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

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

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Tuesday
Apr182017

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Trump Took Time out from Easter Egg Roll to Diss Obama & Bill Clinton. Joe Concha of the Hill: "President Trump said his predecessors Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were 'outplayed' by North Korea and that he won't be broadcasting his plans to deal with the isolated and increasingly aggressive country.... 'You read Clinton's book. and he said, "Oh, we made such a great peace deal," and it was a joke,' Trump said. 'You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed.[]... They've all been outplayed by this gentleman,' he continued, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 'And we'll see what happens. I just don't telegraph my moves.'" CW: Trump repeatedly referred to the thug Kim as a "gentleman," no doubt because Trump couldn't remember or couldn't pronounce Kim's name.

Daniel Drezner of the Washington Post: "Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome [of the Turkish election]. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey's citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don't think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome.... For all the talk about Trump's moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it's time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts: 1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States; 2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works; 3.The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values." -- CW

Antony Blinken in a New York Times op-ed: "As President Trump confronts the twin challenges of North Korea and Syria, he must overcome a credibility gap of his own making. His insistence on remaining the most prominent consumer and purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories is not only corrosive of our democracy -- it's dangerous to our national security. Every fact-averse tweet devalues his credibility at home and around the world. This matters more than ever when misinformation is a weapon of choice for our most dangerous adversaries.... A series of sophomoric presidential missives -- 'North Korea is behaving very badly'; 'North Korea is looking for trouble'; if China won't help, 'we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.'; North Korea's quest for a nuclear-tipped ICBM 'won't happen!' -- has given Pyongyang a rare chance to take the high road.... Equally problematic is Mr. Trump's challenged relationship with veracity, documented almost daily by independent fact-checking organizations.... If Mr. Trump continues to spread his own misinformation on matters large and small, he will cede that advantage and America will be seen like any other country -- which is just what our adversaries want. This will complicate his administration's ability to rally others against threats to our national security." -- CW

If lawmakers do not like the laws that we enforce, that we are charged to enforce, that we are sworn to enforce, then they should have the courage and the skill to change those laws. Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines. -- DHS Secretary John Kelly, at the George Washington University event, today ...

... Madeline Conway of Politico: "Kelly's remarks at the event ... laid out a bleak worldview similar to what ... Donald Trump has articulated. The country is continuously 'under attack' by drug smugglers, terrorists and other criminals who hate America and try to cross its borders, Kelly said, arguing that law enforcement officials do not always get the respect they deserve for protecting Americans. But, he asserted, that is changing. 'It stopped with President Trump and it stopped with me,' Kelly said." -- CW ...

... Looks as if JeffBo Sent Kelly the Weed-Is-Evil Memo. Katie Williams of the Hill: "Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly course-corrected recent comments on marijuana Tuesday, in his first major public speech since being sworn in. Kelly vowed that Department of Homeland Security staff would continue to investigate and arrest those involved in illegal trade of the drug, and called marijuana 'a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.' The apparent reversal comes two days after he told 'Meet the Press' that marijuana is not 'a factor in the drug war.'" -- CW

Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post: "Dozens of men and women whose ancestors were once sold as slaves to fund the nascent Georgetown University gathered at that university Tuesday for an emotional worship service of remembrance and repentance. Maryland's Jesuit priests sold 272 slaves in 1838, and used the proceeds of the sale to secure the future of the floundering new college. That sale only became well-known last year, through the research of genealogists and then widespread publicity. Now, the university is grappling with how to respond to the new knowledge of its own history -- as are dozens of people who have learned their ancestors were once enslaved by men of God and sold by those priests to even more brutal slavery in Louisiana." -- CW

Lindsey Bever, et al., of the Washington Post: "The suspect accused of killing a 74-year-old man in Cleveland and then posting a video of the coldblooded slaying on Facebook shot and killed himself Tuesday in Pennsylvania as police were closing in, authorities said. Steve W. Stephens, the subject of a rapidly expanding nationwide manhunt following the horrific slaying Sunday in Ohio, was spotted by Pennsylvania State Police troopers in Erie County on Tuesday morning, the agency announced. 'A traffic stop was attempted, there was a brief pursuit, at which time Stephens shot and killed himself,' Pennsylvania State Police communications director Ryan Tarkowski said." -- CW

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz says his company will not fire any employees following backlash over the forced removal of a passenger aboard a recent flight. 'The buck stops here,' he said on United's earnings call Tuesday, according to CNBC. 'And I'm sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally. Again, it was a system failure across various areas, so no, there was never a consideration for firing an employee.' Munoz's remarks came as shares of United Continental reportedly dropped 4.4 percent Tuesday despite the company reporting earnings that exceeded expectations Monday." CW: The security guards who removed & injured Dr. Dao are not United employees; they work for the City of Chicago. According to a couple of reports I read, one of them was suspended or put on leave.

Anushka Asthana, et al., of the Guardian: British Prime Minister "Theresa May has said she wants to hold a snap general election on 8 June, despite repeatedly claiming that she was against the idea of an early vote. In a surprise statement outside Downing Street on Tuesday morning, the prime minister claimed that opposition parties were jeopardising her government's preparations for Brexit." -- CW

*****

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "President Trump's promise to enact a sweeping overhaul of the tax code is in serious jeopardy nearly 100 days into his tenure, and his refusal to release his own tax returns is emerging as a central hurdle to another faltering campaign promise.... Sean Spicer emphasized again on Monday that Mr. Trump had no intention of making his [returns] public. Democrats have seized on that decision, uniting around a pledge not to cooperate on any rewriting of the tax code unless they know specifically how that revision would benefit the billionaire president and his family. And a growing roster of more than a dozen Republican lawmakers now say Mr. Trump should release them.... The Trump administration's tax plan, promised in February, has yet to materialize; a House Republican plan has bogged down, taking as much fire from conservatives as liberals; and on Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told The Financial Times that the administration's goal of getting a tax plan signed by August was 'not realistic at this point.'" -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "Three months into his presidency, Trump no longer has a tax plan. He doesn't even have a set of principles for a tax plan. Nor does he have a legislative strategy for passing one.... Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin ... remains unable to offer any details on the administration's vision of tax reform.... The president's reputation as an effective deal-maker -- even among Republican voters -- may not survive until the fall. In December, 60 percent of Americans told Pew that they were confident Trump would work effectively with Congress; now only 46 percent are." -- CW ...

... The "Art of the Scam" Falls Flat in Washington. Paul Waldman: "Trump has had one big test case so far for his supposedly superhuman negotiating skills (early in his campaign, one of Trump's spokespeople called him the 'best negotiator in the history of this world'): the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And it was a disaster. Not only was it an example of terrible legislating, it was also a master class in how not to negotiate.... when you bring that [screw-the-'losers'] approach to politics, you find that things don't work quite the same way. You can launch Trump University, scam the customers, and then move on to the next group of suckers (until the courts catch up with you, that is). But in politics, you have to keep making deals with the same people. You can lie and cheat a senator, but you're going to have to come back to her and ask for her vote on another bill, and you can bet she'll remember what happened the last time." -- CW

Sometimes I think the president doesn't understand the line between being a private businessman and serving the public trust, and he thinks he can just run his life the same way he's done for 50 years. But this is about the public trust. If you want to get rich, don't get into politics. I know that. If you want privacy, don't go into politics. He needs to learn that. -- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) ...

... Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "White House officials on Monday mustered a sweeping defense of their less-is-more public disclosure practices, arguing that releasing information on a wide array of topics would strike a blow against personal privacy and impede President Trump's ability to govern. This stance, critics say, represents a shift from Mr. Trump's own drain-the-swamp campaign message and his promise to decrease the influence of lobbyists, special interest groups and big political donors. Sean Spicer..., facing a barrage of questions about the president's commitment to transparency, repeatedly shut down reporters' queries -- from the identity of Mr. Trump's weekend golf partners to his refusal to release his 2016 tax returns. Mr. Spicer said that greater public disclosure was unnecessary, intrusive or even harmful." --CW ...

... Brian Beutler: "Trump's tax returns will play a starring role in 2018 if for no other reason than that they symbolize the concrete stakes of the midterms: that only the Democrats will reveal his returns, if so empowered by voters; and that only Democrats will get to the bottom of Trump's corruption more generally. It is an issue that will continually resurface until the election, after which the White House has better hope Republicans still control Congress. Because if they don't, the potential consequences for their party in 2020 are nearly bottomless.... Only the majority parties in the House and Senate have subpoena power. The chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees have power under the law to secure Trump's tax returns and make them public. So although Democrats can't promise voters huge legislative gains while Trump is president, they can credibly promise to address many of the ethical questions that have swirled around him since last year's campaign-- and that, if they're not given control of one or both chambers of Congress, those questions will continue to go unanswered." -- CW

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday aimed at making it harder for technology companies to recruit low-wage workers from foreign countries and undercut Americans looking for jobs.... As a candidate, Mr. Trump often assailed the government's H-1B visa program, under which the government admits 85,000 immigrants each year, mostly to work in high-tech jobs. Mr. Trump pledged to end the program, which he said was allowing companies to fire Americans and replace them with lower-cost foreign employees. The expected executive order falls far short of ending that program, but the administration officials argued on Monday that the changes Mr. Trump sought would radically change it." ...

     ... CW: Apparently the order won't do anything to limit the entry of foreign hotel & agricultural workers, because, you know, Mar-a-Lago, Trump Wineries, etc. But screw those libruls in Silicon Valley.

SCROTUS Takes Time out from Easter Egg Roll to Congratulate Dictator on "Winning" Suspect Election. Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "President Trump called to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday after a referendum greatly expanding his powers, despite a more circumspect State Department response to Sunday's vote, which international election observers declared unfair. According to accounts by both Trump and Erdogan, the two also discussed the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base.... Trump thanked Erdogan for Turkey's support of the retaliatory action..., and they talked about the ongoing campaign to counter the Islamic State. Trump's comments differed in tone from those of the State Department, which urged Turkey to respect the basic rights of its citizens and noted the election irregularities witnessed by monitors with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The United States is a member of the OSCE.... White House press secretary Sean Spicer earlier told reporters that the administration would not comment on the referendum until the final report of election observers is complete sometime next week." -- CW ...

... Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker: "When Erdoğan became Prime Minister, in 2003, every leader in the West wanted him to succeed. In a world still trying to make sense of the 9/11 attacks, he seemed like a bridge between cultures. On Sunday, Erdoğan declared himself the winner of a nationwide referendum that all but brings Turkish democracy to an end. The vast new powers granted to Erdoğan -- wide control over the judiciary, broad powers to make law by decree, the abolition of the office of the Prime Minister and of Turkey's parliamentary system -- effectively make him a dictator." -- CW

I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it's a massive, massive story.... Yeah, it's a bigger story than you know.... I think that it's going to be the biggest story. -- Donald Trump, ca. April 5

Nobody believes [Susan Rice's assertions], even the people that try to protect her in the news media. It's such a big story and I'm sure it will continue forward. But what they did is horrible. -- Donald Trump, ca. April 11

... Steve Benen on Susan Rice: "Two weeks ago..., [Trump] escalated matters considerably by overhauling the entire story, telling the New York Times that former National Security Advisor Susan Rice 'may have committed a crime by seeking to learn the identities of Trump associates swept up in surveillance of foreign officials by United States spy agencies.' Apparently persuaded by something he saw on a right-wing website, Trump specifically said at the time, 'I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story.... ' As a rule, presidents don't casually accuse former federal officials of crimes without proof -- welcome to the Trump Era -- and in this case, it appears the president had no idea what he was talking about. 'A review of the surveillance material flagged by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes shows no inappropriate action by Susan Rice or any other Obama administration official, Republican and Democratic Congressional aides who have been briefed on the matter told NBC News.'... And yet, as recently as last week, Trump told Fox Business that when he referred to Obama's illegal 'wiretaps' ... he was actually talking about Susan Rice." -- CW ...

     ... AND Benen asks this question: "... what are the consequences of a sitting president lying about the previous administration committing a felony?"

Justin McCurry of the Guardian: "A senior North Korean official has accused the US of turning the Korean peninsula into 'the world's biggest hotspot' and creating 'a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment'. North Korea's deputy UN ambassador, Kim In-ryong, described US-South Korean military exercises as the largest ever 'aggressive war drill' and said his country was 'ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US'... Kim's warning came as the US vice-president, Mike Pence, assured Japan that Washington would work closely with its allies in the region to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis and denuclearise the Korean peninsula.... North Korea's deputy foreign minister, Han Song-Ryol, told the BBC that Pyongyang would continue to test missiles 'on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis'. All-out war would ensue if the US took military action, he said.... The statements from the North Korean officials came as Trump told the government in Pyongyang that it has 'gotta behave' and Pence said the 'era of strategic patience is over'." -- CW ...

... Henry Meyer & Ilya Arkhipov of Bloomberg: "In the latest sign of the Kremlin's abrupt about-face on its erstwhile American hero, [Dmitry] Kiselyov..., the Kremlin's top TV mouthpiece..., pronounced Trump 'more dangerous' than his North Korean counterpart. 'Trump is more impulsive and unpredictable than Kim Jong Un,' he told viewers of his prime-time Sunday 'Vesti Nedelyi' program, which earlier this year carried paeans to Trump for his pledge to warm up relations with Russia." -- CW

Dana Milbank: "For everybody else who believed Trump’s populist talk about tackling a rigged system, it’s time to recognize you've been had. The president of the United States is a swamp monster. The billionaire has embraced a level of corporate control of the government that makes previous controversies involving corporate influence -- Vice President Dick Cheney's attempt in 2001 to keep secret the names of industry officials who participated in his energy task force, for example -- seem quaint by comparison." -- CW ...

... Gene Robinson: Donald Trump's "frequent trips to Florida ... have put him on pace to spend roughly as much on leisure travel in one year as Barack Obama spent in eight.... As a private citizen, Trump was sharply critical of Obama's travel spending, calling him a 'habitual vacationer.'... Trump's love of leisure is yet another example of the gaping chasm between the kind of president he claimed he would be and the kind he actually is.... Trump also promised a set of populist policies designed to help the working class. Instead, he has tried to deliver an orthodox Republican agenda that offers tons of goodies for the wealthy and nothing but lumps of coal for everyone else." -- CW ...

... Shaun King of the New York Daily News: "Throughout the campaign, Trump frequently riffed on how much Obama golfed and pledged, 'I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.'... In 2013 Sean Hannity tweeted, 'Glad our arrogant Pres. is enjoying his taxpayer funded golf outing after announcing the US should take military action against Syria.'... Just a few months earlier, Newt Gingrich tweeted (his misspellings not mine), 'Trump and president obsma both golf but trump doesn't charge the taxpayers $920,000 for a golf weekend in florida.'... More than ever, it's clear that conservatives never really had a problem with a golfing President, what they hated seeing was a black golfing President. I also think this was the subconscious message that Trump was pulling on throughout the campaign trail to his almost exclusively white audiences.... It was a coded way to say, 'How dare that uppity negro golf and enjoy leisure time why we work hard to make this country what it truly is?'... And it's why those same conservatives are now silent." -- CW

"Twinkle Twinkle Little Czar, Putin Put You Where You Are." John Cassidy of the New Yorker writes a "progress report" on protests & pushback against Trump. -- CW

Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn't mention renewable energy by name. But his request for the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate how federal subsidies boost one form of energy at the expense of baseload generation was clearly meant as a swipe at wind and solar energy resources. In an April 14 memo to his chief of staff..., Perry directed the agency to look at the extent to which ;continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.'... The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) expressed confusion with DOE's decision to launch a new study based on the premise that renewable energy policies are accelerating the decline of coal and nuclear plants, or somehow undermining grid resilience. Numerous studies have demonstrated otherwise....

Kelsey Sutton & Elana Schor of Politico: "Sen. Tom Cotton came under fire at a raucous town hall Monday, as constituents pelted the Arkansas Republican on topics ranging from Donald Trump's tax returns and possible ties to Russia to the GOP push to repeal Obamacare." -- CW

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said Monday during a combative town hall that he supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood.... The GOP senator was booed when he initially appeared to hedge his answer on whether or not he supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He said lawmakers would 'continue to look at this issue' before adding: 'I will protect Planned Parenthood' Heller -- who is the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reelection -- and Rep. Mark Amodei (Nev.) faced a rancorous two-hour town hall on Monday. They fielded multiple questions on Planned Parenthood and a vote last month that could allow states to cut off Title X family-planning funding to the organization." -- CW

Kathleen Foody & Bill Barrow of the AP: "Republicans are bidding to prevent a major upset in a conservative Georgia congressional district where Democrats stoked by opposition to ... Donald Trump have rallied behind a candidate who has raised a shocking amount of money for a special election.... Republicans essentially concede that Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer, will lead Tuesday's voting. That leaves 11 Republican candidates hoping the 30-year-old investigative filmmaker fails to reach a majority. If he doesn't, Ossoff and the top GOP vote-getter would meet in a June 20 runoff." -- CW

What's Troubling Ted Today? Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune: "Ted Cruz ... expressed concern Monday that the 'Democratic radical left' would prompt a government shutdown in the coming weeks as Congress faces an April 28 deadline to pass a spending bill. 'You know, I very much hope we don't have a shutdown,' Cruz told reporters. 'I will say I'm concerned. I think [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown.' Cruz had a starring role in the 2013 government shutdown, which lasted 16 days and was prompted over failed efforts by Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act. Afterward, some Republicans blamed Cruz for helping instigate the shutdown without a realistic plan to prompt the Obama administration to blink on the issue. " -- CW

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "If Justice[* Neil] Gorsuch experienced first-day jitters, he did not betray them. He was an exceptionally active questioner, displaying an easy familiarity with the issues in the three minor and technical cases before the court. He asked crisp and colloquial questions, and he kept asking them if he did not find the lawyers' answers satisfactory.... Justice Gorsuch approached [a Civil Service discrimination] case with relish, and he made what is likely to become one of his signature points, that the court's job is limited to reading the words of the statute under review." CW: Wow! I'll bet the other justices were really impressed. ...

     ... CW: See also Akhilleus's comment in yesterday's thread. I'm stretching only a bit to say Akhilleus compared Gorsuch to Hannibal Lecter. How about some fava beans and a nice chianti with that liver, Mr. Justice*.

Elizabeth Dwoskin & Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "The massive growth of live-streaming everything from Little League games to a giraffe's birth has developed a sinister edge as murderers, rapists and terrorists have found ways to broadcast video that tech companies such as Facebook are struggling to contain. Among the most shocking incidents yet came on Easter Sunday, when a man armed with a smartphone and a black handgun took video of himself fatally shooting a bystander on a Cleveland street. The alleged killer, Steve Stephens, posted the video on his Facebook page, then took to the Facebook Live streaming service to confess his actions -- in real time. As of Monday evening, Stephens was still at large.... Live video of violent incidents, including suicides, beheadings and torture, have gone viral, with some reaching millions of people.... [Facebook] raced into live video after observing the explosive popularity of platforms such as Snapchat, Meerkat and YouTube." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The future of [Bill] O'Reilly's long career at Fox News may hinge on a sexual-harassment accusation raised by a woman named Wendy Walsh, who has alleged that O'Reilly propositioned her in a Los Angeles hotel in 2013, then retaliated against her when she rebuffed him. Walsh, a Los Angeles radio personality and author who offers relationship advice, hasn't sued or sought compensation -- just validation that she and other women were wronged by the blunt-spoken host of 'The O'Reilly Factor.'... Fox News was apparently unaware of [Walsh's allegation] until she raised it for the first time in an interview with the New York Times this month. Her complaint has triggered an investigation at Fox by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the same firm that uncovered widespread harassment allegations against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes last summer, leading to his ouster.... Walsh was a guest on 'The Factor' 13 times after her meeting with O'Reilly in Los Angeles, appearing almost weekly from late February until mid-June of that year. He mentioned her book four times after it was published in mid-April and repeatedly showed its cover on the air." ...

     ... CW: I hate to defend O'Repugnant, but for a "relationships expert," Walsh's claims seem very shaky to me. What seems most likely is that O'Reilly did make a pass at her, she refused him, and way later he dropped a segment that included not just Walsh but also another professional woman. I have a hard time seeing much wrong with that other than the obvious -- and seldom-observed -- taboo against workplace relationships.

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "After a pair of court defeats, the state of Arkansas was forced late Monday to abandon its plan to carry out its first execution in more than a decade. The canceled execution of a condemned prisoner here was a significant setback for the state, which had sought to put eight men to death this month, before its stock of a lethal injection drug expired. On Monday afternoon, the State Supreme Court stayed the execution of Don W. Davis, who was convicted more than a quarter-century ago of a murder in northwestern Arkansas. Then, about 15 minutes before Mr. Davis's death warrant was due to expire, the United States Supreme Court refused to overrule the Arkansas jurists, who had voted 4 to 3 to halt the execution. The decisions do not affect five other executions that are scheduled this month.... Although Mr. Davis and other prisoners whose executions had been scheduled for this month had already won stays from a federal judge in Little Rock, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, reversed the order, leaving the surprise decision by the state justices as the sole obstacle to the first lethal injection in Arkansas since 2005." -- CW

Way Beyond

Hannah Devlin of the Guardian: "An immense river that flowed from one of Canada's largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world's geography. The abrupt and unexpected disappearance of the Slims river, which spanned up to 150 metres at its widest points, is the first observed case of 'river piracy', in which the flow of one river is suddenly diverted into another." -- CW

News Lede

NBC News: "Former President George H.W. Bush was admitted to a Houston hospital and treated for a 'mild case of pneumonia,' his office announced on Tuesday. Bush was actually quietly admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Friday for observation 'due to a persistent cough that prevented him from getting proper rest,' according to a statement released from the office of the former president. The hospital then determined that Bush had a mild case of pneumonia, 'which was treated and has been resolved,' the statement said." -- CW

Sunday
Apr162017

The Commentariat -- April 17, 2017

Trump is tweeting again. Everything is Obama's fault. And Democrats'. And the fake news media's. Also people love him. Happy White House Easter Egg Roll to you, too. -- CW ...

     ... Also Jon Ostoff, the Democrat running to fill Tom Price's South Carolina House seat, is a terrible person who wants to "protect criminals," & so forth.

** Jonathan Chait: "For good or bad, mostly bad, the herky-jerky logic of TV news coverage dictates the president's strategy, or lack thereof. Previous presidents, most notably Ronald Reagan, became famous for their ability to manipulate television. Television manipulates Trump." -- CW

Thomas Wood, in a Washington Post article, crunches the numbers & concludes that "Racial attitudes made a bigger difference in electing Trump than authoritarianism [or income inequality]." -- CW

New York Times Editors: Donald Trump's "intemperate talk is adding to regional tensions, unnerving allies and likely reinforcing North Korea's longstanding fear that it could one day be attacked by America -- the very reason North Korea invested in a nuclear arsenal in the first place. It would be risky for Mr. Trump to let overconfidence and bombast, expressed in tweets and public statements, box him into some kind of showdown with the North's ruthless leader, Kim Jong-un, who has displayed similarly macho traits. South Korea, Japan and even Russia have urged both sides to avoid a devastating miscalculation." -- CW ...

... Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "Vice President Pence warned North Korea Monday that it could be in for the same treatment as Syria and Afghanistan -- both of which the Trump administration has bombed this month -- if it continues with its nuclear program. The stark warning, delivered in Seoul after the vice president went to the military demarcation that separates the two Koreas, could revive speculation that the White House is considering military action against the regime in Pyongyang. Pence said that the Trump administration wanted to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons 'through peaceful means' but repeated the administration's warning that 'all options are on the table.'" -- CW ...

... Cyra Master of the Hill: "Vice President Pence, in the midst of a 10-day Asia trip, is making an unannounced visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, according to pool reports. At 9:30 a.m. local time, a Blackhawk helicopter carrying Pence landed at Camp Bonifas, South Korea, the gateway to the DMZ." -- CW ...

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "... Mike Pence on Sunday described North Korea's failed missile test as 'a provocation' that highlighted the risks plaguing both the region and the United States, as the White House said President Trump had an array of military, diplomatic and other options to respond. 'This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face each and every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world,' Mr. Pence said at an Easter dinner at Yongsan military base in Seoul, South Korea...." -- CW ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "National security adviser H.R. McMaster said a failed early-morning missile test by North Korea 'fits into a pattern of provocative and destabilizing and threatening behavior on the part of the North Korean regime.' McMaster, appearing Sunday on ABC's 'This Week,' said the United States is building an international coalition to pressure the North Koreans. 'And I think there's an international consensus now, including -- including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership -- that this is a situation that just can't continue,' McMaster said." -- CW ...

While it's unclear and we do not want to telegraph in any way how we'll respond to certain incidents, it's clear that the president is determined not to allow this kind of capability to threaten the United States. Our president will take action that is in the best interest of the American people. -- H.R. McMaster, on ABC News' 'This Week,' Sunday ...

... AP: "China and Russia have dispatched intelligence-gathering vessels from their navies to chase the USS Carl Vinson nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which is heading toward waters near the Korean Peninsula, multiple sources of the Japanese government revealed to The Yomiuri Shimbun[, a major Japanese newspaper]. It appears that both countries aim to probe the movements of the United States, which is showing a stance of not excluding military action against North Korea. The Self-Defense Forces are strengthening warning and surveillance activities in the waters and airspace around the area, according to the sources." CW: Wait, wait. I thought China was our new BFF. ...

... David Sanger & William Broad of the New York Times: "What is playing out, said Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center..., is 'the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.' But the slow-motion part appears to be speeding up, as President Trump and his aides have made it clear that the United States will no longer tolerate the incremental advances that have moved Mr. Kim so close to his goals." CW: Uh, no, because unlike Trump & Kim, Kennedy & Khrushchev were not insane.

NEW. Amy Harder of Axios: "In a shift that is changing the debate, the biggest and most important U.S. energy companies are now dropping their resistance to a global climate deal. Broader corporate backing of global action on climate change is helping push President Trump away from his campaign promise to pull out of the climate deal, which was struck by nearly 200 nations in Paris two years ago to slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions." -- CW

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "Just days after taking office, President Trump invited American manufacturers to recommend ways the government could cut regulations and make it easier for companies to get their projects approved. Industry leaders responded with scores of suggestions that paint the clearest picture yet of the dramatic steps that Trump officials are likely to take in overhauling federal policies, especially those designed to advance environmental protection and safeguard worker rights. Those clues are embedded in the 168 comments submitted to the government.... The Environmental Protection Agency has emerged as the primary target in these comments, accounting for nearly half, with the Labor Department in second place as the subject of more than a fifth, according to a Commerce Department analysis.... More than 80 percent of the comments Commerce received ... came from trade associations or manufacturers.... David Michaels, who headed OSHA under Obama and is now a professor at George Washington University..., said, 'The culture of the trade associations in Washington is to attack any new regulation as burdensome, even though the empirical evidence is that they're easily met, they'e not burdensome and they save lives. But injured workers don't have a voice in Washington.... Trade associations do."-- CW

"All Jobs Matter." Paul Krugman: "... whatever the reasons that political narratives tend to privilege some jobs and some industries over others, it's a tendency we should fight. Laid-off retail workers and local reporters are just as much victims of economic change as laid-off coal miners.... While we can't stop job losses from happening, however, we can limit the human damage when they do happen. We can guarantee health care and adequate retirement income for all. We can provide aid to the newly unemployed. And we can act to keep the overall economy strong -- which means doing things like investing in infrastructure and education, not cutting taxes on rich people and hoping the benefits trickle down." -- CW

Kevin Robillard: "Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called on Congress to fix the nation's immigration laws, arguing his department shouldn't have as much discretion as it does on deportations. 'I would argue, Chuck, that we have to straighten this out,' Kelly told host Chuck Todd of NBC on Sunday's 'Meet the Press.' 'And I place that squarely on the United States Congress. It's a hugely complex series of laws, and I engage the Hill quite a bit and get an earful about what I should do and what I shouldn't do. But it all comes down to the law, doesn't it? And we are a nation of laws, and I would hope that the Congress fixes a lot of these problems.'... He also suggested that neither he nor ICE could be blamed for an uptick in deportations during the Trump administration." -- CW ...

... Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post: "Immigration arrests rose 32.6 percent in the first weeks of the Trump administration, with newly empowered federal agents intensifying their pursuit of not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but also thousands of illegal immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding.... Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor's protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.... 'My sense is that ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen,' Dan Satterberg, the top prosecutor in Washington state's King County, which includes Seattle, said Thursday. 'The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.'" CW: And what a stupendously stupid waste of resources.

Ben White & Victoria Guida of Politico: "... Donald Trump is expected to nominate former Treasury undersecretary Randy Quarles[, a Bush II administration veteran] as the Federal Reserve's top bank regulator, a person close to the decision said. The selection would send a clear signal that the administration is looking to take a pragmatic approach to paring back bank regulation, rather than choosing an ideologue who would seek to eviscerate the rules enacted since the financial crisis.... The slot for which Quarles is the likely pick, Fed vice chairman of supervision, has never been formally filled since it was created out of the landmark 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law." CW: Oh, so Trump likes something about Dodd-Frank.

Kimberly Dozier of The Daily Beast: "There's a new band in town that's guiding national security by quietly tutoring the most powerful man in America. Never-Trump Republicans who'd been apprehensive about President Donald Trump are celebrating the trio's influence, calling Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Homeland Secretary John Kelly the 'Axis of Adults.' Through near daily contact with the trio, as well as Trump's National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and CIA director Mike Pompeo, Trump's world view appears to be morphing more closely match hawkish conservatives of the Bush administration." --safari

What about Weed? Derek Hawkins of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to revive the war on drugs, and a crackdown on weed appears to be a major part of that. He is expected to pursue harsher punishments for using and distributing marijuana, which were relaxed under President Trump's predecessor, as The Washington Post's Sari Horowitz [sic. CW: it's Horwitz] has reported. 'Good people don't smoke marijuana,' Sessions opined last year. It's a far cry from what Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said about the drug Sunday. In an interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' Kelly told host Chuck Todd that marijuana was 'not a factor' in the war on drugs and argued that 'arresting a lot of users' wasn't the right solution to the country's drug problems." ...

     ... CW: If you're totally bummed that JeffBo thinks you're not "good people," I'll bet you can figure out a way to mitigate your heartbreak.

For those of you who missed some of the references in Melissa McCarthy's brilliant "SNL" spoof of Sean Spicer, Avi Selk of the Washington Post provides context for most of the zingers. Video at the top of yesterday's Commentariat.

Sean Sullivan & Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "Fewer than 100 days after Republicans assumed complete control of Washington, their botched attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and broader struggles to cooperate have stoked widespread distrust and despair inside the party. The friction is evident at town hall meetings across the country during the current congressional recess.... The open warfare threatens the president and the GOP agenda, but is also dampening enthusiasm with Republican voters who can no longer blame Democrats or divided government for the dysfunction." -- CW

CW: If you were wondering if Members of Congress have to pay for their own health insurance under ObamaCare, Michelle Lee of the Washington Post explains that taxpayers subsidize 72 percent of their premiums & those of their staffs. Of course some of them, like Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) lie to their constituents about that.

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Yes, this is a child custody case, so it is inherently serious, but Alex Jones' lawyers are arguing, for the purpose of Jones's retaining custody of his children, that he is a total fake. His on-air persona is like, um, the Joker in "Batman." Okay then. Jonathan Tilove of the Austin Statesman reports.

Beyond the Beltway

Natasha Lennard of Esquire: "Media reports relying on the 'pro-Trump versus anti-Trump' framing [of the violence at protests in Berkeley] missed some glaring and more subtle cues about the nature of Saturday's protests. Multiple demonstrators, some of whom donned Make America Great Again hats, performed Nazi salutes in full public view.... As firsthand testimonies, numerous images and videos shared on social media can attest, explicitly racist groups and individuals were present in force, some having traveled from out of state to attend. Equally, the masked, black clad anti-fascist protesters ... followed calls to action, which had named the specific far right and neo-Nazi alliances that were planning to attend, and indeed helped organize, the 'Patriots Day' rally. The violence from both the far left and far right rested on a fulcrum that, while emphasized in the Trump era, far predates his presidency; anti-fascists have long met white supremacists with force in the streets." -- CW

Way Beyond

Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "A slim majority of Turkish voters agreed on Sunday to grant sweeping powers to their president, in a watershed moment that the country's opposition fears may cement a system of authoritarian rule within one of the critical power brokers of the Middle East. With nearly 99 percent of votes in a referendum counted on Sunday night, supporters of the proposal had 51.3 percent of votes cast, and opponents had 48.7 percent, the country's electoral commission announced." CW: If this was a legitimate vote count, people are really stupid. ...

...The Urban/Rural Divide. Juan Cole: "Turkey's historic referendum on Sunday will move the country from a parliamentary to a presidential system. Many observers are sounding a death knell for Turkish democracy as a result, but the move to presidentialism in and of itself isn't the problem. Interestingly, Erdogan won with a similar demographic profile to that of the 2016 US presidential election. Erdogan's constitutional change largely triumphed on the basis of rural and provincial voters but was rejected by the big cities. Turkey's equivalent of the Red States drove the change.... The real problem with Turkish democracy is not that it is parliamentary or presidential. It is that it isn't functioning very well and that the executive is grabbing extra-constitutional powers." -safari...

... Kareem Fahim of the Washington Post: "Turkey's main opposition party quickly contested the result of the vote, claiming that up 2.5 million ballots were invalid and that some election monitors had been removed from polling stations." -- CW ...

Queen Elizabeth II & hubby Prince Philip prepare for dreaded possible meeting with U.S. Republican president. Getty image. April 11, 2017.

Saturday
Apr152017

The Commentariat -- April 16, 2017

Afternoon Update:

New SNL skit added below the link to the story about United Airlines. You'll have to watch to the end.

*****

On this highest of Holy Days, Happy Easter Bunny!

... In case you missed it, here's @RealSpicey dressed for his former White House job:

Rebecca Morin of Politico: "... Donald Trump doubled down on his stance Sunday that China is not a currency manipulator, a position he's taken since the country has decided to help against North Korea. 'Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens,' Trump tweeted Sunday morning. On the campaign trail, Trump said he would designate China as a currency manipulator on the first day of his presidency to 'force China to the negotiating table.' Last week, he changed that stance and said they are not a currency manipulator in an interview with the Wall Street Journal." ...

     ... CW: In case you didn't notice, Trump's tweet doesn't make a lick of sense. A country could be both (a) a currency manipulator, and (b) "working on ... the North Korea problem." These are totally unrelated policies. BTW, according to Krugman (& other economists) China is no longer a currency manipulator (where the term means devaluing its currency to boost exports) and has been trying to prop up the yuan for a couple of years. Of course, that too, is "currency manipulation," & all major economies, including the U.S., engage in some kind of currency manipulation to address their countries' economic needs.

... Donald in Denial. Rebecca Morin: "... Donald Trump claimed Sunday that protesters were paid to hold Tax Day rallies protesting the president for not releasing his tax returns. 'I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?' the president tweeted. 'Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!' (See related stories re: protests linked below.) -- CW

The Guest from Hell. Terence Cullen of the New York Daily News: "The White House has insisted the President’s planned visit to London this fall include a carriage ride with Queen Elizabeth II down 'the Mall,' a strip that leads to Buckingham Palace, The Times of London reported. But local police said such a visit will be a 'monster,' because of security protocols and planned protests." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Don't tell me Trump isn't comical. Last I heard, the Queen planned to be out of town for Trump's visit, but it's possible he changed the date to accommodate her summer plans & now expects the royal treatment in return. If I were the Queen or the PM, I'd be in British Columbia when Trump shows up in London.

But I Have Promises to Break. New York Times Editors: "Donald Trump has made so many promises, from wiping out the national debt -- a pledge dismissed last week by his own budget director as 'hyperbole' -- to changing the name of the Denali peak back to Mount McKinley, that it can be hard to keep track of how many he's breaking. So here's a partial list of his reversals and revisions, large and small, to date. [CW: The list is staggering & well-worth a read.]... To attribute the president's pirouettes to personal growth would also require ignoring what's actually staring us in the face -- that there is no foundation to this presidency.... He is revealing himself to be a tactical, transactional president, with no guiding convictions or principles beyond 'winning.'... One clear pattern emerging here, a pattern that is consistent with Mr. Trump's treatment of others in private life, from his stiffing of his creditors to his swindling of students at Trump University: betrayal." -- CW

Stopping by Woods on a Boring Evening
By Donald J. Trump*

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

They're mine to take; just sue the shmoe.

But I have promises to break,

And lies to tweet when I awake.

 

*Who has the best words.

 

Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "Trump says he can't be sued for violence at his rallies because he won the election.... 'Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is President of the United States,' his lawyers wrote Friday, rebutting a complaint filed by three protesters who claimed Trump incited a riot against them at a Louisville event in March 2016.... Alvin Bamberger, who was seen in a video pushing a protester through a jeering crowd at the Louisville convention center, 'would not have acted as he did without Trump and/or the Trump Campaign's specific urging and inspiration,' Bamberger's lawyer wrote.... And [Bamberger] accepted as true [a plaintiff's] claims that Trump's speech 'was calculated to incite violence' against the protesters.... 'That is extremely significant,' said Greg Belzley, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. 'It is fairly unusual to have a person who is engaged in violent misconduct ... actually point the finger at the person and identify the person who caused him to do what he did.'" -- CW

Washington Post Editors: "FOR DECADES, and particularly since President Richard Nixon's administration, public pressure has led presidents to become steadily more open with citizens about how they conduct business, and more mindful of ethics.... The latest news is that Mr. Trump will not routinely release White House visitor records, as Mr. Obama did. The White House cited 'grave national security risks and privacy concerns.' The former is not persuasive, since a national security exception was built into the policy. So Mr. Trump must argue that his right to privacy, or that of the lobbyists coming to see him, outweighs the public's interest in knowing who is getting an audience. We don't find that persuasive, either. Mr. Trump's decision to claw the White House logs back into the shadows follows several other moves that show contempt for the public." -- CW ...

... The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Eric Lipton, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck. The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, according to an analysis of recently released financial disclosures, lobbying records and interviews with current and former ethics officials by The New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica. In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration's own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules." -- CW

... The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd., Gag Order Edition. Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "Democrats in Congress are accusing the Trump administration of ordering officials in federal departments and agencies to withhold information they need to carry out their duties, such as preparing for committee hearings. Party leaders say officials have routinely provided documents and detailed explanations of programs in the past, but now at least two ranking Democrats on congressional committees say their staff members were told directly by workers in agencies that they could no longer speak with them.... 'House Democrats have sent more than 100 letters to the Trump administration seeking answers to urgent questions ... and received no response,' said Ashley Etienne, a spokeswoman for [Nancy] Pelosi's office.... A few of the letters seemed political in nature.... But most sought answers or action seemingly on behalf of constituents.... Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) ... said he was told that Fish and Wildlife workers couldn't speak to minority staff unless they were called as a witness at a hearing." -- CW

Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "... with the marginalization of Stephen K. Bannon, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have emerged as President Trump's most important advisers, at least for now. More openly than any president before him, Mr. Trump is running his West Wing like a family business.... Still, for all the talk of a velvet coup against Mr. Bannon, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have achieved few concrete victories.... Some colleagues, including Mr. Bannon and Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, regard Mr. Kushner's breathtaking list of assignments with comic contempt.... According to associates, [Ivanka] views her role partly as guardian of the family reputation and has fretted during and since the campaign about the long-term damage to the family business's image that her father's political career could cause." CW: Great. Ivanka is sitting in the White House to make sure Dad does right by the business. What conflict of interest? ...

... David Ferguson of RawStory: "A Saturday New York Times article revealed that President Donald Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka is the individual most responsible for the diminution of former Breitbart.com CEO Stephen Bannon's role in the White House.... According to the Times, the president's daughter has been making a case for Bannon's removal to her father 'in the strongest terms.'... [S]he has reportedly worried that the ultraconservative Bannon -- with his failed Muslim ban and repeated attacks -- on her husband by Breitbart.com -- will damage the Trump brand." --safari...

     ...safari: It's abundantly clear that every decision Ivanka, and therefore Jared Kushner, make is seen through the lens of Trump 'brand potential'. They're only barely trying to hide the obvious. Ivanka's official position is "special assistant to the president", but the door should really say "No shits given family brand strategist"...

... Sarah Ellison of Vanity Fair has what she calls "the inside story of the Kushner-Bannon civil war.... Trump's staff is as unbridled as the president himself. His advisers came together almost by accident and by default. They exhibit loyalty to their boss in front of the camera, only to whisper about him (and about their rivals, often in vicious terms) when the camera is gone." -- CW ...

Alex Isenstadt & Madeline Conway of Politico: "Donald Trump's true believers are losing the faith. As Trump struggles to keep his campaign promises and flirts with political moderation, his most steadfast supporters -- from veteran advisers to anti-immigration activists to the volunteers who dropped their jobs to help elect him -- are increasingly dismayed by the direction of his presidency. Their complaints range from Trump's embrace of an interventionist foreign policy to his less hawkish tone on China to, most recently, his marginalization of ... Steve Bannon. But the crux of their disillusionment, interviews with nearly two dozen Trump loyalists reveal, is a belief that Trump the candidate bears little resemblance to Trump the president. He’s failing, in their view, to deliver on his promise of a transformative 'America First' agenda...." CW: Aw, let's have a sad.

Please, Sir, May I Have More Lumps of Coal? Jennifer Dlouhy & Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg: "U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is ordering a study of the U.S. electric grid, with an eye to examining whether policies that favor wind and solar energy are accelerating the retirement of coal and nuclear plants critical to ensuring steady, reliable power supplies. The 60-day review, which Perry set in motion Friday, comes as regulators increasingly wonder how to balance electric reliability with a raft of state policies that prioritize less stable renewable energy sources.... Donald Trump has already moved to dismantle Obama-era policies that discouraged coal-fired power plants -- regulations Perry said destroyed jobs and 'threaten to undercut the performance of the grid well into the future.' Perry's effort suggests that the administration may be looking for other ways to keep coal plants online." -- CW ...

... Tatiana Schlossberg of the New York Times: "The hulking Gallatin Fossil Plant..., built in the early 1950s by the Tennessee Valley Authority, produces more than 200,000 tons of coal residue a year. That coal ash, mixed with water and sluiced into pits and ponds on the plant property, has been making its way into groundwater and the [Cumberland] river, potentially threatening drinking water supplies, according to two current lawsuits. More than 100 million tons of coal ash is produced every year, one of the nation's largest and most vexing streams of toxic waste. The hazardous dust and sludge -- containing arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals -- fill more than a thousand landfills and bodies of water in nearly every state, threatening air, land, water and human health." -- CW ...

... Power to Polluters! Tom Philpott of Mother Jones: "The American Chemistry Council represents the interests of the chemical industry -- companies that "make the products that make modern life possible," as the group's web site somewhat haughtily puts it...In a bold move, the Trump administration has named the ACC's senior director of regulatory science policy, Nancy Beck, as the deputy assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency office that regulates the chemical industry. It's known as the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and it exists to 'protect you, your family, and the environment from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals.'... And now, after her stint working directly for the chemical industry, Beck will have a direct role in shaping chemical policy at the EPA." --safari ...

Susan Bryan of the AP: "Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are claiming success with the first in a new series of test flights involving an upgraded version of a nuclear bomb that has been part of the U.S. arsenal for decades. Work on the B61-12 has been ongoing for years, and government officials say the latest tests using mock versions of the bomb will be vital to the refurbishing effort. An F-16 from Nellis Air Force Base dropped an inert version of the weapon over the Nevada desert last month to test its non-nuclear functions as well as the plane's ability to carry the bomb. With a mere puff of dust, the mock bomb landed in a dry lake bed at the Tonopah Test Range." CW: Let's hope the upgraded version has a secret launch code that isn't available to the president.

GOP Punishes the Poor & Elderly. Again. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Low-income people and older Americans would find it more difficult to win lawsuits for injuries caused by medical malpractice or defective drugs or medical devices under a bill drafted by House Republicans as part of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill would impose new limits on lawsuits involving care covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance subsidized by the Affordable Care Act.... Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said the bill would limit 'frivolous lawsuits that unnecessarily drive up health care costs.' But Democrats and plaintiffs' lawyers said it would take rights away from people served by federal health programs, including those harmed by horrific medical mistakes." -- CW ...

... Kyle Cheney & Rachel Bade of Politico: "Republicans eager to flee Capitol Hill after squandering weeks on failed negotiations to repeal Obamacare are finding little refuge at home, where furious throngs of liberal constituents await. Halfway through the two-week Easter break, it's clear that the energy on the left to protect Barack Obama's health law -- and oppose ... Donald Trump -- is still soaring. But for the first time, pro-Obamacare constituents have a specific target: the American Health Care Act. GOP lawmakers now face town halls after debuting a real piece of legislation to gut Obamacare, which added to the urgency and anger of the protests that greeted Republicans as they scattered across the country." -- CW

Well, you know, nobody has got to use the internet. -- Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), to a constituent ...

... Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: Jim Senselessbrenner Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) says if you don't like the GOP's new law that allows/encourages ISPs to invade your privacy & sell your browsing history, just don't use the Internet. CW: Damn! Why didn't I think of that? From now on, I'm swearing off the Internet, which is a series of tubes that can wriggle up & implant chips in your brain. Look forward to mimeographed copies of Reality Chex. Maybe I'll get high on the ink.

Rebecca Morin of Politico: "The Electronic Privacy Information Center on Saturday sued the IRS for failing to release President Donald Trump's tax returns. In a FOIA request to the IRS dated March 29, the advocacy group explained that releasing Trump's tax returns may 'correct misstatements of fact' and ensure the 'integrity and fairness' of the tax system. The lawsuit comes three days before Tax Day, which is the deadline for taxpayers to file returns." -- CW ...

... Perry Stein of the Washington Post: "From Seattle to the District, protesters gathered in cities throughout the country Saturday to call on President Trump to release his personal tax returns. The protests fall on the country's traditionally recognized deadline to file taxes, April 15. In all, more than 100 marches are expected to occur throughout the day. The main march unfolded in the nation's capital, where protesters gathered for a rally in front of the Capitol and then planned to march near the Lincoln Memorial in the afternoon. In South Florida, activists say they will march to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, where the president is staying this weekend." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon. The story has been updated.) ...

Annals of "Journalism", Ctd. Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "Amidst backlash and subscription cancellations for hiring extreme climate science denier, Bret Stephens, the New York Times offered a stunning defense: There are 'millions of people who agree with him.' With that 'logic', the Times could hire as a columnist former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke --  or a flat earther or someone who thinks vaccines pose a health hazard. After all, millions agree with them. This defense is especially absurd since, as I detailed Friday, the Times has been running a major ad campaign claiming there is no alternative to the truth  and former Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Stephens has repeatedly dismissed as 'imaginary' the climate reality reported on every week by the Times' own journalists." Read on. --safari

Kristine Phillips & Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "United Airlines will no longer allow crew members to displace passengers who are already seated on a plane. Under a new policy, which is meant to avoid future public relations disasters like the one the world witnessed [last] week, airline crews are required to check in at least an hour before a flight leaves, the airline company said.... United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in an email that the new policy is meant to ensure that such incidents will 'never happen again.' Previously, crews could be booked up until the time of departure, Schmerin said.... The ... day [after passenger David Dao was injured by guards who forcibly removed him], United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz issued a statement apologizing 'for having to re-accommodate' the customers. He also sent a reassuring letter to his employees, which appeared to blame Dao, saying he 'refused' to cooperate after he was 'politely asked' to leave, prompting crews to call for help." -- CW ...

Beyond the Beltway

... Alan Yuhas & Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Hundreds of self-described anti-fascist protesters and supporters of Donald Trump clashed in Berkeley, California, in sporadic brawls on Saturday. Protests in cities around the rest of the country, including a number of 'tax marches' in which demonstrators called for Trump to release his tax returns, proceeded more peacefully. In Berkeley, police told media they had arrested 13 people by mid-afternoon, as opposing rallies spilled out of a park and into the streets." -- CW...

... Lock up This Piece of Shit! David Ferguson of RawStory: "A notorious white supremacist got caught on camera sucker-punching a woman in the melee that erupted on Saturday in Berkeley, CA between pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators. Nathan Damigo of white nationalist group Identity Europa was identified by multiple witnesses as the man seen in a viral video lunging at an unsuspecting woman ... and viciously punching her before she had a chance to react." Includes graphic video. --safari

Way Beyond

Choe Sang-Hun, et al., of the New York Times: "North Korea launched a ballistic missile Sunday morning from near its submarine base in Sinpo on its east coast, but the launch was the latest in a series of failures just after liftoff, according to American and South Korean military officials.The timing was a deep embarrassment for the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, because the missile appeared to have been launched to show off his daring as a fleet of American warships approached his country to deter provocations." -- CW ...

... Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "North Korea put on a jaw-dropping military spectacle Saturday, showing off missiles that can theoretically reach the United States and defiantly stating that it was prepared to counter any U.S. attack with 'a nuclear war of our own.' But it soon looked like a case of style over substance. North Korea somewhat ruined the impression created with the parade, which took place on the most important day of the year for Kim Jong Un's regime, with a failed missile launch Sunday morning." -- CW ...

... Anna Fifield: "... experts were anticipating a big show Saturday, but even they were stunned by the range of apparently new missiles [North Korea put] on display, and the sheer number of them." Fifield runs down the types of missiles on display & their potential capabilities. -- CW

Reuters: "Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL], the Brazilian engineering company at the center of a historic corruption scandal, paid out a total of about $3.3 billion in bribes in the nine years through 2014, according to testimony cited by local media on Saturday. Through a department specifically established to pay politicians and other recipients for public works contracts, Odebrecht paid as much as $730 million annually in both 2012 and 2013, the years when bribe payments peaked, according to a spreadsheet that a former executive reportedly gave investigators as part of a plea deal...The testimony was unsealed as the justice, Edson Fachin, authorized investigations of eight government ministers, 12 governors and dozens of federal lawmakers implicated in the scandal." --safari

Sarah el Deeb & Philip Issa of the AP: "A stalled population transfer [in Syria] resumed Saturday after a deadly explosion killed at least 100, including children, government supporters and opposition fighters, at an evacuation point -- adding new urgency to the widely criticized operation. The blast ripped through a bus depot in the al-Rashideen area where thousands of government loyalists evacuated the day before waited restlessly for hours, as opposition fighters guarded the area while negotiators bickered over the completion of the transfer deal. Only meters away, hundreds of evacuees from pro-rebels areas also loitered in a walled-off parking lot, guarded by government troops." -- CW

Kareem Shaheen of the Guardian: "Millions of Turks will head to the polls on Sunday to vote in a tight referendum race that could transform the country into a presidential republic, in what could be one of the most significant developments in the nation's history since its founding after the collapse of the Ottoman empire.... Little can be gleaned from the opinion polls.... Those taking part in Sunday's referendum will vote yes or no to a series of constitutional amendments that will transform the country from a parliamentary democracy to a president-led republic. The new system would also allow [current president Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan to run for two more election terms, potentially ruling as a powerful executive until 2029." --safari

Saturday
Apr152017

The Commentariat -- April 15, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Perry Stein of the Washington Post: "From Seattle to the District, protesters are gathering in cities throughout the country Saturday to call on President Trump to release his personal tax returns. The protests fall on the country&'s traditionally recognized deadline to file taxes, April 15. In all, more than 100 marches are expected to occur throughout the day. The main march unfolded in the nation's capital, where protesters gathered for a rally in front of the Capitol and then planned to march near the Lincoln Memorial in the afternoon. In South Florida, activists say they will march to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, where the president is staying this weekend." -- CW

The Guest from Hell. Terence Cullen of the New York Daily News: "The White House has insisted the President's planned visit to London this fall include a carriage ride with Queen Elizabeth II down 'the Mall,' a strip that leads to Buckingham Palace, The Times of London reported. But local police said such a visit will be a 'monster,' because of security protocols and planned protests." ...

     ... CW: Don't tell me Trump isn't comical. Last I heard, the Queen planned to be out of town for Trump's visit, but it's possible he changed the date to accommodate her summer plans & now expects the royal treatment in return. If I were the Queen or the PM, I'd be in British Columbia when Trump shows up in London.

*****

The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The White House announced Friday that it would cut off public access to visitor logs revealing who is entering the White House complex and which officials they are meeting, breaking with the Obama administration's practice and returning a cloak of secrecy over the basic day-to-day workings of the government. The decision -- which White House officials said was necessary for reasons of national security -- was the latest attempt by President Trump, who has promised to 'drain the swamp' in Washington, to shield his activities from scrutiny. It effectively bars the public from knowing which activists, lobbyists, political donors and others are gaining access to the president and his aides on a daily basis.... The announcement was another turnabout for Mr. Trump after a week of changing course on an array of domestic and foreign policy matters.... The Obama administration ... routinely withheld records -- like the identities of Mr. Obama's young daughters' playmates or of people attending national security or intelligence meetings -- but it was not anything near a blanket policy." -- CW

The same WH that just agreed to sell your browsing history won't disclose visits to WH to protect privacy of lobbyists. Swamp wins again.... -- Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 14, 2017, in a tweet, via Paul Waldman

The Most Unethical President Ever, Ctd. Matthew Haag & Rachel Shorey of the New York Times: "President Trump is raising money toward a bid for a second term earlier than any incumbent president in recent history, pulling in tens of millions of dollars in the months after his election and through his inauguration. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday showed that Mr. Trump's campaign brought in $7.1 million during the first three months of 2017, on top of over $23 million raised with the Republican Party. By contrast, President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee brought in a total of about $15 million during the first three months of his first term in 2009.... As it did during the presidential race, Mr. Trump's campaign also spent significantly on Trump properties. Trump Tower in Manhattan, where the campaign is based, collected $300,000 in rent.... The campaign disbursed tens of thousands of dollars to a firm owned by Mr. Trump's chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. The bill was for 'administrative assistant/secretarial' services." -- CW

Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times: "During his campaign for president, Donald J. Trump hinted that he would get rid of the Export-Import Bank, saying that the agency that helps finance American exports was 'excess baggage.' But in a reversal of his campaign promise, on Friday the president nominated two members to the bank's board: Former Representatives Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Spencer T. Bachus of Alabama.... Mr. Trump said in an interview this week he no longer wanted to eliminate the Export-Import Bank, adding that he planned to fill two openings on the board, which has five members. 'Actually, it's a very good thing. And it actually makes money; it can make a lot of money,' Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal." -- CW

"Boom! Boom! Boom!" Greg Jaffe & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Amid the often jarring inconsistency of President Trump's foreign policy, one thing has always been crystal clear: He loves a big show of American military force. 'You gotta knock the hell out of them -- Boom! Boom! Boom!' Trump said of Islamic State terrorists at a January 2016 rally in Iowa, punctuating each 'boom' with a punch of his fist. That same impulse has been apparent over the past 10 days as Trump pummeled a Syrian air base with cruise missiles, threatened military action against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and praised the U.S. military's first-ever use of a massive 11-ton bomb, nicknamed the 'mother of all bombs,' to kill Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. 'So incredible. It's brilliant. It's genius,' Trump said Tuesday of the missile strike in Syria. 'Our technology, our equipment is better than anybody by a factor of five.'" -- CW ...

...Juan Cole: "In his less than three months in office, Donald Trump has escalated four wars, and all of his escalations have been failures. To be fair, Trump inherited all 4 wars from Barack Obama -- Afghanistan, Iraq v. ISIL, Leftist Kurds v ISIL in Syria, and targeting support and tactical advice to Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Trump campaigned on reducing such foreign entanglements and focusing on the US and its needs. But in office he has declined to rethink any of these commitments and indeed has escalated in each theater...What all four Trump interventions in his ongoing US wars in the Middle East have in common is that they were splashy, produced headlines for a day, and altered the course of the conflict not a jot or a tittle. Trump is gradually inducting his Four Wars into his Reality-Show universe, where everything is done for ratings and just for show." --safari...

... ** Who Knew International Relations Were So Complicated? James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump believed he could convince China to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear activities. Then President Xi Jinping tutored him on the history of the region. 'After listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it's not so easy,' Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, recounting the session at Mar-a-Lago. 'You know, I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea. But it's not what you would think.' This comment is funny because, in 2011, Trump claimed that he has read 'hundreds of books about China over the decades.'... Color me skeptical.... He and his inner-circle have very little sense of history.... [Trump] told the Post's Marc Fisher last summer ... he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions 'with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words "common sense," because I have a lot of common sense.'" Read on. Hohmann provides a reminder of what a simple-minded, ignorant nincompoop Trump is. -- CW ...

... Jeet Heer of the New Republic: Trump's "confessions of ignorance are startling, but can create a tempting, optimistic narrative: Trump is learning!... Alas, this hope is based on a mistaken understanding of how Trump operates. His approach to knowledge is not cumulative -- to gather new information, have a better understand the world, and make more informed decisions -- but rather situational. Trump is at heart a salesman, so the only knowledge he's truly interested in retaining is that which he needs to know to close a deal.... He'll say whatever the moment requires.... What this means is that when the situation changes, Trump will unlearn all he has claimed to learn.... There is no learning curve with Trump, no gradual accrual of knowledge.... We're witnessing the same old Trump, as uninterested in knowledge and unprincipled as ever -- but right about one thing: It's all about winning." -- CW

Abha Bhattarai of the Washington Post: "From hostels to major hotel chains such as Marriott, tour group operators to outfits that cater to business travelers, the toll of Trump's [Muslim travel ban] proposals on the nation's tourism industry has been swift. Some say long-term damage has been done. And it could be compounded by recentreports of Trump administration plans to implement 'extreme vetting' of foreign travelers.... Demand for flights to the United States has fallen in nearly every country since January.... (One exception: Russia, where searches for flights to the United States have surged 60 percent since January.) The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7. billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics.... Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger.... As anecdotal evidence mounts, industry experts say it's increasingly clear that travelers from all over -- Canada and Mexico, Europe and Asia -- are rethinking their plans to visit the United States." -- CW

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Michael Schmidt & Adam Goldman of the New York Times: "A Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee conducted interviews and collected documents in Cyprus this week as part of the panel's investigation into Russia's meddling in the American election, and possible links between President Trump's associates and Moscow. Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois said Friday that Cyprus is the center of Russian money laundering, and that the panel 'must follow the facts wherever they take us.' Cyprus, considered a tax haven, has emerged as a focal point in criminal and congressional investigations of Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who had bank accounts there. The F.B.I. is examining Mr. Manafort's business dealings in Ukraine, and any links he has to the Russian government." -- CW

Eric Wolff, et al., of Politico: "... Donald Trump's most senior advisers will huddle next week to resolve long-simmering tensions over whether the United States should stay in the Paris climate change agreement, a major point of dispute between the moderate and nationalist wings of the White House, three administration officials told Politico.... The advisers and Cabinet officials hope to be able to reach consensus on a recommendation to the president, though that could prove difficult, as they are divided over whether to abandon the agreement. [Steve] Bannon and [Scott] Pruitt are said to be strongly opposed to remaining in the agreement, while [Jared] Kushner and [Rex] Tillerson are said to be in favor of staying. [Gary] Cohn and [H.R.] McMaster have not yet staked out a position in internal discussions at the White House, but they are also expected to argue for staying in the pact." -- CW

Stacy Cowley & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "With the stroke of a pen this week, Betsy DeVos, President Trump's new education secretary, thrust the future of the government's system for managing federal student loans into confusion.... At issue is which companies will handle the bulk of those loans in the future, and how they will do it. Under the Obama administration, the Education Department was on the verge of selecting a single vendor to build a new system for servicing its student loans, in what was expected to be one of the largest federal contracts outside of the military. But on Tuesday, Ms. DeVos signed an order rescinding key parts of that attempt to streamline the system -- essentially hitting the reset button on the Obama-era plan." CW: There's one sure thing: TrumpdeVos will screw students & parents, but TrumpdeVos's friends with money will profit handsomely.

Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: President Trump's top environment official called for an 'exit' from the historic Paris agreement Thursday, the first time such a high-ranking administration official has so explicitly disavowed the agreement endorsed by nearly 200 countries to fight climate change. Speaking with 'Fox & Friends,' [EPA Director Scott] Pruitt commented, 'Paris is something that we need to really look at closely. It's something we need to exit in my opinion.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Digby, in Salon: "When it comes to domestic policy, [Steve] Bannon’s alt-right agenda is being carried out efficiently by someone who is far more experienced at it. That would be the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions. He's been talking about white nationalism since Bannon was a fresh-faced college kid.... And unlike Bannon the political gadfly, Sessions is an experienced bureaucratic infighter.... Sessions' former protégé Stephen Miller has been aligning himself with the Kushner cartel, so even if Bannon goes, there will be a keeper of the flame right there in the White House." CW: Includes a good summary of what that nasty little rodent has been up to recently. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "An Arkansas circuit judge on Friday evening issued an order temporarily blocking the state from using one of its lethal injection drugs until further notice, throwing into question a series of executions scheduled to begin next week. The order came a day after drug companies began taking aim at Arkansas for its upcoming executions, arguing that the state had improperly obtained their drugs for use in lethal injections. One company said the state misled them about why they were buying the drug, promised to return it and then did not do so, while others said they repeatedly reached out to the state and did not hear back." -- CW

Way Beyond

Anna Fifield & Simon Denyer of the Washington Post: "North Korea put on a huge military spectacle Saturday to celebrate its founder's birthday, parading its series of new and technologically advanced missiles in front of Kim Jong Un, and in a defiant show of force in front of the world. North Korea did not, however, carry out another nuclear test or ballistic missile launch, against widespread speculation that it would seek to celebrate Kim Il Sung's 105th birthday with a bang." -- CW ...

... Gerry Mulaney, et al., of the New York Times: "China warned on Friday that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could spin out of control, as North Korea said it could test a nuclear weapon at any time and a United States naval group neared the peninsula -- an American effort to sow doubt in Pyongyang over how President Trump might respond.... The comments were unusually blunt from China, which has been trying to steer between the Trump administration's demands for it to do more to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its longstanding reluctance to risk a rupture with the North. The remarks also reflected, American experts said, an effort by the Chinese to throw responsibility for what happens back on Washington, after Mr. Trump declared, in several Twitter messages, that it was up to the Chinese to contain their neighbor and sometime partner." -- CW

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