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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

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. 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" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

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." -- CW ...

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." -- CW 

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." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

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

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

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

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

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Monday
Jun262017

The Commentariat -- June 27, 2017

** Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026, a figure that is only slightly lower than the 23 million more uninsured that the House version would create, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday. Next year, 15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law, the budget office said. The legislation would decrease federal deficits by a total of $321 billion over a decade, the budget office said.... Earlier Monday afternoon, Senate Republican leaders altered their health bill to penalize people who go without health insurance by requiring them to wait six months before their coverage would begin. Insurers would generally be required to impose the waiting period on people who lacked coverage for more than about two months in the prior year. The waiting-period proposal is meant to address a conspicuous omission in the Senate’s bill: The measure would end the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that nearly all Americans have health insurance...." -- CW ...

     ... The story has been updated: "Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, said Monday that they would vote against even debating the health care bill, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted that he, too, would probably oppose taking up the bill on a procedural vote.... Ms. Collins wrote on Twitter on Monday evening that she wanted to work with her colleagues from both parties to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act, but that the budget office’s report showed that the /Senate bill won’t do it.'” ...

     ... The CBO report is here. -- CW ...

... digby: Republicans "will, of course, say the CBO is lying. And it could be wrong. But that could mean this mutant atrocity of a 'health care' bill will actually be worse. In fact, it probably will trigger a death spiral in the whole insurance sector. But whatevs. They knew it was going to be bad when they did it. They don't care. They want tax cuts for Ivanka and that's all there is to it. They have all become monsters." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "Reading the CBO report in its entirety, it’s hard to see that BCRA offers any improvements over Obamacare aside from cutting taxes for the rich. Net premiums go up for most people—quite massively in the case of older consumers; deductibles go up; out-of-pocket expenses go up; the working poor are virtually shut out of the insurance market; the quality of coverage gets worse; and 22 million people lose insurance. The only plausible path for any improvement is the increased flexibility states would have to run their own health care progams. Historically, this has accomplished little except to allow conservative states to cut back on health services to the poor, so you’d need to be mighty starry-eyed to think that it will produce amazing innovations this time around." -- CW ...

... "Insurance for Everybody!" Except Poor People. Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "During an off-camera briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer signaled that the Trump administration is willing to use low-income Americans’ health insurance as a bargaining chip to persuade Congress to pass Trumpcare.... The payments 'partially subsidize deductibles and co-payments for more than 7 million low-income Americans, making it possible for many of them to afford their insurance. Cutting off the payments could potentially kick millions of people off the state exchanges, pushing some private insurers to withdraw as well. Premiums could shoot up across the board.' Spicer made clear that the administration will do what it can to continue to destabilize Obamacare exchanges by only committing to the ... payments one month at a time.... 'If the president were to hypothetically say he’s going to make the payments in perpetuity or for a year, I think that continues to prop up a failed system ... and it also doesn’t lend itself to the expediency that I think we want to help get a new health care system in place,' he said.” Trump himself tweeted that he'd let ObamaCare "crash & burn" to help GOP senators get to yes on CAHCA. -- CW ...

     ... CW: As Akhilleus laid out in yesterday's Comments, Trump's idea of "negotiating" is a zero-sum game in which Trump wins & everybody else loses. Now some of those "losers" will lose their lives. ...

... Ezra Klein: "... the Congressional Budget Office says the BCRA would make decent insurance so expensive that 'few low-income people would purchase any plan' at all.... CBO offers an illustrative example. Imagine, they say, a person who makes 75 percent of the poverty line and is currently on Medicaid. The deductible would be more than half their annual income. They would be paying for health insurance that they would destroy them financially if they tried to use it.... This, then, is what the BRCA actually does: It makes health insurance unaffordable for poor people in order to finance a massive tax cut for rich people.... The increase in uninsurance under the BCRA 'would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income — particularly people between 50 and 64 years old with income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.' A lot of the people in that demographic are Republican voters.... Premiums on decent insurance are higher for everyone...." -- CW ...

     ... CW: This is what Mitch McConnell & his gang of merry men are telling us constitutes "healthcare reform." ...

... Primum Non Nocere. Jessie Hellmann of the Hill: "The American Medical Association (AMA) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warning against cuts to Medicaid and changes to ObamaCare's subsidies and regulations. 'Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or "first, do no harm." The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels,' AMA ... CEO James Madara wrote in the letter." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... How Many Americans Will Die so that Wealthy People Can Enlarge Their Already Enormous Bank Accounts? It's not a rhetorical question. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. "How many people would lose their lives if the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act succeeds? Estimates of this inherently murky statistic vary, but the range is from about 28,000 to nearly 100,000 a year [my emphasis]. That’s a shocking toll from an effort that is essentially aimed at gifting the wealthiest Americans with hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts by slashing healthcare. So no one should be surprised that Republican and conservative supporters of the House and Senate repeal bills have spent a lot of time claiming that nothing of the sort will happen.... The most recent and complete overview of the data on the health effects of insurance coverage was published in the New England Journal of Medicine just last week.... 'Arguing that health insurance coverage doesn’t improve health is simply inconsistent with the evidence,' [the authors] wrote...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

    ... Akhilleus: Astonishing. But still Confederates are arguing that loss of healthcare will have no impact on mortality rates. Not for them, of course, because they have great healthcare. This is murder for hire. Pure and simple. No different from paid killers. Simply allowing nature to take its course does not absolve these people of their complicity in the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year. We need a new ring of hell. ...

... Defending the Indefensible. Jonathan Chait: "Even for those of us inured to the effects of right-wing propaganda, it is bizarre to watch a party attempt to carry out a major welfare-state rollback while fervently insisting the welfare state will not be rolled back a single inch." -- CW ...

... When Lying Is a Feature, Not a Bug. Paul Waldman: "As maddening as it is to see Republicans saying these things they know are simply false, it shouldn't surprise anyone. Lying has always been the central Republican strategy on health care.... Ignorance and misperception have always been the most powerful forces aiding Republicans in health-care debates, so they do whatever they can to nurture them. This was true when the Clinton administration tried health-care reform in 1993, it was true when the Obama administration tried health-care reform in 2009, and it's true today." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post: "...Kellyanne Conway on Sunday came right out and said what so many Republicans are probably thinking ― that taking Medicaid away from able-bodied adults is no big deal, because they can go out and find jobs that provide health insurance. Apparently nobody has told Conway that the majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already have jobs. The problem is that they work ... [in] low-paying jobs that typically don’t offer insurance. Take away their Medicaid and they won’t be covered. " -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 


Devlin Barrett
of the Washington Post: "
FBI agents have repeatedly questioned former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page about his contacts with Russians and his interactions with the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the investigation. Over a series of five meetings in March, totaling about 10 hours of questioning, Page repeatedly denied wrongdoing when asked about allegations that he may have acted as a kind of go-between for Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with Page’s account. The interviews with the FBI are the most extensive known questioning of a potential suspect in the probe of possible Russian connections to associates of President Trump. The questioning of Page came more than a month before the Russian investigation was put under the direction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III." -- CW ...

... Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Jared Kushner ... has added to his legal team one of the nation’s most prominent trial lawyers, Abbe D. Lowell, his lawyers said on Monday." -- CW ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "CNN announced on Monday afternoon that three network officials are leaving their jobs over [a single-sourced story on a Russian investment firms ties to a Trump transition team member that CNN was forced to retract]: [Thomas] Frank, the reporter on the story; Eric Lichtblau, a recent CNN addition from the New York Times who edited the piece; and Lex Haris, the executive editor of 'CNN Investigates.'... A CNN source said, 'The individuals all stated that they accepted responsibility and wanted to resign.'... The moves follow an investigation carried out by CNN executives over the weekend, with the conclusion that longstanding network procedures for publishing stories weren’t properly followed." -- CW 

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "The leader of the world’s oldest democracy welcomed the leader of the world’s largest democracy [PM Narendra Modi of India] to the White House Rose Garden on Monday and proclaimed them both 'believers' in public accountability.... Journalists were told ahead of time that there would be no questions allowed — a break from the typical Rose Garden tradition of two questions from each press delegation." -- CW

Richard Wike, et al., of Pew Research: "Although he has only been in office a few months, Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations. According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world.... Across the 37 nations polled, Trump gets higher marks than Obama in only two countries: Russia and Israel." -- CW  

Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times: "Richard Spencer's white nationalist think tank broke Virginia nonprofit laws by failing to register in the state and by not telling prospective donors it had lost its tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, according to an investigation by state regulators. The violations were revealed in Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services records obtained by the Los Angeles Times through a public records request.... Since Spencer took over the National Policy Institute in 2011, the group has been plagued by administrative problems. Spencer didn’t file federal tax returns for three years, leading the IRS to retroactively strip the National Policy Institute of its 501(c)3 tax-exempt status in mid-March.... Spencer worked quickly to restore his group’s legal status in Virginia after state regulators contacted him about the infractions, according to state records.... Spencer does not appear to have been accused of any criminal wrongdoing." CW: Too bad. I'd like to see that guy in a prison where the black population is over-represented. 


Adam Liptak
of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a California law that places strict limits on carrying guns in public. As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for deciding not to hear the case. The court has turned away numerous Second Amendment cases in recent years, to the frustration of gun rights groups and some conservative justices." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal from a Colorado baker with religious objections to same-sex marriage who had lost a discrimination case for refusing to create a cake to celebrate such a union.The case will be a major test of a clash between laws that ban businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: I don't see this as a very difficult case. There are plenty of Christianists (and others) who don't "believe in" mixed-raced marriages. Would the state give the baker a pass if he refused to bake a cake for Joe White & Susie Kim on religious grounds? I don't think so. A businessperson may hold whatever religious beliefs pop into his mind, but he's not allowed to act on them if they conflict with the law.

And You Thought the Supreme Court Might Curtail Trump Overreach? Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court agreed Monday to allow a limited version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination. The court made an important exception: It said the ban 'may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.' In the unsigned opinion, the court said that a foreign national who wants to visit or live with a family member would have such a relationship, and so would students from the designated countries — Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — who were admitted to a U.S. university. The court said it would hear the case when it reconvenes in October. But it also ... asked the parties to address whether the case would be moot by the time it hears it; the ban is supposed to be a temporary one while the government reviews its vetting procedures. -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Savage of the Los Angeles Times: "In a statement, Trump called the decision a 'clear victory.' 'Today's ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our nation's homeland,' he said. The justices apparently agreed with Trump and his lawyers, who argued that the Constitution and federal immigration laws give the chief executive broad power to restrict or suspend the entry of foreign individuals or groups into this country.... [Neil] Gorsuch, along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., dissented in part on Monday, saying they would have put the entire order into effect immediately." -- CW 

It Gets Worse: Emma Green of The Atlantic: "The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state of Missouri cannot deny public funds to a church simply because it is a religious organization. Seven justices affirmed the judgment in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, albeit with some disagreement about the reasoning behind it. The major church-case state could potentially expand the legal understanding of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is also the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide money directly to a house of worship, which could have implications for future policy fights — including funding for private, religious charter schools.... 'If this separation [of church and state] means anything, it means that the government cannot … tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship,' [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor wrote.... As Sotomayor predicts, Trinity Lutheran is likely the beginning of a new wave of legal challenges about government funds and the free-exercise clause. A little case about tire scraps and playgrounds just set the stage for a new way of thinking about the separation of church and state." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

    ...Akhilleus: If Kennedy retires, Trump will appoint someone much worse than Gorsuch and then you can kiss the United States of America goodbye. 


Pay No Attention to that Seawater in the Living Room. It's a Hoax, Folks. Chris Mooney
of the Washington Post: "In at least the third such study published in the past year, scientists have confirmed seas are rising, and the rate of sea level rise is increasing as time passes — a sobering punchline for coastal communities that are only now beginning to prepare for a troubling future." -- CW ...

... Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017." In the past, scientists "established that less than half of the gas ... produced when people burned coal, oil and natural gas ... was remaining in the atmosphere and warming the planet. The rest was being absorbed by the ocean and the land surface....In essence, these natural sponges were doing humanity a huge service by disposing of much of its gaseous waste. But as emissions have risen higher and higher, it has been unclear how much longer the natural sponges will be able to keep up." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The family of Philando Castile, the Minnesota man fatally shot by a police officer during a July 2016 traffic stop, reached a settlement of nearly $3 million with the city that employed the officer at the time, both sides announced Monday. The announcement marks the latest financial settlement to follow a deadly police shooting that spurred criminal charges but not a conviction. It was announced a week and a half after the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted in the fatal shooting, the aftermath of which was streamed on Facebook Live and seen worldwide. According to the statement, the settlement will be paid through St. Anthony’s coverage with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, and no taxpayer funds from the city itself will be used to pay for it." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Really? I'll bet St. Anthony Village sees its premiums rise sharply. And who do you supposed pays the premiums?

Joe Arpaio Goes on Trial: Amita Kelly of NPR: "For 24 years, Joe Arpaio was a tough talking sheriff in Arizona, famous for cracking down on illegal immigration. About a decade ago Arpaio, dubbed 'America's Toughest Sheriff' in conservative circles, started instructing his deputies to make traffic stops and detain any unauthorized immigrants they encountered. Then they'd turn the immigrants over to federal agents for deportation. He was voted out of his Maricopa County office in November but now faces his own legal troubles — a criminal trial begins Monday in which he is accused of ignoring a federal judge's order to curtail his crackdown." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: If convicted, he should have to don a pink jumpsuit and pink underwear and be paraded around in public through hispanic neighborhoods.

Nicole Lewis of the Washington Post: "Fifty California residents have filed a petition to recall the California judge who drew national criticism for issuing a short jail sentence to Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus. The effort to recall Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky — the first official move to get him off the bench since Turner’s sentencing in June 2016 — has garnered endorsements from members of Congress, national women’s rights organizations and leaders in Silicon Valley. They argue that Persky has favored defendants in sexual assault cases and should be held to account for the imbalance." -- CW 

Sunday
Jun252017

The Commentariat -- June 26, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Thanks to Akhilleus for keeping us up-to-date (-hour?).

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a California law that places strict limits on carrying guns in public. As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for deciding not to hear the case. The court has turned away numerous Second Amendment cases in recent years, to the frustration of gun rights groups and some conservative justices." -- CW 

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal from a Colorado baker with religious objections to same-sex marriage who had lost a discrimination case for refusing to create a cake to celebrate such a union.The case will be a major test of a clash between laws that ban businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom." ...

     ... CW: I don't see this as a very difficult case. There are plenty of Christianists (and others) who don't "believe in" mixed-raced marriages. Would the state give the baker a pass if he refused to bake a cake for Joe White & Susie Kim on religious grounds? I don't think so. A businessperson may hold whatever religious beliefs pop into his mind, but he's not allowed to act on them if they conflict with the law.

And You Thought the Supreme Court Might Curtail Trump Overreach? Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court agreed Monday to allow a limited version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination. The court made an important exception: It said the ban 'may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.' In the unsigned opinion, the court said that a foreign national who wants to visit or live with a family member would have such a relationship, and so would students from the designated countries — Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — who were admitted to a U.S. university. The court said it would hear the case when it reconvenes in October. But it also ... asked the parties to address whether the case would be moot by the time it hears it; the ban is supposed to be a temporary one while the government reviews its vetting procedures. -- Akhilleus

It Gets Worse: Emma Green of The Atlantic: "The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state of Missouri cannot deny public funds to a church simply because it is a religious organization. Seven justices affirmed the judgment in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, albeit with some disagreement about the reasoning behind it. The major church-case state could potentially expand the legal understanding of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is also the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide money directly to a house of worship, which could have implications for future policy fights — including funding for private, religious charter schools.... 'If this separation [of church and state] means anything, it means that the government cannot … tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship,' [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor wrote.... As Sotomayor predicts, Trinity Lutheran is likely the beginning of a new wave of legal challenges about government funds and the free-exercise clause. A little case about tire scraps and playgrounds just set the stage for a new way of thinking about the separation of church and state." ...

    ...Akhilleus: If Kennedy retires, Trump will appoint someone much worse than Gorsuch and then you can kiss the United States of America goodbye. 

Joe Arpaio Goes on Trial: Amita Kelly of NPR: "For 24 years, Joe Arpaio was a tough talking sheriff in Arizona, famous for cracking down on illegal immigration. About a decade ago Arpaio, dubbed 'America's Toughest Sheriff' in conservative circles, started instructing his deputies to make traffic stops and detain any unauthorized immigrants they encountered. Then they'd turn the immigrants over to federal agents for deportation. He was voted out of his Maricopa County office in November but now faces his own legal troubles — a criminal trial begins Monday in which he is accused of ignoring a federal judge's order to curtail his crackdown." ...

     ... Akhilleus: If convicted, he should have to don a pink jumpsuit and pink underwear and be paraded around in public through hispanic neighborhoods.

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The family of Philando Castile, the Minnesota man fatally shot by a police officer during a July 2016 traffic stop, reached a settlement of nearly $3 million with the city that employed the officer at the time, both sides announced Monday. The announcement marks the latest financial settlement to follow a deadly police shooting that spurred criminal charges but not a conviction. It was announced a week and a half after the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted in the fatal shooting, the aftermath of which was streamed on Facebook Live and seen worldwide. According to the statement, the settlement will be paid through St. Anthony’s coverage with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, and no taxpayer funds from the city itself will be used to pay for it." ...

     ... CW: Really? I'll bet St. Anthony Village sees its premiums rise sharply. And who do you supposed pays the premiums?

Primum Non Nocere. Jessie Hellmann of the Hill: "The American Medical Association (AMA) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warning against cuts to Medicaid and changes to ObamaCare's subsidies and regulations. 'Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or "first, do no harm." The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels,' AMA ... CEO James Madara wrote in the letter." -- CW ...

... How Many Americans Will Die so that Wealthy People Can Enlarge Their Already Enormous Bank Accounts? It's not a rhetorical question. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. "How many people would lose their lives if the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act succeeds? Estimates of this inherently murky statistic vary, but the range is from about 28,000 to nearly 100,000 a year [my emphasis]. That’s a shocking toll from an effort that is essentially aimed at gifting the wealthiest Americans with hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts by slashing healthcare. So no one should be surprised that Republican and conservative supporters of the House and Senate repeal bills have spent a lot of time claiming that nothing of the sort will happen.... The most recent and complete overview of the data on the health effects of insurance coverage was published in the New England Journal of Medicine just last week.... 'Arguing that health insurance coverage doesn’t improve health is simply inconsistent with the evidence,' [the authors] wrote...." ...

    ... Akhilleus: Astonishing. But still Confederates are arguing that loss of healthcare will have no impact on mortality rates. Not for them, of course, because they have great healthcare. This is murder for hire. Pure and simple. No different from paid killers. Simply allowing nature to take its course does not absolve these people of their complicity in the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year. We need a new ring of hell.

... Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post: "...Kellyanne Conway on Sunday came right out and said what so many Republicans are probably thinking ― that taking Medicaid away from able-bodied adults is no big deal, because they can go out and find jobs that provide health insurance. Apparently nobody has told Conway that the majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already have jobs. The problem is that they work ... [in] low-paying jobs that typically don’t offer insurance. Take away their Medicaid and they won’t be covered. " -- CW 

*****

CW: The Supremes are issuing decisions today, & I have to go out till this afternoon. If anyone wants to keep us up in the meantime, that would be helpful.


Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan
of the New York Times: "Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week. President Trump expressed confidence that the bill to repeal the guts of the Affordable Care Act would pass. 'Health care is a very, very tough thing to get,' Mr. Trump said Sunday on Fox News. 'But I think we’re going to get it. We don’t have too much of a choice, because the alternative is the dead carcass of Obamacare.'... Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said Sunday that 'there’s no way we should be voting' on the legislation this week.... Much of the nation’s $3 trillion health care industry opposes the bill. And [Mitch] McConnell has done little to woo the health care stakeholders who were assiduously courted by Mr. Obama from his first months in office as he fought for his legislation.The outside forces against the bill also appear to be growing: Top lieutenants in the conservative Koch brothers’ political network sharply criticized the legislation over the weekend....” -- CW ...

... ** Norm Ornstein in the Atlantic: "The United States has never had a Senate leader as ruthless, as willing to bend, distort and break the rules, traditions and precedents of the Senate as Mitch McConnell. And the Senate has probably never had a majority leader as effective at accomplishing his goals as Mitch McConnell — making even Lyndon Johnson look like a neophyte in comparison. That is why no one should believe that the McConnell-crafted health-policy bill is dead, despite the growing opposition and the fact that the overwhelming majority of health-policy analysts and health providers say the bill is a walking disaster." Ornstein discusses both the Dickensian measures in the Senate "draft" bill & how McConnell is giving "concerned" Repubican senators an easy path to yes. -- CW ...

... John Wagner, et al., of the Washington Post: "Before taking office, [Donald Trump] vowed 'insurance for everybody' that would be 'much less expensive and much better' and explicitly promised not to touch Medicaid.... It is increasingly clear that President Trump is almost certain to fall well short of fulfilling those promises. Trump and congressional Republicans will likely hail any bill that reaches the president’s desk as the fulfillment of a long-standing pledge to 'repeal and replace' the ACA.... But if the House and Senate agree on legislation along the lines of what is now being debated, millions including some of Trump’s most ardent supporters are projected to lose coverage, receive fewer benefits or see their premiums rise. And if the health-care push stalls or falls apart, the president who campaigned for the White House as the ultimate dealmaker will be dealt a serious political blow — another example of Trump’s inability to move major legislation through Congress." -- CW ...

... Chas Danner of New York: Trump admits he called the House CAHCA bill "mean." His admission comes in the context of complaining that President Obama plagiarized the word. CW: All I have to say to that is "Sad!" ...

... Alternative Facts. Jordyn Phillips of ABC News: "... Kellyanne Conway asserted Sunday that the Senate health care bill does not propose cuts to Medicaid, despite projections that it would cut the federal health insurance program by $800 billion. 'These are not cuts to Medicaid,' Conway said to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on 'This Week' Sunday." -- CW ...

... Ryan Koronowski of ThinkProgress: “'It just wouldn’t happen,' Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told CNN’s Dana Bash when asked about Republican concerns over Medicaid cuts.... The Senate bill’s main advocate and author, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), actually tried to argue that the bill will strengthen Medicaid when he introduced it last Thursday on the Senate floor. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) argued on CBS’ Face the Nation that the bill would 'make permanent' Medicaid expansion and also said 'no one loses coverage.' The bill would in fact massively cut Medicaid, threatening to completely phase out the program as we currently know it. The legislation would roll back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, starting in four short years. It would also make deeper cuts to Medicaid by placing “per capita caps” on the program such that states will receive only a set amount of money for each recipient, no matter how much their care actually costs.... The Medicaid program currently covers 20 percent of all Americans, 49 percent of all births, 60 percent of all kids with disabilities, and 64 percent of all nursing home residents.” -- CW ...

     ... CW: The fake "rationale" here is that $800BB in cuts are not really "cuts" -- they're just "rolling back to pre-ObamaCare levels." One reason the bill's lying backers are making this claim is that Trump promised repeatedly during the presidential campaign that, unlike nasty establishment Republicans, he would not cut Medicaid or Social Security. So look for deep cuts to Social Security down the road, only they won't really be "cuts" -- they'll be "rollbacks to pre-FDR levels."

It's All Obama's Fault, Ctd. The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win.....and did not want to 'rock the boat.' He didn't 'choke,' he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good. The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With 4 months looking at Russia ... under a magnifying glass, they have zero ‘tapes’ of T people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology! -- Donald Trump, in run-on tweets, this morning

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "During an interview on CNN's 'New Day,' Jen Psaki, former White House communications director, pushed back against the characterization that the Obama administration didn't do anything to respond to the Russian meddling. 'It's simply not born[e] out by the facts ... Last summer when the president was made aware of these attacks by Russia, he asked the intelligence community — to double down and put every resource toward figuring out what happened,' she said. 'And they put out an unprecedented statement in the early October of last year. That was before President Trump was elected. Now we were treating it as a cyberattack at the time.' Psaki said the former administration didn't factor in as much as it likely should have the 'impact of propaganda.' 'We followed the book,' she said. 'The book perhaps should be thrown out because this was an unprecedented attack and it really changes how we should approach things moving forward.' 'The fact is, there was a lot done at the time,' she said. 'There's more that should be done at this point though.'" ...

     ... CW: I did go back & check to see if Psaki was right about the October statement: So this from the WashPo report. If you don't see a hilariously hypocritical element in this graf, you really haven't been paying attention:

On Oct. 7, the administration offered its first public comment on Russia’s 'active measures,' in a three-paragraph statement issued by Johnson   and Clapper . Comey had initially agreed to attach his name, as well, officials said, but changed his mind at the last minute, saying that it was too close to the election for the bureau to be involved.

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Government officials, members of Congress from both parties and even some Trump supporters had hoped that, with the campaign behind him, Mr. Trump would finally speak declaratively about the email hacking and recognize the threat Russian cyberattacks present, without asterisks, wisecracks, caveats or obfuscation. That hope has dissipated. The latest presidential tweets were proof to dismayed members of Mr. Trump’s party that he still refuses to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected." -- CW ...

... Amy Wang of the Washington Post: "In the wake of a bombshell story about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — and persistent allegations that President Trump’s campaign may have colluded with Russia to win — Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning.... The initial responses to the early morning tweet ranged from baffled to indignant. There was a difference, several Twitter users pointed out, between working with one’s own political party and 'working with a foreign enemy.'” -- CW ...

... Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "The White House blamed the Obama administration Sunday for failing to tackle possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, sticking with a new strategy to fault President Trump's predecessor for an issue currently facing the president himself as part of a widening FBI probe. Appearing on ABC's 'This Week' on Sunday morning, Kellyanne Conway ... struck a combative tone.... But despite the nation's intelligence agencies having hard proof that Russia — and not any other country or entity — did, in fact, meddle in the 2016 presidential elections, Trump repeatedly seemed to fault everyone but Russia.... Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Democratic minority leader, rejected Conway's remarks in an interview immediately after hers on the show, noting that the Obama administration is 'no longer in charge' and calling on the White House to support a bipartisan Senate bill that imposes additional sanctions on Russia and Iran. The White House is lobbying against the bill....'The American people are scratching their heads. Knowing [Trump's] relationship with Putin, they’re saying why the heck is he opposing strengthening sanctions?'” -- CW ...

** Frank Rich compares Trumpgate to Watergate. Although there are differences, of course -- for one thing, Nixon was intelligent, wily & knowledgeable -- the similarities are so uncanny that midway through a few sentences I had to stop & check to see if the line was about Nixon or Trump. Meanwhile, Rich advises us to sit tight. Watergate unfolded over many months, and there were decided lulls in the unfolding: "... whatever the end proves to be, we cannot expect to have a real inkling until an impending election starts concentrating Republican politicians’ minds next summer. The best thing to do in the meantime is to keep calm, carry on with the resistance, and rest assured that the day is coming when we won’t have Trump to kick around anymore." If you read only one article today, make it Rich. Thanks to MAG for the link. -- CW ...

... Alex Carp of New York collects 13 opinions on how long Trump's presidency will last. Newt is optimistic! -- CW ...

... Jared & the Money Launderers. Michael Kranish of the Washington Post: "One month before Election Day, Jared Kushner’s real estate company finalized a $285 million loan as part of a refinancing package for its property near Times Square in Manhattan. The loan came at a critical moment. Kushner was playing a key role in the presidential campaign of his father-in-law, Donald Trump. The lender, Deutsche Bank, was negotiating to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charges from New York state regulators that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme. The cases were settled in December and January.... The White House, in response to questions from The Post, said in a statement that Kushner 'will recuse from any particular matter involving specific parties in which Deutsche Bank is a party.' Kushner and Deutsche Bank declined to comment. Deutsche Bank loans to Trump and his family members have come under scrutiny. As Trump’s biggest lender, the bank supplied funds to him when other banks balked at the risk. As of last year, Trump’s companies had about $364 million in outstanding debts to the bank.... The corporate loan and Kushner’s personal guarantee are not mentioned on his financial disclosure form, filed with the Office of Government Ethics.... Bloomberg News has reported that the Justice Department has requested records related to money laundering from Deutsche Bank as part of a probe." Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee have been trying to get answers from the DOJ & Deutsche Bank about the money-laundering settlements." -- CW ...

... John Hudson of BuzzFeed: "Ending one the most turbulent tenures of a Washington-based ambassador in recent memory, the Kremlin has decided to recall its ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, three individuals familiar with the decision tell BuzzFeed News. The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York, as several outlets previously reported, comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign." CW: In the life-imitates-art department, this is another episode of "The Americans." ...

... Owen Matthews & Matthew Cooper of Newsweek: "Allegedly improper contacts with Kislyak form at least three strands of the Russiagate scandal — the ambassador’s meetings with ... Jared Kushner; with national security adviser Michael Flynn; and with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump’s alleged attempts to cover up his Russia ties make 'Watergate pale, really in my view, compared to what we’re confronting now,' former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told an audience at Australia’s National Press Club in early June. 'I am very concerned about the assault on our institutions coming from both an external source — read Russia — and an internal source, the president himself.'... [Kislyak] 'oversees a very aggressive intelligence operation in this country,' Clapper told NBC in May.... Today, Kislyak has become so radioactive that senior officials are falling all over each other to deny they ever had contact with him.... As former Obama campaign chief David Axelrod joked on Twitter, “‘Kislyak" turns out to be a Russian word for "I forgot.’”” The rap against Kislyak is that "he didn’t do enough to halt a precipitous decline in U.S.-Russian relations, which were cordial at the beginning of his term in 2008 and disastrous today. An effective ambassador isn’t just a lobbyist — he or she is a go-between. All ambassadors explain their country’s policies to their hosts — but the best ones also help their bosses understand the fears, red lines and logic of the country where they have been posted." -- CW ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Jon Passantino of BuzzFeed: "CNN is imposing strict new publishing restrictions for online articles involving Russia after the network deleted a story and then issued a retraction late Friday, according to an internal email obtained by BuzzFeed News.... The deleted and retracted a story that claimed Senate investigators were looking into a Russian investment fund whose chief executive met with a member of President Trump’s transition team. The now-deleted story was published Thursday and cited a single, unnamed source....' A source close to the network ... told BuzzFeed News earlier that the story was a 'massive, massive fuck up and people will be disciplined.' The person said CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker and the head of the company's human resources department are 'directly involved' in an internal investigation examining how the story was handled." ...

     ... CW: Not to worry. Woodward & Bernstein fucked up, too.


David Sanger
, et al., of the New York Times: "Some in the White House say that the discord [between Seretary of State Rex Tillerson & Donald Trump] in the Qatar dispute is part of a broader struggle over who is in charge of Middle East policy — Mr. Tillerson or Jared Kushner..., and that the secretary of state has a tin ear about the political realities of the Trump administration. Others say it is merely symptomatic of a dysfunctional State Department that, under Mr. Tillerson’s uncertain leadership, does not yet have in place the senior political appointees who make the wheels of diplomacy turn. But criticism from Mr. Trump’s aides is not Mr. Tillerson’s only problem. In recent days, each of his top priorities has hit a wall. His effort to enlist China to force North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs has gone nowhere, as the president himself acknowledged last week. The Russians, angry about a congressional move to impose new sanctions, disinvited one of his top diplomats — leaving that crucial relationship at its lowest point since the Cold War. And in Congress, where Mr. Tillerson once found members willing to give deference to his efforts to reorganize and shrink the State Department, there is now anger and defiance about the extent of those plans." ...

     ... CW: One hardly needs be a Tillerson fan to decide which of the Ts is the better statesman.

The First Heiress Says. I try to stay out of politics. His political instincts are phenomenal. He did something that no one could have imagined he'd be able to accomplish. I feel blessed just being part of the ride from day one and before. But he did something pretty remarkable. But I don't profess to be a political savant. -- Ivanka Trump, on "Fox & Friends," this morning 

Bruce Bartlett in Politico Magazine: "Trump has turned out to be far, far worse than I imagined. He has instituted policies so right wing they make Ronald Reagan, for whom I worked, look like a liberal Democrat. He has appointed staff people far to the right of the Republican mainstream in many positions, and they are instituting policies that are frighteningly extreme.... And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power." CW: Always interesting to see what an old-fashioned conservative thinks about the Party of Gingrich, DeMint, McConnell & Trump.


Helene Cooper
of the New York Times: "If Congress passes Mr. Trump’s proposed Pentagon budget for the 2018 fiscal year ... the United States will spend more money on military affairs in Africa but reduce humanitarian and development assistance across the continent. The Trump budget proposes cutting aid to Africa to $5.2 billion in the 2018 fiscal year from $8 billion now, a stark drop. Even some of the money still in the Trump proposal would shift to security areas from humanitarian and development, foreign policy experts say. 'We are radically narrowing the definition of why and how Africa matters to U.S. national interests, said J. Stephen Morrison ... [of] the Center for Strategic and International Studies." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Harriet Sinclair of Newsweek: "Jewish people celebrating LGBT Pride in Chicago were told not to display Star of David flags because other people found them ‘offensive.’ The Jewish Star of David flag was banned from the city’s annual Dyke March celebrations, and several people carrying the flag were removed form the march because their presence 'made people feel unsafe,' LGBT paper Windy City Times reported.... The organizers of the march told the Times the event was a pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist one.... The Star of David also features on the Israeli flag, with many believing support for Israel is tantamount to supporting the oppression of the Palestinian people." CW: Sorry, Chicago ladies. Don't tell me you're marching for inclusiveness and also too no Jews allowed. Really stupid.

Saturday
Jun242017

The Commentariat -- June 25, 2017

CW Note on Spam: A commenter alerted me that she got spammed today, & when I checked my spam file, I found quite a few older, legitimate comments from others, including three or four from Just a Guy. If you post a comment & it doesn't show up within a minute (refresh the page), it's because my system sent your comment to spam. On the rare occasions I delete a comment for cause, I say why. But I do not prescreen comments, so if your comment doesn't appear, send me a note at constantweader@gmail.com and I'll de-spam it.

     ... In the meantime, my apologies to Just a Guy & to a few others who may have mistakenly thought their comment didn't meet some exalted standard I have here. My "exalted standard" is basically this: (1) write on a political topic; and (2) feel free to disagree with me or with other commenters, but don't attack the person who wrote the original comment (except me -- I don't mind being attacked). Yesterday's comments contained several good examples of writers who disagreed with me; they explained why they thought I was wrong (and their arguments were, BTW, excellent) & they didn't begin with, "Marie, you ignorant slut" (though since the comments opposed my views & not another commenter's, the ignorant-slut bit would have been okay).

** Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "The Affordable Care Act repeal bill unveiled Thursday by Senate Republicans has aptly drawn universal scorn from healthcare experts, hospital and physician groups and advocates for patients and the needy. That’s because the bill is a poorly-disguised massive tax cut for the wealthy, paid for by cutting Medicaid — which serves the middle class and the poor — to the bone.Yet some of the measure’s most egregious, harshest provisions are well-disguised.... We’ve ferreted out some of them and present them here in all their malevolent glory.... States will have more authority to reimpose lifetime and annual benefit caps and eliminate essential health benefits.... Protection for people with preexisting conditions is destroyed.... Older Americans would get socked with much higher premiums and costs.... The biggest tax cut for the rich is retroactive ... to the beginning of this year.... This provision in particular is heavily loaded toward the richest of the rich.... The fight against opioid addiction is crippled.... Salaries for health insurance chief executives can go through the roof." -- CW ...

... Sarah Kliff & Dylan Scott of Vox: "Senate Republicans are expected to revise their health bill early next week, adding in a provision that could lock Americans out of the individual market for six months if they fail to maintain continuous insurance coverage.... The six-month waiting period would fill a big policy gap in the current [bill]..., which requires health plans to accept all patients — but doesn’t require all Americans to purchase coverage, as the Affordable Care Act does. Experts expect that this would cause a death spiral, where only the sickest patients purchase coverage and premiums skyrocket. The six-month waiting period could also complicate the Senate Republicans’ repeal efforts, because it may run afoul of the chamber’s complex reconciliation rules. Republicans are using what’s called 'budget reconciliation' to pass their health care bill with a bare majority of 50 votes and avoid a Democratic filibuster. But the rules governing reconciliation restrict what policies the GOP can include in their bill — the waiting period is one of the provisions thought to be in doubt." -- CW

Sorry, My Hypocrisy Meter Just Blew up. Eugene Scott of CNN: "... Donald Trump questioned former President Barack Obama's response to Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election in an interview airing Sunday morning, saying Obama didn't do enough to address the situation. 'Well I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it,' Trump said in an excerpt of his interview on Fox News' 'Fox and Friends' released Friday. 'But nobody wants to talk about that.' 'The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even -- before the election,' Trump said. 'And I hardly see it. It's an amazing thing. To me, in other words, the question is, if he had the information, why didn't he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don't read that. It's quite sad.'" -- CW ...

... Avi Selk & Amy Wang of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Saturday called out Obama administration officials for not taking stronger actions against Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, contradicting his past statements and suggesting without proof that they were trying to help Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.... Trump has long disputed that the Russians interfered with the election, calling it 'all a big Dem HOAX' just this week. But on Friday evening, after the publication of The Post’s article, Trump demanded to know why Obama hadn’t done more to stop the meddling.... He followed up with more tweets on Saturday, attempting to put the focus on Obama’s inaction.... The Post’s article explains in detail why Obama, who reportedly was gravely concerned by an August CIA report about the hacking,  managed to approve only 'largely symbolic' sanctions before he left office. Those reasons included partisan squabbling among members of Congress, initial skepticism by other intelligence agencies about the CIA’s findings, and an assumption that Clinton would win the election and follow up." -- CW ...

... digby: "So, Trump is trolling Obama hard now for not stopping the Russian interference in the election on his behalf. The interference he says is a hoax designed to excuse Clinton's loss." digby adds a swell open letter to Trump." -- CW ...

     ... CW: I think digby's open letter illustrates Trump is digging himself a deeper hole here. ...

... Oh, And This. Ken Dilanian, et al., of NBC News: "The Trump administration has taken little meaningful action to prevent Russian hacking, leaking and disruption in the next national election in 2018, despite warnings from intelligence officials that it will happen again, officials and experts told NBC News.... According to recent Congressional testimony, Trump has shown no interest in the question of how to prevent future election interference by Russia or another foreign power. Former FBI Director James Comey told senators that Trump never asked him about how to stop a future Russian election cyber attack, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who sits on the National Security Council, testified that he has not received a classified briefing on Russian election interference. Dozens of state officials told NBC News they have received little direction from Washington about election security. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said this week he had never addressed the matter with Trump.... John McLaughlin, a former acting CIA director, said he had seen no indication that President Trump and his team have 'weighed in with Russians or made clear to the Russians our determination to stop this.'" ...

     ... CW: Needless to say, an all-out press to protect our election systems isn't something the government can just start thinking about thinking about next August. There should already be a full task force in place, and they should be initiating, you know, tasks.

Donald Trump: A Clear & Present Danger. Nada Bakos in a Washington Post op-ed: "Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency. Usually, intelligence officers’ efforts to collect information on world leaders are methodical, painstaking and often covert. CIA operatives have risked their lives to learn about foreign leaders so the United States could devise strategies to counter our adversaries. With Trump, though, secret operations are not necessary to understand what’s on his mind.... [When I worked] at the CIA..., we never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now — to get a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind. If we had, it would have given us significant advantages in our dealings with them. " -- CW 

Sam Levine of the Huffington Post: "An adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign who said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason was given a prime seat at a White House bill-signing ceremony on Friday. Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire GOP state representative who advised Trump on veterans issues during the campaign, sat in one of the first two rows of seats in the East Room as Trump signed a bill making it easier for the Veterans Administration to fire employees accused of misconduct. Baldasaro, in a radio interview during the campaign, criticized Clinton for the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, and said she should be 'put in the firing line and shot for treason.' Trump later praised Baldasaro. Baldasaro isn’t the first advocate of violence to visit Trump’s White House. Musician Ted Nugent, who called for chopping off the heads of Obama administration officials, visited the Oval Office in April.  Nugent also suggested then-President Barack Obama and Clinton should be hanged for treason. William Bradford, a recent Trump appointee to the Department of Energy, suggested last year that a military coup would be needed to remove Obama from office." -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "There's intemperate speech on all sides -- but increasingly there's no penalty for it on the right." CW: Actually, right-wing advocates for violence get big honking prizes for it; lefties get shamed and/or fired.

Amy Wang: "In an appearance Friday on the Russian late-night show 'Evening Urgant..., Stephen Colbert sat on the other side of the desk for once, bantering with host Ivan Urgant through an interpreter and playing 'Russian roulette' with a tray of vodka-filled shot glasses and pickles. Midway through their game, the American comedian interrupted Urgant to say he had something to disclose — but only if he could confirm first that the show wasn’t broadcast in the United States. 'I am here to announce that I am considering a run for president in 2020,' Colbert said, delivering what was ostensibly a joke with a straight face. The audience applauded as Colbert nodded seriously. 'And I thought it would be better to cut out the middleman and just tell the Russians myself,' Colbert continued.... After Trump tweeted earlier this week that he had in fact made no 'tapes' of his conversations with former FBI Director James B. Comey — despite ominously tweeting a warning last month to Comey that there might be — Colbert responded by posting a picture of himself in Russia. '... Don't worry, Mr. President. I'm in Russia. If the "tapes" exist, I'll bring you back a copy! pic.twitter.com/v5flvAMtFYStephen Colbert June 22, 2017'” -- CW 

Mark Sherman of the AP: "The Supreme Court enters its final week of work before a long summer hiatus with action expected on the Trump administration's travel ban and a decision due in a separation of church and state case that arises from a Missouri church playground.The biggest news of all, though, would be if Justice Anthony Kennedy were to use the court's last public session on Monday to announce his retirement. To be sure, Kennedy has given no public sign that he will retire this year and give ... Donald Trump his second high court pick in the first months of his administration. Kennedy's departure would allow conservatives to take firm control of the court.... Several of his former law clerks have said they think he is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so." -- CW 

Jon Bat of CBS News: "Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his wife, Jane Sanders have hired prominent defense attorneys amid an FBI investigation into a loan Jane Sanders obtained to expand Burlington College while she was its president, CBS News confirms. Politico Magazine first reported the Sanders had hired lawyers to defend them in the probe. Sanders' top adviser Jeff Weaver told CBS News the couple has sought legal protection over federal agents' allegations from a January 2016 complaint accusing then-President of Burlington College, Ms. Sanders, of distorting donor levels in a 2010 loan application for $10 million from People's United Bank to purchase 33 acres of land for the institution.... Ms. Sanders' push for the liberal arts college's costly land acquisition was cited in a press release by the college when it shut down in 2016." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Kate Murphy of the San Jose Mercury News: "A proposal to bring universal health care to California — replacing the private insurance market with a government-run single-payer plan — was abruptly put on hold Friday by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, all but ensuring the nationally touted measure will not pass the Legislature this year. Earlier this month, the state Senate voted to pass a $400 billion plan sponsored by the California Nurses Association, sending it to the Assembly. But the measure had few details — including how the state would raise the money to pay for it. Rendon said he supported the concept of single-payer health care but called the bill 'woefully incomplete.' 'Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill,' he said in a statement issued late Friday afternoon, 'including the fact it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls or the realities of needed action by the Trump administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation. In light of this, I have decided SB 562 will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice.'” Thanks to P.D. Pepe for the reminder. -- CW 

Friday
Jun232017

The Commentariat -- June 24, 2017

Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, perhaps the most vulnerable Republican facing re-election in 2018, said Friday that he would not support the Senate health care overhaul as written.... Mr. Heller, who is seen as a pivotal swing vote, denounced the Senate-drafted bill in strong terms that Democrats swiftly seized on. He said the measure would deprive millions of health care and do nothing to lower insurance premiums.... Mr. Heller's criticism Friday infuriated allies of Mr. Trump.... Liberal groups have already organized protests against the bill, and Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, plans to lead a campaign-style tour this weekend through West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, three states with Republican senators that also expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Planned Parenthood, which would be defunded under the Senate bill, has been running television ads targeting Mr. Heller, as well as Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, also up for re-election next year, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia." -- CW ...

... Clio Chang of the New Republic: "On Friday, Sean Spicer gave his off-camera press briefing that the White House press corps is still too cowardly to film. He told reporters that Trump likes the Senate's health care bill (yesterday Trump tweeted that he was 'very supportive' of the bill and that he can't wait to make it 'really special'), but also that he wants to make sure that Medicaid recipients won't get hurt. This, of course, is a ridiculous statement, akin to saying that one supports murder as long as nobody gets killed. Over the long term, the Senate bill would cut Medicaid even more severely than the House bill would, threatening the insurance coverage of literally tens of millions of people who are poor, disabled, and/or elderly." -- CW ...

... Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "The Senate Republican health-care bill would achieve a historic convergence of GOP priorities, placing major, permanent caps on Medicaid spending and providing a significant tax cut for wealthy Americans.... The legislation would sharply break with pledges Trump made during the 2016 campaign to block reductions in Medicaid spending and to deliver tax cuts primarily to the middle class. All together, it shows how long-term conservative goals of cutting taxes and entitlement spending have overtaken Trump's agenda...." ...

     ... CW: Excuse me, Damian. "Trump's agenda," vis-a-vis actually helping his voter base, was always B.S. ...

... Nicholas Bagley in Vox: "Much will and should be made of how the bill, if adopted, would deprive millions of people of health insurance in order to finance huge tax cuts for the wealthy. But the bill is troubling in another respect: It affords states the immense, hidden power to eliminate some of the Affordable Care Act's most critical financial protections.... Under the Senate bill, to get a waiver, a state doesn't have to demonstrate anything about coverage. Instead, it just has to show that the plan won't 'increase the federal deficit.' Once a state makes that showing, the bill is explicit: The secretary of health and human services 'shall' approve the plan.: ObamaCare provides for state waivers, too, but the states must prove their proposed coverage alternatives are strong. "The bill goes further to grease the wheels for waivers." Instead of requiring state legislatures "to pass a law in support of the proposed waiver..., governors, together with their insurance commissioners, could devise new health care plans on their own. And once a waiver is granted, the Senate bill says that the federal government cannot terminate the waiver, no matter what." -- CW ...

     ... CW: In short, if you live in a red state or maybe even a purple one, you're screwed. ...

... Gene Sperling & Michael Shapiro in the Atlantic: "Senate Republicans were willing to drive up deductibles and co-pays and be more draconian on Medicaid cuts, but on the one issue of pre-existing conditions they were intent on being less 'mean,' as President Trump termed the House bill. Now that the text of the bill has been released, it's clear that they have failed to achieve that.... Republicans are going to claim that it will not allow insurance plans to discriminate against people because they have a pre-existing condition. But that just isn't the case. The Republican plan may not allow insurers to discriminate against a pre-existing condition through the front door, but they've created a backdoor way in.... The Senate bill will open the door to states forcing people with pre-existing conditions into segregated markets that will lead them to pay far, far higher costs than everyone else.... President Trump promised 'insurance for everyone' and lower costs, but this bill will bring the country back to a system in which insurance only works for the healthy, and the sick can't afford the coverage they need." ...

     ... CW: Gosh, how could such a thing happen? Oh, I know. Mitch let insurance lobbyists write that part of the bill. ...

... Gail Collins on a few reasons the GOP Senate's old boys' club has produced a bill that's even harder on women than it is on men.


All the President's Lies. David Loenhardt & Stuart Thompson
of the New York Times: "Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump's lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.... There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president -- of either party -- has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant. We have set a conservative standard, leaving out many dubious statements (like the claim that his travel ban is 'similar' to Obama administration policy).... We are using the word 'lie' deliberately." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Paul Waldman: "What comes through again and again [in the blockbuster WashPo report on Putin's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, linked here early yesterday,] is that the Obama administration was terrified of looking partisan or doing anything that might seem like it was putting a thumb on the scale of the election, and the result was paralysis.... Democrats are forever worried about whether they might be criticized, whether Republicans will be mean to them, whether they might look as though they're being partisan, and whether they might be subjected to a round of stern editorials. Republicans, on the other hand, just don’t care. What they're worried about is winning, and they don't let the kinds of criticism that frightens Democrats impede them." Read the whole post. -- CW ...

     ... CW: The best way for the Obama administration to have warned the public about Russia's efforts to influence the election was a no-brainer. Once Mitch McConnell, et al., refused to go along with disclosing the Russian plot, a few "high-ranking public officials" -- maybe one from the White House & a couple from intelligence agencies -- should have leaked to the press. While Trump was out there screaming about the lying media & locking reporters in cages, the administration could confirm the veracity of the leaks. This isn't inventing the wheel; it's a tried-and-true way to put info into the public square when you don't want to do so standing on a soapbox.

... Kyle Cheney of Politico: "The White House copied and pasted ... Donald Trump's day-old tweet Friday in its written response to a House committee's bipartisan request for any recordings of Trump's conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. In a two-paragraph letter from legislative director Marc Short to the House Intelligence Committee leaders, the White House simply quoted Trump's contention that he has 'no idea' whether any tapes of his meetings with Comey exist. It's a remarkable suggestion that the president is unaware whether his private White House conversations are being taped, and it also comes hours after one of the committee's top Republicans, Rep. Mike Conaway, said he didn't consider Trump's tweets an 'official' response to his inquiry." CW Burning question: do Trump's tweets have to be copied to White House stationery to be "official?" What a bunch of jackasses. ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump laid out his belief that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is biased in the expanding Russia investigation and suggested in an interview broadcast Friday morning that he may eventually need to step down. Asked by Fox News Channel whether Mueller should 'recuse himself from the investigation,' Trump said three times 'we'll have to see,' and argued that Mueller's long friendship with fired FBI director James B. Comey and hiring of investigators with Democratic ties are 'very bothersome' and 'ridiculous.'... Trump suggested that his threat of tapes may have intimidated Comey into being more honest in his recollection of events. 'I didn't tape,' Trump said. 'And I don't have any tape, and I didn't tape. But when he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's government tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean, you'll have to take a look at that, because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: In case you didn't notice, let me just lay out how nonsensical is Trump's claim about why he threatened Comey with "tapes." Trump already knew -- because the NYT reported it earlier -- that Comey had committed to paper his every conversation with the president. Further, Comey leaked the content of some of those records to the press. (Subsequent to his testimony he handed over the memoes to Bob Mueller.) There was never any chance that Comey was stupid enough to then go out and contradict the content of his memoes in sworn testimony. So, no, his story did not change after he learned Trump might have taped their conversations. Whether or not there were "tapes" & whether or not he would have preferred to lie through his teeth during sworn testimony, his "story" would not have changed because he's not a blithering idiot who has a secret wish to go to jail for perjury. ...

... Lyin'est Liar Straightens Out Straight-Arrow, with Assist from "Fox & Friends." Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "On one hand, we have a lying president who made 669 false and misleading claims over his first 151 days in office. On the other hand, we have a career law enforcement official who was promoted to FBI director in part because of a famous act of integrity; who had won the respect of the FBI rank and file by the time he was fired by Trump; and who has told a wholly consistent and, thus far, largely unchallenged narrative of his dealings with Trump. So the dodgiest president ever is keeping honest a man of proven integrity. A reversal this comical is possible only on one television news program." That would be -- Fox "News." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mark Murray of NBC News: "By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans say they are more likely to believe ... James Comey than ... Donald Trump when it comes to their differing accounts of events that led up to Comey's firing, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll." CW: But wait. The headline and the lead don't say it all. The poll shows that "50 percent of Republicans believe Trump." (Emphasis added.) That's right. Half of Republicans think a guy who tells at least one whopper a day is more truthful than a guy testifying under oath based on notes contemporaneous to the events in question. Once DonTCare becomes law, I believe I'll venture into Trump country & sell Elixir of Trump from a kiosk on Main Street Placebos having the effect they do, my elixir will probably work better than DonTCare.

... Nancy Cook & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "White House counsel Don McGahn has largely stepped back from managing Donald Trump's response to the expanding Russia investigation, but that hasn't stopped the president from lashing out at him about it anyway. Trump started the week by giving McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to quash the Russia probe early on. The episode -- recounted by four people familiar with the conversation -- came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president's frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.... Trump's willingness to lay into him for the escalation of the probe -- largely the result of Trump's own decision to dismiss Comey -- illustrates ... Trump's desire to find someone to blame for his legal predicament." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "Over the past few weeks, the White House has gone from accusing former FBI director James Comey of lying during his sworn testimony before the Senate to saying that  -- thanks to President Trump's efforts to manipulate him with a misleading tweet about 'tapes' --  Comey actually told the truth. But that shift in rhetoric creates new problems for the Trump administration. If Comey was telling the truth, it's bad news for Trump." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mike Allen of Axios: "President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey is rightly seen as a terrific legal blunder: He undercut an investigation that might have shown he never colluded with the Russians, and spawned one that could result in obstruction of justice charges.... One of the president's outside advisers calls it the gravest political mistake since Richard Nixon decided not to apologize to the American people for Watergate, and instead proceeded with the cover-up." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mike McIntire of the New York Times: "Federal investigators are examining financial transactions involving Paul Manafort and his son-in-law, who embarked on a series of real estate deals in recent years fueled by millions of dollars from Mr. Manafort, according to two people familiar with the matter. The transactions involve the financing of apartments and luxury homes in New York and California using money from Mr. Manafort, as well as from other investors solicited by the son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, including the actor Dustin Hoffman and his son. F.B.I. agents have reviewed financial records related to Mr. Yohai, who has been accused in a lawsuit of defrauding investors, the sources said.... Besides the F.B.I. and congressional inquiries, the New York State attorney general's office has opened a preliminary inquiry 'focused on certain real estate dealings' involving Mr. Manafort, according to a third person with direct knowledge of the matter." -- CW ...

... John Parkinson of ABC News: "A bipartisan group of Senate Judiciary Committee leaders is examining former Attorney General Loretta Lynch's alleged interference in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The group is seeking details about Lynch's communication with a Clinton campaign aide, Amanda Renteria, as well as copies of documents and information about whether the FBI investigated the alleged communication.... The senators question Open Society Foundations' Leonard Benardo and its General Counsel Gail Scovell, as well as Renteria and Lynch, about a May 24 story from the Washington Post that reported Lynch assured Renteria that she would not let the FBI investigation into Clinton go too far. An email reportedly recounting that alleged conversation and authored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who served at the time as DNC chair, was allegedly hacked by Russia, though the FBI later discounted its reliability." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Rachel Bade of Politico: "Newly-elected House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy does not plan to investigate Russia's meddling in the 2016 election or questions of whether ... Donald Trump obstructed justice.... What investigations Gowdy does pursue will likely be carried out behind closed doors with a hearing at the end of the probe to discuss findings -- a break from Oversight's previous use of hearings as fact-finding exercises.... Gowdy plans to hold hearings on criminal justice reform and the decennial Census, which is coming up." -- CW: Because he's all tuckered out from investigating Hillary.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sally Yates employs facts & damned statistics to answer Jeff Sessions' plans to "roll back the clock to the 1980s" regarding criminal justice. CW: It's worth pointing out that Yates is not a partisan hack or a bleeding-heart liberal. She has served in both Republican & Democratic administrations.

Krissah Thompson & Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post: "Melania Trump on Friday named a senior manager at Washington's Trump International Hotel to serve as chief usher of the White House. Timothy Harleth, who worked for Mandarin Oriental hotels in D.C. and New York before joining one of the Trumps' flagship hotels last year, will take the crucial position overseeing the staff of housekeepers, butlers and others who work in the first family's living quarters and maintain the executive mansion. Historically, chief ushers -- who act as a kind of general manager -- have come to the job with deep experience within the White House and gone on to serve long tenures. Only nine people have held the job since the beginning of the 20th century.... This spring, the Trumps pushed out Chief Usher Angella Reid, an Obama appointee who had also come from the world of luxury hotels. The White House gave no reason for her firing other than a desire for change." -- CW ...

... CW: Speaking of appointments, you might think -- as I did -- that Melania's husband had nominated a new FBI director. Because, you know, Donald said so in a tweet. ...

... BUT. Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "Attorney Christopher Wray is on deck to become the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if the president ever gets around to nominating him.... Donald Trump tweeted Wray was his pick on June 7, more than two weeks ago. A Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast that the White House has not yet referred him to the Senate for confirmation, meaning he hasn't been formally nominated.... One retired FBI agent told The Daily Beast that the delay between firing Comey and naming Wray was ... 'an insult to every FBI agent, current and former.' And now, the fact that Wray hasn't been formally nominated indicates that announcement was itself premature.... The fact that Trump announced Wray as his pick the day before Comey's testimony drew immediate criticism, as it appeared he was trying to use the FBI announcement for political benefit.... And now, the fact that Trump still hasn't nominated Wray just underscores concerns that he's already using the FBI for political ends." -- CW

Roxana Hegeman of the AP: "Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was fined $1,000 on Friday by a federal magistrate judge for 'patently misleading representations' he made to the court about the contents of a document he was photographed taking into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump. 'The court agrees that the defendant's deceptive conduct and lack of candor warrant the imposition of sanctions,' U.S. Magistrate Judge James O'Hara wrote in his ruling.... The dispute stems from efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain a document that The Associated Press photographed Kobach taking into his meeting with Trump referencing a possible amendment to the National Voting Registration Act.... Kobach essentially told the court and the ACLU that he didn't have any such documents -- the misrepresentation cited in the judge's order.... When two federal judges subsequently privately examined [the documents] in chambers they found them to be relevant, and both ordered Kobach to give them to the ACLU. Kobach eventually did so, but only after designating them 'confidential' to prevent the public from seeing the documents." -- CW

Joshua Holland of the Nation: "In the wake of the mass shooting in suburban Virginia last week that left House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others wounded, conservatives have been furiously waving the bloody shirt.... In the real world, since the end of the Vietnam era, the overwhelming majority of serious political violence ... has come from the fringes of the right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project says that 'if you go back to the 1960s, you see all kinds of left-wing terrorism, but since then it's been exceedingly rare.'... A 2015 survey of law-enforcement agencies ... found that the police rate antigovernment extremists as a greater threat than reactionary Islamists.... If red and blue America fear and loathe one another equally [and studies show they do], and a similar number believe that political violence is acceptable [ditto], then why is there so much more of it on the fringes of the right? Part of the answer...: For the past 40 years, Republicans, parroting the gun-rights movement, have actively promoted the idea that firearms are a vital bulwark against government tyranny." Read on. -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Jess Bidgood & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "For the third time in a week, the trial of a police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man has ended without a conviction, the latest setback for prosecutors and activists seeking greater accountability for the use of deadly force by the police. On Friday, a judge found that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked in the retrial of Raymond M. Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot Samuel DuBose, an unarmed motorist, in 2015. Mr. Tensing's first trial last fall also ended with a hung jury. 'We are almost evenly split regarding our final votes,' read the note passed from the jury to Judge Leslie Ghiz...." -- CW

Way Beyond

Kareem Fahim of the Washington Post: "New tensions erupted Friday in a feud between Qatar and a group of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia after the leak of an onerous list of demands to be met by Qatar, including the shuttering of its popular Al Jazeera news channel. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar earlier this month, portraying the action as stemming from Qatar's support for extremist groups. The increasingly poisonous rift has split much of the region, elicited confused responses from the United States, a close ally to every party in the dispute, and revealed divides within the Trump administration." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)