The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Friday
Apr142017

The Commentariat -- April 14, 2017

Afternoon Update:

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

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

*****

Helene Cooper & Mujib Mashal of the New York Times (April 13): "The United States dropped the 'mother of all bombs' -- the most powerful conventional bomb in the American arsenal -- on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan on Thursday, the Pentagon said, unleashing a weapon so massive that it had to be dropped from the rear of a cargo plane. The strike was the first combat use of what is formally named the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast. President Trump has bestowed additional authority on the Pentagon in his first months in office, which the military has argued will help it defeat the Islamic State more speedily. Mr. Trump did not say whether he had personally approved Thursday's mission." -- CW ...

... Peter Baumont of the Guardian: "War, boiled down to its most brutal calculation, is a business of accounting: 'blood and treasure' in the horrible expression. Cost calculations underpin warfare in terms of hard cash damage to economies and societies -- what is called resilience. Which makes the use of one of the US military's largest non-nuclear explosive devices -- the MOAB -- to kill 36 jihadis in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, somewhat baffling in military terms. Each MOAB, or massive ordinance air blast -- nicknamed the 'mother of all bombs' -- costs $16m (£13m) out of a total programme cost of $314m which produced about 20 of the bombs.... Crunched down ... that means the US military has expended some 5% of its stockpile of MOABs to kill three dozen Isis members at a cost of almost $450,000 per individual." --safari...

...Or, as The Onion succicntly puts it, "New Bomb Capable of Creating 1,500 New Terrorists In Single Blast."

** Luke Harding, et al. of the Guardian: "Britain's spy agencies "played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump's campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives.... GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious 'interactions' between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents.... One source called the British eavesdropping agency the 'principal whistleblower'. The Guardian has been told the FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump's team and Moscow ahead of the US election.... One source suggested the official [U.S.] investigation was making progress. 'They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion,' the source said. 'This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.'" Emphasis added --safari ...

... Stephanie Kirchgaessner et al., of the Guardian: "A former adviser to Donald Trump who is at the centre of an FBI investigation was exhibiting 'strongly pro-Kremlin' ideology almost two decades ago, his former employer has told the Guardian. Carter Page, who was reportedly being monitored by the FBI last summer because of suspicions about his ties to Russia, was hired in 1998 by the Eurasia Group, a major US consulting firm that advises banks and multinational corporations, but left the firm shortly thereafter. The account of Page's abrupt departure from the Eurasia Group suggests that concerns about Page and questions about his links to Russia were known in some professional circles for nearly two decades and long before Page joined Trump's successful presidential campaign." --safari ...

... Jon Schwartz of The Intercept: "Exactly 90 days ago -- on Friday, January 13 -- Donald Trump, then president-elect, issued a series of tweets attacking the claims in former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele's 'dossier' that the Russian government had long been 'cultivating, supporting and assisting' Trump. Trump called the allegations 'phony' and 'totally made up' and pledged that 'My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!' No such full report has appeared, nor is there any evidence that an investigation by the Trump administration is currently underway -- or was ever initiated." --safari

Disdain for Democracy, Ctd. Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post: "President Trump signed legislation Thursday allowing states to withhold federal family planning dollars from clinics that provide abortion services, a move that could deprive Planned Parenthood and several other family groups of tens of millions in funding. The move marked the 12th time that Trump has signed a resolution under the 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA) to abolish a rule issued under President Barack Obama. Less than two hours later on Thursday, Trump signed a 13th measure, this one abolishing a Labor Department regulation aimed at expanding retirement savings accounts...." -safari

Abby Phillip & John Wagner of The Washington Post: "Donald Trump campaigned as an outsider who would upend years of Washington orthodoxy in matters of both war and peace.... But in recent days, the president has done an about-face and embraced many of the policy positions he once scorned.... 'I would say this is looking more now like a more conventional Republican administration,' said [Elliott] Abrams, who served as a foreign policy adviser in Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. 'To me that's a very good thing.'" --safari ...

     ... safari: I can't decide which is more pathetic: Republicans claiming that mentally-deranged Drumpf is "conventional conserativism", or Drumpf's endless shape-changing to embrace the praise of the "swamp" he spent his entire pathetic campaign railing against...

... The Case for Kleptocracy. Eric Levitz of New York: "[I]n a just world, the Trump brand would already be poison. It's insane that a man who has touted his fondness for sexual assault, demonized Muslims and immigrants, and spread racist conspiracy theories about the first black president can earn money by licensing his personal image to other people's businesses.... Moving to the center to shore up his grasp on the country-club set may alienate the Mercer family, but now that he's president, Trump has plenty of other billionaires he can turn to for campaign funds.... Trump Hotels is a global business whose consumer base skews highly educated and cosmopolitan. And Ivanka Trump's lifestyle brand is targeted at young, urban, professional women -- a demographic for whom Steve Bannon holds little appeal. If President Trump were to disregard all his campaign promises and ideological commitments and govern solely on the basis of what's best for his own bank account, America would become a more kleptocratic nation. It would probably also become a more humane and decent one than it is today." --safari...

... Kyle Cheney of Politico: "A handful of House Democrats are calling on federal authorities [to] suspend Jared Kushner's security clearance amid a wide-ranging probe into Trump associates' contacts with Russian officials. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser failed to disclose numerous foreign contacts when he applied for top secret clearance, including at least two meetings with high-profile Russians during Trump's transition to the White House, according to a New York Times report cited by the lawmakers. It is, they noted, a felony to intentionally conceal such meetings on a national security form.... The Times reported that Kushner left out dozens of foreign contacts from his national security form, but two stood out: a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and a meeting with Sergey Gorkov, an FSB-trained leader of a bank subject to U.S. sanctions." --safari...

... What Does $200,000 Buy You? Trump "Quality". Brad Reed of RawStory: "Health inspectors have found 13 safety violations at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, including 'dangerous' raw fish and food stored in broken down coolers. The Miami Herald reports that inspectors found these safety violations in Mar-a-Lago's kitchen just days before Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.... The 13 violations inspectors hit Mar-a-Lago with this year were a record for the club, which had 11 violations in 2016 and just two in 2015." --safari

Justin McCurry & Tom Phillips of the Guardian: "North Korea has accused Donald Trump of raising tensions in the region and warned that the regime would conduct a nuclear test when it sees fit, as China issued a plea to Washington not to use pre-emptive military action. In an interview with the Associated Press in Pyongyang, North Korea's vice foreign minister, Han Song-ryol said Trump's 'aggressive' tweets aimed at the regime were 'causing trouble', adding that the mounting crisis on the peninsula was now locked in a 'vicious cycle'.... China issued a plea against military action in North Korea before an anticipated sixth nuclear test on Saturday to mark the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung." --safari

New York Times Editors: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to the border in Arizona on Tuesday and declared it a hellscape, a 'ground zero' of death and violence where Americans must 'take our stand' against a tide of evil flooding up from Mexico. It was familiar Sessions-speak, about drug cartels and 'transnational gangs' poisoning and raping and chopping off heads, things he said for years on the Senate floor as the gentleman from Alabama. But with a big difference: Now he controls the machinery of federal law enforcement, and his gonzo-apocalypto vision of immigration suddenly has force and weight behind it, from the officers and prosecutors and judges who answer to him.... The pieces are falling into place for the indiscriminate 'deportation force' that the president promised...." --safari

Kimberly Dozier of The Daily Beast: "In a week of head-snapping policy reversals by the Trump administration, new& CIA chief Mike Pompeo delivered an unexpected broadside at WikiLeaks and Russia, both of which were once praised by his boss on the campaign trail -- and even Pompeo himself once tweeted out WikiLeaks stories.... 'WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,' he told the crowd at a Washington, D.C. think tank in his first public remarks as head of the intelligence agency Thursday. He accused WikiLeaks of endangering lives and acting as a veritable arm of Russian intelligence." --safari

Idiocracy. Sarah Burris of RawStory: "It may have appeared that President Donald Trump's administration accidently appointed the wrong guy to head an office. However, the reality is, the office he was qualified for didn't want him.... Washington state Senator Don Benton (R) ... was expected to be working in the EPA but ... the Washington Post reported that Benton began interrupting [EPA] policy discussions making weird statements so the staff began keeping him out of meetings.... Trump wanted to award Benton's loyalty as he was an early supporter and the chair of Trump's campaign.... Trump's solution was to give him oversight over the military draft. He'll be the first non-military person in history to hold the position if he's confirmed by the senate." --safari

Zombies. Jennifer Haberkorn & Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Republicans in Congress for the first time are lowering expectations for how much of Obamacare they can repeal and how quickly they can do it. As they meet constituents back home, GOP lawmakers seem trapped between the reality of their failed repeal effort and President Donald Trump's renewed promises this week to finish off Obamacare before taking on tax reform.... Those dynamics mean the Obamacare repeal effort that has helped define the Republican Party for seven years may live on in a sort of political purgatory -- with no one willing to pull the plug even though there are few signs of life. The uncertainty created by that zombie state could compel health insurers to stop offering coverage in the exchanges next year, paralyze action on other legislative priorities on Capitol Hill and come back to haunt Republicans at the polls in 2018." --safari...

... The Resistance Persists. Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress: "Republican lawmakers are not having an easy time during the first recess since Congress tried and failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. At town halls across the country, constituents are pressing GOP members of Congress about their support for a plan that would have stripped health insurance away from 24 million Americans. The questions are receiving standing ovations, while the lawmakers are being booed and jeered.... Constituents expressed similar anger at town hall events during the February Congressional recess, before the House GOP had officially introduced its health care plan. The reactions to lawmakers during that week helped scare lawmakers away from voting to repeal Obamacare before the party had proposed a replacement." --safari...

... This video of Joe Wilson getting a taste of his own 'You lie' medicine is for Jeanne. (see today's comments):

Annals of "Journalism", Ctd. Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "The New York Times  -- which advertises itself as a defender of truth in the Trump era  just hired an extreme denier of climate science as a columnist. Bret Stephens was most recently deputy editorial page editor for Rupert Murdoch's deeply conservative and climate-denying Wall Street Journal, where, in 2015, he wrote that climate change  -- along with hunger in America, campus rape statistics, and institutionalized racism -- are 'imaginary enemies.'... This hiring is 'a very sad comment on the New York Times' judgment,' Dr. Robert J. Brulle, a media expert at Drexel University, told ThinkProgress via email...In a fawning press release, the Times calls Stephens 'a beautiful writer' who brings to the paper, 'profound intellectual depth, honesty and bravery.'" --safari...

...Steve M.: "Yes, Stephens won that Pulitzer in 2013. And yes, he's a Trump skeptic who got in a Twitter beef with Sean Hannity last summer. But he's also a torture apologist who wrote a column in 2014 titled 'I Am Not Sorry the CIA Waterboarded'.... He also regularly expresses contempt for those who agree with the scientific consensus on climate change.... This is when he wasn't calling President Obama 'stupid' and 'an anti-Israel president.'" --safari...

... Annals of "Journalism" Ctd. Brad Reed of RawStory: "Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord raised more hackles on CNN Thursday morning when he compared ... Donald Trump to Martin Luther King, Jr., which drew a sharp rebuke from fellow panelist Symone Sanders. Former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien ripped her former employer on Twitter for allowing Lord to come onto its programs to spout nonsense, and implored it to find a more 'thoughtful' Republican to talk about health care policy." --safari

Beyond the Beltway

Ed Kilgore of New York: "A comfortable suburban area not used to being an electoral battleground is now the center of attention for political people everywhere, at least through April 18.... Airwaves where political messages are usually limited to highly partisan outlets like Fox News are, for the moment, dominated by an unprecedented (for Georgia, that is) ad blitz.... Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is by most accounts within striking distance of a first-round majority in a 'jungle primary' field of 18 candidates, has totally dominated individual candidate fundraising with a reported $8.3 million haul -- most of it (as Republicans want every voter to know) from outside the state.... The one sure thing is that voters in the sixth won't see anything like this race in the foreseeable future." --safari

Disdain for Democracy, Ctd. Ari Berman of The Nation: " The ACLU of Iowa reports that 11 percent of eligible Iowa voters -- 260,000 people -- don't have a driver's license or non-operator ID..., and could be disenfranchised by the bill [passed by the legislature]. There's no evidence the new law is necessary.... The only conviction was a Trump supporter who voted twice because she thought the election was rigged and her first vote wouldn't count.... Yet Iowa Republicans, who now control state government for the first time in two decades, say the law is necessary to combat the 'perception' of fraud...." --safari

Gaby Del Valle of The Daily Beast: "A Michigan doctor has been accused of performing female genital mutilation surgery on multiple girls, some as young as six years old. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, was arrested Wednesday for allegedly performing the procedure on multiple young girls over the past 12 years. Nagarwala, an emergency room clinic physician at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, allegedly carried out the surgeries at a clinic in a nearby suburb, prosecutors said ... Nagarwala's case is believed to be the first under the 1996 federal law that criminalizes FGM...." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

Ashifa Kassam of the Guardian: "The Canadian government has introduced highly anticipated legislation aimed at regulating recreational marijuana use by July 2018, paving the way for the country to become the first in the G7 to fully legalise the drug. On Thursday, the Liberal government tabled two bills designed to end more than 90 years of prohibition." --safari

Shaun Walker of the Guardian: "[There are] reports that a shocking anti-gay campaign is under way in the Russian republic of Chechnya, involving over a hundred and possibly several hundred men. Some are believed to have been killed.... 'We are talking about the mass persecution of gay people, with hundreds of people kidnapped by authorities,' [Igor] Kochetkov], a gay rights activist,] told the Guardian.... Under the Moscow-backed local leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya has been rebuilt after two brutal separatist conflicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kadyrov pledges allegiance to Vladimir Putin and a love for Russia, and in return the Kremlin turns a blind eye to human rights abuses." --safari

Wednesday
Apr122017

The Commentariat -- April 13, 2017

Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "Donald Trump promised to be open-minded on a number of issues. Over the past week, he's delivered. The man who pledged to cut deals rather than adhere to any ideology -- or to any detailed policy platform — has, in recent days, demonstrated an incredible willingness to bend his past positions, or abandon them entirely. Sometimes he offers an explanation; sometimes not.... From health care and the Export-Import Bank to NATO and to China's alleged currency manipulation, Trump has made moves that would leave a more traditional politician labeled a flip-flopper. But for Trump, who sold himself in part on a businessman's flexibility, the moves fit his reputation for unpredictability. 'I said it was obsolete,' Trump said of NATO during a news conference with Jens Stoltenberg, the body's secretary general on Wednesday, referring to a comment he made during the campaign. 'It's no longer obsolete.'" --safari...

...Matt Shuham of TPM: "President Donald Trump repeated his unfounded claim Wednesday that his criticisms of NATO had prompted the multinational military alliance to focus more on combating terrorism. 'The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism,' Trump said during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House. 'I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism.' He did not specify what 'change' NATO had made." --safari...

...Lachan Markay of The Daily Beast: "President Donald Trump and his staff reversed or walked back at least six campaign positions on Wednesday." --safari...

...Like father like son-in-law. Eric Levitz of New York: "There may be no better testament to the insanity of our epoch than this: Last week, a series of reports suggested that the president's 36-year-old son-in-law [Jared Kushner], a real-estate heir with no experience in government or public policy, who had never detailed his political views to voters or stood for an election, was consolidating his power inside the White House -- and most greeted this news as a welcome relief...As of last week, Ivanka Trump's husband was tasked with overseeing the rewriting of America's trade agreements; solving the Israel-Palestine conflict; developing a geopolitical strategy for the broader Middle East; ending the opioid epidemic; modernizing 'the technology and data infrastructure' of every federal agency; remodeling the government's workforce-training programs; and 'developing "transformative projects" under the banner of Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure plan, such as providing broadband internet service to every American.' And now, the Washington Free Beacon reports that Kushner has also become the unofficial head of the National Security Council...[I]t's clear that he's one of the most powerful people in our government, and has an avid interest in shaping America's foreign policy. And we know almost nothing about how he sees the world." --safari

** The Russia Connection, Ctd. AP: "President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for lobbying work he did on behalf of political interests in Ukraine, led at the time by a pro-Russian political party, his spokesman said Wednesday. Manafort is the second Trump campaign adviser to have to register as a foreign agent since the election. The confirmation that he intends to register comes as the Trump administration has been facing heavy scrutiny over the foreign ties of former campaign advisers and other Trump associates.... Manafort will now have to publicly and specifically detail his foreign agent work. That includes which American government agencies and officials he sought to influence, how he was paid and the details of contracts he signed as part of the work." --safari...

...Mike McIntire of The New York Times: "Aug. 19 was an eventful day for Paul Manafort. That morning, he stepped down from guiding Donald J. Trump's presidential campaign, after a brief tenure during which Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, Democrats' emails were hacked and the campaign's contacts with Russia came under scrutiny. Dogged by revelations about past financial dealings in Ukraine, Mr. Manafort retreated from public view. But behind the scenes, he was busy with other matters. Papers were recorded that same day creating a shell company controlled by Mr. Manafort that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser. They were among $20 million in loans secured by properties belonging to Mr. Manafort and his wife.... The transactions raise a number of questions, including whether Mr. Manafort's decision to turn to Trump-connected lenders was related to his role in the campaign, where he had agreed to serve for free." --safari

...The Russia Connection, Ctd. Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "A former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's campaign whose communications reportedly were monitored by the FBI over suspicions he was acting as an agent of a foreign power refused to disclose who brought him onto the team in a Wednesday interview. Carter Page's connection to the Trump campaign received renewed attention after the Washington Post reported Tuesday that the FBI and Justice Department obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant last summer to keep track of his communications. Asked repeatedly by CNN's Jake Tapper to 'clear things up' by sharing the name of the individual who brought him onto the Trump team, Page demurred, saying he wanted to protect that person's 'privacy.'" --safari...

...The Russia Connection, Ctd. David Edwards of RawStory: "Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the British spy agency MI6, suggested recently that President Donald Trump may still be haunted by loans linked to Russia that were made after U.S. creditors refused to lend to him. In what The Sun called a 'bombshell accusation', Dearlove told Prospect magazine that Trump may be under the thumb of Russians due to loans made to keep his business afloat following the 2008 financial collapse...'What lingers for Trump may be what deals -- on what terms -- he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him,' Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 through 2004, said." --safari

Let Him Eat Cake. Inae Oh of Mother Jones: "Recounting details about his decision to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base last week, President Donald Trump took several moments during a Fox Business interview that aired Wednesday morning to enthuse about the 'most beautiful' chocolate cake he enjoyed at his Palm Beach resort with Chinese President Xi Jinping.... Then Trump appeared to momentarily forget which country the United States had attacked last week, naming Iraq instead of Syria. 'So what happens is I said, 'We've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq, and I wanted you to know this,' Trump said in the interview. 'And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.' 'Syria?' Bartiromo corrected. 'Yes, heading toward Syria,' Trump said. He followed up by mentioning Xi finished his dessert." --safari

Louis Nelson of Politico: "President Donald Trump does not intend to seek the resignation of FBI Director James Comey and did not do so at the outset of his administration 'because I want to give everybody a good, fair chance,' he told Fox Business in an interview that aired Wednesday morning.... 'Don't forget, when Jim Comey came out, he saved Hillary Clinton. People don't realize that. He saved her life. I call it 'Comey I.' And I joke about it a little bit.'" --safari: Back to being so presidential* I see

Allan Nairn summarizes the threat of the Confederate takeover of government and the power of grassroots pushback. --safari

Casey Quinlan of ThinkProgress: "On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed Obama administration directives that were supposed to make it easier for borrowers to pay back their student loans. The guidance helped to hold student loan servicers accountable.... DeVos justified rescinding the guidance in part by citing the cost of oversight." --safari: Another big FU to our future.

David Ferguson of RawStory: "A campaign ethics watchdog group known as the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) notified the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) on Wednesday that it has evidence of illegal contributions made from a Trump-aligned super PAC to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. A letter from the CLC to the FEC's Complaints Examination and Legal Administration office said that the super PAC Make America Number 1 -- run by Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer -- 'illegally compensated Steve Bannon's work as Donald Trump's campaign CEO, and that the super PAC and campaign engaged in unlawful coordinated spending by using the common vendor Cambridge Analytica.'" --safari

Ed Kilgore: "As Congress enjoys its Easter recess, we're drawing ever closer to the April 28 expiration date on the appropriations bill keeping the federal government funded. We keep hearing assurances from congressional leaders that avoiding a government shutdown will be a snap.... But even if the potential 'poison pills' Ryan talked about are disposed of or deferred, another one has suddenly appeared. Politico reports that Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, is pushing congressional Republicans to include language in the bill that would restrict federal funding grants for so-called 'sanctuary cities,' or municipalities that refuse to enforce federal immigration policies...[T]his is the last thing Congress needs if it is indeed trying to quickly pass a stopgap appropriations bill without a lot of yelling and screaming and terrorizing of bureaucrats and contractors worried about their next paychecks." --safari

David Nakarama of The Washington Post: "The Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail as he railed against the dangers posed by illegal immigration. An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment obtained by The Washington Post shows the agency has already found 33,000 more detention beds to house undocumented immigrants, opened discussions with dozens of local police forces that could be empowered with enforcement authority and identified where construction of Trump's border wall could begin.... The agency also is considering ways to speed up the hiring of hundreds of new Customs and Border Patrol officers, including ending polygraph and physical fitness tests in some cases." --safari

Wow. Ignorance is Strength. Peter Holley of The Washington Post: "Abraham Lincoln's name is frequently invoked as one the greatest -- if not the greatest -- leaders ever produced on American soil. Adolf Hitler's name is frequently invoked as one of the worst.... Aside from being born in the same century, these two men would seem to have very little in common, unless you're asking North Carolina lawmaker Larry Pittman. The Republican General Assembly member from Cabarrus County this week called the 16th president 'the same sort (of) tyrant' as Adolf Hitler, according to the Charlotte Observer....Pittman made the comparison on Facebook while responding to a commenter who was critical of legislation the lawmaker has introduced that seeks to bring an end to same-sex marriage in North Carolina.... 'And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it?' he added. 'Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.'" --safari

Tierney Sneed of TPM: "President Trump suggested to the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that he would withhold from insurers Obamacare subsidy payments that are the target of a House GOP lawsuit in order to force Democrats into negotiations over repealing the Affordable Care Act, a move that could bring chaos to the individual health insurance market. In the same interview Trump said he believed Democrats still 'own&' the Affordable Care Act, but acknowledged that the longer he was in office the more likely it was he would be blamed for problems with the law. 'That's part of the reason that I may go the other way' on the insurance subsidies, Trump told the Journal. 'The longer I'm behind this desk and you have Obamacare, the more I would own it.'" --safari...

...Josh Marshall of TPM: "Having set aside health care to get to the easy win of tax reform, the White House has now seemingly set aside the not-so-easy tax reform to go back to health care. Now the President is threatening that he'll withhold something called CSR payments to sabotage the Obamacare exchanges and in so doing force Democrats to the bargaining table.... These aren't the subsidies that go directly to purchasers of insurance. They're something called cost sharing reduction payments that support insurers directly.... Setting aside the moral calculus (where there's little reason to have high expectations), what's striking is the political calculus, or rather Trump's inability to grasp the current political calculus...He is essence putting a gun to House Republicans heads and telling Democrats, don't make me do it. His threats are risible and thus counterproductive. Things will grow more chaotic and disordered than they already are." --safari

Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones: "Here in the United States, at least one party has a long history of siding with the airlines at the expense of their passengers. 'It's an ongoing frustration that we haven't had good cooperation on the Republican side,' says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League...The airline industry, however, favors Republicans. In the most recent election cycle, United Continental Holdings gave them $547,000, versus $497,000 for Democrats -- a split that roughly mirrors the industry's spending patterns. The main airline lobbying group, Airlines for America, leans far more toward Republicans: It donated about $85,000 to Democrats in the latest cycle. It gave nearly six times that much (about $478,500) to Republicans and conservative groups, according to OpenSecrets.org." --safari

Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress: "James Thompson may not be heading to Congress, but not everyone is calling his loss in Kansas' special congressional election a defeat. On Tuesday, Republican Ron Estes beat Thompson in the solidly Republican district by a margin of roughly five points. Just a few months ago, President Trump carried the district with a wide margin of 27 points...And while [Thompson] was unable to swing the district to Democrats, he said a win was not impossible and that the party should not ignore red states. 'I think ultraconservative Republicans anywhere in the United States need to be scared right now because we have shown that a motivated base and a well-run campaign can win.'" --safari

Beyond the Beltway

Guardian: "A groundbreaking black jurist who became the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge has been found dead in New York's Hudson river. The body of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York's highest court, was found floating off Harlem about 1.45 pm local time, a police spokesman said. Police pulled Abdus-Salaam's fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers said her body showed no obvious signs of trauma and they declined to speculate on the cause of her death.... The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History said Abdus-Salaam was the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge. She was also the first black woman appointed to the state's highest court." --safari

Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast: "How do you think the GOP-controlled Alabama Senate would respond to a mega mosque asking to form its own armed police force? Keep in mind Alabama is where Republicans pushed for an anti-Sharia amendment to its state's constitution that easily passed in 2014...But when the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a megachurch in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, asked for special permission to create our nation's first ever church-run police force, it sailed right through Alabama's GOP-dominated Senate on Tuesday. It's expected that the bill will pass the Republican-controlled House and become law, empowering the Briarwood Church to hire actual police officers in the name of the church." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

Justin McCurray of the Guardian: "North Korea appears to be preparing to conduct a nuclear test in a show of defiance towards Donald Trump, who has not ruled out military action to pressure the regime into abandoning its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. The US-based monitoring group 38 North said on Thursday that the satellite images from the North's Punggye-ri site showed it was 'primed and ready' for what would be the country's sixth nuclear test since 2006.... South Korean officials, however, played down speculation that a nuclear test was imminent. 'There has been no unusual activity so far,'Roh Jae-chun, a spokesman for the country's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters, according to Yonhap news agency." --safari

Tuesday
Apr112017

The Commentariat -- April 12, 2017

I'm off on another adventure, so any updates you do will be appreciated. -- Marie

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "A week ago, President Trump was accused of being a tool for the Russians, an unwitting agent of influence, so full of admiration that he defended President Vladimir V. Putin against critics who called him a killer. Now, Mr. Trump is in a diplomatic clash with Mr. Putin's Russia, his administration accusing Moscow of trying to cover up a Syrian chemical weapons attack on civilians and his secretary of state delivering us-or-them ultimatums. Even in a presidency marked by unpredictability, the head-spinning shift from coziness to confrontation has left Washington and other capitals with a case of geopolitical whiplash." -- CW ...

... Euan McKirdy & Angela Dewan of CNN: "Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov began a meeting with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson in Moscow with a warning -- do not strike the Syrian regime again." -- CW

The Day Trump & Putin Accused Each Other of Broadcasting Fake News

** Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The White House accused the Russian government on Tuesday of engaging in a cover-up of the chemical weapons attack last week by Syrian forces that prompted American missile strikes, saying that United States intelligence and numerous contemporaneous reports confirmed that the Syrians used sarin gas on their own people. In a declassified four-page report that details United States intelligence on the chemical weapons attack and contains a point-by-point rebuttal of Moscow's claims, the White House asserted that the Syrian and Russian governments had sought to confuse the world community about the assault through disinformation and 'false narratives.'The strongly worded document calls for international condemnation of Syria's use of chemical weapons and harshly criticizes Russia for 'shielding' an ally that has used weapons of mass destruction. It marks a striking shift by President Trump, who entered office praising President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and seeking common ground with him...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Missy Ryan & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "Senior officials said that U.S. signals and aerial intelligence, combined with local reporting and samples taken from victims of the attack, showed that a Russian-made, Syrian-piloted SU-22 aircraft dropped at least one munition carrying the nerve gas sarin on the northwestern town of Khan Sheikhoun.... Even as the officials explained the regime's strategy for using the [chemical] weapons, they did not discount the possibility of Russian complicity." -- CW ...

... Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad's reign in Syria was 'coming to an end,' and he warned that Russia was at risk of becoming irrelevant in the Middle East by continuing to support him. His remarks, five days after the United States carried out missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical attack for which Washington and its allies blamed Mr. Assad, illustrated the extent to which the Trump administration has, in just one week, substantially rethought its approach to Syria's future." CW: I'll say. Not sure who took over here, but it looks like something of an internal coup. My first uneducated guess is H.R. McMaster. I don't see how this would have happened with Mike Flynn running the National Security Council. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

We're not going into Syria. -- Donald Trump to Maria Bartiromo in an interview that will air Wednesday morning ...

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico has more on the Bartiromo interview. ...

... Greg Sargent: "A good catch by Sopan Deb: Trump today said this on Fox about his missile strike on Syria: 'What I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it.' But ... but ... but ... sputter ... sputter ... in 2013, Trump repeatedly condemned the idea when Obama ... oh, never mind. What's the use?" -- CW ...

... Emma Graham-Harrison of the Guardian: "Vladimir Putin has deepened his support of the Syrian regime, claiming its opponents planned false-flag chemical weapon attacks to justify further US missile strikes.... Putin said western and Turkish accusations that Syria's government dropped the nerve agent that killed dozens of civilians in Idlib earlier this month were comparable to the now-discredited claim that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.... Putin said Russia had information that the US was planning to launch new missile strikes on Syria, and that there were plans to fake chemical attacks there.... The hardening of the Kremlin's position, and its denial of Assad's responsibility, accelerated a tailspin in US-Russian relations, just as the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, arrived in Moscow for direct talks. Tillerson had hoped to underscore the US position with a unified message from the G7, which condemned the chemical attack at a summit in Italy on Tuesday. However, G7 foreign ministers were divided over possible next steps and refused to back a British call for fresh sanctions." -- CW ...

Adolf Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons.... He was not using the gas on his own people the same way that (Bashar al-) Assad is doing. -- Sean Spicer, comments to reporters, Tuesday

The Nazi regime brought an industrial approach to mass murder of its citizens and others it sought to exterminate. The construction of gas chambers and the use of deadly gas was fundamental to that strategy. While the convention against chemical weapons did not exist in World War II, the modern definition would encompass the Nazi gas chambers. It makes no difference whether victims are brought to a room filled with deadly gas, or if the gas is sent to them in a bombing raid. -- PolitiFact

Spicer's remark is breathtaking, even within an administration that purposely omitted the mention of Jewish victims in its so-called Holocaust Remembrance statement. Spicer's Holocaust denial far outdid Marine Le Pen's offhand attempt to deny France's complicity in rounding up Jews for extermination. -- Constant Weader

While Jewish families across America celebrate Passover, the chief spokesman of this White House is downplaying the horror of the Holocaust. Sean Spicer must be fired, and the President must immediately disavow his spokesman's statements. Either he is speaking for the President, or the President should have known better than to hire him. -- Nancy Pelosi

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times has more on Spicer's outrageous comments. A bit later, "clarifying" his remarks, Spicer called Nazi death camps "Holocaust centers." ...

... He was not using the gas on his own people the same way ... he brought them into the Holocaust centers. -- Sean Spicer, in one of his "clarifications"

So, according to Spicer, Hitler only gassed people in 'Holocaust centers' -- not a term used by anyone in the history of ever.... [Also not true.] Saying that Hitler 'didn't sink to the level' of Assad is a form of whitewashing Hitler's crimes against the Jews. And he said this on the first day of Passover. -- Zack Beauchamp of Vox

What the hell is that from Sean Spicer? Was he being sarcastic? It shows how historically ignorant his crew is.... [The Nazis] used chemical weapons in World War II. -- Alex Jones, crazy right-wing conspiracy theorist who thinks the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax

We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. -- Sean Spicer ...

... this argument implies that it is somehow morally preferable to kill civilians with atomic bombs than it is to choke them with sarin gas.... -- Eric Levitz 

This is the man who handles PR for the most powerful country on earth. -- Eric Levitz

Update: Jenna Johnson & Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "... Sean Spicer apologized on Tuesday for remarks that were viewed as downplaying the atrocities of the Holocaust.... 'Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which, frankly, there is no comparison,' Spicer said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday evening that led the nightly newscasts of all three major networks. 'And for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.'... President Trump and his aides rarely apologize for controversial remarks or stating factual errors.... Spicer's decision to appear on CNN late in the day was a sign of how badly his remarks were being received both inside and outside the White House." -- CW

CW: I think I've found Spicey's "source":

Assad killed 500,000 people, for the love of God. He displaced half of the country, he destroyed the country. He gassed women and children.... He's worse than Hitler.... President Obama broke his promise for the red line and his argument was that he's going to take Assad’s chemical weapons, well he lied. -- Kassem Eid, a 2013 Syrian chemical weapon attack survivor, to Fox Business "News" host Neil Cavuto, Monday

...Juan Cole: "White House spokesman Sean Spicer is as ill-suited for his job as his boss Donald Trump is ill-suited for his own. The most astonishing things routinely slip from the lips of both. But Spicer's belligerent malapropisms soared to new heights of WTF on Tuesday with his comments about Hitler not gassing his own people...These remarks were ineptitude, not 'white nationalism' (he is from the mainstream Republican Reince Priebus side of the administration)...It is legitimate to denounce al-Assad for his war crimes. But those tagged as enemies by the US always get the Big Demon treatment, and our fawning corporate media is happy to go along. Al-Assad has to be Hitler himself.... America's right wing dictator and monarchical friends are never scrutinized, much less demonized, in the pliant American corporate media, even if they have killed lots and lots of people and even if they have (like Saddam Hussein in the 1980s) used poison gas." --safari...

...Sean Spicer, stooge extraordinaire, via Rachel Maddow. Pretty amusing, except that he's the official speaker of our government and Drumpfus. --safari

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump, plainly frustrated by China's inaction on North Korea, aimed his Twitter feed at Beijing on Tuesday, telling the Chinese government that the United States would exchange trade concessions for support in pressuring Pyongyang. 'I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!' Mr. Trump declared on Twitter around 8 a.m. That was followed by a more impatient post in which he said: 'North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.'" -- CW ...

... Kevin Sullivan & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Back during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump summed up his approach to foreign policy this way: 'We must as a nation be more unpredictable.' But now that he is commander in chief, anxious allies say that unpredictability might be better described as incoherence -- a dangerous tendency at a moment of high tension with Russia and Syria, and with U.S. warships heading toward the Korean Peninsula.... [Trump] has a disregard for norms and protocol, an impulsive nature and a tendency toward making contradictory statements.... Several diplomats said that early Trump meetings with [Angela] Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and British Prime Minister Theresa May also raised concerns over Trump's unorthodox style of working largely without detailed notes and speaking off the cuff." ...

     ... CW: I have always taken --and still do -- Trump's boasts about being cleverly "unpredictable" as cover for his complete ignorance of the subject at hand: a questioner asks him what he's going to do about any given situation, & his ready answer is that he's not going to tip his hand, even when the question invites a relatively easy answer. Trump's incoherence, too, is of course product of his ignorance.

We're going to have a phenomenal tax reform, but I have to do health care first. I want to do it first to really do it right. -- Donald Trump, to Maria Bartiromo

Brian Beutler: "When the internecine fight between [Jared Kushner & Steve Bannon] broke into public view, complete with an explosion of anti-Semitic internet vitriol directed at Kushner, speculation mounted that Bannon would either lose his job or come to heel.... [But] in a way, Trump made Bannon his indispensable adviser by becoming a creature of the Breitbartian right himself.... Trump can't un-run the campaign he just ran.... [If Trump marginalizes or ousts Bannon,] the white nationalist core of his support would erode.... This is the source of Bannon's leverage: He has a political constituency, whereas Kushner does not.... Family loyalty, and the beating [Trump's] ego will take when the stories of his first 100 days are written, will pull him toward his son-in-law. And that's when the real fun will begin." -- CW ...

I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary. Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will. -- Donald Trump, in an interview with the New York Post, Tuesday ...

     ... CW: As usual, Trump is lying. He says he didn't know Bannon before he brought him into the campaign "very late." In fact, Trump did "a series of one-on-one interviews on Bannon's radio show between November 2015 and June of [2016.; i.e., they got to know each other before the first primaries].... The conversations marked a coming-together of Trump, who at the time was a pariah among many top Republicans, and the alt-right...." The wilful, false distancing we see in the NYPost interview suggests to me that Bannon hasn't much job security, Beutler's cogent argument notwithstanding. ...

     ... Update: Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "... the Trump White House also has a demonstrated history of distancing itself from and downplaying the roles of aides who turn out to be liabilities. And that sure seems to be the tree Trump was barking up here." -- CW

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "The choice by President Trump of a pro-immigration economist to lead his Council of Economic Advisers is stirring a backlash among his most ardent supporters who worry it is an abandonment of the tough stance he took on the issue during the campaign and the latest in a string of broken promises.... To these supporters, the appointment of Kevin A. Hassett, announced late last Friday afternoon, as his top White House economist is another sign that the president is succumbing to the swamp he promised to drain." -- CW

Alex Morris, in Rolling Stone (April 5), on Donald Trump's mental state. Thanks to unwashed for the link. CW: A highly-worthwhile read. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jiayang Fan of the New Yorker: "The Times, in a recent article probing Ivanka's popularity in China, reported that the First Daughter has been compared to a goddess, and she does, in certain ways, fulfill the image of the consummate Westerner in the Chinese imagination: regal, poised, resplendently golden. Ivanka love among twentysomething women working and living in cities runs particularly strong.... The Chinese are no strangers to kleptocracy and nepotism, of course, but there's something distinctly troubling about Ivanka's arrival as a feminist role model for a generation of Chinese women. The dark political tumult of China's last century means that many of Ivanka's most ardent admirers are the first members of their families to attend college and grew up in homes in which traditional gender roles were occupied and female domesticity was expected.... That such a vexed figure may serve as the role model for Chinese women who are just beginning to grapple with their identity in a society that has historically been hostile to their empowerment seems like a regression." --safari

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is warning that President Trump needs to release his personal tax returns if he hopes to achieve comprehensive tax reform in the coming months. 'It's going to make tax reform much harder' if Trump doesn't release his returns, Schumer told reporters Tuesday. Anytime the president proposes something on tax reform, 'the average American is going to say, "Oh, he's not doing that because it's good for me, he's doing it because it's good for him." So for his own good, he ought to make them public. And the big mystery is why he hasn't.'" -- CW ...

... Ha! Daniel Hemel in a Washington Post op-ed: "State lawmakers across the country are pursuing creative methods to force President Trump to release his federal income tax returns before he can run for reelection in 2020.... Those efforts are likely to fail. There is, however, a much easier way for state lawmakers to force the disclosure of Trump's tax information: publishing the state tax returns already in their possession, which would reveal much of the same information appearing in his federal documents. Trump's New York state resident income tax returns show his salary, dividends, capital gains, rental real estate income and other income from all sources.... Current New York law prohibits state tax officials from disclosing an individual's returns, but the New York legislature could amend that law.... The Internal Revenue Code prohibits state officials from disclosing a taxpayer's federal return, but it does not stop New York from disclosing information that Trump reports on his state forms." -- CW

Ellen Nakashima, et al., of the Washington Post: "The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said. The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page's communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials. This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents." -- CW ...

... Jim Sciutto, et al., of CNN: "After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN. Their private assessment contradicts ... Donald Trump's allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the 'unmasking' of US individuals' identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a 'massive story.'... One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as 'normal and appropriate' for officials who serve in that role to the president. And another source said there's 'absolutely' no smoking gun in the reports, urging the White House to declassify them to make clear there was nothing alarming in the documents." -- CW

Still the Nastiest Little SOB in Washington. Matt Zapotosky & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors across the country Tuesday to make immigration cases a higher priority and look for opportunities to bring serious felony charges against those who cross the border illegally -- the latest in a string of controversial maneuvers to crack down on illegal entry into the United States and expand the Justice Department's role in immigration enforcement. In a three-page memo, Sessions directed each U.S. attorney to appoint a border security coordinator to oversee immigration prosecutions and to make immigration offenses -- such as crossing the border illegally or harboring those who do -- 'higher priorities.'" -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: “'If there was anything that [bombing] Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie [to Donald Trump],' Eric Trump told the Daily Telegraph while visiting the Trump Turnberry golf resort in the U.K. this week.... Of course, if there's anything that bombing Syria didn't do, it was conclusively establish that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and hackers affiliated with the Russian government during the 2016 election.... There's no reason why it can't be simultaneously true that 1) Putin has no special leverage over Trump, and 2) Trump has ties to shady Russian figures, and was unscrupulous enough to welcome their 'campaign contributions,' so to speak." -- CW

John Eligon & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Ron Estes, the Republican candidate for an empty House seat in Kansas, survived a surprisingly competitive race in a heavily conservative district on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. He defeated James Thompson, the Democratic candidate, in the first national test of his party's electoral strength, in a contest that saw a late infusion of national support from Republicans nervous about the tumultuous political environment during President Trump's first months in office.... After internal Republican polling last week revealed Mr. Estes's lead was in only the single digits, the national party scrambled to rescue his campaign -- and effectively conceded that even seats in the reddest corners of the United States are not safe at a time when Democrats are so energized against Mr. Trump. While Mr. Thompson fell short, his unexpected strength represents a warning shot toward Republicans. And it will galvanize Democrats' candidate-recruitment efforts for next year's campaign." ...

     ... CW: With 99 percent reporting, Estes bested Thompson 53.3 percent to 45 percent, or only 8.3 points.

Lauren Gibbons of MichiganLive: "U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a vocal critic of the health care reforms proposed and eventually pulled back by House Republican leadership, said Monday that the bill would have gone down hard had it been brought up for a vote. At a town hall meeting in Cedar Springs[, Michigan] Monday, Amash ... estimated anywhere between 50 and 80 Republicans would have voted no. 'It would have been really embarrassing,' he said." Via Greg Sargent. -- CW

Julie Creswell of the New York Times: "United Airlines apologized on Tuesday and said it would review its policies after videos showed a passenger being forcibly removed from a full plane to make room for its own employees, setting off public outrage. Oscar Munoz, the company's chief executive, said in a statement that United would take 'full responsibility' for the situation and that 'no one should ever be mistreated this way.'... In a letter to United employees on Tuesday morning -- several hours before he sent the contrite statement -- Mr. Munoz ... said that employees 'followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this' and that he 'emphatically' stood behind them. 'I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right,' he wrote. 'I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident...'" -- CW ...

... Avi Selk & Lori Aratani of the Washington Post: "After two days [of] conflicting corporate statements, falling stocks and swelling outrage, United Airlines entered full-scale mea culpa mode Tuesday afternoon, as its chief executive announced an internal investigation into a Sunday-evening flight in which a man was dragged violently from his seat so a crew member could have it.... Hours earlier, according to USA Today, a United spokesperson had backed off the companies initial claims that the flight was 'overbooked' -- rather than disrupted to transport off-duty crew.... The White House also weighed in. Press secretary Sean Spicer called the videos 'troubling' but dismissed calls for a federal investigation into what he said should be 'a very simple local matter.' The U.S. Department of Transportation also said it was looking into the matter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Once again, in the Trump administration, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Spicer says it's not a federal issue; the U.S. DOT says yes, it is. ...

... David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times has the tale of a full-price-paying first-class passenger whom United bumped to economy class, after threatening to handcuff him. The airline's reason? The staff wanted to seat a "higher-priority" traveler in first-class. Oh, and the airline did not volunteer even to make up the difference in the values of the tickets till the passenger complained to Munoz.

Max Bearak & Laris Karklis of The Washington Post: "Famine now threatens 20 million people -- more than at any time since World War II. As defined by the United Nations, famine occurs when a region's daily hunger-related death rate exceeds 2 per 10,000 people.... Entire generations are at risk of lasting damage stemming from the vicious cycle of greed, hate, hunger and violence that produces these famines.... [W]hile this article focuses on the four countries most immediately at risk [Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, & Nigeria], ongoing conflicts in Congo, the Central African Republic, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan has left millions hungry in those places, too." --safari: Great time to be drastically cutting back on USAID if you run a heartless, xenophobic administration that wants less Blah people in the world. Makes perfect sense.

"The Hidden American Crises Ending Women's Lives." Lois Beckett of the Guardian: "The multiple-victim shooting in an elementary school [in San Bernardino, Ca.,] drew ... nationwide media coverage. But the kind of violence that claimed the life of eight-year-old Jonathan Martinez and Elaine Smith, a 53-year-old teacher in a special needs classroom, is a daily occurrence. Advocates say that nearly 50 American women are shot to death by former or current partners each month -- more than one a day, according to national police department statistics.... Nearly 75% of the victims in domestic violence shootings are the current wives or girlfriends of the men who killed them, the Associated Press found. Shooting deaths of men are much less frequent.... Even when domestic violence does not play a direct role in high-profile mass shootings, the perpetrators of these attacks are often found to have records of domestic violence and abuse of women." -- CW

Way Beyond the Beltway

Philip Oltermann et al., of the Guardian: "Prosecutors investigating explosions beside a bus carrying the German football team Borussia Dortmund say they have detained one suspect. The explosives used in the attack were pipe bombs with a 100 metre range, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors said. A metal part from the one of the bombs had lodged in the headrest of one of the seats.... One BVB player ... was hit by fragments from broken glass and was operated on for a broken wrist. A police officer accompanying the bus in a convoy of police motorbikes was also injured. Citing security circles, the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said a written document found near the site of Tuesday night's blasts referred to the attack on a Berlin Christmas market last year and claimed that German fighter jets were involved in killing Muslims in the Isis 'caliphate'." --safari

Monday
Apr102017

The Commentariat -- April 11, 2017

Afternoon Update:

** Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The White House accused the Russian government on Tuesday of engaging in a cover-up of the chemical weapons attack last week by Syrian forces that prompted American missile strikes, saying that United States intelligence and numerous contemporaneous reports confirmed that the Syrians used sarin gas on their own people. In a declassified four-page report that details United States intelligence on the chemical weapons attack and contains a point-by-point rebuttal of Moscow's claims, the White House asserted that the Syrian and Russian governments had sought to confuse the world community about the assault through disinformation and 'false narratives.'The strongly worded document calls for international condemnation of Syria's use of chemical weapons and harshly criticizes Russia for 'shielding' an ally that has used weapons of mass destruction. It marks a striking shift by President Trump, who entered office praising President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and seeking common ground with him...." -- CW ...

... Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad's reign in Syria was 'coming to an end,' and he warned that carried out missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical attack for which Washington and its allies blamed Mr. Assad, illustrated the extent to which the Trump administration has, in just one week, substantially rethought its approach to Syria's future." CW: I'll say. Not sure exactly who took over here, but it looks like something of an internal coup. My first uneducated guess is H.R. McMaster. I don't see how this would have happened with Mike Flynn running the National Security Council.

Alex Morris, in Rolling Stone (April 5), on Donald Trump's mental state. Thanks to unwashed for the link. CW: A highly-worthwhile read.

Avi Selk & Lori Aratani of the Washington Post: "After two days [of] conflicting corporate statements, falling stocks and swelling outrage, United Airlines entered full-scale mea culpa mode Tuesday afternoon, as its chief executive announced an internal investigation into a Sunday-evening flight in which a man was dragged violently from his seat so a crew member could have it.... Hours earlier, according to USA Today, a United spokesperson had backed off the companies initial claims that the flight was 'overbooked' -- rather than disrupted to transport off-duty crew.... The White House also weighed in. Press secretary Sean Spicer called the videos 'troubling' but dismissed calls for a federal investigation into what he said should be 'a very simple local matter.' The U.S. Department of Transportation also said it was looking into the matter." ...

     ... CW: Once again, in the Trump administration, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Spicer says it's not a federal issue; the U.S. DOT says yes, it is.

*****

I don't have to have one specific way, and if the world changes, I go the same way, I don't change. Well, I do change and I am flexible, and I'm proud of that flexibility. -- Donald Trump, articulating the Trump Doctrine (a/k/a "Whatever") a day before the Tomahawk strike on a Syrian airfield ...

... Julian Borger, et al., of the Guardian: "The Trump administration on Monday signalled much broader grounds for future military intervention in Syria, suggesting it might retaliate against the Assad regime for barrel bomb attacks. On the eve of a critical visit to Moscow at a time of high US-Russian tensions over Syria, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, appeared to go even further, saying his country would come to the defence of innocent civilians 'anywhere in the world'.... On Monday..., the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, widened the criteria for retaliation. 'When you watch babies and children being gassed, and suffer under barrel bombs, you are instantaneously moved to action,' he said. 'I think this president's made it very clear that if those actions were to continue, further action will definitely be considered by the United States.'" -- CW ...

     ... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Later on Monday, the White House walked this back, claiming Spicer was only referring to barrel bombs that contained chemical weapons." Hartmann reviews a number of mixed signals coming out of the administration. "... as the New York Times notes, President Trump does not seem fully capable of explaining how last week's attack on the Assad regime fits into his larger strategy for Syria." -- CW ...

... Let's Ask Eric! Simon Johnson of the U.K. Telegraph: "Eric Trump has said he is 'sure' his sister Ivanka used her influence over their father to encourage the US president to launch military action against Bashar al-Assad in Syria.... 'I stay out of politics and I stay out of the administration but you can tell he [Dad] was deeply affected by those images of the children,' he said." CW: Okay, so make that the Trump Family Doctrine ...

... New York Times Editors: "A weekend of official explanations for President Trump’s airstrikes on a Syrian air base has only deepened the confusion over his intentions, next steps and the legal basis for his unilateral use of force in the middle of that complicated, intractable civil war. The administration will have to do better than this. Presidents have an obligation to explain military operations to the American people and the world, and, when possible, most begin making their argument well before they take action. In Mr. Trump's case, the need for clarity is even greater given that the attack on Thursday, in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons on civilians, was a reversal of the position he campaigned on just months ago." -- CW ...

... Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "These discordant statements [by administration officials] are a natural outgrowth of Trump's chaotic decision-making process. Trump has always preferred an extreme version of 'team of rivals' management, with underlings in competition to please him. Moreover, his slowness at staffing the government meant that the normal procedures weren't followed.... Thus, Trump made his decision without sufficient input, and likely with little thought of the consequences.... An erratic president like Trump can wreak much more havoc in foreign policy than domestic.... Trump could start a conflict anywhere; truly anything is possible from the man who considers unpredictability the ultimate virtue." -- CW ...

... ** Robert Burns & Lolita Baldor of the AP: "The United States has made a preliminary conclusion that Russia knew in advance of Syria's chemical weapons attack last week, but has no proof of Moscow's involvement, a senior U.S. official said Monday. The official said that a drone operated by Russians was flying over a hospital as victims of the attack were rushing to get treatment. Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what American officials believe was an attempt to cover up the usage of chemical weapons. The U.S. official said the presence of the surveillance drone over the hospital couldn't have been a coincidence, and that Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming and that victims were seeking treatment." -- CW ...

... Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon has struggled in recent weeks to effectively explain what lies behind a surge in reported civilian casualties in its air campaign against the Islamic State, fueling speculation that the new Trump administration is pursuing policies resulting in a greater loss of life.... Some in Iraq and Syria are left wondering whether the higher death count is a product of President Trump's bare-knuckle military stance and his suggestions that the United States should 'take out' militants' families. The recent incidents, and the attention surrounding them, have generated concern within the military that the strikes have undermined the United States' ability to fight the Islamic State.... 'We're ceding space to the adversary who wants to create the perception of disregard for civilian life,' said David Deptula, a retired Air Force general who heads the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies." -- CW

Josh Boak & Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "... Donald Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on and is going back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax system.... The Trump administration appears to have shut out the economists who helped assemble one of his campaign's tax overhaul plans, which independent analyses show would have increased the budget deficit.... Administration officials say it's now unlikely that a tax overhaul will meet the August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. But the ambitious pace to figure out a plan reflects Trump's haste to move quickly past a bruising failure [on DonTCare].... Rather than accepting a bill written by the lawmakers, White House officials are taking a more active role." -- CW ...

     ... OR, as Eric Levitz of New York explains it, "So as Republicans turned to tax reform, the president kicked Paul Ryan out of the driver's seat -- but he also decided to rip up the directions that his campaign aides had prepared. And now a car full of backseat drivers is shouting conflicting instructions at a highly impressionable senior citizen.... Nobody knew tax reform could be so complicated." -- CW

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The full bench of a federal appeals court in Virginia will consider the legality of ... Donald Trump's revised travel ban executive order at an argument session next month, the court announced Monday. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it will conduct an en banc hearing May 8 in Richmond on the federal government's appeal of a Maryland-based judge's ruling blocking Trump’s ban on issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries. Normally, appeals go to a three-judge panel for review. However, the en banc session will involve 15 judges hearing the case." -- CW

Environmental Pollution Agency, Ctd. Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times: "The Trump administration's proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget are deep and wide-ranging. It seeks to shrink spending by 31 percent, to $5.7 billion from $8.1 billion, and to eliminate a quarter of the agency's 15,000 jobs. The cuts are so deep that even Republican lawmakers are expected to push back." Tubuchi provides a horrifying shortlist of the "plan," which is designed to make the country into some kind of third-world, toxic rathole.

When you fight crime you have to fight it where it is, and you may have at some point an impact of a racial nature that we hate to see. -- Jeff Sessions, at a recent speech in Richmond, Virginia; via Charles Pierce ...

JeffBo's We-Don't-Care-about-Innocence Project. Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.... In September, a White House science panel called on courts to question the admissibility of four heavily used techniques, including firearms tracing.... The Justice Department last year also announced a wider review of testimony by experts across several disciplines after finding that nearly all FBI experts for years overstated and gave scientifically misleading testimony about two techniques the FBI Laboratory long championed: the tracing of crime scene hairs based on microscopic examinations and of bullets based on chemical composition." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: This is another Sessions' racist moves. Since per capita, more minorities are charged with crimes than are whites, even "experts" with no racial animus are bound to make more mistakes in analyzing evidence again them

Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "Three organizations are suing the Trump administration for not making public the logs that show who is visiting the White House. The National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University have all filed a suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) calling for the release of the logs.... 'Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue...,' CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.... The three groups are asking not only for the records of who is visiting the White House, but for records that show who is meeting the president at his private properties in New York and Florida." -- CW

Chris Iovenko of the New Republic: It appears the Voice of America is about to become the Voice of Trump. "The VOA's charter mandates that the news agency be 'accurate, objective, and comprehensive,' presenting a nonpartisan view of America.... In recent years, however, Republicans have worked to strip the VOA of any semblance of being objective.... Just as Vladimir Putin has his own TV network in Russia Today and ISIS has turned social media into a viral propaganda machine, Trump may have finally found a news outlet whose coverage of him he can personally control." -- CW

Susan Glasser of Politico Magazine: "In a new interview for The Global Politico..., [Andrea] Mitchell says that after covering every president since Jimmy Carter, Trump is by far the most hostile to the press -- and to the truth -- she's ever seen, with a White House staff using the briefing room as a daily disinformation machine and a president and secretary of state outright undermining the ability of reporters to do their job.... 'I have never seen anything like this where people just flat-out lie. You know, black is white and white is black, and they mislead you. It's really disconcerting to see the podium in the White House briefing room being used to mislead or misdirect or obfuscate.'" CW: One thing about Trump & Co. -- they make you more receptive to reporters you didn't much like pre-Trump.

Jessica Taylor of NPR: "Democrats are hoping to prove that the growing opposition to President Trump is very real with an upset in one -- or possibly even two -- upcoming special congressional elections.Their best chance is in Georgia's 6th District, where Republicans are scrambling to stop Democrat Jon Ossoff from winning the contest outright with a majority of the vote in an April 18 all-party primary.... A 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and former congressional staffer, Ossoff has become a vehicle for the anti-Trump sentiment nationwide. He announced this week that he had raised an eye-popping $8.3 million in the race -- an unheard of number for a congressional contest in such a short time." CW: Taylor looks at the other special House elections, including this one ...

... Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: Rep. "Mike Pompeo (R) vacated [his] seat [in a deep-red district that includes Wichita, Kansas] to lead the CIA, and Republicans expected to hold it easily." James Thompson, a Bernie Sanders-backed civil rights attorney & "first-time candidate, was generally ignored by both parties for most of the race.... In an interview last week, Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas Perez said the national party would not be transferring any late money.... But in the final days before Tuesday's special election, Republicans reacted to weak polling and turnout data by rushing resources to southern Kansas. A GOP super PAC rolled out robo-calls over the weekend from Vice President Pence, and on Monday from President Trump, in support of candidate Ron Estes. 'Ron Estes needs your vote and needs it badly,' Trump said on the call. 'Ron is going to be helping us, big league.'" Estes is expected to win. -- CW

Gorsuch Sworn in to Merrick Garland Chair. Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Neil M. Gorsuch was sworn in on Monday as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Renae Merle of the Washington Post: "Wells Fargo said Monday that two former senior executives, including its long-time CEO John Stumpf, must return an additional $75 million in compensation after a scathing internal report found the bad sales practices that have rocked the mega bank date back far longer than initially acknowledged. Stumpf, who stepped down in October, had already agreed to give up $41 million in compensation as the scandal roiled the San Francisco bank. Now, Wells Fargo says it will 'claw back' an additional $28 million from Stumpf. The former head of retail banking, Carrie Tolstedt, who stepped down last year and agreed to give up $19 million in compensation, will lose an additional $47 million in stock options." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd. The Friendly Skies Edition. Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "United Airlines says a man wouldn't give up his spot on an overbooked flight Sunday. So, according to witnesses and videos of the incident, he was pulled screaming from his seat by security, knocked against an arm rest and dragged down the aisle and back to the terminal at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. United refused to answer questions about the incident, which horrified other passengers on the Louisville-bound flight. An airline spokesman only apologized for the overbooked flight, and said police were called after a passenger 'refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily.'" United removed seated passengers after another crew showed up & said they had to get to Louisville. -- CW ...

... Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Instead of paying the true value of moving its crew, [United] decided to impose that cost on one unfortunate passenger. Then, as though to prove beyond doubt that it considered its passengers the expendable players in this drama, it summoned the Chicago police to do its dirty work. Something's wrong with the intellects running United Airlines, and if there's any justice in the world, now they'll really pay.... The law allows air carriers to overbook flights -- that is, sell more tickets than they have seats for.... That's plainly a situation that benefits the airlines almost exclusively It's unclear from United's contract of carriage how either its rule regarding 'refusal of transport' (Rule 21) or 'denied boarding compensation' (Rule 25) applies to a passenger already seated and instructed to deplane to make room for a company employee rather than another paying passenger." -- CW ...

... Overbooking Is Just Another Word for Maximizing Profits. Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "In the past, airlines were able to credibly deflect charges of poor customer service with appeals to profitability concerns and thin profit margins. But given the boom times at America's major airlines, those explanations look less like survival tactics and more like padding profit margins. United made $2.3 billion dollars in profit last year." -- CW

... Derek Thompson of the Atlantic: "... this incident is both an extraordinary occurrence -- overbookings are common yet rarely involve thuggish yanking -- and also a dramatic reminder of the profoundly unequal, and even morally scandalous, relationship between consumers and corporations in industries where a handful of large companies dominate the sector.... The United video serves as a stark metaphor, one where the quiet brutalization of consumers is rendered in shocking, literal form." -- CW ...

... Clio Chang of the New Republic: "In pieces in which his race was mentioned (a detail often added much later), it was usually a one-line reference to the fact that the passenger claimed that he was being singled out for being Chinese.... For Asian-Americans who watched this video, the victim's race is an important part of this story.... Prejudice against Asian-Americans, not to mention state violence, is often papered over.... The awful treatment of this man raises an obvious question: Would the police have really done that to a white person?" -- CW

... Laurel Wamsley of NPR: Here's what to do if you have a complaint about an airline experience. But, um, Donald Trump. -- CW

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Here's a list of the 2017 Pultizer Prize winners. To my great joy, David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post won the prize for national reporting. To balance that excellent decision, the judges chose dingbat Peggy Noonan for commentary. ...

... Here's the Post's story, by Paul Farhi, on Fahrenthold's reporting. -- CW ...

... Kelly McGowan of the Des Moines Register: "Art Cullen, 59, editor of the twice-weekly Storm Lake Times, won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for his editorial writing.... The winning work is a series of 10 editorials on a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works against drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties in northwest Iowa. The lawsuit accused the districts of funneling high levels of nitrates into the Raccoon River. The editorials covered a fund organized by the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, which was being used for the three counties' legal defense. Donors' names were being kept secret." The paper is a family affair. It was founded by Cullen's brother John, and Art's son Tom did much of the reporting on the underlying story. Art's wife Dolores is (or was) a photographer for the paper. -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

** John Archibald of AL.com: "Embattled Gov. Robert Bentley [Monday] afternoon agreed to a deal that forced him to resign the office of governor, plead guilty to two misdemeanors and agree to never again hold public office. The extraordinary agreement, hammered out over the weekend and throughout the day by lawyers for the Alabama Attorney General's office and Bentley attorneys Chuck Malone and Cooper Shattuck, requires Bentley to repay the state for misused funds and perform community service. In response, the state attorney general's office will not pursue other felonies against Bentley, including those referred for prosecution last week by the Alabama Ethics Commission." -- CW ...

...Pema Levy of Mother Jones: "Bentley's departure won't resolve every scandal plaguing his administration.... On Friday, the special counsel leading the impeachment investigation released a 130-page report, which found that Bentley had improperly used law enforcement officials to cover up his "inappropriate relationship" with the former aide, Rebekah Mason.... Apart from Bentley's fate, the report shed some light on an episode that brought national scorn and a federal civil rights investigation to Alabama -- an episode that also involves the state's junior US senator, Luther Strange (R). In 2015, the Bentley administration announced it would shutter 31 driver's license offices. The closures which were portrayed as a cost-saving measure -- hit rural, minority counties the hardest, leaving 8 of the state's 11 majority-African American counties without an office that issues driver's licenses.... According to Friday's report, former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Director Spencer Collier told investigators that it was Mason who asked him to shutter driver's license offices." --safari

Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune: "A federal judge has ruled -- for the second time -- that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Latino and black voters in passing a strict voter identification law in 2011. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled Monday that Texas 'has not met its burden' in proving that lawmakers passed the nation's strictest photo ID law ... without knowingly targeting minority voters. The 10-page ruling, if it withstands almost certain appeals, could ultimately put Texas back on the list of states needing federal approval before changing election laws. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling sprung Texas and other states with a history of discrimination from that list." -- CW

Way Beyond

"Gaffe" Is a French Word. Adam Nossiter of the New York Times: "A casual remark about France's wartime anti-Jewish actions by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, threatened on Monday to derail ... [her candidacy] just as she is emerging as a strong contender in this month's presidential election. The remark was made on Sunday during an interview in which she referred to the most notorious roundup of Jews in France during World War II, when nearly 13,000 were arrested in Paris by the French police on July 16 and 17, 1942, in what is known as the 'Vél d'Hiv roundup.' 'France wasn't responsible for the Vel d'Hiv,' she said. 'If there was responsibility, it is with those who were in power at the time, it is not with France. France has been mistreated, in people's minds, for years.' Ms. Le Pen's words created a small eruption in an already heated campaign, drawing strong criticism by politicians right, left and center and by Jewish groups, who all saw it as an echo of her party's anti-Semitic roots." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

Emma Graham-Harrison of the Guardian: "West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home. Trafficked people passing through Libya have previously reported violence, extortion and slave labour. But the new testimony from the International Organization for Migration suggests that the trade in human beings has become so normalised that people are being traded in public." --safari

Benjamin Haas of the Guardian: "The number of executions around the world fell by more than a third to 1,032 across 23 countries in 2016, compared with 1,634 in 25 countries in 2015. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan were the top executioners. It is estimated that China executes thousands of people, but Beijing does not release statistics and considers the number of death sentences to be a state secret.... China has a conviction rate of about 99.9% and criminal trials heavily rely on confessions. Rights activists say suspects are often tortured or coerced into admitting guilt.The Chinese government claims it has reduced the use of the death penalty and taken steps under a policy of 'killing fewer, killing cautiously'." --safari

News Lede

New York Times (April 8): "Eugene M. Lang, an investor whose spur-of-the-moment promise to an East Harlem sixth-grade graduating class that he would pay for their college education inspired a foundation, led to the support of more than 16,000 children nationwide and made him something of an American folk hero, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98." -- CW

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 702 Next 4 Entries »