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

On Request:

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

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

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

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

Some highlights of the Emmys:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

Thursday
Oct052017

The Commentariat -- October 6, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Keep 'em Barefoot & Pregnant. Here's the new lede on Robert Pear's NYT story, linked earlier today: "The Trump administration on Friday moved to roll back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, vastly expanding exemptions for those that cite moral or religious objections."

Rachel Bade, et al., of Politico: "Rep. Tim Murphy, a staunch anti-abortion advocate, thought he could withstand the media furor that engulfed him after reports that he’d encouraged his extramarital lover to end her apparent pregnancy. He was wrong.... Murphy’s swift collapse came ... because of ... fears among senior Republicans about a potential wave of negative stories on how Murphy ran his congressional office.... The Post-Gazette had reported on a June 2017 memo in which Murphy’s longtime chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, warned the Pennsylvania Republican that he was mistreating and 'harassing' staff, causing 100 percent turnover. But Mosychuk is a source of controversy herself.... Ex-aides said the combination of Murphy and Mosychuk — who had a close personal relationship, according to GOP lawmakers and staffers — made the situation intolerable.... According to these aides, Mosychuk regularly engaged in brutal verbal abuse of lower-ranking aides, from calling aides 'worthless' and their work 'garbage' to asking derisively, 'Do you or do you not have a fucking college degree?' Ex-staffers said Mosychuk kept white noise machines throughout Murphy’s congressional office so constituents waiting in the front room couldn’t hear her screaming.” And so forth. Mrs. McC: Have we mentioned that Dr. Murphy was supposed to be a mental health expert?

*****

Mark Landler & David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Trump has approved a broad strategy to crack down on Iran for its ballistic missile program and support for militant groups throughout the Middle East, according to a senior administration official, although he has yet to formally sign off on 'decertifying' the nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama administration. Mr. Trump has been expected to withdraw certification of the nuclear deal since he declared at the United Nations General Assembly two weeks ago that the agreement was 'embarrassing to the United States,' and that he had made up his mind what to do about it. But the president has not yet signed a decision memo on the deal itself, the official said. Even if the president takes that step, it would fall short of scrapping the accord because the White House would kick the deal to Congress to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran." ...

... Anne Gearan & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "President Trump is expected to announce next week that he will 'decertify' the international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is not in the national interest of the United States and kicking the issue to a reluctant Congress, people briefed on the White House strategy said Thursday. The move would mark the first step in a process that could eventually result in the resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran, potentially derailing a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear activities reached in 2015 with the United States and five other nations. But Trump would hold off on recommending that Congress reimpose sanctions, which would constitute a clearer break from the pact, according to four people familiar with aspects of the president’s thinking." ...

... The Lone Rager Rides Again. Karen DeYoung & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "More than any other issue that has threatened transatlantic cohesion this year, President Trump’s decision to decertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal could start a chain of events that would sharply divide the United States from its closest traditional allies in the world.... None of the three [allies] — Britain, France and Germany — believes Iran is in violation, and each has said publicly it will not renegotiate the nuclear agreement." ...

... Wherein Trump casually suggests to reporters that he'll soon be taking the country to war with ... some country. ...

... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post now has a story up on the Josh Marshall post linked directly above: "As President Trump posed for a formal photo with his top military commanders and their spouses in the State Dining Room at the White House on Thursday evening, Trump pointed to the leaders gathered around him and asked the small group of reporters standing before him: 'You guys know what this represents?' 'Tell us,' shouted out one of the reporters unexpectedly summoned to witness this photo session. 'Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,' the president replied. Reporters asked the president what he was talking about, what storm was coming. 'Could be the calm before the storm,' he said a second time."

Brian Stelter of CNN: "President Trump's disregard for a free press just reached a new low: He's urging the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate American news outlets for publishing 'fake' stories.... 'This is the kind of statement one expects to hear from a despot, not from an American president,' said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.... Preet Bharara, one of the former U.S. attorneys who was fired by Trump earlier this year, tweeted this interpretation of Trump's statement: 'POTUS desperately wants to direct who should be investigated & who should be immune. He wants scrutiny for adversaries, amnesty for allies.'" ...

... Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "Despite the self-parodic actions of some college students, the greatest threats to free speech in the United States are on the right.... I understand that for a lot of young leftists, it doesn’t make sense to equate what they see as hate speech with the speech of the oppressed. It’s harder for me to understand why they think that if First Amendment protections are weakened, the left — and not, say, the Trump administration — will be allowed to define what is hateful and what is not.... When disputes about free speech are adjudicated not according to broad principles but according to who has power, the left will mostly lose."

Paul Waldman: "Perhaps someday Trump will sit down to write a book detailing his leadership secrets, offering up another trove of penetrating insight and inspiring prose. Until then, here are some tips we can glean from watching Trump's unrivaled performance as president. 1. Force your underlings to praise you in public.... 2. Publicly denigrate the work of your staff, just so they don't forget who's boss.... 3. Encourage high turnover.... 4. The most competent employees can be found in your own family.... 5. When people for whom you're responsible suffer unexpected hardship, take the opportunity to insult them.... 6. Encourage people to find the silver lining.... 7. The public trust is permission to live large.... 8. Absorb criticism with maturity and thoughtfulness, by trying to destroy anyone who criticizes you.... 9. It's all about you." You'll enjoy reading the examples from which Waldman draws his "leadership secrets."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Trump administration is poised to roll back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, vastly expanding exemptions for those that cite moral or religious objections. The new rules, which could be issued as soon as Friday, fulfill a campaign promise by President Trump and are sure to touch off a round of lawsuits on the issue. More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration. Under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Affordable Care Act." ...

... So we know Trump and most Republican men hate women who have sex with men other than themselves. But surely Trump will treat his own Iowa farmer-boy/reliable GOP voters better.... Oops, no:

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "For months, officials in Republican-controlled Iowa had sought federal permission to revitalize their ailing health-insurance marketplace. Then President Trump read about the request in a newspaper story and called the federal director weighing the application. Trump’s message in late August was clear, according to individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity...: Tell Iowa no.... In addition to trying to cut funding for the ACA, the Trump administration also is hampering state efforts to control premiums.... And with the fifth enrollment season set to begin Nov. 1, advocates say the Health and Human Services Department has done more to suppress the number of people signing up than to boost it." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Like the presidunce, I have a limited vocabulary. I can't think of words horrible enough to describe him. ...

... Speaking of Horrible Human Beings.... Josh Dawsey, et al., of Politico: "The White House is finalizing a plan to demand hard-line immigration reforms in exchange for supporting a fix on the DACA program, according to three people familiar with the talks — an approach that risks alienating Democrats and even many Republicans, potentially tanking any deal. The White House proposal is being crafted by Stephen Miller, the administration’s top immigration adviser, and includes cutting legal immigration by half over the next decade, an idea that’s already been panned by lawmakers in both parties.... Miller was upset after Trump’s dinner last month with [Chuck] Schumer and [Nancy] Pelosi and has been working since to bring the president back to the tougher stance he took during his campaign."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has flown on military aircraft seven times since March at a cost of more than $800,000, including a $15,000 round-trip flight to New York to meet with President Trump at Trump Tower, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General. The inquiry into Mr. Mnuchin’s air travel, prompted by an Instagram posting by his wife, found he broke no laws in his use of military aircraft but lamented the loose justification provided for such costly flights. 'What is of concern is a disconnect between the standard of proof called for' by the Office of Management and Budget 'and the actual amount of proof provided by Treasury and accepted by the White House in justifying these trip requests,' the inspector general wrote.... Treasury secretaries generally take commercial flights except in extenuating circumstances because of the exorbitant costs of using military planes. For instance, Mr. Mnuchin’s June flight to Miami ... cost $43,725.50. While the flight was approved, the Treasury Department’s travel office sent a note to Mr. Mnuchin’s assistant that a round-trip commercial flight would cost just $688." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: AND of course we mustn't forget the aborted plans for an all-expense-paid European honeymoon. Medlar & I will be paying our federal income taxes today, & we'll be thinking of the portion that we'll be contributing to this multi-millionaire's extravagances. Not to mention contemplating the higher taxes we'll pay in 2018 if the arrogant, self-serving flyboy gets his way on tax "reform." (Of course, his tax own obligation will plummet under his so-called middle class tax plan.)

Homeland Security? Not So Much. Josh Dawsey, et al., of Politico: "White House officials believe that chief of staff John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December, according to three U.S. government officials. The discovery raises concerns that hackers or foreign governments may have had access to data on Kelly’s phone while he was secretary of Homeland Security and after he joined the West Wing. Tech support staff discovered the suspected breach after Kelly turned his phone in to White House tech support this summer complaining that it wasn’t working or updating software properly. Kelly told the staffers the phone hadn’t been working properly for months, according to the officials.... Kelly has since begun using a different [personal] phone..., though he relies on his government phone when he’s inside the White House.... The document triggered concern throughout the West Wing about what information might have been exposed...." Mrs. McC: Yeah, like that time Kelly told a friend Trump was a moron. ...

... Carol Lee, et al., of NBC News: "John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, abruptly scrapped plans to travel with ... Donald Trump on Wednesday so he could try to contain his boss’s fury and manage the fallout from new revelations about tensions between the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to six senior administration officials. Kelly summoned Tillerson, and their ally Defense Secretary James Mattis, to the White House, where the three of them huddled to discuss a path forward, according to three administration officials.... Trump was furious when he saw the NBC News report, which was published shortly before 6 a.m. Wednesday. For the next two hours the president fumed inside the White House, venting to Kelly, officials said.... Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, was fuming in Phoenix, where he was traveling, seven officials told NBC News. He and Tillerson spoke on the phone before the secretary’s public appearance on Wednesday morning.... Pence was incensed upon learning from the NBC report that Tillerson’s top spokesman had said he once privately questioned the value of Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.... [R.C. Hammond, Tillerson's] spokesman, publicly apologized for his comments about Pence and Haley, saying he 'spoke out of line about conversations I wasn’t privy to.' The secretary’s refusal to deny that he had called the president a 'moron' in his opening statement and in his responses to questions from reporters stoked Trump’s anger and widened the rift between the two men, officials said." ...

... Gene Robinson: "One of the most appalling aspects of the Trump presidency is the sycophancy he requires of the officials who serve him. Trump demands not just loyalty but flattery, too. He insists that his courtiers treat his pronouncements, however absurd or offensive, as infallible holy writ. Members of his Cabinet have made a humiliating bargain: humor him, suck up to him, and maybe — just maybe — he will leave you alone and let you make policy.... The president loosed a flurry of tweets claiming the whole thing was 'fake news,' culminating in a demand Thursday for a congressional investigation of news outlets whose reporting he does not like." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Presumably almost everybody who works for Trump considers him a moron.... But the trick of working for a powerful moron is not to say that they’re a moron in front of them or anybody who has an incentive to convey your comments to them. And if you are caught, you probably need to make a convincing denial, so that the president is not left in the awkward position of having a Secretary of State who is publicly known to have called him a moron. This is just the kind of basic principle of diplomacy that ought to be familiar to, say, the United States government’s head diplomat." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump has made speeches where he asserted, "I'm, like, a very smart person.... Wharton School, blah blah." But he's never made a speech where he asserts, a la Nixon, "I am not a moron." I'm looking forward to that.

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday ordered the Justice Department to take the position in court cases that transgender people are not protected by a civil rights law that bans workplace discrimination based on sex. The move was the Trump administration’s latest contraction of the Obama-era approach to civil rights enforcement. The dispute centers on how to interpret employment protections based on 'sex' in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In December 2014, the attorney general at the time, Eric H. Holder Jr., ordered the Justice Department to view 'sex' as encompassing gender identity, extending protections to transgender people. But in a two-page memo to all United States attorneys and other top officials, Mr. Sessions revoked Mr. Holder’s directive. The word 'sex' in the statute, Mr. Sessions said, means only 'biologically male or female,' so the Civil Rights Act does not ban 'discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Here again, Congress could fix this. But it won't. BTW, let's not assume JeffBo is a smarmy little bigot. Maybe he is just taking advantage of the opportunity to write "sex" in an official document.

Hope You Can Read Spanish. Jenna Johnson: "As of Wednesday, half of Puerto Ricans had access to drinking water and 5 percent of the island had electricity, according to statistics published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on its Web page documenting the federal response to Hurricane Maria. By Thursday morning, both of those key metrics were no longer on the Web page. FEMA spokesman William Booher noted that both measures are still being reported on a website maintained by the office of Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, www.status.pr. According to that website, which is in Spanish, 9.2 percent of the island now has power and 54.2 percent of residents have access to drinking water. Booher said that these measures are also shared in news conferences and media calls that happen twice a day, but he didn't elaborate on why they are no longer on the main FEMA page." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I thought Republicans' idea of being a "real American" required fluency in English (not that the POTUS is particularly fluent), but gave no demerits for speaking English only. Nice to know the Trump administration is encouraging "real Americans" to learn Spanish!

Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "President Trump on Thursday nominated Andrew R. Wheeler, a coal lobbyist with links to outspoken deniers of established science on climate change, to help lead the Environmental Protection Agency. In announcing Mr. Wheeler, a former aide to Senator James M. Inhofe, to be deputy administrator of the agency, the White House tapped an experienced legislative hand reviled by environmental activists but hailed by industry as having the know-how to dismantle Obama-era fossil fuel regulations." Mrs. McC: Hey, not as bad as nominating a gerbil who has never been outside a climate-controlled lab. But close.

Evan Perez, et al., of CNN: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators met this past summer with the former British spy whose dossier on alleged Russian efforts to aid the Trump campaign spawned months of investigations that have hobbled the Trump administration, according to two people familiar with the matter.... CNN has learned that the FBI and the US intelligence community last year took the [Christopher] Steele dossier more seriously than the agencies have publicly acknowledged.... The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele's research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how. This contrasts with attempts by ... Donald Trump and some lawmakers to discredit Steele and the memos he produced."

Wonders Never Cease. New York Times: "The National Rifle Association on Thursday endorsed tighter restrictions on devices that allow a rifle to fire bullets as fast as a machine gun — a rare, if small, step for a group that for years has vehemently opposed any new gun controls.... On Capitol Hill, support appeared to grow for a ban on the bump stock devices, either through regulation or legislation, as Republicans — who for decades have rejected any form of gun restrictions — began increasingly to speak out. Several leading Republicans, including Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, have raised serious questions about the devices. In the House, Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, has drafted a measure banning bump stocks, which he said he planned to introduce on Thursday. He said his office had been 'flooded' with calls from dozens of fellow Republicans who wanted to sign on." ...

... Oh, Not So Wonder-ful. Rachel Bade, et al., of Politico: "The National Rifle Association on Thursday called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether 'bump stocks' — similar to the devices used in Sunday's Las Vegas shooting massacre — comply with federal law. 'The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,' NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and Executive Director Chris Cox added in a joint statement. The move by the influential gun lobby, which often stifles any legislation that might be interpreted as curbing Second Amendment rights, is designed to head off a messy gun control debate in Congress. Officials with the group have told Capitol Hill Republicans and Trump administration officials they would prefer a new rule or regulations from ATF, rather than hastily cobbled together legislation." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So the idea here is to squelch legislation, after all, & to urge the ATF to "review" the sale of bump stocks. Even if the ATF soon decides bump-stock sales do not comply with current law, the agency would be issuing a regulation, & regulations are usually easier to change than are laws. Also, by asking anonymous ATF personnel to "review" its regulations, the NRA is getting its paid Congresscritters off the hook on what, for many of them, would be a controversial vote.

... Lorraine Woellert of Politico: "The firing range at the National Rifle Association headquarters, like many ranges across the nation, bans the use of bump fire systems such as the one used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, according to firearms experts. Bump stocks increase the speed at which bullets are fired and cause the entire weapon to move back and forth in the shooter’s grip. While the devices are said to convert semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic ones, they also decrease accuracy and are less safe, the experts say." ...

... Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times: "Sales of the firearm accessory that the Las Vegas gunman used to modify his rifles jumped this week, causing some companies to sell out of the so-called bump stocks even as Walmart and Cabela’s stripped them from their websites. The products — conversion kits that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, similar to an automatic weapon — were once relatively obscure specialty items aimed at gun enthusiasts who own semiautomatic rifles. But since the massacre on Sunday, when the gunman fired on a music festival crowd from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing dozens and injuring more than 500, interest in the accessory has surged. Officials said that 12 of the rifles found in the gunman’s suite were outfitted with bump stocks." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Every person who buys a bump stock should be put on the terrorist watch list, & armed ATF & FBI agents should pay a call on each one of them. ...

... Tim Egan describes the poorly-worded Second Amendment as "the cancer in the Constitution." "... the Second Amendment became a cancer because lawmakers stopped making laws to match the technological advances of weaponry. They did it to appease a lobby of gunmakers. And that cowering to a single special interest shows how the cancer has spread to the democracy itself, making it nearly impossible for majority will to be exercised. A majority of Americans — indeed, a majority of gun owners — want laws to keep lunatics and terrorists from committing mass homicide. But what is the response of our elected officials? I’ll let President Trump explain. As he told the N.R.A. after the election, 'You came through big for me, and I am going to come through for you.'” ...

... ** It Isn't Just the Second Amendment. It's the Whole Constitution. E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Norm Ornstein & Thomas Mann: "Why does our political system make it impossible even to consider solutions to gun violence? After the massacre in Las Vegas that has so far taken nearly 60 lives and left more than 500 injured, the first reaction of the many politicians who carry water for the gun lobby was to declare it 'premature' to discuss measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands.... But something else is at work here. As we argue in our book, 'One Nation After Trump,' the United States is now a non-majoritarian democracy. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. Claims that our republic is democratic are undermined by a system that vastly overrepresents the interests of rural areas and small states. This leaves the large share of Americans in metropolitan areas with limited influence over national policy. Nowhere is the imbalance more dramatic or destructive than on the issue of gun control."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "A senior House Democrat said Thursday that it’s time for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and two top lieutenants to prepare to step down and make way for the next generation of lawmakers in her caucus. The comments by Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (Calif.), who as vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus ranks fifth in the 194-member body, are the most explicit by a senior congressional Democrat and a member of the California congressional delegation about Pelosi’s political future."

Adios, Timbo. Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Rep. Tim Murphy said Thursday that he will resign from Congress this month, a day after the eight-term Pennsylvania Republican announced that he would not seek reelection amid a personal scandal.... Murphy’s decision to resign within weeks, rather than remain in Congress for an additional 15 months, came amid pressure from top Republican leaders to remove himself as a distraction as the GOP House tackles a major tax bill and other legislative priorities. 'I’ve spoken with Tim quite a bit the last couple of days,' [Speaker Paul] Ryan said at a news conference shortly before Murphy’s resignation was announced. 'I think it’s appropriate that he moves on to the next chapter of his life. And I think he agrees with that.'... The resignation of Murphy, a clinical psychologist, comes after a news report claimed that the married Republican had asked a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair to get an abortion.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You see how civilized & polite & all Ryan is? Instead of yelling "You're fired," as would the Moron-in-Chief, Ryan shows a guy the door while urging him to "move on to the next chapter of your life." Sweet. Anyhow, so long, Tim, you despicable, misogynistic hypocrite.

Greg LaRose of the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "A federal judge in Virginia has thrown out the most substantial charges against former congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans and ordered 'his immediate release' from prison while his new sentence is determined. He is five years into a 13-year term for corruption, but seven of the 10 charges against him have been thrown out on appeal. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of Virginia issued the order Wednesday (Oct. 4).... The most damning evidence investigators found in the case were bundles of cash totaling $90,000 kept in a refrigerator at Jefferson's home in New Orleans.... Jefferson's lawyers exhausted their first avenue of appeal, getting one of his convictions removed, but they renewed their efforts full force following the Supreme Court's 2016 ruling in the United States v. McDonnell. The case involved former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, who had been convicted on a federal bribery charge for accepting gifts from a businessman who was seeking help to promote his company. Justices ruled that it was difficult to define that what McDonnell did in response to the gifts comprised an 'official act.' Federal prosecutors chose not to retry McDonnell, leading to a flood of new appeals from convicted politicos. Jefferson's new appeal was based on the same argument as McDonnell's, and Ellis agreed with most of its points."

Beyond the Beltway -- Men Behaving Badly Edition

Sarah Parvini, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "After the dean of USC’s medical school resigned last year amid long-running complaints about his drinking and boorish treatment of colleagues, university leaders assured students and faculty that his successor would be worthy of respect. The man USC chose, however, had a black mark on his own personnel record: A finding by the university 15 years ago that he had behaved inappropriately toward a female medical school fellow. USC formally disciplined the dean, Dr. Rohit Varma, in 2003 following allegations that he sexually harassed the young researcher while he was a junior professor supervising her work.... As The Times was preparing to publish a story disclosing the case, USC announced Thursday afternoon that Varma was no longer dean." Mrs. McC: USC should take a look at who-all they're putting on their search committees.

Brad Schrade of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A south Georgia grand jury indicted Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby on Tuesday for sexual battery, false imprisonment and violation of oath of office after he ordered a school-wide search of hundreds of high school students. Deputies allegedly touched girls’ vaginas and breasts and groped boys in their groin area during the search at the Worth County High School April 14. Two of Hobby’s deputies were also indicted Tuesday in connection with the case. The controversial search drew national attention because of its scope and how deputies conducted it under the guise of a drug search that produced no drugs or arrests."

Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey of the New York Times: "An investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed [sexual harassment] allegations against [film producer Harvey] Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company. During that time, after being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.... In public, he presents himself as a liberal lion, a champion of women and a winner of not just artistic but humanitarian awards." ...

... Eriq Gardner of the Hollywood Reporter: "On the heels of The New York Times' bombshell exposé published Thursday about 'decades of harassment' on the part of Harvey Weinstein, the mogul's attorney Charles Harder says he's preparing a lawsuit against the paper.... Harder is perhaps most famous as the lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in the litigation that brought down Gawker."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "After killing at least 22 people in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, intensifying Tropical Storm Nate is on a collision course with the northern U.S. Gulf Coast. Southeast Louisiana, including vulnerable New Orleans, lies in the path. The storm, which is predicted to strengthen into a hurricane, should make landfall between late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Damaging winds and flooding threaten the region from roughly Morgan City, La., to Pensacola, Fla."

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last month, the first decline in six years. But the unemployment rate declined slightly to 4.2 percent. Analysts had been expecting job growth to slump in September after the one-two punch from the hurricanes. But this was worse than expected."

New York Times: "In a year when threats from nuclear weapons seemed to draw closer, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to an advocacy group behind the first treaty to prohibit them. The group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists, was honored for its efforts to advance the negotiations that led to the treaty, which was reached in July at the United Nations."

Wednesday
Oct042017

The Commentariat -- October 5, 2017

President* Urges Senate to Intimidate Free Press. Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump urged Congress Thursday morning to launch an investigation of the news media, wondering online 'why so much of our news is just made up.' 'Why Isn't the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!'se the president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. He did not single out a specific story or media outlet that he believed to be guilty of inaccurate reporting.”

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump comforted the victims of Sunday’s deadly mass shooting and paid tribute to those who tended to them, taking up on Wednesday a harrowing duty of the modern presidency that has nevertheless become numbing in its regularity.... Mr. Trump has been uncharacteristically subdued about the Las Vegas shooting, one of the deadliest in American history.... Mr. Trump stuck to a presidential script in speaking about Las Vegas." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Stunned by the mass carnage caused at a country music festival by one heavily armed gunman and embittered after years of fruitless attempts at gun control, congressional Democrats on Wednesday unveiled new narrowly tailored proposals to ban devices used in the shooting and revived old ideas to close loopholes and restrict some gun purchases. The fresh push comes at a fractured moment in American politics, but Democrats believe that the sheer scope of the carnage might make a difference. Some senior Republicans dismissed talk of new gun legislation as insensitive or premature, but ardent Second Amendment supporters said they are at least open to discussing new laws — and one senator said he supports banning certain accessories used in the shooting. Even President Trump might be open to a debate. While he campaigned as a fierce defender of gun rights, this week he said, 'We will be talking about gun laws as time goes by.'” ...

... Sheryl Stolberg & Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times: "Top congressional Republicans, who have for decades resisted any legislative limits on guns, signaled on Wednesday that they would be open to banning the firearm accessory that the Las Vegas gunman used to transform his rifles to mimic automatic weapon fire. For a generation, Republicans in Congress — often joined by conservative Democrats — have bottled up gun legislation, even as the carnage of mass shootings grew ever more gruesome and the weaponry ever more deadly. A decade ago, they blocked efforts to limit the size of magazines after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Five years later, Republican leaders thwarted bipartisan legislation to expand background checks of gun purchasers after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Last year, in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre, they blocked legislation to stop gun sales to buyers on terrorism watch lists. But in this week’s massacre in Las Vegas, lawmakers in both parties may have found the part of the weapons trade that few could countenance: previously obscure gun conversion kits, called 'bump stocks,' that turn semiautomatic weapons into weapons capable of firing in long, deadly bursts." ...

... Mark Berman & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The girlfriend of Stephen Paddock, the gunman who opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas earlier this week, said Wednesday she had no warning about his plans to carry out the massacre and pledged to cooperate with authorities struggling to determine what sparked the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.... [Marilou] Danley said Wednesday she had traveled to the Philippines because Paddock bought her a ticket to visit family there. Paddock then wired her money, she said, saying it was meant to help purchase a home for Danley and her family. 'I was grateful, but honestly, I was worried, that first, the unexpected trip home, and then the money, was a way of breaking up with me,' she said her statement, which was read aloud by her attorney. 'It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.'” ...

... Justin Glawe of the Daily Beast: Mandalay Bay security guard "Jesus Campos had no firearm when he found Stephen Paddock and approached his room on the 32rd floor of Mandalay Bay on Sunday night. Paddock, who had rigged cameras in the hallway and on the peephole of the door, saw Campos coming and fired through the door, hitting him in the leg, said Dave Hickey, president of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America.... When Campos was hit, he radioed casino dispatch and told them his location — and Paddock’s. 'We received information via their dispatch center … that helped us locate where this individual was sequestered,' Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Tuesday. ...

... Elizabeth Preza of the Raw Story: "The man who carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history shot two massive aviation fuel tanks near the location of the Route 91 Harvest festival, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The bullets 'did not penetrate' the tanks, the report notes, meaning festival attendees were spared 'from a potentially massive explosion.'" ...

... Michael Moore has a proposal to repeal & replace -- the Second Amendment. ...

... AND Whodathunkit? Neo-confederate Bret Stephens of the New York Times also proposes to repeal the Second Amendment. Very neo, one supposes. That's what you get from an "East Coast elite." Well, good. ...

... Steve M.: "I think wary liberals like me resist boldness on guns not just because we fear electoral failure, but because we expect blood in the streets -- literally. I think there'd be civil war if serious restrictions on guns were imminent (and certainly if there was a serious possibility that the 2nd Amendment could be repealed)." ...


Ed O'Keefe
: "The White House on Wednesday asked Congress for nearly $30 billion in new funding to pay for a wave of natural disasters, including hurricanes in Texas, Florida and island territories and wildfires scorching western states. The funding request includes $12.77 billion for the federal disaster relief fund; nearly $577 million to address wildfires; and a request to raise the federal flood insurance program’s borrowing limit by another $16 billion and dramatically overhaul the program." ...

... When the Moron Speaks, Wall Street Freaks. Ben White & Colin Wilhelm of Politico: "On Tuesday night..., Donald Trump casually told Geraldo Rivera on Fox News that the United States would have to wipe out $75 billion in debt owed by Puerto Rico to bondholders around the world. Wall Street promptly freaked out, sending Puerto Rican bonds into a tailspin and leading the White House to move swiftly to clean up Trump's seemingly offhand remarks. On Wednesday, the Trump administration indicated it has no current plans to take the unprecedented, politically dangerous and probably illegal step of wiping out the owners of Puerto Rico's bonds in the wake of Hurricane Maria's devastation. Trump’s own budget chief quickly walked the president’s comments back. 'I wouldn’t take it word for word with that,' OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN. 'We are not going to deal right now with those fundamental difficulties that Puerto Rico had before the storm.'... Trump’s comments aside, there is already a process in place for dealing with Puerto Rico’s crushing debt burden. Congress passed a law last year to grant the commonwealth what essentially amounts to a super-bankruptcy, in an effort to allow Puerto Rico to begin its recovery from that debt....” ...

of the Washington Post: "The Puerto Rico that President Trump saw during his four-hour visit on Tuesday afternoon was that of Angel Pérez Otero, the mayor of Guaynabo, a wealthy San Juan suburb known for its amenity-driven gated communities that was largely spared when Hurricane Maria hit nearly two weeks ago. Pérez Otero led Trump and his entourage on a walking tour of a neighborhood, where high-speed winds had blown out some second-story windows and knocked over a few trees — but where life seemed to be returning to normal, thanks to assistance from the government. Neighbors stood outside their homes ready to warmly greet the president, their phones powered up and ready to snap photos.... After the neighborhood tour in Guaynabo, Trump traveled to the nearby Calvary Chapel, an evangelical church that’s especially popular with conservatives and mainland Americans who have moved to Puerto Rico. The church, which has a number of locations across the United States, has received large shipments of donated food, water and survival gear to distribute.... If the president had traveled a little deeper into the island, to the communities that sustained some of the heaviest damage, he would have witnessed a very different Puerto Rico. Ten miles southeast of Guaynabo is the city of Caguas..., with homes built densely on the edges of gravity-defying slopes. These hills were stripped naked by Maria’s malicious winds, leaving the trees without leaves and fruit.... Houses that withstood tropical rain and wind for decades were blown off their foundations and destroyed by toppled vegetation. Twisted metal roofs landed in creeks all over the once-lush region.... It took more than a week for a trickle of supplies to reach the town. For days, the shelters had no generators. The hospitals were without water. With the roads covered in mud and debris, help was not coming...."

Dana Milbank: "Excerpted from 'The Me-Driven Life: A Narcissist’s Guide to Helping Others Understand It Is All About You,' by John Barron. Reprinted without permission. Chapter 12, 'Coping with Natural and Man-Made Disasters,' pp 269-277"

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: "John Barron" was a fictional publicist for Donald Trump who had a voice & speech tics that, for some odd reason, sounded exactly like Donald Trump. Ben Jacobs of the Guardian, May 26, 2016: "Less than two weeks after denying that he ever pretended to be a publicist named John Miller or John Barron in promoting his business affairs with reporters, Trump admitted on Wednesday that 'over the years I have used aliases'. He added 'I used the name Barron' and explained that was the inspiration for the name of his youngest son, Barron Trump." Poor Barron: he's named for a fake Trump supporter. Anyway, Milbank's Barron's Chapter 12 is pretty funny. Hope Trump doesn't sue Milbank for copyright infringement.

Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "The Trump administration will repeal the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s effort to fight climate change, and will ask the public to recommend ways it could be replaced, according to an internal Environmental Protection Agency document. The draft proposal represents the administration’s first substantive step toward rolling back the plan, which was designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, after months of presidential tweets and condemnations of Mr. Obama’s efforts to reduce climate-warming pollution. But it also lays the groundwork for new, presumably weaker, regulations by asking for the public and industry to offer ideas for a replacement."

Tillerson Tries to Appease Moronic Boss with Surprise News Conference. Louis Nelson of Politico: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that he has never considered resigning his position, disputing an NBC News report that he was on the verge of such a move over the summer. 'The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post,' Tillerson said in remarks delivered from the State Department. Tillerson did not directly address whether he had called Trump a 'moron,' as NBC reported. 'We don't deal with that kind of petty nonsense,' he said when asked about the report." Mrs. McC: CNN said its reporters had confirmed the "moron" remark, which we all know is accurate. And, no, it isn't "petty nonsense" when the Secretary of State expresses his belief that the POTUS* is a moron. It's cause for international concern. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... BUT Did He Grovel Enough? Krishnadev Calamur of the Atlantic: "Rex Tillerson’s forceful defense of President Trump, after an NBC News report said the secretary of state had called the commander-in-chief a 'moron' and seriously considered quitting his job, offered few clues about his eventual fate. From Sean Spicer to Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, it’s not uncommon for Trump’s aides to defend the president — right before being shown the door. Tillerson, the top U.S. diplomat, may be in a category by himself — but as he reminded everyone on Wednesday: He serves at the pleasure of the president." ...

... Maybe this will work: Eric Levitz finds an op-ed by Rex Tillerson titled "Donald Trump Is a World-Historic Genius." Droll. Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... Anne Gearan, et al., of the Washington Post: "The moment was as remarkable as it was unprecedented: A sitting U.S. secretary of state took to the microphone to pledge his fealty to the president — despite his well-documented unhappiness in the job and the growing presumption in Washington that he is a short-timer.... But Tillerson’s move on Wednesday to reassure Trump of his convictions may well be too little and too late for the long term, according to the accounts of 19 current and former senior administration officials and Capitol Hill aides.... Tillerson’s public remarks Wednesday came after months of disagreements between Tillerson and the White House over staffing and administrative matters at the State Department and a disconnection over what Trump saw as Tillerson’s conventional approach to policy matters.... 'Tillerson has no help. No team, no natural allies, and he’s not hiring anyone,' one former senior official said. 'There’s a kind of death spiral.'” ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: "Moments before Tillerson’s press conference, Trump took to Twitter to address the NBC report: 'NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!'" ...

... Uri Friedman of the Atlantic: "In response to an NBC News report on Wednesday that he had called the president of the United States a 'moron' and considered resigning over numerous personal and policy disagreements with Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson projected a united front.... He blamed unspecified actors in Washington, presumably including NBC News’s sources, for seeking to 'sow dissension' within the Trump administration to 'advance their own agenda.' What Tillerson didn’t say was that among the most prominent of these actors in Washington is his own boss.... The president has helped enshrine dissension as a defining feature of his administration, recognized by allies and enemies alike." ...

... The Three Musketeers -- All for One & One for All. John Hudson of BuzzFeed: "One US official expressed confidence in Tillerson's status due to a so-called 'suicide pact' forged between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Tillerson, whereby all three cabinet secretaries vow to leave in the event that the president makes moves against one of them. Other Trump insiders point to the potentially hefty tax bill Tillerson would have to pay if he resigns before serving a year in government." ...

... Tara Golshan of Vox: "Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who hasn’t been afraid to speak his mind about Trump or his administration lately, told reporters Wednesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly are 'those people that help separate our country from chaos,' whereas others in the administration act without considering national security. Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who last month announced he would not run for reelection in 2018, was responding to a question about Tillerson’s rumored desire to resign from the administration.... He went on to say those three top Trump officials are key to the 'national security of our nation.'” ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Suggesting that there would be 'chaos' if not for the generals and Tillerson is to suggest that not only is Trump not a steady leader, but that things are basically ready to unravel behind the scenes. This reinforces a whole lot of reporting and what a whole lot of people already believe about the administration, but it's striking to hear it directly from a GOP senator who, according to his Tennessee colleague, has talked to Trump more than any other senator.... Given ... Corker's past commentary on Trump and what Corker said Wednesday, it's pretty clear whom he was talking about when he referenced 'chaos.'”

Zack Ford of ThinkProgress: "The U.S. State Department responded Tuesday to questions as to why it opposed a United Nations resolution that condemns the discriminatory use of the death penalty, such as in cases of adultery and same-sex relations. Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the U.S. had “broader concerns” about the resolutions language regarding the death penalty...UN Ambassador Nikki Haley further insisted on Twitter that when the U.S. voted against a resolution condemning the death penalty for homosexuality, it was not voting for the death penalty for gay people." --safari

Alice Speri of The Intercept: "As hundreds of undocumented immigrants were rounded up across the country last February in the first mass raids of the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials went out of their way to portray the people they detained as hardened criminals, instructing field offices to highlight the worst cases for the media...On February 10, as the raids kicked off, an ICE executive in Washington sent an “URGENT” directive to the agency’s chiefs of staff around the country. "Please put together a white paper covering the three most egregious cases,” for each location, the acting chief of staff of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations wrote in the email. “If a location has only one egregious case — then include an extra egregious case from another city.”" --safari

Swamp Creatures. Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical and pesticides office [Michael Doursonrefused Wednesday to pledge that he would recuse himself from decisions connected to the companies for whom he worked during his long career as a toxicologist for the chemical industry." --safari...

... AP: "Rebuffing the Trump administration, a federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Interior Department to reinstate an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands. The order by a judge in San Francisco came as the Interior Department moved to delay the rule until 2019, saying it was too burdensome to industry." --safari ...

... Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "Secretary of Energy Rick Perry authorized up to $3.7 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to finish building the last remaining new nuclear plant under construction in this country. This loan, to the Southern Company’s Vogtle plant in Georgia, is on top of $8.3 billion in previous federal loan guarantees for the troubled $25-billion nuclear plant. That means if — or, rather, when — the project goes belly up, U.S. taxpayers will have to bail out Southern Company and its partners with a record-breaking $12 billion...That is more than 20 times what the $528 million loan to solar tech company Solyndra cost taxpayers after the company collapsed. Of course, Solyndra failed because other U.S. investments in solar panels helped make them so cheap that Solyndra couldn’t compete." --safari

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. How'd They Do That? Erik Wemple of the Washington Post on how Politico's Rachana Pradhan & Dan Diamond nailed high-flying Tom Price. Yes, it required stakeouts & some skulking behind bushes.

Gail Collins: "This week the House of Representatives voted 237 to 189 to make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion on a woman who has been pregnant more than 20 weeks. Meet Tim Murphy, a Republican congressman from the Pittsburgh suburbs who has a doctorate in psychology.... Murphy is a co-sponsor of the anti-abortion bill. At about the same time it was passing, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a note his mistress had texted in January, complaining about the way he kept putting pro-life messages on his Facebook page 'when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week.…' Whoops. This is not actually a unique story. There’s a history of lawmakers who are eager to restrict abortions in every case not involving their own personal sex life.” ...

... John Delano of CBS Pittsburgh: "Congressman Tim Murphy, of Upper St. Clair says he won’t seek re-election."

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered a stark warning on Wednesday to political candidates: Expect Russian operatives to remain active and determined to again try to sow chaos in elections next month and next year. At a rare news conference, Senators Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the committee’s chairman, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and its vice chairman, broadly endorsed the conclusions of American spy agencies that said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed a campaign of hacking and propaganda to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. 'The Russian intelligence service is determined — clever — and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously,' Mr. Burr said."

AND Today's Best Headline comes from Joe.My.God: "Man Whose Life Was Saved By Married Lesbian Cop To Speak At National Convention Of Anti-LGBT Haters." The "man," of course, is Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is scheduled to speak at some Tony Perkins gay-bashing extravaganza. The cop is Crystal Griner. She was injured in the shoot-out.

News Lede

Guardian: "The novelist Kazuo Ishiguro has won the 2017 Nobel prize in literature. The Swedish Academy hailed Ishiguro for his 'novels of great emotional force' in which he has 'uncovered the abyss beneath the illusory sense of connection with the world'.” At 7:15 am ET this is a breaking news story. Mrs. McC: I'm pretty thrilled about this.

Tuesday
Oct032017

The Commentariat -- October 4, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Tillerson Tries to Appease Moronic Boss with Surprise News Conference. Louis Nelson of Politico: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that he has never considered resigning his position, disputing an NBC News report that he was on the verge of such a move over the summer. 'The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post,' Tillerson said in remarks delivered from the State Department. Tillerson did not directly address whether he had called Trump a 'moron,' as NBC reported. 'We don't deal with that kind of petty nonsense,' he said when asked about the report." Mrs. McC: CNN said its reporters had confirmed the "moron" remark, which we all know is accurate. And, no, it isn't "petty nonsense" when the Secretary of State expresses his belief that the POTUS* is a moron. It's cause for international concern.

*****

Trump Plays Paper-towel Ball in Puerto Rico. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump ventured on Tuesday to a storm-ravaged American island territory where residents have felt neglected by their government, telling Puerto Rican officials that they should be proud that only 16 people were known to have died in Hurricane Maria. 'Sixteen versus in the thousands,' Mr. Trump said, comparing the storm’s certified death toll to the 1,833 killed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. 'You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.'... The trip marked a well-worn routine for a president on his fourth visit to a disaster zone in two months: a pep rally-like briefing with officials in an aircraft hangar, a quick drive past twisted houses and uprooted trees and a brief, friendly encounter with victims of the destruction. And like his earlier travels, it had its peculiar moments: He also gently tossed rolls of paper towels into a crowd that gathered to see him at Calvary Chapel, outside the island’s capital, San Juan.” ...

     ... Akhilleus's commentary, below, on the paper-towel toss is essential reading. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Gosh, it looks like such fun. I'll bet destitute Puerto Ricans will get a kick out of that. Oh wait,  -- they'll never see it because they don't have power, & even if they did, their entire homes, including the teevees, may have been destroyed. ...

... AP: "The death toll from Hurricane Maria has climbed to 34, the governor of Puerto Rico said Tuesday. The last estimate of the death toll was 16." At 8:15 pm Tuesday, this was a breaking story, to be updated. ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, strongly denounced Donald Trump Tuesday night after the president visited the island, calling him the 'miscommunicator in chief' and 'insulting.' 'He was insulting to the people of Puerto Rico,' Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said Tuesday night on MSNBC hours after meeting Trump face-to-face at a briefing with Puerto Rican leaders and the president. Beyond the briefing, Trump also toured damaged areas and helped distribute supplies, flicking paper towels into a crowd with the motion of a jump shot in basketball. All of it, Cruz said, was disingenuous.... 'He kind of minimized our suffering here by saying that Katrina was a real disaster, sort of implying that this was not a real disaster because not many people have died here,' Cruz said. 'Well you know what? They’re dying. They don’t have the medical resources.'” ...

... Esme Cribb of TPM has a rundown of Trump's "most jaw-dropping remarks" from his Puerto Rican trip.


Brad Heath
of USA Today: "Jared Kushner and ... Ivanka Trump re-routed their personal email accounts to computers run by the Trump Organization as public scrutiny intensified over their use of private emails to conduct White House business, internet registration records show. The move, made just days after Kushner’s use of a personal email account first became public, came shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller asked the White House to turn over records related to his investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump associates. It also more closely intertwines President Trump’s administration with his constellation of private businesses.... Lawyers and cybersecurity researchers said the move was puzzling. Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, said that while the emails Kushner and Trump sent and received through their personal accounts could well have been innocuous – locating them on computers run by the Trump Organization 'certainly creates the appearance of potential impropriety.' Mariotti said the move raises questions about who at the Trump-owned company might have access to emails regarding White House business.” ...

... The Kids Have Been Corrupt for a Long Time. Jesse Eisinger & Justin Elliott of ProPublica: "In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell.... An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included emails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.... But in 2012, [Trump attorney Marc] Kasowitz donated $25,000 to the reelection campaign of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance’s largest donors. [After a meeting between Kasowitz & Vance,] Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case.... Just before the 2012 meeting, Vance’s campaign had returned Kasowitz’s $25,000 contribution.... But less than six months after the D.A.’s office dropped the case, Kasowitz made an even larger donation to Vance’s campaign, and helped raise more from others — eventually, a total of more than $50,000. After being asked about these donations as part of the reporting for this article — more than four years after the fact — Vance said he now plans to give back Kasowitz’s second contribution, too.

Manu Raju, et al., of CNN: "A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump's victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: While it's certainly possible that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian operatives on some of these efforts, it seems just as likely that the Kremlin could read published polls to determine for themselves whom to target with their ads & fake news screeds.

Pruitt Celebrates Earth Day with ALEC. Eric Lipton & Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "For lunch on April 26, Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, dined with top executives from Southern Company, one of the nation’s largest coal-burning electric utilities, at Equinox, a white-tablecloth favorite of Washington power brokers. That evening, it was on to BLT Prime, a steakhouse inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, for a meal with the board of directors of Alliance Resource Partners, a coal-mining giant whose chief executive donated nearly $2 million to help elect President Trump. Before those two agenda items, Mr. Pruitt met privately with top executives and lobbyists from General Motors to talk about their request to block an Obama administration move to curb emissions that contribute to climate change. It was just a typical day for Mr. Pruitt.... Since taking office in February, Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. chief has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates, according to a 320-page accounting of his daily schedule from February through May, the most detailed look yet at what Mr. Pruitt has been up to since he took over the agency.... Even the revised schedule, however, does not provide the full details of Pruitt’s activities. For example, the calendar shows that Pruitt attended 'Earth Day Events' in Dallas on April 22 and that afterward he flew to Tulsa. But EPA travel vouchers show that Pruitt’s travel registry for that day indicate that he was to be in 'Tulsa to conduct meetings in the state and to serve as a keynote speaker for ALEC event.' ALEC refers to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a state-based conservative group funded by a range of corporations and conservative activists."

Tillerson Says Trump Is a Moron. Carol Lee, et al., of NBC News: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House, according to multiple senior administration officials who were aware of the situation at the time. The tensions came to a head around the time ... Donald Trump delivered a politicized speech in late July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led.... Just days earlier, Tillerson had openly disparaged the president, referring to him as a 'moron,' after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three officials familiar with the incident. While it's unclear if he was aware of the incident, Vice President Mike Pence counseled Tillerson, who is fourth in line to the presidency, on ways to ease tensions with Trump, and other top administration officials urged him to remain in the job at least until the end of the year." Mrs. McC: Tillerson may be a lousy Secretary of State, but at least we know he understands the level of Trump's intellect.


Jennifer Medina
, et al., of the New York Times: "Before he mowed down concertgoers from a perch high in a hotel tower, Stephen C. Paddock created a ring of surveillance around him, with video cameras in his suite and in the hallway, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.... The cameras — apparently intended to warn of approaching threats — along with the 23 guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and other equipment found in the gunman’s hotel suite, suggested a thought-out plan to have plenty of time to wreak carnage while holding the police at bay. Local and federal investigators were also eager to interview the gunman’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who had been in the Philippines. She arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday night and was met by the authorities.... Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said that at a minimum, she might shed some light on what was going through the mind of the gunman, who killed himself as the police prepared to enter his room." ...

... New York Times: "Marilou Danley, the girlfriend of the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting, is expected to return from the Philippines to the United States for questioning, a federal law enforcement official said on Tuesday. The authorities are scouring the personal and financial history of the gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, just days after one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States, which left 59 people dead and about 500 others injured. A law enforcement official said Mr. Paddock wired thousands of dollars to the Philippines and the F.B.I. was scrutinizing the transaction. At least one of the rifles the gunman had in his hotel suite on Sunday was outfitted with a 'bump stock,' a device that would enable it to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, according to law enforcement.... Bump stocks are legal and inexpensive, with some versions advertised for $99.... In 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California proposed outlawing bump stocks, but Congress has not acted on her proposal. She proposed a ban again on Tuesday.... President Trump on Tuesday ... said that there would be some sort of discussion about gun legislation, but was not specific. 'We will be talking about gun laws as time goes by,' Mr. Trump said as he prepared to leave Washington for hurricane-battered Puerto Rico." Emphasis added. ...

... William Wan, et al., of the Washington Post have quite a bit on Paddock's background & some on his relationship with Danley. ...

... Bannon Supports Mass Murder. Jonathan Swan of Axios: "I asked Steve Bannon whether he could imagine Trump pivoting to the left on guns after the Las Vegas massacre. 'Impossible: will be the end of everything,' Bannon texted. When asked whether Trump's base would react worse to this than they would if he supported an immigration amnesty bill, Bannon replied: 'as hard as it is to believe actually worse.'... Trump's allies, both inside and out of the White House, are mostly sure he'll resist because he owes too much to the NRA and its supporters...."

McConnell's Idea of Gun Control: "Particularly Inappropriate." Burgess Everett of Politico: "Mitch McConnell did not want to discuss gun control on Tuesday. The Senate majority leader shut down all talk of legislative remedies to gun violence after a man killed 58 people in Las Vegas on Sunday night and injured hundreds more, mirroring the Tuesday morning remarks by his GOP counterpart in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan. McConnell declared this is simply not the time to be talking about legislation targeting firearms.... 'It's particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this. It just happened within the last day and half. Entirely premature to be discussing about legislative solutions if any,' McConnell said." Mrs. McC: According to this 2016 report by Funny or Die, which followed McConnells's vote against modest gun control, McConnell had at the time received $1,261,874 in NRA campaign contributions bribes (thanks, Marvin S). ...

... Ryan's Idea of Gun Control. Mike DeBonis & Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Tuesday that Republican leaders have no plans to advance a bill that would make it easier for Americans to buy gun silencers. The focus on the legislation, which passed a House committee last month, was magnified Monday after the shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night.... 'That bill is not scheduled now; I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled,' said Ryan (R-Wis.). 'Right now we’re focused on passing our budget.' The Las Vegas shooting is the latest incident of mass violence to put Republican lawmakers on the defensive over their opposition to new gun restrictions — and, in some cases, their efforts to eliminate existing ones.” According to Politico, Ryan received $336,597 in gun lobby money between 1990 & 2017. ...

... Thune's Idea of Gun Control. David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Sen. John Thune (R-SD) on Tuesday responded to calls for increased gun control after the massacre in Las Vegas by telling reporters that shooting victims had a responsibility to protect themselves from gunfire.... 'I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions,' he opined. 'To protect themselves. And in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said — get small.'” Mrs. McC: I guess we have to give Thune credit for taking blame-the-victim to a new level. Even Trump hasn't thought of this one. Thune, BTW, is 6'4", & many have remarked he looks presidenty. Maybe so, but this is one reprehensible SOB who has proved he really knows how to "get small." According to Funny or Die, Thune had received $628,645 in NRA bribes (thanks, Marvin S) as of 2016. ...

     ... I guess Scalise just didn't make himself small enough, his bad. -- Gloria, in today's thread

... Inhofe's Idea of Gun Control. Huh? Tara Golshan of Vox: "Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) on Tuesday reiterated a normal Republican talking point that gun laws don’t affect gun violence, with a twist: It’s the existence of 'sanctuary cities' that creates a lawless culture fostering mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas, he said. Two days after a lone white American gunman killed more than 58 people in Las Vegas, what is now considered one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history, Inhofe said the country is 'inundated with permissive laws' — like those in 'sanctuary cities' where local law enforcement doesn’t enforce all federal immigration laws — perpetuating the 'cultural problem' behind mass shooting. 'That has a lot more to do with [mass shootings] than gun owners laws,' Inhofe told me. 'You can go ahead and break a law and you can come to a sanctuary city, and they wouldn’t enforce the laws.'” Oddly, Inhofe had taken in a mere $65,191 from the NRA by 2016, according to the Funny or Die report. But Politico wrote that Inhofe received $121,100 from all gun lobbyists between 1990 & 2017. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: There's a question as to whether or not the winger arm of the GOP considers Las Vegas a sanctuary city. Jeff Sessions designated it as such, but Las Vegas authorities argued with him in July, saying the city cooperated with ICE. Jeffbo said he'd look into it. Maybe this is what Inhofe is talking about, but who knows? These NRA retainers will say anything. Nevada, not surprisingly, has mighty permissive gun laws -- but that of course is not what Inhofe means by "permissive laws" that encourage mass shooting murders. Because Second Amendment. ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: My Idea of Gun Control. Outlaw semi-automatic & automatic weapons & all devices that enhance firing rifles & pistols. Institute a required federal buy-back program. Severely limit the number of firearms any one person may own or access. Limit the amount of ammunition any one person may purchase. If a person wants to buy a new firearm, he must turn in the old one. To purchase a new long gun, the buyer must provide proof of purpose; e.g., a valid hunting license. Pass a federal law legalizing tasers. Look to countries like Great Britain for other means of gun limitations. Make gun-ownership difficult & undesirable but not impossible. Become a civilized nation.

... New York Times Editors: "Residents of Nevada voted in November to require background checks for most private gun sales, closing a loophole in federal law. But nearly a year after the ballot measure passed, these checks aren’t being made because state officials have claimed, with little evidence, that there’s no way to carry out the policy. Such background checks might not have prevented the massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday night; the gunman, Stephen Paddock, is not known to have a significant criminal record and appears to have bought at least some of his guns from dealers required to vet buyers. But it has been shown that requiring checks on private sales of guns, such as at gun shows and over the internet, makes it harder for felons and other prohibited people, like those who have been committed to mental institutions and drug addicts, to buy firearms." ...

... Trump continues to carry forward counter-radicalization policing — the signature anti-terrorism program installed by former president Barack Obama — which seeks to identify and arrest 'homegrown” Muslim radicals.... But why is one person 'homegrown' while someone else is a 'lone' or 'local wolf'? An extensive list of exemptions has become available to white culprits of mass violence, most notably 'lone wolf' or 'insane,' and the Las Vegas shooting adds the status of being 'a local individual' to the roster.


Alan Rappeport & Jim Tankersley
of the New York Times: "Republican leaders are backing away from a proposal to fully repeal an expensive tax break used by more than 40 million tax filers to deduct state and local taxes amid pushback from fellow lawmakers whose residents rely on the popular provision. The state and local tax deduction is estimated to cost $1.3 trillion over the next decade and its repeal is central to paying for a sweeping tax rewrite unveiled last week by Republican lawmakers and administration officials. But elimination of the provision has emerged as a flash point in the nascent debate over the plan, with Republicans in high-tax states worried about backlash from residents who could see their tax bills rise.... The state and local tax deduction has its fair share of critics, including conservative lawmakers who argue it is an unfair federal subsidy of wealthier states with high taxes. They also argue that it tends to benefit wealthy taxpayers who itemize deductions on their tax returns.... Bruised by criticism that their tax plan could prove costly to many middle class Americans, Republican leaders in Congress have assailed [a Tax Policy Center] study as inaccurate and they continued to lash out at it on Tuesday." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Our friend Sen Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, of Graham-Cassidy infamy, is all for repeal of the state-and-local tax deduction. He said it was unfair to Louisianans to have to "subsidize wealthy taxpayers in California who write off the state’s high taxes." Really? According to this analysis by WalletHub, California gets back less than a dollar for every dollar it pays into the federal government; Louisiana gets back more than three dollars. That is, California is a "giver" or "donor" state, while Louisiana is a big "taker" state. "Wealthy Californians" are heavily subsidizing Louisiana. Not sure if Cassidy has been taking lying lessons from Trump & Ryan or if he was already a very, very good BS artiste.

Burgess Everett & Seung Min-Kim of Politico: "There’s a growing faction inside the Senate Republican Conference, and it looks like bad news for Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump: The devil-may-care caucus. Unbeholden to Republican orthodoxy and freed from the burdens of imminent reelection campaigns, more GOP senators are flexing their independence...." "Members" include] John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Rand Paul and Bob Corker.

News Lede

Washington Post: "Biophysicists Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for inventing new and better ways to see molecules. The Nobel committee praised the trio in its announcement Wednesday 'for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.' Cryo-electron microscopy is 'a cool method for imaging the materials of life,' said Nobel committee member Göran K. Hansson from Stockholm. The development allows scientists to visualize proteins and other biological molecules at the atomic level. Dubochet, 75, a Swiss citizen, is a professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Frank, 77, born in Germany and now a U.S. citizen, is a Columbia University professor in New York. Henderson, 72, of Scotland, works at Cambridge University in Britain."

Monday
Oct022017

The Commentariat -- October 3, 2017

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "In the frustrated anguish of Puerto Rico, we can see the real-world consequences of Donald Trump's flagrant incompetence. A little more than eight months ago, the United States inaugurated one of its worst people as president, a nasty showbiz huckster whose own staffers speak of him as if he were a malevolent toddler.... Under any president, Hurricane Maria would have been disastrous, but it seems clear that Trump's inattention made the fallout worse.... According to The [Washington] Post, it was only when Trump started seeing Puerto Rico coverage on cable television that a sense of urgency kicked in. Maria should be a lesson: We need a working executive branch. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services both lack permanent leadership. The State Department has been hollowed out, and Trump undercuts his own secretary of state while threatening war with North Korea. America has largely survived eight months of Trump. That's no guarantee we'll survive eight months more." ...

... Steve Benen: Despite all of Trump's bad behavior, Paul Ryan gave the presidunce a thumbs-up on CBS's "Face the Nation." "His heart's in the right place," Ryan said. Benen: "Reasonable people can debate whether that core goodness exists or not, but the significance of the answer pales in significance to the president's actions." ...

     ... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Here was the question 'FTN' host John Dickerson asked Ryan: "A year ago we talked about race relations in the country and -- and you said you hoped candidate -- then-candidate Trump would be inclusive.... It's been a year now. How would you rate his ability to bring this country together, which has clearly [been] -- an issue[.]" This is apparently the new, popular, euphemistic way "journalists" handle the question of Trump's racism & his other biases. They don't say he's a racist, sexist, etc., bigot, or ask such a question of the interviewee. No, the "issue" isn't racism or whatever; the "issue" is whether or not Trump "can bring the country together." What bull! President Obama couldn't "bring the country together," either, but it surely wasn't because he was a racist or some other "ist." It was because powerful forces were bigots who would not accept him.

... Timothy O'Brien of Bloomberg: "... 'POTUS vs. the media' is ... of note because of the fear that animates the president's attacks.... Trump is waging a war on the press because of the role it plays in recording, sometimes imperfectly, what occurs in real time all around us and during harrowing events, such as those in Puerto Rico. The president is waging a war on the media as part of his war on the public;s collective memory.... Pushed back on his heels by criticism about how quickly he recognized and called attention to the crisis in Puerto Rico, Trump is trying to hide by reshaping any criticism as an attack on first responders and the military.... As Martin Dempsey, a retired U.S. Army general and former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out on his Twitter feed on Sunday: 'Great leaders are motivated by results not reviews, accomplishments not accolades, humility not hubris.'" ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Dhrumil Mehta of 538: "... compared to the other natural disasters of the past few weeks, Hurricane Maria has been relatively ignored. Data from Media Cloud, a database that collects news published on the internet every day, shows that the devastation in Puerto Rico is getting comparatively little attention. U.S. Top Online News' collection, which looks at 49 top online news sources as of 2015 according to Pew/Comscore. This includes newspapers like The New York Times and digital-native sites like Vox." ...

... Alvin Chang of Vox: "But even with the dismal levels of coverage, there's one particular media outlet that has neglected Puerto Rico more than everyone else -- and it happens to be the most-watched cable news outlet in the country. That is, of course, Fox News.... And it's not just the volume of coverage but also the content. Both CNN and MSNBC spent a lot of time talking about the resource shortages in Puerto Rico -- the lack of fresh water, food, electricity, and gas. This is the kind of coverage that reiterates that Puerto Ricans are both part of the American tribe and facing a dire situation. It's the kind of coverage that humanizes a disaster. But Fox News didn't dwell on this aspect of the story[.]... It focused on what Trump was doing, like waiving the Jones Act, saying there are 'tremendous strides' being made, and, of course tweeting.... There was also a brief focus on how the mainstream media is politicizing Puerto Rico."

Fred Kaplan of Slate: "What to make of President Trump's slap-down of his top diplomat's back-channel overture to North Korea? 'I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,' Trump tweeted early Sunday morning, adding one minute later, 'Save your energy, Rex, we'll do what has to be done!'... We were witnessing the stumbling interaction between a secretary of state who doesn't get diplomacy and a president who doesn't want it.... Normally taciturn to the point of cloistered, he told reporters traveling with him in Beijing on Saturday -- on the record -- that he had 'a couple, three channels' of communication going on with North Korean officials.... Tillerson doesn't seem to realize that the whole point of ... 'back channels' ... is to explore intentions and possibilities out of the limelight away from political pressure.... Tillerson had the right idea. There need to be direct talks.... Too bad that Tillerson doesn't know how to do this sort of thing. And worse still that we have a president who doesn't want to back him up, whether because he;d rather solve the problem militarily or because he really believes that acting 'crazy' will sire a better deal." Mrs. McC: As usual, I like Kaplan's analysis better than my own -- in this case, one I made a few days ago.

Jonathan Chait: "Republicans Angry at Economists for Finding Their Tax Cuts Go to the Rich. Friday, the Tax Policy Center published an analysis of the Republican tax-cut plan, finding that nearly 80 percent of its benefits would accrue to the highest-earning one percent of the public. Asked about these findings, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called the center the 'National Tax Center,' erroneously charged that a former economic adviser to Joe Biden works there, and used this imagined fact to discredit its calculations[.]... The [Wall Street] Journal dismisses the Tax Policy Center's findings as 'propaganda,' arguing that the Republican plan is not completely finished." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... How to Manage Inconvenient Facts -- Erase Them & Lie Like Hell. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: In 2012, Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis "released a paper explaining ... that 82 percent of corporate taxes were borne by capital owners, and 18 percent were borne by labor.... The answers these Treasury staffers produced are not so far from those of most other major nonpartisan tax crunchers, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Tax Policy Center. The Treasury paper ... [was] generally ignored. Until now. That's because Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been lately claiming that nearly all of the corporate tax burden is passed on to workers. It's an argument that he has to make if he hopes to sell the administration's tax cuts ... as a helping hand for the Forgotten Man. On Fox News, Mnuchin claimed that 'most economists believe that over 70 percent of corporate taxes are paid for by the workers.' At an event in Kentucky, he declared that 'over 80 percent of business taxes is borne by the worker.'... Tax watchers and interviewers began pointing out that Mnuchin's claims were at odds not only with most credible estimates but also with those of his own staff. Which clearly annoyed Mnuchin. So Treasury took the unusual -- unprecedented? -- step of quietly deleting the inconvenient findings from its website." Rampell suggests that Mnuchin can't get his own lies straight, even in a single conversation. ...

... Paul Krugman: "Last week the Trump administration and its congressional allies working on tax reform ... released a tax plan -- or, actually, a vague sketch of a plan — that manages both to add trillions to the deficit and to raise taxes on a large fraction of the population. That takes talent. But like the G.O.P.'s terrible, no good, very bad health plans, this tax debacle was years in the making. On taxes, as with health, leading Republicans have been lying for years. And now the fraud has caught up with the fraudsters.... Almost 60 percent of households between the 80th and 90th percentiles of the income distribution would face tax increases.... Did I mention that many of those facing tax hikes vote Republican?... In broad outlines, the tax story is a lot like health care. In both cases, Republicans have spent years getting away with big promises backed by lies. Now, with real policy to be made, the lies won't work anymore. And they can't handle the truth."

Ben Lefebvre of Politico: "The Interior Department;s inspector general's office has opened an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke's use of taxpayer-funded charter planes, a spokeswoman said Monday.... The secretary has flown on government-owned or -chartered aircraft several times this year, including one $12,000 trip from Las Vegas to an airport near his hometown in Montana and another trip in the Caribbean, as Politico reported last week. The Las Vegas trip has attracted particular scrutiny, because Zinke was appearing at an event affiliated with a major campaign donor that kept him from catching a commercial flight to Montana."


William Wan
, et al., of the Washington Post: "Before he opened fire late Sunday -- killing at least 50 people at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip -- the gunman Stephen Paddock lived a quiet life for years in a small town outside Las Vegas. A retired man, Paddock, 64, would disappear for days at a time, frequenting casinos as a professional gambler with his longtime girlfriend, neighbors said. Relatives also said Paddock had been quietly living out his retirement years, visiting Las Vegas to gamble and take in concerts." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede: "Before he opened fire late Sunday, killing at least 58 people at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, gunman Stephen Paddock was living out his retirement as a high-stakes gambler in a quiet town outside Las Vegas. Paddock, 64, would disappear for days at a time, frequenting casinos with his longtime girlfriend, neighbors said. Relatives also said Paddock had frequently visited Las Vegas to gamble and take in concerts." ...

... Ken Belson, et al., of the New York Times: "The police said they found 23 firearms in [Paddock's hotel] suite. And when they searched the attacker’s house, they discovered an additional 19 firearms and, according to Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, 'some explosives, and several thousand rounds of ammo.' He added that they also found ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer sometimes used in making bombs, in the gunman's car. The sheriff said some rifles found in the hotel room may have been modified to make them fully automatic. Automatic rifles, which fire multiple rounds with a squeeze of a trigger, are highly regulated, and on videos posted online by witnesses, the rapid-fire sound indicated that at least one weapon was fully automatic.... [Paddock] brought in more than 10 suitcases during his stay [at the Mandalay Bay hotel], but no one saw anything amiss, the sheriff said." ...

... Odd. Ed Kilgore: "After expressing shock that his brother, 'just a guy' who liked to go to Vegas and gamble and see some shows and 'eat burritos,' had gone on a murder spree from the window of his room at Mandalay Bay hotel, Eric Paddock disclosed something else about Stephen Paddock's background. '...their father was Patrick Benjamin Paddock, a bank robber who he says was on FBI Most Wanted list.' citing Peter Alexander.].... There was indeed in the late 1960s and early 1970s a bank robber, an escaped federal prisoner, and eventually a fugitive by that name (and others) who made the Most Wanted list. The FBI poster ([pictured in the story]) from 1969 notes that Paddock the Elder had been 'diagnosed as psychopathic, has carried firearms in commission of bank robberies' and 'reportedly has suicidal tendencies and should be considered armed and very dangerous.'... Paddock apparently stayed on the lam until 1978, when he was 'captured in 1978 in Oregon where he was running a bingo parlor.'" Mrs. McC: Several news outlets have confirmed the report. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Trump's Ability to Stiffly Read Scripted Speech Awes CNN. Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "There was nothing glorious about President Trump's short speech Monday morning in reaction to the massacre that unfolded Sunday night in Las Vegas. There was plenty of language that has become grimly standard in situations like this one.... Nor was there anything embarrassing or dismal about the presentation. No big blunders, though the speech had that hollow feel that accompanies scripted presentations from Trump.... On CNN, though, it was a marvel of possibly historic proportions. 'Look, pitch perfect from the president right there,' said John King.... Poppy Harlow said, 'This is the time to bring the country together -- that is exactly, John King, what the president did with those remarks. This is not a time for politics, nor did he inject them at all in those remarks.' Jeff Zeleny said, 'The president clearly, as John said, striking a pitch-perfect tone.' And analyst David Chalian: 'That's everything you would want to hear from a president of the United States, everything that you wanted to hear there. I agree with what John and Jeff were saying -- this was certainly pitch perfect.'... Speeches provide journalists from mainstream organizations a remarkable opportunity to render a positive judgment on a man who is patently unfit to discharge the duties of his office." ...

... John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "A controversial bill to loosen restrictions on purchasing gun silencers won't be reaching the House floor anytime soon after a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 59 dead and hundreds more wounded, according to GOP sources. A bill to allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns with them to another state could also be affected after the tragedy, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.... [The silencer] bill, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), has been approved by the Natural Resources Committee and was expected to be on the House floor soon though it had not yet been scheduled for a vote. Consideration of the bill was postponed earlier this year after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot in June at a congressional baseball practice." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: And that's what passes for "gun control" in GOP circles: delaying votes on reprehensible bills to loosen gun restrictions for a short period of time following mass shootings perpetrated by white people. I'm sure these bills would have gone sailing thru Congress if the shooters had been called Ahmed & Mohammed. ...

... Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), in a New York Times op-ed: "In the wake of one the deadliest mass shooting in our nation's history, perhaps the most asked question by Americans is, 'Will anything change?' The simple answer is no. The more vital question is, 'Why not?' Congress is already doing what it sees as its part. Flags have been lowered, thoughts and prayers tweeted, and sometime this week it will perform the latest episode in the longest-running drama on C-Span: the moment of silence. It's how they responded to other mass shootings in Columbine, Herkimer, Tucson, Santa Monica, Hialeah, Terrell, Alturas, Killeen, Isla Vista, Marysville, Chapel Hill, Tyrone, Waco, Charleston, Chattanooga, Lafayette, Roanoke, Roseburg, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, Birmingham, Fort Hood and Aurora, at Virginia Tech, the Washington Navy Yard, and the congressional baseball game practice, to name too many.... [After Sandy Hook,] I heard my colleagues turn this into a debate over the rights of gun owners instead of the right to life of children." Read on. Israel describes the craven self-interests of members of Congress, the righty-right-wing NRA & the willingness of "responsible" citizens to vote for members the NRA has captured...." ...

     ... When will Trump lash out against Jimmy Kimmel? ...

... Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "The lead guitarist of a country music band playing Route 91 Harvest festival, where a gunman murdered 58 people on Sunday night, has said the horrific experience of the attack has changed his views on gun laws in America. 'I've been a proponent of the [second] amendment my entire life,' Caleb Keeter posted on Twitter. 'Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.'... But Keeter went further, describing the deadliest shooting in modern US history as a revelation. He said that members of the band's crew have concealed handgun licenses, and legal firearms on the bus. 'They were useless,' he said. 'We couldn't touch them for fear police might think that we were part of the massacre and shoot us. A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of firepower. Enough is enough.... 'We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.... My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn't realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.'" ...

... Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: "If the ... [mass murderer] was someone who had, even once, communicated with or been radicalized by ISIS, no matter how remote or long-distance that radicalization, or if he was merely a Muslim from a Muslim country, then a massive act of terrorism would have been committed and a militant response, including travel bans and broad suspensions of rights, would be essential. If it was just one more American 'psycho,' then all we can do is shrug and, as the occupant of the Oval Office put it, send 'warmest condolences and sympathies...' President Trump, deprived from birth by some genetic accident of all natural human empathy ... speaks empathy as a foreign language and makes the kinds of mistakes we all make in a second language that we have barely mastered.... Between the consolidated power of the pro-gun right, and the truth that gun control has slipped down the agenda of even anti-violence liberals, this means that the only American response to regular mass gun killings will be a shrug and faked sympathy." ...

... The Right-Wing Lynch Mob. Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "Geary Danley was not the gunman in Las Vegas who killed at least 50 people late Sunday. But for hours on the far-right Internet, would-be sleuths scoured Danley's Facebook likes, family photographs and marital history to try to 'prove' that he was. Danley, according to an archived version of a Facebook page bearing that name, might have been married to a Marilou Danley[, the woman who reportedly lived with the actual shooter].... The briefest look at the viral threads and tweets falsely naming Geary Danley as the attacker makes it easy to guess why a bunch of right-wing trolls latched on to him: His Facebook profile indicated that he might be a liberal.... [The far right's] That phony story quickly embedded itself into the algorithms of Google and Facebook, where sites promoting the rumor remained at the top of the results for anyone searching for Danley's name." ...

... Cale Weissman of Fast Company: Facebook & Google algorithms have pushed numerous alt-right conspiracy theories to the top of the "news." The spread of misinformation remains a huge problem for large platforms like Facebook and Google, which rely on algorithms to push the most engaged stories to the top. ...

... Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Wayne Allyn Root "could not wait to weigh in on Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas. On Twitter, he jumped to the conclusion that the shooter must be Muslim, before police had identified him.... Several hours later, police identified the gunman as a Nevada man named Stephen Paddock, who Las Vegas police described as a white man. Root, however, was not ready rule out a connection to Islamic terrorism. In fact, he argued that 'liberals' are the ones rushing to judgment by assuming the shooter is not a Muslim.... Root is not alone in spreading the idea that Islamist terrorism was behind the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history on Sunday -- despite the absence of evidence." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ryan Broderick of BuzzFeed lists 19 hoaxes being spread on the Internet about the Las Vegas mass shooting. Mrs. McC: I'm sure Broderick's report will be quite outdated by the time you read it.


Tom Hamburger
, et al., of the Washington Post: "Associates of President Trump and his company have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign.... In one case, Trump's personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about the lawyer possibly traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence. In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the upper house of the Russian parliament.... The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign...." ...

... Mike Isaac & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "The Russians who posed as Americans on Facebook last year tried on quite an array of disguises. There was 'Defend the 2nd,' a Facebook page for gun-rights supporters, festooned with firearms and tough rhetoric. There was a rainbow-hued page for gay rights activists, 'LGBT United.' There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads. Federal investigators and officials at Facebook now believe these groups and their pages were part of a highly coordinated disinformation campaign linked to the Internet Research Agency, a secretive company in St. Petersburg, Russia, known for spreading Kremlin-linked propaganda and fake news across the web. They were described to The New York Times by two people familiar with the social network and its ads who were not authorized to discuss them publicly. Under intensifying pressure from Congress and growing public outcry, Facebook on Monday turned over more than 3,000 of the Russia-linked advertisements from its site over to the Senate and House intelligence committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee." ...

... Elizabeth Dwoskin, et al., of the Washington Post: "Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election. The tactic resembles what American businesses and political campaigns have been doing in recent years to deliver messages to potentially interested people online. The Russians exploited this system by creating English-language sites and Facebook pages that closely mimicked those created by U.S. political activists." ...

... Adam Entous, et al., of the Washington Post: "One of the Russian-bought advertisements that Facebook shared with congressional investigators on Monday featured photographs of an armed black woman 'dry firing' a rifle -- pulling the trigger of the weapon without a bullet in the chamber, according to people familiar with the investigation. Investigators believe the advertisement may have been designed to encourage African American militancy and, at the same time, to stoke fears within white communities.... The apparent tactic underscores how the Russians used U.S.-based technology platforms to target Americans with highly tailored and sometimes-contradictory messages to exploit divisions in American society over the past two years.... The Russian campaign frequently sought to widen existing fractures in American society, while also helping to boost Republican Donald Trump's presidential campaign.... In addition to sharing the ads, Facebook is providing information to lawmakers about which users those ads targeted, the views and clicks the ads received, and the methods of payment used by the Russian operatives, said people familiar with the investigation. The ads were viewed tens of millions of times...."

To Nanny Yulia: Mr. Kushner and I are going on a secret visit to Russia next Tuesday to deliver a top-secret message from Daddy to a friend in the Kremlin Moscow. Best not to tell the kids or your boyfriend Boris. I'm sure we can count on your discretion. Ivanka ...

... E-mails! Javanka, Oh My. Josh Dawsey & Andrea Peterson of Politico: "White House officials have begun examining emails associated with a third and previously unreported email account on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's private domain, according to three people familiar with the matter. Hundreds of emails have been sent since January from White House addresses to accounts on the Kushner family domain, these people said. Many of those emails went not to Kushner's or Ivanka Trump's personal addresses but to an account they both had access to and shared with their personal household staff for family scheduling. The emails which include ... some official White House materials -- were in many cases sent from Ivanka Trump, her assistant Bridges Lamar and others who work with the couple in the White House. The emails to the third account were largely sent from White House accounts but occasionally came from other private accounts, one of these people said. The existence of additional accounts ... raises new questions about the extent of personal email use by the couple during their time as White House aides. Their use of private email accounts for White House business also raises concerns about the security of potentially sensitive government documents which have been forwarded to private accounts."

NEW. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on Tuesday in a case that could reshape American democracy. The justices will consider whether extreme partisan gerrymandering -- the drawing of voting districts to give lopsided advantages to the party in power -- violates the Constitution. The Supreme Court has never struck down an election map on the ground that it was drawn to make sure one political party wins an outsize number of seats. The court has, however, left open the possibility that some kinds of political gamesmanship in redistricting may be too extreme."

Typed on my HP Computer:

Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd. Joel Schectman, et al., of Reuters: "Hewlett Packard Enterprise allowed a Russian defense agency to review the inner workings of cyber defense software used by the Pentagon to guard its computer networks, according to Russian regulatory records and interviews with people with direct knowledge of the issue. The HPE system, called ArcSight, serves as a cybersecurity nerve center for much of the U.S. military, alerting analysts when it detects that computer systems may have come under attack. ArcSight is also widely used in the private sector. The Russian review of ArcSight's source code, the closely guarded internal instructions of the software, was part of HPE's effort to win the certification required to sell the product to Russia's public sector, according to the regulatory records seen by Reuters and confirmed by a company spokeswoman." Mrs. McC: Just un-fucking-believable.

Bill Vlasic & Neal Boudette of the New York Times: "In a push to produce cars powered by batteries or fuel cells, General Motors on Monday laid out a strategy to vastly expand the number of electric models in the marketplace. G.M. said it would introduce two new all-electric models within 18 months as part of a broader plan toward what the company says is its ultimate goal of an emissions-free fleet. The two models will be the first of at least 20 new all-electric vehicles that G.M. plans to bring out by 2023. The announcement came a day before a long-scheduled investor presentation by Ford Motor that was also expected to emphasize electric models. After the G.M. news emerged, Ford let loose its own plan, saying it would add 13 electrified models in the next several years."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Raphael Minder of the New York Times: "A day after a referendum on independence for Catalonia that was marred by clashes between supporters and police officers, the Spanish region's leaders were meeting on Monday to determine how to convert the vote into a state free from the rest of the country. Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader, said late Sunday that Catalans had won the right to have their own state and that he would soon present the result of the referendum to the regional Parliament to make it binding." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

News Ledes:

Washington Post: "Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics. The three are members of the LIGO-Virgo detector collaboration that discovered gravitational waves. The prize was awarded 'for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves,' the committee said in a news release. 'This year's prize is about a discovery that shook the world,' said the Nobel committee representative Göran K. Hansson during a conference in Stockholm on Tuesday. Albert Einstein had predicted that distortions in gravity would ripple through space-time like a shockwave. It took nearly a century to confirm these distortions exist. One half of the prize went to Weiss, born in Berlin and now a U.S. citizen, who is a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The other half was split by Barish, a Nebraska native, and Thorne, who was born in Utah. Both work at the California Institute of Technology."

New York Times: "Tom Petty, a songwriter who melded California rock with a deep, stubborn Southern heritage, died on Monday after suffering cardiac arrest. He was 66 and had lived in Los Angeles." ...

... Petty's Rolling Stone obituary is here.

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