Kelly said Thursday during the White House news briefing that he was shocked that [Rep. Frederica] Wilson was even a part of the conversation. 'It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation,' he said Thursday in the White House briefing room. Perhaps Kelly, who also listened to the call, would be less stunned if he realized that Wilson's primary identity to the Johnson family isn't as a member of Congress. The Johnsons have known Wilson for decades — most of those years before the former educator moved to Washington to join Congress.... Wilson's connection to the family goes back at least one generation.... These relationships were part of why Wilson was with the family — not just because she was 'a member of Congress.'”

*****

An Old Marine Falls on His Sword (and Exposes Another POTUS* Lie & His Own Prejudices). Michael Shear of the New York Times: "John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, delivered an emotional, personal defense of President Trump’s call this week to the widow of a slain soldier, describing the trauma of learning about his own son’s death in Afghanistan and calling the criticism of Mr. Trump’s call unfair. Mr. Kelly said that he was stunned to see the criticism, which came from a Democratic congresswoman, Representative Frederica S. Wilson of Florida, after Mr. Trump delivered a similar message to the widow of one of the [other??] soldiers killed in Niger.... He confirmed what Mr. Trump had alluded to publicly this week: that former President Barack Obama had not called him after Lieutenant Kelly was killed. 'That was not a criticism, that was simply to say I don’t believe President Obama called,' Mr. Kelly said, adding that President George W. Bush and other presidents did not always make personal phone calls to family members.... Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump had tried, in the call, to express what Mr. Kelly had talked to him about ahead of time." ...

... Video & transcript of Kelly's remarks, via the New York Times, are here. ...

... Adam Raymond of New York: "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly tried to explain on Thursday what President Trump meant when he told the wife of a slain U.S. soldier that her husband 'knew what he signed up for.' Despite Trump’s claim that Florida representative Frederica Wilson 'totally fabricated what I said,' Kelly suggested that Wilson’s version of the conversation between the president and the wife of Sergeant La David T. Johnson was accurate. But he wanted to focus not on what Trump said, but on what he meant, along with the impropriety of Wilson politicizing the conversation.” ...

When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred. Looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. -- John Kelly, Thursday

... Melanie Schmitz of ThinkProgress: "Kelly, of course, failed to acknowledge the fact that he currently works in an administration headed by a man who’s been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women. ...

     … Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe Schmitz is right – that Kelly “appeared to be referencing the recent slew of sexual assault and harassment allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.” But what grabbed me about Kelly's remark was how offensively archaic it was. “Women are sacred”? That is precisely the excuse men have used, perhaps since prehistoric times, to keep women powerless and dependent upon men. Women must not be defiled sexually; they must not sully themselves by working in the cutthroat business world; they must remain chattel, “protected” by patriarchs, hidden from view in “sacred” rooms. Kelly is in cult-of-the-Virgin-Mary territory here. This view is what has allowed & continues to allow men like Trump & Weinstein to sexually abuse women, while they and other men literally keep women in their socioeconomic place. If you want to know why Kelly was "stunned" by Rep. Frederica Wilson's criticisms of Trump, it was because it is not a woman's "place" -- and perhaps especially not a black woman's place -- to criticize the national patriarch. I am repulsed. ...

... Wait! Kelly showed his paternalistic bias again. Erica Pandey of Axios: "'It stuns me' that a member of Congress listened in on that phone call. 'I thought at least that's sacred,' [Kelly] said." Mrs. McC: First, Wilson had known La David Johnson for years. But more important, it was La David's widow Myeshia who decided who could listen to Trump's call. By letting family members & friends listen in, according to Kelly, Myeshia was defiling her husband's memory. She was denying his "sacred" sacrifice. Kelly believes that a young woman should have no control over how she relates to her family and friends, on what information she shares with them. Myeshia Johnson made a choice. There was nothing wrong with her choice; nor would there have been anything wrong with choosing to listen privately. Kelly's criticism was repulsive. ...

A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down. -- John Kelly, at yesterday's briefing relating a story about a building dedication he had attended with Rep. Frederica Wilson ...


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article179869321.html#storylink=cpy

... ** Oops, Kelly Himself Is a Big Fat Liar, Too. Alex Daugherty & other McClatchy News reporters relate what really happened. Wilson did not boast about how “she got the money” for the Grogan & Dove federal building in the Miami area, because she didn't get the money & she didn't pretend to. “Washington approved the money before she was even in Congress,” Wilson told the McClatchy reporters yesterday. Rather, Wilson sponsored a bill to name the building after federal agents “Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, killed during a 1986 shootout with bank robbers south of Miami.... In 2015, Wilson won praise from Miami Republicans for sponsoring the bill to name the long anticipated federal building after two agents who became legends in local law enforcement. At the dedication ceremony, James Comey, then director of the FBI, lauded Wilson’s legislation, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama three days before the April 2015 ceremony. 'Rep. Wilson truly did the impossible, and we are eternally grateful,' Comey said in his remarks. On Thursday evening, [a Trump] administration spokesman issued a statement that said: 'The White House stands by Gen. Kelly’s account of the event.'” ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: BTW, nowhere in Kelly's remarks does he call Rep. Wilson (or for that matter, La David or Myeshia Johnson) by name. It's a "that woman" kind of delivery: Kelly puts distance between himself & the woman he is criticizing & falsely accusing. If Bill Clinton's "that woman" denial was a tell, so is Kelly's. ...

The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet at about 11 pm ET Thursday ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: The one useful thing Kelly did yesterday was confirm that Wilson told the truth about the content of Trump's "consolation call" & that Trump falsely denied it & defamed Wilson. Here was Trump's own chief of staff "defending" him by verifying that Trump, not Wilson, was the liar. But so what? Trump just dug his heels in & insisted she told "a total lie."


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article179869321.html#storylink=cpy

... ** Please take a moment to read commentary at the end of yesterday's Comments thread on Kelly's attack on Khizr & Ghazala Khan. Right, right and right. Mrs. McC. P.S. Here again we have a dark-hued couple who don't know their "place," and have criticized a white man for showing disrespect to military heroes.

... Question of the Day. Mrs. McCrabbie: I can see that a reasonable person might find distasteful some remarks by the Khans & Wilson. I don't, but we all have different standards of "acceptable speech." But, excuse me. How can a person who works at the right hand of Trump -- a man who daily makes vile, cruel, untrue attacks on others, sometimes with no provocation at all -- be "stunned" by the manners of others? The same goes for other Trump toadies -- like Huckleberry Sanders -- who regularly express "shock" at people who criticize or question Trump. ...

... Derek Hawkins of the Washington Post reports on Rep. Frederica Wilson's long history of mentoring young people & finding in their untimely deaths reasons to call out "stupid" wars, careless gun laws & other public policy issues. Calling out a grotesquely insensitive president* was part & parcel of who she is. Mrs. McC: Read Hawkins' story & you won't think of Wilson as just some Congressional backbencher. She has been an audacious hero for decades.

... Adam Raymond: "Asked on Thursday to rate the federal government’s response to the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico last month, President Trump said it was a 'ten.' ... "I think this was worse than Katrina, in many ways worse than anything people have ever seen.' The American people don’t agree with Trump’s assessment.” ...

... ** Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "Donald Trump minimizes suffering for which he might be held responsible. That’s likely what he was doing in his conversation with Myeshia Johnson. And it’s not just insensitive; it’s dangerous. As the former Missouri senate candidate, and former army intelligence officer, Jason Kander observed on Wednesday night on CNN, people say, 'He knew what he signed up for' because 'they are seeking emotional distance from the situation. People say that because they want to avoid feeling that pain.' That’s worrying, Kander added, because 'I want the president, any president … when they’re making a decision about sending people to a dangerous place, I want them to have as one of the things in their mind, the visceral, emotional feeling' that comes from absorbing a widow’s inconsolable grief. That’s the key point. Trump’s comments bespeak a refusal to face the human costs of violence and war that could have frightening consequences for American foreign policy." Read on.

Trumpity-Doo-Dah Floats New Conspiracy Theory. Tom Embury-Dennis of the (U.K.) Independent: "Donald Trump has appeared to suggest, without providing evidence, that the FBI and Russia may have colluded to fund the infamous dossier that alleged links between his team and the Kremlin. Taking to Twitter, the US President said: 'Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?' Mr Trump’s outlandish claim comes after two bosses of Fusion GPS, the firm that helped produce the dossier, refused to answer questions on Wednesday in a private meeting with the House Intelligence Agency.... Fusion GPS had originally been hired by Republican opponents of Mr Trump in September 2015. [Investigator Christopher] Steele joined the team eight months later in June. After winning his party’s nomination in July 2016, Democrats took over and began paying Mr Steele and Fusion GPS to look into the billionaire’s activities.”

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places. -- President George W. Bush, in a speech, Thursday ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Former President George W. Bush never mentioned his name but delivered what sounded like a sustained rebuke to President Trump on Thursday, decrying nationalism, protectionism and the coarsening of public debate while calling for a robust response to Russian interference in American democracy. In a speech in New York, Mr. Bush defended free trade, globalization and immigration even as Mr. Trump seeks to raise barriers to international commerce and newcomers from overseas. He condemned the 'casual cruelty' he sees in public discourse and denounced white supremacy two months after Mr. Trump suggested that 'both sides' were to blame at a neo-Nazi rally that turned violent in Virginia." ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush on Thursday delivered a rare political speech in which he warned of threats to American democracy and a decay of civic engagement, a message that was interpreted as a rebuke of President Trump’s divisive leadership style.... The scene was remarkable in part because Bush has largely remained out of the political spotlight since leaving office amid low popularity in 2009 and had made a point not to criticize or second-guess his Democratic successor, Barack Obama. Just hours after Bush completed his speech, Obama also made a veiled critique of the Trump era, calling on Democrats at a New Jersey campaign event to 'send a message to the world that we are rejecting a politics of division, we are rejecting a politics of fear.' That Trump’s two most recent predecessors felt liberated, or perhaps compelled, to reenter the political arena in a manner that offered an implicit criticism of him is virtually unprecedented in modern politics, historians said.”

Paul Krugman: "Breaking up Nafta would be terrible for Mexico and bad for the U.S. It would horrify major U.S. business interests, which have spent two decades building their competitive strategies around an integrated North American market. But it might be good for Trump’s fragile ego. And that’s a reason to fear the worst.... We’ve now seen Trump deliberately hurt millions of people and inflict billions of losses on a major industry out of sheer spite. If he’s willing to do that on health care, why assume he won’t do the same thing on international trade policy?"

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "CIA Director Mike Pompeo declared Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia’s interference in the 2016 American presidential election did not alter the outcome, a statement that distorted spy agency findings.... His comment suggested — falsely — that a report released by U.S. intelligence agencies in January had ruled out any impact that could be attributed to a covert Russian interference campaign that involved leaks of tens of thousands of stolen emails, the flooding of social media sites with false claims and the purchase of ads on Facebook. A report compiled by the CIA and other agencies described that Russian operation as unprecedented in its scale and concluded that Moscow’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process and help elect Donald Trump. But the report reached no conclusions about whether that interference had altered the outcome — an issue that U.S. intelligence officials made clear was considered beyond the scope of their inquiry." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Thank you, Greg Miller for calling out a lie right in your lede. ...

... Michael Crowley of Politico: "CIA Director Mike Pompeo drew sharp criticism Thursday after wrongly stating that the U.S. intelligence community had found that Russian meddling did not tilt the 2016 presidential election."

** Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "The Senate took a significant step toward rewriting the tax code on Thursday night with the passage of a budget blueprint that would protect a $1.5 trillion tax cut from a Democratic filibuster. The budget resolution could also pave the way for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration by ensuring that drilling legislation can pass with only Republican votes. The Senate voted 51 to 49 to approve the blueprint. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had complained about what he viewed as excessive war funding in the budget plan, was the lone Republican to vote against the measure.... The House could pick up the Senate-passed budget as early as next week and give final approval to parliamentary language protecting the Republicans’ coveted tax effort." Mrs. McC: Time to hold a lawn party, Donnie. ...

     ... Earlier That Same Day... Niv Elis of the Hill: "Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) lambasted the budgetary process ahead of a key vote Thursday, calling the Senate budget a hoax and saying that he would dismantle the Senate Budget Committee. 'The only thing about this that matters is preparation for the tax reform,' said Corker, who is retiring at the end of the Congress. 'Other than that, these amendment votes, everything about this is a hoax. A hoax. It has no impact on anything whatsoever.... If I were chairman of the budget committee, I would dismantle it. I would move to end it immediately in its current form,' Corker said. 'Unless we create a real budget process, which this is not, our country’s fiscal situation will continue to go down the tube, and we have no mechanism to control real spending, 70 percent of which is mandatory, that’s not even covered by this,' he continued." Mrs. McC: So then he voted for the hoax. ...

... Talk about "Process!" Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "Almost no one on or off Capitol Hill has seen the tax overhaul bill that Republicans are drafting behind closed doors. Congressional staff members have not settled on many key details. Yet party leaders are preparing to move ahead on a timeline even more aggressive than their unsuccessful attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The swift pace to complete, release and quickly vote on a tax cut is aimed at leaving little time for the type of dissent that has scuttled previous tax proposals.... Republicans have been meeting for weeks in closed-door sessions to debate details of the tax plan...."

Burgess Everett & Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "Key Senate Republicans are urgently trying to get ... Donald Trump to reconsider his apparent opposition to a bipartisan deal shoring up health insurance markets, several senators said Thursday morning.... Trump canceled the cost-sharing reduction payments last week, and days later [Lamar] Alexander and [Patty] Murray struck a deal to fund the payments for two years while providing new flexibility for states to get waivers from some Obamacare regulations. Trump has sent contradictory signals about whether he would sign the bill, calling it a 'good solution' the same day he said it amounted to 'bailouts' for the insurance companies. On Thursday, Trump again sounded warmer to the idea. He praised Alexander and Murray but warned that he wants only a short-term solution to keep repeal alive and doesn't want insurance companies to benefit.... The indecision puzzles Republicans and infuriates Democrats.... 'He’s for the bill one day, against it the next,' said an exasperated Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday.... Schumer later told reporters all 48 Democrats support the bill. With the dozen Republican co-sponsors, that would be enough for passage if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings it to the floor.”

Maureen Feighan of the Detroit News: "U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will not speak at the Women’s Convention in Detroit this month, his office announced Thursday, just days after controversy surfaced about the senator’s role in the women-led convention.... Critics lambasted convention organizers last week when it was announced that Sanders would be speaking at the convention, which runs Oct. 27-29 at Cobo Center. Some questioned why a male politician would take such a prominent role at a women’s convention. Others challenged Sanders’ track record as a progressive politician."

Arpaio Is Still Guilty as Charged. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge has ruled that ... Donald Trump's pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio ends his prosecution for criminal contempt of court, but does not wipe out the guilty verdict she returned or any other rulings in the case. In her order Thursday, Phoenix-based U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton rejected arguments from Arpaio's lawyers and Justice Department prosecutors that the longtime Maricopa County sheriff was entitled to have all rulings in the case vacated.... 'The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping,' Bolton wrote, quoting an appeals court ruling. 'To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The Court found Defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The President issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared Defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, "revise the historical facts" of this case."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Avery Anapol of the Hill: "A man who claimed to be a Vietnam veteran and Navy SEAL in a Fox News segment earlier this month has admitted to lying about his service and faking his awards, including two Purple Hearts. John Garofalo appeared on Fox in an Oct. 8 segment to show off a massive hand-cut glass presidential seal that he made as a gift to honor President Trump.... Don Shipley, a retired Navy SEAL who outs false service claims first contacted Fox News about the story the day after it aired, and when it was not immediately retracted, he spoke with the Military Times and provided official records that disputed Garofalo’s claims.... Fox retracted the story on Oct. 19, eleven days after it aired, and issued an apology." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If a reporter doing a live segment interviews everyday citizens cold -- as, say, for their responses to some disaster -- the reporter is not responsible for any tall tales the interviewees tell. But if a news outlet has invited a guest to be the star of a prepared, non-essential segment, the outlet has an obvious responsibility to make a cursory check of his or her bona fides. But at Fox "News," "vetting" amounts to finding out if the guest supports the Fox agenda. I think I'll call up the Fox "News" bookers & tell them I'm a Democratic state senator from Nebraska (I'm not) & I totally back President Trump. They'd probably book me right then and there.

Richard Winton & Victoria Kim of the Los Angeles Times: "An Italian model-actress met with Los Angeles police detectives for more than two hours Thursday morning, providing a detailed account of new allegations that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her at a hotel in 2013. She is the sixth woman to accuse Weinstein of rape or forcible sex acts. Los Angeles police Capt. Billy Hayes confirmed that the department has launched an investigation into the matter. It is the first case related to Weinstein to be reported in Southern California. New York police already have two active sex crime probes and London's Metropolitan Police is investigating allegations made by three women. The new allegation could be legally troubling for Weinstein because it falls within the 10-year statute of limitations for the crime that existed at the time of the alleged incident, legal experts say."