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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

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Wednesday
Mar012017

The Commentariat -- March 2, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday accused FBI Director James Comey of withholding crucial information about its probe into Russian interference in the election. 'I would say at this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows,' Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters after a briefing with Comey. 'I appreciate we had a long briefing and testimony from the director today, but in order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we're gonna need the FBI to fully cooperate, to be willing to tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting,' Schiff said. 'At this point, the director was not willing to do that.'" -- CW ...

... Words of the Weasel. Kyle Cheney of Politico: "House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that he accepts Attorney General Jeff Sessions' promise to recuse himself if necessary from any federal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 'I think he answered that question this morning which is, if he himself is the subject of an investigation, of course he would,' Ryan said at a Capitol Hill press conference. His remarks come a day after news reports indicated Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016, despite comments to the contrary he made under oath during his confirmation hearing. Ryan also echoed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who has cast doubt on reports that ... Donald Trump's campaign aides were in contact with Russian officials while Moscow was engaged in a hacking and misinformation campaign.... Congress has 'seen no evidence ... that anybody in the Trump campaign or the Trump team was involved in this,' Ryan said." ...

     ... CW: Right. Because GOP stooge Jim Comey is withholding the info from Congress. Wagons circled. ...

... MEANWHILE. The Russia Connection, Junior Edition. Mark Hensch of the Hill: "President Trump's eldest son may have profited off an appearance at an event last fall hosted by a couple aligned with the Russian government on Syria, according to new reporting.Trump's private talks with the pro-Russia figures on Oct. 11 in Paris were reported in November, though new details about the meeting have since emerged. Donald Trump Jr. was likely paid $50,000 for addressing the dinner at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Trump was a guest of the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs, whose president Fabien Baussart and Syrian-born wife Randa Kassis have cooperated with Russia on ending the Syrian civil war, U.S., Arab and European officials told the newspaper." -- CW ...

... Richard Painter, in a New York Times op-ed: Sessions' lying under oath to Congress is "a bombshell of a story. And it's one with a clear and disturbing precedent. In 1972 Richard G. Kleindienst, the acting attorney general, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a confirmation hearing on his nomination by President Richard Nixon to be attorney general.... Democratic senators ... asked Kleindienst several times if he had ever spoken with anyone at the White House about [an] I.T.T. [anti-trust] case. He said he had not. That wasn't true. Later, after Kleindienst was confirmed as attorney general, the special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, and his team uncovered an Oval Office tape recording of a phone call in which Nixon told Kleindiesnt to drop the I.T.T. case.... Jaworski ... filed criminal charges against Kleindienst, who was forced to resign as attorney general. Eventually Kleindienst pleaded guilty to failure to provide accurate information to Congress, a misdemeanor, for conduct that many observers believed amounted to perjury.... In 1972, any federal employee who provided such inaccurate information under oath about communications with the Russians would have been fired and had his or her security clearances revoked immediately, and probably also would have been criminally prosecuted.... President Trump has already fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for misleading Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russians. Misleading the United States Senate in testimony under oath is at least as serious. We do not yet know all the facts, but we know enough to see that Attorney General Sessions has to go as well." -- CW ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "The White House is dismissing calls for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 'There's nothing to recuse himself,' White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview with Fox News that aired late Thursday morning." CW: Obviously, Trump needs Jeffy to run interference for him on the Russia connection. Trump probably thinks it's a good thing that Beauregard himself is implicated. -- CW ...

... Karoun Demirjian, et al., of the Washington Post: "Top Republicans said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from federal investigations of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tweeted early Thursday that 'AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.' Later, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement, 'Jeff Sessions is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the DOJ Russia probe.' House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also initially said during an appearance on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' that Sessions should bow out.... But McCarthy later said his comment had been misinterpreted, telling Fox News' 'Fox and Friends,' 'I'm not calling on him to recuse himself. I was asked on "Morning Joe," if he needs to recuse himself as going forward....'" CW: McCarthy has sure learned his weasel words from Paul Ryan.

Adam Serwer of the Atlantic suggests Sessions had a good reason for lying to Sen. Franken: "Had Sessions's response to Franken contained the same qualifications as his statement Wednesday night, the next questions would have been about the circumstances in which Sessions met with Russian officials.... [His answer] would have provoked further controversy regarding a negative story the Trump administration was desperate to tamp down: The extent of the Trump campaign's contacts with the Russian government. Sessions's blanket denial put an end to that line of questioning -- a denial that was freely offered by Sessions himself, not directly in response to Franken's query.... If Sessions does ultimately recuse himself, though, it will only be because he withheld pertinent information that has now become public knowledge. That's a remarkable standard for the top law-enforcement official in the country to set." -- CW ...

... Here's a little more from Margaret Hartmann on the WSJ story: "The Wall Street Journal also revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies examined contacts between Sessions and Russian officials as part of the investigation into the Trump team's possible Russia ties. It's unclear what the probe discovered, or if it's ongoing. The FBI answers to the attorney general, and a source said the investigation into Sessions left the agency 'wringing its hands.'" -- CW

Jose DelReal of the Washington Post: "Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was confirmed Thursday as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, bringing into President Trump's Cabinet a Washington outsider with no prior government experience and a staunchly conservative view of public assistance. Support for Carson's confirmation came down largely along party lines -- 58-41 -- highlighting the intense partisan and ideological conflicts in Washington and around Trump's agenda." -- CW

"Basement Room" v. "Backroom." Jonathan Chait: "[Tuesday], House Speaker Paul Ryan boasted that his party would follow a deliberate, transparent process to repeal and replace Obamacare.... 'We're not hatching some bill in a backroom and plopping it on the American people's front door.' [Wednesday], House Republicans made it known that they will release their plan tomorrow and that it will only be made available to House Republicans. Representative Chris Collins tells the Washington Examiner the plan 'would be made available Thursday morning to Republicans in a basement room of an office building that adjoins the Capitol.' It is not clear what distinction Ryan draws between a 'backroom' and a 'basement room' only members of his party may access. The reason Republicans want to keep their plan hidden is fairly obvious. It would leave millions of Americans who currently have insurance unable to afford coverage." -- CW

*****

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Matthew Rosenberg, et al., of the New York Times: "In the Obama administration's last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election -- and about possible contacts between associates of ... Donald J. Trump and Russians -- across the government.... American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials -- and others close to ... Vladimir V. Putin -- and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials.... Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Mr. Trump's associates. Then and now, Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested that American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election.... At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump's statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed -- or its sources exposed -- once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence.... Former senior Obama administration officials said that none of the efforts were directed by Mr. Obama." -- CW ...

... The Russia Connection, Ctd. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Edition. Adam Entous, et al., of the Washington Post: "Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump's campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions's confirmation hearing to become attorney general. One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator's office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.... As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump's associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.... At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign. 'I'm not aware of any of those activities,' he responded. He added: 'I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.'" Emphasis added. -- CW ...

At the moment, Sessions is leading an investigation into himself -- Judd Legum March 2, 2017, in a tweet

But to be Scrupulously Fair, Sessions's perjury wasn't about something serious like a blowjob, so it would be completely principled for Republicans to ignore it. -- Scott Lemieux in LG&$ ...

... Rebecca Morin of Politico: "Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia -- and called for a special prosecutor if there's any evidence of wrongdoing.... Graham addressed the issue of recusal after the Washington Post reported that Sessions spoke twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States last year." -- CW ...

... Jason Easley of Politicus USA: "After The Washington Post reported that Sessions at multiple meetings with representatives from Moscow while a member of the Trump campaign, and then lied about it under oath during his confirmation hearing to Attorney General,The Wall Street Journal followed up by reporting that Sessions is under federal investigation." CW: I am linking Easley's post only to make you aware of the WSJ story, which I can't access even thru Google. Easley is a pretty excitable liberal, so ignore his enthusiastic predictions of Sessions' downfall. ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Democrats escalated their demands late Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government after a disclosure that Mr. Sessions himself spoke with the Russian ambassador last year, seemingly contradicting his testimony at his confirmation hearing. And some Democrats went further, suggesting that Mr. Sessions had perjured himself and demanding that he resign.... But the Trump administration rejected the accusations as partisan attacks, and Mr. Sessions said in a statement issued shortly before midnight that he had not addressed election matters with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. 'I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,' Mr. Sessions said. 'I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.'" -- CW ...

... Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to immediately resign following revelations that he spoke to the Russian ambassador to the United States during President Trump's campaign. 'Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing before the Senate. Under penalty of perjury, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians." We now know that statement is false,' Pelosi said in a statement. 'Now, after lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign. Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign.'" -- CW ...

... Brooke Seipel: "Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions after it was reported that he spoke with the Russian ambassador while Trump was on the campaign trail.... 'Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail,' Painter tweeted." -- CW

Gail Collins IDs three Donald Trumps. The one standing before the joint session was SNORT -- Somewhat Normal Republican Trump. ...

... Softer Bigotry & Low Expectations. Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: Trump's speech "does not represent a pivot, it is not a fundamental change of approach, and it does not mean that Mr. Trump plans to abandon his tweet-first-and-ask-questions-later style. But it is a recognition by the White House, from Mr. Trump on down, that what it had been doing was not quite working and that a softer sales tactic was needed to sell the same hard-edge populist agenda he campaigned on, people close to Mr. Trump said." -- CW ...

... ** Adele Stan of the American Prospect: "On Tuesday night, President Trump defied critics by proving he could read a teleprompter. In Trump's hands, any evolution toward mastery of that skill could prove as dangerous as the improvisational oratorical bullying for which he is better known, for Trump's reading style renders the articulation of evil into a banal-sounding sing-song celebration of resentment, greed, grief, and death.... With his speech, Trump again called for the deportation of millions of Americans, falsely claimed that only immigrants who committed crimes were being thrown out of the United States, promised a massive increase in military spending, and exploited the pain of a family grieving the loss of Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens, Navy SEAL, in a raid gone awry in Yemen...." -- CW ...

... Missy Ryan & Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "President Trump paid tribute to the fallen SEAL on Tuesday night in his address to a joint session of Congress, singling out [Ryan] Owens's widow, Carryn, in a sharply emotional episode that juxtaposed the president's assertions about the success of the raid with his apparent attempts to distance himself from the criticism it has generated. According to current and former officials, the discussions leading up to the Jan. 29 raid, intended as the first step in a major expansion of U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen, marked a departure from the more hands-on, deliberative process used by the previous administration." -- CW

Linda Greenhouse: "So the Trump administration is putting the welcome mat back out for private prisons, just as candidate Donald Trump said he would do, reversing the Obama administration's policy of phasing them out for federal prisoners. It's no wonder that shares in some of the nation's biggest for-profit prison companies soared by double digits the day after the presidential election, making them among the biggest winners in the immediate postelection rally. A decision on Feb. 21 by the federal appeals court in Chicago came just in time to remind us that privatization is a really bad idea. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed a federal district judge's dismissal and sent back for trial a case with the most appalling facts, brought by a dead prisoner's mother against the company to which the Indiana Department of Corrections had outsourced its inmates' medical care." CW: Indiana = mike pence.

Matt Zapotosky & Abigail Hauslohner of the Washington Post: "President Trump's new executive order on immigration will not include a blanket ban on citizens from Iraq, among a host of other revisions meant to allay legal and diplomatic concerns.... The White House late Tuesday scrapped plans for Trump to sign a revised travel ban Wednesday afternoon, a person familiar with the matter said, marking the third time the administration has put off the matter since the president said that dangerous people might enter the country without a prohibition in place.... The president has insisted that the ban is necessary for national security reasons. He wrote on Twitter that, because a federal judge in Washington state had ordered it frozen, 'many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country.' He also suggested that if something were to happen, the court system would be to blame." ...

     ... CW: As CNN & other outlets have reported, the White House delayed Trump's signing the ban so the SCROTUS can take a victory lap for his newly-mastered skill at reading a rehearsed speech from teleprompters without breaking into an insane rant. How many terrorists will "pour in" as Trump basks in the Cillizza sunlight? See also safari's comment in yesterday's thread. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "If the ban could be put off until a day without competing media narratives, it can probably be put off until it undergoes judicial review." -- CW ...

... SCROTUS to Save Us from Flying Pigs, Bigfoot. Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "At one point [during Trump's joint session speech], Republican lawmakers in the chamber leapt to their feet, cheering in sycophantic approval, when Trump announced that he was going to put an end to the 'uncontrolled entry' into the United States of people 'from places where proper vetting cannot occur.' This is a classic Trumpian stunt, inventing a problem and then promising to fix it. There is no free access for refugees to this country -- it takes about two years to clear the vetting process -- and none of the fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 have been committed by people from the seven countries Trump targeted with his anti-Muslim visa ban. If Trump did nothing about immigration, he could cross 'uncontrolled entry' off his list because it's not happening and it never has. Under Trump's leadership, there won't be any flying pigs, either, and Bigfoot will finally be prevented from tracking his muddy footprints through the Capitol Rotunda." -- CW ...

... Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: In his Tuesday speech, Trump "called for the Department of Homeland Security to create an office focused on the victims of immigrant crime. And in a January 25 executive order, he instructed the Homeland Security Secretary to 'make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.' Trump's allies may believe that sneaking into the United States, or using a fake social security number to get a job, predisposes people to rob, rape, or kill. But the evidence does not bear this out. So if Trump's goal is increasing public safety, publishing a list of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants is ... like publishing a list of crimes committed by people with red-hair. If, however, Trump's goal is stigmatizing a vulnerable class of people, then publicizing their crimes -- and their crimes alone -- makes sense. It's been a tactic bigots have used more than a century. Using crime to incite hatred has a long history in the United States.... Trump is scapegoating in the classic sense. He's taking the sin of crime and associating it with one, already stigmatized, group, thus allowing native-born Americans to consider themselves pure." -- CW ...

     ... CW: Trump's scapegoating is something we have to fight every day. White people or Christians will never blame "white people" or "Christians" when a nominal Christian white person commits a horrific crime, but they sure will blame minorities when a minority individual commits a crime. Just today (Tuesday) I had to chastise my white neighbor for blaming Hispanics in general for one case of local breaking & entering. Of course I was right polite about it, assuming merciless ridicule is right polite. ...

... Sarah Posner, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... on Wednesday..., one of President Trump's top advisers [Sebastian Gorka] refused to say whether the president believes Islam is a religion.... Gorka belongs to a school of Islamophobes who have long cast Islam as totalitarian -- as a political ideology, rather than a religion.... The Islamophobic camp is already demonstrating it has more influence over Trump than [national security advisor H.R.] McMaster. As Gorka proudly pointed out to [NPR's Steve] Inskeep, the president used the phrase 'radical Islamic terrorism' [-- which McMaster thinks is wrong --] in Tuesday night's speech. What's more, top Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon is also in this camp.... Gorka's refusal to say whether Trump sees Islam as a religion is alarming. It suggests that, despite efforts by McMaster to moderate the administration's tone, it's more likely that things are going to get a lot worse." -- CW ...

... Daniel Schultz of Religious Dispatches: "Gorka was a member of the Order of Vitéz, a Nazi-linked Hungarian group, and proudly displayed medals from the group at Trump's inauguration. Most relevant, though, despite disavowals of animus toward Islam, Gorka has described it more in terms of a totalitarian ideology than a complex, diverse, global religion. That assessment echoes a common view among right-wing nationalists, including administration figures like former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and senior political advisor Steve Bannon." -- CW

Ed Pilkington & Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "Police chiefs from across the US, including several from states that voted for Donald Trump, are resisting White House moves to force them to become more involved in deporting undocumented immigrants. In a joint letter, more than 60 law enforcement heads are appealing to Trump in all but name to soften his aggressive drive to enlist police officers in the highly contentious job of deporting millions of immigrants living without permission in the country. They object to being thrust into 'new and sometimes problematic tasks' that will undermine the balance between the local communities they serve and the federal government, and 'harm locally-based, community-oriented policing'." -- CW ...

... Few Are Safe from the Tentacles of the Trumpster. Oliver Laughland: "A young woman applying for the renewal of her Daca status was arrested and detained by immigration agents in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday, shortly after she addressed a press conference in support of undocumented migrants’ rights. Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old who came to the US as a seven-year-old child from Cordoba, Argentina, had told the rally how she dreamed of returning to college and becoming a math teacher, according to her attorneys. Shortly after the event, as she was driven along an interstate highway by a friend, she was pulled over by Immigration and Customs Agents (Ice) and arrested, said immigration attorney Nathan Elmore. Vargas had been a recipient of Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program, which allows undocumented migrants relief from deportation and education and work rights. But her Daca status had recently expired, with her attorneys lodging an unresolved renewal application in recent weeks, Elmore said." -- CW ...

...Julia Ainsley of Reuters: "President Donald Trump's promise to use existing funds to begin immediate construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has hit a financial roadblock, according to a document seen by Reuters. The rapid start of construction, promised throughout Trump's campaign and in an executive order issued in January on border security, was to be financed, according to the White House, with 'existing funds and resources' of the Department of Homeland Security. But so far, the DHS has identified only $20 million that can be re-directed to the multi-billion-dollar project, according to a document prepared by the agency and distributed to congressional budget staff last week. The document said the funds would be enough to cover a handful of contracts for wall prototypes, but not enough to begin construction of an actual barrier. This means that for the wall to move forward, the White House will need to convince Congress to appropriate funds." --safari

Don't Drink the Water. Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "The White House has proposed deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget that would reduce the agency's staff by one-fifth in the first year and eliminate dozens of programs.... The plan spells out exactly how this new approach will affect long-standing federal programs that have a direct impact on Americans' everyday lives.... Though President Trump professes to care strongly about clean air and clean water, almost no other federal department or agency is as much in the crosshairs at the moment. As a candidate, he vowed to get rid of the EPA 'in almost every form,' leaving only 'little tidbits' intact. The man he chose to lead the agency, former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, sued it more than a dozen times in recent years, challenging its legal authority to regulate such things as mercury pollution, smog and carbon emissions from power plants. The plan reflects those past sentiments." -- CW ...

... The Pollution President, Ctd. Andrew Restuccia of Politico: "President Donald Trump is carrying out the most aggressive rollback of federal environmental rules since at least the Reagan administration. And he's just getting started. In just 40 days, Trump has made it easier for coal miners to dump their waste into West Virginia streams, ordered the repeal of Clean Water Act protections for vast stretches of wetlands, proposed massive job cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and prepared to begin revoking the Obama administration's most ambitious climate change regulations. Trump is also expected to overturn Barack Obama's moratorium on new federal coal leases, and is considering automakers' pleas for relief from a scheduled tightening of vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. Obama's pledge to send billions of dollars to United Nations climate programs is also likely on the chopping block. And Trump hasn't ruled out withdrawing the United States from the 200-nation Paris climate agreement, a step that could undercut the international effort to confront global warming." -- CW

Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "The White House Counsel's Office has concluded that ... Kellyanne Conway acted 'inadvertently' when she endorsed Ivanka Trump's clothing line, rebuffing a recommendation by the top federal ethics official that she be disciplined for an apparent violation of federal rules. Stefan C. Passantino, who handles White House ethics issues as deputy counsel to President Trump, wrote in a letter Tuesday that his office concluded Conway was speaking in a 'light, offhand manner' when she touted the Ivanka Trump line during a Feb. 9 appearance on 'Fox & Friends.' At the time, Conway was addressing efforts by activists to persuade retailers such as Nordstrom to drop Ivanka Trump-branded items." CW: "Inadvertent"??? Conway said, "... I'm going to just, I'm going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online." ...

... Who Would Have Guessed? Isaac Arnsdorf & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "... Donald Trump's team rejected a course for senior White House staff, cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management, according to documents obtained by Politico. The documents suggest the program could have better prepared officials for working within existing laws and executive orders, and provided guidance on how to navigate Senate confirmation for nominees and political appointees, how to deal with congressional and media scrutiny, and how to work with Congress and collaborate with agencies -- some of the same issues that have become major stumbling blocks in the early days of the administration. But the contract was never awarded because after the election the transition team shifted its priorities, according to a letter the General Services Administration sent to bidders such as the Partnership for Public Service. The program was expected to cost $1 million, the documents show." -- CW ...

... CW: The course probably had a special section on not crouching on an Oval Office couch like a sex kitten, which could have been helpful, too.

How to Win over the Ladies. Nolan McCaskill of the Hill: "A Republican congressman who is potentially eyeing a Senate run mocked Democratic women on Wednesday for wearing white at President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said the 'poorly dressed' Democratic women wore 'bad-looking white pantsuits' in solidarity with failed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.... House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic women in the chamber wore white in a nod to suffragettes and as a silent protest against Trump. 'Tonight, our Democratic #WomenWearWhite in support of women's rights -- in spite of a @POTUS who doesn't!' she tweeted ahead of Trump's address Tuesday." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Perfecting DoubleSpeak 101. Daniel Salazar of The Wichita Eagle: "Sedgwick County [Kansas] Commissioner Richard Ranzau criticized progressives, the news media and an editorial cartoon that he said depicted a prominent Wichita lawmaker as a “female dog...Ranzau said he wanted to comment on President Trump's assertion that the news media is the 'enemy of the American people.' 'That's not exactly right.... Actually, the progressive movement is the enemy of the people,' Ranzau said during a 10-minute speech at the end of Wednesday's commission meeting. 'They have to lie, distort (and) deceive people in order to advance their agendas. They are an enemy of the truth.... He said politicians use media organizations to 'further the progressive agenda.'...'They use groups like minorities, women (and) poor people as pawns during elections to gain support,' Ranzau said. 'Then they adopt policies and do things that are contrary to their best interests.'" --safari

News Lede

Guardian: "Forces loyal to the Syrian regime have recaptured most of the city of Palmyra two months after it fell to Islamic State militants for the second time in a year. Led by Iranian-backed militias and Russian special forces, the loyalist units entered the city on Thursday, nearly three months after Isis took it over." -- CW

Tuesday
Feb282017

The Commentariat -- March 1, 2017

*****

Sean Sullivan & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "President Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, laying out the agenda for his presidency and, in broad terms, his vision for the country. Pulling from his campaign speeches and others since taking office, the president ran off a list of accomplishments since taking office and issued promises for the year ahead. Trump highlighted new lobbying restrictions, and executive orders he put in place to reduce regulations, restart halted oil and gas pipelines, and crack down on illegal immigration." -- CW ...

... The full transcript of the speech, via CNN, is here. -- CW ...

... Emily Atkin of the New Republic: "The president's tone in his first joint address to Congress on Tuesday night was certainly uncharacteristic. He was coherent. He hardly veered from his prepared remarks. He talked about 'harmony and stability.' He appeared to be wearing a properly-sized tie. Apparently, those were the only qualifications Trump had to meet to finally be considered 'effective' and 'presidential' by some of the mainstream D.C. press." -- CW ...

... A Speech about Nothing. Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "More jobs and economic growth. Less crime and poverty. New roads and bridges. 'A nation of miracles.' President Trump on Tuesday night offered a sweeping vision of the many ways in which he plans to improve the United States, but he said little about his plans for achieving those ambitious goals." -- CW ...

... There Is No Real Donald Trump. Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "In his inaugural address, Trump spoke of American carnage and as the tribune of the forgotten American. To the assembled members of Congress seated behind him that January day, he offered a rebuke and the back of his hand. On Tuesday, he made repeated appeals for national unity and cross-party cooperation. Looking out across the House chamber, he seemed to offer an open hand to the same political establishment he had pilloried just weeks ago. Trump as president must attempt a perpetual juggling act, at once capitalizing on public insecurities and stoking anti-establishment anger among those who helped carry him to the White House while sounding broader notes of optimism and playing nice with establishment Republicans, whom he needs to help enact his agenda. It is no longer a question of which is the real Donald Trump but more the question of whether he can build a successful presidency out of this split political personality." -- CW ...

... Matt Yglesias: "If you take any one moment from the Trump Show out of context, it's striking. But together, Trump's antics are now banal. He says, tweets, and does weird things. He gets attention. He pisses people off while thrilling others. Tonight, he even managed to attract attention and garner praise for slightly dialing it down. But speeches are supposed to be tools to help do the work of actually being president -- learning about the issues, making decisions about trade-offs, and collaborating to get things done. Amid the nonstop and increasingly tedious theatricality, Trump is only ever performing the role of the president; he's never doing the job." -- CW ...

... ** Jonathan Chait: "A casual listener to President Trump's speech to Congress might have the impression of a president who has endorsed a mix of raw nationalism and popular bipartisan goals.... It takes some slight familiarity with the details to recognize how hollow his offer is, and how unlikely Democrats are to take it up.... On the whole, Trump's agenda shows a president who has not departed from the plutocratic agenda that has dominated his party for a quarter-century, but only added grotesque, cruel, racist, and deeply stupid selling points. He has nothing to offer a party not enamored of the opportunity to carry out a massive and historic upward redistribution of wealth." --safari ...

... ** Frank Rich: "It was the same old Trump swill served up in perfumed linguistic packaging and presented in a far fancier setting in an effort to retool his image after more than a month of bombast, chaos, and dysfunction in his White House. The litany of promises he recited are the same ones he's made from the get-go -- the repeal and replacement of Obamacare with better health care for everyone, a massive retooling of America's infrastructure, an end to terrorism and the drug epidemic, tax cuts for everyone, a renaissance in coal mining, not to mention the Great Wall -- with no explanation of how he will achieve any of them, what they will cost, who will pay, and what's in any fine print (or even medium print). Endlessly regurgitating your campaign promises does not turn them into achievements." -- CW ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Eyeing these Christians [i.e., on-air pundit-journalists] offering praise to the lion that is out to devour them, Slate's Jacob Weisberg remarked on Twitter, 'Enemies of the people giving Trump positive reviews for not sounding like a ranting dictator.' It certainly seemed that way. If there was anything fresh about what Trump said to Congress, it was largely stylistic. He didn't pivot, he merely pirouetted, and then he dug into the same political ground he has already claimed." -- CW ...

... Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "In truth, Trump jammed together two speeches -- one offering promise of a tolerant and unifying president, the other engaging in the usual fear-mongering and racial demagoguery. In the darker parts of the speech, Trump reprised the 'American carnage' of his inaugural address. He again falsely portrayed America as a nation going to hell in a hand basket, where crime is soaring, everyone is out of work, and the government is more interest in a globalist agenda than its own people.... Any attention to his words makes clear that an extremely disturbing, distorted vision of America still defines this presidency." -- CW ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... Donald Trump gave a pretty good speech to a joint session of Congress tonight. He followed the script, and threw in some unexpected rhetorical flourishes like a shout-out to civil rights and outrage about anti-Semitic incidents at the very beginning. But if one of its main functions was to give confused congressional Republicans some clear direction on the big agenda items that are about to be fulfilled or squandered, it was a total washout." --CW ...

... It's All about Trump. Brian Beutler: "Trump could have offered his congressional foot soldiers moral support and guidance. Instead he gave an address crafted almost entirely with his own immediate political fortunes in mind. In the most superficial sense, Trump met his objective.... Trump peppered his remarks with a more balanced mix of banal platitudes, lies, and characteristically offensive agitation than marked his inaugural address and other speeches -- aimed more squarely at lazy pundits [CW: here's looking at you, Chris Cillizza] primed to celebrate Trump's latest 'pivot' than at insecure members of the Republican congressional conferences." -- CW ...

... Lies & the Lying Liar. Glenn Kessler & Michelle Lee of the Washington Post: "An address to Congress is such an important speech that presidents generally are careful not to stretch the truth. The '16 words' in George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address that falsely claimed Iraq's Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa led to significant turmoil in the administration, including the criminal conviction of a top aide. President Trump's maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies. In fact, many of the president's false claims are old favorites that he trots out on a regular, almost daily basis. Here's a roundup of 13 of the more notable claims, in the order in which the president made them." -- CW ...

... Michelle Goldberg of Slate: "If Trump were capable of shame, [Navy SEAL Ryan] Owens' death should shame him. Instead, in his first major address since the inauguration, he turned Owens sobbing, bereaved widow into a prop. As Carryn Owens stood next to Ivanka Trump..., [Donald] Trump ad-libbed, 'And Ryan is looking down, right now, you know that, and he's very happy, because I think he just broke a record.' In other words, Owens' death had a happy ending because a lot of people clapped at Trump's big speech.... The calls for bipartisanship with which Trump ended his speech weren't a gesture of outreach but a demand for submission. No matter what the Beltway media says, Democrats should resist. No matter how great a marketer he is, Trump still defiles everything he touches." -- CW ...

... Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post, who was imprisoned in Iran for practicing journalism, attended the joint session. "At times, [Trump] spoke in tones that often did not reflect the actions of his first weeks in office, adding to what was already a jarring experience for me.... But then I would hear again the strains that reminded me of so many speeches delivered by authoritarian leaders." Rezaian is hopeful that Americans won't let Trump destroy democracy. -- CW

... New York Times reporters conducted "live analysis" of Donald Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress. CW: You could watch/listen to the speech on the page, but I thought it a far, far better thing to keep the mute firmly in place.

Say What??? Julie Davis, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump, signaling a potential major shift in policy, told news anchors on Tuesday that he is open to a broad immigration overhaul that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.... The idea is a sharp break from the broad crackdown on undocumented immigrants that Mr. Trump has taken in his first weeks in office and the hardline positions embraced by his core supporters that helped sweep him into the White House. The president hinted at the reversal just hours before he was to deliver his first address to Congress, although it was not clear whether he would mention it in his speech.... [Trump] signed an executive order last month directing the deportation of any undocumented immigrant who has committed a crime -- whether or not they have been charged -- or falsified any document. The standard could apply to virtually any one of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally." CW: Whatever that slimy bastard is up to, this is some head fake. ...

     ... CW Update: As I wrote, a head-fake. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Hours before the speech, Mr. Trump told reporters that 'the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides.' But he made only a glancing reference to that assertion as he faced lawmakers, raising skepticism.... In the short space of a few hours, Mr. Trump veered back and forth on the immigration issue, sparking breaking news reports and incredulous postings on Twitter as he signaled moderation, then used his address to reassert his commitment to deportations, muse about changes to a 'merit based' legal immigration system, and express hope for cooperation among the long-warring political parties. In the speech, Mr. Trump repeated the harsh language that he used on the campaign trail, saying that success will not come to America 'in an environment of lawless chaos.'" Reminds me of the wise guys in the movies who pretend they'll be nice to their victim, right before they shiv him. DiJiT is a nasty piece of work. ...

... Democracy Now! interviews Prof. Francisco Balderrama to put Drumpf's deportation desires into perspectives by revisiting the 1930s. --safari

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "In his speech to Congress on Tuesday night, President Trump defended his travel ban, and said his administration has been 'working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe -- and to keep out those who would do us harm.' The new executive order was expected on Wednesday, but now it won;t be issued until the end of the week.... Late on Tuesday night, multiple outlets reported that the White House decided to hold off on issuing the new executive order after seeing the positive reviews for Trump's impersonation of a competent president. A senior administration official told CNN that they don't want to undercut coverage of the president's speech. 'We want the (executive order) to have its own 'moment,'" the official said." --safari

They [the media] shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there. A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being -- let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources. -- Donald Trump, at CPAC, way last Friday ...

... IOKIYTrump. Steven Perlberg & Adrian Carrasquillo of BuzzFeed: "Donald Trump on Friday railed against the media's use of anonymous sources in stories. Four days later, he was one. In a private meeting with national news anchors ahead of his address to Congress Tuesday night, Trump went on background with reporters as a 'senior administration official' to discuss issues like immigration, telling attendees that it was time for a legislative compromise from both parties.... Citing attendees at the meeting, Trump was the one to make that remark, among others attributed to the official.... Tuesday's meeting comes during weeks of blistering media criticisms from Trump, who in a speech at CPAC on Friday said that some media outlets 'make up sources' and have 'very dishonest people.'" -- CW

About That "Golden Rain" Dossier. Tom Hamburger & Rosalind Helderman: "The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump's political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement. The agreement to compensate former MI6 agent Christopher Steele came as U.S. intelligence agencies reached a consensus that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election by orchestrating hacks of Democratic Party email accounts. While Trump has derided the dossier as 'fake news' compiled by his political opponents, the FBI's arrangement with Steele shows that the bureau considered him credible and found his information, while unproved, to be worthy of further investigation. Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele's now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials.... Steele was familiar to the FBI, in part because the bureau had previously hired him to help a U.S. inquiry into alleged corruption in the world soccer organization FIFA." ...

... The Russian Connection, Ctd. David Corn of Mother Jones: "Last week, news broke that the Senate intelligence committee ... launched [an] investigation of both the Russian hacking of the 2016 campaign and contacts between Donald Trump associates and Russia. [B]oth investigations are proceeding behind a thick veil of secrecy, and there is no way to tell if the Republicans leading these efforts are mounting serious endeavors committed to unearthing facts that might be inconvenient, embarrassing, delegitimizing, or worse for Trump and his White House. So the question remains: Can these committees be trusted to get the job done?" The article goes in to the nitty-gritty details to see how likely they'll produce actual investigations. --safari ...

... Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Congressional Republicans killed a Democratic measure Tuesday to pressure the Trump administration to turn over documents detailing President Donald Trump's ties to Russia, as well as conflicts of interest stemming from his business empire. The measure, known as a 'resolution of inquiry,' was defeated on an 18-16 party-line vote. The resolution would have requested that the Department of Justice provide Congress with 'any document, record, memo, correspondence or other communication' related to 'criminal or counterintelligence investigations' involving Trump or his White House staff.'" --safari

BuzzFeed on Facebook: "Asked about the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks and threats across the nation, President Trump on Tuesday told a group of state attorneys general that 'sometimes it's the reverse,' Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said of Trump's comments in his and other officials' meeting with the president. 'He just said, "Sometimes it's the reverse, to make people -- or to make others -- look bad," and he used the word "reverse" I would say two to three times in his comments,' Shapiro said. 'He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible.'" -- CW ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "President Trump seemed to suggest Tuesday that the recent bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish community centers and cemeteries across the country might be false flags, according to a Democratic attorney general who met with him. And Trump's comments came the same day that one of his top advisers suggested the culprits could be Democrats. It wouldn't be the first time Trump went down this road." -- CW ...

... digby points out that Trump advisor Anthony 'the Mooch' Scaramucci implied in a tweet Tuesday morning that the vandals attacking Jewish cemeteries may be Democratic provocateurs, not anti-Semites. So there's the source of Trump's suggestion that it is not "his people" who are breaking Jewish tombstones. -- CW

The Buck Stops ... Someplace Else. Max Shuman of TPM: "... Donald Trump seemed to shirk his own responsibilities as commander in chief Tuesday, saying that military leaders called for a ground raid in Yemen five days after his inauguration that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL. 'This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,' Trump said of the raid in an interview with 'Fox and Friends' Tuesday. 'They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.' He added later: 'This was something that they were looking at for a long time doing, and according to Gen. Mattis, it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.'... The New York Times reported that Trump approved the raid over dinner with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. Reuters, citing U.S. military officials, reported that 'Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.'" -- CW ...

...Kimberly Dozier of The Daily Beast: "The White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations like the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen that cost the life of a Navy SEAL, to step up the war on the so-called Islamic State, multiple U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants his defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, to have a freer hand to launch time-sensitive missions quickly, ending what U.S. officials say could be a long approval process under President Barack Obama that critics claimed stalled some missions by hours or days." --safari

"Viewpoint Discrimination." Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "A ruling issued on Monday by a federal judge in Manhattan, in a case brought by a freelance journalist without a lawyer, may interest the White House. The judge said that the New York Police Department may have violated the First Amendment by revoking the press credentials of the journalist, Jason B. Nicholas. The ruling was preliminary, and the Police Department said it had legitimate reasons for its actions. But Judge J. Paul Oetken's decision was timely, following as it did the exclusion of several news organizations from a Friday briefing at the White House. 'It has been held impermissible,' Judge Oetken wrote, 'to exclude a single television news network from live coverage of mayoral candidates' headquarters and to withhold White House press passes in a content-based or arbitrary fashion.' Last Friday's developments at the White House crossed that legal line, said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. 'That was unconstitutional,' he said. 'If you exclude reporters from briefings that they otherwise have a right to attend because you don't like their reporting, then you have engaged in viewpoint discrimination.' Viewpoint discrimination by the government in a public forum is almost always unconstitutional." -- CW

Betsy DeVos said HBCUs were about school choice. As if white/colored water fountains were about beverage options. -- Resist Dystopia (@AynAyahSteenkur) February 28, 2017, tweet

... Danielle Douglas-Gabriel & Tracy Jan of the Washington Post: "Many advocates of historically black colleges and universities were apoplectic after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the group of schools forged at the height of racial segregation 'pioneers' of 'school choice.' DeVos issued a statement Monday evening after a meeting with HBCU leaders, praising their schools for identifying 'a system that wasn't working' and taking it 'upon themselves to provide the solution' from the outset of their founding." -- CW ...

... Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "Facing a fierce backlash after she called historically black colleges and universities 'real pioneers' of school choice, Betsy DeVos ... spent Tuesday afternoon backtracking on the controversial statement and highlighting the institutions' roots in racism and segregation. Ms. DeVos, in a series of Twitter posts on Tuesday and in remarks at a luncheon with presidents from some of the schools, repeatedly acknowledged that the schools were not created simply to give African-American students more choices but because black students across the country were not allowed into segregated white schools. The controversy is the latest gaffe for Ms. DeVos, who has had a rough start.... On Twitter, hundreds of angry users accused her of ignoring the fact that many of the schools were founded because black students were not allowed to attend segregated white schools, not because education pioneers wanted to give African-Americans more options in higher education. Many accused her of using the nation's history of segregation to advance a contemporary political agenda." CW: See also commentary in yesterday's thread.

Swamp Woman. Patrick Malone & Jeffrey Smith in The Daily Beast: "[Trump has] designated as the new Air Force secretary a former New Mexico Congresswoman, Heather Wilson, who's a veteran of wheeling and dealing in Washington on behalf of private defense industry clients that paid her lucrative consulting fees. Just a day after she left Congress in 2009, Wilson went to work as a 'strategic adviser' for Sandia Corporation in Albuquerque, which runs a laboratory that helps design and manufacture America's nuclear weapons and is a subsidiary of defense giant Lockheed Martin.... But federal auditors at the Energy Department and one of its subsidiary agencies quickly grew alarmed because Wilson refused to account for how she was spending any of her time, even while accepting $20,000 monthly from the national labs.... The Justice probe concluded that the payments to Wilson were part of an improper effort by the Lockheed subsidiary to bill the government for money spent lobbying the government for more business..But now, if Wilson is confirmed, she'll be responsible for overseeing the Air Force's voluminous interactions with Lockheed -- the same firm that paid her $226,378 for two years of 'strategic advising.'" --safari

Amy Brittain & Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post: "... Trump-branded properties around the world are ... becoming symbols of the U.S. president -- and, in some cases, staging areas for locals to express their feelings about his views on immigration, trade and other matters. Trump has retained his ownership stake in the company. In Dubai, government officials joined Trump's adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, on Feb. 18 for a red-carpet party toasting the opening of a glitzy new Trump-branded golf course. But in Vancouver[, B.C., Canada], where more than 40 percent of residents are immigrants, the Trump family got the cold shoulder [when they arrived to celebrate the opening of a Trump International Hotel & Tower]. Protesters gathered Tuesday outside the tower from 9 a.m. through the evening hours, when they expected partiers to arrive for a V.I.P. reception. Meanwhile, the mayor [Kerry Jang] and others here have escalated their calls for the project's developer, Joo Kim Tiah, the 37-year-old son of one of Malaysia's wealthiest businessmen, to remove Trump's name from the building." -- CW

Brad Plumer of Vox: "... ultimately, Congress will have the final say over any budget. And key Senate Republicans are already skeptical of Trump's outline. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told NBC that the reported State Department cuts were 'dead on arrival.'" -- CW

"Your Boyfriend Is a Jerk." Dana Bash of CNN: "House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is telling her rank-and-file members that she is confident a good portion of ... Donald Trump's voters will eventually turn on him -- and Democrats just have to wait it out.... 'The way I told my members: It's like telling your friend the guy she's dating is a jerk. You can't tell her that. She has to find out for herself. You can give her clues and then eventually one thing will lead to another, she'll come to her conclusion. But if you tell her right up front, you'll lose a friend. So we're not interested in losing any friends. Let them find out,' Pelosi recounted during a small briefing for reporters in her Capitol suite Tuesday." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "Authorities are now investigating a shooting in Kansas that killed one Indian man and wounded another as a hate crime, the FBI said Tuesday. The shooting last week sparked unease in Kansas and across the globe, after witnesses said that the accused gunman had told the two men to 'get out of my country' before opening fire. While President Trump has been criticized for not speaking out on the shooting in Olathe, Kan., following the FBI's announcement Tuesday, the White House called the attack 'an act of racially motivated hatred.'" -- CW

Monday
Feb272017

The Commentariat -- February 28, 2017

James Downie of the Washington Post: "The only ... reason for [Tom] Perez's entry [into the race for Democratic National Committee chair] and victory was simple: In defeating [Keith] Ellison, the establishment wanted to rebuke the progressive wing and retain control of the party. Therein lies Perez';s -- and the party's -- biggest problem. The Democratic Party needs the progressive wing's energy and new ideas if it is to recover.... The party establishment doesn't want to admit its failings.... Clearly a new approach is needed, particularly in terms of increasing turnout and pushing policies that motivate a larger number of voters to be enthusiastic about the party. Rescuing the Democrats from this deep hole requires grass-roots energy -- energy that clearly is most prevalent in the more liberal wing of the party, as seen in the surprisingly successful campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)." -- CW

Heather Caygle of Politico: "House Democrats are seizing on President Donald Trump's first major speech to Congress Tuesday as an opportunity to troll the new president in prime time. Many of the same Democrats who boycotted Trump's inauguration are choosing not to skip his first address to Congress as president, instead opting to bring guests directly affected by the administration's controversial policies on immigration and refugees and Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare. 'It's my hope that gallery is going to look like America,' said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who is leading an effort to have his colleagues bring diverse guests Tuesday and will be joined by Rhode Island Dr. Ehsun Mirza, a Muslim-American born in Pakistan. 'It's another reminder to the president that he's not the arbiter of patriotism.' The effort is designed to put a human face on Trump's immigration and refugee policies -- and perhaps steal a bit of the spotlight from the president's big speech. Though it's unlikely to resonate much beyond Tuesday night, members said doing something is better than nothing." -- CW ...

... Shane Goldmacher of Politico: "... with Trump's first prime-time address Tuesday to the nation and Congress, [the White House hopes] to reframe Trump's turbulent first 40 days neatly into the context of promises made, promises kept.... But Trump will step onto the dais Tuesday night with historically weak approval ratings for a new president, battling leaks both from within and about the White House and a heavy chip on his shoulder about media coverage of his early presidency that he has decried repeatedly as 'fake news.'" -- CW

... Seung Min Kim of Politico: "... Donald Trump's highly-anticipated first address to Congress on Tuesday will detail an 'optimistic vision' for the nation that vows to push a 'bold agenda' on tax and regulatory overhauls, reforms in the workplace and a promise to 'sav[e] American families from the disaster of Obamacare.' That's according to a list of 11 key bullet points outlining Trump's speech from the White House that was obtained by Politico in advance of the address. In it, Trump will also paint his agenda with broad, unifying tones, saying he will 'invite Americans of all backgrounds to come together in the service of a stronger, brighter future for our nation.'" -- CW

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump's budget blueprint -- which is expected to be central to his address to Congress on Tuesday night -- sets up a striking clash with the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, who has made a career out of pressing difficult truths on federal spending. For years, Mr. Ryan has maintained that to tame the budget deficit without tax increases and prevent draconian cuts to federal programs, Congress must be willing to change, and cut, the programs that spend the most money -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But Mr. Trump, in a dogged effort to fulfill his campaign promises, has turned that logic on its head in the budget outline he is expected to present to Congress this week. That blueprint would make good on his promise to increase spending on the military and law enforcement by $100 billion over the next 18 months. And it would extract all of the savings he can from the one part of the budget already most squeezed, domestic discretionary spending, potentially decimating programs in education, poverty alleviation, science and health." -- CW: "Difficult truths," my ass. Steinhauer has KoolAid all over her face.

... Stan Collander of Forbes: "The White House either hasn't thought through what it's going to take to put the just-announced Trump spending plans in place, or doesn't really care. The bottom line is that the president and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney may have to violate their oaths of office by breaking federal law to do what the administration wants to do on federal spending.... Trump's unacknowledged problem is that Congress and the president don't have the legal authority to do what he is proposing by cutting domestic spending to pay for an increase in security spending. The Budget Control Act of 2011 established annual caps for each category and prohibited offsetting increases in one by reducing spending in the other. That is exactly what Trump is proposing to do." -- CW

... Kevin Drum: "The real question is whether Trump's $54 billion increase can get through Congress. Normally, Republicans would pass it via reconciliation and they wouldn't need any Democratic votes. However, this increase would blow past the sequester limits put in place in 2013, and this can only be done via regular order. That means Republicans need at least eight Democratic votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Normally, they could probably get that. But if they try to balance this $54 billion increase with a $54 billion cut to the EPA and safety net programs, there are very few Democrats who will play ball." -- CW

Juliet Eilperin & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Tuesday will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to 'review and reconsider' a 2015 rule known as the Waters of the United States rule, according to a senior official, a move that could ultimately make it easier for agricultural and development interests to drain wetlands and small streams. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the executive order had not yet been signed, said the directive aimed to address the concerns of about 30 states and an array of business interests that have criticized the previous administration for overreaching. The final outcome of Trump's order could have tremendous implications for the agricultural, real estate, gravel, sand and ranching sectors, as well as a critical habitat for aquatic species and migratory birds." CW: This makes a story safari linked Sunday on the worldwide effects of sand mining mighty timely. Probably Scott Pruitt read the story & is all concerned.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "In an interview Monday with Fox News Channel, Trump said that he believes his predecessor is helping to organize the protests [against him]. "I think that President Obama is behind it because his people certainly are behind it,' Trump said. 'In terms of him being behind things, that's politics. It will probably continue.'... In the interview, Trump offered high marks for his accomplishments in the White House.... 'In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C plus,' Trump said. 'In terms of achievement, I think I'd give myself an A. Because I think I've done great things, but I don't think I have -- I and my people, I don't think we've explained it well enough to the American public.'" -- CW

I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated. -- Rip Van Trumple, at the National Governors Association, Monday

See yesterday's Comments, near end of thread. -- Constant Weader

... Jonathan Chait: "To win support from voters, [Trump] promised 'terrific' insurance that would 'take care of everybody.' But to remain acceptable to Republican elites, he avoided embracing any policies that would violate party dogma against tax increases. The actual details of his health-care plan..., to the extent they existed at all..., consisted mainly of warmed-over conservative platitudes that would mostly resemble the old, pre-Obamacare system and do little or nothing to cover the uninsurable. Trump held together the contradiction by simply pretending the solution would reveal itself over time and would be extremely easy. Quite likely Trump believed this himself -- as a committed nonreader, and a narcissistic devotee of his own negotiating prowess, he surely believed that he could broker a deal.... The only thing that held Trump's position together was a refusal to engage with the substance of the issue, and a magical belief that it could all be waved away. At best, he will keep either his promise to the Republican elite or his promise to the electorate. At worst he will keep neither. His offhand comment that the issue is hard is a window into the mind of a man who realizes the jig is almost up." -- CW ...

     ... CW: On health care, as on many issues, Trump has two fallback positions: (1) ignorance -- who had any idea national healthcare was complicated? -- and (2) malevolent indifference -- blame it on Obama & Democrats. As digby notes, "He's a truly malevolent human being. Don't underestimate his willingness to inflict pain and horror upon others." ...

... He Never Knew WTF He Was Doing. Michael Kruse in Politico Magazine: "... while smart, experienced political professionals have called the start to the Trump presidency unprecedented in the annals of the office, it is not unprecedented in the annals of Trump. Trump has managed in the Oval Office in Washington pretty much exactly the way he managed on Fifth Avenue in New York, say people who worked for him at different points over the last 45 years as well as writers of the best, most thoroughly reported Trump biographies. In recent interviews, they recounted a shrewd, slipshod, charming, vengeful, thin-skinned, belligerent, hard-charging manager who was an impulsive hirer and a reluctant firer and surrounded himself with a small cadre of ardent loyalists; who solicited their advice but almost always ultimately went with his gut and did what he wanted; who kept his door open and expected others to do the same not because of a desire for transparency but due to his own insecurities and distrusting disposition; who fostered a frenetic, internally competitive, around-the-clock, stressful, wearying work environment in which he was a demanding, disorienting mixture of hands-on and hands-off -- a hesitant delegator and an intermittent micromanager who favored fast-twitch wins over long-term follow-through, promotion over process and intuition over deliberation." -- CW

Trump & Sessions Endorse Suppressing Democratic Votes. Manny Fernandez & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "The Justice Department on Monday dropped a crucial objection to Texas' strict voter-identification law, signaling a significant change from the Obama administration on voting-rights issues. The Republican-led Texas Legislature passed one of the toughest voter ID laws in the country in 2011, requiring voters to show a driver's license, passport or other government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. The Obama administration's Justice Department sued Texas to block the law in 2013 and scored a major victory last year after a federal appeals court ruled that the law needed to be softened because it discriminated against minority voters who lacked the required IDs.... The Justice Department under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a judge on Monday that it was withdrawing its claim that Texas enacted the law with a discriminatory intent." -- CW

Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Asked [on the 'Today' show] about Trump's claim that the media is the 'enemy of the people,' [former President George W.] Bush warned that an independent press is essential to democracy and that denouncing the press at home makes it difficult for the United States to preach democratic values abroad. 'I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,' Bush said. 'We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse power, whether it be here or elsewhere,' he added. Bush noted that during his presidency, he sought to persuade people like Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect a free press." CW: I don't doubt that Dubya is super-relieved to no longer be the worst U.S. president of the 21st century. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes denied on Monday morning that there was any evidence from the intelligence community of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.... Nunes contended there was no need at this time for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of contact between Russian officials and Trump campaign aides. Instead, the Republican said that the 'major crimes' that have been committed are leaking to the news media on the subject of Russia, as well as other accounts of what should be confidential dealings with the Trump White House...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

QUESTION: But did President-elect Trump at the time of the transition team tell Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador?

NUNES: Look, I find that -- I would find that hard to believe because they were so busy, and I think these conversations were all very short.

CW Translation: Trump could not have given Flynn any instructions about anything because Trump was busy tweeting about his electoral victory.

Cynthia McFadden, et al., of NBC News: "Last month's deadly commando raid in Yemen, which cost the lives of a U.S. Navy SEAL and a number of children, has so far yielded no significant intelligence, U.S. officials told NBC News. Although Pentagon officials have said the raid produced 'actionable intelligence,' senior officials who spoke to NBC News said they were unaware of any, even as the father of the dead SEAL questioned the premise of the raid in an interview with the Miami Herald published Sunday." -- CW

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "The Senate confirmed Wilbur L. Ross, the billionaire investor, as commerce secretary on Monday, installing a key leader for the Trump administration's plans to overhaul trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. By a vote of 72 to 27, the Senate confirmed Mr. Ross, who has already been advising President Trump on economic policy and helping him to craft ways to rewrite the tax code. A renegotiation of Nafta is expected to be Mr. Ross's top priority when he takes over the job. During his confirmation hearing in January, he warned that 'all aspects' of the agreement between the United States and its northern and southern neighbors are on the table. With the confirmation of Mr. Ross, the most important members of Mr. Trump's economic team are in place just in time for looming fights over the budget, health care and tax legislation." -- CW...

...The Russian Connection, Ctd. Rachel Maddow connects Wilbur Ross to Donald Trump and Russian oligarchs. Watch til the end to see how the pieces are slowly falling together. --safari...

...The Russian Connection, Ctd. Josh Marshall of TPM: "Yesterday we noted that renegade Ukrainian MPAndrii Artemenko says he's known[Trump lawyer Michael] Cohen for years. They first met when Cohen was setting up that ethanol business with family in Ukraine.... We also noted that in addition to Artemenko and the ethanol business, Cohen seems to have a lot of business and personal ties to Ukraine. Almost everywhere you look actually. Well, it turns out there's more...Before Cohen hooked up with Trump (circa 2006-07), Cohen made a lot of money in the New York City taxi business...[H]is business partner was a law client named Simon Garber, who the Journal describes as a "Ukrainian-born taxi baron."...About the same time Cohen set up another business with two other Ukrainian immigrants, Arkady Vaygensberg and Leonid Tatarchuk...This was MLA Cruises, a Florida company which took patrons on cruises outside US territorial waters to gamble. Cohen was CEO. MLA Cruises collapsed in a welter of lawsuits mainly targeting Vaygensberg and Tatarchuk.... More to come, I assure you." --safari ...

...The Russian Connection, Ctd. Kenneth Vogal, et al. of Politico: "Paul Manafort's family expressed misgivings about the political consultant's work for both Russia-aligned Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych and Donald Trump,according to text messages allegedly hacked from one of his daughters' phones. The texts, posted on a darknet website run by a hacktivist collective, appear to show Manafort's family fretting about the ethics, safety and consequences of his work for Yanukovych...In an interview on Monday, Manafort acknowledged that his daughter Andrea had been hacked and corroborated the authenticity of at least some of the texts between him and her, but declined to comment on most of them." --safari...

...The Russian Connection, Ctd. Evan Osnos, et al., of the New Yorker have a long read on Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War. Thanks to PD. Pepe for the link. --safari

Drew Harwell of the Washington Post: "Hundreds of former employees of Sterling Jewelers, the multibillion-dollar conglomerate behind Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers, claim that its chief executive and other company leaders presided over a corporate culture that fostered rampant sexual harassment and discrimination, according to arbitration documents obtained by The Washington Post. Declarations from roughly 250 women and men who worked at Sterling, filed as part of a private class-action arbitration case, allege that female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed. Sterling disputes the allegations. The arbitration was first filed in 2008 by more than a dozen women.... The class-action case, still unresolved, now includes 69,000 women who are current and former employees of Sterling, which operates about 1,500 stores across the country. Most of the sworn statements were written years ago, but the employees' attorneys were only granted permission to release them publicly Sunday...." -- CW

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "A female engineer at Tesla has accused Elon Musk's car company of ignoring her complaints of 'pervasive harassment', paying her a lower salary than men doing the same work, promoting less qualified men over her and retaliating against her for raising concerns. The allegations of AJ Vandermeyden, who still works at the celebrated electric car manufacturer, paint a picture of a hostile work environment dominated by men where inappropriate sexual behavior is tolerated and women face numerous barriers to advance their careers." -- CW

Damian Carrington & Jelmer Mommers of the Guardian: "The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered. However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Horrors of "Sand Mining", Part II: The Mafias. Vince Beiser of the Guardian: "[There is] an unlikely substance that is fast becoming one of the 21st century's most important commodities: sand...It's an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Pulling all of that sand out of the ground, however, takes a severe toll on the environment...In response, authorities are trying to regulate the manner and location of extraction. In turn, it has spawned a global boom in illegal sand mining.... Every year criminal gangs across the world dig up countless tonnes of sand to sell on the black market.... Like any big-money black market, the sand trade is inciting violence." See yesterday's link about sand mining in general if you missed it. --safari

Camila Domonoske of NPR: "A 19-year-old white man [John R. K. Howard] accused of kicking a coat hanger up the rectum of a mentally disabled black teammate received no jail time at his sentencing on Friday.... He was sentenced to probation and community service, and his conviction might be entirely dismissed at a later date.... Howard, who pleaded guilty to felony injury of a child, had originally been charged with sexual assault. But prosecutors later decided that, while they were confident they could prove Howard kicked the coat hanger into his teammate's rectum, the act did not constitute a sex crime.... In addition to the criminal cases at the state level, the mentally disabled young man's parents are also pursuing a federal civil case, which is still ongoing. 'The truth will come out,' the family's attorney in that case said, according to The Guardian." --safari

Sunday
Feb262017

The Commentariat -- February 27, 2017

Afternoon Update:

I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated. -- Rip Van Trumple, at the National Governors Association, Monday

See today's Comments, near end of thread. -- Constant Weader

Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Asked [on the 'Today' show] about Trump's claim that the media is the 'enemy of the people,' [former President George W.] Bush warned that an independent press is essential to democracy and that denouncing the press at home makes it difficult for the United States to preach democratic values abroad. 'I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,' Bush said. 'We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse power, whether it be here or elsewhere,' he added. Bush noted that during his presidency, he sought to persuade people like Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect a free press." CW: Dubya must be super-relieved to no longer be the worst U.S. president of the 21st century.

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes denied on Monday morning that there was any evidence from the intelligence community of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.... Nunes contended there was no need at this time for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of contact between Russian officials and Trump campaign aides. Instead, the Republican said that the 'major crimes' that have been committed are leaking to the news media on the subject of Russia, as well as other accounts of what should be confidential dealings with the Trump White House...." -- CW ...

QUESTION: But did President-elect Trump at the time of the transition team tell Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador?

NUNES: Look, I find that -- I would find that hard to believe because they were so busy, and I think these conversations were all very short.

CW Translation: Trump could not have given Flynn any instructions about anything because Trump was busy tweeting about his electoral victory.

*****

Glenn Thrush & Kate Kelly of the New York Times: "President Trump will instruct federal agencies on Monday to assemble a budget for the coming fiscal year that would include sharp increases in Defense Department spending; major cuts to other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency; and no reductions to the largest entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare, according to four senior administration officials. The outline, drafted by the Office of Management and Budget director, Mick Mulvaney, is the first volley to the federal agencies." -- CW

What is extraordinary about Trump is that he has taken up a Stalinist phrase that is entirely alien to American political culture. -- Philip Short, a biographer of dictators, on Trump's description of American journalists as "enemies of the people" ...

... Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: "'The formula "enemy of the people,"'" [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev told the Soviet Communist Party in a 1956 speech denouncing Stalin's cult of personality, 'was specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating such individuals' who disagreed with the supreme leader. It is difficult ... a label generally associated with despotic communist governments rather than democracies. But [Donald Trump's] decision to unleash the terminology has left some historians ... [wondering w]hy ... the elected leader of a democratic nation [would] embrace a label that, after the death of Stalin, even the Soviet Union found to be too freighted with sinister connotations?... The phrase 'enemy of the people' first entered the political lexicon in 1789, with the French Revolution.... As resistance to the revolution mounted, the term acquired a ... lethal and legalistic meaning with the adoption of a 1794 law that set up a revolutionary tribunal 'to punish enemies of the people' and codified political crimes punishable by death. These included 'spreading false news to divide or trouble the people.'" Lenin adopted the term after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. -- CW ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The biggest problem with [the] 'fake news' [charge] is that it's a blanket dismissal that requires no elaboration or proof. And almost without fail, this White House doesn't provide any.... It has a tendency to not comment on negative stories until they have already published, and then it simply dismisses them out of hand and attacks the media.... It's a strategy that, as [the Washington Post's Callum] Borchers notes, suggests the White House isn't really interested in litigating the details of the reporting, but would rather use the stories to label the media the enemy, after the fact. But perhaps it's also because they realize they can't really litigate the details -- that they don't have a leg to stand on." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "The [Trump] administration doubled down on its antipress aggression, this time declaring it was 'going to get worse every day' for these 'globalist' and 'corporatist' journalists (and other such gobbledygook from the former Goldman Sachs executive Stephen K. Bannon). And all the while, so many of the most important and credible leaders in the president's own party more or less kept their traps shut or looked the other way." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Julie Brown of the Miami Herald: Bill Owens, the father of Ryan Owens who was killed in the raid in Yemen which President Trump ordered over dinner, says the government owes his son an investigation into why "everything went wrong." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Audrey Carlsen, et al., of the New York Times: "During the week when President Trump's refugee ban was in effect, refugees were allowed in on a case-by-case basis. Just 15 percent of the 843 refugees who were admitted during this time were Muslim, compared with a weekly average of 45 percent in 2016." -- CW ...

... James McAuley of the Washington Post: "Henry Rousso is one of France's most preeminent scholars and public intellectuals. Last week, as the historian attempted to enter the United States [at Houston's Intercontinental Airport] to attend an academic symposium, he was detained for more than 10 hours -- for no clear reason." Immigration officials intended to deport to Paris as an illegal alien until top officials at Texas A&M intervened. Rousso & his family, who are Jewish, were exiled from Egypt in 1956. He is a French citizen whose scholarly work focuses on the notorious Vichy regime. -- CW: A misunderstanding? I doubt it. ...

Cora Currier of The Intercept: "The Trump administration's first moves on immigration enforcement represent an unprecedented hard-line position.... [I]t remains to be seen whether they will be fully implemented; the money and manpower required to do so would be extraordinary...." Currier interviewed Kelly Lytle Hernandez, an historian at UCLA, about the long history of deportation scare tactics. --safari

Paul Krugman: "Outrage at what's happening to America isn't just justified, it's essential. In fact, it may be our last chance of saving democracy.... Mr. Trump is clearly a would-be autocrat, and other Republicans are his willing enablers. Does anyone doubt it? And given this reality, it's completely reasonable to worry that America will go the route of other nations, like Hungary, which remain democracies on paper but have become authoritarian states in practice.... When the office [of the presidency] is held by someone trying to undermine the Constitution, doing anything that normalizes him and lends him respectability is a political act." -- CW ...

... CW: I'd like to pause to remind people that enduring your friends' admiration for the SCROTUS is a form of normalizing him.

Carl Cederström in the Guardian: "It should be clear by now that Trump doesn't subscribe to a conventional notion of truth, related to verifiable facts and an independently existing reality. For Trump, truth is subordinate to attitude, an attitude that can be modified at will. This whimsical notion comes straight from Norman Vincent Peale, an American minister and motivational speaker who was close to the Trump family, even officiating at Trump's first marriage, with Ivana.... For Peale..., 'attitudes are more important than facts'. This insight, Peale continues, 'is worth repeating until its truth grips you'." Shoutout to @Marvin!--safari

The Fine-Tuned Machine Seems to Be Leaking ...

... Annie Karni & Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Press secretary Sean Spicer is cracking down on leaks coming out of the West Wing, with increased security measures that include random phone checks of White House staffers, overseen by White House attorneys.... The campaign to sniff out a series of damaging leaks, which Spicer is convinced originated from his communications department, has led to a tense environment in the West Wing. During meetings, the press secretary has repeatedly berated his aides, launching expletive-filled tirades...." CW: Oooh, Spicey, upbraiding helpless staff is so manly. I like the part where you made the girl cry. ...

     ... CW: Another great part of the report: "Spicer also warned the group of more problems if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was leaked to the media." Uh, Spicey, sure looks like somebody leaked the leaks meeting to Politico. Better find you some new expletives. ...

...**Mike Allen of Axios: "White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer personally picked up the phone and connected outside officials with reporters to try to discredit a New York Times article about Trump campaign aides' contact with Russia, then remained on the line for the brief conversations, Axios has learned.... The officials reached by Spicer were CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C), according to a senior administration official. The reporters were from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, the official said.... Pompeo and Burr told the journalists that the Times story wasn't true but provided no details, frustrating the competing reporters, according to the official: 'Both of them said: All I can tell you is the story is not accurate.'" I see a storm 'a brewin' --safari...

...Despicable If Corroborated. David Gettys of RawStory: "The White House apparently attempted to smear a critical reporter by planting a story about him laughing at the mention of a Navy SEAL's death. Politico published a story Sunday morning by Alex Isenstadt and Annie Karni on a surprise meeting called by White House press secretary Sean Spicer to examine aides' phones and other electronic devices for evidence of leaks. When multiple sources leaked details of that meeting to Isenstadt and Karni, it appears other White House officials slapped back at one of the Politico reporters using the death of a Navy SEAL killed just days after PresidentDonald Trump's inauguration. The Washington Examiner published a story Sunday evening, about six and a half hours after the 'phone check' report broke, claims [sic] one of the Politico reporters mocked a Trump aide's emotional reaction to the death of Chief Petty Officer William 'Ryan' Owens. Politico's editor, Carrie Budoff Brown, accused the White House of anonymously planting a false story to smear one of the website's reporters." --safari...

... And Some of the Passengers Are Falling Out Even Tho Sean Sez the Seatbelts Are Failsafe ...

... Jeremy Herb of Politico: "... Donald Trump's nominee for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration Sunday, becoming the second Pentagon pick unable to untangle his financial investments in the vetting process.... Like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination to be secretary of the Army earlier this month, Bilden ran into too many challenges during a review by the Office of Government Ethics to avoid potential conflicts of interest, according to sources familiar with the decision.... Last week White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied a report that Bilden could be withdrawing. 'Just spoke with him and he is 100% commitied (sic) to being the next SECNAV pending Senate confirm,' Spicer tweeted." -- CW

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Josh Marshall of TPM: "... President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, appears to have a longer-standing relationship than he'd let on with that renegade member of the Ukrainian parliament, Andrii V. Artemenko. Artemenko is the guy who met with Cohen and erstwhile Trump business associate Felix Sater to discuss Artemenko's 'peace plan' to settle things between Ukraine and Russia. A day later Cohen denied doing so.... Cohen has fairly extensive ties to and knowledge about Ukraine - which is of course the cockpit of the current deep freeze in relations between Russia and the United States." Marshall shares what he's learned so far, most revolving around Cohen's family connections to Ukraine & their (and Cohen's) ownership of a surprising number of Trump luxury apartments. --safari

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "... Republicans aren't going to quickly coalesce around a plan to overhaul the U.S. health care system.... But according to the Wall Street Journal, now GOP leaders have a plan to get around that: set repeal legislation in motion, and bet that rank-and-file Republicans won't have the guts to vote against killing the Affordable Care Act. GOP leaders hope to embark down this road as early as this week. The first step is passing legislation currently being crafted in the House that does away with key elements of Obamacare. As the Journal explains, the initial bill would contain some elements of a GOP replacement plan, but much of the new system would be worked out after the Affordable Care Act is no more." --safari ...

 

 

Marc Caputo of Politico: "Sen. Marco Rubio won't participate in town hall meetings because he says political activists will crash them to create a media spectacle of people who 'heckle and scream at me in front of cameras.' 'They are not town halls anymore,' the Florida Republican told CBS4-Miami's Jim DeFede on Sunday.... Citing protesting tips published by the new Indivisible movement, Rubio told the station that activists are instructed to go to town halls early and 'take up all the front seats. They spread themselves out. They ask questions. They all cheer when the questions are asked. They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give. They are instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they are also told not to give up their microphone when they ask questions. It's all in writing in this Indivisible document.'" -- CW


Bob Brooks
of ABC 6 Philadelphia: "A reward is being offered after more than 500 headstones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia.... Hundreds of headstones - well over 100 years old - were split in half." A visitor discovered the desecration Sunday morning. "Pennsylvania lawmakers, including Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey, also released statements on Twitter." -- CW

Legislation by Rumor. Kelly Weill of The Daily Beast: "Arizona lawmakers are using Trump-fueled rumors of 'paid protesters' to push a new bill that would make rioting prosecutable under the same charges the state currently uses against members of organized crime rings.... If booked on rioting charges..., an activist could have their assets seized while officials investigated whether he or she had been paid.... The bill states that an overt act is not required to prove a person's involvement in a riot, making it easier to charge nonviolent people in the vicinity.... Ironically, the bill's sponsor, [State Senator Sonny] Borelli, has a disorderly conduct charge on his own record, after police accused him of repeatedly hitting his wife in 2001." safari: I'm detecting a worrying trend with spousal abuse among confederates.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Driftglass reviews the Sunday showz, mostly to remind you that "Il Douche rules the Party of Jefferson Davis now.... Quibble to your heart's content about the exact date the Party of Lincoln died and the Party of Jefferson Davis rose up in its place, but one thing can no longer be equivocated away: the Right has been out of its god damn mind and getting more depraved and reckless by the day for decades now." -- CW

Matt Bruenig, in Medium, writes a blistering denunciation of "what happened to Keith Ellison" when President Obama & Obama allies decided to go after him.

Beyond the Beltway, Environmental Edition

Sand Mining. Vince Beiser of the Guardian: "The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand -- the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt.... All around the world, riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, and farmlands and forests torn up to get at the precious sand grains. It's a worldwide crisis that nobody has heard about.... The main driver of this crisis is our era's unprecedented urban growth.... The number of people living in urban areas has more than quadrupled since 1950, to about 4 billion today.... In the past few years, China has used more cement than the US used in the entire 20th century.... Sand mining is causing environmental damage worldwide." --safari

UNEP Newscentre [Feb. 23]: "UN Environment launched today an unprecedented global campaign to eliminate major sources of marine litter: microplastics in cosmetics and the excessive, wasteful usage of single-use plastic by the year 2022. Launched at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, the 0#CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to pass plastic reduction policies; targeting industry to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products; and calling on consumers to change their throwaway habits -- before irreversible damage is done to our seas.

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