The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "The world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, was extradited to the United States on Thursday night, whisked away from the country where he built an empire that delivered tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the world." -- CW ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn held a news conference on Friday morning detailing the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.... The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán. It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members." -- CW 

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: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Washington Post: "The Kennedy Center Honors showcased the breadth of American music Sunday night [Dec. 4] with emotionally charged performances celebrating the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the honeyed vocals of James Taylor and the Southern California harmonies of the Eagles. The 39th annual celebration of lifetime achievement in the performing arts also honored actor Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich in a three-hour party that offered a wistful goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama, who were hosting their last Honors tribute. The sold-out audience stood and cheered for several minutes when the president and first lady were introduced."

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

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Friday
Jan062017

The Commentariat -- January 6, 2017

Afternoon Update:

David Sanger of the New York Times: "American intelligence officials have concluded that Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, 'ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,' and turned from seeking to 'denigrate' Hillary Clinton to developing 'a clear preference for ... Trump.' The conclusions were part of a declassified intelligence report, ordered by President Obama, that was released Friday afternoon. Its main conclusions were described to Donald J. Trump by intelligence officials earlier in the day, and he responded by acknowledging that Russia sought to hack into the Democratic National Committee.... The report, a damning and surprisingly detailed account of Russia's efforts to undermine the American electoral system and Mrs. Clinton in particular, went on to assess that Mr. Putin 'aspired to help ... Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.' The report described a broad campaign that included covert operations, including cyberactivities, with 'trolling' and 'fake news.'" -- CW ...

... Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Russia carried out a comprehensive cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and 'aspired to help' elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released Friday. The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow's assault represented 'a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort' beyond previous election-related espionage. The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, 'denigrate Secretary Clinton' and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia 'developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump'.... [Trump] offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies' conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win." -- CW ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump acknowledged the possibility on Friday that Russia had hacked a variety of American targets, including the Democratic National Committee, after an almost two-hour meeting with the nation's top intelligence officials. Mr. Trump asserted that the hacking had no effect on the outcome of the election." ...

     ... CW: Just you wait. The Trumpster will become more & more agitated as the night wears on. And we will be tweeted. ...

     ... The public report is here.

Daniel Chang, et al., of the Miami Herald: "A lone gunman killed five people and injured eight Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which was forced to shut down and thrust into chaos as a false report of a second shooter sent passengers scrambling about an hour after the first shooting. The suspected gunman was identified as Esteban Santiago, law enforcement officials told the Miami Herald. He is thought to have been a passenger on a flight from Canada that landed at FLL at around noon with a checked gun in his baggage. After retrieving his bag, Santiago is believed to have gone into the bathroom and loaded the weapon. Then he stepped into the Terminal 2 baggage-claim area and began shooting. Santiago was carrying some form of military ID. He is suspected of being a former U.S. Army soldier from the New York area.... Broward Sheriff Scott Israel ... said the suspect, whom he declined to name, was arrested unharmed." -- CW

Joe Heim of the Washington Post: "First lady Michelle Obama was visibly moved as she concluded her final official speech at the White House, part of a ceremony for educators honoring the 2017 school counselor of the year.... Her voice quavering, she [said]: 'Being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I've made you proud.' The counselors standing behind her, many wiping away tears, applauded and cheered and then offered hugs. It was an emotional conclusion to a pointed speech that seemed to allude to concerns and fears that emerged during the divisive presidential election, though she never mentioned ... Donald Trump by name. In the most charged moments of her remarks, Obama directly addressed young people, returning often to the theme of hope that she said was the guiding force for her husband's eight years as president." -- CW

Vivian Yee & Patrick McGeehan of the New York Times: "The Indian Point nuclear plant..., which is perched on the edge of the Hudson River in Buchanan, N.Y...., will shut down by April 2021 under an agreement New York State reached this week with Entergy, the utility company that owns the facility in Westchester County, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal.... The shutdown has long been a priority for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who -- though supportive of upstate nuclear plants -- has repeatedly called for shutting down Indian Point, which he says poses too great a risk to New York City, less than 30 miles to the south." -- CW

Ana Swanson of the Washington Post: "The U.S. economy added 156,000 new jobs in December, according to government data issued Friday. The final issued by the Labor Department during President Obama's administration showed the unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, slightly up from 4.6 percent the previous month....December marks the 75th straight month of job growth -- the most extended streak the country has seen since 1939." CW: In other words, this sustained period of job growth started at about the same time Donald Trump joined the birth movement. So the way I see it, the Trump birther binge jump-started the economy & kept it humming along all this time.

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump said in an interview Friday morning that the storm surrounding Russian hacking during the presidential campaign is a political witch hunt being carried out by his adversaries, who he said were embarrassed by their loss to him in the election last year. Mr. Trump spoke to The New York Times by telephone three hours before he was set to be briefed by the nation's top intelligence and law enforcement officials about the Russian hacking of American political institutions. In the conversation, he repeatedly criticized the intense focus on Russia.... Asked why he thought there was so much attention being given to the Russian cyberattacks..., [Trump] said the motivation was political. 'They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan,' Mr. Trump said during an eight-minute telephone conversation. 'They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it's a witch hunt. They just focus on this.'"

     ... CW Translation: "Russian election-hacking story does not fit the narrative I won in a landslide. So it's not true." CW Note: There are many reasons Russians hacking aimed at upending a U.S. election should be big news, but Trump's repeated denials make it bigger news. Keep up the good work, PEOTUS. ...

... The Great Wall Scam, Ctd. Michael Shear: "... Donald J. Trump said in an interview on Friday morning that financing a border wall with taxpayer money would allow the work to begin more quickly. But he insisted that Mexico will ultimately reimburse the United States for its construction.... [Trump] made the comments after Republicans on Capitol Hill began discussing ways to include money for construction of the border wall in spending bills that need to be passed this spring.... In the interview, the president-elect insisted that Mexico would ultimately reimburse the United States. He said that payment would most likely emerge from his efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Mexican government.... But he said the trade negotiations will take time, and that he supported the idea of using taxpayer money to begin construction of the border wall 'in order to speed up the process.'" -- CW ...

... Greg Sargent: "Your regular early morning Trump tweet: 'The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!'... Trump evidently believes [Congress's attempt to find money to pay for his wall] makes him look like he's backtracking on his vow to turn Mexico upside down and shake it until enough Pesos fall out to fund the Great Wall of Trump.... But don't be fooled -- it is likely that this is mostly a bait and switch.... I'd wager that Trump is thumping his chest about this right now to buy himself goodwill with his base -- and with the immigration hard-liners -- in case he ends up selling out on any of the more consequential tough-on-immigration promises he made during the campaign." -- CW

Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced Friday that he would not vote to confirm Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Brown appears to be the first Democratic senator to explicitly say he will oppose Sessions to lead the Justice Department, although several Democrats have signaled concerns about the Alabama senator's conservative views on voting accessibility, immigration, civil rights and a myriad other issues. But the liberal Brown is in a group of 10 Senate Democrats who are up for reelection this cycle in a state that Donald Trump won -- prime targets for Republicans working to find bipartisan backing for Sessions and other high-profile Cabinet nominees." CW: In other words, Brown's getting out in front on Sessions took guts. I liked him for president in 2015; I like him for president now.

Steve King (RTP-Iowa) Is Still Batshit Crazy. Tierney Sneed of TPM: King introduced a bill barring the Supreme Court from citing its own ObamaCare decisions as precedents. CW: Evidently, King is not impressed by that separation of powers thing. OR, as Elie Mystal of Above the Law explains in arcane legalese, King's bill is "bats**t craziness."

*****

Showdown at Trump Tower. Adam Entous & Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials.... The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials -- including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country's cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election -- contributed to the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Moscow's efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.... Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of 'actors' involved in delivering stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website.... Those and other data points are at the heart of an unprecedented intelligence report ... that details the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.... The classified document ... was delivered to President Obama on Thursday, and it is expected to be presented to Trump in New York on Friday by the nation's top spy officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan.... the Trump Tower briefing has taken on the tenor of a showdown between the president-elect and the intelligence agencies he has disparaged." ...

     ... CW: Remember that in this Battle of the Spooks v. the Kook, both sides are speculating. The spooks' speculation is based on connecting the dots among a series of evidentiary data points; the kook's speculation is based on his business ambitions vis-a-vis Russia & his compelling need to erase any evidence that contradicts his insane belief that he won the election fair-and-square by a "landslide." So expect a post-briefing tweet that reads something like: "Intel heads surprised I KNOW MORE THAN THEY DO!!!" #realDonaldTrump ...

... William Arkin, et al., of NBC News: "Two top intelligence officials with direct knowledge told NBC News that the report on Russian hacking also details Russian cyberattacks not just against the Democratic National Committee, but the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and American corporations. Some of the hacks were successful, say the officials, while others were thwarted. The report, on which Obama was also orally briefed, explains what intelligence agencies believe are Moscow's motives, including, in part, a desire to disrupt the American democratic process. But the intelligence analysts who prepared the report also concluded that the hacks were payback for the Obama administration's questioning of Vladimir Putin's legitimacy as president." -- CW ...

... Ellen Nakashima & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "The country's top intelligence official said Thursday that Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign consisted of hacking, as well as the spreading of traditional propaganda and 'fake news.' 'Whatever crack, fissure, they could find in our tapestry ... they would exploit it,' said Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on foreign cyberthreats, and especially Russian hacking and interference in the campaign." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Matt Flegenheimer & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "Rebuffing efforts by President-elect Donald J. Trump to cast doubt on Russian interference in the presidential election, top intelligence officials and senators from both parties on Thursday issued a forceful affirmation of the findings. They took relentless aim at Mr. Trump's public skepticism and suggested he had negatively affected morale in the intelligence community. 'There's a difference between skepticism and disparagement,' James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said at the hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.... The gathering was extraordinary as much for its context as its content -- a public, bipartisan display of support for the intelligence community that seemed aimed, at times, at an audience of one. Though Mr. Clapper and most Republican senators were careful to avoid antagonizing the president-elect directly, the hearing spoke to the searing rift Mr. Trump has threatened to create between the incoming administration and the intelligence officials tasked with informing it." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: In sum, members of the U.S. Senate & the intelligence community got together & agreed in public that the next president is an ignorant asshole. Things should go very well from here on in. ...

... Frank Rich: "Of all Trump's idle promises thus far, surely the most bizarre and potentially dangerous is his claim that he will reveal 'things that other people don't know' about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. Who told him these 'things'? His national-security adviser, the world-class conspiracy-monger Mike Flynn? Rudy Giuliani? Steve Bannon? His marvelous personal physician? Most likely, Julian Assange and/or Vladimir Putin, both of whom Trump trusts more than America's intelligence agencies.... According to The Wall Street Journal, he will soon be manipulating the intel Establishment to conform with his own theories, just as Dick Cheney did. As was the case last time, this isn't going to end well for the country." -- CW

... Ali Watkins of BuzzFeed: "The FBI struck back at the Democratic National Committee on Thursday, accusing it of denying federal investigators access to its computer systems and hamstringing its investigation into the infiltration of DNC servers by Russia-backed hackers. 'The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated. This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information,' a senior law enforcement official told BuzzFeed News in a statement. 'These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.' The DNC said the FBI had never asked for access to their hacked servers, BuzzFeed News reported on Wednesday." CW: I doubt the DNC's story, inasmuch as the place is a haven for dimwits. ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., a veteran of four presidential administrations and one of the nation's leading intelligence experts, resigned Thursday from ... Donald Trump's transition team because of growing tensions over Trump's vision for intelligence agencies. Woolsey's resignation as a Trump senior adviser comes amid frustrations over the incoming administration's national security plans and Trump's public comments undermining the intelligence community.... Woolsey said on CNN that he did not want to 'fly under false colors' any longer.... People close to Woolsey said that he had been excluded in recent weeks from discussions on intelligence matters with Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.... They said that Woolsey had grown increasingly uncomfortable lending his name and credibility to the transition team without being consulted." -- CW ...

... New York Times Editors: "With his refusal to accept regular intelligence briefings on threats facing this country and his persistent denigration of the intelligence community, Mr. Trump has shown time and again that he worries more about his ego than anything else. He is effectively working to delegitimize institutions whose jobs involve reporting on risks, threats and facts that a president needs to keep the nation safe.... The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Mr. Trump, believing that the office of the director of national intelligence had become bloated and politicized, wants to restructure and pare it back and also restructure the C.I.A., sending more staff members to foreign posts. A spokesman for Mr. Trump denied the report." -- CW ...

... Caroline Kennedy, Get Out! Anne Gearan & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "Ambassadors in some of the most desirable foreign capitals such as London and Paris have been told they must end their service on Jan. 20 with 'no exceptions,' State Department officials confirmed Thursday. The unusually stern and specific directive to 'political' ambassadors -- often presidential donors and friends — came at the behest of the incoming Trump administration, two officials said. It appears to forbid any extensions for family circumstances such as allowing children to finish the school year, a customary allowance in past administrations." -- CW

Shocking News: Trump Breaks Major Campaign Promise Before Day 1. Manu Raju & Dierdre Walsh of CNN: "... Donald Trump's transition team has signaled to congressional Republican leaders that his preference is to fund the border wall through the appropriations process as soon as April, according to House Republican officials. The move would break a key campaign promise when Trump repeatedly said he would force Mexico to pay for the construction of the wall along the border, though in October, Trump suggested for the first time that Mexico would reimburse the US for the cost of the wall. The Trump team argues it will have the authority through a Bush-era 2006 law to build the wall, lawmakers say, but it lacks the money to do so. Transition officials have told House GOP leaders in private meetings they'd like to pay for the wall in the funding bill, a senior House GOP source said." -- CW

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump continued his Twitter tirade against the auto industry on Thursday, slamming Toyota for investing in Mexico but appearing to misstate key details of the company's operations. Trump warned the Japanese carmaker over Twitter that it could face hefty fines for building a plant in Baja, Mexico, to sell the popular Corolla sedan to American consumers. But ... Toyota's factory in Baja assembles Tacoma trucks, according to the automaker. A new plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, will manufacture Corollas.... The work is being shifted to the plant from a facility in Canada. In a statement Thursday, Toyota said that there is no change in employment and production in the United States as a result of the new operations.... Trump has repeatedly threatened to slap American manufacturers with a border tax.... But this appears to be the first time that Trump has warned that a foreign company could face similar repercussions...." -- CW ...

     ... Kevin Drum: "This is not exactly breaking news, either: the Canadian media reported all this nearly two years ago.... Unless it infuriates you that we're importing some Corollas from Mexico instead of Canada, this is a nothingburger. On the other hand, if you just want to demagogue Mexico, I guess it's tailor made." CW: Also, too, it helps deflect the news that Trump plans to make you pay for that "beautiful wall" that will save us from malevolent Mexican strawberry-pickers. (See "Shocking News" above.)

Jill Disis of CNN: "More than 150 financial institutions hold the debt of ... Donald Trump and his businesses, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal's analysis finds that the institutions bought Trump's debt after it was repackaged as bonds. The newspaper says the process has been used for more than $1 billion worth of debt connected to Trump and his companies. A financial disclosure form released by Trump in May showed that he owed at least $315 million to at least 16 companies." -- CW

So Many Important Things to Do, So What is Trump Up To? Jonathan Lemire and Brandon Condon of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump gave a videotaped deposition on Thursday for a lawsuit stemming from a clash with a celebrity restaurateur at his new Washington hotel. It was a rare legal proceeding for a president-elect or sitting president that highlights the legal woes that could follow Trump to the Oval Office. Trump sat for an hour at Trump Tower to give testimony in a lawsuit he filed against Jose Andres after the chef cancelled plans to open a Spanish-themed restaurant at a new Washington hotel. Andres pulled out after Trump, in declaring his candidacy for president, called some Mexican immigrants 'rapists' and said some were bringing drugs and crime to the U.S." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

     ... Akhilleus: Lots more of this to come. So unfair! Expect Confederates, on Trump's orders, to pass a law stating that no one can question the emperor...er...president, about anything, ever. This includes legal depositions. If Trump does it, it can't be illegal. ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Donald Trump was forced to take a time-out Thursday from his frenzied planning for the White House, sitting for a sworn, videotaped deposition in Trump Tower. It's an extraordinary circumstance for any president or president-elect.... And it's hardly Trump's only legal headache. With Trump's swearing-in just days away, many of the high-profile lawsuits that entangled him during the campaign are all but certain to carry on through his inauguration and into his tenure at the White House -- and he will even inherit some new ones. Trump and his companies face scores of pending lawsuits, including cases claiming skimming of tips at his New York SoHo hotel, seeking refunds of millions in membership fees charged by his country club in Jupiter, Florida, and alleging that his security personnel assaulted protesters outside Trump Tower." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Fake Policy. Paul Krugman: "On Thursday, at a rough estimate, 75,000 Americans were laid off or fired by their employers.... If ... you're asking what economic catastrophe just happened, the answer is, none. In fact, I'm just assuming that Thursday was a normal day in the job market.... Consider ... the story that dominated several news cycles a few weeks ago: Donald Trump's intervention to stop Carrier from moving jobs to Mexico. Some reports say that 800 U.S. jobs were saved; others suggest that the company will simply replace workers with machines. But even accepting the most positive spin, for every worker whose job was saved in that deal, around a hundred others lost their jobs the same day.... It may have sounded as if Mr. Trump was doing something substantive by intervening with Carrier, but he wasn't. This was fake policy -- a show intended to impress the rubes, not to achieve real results.... The incoming administration's incentive to engage in fake policy is obvious: It's the natural counterpart to fake populism.... Headlines that repeat Trump claims about jobs saved, without conveying the essential fakeness of those claims, are a betrayal of journalism." (Emphasis added.) -- CW ...

... digby: "Weirdly [Trump] hasn't said anything about the fact that his former partner, Macy's announced that it's closing 60 stores with potentially 10,000 layoffs. And Trump's new labor secretary, Andy Puzder's company announced it's laying off fast food workers. But Trump only cares about jobs that are done by big, brawny men in factories. Retail and service jobs don't interest him. Not very sexy. And they employ a lot of young people, women and people of color. Who cares about them?" -- CW

** "The Fifth Avenue Principle." Jonathan Chait: "The cruelest, most condescending, and also devastatingly correct indictment of Donald Trump's supporters was uttered not by a member of the liberal media but by Donald Trump himself, when he mentioned that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose support.... Perhaps no episode has demonstrated the Fifth Avenue Principle more dramatically than the case of the Russian email hack.... What's remarkable about this is not that Trump misstated the facts, but that he presented an alleged delay in the intelligence briefing as evidence that intelligence can't be trusted at the very same time Trump himself had failed to present the briefing he promised the public.... Trump's bizarre lies about Russia and Assange are designed not only to defend the legitimacy of his election but also to prove, once again, that his control over the supple minds of the conservative base is total." CW: Read the whole post. Chait perfectly captures Trump, not to mention the Republican mentality -- see Mitch McConnell quote below -- that IOKIYAR. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Limits of a Big Eraser. Tim Egan: President "Obama leaves office with his highest job approval ratings in four years. Most Americans like him and his policies. Trump will enter office with the lowest transition approval ratings of any president-elect in nearly a quarter-century. About half of all American don't like him, and of course, he got nearly three million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Most of the Trump agenda -- building a wall, cutting taxes on the rich, ramping up oil and gas drilling at the expense of alternative fuels, taking away people's health care -- is opposed by clear majorities. Trump will erase Obama's policy legacy at his peril. What he cannot do is erase the mark of the man -- a measured and rational president, a committed father and husband, who is leaving his country much better off, and the office without a trace of personal scandal." -- CW

Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: "Retired Senator Dan Coats of Indiana is expected to be named the Trump administration's director of national intelligence, according to a Trump transition official. Mr. Coats, a mild-mannered conservative who served on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, would be stepping into a position that some in Mr. Trump's orbit believe is superfluous. Mr. Trump has named a more hard-charging conservative, Representative Mike Pompeo, to be his director of central intelligence." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Daniel Bush of the PBS Newshour: "Vice President Joe Biden urged Donald Trump to 'grow up' on Thursday, criticizing the incoming president's attacks on the U.S. intelligence community and his grasp of health care policy, which is now up for debate on Capitol Hill as Republicans move to undo the Affordable Care Act." -- CW

Former Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) in a Washington Post op-ed: "Trump is telling Americans what he thinks they want to hear: that they can have all their dessert -- consumer protections -- without eating their vegetables -- an individual mandate. This might be an effective rhetorical technique, but it is not the truth. The reality is that such an approach would result in devastation to the health-care system. This prediction isn't based on speculation or unproven economic theory. Republicans already tried Trump's approach in my home state of Washington. The result was a well-documented disaster." See below more links to stories on ObamaCare repeal. -- CW

Meet Your Trump Supporters. German Lopez of Vox: "A new paper by political scientists Brian Schaffner, Matthew MacWilliams, and Tatishe Nteta ... [shows] that voters' measures of sexism and racism correlated much more closely with support for Trump than economic dissatisfaction after controlling for factors like partisanship and political ideology.... The analysis also shows that a bulk of support for Trump -- perhaps what made him a contender to begin with -- came from beliefs rooted in racism and sexism. Specifically, the researchers conclude that racism and sexism explain most of Trump's enormous electoral advantage with non-college-educated white Americans, the group that arguably gave Trump the election.... There's growing evidence that 2016 was unique -- in that racism and sexism played a more powerful role than recent presidential elections.... The concern, then, is that this is the beginning of a modern trend in which politicians like Trump directly and explicitly play into people's prejudices to win elections -- and it works." -- CW ...

... Ned Resnikoff of Think Progress traces the rise of white nationalism in Western countries as a political force. "America's next president ... will be Donald Trump, an authoritarian demagogue who is in thrall to a league of white nationalists. Even before he won the 2016 presidential election, Trump was chipping away at bedrock democratic safeguards by flirting with political violence, casting doubt on the legitimacy of democratic institutions, and undermining the electorate's perception of reality itself.... A new political order is being forged in front of our very eyes, and authoritarian white populists are swinging the hammer.... Unlike the Republican Freedom Caucus or the British Conservative Party, white populists are not beholden to right-wing economic dogma. Their flexibility is what makes them so dangerous." ...

     ... CW: I think Resnikoff overstates the left's culpability or potential vulnerability to the movement, though I don't doubt many of us are more "tribal" than we think we are. For instance, there are gaffes like Joe Biden's "complimenting" Barack Obama in 2007: "you've got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," and Harry Reid's near-contemporaneous remark that Obama was "a black candidate who could be successful thanks in part to his 'light-skinned' appearance and speaking patterns 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'" However, that both men recognized their remarks were racist and apologized for them.

Steven Rosenfeld of AlterNet: "More than 50 Electoral College members who voted for Donald Trump were ineligible to serve as presidential electors because they did not live in the congressional districts they represented or held elective office in states legally barring dual officeholders. That stunning finding is among the conclusions of an extensive 1,000-plus page legal briefing prepared by a bipartisan nationwide legal team for members of Congress who are being urged to object to certifying the 2016 Electoral College results on Friday." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Steven Dennis
of Bloomberg: "Donald Trump promised voters an immediate repeal of Obamacare, but Republicans in Congress likely won't have a bill ready for him on Day One.... Republican leaders will start deploying fast-track procedures Wednesday to get the bill [repealing most of the ACA] through the Senate, but that will require weeks of wrangling, if not longer.... A Republican senator on condition of anonymity said the details of the repeal bill remain very uncertain. Originally, Republicans were planning to simply bring back the bill they put on [President] Obama's desk last year for his veto. But that bill was written knowing it wouldn't become law, and now some Republicans want to make tweaks to soften the blow of repeal. 'Even people who voted for this before are, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, we knew that wasn't going to happen,'" said the senator. 'There were no consequences.' He said there's a growing sense among some of his colleagues that they need to have a replacement for Obamacare ready soon 'because we're going to own this.'" -- CW ...

... Steve Benen: "... Americans have now asked a party that doesn't take public policy seriously, and has little use for substantive work, to be a governing party -- and suddenly, Republicans haven't the foggiest idea what to do. They know they hate 'Obamacare,' but they're less sure why, and even less sure still what to do about it. They're moving forward with a sudden realization that 'consequences' count.... As for the Republicans' alternative to the ACA, they've been promising to unveil such a package since June 2009. That was 90 months ago." -- CW

... Kelsey Snell & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Some of the most conservative members of Congress say they are ready to vote for a budget that would -- at least on paper -- balloon the deficit to more than $1 trillion by the end of the decade, all for the sake of eventually repealing the Affordable Care Act. In a dramatic reversal, many members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus said Thursday they are prepared later this month to support a budget measure that would explode the deficit and increase the public debt to more than $29.1 trillion by 2026, figures contained in the budget resolution itself." -- CW ...

... The TrumpCare (or DontCare -- thanks, Gloria) Appeasers Emerge. Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "With Republican leaders pressing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, possibly within weeks, moderate Senate Democrats reached out on Thursday to Republicans, appealing for them to slow down the repeal efforts and let lawmakers try to find acceptable, bipartisan changes to make the existing law work better.... Democrats have every interest in opening that box as repeal efforts barrel forward, and they would need to peel off only a few Senate Republicans to slow the fast-track repeal movement. A possible pressure point is the effort to end funding for Planned Parenthood in the same measure that guts the health law. Already, that has raised questions about the support of two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska." Among the appeasers, natch, is Chuck Caveman Schumer and Tim Kaine. -- CW

War on Women Kicks into Overdrive. Deidre Walsh of CNN: "House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans will move to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part of the process they are using early this year to dismantle Obamacare. Ryan made the announcement during a news conference on Capitol Hill. Congressional Republicans have tried for years to zero out all federal funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortion services. The issue helped trigger a 16-day government shutdown in 2013, and Democrats and President Barack Obama insisted any provision targeting the group be removed from a bill to fund federal agencies." (Also linked yesterday.)

     ... Akhilleus: Like a low level Mafia errand boy with a chip on his shoulder who suddenly finds himself installed as the Godfather, congressional Confederates are settling scores as quickly as they can, and taking their revenge on all the evil people they've always hated. Like women in need of healthcare, and poor people. ...

... Washington Post Editors: "FIFTEEN MONTHS and nearly $1.6 million later, a Republican-run House panel investigating Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research ended up where it started: with no evidence of wrongdoing. That has not deterred the Republicans from proposing a political agenda so extreme it should scare not only those who care about women's health care but also anyone who values science and its contributions. The GOP majority on the cynically named Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives summed up its work in a 471-page document issued Tuesday that was highlighted by its call to strip all federal funding from Planned Parenthood. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) wasted no time in embracing the recommendation without foundation, announcing Thursday that defunding the women's health organization would be included in the process of dismantling Obamacare. To call the committee's work a report is to give it undue respect. It was drafted in secret with no input from Democrats and released without a public vote.... Republicans in the House will not let themselves be distracted by mere facts." -- CW

Jenna Portnoy & Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker -- down to a $1 -- a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service. The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program. A majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment, but opponents and supporters agree that it puts agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.... The Holman provision was approved Tuesday as part of a larger rules package but received little attention amid the chaos of Republicans' failed effort to decimate the House ethics office on the first day of the new Congress." CW: Sounds unconstitooshunal to me. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Hadas Gold of Politico: "Greta Van Susteren is joining MSNBC, taking over the channel's 6 p.m. time slot with a new show called 'For the Record,' the network announced Thursday. Van Susteren's show will feature both news and analysis, working as a bridge from MSNBC's dayside news shows into its more opinion and analysis-focused primetime. She starts on Jan. 9, and the show will be based out of Washington D.C.... Van Susteren abruptly left Fox News and her 7 p.m. show 'On the Record' in September after 14 years with the network. Brit Hume briefly filled in until the election when Tucker Carlson was named host. On Thursday, Fox News announced Martha MacCallum was taking over the slot, as Carlson would take over the the 9p.m. slot vacated by [Megyn] Kelly." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Jamelle Bouie: "Don't forget Megyn Kelly is a racial demagogue.... In 2010, for example, Kelly devoted hours of coverage to the New Black Panther Party, a small group on the fringe of American politics, because two members of the NBPP were charged with voter intimidation after standing outside of a heavily black polling place in Philadelphia in the 2008 election. Those charges were later dropped, but the incident became the basis for a wide-ranging conspiracy disseminated by conservative writers, websites, and -- most prominently -- Megyn Kelly.... It is misleading to discuss Kelly's work and future without grappling with her willingness, and occasional eagerness, to spread racist conspiracies and racial fictions." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

digby: "I doubt Roger Ailes would have put Tucker Carlson in Megyn Kelly's time slot. But then he was a very successful TV guy who undoubtedly understood why Carlson has been fired from every other network: he's a snotty, smartass jerk. Fox News viewers like grumpy old blowhards (O'Reilly), earnest true believers (Hannity) and hot babes (Kelly.) Carlson annoys everyone but a certain subset of right wing insiders. Interestingly, Carlson has become a Trump booster which is sort of a surprise since he wrote this about him last year: 'About 15 years ago, I said something nasty on CNN about Donald Trump's hair. I can't now remember the context, assuming there was one. In any case, Trump saw it and left a message the next day. 'It's true you have better hair than I do,' Trump said matter-of-factly. 'But I get more pussy than you do." Click.'" -- CW ...

... Maybe Roger Ailes wouldn't have given Carlson the job, but Rupert Murdoch did. Gabriel Sherman of New York: Rupert "Murdoch had personally made the decision to promote Carlson, two senior Fox staffers said. Murdoch is a big Carlson fan, according to sources.... Carlson's promotion is one sign of just how much Murdoch wants to appease Trump, Fox insiders say.... One longtime Murdoch confidante told me the two speak by phone at least three times per week. As I reported Tuesday, at Mar-a-Lago over the holidays Trump criticized Roger Ailes and lavished praise on Murdoch. And Murdoch has told Fox executives that Trump asked him to submit names for FCC commissioner. (A Trump spokesperson denied that.) Murdoch has allowed Sean Hannity to turn his 10 p.m. show into de facto infomercials for Trump." -- CW

Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post on Joe Scarborough's high dudgeon on being spotted at Donald Trump's New Year's Eve party: Scarborough "has an extraordinarily high opinion of himself and his place in the political firmament. Pointing to past relationships between American politicians and journalists, he invoked some of the greats, indirectly comparing himself to Edward R. Murrow, Ben Bradlee and Walter Lippmann.... What's more, Scarborough said, he doesn't really view himself as a journalist -- he prefers the label 'news analyst.' (In the piece, though, he does call himself a 'Republican reporter.' When I asked him about that, he scoffed at those who hide behind a 'veneer of objectivity.')" Via Frank Rich. -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Mark Berman & Derek Hawkins of the Washington Post: "Authorities in Chicago charged four young African Americans with hate crimes Thursday after a video streamed live on Facebook showed a white man under assault from attackers who shouted obscenities about ... Donald Trump and white people. The video, which Chicago's top police officer labeled 'sickening,' quickly went and sparked new arguments over the state of race relations on the eve of a presidential transition." -- CW ...

... Jordan Phelps of ABC News: "President Obama said 'we appear to have seen' a hate crime in the alleged attack on a Chicago man captured on Facebook. 'It's terrible,; he said about the incident, during an interview with ABC affiliate WLS in Chicago.... Though Obama said he thinks race relations have 'gotten better' in the ountry for the most part, he said reports like this show the work still to be done. 'In some ways, we have surfaced tensions that were already there but are getting more attention,' he said. He also said that gun violence in Chicago, his adopted hometown, has been 'a heartbreaking situation to see' and that he is committed to being 'part of the solution' directly and through his presidential center after he leaves the White House." -- CW

Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Republican lawmakers in Texas filed a bill Thursday similar to the controversial law in North Carolina known as HB2 that would keep transgender individuals from using the public restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. The bill, called the Privacy Protection Act, would mandate that people use the bathroom in schools and government buildings that correspond to their 'biological sex' and would bar local governments from enacting ordinances allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice." CW: Not sure a person's "privacy" is "protected" if some official stands at the bathroom door to check out the "parts" of those entering the facility: "Lift your skirt, pull down your panties, & show us your wee-wee, dear. Very cute. Next!"

Way Beyond

The Trump Effect. James Risen & Sheri Fink of the New York Times: "... after ... Donald J. Trump's campaign vows to reinstate the sort of torture used in the Bush-era war on terrorism -- and to fill the Guantánamo Bay prison with 'some bad dudes' -- human rights experts fear that authoritarian regimes around the world will see it as another green light to carry out their own abuses. A return to such 'enhanced interrogation' -- and even to techniques that Mr. Trump has pledged will be 'much worse' -- would also send a powerful message just as nations around the world have begun to examine their own past abuses to ensure that they will not be repeated." -- CW ...

Wednesday
Jan042017

The Commentariat -- January 5, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Steven Rosenfeld of AlterNet: "More than 50 Electoral College members who voted for Donald Trump were ineligible to serve as presidential electors because they did not live in the congressional districts they represented or held elective office in states legally barring dual officeholders. That stunning finding is among the conclusions of an extensive 1,000-plus page legal briefing prepared by a bipartisan nationwide legal team for members of Congress who are being urged to object to certifying the 2016 Electoral College results on Friday." -- CW

Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: "Retired Senator Dan Coats of Indiana is expected to be named the Trump administration's director of national intelligence, according to a Trump transition official. Mr. Coats, a mild-mannered conservative who served on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, would be stepping into a position that some in Mr. Trump's orbit believe is superfluous. Mr. Trump has named a more hard-charging conservative, Representative Mike Pompeo, to be his director of central intelligence." -- CW

Ellen Nakashima & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "The country's top intelligence official said Thursday that Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign consisted of hacking, as well as the spreading of traditional propaganda and 'fake news.' 'Whatever crack, fissure, they could find in our tapestry ... they would exploit it,' said Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on foreign cyberthreats, and especially Russian hacking and interference in the campaign." ...

Matt Flegenheimer & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "Rebuffing efforts by President-elect Donald J. Trump to cast doubt on Russian interference in the presidential election, top intelligence officials and senators from both parties on Thursday issued a forceful affirmation of the findings. They took relentless aim at Mr. Trump's public skepticism and suggested he had negatively affected morale in the intelligence community. 'There's a difference between skepticism and disparagement,' James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said at the hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.... The gathering was extraordinary as much for its context as its content -- a public, bipartisan display of support for the intelligence community that seemed aimed, at times, at an audience of one. Though Mr. Clapper and most Republican senators were careful to avoid antagonizing [Trump] ... directly, the hearing spoke to the searing rift Mr. Trump has threatened to create between the incoming administration and the intelligence officials tasked with informing it." ...

     ... CW: In sum, members of the U.S. Senate & the intelligence community got together & agreed in public that the next president is an ignorant asshole. Things should go very well from here on in.

War on Women Kicks into Overdrive. Deidre Walsh of CNN: "House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans will move to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part of the process they are using early this year to dismantle Obamacare. Ryan made the announcement during a news conference on Capitol Hill. Congressional Republicans have tried for years to zero out all federal funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortion services. The issue helped trigger a 16-day government shutdown in 2013, and Democrats and President Barack Obama insisted any provision targeting the group be removed from a bill to fund federal agencies."

...Akhilleus: Like a low level Mafia errand boy with a chip on his shoulder who suddenly finds himself installed as the Godfather, congressional Confederates are settling scores as quickly as they can, and taking their revenge on all the evil people they've always hated. Like women in need of healthcare, and poor people.

Jenna Portnoy & Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker -- down to a $1 -- a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service. The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program. A majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment, but opponents and supporters agree that it puts agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.... The Holman provision was approved Tuesday as part of a larger rules package but received little attention amid the chaos of Republicans' failed effort to decimate the House ethics office on the first day of the new Congress." CW: Sounds unconstitooshunal to me.

So Many Important Things to Do, So What is Trump Up To? Jonathan Lemire and Brandon Condon of the Washington Post: "President-elect Donald Trump gave a videotaped deposition on Thursday for a lawsuit stemming from a clash with a celebrity restaurateur at his new Washington hotel. It was a rare legal proceeding for a president-elect or sitting president that highlights the legal woes that could follow Trump to the Oval Office. Trump sat for an hour at Trump Tower to give testimony in a lawsuit he filed against Jose Andres after the chef cancelled plans to open a Spanish-themed restaurant at a new Washington hotel. Andres pulled out after Trump, in declaring his candidacy for president, called some Mexican immigrants 'rapists' and said some were bringing drugs and crime to the U.S."

...Akhilleus: Lots more of this to come. So unfair! Expect Confederates, on Trump's orders, to pass a law stating that no one can question the emperor...er...president, about anything, ever. This includes legal depositions. If Trump does it, it can't be illegal. ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Donald Trump was forced to take a time-out Thursday from his frenzied planning for the White House, sitting for a sworn, videotaped deposition in Trump Tower. It's an extraordinary circumstance for any president or president-elect.... And it's hardly Trump's only legal headache. With Trump's swearing-in just days away, many of the high-profile lawsuits that entangled him during the campaign are all but certain to carry on through his inauguration and into his tenure at the White House -- and he will even inherit some new ones. Trump and his companies face scores of pending lawsuits, including cases claiming skimming of tips at his New York SoHo hotel, seeking refunds of millions in membership fees charged by his country club in Jupiter, Florida, and alleging that his security personnel assaulted protesters outside Trump Tower." -- CW

** "The Fifth Avenue Principle." Jonathan Chait: "The cruelest, most condescending, and also devastatingly correct indictment of Donald Trump's supporters was uttered not by a member of the liberal media but by Donald Trump himself, when he mentioned that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose support.... Perhaps no episode has demonstrated the Fifth Avenue Principle more dramatically than the case of the Russian email hack.... What's remarkable about this is not that Trump misstated the facts, but that he presented -an alleged delay in the intelligence briefing as evidence that intelligence can't be trusted at the very same time Trump himself had failed to present the briefing he promised the public.... Trump's bizarre lies about Russia and Assange are designed not only to defend the legitimacy of his election but also to prove, once again, that his control over the supple minds of the conservative base is total." CW: Read the whole post. Chait perfectly captures Trump, not to mention the Republican mentality -- see Mitch McConnell quote below -- that IOKIYAR.

Hadas Gold of Politico: "Greta Van Susteren is joining MSNBC, taking over the channel's 6 p.m. time slot with a new show called 'For the Record,' the network announced Thursday. Van Susteren's show will feature both news and analysis, working as a bridge from MSNBC's dayside news shows into its more opinion and analysis-focused primetime. She starts on Jan. 9, and the show will be based out of Washington D.C.... Van Susteren abruptly left Fox News and her 7 p.m. show 'On the Record' in September after 14 years with the network. Brit Hume briefly filled in until the election when Tucker Carlson was named host. On Thursday, Fox News announced Martha MacCallum was taking over the slot, as Carlson would take over the the 9p.m. slot vacated by [Megyn] Kelly." -- CW

Jamelle Bouie: "Don't forget Megyn Kelly is a racial demagogue.... In 2010, for example, Kelly devoted hours of coverage to the New Black Panther Party, a small group on the fringe of American politics, because two members of the NBPP were charged with voter intimidation after standing outside of a heavily black polling place in Philadelphia in the 2008 election. Those charges were later dropped, but the incident became the basis for a wide-ranging conspiracy disseminated by conservative writers, websites, and -- most prominently -- Megyn Kelly.... It is misleading to discuss Kelly's work and future without grappling with her willingness, and occasional eagerness, to spread racist conspiracies and racial fictions." -- CW

*****

"Make America Sick Again." Thomas Kaplan & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "Congress opened for battle over the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday as Republicans pushed immediately forward to repeal the health care law and President Obama made a rare trip to Capitol Hill to defend it. The bitterness that has long marked the fight intensified as Republicans seized the opportunity to make good on a central campaign promise to get rid of the law, a pledge reinforced on Wednesday by ... Mike Pence, who met with House Republicans not far from where the president gathered with Democrats.... Senator Chuck Schumer of New York..., playing off Mr. Trump's campaign slogan, said repealing the law would 'make America sick again.'... Mr. Trump weighed in with several Twitter posts. He advised that Republicans needed to 'be careful in that the Dems own the failed Obamacare disaster,' and added, 'Don't let the Schumer clowns out of this web.' Mr. Trump predicted that the health care law would 'fall of its own weight.'" -- CW ...

... Juliet Eilperin, et al., of the Washington Post: "Congressional Republicans on Wednesday launched their long-promised effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, even as they acknowledged that they may need several months to develop a replacement along conservative lines. Signifying how enormous a priority the issue is for the incoming administration..., Mike Pence met privately to discuss it with House and Senate Republicans. He offered no details afterward about what a new health-care law might look like but vowed to unwind the existing one through a mixture of executive actions and legislation.... Meanwhile, President Obama made a rare Capitol Hill appearance, meeting behind closed doors with Democrats from both chambers. He urged members of his party not to help the GOP devise a new health-care law." -- CW ...

... Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: "According to our latest estimates, repealing the ACA in its entirety would cost roughly $350 billion through 2027 under conventional scoring and $150 billion using dynamic scoring." Via Paul Waldman. -- CW ...

... New York Times Editors: "After six years of posturing and futile votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans in the Senate have started a process to erase the most important provisions of the health reform law with a simple majority. Millions of Americans are at risk of losing their coverage. Republican opponents of the health care law insist that it has failed, though it has reduced the number of uninsured Americans to the lowest level in history. They say that it has driven up costs, though health care costs have risen at a much slower pace since 2010 than they did in years past. And opponents promise they will somehow make health care cheaper and more readily available, though after all these years of reviling Obamacare they have yet to offer any serious alternative. The reality is that the repeal-at-all-costs crowd is ideologically opposed to any government role in the health care system, though every other advanced economy in the world has embraced some form of government intervention as the only way to manage costs and ensure universal access." -- CW

Josh Marshall of TPM: "A story out in The Wall Street Journal this evening reports that ... Trump and his advisors plan to 'restructure and pare back the nation's top spy agency', the CIA because they believe it and the 'Office of the Director of National Intelligence [have] become bloated and politicized.'... As Sopan Deb of CBS notes, given Trump's past behavior, it is possible that is all a planned leak and that it's all BS - just an effort to get in the CIA's grill because Trump now sees them as a key adversary over the Russian hacking story.... What sounds to be in the offing here thought is not some considered reform but institutional vengeance and the rankest kind of politicization.... You should be worried." The WSJ story, which is firewalled, is here. CW: Read the whole post. You'll be worried. A crazy, vengeful man & his crazy, vengeful sidekicks are about to take over the country. ...

... CW: It's 11:59 pm ET Wednesday, and Donald Trump has not yet told me what he knows about hacking that nobody else knows, even though he promised to fill us in "Tuesday or Wednesday." I'm so-o-o-o disappointed. Luckily, Kevin Drum explains why Trump has let me down, and I'm sorry to say Drum's explanation includes the new era's essential cliché: "Needless to say, Trump is lying." -- CW ...

     ... Michael Schmidt & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump said Tuesday that intelligence officials had delayed briefing him on their conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and suggested, with no evidence, that they might be buying time to assemble a more substantial case.... He posted [his tweet] as senior national security officials -- including the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr. -- were completing plans to travel to New York on Friday to brief him about their findings." Via Kevin Drum. CW: So Dr. James Frankenstein-Comey is about to come face-to-face with the Monster he put in the White House. Interesting. Will the Monster thank his Creator or eat him for lunch?

... David Graham of the Atlantic: "While there is some principled skepticism about attributing the hacks to Russia, Trump's mockery of the intelligence community has not cited specific concerns. And if, as his adviser Kellyanne Conway suggests, Trump is receiving information from other sources, it's unclear why it would be more credible or accurate than that provided by the intelligence community. Moreover, neither Trump's record of being either misinformed or simply uninformed about policy matters foreign and domestic, nor his choice of Mike Flynn, who has a penchant for lending credence to unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, as his national security adviser, provide much reason to believe him over the consensus view of the intelligence community." -- CW

... Donald Trump was not always such a big fan of WikiLeaks as he is today now that Julian Assange is backing Trump's thesis that the Russians did not provide WikiLeaks with Democrats' hacked e-mails. There was a time Trump thought WikiLeaks (which is not, BTW, a person) should get the "death penalty or something." CW BTW: At the end of the 2010 clip, Brian Kilmeade describes Trump as "the next president of the United States." It was a joke then. It's not funny now. ...

... Ben Mathis-Lilly of Salon runs down the "bizarre ongoing" WikiLeaks stories: "Assange is only denying that Russia was the source that passed the email archives on to WikiLeaks. He doesn't appear to have ever unequivocally denied that Russian actors were involved in the original hacking of the accounts." -- CW

Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us. -- John F. Kennedy, September 1061

Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all. -- Donald J. Trump, December 2016

... Jeffrey Frank of the New Yorker: "... when a President-in-waiting uses a tweet or a drive-by cable-television moment to casually kiss off the excruciatingly difficult history of nuclear strategy and international treaties, it raises questions that go beyond policy to competence, and to rationality.... It is worth examining what remedies exist if any President is too careless, inattentive, or impulsive to deal sensibly with questions affecting the nation's survival." So Frank does. The 25th Amendment has a remedy, but it would not cover a situation where a president threatened imminent harm to the country. -- CW

Refilling the Swamp. Leslie Picker of the New York Times: Walter J. [Call me "Jay"] Clayton, whom Donald Trump nominated "to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission..., has spent nearly his entire career in corporate boardrooms. His regulatory experience stems from advising banks on dealings with the government and helping several financial institutions with their settlements related to mortgage securities.... [The nomination sends] a strong signal that financial regulation in the Trump administration will emphasize helping companies raise capital in the public markets over tightening regulation. In contrast, the agency's two chairwomen under President Obama had regulatory or enforcement backgrounds." -- CW ...

... Renae Merle of the Washington Post: "As chairman of the SEC, Clayton would help police many of the same large banks he has spent decades representing, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays. He also would play a key role in Trump's efforts to dismantle parts of 2010's financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Act.... The nomination immediately drew rebuke from progressive groups, which have been critical of Trump's track record of nominating Wall Street insiders for high-level positions, despite being critical of the industry during the presidential campaign.... According to the biography..., Clayton has not held any government positions and has never served as a prosecutor." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post advises news outlets on how to report Trump's tweets. "It's Twitter. It's not really real.... Part of reckoning with a future in which a president is going to impulsively tweet is understanding that you, as a reporter, were not in the room to confirm that event. Thus, you should treat Twitter as a matter that requires confirmation.... It's the same job you perform running down a rumor, or following up on something a source ― even a trusted source! ― mentioned. The mere fact that it's published as a tweet doesn't change this.... As an added bonus: You'll be sending a message to the incoming administration that you're not going to be its Twitter stenographer." -- CW

** Brian Beutler: "In deed if not word, Republicans are demonstrating that they regard both deficits and graft as vices to be enjoyed during periods of GOP rule, then become hypocritically outraged about from the wilderness.... Now that Obama is on his way out, Republicans have pivoted again ... from making a federal case out of Hillary Clinton's emails to embracing undisguised kleptocracy. Since winning the presidency in November, Trump has engaged in a spree of bribe-seeking, self-enrichment, and trading off the presidency never seen before at the highest level of U.S. politics. He has escaped widespread rebuke thanks entirely to the congressional GOP's determination to pretend Trump's entanglements are all completely normal.... It is widely believed that the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, and the bursting of the housing bubble drove the collapse of the Bush GOP. This ... glosses over the extent to which cronyism and corruption contributed in well-documented ways to each of those fiascos.... When Republicans fail to deliver [their promised good times], corruption will become a symbol of their failure. It will be their undoing." -- CW ...

Apparently there's yet a new standard now to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate and we'll be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it. -- Mitich McConnell, on Capitol Hill Wednesday

Sarah Halzack of the Washington Post: "Department store giant Macy's said Wednesday that it plans to slash more than 10,000 jobs and will close its location at Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Va., as part of a previously announced plan to shutter 100 of its 730 stores nationwide, a coda to a disappointing holiday season. Early evidence suggests that the retail industry pulled down a solid holiday sales haul this year: Consumer confidence is high, growth in online spending was robust in December, and a blast of cold weather encouraged people to get shopping. And yet Macy's struggled to get a piece of the action.... Macy's stock sank more than 10 percent in after-hours trading." CW: Tweet me this, Donald: why didn't you save those Macy's jobs? After all, its flagship store is right down the avenue from your place. Also, too, Macy's fired your ass.

"Let the Liberals Sleep in." Robert Leonard, in a New York Times op-ed, with a good deal of help from former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), explains the "philosophy" of rural Americans, which he thinks explains why the rubes still believe Trump will make America great again. CW: Leonard & Watts' view is more simplistic than what we know; for instance, he leaves out the scapegoating that comes with rural resentment, & he leaves out an important aspect of their fundamentalist view which is at the heart of Hillary's Mistake: she didn't account for Country Jesus, who has a part-time job forgiving Donald for his bad behavior.

Beyond the Border

Azam Ahmed & Elisabeth Malkin of the New York Times: Donald "Trump made questioning the virtues of Nafta a centerpiece of his campaign..., and he has not slowed down since his election.... His argument has driven the narrative that where the American worker lost, the Mexican economy gained. But ... in Mexico, there is an increasing belief that Nafta, despite drawing an enormous amount of investment to the country, has been a big disappointment.... Mexico's economy has grown an average of just 2.5 percent a year under Nafta, a fraction of what was needed to provide the jobs and prosperity its supporters promised. More than half of Mexicans still live below the poverty line, a proportion that remains unchanged from 1993, before the deal went into effect. Wages in Mexico have stagnated for more than a decade.... In part, Nafta's failure to achieve its potential falls on the Mexican government's shoulders, experts say." -- CW

News Ledes

CNN: "A young woman who broadcast the beating and racial taunting of a man on Facebook Live has been arrested with three others in connection with the gruesome attack, Chicago police said Wednesday. The disturbing 30-minute video shows a man tied up and his mouth covered, cowering in the corner of a room. His attackers laugh and shout 'f*ck Donald Trump' and 'f*ck white people' as they kick and punch him. The video shows someone cutting into his scalp with a knife, leaving a visibly bald patch. -- CW ...

... German Lopez of Vox has more on the attack & its implications. -- CW

Tuesday
Jan032017

The Commentariat -- January 4, 2017

CW Wimp-out Reminder: The new Congress has been sworn in, and Barack Obama did not recess-appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court or any judges to lower courts. Update: See also Margaret Hartmann's post, linked below.

The President & the pipsqueak. David Smith & Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Barack Obama and ... Mike Pence will have a showdown on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as the gloves come off in the fight over US healthcare. The president will address House and Senate Democrats over how to counter Donald Trump's stated objective of repealing the Affordable Care Act.... Pence, meanwhile, will address a meeting with House Republicans and attend a lunch with their Senate counterparts." CW: See more on ObamaCare in posts by Jonathan Cohn, Dylan Matthews & Nancy LeTourneau, linked below.

Helena Andrews-Dyer of the Washington Post: "President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host a goodbye party for close friends and major donors Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the marquee affair." -- CW

Trump, Hannity  Assange. Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "... Donald Trump early Wednesday highlighted Julian Assange's claim that Russia was not the source for stolen documents WikiLeaks released in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election. 'Julian Assange said "a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta" - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!' Trump wrote on Twitter.... Assange maintained during an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity late Tuesday that the documents did not come from Russia." -- CW

Trump Hatches New Conspiracy Theory. (Because Today Is a Day Ending in "y.") John Wagner of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday night to say that a planned intelligence briefing for him on 'so-called "Russian-hacking" had been delayed until Friday, a development he called 'very strange!' The tweet was the latest sign of Trump's skepticism about a case pressed by the Obama administration, based on the work of U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, that Russia tried to influence the U.S. presidential election by hacking Democratic email accounts, among other actions.... In his tweet on Tuesday night, Trump speculated that the reason for the delay of his briefing until Friday was 'perhaps more time to build a case.'" -- CW ...

     ... Oh. Not a Conspiracy Theory; Just Another Trump Lie. The WashPo story has been updated with Greg Miller added to the byline: "A U.S. official disputed that there had been any delay in delivering the briefing that Trump requested on Russia, saying that high-level U.S. intelligence officials are scheduled to meet with the president-elect in New York on Friday. The official said that Trump did receive a regular intelligence briefing on Tuesday.... The fuller briefing on Russia's alleged election hacking was never scheduled to occur Tuesday, and that plans for a fuller Friday briefing have been in place for several days." Emphasis added. CW: My thanks to the "unnamed official" who spoke to the Post. It appears that post-Obama, Washington will become a sieve again, this time out of necessity to get out reports that somewhat approximate the truth.

Neal Boudette of the New York Times with the Trumpy report: "Ford Motor said on Tuesday that it was canceling plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico and would instead invest $700 million to increase production in Michigan. Ford had come under heavy criticism from Donald J. Trump during the election campaign for plans to expand production in Mexico. But at a news conference on Tuesday, Ford's chief executive, Mark Fields, said the company was optimistic that Mr. Trump and the new Republican-controlled Congress would pursue growth policies that will strengthen American competitiveness in manufacturing. Mr. Fields said that confidence, and a desire to maximize use of existing plants, had prompted the decision to expand a factory in Flat Rock, Mich., for electric and hybrid vehicles. The announcement bought cheers from the hundreds of workers in the audience at the news conference, held at the Flat Rock plant.... Ford's unexpected news came hours after Mr. Trump turned his sights on General Motors." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ylan Mui & Steve Overly of the Washington Post with the reality report: "... Donald Trump reiterated Tuesday his threat to impose punitive new tariffs on imports, singling out General Motors for assembling some of its Chevrolet Cruze models in Mexico and selling them in the United States.... Ford CEO Mark Fields told employees Tuesday that the company has canceled plans to invest $1.6 billion in a new plant in Mexico, instead funneling a little less than half of that amount into producing electric and self-driving vehicles at facilities in Michigan and Illinois. The move is expected to create 700 jobs at a plant in Flat Rock, Mich., Fields said. But at the same time, Ford also announced plans to expand production at a separate facility in Mexico.... At Ford, Joseph Hinrichs, president of Ford in the Americas, said the decision to produce the newly announced cars in the United States was made recently and without consulting people connected to Trump.... Since his election, [Trump] has attempted to claim credit for saving or creating thousands of U.S. jobs, but the details of the deals are not so straightforward." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Don't Thank Trump. Daniel Gross of Slate: "Ford's announcement is primarily a response to market forces that have been underway for years. And it is inspired in part by explicit policies of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations -- the fruits of which Trump will almost certainly take credit for." Gross explains past policies & incentives that encourage Ford to manufacture in the U.S. cars made for the U.S. market. CW: Sure enough, Trump soon falsely claimed credit for the Ford decision -- see Appelbaum's report below. ...

** Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Paul Waldman: "... we can trust almost nothing that comes out of the mouth of the man who is about to be president of the United States.... Trump ... [has engendered] an entirely new genre of story, which comes down to 'Trump Tweets Thing.' Since he hasn't held a press conference since July and may never hold one again, reporters are left with his Twitter feed as almost the only source of presidential communication. So they write entire stories about tweets he sends, often without the context that would allow audiences to understand how ludicrous so much of what he claims is.... When he [makes false claims], it's incumbent upon the media to provide context -- not in the 14th paragraph of a story, but right up top, along with whatever claim Trump is making.... His spin has to be reported, but his spin doesn't have to be adopted." CW: Read the whole column; Waldman makes an important point as he expertly skewers Trump.

The Presidency as Cash Cow. Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "The top items on [Donald Trump]'s policy checklist -- from rewriting the tax code to scrapping Wall Street regulations to repealing Obamacare -- have for years been Republican orthodoxy. But Trump could see a direct benefit to muscling through broad tax cuts and eliminating regulations: billions of dollars in new savings for him and his family and fresh revenue for his business portfolio, according to a Politico analysis of Trump's public statements and financial disclosures and interviews with tax experts. 'It's kind of unprecedented that a president would be proposing tax and regulatory changes that have such a significant benefit to him and his family and presumably his business partners as well,' said Leslie Samuels, a tax attorney and former senior Clinton administration Treasury official. 'It's a combination of changes that have a potential for a material benefit of a large magnitude.'" -- CW

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump on Tuesday named as his chief trade negotiator a Washington lawyer [-- Robert Lighthizer --] who has long advocated protectionist policies.... Mr. Trump also renewed his episodic campaign to persuade American companies to expand domestic manufacturing, criticizing General Motors via Twitter on Tuesday morning for making in Mexico some of the Chevrolet Cruze hatchbacks it sells domestically. Hours later, Mr. Trump claimed credit after Ford said CW

Liam Stack of the New York Times: "Protesters from the N.A.A.C.P., including its national president [Cornell Brooks], were arrested on Tuesday after an hourslong sit-in at the Mobile, Ala., office of Senator Jeff Sessions, where they demanded that he withdraw his name from consideration as ... Donald J. Trump's attorney general. Almost two dozen civil rights activists occupied the office around 11 a.m. to denounce what they called the senator's 'hostile' attitude toward civil rights and the Voting Rights Act, which was weakened by a Supreme Court decision in 2013." -- CW ...

... Liar, Liar. Gerald Hebert, Joseph Rich & William Yeomans in a Washington Post op-ed: "Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions is trying to mislead his Senate colleagues, and the country, into believing he is a champion for civil rights.... In the questionnaire he filed recently with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions (R-Ala.) listed four civil rights cases among the 10 most significant that he litigated 'personally' as the U.S. attorney for Alabama during the 1980s. Three involved voting rights, while the fourth was a school desegregation case. Following criticism for exaggerating his role, he then claimed that he provided 'assistance and guidance' on these cases. We worked in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. He did what any U.S. attorney would have had to do: He signed his name on the complaint, and we added his name on any motions or briefs. That's it." ...

     ... CW: There is no "penalty of perjury" clause on the questionnaire, but Sessions did sign an affidavit, appended to it, swearing that to the best of his knowledge the information provided was true & accurate. Can we really have as the country's chief law enforcement officer a person who blatantly lies in his application for the job, then swears an oath he was truthful? Apparently, the answer will be 'yes." ...

... This Is Remarkable. Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "A group of more than 1,100 law school professors from across the country is sending a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general. The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions on Jan. 10-11." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

David Dayen, in the Intercept: "OneWest Bank, which Donald Trump's nominee for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, ran from 2009 to 2015, repeatedly broke California's foreclosure laws during that period, according to a previously undisclosed 2013 memo from top prosecutors in the state attorney general's office. The memo obtained by The Intercept alleges that OneWest rushed delinquent homeowners out of their homes by violating notice and waiting period statutes, illegally backdated key documents, and effectively gamed foreclosure auctions. In the memo, the leaders of the state attorney general's Consumer Law Section said they had 'uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct' in a yearlong investigation.... They identified over a thousand legal violations in the small subsection of OneWest loans they were able to examine, and they recommended that Attorney General Kamala Harris file a civil enforcement action against the Pasadena-based bank.... But Harris's office, without any explanation, declined to prosecute the case." Via Paul Waldman. CW: Harris, a Democrat, was sworn in Tuesday as the junior U.S. Senator for California. ...

... Zachary Warmbrodt of Politico: "A progressive advocacy group is launching a television ad campaign designed to pressure Republican Sens. Dean Heller and Jeff Flake to oppose Steven Mnuchin's nomination as Treasury secretary. The ads, paid for by the group Allied Progress, are scheduled to begin airing Wednesday in the senators' home states of Nevada and Arizona. The TV spots highlight the money Mnuchin made running the bank OneWest, which has been under heavy scrutiny for its foreclosure practices. Nevada and Arizona were hammered by the foreclosure crisis." -- CW

The High Price of a Gummit Job. Anthony Adragna of Politico: "... ExxonMobil announced late Tuesday it had reached an agreement with secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson over the hundreds of millions of dollars he's owed from the company. Under the deal that Exxon said was developed with ethics regulators to comply with conflict of interest requirements that Tillerson sever all ties with the company, the former chairman and CEO would see the value of the more than 2 million deferred shares that he is owed put into an independently managed trust, and the share awards would be canceled. At current market prices, those shares are worth more than $180 million. And Tillerson committed to sell the more than 600,000 Exxon share he currently owns, which are currently valued at nearly $55 million." Tillerson would lose more than $7 million currently due him in cash bonuses & stock value. -- CW

Apprentice Wash-out Is Trump's Most Experienced New Hire. Jen Kirby of New York: "Omarosa Manigault, who got fired by Donald Trump on various versions of The Apprentice, is apparently qualified enough to work in the Trump White House. The Associated Press reports that Manigault -- who was in charge of African-American outreach for Trump's campaign, and worked on the president-elect's transition team -- is joining the administration, possibly in a public-engagement role. Omarosa actually does have White House experience; though weird to think about now, she worked in Vice-President Al Gore's office during the Clinton administration." CW: I'm guessing it will be her job to order visitors on Trump's enemies list to bow down to him, a nicety she forecast during the campaign.

The Art of Double-Speak. Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post: "Kellyanne Conway was on television Tuesday morning, talking about Obamacare in a way that could signal differences between ... Donald Trump and congressional Republicans ― or that could mean nothing at all. During an appearance on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe,' Conway, a key Trump adviser, said that simultaneously repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act ― rather than repealing it first ― is 'the ideal situation. Let's see what happens practically. Some experts say it could take years to complete the process.' Conway also said that 'We don't want anyone who currently has insurance to not have insurance.' During a separate interview on CNBC, she went out of her way to note that the health care law had done 'some good things.'" As Conway was speaking, Trump tweeted, "People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn't work, and it is not affordable - 116% increases (Arizona). Bill Clinton called it 'CRAZY'" -- CW ...

     ... From Paul Waldman's column, linked above: "As we try to figure out what's going on, even Trump's closest aides can't really be trusted to tell us what he's thinking or what he'll do, not because they're necessarily lying in a particular moment (they may or may not be) but because even if they're telling the truth as they believe it right then, Trump may contradict them or take another position within hours or even minutes." Waldman was not writing about this particular contradictory tweet, BTW.

Donny Short Fingers Hosts Joey No Socks. Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Donald Trump rang in 2017 at a New Year's Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago estate with Joseph Cinque -- reportedly a convicted felon who goes by the nickname 'Joey No Socks'.... Cinque runs the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, a company whose primary action is to bestow Star Diamond awards, 'the most prestigious award of true excellence in hospitality', according to its website. Often on the receiving end of these coveted awards: Trump.... A New York Magazine profile from April 1995 described Cinque as a 'small-time mobster, a scam artist and an art fence' who 'used to be friends with John Gotti' -- the former boss of the Gambino crime family.... The profile says [Cinque] was arrested in 1989 on felony charges when police retrieved a 'gallery's worth of stolen art from his apartment'." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... How Far We Have Fallen. CW: At least Jack Kennedy had A-list mobster friends. Joey No Socks?? Geez.

Abby Philip of the Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush announced Tuesday that they would attend Donald Trump's inauguration later this month. And Trump's former rival, Hillary Clinton, and former president Bill Clinton also will attend the ceremony, according to their spokesmen.... Former president Jimmy Carter was the only other living president who [previously] had agreed to be present." CW: So does that mean some dead presidents will be suited up & placed near the podium?


Robert Costa
, et al., of the Washington Post: "A day of pageantry to open the 115th Congress and usher in a new period of Republican governance was overtaken Tuesday by an embarrassing reversal on ethics oversight, with the GOP gripped by internal division and many lawmakers seeking to shield themselves from extensive scrutiny.... Angry constituents inundated their representatives' offices with calls of protest. Journalists peppered lawmakers with questions. The halls of the Capitol felt chaotic.... The [Republican] leaders called an emergency meeting of Republican House members in the Capitol basement.... House Republicans have not abandoned an OCE overhaul entirely, but any changes are being put off until later in the year." -- CW ...

... Never Mind. Eric Lipton & & Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from ... Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration. The reversal came less than 24 hours after House Republicans, meeting in a secret session, voted, over the objections of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to eliminate the independent ethics office. It was created [CW: by Democrats! but don't mention that, gentlemen] in 2008 in the aftermath of a series of scandals involving [CW: Republican, but don't mention that, gentlemen] House lawmakers, including three who were sent to jail." Trump wrote in two tweets, "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it ........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!" CW: In other words, secretly gut ethics reform, but later. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "Majorities in Congress often overreach, but usually not on the very first day.... Deluged by angry phone calls and bad headlines, chagrined Republican officials say they were well on their way to abandoning the ethics revisions adopted Monday night in a closed-door party meeting before Mr. Trump weighed in via Twitter and suggested that the overhaul shouldn't be a top priority.... House Republicans might have amusedly applauded Mr. Trump's cutting tweets when they were aimed at the news media and other common foes, but they found them measurably less funny when the criticisms were directed their way, raising alarms among Republicans about his power to corral them via social media." -- CW ...

... Trump to House: Don't Waste My Time on Your Pet Projects. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "What's most telling about Trump's tweet, and the possible source of the congressmen's confusion, is that Trump is not objecting to the idea of 'weakening' the watchdogs; he is just annoyed that the congressional Republicans are doing it on what he considers to be his time. They don't have their priorities straight. This is not an office that would ever go after him, so why are they wasting his political capital crippling it?... One mystery of all this is how the Republicans could have been so foolish -- so conspicuous -- given the populist rhetoric they themselves benefitted from in the past election. But when politicians become too used to saying things that they don't believe, it becomes easy for them to forget that members of the public might actually be dismayed. And if they thought that Trump would cover for them..., the picture is that much more pathetic. (Chris Christie, now slumping in his office in Trenton, seems to have believed that, too.)" -- CW ...

     ... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Greg Sargent: As usual, many MSM "headlines and tweets create a highly misleading impression. Any casual reader would come away from them convinced that Trump had taken a position in the underlying dispute that is counter to that of House Republicans who sought to gut the office -- that he had criticized Republicans for the act of weakening ethics oversight. But that just did not happen. Trump spokesman [Sean] Spicer confirmed that as clearly as you could want: 'It's not a question of strengthening or weakening.'... The [headlines'] implication that [Trump] struck a blow for the cause of good government is itself deeply misleading, particularly at a time when Trump is under intense fire for failing to take his own conflicts of interest seriously." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Simon Maloy of Salon: "Trump's position on [the House's dead-of-night, secret-vote gutting of the ethics oversight board] was clear. He didn't have a problem with Republicans going after the 'unfair' OCE, he just mildly suggested that maybe it shouldn't have been the first thing on the agenda. (That critique doesn't actually make much sense, given that it was part of the rules package that the House typically passes as its first order of business.) One of Trump's senior advisers went on television to defend the House GOP's proposed change as part of its electoral 'mandate.' But ... the political media tripped all over themselves to be the first to inaccurately report that Trump and the House GOP were at odds over ethics.... It got worse once word came down that House Republicans had backtracked.... The press scrambled to give credit for the shift to Trump.... Without even having to go through the motions of claiming victory for himself, Donald Trump emerged as the hero of this story and, against all available evidence, a force for ethics in Washington." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce wrote what turned out to be a pretty funny liveblog of Developing Twists! in the House ha-ha-ethics saga. -- CW

Dylan Matthews of Vox: "The new Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, and the first thing it did was prepare to repeal Obamacare. Senate Budget Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY) introduced a budget resolution Tuesday that includes 'reconciliation instructions; that enable Congress to repeal Obamacare with a simple Senate majority. Passing a budget resolution that includes those instructions will mean that the legislation can pass through the budget reconciliation process, in which bills cannot be filibustered.... According to the Wall Street Journal, the budget resolution could be passed by both houses as early as next week.... Passing the budget resolutions does not itself repeal Obamacare. But it's the necessary first step.... The human consequences of this legislation are immense. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would rip insurance away from 22 million people, mostly people getting coverage from the Medicaid expansion and who rely on subsidies in the insurance marketplaces." -- CW ...

... digby: "Oh, and by the way, they don't think employers should be required to offer health insurance either. So, if they decide it's too expensive, it's really it's all about begging from your neighbors. After all, if you get sick when you aren't rich, it's really your fault right? This is immoral. But then so are they." -- CW ...

... CW: If you read Kevin Drum's post, you'll see how confederates are casting the GOP's ObamaCare "revenge" vote: by just making up shit. Post-truth? Youbetcha. Either the National Review's David French is genuinely ignorant, or he has -- even though he considered running against Trump -- adopted Trump's modus operandi: lie and lie again. ...

... Promises, Promises. Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly: "House Speaker Paul Ryan [said] to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: the Republican approach will make sure that 'no one is left out in the cold' and 'no one is worse off.'" LeTourneau lists the most obvious benefits people derive from ObamaCare. It's a long list. "If Republicans are to keep their promise that 'no one will be worse off,' they will have to develop a replacement that at least accomplishes all of those things. I have two responses to that: (1) We're going to hold you accountable for your promises, and (2) Good luck with that!" -- CW

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "House Republicans on Tuesday changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, a move that will make it easier for members of the new Congress to cede federal control of public lands. The provision, included as part as a larger rules package the House approved by a vote of 233 to 190 during its first day in session, highlights the extent to which some congressional Republicans hope to change longstanding rules now that the GOP will control the executive and the legislative branches starting Jan. 20.... Many Democrats argue that these lands should be managed on behalf of all Americans, not just those living nearby, and warn that cash-strapped state and local officials might sell these parcels to developers." -- CW

Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "House Republicans adopted new rules on Tuesday to slap hefty fines on lawmakers who take photos or video on the chamber floor, a move meant to deter Democrats from staging a protest similar to last year's anti-gun-violence sit-in. The new rules enforce a previously existing prohibition on taking pictures or video on the House floor. Lawmakers of both parties routinely ignored the rules over the years and snapped photos at big events such as the State of the Union address and speeches from foreign leaders. Members didn't try to hide the violations and frequently even posted the photos on social media. Yet they never faced consequences for breaking the photography rules." -- CW

Sarah Wire of the Los Angeles Times: Only a few Democrats defected from Nancy Pelosi during the House Speaker election, thus overwhelmingly choosing her as Minority Leader. -- CW ...

... Matt Flegenheimer: "Speaker Paul D. Ryan was re-elected to another term by the House on Tuesday, retaining the gavel as Republicans prepared to reverse reams of Obama administration policies in an era of unified Republican government." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially won his effort to deny President Obama another Supreme Court pick on Tuesday at noon, when U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland's nomination expired.... But ... in an interview with Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night, [Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer said Trump's nominee will only be confirmed if he finds someone who appeals to both Republicans and Democrats -- and he said that's 'hard for me to imagine.' When asked if that means he's open to leaving the ninth seat open indefinitely, Schumer said, 'Absolutely.'" CW: I'll believe it when I see it, Caveman. ...

... Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker: "... Donald Trump will soon announce his nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Once he does, we'll know within just a few hours whether there is any chance that the Senate will reject his choice. That's because the politics of Supreme Court appointments operates at the speed of the modern news media, not at the stately pace of the Justices' deliberations.... When the President's party controls the Senate (as is now the case), it's extremely difficult to stop any nomination.... If [Democrats] greet Trump's nomination with politely stern vows of serious consideration and rigorous questioning at a hearing, confirmation will be nearly a certainty. If, instead, the senators break out the incendiary rhetoric..., then the new President may have a fight on his hands." -- CW

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The Democratic National Committee is building a 'war room' to battle ... Donald Trump, pressure the new Republican administration on a variety of policy matters and train a spotlight on Russia's alleged cyberattacks to influence the 2016 election. The DNC's new communications and research operation, to be staffed by former aides to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, will be one of several efforts from across the Democratic firmament to take on Trump, including the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Center for American Progress and American Bridge.... Key priorities for the new DNC war room will be to shine a spotlight on Trump's conflicts of interest with his business enterprises as well as on Russia's alleged interference during last year's campaign." -- CW

Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "CNN will hold a town hall featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) next week, the network announced early Wednesday. Anchor Chris Cuomo is set to moderate the event Monday at 9 p.m. Cuomo said the town hall will focus on the 'major issues facing our nation and how Democrats plan to take on the president-elect.' Sanders has pledged to fight ... Donald Trump on issues such as climate change, pharmaceutical pricing and Medicare." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Megyn Kelly, a star host at Fox News whose profile soared after a feud with Donald Trump, will leave the network for a prominent role at NBC News. Kelly will host a daytime news and discussion program, anchor a Sunday-night newsmagazine show and be featured in NBC's political programming and other big-event coverage, NBC said Tuesday.... Fox News had sought to keep Kelly...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Fox "News" Will Still Be Fox "News." Gabriel Sherman of New York: "... one thing Fox insiders are in agreement on is that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative. In the wake of [Roger] Ailes's ouster, some media observers speculated that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wanted to reposition Fox to the center, bringing it more in line with his moderate political views. But the selection of a pro-Trump host to fill Kelly's slot would suggest that Fox is instead doubling down on its right-wing politics and planning to align itself with the new administration. After initially being hostile to Trump, Murdoch has made moves to curry favor with ... [Trump]. Fox insiders told me that Murdoch personally named pro-Trump anchor Tucker Carlson to replace Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: New York "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a plan Tuesday morning to offer free tuition at state colleges to hundreds of thousands of middle- and low-income New Yorkers, seizing on a popular liberal talking point on the eve of national Republican ascension. Under the governor's plan, any college student who has been accepted to a state or city university in New York -- including two-year community colleges -- will be eligible provided they or their family earn $125,000 or less annually. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, unveiled his proposal at an event at LaGuardia Community College in Queens alongside Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who had sought their party's presidential nomination with a similar stance last year, arguing that student debt was crippling the prospects of generations of young Americans." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: It's worth remembering that isn't a startling socialist plan to overthrow government as we know it. Many, if not most, states offered free tuition at state institutions to all in-state students, regardless of income, in the 1960s. ...

... Education for Middle-Class Kids, Yes(/Vote-getter); Public Defense for the Poor, Nah. Jessica Opatich of WSHU/NPR: "Suffolk County is one of five counties in New York where the state funds legal services for the poor. On Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have extended state funding to all 62 counties. Cuomo called the bill a 'backdoor attempt to shift costs from the county to the state.'" Via Charles Pierce, who comments. Acerbically.-- CW

Richard Winton & Hailey Branson-Potts of the Los Angeles Times: "Mass murderer Charles Manson was taken from a Central Valley prison to a hospital for an undisclosed medical issue, two sources ... said. One of the sources said Manson was seriously ill but could not provide specific information. Officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation declined to comment, citing federal and state laws and saying inmates' medical information is private." -- CW

Way Beyond

Hoist with His Own Petard? Isabel Kershner & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "... after a nighttime visit by police investigators who read him his rights before asking him if he was corrupt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now faces a new kind of challenge.... Abraham Diskin, a political scientist ... who has advised Mr. Netanyahu, said on Tuesday that it was 'not very clear that Netanyahu is going to escape some kind of indictment.' And 'once there is an indictment,' Professor Diskin added, 'he will have to resign.' Details of the case are vague. "... Months of multiple inquiries have centered on issues involving 'moral integrity' -- a term that legal experts said could include suspicions of breach of trust, conflict of interest and bribery." -- CW

Isabel Kershner: "An Israeli soldier was found guilty of manslaughter by a military court on Wednesday for shooting a Palestinian assailant in the head as he lay wounded on the ground, laying down a decisive marker in a case that has polarized Israelis and rocked the pedestal on which the military normally stands.... The verdict in the case of Sgt. Elor Azaria was handed down in a special court inside the walled and heavily guarded compound of the military's headquarters in the Tel Aviv city center, to keep demonstrators at bay. Video footage showed Sergeant Azaria smiling as he entered the courtroom to applause.... Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the compound, shouting slogans like 'free the boy,' and they could be heard inside the courtroom. During a reading of the verdict that went on for more than two and a half hours, the military judge, Col. Maya Heller, systematically and resoundingly rejected all of the main points of the soldier's defense...." -- CW

Monday
Jan022017

The Commentariat -- January 3, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Never Mind. Eric Lipton & & Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from ... Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration. The reversal came less than 24 hours after House Republicans, meeting in a secret session, voted, over the objections of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to eliminate the independent ethics office. It was created [CW: by Democrats! but don't mention that, gentlemen] in 2008 in the aftermath of a series of scandals involving [CW: Republican, but don't mention that, gentlemen] House lawmakers, including three who were sent to jail." Trump wrote in two tweets, "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it ........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!" CW: In other words, secretly gut ethics reform, but later. ...

     ... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Greg Sargent: As usual, many MSM "headlines and tweets create a highly misleading impression. Any casual reader would come away from them convinced that Trump had taken a position in the underlying dispute that is counter to that of House Republicans who sought to gut the office -- that he had criticized Republicans for the act of weakening ethics oversight. But that just did not happen. Trump spokesman [Sean] Spicer confirmed that as clearly as you could want: 'It's not a question of strengthening or weakening.'... The [headlines'] implication that [Trump] struck a blow for the cause of good government is itself deeply misleading, particularly at a time when Trump is under intense fire for failing to take his own conflicts of interest seriously." -- CW

Matt Flegenheimer: "Speaker Paul D. Ryan was re-elected to another term by the House on Tuesday, retaining the gavel as Republicans prepared to reverse reams of Obama administration policies in an era of unified Republican government." -- CW

Neal Boudette of the New York Times with the Trumpy report: "Ford Motor said on Tuesday that it was canceling plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico and would instead invest $700 million to increase production in Michigan. Ford had come under heavy criticism from Donald J. Trump during the election campaign for plans to expand production in Mexico. But at a news conference on Tuesday, Ford's chief executive, Mark Fields, said the company was optimistic that Mr. Trump and the new Republican-controlled Congress would pursue growth policies that will strengthen American competitiveness in manufacturing. Mr. Fields said that confidence, and a desire to maximize use of existing plants, had prompted the decision to expand a factory in Flat Rock, Mich., for electric and hybrid vehicles. The announcement bought cheers from the hundreds of workers in the audience at the news conference, held at the Flat Rock plant.... Ford's unexpected news came hours after Mr. Trump turned his sights on General Motors." -- CW ...

... Ylan Mui & Steve Overly of the Washington Post with the reality report: "... Donald Trump reiterated Tuesday his threat to impose punitive new tariffs on imports, singling out General Motors for assembling some of its Chevrolet Cruze models in Mexico and selling them in the United States.... Ford CEO Mark Fields told employees Tuesday that the company has canceled plans to invest $1.6 billion in a new plant in Mexico, instead funneling a little less than half of that amount into producing electric and self-driving vehicles at facilities in Michigan and Illinois. The move is expected to create 700 jobs at a plant in Flat Rock, Mich., Fields said. But at the same time, Ford also announced plans to expand production at a separate facility in Mexico.... At Ford, Joseph Hinrichs, president of Ford in the Americas, said the decision to produce the newly announced cars in the United States was made recently and without consulting people connected to Trump.... Since his election, [Trump] has attempted to claim credit for saving or creating thousands of U.S. jobs, but the details of the deals are not so straightforward." -- CW

This Is Remarkable. Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "A group of more than 1,100 law school professors from across the country is sending a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general. The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions on Jan. 10-11." -- CW

Donny Stubby Fingers Hosts Joey No Socks. Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Donald Trump rang in 2017 at a New Year's Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago estate with Joseph Cinque -- reportedly a convicted felon who goes by the nickname 'Joey No Socks'.... Cinque runs the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, a company whose primary action is to bestow Star Diamond awards, 'the most prestigious award of true excellence in hospitality', according to its website. Often on the receiving end of these coveted awards: Trump.... A New York Magazine profile from April 1995 described Cinque as a 'small-time mobster, a scam artist and an art fence' who 'used to be friends with John Gotti' -- the former boss of the Gambino crime family.... The profile says [Cinque] was arrested in 1989 on felony charges when police retrieved a 'gallery's worth of stolen art from his apartment'." -- CW ...

     ... How Far We Have Fallen. CW: At least Jack Kennedy had A-list mobster friends. Joey No Socks?? Geez.

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: New York "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a plan Tuesday morning to offer free tuition at state colleges to hundreds of thousands of middle- and low-income New Yorkers, seizing on a popular liberal talking point on the eve of national Republican ascension. Under the governor's plan, any college student who has been accepted to a state or city university in New York — including two-year community colleges -- will be eligible provided they or their family earn $125,000 or less annually. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, unveiled his proposal at an event at LaGuardia Community College in Queens alongside Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who had sought their party's presidential nomination with a similar stance last year, arguing that student debt was crippling the prospects of generations of young Americans." ...

... CW: It's worth remembering that isn't a startling socialist plan to overthrow government as we know it. Many, if not most, states offered free tuition at state institutions to all in-state students, regardless of income, in the 1960s.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Megyn Kelly, a star host at Fox News whose profile soared after a feud with Donald Trump, will leave the network for a prominent role at NBC News. Kelly will host a daytime news and discussion program, anchor a Sunday-night newsmagazine show and be featured in NBC's political programming and other big-event coverage, NBC said Tuesday.... Fox News had sought to keep Kelly...." -- CW

*****

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "President Obama will give a farewell address next week from Chicago, his hometown, most likely his last chance to defend his legacy directly to the country before Donald J. Trump is sworn in, the White House announced on Monday. The address is set for the evening of Jan. 10 at McCormick Place, a hulking convention center overlooking Lake Michigan. In an email to supporters, Mr. Obama said the speech would give him 'a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here." -- CW

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump contended Monday night that North Korea would not be able to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, despite its claims to the contrary, and berated China for not doing enough to help stop the rogue state's weapons program. Trump's declarations on Twitter came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year's address that the country had reached the 'final stages' of testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States. 'It won't happen!' Trump tweeted." CW: I feel all reassured now. ...

... Simon Denyer of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un have been trading threats this week, while China poses as the mature, reasonable kid on the block.... Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, said the world was 'on the slippery slope of trying to interpret one man's not particularly coherent tweets,' but added that the exchange [between Kim & Trump]] has increased the chances that North Korea could be 'the first crisis out of the box' in the Trump presidency, at least in Asia.... Trump's brash style has been something of a propaganda gift for Beijing." -- CW

Trump's Ignorance Alarms New York Times Editors:* "... Donald Trump has no governing experience, arriving in Washington with so little understanding of the federal government that he thought he would inherit President Obama's White House staff. This naïveté, combined with his advisers' and his party's ideological hostility to government, has led to bizarre moves that have unnerved the federal work force.... The way to engage [workers] is not to target them for their views and belittle the mission of their agencies. That approach invites certain failure." -- CW

     * Variation on a Theme. See yesterday's Commentariat.

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "As Donald Trump prepares to take the presidential oath on Jan. 20, less than half of Americans are confident in his ability to handle a international crisis (46%), to use military force wisely (47%) or to prevent major scandals in his administration (44%). At least seven in 10 Americans were confident in Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in these areas before they took office." CW: Aw, c'mon. Didn't Trump just fix the North Korean ICBM crisis with two tweets? "It won't happen!" Major international crisis resolved. Next! ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve M.: "You probably wouldn't know it from reading the political press, but ... Trump is still strikingly unpopular.... The country isn't rallying around Trump. So why not portray him as wrong-footed from the start, a man who'll struggle to win popular consent for his actions and his policies?" -- CW ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. The Media Can't Handle the Lies. Greg Sargent: "The early returns ... suggest that we in the news media are simply unprepared for the challenges the Trump presidency will pose to us.... News orgs are needlessly helping Trump's use of unverified claims result in precisely the headlines he wants.... It is the nature of Trump's dishonesty -- the volume, ostentatiousness, nonchalance, and imperviousness to correction at the hands of factual reality -- that became the issue.... New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet has ... [pointed] out that we must label Trump's lies as such because he has shown a willingness to go beyond the 'normal sort of obfuscation that politicians traffic in.' Writer Masha Gessen has gone even further, suggesting that Trump's approach to information -- or disinformation -- looks like a hallmark of Putinesque autocratic rule, in which the autocrat is trying to 'assert power over truth itself,' and convey the message that his 'power lies in being able to say what he wants.'" -- CW

CW: Now, here's a chirpy, cheery Politico story that does make me want to guzzle anti-freeze. Caitlin Emma: "There may be a silver lining to the 2016 presidential election for Jeb Bush -- the elevation of his longtime friend, patron and political ally, Betsy DeVos, as education secretary. If DeVos is confirmed by the Senate as most expect, Bush could see his views on education -- repeatedly ridiculed on the campaign trail by Donald Trump -- given new life as she turns their shared vision into national policy." Emma does concede in a few brief lines that "Critics of the 'school choice' movement on the left are as dubious of DeVos as they are of Bush." -- CW

Republicans in the Time of Trump: "Ethics, Schmethics." Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "House Republicans, defying their top leaders, voted Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail. The move to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics was not public until late Monday, when Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change with no advance public notice or debate. In its place, a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review would be set up within the House Ethics Committee, which before the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics had been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers. Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, opposed the measure, aides said Monday night. The full House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the rules, which will last for two years, until the next congressional elections." -- CW ...

... Rachel Bade & John Bresnahan of Politico: "... Monday's effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.... 'Republicans claim they want to "drain the swamp," but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,' snarked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement after news of the secret-ballot vote. 'Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.'" CW: Worth emphasizing: The vote was secret. Josh Marshall, linked below, advises voters to call their Republican Congresscritter & ask how s/he voted.

... Josh Marshall: "in the Spring of 2008 [Democrats] created Office of Congressional Ethics, a congressional oversight office which was independent of the members themselves. The House Ethics Committee is supposed to handle ethics questions. But it's run by members and was generally as good at sweeping ethics issues under the rug as addressing them.... The OCE was able to do a lot of things the Ethics Committee could not.... It was actually a pretty big step in having someone with some actual power keeping an eye on members.... In a sort of kick off to the Trump Era, the House GOP Caucus voted to put the OCE back under the authority of the Ethics Committee.... If wrongdoing is found the newly-neutered OCE can't tell anyone. Awesome.... In other words, the whole thing is a joke.... If the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader really don't want something to happen, they can stop it. They didn't. The vote passed 119 to 74. This is all part of Ryan's 'better way.'" -- CW ...

... OR, as John Cole of Balloon Juice more succinctly puts it, "Democrats fix shit. Republicans burn shit down." -- CW

The Homer Simpson/Republican Plan. Jonathan Chait: "The closer they get to taking action [against ObamaCare], the more clear it becomes to Republicans that their own propaganda has trapped them.... Any plan to replace Obamacare with something 'terrific,' [see Trump, Donald] or even something almost as good as Obamacare, will violate conservative dogma.... Republican health-care plans ... offer threadbare, catastrophic coverage with enormous deductibles. The English, vernacular term for the kind of insurance Republican health-care plans would offer is 'crappy.'... Blowing up Obamacare, and then bringing up a series of small bills in the hope that they add up to something decent is not a strategy. It's what Homer Simpson came up with when he faced a test he knew he couldn't pass.... Repeal-and-delay is the ultimate backhand acknowledgement that the party has no answers.... If Republicans repeal Obamacare without creating a replacement, insurers will ... start canceling plans immediately, and the news will be filled with stories of Americans being thrown off their medication and, in some very real cases, dying.... Most likely..., Republicans never craft a replacement. They repeal Obamacare, but delay the effective date of the repeal, and then Obamacare becomes a 'cliff' that Congress votes to keep extending.... All they can do is promise some better plan lies over a horizon that will never arrive." -- CW

Ellen Nakashima & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "As federal officials investigate suspicious Internet activity found last week on a Vermont utility computer, they are finding evidence that the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility, according to experts and officials close to the investigation.... The Post initially reported incorrectly that the country's electric grid had been penetrated through a Vermont utility." CW: Must be that fat guy in New Jersey.

Politico, Todd Purdum writes an obituary for Clintonism. Purdum has a history with the Clintons. -- CW

Joshua Keating of Slate: "With Russia demonstrating its new clout everywhere from the Black Sea to the Great Lakes, it seemed dangerously out of touch [for President Obama] to depict its manifest power as a paranoid delusion.... What has changed in the past year is that Russia is no longer just defending its interests -- it's expanding them.... Its foreign policy it is acting like a global power broker, and doing so effectively.... The Obama administration and its allies in Europe are clearly aware of Russia's growing influence, but they still seem to expect the bottom to fall out from under Putin.... Obama's dismissive assessments of Russia's domestic situation aren't exactly wrong. The country's economy is built on a flimsy foundation and is overly dependent on energy exports.... What Obama has failed to appreciate is that Russia values its geopolitical position more than its economic security.... What happens next is not clear." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A federal judge refused on Monday to declare Dylann S. Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine black worshipers at a Charleston, S.C., church, incompetent to face the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial.The decision, by Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court, was an unsurprising but crucial echo of a separate ruling in late November, when Judge Gergel said that Mr. Roof did not meet the legal standard to be deemed incompetent." -- CW ...

... Kevin Sack & Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "'I want state that I am morally opposed to psychology,' wrote ... [Dylann Roof, prior to murdering] nine black worshipers at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015. 'It is a Jewish invention, and does nothing but invent diseases and tell people they have problems when they dont.' Mr. Roof, who plans to represent himself when the penalty phase of his federal capital trial begins on Tuesday, apparently is devoted enough to that proposition (or delusion, as some maintain) to stake his life on it. Although a defense based on his psychological capacity might be his best opportunity to avoid execution, he seems steadfastly committed to preventing any public examination of his mental state or background." ...

     ... CW: I'd like to know who the "some" are who don't think Roof's beliefs are delusional. Times reporters themselves go nuts when they bend over backwards like this to be "impartial" or whatever to convicted murderers. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond

Reuters: "Syrian rebel groups announced on Monday that they had decided to freeze any talks about their possible participation in Syrian peace negotiations being prepared by Moscow in Kazakhstan unless the Syrian government and its Iran-backed allies end what it said were violations of a ceasefire.... 'The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations,' said the statement signed by a number of rebel groups. On Saturday the UN security council gave its blessing to the ceasefire deal, which is slated to be followed by peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana." -- CW

Peter Beaumont of the Guardian: "Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was interviewed by detectives investigating whether he broke the law by receiving gifts from wealthy businessmen.... Reports said the questioning lasted around three hours. A police statement after the questioning ended said 'investigators questioned PM Benjamin Netanyahu under caution on suspicion of receiving benefits.' No additional details were initially given." -- CW

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