The Wires

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June 20: New York Times: "You may be hunched over your phone right now, worrying about reports that young people are growing horns on their skulls from spending too much time hunched over smartphones.... Recent articles by the BBC and the Washington Post have cited a 2018 study in the journal Scientific Reports saying that these bone growths have been turning up more often than expected in people aged 18 to 30. The study suggests that 'sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets,' are to blame.... Experts give the report mixed reviews." ...

     ... Update. Uh, it seems one of the authors of the "scientific study" is a chiropractor called David Shahar, who used his own patients as subjects of the study AND, according to Quartz, is "the creator of Dr. Posture, an online store that advertises information and products related to forward head posture. One section tells users how to 'look and feel your best in three easy steps,' which include watching a video by Shahar, downloading at-home exercises, and sleeping with a Thoracic Pillow, which Shahar has trademarked and sold for $195." So hunch over, pick up your phones, & call your friends with the good news that the "study" is more likely a marketing scam than a warning about another dire effect of cellphone use. Thanks to safari for the link.

 

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Monday
Jul152019

The Commentariat -- July 16, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

... Meg Wagner, et al., of CNN: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking from the House floor today, called President Trump's continued defense of his remarks 'shameful' and added that the 'comments are racist.' While addressing the House of Representatives during the debate over a resolution calling for members to condemn Trump's racist tweets, she quoted former President Ronald Reagan: 'If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.' She added that the Democratic House caucus 'will continue to respond to the attacks on our members which reflect a fundamental disrespect for the beautiful diversity of America.'" ...

     ... Juliegrace Brufke of the Hill: "Republicans on Tuesday demanded that Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) remarks blasting President Trump's comments about four minority congresswomen as racist be removed from the record, freezing action on the floor ahead of a House vote condemning Trump.... After [Rep. Doug] Collins [R-Ga.] asked Pelosi if she would like to rephrase her comments, Pelosi said she had cleared them with the parliamentarian in advance." Mayhem ensued.

Kellyanne Goes There. Matt Wilstein of the Daily Beast: Andrew "Feinberg, a reporter for the website BeltwayBreakfast.com, asked [Kellyanne Conway] which countries ... Donald Trump was referring to when he suggested Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar -- all U.S. citizens -- should 'go back' to where they came from. Instead of answering that question, Conway asked him, 'What's your ethnicity?'... After Conway shares that her ancestors are from Ireland and Italy, the reporter said, 'My ethnicity is not relevant to the question I'm asking you.'" Mrs. McC: In fairness to the lovely Kellyanne, she was having a bad day. Besides working for Trump, "In that same Fox interview, Conway distanced herself from her husband George Conway, whose latest Washington Post column is headlined: 'Trump is a racist president.'"

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "The president's latest defense of his tweets telling the lawmakers to 'go back' to their home countries, even though they are all U.S. citizens, came hours before the House is set to vote on a resolution condemning them as racist. 'Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don't have a Racist bone in my body!' Trump tweeted. Trump condemned the 'so-called vote' on the resolution as a 'Democrat con game,' sending a message to Republicans to vote against the measure. 'Republicans should not show 'weakness' and fall into their trap. This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat,' he tweeted." Mrs. McC: Trump's assertion is partially true inasmuch as bones are not capable of harboring or expressing racist thoughts. ...

... Brendan Morrow of the Week: "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday insisted that President Trump's tweets telling four minority congresswomen to 'go back' to where they came from were not racist. McCarthy in a press conference was asked whether Trump's weekend tweets were racist, to which he flatly responded, 'No,' saying that "this is about ideology" and criticizing the so-called 'squad' that Trump attacked while not offering a specific defense of the language used. McCarthy also said he will vote against the resolution condemning Trump's tweets...." ...

... Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "Those who study language and rhetoric say the president's 'go back' comments -- or, at least, the sentiment behind them -- have roots beginning as far back as the 1600s, when dissidents were banished from American colonies for advocating total religious freedom. Later, a set of laws passed in 1798 allowed the deportation of noncitizens who were considered dangerous, were from hostile nations or had criticized the federal government.... More than 4,800 ... people who wrote to The New York Times to share their own experiences with the phrase...."

Katie Benner & William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "The Justice Department will not bring federal charges against a New York City police officer [Daniel Pantaleo] in the death of Eric Garner, ending a yearslong inquiry into a case that sharply divided officials and prompted national protests over excessive force by the police, according to three people briefed on the decision." ...

... Pete Williams & Minyvonne Burke of NBC News: "According to a senior Justice Department official, U.S. Attorney General William Barr made the final decision not to charge Pantaleo, choosing to follow the recommendations of Brooklyn prosecutors.... A medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide, saying the chokehold was the cause. The chokehold is prohibited by the New York Police Department."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Great White Dope

Eileen Sullivan & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of using racist comments, escalating his attacks on four first-term Democratic congresswomen to the leader of the Democratic Party. Ms. Pelosi had criticized the president on Sunday for suggesting four lawmakers of color should 'go back' to their own countries, and she said that his slogan, '"Make America Great Again" has always been about making America white again.' Mr. Trump in turn accused her of racist remarks. 'So Speaker Pelosi said, "Make America white again." That's a very racist -- that's a very racist statement. I'm surprised she'd say that,' Mr. Trump said at an event celebrating American manufacturing at the White House." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... The story has been updated: "Hours [after Trump's remarks to reporters], the four [Congresswomen] called a news conference to scathingly denounce Mr. Trump's latest remarks, which they argued were part of a pattern of hateful language designed to distract from what they said were brutal policies and misconduct in office.... In a blistering speech that culminated with a call to impeach him, [Rep. Ilhan] Omar recounted a litany of the president's most offensive comments about people of color, women and immigrants.... 'This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms, or it is happening on national TV, and now it is reached the White House garden.'... Even as the four spoke, [Trump] was online calling them 'radical Democrats' and Twitter-shouting, 'IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE!'"

... My Racist Tweets Are Okay Because Many People Agree with Me. Claudia Koerner of BuzzFeed News: "President Trump on Monday claimed his racist tweets attacking progressive congresswomen weren't racist, and he added that he's not concerned about backlash because 'many people' hold his same views.... 'Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and white nationalists are finding common cause with you on that point?' a reporter asked. 'It does not concern me because many people agree with me,' Trump said. 'And all I'm saying, they wanna leave, they can leave. It doesn't say leave forever. It says leave.'"(Also linked yesterday.) The AP reports that Trump added, "A lot of people love it, by the way." ...

Kathryn Krawczyk of the Week: "... in doubling down on [his] attack [on Rep. Ilhan Omar] Monday, Trump falsely accused Omar of 'speaking about how wonderful Al Qaeda is,' despite Omar having no ties to the terrorist group and Trump having no idea how to spell it.... The Washington Post's Jabin Botsford later shared ... photos he captured..., which show that Trump's notes were covered in black marker scribbles reminding him to bring up the mysterious 'alcaida' and the even vaguer 'some people.'" Mrs. McC: Actually, I think that's "Some Peopel"; you be the judge. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'll never be able to spell "Al Qaeda" again. Anyhow, it's worth noting that Trump brought these notes knocking non-white Congresswomen to an event that was supposed to be the "Made in America Product Showcase." ...

... Linda Qiu of the New York Times fact-checks Trump's extended false claim that Omar has talked "about how great Al Qaeda is" and expressed "love ... for enemies like Al Qaeda." ...

... Heather Caygle & John Bresnahan of Politico: "House Democrats are drafting a resolution to condemn ... Donald Trump's racist tweets against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other high-profile freshman congresswomen, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: Trump "ratcheted up his [racist] attack on Monday by asserting that the congresswomen owe him an apology.... 'When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... ** Adam Serwer of the Atlantic: "When Trump told these women to 'go back,' he was not making a factual claim about where they were born. He was stating his ideological belief that American citizenship is fundamentally racial, that only white people can truly be citizens, and that people of color, immigrants in particular, are only conditionally American. This is a cornerstone of white nationalism, and one of the president's few closely held ideological beliefs. It is a moral conviction.... Trump today accused the women of 'foul language & racist hatred.' White nationalists in the United States have always asserted that they are, in fact, the true victims of racial hatred.... Trump's remarks about the representatives followed a week in which he unsuccessfully attempted to overturn a Supreme Court decision that hobbled an administration effort to use the census to expand white voting power. The president's remarks about Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Tlaib are not only consistent with that effort; they provide its moral foundation." Read on. Thanks to Anonymous for the link. ...

... Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times: Trump's "theory of citizenship is an old one, brought back from the margins of American politics and expressed in his crude, demagogic style. And it has found a comfortable place in a Republican Party that elevates its narrow, shrinking base as the only authentic America and would rather restrict the electorate than persuade new voters. With that said, what's more striking than the president's blood-and-soil racism is how Democratic Party elites -- or at least one group of them -- are playing with similar assumptions. It helps explain the current feud between Pelosi and the four congresswomen.... Indeed, it is instructive -- and frankly disturbing -- that top Democrats leaked a poll to Axios showing broad dissatisfaction with Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Omar. Not from the entire public or Democratic voters, but from '1,003 likely general-election voters who are white and have two years or less of college education.'" ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "At a press conference Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said that when she visited Washington, D.C., as a girl, her father showed her the Capitol, the reflecting pool, the Lincoln Memorial, and other sites of American democracy and told her, 'This belongs to all of us.... This weekend that very notion was challenged.'... This was precisely the point: Trump was saying that these four women of color did not belong.... Trump can hardly run a reëlection campaign on policy triumphs.... And so he will sling as much filth as possible and hope his base comes out in sufficient numbers." ...

... "Racism Comes out of the Closet.' Paul Krugman: "Sorry, there's no way to both sides this, or claim that Trump didn't say what he said. This is racism, plain and simple -- nothing abstract about it. And Trump obviously isn't worried that it will backfire. This should be a moment of truth for anyone who describes Trump as a 'populist' or asserts that his support is based on 'economic anxiety.' He's not a populist, he's a white supremacist. His support rests not on economic anxiety, but on racism.... This isn't just about Trump; it's about his whole party.... Although most of the commentary focuses on Trump's demand that native-born Americans 'go back' to their home countries, his description of their imaginary homelands as 'crime infested' deserves some attention, too. For his fixation on crime is another manifestation of his racism."

... Steve M.: "If Trump is doing this now, 16 months before the election, how inflammatory will his rhetoric be by the fall of 2020? He thinks he's bulletproof. He thinks he's an expert on winning elections, based on sample set of one, and is certain that this (rather than Russian interference of James Comey's incompetence) is what worked for him." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Donie O'Sullivan of CNN: "President Trump's weekend tweets in which he used racist language to attack four progressive Democratic congresswomen are not against Twitter's rules, a company spokesperson told CNN Business Monday -- a conclusion apparently contradicted by Twitter's written policies.... Twitter's ... policy on hateful conduct prohibits 'targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.'... The episode represents a tough first test for a new stance Twitter announced less than a month ago, in which it will label and down-rank tweets from Trump and other world leaders that break its rules, rather than removing them." ...

... Jon Allsop of the Columbia Journalism Review runs down how the MSM avoided calling Trump's tweets racist. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Zack Ford of ThinkProgress: "Marc Short, chief of staff to ... Mike Pence, told Fox Business on Monday that ... Donald Trump can't be racist because his current transportation secretary [Elaine Chao] is an Asian immigrant.... Chao's Cabinet role, Short explained, was proof Trump couldn't possibly be racist.... The vast majority of Trump's Cabinet members are white men; Chao and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson are the two notable exceptions." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: And of course Chao has a unique attribute: she's married to Mitch McConnell. Trump can't fire her. ...

... Lindsey Changes His Mind, Embraces McCarthy's Tactics. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) ... attacked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) by name and others by association during a Fox News interview, claiming they were' Communists' who 'hate our own country.'... In the 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) and others famously accused American citizens of secretly being Communists -- often without evidence.... Last year, he angrily denounced the women who had come forward with allegations of sexual predation against Trump's then-Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. 'This is as close to McCarthyism as I hope we get in my lifetime,' he charged." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... If you scroll pretty far down the page, this Politico report by Quint Forgey & Caitlin Oprysko relays reactions from some Republican legislators. ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said Monday that she thinks President Trump';s tweets suggesting that minority Democratic lawmakers 'go back' to the countries they came from was racist.... Asked [by reporters] if she thought Trump's comments were specifically racist, Ernst acknowledged, 'Yeah, I do.' She reiterated that view when asked on another occasion by a CNN reporter if she found Trump's comments racist." ...

... Ron Brownstein at CNN: "... Donald Trump's openly racist and xenophobic attacks on four Democratic House women of color, like his threatened immigration enforcement raids in major cities and the sweeping proposed new restrictions on asylum seekers that he announced Monday, underscores his transformation of the Republican Party into a coalition centered on the voters and places in America most hostile to immigration in particular and demographic change in general. This latest flurry of activity continues the drive by Trump and other Republicans elected mostly from the parts of America least touched by immigration to impose a restrictionist agenda on migration over the nearly undivided opposition of Democrats elected by the areas where most immigrants, both undocumented and legal, actually live.... Hardly any Republicans at any level now represent urban constituencies with the large immigrant populations that Trump has threatened...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is true for most of the country, but those redneck confederate senators from Southern states represent a helluva lot of rural minorites. ...

... Speaking of the Party of White People, Politico Magazine has published another excerpt of Tim Alberta's book, this one on the struggle between Trump & Paul Ryan for "the soul of the Republican party." As if the Republican party had a soul.


Marshall Cohen
, et al., of CNN: "New documents obtained exclusively by CNN reveal that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange received in-person deliveries, potentially of hacked materials related to the 2016 US election, during a series of suspicious meetings at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The documents build on the possibility, raised by special counsel Robert Mueller in his report on Russian meddling, that couriers brought hacked files to Assange at the embassy.The surveillance reports also describe how Assange turned the embassy into a command center and orchestrated a series of damaging disclosures that rocked the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States." Mrs. McC: CNN has produced a fascinating video report, which accompanies the article. Well worth watching.

Morgan Chalfant, et al., of the Hill: "The Trump administration is moving to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced Monday. According to text of the rule set to publish in the Federal Register on Tuesday, asylum seekers who pass through another country before reaching the United States will be ineligible for asylum when they reach the southern border.... The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice announced the Interim Final Rule (IFR) in a joint statement Monday. Under the rule, those who have been the victims of trafficking are granted exceptions. The rule also allows exceptions for migrants passing through countries that have not signed major international refugee treaties and for migrants who have been denied asylum in the countries they traveled through.... 'The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country's legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger,' Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project said in a statement. [']This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... The AP story, by Colleen Long, is here. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Daniella Silva of NBC News: "Immigrant rights advocates and attorneys denounced ... Donald Trump's latest move Monday to restrict asylum at the southern border as the 'most egregious' and 'extreme' policy targeting the form of protection by the administration yet.... Attorney General William Barr called the interim final rule a 'lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum.'... In Guatemala, the State Department's own human rights report in 2018 said 'identification and referral mechanisms for potential asylum-seekers were inadequate.... Both migration and police authorities lacked adequate training concerning the rules for establishing refugee status,' the report said." ...

... Maybe You Missed It. Caitlin Oprysko: "... Donald Trump on Monday asserted that the mass-deportation raids he confirmed and publicized last week took place, despite few signs of removals being carried out at the scale he promised. 'The ICE raids were very successful -- people came into our country illegally, illegally,' Trump told reporters during an event at the White House showcasing American-made products. 'Many, many were taken out on Sunday, you just didn't know about it.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That Made in America event was supposed to be a taxpayer-funded campaign promo, but the real campaign tactic was promoting racism.

Humeyra Pamuk & Sarah Lynch of Reuters: "In a court case that could further strain American relations with Turkey and weigh on the sentencing of former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn, a criminal trial began on Monday involving a former Iranian-American business partner of Flynn. Bijan Rafiekian's trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, turns on whether he conspired to lobby on Turkey's behalf to try to persuade the U.S. government to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen blamed by Turkey for a failed coup in July 2016." Mrs. McC: According to Wikipedia, "Kian was a partner of ... Michael Flynn in the Flynn Intel Group and worked with the incoming Trump administration's transition team on matters relating to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence." Rachel Maddow said that in his capacity on the transition team, Rafiekian's job was to vet potential CIA officials.

Demetri Sevastopulo & Sue-Lin Wong of the Financial Times (July 10): "Donald Trump told Chinese president Xi Jinping last month that the US would tone down criticism of Beijing's approach to Hong Kong following massive protests in the territory in order to revive trade talks with China. The US president made the commitment when the two leaders met at the G20 summit in Osaka, according to several people familiar with the meeting.... Following the Trump-Xi meeting, the state department told Kurt Tong, the departing US consul general in Hong Kong, to remove several critical comments about China from his final speech in the Asian financial hub.... [T]he veteran diplomat was forced to water down the July 2 address [about democratic erosions]." --s

Hans Nichols, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump has told aides and allies that he is considering removing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after a stinging Supreme Court defeat on adding a citizenship question to the census, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations. While Trump has previously expressed frustration with Ross, 81, in particular over failed trade negotiations, Ross' long personal relationship with the president has allowed him to keep his job." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If Trump were firing Ross because he lied to Congress, the move would be justified. But Trump is Trump, so he will have someone fire Ross for not lying well enough.

Julia Ainsley & Tim Stelloh of NBC News: "Seventy current and former U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees are under investigation for participating in a secret Facebook group in which users joked about dead migrants and made sexist, derogatory comments about Latino Congress members, officials said Monday. Speaking to reporters, Customs officials said that 62 are current employees and eight are former employees. The office of professional responsibility is conducting the investigations, the officials said. Investigations into two employees have been completed and handed over to CBP for a disciplinary decision."

Kate Morrissey of the San Diego Union Tribune, in Stars & Stripes: "A deported Marine Corps veteran who has been unable to come back to the U.S. for more than a decade was denied entry to the country Monday morning when he asked to be let in for a scheduled citizenship interview."

Marisa Fernandez of Axios: "Larry R. Felix, the director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 2006 to 2015, said the probability of releasing a concept design [for the Harriet Tubman $20 bill] in 2020 had always been low due to security and fraud risks, despite then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's desire for an unveiling that coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Felix told the [Washington] Post: 'Those announcements were not grounded in reality. The U.S. had not at the time acquired the security features to redesign and protect the notes.'... A former Obama appointee told the Post that the new $20 bill had always been scheduled for release toward 2030, consistent with the Trump administration's claims." (Also linked yesterday.)

Catherine Garcia of the Week: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday night said the House of Representatives will not raise the debt ceiling unless it is combined with a budget agreement. Earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that if a budget deal is not reached soon, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling before its August recess, otherwise there won't be enough money to pay the government's bills. This idea, Pelosi said, is not 'acceptable to our caucus.'"

Twitter Diplomacy. Iain Marlow & Dandan Li of Bloomberg: "A senior Chinese diplomat [based in Islamabad] deleted a tweet that prompted former U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice to call him a 'racist disgrace' as China's diplomats become increasingly vocal on the social media platform. In a string of messages aimed at highlighting U.S. hypocrisy in criticizing China's human rights record, Lijian Zhao ... mentioned everything from school shootings and income inequality to racial segregation, adding that if 'you're in Washington, D.C., you know the white never go' to the Southeast part of the U.S. capital, home to historically African-American areas.... 'You are a racist disgrace. And shockingly ignorant too,' she tweeted at Zhao o Sunday.... [S]he also [wrongly] addressed the Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, who recently joined Twitter: 'Ambassador Cui, I expect better of you and your team. Please do the right thing and send him home.'" --s

Macron's Bastille Day parade bested Trump's July Fourth thing with this flyboard demonstration:

The Epstein Treasures. Tom Winter & David Li of NBC News: "Agents unearthed a 'pile of cash, diamonds' and 'a passport from a foreign country' in a safe belonging to Jeffrey Epstein, prosecutors told a judge Monday during a bail hearing for the wealthy financier and accused sex trafficker. Federal authorities are arguing for Epstein to be denied bail and to remain behind bars until he's tried for sex-crime charges in acts allegedly involving underage girls.... 'The passport was issued in the name of a foreign country, it was issued in the 1980s, it is expired, it shows a picture of Jeffrey Epstein, and another name,' [the prosecutor] said, adding the passport showed Epstein's residence as Saudi Arabia." The court will rule Thursday on the bail plea. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Julie Brown of the Miami Herald: "Jeffrey Epstein's arrest is reverberating in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party are calling for a criminal probe into former prime minister Ehud Barak's personal and business ties with the accused sex trafficker, Israeli media is reporting. Barak, 77, served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. This month he formed a new party to run for prime minister against Netanyahu, who called for new elections in September.... Netanyahu took to social media, writing: 'Investigate Ehud Barak immediately.'... Netanyahu is at the center of three criminal investigations into alleged corruption, which he denies." --s

Denise Lavoie of the AP: "An avowed white supremacist was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years Monday for deliberately driving his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters during a rally in Virginia, killing one woman and injuring dozens. James Alex Fields Jr., 22, remained stoic as Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore formally imposed the recommendation of a state jury that convicted him in December of murder and maliciou wounding charges for his actions in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. Fields showed no visible emotion as victims of the car attack described severe physical and psychological injuries - broken bones, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression - inflicted by Fields when he plowed his car into them.... Last month, Fields received a life sentence on 29 federal hate crime charges."

Salvador Hernandez of BuzzFeed News: "A federal judge ruled more than $14 million should be awarded to a woman who was barraged with anti-Semitic and threatening messages online after a neo-Nazi blogger instructed his followers to target her and her family with a 'troll storm.' The ruling was handed down Monday against Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist and publisher of the website The Daily Stormer. In his decision, judge Jeremiah Lynch found that Anglin 'acted with actual malice' when he told followers: 'Let's Hit Em Up. Are y'all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm? Because AYO - it's time, fam.' What followed were a series of racist and sometimes threatening messages to Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh, her co-workers, an her family, including her 12-year-old son." Mrs. McC: Gersh lives & works in Whitefish, Montana, also the home of our one-time Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "Prominent anti-abortion campaigners in New York developed and funded the Femm app, which collects intimate information about women's sex lives and sows doubt about hormonal birth control methods. The app has been downloaded more than 400,000 times globally, according to its developers, and appears to be the first ideologically aligned fertility tracking app [supported by the Catholic Church]. But leaders of the organization are also promoting the app and teaching the 'Femm methods' of natural family planning in places such as rural Nigeria, where women are at high risk of HIV infection, child marriage and sexual violence.... Natural family planning methods have an up to 33% failure rate per 100 women per year, according to the most recent review in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.... Abortion is illegal in Nigeria under almost all circumstances. These laws are 'a major contributor to the country's high levels of maternal death', according to the Guttmacher Institute." --s

Sarah Boseley of the Guardian: "The number of people with not enough to eat [820 million people worldwide] has risen for the third year in a row as the population increases, after a decade when real progress was made. The underlying trend is stabilisation, when global agencies had hoped it would fall." --s

Way Beyond the Beltway

Russia. Andrey Biryukov & Evgenia Pismennaya of Bloomberg: "Vladimir Putin's 20-trillion-ruble ($300 billion) weapons-buying binge over the last decade has ... left the country's defense industry with a massive hangover of debt that officials now say is suffocating the strategic sector. The industry 'is living from hand to mouth' and doesn't have enough money to invest in vital new technology, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told an industry conference earlier this month.... At the core of the problem is the way Russia funds its big weapons budget. The government doesn't release the funds for new systems until they're completed, forcing producers to borrow from commercial banks.... But the rates on those loans average about 10% a year..., leaving the companies with huge debt costs." --s

BBC: "Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing will feature on the new design of the Bank of England's £50 note. He is celebrated for his code-cracking work that proved vital to the Allies in World War Two. The £50 note will be the last of the Bank of England collection to switch from paper to polymer when it enters circulation by the end of 2021. The note was once described as the 'currency of corrupt elites' and is the least used in daily transactions." Mrs. McC: Maybe the £50 will become more popular in a couple of years. (Also linked yesterday.)

Sunday
Jul142019

The Commentariat -- July 15, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Eileen Sullivan & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of using racist comments, escalating his attacks on four first-term Democratic congresswomen to the leader of the Democratic Party. Ms. Pelosi had criticized the president on Sunday for suggesting four lawmakers of color should 'go back' to their own countries, and she said that his slogan, '"Make America Great Again" has always been about making America white again.' Mr. Trump in turn accused her of racist remarks. 'So Speaker Pelosi said, "Make America white again." That's a very racist -- that's a very racist statement. I'm surprised she'd say that,' Mr. Trump said at an event celebrating American manufacturing at the White House." ...

... Racist Tweets Okay Because Many People Agree. Claudia Koerner of BuzzFeed News: "President Trump on Monday claimed his racist tweets attacking progressive congresswomen weren't racist, and he added that he's not concerned about backlash because 'many people' hold his same views.... 'Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and white nationalists are finding common cause with you on that point?' a reporter asked. 'It does not concern me because many people agree with me,' Trump said. 'And all I'm saying, they wanna leave, they can leave. It doesn't say leave forever. It says leave.'" ...

... Heather Caygle & John Bresnahan of Politico: "House Democrats are drafting a resolution to condemn ... Donald Trump's racist tweets against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other high-profile freshman congresswomen, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday." ...

... Lindsey Changes His Mind, Embraces McCarthy's Tactics. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) ... attacked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) by name and others by association during a Fox News interview, claiming they were' Communists' who 'hate our own country.'... In the 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) and others famously accused American citizens of secretly being Communists -- often without evidence.... Last year, he angrily denounced the women who had come forward with allegations of sexual predation against Trump's then-Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. 'This is as close to McCarthyism as I hope we get in my lifetime,' he charged." ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: Trump "ratcheted up his [racist] attack on Monday by asserting that the congresswomen owe him an apology.... 'When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!'" ...

... Steve M.: "If Trump is doing this now, 16 months before the election, how inflammatory will his rhetoric be by the fall of 2020? He thinks he's bulletproof. He thinks he's an expert on winning elections, based on a sample set of one, and is certain that this (rather than Russian interference of James Comey's incompetence) is what worked for him." ...

... Jon Allsop of the Columbia Journalism Review runs down how the MSM avoided calling Trump's tweets racist.

The Epstein Treasures. Tom Winter & David Li of NBC News: "Agents unearthed a 'pile of cash, diamonds' and 'a passport from a foreign country' in a safe belonging to Jeffrey Epstein, prosecutors told a judge Monday during a bail hearing for the wealthy financier and accused sex trafficker. Federal authorities are arguing for Epstein to be denied bail and to remain behind bars until he's tried for sex-crime charges in acts allegedly involving underage girls.... 'The passport was issued in the name of a foreign country, it was issued in the 1980s, it is expired, it shows a picture of Jeffrey Epstein, and another name,' [the prosecutor] said, adding the passport showed Epstein's residence as Saudi Arabia." The court will rule Thursday on the bail plea.

Marisa Fernandez of Axios: "Larry R. Felix, the director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 2006 to 2015, said the probability of releasing a concept design [for the Harriet Tubman $20 bill] in 2020 had always been low due to security and fraud risks, despite then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's desire for an unveiling that coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Felix told the [Washington] Post: 'Those announcements were not grounded in reality. The U.S. had not at the time acquired the security features to redesign and protect the notes.'... A former Obama appointee told the Post that the new $20 bill had always been scheduled for release toward 2030, consistent with the Trump administration's claims."

Hans Nichols, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump has told aides and allies that he is considering removing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after a stinging Supreme Court defeat on adding a citizenship question to the census, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.While Trump has previously expressed frustration with Ross, 81, in particular over failed trade negotiations, Ross' long personal relationship with the president has allowed him to keep his job." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If Trump were firing Ross because he lied to Congress, the move would be justified. But Trump is Trump, so he will fire Ross for not lying well enough.

BBC: "Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing will feature on the new design of the Bank of England's £50 note. He is celebrated for his code-cracking work that proved vital to the Allies in World War Two. The £50 note will be the last of the Bank of England collection to switch from paper to polymer when it enters circulation by the end of 2021. The note was once described as the 'currency of corrupt elites' and is the least used in daily transactions." Mrs. McC: Maybe the £50 will become more popular in a couple of years.

Morgan Chalfant, et al., of the Hill: "The Trump administration is moving to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced Monday. According to text of the rule set to publish in the Federal Register on Tuesday, asylum seekers who pass through another country before reaching the United States will be ineligible for asylum when they reach the southern border.... The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice announced the Interim Final Rule (IFR) in a joint statement Monday. Under the rule, those who have been the victims of trafficking are granted exceptions. The rule also allows exceptions for migrants passing through countries that have not signed major international refugee treaties and for migrants who have been denied asylum in the countries they traveled through.... 'The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country's legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger,' Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project said in a statement. [']This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.'" ...

     ... The AP story, by Colleen Long, is here.

~~~~~~~~~~

What? Yet Another Trump Bluff. Bobby Allyn of NPR: "President Trump's threatened roundup of undocumented immigrant families this weekend that sent migrants in many communities on edge showed few signs of materializing on Sunday, the second time rumors of a large-scale immigration enforcement operation failed to come to fruition. Instead, in the cities where rumors of mass raids swirled, many immigrants stayed inside their homes, as jitters turned typically vibrant migrant markets and commercial corridors eerily quiet. Immigrant advocates across the country, meanwhile, took to the streets to demonstrate in protest of the promised roundup.... Before Sunday, there were weekend reports of attempted arrests by ICE in New York, New Jersey and Chicago, where The New York Times reported (also linked next) that a mother and her daughters were apprehended but the family was immediately released. But those actions appeared to be part of routine enforcement activity, not connected to a massive raid operation." ...

... Caitlin Dickerson, et al., of the New York Times: "Only a handful of arrests appeared to take place, and they were reported in just a few cities. That was much different than the nationwide show of force that had originally been planned, in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were expected to fan out in unison on Sunday morning across immigrant communities in major cities. But the authorities said that more arrests would follow through the week. The plans for the operation were changed at the last minute because of news reports that had tipped off immigrant communities about what to expect, according to several current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. Instead of a large simultaneous sweep, the authorities created a secondary plan for a smaller and more diffuse scale of apprehensions to roll out over roughly a week." Mrs. McC: It wasn't just "news report that ... tipped off immigrant communities"; it also was Donald Trump.

Bianca Quilantan & David Cohen of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Sunday called out progressive Democratic congresswomen in xenophobic terms, saying: 'Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.'... While the president didn't mention them by name in his tweets, it appears he was attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a native of Somalia, and possibly Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), whose family is Palestinian [Mrs. McC: Tlaib was born in Detroit]. Both have been outspoken when it comes to Trump's administration and the conditions of migrant detention centers on the border. 'So interesting to see "Progressive" Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,' the president wrote on Twitter." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Katie Rogers & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Broadly, Mr. Trump's attack was meant for members of the so-called squad, a group engaged in an existential and generational war of words with Ms. Pelosi: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts.... Only one of the women, Ms. Omar, who is from Somalia, was born outside the United States. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Ms. Pressley, who is black, was born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. And Ms. Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants.... Mr. Trump's attack came after days of Fox News coverage that centered on Ms. Omar.... 'Like some of my Democratic colleagues, I'm young, from an immigrant family, also very critical of Trump,'[Rep. Brendan] Boyle [D-Pa.] wrote on Twitter. 'Funny thing though, he never tells me to "go back where I come from." Hmm I wonder why?'... He is white." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. So this is a sentence that Rogers & Fandos wrote: "His message was immediately seized upon by Democrats, who called it a racist trope." Yastreblyansky was not favorably impressed. AND Oliver Willis points out, "here's the ny times cleaning up trump's racism. his racism isn't racist. its just that democrats *called it* racism." AND Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "I wonder how racist Trump would have to be for Times reporter to just call the statement racist...."

... Matt Stieb of New York, on the other hand, does not mince words: "President Trump launched a white nationalist-themed attack on Sunday against four Democratic congresswomen of color who have been outspoken critics of his administration's war on immigrants and attention-earning proponents of more progressive government policies. The attack deployed one of the most obnoxious clichés of racist and xenophobic hate speech: telling an immigrant or descendent of immigrants to 'go back to your country.'" ...

     ... Justin Wise of the Hill: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday condemned President Trump for telling a group of progressive lawmakers to go back to where they came from, saying the 'xenophobic' comments reaffirmed that Trump's plan is about 'making America white again.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Jonathan Lemire & Calvin Woodward of the AP: "Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after Trump's morning broadsides against the four women. But the president's nativist tweets caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against the president.... The attacks may have been meant to widen the divides within the Democrat caucus.... Instead, the president's tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, brought Democrats together.... Trump appeared unbowed Sunday night when he returned [from golfing at his Virginia club] to Twitter to say it was 'so sad' to see Democrats sticking up for the women. 'If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behavior,' he tweeted, 'then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!'" ...

... Charles Blow of the New York Times: "On Sunday morning, the same day that the Trump administration earlier announced it would conduct raids to round up undocumented immigrants, Trump weighed in again on the conflict between four female freshmen congresswomen and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeting a series of three of the most racist tweets he could produce[.]... The country Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley 'originally came from' is this one. They were born in America. Omar was a refugee from Somalia. But, this is the most important fact: They aren't white, and they are women. They are 'other' in the framing of the white nationalists.... We are watching a very dark chapter in this nation's history unfold in real time. We are watching as a president returns naked racism to the White House. And we are watching as fellow citizens -- possibly a third of them -- reveal to us their open animus for us through their continued support of him." ...

... Goldie Taylor of the Daily Beast: “Trump's repugnant rebuke of American values did not come out of thin air. It unfolded days after 'The Squad' travelled with a delegation of congressional democrats to tour detention facilities in border states. What they found was deplorable. Reports of rampant abuse and neglect filled the airwaves, leading Trump to again dismiss accurate coverage as 'fake news.' Rather than focus on improving basic conditions and getting to work on bi-partisan, comprehensive reforms, the president basically said if immigrants didn't like how they were being treated, they should stay in their own country.... His words Sunday were not racially 'charged,' 'fueled,' or 'tinged.' They were unapologetically racist. And, if you support him, so are you." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times reprises some of Trump's greatest racist hits. (Of course he misses quite a few since he's writing a newspaper story, not a book.) "His attack on the Democratic congresswomen came on the same day his administration was threatening mass roundups of immigrants living in the country illegally. And it came just days after he hosted some of the most incendiary right-wing voices on the internet at the White House and vowed to find another way to count citizens separately from noncitizens despite a Supreme Court ruling that blocked him from adding a question to the once-a-decade census.... His assumption that the House Democrats must have been born in another country -- or that they did not belong here if they were -- fits an us-against-them political strategy that has been at the heart of Mr. Trump's presidency from the start.... 'Trump has not only always been a racist, but anyone around him who denies it, is lying,' [Jack] O'Donnell..., the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City..., said on Sunday. 'Donald Trump makes racist comments all the time....' Mr. Trump, he said, regularly trafficked in racial stereotypes.... 'White people are Americans to Trump; everyone else is from somewhere else,' Mr. O'Donnell said. 'He simply denies the reality of how we all immigrated to the United States.'" ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "The hosts of Fox & Friends Sunday were greatly amused by Trump's tweets, reading them aloud and laughing audibly." Includes video.

Who Let the Trump Organization off the Hook? Mrs. McCrabbie: Josh Marshall of TPM is very good at conspiracy theories. The difference between his theories & those floated by the wingnut crowd is that Marshall's (a) make sense, (b) are based on bits & pieces of suggestive evidence, so (c) sometimes prove to be true. In a post published Sunday, Marshall provides evidence for a conspiracy theory that immediately came to my mind when I read that the Southern District of New York had decided not to bring charges (story also linked Saturday) against the Trump Organization for obvious campaign finance violations: that Big Bill Barr put his big fat thumb on the scale. Marshall runs a timeline & finds that right before Barr was confirmed, SDNY investigators requested interviews with Trump Org officials, but then they never conducted the interviews, according to the CNN report. Marshall writes, "... Bill Barr was sworn in about exactly five months ago -- which seems to be roughly the time of the last contact between the US Attorney's office and executives of the Trump Organization." So now, apparently without doing any investigating, they're dropping the case. Coincidence? Uh, no. Congress should investigate.

Harry Howard of the Daily Mail: "Britain's former ambassador to the U.S. vouched for the credibility of Christopher Steele, the author of the explosive dossier detailing Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia. Sir Kim Darroch, who quit his post after leaked diplomatic cables revealed his outspoken criticism of President Trump's administration and personality, backed the former MI6 spy when asked by a U.S. official." Mrs. McC: Last week, Trump read (and retweeted) a tweet from Lindsey Graham which Graham -- who was friendly with Darroch -- characterized as a compliment: "Ambassador @KimDarroch always understood the strength of President Trump and referred to him as the 'Terminator' who is indestructible and will most likely be reelected." (What Darroch actually wrote was, "Trump may emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like Schwarzenegger in the final scene of the Terminator.") This supposed "compliment" caused Trump to tack back & wish Darroch well. I guess he'll take that back now & start blaming Darroch for the "Russia hoax."

What's Wrong with These People? Oh. They're Sociopaths. Kevin Fitzpatrick of Vanity Fair: "Speaking with Sunday Morning Futures host Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network, Senator Lindsey Graham vehemently disagreed with humanitarian concerns raised by Vice President Mike Pence's recent tour of a migrant detention facility in Texas. 'I don't care if they have to stay in these facilities for 400 days, we're not going to let those men go that I saw,' said Graham. 'It would be dangerous.' Graham was referring to now-viral footage of Pence's tour, which saw the vice president blithely overlooking a fenced room filled to capacity with migrants protesting unsanitary conditions. Pence subsequently claimed over Twitter that the men 'were in a temporary holding area because Democrats in Congress have refused to fund additional bed space,' and derided CNN for allegedly 'ignoring the excellent care being provided to families and children' in a separate facility.... Donald Trump likewise tweeted on Sunday that 'Friday's tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children's detention centers are. Great reviews!'... Graham, meanwhile, emphasized that the facility was 'overwhelmed,' and claimed 'all of [the detained migrants] broke our law.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Sophie Weiner of Splinter: "That's right: Graham is casually implying that he can somehow tell the men he saw crammed into a cage were 'dangerous,' based on nothing other than the fact that they crossed the border, a misdemeanor on par with failing to appear in court or public intoxication." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Apparently there are several verses in the Winger Bible that teach as an article of faith that Republicans can "look into a person's eyes" & judge his character. So Dubya tells us he could see Putin's soul; Acting Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan claims he can look into an immigrant child's eyes and tell he will grow up to be an MS-13 gangster; and now Loathsome Lindsey says he can tell that men who have been locked in overcrowded cages for more than 40 days with no place to lie down & sleep are "dangerous." You know, if you locked me up cheek-by-jowl with a few hundred people who, like me, hadn't showered in more than a month or slept in a bed or brushed their teeth or were otherwise allowed any normal creature comforts, I might be "dangerous," too.

Maggie Miller of the Hill: "Lawmakers are zeroing in on the potential for foreign cyber attacks to take down the U.S. electric grid, with members in both chambers pushing hearings and a flurry of bills to address the issue. Congressional interest in the issue is growing following reports that Iran has stepped up its cyber attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure, and as Trump administration officials cite threats from Russia and China against the electric grid." ...

... Spencer Kimball of CNBC: "Con Edison apologized on Sunday for a blackout that left 72,000 customers without power for hours in large parts of Manhattan, but the root cause of the outage remained unclear. The power failure began after a 'significant electrical transmission disturbance' impacted multiple circuits,' according to a company statement. Con Edison said the blackout was not due to a power overload.... Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that the blackout was not caused by an act of terrorism. 'This was not a cyber attack and this was not an act of physical terrorism,' de Blasio said[.]" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Until further notice, I'll accept the non-explanation, BUT Amy Plitt of Curbed: "In one of those bizarre coincidences that's almost too strange to be true, the blackout that affected a large swath of Midtown Manhattan on Saturday happened on the 42nd anniversary of the massive citywide power outage of 1977.

Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "A federal appeals court struck down Trump administration regulations on Friday that allow virtually any employer to exempt itself from federal rules requiring employer health plans to cover birth control. This decision is only limited cause for celebration among public health advocates. Judge Patty Shwartz, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit judge who wrote the opinion, is an Obama appointee. The two judges who joined her opinion in Pennsylvania v. President, United States of America are Clinton appointees. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, is dominated by Republicans.... Friday's victory for contraceptive care is likely to be temporary. Nevertheless, there are aspects of this case that may trouble even some Republican judges. As Judge Shwartz explains, the Trump administration bypassed the ordinary procedures agencies must nearly always follow when writing new regulations. It also wrote those regulations far more expansively than even a broad reading of federal 'religious liberty' laws could permit."

Presidential Race 2020

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "She had them at 'hello.' No, seriously. After applauding performatively for anti-Trump red meat tossed out by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand ... and former Cabinet secretary Julian Castro..., more than 3,000 politically left activists at the Convention Center went wild the instant that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took her first stride onto the Netroots Nation stage.... With her slam-dunk performance Saturday, Elizabeth Warren became president ... of the American progressive movement, anyway.... The current frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, whose national headquarters is just a few blocks away in Center City, chose instead to campaign in New Hampshire rather than face what might have been tough questioning of his more moderate stances." (Also linked yesterday.)

Ed Kilgore of New York breaks down the "electability" factors that pundits attribute to Joe Biden & finds them all flawed.

Beyond the Beltway

Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times: "A political crisis engulfed Puerto Rico over the weekend, prompting the departure of two senior members of the government and threatening Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló, who found himself increasingly isolated in office and no longer supported by leaders of his own [New Progressive] party. Mr. Rosselló's administration was rocked by the publication of a trove of derisive messages sent by the governor and some of his cabinet members and top aides in a private chat on the messaging app Telegram. The messages mocked political foes and allies alike, often with profanity. On Saturday, the governor tried to contain the fallout of the rapidly unfolding scandal by announcing that his chief financial officer and secretary of state had stepped down over their participation in the chat. But the high-profile exits proved insufficient to quell the widespread furor on the island that mushroomed in the hours after 889 pages of Telegram messages were published by Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism. Protesters gathered outside the governor's mansion, La Fortaleza, in San Juan late into the night on Saturday and demanded Mr. Rosselló's resignation, less than 18 months before the end of his term."

News Lede

CNN: "Communities in Louisiana are taking the first steps toward recovery after Hurricane Barry made landfall in the state as a Category 1 storm Saturday before being downgraded to a tropical storm.... Barry -- which weakened to a tropical depression Sunday as it moved slowly north across Louisiana and into Arkansas -- had put Louisiana on high alert for much of the weekend with a threat of epic flooding. Much of that threat failed to materialize. New Orleans, in particular, did not see the catastrophic storm surges that had been feared.... But the storm did dump significant rain on already inundated parishes, causing flooding, and authorities still warn that more water could be on the way.... Barry is forecast to produce an additional 3 to 6 inches of rain from the lower Mississippi River Valley through portions of Arkansas, west Tennessee and northwest Mississippi, said CNN meteorologist Michael Guy. Some areas in this region could see storm totals upward of 15 inches by the time the remnants of Barry push into the Ohio Valley by midweek."

Saturday
Jul132019

The Commentariat -- July 14, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

What's Wrong with These People? Oh. They're Sociopaths. Kevin Fitzpatrick of Vanity Fair: "Speaking with Sunday Morning Futures host Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network, Senator Lindsey Graham vehemently disagreed with humanitarian concerns raised by Vice President Mike Pence's recent tour of a migrant detention facility in Texas. 'I don't care if they have to stay in these facilities for 400 days, we're not going to let those men go that I saw,' said Graham. 'It would be dangerous.' Graham was referring to now-viral footage of Pence's tour, which saw the vice president blithely overlooking a fenced room filled to capacity with migrants protesting unsanitary conditions. Pence subsequently claimed over Twitter that the men 'were in a temporary holding area because Democrats in Congress have refused to fund additional bed space,' and derided CNN for allegedly 'ignoring the excellent care being provided to families and children' in a separate facility.... Donald Trump likewise tweeted on Sunday that 'Friday's tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children's detention centers are. Great reviews!'... Graham, meanwhile, emphasized that the facility was 'overwhelmed,' and claimed 'all of [the detained migrants] broke our law.'"

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "She had them at 'hello.' No, seriously. After applauding performatively for anti-Trump red meat tossed out by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand ... and former Cabinet secretary Julian Castro..., more than 3,000 politically left activists at the Convention Center went wild the instant that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took her first stride onto the Netroots Nation stage.... With her slam-dunk performance Saturday, Elizabeth Warren became president ... of the American progressive movement, anyway.... The current frontrunner ... Joe Biden, whose national headquarters is just a few blocks away in Center City, chose instead to campaign in New Hampshire rather than face what might have been tough questioning of his more moderate stances."

Bianca Quilantan & David Cohen of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Sunday called out progressive Democratic congresswomen in xenophobic terms, saying: 'Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.'... While the president didn't mention them by name in his tweets, it appears he was attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a native of Somalia, and possibly Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), whose family is Palestinian. Both have been outspoken when it comes to Trump's administration and the conditions of migrant detention centers on the border. 'So interesting to see "Progressive" Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,' the president wrote on Twitter."

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Obviously Trump is unaware that telling "us" how "our" government is to be run is part of these Congresswomen's job description. BTW, they are "us," something else Trump can't bear to face. ...

     ... Update. Justin Wise of the Hill: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday condemned President Trump for telling a group of progressive lawmakers to go back to where they came from, saying the 'xenophobic' comments reaffirmed that Trump's plan is about 'making America white again.'" ...

... Katie Rogers & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Broadly, Mr. Trump's attack was meant for members of the so-called squad, a group engaged in an existential and generational war of words with Ms. Pelosi: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts.... Only one of the women, Ms. Omar, who is from Somalia, was born outside the United States. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Ms. Pressley, who is black, was born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. And Ms. Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants.... Mr. Trump's attack came after days of Fox News coverage that centered on Ms. Omar.... 'Like some of my Democratic colleagues, I’m young, from an immigrant family, also very critical of Trump,'[Rep. Brendan] Boyle [D-Pa.] wrote on Twitter. 'Funny thing though, he never tells me to "go back where I come from." Hmm I wonder why?'... He is white."

During yesterday's Midtown blackout, Mayor Bill De Blasio was MIA in Iowa, but after the power outage forced the show "Come from Away" to close, the cast took to the streets to keep the peace:

Forrest M. sent this along to cheer us up, but I'm afraid many of you will be ever so upset at the implied disrespect to the Addams family.~~~~~~~~~~

Tom Hilton in No More Mister Nice Blog: "We're in a situation that is completely untenable, that cannot be allowed to continue, but that absolutely will continue until (at least) January 20, 2021. Trump has to be removed; Trump will not be removed.... But the point isn't that the situation is shitty (it is) and isn't going to change for a while (it won't). The point is the toll this shitty situation is taking. And maybe it would be a good idea to recognize that toll when we interact with each other. To understand that we're all stressed and anxious right now;... To treat each other with kindness and patience, and to refuse to let small differences escalate into acrimony. Because we're all in this together unless we aren't. And if we aren't, the enemy will go on winning long after January 2021." --s

Trevor Hughes of USA Today: "Fear and anxiety spread through immigrant communities nationwide over anticipated federal raids aimed at detaining and deporting thousands of people accused of remaining illegally within the United States. Immigration reform advocates said that communities around Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco were being targeted by raids expected to start Sunday and last through at least Thursday.... Many large U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle and Miami, have declared themselves 'sanctuaries' for undocumented immigrants, and adopted policies barring local government workers from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.... In Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock said city police officers would avoid helping ICE agents but said city human service workers were on alert to assist any minor children left behind if their parents are arrested.... San Francisco Mayor London Breed reiterated that the city's police would not cooperate with any ICE operations and that the city was gearing up to protect its immigrants." ...

... AP: "Several thousand protesters have marched through downtown Chicago to protest the Trump administration's immigration policies, including planned sweeps in several American cities, including Chicago, over the weekend.... Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says the protest was peaceful and that there were no arrests. He says there were an estimated 5,000 protesters at its peak." ...

Daily Kos: "On Friday evening, The Wall Street Journal reported that agents had made their first foray to homes in New York City, but when agents arrived in Harlem and Brooklyn without warrants, the residences they visited stayed resolutely shut. So the agents retreated. For now." (Link is to the WSJ story.)

... Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker (satire): "Donald Trump was reportedly 'hopping mad' on Saturday after a surprise ICE raid left his Mar-a-Lago retreat with no employees.... A spokesman for Mar-a-Lago called the situation 'dire,' warning that the resort had lost almost as many staff members as the White House."

Brian Contreras & Paige Cornwell of the Seattle Times: "Tacoma[, Washington,] police said they shot at an armed man early Saturday who was attacking the Northwest Detention Center, the holding facility in Tacoma for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The man died at the scene.... Police said [Willem] Van Spronsen tossed lit objects at vehicles and buildings, causing one car fire, and unsuccessfully tried to ignite a propane tank.... Four responding officers all opened fire and then took cover, uninjured. After medical aid arrived, officers found Van Spronsen dead. He had multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner's office."

Rachel Frazen of the Hill: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Saturday that she will create a commission to investigate 'crimes committed by the United States against immigrants' if she is elected president." Mrs. McC: This is a good idea. Maybe McConnell will propose it to Pelosi (ha ha), and we can get a truth commission started right away.

Jonathan Blitzer of the New Yorker: "Early next week, according to a D.H.S. official, the Trump Administration is expected to announce a major immigration deal ... with Guatemala.... According to a draft of the agreement obtained by The New Yorker, asylum seekers from any country who either show up at U.S. ports of entry or are apprehended while crossing between ports of entry could be sent to seek asylum in Guatemala instead.... Under this new arrangement, most of these migrants will no longer have a chance to make an asylum claim in the U.S. at all.... The biggest, and most unsettling, question raised by the agreement is how Guatemala could possibly cope with such enormous demands. More people are leaving Guatemala now than any other country in the northern triangle of Central America. Rampant poverty, entrenched political corruption, urban crime, and the effects of climate change have made large swaths of the country virtually uninhabitable." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This plan, then, is insane. According to someone who has read the agreement, it "reads like it was drafted by someone's intern." My guess: the "intern" is named Stephen Miller.

Daniel Politi of Slate: "... Donald Trump is getting an early start in bashing former special counsel Robert Mueller as he came up with a deal to testify in the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees on July 24.... Trump went back to a favorite talking point Saturday, accusing Mueller and his team of carrying out 'illegal deletion' of text messages that were exchanged between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.... Needless to say, the president has not presented any evidence to back up his explosive claim.... Trump also retweeted several [nutty] messages from Judicial Watch...." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump didn't "present any evidence" because of course there isn't any. As Tal Axelrod of the Hill reminds us, "Strzok was swiftly removed from Mueller's team after the texts were unearthed, and a Justice Department investigation found that while the messages did go missing for a time, their absence was attributed to a technical error rather than any malicious intent." But Trump doesn't need to worry much about the hearing, IMO. Mueller will be dry as burnt toast, his interrogators will be silly, and Nancy Pelosi will continue to quash impeachment proceedings. (The only hope on Pelosi is that she's waiting to open impeachment hearings until after (and if) the courts force Trump officials & toadies to testify before Congress. That would make sense.)

Molly Beck & Mary Spicuzza of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "... Donald Trump raised $3 million in Wisconsin cash on Friday touring Milwaukee to promote a new trade deal.... But ... the president downplayed the suffocation felt by Wisconsin dairy farmers because of Trump's own tariffs.... Trump told a crowd at Derco Aerospace on Milwaukee's northwest side, '... We're over the hump. We're doing really well.' Trump said the new trade agreement would help Wisconsin dairy farmers by providing access to Canada's market, painting an optimistic picture of the future of the Wisconsin industry -- which is losing two dairy farms a day. Nearly 700 Wisconsin farms were shut down last year by owners used to enduring a brutal workload and hard times, calling it quits in a downturn now headed into its fifth year. In 2018, for the third straight year, Wisconsin led the nation in farm bankruptcies. If he's saying farmers are over the hump, he would be badly mistaken, said Darin Von Ruden..., dairy farmer ... and president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union."

BBC News: "Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal to spite Barack Obama, according to a leaked memo written by the UK's former ambassador to the US. Sir Kim Darroch described the move as an act of 'diplomatic vandalism', according to the Mail on Sunday.... The paper reports that Sir Kim wrote a memo to [Boris] Johnson, saying: 'The outcome illustrated the paradox of this White House: you got exceptional access, seeing everyone short of the president; but on the substance, the administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons - it was Obama's deal. Moreover, they can't articulate any "day-after" strategy; and contacts with State Department this morning suggest no sort of plan for reaching out to partners and allies, whether in Europe or the region.'"

** Bill Browning of LGBTQ Nation: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced a new commission that he said will decide which human rights are more important to U.S. foreign policy.... Every member ... is an anti-LGBTQ activist.... Pompeo said that the commission would conduct 'one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Universal Declaration' of Human Rights. The group will focus, he said, on 'natural law.' Natural law is a philosophical thought that says that certain rights are inherent to being human, usually endowed by God, insisting that universal moral truths can be arrived at by examining religious texts or an imagined 'state of nature.' Natural law as a concept is often used by the right to argue against women's and LGBTQ people's rights." Mrs. McC: You can be pretty sure that if you're a white, straight, Christian, professional Republican male adult American citizen, you've got "natural" rights. The majority of us -- not so much.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Nobody told the New Republic editors that gay-bashing is "inappropriate" until after they published an opinion piece by a gay writer that bashed Pete Buttigieg as "'the gay equivalent of Uncle Tom,' and referred to him as 'Mary Pete.'"

Lloyd Green in the Guardian: "Tim Alberta, Politico's chief political correspondent, has written a masterful must-read. Across 600-plus pages [of American Carnage], he chronicles more than a decade of transformation and turmoil within what was once but is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln.... Like the deity on the sixth day of creation, Donald Trump has recast the Republican party in his own image. Aggrieved and belligerent is the new normal. The soul of the party has migrated from the sun belt to the Bible belt, from the suburbs to rural America, from a message suffused with upward arc to one brimming with resentment." ...

... Politico publishes an excerpt of the book, which covers how Trump survived release of the "Access Hollywood" tape. ...

... Oh, and here's more reaction from Trumpelthinskin to Alberta's interviews of former Speaker Paul Ryan. Christian Vasquez of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday broadened his attack on Paul Ryan, saying conservatives like the former speaker 'almost killed the Republican Party' because they were 'weak, ineffective & stupid.'"

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Republicans have no real plan to establish a new health care system if the courts strike down the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 election. But plenty of them are rooting for its demise anyway -- even if it means plunging the GOP into a debate that splits the party and leaves them politically vulnerable. After a decade of trying to gut Obamacare, Republicans may finally get their wish thanks to a Trump administration-backed lawsuit. Its success would cause chaos not only in the insurance markets but on Capitol Hill. And Republican senators largely welcome it -- even if they don't know what comes next."

Jodi Kantor, et al., of the New York Times: "A strange thing happened when Jeffrey Epstein came back to New York City after being branded a sex offender: His reputation appeared to rise. In 2010, the year after he got out of a Florida prison, Katie Couric and George Stephanopoulos dined at his Manhattan mansion with a British royal. The next year, Mr. Epstein was photographed at a 'billionaire&'s dinner' attended by tech titans like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. A page popped up on Harvard University's website lauding his accomplishments, and superlative-filled news releases described his lofty ambitions as he dedicated $10 million to charitable causes."

Mrs. McCrabbie: So if you're not booked up for September, you may want to block out the days around Friday, September 20, because that's the day "all of us" are going to storm Area 51, the U.S. Air Force facility in the Nevada desert, so we can "see them aliens." Apparently, the whole "plan" is a satire, but that hasn't stopped 600,000+ people from signing up. Since the base is super-restricted, the instigators have reckoned with the danger of getting shot dead by asserting, "If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets." Here's a demo, so practice. It sure seems as if it would work:

Beyond the Beltway

Idaho. Cynthia Sewell of the Idaho Statesman: "Former Idaho GOP chairman and lobbyist Jonathan Parker now has three pending criminal charges. The latest charge, misdemeanor unlawful entry, stems from Parker allegedly entering a woman's Meridian home without her consent. Parker pleaded not guilty to that charge on July 3, marking his third court appearance on three separate charges over the course of about one month. Parker resigned from his GOP post Feb. 18, with more than two years left in his term." --s

News Lede

AP: "Weakened but still potent, Barry inundated the Gulf Coast but appeared unlikely to deluge New Orleans as it continued its slow advance.... New Orleans had been braced for heavy rains Saturday, but instead had intermittent bands of moderate showers and occasional sunshine. Though Barry will continue to dump rain throughout the weekend, forecasters downgraded rainfall estimates for the city through Sunday to between 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters). Forecasters had earlier said New Orleans could get up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain...."