The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, September 15, 2019.

New York Times: "Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88."

Public Service Announcement

September 5: Washington Post: "State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call." The NPR story is here.

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":

 

Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

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

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

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Tuesday
Sep032019

The Commentariat -- September 4, 2019

Afternoon Update:

** Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "Gregory B. Craig, one of Washington's most prominent Democratic lawyers, was acquitted on Wednesday of a felony charge that he lied about work he did seven years ago for the Ukrainian government. The jury returned the verdict after just hours of deliberation. It was a blow to the Justice Department's effort to more aggressively crack down on foreign influence in Washington and a vindication of Mr. Craig's high-risk strategy of taking the case to trial." ...

     ... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Craig, 74, is the only Democratic appointee to be charged in a series of cases stemming from ... Robert Mueller's investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Shortly after the verdict, Craig's defense team denounced the decision to prosecute the veteran Washington lawyer and suggested some impropriety.... 'Why, after the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York rejected this prosecution, did this Department of Justice decide it had to hound this man and his family without any evidence and without any purpose, the defense lawyer asked.... Taylor declined to say why he thinks the prosecution went forward, but Craig's allies have grumbled for months that he was targeted in an effort to even the scales politically and to push back against perceptions that Mueller's operation was solely focused on allies of ... Donald Trump."

Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Prime Minister Boris Johnson was battered again on Wednesday as lawmakers from his own party and the opposition pressed ahead to stop his plan for leaving the European Union without an agreement. Having won control of the legislative agenda on Tuesday night, lawmakers moved quickly on a bill that would rule out Mr. Johnson's plan for a withdrawal by the end of next month even if there is no deal, which many say would cause chaos. On Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 327 to 299, they pushed the bill through a second stage in the two-step process. The bill now goes to the House of Lords, which must give its assent. After a night of extraordinary theater in Parliament, Mr. Johnson confronted on Wednesday a bleak scene scattered with the remnants of his Brexit policy, raising the possibility that the issue could destroy his premiership just as it had the two previous Conservative prim ministers, but more rapidly." ...

... The Guardian's liveblog is here. After the House of Commons voted down his Brexit "plan," Johnson called for a general election October 15 -- which requires a 2/3rds majority -- but the Commons rejected the motion. The AP report is here.

AP: "An Israeli news station has aired recordings [from 2017] of the prime minister shouting at a senior Cabinet minister and trying to intervene in regulations governing television broadcasting. The audio clips published on Monday come just two weeks before Benjamin Netanyahu seeks re-election in a do-over vote after failing to secure a parliamentary majority in April. He also faces possible indictment next month for corruption charges...."

Trump's Own Administration Finds He is Traumatizing Children. Colleen Long, et al., of the AP: "Migrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border last year suffered post-traumatic stress and other serious mental health problems, according to a government watchdog report Wednesday. The chaotic reunification process only added to their ordeal.... The children, many already distressed in their home countries or by their journey, showed more fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress symptoms than children who were not separated, according to a report from the inspector general's office in the Department of Health and Human Services."

Brent Samuels & Morgan Chalfant of the Hill: "Trump defends shift of FEMA funds, citing Dorian's change in path.... The president said the shifted funds won't be an issue in responding to Dorian, citing the storm's change in path farther east. 'We're using much less here than we anticipated.... Originally this was going to be a direct hit into Miami,' Trump told reporters during an Oval Office briefing on the hurricane." Mrs. McC: So Trump's "plan" is to hope no emergencies arise & his "justification" is that Miami didn't get hit by this storm.

Miriam Lord of the Irish Times: "The hospitable hosts buttered up their important guest [mike pence] and made a big fuss of his family. And he told them they were wonderful and that he loved them. He even said a special prayer for everyone and then, just before he left, he turned around and kicked them where it hurts ... [when] he delivered a very strong endorsement of Boris Johnson and Brexit.... As Pence read from the autocue and Irish eyes definitely stopped smiling, it was clear he was channeling His Master's Voice."

The Nihilists Who Love Trump. Thomas Edsell of the New York Times: The winner of the best paper award at the American Political Science Association meeting last week "argues that a segment of the American electorate that was once peripheral is drawn to 'chaos incitement' and that this segment has gained decisive influence through the rise of social media.... The authors describe 'chaos incitement' as a 'strategy of last resort by marginalized status-seekers,' willing to adopt disruptive tactics.... [Social media allow] the transmission of a type of information that portrays 'political candidates or groups negatively' and has 'a low evidential basis.'... The intense hostility to political establishments of all kinds among what could be called 'chaos voters' helps explain what Pew Research and others have found: a growing distrust among Republican voters of higher education as well as empirically based science...."

Juliet Eilperin & Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "... Joe Balash -- who oversaw oil and gas drilling on federal lands before resigning from Interior on Friday -- is joining a foreign oil company that is expanding operations on Alaska's North Slope. Balash, who had served as the Interior Department's assistant secretary for land and minerals management for nearly two years, confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday night that he will begin working for the Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search, which is developing one of Alaska's largest oil prospects in years.... Balash declined to disclose his specific role and said that while he would oversee employees who would work with the federal government on energy policy, he would abide by the Trump ethics pledge [Mrs. McC: hahahahaha] barring appointees from lobbying their former agencies for five years." ...

... Paul Blest of Splinter: "If you want a good example of the 'swamp' in action..., you needn't look any further than Joe Balash.... This is what normal, everyday corruption looks like: a game of musical chairs in which everyone gets a seat, so long as you're willing to do the bidding of industry. Congrats to Joe Balash!"

Canada Acts While U.S. Dawdles. Alexander Panetta & Mark Scott of Politico: "Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election rattled America's next-door neighbor so badly that Canada spent the last three years developing the most detailed plan anywhere in the Western world to combat foreign meddling in its upcoming election."

~~~~~~~~~~

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post: "The president canceled a trip to Poland for the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II, allowing him to give his undivided attention to Hurricane Dorian play rounds of golf both Saturday and Monday at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. In his place, he sent the vice president to Europe to renew the enduring transatlantic bond stay at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland. The president also delivered a somber message chipper greeting to Poles on the anniversary of the Nazi invasion, recalling the death and suffering of millions of Poles saying: 'I just want to congratulate Poland.'... Three other Category 5 storms had already occurred during his presidency, which meant that he was well-prepared to respond to such a storm didn't stop him on Sunday from declaring, again, that 'I'm not sure I've ever even heard of a Category 5.'... He expressed confidence that Florida Mar-a-Lago could withstand the storm. After learning during an intelligence briefing Friday that Iran had an unsuccessful rocket launch, the president coordinated a response with allies trolled Iran by including in a tweet an image that may have revealed covert U.S. activities.... Following a FEMA briefing on the now 'catastrophic' and intensifying Dorian, the president reinforced official warnings unilaterally declared that Alabama, where no storm damage was forecast, would also 'most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.'" All strikeouts original. ...

... Susan Glasser of the New Yorker reviews Trump's wacky month. "Today there are few things too extreme not to have plausibly come out of the mouth, or the Twitter feed, of the forty-fifth President.... If it seems as if Trump is wackier, angrier, more willing to lash out, and more desperately seeking attention, that is because he is...: the thirty-one days of August, 2019, turn out to be an extraordinary catalogue of Trump's in-our-faces meltdown.... Today's Trump is not just more prone to misspeaking and stumbling, he is also more overtly confrontational more of the time, more immersed in a daily cycle of Presidential punditry, and more casually incendiary with his words and sentiments."

Zachary Cohen & Ryan Browne of CNN: "Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has authorized the diverting of $3.6 billion in military construction funds for 11 wall projects on the southern border with Mexico, according to defense officials and a letter from Esper to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has been obtained by CNN. In his letter, Esper told Congress he has 'determined that 11 military construction projects along the international border with Mexico, with an estimated total cost of $3.6 billion, are necessary to support the use of the armed forces in connection with the national emergency. 'The letter does not include the word 'wall,' as is typical in Defense Department announcements of this kind, but details how the funds will be used for new fencing projects at various border locations.... On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the decision 'a slap in the face' to service members.... Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also condemned the move. 'President Trump's immigration efforts have failed since day one. Today, he made it clear he is willing to take funds from our troops and disaster victims and divert them to try to protect his political right flank. And ultimately, that could put Americans at risk,' he said in a statement. 'This isn't just an attempt to shift funding, it's a bid to shift power away from Congress to the president.'" ...

... Jennifer Scholtes, et al., of Politico: "The Trump administration is carrying out plans to raid $3.6 billion in military construction projects to build the border wall, further inflaming lawmakers who have accused President Donald Trump of illegally overriding Congress' spending decisions.... Tuesday's announcement comes on top of $2.5 billion the Pentagon already diverted from its budget toward the border barrier this spring over objections from leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees.... The American Civil Liberties Union said after the announcement that it plans to file a motion to block the transfer of the money. The ACLU is representing the Sierra Club and border advocates in a related federal lawsuit in California."

Kayla Tausche & Jacob Pramuk of CNBC: "The president was outraged after he learned Aug. 23 that China had formalized plans to slap duties on $75 billion in U.S. products in response to new tariffs from Washington on Sept. 1. His initial reaction, communicated to aides on a White House trade call held that day, was to suggest doubling existing tariffs, according to three people briefed on the matter. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer then enlisted multiple CEOs to call the president and warn him about the impact such a move would have on the stock market and the economy. He settled on a 5% hike in tariff rates on about $550 billion in Chinese products, which he announced in an Aug. 23 tweet after the market close." --s

But I just want to congratulate Poland. It's a great country with great people. We also have many Polish people in our country; it could be 8 million. We love our Polish friends. And I will be there soon. -- Donald Trump, to reporters Sunday ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Trump was asked Sunday about the trip to Poland he canceled to monitor Hurricane Dorian. Asked if he had a message for that country, which was commemorating the anniversary of the start of World War II, Trump decided to ... congratulate it?... Sunday was the anniversary of the day Nazi Germany invaded Poland, which led France and Great Britain to declare war two days later (i.e. 80 years ago Tuesday). Poland would wind up losing nearly one-fifth of its population in the war, according to estimates. As such, it was more of a day for somber remembrance than a day of triumph. The German president asked for Poland's forgiveness, for instance." Read on for Trump's response to a question about FARC, the revolutionary group whose leader has called for a renewal of hostilities. Spoiler: Trump doesn't seem to know what FARC is. ...

... Ed Kilgore of New York: Trump's "comments this weekend congratulating Poland on the 80th anniversary of that long-suffering country's greatest catastrophe is breathtaking.... Perhaps it did not occur to his staff that he needed to be reminded of what happened to Poland in the years following the German invasion that began on September 1, 1939. You know, the dismemberment of the country by the Nazis in conjunction with the USSR; the systematic murder of the Polish educated classes, a sort of warm-up act for the effort to exterminate European Jewry during the Holocaust, much of which took place on Polish soil; the incredible military and civic violence involving the Germans, the Russians, and assorted partisans that led historian Timothy Snyder to describe the area of Europe centered in Poland 'the bloodlands'; and the postwar imposition of communism on Poland, along with the violent relocation of millions of the war's survivors. Trump was congratulating Poland on the anniversary of an event that led to the deaths of an estimated one-fifth of the nation's prewar population, and marked the beginning of a World War in which at least 60 million people perished, including over 400,000 Americans."

Rafi Schwartz of Splinter: "It's been a busy long weekend for Donald Trump-owned properties. While the president hit the links and tweeted away the weekend at his Virginia golf resort, Vice President Mike Pence flew halfway around the world and stayed at Trump's Doonbeg estate on the West coast of Ireland -- despite it being some three hours away from his scheduled meetings in Dublin with Irish Prime Minister [Leo] Varadkar.... Presidential property grift aside, Pence's Ireland visit also marked a bizarre opportunity for the Veep's team to emphatically defend their boss in the face of his long, well-documented history of homophobia -- a fact Pence spokesman Judd Deere insisted couldn't possibly be true because he met with the Irish prime minister, who happens to be gay[:] 'For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady's schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "Mike Pence is staying three hours outside of Dublin so Trump can make money.... In distance terms, this is like staying at a hotel in Baltimore for your business trip to New York.... Trump has been stealing public funds out in the open from the beginning of his presidency.... But public officials are not stepping up. Any other official at any other level of government would be fired if not prosecuted. It's so obviously worthy of impeachment -- the president can't just grab public money and stuff it into his pockets -- that there's barely anything to investigate.... What's striking is the total sense of apathy Democrats have displayed regarding this issue.... Letting a form of gross -- albeit petty -- corruption go nearly unremarked seems like a dangerous precedent for the future." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What's basically happening here is that Congress -- and this of course includes Congressional Republicans -- has extended the meaning of "executive privilege" to include "open and notorious self-dealing & other corrupt acts." One response Yglesias suggested was adding an "appropriations rider to bar the expenditure of public funds at Trump properties." What a hoot if Trump had to pay back all the millions he & his entourage billed the government for expenditures at Trump properties. ...

     ... Update. Steve M. gets to the heart of the GOP rationale: "the belief that corporate chieftains should be able to run roughshod over the law, doing whatever they please without facing regulation or scrutiny. Trump may be the highest-ranking officeholder to test the limits of this principle (and to reach the conclusion that there are, in fact, no limits), but recall, for instance, that Republican Rick Scott has now won three statewide elections in Florida after his company was fined $1.7 billion for what was the worst Medicare fraud in history. His voters didn't care.... I even see a link between the belief system of right-wing evangelicals and the high tolerance for unethical business practices. It's clear that the moral code of the evangelical right is Certain people are good, and we'll tell you who they are, and whatever they do is therefore moral and godly." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "President Trump had a suggestion for Mike Pence: Rather than stay in Dublin during his meetings there with European officials, why not bring his entire family and security entourage to the Trump International Golf Club in Doonbeg, on the other side of the country? Pence, of course, agreed.... As an ethical violation, what's notable about Pence going (literally) out of his way to stay at a Trump property is the meagerness of the stakes and the black-and-white clarity of the offense.... Pence is establishing the principle that Trump is entitled to profit from his office, and -- far more importantly -- his participation signals his culpability in the scheme.... One of the key tools used by organized crime bosses is to implicate their underlings.... The point of asking Mike Pence to violate government ethics on Trump's behalf is not to put a few more dollars in Trump's pocket, but to put Mike Pence in his pocket." Read on for more of "the grift that keeps on grifting." Mrs. McC: Impeach 'em both.

... Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast: "Pence has never needed orders to steer money to his boss's businesses. Since 2017, Pence's political group, the Great America Committee, has dropped about $224,000 at Trump properties, chiefly the Trump International Hotel in Washington and its on-site steakhouse, according to Federal Election Commission records maintained by ProPublica.... Pence's brother, freshman Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN), has also dropped considerable sums [$45,000] at the Trump hotel. In fact, Rep. Pence's campaign amended a number of FEC filings this year after USA Today noted that the campaign appeared to be illegally paying for the congressman to live at the Trump hotel. The Pence campaign said those expenses were reported incorrectly, and amended FEC filings accordingly.... Only the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have spent more at Trump businesses than [mike] Pence's PAC during the 2020 election cycle." --s

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "Britain, the US and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by arming and providing support to a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic, a United Nations report has said." --s

On the day we read that Friends of Trump are amassing a war chest to smear reporters, there's this from Bloomberg Law: "A recently appointed Trump Labor Department official with a history of advancing controversial conservative and faith-based causes in court has resigned after revelations that he wrote a 2016 Facebook post suggesting the Jewish-controlled media 'protects their own.' Four hours after Bloomberg Law requested comment from the White House and DOL about Leif Olson's social media post, the department said he has resigned, without elaboration." Olson's Facebook posts "referenc[ed] two anti-Semitic tropes: that Jews control the media and that they look out for members of their own faith." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Update. Nicole Lafond of TPM: "... it appears that the screenshot that Bloomberg took of the Facebook posts cut off the thread prematurely. According to a screenshot of the 2016 post shared with Tablet, Olson goes on to directly admit to being sarcastic and calls out Breitbart's coverage of the race.... Journalists and lawyers on Twitter have lashed out at [Ben] Penn, [the author of the Bloomberg article,] arguing that while the Facebook post does repeat anti-Semitic tropes, as Bloomberg notes in the piece, the tropes are clearly a sarcastic attempt to condemn the alt-right...."...

     ... Dylan Matthews of Vox: "On Tuesday, a bizarre thing happened in Washington: The Trump administration accepted the resignation of an executive branch official after a charge of bigotry that was both unfair and misleading.... If you read the posts -- which [Leif] Olson himself has posted screenshots of in a Facebook album titled, 'Welcome Bloomberg Readers'; he says he deleted the original post to prevent harassment of commenters -- it's clear that Olson is mocking, not defending anti-Semitism."

Brett Samuels & Brandon Conradis of the Hill: "A U.S. district judge on Tuesday ordered the White House to restore Playboy correspondent Brian Karem's press credentials after the administration said last month it was revoking his hard pass. Judge Rudolph Contreras said in a court order that he was granting Karem's motion for a preliminary injunction to block the White House's move. Karem sued the Trump administration after White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced in August that his pass would be suspended through Sept. 14. Contreras wrote in a 24-page opinion that the White House did not provide the required guidance as to what would warrant the suspension of a hard pass outside a press conference setting and that Karem was likely to succeed on the grounds of his due process claim." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Bless the founders for the Bill of Rights (well, okay, not that Second Amendment mess). But for the First & Fourth Amendments, we might not get to hear Karem on the White House lawn shouting questions at Trump about the Playboy/porn star hearings the House proposes to hold this fall.

Kyle Cheney & Sarah Ferris of Politico: "House Democrats return to Capitol Hill next week with an impeachment mess on their hands and just weeks to make a choice that could define the rest of Donald Trump's presidency. Lawmakers faced frequently contentious town halls during their six-week August recess as activists pressured Democratic holdouts to support impeachment proceedings. A steady trickle of new endorsements for action followed, and a majority of the House's 235 Democrats now backs an impeachment inquiry. Senior Democrats, however, are sending mixed messages on the prospect of trying to oust Trump." (Also linked yesterday.)

Waiting for Trumpo. Marianne Levine of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated Tuesday that he is willing to bring to the floor gun control legislation that ... Donald Trump supports and could become law. The Kentucky Republican told conservative talk show radio host Hugh Hewitt that the White House is reviewing different proposals in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, and that he expects to hear back next week about what Trump is willing to back." ...

... Washington Post Editors, in a full-page editorial: "What if there was a mass shooting in the United States not once or twice or four or six times monthly, but every single day, a big one, the kind that electrifies social media and squats for days on Page 1 -- would that be enough to move Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from his insistent inertia on gun safety? Would any volume of bloodshed convince the Kentucky Republican that Congress faces a moral imperative to act? Thirty-eight people were slain in three such shootings in August -- in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, as well as West Texas -- and still Senate Republicans and President Trump refuse to act. The list [of gun violence victims] below, far from comprehensive, is tragic, in part, because it is so far from inevitable. No, no single law would end gun violence. But there are reasonable, obvious measures that would help. For example: Ban the sale of military-grade assault weapons. Unneeded by civilians, they are a blight on the nation, their ready availability a national disgrace. Eliminating them would slow the growth of this list. It would save lives."

Justin Wise of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday vehemently denounced political opponents who have dubbed him 'Moscow Mitch,' calling the nickname an 'over-the-top' effort to 'smear' him. 'It's modern-day McCarthyism,' McConnell said during a radio interview on ... [the] 'Hugh Hewitt Show.'" Mrs. McC: So, Moscow Mitch it is.

Paul Krugman: "A few days ago The Times reported on widespread abuse of a provision in the 2017 Trump tax cut that was supposed to help struggling urban workers.... In reality the tax break has been used to support high-end hotels and apartment buildings, warehouses that employ hardly any people and so on. And it has made a handful of wealthy, well-connected investors -- including the family of Jared Kushner ... -- even wealthier.... it should be seen ... as a symptom of the Republican Party's unwillingness to perform the basic functions of government.... Republicans are no longer willing to spend public money in the public interest.... [The multitrillion-dollar tax bill was] ram[med] ... through Congress without a single hearing.... The bill was drafted by lobbyists on behalf of their clients.... The point, again, is that you shouldn't think of the opportunity-zone fiasco as an isolated mistake. Things like this are inevitable when one of our two major political parties has basically turned its back on the very idea of productive public spending." (Also linked yesterday.)

** Graham Brewer of NPR: "The Cherokee Nation has named its first delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Former Obama appointee Kimberly Teehee's nomination was approved by the tribe's council on Thursday. Although the treaty that created this nonvoting position is almost 200 years old, it had never been filled.... The appointment still needs congressional approval, and [Prof. Lindsay] Robertson says it will likely take time for Congress to figure out exactly how to seat Teehee. But the treaty language is very clear: The Cherokee Nation is entitled to a delegate." Brewer writes a short bio of Teehee. She's an interesting, accomplished woman.

Presidential Race 2020. Adam Raymond of New York: "Even before Friday, when the Washington Post reported that one of Joe Biden's go-to stories on the campaign trail is full of half-truths and inaccuracies, the former vice-president's penchant for gaffes and misstatements were drawing close attention from the pundit class. After the Post published its article, which exposed the problems with a story Biden often tells of pinning a Silver Star on a soldier in Afghanistan, the attention increased. So did the number Biden allies jumping to his defense.... The common refrain from Biden defenders ..' [is that criticism of his tall tales] is an obsession of the media, not the people. And anyway, Biden's heart is in the right place, unlike the current occupant of the White House.... What this analysis misses is that the GOP, and especially the Trump campaign, will not be eager to give Biden the same benefit of the doubt. Instead, if he's the nominee, every slip of the tongue or overstatement will be another piece of evidence of what Breitbart News called Biden's 'cognitive decline.' Trump himself has already started on it." Emphasis added. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe it's true the public doesn't care about Biden's misstatements now, but -- should he be the nominee -- the Trump campaign & their Russian sidekicks will make certain that by November 2020, the gaffes will define Biden. Millions of Republican voters will decide to stick with the liar they know rather than chance it with the doddering liar who might doom them to a future in a socialistic, communistic dystopia.

Anne D'Innocenzio of the AP: "Walmart says it will stop selling handgun and short-barrel rifle ammunition, while requesting that customers not openly carry firearms in its stores, even where state laws allow it. The announcement comes just days after a mass shooting claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas, and follows back-to-back shootings last month, one of them at a Walmart store. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter said Tuesday it will stop selling handgun ammunition as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military style weapons, after it runs out of its current inventory. It will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska. Walmart stopped selling handguns in the mid-1990s, with the exception of Alaska. The latest move marks its complete exit from that business and allows it to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: How sad is it when a mega-corporation -- which will lose money coming in from all those aspiring mass murderers -- acts more responsibly in the interest of public safety than do the POTUS* & Republican legislators? Krugman wrote (linked above), "Republicans are no longer willing to spend public money in the public interest." But it's even worse than that. In fact, Republicans are no longer willing to do anything

... Allison Quinn of the Daily Beast: "Kroger has called on customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms in its stores where state laws allow it, joining Walmart in changing its policy after seven people were killed in a Texas shooting on Saturday.... 'We are also joining those encouraging our elected leaders to pass laws that will strengthen background checks and remove weapons from those who have been found to pose a risk for violence,' the supermarket chain said. The retailer said it recognizes 'the growing chorus of Americans who are no longer comfortable with the status quo' after a string of mass shootings in recent months."

** David Karpf has a very good essay in Esquire responding to Bedbug Stephens, famed New York Times columnist. (Also linked yesterday.)

Beyond the Beltway

New Jersey. Kevin Shea of NJ.com: "Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede and her campaign manager have been been charged with publicly releasing an opponent's years-ago and now expunged arrest by posting it on a campaign blog ahead of the June Republican primary, which she won. Authorities say Yaede's campaign manager, Dan Scharfenberger, was the blog's administrator, and he and Yaede controlled the blog's content - even though her campaign has said publicly they had no idea who was behind the online site.... [T]he information from the person's arrest came from an anonymous Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request left in Hamilton's clerk's office, which was ultimately fulfilled." --s

North Carolina: "North Carolina's political maps for the state legislature are unconstitutional and must be redrawn before the 2020 elections, a [state appeals] court has decided. A panel of judges struck down the maps Tuesday, in a 357-page ruling that focused on the level of political partisanship used to draw them. The maps were drawn in 2017 to replace previous maps, drawn in 2011, that had also been ruled unconstitutional. Both sets of maps were drawn by North Carolina's Republican-led legislature.... Tuesday's decision may be the final word in this legal battle, since at least one top Republican lawmaker said he doesn't plan to appeal the ruling.... Republicans won a similar case earlier this summer at the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld North Carolina's congressional districts.... In Tuesday's ruling, judges gave the legislature just two weeks, until Sept. 18, to draw new maps." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So Republicans can gerrymander Congressional districts, but they can't gerrymander state legislature districts. Thanks, Supremes! We're so sure you didn't let your political preferences color your judgment. ...

... Rick Hasen: "This is a huge development that will put the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly in a tough position. Because this is decided as a matter of state constitutional law, it would be very hard to find a federal issue to take this to the United States Supreme Court for reversal." ...

... Mark Stern of Slate: "Tuesday's ruling in Common Cause v. Lewis is, in many ways, the most comprehensive judicial opinion about partisan gerrymandering ever written. Issued by a unanimous three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court, Lewis is both an exhaustive exploration of how partisan gerrymandering works and a scathing denunciation of its constitutional harms. The court had unprecedented access to the gerrymandering process thanks to the Hofeller files -- a vast trove of information left behind by Thomas Hofeller, the GOP's gerrymandering guru.... the court has relied on [the Hofeller files] heavily to illustrate exactly how Republicans rigged North Carolina's legislative elections."

Texas. Brandon Formby of the Texas Tribune: "The 36-year-old man who fatally shot seven people and wounded 22 others in West Texas on Saturday purchased his weapon in a private person-to-person sale, allowing him to avoid a background check, according to multiple reports Tuesday. The shooter, Seth Aaron Ator, was federally barred from possessing a firearm, ABC News reported. But in Texas, person-to-person sales do not require background checks. ...

... Matt Gutman & Bill Hutchinson of ABC News: "The suspect who allegedly gunned down seven people and injured more than 20 in a Labor Day weekend massacre in western Texas appeared to have exploited a loophole in federal gun regulations to obtain the AR-type assault rifle he used in the rampage, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News on Tuesday. Suspected mass shooter Seth Aaron Ator, 36, who was killed by police, was able to get his hands on the weapon through a private sale despite being considered a 'prohibited person' barred by law from possessing a firearm because he had been diagnosed by a clinician as mentally ill, federal and local law enforcement sources said." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So, yes, Donald, despite your repeated assertions to the contrary, a background check did stop the Odessa gunman from buying an assault weapon. The private-sale loophole, which Democrats have been trying to close for years, is what allowed him to purchase the weapon of mass murder.

AP: "A South Carolina man who founded one of the nation's biggest conversion therapy ministries has something to say: he's gay. The Post and Courier reports Hope for Wholeness founder McKrae Game came out of the closet this summer, nearly two years after he was fired from the faith-based conversion therapy program. He's now trying to come to terms with the harm he inflicted when he was advocating for religious efforts to change a person's sexuality. 'Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it's very harmful,' Game told The Post and Courier. 'Because it's false advertising.' The 51-year-old also is trying to find his place in a community he's assailed for at least 20 years. Game is one of several former movement leaders who have left the pulpits of heterosexuality, come out as LGBTQ and condemned conversion therapy as a dangerous and misleading practice." -- s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It is tempting to ridicule or despise this guy for all the harm he's done, but I fault the culture of oppression that led him down the path of denial.

Way Beyond

U.K. Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "British lawmakers on Tuesday rose up against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, moving to prevent him from taking the country out of the European Union without a formal agreement. The epic showdown pushed Britain to the verge of a new election. After losing his first-ever vote as prime minister, Mr. Johnson stood up in Parliament and said he intended to present a formal request for a snap general election to lawmakers, who would have to approve it.... The lawmakers forced his hand by voting by 328 to 301 to take control of Parliament away from the government and vote on legislation as soon as Wednesday that would block the prime minister from making good on his threat of a no-deal Brexit." ...

     ... Note to Ken W., et al: Boris said, "The public don't...."

... Gregory Katz & Danica Kirka of the AP: "On a day of humiliating setbacks, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a major defeat in Parliament on Tuesday night as rebellious lawmakers voted to seize control of the Brexit agenda, prompting the embattled prime minister to say he would call for a new general election." The Guardian liveblog of Tuesday's developments is here. ...

... Kate Proctor, et al., of the Guardian: "Boris Johnson saw his one-vote Commons majority vanish before his eyes, as a statement by the prime minister to parliament was undermined by the very public defection of the Conservative MP Phillip Lee to the Liberal Democrats."

... We Shall Fight from the Benches ... Benjamin Mueller of the New York Times: "... a group of renegade lawmakers willing to risk their careers to defy their newly chosen leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and hobble his leadership over their clashing views on Brexit ... [are] a band of starchy grandees of Tory politics that includes Winston Churchill's grandson and a 45-year party veteran and ex-chancellor so colorless that he earned the nickname 'Spreadsheet Phil.'... In setting aside their usual caution and ripping the heart out of Mr. Johnson's Brexit plans, they offered perhaps the clearest indication yet that the party, squabbling for decades over Europe, is now enmeshed in a civil war." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Would that the GOP had "a band of starchy grandees" willing to "rip the heart out of Mr. Trump's corrupt plans." ...

     ... Update. Michael Holden & Andrew MacAskill of Reuters: "Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain's World War Two leader Winston Churchill, will be expelled from the Conservative Party after voting against Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Brexit. The move against the Conservative Party grandee marks one of the most bizarre turns in the three-year Brexit crisis that has gripped a country once touted as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability. Soames was one of 21 Conservative lawmakers who rebelled, including Ken Clarke, 79, the longest continuously sitting British lawmaker in the House of Commons, and former finance minister Philip Hammond. All are to be expelled."

Hong Kong. Austin Ramzy & Elaine Yu of the New York Times: "Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, said on Wednesday that she was withdrawing a contentious extradition bill that set off months of protests in the city, moving to quell the worst political crisis since the former British colony returned to Chinese control 22 years ago. The move eliminates the major objection among protesters, but it was unclear if it would be enough to bring an end to intensifying demonstrations, which are now driven by multiple grievances with the government." CNN's story is here.

Israel. Gidi Weitz & Nati Tucker of Haaretz: "Former Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said that during his term he was threatened by a senior public servant that if he did not extend the tenure of a top television official allegedly allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he would not remain in the Knesset. Earlier Tuesday, Kara said he had filed a police complaint following the release of secret recordings of his conversations with Netanyahu. The recordings revealed Netanyahu's intervention in media regulations despite a High Court petition ordering him to relinquish the communications portfolio while he was being investigated in two media-related criminal cases.... 'It's a mafia, a garbage gang, criminals,' [Kara] said, describing the pressure on him when he was communications minister." --s

Italy/Russia. Alberto Nardelli, et al. of Buzzfeed: "In July, BuzzFeed News uncovered an explosive audio recording of longtime [Mateo] Salvini aide Gianluca Savoini discussing a plan to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money toward Lega's upcoming European election campaign. The revelations have rocked Italian politics, and prosecutors in Milan are investigating the proposed deal. But the Russian men heard discussing the plan with Savoini and two other Italians at Moscow's Metropol hotel last October have remained shrouded in mystery. Now a joint investigation ... has identified two of the three Russian voices heard on the recording: Andrey Yuryevich Kharchenko and Ilya Andreevich Yakunin. They have links to the high-profile far-right demagogue Aleksandr Dugin and to Vladimir Pligin, a politician deeply enmeshed in President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.... The identities of two of the Russian attendees will pile renewed pressure on Salvini ... [and] raise further questions about who was orchestrating the Russian side of the deal -- and from how high up in Moscow." --s

News Ledes

Washington Post: "A massive search-and-rescue operation scoured the islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama amid a growing awareness that Hurricane Dorian unleashed a catastrophe unlike anything seen in this part of the world. The death toll late Wednesday was 20, according to Minister of Health Duane Sands, and it is likely to rise further as emergency responders work their way through the debris and rubble and the drowned neighborhoods. Rescue workers are racing through flooded terrain looking for survivors and the bodies of victims. The U.S. Coast Guard has dispatched nine cutters from Key West and has been deploying helicopters, pre-staged in the Bahamas as Dorian approached, to transport the injured to medical facilities in Nassau -- the capital, on the island of New Providence -- south of the devastation. The British Royal Navy, numerous aid groups, and first responders from Fairfax County, Va., and Los Angeles have joined, or are in the process of joining, the Bahamians' rescue and relief efforts." ...

... Washington Post: "Hurricane Dorian's fury as it stalled over the northwest Bahamas has left shocking scenes of destruction and fears of a massive loss of life. Authorities said Tuesday that nearly three out of every four homes on Grand Bahama are underwater, and recovery from the catastrophic damage will cost billions of dollars. An even grimmer spectacle lies to the east, where the first aerial images of the island of Great Abaco since the storm's retreat showed a pulverized landscape that is little more than a debris field. Entire neighborhoods have been wiped out, with houses turned to rubble. Cars and even huge metal shipping containers have been scattered by a storm surge that meteorologists report might have reached 23 feet on islands and cays that are just modestly above sea level." ...

... Washington Post: "Hurricane Dorian is lashing the east coast of Florida with tropical storm conditions, and is now forecast to come very close to making landfall in the Carolinas between late Wednesday and early Friday, spreading its arsenal of high winds, storm surge flooding and heavy rains to at least four more states. As of Tuesday night, tropical storm conditions had reached Florida's Space Coast. Although Dorian is no longer the Category 5 powerhouse it was on Labor Day, it has grown in size, and it's capable of moving more water toward the shore than a smaller storm of similar intensity." ...

... The Washington Post "has removed article limits on coverage of Hurricane Dorian to make these stories available without a subscription." The Post's front page links more hurricane-related stories. ...

... Weather Channel reports on Dorian are linked here. The New York Times' story on the devastation to the Bahamas is here.

Monday
Sep022019

The Commentariat -- September 3, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Paul Krugman: "A few days ago The Times reported on widespread abuse of a provision in the 2017 Trump tax cut that was supposed to help struggling urban workers.... In reality the tax break has been used to support high-end hotels and apartment buildings, warehouses that employ hardly any people and so on. And it has made a handful of wealthy, well-connected investors — including the family of Jared Kushner ... — even wealthier.... it should be seen ... as a symptom of the Republican Party’s unwillingness to perform the basic functions of government.... Republicans are no longer willing to spend public money in the public interest.... [The multitrillion-dollar tax bill was] ram[med] ... through Congress without a single hearing.... The bill was drafted by lobbyists on behalf of their clients.... The point, again, is that you shouldn’t think of the opportunity-zone fiasco as an isolated mistake. Things like this are inevitable when one of our two major political parties has basically turned its back on the very idea of productive public spending."

Kyle Cheney & Sarah Ferris of Politico: "House Democrats return to Capitol Hill next week with an impeachment mess on their hands and just weeks to make a choice that could define the rest of Donald Trump's presidency. Lawmakers faced frequently contentious town halls during their six-week August recess as activists pressured Democratic holdouts to support impeachment proceedings. A steady trickle of new endorsements for action followed, and a majority of the House’s 235 Democrats now backs an impeachment inquiry. Senior Democrats, however, are sending mixed messages on the prospect of trying to oust Trump."

Rafi Schwartz of Splinter: "It’s been a busy long weekend for Donald Trump-owned properties. While the president hit the links and tweeted away the weekend at his Virginia golf resort, Vice President Mike Pence flew halfway around the world and stayed at Trump’s Doonbeg estate on the West coast of Ireland — despite it being some three hours away from his scheduled meetings in Dublin with Irish Prime Minister [Leo] Varadkar.... Presidential property grift aside, Pence’s Ireland visit also marked a bizarre opportunity for the Veep’s team to emphatically defend their boss in the face of his long, well-documented history of homophobia — a fact Pence spokesman Judd Deere insisted couldn’t possibly be true because he met with the Irish prime minister, who happens to be gay[:] 'For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland.'"

On the day we read that Friends of Trump are amassing a war chest to smear reporters, there's this from Bloomberg Law: “A recently appointed Trump Labor Department official with a history of advancing controversial conservative and faith-based causes in court has resigned after revelations that he wrote a 2016 Facebook post suggesting the Jewish-controlled media 'protects their own.' Four hours after Bloomberg Law requested comment from the White House and DOL about Leif Olson’s social media post, the department said he has resigned, without elaboration.” Olson's Facebook posts "referenc[ed] two anti-Semitic tropes: that Jews control the media and that they look out for members of their own faith."

** David Karpf has a very good essay in Esquire responding to Bedbug Stephens, famed New York Times columnist.

Patrick, in today's comments, linked to this video, which still gives me chills:

The next video that came up on You Tube was this. Oh, we were so much younger then, and Pete Seeger wasn't dead:

~~~~~~~~~~

How Donnie Spent the Last Days of His Summer Vacation. Katie Rogers of the New York Times: “Over the long weekend, President Trump monitored Hurricane Dorian from a golf cart at his club in Virginia, calling for regular updates from an aide trailing him around the course. By 8 p.m. Monday, as Dorian churned toward Florida and Mr. Trump’s boarded-up Mar-a-Lago resort, the president had golfed twice and since Saturday morning pelted the American public with 122 tweets. As he has done during other hurricanes, Mr. Trump awaited landfall by assuming the role of meteorologist in chief, adding weatherman-style updates to a usual weekend routine of attacking his enemies, retweeting bits of praise and critiquing the performance of his cable news allies.... Mr. Trump’s commentary on the hurricane was not wholly accurate. The National Weather Service quickly walked back one of his assertions: 'We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama,' officials said on Twitter. Always eager to have the last word, Mr. Trump on Monday attacked an ABC reporter who said the president had wrongly inserted Alabama in the list of states.” ...

     ... Reed Richardson of Mediaite: “... Donald Trump lashed out at ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl for fact-checking his inaccurate assertion during a FEMA briefing that Alabama could be impacted by Hurricane Dorian: 'Such a phony hurricane report by lightweight reporter @JonKarl.' Trump was complaining about Karl’s Monday evening report on ABC World News Tonight, which noted that the National Weather Service issued a correction on Sunday after the president made his false claim.... Nevertheless, Trump insisted on Twitter that his claim was true, and he likewise claimed that Karl 'didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!'” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: It is awfully Louis XIV to force a factotum to follow dutifully behind while he idled away his time playing sport.

... Colby Hall of Mediaite: “... Donald Trump spent Labor Day morning by sending out a series of tweets attacking what he calls the Fake News media. While Category 5 Hurricane Dorian slowly makes its way to the South Atlantic coast of the United States, dangerously threatening coastal areas from Florida, north to the Carolinas..., he first attacked a report published Sunday night by The Washington Post [also linked below], that claimed Trump aides privately, and anonymously, admit that it was a' lost summer' for the White House as President Trump got lost in a sea of controversial distractions.... He then appeared to go after the entire institution of the free press..., taking a page from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in calling out the 'LameStream Media' who he sees as having gone 'totally Crazy!'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Well, that's SOP, but how did Trump celebrate great American workers on Labor Day? ...

... Rebecca Klar of the Hill: "President Trump on Monday lashed out at American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka a day after the labor union leader criticized Trump's trade deal in a Fox News interview. Trump, in a Labor Day morning tweet, claimed that Trumka doesn't share the same critique of Trump's trade deal when 'he is with me at the White House.... Just watched AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on @FoxNews and thought to myself how different he is on TV than he is when he is with me at the White House. Likes what we are doing until the cameras go on,' Trump tweeted. The president targeted the AFL-CIO head after Trumka said that unions were not ready to back the president's 'unenforceable' replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Kim Not Just a Kid Who Likes Watching Missile Launches. David Sanger & William Broad of the New York Times: “As North Korea fired off a series of missiles in recent months — at least 18 since May — President Trump has repeatedly dismissed their importance as short-range and 'very standard' tests. And although he has conceded 'there may be a United Nations violation,' the president says any concerns are overblown. Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, Mr. Trump explained recently, just 'likes testing missiles.' Now, American intelligence officials and outside experts have come to a far different conclusion: that the launchings downplayed by Mr. Trump, including two late last month, have allowed Mr. Kim to test missiles with greater range and maneuverability that could overwhelm American defenses in the region. Japan’s defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya, told reporters in Tokyo last week that the irregular trajectories of the most recent tests were more evidence of a program designed to defeat the defenses Japan has deployed, with American technology, at sea and on shore.”

Trump's Casual Photo "Declassification" Reveals Work of Highly-Classified U.S. Satellite. Geoff Brumfiel of NPR: "Amateur satellite trackers say they believe an image tweeted by President Trump on Friday came from one of America's most advanced spy satellites. The image almost certainly came from a satellite known as USA 224, according to Marco Langbroek, a satellite-tracker based in the Netherlands. The satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2011. Almost everything about it remains highly classified, but Langbroek says that based on its size and orbit, most observers believe USA 224 is one of America's multibillion-dollar KH-11 reconnaissance satellites. 'It's basically a very large telescope, not unlike the Hubble Space Telescope,' Langbroek says. 'But instead of looking up to the stars, it looks down to the earth's surface and makes very detailed images.'... Prior to the analysis, some experts suspected the image in Trump's tweet might have come from a drone or a spy plane.... Melissa Hanham, a satellite imagery expert and deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network in Vienna, Austria..., questions whether Trump's tweet zinging the Iranians was worth the information this image provides to other nations...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The most incompetent president* in recent U.S. history once again proves he's a national security risk (twice again, if you consider his dismissal of Kim's affinity for watching missiles take off).

Luke Barnes of ThinkProgress [Aug. 29th]: "Donald Trump promoted a new video Wednesday that featured some of his favorite hits.... But toward the end of the video, the video uses a symbol of a lion’s head, which, as writer Dustin Giebel and former Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski first noted on Twitter, was also used by the far-right publication VDARE.... VDARE ... was founded by white nationalist Peter Brimelow and has regularly published the work of prominent far-right extremists.... As Mediaite noted, the lion logo has been used by other far-right groups[.]" --s

C-SPAN's Fall Line-up: Playboy Model! Porn Star! Rachel Bade & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "House Democrats plan to make President Trump’s alleged involvement in a 2016 scheme to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with him a major investigative focus this fall, picking up where federal prosecutors left off in a case legal experts say could have led to additional indictments. The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush-money payments to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels as soon as October, according to people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. Democrats say they believe there is already enough evidence to name Trump as a co-conspirator in the episode that resulted in his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges.... The new congressional inquiry will reopen questions about the extent of Trump’s involvement in the episode — and whether he would have been charged if not for Justice Department opinions that a sitting president cannot be indicted." The Raw Story has a summary of the WashPo article here.

Mike Allen of Axios: "President Trump's political allies are trying to raise at least $2 million to investigate reporters and editors of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other outlets, according to a three-page fundraising pitch reviewed by Axios.... Trump’s war on the media is expanding. This group will target reporters and editors, while other GOP 2020 entities go after the social media platforms, alleging bias, officials tell us.... The group claims it will slip damaging information about reporters and editors to "friendly media outlets," such as Breitbart, and traditional media, if possible."

Robert Costa of the Washington Post: “Vice President Pence spoke out against Russia on Monday during his European trip, criticizing President Vladi­mir Putin’s government for election interference and pledging support for Poland as it seeks to bolster its military amid Russian aggression in the region. 'With its efforts to meddle in elections across Europe and around the world, now is the time for us to remain vigilant about the intentions and actions being taken by Russia,' Pence said during a news conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Pence added that 'Russian forces still illegally occupy large parts of Georgia and Ukraine' and chastised Moscow for seeking to divide the U.S. alliance with Poland. Pence made his critical remarks just days after President Trump said it is 'certainly possible' he will invite Putin to the Group of Seven summit in 2020, an event Trump will host in an election year.... The vice president’s latest hard line on Russia echoes previous comments by Pence that have rebuked Putin. But the timing this week was particularly notable....” The Huffington Post story is here. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Apparently, it is necessary to put 4,000+ miles between Trump & pence for pence to contradict the Dear Leader. The Huff Post story strongly suggests Duda demanded pence to make the reassuring remarks. Maybe Duda's demands will give pence an out for his heretical remarks.

... BBC News: "Mike Pence said the United States supports a Brexit plan that 'keeps the strong foundation forged by the Good Friday Agreement' as he arrived in Ireland on Monday.... The US vice president is making a two-day visit to the Republic of Ireland.... Speaking to reporters at Shannon Airport, Mr Pence said: 'We will continue to work closely with our partners in Ireland and the United Kingdom to support a Brexit plan that encourages stability and also one that keeps the strong foundation forged by the Good Friday Agreement.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: pence's visit to Ireland will put more money in Donald Trump's coffers. Per the BBC, "Mr and Mrs Pence, will stay in Doonbeg, County Clare, where ... Donald Trump owns a luxury golf resort." As the Irish Times noted last week in a story about pence's stay at the Trump resort, "The Trump administration has been criticised at home in the US for the use of properties owned by the Trump family for official US government business. Bear in mind that this is not just a middle-aged couple spending the night in an expense Trump hotel; pence of course is bringing along an entourage, including Secret Service, etc. I suppose reporters will have to stay at pubs. ...

     ... It's Okay Because Trump Made Him Do It. AP Update: “Vice President Mike Pence’s staff is defending his decision to stay at one of ... Donald Trump’s properties while in Ireland amid criticism by Democrats that he’s enriching Trump at taxpayers’ expense. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said Tuesday that the decision to stay at Trump International Golf Links in Doonbeg was made at Trump’s 'suggestion' and that Pence and his entourage won’t be staying for free.” Mrs. McC: Not "staying for free”? That's the whole point, isn't it? That pence, et al., are enriching the POTUS*. The fact that Trump "suggested" it makes it all the worse. This isn't a "defense"; it's an explanation for bad behavior. ...

... U.S. "Stands with Ukraine," BUT... Justin Sink of Bloomberg: “U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the American people 'stand with Ukraine' but that European nations should do more to help the former Soviet republic. The U.S. has 'carried the load' on Ukraine and 'we’ve been proud to do that,' Pence told reporters Monday in Warsaw. 'But we believe it’s time for our European partners to step forward.'”

Trumpies Have New Gun Control Plan: Speedier Executions! Justin Sink & Tyler Pager of Bloomberg: “The Justice Department has drafted legislation to expedite the death penalty for those convicted of mass murder and the provision will be included in a larger White House package designed to address recent incidents of gun violence, a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence said Monday. Pence has been directly involved in conversations with Attorney General William Barr about the death penalty initiative, Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, told reporters traveling with Pence between Poland and Ireland on Monday.... Former Vice President Joe Biden ... said Monday that he didn’t believe the death penalty proposal advocated by Pence would have stopped mass shooters like the one responsible for the El Paso attack. Pence’s proposal was 'what you do when you can’t get something done that’s rational -- you increase the penalty for the irrational,' Biden said during a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.” ...

... Matt Stieb of the New Yorker: "But irrationality is the norm in the Trump administration.... Letting the Second Amendment run rampant over all other American liberties, despite the deaths of 346 Americans in mass shootings in 2019, forms to the logic of the administration — even if it didn’t already fit with the Republican Party’s staunch order not to enact gun reform.... The reported plan to expedite the execution process for mass shooters rather than enact gun reform is made more irrational by the fact that there is no evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent for potential capital offenders.... Despite a brief flirtation with stricter background checks following the shooting in El Paso, President Trump said after the shooting this weekend that he doesn’t consider an expanded check process to be a viable solution to curbing gun violence — despite research that suggests such laws bring about a 40 percent decline in gun homicides and a 15 percent reduction in suicides."

Christian Farias of Politico: "[I]t turns out there’s a whole category of American law that is above ... checks and balances.... For decades, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has flexed its interpretive power as the ultimate arbiter of what the law is for the executive branch, building a whole body of secret law that remains shielded from public view.... These decisions number in the thousands, and the few that become public see the light of day are at the discretion of the Justice Department. But the vast majority stay secret — binding executive branch officials and activities across administrations. Because almost everyone who isn’t a lawyer in the office is kept in the dark about these legal conclusions, Congress and the public can’t debate them or seek amendments in the event of abuses. Courts are of no help either." --s

Someone in the Trump Regime Still Can Be Embarrassed. Miriam Jordan of the New York Times: “The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would reconsider its decision to force immigrants facing life-threatening health crises to return to their home countries, an abrupt move last month that generated public outrage and was roundly condemned by the medical establishment. On Aug. 7, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, without public notice, eliminated a 'deferred action' program that had allowed immigrants to avoid deportation while they or their relatives were undergoing lifesaving medical treatment.... On Monday, the [Department of Human Services] said in a statement that while limiting the program was 'appropriate,' officials would 'complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.' The statement said that deportation proceedings had not been initiated against anyone who had received the letter. However, it did not say whether it would continue to grant immigrants extensions to stay in the country.... When asked for clarification, an agency official said..., 'Whether a very limited version of deferred action will continue forward at U.S.C.I.S. is still under review....'” ...

     ... Screwing the Cooch. digby: "USCIS is under the purview of Ken 'the cooch' Cucinelli. Somehow I doubt this was reversed upon his recommendation. Indeed, he and Stephen Miller and Trump probably felt they'd come up with an excellent 'deterrent' to people coming to the US for life-saving medical treatment. They should just die in their shithole countries, no doubt, as God intended." ...

... Shera Avi-Yonah & Delano Franklin of the Harvard Crimson: “Harvard freshman Ismail B. Ajjawi ’23, who United States border officials turned away ten days ago, arrived on campus Monday in time for the start of classes Tuesday. Ajjawi’s family issued a statement Monday through his lawyer thanking those who voiced support for him and assisted his arrival.... Shortly after [U.S. Customs officials force] Ajjawi [to return] to Lebanon, Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Michael S. McCarthy wrote in a statement that officials had 'deemed [him] inadmissible.' McCarthy did not specify the reason for the decision. Ajjawi’s immigration difficulties sparked outcry from Harvard student groups, several of which organized a petition supporting him that has garnered more than 7,000 signatures as of Monday night. Ajjawi's story has also drawn international media attention and elicited statements of support from several organizations including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Staff from both Harvard and AMIDEAST, a scholarship organization sponsoring Ajjawi’s education, worked with federal officials to ensure he could matriculate on time.” ...

... Noah Lanard of Mother Jones: "In his first six years as an immigration judge in New York and Atlanta, from 1993 to 1999, William Cassidy rejected more asylum seekers than any judge in the nation. A few years ago, Earle Wilson overtook Cassidy as the harshest asylum judge on the Atlanta court.... Now both men have been elevated to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which often has the final say over whether immigrants are deported, as part of a court-packing scheme by the Trump administration that is likely to make it even more difficult for migrants fleeing persecution to gain asylum. Between 2013 and 2018, the average immigration judge in the country approved about 45 percent of asylum claims. The six judges newly promoted to the board have all approved fewer than 20 percent. Cassidy granted 4.2 percent of asylum claims. Another appointee, Stuart Couch, approved 7.9 percent. For Wilson, the figure was just 1.9 percent." --s

Pete Norman of Bloomberg: "Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel 'llarge-scale, automated disinformation attacks,' as the top Republican in Congress [#MoscowMitch Mitch McConnell] blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.... If successful, the system after four years of trials may expand to detect malicious intent and prevent viral fake news from polarizing society.... U.S. officials have been working on plans to prevent outside hackers from flooding social channels with false information ahead of the 2020 election.... With a four-year project scale ... the next election will have come and gone before the system is operational." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: We already knew that the DOD has been defending us against Trump. Now we learn Defense is defending us against Moscow Mitch. We have come to the point that the two most powerful men in government are putting us at risk every day. The upside to this story is that it gives us at least some hope that if & when the commander-in-chief decides to make himself president* for life, the armed forces won't cooperate.

Matthew Yglesias of Vox: "Former Defense Secretary James Mattis is back in the public eye with a book to promote.... That’s a golden opportunity to finally ask some tough questions about his prior service on the board of Theranos, a company that allegedly peddled fake blood tests and peddled connections to influential people in the national security world to get away with it for years. Theranos was one of the largest business scandals of the past decades, described by the Securities and Exchange Commission as an 'elaborate, years-long fraud'.... Mattis not only served on Theranos’s board during some of the years after he’d retired from military service, while it was perpetrating the scheme, but he earlier served as a key advocate of putting the company’s technology (technology that was, to be clear, fake) to use inside the military while he was still serving as a general.... While the Theranos scandal was on the front burner of American politics, nobody wanted to talk about Mattis’s involvement. But [now] Mattis is .. .just a guy trading on his reputation to try to sell books. And his prior use of his position to profit from a massive scheme deserves scrutiny." --s

Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones: "Just in time for the start of a new school year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday finalized a new suite of changes to an Obama-era policy that targeted fraud at for-profit colleges. The new DeVos rule significantly raises the bar students have to clear in order to qualify for debt forgiveness when their schools close while they’re enrolled.... [A]s a result of the new DeVos rule, after July 2020, students filing for debt relief will have to prove their colleges intentionally deceived them, that it influenced their decision to enroll, and that it made them financially suffer. The change also sets a three-year deadline for filing a claim; the Obama rule had no deadline and automatically relieved their debts if they didn’t enroll elsewhere within three years." --s

Amir Tibon & Amos Harel of Haaretz: Israel's "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to arrange a dramatic diplomatic gesture from the Trump administration that will help him win the Israeli election on September 17. In recent weeks, there have been intensive talks between some of Netanyahu’s advisers and people close to ... Donald Trump over a potential statement by the American president, in which he could commit to protecting Israel in the future from any existential threat. In addition, Netanyahu is also trying to orchestrate some form of gesture from Russian President Vladimir Putin — either in the form of an official Putin visit to Israel or a trilateral meeting of the national security advisers of Israel, Russia and the United States."

David Sanger, et al., of the New York Times: “A senior Iranian delegation arrived in Paris on Monday to work out the details of a financial bailout package that France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, intends to use to compensate Iran for oil sales lost to American sanctions. In return for the money, Iran would agree to return to compliance with a 2015 nuclear accord. Iranian press reports and a senior American official say that the core of the package is a $15 billion letter of credit that would allow Iran to receive hard currency, at a time when most of the cash it makes from selling oil is frozen in banks around the world.... While Mr. Macron and Mr. Trump gave no hint of their differences in public comments [during the G7 meeting], administration officials say the French effort, which other European nations appear to support, is undermining the administration’s effort to exert what Mr. Trump calls 'maximum pressure' on Tehran.”

Presidential Race 2020. David Siders & Elena Schneider of Politico: "The bottom is falling out of the Democratic presidential primary. And the top-tier — no longer five candidates, but three — is becoming more insurmountable.... In recent weeks, the leading band of candidates has contracted unexpectedly early. Heading into the fall, only three contenders are polling above single digits: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg remain at the periphery, while lower-polling candidates have largely failed to muster sustained, upward movement in fundraising or polling. According to interviews with about two dozen Democratic operatives and consultants, there is little reason to expect any of them will.

Beyond the Beltway

New Jersey. Cassidy Grom of NJ.com: “A Middlesex County man is in police custody after several pipe bomb-like devices were found near the route of a Labor Day parade that the governor was set to attend Monday. Officials detained a man on Monday morning after they found 'over half a dozen' devices on his large property near South Plainfield’s Labor Day Parade route, according to a senior law enforcement official with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. Gov. Phil Murphy and first lady Tammy Murphy were supposed to attend the parade, which was set to start at 10 a.m., according to spokesman Dan Bryan. The parade and other festivities were abruptly cancelled by borough officials Monday morning. No direct threat was made to the parade or the governor. The devices were found during a separate investigation, but due to how close the property was to the parade, officials cancelled the parade 'out of an abundance of caution,' according to the senior official. The official described the suspect as a 'rogue individual' in his 50s who liked explosives.” Mrs. McC: Sorta like an older Kim Jong-un, I guess.

Texas. Faith Karimi, et al., of CNN: "The 36-year-old gunman who killed seven people in a West Texas shooting rampage Saturday was already in a 'distressed mental state' when he showed up to work, and was fired just hours before the massacre began, the FBI said. The shootings 'did not happen because he was fired,' said Christopher Combs, FBI special agent in charge, at a press conference Monday. 'When he showed up to work, he was already enraged.' Seth Ator, the shooter, had applied to get a gun but failed a background check, a representative for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said at the press conference. The ATF, the FBI and the DPS are 'aggressively following up on' the source that supplied the firearm to Ator.... Both Ator and his employer, Journey Oilfield Services, called 911 right after the firing, Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said. 'Basically, they were complaining on each other because they had a disagreement over the firing,' Gerke said at a press conference Monday. Ator ... made 'no threats of any type of violence,' Gerke said, [of the initial call to the FBI].... During the shooting spree..., Ator called 911 twice. In those calls, he was telling the dispatcher that 'he's the guy doing it,' Combs said." ...

     ... Sarah Mervosh & others wrote the New York Times story: The gunman "He had been living a kind of drifter’s life in the West Texas oil fields, estranged from many relatives, grappling with the suicide of his older sister and ditching apartment life for a secluded shack-style building where he shot his firearms outside late into the night.... One friend of the family said the gunman had a long history of mental problems, trouble with the law and making racist comments."

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hey, Trump was right. The shooter evidently did suffer from some kind of mental illness. AND, as Trump asserted, background checks did not stop him. What would have slowed him down, at least? A total ban on assault weapons.

Way Beyond

Hong Kong. Clad in gas masks along with their formal white school uniforms, tens of thousands of students in Hong Kong boycotted the first day of classes Monday as part of a citywide strike following a violent weekend of demonstrations. High school students added gas masks, goggles and hard hats to their traditional uniforms, while university pupils crowded into a square at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Workers also participated in their own rally at a public park, braving strong winds and storm clouds as a typhoon threatened." ...

... Greg Torode, et al., of Reuters: Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused 'unforgivable havoc' by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of businesspeople. At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has 'very limited' room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States. 'If I have a choice,' she said, speaking in English, 'the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.' Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

U.K. Danica Kirka of the AP: “Parliament was reconvening Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as lawmakers challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson's insistence that the U.K. will leave the European Union on Oct. 31 even without a deal. Amid loud cries from protesters on the streets surrounding the House of Commons, lawmakers returned from their summer recess with a key piece of legislation on their agenda that would prevent an immediate no-deal exit. If it passes this week, Johnson's Downing Street office says he'll call an early election. Johnson has tried to crack down on members of his Conservative Party who oppose his Brexit plans, warning them they would be expelled from the party if they supported the parliamentary efforts to block or delay Brexit." ...

... Danica Kirka: “British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shot down the notion that he wanted an early election to secure Brexit, insisting Monday that it wasn’t the way to get a deal done. Johnson decried parliamentary action set for Tuesday that is meant to delay Britain’s departure from the European Union, arguing that it would 'chop the legs' out of the U.K. position. He spoke moments after lawmakers posted a copy of the proposed bill on Twitter, making clear that they would press the government to seek a delay if there’s no deal.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

The New York Times' liveblog on Hurricane Dorian developments is here. “The Category 3 storm came to a standstill as it pummeled the Bahamas. It is expected to move 'dangerously close' to the Florida coast Tuesday night.” ...

... The front page of the Weather Channel links Dorian stories. ...

... The Miami Herald front page links to numerous hurricane-related stories. The paper is providing free, unlimited access to all of its stories as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida. ...

... The Washington Post stories, linked on the front page, are free to non-subscribers. ...

... Guardian: "Hurricane Dorian has stalled over the Bahamas, lashing the islands with wind, rain and storm surges, and killing at least five people. Thousands of homes were inundated by floodwater as rescue operations tried to reach stranded residents, many trapped on roofs. Dorian, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record, has been hovering over Grand Bahama Island for more than a day. It has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane but is still battering the Bahamas with winds of 120mph, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in an advisory issued at 2am EST (0600 GMT)."

Guardian: "Twenty-five people have died and nine remain missing after a boat was engulfed in flames and sank off the coast of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The US Coast Guard said five crew members escaped from the 23-metre (75ft) commercial scuba diving boat but 33 passengers and one other crew member were missing or found dead after the fire early on Monday morning. As the recovery effort progressed, 25 bodies were found and nine people were unaccounted for, presumed dead, as of late on Monday evening. The Coast Guard official Matthew Kroll said the first bodies recovered had signs consistent with drowning. The boat was docked near Santa Cruz Island at the time of the fire." ...

     ... AP Update: "Flames roared through a boat of sleeping scuba divers so quickly that it appears none of the 34 people below deck could escape, authorities said Tuesday as they ended their search without finding anyone who was missing still alive from the Labor Day tragedy off the Southern California coast. It’s not known what started the fire early Monday aboard the Conception, which carried scuba diving enthusiasts on a three-day excursion. It spread rapidly and flames blocked both exits out of the lower deck, where passengers and one crew member were sleeping in tight quarters, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said."

News Ledes

The New York Times' liveblog on Hurricane Dorian developments is here. “The Category 3 storm came to a standstill as it pummeled the Bahamas. It is expected to move 'dangerously close' to the Florida coast Tuesday night.” ...

... The front page of the Weather Channel links Dorian stories. ...

... The Miami Herald front page links to numerous hurricane-related stories. The paper is providing free, unlimited access to all of its stories as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida. ...

... The Washington Post stories, linked on the front page, are free to non-subscribers. ...

... Guardian: "Hurricane Dorian has stalled over the Bahamas, lashing the islands with wind, rain and storm surges, and killing at least five people. Thousands of homes were inundated by floodwater as rescue operations tried to reach stranded residents, many trapped on roofs. Dorian, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record, has been hovering over Grand Bahama Island for more than a day. It has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane but is still battering the Bahamas with winds of 120mph, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in an advisory issued at 2am EST (0600 GMT)."

Guardian: "Twenty-five people have died and nine remain missing after a boat was engulfed in flames and sank off the coast of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The US Coast Guard said five crew members escaped from the 23-metre (75ft) commercial scuba diving boat but 33 passengers and one other crew member were missing or found dead after the fire early on Monday morning. As the recovery effort progressed, 25 bodies were found and nine people were unaccounted for, presumed dead, as of late on Monday evening. The Coast Guard official Matthew Kroll said the first bodies recovered had signs consistent with drowning. The boat was docked near Santa Cruz Island at the time of the fire." ...

     ... AP Update: "Flames roared through a boat of sleeping scuba divers so quickly that it appears none of the 34 people below deck could escape, authorities said Tuesday as they ended their search without finding anyone who was missing still alive from the Labor Day tragedy off the Southern California coast. It’s not known what started the fire early Monday aboard the Conception, which carried scuba diving enthusiasts on a three-day excursion. It spread rapidly and flames blocked both exits out of the lower deck, where passengers and one crew member were sleeping in tight quarters, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said."

Sunday
Sep012019

The Commentariat -- September 2, 2019

Here's what the workers who put food on our tables are doing today. Uh, Happy Labor Day.

Afternoon Update:

Someone in the Trump Regime Still Can Be Embarrassed. Miriam Jordan of the New York Times: "The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would reconsider its decision to force immigrants facing life-threatening health crises to return to their home countries, an abrupt move last month that generated public outrage and was roundly condemned by the medical establishment. On Aug. 7, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, without public notice, eliminated a 'deferred action' program that had allowed immigrants to avoid deportation while they or their relatives were undergoing lifesaving medical treatment.... On Monday, the [Department of Human Services] said in a statement that while limiting the program was 'appropriate,' officials would 'complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.' The statement said that deportation proceedings had not been initiated against anyone who had received the letter. However, it did not say whether it would continue to grant immigrants extensions to stay in the country.... When asked for clarification, an agency official said..., 'Whether a very limited version of deferred action will continue forward at U.S.C.I.S. is still under review....'"

Colby Hall of Mediaite: "... Donald Trump spent Labor Day morning by sending out a series of tweets attacking what he calls the Fake News media. While Category 5 Hurricane Dorian slowly makes its way to the South Atlantic coast of the United States, dangerously threatening coastal areas from Florida, north to the Carolinas..., he first attacked a report published Sunday night by The Washington Post [also linked below], that claimed Trump aides privately, and anonymously, admit that it was a' lost summer' for the White House as President Trump got lost in a sea of controversial distractions.... He then appeared to go after the entire institution of the free press..., taking a page from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in calling out the 'LameStream Media' who he sees as having gone 'totally Crazy!'" ...

... Well, that's SOP, but how did Trump celebrate great American workers on Labor Day? ...

... Rebecca Klar of the Hill: "President Trump on Monday lashed out at American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka a day after the labor union leader criticized Trump's trade deal in a Fox News interview. Trump, in a Labor Day morning tweet, claimed that Trumka doesn't share the same critique of Trump's trade deal when 'he is with me at the White House.... Just watched AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on @FoxNews and thought to myself how different he is on TV tan he is when he is with me at the White House. Likes what we are doing until the cameras go on,' Trump tweeted. The president targeted the AFL-CIO head after Trumka said that unions were not ready to back the president's 'unenforceable' replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)."

Hong Kong. Greg Torode, et al., of Reuters: "Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused 'unforgivable havoc' by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of businesspeople. At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has 'very limited' room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States. 'If I have a choice,' she said, speaking in English, 'the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.' Lam's dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989."

Danica Kirka of the AP: "British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shot down the notion that he wanted an early election to secure Brexit, insisting Monday that it wasn't the way to get a deal done. Johnson decried parliamentary action set for Tuesday that is meant to delay Britain's departure from the European Union, arguing that it would 'chop the legs' out of the U.K. position. He spoke moments after lawmakers posted a copy of the proposed bill on Twitter, making clear that they would press the government to seek a delay if there's no deal."

~~~~~~~~~~

"Trump's Lost Summer." Philip Rucker & Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "The two months between Independence Day and Labor Day offered a fresh and vivid portrait of the president as seen by Trump's critics -- incompetent, indecisive, intolerant and ineffective.... Privately, many of the president's advisers and outside allies bemoan what they consider to be a period of missed opportunity and self-sabotage.... Some White House aides and outside Trump allies ... describ[e] an administration in which the president has crashed through the remaining guard rails. Trump could have worked strategically to solidify his position and broaden his appeal. Instead, his words and actions this summer served to further divide the country and to harden public opinion about the ever-polarizing president." ...

... ** Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: "The prudential argument, against impeachment, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ... seems to favor still, is that the crucial thing for those who resist Donald Trump -- stipulating in advance that he's an autocrat at daily war with the basic premises of liberal democracy -- is to win elections in 2020. The only meaningful defeat is a political defeat.... The principled case [for impeachment] ... is summed up in three words: Trump's a crook.... The task of holding Trump accountable becomes more urgent for a simple reason: he's getting worse.... There is another, pragmatic reason to pursue impeachment.... Trump is a dangerous and unfit President.... The normalization of Trump and Trumpism -- allowing those things to be defined merely as a political problem needing a political cure -- degrades democracy."

We don't even know what's coming at us. All we know is it's possibly the biggest. I have -- I'm not sure that I've ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed. And I've seen some Category 4's -- you don't even see them that much. But a Category 5 is something that -- I don't know that I've ever even heard the term other than I know it's there. That's the ultimate, and that's what we have unfortunately. -- Donald Trump, at a briefing with officials at FEMA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., Sunday ...

... Devan Cole of CNN: "In September 2017, nearly eight months into Trump's presidency, Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, affected at least nine US states. That same month, Hurricane Maria devastated the US territory of Puerto Rico, leaving behind an island that is still struggling to recover. Last October, Hurricane Michael, which was originally designated as a Category 4, barreled into the Florida Panhandle as the third Category 5 hurricane to blast the US since Trump.... Trump has previously indicated several other times that Category 5 hurricanes are unprecedented weather events that either he or others had never heard of or witnessed. In the days between the landfalls of Hurricane Irma and Maria, he said he 'never even knew' they existed.... In October 2017, Trump claimed nobody has ever heard of a (Category) 5 hitting land,' and earlier this year, he again said he had never heard of a hurricane of that intensity.... The US has seen a number of Category 5 storms in recent memory -- including Hurricane Katrina in 2005...."

"It Could Have Been Worse." First Responders, law enforcement, the police, the FBI, Governor Abbott, incredible the job they did. It is tragic. But they did it an incredible job under the circumstances. Another very sick person, so I just want to thank you everybody involved.... As bad as it was, it could have been worse, but it was certainly bad, very very sad situation.... Background checks, I will say that for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five, going back even five or six or seven years, for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it. -- Donald Trump, to reporters, Sunday ...

... David Edwards of the Raw Story: "... Donald Trump on Sunday sought to downplay the mass shooting that left at least seven dead near Odessa, Texas.... When pressed on gun legislation, Trump argued that improved background checks would not have stopped any of the recent mass shootings." Mrs. McC: I guess we should look at this as an encouraging sign of Trump's mental acuity. True, he can't remember Cat 5 hurricanes Irma & Maria from two years ago (he does "remember" all the billions he thinks he "gave" to ungrateful Puerto Ricans), but he can remember a mass shooting that occurred a month ago (no doubt because unpatriotic Democrats are still nagging him to take away everybody's guns). ...

... Likely [Trump will] dust off the DVD of an old speech blaming [the Odessa shooting] on 'mental illness'. -- Bobby Lee, in a comment Sunday morning

For the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five (shootings) going back even five or six or seven years, for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it. So it's a big problem. It's a mental problem. It's a big problem. -- Donald Trump, hours later ...

... Darlene Superville of the AP: "... Donald Trump expressed a commitment Sunday, hours after the latest deadly mass shooting, to work with a divided Congress to 'stop the menace of mass attacks.' He said any measures must satisfy the competing goals of protecting public safety and the constitutional right to gun ownership and seemed to cast fresh doubt on the merits of instituting more thorough background checks for gun purchases." (Also linked yesterday.) More theories on the causes of mass shootings linked under Beyond the Beltway beltway. Mrs. McC: Denialism, it turns out, leads to very creative, albeit delusional, ideas.

Sir Donald Recalls. Justin Wise of the Hill: "PresidentTrump on Sunday targeted actress Debra Messing after she called for publicizing the list of donors who are reportedly attending a Beverly Hills fundraiser where the president is slated to appear.... 'I have not forgotten that when it was announced that I was going to do "The Apprentice," and when it then became a big hit, helping NBC's failed lineup greatly, @DebraMessing [-- then a star of 'Will & Grace' --] came up to me at an Upfront & profusely thanked me, even calling me "Sir,"' Trump said on Twitter. "How times have changed!'" ...

     ... The Tell. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: How we know that never happened: Trump claims Messing called him "Sir."

Ioan Grillo of the New York Times: "... eight Mexican citizens [were] among the 22 people who died in the [El Paso] attack, in which a man named Patrick Crusius is accused of shooting shoppers in a Walmart with an AK-style rifle. Most of the other victims were Americans of Mexican descent.... Mexico';s foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard..., has called for terrorism charges to be filed against Mr. Crusius and has said Mexico may ask for his extradition here.... The massacre indeed looks to be a political act designed to sow terror and hate.... But even without such charges, prosecutors and the police need to make clear that the case is a political crime of terror rather than the random act of a madman.... It is certainly terrorism when a person or group murders innocent civilians in the name of a political or religious cause. The El Paso shooting appears to fit this definition to the letter." Mrs. McC: Grillo never specifically mentions Trump's direct contribution to white supremacist violence. But he might as well have accused Trump of inciting terrorism. ...

Tim Craig of the Washington Post: "Sitting in lawn chairs plopped in the middle of train tracks, two coal miners smoked and chewed tobacco to pass the time. There's been little else to do here for the past four weeks, except wave at motorists who honk in support of these homegrown heroes waging a national struggle over workers' rights. Since Chris Rowe and Chris Sexton were laid off from their mining jobs this summer along with 300 co-workers, they have been camped out ... in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, blocking a train car full of coal from going to market. Their protest is against coal company Blackjewel, which halted operations in July without settling its final salary obligations to ... an estimated 1,800 ... workers across the country. But it's also become a declaration against corporate bankruptcy laws that they say deprioritize workers' interests.... Trump won 85 percent of the vote [here].... At the camp, there is an informal policy against speaking about Trump or partisan issues, underscoring the president's continued popularity in areas where the local economy has continued to suffer." The protest has been going on since July 29. "The Labor Department has sought an injunction to prevent Blackjewel from moving the rail car, which is estimated to have about $1 ;million in coal, according to local media reports." (Also linked yesterday.)

Presidential Race 2020

Mark Leibovich of the New York Times: "'How badly do you want to be president?' Joseph R. Biden Jr. was asked after a recent speech in Prole, Iowa. The answer to such an inquiry would appear self-evident in the case of Mr. Biden, who began his running-for-president routine more than three decades ago; in other words, very badly, one would assume.... Remarkably, after all this time, Mr. Biden stumbles to come up with a clear answer.... Mr. Biden's campaign has been jackhammering home the premise that he is best suited to winning a general election against an incumbent who must not be re-elected.... Clearly, other candidates have far more identifiable 'whys' attached to their enterprises." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If the only candidates running in 2020 were a former Republican (Jim Webb, Lincoln Chaffee), a handsome milquetoast former governor (Martin O'Malley), (a socialist Bernie Sanders) & a single-issue professor (Lawrence Lessig), then, yes, we would welcome good ole Joe. But there are a half-dozen solid candidates in the race, any of whom has the potential to beat Trump. Yo, Joe, you should go.

Don Junior Concerned about Biden's Ethics. Eric Levitz of New York: "This week, Donald Trump ... made clear that increasing off-season bookings at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Club was one of the United States' top objectives at the [G-7] conference.... Trump's proposal would effectively compel foreign governments to make direct contributions to his family fortune, while also awarding his one of his properties exceedingly valuable international exposure. It could also put world leaders at unnecessary risk: Trump's resort is adjacent to one of Doral's busiest intersections, and its lobby was the site of a firefight between an armed man and police last year. Meanwhile..., foreign heads of state would ostensibly be descending on South Florida near the start of hurricane season. In other news from the weekend, Joe Biden's younger brother's former business partners accused ... [Joe]'s sibling of promising them special favors from a Biden campaign and/or presidency, as part of a broader 'fraudulent scheme to bankrupt them and steal their business models.'... [A] lawsuit [brought by the partners against James Biden] does not allege any wrongdoing on Joe Biden's part, nor does it indicate that the former vice-president had any awareness of his brother's unseemly offers.... Nevertheless, for stalwart champions of ethics in government like Donald Trump Jr., the allegations against James Biden raise serious questions about his older brother's fitness for office."

Beyond the Beltway

Texas. Video Games! Sarah Burris of the Raw Story: David Turner, "the mayor of Odessa, Texas is saying that red flag laws, or any other gun regulations wouldn't have stopped the [Odessa] gunman from killing seven people and injuring 22 others.... 'But you do realize there was a shooting and the mass shooting in El Paso not too far ago, far away, just about a month ago,' [MSNBC's Kendis] Gibson [said to Turner in an interview]. 'Again, with an assault rifle. This is an assault rifle. Isn't there something common in all of this?' 'Yeah. I think it's a problem of the heart, to be honest with you,' Turner explained. 'We have so many violent video games.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Whether the gunman had mental health issues, or watched too many video games (there's no published evidence of this, so far), or a "problem of the heart" or was upset he got fired (likely the proximate inspiration for the murderous rampage) or whatever, the one reason he was able to kill & maim & terrify so many people was that he had an assault rifle. Every political reporter should ask every gun-loving politician why individual Americans need assault weapons. And, no, "people like to go to the shooting range" is not a need. ...

... Cristina Cabrera of TPM: "Texas state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R) declared that he wouldn't vote for any gun control measures several hours after a series of deadly shootings in his state led to at least seven deaths on Saturday. Schaefer posted a screed on Facebook railing against 'red flag' laws, universal background checks, mandatory buybacks, or bans on AR-15s, claiming that 'none of these so-called gun-control solutions will work to stop a person with evil intent.' The Republican lawmaker's proposed solution to mass shootings? Prayer. 'YES to praying for victims. YES to praying for protection. YES to praying that God would transform the hearts of people with evil intent,' he wrote. Schaefer also suggested that 'discipline in the homes' and men not leaving their families would also prevent gun violence. 'YES to God, and NO to more government intrusions,' he concluded." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: My favorite part of Schaefer's post: "I am NOT going to use the evil acts of a handful of people to diminish the God-given rights of my fellow Texans. Period." Schaefer has elevated five old guys on the Supreme Court to gods, because it is they, not a supernatural being as Schaefer writes, who gave his fellow Texans the "right" to amass arsenals in the name of the Second Amendment. Very sacrilegious, Matt. And here I thought the god to whom Matt prayed commanded, "Thou shalt not kill."

... Steve M. checked out Breitbart comments, and found some more interesting "causes" of mass shootings, especially the Odessa shooting. Here's his summary: "Transsexuals, porn, critiques of toxic masculinity, and immigrant doctors killed those people in Texas -- except the shooting was probably a staged incident, because it didn't take place in Chicago."

News Ledes

AP: "The bodies of four people killed by a raging fire that swept through a dive-boat off the Southern California coast were recovered Monday as authorities said more than two dozen others remained missing and feared dead. Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll says the four bodies had injuries consistent with drowning. Searchers continued to look for more than two dozen other people who were aboard the vessel Conception, which burned while anchored off Santa Cruz Island.... The Coas [Guard] said the vessel was believed to have carried 38 people, including five crew members who jumped off the boat soon after the fire ignited before dawn."

Washington Post: "At least 5 people are dead after Hurricane Dorian's catastrophic assault on the Bahamas, the prime minister said Monday." At 5:30 pm ET, this is a breaking news story. ...

... The Miami Herald front page links to numerous hurricane-related stories. The paper is providing free, unlimited access to all of its stories as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida....

... New York Times live updates are here. "Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas overnight, with the eye of the storm lingering over Grand Bahama Island early Monday.... Early images and video emerging from the Abaco Islands, which were hit especially hard overnight, showed scenes of devastation as the powerful, slow-moving storm churned its way through the islands. The footage showed roofs torn from houses and cars and debris bobbing along inundated streets battered by strong winds and heavy rains." ...

... "The [Washington] Post has removed article limits on coverage of Hurricane Dorian to make these stories available without a subscription."

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