Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

... has been cancelled due to a change in management.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "The world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, was extradited to the United States on Thursday night, whisked away from the country where he built an empire that delivered tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the world." -- CW ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn held a news conference on Friday morning detailing the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.... The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán. It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

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

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Washington Post: "The Kennedy Center Honors showcased the breadth of American music Sunday night [Dec. 4] with emotionally charged performances celebrating the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the honeyed vocals of James Taylor and the Southern California harmonies of the Eagles. The 39th annual celebration of lifetime achievement in the performing arts also honored actor Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich in a three-hour party that offered a wistful goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama, who were hosting their last Honors tribute. The sold-out audience stood and cheered for several minutes when the president and first lady were introduced."

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

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Wednesday
Jan182017

The Commentariat -- January 19, 2017

Afternoonish Update:

Luz Lazo of the Washington Post: "Thousands of people are expected to be in the region Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, an event that could draw larger crowds than Inauguration Day itself, and present travel challenges for participants and residents." The story contains info on what to expect in terms of transportation, etc. -- CW

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "Treasury secretary nominee Steven T. Mnuchin defended his ties to offshore business entities and his management of a controversial California bank during a testy confirmation hearing on Thursday.... The hearing began with a sharply combative tone before Mnuchin even started speaking — an unusual departure for what is typically a staid and wonkish committee.... At several points during his hearing, Mnuchin appeared stung by the sharp questioning from lawmakers." CW: He was expecting questions more along the lines of, "Am I pronouncing your name right, Mr. Munchkin?" and "Which are cuter? Kittens or puppies?" 

Paul Waldman: "Donald Trump’s cabinet brings with it a combination of ethical problems, inexperience, hostility to the missions of the departments its members are being called to lead, and plain old ignorance that is simply unprecedented. This is shaping up to be nothing less than the worst cabinet in American history.... One can only imagine the damage they’re going to do." -- CW 

The Last Honest Man in Washington Will Turn out the Lights. Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "The Bidens will vacate the vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory to head to Wilmington on Friday, but the couple intend to find a small house in Washington near their friends Barack and Michelle Obama so that Dr. Biden can continue teaching English at a community college in Northern Virginia." -- CW 

Trump Outsources Draconian Budget Plans to Heritage Foundation. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned. The changes they propose are dramatic.... Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition." -- CW

*****

Justin Gillis & John Schwartz of the New York Times: "Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row. The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases. The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

CW: Today is President Obama's last full day in office. We owe our thanks to him, to Vice President Biden, and to all the women & men in the Obama administration who worked so tirelessly to bend the arc of history toward justice. And thanks, too, to the spouses, families and loved ones of those who served, for they also made sacrifices so that all of us might find our burdens just a little lighter.

David Nakamura & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama held his final news conference at the White House on Wednesday, defending the importance of the free press and some of the final decisions he has made before leaving office. But even as touted some of the advances that had been made under his watch — such as Americans’ growing acceptance of members of the LGBT community — he warned of turmoil in the Middle East and unintended consequences of policy shifts ... Donald Trump might trigger once he takes office. Obama suggested the 'moment may be passing' for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying his administration took the unusual step last month of not vetoing a U.N. resolution criticizing the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory in order to issue 'a wake-up call' to people in the region." CW: Uh, if you listen to this news conference, you might think Donald Trump was dazed & confused. Or a traitor. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "In his opening remarks, Obama made his desire to defend the press’s prerogatives against his successor’s whims explicit. 'You’re not supposed to be sycophants — you’re supposed to be skeptics,' Obama said. 'And having you in this building has helped this place work better.'” -- CW 

John Kerry, in a New York Times op-ed: "As the departing secretary of state, I cannot claim objectivity. But I will leave office convinced that most global trends remain in our favor and that America’s leadership and engagement are as essential and effective today as ever. A major reason is that President Obama has restored assertive diplomacy as our foreign policy tool of first resort and deployed it time and again to advance our security and prosperity." -- CW 

IOKIYAR

It's Okay if you pay Vladimir, Boris & Natasha to throw the presidential election your way. (And don't worry, Jim Comey will keep mum about it):

** ... Peter Stone & Greg Gordon of McClatchy News: "The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided ... Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said. The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.... The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources.... FBI Director [James] Comey refused at a recent Senate hearing to comment on whether the bureau was investigating Russia’s hacking campaign for possible criminal prosecutions." -- CW ...

... digby: "So, it's been confirmed that even while FBI Director James Comey was blathering on about Hillary Clinton's 'recklessness' five years earlier by having a private email server which was never hacked and contained no information that did anything but show how boring government work actually is, he knew this was going on as he spoke.... If Russia hacked the presidential campaign, that's a big deal but it's also not entirely surprising. What would be a shocker is if it turns out that Trump's campaign was involved somehow. It appears there is some evidence out there that it was. This is uncharted territory." -- CW ...

... CW: Probably worth pointing out that Congressional leaders & members who were on intelligence committees knew it, too. The only member, as far as I can recall, who even hinted that the FBI was investigating Trump was Harry Reid. MEANWHILE, Congressional Republicans could not leak fast enough any so-called developments in the Benghaaazi!-email hoohah.

It's Okay to Be a Boor:

Trump Makes Dinner to Honor pence All About Trump. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump, in a free-flowing speech Wednesday night at a dinner honoring his running mate, Mike Pence, jabbed at his new Republican allies and his critics alike, questioned the ethics of 'super PACs' and talked about creating a 'merit-based' immigration system.... Mr. Trump said that his aides told him that he was not required to be at the dinner, but that he thought he had to be there to honor a man whose role on the ticket he described as one of his best decisions. Mr. Trump ... poked at [pence] for declining to endorse his candidacy in the primary in Indiana..., instead backing Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. 'The fact that every donor he had was in favor of' Mr. Cruz played no role in the decision, Mr. Trump said sarcastically, according to a recording provided by a guest. In ... [Trump’s] telling, Mr. Pence essentially endorsed him, and mentioned Mr. Cruz only as an afterthought. Mr. Trump also took aim at Mr. Cruz (a 'smart guy, he was a little late to the plate, but that’s O.K.'); Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin..., ('he can be nasty, that Scott Walker'); members of the 'Never Trump' movement ('they’re really right now on a respirator; they’re pretty much gone'); and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson...." -- CW 

It's Okay if you're a vain, insecure bully & schemer:

Michael Kruse in Politico Magazine: Trump's biographers Gwenda Blair, Michael D’Antonio & Tim O’Brien "see the same person they’ve always seen — the consummate classroom troublemaker; a vain, insecure bully; and an anti-institutional schemer, as adept at 'gaming the system' as he is unashamed. As they look ahead..., they feel confident predicting that he will run the country much as he has run his company. For himself." Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy

It's okay if your Cabinet is as diverse as a KKK parade:

Jim Acosta & Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "... Donald Trump picked the final member of his Cabinet on Wednesday, landing on former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as agriculture secretary and in the process locking in an inaugural Cabinet devoid of any Latino representation.... Latinos have served in Cabinet positions in every presidential administration since 1988. But Trump's break with that precedent is even more notable given his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric about Latinos during his presidential campaign." CW: On the plus side, Sonny is fond of taco bowls.

It's Okay if you break federal law:

Team of Scofflaws. Karen Tumulty, et al., of the Washington Post: "Three of Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks came under growing fire Wednesday on ethical issues.... The most serious concerns surround personal investments by Trump’s health and human services nominee, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), in health-care firms that benefited from legislation that he was pushing at the time. Additionally, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, has acknowledged during his confirmation process that he failed to pay more than $15,000 in state and federal employment taxes for a household employee. And Commerce Department nominee Wilbur Ross revealed that one of the 'dozen or so' housekeepers he has hired since 2009 was undocumented, which he said he discovered only recently. The employee was fired as a result, he added. All of those are the kinds of problems that have torpedoed nominees in the past. But it is far from certain — or even likely — that any of Trump’s nominees will buckle under the political pressure. That is in part because ... [Trump] himself has broken so many norms — notably, by flouting the convention of major-party presidential candidates making their tax returns public and by refusing to sever himself from his financial interests while he is in the White House." -- CW ...

... Elizabeth Warren, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... before we can debate and vote on whether these nominees’ policy positions make them suitable to run important parts of our government, it is critical that each nominee follows basic ethics rules to ensure that they will act for the benefit of all the American people and not simply to boost their bank accounts. The Republican-led Congress wants to brush off these ethics requirements as a mere inconvenience. Failing that, they are willing to intimidate the public servants charged with implementing the rules.... Donald Trump  has thrown out decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns or disentangle himself from his business connections. Now his Republican allies in Congress seem content to permit Cabinet nominees to do the same." -- CW 

It's Okay if you're flagrantly corrupt:

... Dana Milbank: "Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon tapped by ... Donald Trump to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services, has found a miracle cure for ailing investment portfolios. Price ... bought stock in a maker of joint replacements a week before he introduced legislation that would help the company — which then made a campaign contribution to Price. Nothing to see here, says the Trump team.... Also last year, Price himself bought shares in an Australian immunotherapy company after hearing about it from fellow congressman Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who is on the company’s board and is a member of Trump’s transition team. Price was included in a private placement of stock not available to the public, and Price’s price was right: His investment is reportedly up 400 percent. Nothing to see here, either, Price told a Senate panel Wednesday...." Read on; Congressional Republicans & Trump officials are knocking themselves out to make sure there are no checks on their corrupt dealings. -- CW ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, [Rep. Tom] Price], Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of Health & Human Services,] laid out the central elements of his years-long attempt to replace the ACA along conservative lines. His statement about access to coverage was in sync with widespread GOP thought about promising consumers a chance to get insurance, but he stopped short of Trump’s comments last weekend that he was seeking 'insurance for everybody' in a nearly finished plan.... And while Trump has vowed this past weekend to curb drug prices in Medicare and Medicaid by negotiating directly with pharmaceutical firms, Price shied away from a similar pledge.... The courtesy hearing before the Senate panel marked the first time Price has appeared before lawmakers since being nominated; his formal confirmation hearing, before the Senate Finance Committee, is set for Jan. 24." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "... at a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Mr. Price provided only vague reassurance to members of both parties who pressed him for specific policies. Republicans concluded he was well qualified; Democrats were not satisfied. 'Just days ago, President-elect Trump promised, quote, "insurance for everybody,’” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the committee. 'But Congressman Price, your own proposals would cause millions of people to lose coverage, force many people to pay more for their care, and leave people with pre-existing conditions vulnerable to insurance companies’ rejecting them or charging them more.'... Mr. Price, 62, also denied impropriety in his trading of stocks in health care and pharmaceutical companies, saying he had left many details to his broker. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he had traded more than $300,000 worth of shares while promoting legislation that could have affected the companies he owned stock in.” -- CW ...

... Ethics Offices Fires Back at Tom Price. Tal Kopan of CNN: "The Office of Government Ethics Wednesday sent a series of four tweets outlining its procedures examining incoming Trump administration officials -- right in the middle of a contentious Senate hearing about Rep. Tom Price's stock transactions. The OGE tweets did not specifically cite Price.... The tweets came less than an hour after Price ...  defended himself against questions about his stock transactions ... and invoked the ethics office's approval.... Price ... pointed to disclosures he made to OGE that were signed off on in the nomination process.... 'OGE's focus is prevention; IGs investigate potential misconduct & @TheJusticeDept prosecutes criminal violations,' OGE tweeted shortly thereafter. 'OGE oversees the executive branch #ethics program, while Congress & the Courts have their own ethics programs,' they continued. 'OGE does not handle complaints of misconduct. Please learn where & how to report #fed employee misconduct,' the agency wrote, including links to its missions and procedures.... An expert on ethics and former Federal Election Commission general counsel said Price's submission to OGE would not have been scrutinized for past actions." -- CW 

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump’s choice for White House budget director failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee, he admitted in a statement to the Senate Budget Committee, the sort of tax compliance issue that has derailed cabinet nominees in the past. In a questionnaire provided to the committee, Representative Mick Mulvaney, a conservative from South Carolina and vocal proponent of fiscal restraint noted, 'I have come to learn during the confirmation review process that I failed to pay FICA and federal and state unemployment taxes on a household employee for the years 2000-2004.'... The employee was a babysitter hired when Mr. Mulvaney and his wife had triplets in 2000.... Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a prepared statement: “Senator Tom Daschle did the same thing and Republicans insisted that that disqualified him from becoming H.H.S. secretary.... If Tom Daschle couldn’t become a cabinet member for not paying taxes for a household employee, the same standard ought to apply to Mick Mulvaney.”” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

It's Okay if you tell a $100MM-lie on your confirmation "disclosure" form:

Oops, I Forgot. Ylan Mui & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department [Steven T. Mnuchininitially failed to disclose his interests in a Cayman Islands corporation as well as more than $100 million in personal assets, according to a memo by Democratic staffers on the Senate Finance Committee that was obtained by The Washington Post.... According to the memo, Mnuchin characterized the missing information as inadvertent mistakes, and he updated his answers to the committee’s questionnaire on Saturday, less than a week before his hearing." -- CW ...

... It's Okay if you prey on ordinary people for your own self-enrichment:

Kevin McCoy of USA Today: "Owners who lost their homes to mortgage foreclosures by [OneWest,] a bank previously run by Steven Mnuchin, urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject his nomination as ... Trump's Treasury secretary. Speaking at a Capitol Hill forum convened by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. —  a frequent Trump critic — the homeowners said OneWest Bank or an affiliate intensified the financial hardships they faced amid the 2008 financial crisis by foreclosing on their homes.... Warren convened the session after reporting that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, rejected a request to hear the homeowners stories as part of Mnuchin's scheduled confirmation hearing on Thursday.... 'We have labeled OneWest a "foreclosure machine" not only because it foreclosed on more than 60,000 American families and because of its aggressive foreclosure practices, but because it seemed to do little else.' [said Paulina Gonzalez, director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, an advocacy group.]" -- CW ...

(This principle of course applies to the boss, too.) Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Days before ... Donald Trump is set to take the oath to uphold the Constitution, he has ... [paid] $25 million to settle litigation over his defunct Trump University real estate seminar program. Trump University — now known as the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative — transferred the funds Tuesday night, according to two sources involved." -- CW)

It's Okay if you're hilariously ignorant & unfit for the job:

Al Franken questions Betsy DeVos. See related stories linked yesterday.

... Shoot the Grizzlies, Kids! Charlies Pierce: "Simply put, Betsy DeVos has been nominated to be Secretary of Education because she married into the Amway money and spread it around to enough Republican politicians to get them elected so that they would carry out DeVos family enterprise of turning public education over to private profiteers and turning the political commons into a theocratic yard sale open to the highest bidder. She and her family contributed substantial sums to 10 of the 12 Republicans who were sitting on the committee that was vetting her Tuesday night. It was low, insulting burlesque and a revolting dumbshow of the arrogance of monied ignorance. I think we're all going to have to get used to that kind of thing." -- CW 

It's Okay if you take the "Justice" out of "Department of Justice":

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "... Donald Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, opposes not only the Justice Department’s specific policies on civil rights but its entire approach. While liberal Democrats have criticized Mr. Sessions’s views on specific issues like gay marriage and voting, the larger difference is how differently the Trump administration will view the government’s role in those areas. Mr. Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, has spoken harshly about lawyers and judges who try to push the law in certain directions — 'a postmodern philosophy that elevates outcomes over law,' he has called it. Congress makes laws, he has said, and he was outraged when Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, refused to defend a law banning gay marriage and told his state counterparts that they could ethically do the same regarding state bans." -- CW 

It's Okay if you control "the most fearsome weapons on the planet" & you don't know WTF you're doing:

Coral Davenport & David Sanger of the New York Times: "When ... Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state. In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.... Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize." -- CW ...

     ... Update. Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Oops! Times Runs Fake News Lede. Jesse Singal of New York: "Since Perry told Politico that he looked forward to 'safeguarding our nuclear arsenal' the same day his nomination was announced, it’s very hard to square this with the Times claim that '[i]n the days after' being named, Perry 'discovered that he would … become the steward of a vast national security complex.'” -- CW 

It's Okay if you're the most powerful person on earth -- & you don't know WTF you're doing:

Last night I saw upon the stair,
An undersecretary who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away
. ...

... The Administration That Isn't There. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "There's no Trump appointee for any of the top State Department jobs below secretary nominee Rex Tillerson. No Trump appointee for any of the top Department of Defense jobs below retired general James Mattis. Treasury? Same story. Justice? It is one of two departments (along with, bizarrely, Commerce) where Trump has selected a deputy secretary. But no solicitor general, no one at civil rights, no one in the civil division, no one for the national security division. And the same is true in department after department. Not to mention agencies without anyone at all nominated by [Trump].... Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.... I'd say that [this] failure ... isn't a deliberate choice by Trump; he just has no idea what he's doing, and hasn't surrounded himself with people well-equipped to translate his impulses and his campaign commitments into a full-fledged government." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "Remember, this is the administration that, in a break with tradition, is demanding that career diplomats leave their posts promptly when the Lincoln Bible bursts into flame beneath Trump's hand on Friday. There are going to be an awful lot of phones ringing unanswered by Friday afternoon. Unless, of course, they've all been outsourced to Lubyanka Square." -- CW 

It's Okay if you're a hypocrite:

Aaron Davis & Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "Congressional Republicans are making an aggressive push to gut the District’s progressive policies, introducing bills in recent days to repeal the heavily Democratic city’s gun-control measures, undo its new law allowing physician-assisted suicide and ban the District from using local tax dollars to provide abortions for poor women.... On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), reintroduced a bill to repeal the District’s gun-control laws, which are among the most restrictive in the nation.... The District’s status as a federal district makes it uniquely vulnerable to the whims of Congress. Unlike in the 50 states, Congress has supreme authority, including veto power over local laws and voter-approved measures. It can even reach in and dictate how local tax money is spent if the president agrees.... The federal district has no voting member of Congress.... D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who represents neighborhoods on Capitol Hill, said ... 'These guys love to argue for local control and rail against big government, but they seem to love big government when it comes to imposing what they believe.'...” -- CW 

AND It's Okay if you blame your wife for your failures & disappointments.

Louis Black previews the inauguration:

... Maura Judkis of the Washington Post: "... it seems increasingly clear that the after-hours revelry will be markedly muted. Not only is Trump hosting only three official balls — far fewer than his predecessors at their first inaugurals — but the spillover festivities appear smaller and fewer. Several of the city’s great halls are going unrented. Far fewer big-name celebrities are headed to town. And while many events are reportedly sold out, others are still looking to fill their rooms." -- CW 

The Washington Post is providing free digital access until the end of day January 21, in celebration, I guess, of a man who hates the paper.

Way Beyond the Beltway

There's This. Matthew Weaver of the Guardian: Julian "Assange welcomed [President] Obama’s decision to free [Chelsea] Manning.... He did not mention a pledge made last week that he would agree to US extradition if Obama granted clemency to Manning.... But Melinda Taylor, who serves on Assange’s legal team, said he would not be going back on his word. “Everything that he has said he’s standing by,” she told the Associated Press. The WikiLeaks Twitter accounted also suggested its founder was ready to go to the US". -- CW ...

Oh, Wait. Then There's This. Joe Uchill of the Hill: "The attorney for Julian Assange said President Obama's commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence does not meet the conditions of the WikiLeaks head's offer to be extradited to the United States if Manning were pardoned. 'Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought,' said Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S.-based attorney, via email. 'Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.' Assange has not been publicly charged with a crime in the United States, but his legal team believes he may be charged 'under seal,' where charges are kept secret to prevent a suspect from preparing an escape." -- CW 

Tuesday
Jan172017

The Commentariat -- January 18, 2017

Justin Gillis & John Schwartz of the New York Times: "Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row. The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases. The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization." -- CW 

David Nakamura & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama held his final news conference at the White House on Wednesday, defending the importance of the free press and some of the final decisions he has made before leaving office. But even as touted some of the advances that had been made under his watch — such as Americans’ growing acceptance of members of the LGBT community — he warned of turmoil in the Middle East and unintended consequences of policy shifts ... Donald Trump might trigger once he takes office. Obama suggested the 'moment may be passing' for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying his administration took the unusual step last month of not vetoing a U.N. resolution criticizing the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory in order to issue 'a wake-up call' to people in the region." CW: Uh, if you listen to this news conference, you might think Donald Trump was dazed & confused. Or a traitor. ...

Juliet Eilperin & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, [Rep. Tom] Price[, Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of Health & Human Services,] laid out the central elements of his years-long attempt to replace the ACA along conservative lines. His statement about access to coverage was in sync with widespread GOP thought about promising consumers a chance to get insurance, but he stopped short of Trump’s comments last weekend that he was seeking 'insurance for everybody' in a nearly finished plan.... And while Trump has vowed this past weekend to curb drug prices in Medicare and Medicaid by negotiating directly with pharmaceutical firms, Price shied away from a similar pledge.... The courtesy hearing before the Senate panel marked the first time Price has appeared before lawmakers since being nominated; his formal confirmation hearing, before the Senate Finance Committee, is set for Jan. 24." -- CW ...

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump’s choice for White House budget director failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee, he admitted in a statement to the Senate Budget Committee, the sort of tax compliance issue that has derailed cabinet nominees in the past. In a questionnaire provided to the committee, Representative Mick Mulvaney, a conservative from South Carolina and vocal proponent of fiscal restraint noted, 'I have come to learn during the confirmation review process that I failed to pay FICA and federal and state unemployment taxes on a household employee for the years 2000-2004.'... The employee was a babysitter hired when Mr. Mulvaney and his wife had triplets in 2000.... Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a prepared statement: “Senator Tom Daschle did the same thing and Republicans insisted that that disqualified him from becoming H.H.S. secretary.... If Tom Daschle couldn’t become a cabinet member for not paying taxes for a household employee, the same standard ought to apply to Mick Mulvaney.”” -- CW 

Al Franken questions Betsy DeVos:

      ... See related stories linked below.

*****

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures. The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction. [Mr. Obama] ... also pardoned Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters to F.B.I. agents investigating a leak of classified information.... The two acts of clemency were a remarkable final step for a president whose administration carried out an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets.... Mr. Obama also granted 63 other pardons and [208] other commutations, mostly for drug offenders." -- CW ...

... Benjamin Wittes & Susan Hennessey of Lawfare: "President Obama was right to reduce Manning’s sentence. And given the extent to which last-minute presidential clemency actions often gin up mini-scandals, he acted courageously as well.... The power of clemency was designed to empower the President to make precisely the fine moral distinctions that say that one should not forgive Manning’s crime but that she should not serve the full term of a horrifically long sentence....  This is one of those cases where justice requires course correction." -- CW 

Jonathan Alter profiles Joe Biden for the New York Times Magazine. -- CW 

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "The Secret Service agreed Tuesday to pay $24 million to settle a two-decade-old case in which more than 100 black agents have alleged that the agency fostered a racist culture and routinely promoted white agents over more qualified African Americans, according to documents filed in court and interviews with representatives of both sides. As part of the deal, which is the result of a last-minute push in the waning days of the Obama administration, the agency admits to no wrongdoing or institutional bias. But the payments to the agents — including lump sums as high as $300,000 each to the original eight plaintiffs — are intended to remedy the sting of the discrimination the agents claim they suffered and the job opportunities they lost, according to interviews with representatives from both sides." -- CW 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The Most Unprepared Administration Ever. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has written 275 briefing papers for the incoming Trump administration: nearly 1,000 pages of classified material on North Korea’s nuclear program, the military campaign against the Islamic State, tensions in the South China Sea, and every other kind of threat the new team could face in its first weeks in office. Nobody in the current administration knows whether anyone in the next has read any of it.... Mr. Trump’s transition staff has barely engaged with the National Security Council below the most senior levels." --

     ... CW: I almost didn't want to read this, because of course bad actors are reading it, too, & assuring themselves -- correctly -- that not only are the Trump people (assuming there are people) dimwits & ideologues, they are totally ignorant dimwits & ideologues. And if they're anything like the boss, they think they don't need to prepare for the jobs.

The Party of Dickens Villains and Their Plan to Throw Millions of Americans off Healthcare Rolls. Bob Bryan of the Business Insider: "The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan office within the legislature that provides research on the impact of possible policies, said in a report on Tuesday that a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, would have huge effects on the US healthcare system. According to the report, the partial repeal proposed by Republicans would lead to a huge increase in the number of uninsured Americans and skyrocketing premiums for those in the individual insurance market." -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Repealing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while leaving other parts in place, would cost 18 million people their insurance in the first year, a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday. A repeal could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million in 10 years, the report said, while causing individual insurance premiums to double over that time. The budget office analyzed the probable effects of a Republican bill repealing the law like the one approved in Congress, but vetoed early last year by President Obama. The C.B.O. report, released after a weekend of protests against repeal, will only add to the headaches that ... Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans face in their rush to gut President Obama’s signature domestic achievement as they try to replace it with a health insurance law more to their liking." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

... Brad Reed of Raw Story breaks down the chaos:

"1. 18 million Americans would lose their insurance in the span of a year.

"2. An additional 9 million would lose their insurance shortly after the first year of repeal.

"3. Premiums on the individual market would skyrocket by 20% to 25%.

"4. Premiums would then go up by 50% after the GOP eliminates the Medicaid expansion and private insurance subsidies.

"5. Half the country would be stuck in an area where no insurers would offer them non-group coverage." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: And that's just for starters. All they need is a good Dickens name like Pecksniff or Uriah Heep. They have the villainy party down cold. And this is how the Party of Treason will take care of Americans once they kill off the horrible nee-groe's hated plan to help those less well off. We may have to resurrect old Charlie to see if he can come up with some choice words for villains worse than his own. ...

... Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic: "Even some of the most unyielding conservative critics of the ACA acknowledge that the older and blue-collar whites central to the Trump-era Republican coalition could be squeezed by the GOP alternatives that soon will surely be labeled 'Trumpcare.'” Brownstein points out that among the "winners" of the GOP's crappy plan are younger, healthier [and relatively affluent] people, people who are apt to vote Democratic. -- CW ...

... Matt Shuham of TPM: "The House's fourth highest-ranking Republican [-- Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) --] was heckled during a speech at Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally by attendees protesting the GOP's plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.... Local TV station KXLY also reported that attendees chanted 'liar' at the event." CW: Bear in mind that these protesters are not necessarily crazed liberals; this is Eastern Washington, not Seattle, a district where people vote for candidates like Rodgers. ...

... Mark Murray of NBC News: "As Republicans get closer to repealing it, President Barack Obama's federal health-care law — or Obamacare — has never been more popular, according to results from a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal. And half of Americans — 50 percent — say they have little to no confidence that Republican proposals to replace the law will make things better. The poll finds 45 percent of respondents believing that the health-care law is a good idea, which is the highest percentage here since the NBC/WSJ poll began asking the question in April 2009." -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman: "Let’s not forget that the actual provisions of Obamacare enjoy huge support, as much as 80 percent. That’s why this is happening — because people are beginning to understand what it does." -- CW ...

... BUT Brian Buetler explains how Republicans can wriggle out of responsibility for stealing affordable healthcare from millions of Americans: "Republicans could feasibly engineer a scenario in which their own official statements and intentional mismanagement destabilize the law before they take any concrete legislative or administrative steps." CW: Beutler isn't revealing anything Republicans don't already know. I'm pretty sure that's why Paul Ryan (and now the Trumpster) are pretending that ObamaCare is in a "death spiral" & will implode on its own.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "... Mr. Trump will take office on Friday with less popular support than any new president in modern times, according to an array of surveys, a sign that he has failed to rally Americans behind him, beyond the base that helped him win in November. Rather than a unifying moment, his transition to power has seen a continuation of the polarization of the election last year.... The anemic numbers clearly irritated Mr. Trump, who lashed out on Tuesday. 'The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls,' he wrote on Twitter. 'They are rigged just like before.'” CW: Yeah, Donaldo, and we're all lying when we say you're disgusting. Deep-down, everybody loves an obnoxious, ignorant, racist, sexist bully.

Steve Coll of the New Yorker: "On Friday, when Trump is inaugurated as President, he will join [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi as the latest figure in the world’s swelling ranks of populist-nationalist leaders, a gallery of strongmen in countries rich and poor, some more democratic and some less so, who govern partly through intimidation and a certain curated arbitrariness, a methodology of deliberate surprise...Both countries are religiously and ethnically diverse, yet both have forged a noisy form of political stability through their democratic constitutions and the staging of regular, mostly clean elections. Both now will be led by egotists who pressure the press and react poorly to dissent, and whose exclusionary rhetoric and policies threaten their nations’ core inheritances of openness and pluralism...In the cases of Modi and Trump..the question is whether their populism and authoritarian instincts will allow them to alter the laws of democratic accountability." --safari

Where's Trumpy's Nobel for Economics? Patti Domm of CNBC: "... Donald Trump's shock comment that the dollar is too strong suggests the U.S. is about to declare as dead a two-decade policy of publicly favoring a strong currency. 'There's no question that the Trump administration would not want a strong dollar. A strong dollar does nothing good for whatever Trump is basically trying to do,' said David Woo, Bank of America Merrill Lynch head of global rates and foreign exchange research. 'Yes, the U.S. fundamental story is bullish for the U.S. dollar, but the problem here is they actually don't want a strong dollar. I think it's going to go up. However, it's going be a much more volatile climb.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

     ... Akhilleus: Whether or not you believe a strong dollar is good for the economy or not is almost beside the point. The problem is the way Trump shoots his mouth off about things he may or may not know much about. Shooting from the hip like this causes ripples all across world markets.

Did He or Didn't He? Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "... Donald Trump told a radio interviewer in October 2015 that he had met Vladimir Putin 'one time … a long time ago' and that he 'got along with him great' — a statement that conflicts with his later denials during the campaign that he had ever met or spoken with the Russian president. The newly surfaced audiotape, uncovered by a political opposition-research group, could fuel new questions about the precise nature of Trump’s past relations with the Russian president — a subject about which he has made multiple contradictory comments." -- CW ...

... Our Hookers Are Better than Your Hookers. Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared on Tuesday that the political memo alleging that the Kremlin had sought for years to influence ... Donald J. Trump was 'fake,' and he said that the effort to compile such a dossier was further evidence of the political decay of the West — one of the Russian leader’s favorite themes. 'These bogus stories are clearly fake,' Mr. Putin said at a news conference of allegations that included Mr. Trump cavorting with prostitutes while visiting Russia. 'He is a grown man, somebody who for many years has been organizing beauty contests, interacted with the most beautiful women in the world,' he added. 'You know, it is difficult for me to imagine that he ran to a hotel to meet with our young women with lowered social responsibility.' While calling prostitution a “horrible social phenomenon,” Mr. Putin also boasted about Russian exceptionalism, adding: “Even though they are undoubtedly the best in the world, too. I doubt that Trump would go for that.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... When Not Groping Russian Hookers ... Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "A former contestant on the reality show 'The Apprentice' filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday against ... Donald Trump over his response to her allegations that he groped her during a job interview in 2007. Summer Zervos, a California restaurant owner who appeared on the show in 2006, accused Trump of aggressively kissing and grabbing her when she went to his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss a possible job at the Trump Organization a year later. In her suit, Zervos alleges that Trump defamed her when he denied her account of their interactions in the hotel room, accusing her and other women who made similar accusations of lying and fabricating their accounts. Zervos said she would drop her lawsuit, which was filed in New York, without seeking monetary damages if Trump would retract his claim that she lied and acknowledge his actions. Zervos appeared at a Los Angeles news conference alongside her lawyer, Gloria Allred, who said Zervos took and passed a lie detector test prior to filing her suit." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus. if true, he did defame her. And a lot more. These complaints of sexual abuse on the part of the president-elect are not going away.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: "Rex Tillerson is in trouble. Since his confirmation hearing last Wednesday, a few senators have been mulling his candidacy as Donald Trump’s secretary of state with a growing queasiness—and a few senators are all it takes to doom his prospects. The near-unanimous view, even among his supporters, is that Tillerson himself did no favors in that hearing...Several senators and their staffs, expecting to engage with a worldly sage regardless of what else they might think of him, came out of the hearing surprised at how little Tillerson knew about high-profile foreign policy issues....Because the committee chairman, Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, hadn’t asked Tillerson to take the oath before testifying (a departure from usual policy), no perjury charges can be brought here, but Tillerson was lying—and needlessly so." --safari

Lee Fang of The Intercept: "The Intercept revealed last week that Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the the Department of Homeland Security, retired Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, did not disclose on his ethics form that he was listed as a vice chairman at the Spectrum Group, a defense contractor lobbying firm. Now,it appears that Kelly failed to list two other positions as well: board memberships with Michael Baker International and Sallyport Global, two defense contractors that do business with the U.S. government...Kelly’s professional biography has been wiped from the Michael Baker International website...After The Intercept contacted Sallyport Global asking for a comment, Kelly’s name was also wiped from its website." --safari

Kate Zernike & Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "At her confirmation hearing on Tuesday to be education secretary, Betsy DeVos vigorously defended her work steering taxpayer dollars from traditional public schools.... The hearing quickly became a heated and partisan debate that reflected the nation’s political divide on how best to spend public money in education.... Ms. DeVos, a billionaire with a complex web of investments, including in companies that stand to win or lose from federal education policy, was the first nominee of ... Donald J. Trump to have a Senate hearing without completing an ethics review on how she planned to avoid conflicts of interest. Democrats pointed out that in the past, Republicans had insisted that no hearings be conducted before those reviews were complete." -- CW ...

... Emma Brown, et al., of the Washington Post: "DeVos ... sidestepped several issues important to Democrats and their allies: She declined to commit that she would not work to privatize the nation’s public schools, called Sen. Bernie Sanders’s ideas about free college tuition 'interesting,' and said she could not promise to uphold the Obama administration’s guidance to K-12 schools and colleges on handling allegations of campus sexual violence." -- CW ...

... Dana Goldstein in Slate: "... in several instances — such as when she said the treatment of disabled children was 'an issue best left to the states,' despite the fact that federal law contains strict regulations on accommodating disability — [DeVos] revealed herself to be either underprepared for the job or stiffly wedded to an ideological, market-oriented vision of education policy, one that has had disappointing results in her home state of Michigan, where she wields enormous influence." -- CW ...

... DeVos Flunks Proficiency Test. Graham Vyse of the New Republic: "At her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday night, the billionaire conservative philanthropist and 'school choice' advocate appeared unprepared to answer straightforward questions about school reform, and she aired extreme views that could cause headaches for the incoming administration.The worst of it began when Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, asked DeVos about a longtime debate in education policy over whether students should be evaluated on their academic 'growth' [i.e., how far they've advanced --] or 'proficiency' [-- how they score]. The nominee seemed stumped." She didn't know the difference, and got it backwards when she guessed. -- CW ...

... Grizzly Bears Are After Our Children! Casey Quinlan of Think Progress: "Betsy DeVos says guns in schools may be necessary to protect students from grizzly bears. CW: No, really, she said that. In her confirmation hearing...

...Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept: "Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary [founder of Blackwater], is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the defense and state departments...Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary andPrince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC...In July, Prince told Trump’ssenior advisor and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trumpadministration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS." --safari

Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post: "There are now nearly 60 House Democrats — 59, at last count — who have declared that they will not attend the inauguration on Capitol Hill this week. The number rose sharply after Trump tweeted Saturday that [Rep. John] Lewis (D) is 'all talk, talk, talk' and should 'finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities.'” -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Amy Wang of the Washington Post: "Numerous public officials are calling on Jim Fouts, the mayor of Warren, Mich., to resign after audio recordings surfaced over the long weekend allegedly catching him making obscene comments about black people and women. In those audio files, first published Monday by Steve Neavling of the Motor City Muckraker, a man can be heard comparing black people with 'chimps,' calling them the n-word and talking crudely and dismissively about dating older women. (Warning: The files contain offensive language.) A group of eight public officials representing the citizens of Warren, a city in Macomb County about 20 miles north of Detroit, said in a joint statement Tuesday that they recognized the voice in the recordings to be that of 74-year-old Fouts — an allegation the Democratic mayor has vehemently denied.... Joe DiSano, a political consultant who says he advised Fouts from 2003 until 2013, told the Detroit Free Press that the recordings did not surprise him. 'In many meetings, I’ve heard him casually use the n-word,' DiSano told the newspaper. 'At one of the last meetings I ever had with him, he actually stood at the front of the conference room table and danced around like he was a monkey. And that was in reference to voters in Detroit.'” -- CW ...

... Speaking of Racists. John Lewis ... or the NAACP ... or Black People ... Should Thank White People. Scott Thistle of the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald: "Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that the NAACP should apologize to white America, making the comment just hours after he weighed in on the president-elect’s Twitter beef with [Rep. John Lewis]. But the governor rewrote American history when he misrepresented events surrounding racial segregation in the South. 'I will just say this: John Lewis ought to look at history.... It was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves, it was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant who fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.' LePage’s version of history erred on two key points. Historians say Jim Crow laws didn’t exist during the Grant administration and that Hayes’ presidency set the stage for the creation of Jim Crow laws.... LePage, later trying to clarify his references to presidents Hayes and Grant, said the NAACP was casting all white Americans as racists. It’s not clear why he referred to the NAACP in his criticism of Lewis, who was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, not the NAACP." -- CW 

Gabriella Paiella of New York: "As the nation’s women face the upcoming presidency of a man who was accused of sexual assault multiple times and the prospect of mass reproductive-health rollbacks, the nation’s Republican men would like you to know that, hey, relax, you still have it better than they do...In related news, the nation’s men also say that gender inequality is over." --safari

Way Beyond

Anushka Asthana, et al., of the Guardian: British PM "Theresa May warned European leaders that the UK is prepared to crash out of the EU if she cannot negotiate a reasonable exit deal in a speech where her tough talking rhetoric prompted key figures in Brussels to say that the country was on track for a 'hard Brexit'. The prime minister told EU counterparts that any attempt to inflict a punitive outcome on the UK would be an 'act of calamitous self-harm; because it would then slash taxes to attract companies from across the world, in a one-hour address intended to spell out the country’s negotiating strategy. Although May said that the UK could be the EU’s 'best friend' if the article 50 divorce talks went well, she also said she was prepared to walk away.” -- CW 

Tuesday
Jan172017

The Commentariat -- January 17, 2017

Afternoon Update:

The Party of Dickens Villains and Their Plan to Throw Millions of Americans off Healthcare Rolls. Bob Bryan of the Business Insider: "The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan office within the legislature that provides research on the impact of possible policies, said in a report on Tuesday that a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, would have huge effects on the US healthcare system. According to the report, the partial repeal proposed by Republicans would lead to a huge increase in the number of uninsured Americans and skyrocketing premiums for those in the individual insurance market." -- Akhilleus ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Repealing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while leaving other parts in place, would cost 18 million people their insurance in the first year, a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday. A repeal could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million in 10 years, the report said, while causing individual insurance premiums to double over that time. The budget office analyzed the probable effects of a Republican bill repealing the law like the one approved in Congress, but vetoed early last year by President Obama. The C.B.O. report, released after a weekend of protests against repeal, will only add to the headaches that ... Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans face in their rush to gut President Obama’s signature domestic achievement as they try to replace it with a health insurance law more to their liking." -- CW   

... Brad Reed of Raw Story breaks down the chaos:

"1. 18 million Americans would lose their insurance in the span of a year.

"2. An additional 9 million would lose their insurance shortly after the first year of repeal.

"3. Premiums on the individual market would skyrocket by 20% to 25%.

"4. Premiums would then go up by 50% after the GOP eliminates the Medicaid expansion and private insurance subsidies.

"5. Half the country would be stuck in an area where no insurers would offer them non-group coverage." ...

... Akhilleus: And that's just for starters. All they need is a good Dickens name like Pecksniff or Uriah Heep. They have the villainy party down cold. And this is how the Party of Treason will take care of Americans once they kill off the horrible nee-groe's hated plan to help those less well off. We may have to resurrect old Charlie to see if he can come up with some choice words for villains worse than his own.

Where's Trumpy's Nobel for Economics? Patti Domm of CNBC. "President-elect Donald Trump's shock comment that the dollar is too strong suggests the U.S. is about to declare as dead a two-decade policy of publicly favoring a strong currency. 'There's no question that the Trump administration would not want a strong dollar. A strong dollar does nothing good for whatever Trump is basically trying to do,' said David Woo, Bank of America Merrill Lynch head of global rates and foreign exchange research. 'Yes, the U.S. fundamental story is bullish for the U.S. dollar, but the problem here is they actually don't want a strong dollar. I think it's going to go up. However, it's going be a much more volatile climb.'" 

     ... Akhilleus: Whether or not you believe a strong dollar is good for the economy or not is almost beside the point. The problem is the way Trump shoots his mouth off about things he may or may not know much about, at least much more than trash talk on right-wing websites and whatever KKK Steve Bannon's latest obsession is. Shooting from the hip like this causes ripples all across world markets. The Chinese don't know whether this is a real sentiment or more Trump bullshit. Neither do US investors. A strong economy, both here and abroad, does not rest on whacko, off the wall comments; a sense of reliability and steady leadership, not unpredictable gaslighting, is essential for building and maintaining a robust economy. He probably thinks it's funny to have all these countries doing double takes whenever he tosses something out there. It's not. It's dangerous and idiotic. 

Our Hookers are better than your hookers. Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times. "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared on Tuesday that the political memo alleging that the Kremlin had sought for years to influence President-elect Donald J. Trump was 'fake,' and he said that the effort to compile such a dossier was further evidence of the political decay of the West — one of the Russian leader’s favorite themes. 'These bogus stories are clearly fake,' Mr. Putin said at a news conference of allegations that included Mr. Trump cavorting with prostitutes while visiting Russia. 'He is a grown man, somebody who for many years has been organizing beauty contests, interacted with the most beautiful women in the world,' he added. 'You know, it is difficult for me to imagine that he ran to a hotel to meet with our young women with lowered social responsibility.'"

...Akhilleus. Ahhhh...."women with lowered social responsibility", is that it? Very enlightened, Putie. And that's why Donaldavich didn't consort with hookers? Well, I'm sure I don't know why since Pal Vlad went on to assure everyone that his hookers "...are undoubtedly the best in the world..." (and how would he know?). Well then, why didn't you say so? First, has there ever been a Russian leader who has leapt to the defense of a United States president so quickly and with such vehemence as Putin? Putin's logic for why Trump would not have associated with his "best in the world", ahem, professional girls, is not far off from Trump's own excuse, "I'm a germaphobe". Putin is working to keep his lap dog in line by coming to his defense. It's never happend before now--not ever. So why now? That's pretty clear. At least Putin is working in his own country's best interest. And Trump is too. In Russia's best interest, that is. The Trumputin administration will be a fine one. For Russia.

When not groping Russian hookers...Rosalind Helderman, The Washington Post. "A former contestant on the reality show 'The Apprentice' filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday against President-elect Donald Trump over his response to her allegations that he groped her during a job interview in 2007. Summer Zervos, a California restaurant owner who appeared on the show in 2006, accused Trump of aggressively kissing and grabbing her when she went to his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss a possible job at the Trump Organization a year later. In her suit, Zervos alleges that Trump defamed her when he denied her account of their interactions in the hotel room, accusing her and other women who made similar accusations of lying and fabricating their accounts. Zervos said she would drop her lawsuit, which was filed in New York, without seeking monetary damages if Trump would retract his claim that she lied and acknowledge his actions. Zervos appeared at a Los Angeles news conference alongside her lawyer, Gloria Allred, who said Zervos took and passed a lie detector test prior to filing her suit"

...Akhilleus. if True, he did defame her. And a lot more. These complaints of sexual abuse on the part of the president-elect are not going away. He will try to deny each and every suit that comes along, but sooner or later...Maybe he can get his pal Putin to defend him by saying that none of these women are as hot as Russian prostitutes and thus Trumpy could never have laid a hand on them. Yeah. That'll work. Oh, and has Trump passed any lie detector tests?

*****

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Justice Department officials have completed their review of more than 16,000 clemency petitions filed by federal prisoners over the past two years and sent their last recommendations to President Obama, who is set to grant hundreds more commutations to nonviolent drug offenders during his final days in office." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

New York Times Editors: President Obama has granted "just 148 pardons ... during his two terms in office. It is an abysmally low number for a president who has stressed his commitment to second chances and the importance of helping convicted people re-enter society.... For almost everyone with a criminal conviction, a pardon is the only path back to full citizenship." The federal pardon process itself is fatally flawed as it is run like a lottery by the Justice Department, "where career prosecutors have little interest in reversing the work of their colleagues." CW: Ha ha. The editors hope Trump will fix that. ...

... Brian Beutler argues that President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden rather than leaving Snowden at the mercy of Trumputin.

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "The Germans are angry. The Chinese are downright furious. Leaders of NATO are nervous, while their counterparts at the European Union are alarmed. Just days before he is sworn into office..., Donald J. Trump has again focused his penchant for unpredictable disruption on the rest of the world. His remarks in a string of discursive and sometimes contradictory interviews have escalated tensions with China while also infuriating allies and institutions critical to America’s traditional leadership of the West.... The one country he is not criticizing is Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. For now. And that he is an enthusiastic cheerleader of Brexit and an unaffiliated Britain. For now." -- CW ...

... Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "European leaders grappled with the jolting reality of ... Donald Trump’s skepticism of the European Union on Monday, saying they might have to stand without the United States at their side during the Trump presidency. The possibility of an unprecedented breach in transatlantic relations came after Trump — who embraced anti-E.U. insurgents during his campaign and following his victory — said in weekend remarks that the 28-nation European Union was bound for a breakup and that he was indifferent to its fate. He also said NATO’s current configuration is 'obsolete,' even as he professed commitment to Europe’s defense. Trump’s attitudes have raised alarm bells across Europe...." -- CW ...

... Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "Bashing NATO and the European Union, and alienating Germany, is a plan for tearing apart US relations with the EU — for weakening the agreements that underpin America’s status as the sole superpower and that maintain peace on the European continent.... Trump is talking about radically reshaping US foreign policy in a way that would significantly boost Putin’s influence while leaving America’s allies scrambling...." [His] remarks forced Secretary of State John Kerry to spend one of his last days as America’s top diplomat repairing the damage that Trump has done before even taking the oath of office. In an interview with CNN, Kerry said it was 'inappropriate' for Trump to 'be stepping in to the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner.'" -- CW ...

     ... CW: Also, be sure to read Juan Cole's commentary, linked yesterday. ...

... MEANWHILE, "Our Country Is Currently in Cardiac Arrest." Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "If Donald Trump has the goal of destroying American power, breaking up the European Union, dismantling NATO, lifting Russian sanctions, and helping to elect a bunch of Russian-aligned far right fascist parties in Western Europe, at least he’s willing to tell us exactly that. There’s very little subtlety about it at this point, and the only fig leaf he’s going to offer is the prospect that Putin will agree to some kind of reduction in our respective nuclear arsenals.... That Trump is doing all of this without any embarrassment in the midst of widespread accusations that Russia intervened to get him elected and that they have him under their control is maybe the most astonishing thing of all." -- CW 

Illegitimate PEOTUS Meets with Son of Legitimate Hero. Julie Davis of the New York Times: "With tensions escalating between ... Donald J. Trump and prominent black leaders, Mr. Trump met privately on Monday with the eldest son of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday devoted to the civil rights hero. The hastily arranged meeting at Trump Tower occurred as Mr. Trump feuded publicly with Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, who fought for civil rights alongside Dr. King." -- CW 

Dana Milbank: "To Trump’s many self-assigned superlatives, he can now add another: the sorest winner. With charity for none and with malice toward all but his supporters, he has in the past two months set a new standard for gracelessness in victory.... This much enmity from the winner is extraordinary." Read on. -- CW 

I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away. --Donald Trump, at his press conference last week ...

I really prefer Moscow over all cities in the world. -- Donald Trump, Jr., in New York City, 2008

... Meghan Twohey & Steve Eder of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump repeatedly sought business in Russia as far back as 1987, when he traveled there to explore building a hotel. He applied for his trademark in the country as early as 1996. And his children and associates have appeared in Moscow over and over in search of joint ventures, meeting with developers and government officials.... As recently as 2013, Mr. Trump himself was in Moscow. He had sold Russian real estate developers the right to host his Miss Universe pageant that year, and he used the visit as a chance to discuss development deals, writing on Twitter at the time: 'TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.'... 'I know the Russians better than anybody,' Mr. Trump told Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer who shared unpublished interview transcripts with The New York Times.” -- CW 

Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "In a series of interviews in March of 2014, Donald Trump singled out Russia as the United States' 'biggest problem' and greatest geopolitical foe. Trump's comments more than two years ago, which came in the wake of Russian incursions into Crimea, offer a sharp contrast to the Russia-friendly rhetoric he has employed since launching his presidential campaign." CW: Yeah, well, all that was before the Russians told him had him on tape at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow. promised him the presidency, & offered him billions to do their bidding. Allegedly.

** Where Were They Then? Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post: "At New York Military Academy in Cornwall, N.Y., Donald Trump won a 'neatness and order medal.' That same year, John Lewis became one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, defying laws that prohibited blacks and whites from sitting next to each other on public transportation. Three years later in 1963, man-of-action Trump led his private school’s white-gloved drill team in the Columbus Day parade in New York. But he was also removed from that drill team command, classmates said, because he hazed younger students. That same year, Lewis helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and spoke alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In 1965, Trump got his second Vietnam draft deferment as a Fordham University student. In 1965, on a day that became known as Bloody Sunday, Lewis helped lead 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. When the marchers stopped to pray, they were tear-gassed and beaten by troopers. Lewis’s skull was fractured." And so on. -- CW ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "Trump avoided the draft by citing bone spurs in his feet. He has said he has made 'a lot of sacrifices' for his country because he has created jobs and 'built great structures.' The sacrifices that Lewis has made for his country and for the cause of justice are manifest in the scars on his skull. It is a safe bet that he will not be wounded by any tweet. And there are those who know well what he has done to advance the cause of justice and human rights. Eight years ago, at a lunch following the inaugural ceremonies, the new President signed a piece of paper for him with the inscription 'Because of you, John. Barack Obama.' John Lewis surely believes in the orderly transfer of power as a tenet of democracy, but asking him to keep quiet and sit through the inaugural ceremonies this time is asking too much." -- CW 

Richard Painter & Norman Eisen, in a Washington Post op-ed: "For two weeks now, the majority leadership in the new Congress and the incoming Trump administration have been conducting a war on ethics. This has ranged from the effort to cripple the Office of Congressional Ethics to the Senate’s rush to confirm President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees before their financial conflicts disclosures were complete to Trump’s own inadequate plan to address his ethical problems.... For speaking up about the shortcomings of this plan, [Office of Government Ethics director Walter] Shaub found himself in the Republican crosshairs. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that has jurisdiction over the White House, demanded Shaub appear for a Star Chamber-style recorded inquisition and implicitly threatened to shut down the Office of Government Ethics if Shaub did not submit.... The incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, went on national television to threaten Shaub. In a scene like something out of a gangster B-movie, Priebus warned the director that 'he ought to be careful.'... Priebus went on to make assertions about Shaub that were false.... Priebus also attacked Shaub’s competence....” -- CW ...

... Missed this one. Allegra Kirkland of TPM (Jan. 13): "One day after Donald Trump sent a tweet urging his followers to 'Buy L.L. Bean,' the Office of Government Ethics published an online 'refresher' outlining the rules on endorsements that elected officials are expected to follow. The Friday post on the OGE’s site noted that government employees are prohibited from using their office for the private gain of 'friends, relatives, or persons with whom they are affiliated in a non-government capacity,' as well as from 'endorsing any product, service or company.'” CW: Other than that, Donaldo, I don't see no bleeping ethics problem. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Andrew Kaczynski & Jim Acosta of CNN: "Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley is stepping away from her appointment to a senior communications role in Donald Trump's incoming administration, CNN confirms. The move comes after CNN's KFile uncovered multiple instances of plagiarism in her 2012 book, her columns for the Washington Times, and her 2000 Ph.D. dissertation for Columbia University. Crowley was slated to be the senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council in Trump's administration." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Kudos to the CNN editor who assigned Kaczynski & Acosta to the story. Kaczynski was the reporter who initially found the plagiarized material in Crowley's book -- he's made a specialty of finding plagiarized material in the works of public officials (like Rand Paul) -- and Acosta is the reporter whose question Trump refused to take during last week's presser. So long, Dr.-for-Now Crowley. I'll bet Trump is red-faced, not because he's embarrassed, because he's incapable of being embarrassed, but because he's furious CNN got the better of him. P.S. Really nice job of vetting your appointees, Trumpies.

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: The legislative record of Rep. Tom Price (RTP-Ga.), Donald Trump's choice for secretary of health & human services, "shows that over eight years in the Georgia Senate and 12 years in Congress, he has advocated at least as much for physician groups and health care companies — seeking to limit damages in malpractice cases, for instance, and voting against legislation that would have required the government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries [as he has for patients].... His positions have often coincided with the financial interests of groups whose donations have helped advance his political career.... As Mr. Price prepares for two confirmation hearings — the first of which is scheduled for Wednesday — his past efforts on behalf of health-related companies, which have donated generously to his campaigns, are under scrutiny. So, too, is Mr. Price’s history of trading in biomedical, pharmaceutical and health insurance stocks while serving on the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. Democrats have called for investigations into whether he traded stock based on information he gleaned as a congressman." -- CW ...

... The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Manu Raju of CNN: "Rep. Tom Price last year purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company, raising new ethics concerns for ... Donald Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.... After Price offered his bill to provide Zimmer Biomet [-- the manufacturer in which Price had invested --] and other companies relief from [a federal] regulation, the company's political action committee donated to the congressman's reelection campaign, records show.... The new revelation is the latest example of Price trading stock in a healthcare firm at the same time as pursuing legislation that could impact a company's share price. The issue has become a major liability for the congressman after The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could impact them.... [Price's trading rases] new concerns among ethics experts that Price may have inappropriately used inside information while purchasing shares in a company. Concerns over insider trading on Capitol Hill -- where members of Congress allegedly traded stock based on intelligence gleaned from the legislative process -- prompted the enactment of the STOCK Act in 2012 aimed at combating the practice." -- CW ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: Donald Trump "assured the Washington Post that his health care plan is definitely not imaginary; he claims it’s nearly finished, but it won’t be unveiled until his Health and Human Services secretary is confirmed. That suggests Representative Tom Price is integral to this plan, but it appears the opposite may be true. A senior transition official tells CNN that Price is being kept out of discussions about Trump’s strategy to ensure Americans are 'beautifully covered.' They don’t want senators to question Price about the plan during his hearing before the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, and he can’t reveal what he doesn’t know. Price actually released his own detailed health care reform plan two years ago, but he doesn’t want to talk about that during his confirmation hearing either.... Price’s plan does not attempt to provide universal coverage, though that appears to be a feature of Trump’s proposal." -- CW 

Andy Can't Take the Heat. John King of CNN: "... Donald Trump's choice to be labor secretary has voiced second thoughts in recent days, because of a relentless barrage of criticism from Democrats, labor unions and other liberal groups, a business ally and GOP sources tell CNN. Andy Puzder is the CEO of the company that owns the Hardees and Carl's Jr. fast food chains. 'He may be bailing,' said a Republican source plugged into the Trump transition effort. 'He is not into the pounding he is taking, and the paperwork.'... His required ethics and financial paperwork also has not yet been posted by the Office of Government Ethics, which makes the filings public after nominees for top federal positions detail how they plan to comply with federal ethics rules regarding financial holdings. Puzder's confirmation hearings was initially scheduled for this week. It is now on hold, and likely will not be held until next month." -- CW ...

... Erik Loomis of LG&$: "... It’s not like Emperor Tangerine is going to name someone much better than Pudzer if he bails. As I have argued consistently since the election, on most issues, Trump is a bog-standard Republican. On labor policy that’s certainly true. Whether he names Scott Walker or some other CEO or some anti-labor think tank hack, they are going to be terrible. But taking on these people over and over again reinforces how unpopular Trump and his positions are. And that has great value. Even someone as vile as Pudzer is susceptible to public pressure." -- CW 

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Never Trump" letter signers who work in national security fields "fear they have been added to ... a purported blacklist compiled by Trump’s political advisers.... Last week, the Trump transition held a private briefing for secretary-of-state nominee Rex Tillerson to prepare him for his Senate confirmation hearing. One former Bush national security official who works at a Washington think tank said that some of his younger staff assistants were invited to participate but that he was not. He assumes it was because he signed the letter. 'It’s hostile,' said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of further retribution. 'It’s not just that we’re frozen out. . . . I was told they said there was an enemies list.'” CW: Did these "experts" really expect a vindictive SOB would send them flowers & job offers?

Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "There is always bound to be some divergence between a president and his cabinet, but the Trump administration is shaping up to create a genuinely new problem: an anarchic government where the world is not sure who is setting policy. Trump believes he can be successful by sowing chaos and confusion, which is true to the extent that he won the White House with a shambolic campaign in which he took many contradictory stances. But being a statesman is different than being a politician. The incoherence that benefited him as a politician might lead to war as a president." -- CW 

Worst Inauguration in Living Memory. John Wagner & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: In contrast to past inaugural activities, Donald Trump's inauguration "will be 'workmanlike,' said Boris Epshteyn, communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.... Early on, there was talk of something much flashier.... Organizers are also expecting an unusually high number of protesters....  And as of Monday afternoon, nearly three dozen Democratic lawmakers had said they plan to skip the festivities, after revelations of Russia’s alleged interference in the election and Trump’s ­rebuke of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, on Saturday.... City officials have indicated that far more charter buses have sought parking permits in the city’s biggest lot on Saturday, when a protest Women’s March on Washington is scheduled, than for the inauguration the day before.... For weeks, Trump has been dogged by headlines about A-list entertainers turning down offers to join the celebration.... One thing the Trump inaugural committee has done particularly well is raise money." -- CW ...

... Jason Newman of Rolling Stone: "The B-Street Band, a popular Bruce Springsteen cover group..., has dropped out of a Donald Trump inauguration party out of 'respect and gratitude' for Springsteen." The group is not affiliated with Springsteen or the E-Street Band. "Springsteen never weighed in on the controversy, but Garry Tallent, the E Street Band's founding bassist, tweeted, in response to news of the B-Street band's appearance, 'Please tell me this is more fake news. Or at least a joke.' Steven Van Zandt, the group's outspoken guitarist, tweeted of the B-Street Band, "Nice guys. Met them. I wouldn't say right or wrong. Up to them. But it's naive to think one can separate Art and Politics. Art IS Politics.'" -- CW

Keep the Government's Hands off My Subsidies, Ctd. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans appear to have accomplished a feat that President Obama, with all the power at his disposal, could not in the past seven years: They have galvanized outspoken support for the Affordable Care Act. People who benefit from the law are flooding Congress with testimonials. Angry consumers are confronting Republican lawmakers. And Democrats who saw the law as a political liability in recent elections have suddenly found their voice, proudly defending the law now that it is in trouble. Thousands of people across the country held rallies over the weekend to save the health care law, which Republicans moved last week to repeal with a first but crucial legislative step." -- CW ...

... ** Jeffrey Frank of the New Yorker puts his finger on why confederate Members of Congress hate, hate, hate ObamaCare. It's personal. "Under the A.C.A., members of Congress, and congressional staff, among other Capitol Hill employees, were no longer eligible for the [generous federal employees health insurance policies].... And it follows that, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, members of Congress would be able to return to the federal plan that they, like millions of federal employees, were so fond of. Twenty million other Americans won’t. A better idea, though, might be to find a path (it won’t be easy, but it’s certainly easier than anything else that might be effective and that hundreds of legislators could ever agree upon) to finally offer the beloved, and by most accounts well-administered, federal plan to the rest of the uninsured nation." -- CW 

Stephanie Allen of the Orlando Sentinel: "The wife of the man behind the deadly terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando was arrested today on charges stemming from the shooting that left 49 dead and dozens more injured, a law enforcement source told the Orlando Sentinel. FBI agents arrested Noor Salman at her home outside San Francisco on charges of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization, the source said." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Charles Rabin, et al., of the Miami Herald: "A day of celebration was marred when eight people were shot and several others injured during a stampede to get out of Miami-Dade’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, on a day when the civil rights icon was honored across the country. Police had two people in custody and had recovered two weapons within an hour of Monday’s gunfire. But they said it was too early to offer a narrative into why a day that was supposed to be about nonviolence erupted into mayhem." -- CW 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article126861799.html#storylink=cpy

Way Beyond

Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "The sprawling investigation into President Park Geun-hye of South Korea took a dramatic turn on Monday with word that prosecutors were seeking the arrest of the de facto head of Samsung, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, on charges that he bribed the president and her secretive confidante. A prosecutor’s call for the arrest of Jay Y. Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung and only son of the company’s incapacitated chairman, Lee Kun-hee, brings new scrutiny to the deep ties between top government officials and the handful of corporations that dominate South Korea’s economy. Mr. Lee is accused of instructing Samsung subsidiaries to make payments totaling 43 billion won ($36 million) to the family of Ms. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and to two foundations that Ms. Choi controlled, in exchange for help from Ms. Park in facilitating a father-to-son transfer of ownership control of Samsung." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Monday
Jan162017

The Commentariat -- January 16, 2017

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Justice Department officials have completed their review of more than 16,000 clemency petitions filed by federal prisoners over the past two years and sent their last recommendations to President Obama, who is set to grant hundreds more commutations to nonviolent drug offenders during his final days in office." -- CW 

Andrew Kaczynski & Jim Acosta of CNN: "Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley is stepping away from her appointment to a senior communications role in Donald Trump's incoming administration, CNN confirms. The move comes after CNN's KFile uncovered multiple instances of plagiarism in her 2012 book, her columns for the Washington Times, and her 2000 Ph.D. dissertation for Columbia University. Crowley was slated to be the senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council in Trump's administration." ...

     ... CW: Kudos to the CNN editor who assigned Kaczynski & Acosta to the story. Kaczynski was the reporter who initially found the plagiarized material in Crowley's book -- he's made a specialty of finding plagiarized material in the works of public officials (like Rand Paul) -- and Acosta is the reporter whose question Trump refused to take during last week's presser. So long, Dr.-for-Now Crowley. I'll bet Trump is red-faced, not because he's embarrassed, because he's incapable of being embarrassed, but because he's furious CNN got the better of him. P.S. Really nice job of vetting your appointees, Trumpies.

Missed this one. Allegra Kirkland of TPM (Jan. 13): "One day after Donald Trump sent a tweet urging his followers to 'Buy L.L. Bean,' the Office of Government Ethics published an online 'refresher' outlining the rules on endorsements that elected officials are expected to follow. The Friday post on the OGE’s site noted that government employees are prohibited from using their office for the private gain of 'friends, relatives, or persons with whom they are affiliated in a non-government capacity,' as well as from 'endorsing any product, service or company.'” CW: Other than that, Donaldo, I don't see no bleeping ethics problem.

Stephanie Allen of the Orlando Sentinel: "The wife of the man behind the deadly terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando was arrested today on charges stemming from the shooting that left 49 dead and dozens more injured, a law enforcement source told the Orlando Sentinel. FBI agents arrested Noor Salman at her home outside San Francisco on charges of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization, the source said." -- CW 

Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "The sprawling investigation into President Park Geun-hye of South Korea took a dramatic turn on Monday with word that prosecutors were seeking the arrest of the de facto head of Samsung, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, on charges that he bribed the president and her secretive confidante. A prosecutor’s call for the arrest of Jay Y. Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung and only son of the company’s incapacitated chairman, Lee Kun-hee, brings new scrutiny to the deep ties between top government officials and the handful of corporations that dominate South Korea’s economy. Mr. Lee is accused of instructing Samsung subsidiaries to make payments totaling 43 billion won ($36 million) to the family of Ms. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and to two foundations that Ms. Choi controlled, in exchange for help from Ms. Park in facilitating a father-to-son transfer of ownership control of Samsung." -- CW 

*****

Robert Costa & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of 'insurance for everybody,' while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid. Trump declined to reveal specifics in the telephone interview late Saturday with The Washington Post, but any proposals from the incoming president would almost certainly dominate the Republican effort to overhaul federal health policy as he prepares to work with his party’s congressional majorities.... People covered under the law 'can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.'” Trump claimed. CW: "Trump declined to reveal specifics" because he doesn't know any. If the plan is anything like the plan proposed by Tom Price, Trump's nominee for HHS secretary, it will be more like "insurance for everybody who has money." -- CW 

Nationalist-Racist-Kakistocrat Grants Interview to European Papers, Says Crazy, Scary Stuff. Michael Gordon & Niraj Chokshi of the New York Times: "In comments that are likely to create fresh tensions with the United States’ closest European allies..., Donald J. Trump described NATO as'obsolete' in an interview published on Sunday [CW: firewalled, but you can read it if you give the Times of London some personal info.] and said other European nations would probably follow Britain’s lead by leaving the European Union. Mr. Trump has made similar comments before. But the fact that he made them in a joint interview with two European publications — The Times of London and Bild, a German newspaper — and did so days before assuming the presidency alarmed European diplomats.... Mr. Trump also said that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union would 'end up being a great thing' and predicted that other countries would follow. 'People, countries want their own identity, and the U.K. wanted its own identity,' he said. He criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany over her decision to welcome more than one million migrants.... On Russia, Mr. Trump said he hoped to strike a deal with President Vladimir V. Putin to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. He suggested that such an agreement could be part of a broader easing of tensions that would include lifting economic sanctions imposed after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014." See also Steve Erlanger's report, linked under Way Beyond the Beltway. -- CW ...

     ... Kate Connolly of the Guardian has a summary of the Trump interview here. -- Bloomberg also has a summary here. CW ...

... Kevin Drum has a summary, too, of Trump's weekend interviews, with a few observations about some of Trump's plans. ...

...Philip Oltermann of the Guardian: "Berlin has mounted a staunch defence of its policies after Donald Trump criticised the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for her stance during the refugee crisis and threatened a 35% tariff on BMW cars imported into the US. Germany’s deputy chancellor and minister for the economy, Sigmar Gabriel, said on Monday morning that a tax on German imports would lead to a “bad awakening” among US carmakers since they were reliant on transatlantic supply chains...Gabriel, who is expected to run as the centre-left candidate against Angela Merkel at Germany’s federal elections in September, said Trump’s election should encourage Europeans to stand up for themselves...'Especially in this phase in which Europe is rather weak, we will have to pull ourselves together and act with self-confidence and stand up for our own interests.'" Because European interests will no longer align with American (Trumputin's) interests. This bodes well. --safari...

...Matthew Dessem of Slate: "In the probably fruitless quest to describe just how horrible it is that Donald Trump will soon be president, satirists have scoured the canon from surrealismall the way to Batman looking for apt comparisons. Now Damien Love, a television critic for Scotland’s The Herald, has thrown his hat into the ring with a TV highlights column for the ages. Love listed the BBC One’s coverage of the Trumpadministration as though it were a long-awaited reboot of The Twilight Zone...Love describes the “gaudy”  ceremony as the controversial premiere of a four-year augmented reality show set in a horrific dystopia in which Trump has somehow become president." --safari

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "Republicans with a sense of shame have to come out and break the wall of silence. Cutting taxes for rich people and slashing the safety net for the less fortunate has to come second to basic patriotism. President Pence will still appoint anti-abortion judges and make sure Charles and David Koch get their tax breaks. But conservatives of conscience need to stand up and make themselves heard. This is not normal, and it is not OK." -- CW ...

...**Juan Cole: "A reactionary wants to undo a progressive change already long since effected, taking achievements away from the people for the sake of the 1%. We live in a reactionary age...We live in a moment where 8 billionaires are as rich as the poorer half of humankind and when the top 1% takes home 20% of the US national income (up from 10% only a few decades ago). Ironically,...it is at this very moment that reactionaries are demanding that ordinary people surrender their pensions and social security and health care for the sake of a further fat tax cut for the super-rich...Reaction menaces us in the realm of civil rights as well as in that of the economy, where we have become a hereditary plutocracy...So we are back to de facto restrictions on the voting rights of African-Americans, which may have affected the election outcome in 2016. And we’re back to all-Black schools. The Republican Party is still dedicated to equality in one area, though. They’d love to make us all wage slaves with no unions, no rights ( even to have a break), no minimum income, no health care and no social security. Indeed, there is a sense in which the 99% are all Black in the Age of Trump, whether they know it yet or not." --safari ...

... Steve Peoples & Laurie Kellman of the AP: "The outgoing CIA director charged on Sunday that Donald Trump lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States, delivering a public lecture to ... [Trump] that further highlighted the bitter state of Trump's relations with American intelligence agencies.... 'Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests,' [John] Brennan declared." -- CW 

Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "Days before his inauguration..., Donald J. Trump is engaged in a high-profile feud with some of the country’s most prominent African-American leaders, setting off anger in a constituency already wary of him after a contentious presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s criticism of Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a widely admired leader of the civil rights movement, has prompted a number of Democratic lawmakers to say they will not attend his inauguration on Friday....Mr. Trump has also not made any public announcement of plans to commemorate Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a tradition observed by most Republican and Democratic politicians. A plan for him to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Monday has been scrapped." ...

     ... CW: Bill & Hillary Clinton should find something else to do January 20, too. ...

... Fiza Pirani of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Hours after ... Donald Trump took to Twitter to blast civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, labeling the Democrat’s Atlanta district as a 'crime infested' area that is in 'horrible shape,' Lewis’ 1999 memoir sold out on Amazon." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "... we shouldn’t get into the habit of delegitimizing election results we don’t like. But this time really is exceptional, and needs to be treated that way. So let’s be thankful that John Lewis had the courage to speak out. It was the patriotic, heroic thing to do. And America needs that kind of heroism, now more than ever." -- CW ...

...David Remnick of the New Yorker: "[JohnLewis is a dismal institution’s griot, a historical actor and hero capable of telling the most complex and painful of American stories—the story of race. That is his job, his mission. With Dr. King and Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker long gone, Lewis remains nearly alone in his capacity to tell the story of that era as a direct witness and, because of all that he has seen and endured, to issue credible moral judgment...One can agree or not with Lewis when he callsTrump’s legitimacy into doubt. What cannot be doubted is Lewis’s exemplary life, his moral gravity and authority. He is the rare figure who reminds a people of the fragility of their freedoms and puts his body on the line to protect and demand them." --safari

... As Gloria pointed out in yesterday's thread, Trump's attack on Lewis likely is at least in part a diversionary tactic: Trump doesn't want reporters to look too closely at his suggestion that he would lift sanctions against Russia in exchange for their handing him the presidency, sanctions that have stymied the $500BB deal between Exxon/Rex Tillerson) & Russia's state/oligarchs/Putin-owned oil company. AND, as Garry Kasparov points out, there's more. ...

... Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "When Trump takes office on Friday, he will assume control of a federal bureaucracy with enormous power to bolster nearly every corner of his real estate, licensing and merchandising empire — and enhance his personal fortune.... Nearly every department of government could come into contact with aspects of Trump’s businesses — and, because Trump is not divesting, his bottom line will be at stake." CW: Read the whole story. If Trump does not engage in corrupt practices from somewhere around Day One, he can send me a red "Make America Great Again" hat, and I'll eat it.

Peter Boyer of Esquire (Jan. 14): "According to three senior officials on the transition team, a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump Administration. If the plan goes through, one of the officials said, the media will be removed from the cozy confines of the White House press room, where it has worked for several decades. Members of the press will be relocated to the White House Conference Center — near Lafayette Square— or to a space in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.... According to [one] official, the potential relocation reflected a view within the transition team that coverage of Trump has been so hostile as to indicate that the press has abandoned its role as neutral observer. 'They are the opposition party,' a senior official says. 'I want 'em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.'" -- CW ...

... Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff, appeared to backpedal on the idea..., saying that only the location of the press briefing room was being discussed and that the administration was merely considering a larger area to accommodate the hundreds of journalists seeking to cover Mr. Trump. But for jittery Washington reporters, it was yet another salvo from an administration that has shown an unusual willingness to berate and belittle the news media, at the behest of a president-elect who has floated the idea of rolling back libel protections and, in a volcanic appearance last week, refused to take questions from CNN after it ran a story he did not like." -- CW 

Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post: "... Trump will be what columnist Frida Ghitis of the Miami Herald calls 'the gaslighter in chief' — ... he will pull out all the stops to make people think that they should believe him, not their own eyes.... 'The techniques,' Ghitis wrote, 'include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.' But that’s just part of what experience teaches us to expect from Trump. Here’s another: Trump will punish journalists for doing their jobs.... Imagine that tendency, now with executive powers, a compliant attorney general and a lily-livered Congress.... He will relentlessly manipulate. For example, Trump’s first news conference as president-elect last week featured a crowd of paid staffers who cheered his every statement, creating a false picture for viewers." -- CW  ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "In a statement released Sunday afternoon, WHCA President Jeff Mason said he is meeting with incoming press secretary Sean Spicer on behalf of the organization's members to 'try to get more clarity on exactly what' the Trump administration is suggesting regarding media access to the White House. 'The briefing room is open now to all reporters who request access. We support that and always will. The WHCA will fight to keep the briefing room and West Wing access to senior administration officials open,' he said in the statement." CW: Yo, Jeff, the White House is "the People's House" only till noon on Friday. 

Keep the Government's Hands off My Insurance Subsidy. Chas Danner of New York: "A Republican congressman from Colorado has gotten a taste of what the backlash to repealing the Affordable Care Act may be like. Representative Mike Coffman, who co-wrote an op-ed in the Denver Post championing the full repeal of Obamacare on Friday, was overwhelmed by constituents at his own constituent-event in the town of Aurora on Saturday, so much so that he ultimately opted to sneak out of the event early rather than face the as many as 100 disgruntled people still waiting to speak with him. Many of the constituents had come to the meeting to voice their concerns to Coffman over the likely repeal of the ACA." -- CW ...

... During election season, Coffman told voters he would "stand up to Trump," yet he ran out the back door rather than face a few unhappy constituents.

Pan Pylas of the AP: "The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, according to an analysis by Oxfam released Monday. Presenting its findings on the dawn of the annual gathering of the global political and business elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, anti-poverty organization Oxfam says the gap between the very rich and poor is far greater than just a year ago. It's urging leaders to do more than pay lip-service to the problem.If not, it warns, public anger against this kind of inequality will continue to grow and lead to more seismic political changes akin to last year's election of Donald Trump as U.S. president and Britain's vote to leave the European Union." CW: We now live in a country that is the best example -- of what's wrong with the world.

Beyond the Beltway

Aviva Shen of ThinkProgress: "The Dakota Access Pipeline standoff between Energy Transfer Partners and the Standing Rock water protectors may be on pause for now. But another clash is brewing over a related pipeline by the same company, 1500 miles away...The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would form the tail end of the now infamous Dakota Access route. The Dakota Access Pipeline would carry crude oil from the North Dakota oilfields to an [a] newly completed pipeline...to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would carry 480,000 barrels of oil per day a final 162 miles across the state to refineries and ports, through eight watersheds and long stretches of fragile wetlands...Climate change activists, indigenous residents, crawfishermen, rice farmers, health care professionals, conservationists, and Louisianans who live along the proposed route all showed up to protest the pipeline’s construction." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

Steve Erlanger of the New York Times: British "Prime Minister Theresa May is likely to choose to exit Europe’s single market and its customs union — a so-called hard Brexit. Mrs. May is scheduled to make a long-awaited speech on her plans on Tuesday, but the British weekend papers and Sunday news programs were briefed by Downing Street about the main lines of the policy, and some published selected quotations of what Mrs. May is scheduled to say." -- CW