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

On Request:

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

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

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

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

Some highlights of the Emmys:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

Friday
Oct132017

The Commentariat -- October 14, 2017

Afternoon Update:

The Cheese Stands Alone. Stephen Castle & Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "Iran, Russia and European leaders roundly condemned President Trump’s decision on Friday to disavow the Iran nuclear deal, saying that it reflected the growing isolation of the United States, threatened to destabilize the Middle East and could make it harder to resolve the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.... Though they avoided direct criticism of Mr. Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France said in a rare joint statement that they 'stand committed' to the 2015 nuclear deal and that preserving it was 'in our shared national security interest.' 'The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes,' they added.” ...

... Eric Levitz has "a rundown of Trump’s most absurd arguments for decertifying the nuclear agreement with Iran." ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "President Trump’s statement Friday on the Iran nuclear deal may be the most dishonest speech he has ever given from the White House — and, depending what happens next, it could be his most damaging. It flagrantly misrepresents what the deal was meant to do, the extent of Iran’s compliance, and the need for corrective measures. If he gets his way, he will blow up one of the most striking diplomatic triumphs of recent years, aggravate tensions in the Middle East, make it even harder to settle the North Korean crisis peacefully, and make it all but impossible for allies and adversaries to trust anything the United States says for as long as Trump is in office." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Eliana Johnson of Politico (story linked below) puts the onus on Nikki Haley -- with a shoutout to John Bolton -- for stage-crafting Trump's speech. But I want to know, inasmuch as the Iran pact is integral to Middle East peace -- WHERE'S JARED? Here Trump is fooling with with a delicately-crafted international accord, and the Trump's Designated Middle East Peace Guru must be off enjoying the fall colors or something.

... Heather Hurlburt of New York: "If the theatrics of [Friday’s] speech reminds you more of a reality-show season premiere than high diplomacy, it’s not accidental. Trump and his team are stage-managing Iran policy as if it were an episode of The Apprentice. He intentionally built drama for weeks — from his September taunt to the United Kingdom, our closest ally, that he’d made a decision but wasn’t willing to share it, to a steady drip of leaks and time changes in the lead-up to today’s announcement. European ambassadors were called to the State Department days ahead of time, then told the State Department had nothing to tell them. Tune in for the season opener, right? But international diplomacy doesn’t thrive on “reveals” — in fact, it tends to fall apart over them."

Steven Feldstein in Informed Comment: "At campaign rallies [Trump] pledged to 'bomb the hell' out of the Islamic State. He openly mused about killing the families of terrorists, a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits violence against noncombatants. Ten months into his presidency, a clearer picture is emerging. The data indicate several alarming trends. According to research from the nonprofit monitoring group Airwars, the first seven months of the Trump administration have already resulted in more civilian deaths than under the entirety of the Obama administration.... Researchers also point to another stunning trend – the 'frequent killing of entire families in likely coalition airstrikes.'... The vast increase in civilian deaths is not limited to the anti-IS campaign. In Afghanistan, the U.N. reports a 67 percent increase in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016.” Feldstein lays out possible reasons for the increases.

Chris Riotta of Newsweek: "Jared Kushner 'enriched himself' by not revealing his ownership of a real estate tech business that raised millions of dollars while he served in the government, said a member of the House Judiciary Committee, calling it part of a pattern of unethical behavior that he believes should cause the White House Senior Adviser to be stripped of his security clearance. Congressman Ted Lieu told Newsweek that Kushner's failure to list a company called Cadre on his initial financial disclosure forms — man oversight that could mean millions for the president’s son-in-law — is an ethical lapse that should have severe ramifications." You'll have to read on to understand how the stunt worked in Jared's favor.

Oracle for Hire -- Will Say Whatever the Hell You Want to Hear. Josh Delk of the Hill: "Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon said Saturday .... during a speech at the Values Voter Summit ... that President Trump will 'win with 400 electoral votes in 2020,' following reports that he had lost faith in the president's ability to complete his current term.... [That's funny because] Bannon reportedly said several months ago that Trump only has a 30 percent chance of finishing his current term, a source told Vanity Fair, who said the president also did not know the function of the 25th Amendment, which allows a majority of the Cabinet to vote for the president to be removed from office." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So to "Values Voters," Trump's in like Flynn (no, not that Flynn); to Vanity Fair, Trump will be deposed. Apparently Bannon has reason to believe that "know thy audience" can be monetized.

*****

Gail Collins: "Policy-wise, this has been a particularly dreadful week in Washington. The president trashed the health care act and washed his hands of the nuclear agreement with Iran. Attention must be paid. But there has also been a bumper crop of Ridiculous Events. And it seems only fair to mention a few of them, given that the president himself doesn’t have enough stable thoughts for a serious policy debate." And mention them she does, in a column titled "Stupid Trump Tricks."

Health Insurance Is Just a Game of Oneupmanship. Burgess Everett, et al., of Politico: "... Donald Trump will oppose any congressional attempts to reinstate funding for Obamacare subsidies — unless he gets something in return, his budget director Mick Mulvaney said in an interview Friday morning. The comments by the Office of Management and Budget chief delivered a severe blow to efforts by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to strike a bipartisan deal on funding the subsidies.... Mulvaney panned those efforts, calling the so-called cost-sharing reduction payments 'corporate welfare and bailouts for the insurance companies.'... The administration, however, opened the door to negotiations on the now-canceled payments. After speaking to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday, Trump said that a temporary deal could be struck on shoring up the insurance markets. Mulvaney suggested the insurance payments could be a bargaining chip in a broader negotiation with Congress to either repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law — or fund Trump’s long-stalled border wall with Mexico.” ...

    ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I was wondering who-all was running Trump's anti-health-insurance push now that Tom Price is spending more time with his family; Mulvaney may not be the one, but he's certainly one of the "brains" behind the draconian schemes. ...

... Mike DeBonis & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s decision late Thursday to cut off crucial health-care subsidies has once again torn open the long-festering debate over the Affordable Care Act, increasing the potential for a government shutdown in December and ensuring that the issue will be central in next year’s midterm elections. The move to end insurer subsidies for low-income patients could spike premiums by as much as 20 percent for those who purchase insurance on the individual market. While Trump and Republican allies argued that former president Barack Obama’s signature health-care reform law is fundamentally flawed, Democrats called the move an act of sabotage against the ACA and pledged to fight it.... 'Republicans in the House and Senate now own the health-care system in this country from top to bottom, and their destructive actions, and the actions of the president, are going to fall on their backs,' [Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer] said. 'The American people will know exactly where to place the blame when their premiums shoot up and when millions lose coverage.'” ...

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post runs down some of the consequences of Trump's moves to sabotage ObamaCare. ...

... An Unintended Consequence of Malice Aforethought (but not so well "thought.") Eric Levitz of New York: "In an early-morning tweet [Friday], Trump confirmed that this was an act of malice. Months ago, the president predicted that canceling the so-called 'cost-sharing reductions' would break Obamacare — and thus, force Chuck Schumer to negotiate with him over a replacement. On Friday, in a missive fit for a cartoon supervillain, Trump announced that the deed was done, and the Democrats’ precious Obamacare was no more. 'The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!'... And yet..., according to the Congressional Budget Office, in this particular case, canceling Obamacare subsidies will only make them stronger. If CBO’s analysis is correct, Trump’s latest act of Obamacare sabotage will do the opposite of what every Republican health-care plan had intended.... Trump might have just made Obamacare a better deal for low-income Americans; provided 1 million more people with insurance (after 2020); and increased federal spending on health care by nearly $200 billion over the next decade." Levitz builds on health-care economist Nicholas Bagley's explanation, linked yesterday. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe about now you're thinking Mick Mulvaney isn't such an evil genius. Just evil. One problem: since the Trumpies are making it harder for enrollees to sign up, the new & degraded Healthcare.gov may make it more difficult for individuals to figure out which plan would be best for them. According to Levitz & others, it may turn out that -- thanks to Trump -- a gold plan will become most advantageous, but many people would probably just assume that a bronze plan -- the cheapest -- would be most affordable. I think I'm pretty smart, but it took me about a year (I'm not exaggerating) to figure out which Medicare supplement plan would give me the most bang for my buck, and I can tell you insurers dished out a lot of disinformation (and outright lies) to confuse me. I will say that the person who gave me the final, deciding clue was a helpful Medicare staffer. ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "Fewer people will have insurance — and the government will spend more.... There is no question that this new policy is lose-lose-lose for key stakeholders with no upside. It will raise Obamacare premiums by an estimated 20 percent in 2018.... Pulling the plug actually increases the national deficit. As those insurance plans make double-digit rate increases, the government will have to spend billions more on the other subsidies that 10 million Americans receive to purchase that coverage. The number of uninsured Americans would rise by one million people in 2018, in the CBO’s estimate. Insurance companies ... now stand to face significant financial loses on the Obamacare marketplaces." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I doubt Trump has any idea of the fiscal consequences, but it wouldn't matter if he accidentally found out. His objective is to ruin ObamaCare, and if it costs billions to do so, so what? Meanwhile, all the dimwitted "values voters" are cheering him on. ...

... Megan Messerly & Riley Snyder of the Nevada Independent: Nevada "Governor Brian Sandoval [R] called the president’s decision to end critical payments from the federal government that help health insurance companies offer affordable coverage to lower-income Americans 'devastating,' though officials with the state’s insurance exchange say Nevadans won’t feel any immediate impact in the coming plan year. Dealing yet another blow to the Affordable Care Act, the White House said in a statement late Thursday night that the government cannot 'lawfully' continue making the so-called cost-sharing reduction payments, which the president has repeatedly referred to as a 'bailout' for insurance companies. But halting those payments would be 'very destructive' for the state of Nevada, Sandoval said, echoing concerns expressed by exchange officials and health-care policy experts that injecting additional volatility into the individual insurance market could eventually lead to its collapse in the long term." ...

... Rachel Roubein of the Hill: "A new multistate lawsuit has been announced to stop President Trump from halting key ObamaCare payments to insurers. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., are signing onto the new lawsuit, which will be filed Friday, according to Sarah Lovenheim, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. On Thursday night, Trump announced he would stop making the payments, which led to an outcry from critics saying he was sabotaging the health care law. The complaint will seek a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction requiring the cost-sharing reduction payments be made."

Trump Whisperer. Eliana Johnson of Politico: "While many of the president’s cabinet members, aides, and advisers work to restrain his impulses, when it came to Iran deal [U.N. Ambassador Nikki] Haley did the opposite — channeling what many Democrats and even some Republicans consider the president’s destructive instincts into policy.... The fingerprints of former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, whose access to Trump was recently limited by chief of staff John Kelly, were also on Trump’s Friday address.... Bolton urged Trump to include a line in his remarks noting that he reserved the right to scrap the agreement entirely...."

Antony Blinken in a New York Times op-ed: "Now that Mr. Trump has decertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions. Mr. Trump called on Congress and America’s allies to use the time 'to address the deal’s many serious flaws.' If not, he said, 'the agreement will be terminated.' By 'fix' Mr. Trump means legislation to impose new conditions on Iran beyond the purview of the agreement and to extend its constraints indefinitely. That would put the United States, not Iran, in violation of the agreement and isolate Washington, not Tehran, around the world.” Blinken lays out the numerous lies Trump told to "justify" his supposed decertification of Iran's compliance. The headline on Blinken's piece is "Trump Alienates America’s Allies and Hands Iran a Victory." ...

... Asawin Suebsaeng, et al., of the Daily Beast unearth the plot to hide the Iran nuclear agreement from Trump. H. R. McMaster has tried to lure Congressional Democrats into joining the conspiracy, even as he had to speak to them in code. Mrs. McC: To save the nation from Trump, the members of the Cabinet & Congress are already banding together. This could be the start of something big. 

Storm-Ravaged Islands in the Big Ocean Are Other Countries. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "During a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry mistakenly referred to Puerto Rico as a country while talking about how to repair its energy grid.... And now President Trump has talked about another U.S. territory struck by hurricanes as if it's a foreign country. He said in a speech at the Values Voters Summit on Friday morning that he met with the 'president' of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands don't have a president; they have a governor, Kenneth Mapp, with whom Trump met 10 days ago. In fact, their president is none other than Trump himself, since they are Americans." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the Trump administration seems increasingly to see this tragedy [in Puerto Rico] as a public relations issue, something to be spun — partly by blaming the victims — rather than as an urgent problem to be solved.... And it took almost three weeks after Maria struck before Trump asked Congress to provide financial aid — and his request was for loans, not grants, which is mind-boggling when you bear in mind that the territory is effectively bankrupt.... Puerto Ricans would doubtless be getting better treatment if they were all of, say, Norwegian descent.... Whatever the precise mix of motives, what’s happening in Puerto Rico is utterly shameful. And everyone who enables the regime perpetuating this shame shares part of the guilt."

Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: "The White House has blown by an October 1 deadline for beginning to implement new sanctions targeting Russia, drawing concern in Congress that President Donald Trump is planning to ignore parts of a bill he grudgingly signed in August.... The aide said that members of the White House’s National Security Council have assured senators that they are 'getting to' the sanctions and 'it’s gonna happen.' But lawmakers are wary." --safari

NEW. Josh Meyer of Politico: "Twitter has deleted tweets and other user data of potentially irreplaceable value to investigators probing Russia’s suspected manipulation of the social media platform during the 2016 election, according to current and former government cybersecurity officials. Federal investigators now believe Twitter was one of Russia’s most potent weapons in its efforts to promote Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the officials say...."

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff to President Trump, was interviewed for a full day Friday by members of special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s team, Priebus’s lawyer said.... The interview, which took place at the special counsel’s office in Washington, is a sign that Mueller’s investigation is now reaching into the highest levels of Trump’s aides and former aides." ...

... Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for ... Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported. An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin. The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.... According to company documents obtained by NBC News in Cyprus, funds were sent from a company owned by Deripaska to entities linked to Manafort, registered in Cyprus."

Choir Boy. Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post: “'You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice,' [Sen. Bob] Corker told me in a phone interview Friday. 'The tweets — yes, you raise tension in the region [and] it’s very irresponsible. But it’s the first part' — the 'castration' of [Rex] Tillerson — 'that I am most exercised about.'... The problem, he suggested, is Trump’s tweets and other statements implying that there is no deal to be made with North Korea and that Tillerson 'is wasting his time,' as one tweet put it. Such comments are causing the Chinese to back away from what has been an incipient willingness to bring serious pressure to bear on Pyongyang.'”

King Zinke. Sarah Burris of RawStory: "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has come under fire for spending nearly as much as former Secretary Tom Price on private airline flights, but now it appears he also has special mandates for the buildings he’s in. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Zinke unearthed a military ritual hoisting special secretarial flags on whatever buildings he happens to be in. Each time Zinke is scheduled to enter a building, a security staffer takes an elevator to the top floor and climbs to the roof where his special flag is raised. When he is not in the building, the security staffer must, once again, climb the steps to the top and take the flag down." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Burris has mangled the WashPo story, linked above: The flag-raising & -lowering hoo-hah happens only at the Interior Department building in Washington, D.C. (or, as Zinke's press secretary hilariously puts it, "in garrison.") Lisa Rein of the Post describes the flag as a "blue banner emblazoned with the agency’s bison seal flanked by seven white stars representing the Interior bureaus," & Burris posts a representation of it. "In Zinke’s absence," Rein writes, "the ritual is repeated to raise an equally obscure flag for Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt." Bernhardt's flag, pictured in Rein's story is white with blue stars. "Zinke," Rein reminds us, "upset some of the 70,000 employees at the agency that manages public lands by stating that 30 percent of the workers are 'not loyal to the flag' in a speech to oil and gas executives." I guess now we know what flag he had in mind. "Zinke rode to work on horseback on his first day in office and displays animal heads on his wood-paneled office walls. For a while, he kept a glass-case display of hunting knives but was asked to remove them because of security risks.... He has commissioned commemorative coins with his name on them to give to staff and visitors, but the cost to taxpayers is unclear. Zinke’s predecessors and some other Cabinet secretaries have coins bearing agency seals, but not personalized ones.... The agency’s inspector general opened an investigation after [Zinke] ran up bills for travel on chartered jets and mixed business with political appearances, sometimes accompanied by his wife, Lola." In any event, Zinke is a preposterous, self-aggrandizing laughingstock, a character type who is the butt of jokes in many a situation comedy.

Ryan Deveraux & Spencer Woodman of The Intercept: "An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.... The handbook acknowledges that civil forfeiture can be used to take property from a person even when there’s not enough evidence for a criminal indictment." --safari

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced Friday that she will not run for governor in 2018, renewing her commitment to serve in a sharply polarized Senate where her centrist Republican positions have made her a key bulwark against much of President Trump’s agenda. Ending months of speculation about her political future, Collins, who does not face reelection until 2020, opted to stick with the job she has held for the last two decades, even as other moderate GOP lawmakers including Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) and Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) are heading for the exits."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge on Friday turned down the Justice Department’s request to dramatically scale back the reach of an injunction he’d issued against the Trump administration’s targeting of so-called sanctuary cities. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber granted the City of Chicago’s request for a nationwide block on the Justice Department’s plan to insist that cities and counties receiving public-safety grants allow immigration agents access to local jails and give local authorities advance notice when suspected illegal immigrants are about to be released from custody. Justice Department lawyers asked Leinenweber to stay his order so that it would benefit only Chicago...."

Al Baker & Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "The police in London and New York said Thursday that they were looking into complaints involving the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, the latest turn in a scandal that has consumed Hollywood over allegations of sexual abuse and harassment." ...

... TMZ: Harvey Weinstein will challenge his firing by The Weinstein Company at this month's Board of Directors meeting."

Medlar's Sports Report:

** Karen Attiah of the Washington Post: "With Pence’s stunt, Trump’s tweets, [ Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones’s edict and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement saying players should stand, the debate about players standing for the national anthem is no longer about the flag. This is not about the anthem. This is not about supporting the troops. This is about putting outspoken black people back in their place in America — subordinate, and silent about the racism, police brutality and white supremacy that affect our lives everyday."

Marc Tracy of the New York Times: "The N.C.A.A. did not dispute that the University of North Carolina was guilty of running one of the worst academic fraud schemes in college sports history, involving fake classes that enabled dozens of athletes to gain and maintain their eligibility. But there will be no penalties, the organization said, because no rules were broken. In a ruling that caused head-scratching everywhere except Chapel Hill, the N.C.A.A. announced on Friday that it could not punish the university or its athletics program because the 'paper' classes were not available exclusively to athletes. Other students at North Carolina had access to the fraudulent classes, too."

Thursday
Oct122017

The Commentariat -- October 13, 2017

Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump really did go to military school, but they must have practiced fewer military traditions than the (female) principals did at my grade school. Every day, everyone in the school stood up & saluted when some poor kid played "To the Colors" & "Retreat" -- cast over the intercom system -- at the raising & lowering of the flag. Either that, or this is another instance of Trump's dementia kicking in:

*****

Mark Lander & David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Trump will make good on Friday on a long-running threat to disavow the Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. But he will stop short, for now, of unraveling the accord or even rewriting it, as the deal’s defenders had once feared. In a speech on Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump will declare his intention not to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. Doing so essentially kicks to Congress a decision about whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which would blow up the agreement. But the Trump administration made it clear that it wants to leave the 2015 accord intact, at least for now. Instead, it is asking Congress to establish 'trigger points,' which could prompt the United States to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it crosses thresholds set by Congress." ...

... Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "Trump’s frequent (and seemingly growing) temper tantrums are alarming, as is the fact that his closest advisers routinely treat him like a toddler. But the biggest and most unsettling aspect of this is how we got to this [Iran] 'compromise.' It wasn’t made for any reason related to policy — it unsettles an acceptable framework by adding considerable, unnecessary, and far-reaching risk. Instead, the United States is shifting its policy toward Iran simply because President Trump doesn’t want to acknowledge any of Barack Obama’s achievements. This compromise was cooked up to please the president’s ego, not because it serves any sort of larger strategic or geopolitical interest."

Vindictive Twerp Finds Another Way to Undermine ObamaCare. Josh Dawsey & Paul Demko of Politico: "... Donald Trump plans to cut subsidy payments to insurers in his most aggressive move yet to undermine Obamacare after months of unsuccessful repeal efforts on Capitol Hill, according to two sources. The subsidies, which are worth an estimated $7 billion this year and are paid out in monthly installments, may stop almost immediately since Congress hasn’t appropriated funding for the program. Insurers rely on the subsidies to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income Obamacare customers. They’re still on the hook to provide the discounted rates to their members under the law, despite no longer receiving the federal funding." Mrs. McC: What a hateful, spiteful, vicious old SOB. Congress had better get its act together & flush Trump's shit down the toilet. ...

[President Trump has] apparently decided to punish the American people for his inability to improve our health care system. It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America. Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer & Rep. Nancy Pelosi, in a joint statement ...

... Robert Pear & others write the New York Times story: "President Trump will scrap subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people, the White House said late Thursday. His plans were disclosed hours after the president ordered potentially sweeping changes in the nation’s insurance system, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers. The twin hits to the Affordable Care Act could unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, sending insurance premiums soaring and insurance companies fleeing from the health law’s online marketplaces." ...

... Nicholas Bagley, the Incidental Economist: "Some years back, the House of Representatives sued the Obama administration for continuing to make the cost-sharing payments in the absence of an appropriation. Although I still don’t think that the House had standing to sue, I thought its legal argument was sound: the money hadn’t been appropriated. The Trump administration apparently agrees, and is using that as its pretext to terminate the payments. So what happens now? Lawsuits, lawsuits, and more lawsuits. Right out of the gate, I’d put dimes to dollars that that the 16 states that have intervened in the ongoing litigation will seek an immediate injunction from the D.C. Circuit to keep the cost-sharing payments flowing. The states may also file a separate lawsuit in district court seeking the same relief.... If Congress doesn’t act, it’s really the worst of all worlds." Bagley explains why Trump's move will cause "total federal outlays [to] actually increase.... It’s a financial bath, and for no good reason other than sheer political cussedness. What a stupid, profligate, and unnecessary mess." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: These moves are part of Trump's larger effort to further separate the haves from the have-nots. In this case, the haves are financially-comfortable, relatively young & healthy younger Americans, and the have-nots are lower-income, older Americans with greater healthcare needs. Donald Trump has come after the old & the sick. ...

... Vindictive Twerp Signs Executive Order to Undermine ObamaCare. Robert Pear & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that clears the way for potentially sweeping changes in health insurance, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers than those mandated under the Affordable Care Act. But most of the changes will not come until federal agencies adopt regulations, after an opportunity for public comments — a process that could take months." Story was reported earlier & kinked below) & updated after Trump signed the order, with the usual fanfare, including once again forgetting to sign the order (he did so after mike pence reminded him). (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: "... depending on how it's implemented, the executive order Trump signed Thursday could be his most significant step yet to sabotage the [ACA]. It will expand the availability of plans that are loosely regulated and don't have to provide essential health benefits, which could pull people off the Obamacare exchanges." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Adam Cancryn of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order directing an overhaul of major federal health regulations, calling it the first step toward fulfilling the GOP's promise to repeal Obamacare. The order is aimed at encouraging the rise of a raft of cheap, loosely regulated health insurance plans that don't have to comply with certain Obamacare consumer protections and benefit rules. They'd attract younger and healthier people — leaving older and sicker ones in the Obamacare markets facing higher and higher costs.... The administration is also preparing to roll back Obama-era restrictions on short-term health insurance plans, allowing insurers to once again sell stopgap policies which don't cover pre-existing conditions, mental health services and many other costly benefits. Coverage could extend for as long as a year, up from a current three-month limit." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Chait: "The Trump administration is taking two steps to [wreck ObamaCare]. First, it is opening two loopholes to allow healthy people to purchase unregulated insurance, splitting the market and loading more costs onto people with expensive medical needs. Second, it announced tonight it is ending cost-sharing payments to insurers who take on low-income customers.... If Obamacare were truly collapsing, sabotage would not be necessary. It is the law’s success, not its failure, that has made Trump so determined to wreck it. The White House has released a statement confirming its intention to end the [subsidy] payments, written in the pidgin-English indicating the president’s own authorial hand."

Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post: "President Trump will extend a March 5 deadline to end protections for young undocumented immigrants if Congress fails to act by then, according to a Republican senator who spoke directly with the president about the issue. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Trump told him he was willing to 'give it some more time' to allow lawmakers to find a solution for 'dreamers,' unauthorized immigrants brought to this country as children, if Congress does not pass legislation extending protections before time is up." Mrs. McC: Don't you know yet, Jim, that you can't believe a word Trump says? Better get cracking, Congress.

Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: "The White House has blown by an October 1 deadline for beginning to implement new sanctions targeting Russia, drawing concern in Congress that President Donald Trump is planning to ignore parts of a bill he grudgingly signed in August...The aide said that members of the White House’s National Security Council have assured senators that they are “getting to” the sanctions and “it’s gonna happen.” But lawmakers are wary." --safari

Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: "Under withering criticism from Puerto Ricans for his administration’s flawed response to the devastation there, Trump sought to hold the territory responsible for its own plight because of chronic mismanagement — prompting an immediate backlash from Puerto Ricans and mainland lawmakers in both parties." ...

... Jessica Kwong of Newsweek: "In a tweet Thursday afternoon, FEMA spokeswoman Eileen Lainez wrote that the agency 'will be w/Puerto Rico, USVI, every state, territory impacted by a disaster every day, supporting throughout their response & recovery.'... Her tweet came five hours after Trump took to Twitter to say the island’s financial crisis 'looms largely of their own making' and is due to the poor state of its infrastructure and electrical system and its governor’s 'total lack of … accountability.' 'We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!' Trump tweeted.... A few hours after Trump’s tweet, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló doubled down on his call for federal aid, tweeting, 'The U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation.'” Mrs. McC: Rosselló has previously been obsequiously supportive of Trump. ...

... Gene Robinson: "More than 80 percent of Puerto Rico is still in the dark, more than a third of its residents still have no clean drinking water, much of the island’s infrastructure still lies in ruins — and President Trump cruelly threatens to cut off federal aid. Doing so would be government by spite and should be considered an impeachable offense.... The president complained Sunday on Twitter, 'Nobody could have done what I’ve done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation. So much work!' Note the use of 'I' instead of 'we' or even 'my administration.' For the record, what Trump has done personally for the people of Puerto Rico is playfully toss rolls of paper towels into a crowd.”

When Is It Okay to Show Disrespect for the U.S. Flag? When the President Does It. Oliver Willis of Shareblue: "Donald Trump sat and laughed with Fox News host Sean Hannity as the 'Retreat' bugle call was played. Tradition dictates that members of the military and civilian leadership stand at attention to respect the U.S. flag during the solemn ceremony. Trump’s act of disrespect occurred during an interview that happened in a hangar at the Air National Guard base in Pennsylvania. Trump referred to the bugle call as a 'nice sound,' and asked Hannity if they were playing it 'in honor of his ratings.' As the official Army website notes, playing 'Retreat' is 'one of the oldest traditions in the U.S. Army, which dates back to the Revolutionary War.' Playing the song is used 'to ... pay respect to the nation’s flag.' Trump disrespected the flag the same evening he returned to the subject of black NFL players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the anthem.” ...

... David Choi of Business Insider: "When the American flag is lowered and raised on US military installations, a bugle blares on loudspeakers as service members and civilians pay their respects to the flag. Uniformed service members located outside of a building are required to stop and salute the flag, while civilians are required to place their hand over their heart. The tradition also requires service members who are driving vehicles on a military base to pull over and render a salute. Members of the [Trump-Hannity] audience could be seen standing up during the ceremony[.]" ...

     ... Mrs. McC: And let's add that Hannity's audience cheered Trump's & Hannity's every word -- after they showed disrespect for the flag. (Update: According to the Washington Post, "Retreat" was played after Trump ragged NFL players.) Of course we should acknowledge that Trump & Hannity don't know or care squat about the military; they chose the Guard hangar for the interview site to provide an optical illusion that they do care. Neither has served in the military.

Sarah Burris of the Raw Story: "In one of the strangest links in ... Donald Trump’s Russia scandal yet, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noticed an interesting history with a key lawyer.... In 2013, Trump offered President Barack Obama $5 million for proof that he was born in the United States. In return, 'Real Time' host Bill Maher offered Trump $5 million if he could prove he wasn’t the spawn of an orangutan.... Trump ... sent Maher a bill along with his birth certificate. [The attorney who sent Trump's $5MM demand letter was Scott Balber.]... This week, The Washington Post and CNN reported a story about greater details between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The intermediary between Veselnitskaya and the Trump campaign were Putin-linked Russian billionaires Aras and Emin Agalarov. The lawyer that represented Agalarovs is none other than Scott Balber." ...

     ... Dear Bob Mueller: hard to believe this is some stranger-than-fiction coincidence. s/Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... Sins of Omission. Kara Scannell of CNN: "The head of a government bureau responsible for clearing background checks told lawmakers Wednesday he has 'never seen that level of mistakes' when asked about numerous omissions in Jared Kushner's security clearance application. Charles Phalen, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, a newly created division within the Office of Personnel Management, made the comment in response to a question during a House subcommittee oversight hearing."

Gardiner Harris & Steve Erlanger of the New York Times: "The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of America distancing itself because of what it called the group’s 'anti-Israel bias.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Louis Nelson of Politico: "White House chief of staff John Kelly said Thursday that he is not resigning, making a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room to push back against media reports that his relationship with ... Donald Trump has been approaching a breaking point." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kelsey Tamborrino of Politico: "... John Kelly on Thursday defended ... Donald Trump's periodic public attacks on Republican members of Congress, saying the president 'has a right to defend himself.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Andrew Restuccia of Politico: "As a top executive at AccuWeather, Barry Myers has pushed for limits on the kinds of products that the National Weather Service offers to the public, saying they offered unfair competition to his industry. Now..., Donald Trump's nomination of Myers to lead the weather service's parent agency could allow him to make those kinds of restrictions mandatory — to the benefit of his family-run forecasting company. The AccuWeather CEO's nomination to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is stirring criticism from people who worry he would hobble the weather service, which provoked an industry backlash more than a decade ago by making hour-by-hour forecasts, cellphone alerts and other consumer-friendly data widely available online.... Myers, whose brother Joel founded AccuWeather in 1962, would join a roster of other business leaders whom Trump has installed atop his agencies — many of them bringing considerable potential conflicts of interest to the job. He has degrees in law and business, not the science and math degrees that Bush’s and President Barack Obama’s NOAA chiefs had."

Tim Egan: Scott "Pruitt is the swamp, the only wetland the Trump administration wants to protect. He serves the oil, chemical and mining interests that propped him up when he was attorney general of Oklahoma. He now runs the oil, chemical and mining protection agency out of Washington, with our money. You would never guess that this toady in a suit works for us.... In announcing this week that President Trump intends to spite all the other nations and gut President Barack Obama’s signature effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Pruitt framed the move as the end of the 'war on coal.' Now comes the war on the planet and public health. Amid the hourly calamities of a White House that is forced to treat its chief occupant like a toddler, it’s easy to forget that Trump is doing real damage to things that all of us share." ...

... Don't Be Upset -- It's the End of the World Anyway. Matthew Diebel of USA Today: "Scientists working in and around Yellowstone National Park say that the supervolcano sitting under the tourist attraction may blow sooner than thought, an eruption that could wipe out life on the planet.... The researchers, The New York Times reported, have determined that the supervolcano has the ability to spew more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash — 2,500 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980 — an event that could blanket most of the United States in ash and possibly plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter." Mrs. McC: Maybe this is Mother Nature, aiming to beat Trump to the apocalypse. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Weinstein Company Accommodated Harvey's History of Sexual "Misconduct." TMZ: "Harvey Weinstein may have been fired illegally by The Weinstein Company.... TMZ is privy to Weinstein's 2015 employment contract, which says if he gets sued for sexual harassment or any other 'misconduct' that results in a settlement or judgment against TWC, all Weinstein has to do is pay what the company's out, along with a fine, and he's in the clear. The contract says as long as Weinstein pays, it constitutes a 'cure' for the misconduct and no further action can be taken. Translation -- Weinstein could be sued over and over and as long as he wrote a check, he keeps his job." ...

    ... Mrs. McC: Company officials' pretense that they were the last to know is a Big Fat Lie. Not only did they know, they tacitly approved it, assuming TMZ's reporting is correct (and surprisingly, TMZ has a pretty good track record). The company's only concern was to make sure it was held harmless from Harvey's attacks on women. As TMZ asserts, it looks as if the Big Fat Pig has a viable breach-of-contract case against the Weinstein Company.

King Zinke. Sarah Burris of RawStory: "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has come under fire for spending nearly as much as former Secretary Tom Price on private airline flights, but now it appears he also has special mandates for the buildings he’s in. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Zinke unearthed a military ritual hoisting special secretarial flags on whatever buildings he happens to be in. Each time Zinke is scheduled to enter a building, a security staffer takes an elevator to the top floor and climbs to the roof where his special flag is raised. When he is not in the building, the security staffer must, once again, climb the steps to the top and take the flag down." --safari

Ryan Deveraux & Spencer Woodman of The Intercept: "An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it...The handbook acknowledges that civil forfeiture can be used to take property from a person even when there’s not enough evidence for a criminal indictment." --safari

Wednesday
Oct112017

The Commentariat -- October 12, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Vindictive Twerp Signs Executive Order to Undermine ObamaCare. Robert Pear & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that clears the way for potentially sweeping changes in health insurance, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers than those mandated under the Affordable Care Act. But most of the changes will not come until federal agencies adopt regulations, after an opportunity for public comments — a process that could take months." Story was reported earlier & kinked below) & updated after Trump signed the order, with the usual fanfare, including once again forgetting to sign the order (he did so after mike pence reminded him). ...

... Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: "... depending on how it's implemented, the executive order Trump signed Thursday could be his most significant step yet to sabotage the [ACA]. It will expand the availability of plans that are loosely regulated and don't have to provide essential health benefits, which could pull people off the Obamacare exchanges." ...

... Adam Cancryn of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order directing an overhaul of major federal health regulations, calling it the first step toward fulfilling the GOP's promise to repeal Obamacare. The order is aimed at encouraging the rise of a raft of cheap, loosely regulated health insurance plans that don't have to comply with certain Obamacare consumer protections and benefit rules. They'd attract younger and healthier people — leaving older and sicker ones in the Obamacare markets facing higher and higher costs.... The administration is also preparing to roll back Obama-era restrictions on short-term health insurance plans, allowing insurers to once again sell stopgap policies which don't cover pre-existing conditions, mental health services and many other costly benefits. Coverage could extend for as long as a year, up from a current three-month limit."

Gardiner Harris & Steve Erlanger of the New York Times: "The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of America distancing itself because of what it called the group’s 'anti-Israel bias.'”

Louis Nelson of Politico: "White House chief of staff John Kelly said Thursday that he is not resigning, making a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room to push back against media reports that his relationship with ... Donald Trump has been approaching a breaking point." ...

... Kelsey Tamborrino of Politico: "... John Kelly on Thursday defended ... Donald Trump's periodic public attacks on Republican members of Congress, saying the president 'has a right to defend himself.'"

Here's a cheery story to distract you from all this rot: Matthew Diebel of USA Today: "Scientists working in and around Yellowstone National Park say that the supervolcano sitting under the tourist attraction may blow sooner than thought, an eruption that could wipe out life on the planet.... The researchers, The New York Times reported, have determined that the supervolcano has the ability to spew more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash — 2,500 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980 — an event that could blanket most of the United States in ash and possibly plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter." Mrs. McC: Maybe this is Mother Nature, aiming to beat Trump to the apocalypse.

*****

After First Ignoring Puerto Rico, Trump Vows to Abandon It. Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "President Trump on Thursday warned that this administration's response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico cannot last 'forever.' 'We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!' Trump wrote in a series of tweets. He added that the island territory's existing debt and infrastructure issues compounded problems. His tweets come at a time when only about 10 percent of the island's 3.4 million residents have electricity, Puerto Rico's government said Tuesday." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Its' a wonder he didn't claim the papertowel toss had become Puerto Rico's favorite sport since he invented it. ...

... Richard Wolffe of the Guardian: "Federal officials privately admit there is a massive shortage of meals in Puerto Rico three weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) say that the government and its partners are only providing 200,000 meals a day to meet the needs of more than 2 million people. That is a daily shortfall of between 1.8m and 5.8m meals...The scale of the food crisis dwarfs the more widely publicized challenges of restoring power and communications. More than a third of Puerto Ricans are still struggling to live without drinking water." --safari ...

...

Trump's Junk Insurance Plan. Robert Pear & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "President Trump, after failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress, will act on his own to relax health care standards on small businesses that band together to buy health insurance and may take steps to allow the sale of other health plans that skirt the health law’s requirements. The president plans to sign an executive order 'to promote health care choice and competition' on Thursday at a White House event attended by small-business owners and others.... Democrats and some state regulators are now greeting the move with increasing alarm, calling it another attempt to undermine President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. They warn that by relaxing standards for so-called association health plans, Mr. Trump would create low-cost insurance options for the healthy, driving up costs for the sick and destabilizing insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.... The Trump administration ... wants to make it easier for small businesses to buy less expensive plans that do not comply with some requirements of [ObamaCare]. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Think of it as health insurance for Trump University alums.

Cliff Clavin Is Still Running the Country:

What to Do When the Moron Has Another Temper Tantrum. Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: In July, "President Trump ... was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex ­Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 [Iran nuclear] deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital U.S. national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. He did not think either was true. 'He threw a fit,' said one person familiar with the meeting. '. . . He was furious. Really furious.'... So White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other senior advisers came up with a plan — one aimed at accommodating Trump’s loathing of the Iran deal as 'an embarrassment' without killing it outright. To get Trump, in other words, to compromise.... Under [an] expected announcement [this week], Trump will declare the deal is not in the U.S. national interest while stopping short of recommending renewed nuclear sanctions." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Whether you like them or not, you do have to appreciate the lengths to which Trump's top international policy gurus go to appease Trump while still averting international catastrophe. ...

... Why Tillerson Called Trump a Moron. Courtney Kube, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room. Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s.... The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a 'moron.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: This decline [in the nuclear arsenal] was the product of deliberate policy, and mandated by disarmament treaties.... And, anyhow, America already has enough atomic firepower to end most — if not all — human life. From the perspective of a status quo nuclear superpower, the value of an international norm against proliferation would seem obvious. But not from the perspective of our commander-in-chief. As Trump examined the chart’s downward slope, none of these considerations flickered in his mind.... NBC News’ dispatch suggests that Trump’s advisers talked him down from this illegal and exorbitantly expensive request.... Earlier in his term, Trump reportedly asked his military advisers three times, in an hour-long meeting, why the U.S. doesn’t make greater use of its nuclear weapons.... On Tuesday night, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reported that a 'very prominent Republican' had told him that he and his colleagues ... that if Trump ever 'lunged' for the nuclear football, chief-of-staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson might 'tackle' him." (Sherman's post is linked below.) (Also linked yesterday afternoon at about 11:15 pm ET when I realized I'd dropped the link. Oops.) ...

Another day, another casual threat from the president of the United States to abuse the powers of his office in order to stymie reporting that he doesn’t like. -- Matt Yglesias ... 

... Threats of a Moron. Peter Baker & Cecilia Kang of the New York Times: "President Trump threatened on Wednesday to use the federal government’s power to license television airwaves to target NBC in response to a report by the network’s news division that he contemplated a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.... Mr. Trump objected to the report in two messages on Twitter later Wednesday and threatened to use the authority of the federal government to retaliate.... 'Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a "tenfold" increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!... With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!' The comments immediately drew criticism that the president was using his office to undermine First Amendment guarantees of free speech and free press. And, in fact, the networks themselves — and their news departments — do not hold federal licenses, though individual affiliates do. 'Broadcast licenses are a public trust,' said Tom Wheeler, who until January was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, appointed by President Barack Obama. 'They’re not a political toy, which is what he’s trying to do here.' In suggesting that a broadcast network’s license be targeted because of its coverage, Mr. Trump once again evoked the Watergate era....” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump is not lying here & neither were the NBC reporters. I have no doubt the NBC report is accurate. Neither do I think Trump has any idea what he said during this particular rant. He doesn't really understand any of this, but somewhere in the shallows of his brain, he figured out he "lost" the argument. He cannot handle instances where he is a loser. So he puts it out of his mind. He no longer knows he had a fit insisting on something patently stupid & dangerous. As frequent contributor Martin S. has pointed out, it is possible for two mutually exclusive POVs to be "true" -- if one of the parties is demented. ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: "Trump’s threat to use the federal government to shut down critical media follows his recent suggestion of creating 'equal time' for conservatives to level the playing the field against late-night TV hosts who mock him. It’s unclear how Trump’s suggestion would work, as only television stations are subject to FCC licensing, not the networks." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Trump's Twitter habits "expose just how predisposed is the president toward gutting the First Amendment, and just how little he understands how it works." Wemple goes on to explain what-all Trump would have to do to "challenge their license." It's an impossible task, & even if he & his minions by some magic made it happen, MSNBC -- which of course is not a broadcast channel so the FCC doesn't regulate it. And NBCNews.com could become the most popular site on the Internet, with many a spinoff. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "... now it’s clear that Bob Corker’s remarkable New York Times interview — in which the Republican senator described the White House as 'adult day care' and warned Trump could start World War III ... brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is 'unstable,' 'losing a step,' and 'unraveling.'... According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, 'I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!' (A White House official denies this.) Two senior Republican officials said Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.... Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment — the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, 'What’s that?'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Juan Cole: "In Johann von Goethe’s play 'Dr. Faust,' a man eager to taste of all human experience makes a bargain with Mephistopheles, i.e. with Satan, signing his soul away in blood for his intellectual and emotional thrill-seeking. Mephistopheles is [Bob] Corker’s Trump. Trump promised a wild ride, but a ride to the heart’s desire of conservatives – a hierarchical society with the rich firmly on top and further enriched by the hour through the abolition of graduated taxes. He will fulfill his vow. But alongside these startling and unprecedented triumphs for the billionaires in the class war, Mephistopheles/Trump offers something else.... Corker now thinks Trump’s volatility and ill-considered Tweet storms threaten us with World War III.... And what will be the value of those tax cuts if Trump’s adventurism spooks the markets or attracts dramatic violence down on our country?" --safari ...

... Bari Weiss of the New York Times, in an op-ed: "... Eminem’s 'The Storm,' a scathing four-minute attack on the 'kamikaze that will probably cause a nuclear holocaust,” which he debuted at the BET Awards on Tuesday night, has already overshadowed all of these previous anti-Trump musical efforts. It’s made major news headlines. It’s already garnered 8.7 million views on YouTube. And there have been some two million tweets about the performance, with praise pouring in from stars including LeBron James and Ellen DeGeneres." Eminem knows the "song" is costing him some of his base of "conservatives." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I think it's great that Eminem is putting his mouth where his money is & standing up for laudable principles. But to those who have argued that white men can't rap, in this case at least they're right. I know there's no accounting for taste, but I've never heard such a gawd-awful lack of rhythm & rhyme. I'd have to guess that Eminem is what redneck kids this musical talent is. They're wrong about everything else, too, so they're consistent. 

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker demonstrates how Trump escalates his Twitter rants into using the power of the government to squelch the rights of the objects of his rath. It is apparently working with his attacks on NFL players. And his initial fake"policy-setting" tweet against transgender military personnel eventually did become policy.

Daniel Samuelsohn of Politico: "Donald Trump’s lawyers are open to having the president sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller, according to a senior White House official, as part of a wider posture of cooperation with the special counsel’s Russia probe. If Mueller doesn’t request an interview by Thanksgiving, Trump’s lawyers may even force the issue by volunteering Trump’s time, the official said. The White House believes such an interview could help Mueller wrap up the probe faster and dispel the cloud of suspicion over Trump." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Are these lawyers delusional, or what? Don't they know that Trump will lie under oath when he thinks it's in his best interest? Since Trump doesn't know what evidence Mueller has to contradict the Fantasy World of Donald Trump, Trump is almost certain to lie, probably repeatedly. It's true that Trump's lawyers will be sitting down beside him, & they can -- to an extent -- instruct Trump not to answer certain questions, but there's a limit to that. They can also object to every question after "State your name for the record" in hopes a judge will throw out each particular Q&A. But in a deposition, inquisitors can "fish," & you can bet they will. Trump would be sitting on a liar's landmine, & it's bound to explode.

Eric Levitz: "When African-Americans’ basic civil liberties and the freedom of individual cops to 'fight crime' as they see fit have come into conflict, the Trump administration has prioritized the latter.... Still, there is a limit to the Trump administration’s fealty to the police. And when the financial interests of gun manufacturers have been at odds with the safety of American cops, the White House has sided with the arms merchants.... The Brady Handgun Prevention Act stipulates that when a gun dealer runs a background check, and finds that a would-be customer is a 'fugitive from justice,' they can’t sell that person a gun.... The FBI has argued that anyone with an outstanding warrant is a fugitive, at least for the purposes of the Brady law. The ATF has insisted that only people with outstanding warrants who have crossed state lines to avoid prosecution are fugitives. Earlier this year, the Trump Justice Department took the ATF’s side...." ...

... Rhonda Cook of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Six months after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo redefining who is a fugitive from justice — and cannot have a gun — more than a half a million names have been dropped from a national law enforcement data base used to determine who may purchase a firearms and or obtain a carry permit, according to FBI records provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.... The policy change came about with little publicity and other events coming out of the Trump Administration dominated the news. Just as the new policy defining a fugitive took effect..., Donald Trump quietly signed into law a bill blocking the Social Security Administration from reporting to a national background check database the names of about 75,000 people who received government benefits because of mental illnesses so severe they cannot handle their own finances." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Like many a politician, Trump is a whore. On any issue, he sides with the group he thinks will do him the most good. But why is Sessions doing this? Presumably, as AG, he's not receiving campaign contributions. He's 70 years old, so he may not run for public office again. Maybe he's just an addict -- a habitual whore who can't break a dangerous habit.

Eliana Johnson, et al., of Politico: "The White House announced on Wednesday that ... Donald Trump will nominate Kirstjen Nielsen to run the Department of Homeland Security. Nielsen served as White House chief of staff John Kelly’s top aide during his time as DHS secretary and moved with him to the West Wing as his principal deputy chief of staff when he was appointed in July, leaving the Cabinet post vacant.... 'She would be the first person to run the department who has actually worked there,' a person close to the administration said earlier on Wednesday." Mrs. McC: As Gabe Sherman speculated in the piece linked above, Nielsen's appointment could be a harbinger of Kelly's White House exit.


Joseph Cox
of The Daily Beast: "The National Security Agency’s hackers have a problem. Last week, multiple outlets reported that its elite Tailored Access Operations unit — tasked with breaking into foreign networks — suffered another serious data breach.... Now, multiple sources with direct knowledge of TAO’s security procedures in the recent past tell The Daily Beast just how porous some of the defenses were to keep workers from stealing sensitive information — either digitally or by simply walking out of the front door with it. One source described removing data from a TAO facility as 'child’s play.'” --safari

Robert Faturechi of ProPublica: "A group of House Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require federal officials to disclose any potential conflicts of interest before they implement significant changes in U.S. regulations. The lawmakers said the legislation is intended to alert the public if those involved in the decisions, including the president and his top advisers, would personally profit from revising or replacing the rules..... Though ProPublica and the Times have identified nearly three dozen deregulation team members with potential conflicts, a full vetting of industry connections has been difficult because some agencies have declined to provide information about the appointees — in many cases, not even their names..." --safari: Sounds great, except it'll never pass, or you could just update your conflicts of interests as they out, using the Kushner playbook.

** Washington Weasels. Frank Rich: "It’s a watershed moment that even when the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee invokes World War III, it is not enough to get the Vichy Republicans in Washington to speak up. The senators who remain silent while privately nodding in agreement with Corker don’t seem to understand the urgency of the situation. Someone should tell them that the tax cuts they are holding out for will not be honored in the event of nuclear Armageddon." Rich also discusses Steve Bannon's Senate plans & Harvey Weinstein's enablers.

Senate Race:

** Roy Moore's "Foundation for Moral Law" Is a Huge Scam to Fill the Moore Family's Pockets. Shawn Boburg & Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post: "Former Alabama judge Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, once said publicly that he did not take a 'regular salary' from the small charity he founded to promote Christian values because he did not want to be a financial burden. But privately, Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, internal charity documents show. He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years. When the charity couldn’t afford the full amount, Moore in 2012 was given a promissory note for back pay eventually worth $540,000 or an equal stake of the charity’s most valuable asset, a historic building in Montgomery, Ala., mortgage records show. He holds that note even now, a charity official said. A Washington Post review of public and internal charity documents found that errors and gaps in the group’s federal tax filings obscured until now the compensation paid to Moore.... The charity has employed at least two of Moore’s children, although their compensation is not reflected in tax filings. Moore’s wife, Kayla, who is now president, was paid a total of $195,000 over three years through 2015." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This has to be a big blow for other contenders for this year's National Hypocrisy Award. Part of the joke is that Moore can say with a straight face that he wasn't lying. After all, secretly skimming the bulk of a "charity"'s annual take is not a "regular salary." Moore may think that any scam that accrues to his benefit is by definition "moral," but federal prosecutors should employ some man-made law to deprive him of that misperception. If that happens, you can bet most of the scammees will set up a Roy Moore defense fund. There's a sucker born every minute.


Jamiles Lartey
of the Guardian: "Over half of all police killings in 2015 were wrongly classified as not having been the result of interactions with officers, a new Harvard study based on Guardian data has found. The finding is just the latest to show government databases seriously undercounting the number of people killed by police." --safari

Megan Twohey of the New York Times: "On Tuesday, [Harvey Weinstein's] brother and co-founder, Bob Weinstein, and the company’s president, David Glasser, told concerned employees in a video conference call that they were ... unaware of payments made to women who complained of unwanted touching, sexual harassment and other over-the-line behavior.... Soon after, Bob Weinstein and three other members of the rapidly dwindling board issued a statement saying that new allegations ... had come as 'an utter surprise' and that any 'suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false.' But interviews and internal company records show that the company has been grappling with Mr. Weinstein’s behavior for at least two years. David Boies, a lawyer who represented Mr. Weinstein when his contract was up for renewal in 2015, said in an interview that the board and the company were made aware at the time of three or four confidential settlements with women.... Lance Maerov, the board member who handled the contract negotiations, acknowledged in an interview that he had been told of settlements, but said that he had assumed they were used to cover up consensual affairs.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Really, Lance? What was it that prevented you from asking for details -- as if you didn't know some of those details already? Anyhow, based on Bob & Dave's remarkable (and totally credible claims of) naïveté, you might think that any country bumpkin could run a major Hollywood studio.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News spiked Ronan Farrow's story detailing multiple charges by women that Harvey Weinstein had sexually abused them. A few said he raped them. The New Yorker published the story Tuesday. Now, Farrow & some media critics on the one side & NBC News on the other are engaged in a they-said/they-said dispute about why NBC News wouldn't publish Farrow's report. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm not buying big media outlets' claims – NYT one day, NBC News the next – that they spiked stories on Weinstein because the stories weren't fully-reported. When a reporter hands an editor a potential blockbuster that needs work, the editor gets the work done, either by the reporter who developed the story or by a more experienced reporter. It happens every day twice a day at big news outlets. ...

... Update. Yashar Ali & Lydia Polgreen of the Huffington Post further detail how NBC News killed Farrow's story. Here's one pretty sordid detail: "NBC News President Noah Oppenheim ... related to Farrow what Weinstein’s lawyers had said in complaint to NBC: that Farrow had a conflict of interest because Weinstein had helped revive the career of Farrow’s estranged father, director Woody Allen. Weinstein’s representatives would later use a similar line of attack when the story landed at The New Yorker. The magazine, known for its rigorous vetting process, saw no conflict of interest." ...

... More in Hypocrisy News. Erica Werner of the AP: Breitbart News is hammering Democrats for their connections to Harvey Weinstein while accidentally forgetting to report on Brietbart chief Steve Bannon's business deal with Weinstein.

David Freedlander of New York: Manhattan DA Cy "Vance, first elected in 2009, is running for a third term in November without an opponent from any party on the ballot after winning the Democratic primary without opposition in September. In the last couple of weeks Vance has come under withering criticism, first from a ProPublica/WNYC investigation into a decision not to prosecute Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump for misleading prospective buyers about their Trump Soho property, and then after The New Yorker revealed that Vance declined to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for allegedly sexually assaulting 22-year-old model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez even though Gutierrez came forward with a recording of Weinstein discussing the assault. In both cases, lawyers for the accused made sizable donations to Vance’s campaign, with Trump personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz giving Vance a $32,000 check on the heels of a private meeting with the district attorney, and Weinstein lawyer David Boies donating $10,000 after Vance dropped the investigation into his client. Vance has since returned the Trump money, and denied that the fundraising had anything to do with the decision to not prosecute, saying that neither case had enough evidence to prove criminality.... Marc Fliedner, a civil-rights lawyer who lost a Democratic primary this fall to become Brooklyn district attorney, has announced a write-in campaign to challenge Vance." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Vance's father, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, was a principled man & must be spinning in his grave.

Beyond the Beltway

Margaret Hartmann: "Two days after police revised their timeline for the shooting in Las Vegas, which left 58 dead and hundreds injured, a hotel maintenance worker said he told hotel dispatchers to call the police before the mass shooting started. Originally, police suggested that gunman Stephen Paddock stopped firing on concertgoers ... when he saw hotel security guard Jesus Campos in his hallway. Campos, who took a non-fatal shot to the leg, was credited with protecting a maintenance worker as Paddock fired dozens of shots into the hall..... This week police said Campos was actually shot about six minutes before Paddock began firing on the crowd.... On Wednesday the hotel maintenance worker, Stephen Schuck, revealed that he told hotel dispatchers to call the police as well. Like Campos, Schuck was responding to a report of a jammed fire door.... [There is an audio recording of Schuck's call.] On Wednesday, the AP reported that when the hotel called police Paddock had already started firing on concertgoers.”

Way Beyond

Kate Hodal of the Guardian: "Nine of the top 10 most difficult nations for girls to be educated are in sub-Saharan Africa. Afghanistan, which has the highest level of gender disparity in primary school, is the only non-African country to make the list, ranking in fourth place.... [M]ore than 130 million girls worldwide fail to attend school every single day of the year." --safari

Sarah Boseley of the Guardian: "Childhood obesity is soaring across the world, increasing more than tenfold over the past four decades, putting many millions at risk of poor health and an early death, according to the biggest ever analysis of the data. Alongside the report, and also Monday’s story in the Guardian revealing that the global cost of obesity will be $1.2tn by 2025, the World Health Organisation is calling for every country to act...The new data from Imperial College London ... shows that in 1975 there were five million obese girls, but by last year there were 50 million. The number of obese boys has risen from six million to 74 million in the same period." --safari

News Lede

Los Angeles Times: "As the death toll from 16 wildfires raging in Northern California climbed Wednesday, thousands more residents in Calistoga and elsewhere were ordered to flee their homes and firefighters raced against the setting sun to douse smoldering hot spots before devilish winds returned to breathe new life into the blazes. During searches of destroyed homes, authorities found more bodies, bringing the number of dead to at least 23, fire officials said. The loss of life, along with the estimated 170,000 acres and 3,500 structures already burned, ranked the fires as some of the most destructive in state history."

Tuesday
Oct102017

The Commentariat -- October 11, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Cliff Clavin Is Still Running the Country:

Why Tillerson Called Trump a Moron. Courtney Kube, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room. Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s.... The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a 'moron.'” ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: This decline [in the nuclear arsenal] was the product of deliberate policy, and mandated by disarmament treaties.... And, anyhow, America already has enough atomic firepower to end most — if not all — human life. From the perspective of a status quo nuclear superpower, the value of an international norm against proliferation would seem obvious. But not from the perspective of our commander-in-chief. As Trump examined the chart’s downward slope, none of these considerations flickered in his mind.... NBC News’ dispatch suggests that Trump’s advisers talked him down from this illegal and exorbitantly expensive request.... Earlier in his term, Trump reportedly asked his military advisers three times, in an hour-long meeting, why the U.S. doesn’t make greater use of its nuclear weapons.... On Tuesday night, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reported that a 'very prominent Republican' had told him that he and his colleagues ... that if Trump ever 'lunged' for the nuclear football, chief-of-staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson might 'tackle' him." (Sherman's post is linked below.) ...

Another day, another casual threat from the president of the United States to abuse the powers of his office in order to stymie reporting that he doesn’t like. -- Matt Yglesias ... 

... Threats of a Moron. Peter Baker & Cecilia Kang of the New York Times: "President Trump threatened on Wednesday to use the federal government’s power to license television airwaves to target NBC in response to a report by the network’s news division that he contemplated a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.... Mr. Trump objected to the report in two messages on Twitter later Wednesday and threatened to use the authority of the federal government to retaliate.... 'Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a "tenfold" increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!... With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!' The comments immediately drew criticism that the president was using his office to undermine First Amendment guarantees of free speech and free press. And, in fact, the networks themselves — and their news departments — do not hold federal licenses, though individual affiliates do. 'Broadcast licenses are a public trust,' said Tom Wheeler, who until January was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, appointed by President Barack Obama. 'They’re not a political toy, which is what he’s trying to do here.' In suggesting that a broadcast network’s license be targeted because of its coverage, Mr. Trump once again evoked the Watergate era....” ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: "Trump’s threat to use the federal government to shut down critical media follows his recent suggestion of creating 'equal time' for conservatives to level the playing the field against late-night TV hosts who mock him. It’s unclear how Trump’s suggestion would work, as only television stations are subject to FCC licensing, not the networks." ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Trump's Twitter habits "expose just how predisposed is the president toward gutting the First Amendment, and just how little he understands how it works." Wemple goes on to explain what-all Trump would have to do to "challenge their license." It's an impossible task, & even if he & his minions by some magic made it happen, MSNBC -- which of course is not a broadcast channel so the FCC doesn't regulate it. And NBCNews.com could become the most popular site on the Internet, with many a spinoff. ...

... Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "... now it’s clear that Bob Corker’s remarkable New York Times interview — in which the Republican senator described the White House as 'adult day care' and warned Trump could start World War III ... brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is 'unstable,' 'losing a step,' and 'unraveling.'... According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, 'I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!' (A White House official denies this.) Two senior Republican officials said Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.... Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment — the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, 'What’s that?'”


Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Lloyd Grove
of the Daily Beast: NBC News spiked Ronan Farrow's story detailing multiple charges by women that Harvey Weinstein had sexually abused them. A few said he raped them. The New Yorker published the story Tuesday. Now, Farrow & some media critics on the one side & NBC News on the other are engaged in a they-said/they-said dispute about why NBC News wouldn't publish Farrow's report. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm not buying big media outlets' claims – NYT one day, NBC News the next – that they spiked stories on Weinstein because the stories weren't fully-reported. When a reporter hands an editor a potential blockbuster that needs work, the editor gets the work done, either by the reporter who developed the story or by a more experienced reporter. It happens every day twice a day at big news outlets.

*****

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump escalated his attack on Senator Bob Corker on Tuesday by ridiculing him for his height, even as advisers worried that the president was further fracturing his relationship with congressional Republicans just a week before a vote critical to his tax cutting plan. Mr. Trump gave Mr. Corker, a two-term Republican from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a derogatory new nickname — 'Liddle Bob' — after the two exchanged barbs in recent days. He suggested Mr. Corker was somehow tricked when he told a reporter from The New York Times that the president was reckless and could stumble into a nuclear war.... 'The Failing @nytimes set Liddle' Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that's what I am dealing with!'... A Times reporter interviewed Mr. Corker by telephone and recorded the call with the senator’s knowledge and consent. Mr. Corker’s staff also recorded the call, and he said he wanted The Times to do the same." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Obviously, Trumpelthinskin has no idea that a making stupid, grade-school attack show that he is a lot liddler than Corker. The only ways Trump is bigger than Corker all have to do with his ass, both physically & metaphorically. What an embarrassing twit. ...

... Washington Post Editors: "One avenue [of disposing with Trump] open to Congress would be to remove the president from office. If indeed Mr. Trump is so reckless that he could set the nation 'on the path to World War III,' as [Sen. Bob] Corker said Sunday in an interview with the New York Times, this possibility can’t be dismissed.... But Congress is not ready to consider such an option — nor, in our view, should it be.... First, Congress should seize the initiative on issues where it knows Mr. Trump is wrong.... Second, congressional leaders can offer a contrast to what Mr. Corker described as the 'adult day care center' at the White House simply by presiding over their branch with institutional dignity and respect for tradition. This would include letting Democrats have a say in the debate, in implicit contrast to the president’s contempt for those who disagree with him."

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump proposed an 'IQ tests' faceoff with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after the nation's top diplomat reportedly called the president a 'moron' and disparaged his grasp of foreign policy. In an interview with Forbes magazine published Tuesday, Trump fired a shot at Tillerson over the 'moron' revelation, first reported by NBC News and confirmed by several other news organizations, including The Washington Post. 'I think it's fake news,' Trump said, 'but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.'” See also yesterday's commentary. ... 

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Tillerson should accept the challenge: back in the old days, there actually was a category called "moron," & I'd expect Trump to qualify. Not sure about Tillerson. AND there's this: if Trump is so innately smart, why does he act so stupid? I'm way more impressed with someone who isn't the certified genius Trump claims to be, but who applies the intellectual gifts s/he has & employs them usefully. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

David Ignatius of the Washington Post: "Skeptics say that on major issues — Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Russia — the Trump administration hasn’t explained clear, systematic plans for achieving results. Even where there seems to be a coherent diplomatic strategy, as on North Korea, the president often undercuts it with Twitter storms or personal tirades.Because so many key political positions haven’t been filled at the State Department, the interagency process that’s supposed to decide and implement policy is something of an 'empty suit,' veteran officials say. European diplomats say they have been frustrated by the difficulty in finding Trump officials with whom they can frame policies on shared concerns, such as Iranian misbehavior. Trump seems weirdly pleased at the many vacant policy positions — evidently not understanding that the vacancies prevent effective action." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: That's because President Dimwitty -- who repeatedly claims he has a very high IQ -- thinks that He Trvmpvs sets foreign policy & he can accomplish this in 140 characters -- 280, if the situation is complex & requires insulting somebody.

BBC News: "Hackers from North Korea are reported to have stolen a large cache of military documents from South Korea, including a plan to assassinate North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. Rhee Cheol-hee, a South Korean lawmaker, said the information was from his country's defence ministry. The compromised documents include wartime contingency plans drawn up by the US and South Korea. They also include reports to the allies' senior commanders. The South Korean defence ministry has so far refused to comment about the allegation. Plans for the South's special forces were reportedly accessed, along with information on significant power plants and military facilities in the South."

Nicole Perlroth & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs. What gave the Russian hacking, detected more than two years ago, such global reach was its improvised search tool — antivirus software made by a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, that is used by 400 million people worldwide, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies. The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s own network alerted the United States to the broad Russian intrusion, which has not been previously reported, leading to a decision just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers."

Tom LoBianco & Eric Tucker of the AP: "Even as ... Donald Trump’s advisers encourage him to accept the realities of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, longtime friends and allies are pushing Trump to fight back, citing concerns that his lawyers are naive to the existential threat facing the president. Trump supporters and associates inside and outside the White House see the conciliatory path as risky.... Instead, they want the street-fighting tweeter to criticize Mueller with abandon. The struggle between supporters of the legal team’s steady, cooperative approach, and the band of Trump loyalists who yearn for a fight, comes as the Mueller probe begins lapping at the door of the Oval Office. Mueller, who is investigating the firing of former FBI director James Comey and other key actions of the Trump administration, has signaled that his team intends to interview multiple current and former White House officials in the coming weeks and has requested large batches of documents from the executive branch." ...

... Jeff Cox of CNBC: "...  Donald Trump 'likely obstructed justice' when he fired FBI Director James Comey and could face impeachment, according to an analysis from the Brookings Institution. The liberal-leaning think tank released a 108-page report on the issue Tuesday. In the analysis, Brookings concludes that even though Trump had the authority to fire Comey, he could not do so if the intention was to get in the way of an ongoing investigation. 'Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction. Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual's help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions,' Brookings analysts Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen wrote." ...

... Ali Watkins of Politico: "Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, informed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he will not be cooperating with any requests to appear before the panel for its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and would plead the Fifth, according to a source familiar with the matter." Mrs. McC: Huh. As Trump asked in September 2016, "The mob takes the fifth.... If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" So what's the problem, Carter?

Matt Shuham of TPM: "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday refused to back away from ... Donald Trump’s incorrect claim that America is 'the highest taxed nation in the world.'... At a press briefing Tuesday, Sanders said Trump meant to say that America was the 'highest taxed corporate nation' among 'developed economies across the globe.'” Sanders got in a back-and-forth with a reporter for One America News Network, who kept asking Sanders why Trump kept repeating a false claim if he "meant to say” something else. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The reporter, Trey Yingst, asserted that Sanders' interpretive reading of Trump's remark was accurate. It isn't. According to PolitiFact, & many other analysts, 'the United States’ corporate tax rate doesn’t appear to be the highest once deductions and other exclusions are taken into account." But the point here is that Sanders is justifying one of Trump's lies by pretending he said something he didn't say. Trump wants individuals to believe we're the highest-taxed in the world, and we're absolutely not. But, you know, boo-hoo-hoo, all the blah people are taking white people's money & spending it on booze & bling.

Alana Semuels of the Atlantic: "The Trump administration has long portrayed the Clean Power Plan, a signature Obama-era initiative to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, as a policy overreach that was bound to cost the economy jobs and constrain economic growth.... In announcing Monday he would repeal the Clean Power Plan, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said that the reversal was a way of listening to the needs of businesses. Regulations 'ought to work with folks all over the country and say, how do we achieve better incomes by working with industry, not against industry,' Pruitt said Monday, in Hazard, Kentucky.... But the Clean Power Plan, which which would have required states to meet certain individualized targets to limit emissions from existing power plants, was ... supported by a wide array of businesses.... 'It was really just a small minority of businesses that were against it,' John Quigley, the former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, told me.... The companies supporting the Clean Power Plan are among the biggest employers in the country, and also contribute the most to economic growth...."

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker on how the Trump administration uses "religious liberty" to discriminate against LGBT rights. "In February, the Trump Administration rescinded protections allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. In May, President Trump signed an executive order directing his Attorney General to support and defend religious-freedom laws like the one in Mississippi. In July, Trump tweeted out a ban on transgender service members. In September, the Justice Department filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued detailed guidelines based on Trump’s religious-freedom executive order and, separately, instructed U.S. Attorneys to stop interpreting federal law as protecting transgender employees from discrimination on the basis of sex. This timeline is probably missing something; reversals in L.G.B.T. rights have been unremitting.... In the nostalgic campaign that got him elected, Trump promised to take his voters back to an imaginary past in which they felt better, more secure, and generally more great than they do in the present. Nothing communicates Trump’s commitment to the past as effectively as reversals of L.G.B.T. civil-rights progress — arguably the most rapid social change in American history."

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "The Trump administration on Tuesday approved a federal disaster declaration for California in response to wildfires that have swept across the state. Vice President Pence announced the decision during a meeting in the state capital of Sacramento with emergency responders. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) had requested federal assistance to combat the deadly fires."

Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "The Republican tax rewrite unveiled this month aims to jump-start economic growth in part by establishing a 25 percent tax rate on small businesses and other firms that operate as pass-through entities, a cut from the top rate of 39.6 percent that such business owners pay now. But [an] abandoned experiment in Kansas points to how a [similar] carve-out intended to help raise growth and create jobs instead created an incentive for residents, particularly high earners, to avoid paying state income taxes by changing how they got paid. The [Kansas] tax package reduced state revenue by nearly $700 million a year, a drop of about 8 percent, from 2013 through 2016, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, forcing officials to shorten school calendars, delay highway repairs and reduce aid to the poor. Research suggests the package did not stimulate the economy, certainly not enough to pay for the tax cut. This year, legislators passed a bill to largely rescind the law, saying it had not worked as intended.... Participation at the federal level could be far more dramatic — with tax benefits dwarfing those enjoyed in Kansas." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Congressional Republicans -- at least the ones promoting the pass-through exemption -- know exactly what they're doing. The pretense that they believe making rich people richer will improve the economy is a joke -- and the laugh's on us.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court Tuesday night dismissed one of the challenges to a now-expired version of President Trump’s travel ban, and the legal battle over his latest efforts to ban some immigrants will need to start anew. There were no noted dissenters from the court’s decision not to hear arguments about the travel ban, although Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have left the precedent of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit’s ruling in place. The court’s order did not mention a second ruling, by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit."

Medlar's Sports Report:

NFL Owners Cave to Bully-in-Chief. Ken Belson of the New York Times: "As the president continues to harangue the [NFL] over the anthem, and a number of fans across the country express displeasure with the handful of players who continue to kneel during the anthem, a growing pool of owners is trying to defuse the politically charged issue, even if it means confronting the players the owners previously sympathized with.... [League Commissioner Roger] Goodell, who said previously that players had a right to voice their opinions, is siding with the owners opposed to letting the players demonstrate. The owners plan to meet next week to establish what to do about the anthem gestures."

Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "ESPN got played by Donald Trump. "... whatever you think of the validity of [Jemele] Hill’s suspension, the idea that sports are being politicized solely by the left is laughable. Two weeks ago, the president of the United States made national anthem protests an issue again by tweeting about them; two days ago, the vice president of the United States made national anthem protests an issue again by traveling several hundred miles to leave a football game 90 seconds after it began." Mr. McC: If you consider the round-trip (Nevada to Indiana to California), it was actually several thousand miles, & I think pence left before the game began.


Brooks Barnes
of the New York Times: "In a statement, the Walt Disney Company said it was 'unaware of any complaints, lawsuits or settlements' regarding the sexual behavior of [Harvey] Weinstein, who left Disney in 2005 to found the Weinstein Company, another film and television studio. Disney’s statement added that Mr. Weinstein and his brother, Bob Weinstein, who co-founded Miramax, had 'operated and managed their business with virtual autonomy.'... Hillary Clinton released a statement saying she was 'shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein.' Mr. Weinstein has been a longtime donor to Democratic candidates, and he hosted a fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton at his Manhattan home last year.... Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, also released a statement about Mr. Weinstein, saying that 'any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status.' The Obamas’ older daughter, Malia, was an intern at the Weinstein Company this year. Also on Tuesday, Georgina Chapman, Mr. Weinstein’s wife, told People magazine that she was leaving him. And the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts said it had decided to reject his earlier pledge to fund a $5 million endowment for female filmmakers.” ...

... Jodi Kantor & Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "When Gwyneth Paltrow was 22 years old..., film producer Harvey Weinstein hired her for the lead in the Jane Austen adaptation 'Emma.' Before shooting began, he summoned her to his suite at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a work meeting.... It ended with Mr. Weinstein placing his hands on her and suggesting they head to the bedroom for massages, she said. 'I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,' she said in an interview, publicly disclosing that she was sexually harassed by the man who ignited her career and later helped her win an Academy Award. She refused his advances, she said, and confided in Brad Pitt, her boyfriend at the time. Mr. Pitt confronted Mr. Weinstein, and soon after, the producer warned her not to tell anyone else about his come-on. 'I thought he was going to fire me,' she said. Rosanna Arquette, a star of 'Pulp Fiction,' has a similar account of Mr. Weinstein’s behavior, as does Judith Godrèche, a leading French actress. So unwanted advances on her in a hotel room, which she rejected." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ronan Farrow, in the New Yorker, details many similar stories, and worse. "Three women ... told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex.... [Some Weinstein] employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity at Weinstein’s places of business, with numerous people throughout the companies fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way. Some employees said that they were enlisted in subterfuge to make the victims feel safe." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Weinstein Abuse Shocks Wingers. Steve M.: "I'm seeing a lot of right-wing self-righteousness in response to the Harvey Weinstein story.... We all know, of course, that conservatives have circled the wagons around their own sex abusers -- Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, and of course the president of the United States. But there was also conservative media complicity with Harvey Weinstein himself." Steve cites the case of Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who was wearing a wire when Weinstein admitted he groped her, but conservative outlets like Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, & Britain's Daily Mail smeared her. "... it was the "liberal media" that brought down Weinstein, in part because the conservative press really doesn't do journalism. But the Gutierrez story didn't require a lot of shoe leather. It was in plain sight -- yet the right-wing press either ignored the opportunity to go after Weinstein or simply sullied his accuser's name. So spare me the lectures, conservatives."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Raphael Minder & Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "The Catalan secession crisis took a confusing new turn on Tuesday night, after the leader of Catalonia [Carles Puigdemont] made a perplexing speech in which he appeared to declare independence from Spain, before immediately suspending that decision to allow for more 'dialogue' with leaders in Madrid."

News Lede

New York Times: "The fires ravaging California’s wine country since Sunday night — part of an outbreak of blazes stretching almost the entire length of the state — continued to burn out of control Tuesday, as the toll rose to at least 17 people confirmed dead, hundreds hospitalized, and an estimated 2,000 buildings destroyed or damaged."