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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

Tuesday
Aug152017

The Commentariat -- August 16, 2017

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

 

Michael Shear & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump angrily defended himself on Tuesday against criticism that he did not specifically condemn Nazi and white supremacist groups following the weekend’s deadly racial unrest in Virginia.... In a long, combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan, the president repeatedly rejected a torrent of bipartisan criticism for waiting several days before naming the right-wing groups and placing blame on 'many sides' for the violence on Saturday that ended with the death of a young woman after a car crashed into a crowd.... And he criticized 'alt-left' groups that he claimed were 'very, very violent' when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is 'blame on both sides.' 'Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,' Mr. Trump said. 'This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” he said, noting that the first American president had owned slaves.... The president’s breathtaking statements inflamed and stunned people across Twitter.... ” ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Trump said Tuesday that counterprotesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville acted violently and should share the blame for the mayhem that left a woman dead and many injured.... 'You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,' Trump said. 'No one wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now: You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.'... Trump called the driver of the car that killed counterprotester Heather Heyer, 32, and injured 19 a 'disgrace to himself, his family and the country,' but he stopped short of declaring the action a case of 'domestic terrorism,' calling that an exercise in semantics.... David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, praised Mr. Trump’s comments as a condemnation of 'leftist terrorists.'” ...

     ... Politico has a rush transcript of Trump's remarks. ...

... Andrew Rafferty, et al., of NBC News: "A senior White House official told NBC News Tuesday that President Trump wasn't supposed to answer any questions Monday [Tuesday]. His team went into the event with the understanding that they would discuss infrastructure only and the president would take no questions.... But once in front of reporters, the president 'went rogue,' the official said, and members of the team were stunned by the president's actions." ... 

... Max Greenwood of the Hill: "National Economic Council director Gary Cohn is said to be deeply dismayed by President Trump's statements in the wake of the violence at a white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va. The New York Times' White House correspondents Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush tweeted Tuesday that Cohn is upset with the president's comments over the past four days, but is not planning to leave the administration.... Cohn, who is Jewish, is considered among the more moderate voices in Trump's White House." ...

 ... Molly Ball of the Atlantic: "On Tuesday evening, a few hours after the president’s inflammatory press conference defending white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, the [White House communications] office issued an 'evening communications briefing [to Republican members of Congress].... It encourages members to echo the president’s line, contending that '[The president was entirely correct --] both sides … acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.'” Ball includes a complete transcript of the talking-points communiqué. ...

... Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting-match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and 'Trump/Pence” signs.... Members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private.... Since the 1960s, Republican politicians have made muscular appeals to white voters, especially those in the South, on broad cultural grounds. But as a rule, they have taken a hard line on the party’s racist, nativist and anti-Semitic fringe. Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush roundly condemned white supremacists." ... 

... John Bowden of the Hill: "Cory Keenan, who worked for [President] Obama from 2007 to 2017, joked on Twitter that a bad presidential press conference used to mean wearing a tan suit — a reference to a widely mocked White House press briefing in 2014, during which Obama wore a tan suit."

of the Daily Beast: "... Donald Trump does not have plans to visit Charlottesville, Virginia in the wake of the the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi gathering that took place in the city over the weekend.... Two senior Trump aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, had earlier told The Daily Beast that there was no serious sign that West Wing staffers were even exploring a Charlottesville visit at this point. 'Why the hell would we do that?' one White House official bluntly said, stating that whatever the president did in Charlottesville at this stage would be 'used against' him by critics and media voices." ...

... Rob Tornoe of philly.com: "A fourth CEO has announced he is walking away from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council over Trump’s initially muted response to racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend that was fueled by groups promoting white supremacy, putting pressure on the remaining executives ... to do the same. Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said on Twitter he was leaving the panel because 'it’s the right thing for me to do.'... Paul announced his decision Tuesday, minutes after Trump lashed out at the other executives who have chosen to withdraw from his council, labeling them 'grandstanders.'” ...

... Erica Pandey of Axios: "Richard Trumka, the CEO of AFL-CIO, along with AFL-CIO's deputy chief of staff, Thea Lee, stepped down Tuesday evening from Trump's manufacturing council, claiming that Trump's remarks this afternoon about the violence on 'both sides' in Charlottesville 'repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis.'" ...

You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say that right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in — without a permit — and they were very, very violent.... You had people ... who were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name. -- Donald Trump, Tuesday

... Amy Sorkin of the New Yorker: “The bad group was the white nationalists; the 'very violent' group was those who had come to object.... Trump wasn’t putting the two sides on the same level; he was saying that the counter-protesters were worse. His outrage at the counter-protesters’ lack of a permit stood out all the more, given that he had spent the beginning of the briefing, which was meant to be about infrastructure..., complaining about how permits slowed down him and other builders. He promised to do away with as many as he could.... Trump didn’t pause to ask why the statue of Robert E. Lee would be so very, very important, nor did he mention the other name: Emancipation Park. Instead, he had reduced a moral crossroads for the country to a question of naming rights." ...

... Mehdi Hasan of the Intercept: "Much of the frenzied media coverage of what CNN dubbed '48 hours of turmoil for the Trump White House' has overlooked one rather crucial point: Trump doesn’t like being forced to denounce racism for the very simple reason that he himself is, and always has been, a racist.... Over ... four decades, Trump burnished his reputation as a bigot.... Yes, the U.S. has had plenty of presidents in recent decades who have dog-whistled to racists and bigots, and even incited hate against minorities ... but there has never been a modern president so personally steeped in racist prejudices, so unashamed to make bigoted remarks in public and with such a long and well-documented record of racial discrimination." Hasan documents Trump's record. So can we stop playing this game where journalists demand Trump condemns people he agrees with and Trump then pretends to condemn them in the mildest of terms?" ... 

Paul Dallison of Politico: "U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday added her voice to criticisms of Donald Trump over his response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Telegraph reported.... Speaking in Portsmouth[, England,] at a ceremony to mark the arrival of a new aircraft carrier, May said: 'I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them. I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them.'” ...

... Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "For a few visceral minutes on Tuesday, television’s partisan lines dissolved as dumbfounded anchors reacted on-air — some in clearly personal ways — to Mr. Trump’s fiery remarks, in which the president seemed to cast equal blame on white supremacists and the demonstrators who marched against them during the weekend’s deadly clash in Charlottesville, Va. On Fox News, normally a redoubt of Trump support, the 5 p.m. co-hosts of 'The Specialists' shook their heads, with the anchor Guy Benson saying that Mr. Trump 'lost me' when he insisted that some 'very fine people' participated in the white supremacist rally.... His co-host, [Kat] Timpf, a conservative pundit who contributes to National Review Online, exhaled deeply. 'It was one of the biggest messes that I’ve ever seen,' she said. 'I can’t believe it happened.' Disbelief dominated the early reaction on CNN and MSNBC, too.... Later, the network evening newscasts ran long, unexpurgated clips of Mr. Trump’s appearance, rather than the usual short clips. CBS devoted its entire half-hour 'Evening News' to the president’s comments and the aftermath of the weekend’s rioting.” ...

... Negassi Tesfamichael of Politico: "The status of Steve Bannon's job is still undecided..., Donald Trump said on Tuesday, amid an ongoing review of White House staffing and as his chief strategist has become increasingly isolated in the West Wing. 'We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,' Trump said at a news conference on infrastructure at Trump Tower in New York City. 'He is a good person, and I think the press treats him frankly unfairly.'” ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "If Trump finally pushes Bannon out of the White House, the nationalist policy project will be all but dead. The new chief of staff, John Kelly, is far more moderate on immigration and has pushed Trump to abandon the idea of a physical border wall. Economic policy will be fully under the control of Cohn, and the heretical idea of raising taxes on the wealthy will have no champion. Trump himself has always been more animated by the xenophobia of Bannonism than by its populist economic views. A Trump White House without Bannon will be no more radical in its coddling of far-right groups — [Tuesday], Trump showed again that he needs no encouragement — but it will be more captured by the traditional small-government agenda of the G.O.P. that Bannon hoped to destroy." 

... Jessica Schulberg of the Huffington Post: "Weeks before a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to three deaths and 19 injuries, the Trump administration revoked a grant to Life After Hate, a group that works to de-radicalize neo-Nazis. The Department of Homeland Security had awarded the group $400,000 as part of its Countering Violent Extremism program in January, just days before former President Barack Obama left office.... Trump aides, including Katharine Gorka, a controversial national security analyst known for her anti-Muslim rhetoric, were already working toward eliminating Life After Hate’s grant and to direct all funding toward fighting what the president has described as 'radical Islamic terrorism.'... Gorka and her husband, Sebastian Gorka, also a Trump White House official, have collaborated on numerous writings about the threat of radical Islam.... The day after Trump won the election, Sebastian Gorka said, 'I predict with absolute certitude, the jettisoning of concepts such as CVE.... Once Trump entered the White House in January, the office of then-DHS Secretary John Kelly ordered a full review of the Countering Violent Extremism program.... While that review was underway, DHS and the FBI warned in an internal intelligence bulletin of the threat posed by white supremacy.... DHS also revoked funding from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an American Muslim advocacy organization that was told in January it would receive a $393,800 grant to create community resource centers throughout the country.” ...

... Bob Moser of the New Republic: "Unite the Right, the 'alt-right' rally in Charlottesville that attracted the largest contingent of white supremacists in recent American history ... — had everything to do with ... Donald Trump. This was not a rally in support of a Confederate statue; as The Atlantic’s Matt Thompson put it, it was a 'pride march' for America’s resurgent white supremacists.... The ideology on parade not only has official sanction and mainstream respectability in 2017; it also happens to be the ideology of the president of the United States. 'From this day forward a new vision will govern our land,' Trump promised in his apocalyptic 'American Carnage' inaugural address. 'From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first, America first.' It was, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie wrote, the 'one real, coherent defining theme for his administration — the only thing that counts is America. And the only Americans who count are white.'” ...

... Jamelle Bouie: "It’s clear from all accounts of the violence in Virginia that the 'Unite the Right' demonstrators came heavily armed and prepared for conflict, chanting racist slogans and antagonizing counterprotesters. For Trump, however, the opposite was true. It was counterprotesters who came charging with 'clubs,' attacking the white supremacists and neo-Nazis.... Comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues at stake.... Those statues [of Lee & other Confederate "heroes"] weren’t placed as historical markers. The vast majority were erected decades after the end of the Civil War, built to valorize the Confederacy and mark the establishment of Jim Crow. It’s no accident they were placed in parks and other prominent spaces near courthouses and seats of government. They marked and memorialized white supremacy, and served as a warning to anyone — black or white — who would challenge it. Confederate 'heroes' like Robert E. Lee hold no historical significance outside the Confederacy and the myth of the 'Lost Cause.' To erect monuments in their honor is to celebrate both." ...

... Tom Kludt of CNN: "Months before a man allegedly turned his vehicle into a weapon and plowed through a group of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, an article that made the rounds in conservative media encouraged readers to do something similar. Originally published by The Daily Caller and later syndicated or aggregated by several other websites, including Fox Nation, an offshoot of Fox News' website, it carried an unsubtle headline: 'Here's A Reel Of Cars Plowing Through Protesters Trying To Block The Road.' Embedded in the article was a minute-and-a-half long video showing one vehicle after another driving through demonstrations. The footage was set to a cover of Ludacris' 'Move Bitch.'... As the outrage grew on Twitter, Fox News took action, deleting the version Fox Nation had published.... Within hours, the Daily Caller had deleted the original post. That version had been published by Mike Raust, who was then a video editor at The Daily Caller.... Lawmakers in several states have proposed laws this year intended to ease the liability for drivers who hit protesters. A bill in North Dakota's state legislature ... failed to pass in February." ...

... Sean Welsh & Colin Campbell of the Baltimore Sun: "Confederate statues in Baltimore were removed from their bases overnight, as crews using heavy machinery loaded them onto flat bed trucks and hauled them away, an end to more than a year of indecision surrounding what to do with the memorials. The action comes after Mayor Catherine Pugh pledged to remove four statues linked to the Confederacy from public spaces in the city and the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution to tear them down after a national conversation was renewed following a deadly act of terror during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday.... The quick overnight action was designed in part to avoid violent conflicts over their removal like what Charlottesville experience." The statues the city took down were vandalized effigies of "Robert E. Lee & 'Stonewall' Jackson Monument at Wyman Park Dell near Johns Hopkins University..., the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway and the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place. Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday said the long-debated statue to Taney — the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who ruled in the Dred Scott case — at the State House in Annapolis should come down."

Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Premiums for the most popular health insurance plans would shoot up 20 percent next year, and federal budget deficits would increase by $194 billion in the coming decade if President Trump carries out his threat to end certain subsidies paid to insurance companies for the benefit of low-income people, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. The subsidies reimburse insurers for reducing deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs that low-income people pay when they visit doctors, fill prescriptions or receive care in hospitals. Even before efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed in the Senate last month, Mr. Trump began threatening to cut off the subsidies, called cost-sharing reductions. He said the health care law would 'implode' and Democrats would have no choice but to negotiate a replacement plan. Mr. Trump described his strategy as, 'Let Obamacare implode, then deal.'”

Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump lashed out again Wednesday morning at the online retailer Amazon.... 'Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt - many jobs being lost!' the president wrote online just after 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.... The president’s tax-related allegations against Amazon are unclear, since the company has been collecting sales tax in each state that has one since the beginning of April.... Trump has also made a regular habit of attacking Amazon over its connection to The Washington Post...."

Andrew Kramer & Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: A Ukrainian "hacker, known only by his online alias 'Profexer...,'  wrote computer code ... and quietly sold his handiwork on the anonymous portion of the internet known as the Dark Web. Last winter, he suddenly went dark entirely. Profexer’s posts, already accessible only to a small band of fellow hackers and cybercriminals looking for software tips, blinked out in January — just days after American intelligence agencies publicly identified a program he had written as one tool used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.... There is no evidence that Profexer worked, at least knowingly, for Russia’s intelligence services, but his malware apparently did.... It does not suggest a compact team of [Russian] government employees who write all their own code and carry out attacks..., but rather a far looser enterprise that draws on talent and hacking tools wherever they can be found."

Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "With his public alarmed by President Trump’s recent threats to North Korea, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea issued an unusually blunt rebuke to the United States on Tuesday, warning that any unilateral military action against the North over its nuclear weapons program would be intolerable. 'No one should be allowed to decide on a military action on the Korean Peninsula without South Korean agreement,' Mr. Moon said in a nationally televised speech. As a candidate for the presidency, Mr. Moon, a liberal who took office in May, said he would 'say no to the Americans” if necessary. But he has aligned South Korea more closely with its military ally than many had expected. Though he suspended the deployment of a United States missile defense system opposed by China, he reversed that decision last month after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles."

Jessica Estepa of USA Today: "President Trump's re-election campaign said CNN had blocked its latest campaign ad, accusing the network of censorship. But the network said it has not rejected the ad.... The ad in question blasts Democrats, the media and career politicians. Additionally, it implies that members of the media are 'the president's enemies.' During a voiceover using that phrase, the ad features clips of journalists, many of whom work for CNN.... 'Today, CNN provided further proof that the network earns this mistrust every day by censoring President Trump's message to the American people by blocking our paid campaign ad,' [Trump campaign executive director Michael Glassner] said in a statement. 'Clearly, the only viewpoint CNN allows on the air is CNN's.'... According to the network, it verbally asked for changes in order to make the ad factual, something it does with all ads. The campaign asked for the change requests to be made in writing, but according to CNN, it then issued a press release before CNN sent over the changes. A CNN spokesperson said, 'CNN would accept the ad if the images of reporters and anchors are removed. Anchors and reporters don't have "enemies," as the ad states, but they do hold those in power accountable across the political spectrum and aggressively challenge false and misleading statements and investigate wrong-doing.'..."

Rafael Bernal of the Hill: "Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and about 30 other protesters were arrested Tuesday outside the White House during a rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Gutiérrez, a vocal advocate for immigrant rights, was arrested after he and other protesters sat on the White House sidewalk. The rally was being held at Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue. Doug Rivlin, a spokesman for Gutiérrez, said the congressman was taken by U.S. Park Police, who have jurisdiction over the area surrounding the White House."

Senate Race

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Republican voters [in Alabama] put a bitter Senate campaign into overtime, forcing Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) into a runoff with conservative jurist Roy Moore for the right to represent Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s old seat. Strange was endorsed by President Trump, the National Rifle Association and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s super PAC, which spent $2.5 million on TV ads to boost him in Tuesday’s primary. That helped push him past Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), saving national Republicans from an embarrassment in a unique mid-summer election marked by low turnout. Democrats, who have not won a Senate race in Alabama since 1992, nominated former U.S. attorney Doug Jones over a field of fringe candidates, according to a projection by the Associated Press."

Thursday
Jul272017

Employment Opportunity

Posted by Akhilleus


JOB LISTING
: Federal Government Posting: Attorney General of the United States. Apply White House.

REQUIREMENTS: Do what you're told. Step on minorities. Degrade women. Excoriate LGBTQ community. Find legal (or not) ways to screw people who won't vote for Republicans. Attack voting rights. Prosecute leakers. Vilify the media. Do what you're told. Cover president's ass at all times. Forget recusals, no matter what. Never investigate president. Ever. Take any and all legal bullets meant for White House. Never utter the word "Russian" except when ordering a drink. Never admit anything to Democrats in congress. Do what you're told.

EXPERIENCE: None required (see Secretary of Energy, State, Education, Housing and Urban Development, EPA, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, etc.)

QUALIFICATIONS: Knowledge of law or the Constitution not needed. Primary qualification is unquestioning obedience and mindless loyalty to the Leader. He will provide any and all legal justifications needed to fulfill job requirements. Trust him. He knows all the best laws.

Additional: Pay no attention to the way the current AG is being treated. It's all fake news. If you qualify, you won't have to worry about being publicly humiliated, thrown under multiple buses, called names, lied about, or have your judgement and mental capacity challenged. That's a promise.

Salary: TBD--based on loyalty (with "small" kickback to president for re-election campaign fund and assorted "philanthropic" organizations, Donald J. Trump Foundation, eg.)

Perks: Dwell in the presence of greatness. Inside tips on hair coloring and the best self-tanning products.

Tuesday
May302017

The Machinations of the "War Room" Disinformation Campaign

This video with Joy Reid is a perfect example of Bannon's Putinesque disinformation campaign that was so hyped upon Trump's return from dancing with autocrats and sowing distrust with our allies. Trump's "War Room" to push back against the Russian probe was widely reported four days ago. Since then, we're seeing signs of its awakening. It offers a perfect, real-time study in the Art of Deception by some of the slyest artisans in the business.

The disinformation pipeline is clear: Dig up dirt in the corners of the internet, spread the filth among the bottom feeders, then use its rising "popularity" as proof it deserves attention by the MSM. Here, it's the Wall Street Journal's columnist and Trump propagandist Kimberely Strassel who tries to smokebomb viewers' thoughts re: Kushner by hyping an obscure Breitbart (Bannon) article claiming alleged false equivalencies from the Obama administration (thanks, Obama!).

Here, Joy Reid and the other guests push back on the disinformation and try to set the conversation back on track. But the Trumpers and GOP loyalists settling in to Fox & Friends are getting 5 Kimberely Strassels all chumming the waters with actual fake news. Since the administration can't be honest and claim the damaging stories are factually false, their master strategy is blatantly lie, obfuscate, and cry "Fake News" until the news cycle (hopefully) moves on....

...Trumpist Twitter Bots Awaken. Travis Gettys of RawStory: "A two-year-old report on 'Obama's secret outreach to Russia' hit the top spot on the conservative Drudge Report after hundreds of bot accounts flooded Twitter with links to the article.... The original Bloomberg report largely disappeared from Twitter after interest died down a few weeks after its publication, but it began recirculating over the weekend. Two posts appeared to have been shared directly from the Bloomberg site early Saturday morning and Sunday evening, but then a deluge of posts using the same phrasing and tags burst forth starting at 12:48 a.m. and continuing every two or three minutes for the next 11 hours. Many of those accounts, at least in the early hours of the social media push, display the distinctive traits of bots -- with highly unbalanced posting-to-followers ratios, inscrutable account names, few public interactions and almost no original content phrasing." --safari (Also linked yesterday)...

...The initial revealings of the War Room's "Alternative Facts" campaign bring to mind the Steve. M. post linked earlier by Marie about Steve Bannon's supposed "messaging savviness": "Bannon might not actually change what most Americans are talking about. What he's skilled at doing is changing what right-wingers are talking about. And maybe that's worth it to Trump, because he seems to believe he can save his presidency as long as 80+ percent of Republicans still support him without question."...

...Trump's administration and the GOP in general have moved so far right (just look at all the legislation they're proposing) that they seem incapable of messaging to the center or 'independents', let alone the scary lefty communists. Democrats don't even merit conversation (again, look at Congress). So the question remains: Can this obfuscation campaign endure for years on end, only messaging to the Loyalists who hold the keys to their reelection? Bannon, et al. are one trick ponies. Seems like we're going to find out. --safari

Monday
Mar272017

The Commentariat -- March 28, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Devlin Barrett & Adam Entous of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, The Washington Post has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry. According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege. Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).... As acting attorney general, Yates played a key part in the investigation surrounding Michael T. Flynn.... A White House spokesperson called the Post article 'entirely false.'...” ...

     ... CW: If the Post story is "entirely false," then the Post has forged a DOJ letter to Yates' attorney essentially telling him Yates must have her testimony pre-approved by the White House.

Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, joined calls for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to step down, adding that his conduct and interactions with the White House look like 'a cover-up.'" CW: No kidding. If Trump didn't do something or know something we don't know, he would welcome an actual investigation because it would force Democrats to clear him. Nunes' actions demonstrate that he doesn't trust the president & his cronies, either.

*****

SCROTUS Attacks Earth. Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions. The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.... Some of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to alter broader economic trends that are shifting the nation’s electricity mix from coal-fired generation to natural gas and renewables." -- CW ...

... Just Another Empty Trump Promise. Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, celebrating the move as a way to increase the nation’s 'energy independence' and to restore thousands of lost coal mining jobs. But energy economists say the expected order falls short of both of those goals — in part because the United States already largely relies on domestic sources for the coal and natural gas that fires most of the nation’s power plants.... The new order would mean that older coal plants that had been marked for closings would probably stay open, said Robert W. Godby, an energy economist.... But even so, 'the mines that are staying open are using more mechanization,' he said. 'They’re not hiring people. So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.'...” -- CW ...

... Scott Pruitt, "Moderate" Climate-Change Denier. Andrew Restuccia & Alex Guillén of Politico: "In discussions with the White House over the executive order Trump is scheduled to sign on Tuesday, Pruitt successfully argued against including language revoking the agency's 2009 'endangerment finding,' according to two sources close to the issue. The endangerment finding declared that greenhouse gas emissions threaten human health and welfare and made EPA legally responsible for regulating carbon dioxide. It later set in motion much of former President Barack Obama's climate agenda. To many conservative skeptics of mainstream climate science, overturning the finding is an essential first step toward successfully undoing Obama administration climate regulations on everything from power plants to vehicles. But Pruitt, with the backing of several White House aides, argued in closed-door meetings that the legal hurdles to overturning the finding were massive, and the administration would be setting itself up for a lengthy court battle. A cadre of conservative climate skeptics are fuming about the decision.... Trump administration officials have not totally ruled out eventually targeting the endangerment finding." -- CW ...

... Coral Davenport provides a synopsis of what Trump administration climate-change deniers have said about climate change, starting with the Denier-in-Chief. -- CW ...

... CW: The irony of all this is that not only would the planet be far better off without dirty energy, but so would the workers whose jobs TrumpWorld is "saving" with its coal-centric policies. The administration's purpose is to keep Americans down, dirty and death-defying rather than to try to move them to less hazardous -- and usually far more pleasant -- clean-energy jobs. Hillary Clinton, BTW, had a plan to improve coal miners' prospects. But in mining country, the dimwits voted her down.


Nunes' Midnight Run, Ctd. The Plot Thickens. Matthew Rosenberg & Emmarie Heutteman
of the New York Times: "Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, met on the White House grounds with a source who showed him secret American intelligence reports a day before he revealed that President Trump or his closest associates may have been 'incidentally' swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.... The spokesman for Mr. Nunes, Jack Langer, said the congressman met with his source at the White House because he needed access to a secure facility where people with security clearances can legally view classified information. But such facilities can also be found in the Capitol building, and other locations across Washington.... Sean Spicer ... said Monday that White House officials had no previous knowledge of Mr. Nunes’s visit to the White House grounds, saying the only information he had had come from 'public reports.'” ...

     ... CW: What is a "security facility" on "the White House grounds"? Sounds like Nunes met his mole in the dark behind the bushes under the third window to the right of the South Portico. We're going to find out next that Nunes jumped the White House fence to get there. Yesterday, Jack Goldsmith called Nunes' behavior "inappropriate-bordering-on-bizarre. Time to delete "bordering-on." ...

... Jake Tapper of CNN: "The California Republican confirmed to CNN in a phone interview Monday he was on the White House grounds that day -- but he said he was not in the White House itself.... [As for Spicey's claim that 'White House officials had no previous knowledge of Mr. Nunes’s visit,' a former government intelligence official told CNN on Monday that members of Congress, like the general public, must be cleared and escorted into facilities on White House grounds. 'Every non-White House staffer must be cleared in by a current White House staffer,' the official said. 'So it's just not possible that the White House was unaware or uninvolved.'"...

     ... CW: Even Spicey, who is unusually willing to make nonsensical assertions, said, "... I don't know why he would ... come down here to brief us on something that we would have briefed him on. It doesn't really seem to make a ton of sense. So I'm not aware of it, but it doesn't really pass the smell test." As for the location of the meeting, my behind-the-bushes theory is looking good. Tapper reports, "A spokesman for Nunes said he 'met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.'" In other words, Nunes was not in a secure location when Bannon whoever showed him the docs, but proximate to it. So bushes. But then Tapper goes on to punch a hole in my theory: "A government official said Nunes was seen Tuesday night at the National Security Council offices of the Eisenhower building which, other than the White House Situation Room, is the main area on the complex to view classified information in a secure room. The official said Nunes arrived and left alone." ...

... This Is Rich. Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to reframe the story about Trump’s shady connections with Russia as really being about the leakers who have conveyed information anonymously to the media.... In February, Press Secretary Sean Spicer reportedly went as far as to scour White House staffers’ phones in an effort to get to the bottom of who is leaking information.... But during his Monday press briefing, Spicer ... said he’s not concerned about the possibility that someone in the White House leaked to House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).... Asked about possible White House complicity during Monday’s presser, Spicer wouldn’t confirm or deny anything.... The evening of Nunes’ press conference, Dan Scavino Jr., assistant to the president and director of White House social media, praised him for his loyalty to Trump, characterizing the House intel chair as 'a member of [Trump’s] campaign from the start.'” -- CW ...

... Eli Lake of Bloomberg: "In an interview Monday, Nunes told me that he ended up meeting his source on the White House grounds because it was the most convenient secure location with a computer connected to the system that included the reports, which are only distributed within the executive branch. 'We don't have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress,' Nunes said. He added that his source was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official." -- CW ...

... digby: "Look, it's been pretty obvious that he got this information from the White House since Trump himself telegraphed over a week ago that 'something' was coming: 'Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that despite all the denials from every institution and person in a position to know, "You’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”' He always tips his hand. He can't help himself." -- CW ...

... Tom LoBiano & Deirdre Walsh of CNN: "Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Russia investigation, called on House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation in a stunning split between the two top investigators." Thanks to Diane for the link. -- CW ...

... Matthew Rosenberg & Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: Nancy "Pelosi echoed Mr. Schiff’s call for Mr. Nunes to recuse himself, saying his behavior had 'tarnished' his post and urging Speaker Paul D. Ryan to speak out. 'Speaker Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately,' she said in a statement. 'That leadership is long overdue.' In an apparent attempt to change the subject, Mr. Trump on Monday night questioned why the House Intelligence Committee is not looking into connections between Hillary Clinton and Russian officials." -- CW ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump sought Monday to pressure the House committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, arguing that the panel should be probing Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged ties to the country instead of those of his own campaign advisers. In a pair of evening tweets, Trump wrote that the 'Trump Russia story is a hoax' and listed a string of alleged financial and other connections the Clintons have had over the years with Russia. He asked why the House Intelligence Committee is not investigating the former president and former secretary of state." CW: Very disappointed Trump has not yet fingered President Obama as a tool of Putin. See also Marvin S.'s commentary below. ...

There’s not any argument at this stage that somehow the election of President Trump was not legitimate, but there’s no question that there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic, fundamental democratic processes. In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war. -- Darth Vader Dick Cheney, Monday

Trump Signs Screw-the-Workers Bill into Law. Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress: "... on Monday, President Trump signed a measure that will make it easier for [federal contractors] to ... abuse their employees. The measure rolls back an order signed by President Obama, known as the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, that required any company bidding on a contract of $500,00[0] or more to disclose labor law violations over the last three years. Those disclosures then had to be taken into account during the bidding process.... Earlier this month, Republicans in the Senate used the Congressional Review Act and voted along party lines to undo the order. They sent it to Trump, who signed it on Monday.... [Because the new law applies to all of a company's workers, not just those working on government contracts,] the executive order had a large reach  —  federal contractors are estimated to employ over 18 percent of the American workforce." CW: How do you like that, Trumpbots? 

Michael Crowley of Politico: "After months of overtures from ... Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Trump administration is trading harsh diplomatic words with Moscow, further dimming the prospects for a strategic alliance between the two countries.... Sean Spicer opened his Monday briefing by reading a statement saying the U.S. 'strongly condemns' the detention of hundreds, including leading Putin critic Alexei Navalny, following a weekend crackdown on peaceful anti-corruption protests across Russia. The statement featured the toughest language Trump’s White House has directed at Putin’s government, surprising some Russia hawks unsure whether Trump — who has repeatedly avoided criticizing Putin — would allow the government to rebuke Moscow’s actions.... Meanwhile, the Kremlin has in recent weeks steadily sharpened its rhetoric about the Trump administration, which has recently taken steps perceived in Moscow as adverse to Russian interests."-- CW 


Guardian
: "Residents in Mosul were instructed [by the Iraqi government] not to leave their homes ahead of airstrikes last week that are reported to have killed more than 150 civilians, Amnesty International has said. The recent spike in civilian casualties suggests the US-led coalition in Iraq is not taking adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths as it battles Isis alongside Iraqi ground forces, according to a report by the human rights group on Tuesday.... Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International, said: 'The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home, instead of fleeing the area, indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties....'" -- CW ...

... Washington Post Editors: "President Barack Obama was frequently criticized, with some reason, for micromanaging military strike decisions and exercising excessive caution. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, has talked loosely about heavily bombing Islamic State-held areas and has stepped up direct U.S. involvement in the fighting. Defeating the Islamic State more quickly through the greater use of U.S. force is a worthy goal. But doing so at the cost of higher civilian casualties would be a serious mistake." -- CW 

Dana Milbank: "Trump looks more and more like a man without a plan. He promised he would have a health-care plan that would be cheaper and better than Obamacare and would cover just as many. But when it came time to deliver, he had nothing. He left the policy to House Speaker Paul Ryan.... The bill collapsed in spectacular fashion under opposition from Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservatives — and Trump is blaming everybody but himself. During the campaign, he said he had a secret plan to defeat the Islamic State. He said he had a 'foolproof' plan of 'defeating them quickly and effectively and having total victory.' Now, it turns out, he has no plan. He has asked the Pentagon to create one. 'We will figure something out,' he said last week.... Next up ... is Trump’s promise to enact 'historic' tax reform. But now that it’s time to present a policy, the promise looks more histrionic than historic." And so forth. -- CW ...

Taylor Link of Salon: "...Donald Trump’s approval rating has crumbled to 36 percent, a low point never reached by former President Barack Obama, according to Gallup daily tracking poll. In need of a win following the legislative collapse of Trumpcare, Politico reports that the Trump administration plans on rolling out executive orders on trade, energy to manufacture some needed triumphs. In a text message to Politico, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said that there would be 'action, action, action' from the White House this week. On ABC’s “This Week” Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said that Trump will sign an executive order that will scrap Obama’s Clean Power Plan." -- CW 

The Most Unethical President Ever, Ctd. Aaron Rupar: "... Donald Trump visited the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia twice in the past weekend — on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, Donald Trump, Jr. promoted an upcoming event at the club on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.... On Saturday, President Trump’s aides said he traveled to Trump National for 'meetings,' but he was later photographed wearing golf cleats. Club members told Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg that Trump indeed played a full 18 holes 'with the club pro and a club members.' On Sunday, Trump again traveled there for 'meetings.' He was photographed watching golf with unidentified men before heading back to the White House.” -- CW 

Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "Protesters are organizing a march on Washington D.C. this tax day in protest of President Trump and to demand the release of his tax returns. The march is planned for April 15th, what is traditionally tax day, though the deadline for filing taxes has been pushed back this year to April 18th, as the 15th is a Saturday. A website for the event 'The Tax March' describes itself as a 'movement' not an organization, and says that the march is to signal to the Trump administration that voters do care about his tax returns and want them to be released." CW: Now that Trump says he is into "tax reform," his returns are more important than ever to assess how much he would personally benefit from any proposals that might come out of the White House.

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "State and local governments seeking Justice Department grants must certify they are not so-called sanctuary cities in order to receive the money, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday." -- CW ...

... Graham Vyse: "Speaking at the White House on Monday, the attorney general asserted that 'when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws our nation is less safe.' But studies show that sanctuary cities do not make us less safe. Rather, refusing to aid ICE in rounding up undocumented residents makes policing immigrant neighborhoods easier. CW: Hey, never let the facts get in the way, especially if they are presented by pointy-headed professors. ...

... David Kurtz of TPM: "Perhaps the White House had planned all along for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make an appearance at today's press briefing to rail against sanctuary cities. But the timing is consistent with what I've long feared will be the impulse for the Trump administration: When the going gets rough (failed Obamacare repeal, low poll numbers, etc), it will fall back on appeals to racism and xenophobia to regain political footing." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "... I can see the vague outlines of some serious Fourth Amendment problems down the road. That it is mean-spirited is beyond doubt. That it puts local law enforcement officials — especially in the cities — in impossible binds is beyond question. There have been howls for decades from conservatives about federalizing law enforcement. These calls seem to have grown fainter in recent months. [Sessions] is bringing people together. I'll give him that." -- CW ...

... Kristine Phillips of the Washington Post: "Nearly two dozen people from five states are accusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions of lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his communications with the Russian government and subsequently trying to cover up that lie, according to a complaint sent to the Department of Justice. The complaint, which names 23 residents, states that Sessions gave false and misleading testimony during his confirmation hearing in January when he told the Senate committee that he 'did not have communications with the Russians.' It further accuses the attorney general of covering up the alleged perjury by directing a spokeswoman to make a public statement saying he did not mislead the committee.... How the agency will handle a complaint against its leader is unclear." -- CW 

The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline nationwide.... Mr. Icahn is a majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex., that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is pushing been in place.... Since Mr. Trump was elected president with Mr. Icahn’s very vocal support and nearly $200,000 in political contributions to Republican causes — the stock price of CVR Energy has soared. By late December, it had doubled. It is still up 50 percent from the pre-election level, generating a windfall, at least on paper, of $455 million as of Friday.... 'This is a mile out of bounds by any standard,' said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who, along with other Democrats, sent a letter Monday to Mr. Icahn, the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Justice to object to Mr. Icahn’s dual roles, and to ask new questions." -- CW ...

... Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times: "Carl Icahn ... has been pulled into a high-profile insider trading trial taking place in federal court in Manhattan. The Las Vegas sports gambling kingpin William T. Walters is charged with using nonpublic information while trading shares of Dean Foods, one of the country’s largest dairy processors. The case has already brought down the former chairman of Dean Foods and drawn in the professional golfer Phil Mickelson. Now ... the prosecutors allege that Mr. Walters could have made profitable trades in Clorox stock in 2011 based on tips he might have received from Mr. Icahn, his friend." The judge has not yet ruled on whether or not prosecutors can introduce the Clorox evidence. -- CW ...

... The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Victoria Guida of Politico: "Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden is asking the top U.S. ethics officer to examine whether Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin violated his ethics agreement by talking up a movie he helped finance. 'I’m not allowed to promote anything I’m involved in,' Mnuchin said at a Friday event hosted by Axios. 'So I just want to have the legal disclosure; you’ve asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to "Lego Batman.’” Mnuchin is credited as an executive producer on the movie, which was produced by a film company he founded — Ratpac-Dune Entertainment. He pledged to divest his financial interests in the company within four months of his confirmation. Mnuchin was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 13.... Wyden pointed to the Treasury secretary’s pledge to not 'participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that to my knowledge has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the entity until I have divested it.' The senator also cited OGE regulations that bar government employees from using their position to endorse a product." ...

     ... CW: In fairnest to Munchkin, he was just following the examples set by his Dear Leader, Ivanka Trump & Kellyanne Conway.

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told Republican donors Monday that he intends to continue pushing for an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system by working 'on two tracks' as he also pursues other elements of President Trump’s agenda." -- CW ...

... Jordan Fabian: "House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met with Vice President Pence and other senior officials at the White House on Monday they map out a path forward after the disastrous collapse of their healthcare plan. Ryan also spoke briefly with President Trump after meeting with Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to discuss their agenda, according to the Speaker’s office." -- CW ...

... Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post: "Trump wants a tax cut across the board, according to the plan he published during the campaign. He has proposed relief for the wealthy especially, but also for less affluent households. The plan that Ryan (R-Wis.) and his colleagues in the House have put forward would not substantially reduce taxes for the middle class, and many households would pay more. Trump's plan ... would be extremely costly for the government, and the president's past comments suggest he would be willing to put the federal government deeper into debt to fund breaks for the middle class. Ryan's plan would instead simplify and streamline the tax code in accordance with conservative orthodoxy, eliminating the goodies for households with modest incomes that Trump would preserve or expand." ...

     ... CW: Bear in mind that Trump's "plan" was a campaign-generated proposal. He made a lot of empty promises during the campaign. I'll bet he gets on Ryan's page faster than you can say "earned income credit." ...

... Brian Beutler: Republicans "are a party that put achievable goals out of reach by indulging in expedient pandering. Their plan’s only weakness was that it might some day end in success. Trump in particular embodies the real but temporary political advantages of shamelessness. Politicians who win by saying anything will be expected to deliver everything. This isn’t just a story about the contradictions between Trump’s fraudulent campaign and his denuded administration. It’s the story of how the ruthless pursuit of power left an entire party unable to exercise it now that it’s theirs." -- CW ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Tom Price may succeed where left-wing dreamers have long failed and move the country toward socialized medicine. And they would do it unwittingly, by undermining the most conservative health care system that Americans are willing to accept.... Price had spent years proposing bills to take away people’s insurance.... This weekend, Trump tweeted that 'ObamaCare will explode,' and Price, now Trump’s secretary of health and human services, has the authority to undermine parts of the law. Here’s where the irony begins: He can more easily hurt the conservative parts than the liberal parts." Leonhardt goes on to explain how that would work -- and how Democrats can take advantage of it. -- CW ...

... Jordan Weissmann of Slate: "The only way Obamacare will explode is if Trump lights the fuse." Weissmann discusses a pending appeals court case that Trump-Sessions & Congressional Republicans could use to ignite that fuse. -- CW ...

... Brian Beutler: "The Republican opposition to Obamacare is about to become more dishonorable than at any point since Obama signed it seven years ago. Republican leaders, including President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, have done almost nothing to disguise their intent to mismanage the Affordable Care Act into failure.... Republicans are taking, and will continue to take, affirmative steps to harm the law in order to manufacture its collapse.... Democrats in Congress have an added obligation not just to decry the GOP’s mischief or malign neglect, but to loudly propose legislation that would address some of Obamacare’s real problems.... It will be essential for Democrats to point to solutions Republicans are intentionally shunning, not just attack them for abdicating their obligation to faithfully execute the law." -- CW ...

... Sarah Jones of the New Republic: "... Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, lives to fight another day. But unlike the law’s previous brushes with death — most notably its bruising encounters with the Supreme Court in 2012 and 2015 — this latest example of its resilience represents a turning point, if Democrats choose to seize the opportunity. For three reasons — political, structural, and moral — now is the time for the Democratic Party to begin building a proposal for a single-payer health care system." -- CW 

... Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post: "The Death Of Trumpcare Is The Ultimate Proof Of Obamacare’s Historic Accomplishment." Cohn goes on to contrast the arduous work Democrats -- Obama, Pelosi, Max Baucus, and many others -- put in in order to cobble together the ACA, and contrasts it with Trump/Ryan's slapdash rollout of CAHCA. ...

... CW: Also working against Republicans: (1) they hate government, so "governing" to them means undoing government, and (2) their plans are so damaging to ordinary Americans that they have to hide their real aims from the public via obfuscation & outright lies. ...

... BUT David Graham of the Atlantic argues that the failure of CAHCA may have saved Trump's presidency: "With the failure of the repeal-and-replace effort, Trump — despite his own best efforts — unwittingly rescued himself from the passage of a hugely unpopular bill that would have hurt his own voters most.... The tax reform that Ryan and Trump still say they will pursue is likely to be highly regressive, and if the failure of the AHCA makes it harder to push through a regressive tax plan, that too may be a case of Trump unwittingly dodging a bullet." -- CW ...

     ... CW: This is consistent, too, with my theory that Trump has always been a lucky doofus. No matter what stupid thing he does, some outside force beyond his control or imagination swoops in to save him.

 

 

Mike Allen -- the Hedda Hopper/Page Six of Washington -- of Axios: "A top Republican with close ties to the White House tells me that after the GOP failure on healthcare, a government shutdown — looming when a continuing resolution runs out April 28 — is "more likely than not... Wall Street is not expecting a shutdown and the markets are unprepared." And Chris Krueger of Cowen Washington Research Group today will warn financial clients: 'Hello April 29 government shutdown.' That's Day 100 of the Trump presidency, by the way." Emphasis original, because Allen can't help it. -- CW 

Ed O'Keefe & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, may fall short of the votes needed for smooth passage in the Senate next week, potentially dashing Republican hopes for an easy victory after the stinging defeat of the American Health Care Act last week. Gorsuch needs 60 votes to clear a procedural hurdle required of high-court confirmations in the Senate, but Republicans, who hold just 52 seats, may not have the votes in a chamber that is divided deeply along partisan lines. Republicans do, however, have the votes to choose the 'nuclear' option — to change the rules and allow Gorsuch’s confirmation (and others after it) to proceed on a simple majority vote. That would upend a longstanding Senate tradition that forces the governing party to seek bipartisan support.... A final vote on Gorsuch is still more than a week away." -- CW ...

... Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker assesses Judge Neil Gorsuch's political and judicial philosophies. "His predilection for employers over employees is such that it yielded a circuit-court opinion of almost Gothic cruelty.... The Supreme Court is, as political scientists like to say, a counter-majoritarian institution: the President and the members of Congress must answer to the voters; the Justices, who serve for life, answer only to the commands of the Constitution. But, in doing so, it’s their duty to speak for those who lack political power. The Trump era has already meant trouble for these people — the poor, the sick, dissenters, immigrants — and Gorsuch, for all his intellectual distinction, has shown scant regard for their concerns. There’s little reason to believe that he would as a Justice, either." CW: Nothing new to see here, but a good synthesis. 

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "A white suspect accused of the fatal stabbing of a black man on a Manhattan street has been indicted on a charge of murder as an act of terrorism. James Harris Jackson, 28, appeared briefly in court on Monday and did not speak. Prosecutors had previously also charged him with murder as a hate crime.... Jackson is accused of killing Timothy Caughman, 66, a stranger to him.... Speaking with a reporter for the Daily News at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, Jackson said he had intended it as 'a practice run' in a mission to deter interracial relationships.... In the Rikers interview, Jackson said in retrospect that he would rather have killed 'a young thug' or 'a successful older black man with blondes ... people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path.'” -- CW  

Way Beyond

Trump Effect Hits Nova Scotia Man. AP: "A Canadian provincial government has withdrawn a man’s eponymous personalized vehicle license plate, saying Lorne Grabher’s surname is offensive to women when viewed on his car bumper. Grabher said Friday that he put his last name on the license plate decades ago as a gift for his late father’s birthday, and says the province’s refusal to renew the plate late last year is unfair." ...  

     ... CW: The AP story says nothing about Trump, but don't tell me the government's decision isn't a direct result of "grab them by the pussy." If you were driving behind Grabher in March of last year, you probably would have read the plate as a surname, pronounced something like "Grah-ber." Now you would read it "grab her." Not your fault. Or his.