The Ledes

"For safety's sake, don't humiliate him."

Just this past week, Akhilleus linked (now I can't find his link) to this clip from "Young Frankenstein":

... and I found myself missing Wilder. I wondered what had happened to him. Now I know. As Gilda would say, one time in the same fatal context, "It's always something."

Monday, August 29, 2016.

New York Times: "Gene Wilder, who established himself as one of America’s foremost comic actors with his delightfully neurotic performances in three films directed by Mel Brooks; his eccentric star turn in the family classic 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'; and his winning chemistry with Richard Pryor in the box-office smash 'Stir Crazy,' died early Monday morning at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 83."

New York Times: "An Australian aid worker who was kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for four months has been released and is doing well, Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said on Monday. The aid worker, Kerry Jane Wilson, who is in her 60s and is also known as Katherine Jane, had been working in Afghanistan for about 20 years and had most recently run Zardozi, an organization that promoted the work of Afghan artisans, particularly women.... Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, said in a brief statement that its special forces had carried out a raid to free Ms. Wilson." -- CW 

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, August 28, 2016.

Washington Post: "James W. Cronin, who shared the Nobel prize in physics for discovering a startling breakdown in what was assumed to be the immutable symmetry of physical law, thereby helping to explain the behavior and evolution of the universe as a whole, died Aug. 25 in St. Paul, Minn. He was 84." -- CW 

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

...Washington Post: Charles Osgood, who is 83 years old, announced Sunday, August 28, that he was retiring as host of the long-running CBS show "Sunday Morning." "He will stay on through Sept. 25. Osgood has been the face of the weekly program since 1994, when he took it over from its first host, Charles Kuralt." -- 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.

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Wednesday
Aug172016

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

Tuesday
Aug162016

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.

Tuesday
Aug162016

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.

Monday
Aug152016

The Commentariat -- August 16, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Tweedledee to Coach Tweedledumb. Maggie Haberman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "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, according to four people briefed on the move.... Two of them said that Mr. Ailes's role could extend beyond the debates...." ...

     ... 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.

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

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

*****

Greg Lamothe of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration on Monday transferred 15 detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United Arab Emirates, the largest release under the current president, the Pentagon said." -- CW

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "North Carolina on Monday asked the Supreme Court to restore most of its strict voting procedures for the November elections, despite a lower court's ruling that the law intentionally discriminates against African Americans." -- CW

Gene Robinson praises the "elites," whoever they may be, and the "mainstream media" who are often the brunt of criticism (by me, too). Robinson, who is both an elite and an MSM staple, naturally goes overboard in his praise of, well, people like him. But he's right on some points, especially this one: "Ignorance is not a virtue. Knowledge is not a vice. Pointy-heads who spend years gaining expertise in a given field may make mistakes, but the remedy is to replace them with pointy-heads who have different views -- not with know-nothings who would try to navigate treacherous terrain on instinct alone. (See: Trump's policy positions on, well, anything.)"

Presidential Race

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "The Commission on Presidential Debates has released the polls it will use to decide the participants of September's first presidential debate as third-party candidates struggle to make the stage. Candidates will need to hit an average of 15 percent in polls conducted by ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Fox News, and NBC/Wall Street Journal.... Hillary Clinton and ... Donald Trump are virtually assured a slot each on the stage for the Sept. 26 debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. But it remains unlikely that a third-party candidate will join them...." -- CW

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned on Monday [in Scranton, Pennsylvania] that Donald J. Trump, even as a candidate, had elevated the dangers confronting American allies and military personnel overseas. Mr. Biden said that on a trip to Kosovo and Serbia this week, he would be compelled to 'reassure' allies that the United States would honor its commitment to NATO, given Mr. Trump's comments saying he would reassess the arrangement if elected. 'Because they're worried,' Mr. Biden said, in his first campaign appearance beside Hillary Clinton." -- CW ...

He would have loved Stalin. -- Joe Biden, on Donald Trump

... Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Biden's first campaign appearance on behalf of the Democratic nominee blended blue-collar outreach with stinging rebukes of Trump from a man who, Biden reminded the crowd, travels with his own copies of the nation's nuclear weapons codes." -- CW

Heather Caygle of Politico: "... Tim Kaine went all in during his North Carolina visit Monday night, busting out his harmonica for an impromptu jam session with a local bluegrass band. Kaine played two well-known bluegrass songs -- 'Wagon Wheel' and 'My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains' -- as the crowd cheered him on at Catawba Brewery, even singing and dancing at times, while his wife, Anne Holton, clogged to the side of the stage. The impromptu concert capped off a night of Southern fun for Kaine and his wife that included a barbecue dinner with beers and banana pudding at Buxton Home Barbecue." -- CW ...

Chaffez, Goodlatte Don't Realize Horse Is Dead, Continue Sadistic Beating. Julian Hattem of the Hill: "A pair of leading House Republicans on Monday laid out detailed instructions for the Justice Department to file perjury charges against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. More than a month after first requesting the department open a criminal probe into Clinton for alleged misstatements she made under oath, the GOP heads of the House Judiciary [Bob Goodlatte, (RTP-Va.)] and Oversight [Jason Chaffetz (RTP-Utah)] committees told a federal prosecutor specifically where they believed Clinton had lied to Congress about her email setup at the Department of State.... In addition to their letter on Monday, the Oversight Committee also released a 2.5-minute video detailing apparent inaccuracies in Clinton's testimony." CW: The video was in no way political or meant for public viewing (even though the chairmen uploaded it to YouTube), but merely because Republicans on the committees expressed uncertainty as to whether or not Obama DOJ lawyers could read.

Nick Gass of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ... [said Hillary] Clinton's comment that the [violence] in Milwaukee demonstrates the 'urgent work to do to rebuild trust between police and communities' is representative of similar statements 'that are just inflaming the situation.'..." CW: Yeah, statements like what Clinton said Monday, that the U.S. should "get back to the fundamental principle: everyone should have respect for the law and be respected by the law," are so inflammatory that my eyes are burning.

Alexander Mallin of ABC News: "President Obama took a brief break from his 16-day vacation on Martha's Vineyard to attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on the island, where he made a strong case for Hillary Clinton as he seemed to brush off Donald Trump. 'Frankly, I'm tired of talking about her opponent,' Obama said. 'I don't have to make the case against her opponent because every time he talks, he makes the case against his own candidacy.'" -- CW

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Advisers to Donald J. Trump keep reassuring Republicans that there is still plenty of time to rescue his candidacy -- nearly three months to counter Hillary Clinton's vast operation in swing states and get Mr. Trump on message. The Trump team had better check the calendar. Voting actually starts in less than six weeks, on Sept. 23 in Minnesota and South Dakota, the first of some 35 states and the District of Columbia that allow people to cast ballots at polling sites or by email before Nov. 8.... If Mrs. Clinton swamps Mr. Trump in the early vote in some swing states, she can move staff and money to the most competitive places -- like Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, judging from recent polls -- while he scrambles to battle on multiple fronts." -- CW

David Sanger & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: ">Donald J. Trump on Monday invoked comparisons to the Cold War era in arguing that the United States must wage an unrelenting ideological fight if it is to defeat the Islamic State. He said he would temporarily suspend immigration from 'the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world' and judge allies solely on their participation in America's mission to root out Islamic terrorism.... The kind of relentless attacks on the Islamic State he advocates -- along with taking and holding the oil fields, which may well be a violation of international law -- would require a considerable presence by American troops or their allies, and foreign bases to launch the drones." -- CW ...

... ** Glenn Kessler & Michelle Lee of the Washington Post: "For reasons known only to Trump, he continued to repeat false statements that have been repeatedly debunked in the past. So here's a round-up of some of the more notable claims made in the speech." -- CW ...

... Bradley Klapper & Lolita Baldor of the AP also do a fact-check: "Donald Trump painted the Middle East as an oasis of stability before Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, arguing that she and President Barack Obama 'launched' the Islamic State group onto the world. In trying to outline how he would defeat the threat, Trump himself launched several other false claims on Monday." -- CW

The Tartuffian Candidate. We want to build bridges and erase divisions. We will reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all of its many ugly forms. -- Donald Trump, in his international policy speech ...

... If Trump said this with a wry smile, then immediately broke into peels of laughter at the hilarity of his funny, that would be sarcasm. If he said it with his fake-serious expression, that would be Extreme Radical Hypocrisy. Americans suspected of ERH should be put on a watch list and most should be deported (to somewhere); DHS should bar from entry into the U.S. all people from designated ERH countries, and should test every potential visitor or immigrant for ERH syndrome before considered his application. -- Constant Weader

... ** New York Times Editors: "Far from coherent analysis of the threat of Islamic extremism and a plausible blueprint for action, the speech was a collection of confused and random thoughts that showed little understanding of the rise of the Islamic State and often conflicted with the historical record. Meanwhile, with terrorism as his central focus, Mr. Trump doubled down on the anti-refugee themes that have dominated his campaign, dressing them up as a national security issue." -- CW

The only strategic communication I heard was, 'I hate Muslims.' -- Adm. James Stavridis, Ret., former NATO Commander, on MSNBC today

... Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump banged the same old drum during a speech on national security in Ohio on Monday.... Going by Trump's speech, the whole [Middle East] somehow fits into [the] category [of] 'Radical Islam.'... While he's opposed to the sort of American interventions that unsettled Iraq, Trump has no qualms offering up 19th-century imperialist fantasy of occupation and resource extraction. His disdain for the sovereignty of the countries in the Middle East is compounded by a disinterest in the futures of the people living there." -- CW

CW: For a most enjoyable Trumpsky read, I suggest this column by Digby (for Salon). It includes some stuff I didn't know about, like Trump's addition of "female right wing cranks" to his policy team. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Based on every complaint Trump has made, he doesn't understand what journalism;s role in our democracy is supposed to be. It is not, of course, shilling for Donald Trump -- or any other candidate. Sullivan lets a few founders & former Supremes tweet their responses to Whiney Boy. -- CW ...

... ** Ha. A lot those dead white dudes knew. Paul Waldman shows how the media should be reporting on a Donald Trump rally:

Trump Draws Enormous, Fantastic Crowd, I Mean It's Incredible

FAIRFIELD, CT -- Republican nominee Donald Trump brought his extraordinary campaign to Make America Great Again to a university gymnasium here Sunday night, leaving the entire state simultaneously excited, hopeful, and dazed at the majesty and splendor of a Trump appearance, knowing that in some small way they had contributed to the salvation of our country.

     ... CW: Read on. I found journaTrump LOL funny. In a footnote, Waldman notes that "all Trump quotes in this article are real. Seriously."

Robert Schlesinger of US News is enjoying the meltdown & urges Trump not to change. -- CW

Jonathan Martin & Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: Donald Trump "has not just walled himself off from African-American voters where they live. He has also turned down repeated invitations to address gatherings of black leaders, ignored African-American conservatives in states he needs to win and made numerous inflammatory comments about minorities.... Some of Mr. Trump's advisers ... have called on him to broaden his campaign [to include black voters]." CW: Ha ha. That'll work. There are probably many black voters who enjoyed Trump's birther campaign & were charmed when Trump invited rally-goers to "Look at my African-American over here." And what black voter wouldn't want to hang out with these Trump rally attendees? (Also linked yesterday.) --

AP photo. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "There's no demonstrated in-person voter fraud problem in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else, for that matter).... But it's not surprising that this is a part of Trump's campaign...: When Trump's campaign director Paul Manafort was helping to coordinate the campaign effort of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine in 2006, he used similar tools and rhetoric. In 2004, Ukraine held a presidential election that actually was riddled with fraud and abuse.... Monitoring of the election ... found a number of problems focused on the campaign of Viktor Yanukovych, who ... was friendlier to Moscow.... The rampant fraud led to a series of protests dubbed the Orange Revolution -- and a second ballot, which [Viktor] Yushchenko won. At some point over the next two years, Yanukovych hired" Manafort's firm for an "extreme makeover." "There's no question that in Ukraine in 2006, there was cause to be concerned about election-rigging by the party in power -- Yanukovych's." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Manafortian Candidate. Meghan Kenealy of ABC News provides a rundown of Russia's role in and insurgence into the 2016 presidential election and the increasingly disturbing turning of Donald Trump toward the east. "When Trump was asked in December about reports that [Vladimir] Putin was cracking down on internal dissent by killing journalists and political opponents, Trump's response [was]..., 'He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what he have in this country.'... And when Putin described Trump as a 'bright and talented person,' Trump released a statement ... that said in part: 'It is always so great to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.'" -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

And Just Like Clockwork... Liz Peek of Fox: "... it is President Obama who has allowed the Russian strongman to become the power broker in the Middle East. It is thanks to Obama that Putin enjoys 82 percent approval ratings at home." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: Hahahahahaha. The claim that Obama is responsible for Putin's skyrocketing approval ratings is never substantiated (and leave us not even venture to mention that Putin's approval rating in Russia is whatever he wants it to be). It's funny how wingers, when they go on about Putin, mention, with Obama in their sights, what a terrible person he is, but in the next sentence seem to believe, childishly, that things like opinion polls in Russia ... are all on the up and up. Peek, who is a terrible writer, by the way, and a worse thinker, bases her stance that Obama is an awful president on the fact that he hasn't started a war with Russia yet. The weenie!

Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn't have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office. -- Rudy Giuliani, introducing Donald Trump & Mike Pence in Ohio

Not only did Giuliani forgot how to form a Giuliani sentence -- "A noun, a verb and 9/11," but he also forgot the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks themselves, so deep is his hatred for Obama (and black people) & Clinton (and women). -- Constant Weader

Once you understand that according to the right wing calendar, George W. Bush's presidency began on the day after 9/11 and ended the day before Obama's financial crash, this (and a whole lot more) makes perfect sense. -- Greg Sargent ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Giuliani ... actually talked about [9/11] shortly before the 'eight years' comment.... Giuliani's comments are actually pretty diametrically opposed to what Trump has said previously in this campaign. While Giuliani was basically giving the previous GOP administration kudos for preventing further terrorist attacks and contrasting that with the Obama administration's record, Trump all but blamed Bush for 9/11 during the primary." -- CW ...

... Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "Setting aside the possibility that Obama hatred has obliterated his memory of the worst terrorist attack in American history, this remark reflects the strange exemption that George W. Bush is granted over 9/11 happening under his watch. According to Republicans like Giuliani, Bush can never be held accountable for 9/11, while everything that happens under Obama's watch, from ISIS to Syrian civil war, is the president's responsibility. This sort of partisan logic might make sense to die-hard Republicans, but it comes across as unhinged to everyone else." -- CW ...

... CW: Let's assume, as several commentators have pointed out, even as they scratched their heads at the futility of such self-defeating strategy, that the Trump campaign's goal is not to expand the candidate's base in order to, you know, win the election, but to send more Purina to the Pavlovian base. In that regard, Giuliani's fractured history lesson makes sense. As Steve M. points out, "the vast majority of the party gives W [a] mulligan" [for the 9/11 attacks].

CW: Ever a stickler for the fairness doctrine I, having embedded a clip of the Democrats' veep candidate playing the harmonica, I searched for a clip featuring mike pence's musical talents. No luck, but Jen Edds fills in with "The Mike Pence Song":

Aaron Blake: "Donald Trump's national spokeswoman [Katrina Pierson] offered a pretty stunning accusation during an appearance on Fox Business Network on Monday morning. She alleged that members of the political media have 'literally beat Trump supporters into submission.'... This is merely the latest wild accusation and strange claim made by Pierson this campaign.... CNN ... media analyst Brian Stelter on Sunday pressed top Trump aide Jason Miller repeatedly on whether the campaign would continue dispatching Pierson to do TV appearances.... Stelter said, "... it seems to me there's a pattern of misinformation. It makes me worried about where her sources of information are coming from.' Miller said Stelter was making 'a ridiculous comment.'" Blake runs down some of Pierson's crazier claims. ...

     ... CW: Maybe Pierson was thinking of that video where Maggie Haberman & Karen Tumulty pummel a couple of guys wearing Trump T-shirts till the battered & bloody Trumpsters empty their pockets, crying, "Give it to Hillary! Give it all to the Democrat candidates!" In case you haven't seen the video (screenshot posted above left), it's in the same vault with the one where A-rab-looking New Jerseyites cheer the collapse of the Twin Towers.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Intrepid reporter Akhilleus has obtained a leaked copy of the first (and only) policy meeting of Donald Trump's economic team of the Best Steves. This could bring Reality Chex our first Pulitzer:

... CW: Following up on Akhilleus's scoop.... While the Steves may have influenced Trump's economic "policy" (a/k/a that which he reads from a teleprompter + China is killing us), here is incontrovertible evidence that Donaldo himself has powerfully influenced the Steves' position on women's rights:

Congressional Races

James Downie of the Washington Post: "Despite the Democrats having the inside track for the executive branch and the upper chamber of Congress, there seems little chance of a Democratic House. Why? The easy answer is that the Democratic Party -- and especially the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- has failed to take advantage of its opportunity.... Clinton and the Democrats will no doubt celebrate on Election Day. But the subsequent elections will be the true tests. Even if the Democrats retake the Senate, the GOP House will surely block every major piece of legislation the new administration seeks, and then blame Clinton for the gridlock." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Craig McCoy, et al., of Philly.com: "Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was convicted Monday of perjury, obstruction and other crimes after squandering her once bright political future on an illegal vendetta against an enemy. Four years after Kane's election in a landslide as the first Democrat and first woman elected attorney general, a jury of six men and six women found her guilty of all charges: two counts of perjury and seven misdemeanor counts of abusing the powers of her office. Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele persuaded the jurors that Kane orchestrated the illegal leak of secret grand jury documents to plant a June 2014 story critical of her nemesis, former state prosecutor Frank Fina. Kane then lied about her actions under oath, the jury found.... [Kane's attorney] said no decision had been made about whether Kane would resign from office. Gov. [Tom] Wolf [D], who had called for Kane to resign after her arrest, said Monday night that she should now do so immediately." -- CW

Rick Rojas, et al., of the New York Times: "Two days after an imam and his assistant were gunned down after afternoon prayers in Queens, city officials sought to reassure members of the Muslim community in New York on Monday, saying that a 'strong person of interest' was in police custody. At a news conference on Monday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged the fear that had spread among members of the city's Bangladeshi community over concerns that the men, who were dressed in religious garb at the time of the attack, had been targeted because of their faith." -- CW ...

     ... New Lede: "Two days after an imam and his assistant were gunned down after afternoon prayers in Queens, the police said late Monday that a man they had in custody had been charged in the killings. The man, Oscar Morel of Brooklyn, 35, who was taken into custody late Sunday after the police connected him to a hit and run that occurred about a mile away from the fatal attack, faces two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, the police said." -- CW

Hannah Schwartz, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Shaken by two nights of violent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood, Milwaukee authorities imposed a 10 p.m. citywide curfew for teens Monday while faith leaders took to the streets to pray and talk with residents. The combination of law, order and faith was an attempt to break a cycle of violence that erupted following Saturday's shooting death of an armed suspect by a Milwaukee police officer. Although it was too early to declare if the peace would fully hold, at 10:30 p.m. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn appeared at a news conference and expressed cautious optimism." -- CW

Way Beyond

Paul Schemm of the Washington Post: "Russian heavy bombers took off from an Iranian air base and struck rebel targets in Syria in a dramatic sign of the growing military relations between the two countries that are the main backers of the Syrian government." CW: Since Donald Trump has demonstrated his expertise on the Middle East, we need to hear some of the many words from his very good brain on the Russia-Iran-Syria alliance. If he's not sure how great this is, he could ask Putin's his campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

News Ledes

New York Times: "John McLaughlin, a former Roman Catholic priest who became an aide to Richard M. Nixon in the White House and parlayed his fierce defense of the president into a television career as host of 'The McLaughlin Group,' the long-running Sunday morning program of combative political punditry, died on Tuesday at his home in Washington. He was 89." CW: As I remember McLaughlin, he was always 89.

New York Times: "As the receding floodwaters continued to expose the magnitude of the disaster the state has been enduring, Louisiana officials said Tuesday that at least 11 people had died, and that about 30,000 people had been rescued. Gov. John Bel Edwards acknowledged that the state did not know how many people were missing, but he said that nearly 8,100 people had slept in shelters on Monday night and that some 40,000 homes had been 'impacted to varying degrees.'" -- CW ...

... AP: "Authorities late Monday said a body had been pulled from floodwaters in Baton Rouge, raising the toll to seven dead.... The slow-moving, low-pressure system that dumped more than 20 inches of rain on some parts of Louisiana was crawling into Texas, but the National Weather Service warned the danger of new flooding remained high due to the sheer volume of water flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico. Rivers and creeks were still dangerously bloated in areas south of Baton Rouge...." -- CW ...

... The Weather Channel has more here. -- CW

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