Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "This week, President Obama called on Republicans in Congress to take action and vote to fund the Administration’s response to the Zika virus. In February, the President asked Congress to fund emergency resources, including mosquito control, fast-tracking diagnostics tests and vaccines, tracking the spread of the virus, and monitoring women and babies with Zika. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have failed to take action on this issue. So the President continues to direct his Administration do what it can without help from Congress, with the primary focus of protecting pregnant women and families planning to have children'":

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

"Giovanni della Robbia’s 'Resurrection of Christ,' made for an entrance gate to the villa of the Antinori family outside Florence." Brooklyn Museum photo. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "One of the most innovative art-as-advertising firms in late-15th- and early-16th-century Florence was the della Robbia workshop, a family concern that prospered for three long-lived generations. Its specialty was a brand of glazed terra-cotta sculpture that was physically durable, graphically strong and technologically inimitable. (The exact methods for producing it remain a mystery to this day.)... The Museum of Fine Arts [in Boston is mounting] “Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence”..., a show of ideal size and scholarly weight that includes among 46 pieces one of the tenderest Renaissance sculptures in existence — 'The Visitation' by Luca della Robbia — on first-time American loan from its Tuscan church."

Michelle & Barack -- The Movie. Richard Brody of the New Yorker reviews “Southside with You,” "a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date." Brody calls the film "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love."

The New York Times features photos of the exteriors of Bill & Hillary Clinton's residences over the years.

Brian Hickey of the Philly Voice: When Leroy Black died at age 55, he got two obituaries in the Press of Atlantic City: " In the first obit, his 'loving wife, Bearetta Harrison Black' gets top survivor billing. In the second, however, Bearetta is nowhere to be found, but 'his long-tome (sic) girlfriend, Princess Hall' appears in her place. A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because 'the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.'" ...

... CW: Kinda reminds me of the headstone a widow placed on her husband's grave in the Key West cemetery: "Harry, I Know Where You're Sleeping Tonight."

New York Times: "A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth. This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old."

Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "For a few days, at least, [Stephen] Colbert abandoned the political equanimity that he’d adopted when he started his 'Late Night' job." BTW, here's Laura Benanti's segment:

Washington Post: "Benny" (for Ben Franklin), the mystery philanthropist of Salem, Oregon, has given away more than $55,000 in $100 bills, which s/he hides in odd places like "pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy." -- CW 

Jumping Jupiter! New York Times: "Ducking through intense belts of violent radiation as it skimmed over the clouds of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally clinched its spot on Monday in the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet. It took five years for Juno to travel this far on its $1.1 billion mission, and the moment was one that NASA scientists and space enthusiasts had eagerly — and anxiously — anticipated. At 11:53 p.m., Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end of a 35-minute engine burn that left it in the grip of its desired orbit around Jupiter." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post has more on the importance of the mission. CW: This, BTW, is another fine example of your government actually at work.

New York Times: "Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” signed off the air for good on Saturday evening [July 2], after 42 seasons, as millions of listeners, many in their cars on a holiday weekend, tuned in via public radio. With the exception of a telephone call from President Obama, the show, which was recorded Friday at the Hollywood Bowl in front of 18,000 people, ambled along the way it always has. There were pretty country-folk songs; an ad for Powdermilk Biscuits; a clippety-clop 'Lives of the Cowboys' skit; a heartfelt version of 'Every Time We Say Goodbye.'”

Washington Post: Gay Talese disowns his forthcoming book, 'The Voyeur’s Motel,' after he learns some of the incidents in the supposed true story are certainly fictional. The narrative “chronicles the bizarre story of Gerald Foos, who allegedly spied on guests at his Colorado motel from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s.... 'I should not have believed a word he said,' the 84-year-old author said after The Washington Post informed him of property records that showed Foos did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988.... The book, which will be published July 12, was excerpted in the New Yorker magazine in April. The story attracted widespread media attention and led producer-director Steven Spielberg to buy the movie rights to the book. Spielberg has lined up Sam Mendes...." ...

     ... Update. CW: For a day, I thought maybe Talese had developed a smidgen of ethics in his old age. Guess not. Here's the story now, from the WashPo: "Upon reflection, author Gay Talese says he’s disavowing his earlier disavowal of his own work."

Dan Shaw of New York writes a lovely remembrance of New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

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The Commentariat -- August 19, 2016

Presidential Race

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are scheduled to appear on the same stage early next month at a 'commander-in-chief forum' devoted to national security, military affairs and veterans issues. The Democratic and Republican presidential nominees will appear back-to-back Sept. 7 in New York at an event sponsored by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and broadcast live in prime time on NBC and MSNBC, the sponsors announced Thursday.... Forum organizers said Clinton and Trump will field questions from NBC News personnel as well as an audience consisting mainly of military veterans and active service members. CW: Should provide sort of preview of how Clinton & Trump will negotiate the presidential debates.

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Facing criticism for some of the donations given to his family's philanthropy, Bill Clinton said on Thursday that the Clinton Foundation would no longer accept foreign or corporate funds should Hillary Clinton win the presidency in November. Mr. Clinton's decision, which the former president relayed to foundation employees in a meeting on Thursday, followed the recent release of State Department emails mentioning several donors to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation who had contacts with aides to Mrs. Clinton while she was secretary of state.... During the meeting with staff members in New York, Mr. Clinton explained that should Mrs. Clinton win in November, the charity will be reorganized and rely only on contributions from United States citizens and independent charities...." -- CW

Amy Chozick: "Pressed by the F.B.I. about her email practices at the State Department, Hillary Clinton told investigators that former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had advised her to use a personal email account. The account is included in the notes the Federal Bureau of Investigation handed over to Congress on Tuesday, relaying in detail the three-and-a-half-hour interview with Mrs. Clinton in early July that led to the decision by James B. Comey, the bureau's director, not to pursue criminal charges against her." CW: Huh, sounds like this leak comes from Democrats. ...

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "House Republicans are doubling down in their effort to bring perjury charges against Hillary Clinton over her testimony last year to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. GOP lawmakers have claimed that the Democratic presidential nominee broke the law by lying under oath about her private email setup during her marathon appearance in October. Next month, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee plan to make the issue a central part of a hearing with senior officials from the FBI, a committee aide said on Thursday. Legally, the GOP faces a tough case. Politically, however, raising the perjury allegations would be a way to keep the issue of Clinton's truthfulness in the public eye throughout the fall as she battles Republican nominee Donald Trump for the White House." -- CW

** NEW. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Paul Manafort, installed as the chief strategist for Donald J. Trump's campaign after the firing of his original campaign manager, handed in his resignation on Friday morning. Mr. Manafort left nearly a week after a New York Times report about tumult within the Republican presidential nominee's campaign helped precipitate a leadership shake-up.... Mr. Manafort was also dogged by reports about secretive efforts he made to help the former pro-Russian government in Ukraine.... Mr. Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, is expected to remain on the campaign, for now...." -- CW ...

     ... CW: Manafort appears to have purposely stomped all over the Trump campaign's assertion from two whole days ago that hiring Bannon & Conway was not a "campaign shake-up." Since Trump reportedly wasn't paying Manafort, Manafort could have maintained the steady-ship fiction by just not showing up for work, or popping in only occasionally to check his messages.

Nick Gass of Politico: "The office of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards [D] signaled that Donald Trump is welcome to visit Louisiana in the wake of destructive flooding, but ... 'not for a photo-op.'... Edwards ... also said Thursday night that he would prefer that Obama wait at least a week to visit. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on Friday called the visit of the Republican nominee and running mate Gov. Mike Pence 'presidential' and 'a decidedly nonpolitical event, no press allowed, going to help people on the ground who are in need.'" -- CW

He's Sorry for ... Something. Jose DelReal, et al., of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump on Thursday expressed regret over causing 'personal pain' through ill-chosen words he has used 'in the heat of debate,' an unexpected and uncharacteristic declaration of remorse for a candidate whose public persona is defined by his combative and bombastic style.... Speaking Thursday [during a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C.], Trump did not specify what he regretted during his speech Thursday and did not directly apologize to anyone. Trump tore into [Hillary] Clinton during his speech, which he read from prepared remarks on a teleprompter, and called on her to apologize for 'one lie after another.'" -- CW ...

... "Trump's Teleprompter Regret." Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "'Donald Trump literally started his campaign by insulting people,' Clinton deputy communications director Christina Reynolds said in a statement. 'He has continued to do so through each of the 428 days from then until now, without shame or regret,' she continued. 'We learned tonight that his speechwriter and teleprompter knows he has much for which he should apologize.... But that apology tonight is simply a well-written phrase until he tells us which of his many offensive, bullying and divisive comments he regrets — and changes his tune altogether.'" -- CW ...

... The Long-Awaited "Pivot"? Nope. Greg Sargent: "This morning, Trump released his first general election ad, an ugly and dishonest production which shows he isn't changing a thing. In fact, the new ad is filled with precisely the same sort of dark, dystopian themes and content -- and even some of the same sort of grainy, dark footage depicting illegal immigrants as invaders -- that marked one of the first ads he ran during the GOP primaries." CW: Read on. The ad itself, is embedded below, via Sargent. ...

... Nick Gass of Politico: "Donald Trump's campaign rolled out its first general election ad Friday, part of a buy totaling approximately $4 million in battleground states where he is currently trailing Hillary Clinton." -- CW ...

... CW: The Trump campaign has not posted its ad on YouTube. I embedded a copy of the ad, which an individual had put up on YouTube only three minutes before I copied the code. Minutes later, the Trump campaign took down the YouTube video with a notice that "This video is private." This is the first time in my experience that a campaign has removed an unaltered ad from YouTube, For some reason, most candidates want as many people as possible to see their ads. The Trump campaign seems to be living in a dark, conspiratorial world where even positive coverage is sinister. Yeah, they're nuts. ...

     ... Update: The Washington Post made its own copy:

... ** Brian Beutler: "Donald Trump is bad at politics.... Case in point: On Wednesday night, Trump returned in characteristically Freudian fashion to Sean Hannity's show on Fox News and announced he would forcibly remove not just immigrants, but citizens from the U.S. if they're found to have extremist views.... Kicking citizens out of the United States for having extreme ideological views is unconstitutional.... This was, in essence, the point Khizr Khan was making at the Democratic convention three weeks ago when he asked Trump, 'Have you even read the United States Constitution?'... Based on a number of things Trump has said -- including that the Constitution has (at least) twelve articles (it has seven) -- Khan was on solid ground." Also, Mark Halperin is an idiot. -- CW

To defeat crime and radical Islamic terrorism in our country, to win trade in our country, you need tremendous physical and mental strength and stamina. Hillary Clinton doesn't have that strength and stamina. -- Donald Trump, speech in West Bend, Wis., Aug. 16

Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS. -- Trump, speech in Youngstown, Ohio, Aug. 15

Given Trump's poor track record with the facts, it should be little surprise that, through innuendo, he is trying to surface debunked Internet rumors from the fringes of the right. But these are also half-baked, ridiculous and easily disproved, making it especially shocking that he would try to highlight them in prepared speeches.... Trump has claimed twice, without proof, that Clinton lacks the physical and mental stamina to be president. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

To give you an idea how generous Kessler is to Trump, he gives credence to that phony "letter from my doctor" Trump released last December. -- Constant Weader

The Phake Philanthropist. David Fahrenthold & Alice Crites of the Washington Post: Numerous times, during taping of his TV show "Celebrity Apprentice," Donald Trump promised to write personal checks to the charities for which the "celebrities" were appearing. "He didn't.... On-air, Trump seemed to be explicit that this wasn't TV fakery: The money he was giving was his own. 'Out of my wallet,' Trump said in one case. 'Out of my own account,' he said in another. But, when the cameras were off, the payments came from other people's money. In some cases..., Trump's 'personal' promise was paid off by a production company. Other times, it was paid off by a nonprofit that Trump controls, whose coffers are largely filled with other donors' money." -- CW

Trump of the Alt-Right. Ultra-conservative Ben Shapiro, in the Washington Post: "Conservatives joked openly for months about 'Trumpbart' and the transformation of Breitbart.com into, essentially, Bannon.com, but it was still something of a surprise that Trump would so publicly embrace [Steve] Bannon, a man who helped transform a mainstream conservative website into a cesspool of the alt-right.... The takeover [of the Republican party], now a virtual fait accompli, represents the dangerous seizure of the conservative movement by the alt-right.... Trump himself has flirted with the alt-right for months.... Like Breitbart[.com], Trump will continue to tacitly embrace the alt-right, hoping, presumably, that adherents of its worldview will propel his campaign in the same way it has boosted Breitbart's traffic by millions of monthly page views." -- CW ...

... Gene Robinson: "Shaken by the fact that he's losing, Donald Trump has fled into the parallel universe of the extreme right [[ and apparently plans to stay there for the remainder of the campaign.... [New campaign guru Steve] Bannon runs Breitbart News, a website that creates its own ultranationalist far-right reality -- one that often bears little resemblance to the world as it really is. As I write, the site is claiming that Hillary Clinton has some serious undisclosed health problem (her doctor says she is just fine), that one of Clinton's aides has 'very clear ties' to radical Islam (which is totally untrue) and that Clinton herself has 'clear ties' to Russian President Vladimir Putin (when in fact it is Trump who often reveals his man-crush on the Russian leader).... So if anyone was wondering whether this election cycle could get any worse for the GOP, it just did." -- CW

Sez Who? Margaret Hartmann synthesizes the state-of-mind of the Trump camp. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jeff Horwitz & Chad Day of the AP: "A firm run by Donald Trump's campaign chairman [Paul Manafort] directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine's then-ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country's pro-Russian government, emails obtained by The Associated Press show. Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law.... Another goal: undercutting American public sympathy for [Yulia Tymoshenko,] the imprisoned rival of Ukraine's then-president. At the time, European and American leaders were pressuring Ukraine to free her.... None of the firms [DMP International LLC., Mercury, or the Podesta Group], nor Manafort or Gates, disclosed their work to the Justice Department counterespionage division responsible for tracking the lobbying of foreign governments." -- CW

Jen Kirby of New York: "Life-size statues of a completely naked Donald Trump rose in New York's Union Square, along with public spaces in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. And yes, the artist buys into the whole 'little hands' theory....The project is called 'The Emperor Has No Balls,' and indeed Naked Donalds lacks those reproductive organs.... Naked Donald Trump lasted about two hours in Union Square, according to DNAinfo, before being felled by Parks Department employees.... The Parks Department ... told us: 'NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.'" Thanks to Jeanne B. for the lead. -- CW ...

... Peter Holley of the Washington Post: "... members of the anarchist collective INDECLINE decided they would showcase the aspirant president in the most humiliating way they could imagine: without his clothes.... The job of conceptualizing and creating the statues fell to a man who goes by the name 'Ginger,' a Las Vegas-based artist. Ginger told The Post that he has a long history of designing monsters for haunted houses and horror movies." -- CW

... You're welcome. -- CW

She's Not a Doctor, But She Plays One on TV. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The Trump campaign's concerted effort to pump up questions about Hillary Clinton's health using innuendo and unfounded speculation now includes an official diagnosis: dysphasia. [Trump] spokeswoman [Katrina Pierson] alleged Thursday that Clinton suffers from the language disorder, with which she has never been diagnosed.... Pierson in this case appears to be passing along the kind of conspiracy theory website content that has colored so much of the Trump campaign.... Pierson's dysphasia diagnosis is clearly part of a cynical effort to raise questions about Clinton's health -- an effort that is taking place outside the bounds of what's generally been acceptable in a presidential campaign." -- CW

"I Fired the Jews." Marisa Taylor & William Douglas of McClatchy News: "Allegations of anti-Semitism have surfaced against one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisers, raising further questions about the guidance the Republican presidential nominee is receiving. Joseph Schmitz, named as one of five advisers by the Trump campaign in March, is accused of bragging when he was Defense Department inspector general a decade ago that he pushed out Jewish employees.... All three people who have cited the remarks, including one who testified under oath about them, have pending employment grievances with the federal government.... The revelations feed two themes that his opponent Hillary Clinton has used to erode Trump's credibility: That he is a foreign policy neophyte, and that his campaign, at times, has offended Jews and other minorities." -- CW ...

... digby: "I'm beginning to think we needn't worry about his 'extreme, extreme, vetting' because this man couldn't vet his way out of a paper bag. Of course it's just as likely that he did vet this fellow and found his anti-Semitic qualifications to be sterling." -- CW ...

... Steve M. has more on Schmidt's family tree. -- CW ...

... CW: Akhilleus writes in today's Comments that Trump played Not-Hitler for a day. Turns out Trump outsourced that job to an advisor. (Here, I was going to write something Schmidt said. But what he said was too sickening to type.)

CW: So many GOP operatives have announced they won't vote for Trump or will vote for Clinton that I have quit linking to the stories. But here's a funny one. Paulina Firozi of the Hill: "Ivanka Trump's brother-in-law will not be voting for the Republican nominee. In a profile in Esquire magazine of Ivanka's husband Jared Kushner, a spokesman said that his younger brother Josh Kushner was a 'lifelong Democrat' and 'would not be voting for Donald Trump in November.' The magazine did not specify whether Josh Kushner planned to vote for Hillary Clinton ."

Other News & Views

David Sanger of the New York Times: "The State Department conceded for the first time on Thursday that it delayed making a $400 million payment to Iran for several hours in January 'to retain maximum leverage' and assure that three American prisoners were released the same day. For months the Obama administration had maintained that the payment was part of a settlement over an old dispute and did not amount to a 'ransom' for the release of the Americans.... But at a briefing on Thursday, John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said the United States 'took advantage of the leverage' it felt it had that weekend in mid-January to obtain the release of the hostages and 'to make sure they got out safely and efficiently.'... The acknowledgment by Mr. Kirby on Thursday touched off a torrent of criticism from Republicans." CW: That would be because the entire Republican party is a playpen for whiney babies who can't stand it when the Obama administration effects good outcomes.

Lizette Alvarez & Pam Belluck of the New York Times: "A cluster of Zika cases most likely transmitted by local mosquitoes has been identified in Miami Beach, and federal and state officials are considering whether to advise pregnant women to avoid traveling to the city and possibly even all of Miami-Dade County, a health official said Thursday." -- CW ...

... Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "... in a study in mice, researchers have found evidence that suggests adult brain cells critical to learning and memory also might be susceptible to the Zika virus." -- CW

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or 'substantially reduce' the contracts' scope." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Pema Levy of Mother Jones: "The announcement comes on the heels of a Mother Jones investigation of a private prison in Louisiana that found serious deficiencies in staffing and security. It also documented a higher rate of violence than the prison reported. Last week's DOJ report found that private prisons are more violent than federal prisons. As of December 2015, private prisons incarcerated about 22,600 federal inmates. The news of the DOJ's decision prompted a quick downturn in stock prices for the two largest private prison companies." -- CW ...

... Maurice Chammah of the Marshall Project details some facts & implications of the administration's decision. BTW, "Donald Trump has said, 'I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better.'" As president, he could reverse the DOJ's decision, announced today. -- CW

The Trouble with ObamaCare -- Republicans. Paul Krugman: "...there's nothing wrong with Obamacare that couldn't be fairly easily fixed with a bit of bipartisan cooperation. The only thing that makes this hard is the blocking power of politicians who want reform to fail." CW: Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) is a world-class jerk, but he was right about the "Republican health care plan: die quickly." Every Democrat should (and should have) run against the God's Option Party; i.e., if the Lord wants you to get sick and die, sucker, amen, amen, amen.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. J.K. Trotter of Gawker: "After nearly fourteen years of operation, Gawker.com will be shutting down next week. The decision to close Gawker comes days after Univision successfully bid $135 million for Gawker Media's six other websites, and four months after the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel revealed his clandestine legal campaign against the company. Nick Denton, the company's outgoing CEO, informed current staffers of the site's fate on Thursday afternoon, just hours before a bankruptcy court in Manhattan will decide whether to approve Univision's bid for Gawker Media's other assets. Staffers will soon be assigned to other editorial roles, either at one of the other six sites or elsewhere within Univision." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Gawker and its writers, despite some steps backward, made the web better. It made the web what it is." -- CW ...

... Will Oremus of Slate: "Who would dare [to call out Silicon Valley excesses], now that [tech billionaire Peter] Thiel has set a precedent for Silicon Valley's ruling class to wield their fortunes to exact revenge on publications that offend them? Who would want to, now that he has successfully made the Gawker mothership so toxic that a new owner would rather shutter it than keep the lights on?" -- CW

** Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker: "To some researchers who've studied sexual harassment..., the Fox News scenario doesn't look like that much of an outlier. For one thing, some studies have found that women in positions of authority, especially in workplaces that are dominated by men, may be more likely to experience sexual harassment than women in lower-status positions.... [One researcher, Heather McLaughlin,] says that these findings make sense because she believes workplace sexual harassment isn't really about sex; it's about power.... The allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News ... are a reminder of what a serious disruption harassment can be to a career." -- CW ...

... CW: As anyone who has been the victim of unfair treatment -- that is, probably everybody -- knows, the effects of the victimizating act most often don't end with the incident but can be life-altering.

Beyond the Beltway

Frank Main & Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson is seeking to fire seven officers -- including the partner of Officer Jason Van Dyke -- for allegedly lying in their accounts of what happened in Van Dyke's fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. Johnson originally planned to announce Thursday that he would move to fire eight of the 10 officers that city inspector general had recommended for termination, but one of them then retired. Another one, Deputy Chief David McNaughton, had retired on Monday." -- CW

Way Beyond

Simon Romero of the New York Times: "In his original account [to NBC News], [U.S. swimmer Ryan] Lochte said the [taxi in which he & three other U.S. swimmers were riding] had been pulled over by armed men, one of whom put a gun against his head before taking the cash from his wallet. But police investigators said Thursday that Mr. Lochte and the others had acted more like small-minded vandals than the victims they claimed to be. Making a stop around 6 a.m. Sunday at a Shell gas station, the men were obviously drunk, the station's owner said. The[y] broke a soap dispenser in the bathroom, damaged a door, tore down a sign and urinated around the premises, the owner told reporters.... [Swimmers Gunnar] Bentz and [Jack] Conger, who were pulled off their plane by the police on Wednesday in Rio, offered testimony on Thursday that contradicted Mr. Lochte's accounts, police investigators said." -- CW ...

... Dave Sheinin & Dom Phillips of the Washington Post: "While decorated American swimmer Ryan Lochte remained safely in the United States, his three American teammates, blocked from leaving Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian authorities, faced additional questioning Thursday as Lochte's harrowing story of an armed robbery at gunpoint Sunday morning began to unravel.... Several media outlets Thursday reported the existence of a surveillance video from a Rio de Janeiro gas station early Sunday showing Lochte and his teammates damaging property. The Daily Mail, a British news outlet, reported -- citing Brazilian police -- that Lochte and the other swimmers refused to pay for the damage until a security guard waved a gun at them and demanded payment. Brazilian news outlet O Globo reported, also citing police sources, that Lochte and his teammates urinated on the gas station's building and vandalized the property." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Julia Jacobo & Emily Shapiro of ABC News: "The U.S. Olympic Committee Thursday night apologized to Brazil for the 'distracting ordeal' stemming from what Brazilian authorities call a fabricated claim of a gunpoint robbery by a group of swimmers in Rio de Janeiro. 'The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members,' the statement said. 'We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States.' Their behavior was also blasted by the head of USA Swimming, Chuck Wielgus Thursday night.... On Thursday, police in Rio de Janeiro recommended that U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte and James Feigen face charges of false reporting of a crime, a civil police spokesperson said." -- CW ...

... Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post: "Jimmy Feigen, who has been accused by Brazilian authorities of fabricating a robbery claim along with Ryan Lochte and two other U.S. swimming teammates, will pay about $10,800 to an unnamed Brazilian charity and then leave the country, his attorney told the Associated Press early Friday. According to attorney Breno Melaragno, Brazilian law allows people charged with minor offenses to make a donation to charity to avoid criminal prosecution." -- CW

... Mark Giannatto of the Washington Post: "Sérgio Riera, the lawyer who succeeded in getting American swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger permission from a judge to leave Brazil on Wednesday night, told The Post's Dom Phillips that his clients had not lied to police about an alleged robbery involving American swimming star Ryan Lochte on Sunday night.... 'They did not lie. They did not talk to the press.... They did not go to the police station and they were not told to appear at the police station,' Riera said in an interview once both men had gone through check-in at Rio's international airport.... They knew it was a lie. But they did not have to go public,' Riera said. 'They thought this would be forgotten. They did not think it would have a more serious consequence.'" -- CW ...

... Scott Allen of the Washington Post: "How Ryan Lochte's robbery story went from unbelievable to simply not believable." -- CW ...

... Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post: "Ryan Lochte is the dumbest bell that ever rang. The 32-year-old swimmer is so landlocked in juvenility that he pulled an all-nighter with guys young enough to call him uncle. His story to NBC's Billy 'what-are-you-wearing' Bush had the quality of a kid exaggerating the size of a fish, and notice how he was the hero of every detail.... There is a special category of obnoxious American 'bro' that Lochte represents, in his T-shirt and jeans and expensive suede footwear, which he showed off on social media that night at the party along with the price tag. 'We're 6k deep here,' he captioned it. Is there anything Is there anything worse, in any country, than a bunch of entitled young drunks who break the furniture and pee on a wall?" -- CW ...

... CW: As much as I hate to make comments about people's personal appearances (unless about someone like Donald Trump who has made a career of demeaning other people's looks), let me just say that if Lochte is not as dumb as Jenkins lets on and thus can memorize lines & find his marks, he looks like the perfect guy to play the cruel Nazi lieutenant in low-budget movies about WWII. My apologies to any readers who look something like Lochte, but do think about dying your hair a darker color & committing your life to good works.

News Lede

New York Times: "Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., a soldier's soldier who lied about his age to enlist in the service, won his commission on a battlefield in World War II and became a four-star general and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reagan administration, died Thursday night at his home in North Oaks, Minn. He was 94." -- CW


The Commentariat -- August 18, 2016

Afternoon Update:

J.K. Trotter of Gawker: "After nearly fourteen years of operation, Gawker.com will be shutting down next week. The decision to close Gawker comes days after Univision successfully bid $135 million for Gawker Media's six other websites, and four months after the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel revealed his clandestine legal campaign against the company. Nick Denton, the company's outgoing CEO, informed current staffers of the site's fate on Thursday afternoon, just hours before a bankruptcy court in Manhattan will decide whether to approve Univision's bid for Gawker Media's other assets. Staffers will soon be assigned to other editorial roles, either at one of the other six sites or elsewhere within Univision." -- CW

Sez Who? Margaret Hartmann synthesizes the state-of-mind of the Trump camp. -- CW

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or 'substantially reduce' the contracts' scope." -- CW

Dave Sheinin & Dom Phillips of the Washington Post: "While decorated American swimmer Ryan Lochte remained safely in the United States, his three American teammates, blocked from leaving Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian authorities, faced additional questioning Thursday as Lochte's harrowing story of an armed robbery at gunpoint Sunday morning began to unravel.... Several media outlets Thursday reported the existence of a surveillance video from a Rio de Janeiro gas station early Sunday showing Lochte and his teammates damaging property. The Daily Mail, a British news outlet, reported -- citing Brazilian police -- that Lochte and the other swimmers refused to pay for the damage until a security guard waved a gun at them and demanded payment. Brazilian news outlet O Globo reported, also citing police sources, that Lochte and his teammates urinated on the gas station's building and vandalized the property." -- CW


Presidential Race

It ain't over till it's over. -- Yogi Berra, 1973

... Harry Enten of 538: "Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the presidency have held fairly steady in the FiveThirtyEight models over the past 10 days. The polls-only forecast currently gives her an 88 percent chance of winning.... There is precedent for a big enough share of the electorate to change its mind that Trump could come back. It certainly wouldn't be easy for Trump -- he's the overwhelming underdog, but it's not impossible for him to win." -- CW

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton ... on Wednesday denounc[ed] Donald J. Trump's tax proposals as a boondoggle for billionaires. 'We're going to tax the wealthy who have made all of the income gains in the last 15 years,' Mrs. Clinton told a crowd in Cleveland. 'The superwealthy, corporations, Wall Street,' she declared emphatically, 'they're going to have to invest in education, in skills training, in infrastructure.' For months, Mrs. Clinton has attacked Mr. Trump's economic agenda in broad terms.... But Mr. Trump's release of his tax plans last week in Detroit allowed her to begin to criticize them more specifically.... Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Trump's plan would benefit people in his own income bracket, declaring that he 'would pay a lower rate than middle-class families' if it were put into effect." -- CW

I am the only candidate who ran in either the Democratic or the Republican primary who said from the very beginning (that) I will not raise taxes on the middle class. -- Hillary Clinton, in Cleveland, yesterday

Fifteen of the 17 Republican presidential candidates signed pledges not to raise taxes on anyone, which includes the middle class. Thirteen of those candidates signed the vow last year; the other three inked such a pledge earlier in their careers. Trump wasn't one of them, but Clinton specifically mentioned the primary field. And that makes the claim both inaccurate and ridiculous.... We rated a similar claim by Clinton Pants on Fire in July. Our friends at the Washington Post Fact Checker gave the claim Four Pinocchios, its lowest rating. -- Lauren Carroll & Warren Fiske of PolitiFact

Back in the ole days, when Clinton and Trump and I were young and spry, candidates would change their bullshit lines when the media called them out. Not any more. -- Constant Weader

Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) says the Clinton Foundation should be disbanded if ... Hillary Clinton is elected to the White House. 'I definitely think if she wins the presidency they have to disband it. I know it'll be hard for President [Bill] Clinton because he cares very deeply about what the foundation has done,' Rendell, a Clinton ally, told the New York Daily News..... Rendell, who also served as a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the Clinton Foundation would at the least need to go into a 'period of inactivity' during Clinton's time in office if she is elected." -- CW ...

... Boston Globe Editors (Aug. 16): "Although the charity founded by former President Bill Clinton has done admirable work over the last 15 years, the Clinton Foundation is also clearly a liability for Hillary Clinton as she seeks the presidency.... The foundation should remove a political -- and actual -- distraction and stop accepting funding. If Clinton is elected, the foundation should be shut down.... The inherent conflict of interest was obvious when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009. She promised to maintain a separation between her official work and the foundation, but recently released emails written by staffers during her State Department tenure make clear that the supposed partition was far from impregnable. That was bad enough at State; if the Clinton Foundation continues to cash checks from foreign governments and other individuals seeking to ingratiate themselves with a President Hillary Clinton, it would be unacceptable." -- CW

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "A 'substantial amount' of material that the FBI delivered to Congress about the Hillary Clinton email investigation -- including a summary of agents' interview with top aide Huma Abedin -- appears to be unclassified, which means it could possibly be released to the public. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles E. Grassley is calling for Senate officials to separate the classified from the unclassified documents in order to turn over as much information to the public as possible.... I don't think we should have any trouble getting the ... unclassified stuff made public,' Grassley said. The FBI declined to comment for this story." ...

... CW: I'm not sure Chuck's plan squares with instructions the FBI sent Congress, though I think its directive is somewhat ambiguous: "... the FBI is providing certain relevant materials to appropriate congressional committees [to] assist them in their oversight responsibilities in this matter. The material contains classified and other sensitive information and is being provided with the expectation it will not be disseminated or disclosed without FBI concurrence." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. As she wrote to me, "Why would the FBI trust these idiots with this information? They have proven to be 'untrustable.'" Exactly.

Wherein Trump Proves It Is Possible to Whine about Nothing. Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Donald Trump is questioning the amount of work Hillary Clinton is putting into her campaign and said that her schedule is unfair. 'She doesn't really do that much. She'll give a speech on teleprompter, and then she'll disappear. I don't know if she goes home -- she goes home and goes to sleep, I think she sleeps,' Trump told host Sean Hannity.... 'I guess she takes a lot of weekends off. She takes a lot of time off,' Trump responded. 'Frankly, it's really not fair.'... Trump also claimed Clinton is being 'protected' by the government, mentioning the decision not to pursue charges over her private email use, as well as the media. 'When I say something about her, for instance, if I speak for an hour, and I talk about her for a half an hour, 45 minutes, nothing gets on television. They'll put something else on,' Trump said." -- CW ...

... As Cristiano Lima of Politico points out, this is part of Trump's "effort to sow doubts about Hillary Clinton's physical capacity to be president.... Trump, who is 70, also went on to question whether Clinton, who is 68, would be able to handle the physical demands of the presidency...." CW: This is one of the aspects of Trump's misogynist claim that a woman is not "fit" to hold high public office. He repeatedly calls Clinton "weak" and says she "doesn't look like a president," contrasting her own looks (old white guy) with hers. ...

... The other half of the joke, as P.D. Pepe points out in today's Comments, is that Clinton's doctor has given her a clean bill of health in a letter released to the public (I linked it in the Comments), while Trump forged a letter "from" his aged doctor in which he, Trump, claimed, he "will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." If you haven't read Trump's "doctor's" letter, do so. It's hilarious. A more serious point is that the public has no idea whether or not Trump is physically healthy. Those who vote for Trump may be voting for pence, for all they know.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "The latest shake-up in Donald Trump's presidential campaign is rightly described as a move to 'let Trump be Trump.' In reality, the sudden changes highlight the fact that a politician whose instincts appeared so sure during the Republican primaries has lost his way as a general-election candidate. It remains questionable whether he can find the equilibrium and the discipline needed to turn his flailing campaign around.... Trump has been resistant to advice from so-called experts because he proved them wrong when they said he couldn't win the GOP nomination. But he began the general-election campaign with a distinct lack of understanding of the differences between it and the primaries." -- CW ...

... Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "The effective merger of Donald Trump's campaign for president and the obstreperous, resilient media outlet Breitbart makes more sense than anything else that has happened so far this crazy year. Trump's campaign has always been, to a degree greater even than the usual model campaign, almost entirely a media product: Trump on TV, Trump at rallies, Trump yelling on Twitter. And Breitbart is an exemplar, to a far greater degree than even the old partisan journalism, of a pure and focused 'media activism,' in which the technical tools of journalism are turned to clear political ends." -- CW ...

... Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart columnist & editor who left the online rag over the Lewandowski-Fields incident, in the Daily Wire: " Steve Bannon Turned Breitbart Into Trump Pravda For His Own Personal Gain.... Bannon Uses Celebrity Conservatives To Elevate His Personal Profile.... Bannon Took At Least One Major Breitbart Investor For A Serious Ride.... Under Bannon's Leadership, Breitbart Openly Embraced The White Supremacist Alt-Right.... Trump's Campaign Strategy Could Be The Launch Of A New Media Outlet.... Bannon Is A Legitimately Sinister Figure. Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon. He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies. Bannon is a smarter version of Trump: he's an aggressive self-promoter who name-drops to heighten his profile and woo bigger names, and then uses those bigger names as stepping stools to his next destination." CW: Otherwise, Bannon seems like a nice guy. ...

This is the bunker scene in Downfall, only the Trump crowd won't tell Hitler the truth. It's utter madness. Trump is a nut, and he likes to surround himself with nuts. It's a disaster for the Republican Party. -- Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager, on the latest Trump campaign "leadership" team ...

... CW: In this scene, the Trump crowd does tell Hitler the truth. The subtitle "translations" are quite good:

     ... See Akhilleus's comment on the video. He has it exactly right, IMO.

... E.J. Dionne: "If you thought the old Donald Trump campaign was wild and crazy, just wait for the new Trump campaign now that Breitbart's Steve Bannon has taken over as chief executive. The new leadership -- with Bannon and pollster Kellyanne Conway displacing Paul Manafort of the Ukrainian Connection at the top of the heap -- is likely to steer Trump even more in the direction of the European far right.... Bannon is close to Nigel Farage, the former head of the right-wing U.K. Independence Party.... Judging from Bannon's history, Trump's campaign will become even harsher in its attacks on Hillary Clinton and work hard to insinuate anti-Clinton stories into the mainstream media....Bannon could thus speed the defection of longtime GOP officeholders, while Senate and House campaigns are likely to become even more distant from Trump...." -- CW ...

... Dionne links to Joshua Green's 2015 profile of Bannon, which Akhilleus also linked in yesterday's Comments. -- CW ...

... Joshua Green (today): "The shake-up is an ominous development for Republican elected officials alarmed at Trump's collapse and the effect he could have on down-ballot races across the country. In recent years, Breitbart News has bedeviled Republican leaders, helping to drive out former House Speaker John Boehner and, more recently, making life difficult for his successor, Paul Ryan." -- CW

... Michael Barbaro & Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times profile Bannon, too: "a polished corporate dealmaker who once devised $10 billion mergers on Wall Street [turned] a purveyor of scorched-earth right-wing media who dwells in the darker corners of American politics.... The website he runs, Breitbart News, recently accused President Obama of 'importing more hating Muslims'; compared Planned Parenthood's work to the Holocaust; called Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator, a 'renegade Jew'; and advised female victims of online harassment to 'just log off' and stop 'screwing up the internet for men,' illustrating that point with a picture of a crying child. With its provocative content, bare-knuckle style and populist message, Breitbart is, in many ways, a mirror of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign." -- CW

... Karen Tumulty & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post also profile Bannon: "Moviemaking has been one of the many chapters of Bannon's career, which had previously included four years aboard a Navy destroyer, a post-MBA stint with Goldman Sachs, and founding an investment firm specializing in media.... Along the way, he developed a worldview remarkably in tune with what is now regarded as Trumpism: suspicious of free trade and liberal immigration policies, wary of military adventurism, and contemptuous of the old order.... When Trump became a candidate for president, the relationship [between Trump & Bannon] deepened, and the billionaire frequently made himself available to break news on his race." -- CW ...

... Betsy Woodruff & Gideon Resnick of the Daily Beast: "Donald Trump's campaign is under new management -- and his white nationalist fanboys love it. The campaign's new chief executive, Stephen Bannon, joins from Breitbart News -- where he helped mainstream the ideas of white nationalists and resuscitate the reputations of anti-immigrant fear-mongers.... [Among others,] Richard Spencer, who heads the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute..., said Breitbart and Bannon have helped Alt Right ideas gain legitimacy -- and ... exponentially expand their audiences.... Breitbart frequently highlights the work of Jason Richwine, who resigned from the conservative Heritage Foundation when news broke that his Harvard dissertation argued in part that Hispanics have lower IQs than non-Hispanic whites. Bannon loves Richwine.... Bannon heaps praise on Pamela Geller, an activist in the counter-Jihad movement who warns about 'creeping Sharia.'... Kurt Bardella, who had the site as a client until quitting this year, said Bannon regularly made racist comments during internal meetings." -- CW

** Maxim Tucker of the Times (of London) on Paul Manafort's Ukraine Connection. Beginning with the same secret "black ledger" that was the basis of the NYT story linked here Aug. 15, Tucker publishes more of Ukraine officials' observations & speculations, which are stunning: "Officers believe the money [to be paid to Manafort] was taken from a clandestine cash reserve made up of bribes paid to party officials, but have yet to prove their theory.... Documents disclosed by the US Department of Justice appear to confirm ... [Manafort] has never declared his work for the Ukrainian government or [Viktor] Yanukovych's party, as would be required by US legislation.... [Manafort] sabotaged US interests in Ukraine and encouraged Russian nationalism in Crimea, a prosecutor investigating the Republican strategist alleges in a damning memo written last year.... Mr Yanukovych [with Manafort's assistance] laid the groundwork for Russia's annexation of the peninsula, which Donald Trump has now suggested he would recognise." -- CW ...

... Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post: Donald Trump "has not stepped forward publicly to defend Manafort, and it's not clear whether Trump knew that Manafort's work might have had an unregistered (and therefore, potentially illegal) U.S. lobbying component.... [Manafort] overestimated his own skill set and Donald Trump's sanity -- and underestimated his enemies and the political danger of his Ukraine ties.... Trump remains unmanageable, especially when advised to rein in his pugilistic, if not deliberately offensive, campaign style...." CW: Read the part about the Taco Bowl Incident; Trump thinks insulting people is hilarious. He's a sadist.

Sez Who? Apparently nobody told Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen that Trump was losing:

     ... Update: Sez He. Wherein Trump's Lawyer Demonstrates How to Bluster Your Way out of a Disaster. Hunter Walker of Yahoo! News: "In a conversation with Yahoo News shortly after the conversation aired, Michael Cohen, an executive vice president and attorney at the Trump Organization, said he believed he 'controlled the interview' with Brianna Keilar. 'I think I unraveled her,' Cohen boasted."

Sometimes "Klinton" Comes out "Killer." (And "Hillary" Sounds Like "Lying.") Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer says she suffered a 'stumble of the tongue' on Tuesday when she seemed to call Hillary Clinton a 'lying killer' during a radio interview. 'People want a fighter. They're tired of the lying killer, uh, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clintons of the world,' Brewer told Mac & Gaydos on KTAR News.... Brewer said she just mispronounced Clinton's name. 'I was trying to say Hillary Clinton,' Brewer said. 'It was a stumble of the tongue.'" CW: It's true that "Hillary Klinten" is practically an anagram for "Lyin' Killer." So an easy mistake to make.

** Michael Crowley of Politico on how Vladimir Putin played former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi (and other European leaders) & how Berlusconi rewarded Putin. "'The parallels with Trump are a little too disturbing,' says a U.S. government analyst who closely tracked Russia's relationship with Europe.... 'Putin is very strategic. He would focus on people's vulnerabilities -- whether their vanity or greed or financial needs.'" -- CW

Other News & Views

Robert Pear & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "... the Obama administration is preparing a major push to enroll new participants into public marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. The administration is eyeing an advertising campaign featuring testimonials from newly insured consumers, as well as direct appeals to young people hit by tax penalties this year for failing to enroll. But as many insurers continue to lose money on the exchanges, they say the administration's response is too late and too weak.... And the uneasy truce between the government and insurers, which followed adoption of the health care law, appears to be fraying...." CW: Excuse me, those greedy bastards can't do their own damned advertising?? More corporate welfare for the poor, pitiful health insurance industry. Where's my tiny violin? ...

... Jonathan Cohn & Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post: "The big health care news this week came from Aetna, which announced on Monday it was dramatically scaling back participation in the Affordable Care Act.... Aetna officials said the pullout was necessary because of Obamacare's problems ― specifically, deep losses the insurer was incurring in the law’s health insurance exchanges. But the move also was directly related to a Department of Justice decision to block the insurer's potentially lucrative merger with Humana, according to a letter from Aetna's CEO.... In [the] letter to the Department of Justice, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini ... made a clear threat: If President Barack Obama's administration refused to allow the merger to proceed, he wrote, Aetna would be in worse financial position and would have to withdraw from most of its Obamacare markets, and quite likely all of them." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "Federal inmates made thousands of defective combat helmets for the U.S. military at a prison facility that was rife with problems, including the use of degraded armor and the submission of preselected helmets for inspection to make sure they would get approved, according to a newly released investigative report.... Overall, 126,052 Army helmets were recalled, and monetary losses and costs to the government totaled nearly $19.1 million, according to [a GAO] report.... Federal prosecutors decided not to press charges against anyone involved, either at ArmorSource[, a private general contractor,] or at the FPI [Federal Prison Industries, a government-owned subcontractor,] plant in Texas, the report said....The Justice Department said in March that information in the case emerged when two whistleblowers who worked for FPI, Melessa Ponzio and Sharon Clubb, filed complaints." -- CW

Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "The United States and its allies can't figure out what to do about Khalifa Hifter, the Libyan general whose refusal to support a fragile unity government has jeopardized hopes for stability in a country plagued by conflict.... He's a grandfather and longtime Washington suburbanite who now commands a powerful fighting force in northern Africa. He's also a former CIA asset and anti-Islamist warrior who stands in the way of peace in Libya." -- CW

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Procedures allowing Michigan voters to easily cast straight-ticket ballots look likely to remain in place for this fall's election after a federal appeals court refused to restore a law that would have ended the practice. A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion Wednesday declining the state's request to overturn a judge's order finding that the straight-ticket voting option was heavily relied on by African-Americans and that the state's attempt to ban it appears to violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Linda Greenhouse: "Against [a] background [of cases in which the courts have refused to judge the motives of legislators], it's worth stopping to observe a notable development this summer. In the face of spurious explanations for public policies that would foreseeably inflict real damage on identifiable groups of people, judges and justices are abandoning the traditional diffidence of the judicial role and expressing a new willingness to call out legislatures for what they are really doing, not just what they say they are doing.... Something has happened this summer that matters. Legislators, perhaps assuming they had friends in high judicial places, had taken bold, even flagrant steps to suppress the black vote and restrict women's access to abortion. Judges responded, and ... these decisions mark a departure and make a difference." -- CW ...

     ... BTW, notice the difference between Justice Breyer's Cartesian employment of "common sense" and the Trumpian version, which embraces ignorance as a virtue: "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things."

Beyond the Beltway

Ray Sanchez of CNN: "Sylville Smith and the Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot him had crossed paths before a lethal encounter that led to days of unrest, according to Smith's relatives and friends.... Smith's sister, Sherelle, said her brother and the officer attended the same school at one time.... 'He didn't like my brother. The officer had a career, but my brother was more popular. He used to harass Sylville.'" -- CW ...

... Ashley Luthern & Ellen Gabler of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The unrest in [Milwaukee's] Sherman Park after a fatal police shooting Saturday appears to have mostly abated, but the social media communication that helped fuel it has, if anything, intensified and focused on the officer. As of Tuesday, at least 3,000 people have shared a Facebook photo of the 24-year-old Milwaukee patrolman who fatally shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith -- some of them adding furious and threatening comments. 'Now y'all see his face if he's seen anywhere in the city drop him,' read one post. Another called for a gun so the person could 'shoot him right in his head. The posters gave the officer's name, Dominique Heaggan, and some included his home address. The Journal Sentinel has independently confirmed his identity, which has not been released by the Police Department." -- CW

Way Beyond

Tim Arango & Ceylan Yeginsu of the New York Times: "Turkey said on Wednesday that it would empty its prisons of tens of thousands of criminals to make room for the wave of journalists, teachers, lawyers and judges rounded up in connection with last month's failed coup. The startling decision to put so many criminals convicted of nonviolent offenses back on the streets is a measure of the strains on the state as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expands a wide-ranging purge of those suspected of being enemies of the government. The efforts have created gaping holes in government institutions, the judiciary, schools, the news media and countless other professions." -- CW

Jonathan Katz of the New York Times: "For the first time since a cholera epidemic believed to be imported by United Nations peacekeepers began killing thousands of Haitians nearly six years ago, the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the United Nations played a role in the initial outbreak and that a 'significant new set of U.N. actions' will be needed to respond to the crisis." -- CW

Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "The second in command of North Korea's embassy in London defected to South Korea with his family, officials in Seoul said on Wednesday, making him one of the most senior officials to seek asylum there from Pyongyang's diplomatic corps. Defections of senior North Korea officials are relatively rare, and the flight of Thae Yong Ho to South Korea marked an embarrassing blow to the authoritarian government of Kim Jong Un." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Here's a weird follow-up to a story I linked a few days ago. Simon Romero of the New York Times: "A Brazilian judge on Wednesday issued an order to prevent Ryan Lochte and James Feigen, two of the American swimmers who claimed they were robbed at gunpoint ... by men who identified themselves as police officers ... during the Olympic Games, from leaving the country.... But Mr. Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, had already left Brazil before the judge issued the order.... Now, questions about the Americans' testimony to the police are turning that embarrassment into anger, with many Brazilians wondering whether the athletes lied about the episode and smeared their country's reputation.... Investigators have not found evidence corroborating the account, according to local news reports...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede (with Michael Schmidt added to byline): "Two American swimmers were pulled off their flight to the United States by the Brazilian authorities, Olympic officials said Wednesday night, the latest indication that the police were skeptical of the swimmers' claims that they had been held up at gunpoint during the Rio Games. 'We can confirm that Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their flight to the United States by Brazilian authorities,' a spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee said. 'We are gathering further information.'" -- CW ...

... MEANWHILE. Sean Ingle of the Guardian: "A member of the British Olympic team in Rio has been held up at gunpoint while enjoying a night on the town. The news has caused deep shock among British athletes and officials – many of whom were looking forward to enjoying Rio’s nightlife after finishing their competitions. It has also led to an unprecedented warning to Team GB members that it is 'not worth the risk' to leave the athletes village because of fears they might be targeted if they are seen wearing a British kit." -- CW

News Lede

New York Times: "Harry Briggs Jr., whose parents originated the pivotal lawsuit that struck down public school segregation in 1954, but whose name was relegated by fate to a forgotten legal footnote, died on Aug. 9 in the Bronx. He was 75.... Mr. Briggs's parents were furious that 8-year-old Harry and his fellow black students in Clarendon County, S.C., were forced to walk as far as 10 miles to attend classes while whites were bused at public expense to their own segregated school. With Harry Briggs Sr. listed alphabetically as the lead plaintiff, the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. filed suit in 1949 against the school district in a case argued by Thurgood Marshall, who would become the first black justice of the United States Supreme Court. When it reached the Supreme Court, Briggs v. Elliott was merged with four similar cases and became known collectively as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. The N.A.A.C.P. lawyers argued that segregation itself, and the concept of 'separate but equal' schools for blacks and whites, violated the 14th Amendment’s 'equal protection' guarantee." -- CW


The Commentariat -- August 17, 2016

Afternoonish Update:

Jonathan Cohn & Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post: "The big health care news this week came from Aetna, which announced on Monday it was dramatically scaling back participation in the Affordable Care Act.... Aetna officials said the pullout was necessary because of Obamacare's problems ― specifically, deep losses the insurer was incurring in the law's health insurance exchanges. But the move also was directly related to a Department of Justice decision to block the insurer's potentially lucrative merger with Humana, according to a letter from Aetna's CEO.... In [the] letter to the Department of Justice, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini ... made a clear threat: If President Barack Obama's administration refused to allow the merger to proceed, he wrote, Aetna would be in worse financial position and would have to withdraw from most of its Obamacare markets, and quite likely all of them." -- CW

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Procedures allowing Michigan voters to easily cast straight-ticket ballots look likely to remain in place for this fall's election after a federal appeals court refused to restore a law that would have ended the practice. A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion Wednesday declining the state's request to overturn a judge's order finding that the straight-ticket voting option was heavily relied on by African-Americans and that the state's attempt to ban it appears to violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act." -- CW

Here's a weird follow-up to a story I linked a few days ago. Simon Romero of the New York Times: "A Brazilian judge on Wednesday issued an order to prevent Ryan Lochte and James Feigen, two of the American swimmers who claimed they were robbed at gunpoint ... by men who identified themselves as police officers ... during the Olympic Games, from leaving the country.... But Mr. Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, had already left Brazil before the judge issued the order.... Now, questions about the Americans' testimony to the police are turning that embarrassment into anger, with many Brazilians wondering whether the athletes lied about the episode and smeared their country's reputation.... Investigators have not found evidence corroborating the account, according to local news reports...." -- CW

Not sure Akhilleus should be quite to so helpful to Trump, but he's just saved the Trump campaign a bundle on those ads Trump is supposed to start running this week: change the "2" in 2012 to a "6" & take the "c" out of Mickey Mouse to make it Mikey Mouse, and they're done. Production costs: $147:

Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "The second in command of North Korea's embassy in London defected to South Korea with his family, officials in Seoul said on Wednesday, making him one of the most senior officials to seek asylum there from Pyongyang's diplomatic corps. Defections of senior North Korea officials are relatively rare, and the flight of Thae Yong Ho to South Korea marked an embarrassing blow to the authoritarian government of Kim Jong Un." -- CW

Presidential Race

Zach Montellaro of Politico: "Hillary Clinton's campaign on Tuesday pushed back against rumors circulating on right-wing media sites that her health is failing... 'While it is dismaying to see the Republican nominee for president push deranged conspiracy theories in a foreign policy speech, it's no longer surprising,' said Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's communication director, in the statement. Clinton's campaign also released a statement from her doctor, Dr. Lisa Bardack, who reiterated the Democratic nominee was in good health and said documents circulating under her name that said otherwise were fake.... Trump said in a speech Monday that Clinton 'lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS.'" -- CW ...

... Niall Stanage of the Hill: "Trump also alluded to a purported lack of vigor on Clinton's part last week, when he said that her speeches 'don't last long. They're like 10 minutes and let's get out of here. Go back home and go to sleep,' the GOP presidential nominee continued. 'Three days later, she gets back up and does another one and goes back home and goes to sleep.' Allegations that Clinton suffers from serious health problems have been heard within the conservative media ecosystem for several years, where they have flourished despite any solid evidence to support them." CW: Hillary should definitely give more hours-long, rambling, crazy dictator speeches to prove her "vigor."

Countdown to a Congressional Sieve. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. on Tuesday handed over to Congress documents related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server after House Republicans pushed the bureau to surrender material it had gathered before it concluded last month that she should not face criminal charges. The documents were believed to include notes from the F.B.I.'s 3½-hour interview with Mrs. Clinton in early July, the last step in a lengthy investigation into her email practices as secretary of state that continues to dog her run for president." -- CW ...

... Matt Zapotosky & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "The FBI on Tuesday forcefully defended its decision not to criminally charge Hillary Clinton in connection with her use of a private email server as secretary of state in a letter to lawmakers that laid out its rationale for refusing to do so.... It marked yet another occasion in which FBI leadership responded to -- and in some cases, rebutted -- GOP claims about why the Democratic presidential nominee should have been charged." The letter, which Rep. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) released today, is here (pdf). It "seemed to take aim at some ongoing conservative criticisms of Clinton -- particularly that she was negligent in her handling of classified information and thus deserving of criminal charges." -- CW

CW: Even as we amuse ourselves with the disaster that is the Republican Party in the Era of Trump, we should remember that the Democratic party is now and has been for perhaps decades its own worst enemy. As Jeffrey Frank of the New Yorker asked today, "Why-oh-why has a country so large and diverse ended up with ... Hillary Clinton, who is neither liked nor trusted by a majority of Americans and is perhaps the Democrat most vulnerable to Trump's loathsome and increasingly strange campaign...?" And how is it, I would ask, that her only quasi-viable alternative was a cranky old guy who came from outside the party? There is something wrong with the two-party system, and it is the two parties.

** Ashley Parker & Maggie Haberman
of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump has shaken up his presidential campaign for the second time in two months, hiring a top executive from the conservative website Breitbart News and promoting a senior adviser in an effort to right his faltering campaign. Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign's chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster for Mr. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will become the campaign manager. Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, will retain his title. But the staffing change, hammered out on Sunday and set to be formally announced Wednesday morning, was seen by some as a demotion for Mr. Manafort...." -- CW ...

You know, I am who I am. It's me. I don't want to change. Everyone talks about, 'Oh, well, you're going to pivot, you're going to.' I don't want to pivot. I mean, you have to be you. -- Donald Trump, Tuesday

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post, in a straight news story, "Donald Trump, following weeks of gnawing agitation over his advisers' attempts to temper his style, moved late Tuesday to overhaul his struggling campaign by rebuffing those efforts and elevating two longtime associates who have encouraged his combative populism.... Trump's stunning decision effectively ended the months-long push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump's presentation and pitch for the general election.... Moving forward, he plans to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.... [Stephen] Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been urging Trump for months not to mount a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable.... Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist." CW: The Clinton team must be dancing for joy. ...

... Greg Sargent: "Either Trump is delusional, to the point of being entirely incapable of appreciating why he's currently losing to Hillary Clinton. Or he has a diabolical plan to break apart the Republican Party and pocket a big chunk of it for himself, for post-election fun and profit. My money is on the former.... Trump remains trapped in the mental universe he inhabited during the primaries. That was a place where the size of his crowds at rallies actually did portend victories over less colorful and entertaining opponents.... One other explanation for Trump's latest moves comes courtesy of CNN's Brian Stelter, who suggested this morning that Trump may be positioning himself to launch a new media enterprise after a November loss. Bannon and former Fox exec Roger Ailes (who is also advising Trump), Stelter noted, would be just the team for Trump to do that." -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "I think Trump believes he's finally righting the ship. Campaigning the way he wants to campaign has to work, because he's masterminded 'a flawless campaign' (his words) -- or at least it was flawless until people who had doubts about his genius instincts began to meddle.... Trump has spent years imbibing the right-wing media message that 'real Americans' are all angry white Fox viewers, and that white liberals, white moderates, and non-whites who are skeptical of wingnuttery either don't exist or are undocumented aliens or only show up in electoral vote totals becaue of voter fraud. In this view, there's no difference between the Republican primary electorate and the general electorate -- those folks are 'taking their country back,' and everyone who's not them took possession of the country through evil subterfuge." -- CW

He's an evil genius. He doesn't work statesmen. He works dictators and all-round bastards. He sells the unsellable product. If you have a dead horse and you need to sell it, you call him. He works bad guys. They pay more, of course. -- Alex Kovzhun, an aide to former Ukraine President Yulia Tymoshenko, on Paul Manafort

... Luke Harding of the Guardian in a long piece on how Paul Manafort "got a strongman elected in Ukraine." "Strongman" is a putting it mildly: Viktor Yanukovych, a brutal Russian puppet who probably had one opponent poisoned and did have another jailed on fake corruption charges, ran the country like a fiefdom, & escaped to Russia just ahead of the pitchforks. "Manafort has denied any wrongdoing." ...

... CW: It would be harder in the U.S. for President Trump to go full-Yanukovych, but he could come close, and the rewards could be much greater. Think about it. He could declare some kind of Trumped-up war-on-terrorism emergency, suspend habeas corpus, charge any of his opponents (would that include McConnell & Ryan or would these mouseketeers continue to enable the U.S.'s first dictator?) with treason or other high crimes, lock 'em up & throw away the key. He could impose curfews on "certain areas" and send out some military force to "maintain order." And so forth. Meanwhile, Trump's "brain trust," with his complicity, would be using their association with Trump to rake in billions for themselves & Trump. We are one election away from government-by-"strongman." BTW, it isn't a crazy conspiracy theory when there's precedent for it. Manafort's former clients are the precedent. ...

.... Louis Nelson of Politico: "Donald Trump's campaign defended its embattled chairman, Paul Manafort, on Tuesday, pushing back against reports that the former consultant had received secret cash payments from a deposed Ukrainian leader with close ties to the Kremlin -- while being careful to distance Manafort from any possible wrongdoing by the candidate himself. Manafort's connections to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine, won't hurt Trump's campaign, vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said Tuesday, because 'he's not running for president.'" -- CW ...

... A Web of Intrigue. Jeff Horwitz & Desmond Butler of the AP: Paul Manafort, "Donald Trump's campaign chairman, helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy.... One of the lobbying firms Manafort and [his associate Rick] Gates [who also is part of the Trump campaign] worked with -- the Podesta Group -- has strong Democratic ties." -- CW

... Heavy Petting between Donaldavich and the Russians. Whoo. Simon Shuster (is that a real name? If the guy's middle name begins with an "N", I'll go home happy) of Time, covers the Russian take on Donald Trump's big foreign policy speech: "'Trump is not only our candidate,' [Alexander Dugin] told Time. 'He is the savior of the USA.'... Even during the Cold War, the Kremlin often preferred to deal with more conservative American statesmen, because they were less prone to cloaking their real agenda with talk about the need to promote democracy and human rights. That prejudice persists to this day, says Gleb Pavlovsky, who served as an adviser to [Vladimir] Putin between 2000 and 2011. 'There is that old ghost in the Kremlin machine,' he says, 'that belief that more conservative, more anti-liberal candidates turn out to be more willing to negotiate.'... [Russian TV] anchors continued to shill for [Trump's] campaign while casting his rival, Hillary Clinton, as the latest figurehead of the great anti-Russian conspiracy. -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Shuster is the real deal. Here's one of his stories on the fighting in Ukraine in 2014. Somebody named Vanya captured Shuster: "... without saying a word to me, he pulled me from the car and cracked me on the head with the butt of his pistol. It wasn't clear then, and it's not clear in hindsight, whether he counts as a terrorist, a freedom fighter or just an average thug." Apparently that's not the only time Shuster was captured by, well, somebody in Ukraine.

** Tweedledee to Coach Tweedledumb. Maggie Haberman & Ashley Parker: "Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chairman ousted last month over charges of sexual harassment, is advising Donald J. Trump as he begins to prepare for the all-important presidential debates this fall. Mr. Ailes is aiding Mr. Trump's team as it turns its attention to the first debate with Hillary Clinton ... on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island, according to four people briefed on the move.... Two of them said that Mr. Ailes's role could extend beyond the debates...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: "My top guy is a Kremlin fixer, and his second is a serial sex abuser. You've never seen a campaign like this," Trump said. ...

     ... Update. Tom McCarthy & Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "Donald Trump's campaign has denied multiple reports that disgraced Fox News creator Roger Ailes has been brought in to help the candidate prepare to face Hillary Clinton on the debate stage next month." -- CW

Mike Levine & John Santucci of ABC News: Donald Trump "is scheduled to receive his first classified briefing [today].... Trump is planning to take with him New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former Defense Intelligence Agency director who has become an outspoken supporter of Trump, a senior campaign official said. Career staffers from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the nation's top intelligence office, will be leading the briefing, which is expected to cover major threats and emerging concerns around the world." -- CW

Russ Buettner of the New York Times on how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie cut $25 million off Donald Trump's unpaid tax bills: "Tax authorities sometimes settle for lesser amounts to avoid the costs and risks of further litigation, legal experts said, but the steep discount granted to the Trump casinos and the relationship between the two men raise inevitable questions about special treatment.... Public records do not create a clear picture of how the agreement was reached." -- CW

CW: In case you haven't noticed, everything about Trump & his associates reeks.

Politico: Donald Trump issued a 'pledge to the American people' on Tuesday night via his Facebook page, vowing to treat all Americans equally and 'reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all its forms.' 'This is my pledge to the American people: as your President I will be your greatest champion. I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally,' ... [Trump] wrote." CW: So I guess we were all wrong about him.

Shane Goldmacher of Politico: "Donald Trump made a new and explicit plea for the support of black voters on Tuesday, saying the Democratic Party had 'failed and betrayed' them and accusing Hillary Clinton of 'bigotry' in the pursuit of minority voters. 'We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton which panders to and talks down to communities of color and sees them only as votes -- that's all they care about -- not as individual human beings worthy of a better future,' Trump said at a rally in Wisconsin." CW: There are bridges to Harlem, and Donald Trump is ready to sell them to you.

Molly O'Toole of Foreign Policy: In his so-called national security address, Donald Trump "either seemed to borrow heavily from the president he just last week said 'founded' the Islamic State or described actions that were divorced from reality.... Trump seemed to advocate for a practice associated with nation building that is broadly prohibited by international law: nation plundering." CW: A nice rebuttal to the stupid. Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Robin Wright of the New Yorker: "The speech was xenophobic in spirit but vague on specifics. The centerpiece of his plan is the Commission on Radical Islam, which he promised to establish as one of his first acts as President." -- CW

Richard Hasen, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "Donald Trump has begun claiming that the only way he can lose the 2016 presidential election is if the voting is rigged. But if there's a threat to the integrity of the election, it's coming from Trump himself, and the best response may be for Democrats and voting rights activists to take him to court to protect the franchise.... Over the weekend, Trump upped his dangerous rhetoric, suggesting that in November cheating at the polls in 'certain sections of the state' would hand Pennsylvania's electoral votes to Clinton.... Trump's 'certain sections' reference is a dog whistle to ... urban areas such as Philadelphia, with large black populations.... Trump's website is also recruiting 'observers' to stop 'Crooked Hillary' from 'rigging this election.' There's a reason most states have laws against anything that might be construed as voter intimidation near polling places.... If anyone is trying to rig the vote, it's Trump." -- CW

... Anecdote from Hasen's op-ed: In recent memory, the only publicized case involving someone voting in high multiples was a supporter of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker when Walker was up for a recall. The voter tried to vote five times in the recall and seven more times in four other elections. He was easily caught, well before Wisconsin passed its strict voter ID law. The voter claimed amnesia; his lawyer argued he suffered from mental illness. ...

... CW: Were I on the jury hearing the case against the fraudster, I could easily be convinced a person who voted for Scott Walker "suffered from mental illness."

James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "'God help us,' George Shultz said yesterday when asked about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. Ronald Reagan's secretary of state has compiled a 226-page 'Blueprint for America,' with contributions from 10 scholars at the Hoover Institution -- the conservative-leaning think tank where he is a distinguished fellow. The book is intended to provide the next president with advice about how to ensure America's long-term greatness, including sections on the importance of an open immigration system, free trade and entitlement reform. But it is a little awkward because the GOP nominee is running against each of those three concepts. He also seems uninterested in the finer points of policy-making." -- CW

Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune, republished in the Washington Post: "Former Texas governor Rick Perry (R) is defending Donald Trump's war of words with the family of a fallen Muslim soldier, saying the father 'struck the first blow' against the Republican presidential nominee and is not above criticism in return. 'In a campaign, if you're going to go out and think that you can take a shot at somebody and not have incoming coming back at you, shame on you,' Perry said in an interview Tuesday on CNN." -- CW ...

... digby: "I guess Perry didn't bother to watch the RNC because there was a lady there who personally blamed Hillary Clinton for the death of her son and said 'Hillary for Prison, she deserves to be in stripes!' --- for something that eight different investigations have shown she did not do. And the Democrats and Clinton didn't 'hit back.'" -- CW: Yes, but Mr. Khan got up there and asked if Trump had read the Constitution. And Mrs. Khan didn't say a word! Gloves, off!

One More Profile in Cowardice. Cristiano Lima of Politico: "Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner ended months of speculation Tuesday by announcing his support for Donald Trump's presidential candidacy, bolstering the Republican nominee's pitch in a state where his polling numbers have fallen recently." -- CW

Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "... Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday that he was using 'abbreviated language' when he claimed that the U.S. had seen no terror attacks carried out by Islamic extremists before President Barack Obama came into office.... 'I didn't forget 9/11. I hardly would. I almost died in it,' he said." CW: Yo, Rudy, "abbreviated language" is when you leave out the noun, the verb or 9/11. What you mean is that you used "elided language," which you apparently think allows you to skip over several incovenient incidents that occurred during Dubya's time in office. BTW, as you must have forgot, you've made this same claim before, & PolitiFact gave you a Pants-on-Fire rating for it.

Lauren Fox of TPM: "Trump adviser Al Baldasaro clarified for the record Tuesday that he doesn't think Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, but rather thinks she should be shot by firing squad for 'treason.' Baldasaro, who co-chairs Trump's veteran coalition, told MassLive.com Tuesday that he believes the media misinterpreted his comments.... 'What you in the liberal media consider rhetoric, I consider freedom of speech,' Baldasaro told MassLive." CW: Maybe somebody should explain to Baldasaro that freedom of speech -- or "rhetoric -- has limits: inciting violence and hate crimes, for instance, are unlawful.

Congressional Races

Maggie Severns of Politico: "Liz Cheney won the GOP primary for Wyoming's at-large House seat Tuesday, clearing the biggest hurdle to Congress for the national security hawk and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney." -- CW

The campaign of New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), who is challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), put out this press release Tuesday: "Despite the fact that Kelly Ayotte has made clear that she continues to support Donald Trump for President, she has repeatedly refused to answer whether she trusts him with the nuclear launch codes. Instead, Ayotte cited congressional oversight of the Oval Office, apparently unaware that the President can launch nuclear weapons unilaterally." CW: So, two-faced AND ignorant. Via Greg Sargent. As Sargent says, "This will continue to resonate."

Other News & Views

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "Vice President Biden received a cold welcome Tuesday in Belgrade, Serbia, as hundreds of ultranationalists marched through the city chanting 'Vote for Trump!'... However, the embittered 2016 U.S. presidential race -- and perhaps Biden's history of support for the NATO bombing of Serbia in the 1990s -- prompted self-described radicals onto the street." The Serbian Radical party, an "ultranationalist" group, which was behind the pro-Trump protest, has also aligned itself with Libya's Moammar Gaddafi. -- CW

Hackers Hack Hackers, & the NSA -- and Others -- Are Compromised. Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "Some of the most powerful espionage tools created by the National Security Agency's elite group of hackers have been revealed in recent days, a development that could pose severe consequences for the spy agency's operations and the security of government and corporate computers. A cache of hacking tools with code names such as Epicbanana, Buzzdirection and Egregiousblunder appeared mysteriously online over the weekend, setting the security world abuzz with speculation over whether the material was legitimate." -- CW ...

... David Sanger of the New York Times: "Most outside experts who examined the posts, by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, said they contained what appeared to be genuine samples of the code -- though somewhat outdated -- used in the production of the N.S.A.'s custom-built malware. Most of the code was designed to break through network firewalls and get inside the computer systems of competitors like Russia, China and Iran.... [Edward] Snowden..., in a Twitter message from his exile in Moscow, declared that 'circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility' for publication, which he interpreted as a warning shot to the American government in case it was thinking of imposing sanctions against Russia in the cybertheft of documents from the Democratic National Committee." -- CW ...

... "The Americans," Updated? Paul Szoldra of Business Insider: "According to ex-NSA insiders who spoke with Business Insider, the agency's hackers don't just put their exploits and toolkits online where they can potentially be pilfered. The more likely scenario for where the data came from, says ex-NSA research scientist Dave Aitel, is an insider who downloaded it onto a USB stick. Instead of a 'hack,' Aitel believes, it's much more likely that this was a more classic spy operation that involved human intelligence." -- CW

Carolyn Johnson of the Washington Post: "Aetna, the nation's third largest health insurer, announced Monday night the most significant departure yet from the marketplaces set up by President Obama's signature health care law. The company, citing $430 million in losses selling insurance to individuals since January of 2014, will slash its participation from 15 states to four next year." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other healthcare reform advocates are revving up their push for a 'public option' after Aetna's retreat from the ObamaCare marketplace this week. Sanders on Tuesday vowed to bring back debate on a government-run insurance option, one day after the nation's third-largest insurer announced a major pullback from the exchanges. The senator said he will reintroduce his legislation to create a 'Medicare-for-all' system in the next session of the Senate, 'hopefully' after Democrats regain control of the chamber." -- CW ...

... New York Times Editors: ObamaCare "has survived many setbacks, and it will overcome Aetna’s decision, too.... There have been questions about Aetna's motives. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the insurer could be pressuring the Justice Department to drop or settle a lawsuit it filed last month to block Aetna's proposed $37 billion acquisition of Humana.... Congress should strengthen the marketplaces to ensure sufficient competition. For example, it could encourage more healthy people to buy insurance by extending tax credits to families that now earn too much to qualify.... The only sensible response to those problems is to improve the law." -- CW

Jonah Bromwich of the New York Times: The Louisiana floods are the result of climate change. "That's what many scientists, analysts and activists are saying after heavy rains in southern Louisiana have killed at least 11 people and forced tens of thousands of residents from their homes, in the latest in a series of extreme floods that have occurred in the United States over the last two years. That increase in heavy rainfall and the resultant flooding 'is consistent with what we expect to see in the future if you look at climate models,' said David Easterling, a director at the National Centers for Environmental Information.... 'Not just in the U.S. but in many other parts of the world as well.'" -- CW

Profile in Courage ... and Constancy. Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker profiles Bryan Stevenson. "In 1989, a twenty-nine-year-old African-American civil-rights lawyer named Bryan Stevenson moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and founded an organization that became the Equal Justice Initiative. It guarantees legal representation to every inmate on the state's death row. Over the decades, it has handled hundreds of capital cases, and has spared a hundred and twenty-five offenders from execution. In recent years, Stevenson has also argued the appeals of prisoners around the country who were convicted of various crimes as juveniles and given long sentences or life in prison." -- CW ...

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Sydney Ember of the New York Times: "Gawker Media, whose fierce independence afforded it an unsparing approach to web journalism that influenced news organizations across the internet and the wider media world, was sold to Univision at auction on Tuesday, giving the freewheeling company an outside owner for the first time since its founding 14 years ago. Univision bid $135 million to beat out the digital media publisher Ziff Davis, according to three people with direct knowledge of the deal.... A bankruptcy judge is to officially approve the sale at a hearing later this week." CW: For years, billionaire Peter Thiel hounded Gawker by secrectly funding lawsuits against the news & gossip outlet; yesterday, the NYT gave him real estate for an op-ed I didn't read.

Beyond the Beltway

Angela Couloumbis & Craig R. McCoy of Philly.com: "Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane [D], who was convicted Monday of perjury and other crimes, will resign Wednesday, her once-promising career in state politics felled by a fixation on seeking revenge against enemies that led her to break the law." -- CW

Scott Dolan & Megan Doyle of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald: "An Iranian man who came to Maine as a refugee in 2009 became radicalized in his Islamic faith while living here and was fighting for the Islamic State when he was killed last year in Lebanon, according to newly unsealed federal court documents. Adnan Fazeli, 38, most recently of Freeport, came under investigation by the FBI for his connection to the terrorist group shortly after he left his job at Dubai Auto in Portland to fly to Turkey on Aug. 13, 2013, and never returned." -- CW

News Lede

Los Angeles Times: "Firefighters on Wednesday continued their battle with a brush fire that exploded out of control in the Cajon Pass and has rapidly scorched through 30,000 acres. Walls of flames forced more than 80,000 people to evacuate and destroyed an unknown number of homes in several rural San Bernardino County communities." -- CW ...

... The LA Times has live updates here.


A History of Trump in Twelve Objects

By Akhilleus

This weekend I spent a few glorious hours happily rummaging through a book with the irresistible title "A History of the World in 100 Objects". The objects selected hold special places as landmarks in our march, as a species, from brutish existence to civilization. Included are a stone age ice axe, a ceremonial box from the legendary city of Ur, a Han Dynasty lacquer cup, the Rosetta Stone, and a print of a rhinoceros made by the great Albrecht Dürer.

Then I got to thinking that we now have a front row seat as the Confederate Party and their candidate turn back the clock, zooming back from civilized behavior to club wielding cave dwellers intent on braining their neighbors if they get too close to the puddle they use for drinking water.

And wondering if there were any significant artifacts and landmarks that have marked the way backwards, I hit upon an idea for a very different kind of exhibit:

A history of Trump in twelve objects (because ten is just not good enough for Trump)

1. Medal for best made bed. When not prancing around a phony parade ground in a War of 1812 uniform, Donaldo did an excellent job of tucking in the sheets on his bed. This is the crucial experience he will call upon in later years as proof of his claim that he does so know what it's like to be in the military. Good job, General Donnie. But watch that pillow case!

2. Stack of Chapter 11 filings and pink slips representing the thousands investors who lost their shirts and former employees who lost their jobs because of Trump's incompetence as a "deal maker".

3. Full page NY Daily News ad taken out promoting the execution of five young black men for a crime of which they were innocent.

4. Salami and provolone sandwich still in the wrapper. A gift from Vinnie "Big Balls" (no last name), Trump's contact for business dealings with the mob to "keep things moving" on his development projects. *

4. Scale model of Mexican Wall. Kept in his 20,000 sq. ft. luxury penthouse, where he moves little figurines around in front of the wall, giving them a cheesy Speedy Gonzales accent in which they beg Donaldo to let them come in so they can rape some white women, por favor, Señor Trumpe.

6. Purple Heart. Unearned. Taken from a veteran who put his life on the line to receive it. Trump chuckled that he'd always wanted one of those, but sure was glad he didn't have to get wounded to receive one, as he grinned and pocketed the medal.

7. Legal agreement with the Justice Department, signed by Trump preventing Trump and his father from further “discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling", the successful result of Fair Housing Act violations suit brought against the Trumps for refusing to rent to black families.

8. Орден Ленина: The Order of Lenin, for services rendered to the Russian State. Putin had a bunch of leftovers and guessed that Donaldavich, being so fond of medals (the bed making, the Purple Heart, etc) would love it. This one he actually earned.

9. Diploma from Trump University. Fake diploma from scam university set up to fleece the gullible. Trump in a nutshell.

10. A Trump tie, made in China so as not to provide a single job for Americans. Could this be how China is beating us?

11. Tarnished Miss Universe tiara, symbol of Trump's bona fides as an expert in foreign policy. "Now, over here is Miss Ukraine. Whoa, nice rack, baby. Come show Uncle Don."

12. Gold plated flush handle from the toilet on a Trump Shuttle plane. The fabulously successful shuttle service went out of business 18 months after Trump took over. Cue toilet flushing sound.

Feel the magic, America.

Exhibit will remain open until election day.

* CW Note: Good thing the panino is still in the wrapper. Otherwise, we couldn't be sure the ingredients came from mob-controlled distributors.