The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Thursday
Apr202017

The Commentariat -- April 21, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Julie Pace of the AP: "... Donald Trump waded into France's upcoming elections Friday, saying he believes an attack on police officers this week will help Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate. In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump said that while he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen, the attack played to her strengths. 'She's the strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France,' Trump said in the Oval Office interview. 'Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.' U.S. presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas election. But Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer, saying, 'Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. I'm no different than you.'" -- CW

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "President Trump ordered his Treasury Department on Friday to review measures put in place by the Obama administration, setting the stage for a rollback of regulations that were intended to curtail corporate tax evasion and prevent another financial crisis. The executive order and two presidential memorandums come as Mr. Trump is scrambling for achievements as the 100-day mark in the White House approaches. Frustrated by the slow pace of action in Congress on his goal of overhauling the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation law and the fact that his mission of rewriting the tax code remains in limbo, Mr. Trump is attempting to take matters into his own hands.... Undoing the rules would appear to be at odds with Mr. Trump's campaign pledge to reduce incentives for companies to invert [i.e., merge with foreign companies to take advantage of lower tax rates abroad]." CW: "Setting the stage" for another financial crisis is a great "achievement" to "scramble for."

** "He Probably Saw It on TV." Dana Milbank: "There has been much speculation about Trump's nonsense talk about his 'armada.' Administration officials suggested a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House.... I put the question to my former colleague Tom Ricks, military writer and national security specialist at the New America Foundation. Ricks's hypothesis: Trump didn't have any idea where his armada was. 'He probably saw it on TV.'... This would appear to be another disturbing case of life imitating cable news.... At home as well as abroad, people are coming to recognize this emperor's state of undress." ...

     ... CW: Let that sink in. The Man Living in the White House has no idea what the President is doing. He "finds out" by watching Fox "News." This is the same way he "found out" President Obama was "tapping his wires."

David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: Trump's unkept pledges to charities & even his pattern of non-giving foretold how he would "govern": with unkept campaign promises, short-sighted "policies" and little interest in concerns of those outside his limited circle of "peers."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Escalating a threat to withhold grants from state and local governments that block the police from telling federal authorities about undocumented immigrants in custody, the Trump administration sent letters Friday to nine jurisdictions telling them they were obligated to prove compliance. The recipients, which included New York City, were identified in a May 2016 Justice Department inspector general report as having local rules or regulations that interfere with the ability of police or sheriffs to communicate with federal immigration authorities, about the status of prisoners in their custody." -- CW

Henry Kissinger gives one of Time's "100 most influential people" Jared Kushner a thorough panning. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post reads between the lines.

*****

Man Living in White House Reacts to Morning News:

It's the Media's Fault! Max Greenwood of the Hill: "President Trump took aim at the media early Friday morning, accusing journalists and news outlets of belittling and disparaging his early accomplishments in the White House. 'No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!' -- Donald J. Trump April 21, 2017' [wherein 'S.C.' = Supreme Court]." -- CW

CW: Trump, who has been credited for not weighing in on the French presidential election, just weighed in on the French presidential election. Louis Nelson of Politico: "'Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!' Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning.... The U.S. president has not officially backed a candidate in the French election, but far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is widely seen as holding views, especially on immigration and terrorism, that are close to Trump's. Le Pen, one of the election's frontrunners who spoke Thursday of her 'anger' following the attack and insisted that France possesses 'the means to defend itself,' met with Trump in his Manhattan skyscraper during the transition period." Voting begins Sunday. -- CW ...

     ... Update: Here's the NYT story on Trump's French-election comment, by Aurelien Breeden & Adam Nossiter. -- CW


Nutty Prez Goes Off-script Again; Disses BFF Mark Landler
of the New York Times: "President Trump added a new name Thursday to the list of countries he accuses of preying on American workers and exploiting naïve American trade policies: Canada. 'What they've done to our dairy farm workers is a disgrace,' Mr. Trump said as he ordered a sweeping investigation into whether steel imports are harming America's national security. 'We can't let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers.' Mr. Trump admitted he was going off script because the steel order is aimed at more familiar trade boogeymen like China and Japan. But his outburst in the Oval Office toward a friendly neighbor punctuated a week when tough talk on trade took center stage in a White House deeply divided over how aggressively to erect the trade barriers that Mr. Trump promised during his campaign.... 'He's manically focused on these trade issues,' said Stephen K. Bannon.... The flurry of activity amounts to a comeback by nationalists like Mr. Bannon...." ...

... Josh Wingrove, et al., of Bloomberg: "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will stick with its system of protectionist dairy quotas, even as ... Donald Trump doubled down on a vow to help American farmers.... 'The U.S. has a $400 million dairy surplus with Canada so it's not Canada that's the challenge here,' Trudeau said Thursday, adding many other countries subsidizes agriculture. 'Let's not pretend we're in a global free market when it comes to agriculture.'" -- CW ...

... Here's the view from the CTV (Canada TV) fact-checker, which pronounces Trump's milk rants "a lot of baloney." Even if you presume a Canadian bias, you'll have to admit this: the issue is quite complex, and nothing will convince me that Trump understands the first thing about the complexities.

Time-out for Stoopid Gnus: Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin had a fete to remember at the White House for several hours Wednesday night, as President Trump treated the high-profile supporters to a white-china private dinner, a room-by-room tour and free-range policy chat." -- CW

SCROTUS to Dismember ACA so He'll Look Like a "Winner." Matt Flegenheimer & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "White House officials, desperate to demonstrate progress on President Trump's promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are pushing to resurrect a revamped version of a Republican health care bill before his 100th day in office next week.... The latest version of the proposal, published Thursday morning in Politico, would maintain popular benefits in President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, like guaranteed coverage for emergency services and maternity care. It would also preserve the health law's ban on insurers rejecting customers with pre-existing medical conditions. But under the compromise Affordable Care Act replacement, states could seek waivers from many of those mandates if they could demonstrate that premiums would be lowered.... But at the same moment Mr. Trump's hundred-day mark is reached on Saturday, April 29, there is a far more urgent deadline: Much of the federal government will run out of money." -- CW ...

... Rachel Bade, et al., of Politico: "A frantic and impatient White House is pressuring House GOP leaders for another showdown vote on repealing Obamacare next week so it can notch a legislative win before ... Donald Trump reaches the milestone of his first 100 days in office.... Trump on Thursday predicted that health care legislation would pass 'next week or shortly thereafter.'... The vote is not currently on the calendar. Nor do Republican insiders think it's even possible, as Congress will reconvene Tuesday after a two-week Easter recess. That would leave them with one day to whip votes -- an unlikely time frame for such a heavy legislative lift.... Conflicting narratives suggest top administration officials and House Republican leaders are either miscommunicating -- or, more likely, that White House sources are squeezing Speaker Paul Ryan and his team, telling them to move quickly." -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman: "Sure, let's try to remake one-sixth of the American economy in the space of a couple of days, in order to meet a ludicrous arbitrary deadline to make the president look better. What could go wrong?" -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "Zombie Trumpcare is officially undead again -- and uglier than it's ever been.... The practical effect of these changes [to the original massively unpopular bill] would (almost certainly) be to increase the number of Americans who lose their insurance under the GOP's plan." -- CW ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "House Republicans are floating a new amendment to their health care bill -- one that would likely cause even more Americans to lose coverage than the last version. Leaders of the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus and the more moderate Tuesday Group have reportedly hashed out a proposal that would let some states ditch key Obamacare policies, such as the requirement to charge sick people the same for coverage as healthy people. States would also have the choice to opt out of the Affordable Care Act's essential health benefit requirement." -- CW ...

... What the Congress Giveth, the States Can Taketh Away. Greg Sargent: The new plan "is even crueler than the last GOP plan: [A newly-released] study finds premiums would likely soar for the sick, probably pushing them off coverage.... The waiver on prohibitions against jacking up premiums for people with preexisting conditions -- which is called 'community rating' -- is a major problem. It would smack them with far more in costs -- potentially pushing them off coverage entirely." -- CW ...

... Gene Robinson: "Having failed miserably to win passage of an abomination of a bill -- the American Health Care Act -- [Paul] Ryan (R-Wis.) and his minions are back with something even worse. A draft framework being circulated this week would pretend to keep the parts of Obamacare that people like, but allow states to take these benefits away. We see what you're doing, folks.... Republicans don't talk much about the practical reason for moving urgently on health care, which is to set the stage for tax reform: They want to take money now used to subsidize health care for low-income Americans and give it to the wealthy in the form of big tax cuts. Again, we can see you." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: Every GOP plan to "reform" healthcare coverage "turns out to have a fatal flaw ... because the task Republicans have set for themselves is basically impossible.... Now they've trapped themselves: They can't admit that they have no ideas without, in effect, admitting that they were lying all along." -- CW

Josh Dawsey & Jake Sherman of Politico: "The White House, under internal pressure to show legislative achievements ahead of the 100-day mark, is gearing up for a government shutdown fight to secure money for a border wall, more immigration enforcement officers and a bigger military, according to White House and congressional sources familiar with the plan. It is a risky gambit. With almost uniform Democratic opposition to nearly all of the Trump administration's spending proposals, the fight could lead to a government shutdown next Friday -- the day government spending expires, and right before the 100th day of Donald Trump's presidency." -- CW ...

... Robert Schlesinger of US News: "So Trump wants something to brandish at the 100 day mark and might risk shutting the government down to get it? Sigh. Can we all please acknowledge that the '100 days' is an arbitrary measure which should have been retired immediately after the one time it was relevant, Franklin Roosevelt's whirlwind of activity in the face of the Great Depression? The idea of shutting the government down so that you can get a 'big win' before the mark is insane.... The idea of a shutdown as the capstone of the first 100 days of unified GOP government (symbolic though that mark may be) is so absurd and self-destructive that in the current environment it's entirely plausible." -- CW

No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days. -- President Trump, remarks in Kenosha, Wis., April 18

Trump actually is unusual for his first 100 days, but for a reason opposite of what he said. Not only has he accomplished almost nothing, but rather his initiatives (executive orders stayed by courts, a major legislative proposal failing even to come to a vote when his party controls both houses, etc.) have notoriously been unsuccessful. -- Max Skidmore of the University of Missouri

There were 76 bills signed into law under Roosevelt in the first 100 days, compared with 28 (with a week to go) under Trump.... Thirteen of the Trump bills disapprove of major regulations put in place by Obama, which signifies a reversal of action, not new action.... Other bills [Trump signed are] 'minor or housekeeping bills'.... None of Trump's bills can be considered 'major' legislation according to political science standards, whereas at least nine of Roosevelt's bills met that standard.... Meanwhile, Trump is woefully behind in presidential appointments.... Trump would be well advised to not make such a big deal about this because the available evidence shows that he in no way comes close to matching FDR's record. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

Philip Rucker & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "An Egyptian American charity worker who was imprisoned in Cairo for three years and became the global face of Egypt's brutal crackdown on civil society returned home to the United States late Thursday after the Trump administration quietly negotiated her release. President Trump and his aides worked for several weeks with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to secure the freedom of Aya Hijazi, 30, a U.S. citizen, as well as her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, who is Egyptian, and four other humanitarian workers. Trump dispatched a U.S. government aircraft to Cairo to bring Hijazi and her family to Washington.... The Obama administration unsuccessfully pressed Sissi's government for their release. It was not until Trump moved to reset U.S. relations with Egypt by embracing Sissi at the White House on April 3 -- he publicly hailed the autocrat's leadership as 'fantastic' and offered the U.S. government's 'strong backing' -- that Egypt's posture changed. Last Sunday, a court in Cairo dropped all charges against Hijazi and the others." -- CW

I thought [Trump] was really going to help people. He's helped the rich man, the coal operators. But nothing for us so far. -- Tony Brnusak, 62, president of a local coal miners' union [in Pennsylvania???] ...

... Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump made coal miners a central metaphor of his presidential campaign, promising to ... look after their interests in a way that the Obama administration did not. Now, three months into his presidency, comes a test of that promise. Unless Congress intervenes by late April, government-funded health benefits will abruptly lapse for more than 20,000 retired miners, concentrated in Trump states.... Many of the miners have serious health problems arising from their years in the mines.... The president has offered no public comment on the issue, even as he has rolled back regulations on mine operators, an omission that has not escaped the notice of ... retired miners.... Responsibility for the retirees' health plans has increasingly shifted to the federal government in recent years, as struggling coal companies have shed their liabilities in bankruptcy court. Congress voted last fall to finance benefits for a large group of retirees for several months, but House and Senate Republican leaders have yet to agree on a longer-term solution." -- CW

Jacob Levy of the Niskanen Center: "... regardless of who's up and who's down in the West Wing, policy continues down the path of racism, ethnonationalism, and protectionism.... Over the course of the Bannon-Kushner struggle, many, reportedly including Kushner himself, have noted that he 'can't be fired.' But even those of us cheered at a little loss in status for Bannon can't be too comfortable with the idea that a 36-year-old ' real-estate guy' can be in charge of half a dozen major government portfolios and can't be removed from them because the only person with firing authority trusts family over expertise and experience." Via Greg Sargent. -- CW

If You Can't Walk on It, Is It a "Sidewalk"? Eric Beech of Reuters: "The U.S. Secret Service said it would end public access to a sidewalk along the south fence of the White House beginning on Wednesday night. The sidewalk has been closed nightly from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. since 2015 and will now be off-limits around the clock, the Secret Service said in a statement. The closure will 'lessen the possibility of individuals illegally accessing the White House grounds,' Secret Service Communications Director Cathy Milhoan said." -- CW ...

... Washington Post Editors: "SHUT IT down and close it up. That seems to be the default reaction of the Secret Service to any problem or failing -- including its own -- in protecting Washington buildings.... This is just the latest in a succession of closings that have turned parks into parking lots for White House staff, walled off walkways and pushed Americans steadily farther from the buildings that belong to them." -- CW

I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.... Judges don't get to psychoanalyze the President to see if the order he issues is lawful. It's either lawful or it's not. I think that it will be real important for America to have judges in the model of Judge (Neil) Gorsuch and (the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin) Scalia, people who serve under the law, under the Constitution, not above it, and they are faithful to the law. They honor it and don't try to remake it as they'd like it to be. -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in remarks about Trump's Muslim bans

Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won't succumb to your dog whistle politics. Hawaii was built on the strength of diversity & immigrant experiences- including my own. Jeff Sessions' comments are ignorant & dangerous. -- Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)

I'm surprised JeffBo didn't tweet back: "Put on your grass skirt, Mazie, & show us what you've got." I guess he'll do that more subtly, by refusing to defend women & minorites in discrimination cases. -- Constant Weader

Some little island! Hawaii -- where a certain former President, not to mention hordes of other inadequately-pale individuals, come from. And have allowed themselves to become entirely too UPPITY! -- Anne Laurie of Balloon Juice

I am going to make a general observation here that Hawaii is not only a series of islands in the Pacific, but it is the least white and most ethnically and racially diverse state in the country. That probably has at least a little to do with why a white conservative man from Alabama named after the former president of the Confederacy and the man who fired on Ft. Sumter doesn't think it's a legitimate part of America. -- Martin Longman, in the Washington Monthly

This is a man who spent his entire life defending states' rights. Now that he's the head of the top Federal law enforcement officer in the country he doesn't even acknowledge that states exist.... He is an authoritarian monster, the worst of all possible world, the scariest member of the scariest administration in American history. -- digby

Matt Zapotosky & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring criminal charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, taking a second look at a 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents and investigating whether the group bears criminal responsibility for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cyber-tools, according to people familiar with the case.... Prosecutors in recent weeks have been drafting a memo that contemplates charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, possibly including conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act, officials said. The memo, though, is not complete, and any charges against members of WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, would need approval from the highest levels of the Justice Department." -- CW ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department is aggressively investigating recent leaks of classified information and wants to put 'some people in jail' over the disclosures. 'Whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,' Sessions said in El Paso, Texas, during a border-security visit with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.... Donald Trump has repeatedly urged investigations into national security leaks, particularly those related to the ongoing FBI probe of possible ties between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government.... Sessions call for a more vigorous approach to leak cases came shortly before a Washington Post report Thursday that prosecutors are taking a fresh look at bringing criminal charges against people affiliated with the pro-transparency organization WikiLeaks.... A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the Post report." -- CW

Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "President Trump has nominated ... conservative lawyer [Neomi Rao] to run the obscure but powerful Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a gateway through which federal regulations must pass.... Rao would also be in a position to promote her conservative views. A critic of 'the administrative state' that ... Stephen K. Bannon has vowed to deconstruct, Rao has written that the independence of federal agencies should be abolished, their rules subject to White House review, and the heads of those agencies subject to dismissal by the president.... Not surprisingly, some liberal groups have opposed Rao, who must be confirmed by the Senate." -- CW

See Ya Later. CBS News: "The White House announced Thursday that President Trump is tapping former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown to be ambassador to New Zealand. Brown served as Massachusetts senator, winning the seat in a special election in 2010, after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Two years later, Elizabeth Warren defeated him and has held the seat since then. Brown then challenged New Hampshire incumbent Jeanne Shaheen for her Senate seat in 2014 but was defeated." -- CW ...

... Matthew Rosza of Salon: "One of the most widely circulated daily newspapers in New Zealand reported the news that ... Donald Trump has tapped former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown to be America's next ambassador to New Zealand with a hilarious headline. 'Man tipped for US ambassador role in NZ a former nude model who supports waterboarding,' The New Zealand Herald wrote on Thursday." Thanks to Akhilleus for the tip.

Matt Flegenheimer reviews the events at townhall-style meetings that Members of Congress conducted during their spring break.

Doina Chiacu, et al., of Reuters: "U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of a House committee with broad investigative powers, said on Thursday that it is possible he could leave office before his term finishes next year, The Wall Street Journal reported.... In Utah, officials have begun running informal scenarios on how and when to hold a special election should Chaffetz resign, but have not been formally notified of the congressman's intentions...." CW: There's more to this story than we know. It's beginning to sound like the cat-on-the-roof story. First, we learn Chaffetz won't run for re-election. Then we read he may not fill out his term. Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

     ... McKay Coppins hears Chaffetz may be quitting for a Fox "News" gig. CW: Well, there is something of a shuffle going on over there at "Fair & Balanced." Via Paul Waldman. ...

     ... Update. We're Up to "The Cat Fell off the Roof." Jake Sherman of Politico: "Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz -- who shocked the political establishment when he announced his retirement earlier this week -- said that he has already started looking for post-congressional employment, and hopes to serve on boards of directors and link up with a television network." -- CW

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Barack Obama's extended post-presidential vacation is about to end. After spending weeks in French Polynesia ... Mr. Obama will return to Chicago on Monday for his first public event as a former president. His self-imposed silence since Inauguration Day will end with a series of events over the next four weeks. A Monday town hall-style meeting with students at the University of Chicago will be followed by an awards ceremony in Boston; a series of public remarks as well as private paid speeches in the United States and Europe; and an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel.... Aides have rejected the idea that Mr. Obama should actively wage a public feud against Mr. Trump, with whom he has not spoken since the inauguration. They believe that such a fight would give the current president the high-profile political foil he wants to further energize his conservative supporters." -- CW

Perry Stein of the Washington Post: "Activists and scientists are expected to descend on the nation's capital Saturday to rally for environmental causes and government policies rooted in scientific research as part of the Earth Day and March for Science rallies. The demonstration comes a week after the Tax March and a week before the People's Climate March.... The rally is set for 10 a.m. at the Washington Monument and will feature dozens of short speeches and videos, said Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network. At about 2 p.m., attendees will march toward the U.S. Capitol." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Emily Steel & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "Bill O'Reilly is leaving Fox News with a payout of up to $25 million, the equivalent of one year of his salary, two people briefed on the matter said Thursday. For 21st Century Fox, the network's parent company, payouts related to sexual harassment allegations at Fox News now total more than $85 million. The vast majority of that -- up to $65 million in exit packages -- is being paid to the men who were ousted from the network because of the harassment allegations." -- CW ...

... Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post: "The Bill O'Reilly saga has three villains: the revolting former anchor himself, the network that ignored accusations of serial abuse, and a broader system that punishes confrontation and enables silence and complicity. Each deserves flaying -- along with President Trump, so eager to vouch for O'Reilly and dismiss suggestions of wrongdoing." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "Arkansas is preparing its death chamber for a possible execution Thursday night after the state supreme court lifted a temporary injunction blocking its use of a medical drug that a US healthcare giant had been duped out of under false pretences. The state's top court sided with the Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge and overturned an earlier lower court ruling that had imposed an injunction that had stymied any executions from going ahead. The ruling in effect allows the state to resume its highly contentious plan for a spate of quick-fire executions before its batch of the sedative midazolam expires at the end of the month. Two executions are scheduled for Thursday night. One of them, Stacey Johnson, remains on hold after the state supreme court agreed with his lawyers that he should have the chance for DNA testing on crime-scene materials that would either prove his innocence or confirm his guilt. But the life of Ledell Lee, the second prisoner facing an execution on Thursday, now hangs in the balance." -- CW ...

     ... Update. Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "Arkansas late Thursday night carried out the state's first execution in more than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a last-minute series of orders, rejected requests by a death-row inmate to stay his lethal injection. The execution followed a wave of criticism and tumult in Arkansas, which had set an unprecedented scheduled of executions, plans that were imperiled by a round of court orders halting at least some of the eight lethal injections originally set for April.... [Ledell] Lee was sentenced to death in 1995 for the killing of Debra Reese, who was beaten to death in her home two years earlier. According to court petitions and his attorneys, Lee has long denied involvement in Reese's death, and he was seeking DNA testing to try and prove his innocence. Lee's execution was confirmed by state officials." -- CW

Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post: "Shortly after the body of [Judge Sheila] Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York's top court, was found floating fully clothed in the Hudson River with no apparent signs of trauma or criminality, local police said they were treating the death as an apparent suicide.... But about a week later, following an inconclusive autopsy, authorities have begun asking for the public's help in the investigation. And on Wednesday, Abdus-Salaam's husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, joined the police in appealing for help from anyone with information that might help determine what happened in the moments before his wife's death. In his first public comments since the death, Jacobs firmly pushed back against reports that Abdus-Salaam's death was an apparent suicide." -- CW

Thomas Fuller & Stephanie Saul of the New York Times: "The University of California, Berkeley, on Thursday said it would permit the conservative author Ann Coulter to speak on campus in early May, just one day after it canceled her appearance that had been scheduled for next week. But a student group that invited her rejected the new date, saying that the university was putting unreasonable conditions on the event and that Ms. Coulter would appear next Thursday, as originally planned." -- CW

Way Beyond

James McAuley & William Branigin of the Washington Post: "A gunman opened fire on French police Thursday on a renowned Paris boulevard, killing one and wounding two others before being fatally shot himself in an incident that shook France just three days before a crucial election.... French news media, citing the Islamic State-affiliated Amaq news agency, reported that the terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was carried out by a Belgian national identified only as Abu Yusuf. It was not immediately possible to confirm that the Islamic State was behind the shooting." -- CW

Reader Comments (30)

Sessions is a Trump appointee so don't assume he knows Hawaii is a State.

April 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

I was just finishing the comments from tonight (Thursday--)and I found that I did not agree with Periscope OR AK-- in my opinion, the Obamas put up with more negative press in the 9 years they were in the public eye as candidate/pres/first lady than anyone should have to. There is no indication that any of that has stopped-- just read Yahoo comments sometime-- you will want to murder people-- and the Obamas are under no obligation to keep worrying about what things "look like." I fully support Marie's comment that they should enjoy themselves as they wish, with whom they wish. Their friends may be rich and famous, but for god's sake-- they aren't the Trumps' friends or relatives, or mafia etc. And I think they will continue to be generous and sensitive and thoughtful, and I, like Ken, would love to see them more involved, when they come up for air, between book writing sessions. We miss them terribly, more and more, as we listen to and hear in spite of ourselves, and SEE the Boob In Charge, who still couldn't get a clue if they injected him with it. And the grand larceny continues in spades...

April 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

My daughter sent me this, with the comment that she wasn't sure what she liked more, Vox's description of Kissenger as "President Nixon's "ethically dubious" foreign policy consigliere" or Kissinger's treatment of Kushner.

http://www.vox.com/world/2017/4/20/15373668/henry-kissinger-jared-kushner-time-100

Pat

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNot that Pat

I cling to the hope, that in 2021, a Democrat President will appoint Obama to the Supreme Court. He will be confirmed by a Democrat Senate majority, and nobody will give a rat's ass what he's been doing the previous four years.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterD.C.Clark

I kinda like the new Trumpcare proposal. Sounds like Obamacare with States able to decide to change to Nocare. Since the States that will do this are Trumpstates, a large percentage of people who will die from a lack of coverage will be Trumpvoters.

And remember that the ONLY reason for changing the game is for Trump to claim he did it.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

I agree in part with both sides of the Obama/optics discussion. Optics always matter. I come down on the side of let them do whatever they like, with whomever they like. Their friends are, after all, decent human beings, unlike the other side's accomplices. They aren't palling around with murderers, kleptocrats and other crims. My main reason, though, is that as we see with the continuing vitriol aimed at the Obamas, it won't matter how impeccably they behave, what they do, where they go, or with whom, they will be targeted by the Cons with lies, invective and racist abuse. So they might as well relax, enjoy their time off, mix with their friends, rich or not, as the result will be the same. Look how the Cons refer to President Carter, the greatest ex-Pres ever.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

WaPo article about science activism poses the question: will defending scientific principles in the political arena cause a political polarization, identifying "science" as a liberal cause?

The author, Megan Mullin, forgets that "science" is not "an American thing" -- there is a whole world of people engaged in science, who will not polarize into liberal-conservative blocs no matter how voters/people in the U.S. think about science.

And, if we as a society hobble our scientific leadership, there are plenty of places elsewhere in the world that will gladly assume it.

How stupid do we have to be, to politicize F=MA?

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

And of course the fake fear of terrorism. So one cop was killed in France by a Muslim. Last year 64 police were shot and killed in America by 'christians'.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Patrick, in America science has two interrelated issues. If science is true than maybe evolution is true and science is causing me to go from $5billion to $4billion.

A National Geographic article says:
In the U.S., only 14 percent of adults thought that evolution was "definitely true," while about a third firmly rejected the idea.

In European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, and France, more than 80 percent of adults surveyed said they accepted the concept of evolution.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060810-evolution.html
America, the land of the free and the home of the dumb.

My view is that activism in science is necessary in America because the rest of the world is already taking over.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Sarah Jones of TNR calls Sessions a "racist Keebler elf" and does a lovely job of describing his dog whistles to the people of Hawaii.
https://newrepublic.com/minutes/142180/jeff-sessions-knows-hawaii-state-just-doesnt-care

Good news for this administration's having gotten the release of those humanitarian workers imprisoned in Cairo. A feather in their red hats, but what a pity that it was accomplished by sucking up to al-Sissi.

Optics? I'll give you optics––– spotted on a different cruise ship at another time in our history: Donna Rice sitting on the lap of Gary Hart. Big deal––ruined Hart's chance of becoming president because his heart was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this vituperative age (when even a senator caught on camera constantly blowing his nose was ripe for guffaws) in order to remain sane one has to, especially a past president, live a life he he is meant to live. Long live freedom of...

I must say, Akhilleus, got quite a kick out of your saying you'd have no idea what to say to Tom Hanks. Ha! I'd bet Tom Hanks would be gobsmacked having a conversation with you even though I understand Hanks is quite erudite. Much too modest. my friend, much too modest!

@Patrick: when a large swath of a country's population believes in "alternative facts" aka religious myths, then even the word science is like an alien concept. And I applaud this:

"And, if we as a society hobble our scientific leadership, there are plenty of places elsewhere in the world that will gladly assume it."

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Island in the Pacific? Hey, at least he got the right ocean.

I'm thinking maybe Sessions forgot about Hawaii being a state and all after having a big bowl of chili at Alex Jones's house while they tried to figure out exactly how many people the Clintons have had killed and whether or not the Obamas were responsible for the latest shooting in Paris (seeing as how they were behind the shootings in Orlando, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombing). Maybe Tom Hanks and Oprah were in on it too!

I have to say, I can't wait to use that I-forgot-'cause-I-ate-chili defense.

"Honey, I'm sorry. The bank is here to repossess the house. I meant to pay the mortgage, but remember, we've been eating chili on mortgage payment day for the last two years. Not my fault."

Think that would hold up in a court of law? "It's the Chili Defense, your honor!" "Oh, cripes, that again?"

And not for nothin' but if we're gonna start diminishing the standing of states because they're small, how 'bout we start by telling states with the lowest populations that they don't get two senators anymore. Why should Confederate senators representing all those sparsely populated western states get to overrule everyone in the states of California and New York? Now that I think of it, Montana, Wyoming, both Dakotas, and Alaska all have fewer people than Hawaii. Maybe they should wait until they grow up a little to get their own senators.

With luck, they'll get an evil, racist little pipsqueak like Jeff Sessions. Won't they be lucky?

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Not that Pat,

Clearly some editor at Time was having fun by selecting war criminal and Sultan of Self Regard, Henry Kissinger, to blurb the selection of Young Jared as a member of the Most Influential.

His response, basically, "All his friends like him", is probably better than "Jared who?", but not by much.

The murderous ghost of a former horrible Confederate administration weighing in on an incompetent wraith from the current horrible Confederate administration. We're going backwards in some kind of weird time loop from hell! If Joe McCarthy shows up, I'm outta here. Oh, look! Over there. It's Roy Cohn with McCarthy....no, wait. That's Roy Cohn with Donald Trump. Aiiiieeeee. We ARE in a time loop from hell.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Question.

I'm really curious. I'm wondering what exactly the Man Living in the White House (good one, Marie) thinks he has done over his first 90 days or so that have been so earth shattering.

No, really. I'd love to know what he thinks he's done. He could try to make up some bullshit (he's always down with that), but it would be just that, bullshit. Is this guy really that delusional? Or maybe he thinks just getting up, cleaning the cracker crumbs out of his bed, and walking to the Oval Office without falling over is an accomplishment for the ages. Even the one thing he names, (S.C.) has very little to do with him.

The opportunity was only there because his party is full of treasonous jackals who stole that seat through their intransigence and hatred of the former man who lived in the White House (an actual president). Trumpy had zippo to do with any of that. Someone else even gave him the name. It'd be like my taking credit for making dinner when my wife had done the grocery shopping, cut up all the ingredients, put it all together, covered the casserole dish, put it in the oven, and I come along and turn it on.

Hurray for me.

Fucking joke.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

On second thought, I guess President* Baboon has done a lot of things. But they've all been bad. Rather than actually accomplishing anything on his own with the idea of making things better for most Americans, his goal has simply been the gainsaying and negation of anything Obama has done. So rather than attempting to paint his own masterpiece, he's simply spray painting over another's in the hope that people will interpret acts of political and moral vandalism as accomplishments.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Juan Cole enters the O'Reilly fray suggesting that Trump got some of his "ideas" from listening to Bill. Cole includes the video of Joy and Whoopi walking off the View when Bill was a guest. He ends with this:

"He's [Bill] a mean, mean man. And a bad historian, which yours truly holds against him, hard. He managed to cheapen my America and then he made millions writing "fake history."

"The O'Reilly Factor is dead. but Fox will just go on polluting the airwaves."
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/here_are_some_of_the_ways_bill_oreilly_trump_cheapened_america_20170420

Thinking about the connection between O'Reilly and Trump in terms of behavior. Both have that arrogance which belies the knowledge that they really know very little. Both lean toward asininity coupled with a definite mean streak. Both have problems with women. Both think they are the cat's meow and are surprised when they get scratched and criticized. Perhaps the difference is that O'Reilly seemed to know what he was doing while Trump is only pretending. No wonder these two fed off each other reminding each other what "good guys" they are.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

PD Pepe:

As a fellow atheist living in a town where the second part of the greeting "Nice to meet you," is "and what church do you attend?" I am refreshed and heartened by your comments on our common view. Thank you.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

@Akhilleus: I'll bet "your" homemade casserole is delicious & nutritious. The difference between "your" cooking & "Donald's" is that when he dishes out a serving of the casserole "he" made, it's laced with rat poison, an essential ingredient in every recipe in his minion's cookbooks.

Marie

April 21, 2017 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Stephen Colbert's Farewell To Bilious O'Reilly -
with a brief recitation from one of his "fictional" writings:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r6zuphSrJTQ

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOphelia M.

So which allies have we pissed off this week?
Canada
South Korea
New Zealand
and maybe France

And what do they have in common? There was no real reason in any case.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

"'She's the strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France,' Trump said in the Oval Office interview. "

Nothing like hard charging generalities to stoke up the base.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJustAGuy

@Marvin Schwalb: And I don't imagine Great Britain is too happy with Trump's demand for a twirl around town in Elizabeth's fancy carriage -- which would reportedly cause a "monster" security headache.

Japan is surely pissed off, too at the "lost armada" fiasco.

Any I doubt Mexico is happy with the continued escalation of the deportation follies.

But screw all of them. Trump is making America great. Yoo-Ess-Ay! Yoo-Ess-Ay!

Marie

April 21, 2017 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

So, it took $25M to get rid of Brillo and $40M to get rid of Ailes. If I set up a GoFundMe page, how much could be raised to get rid of DFT?

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

Unwashed: I'm betting he could be bought off for less than the
25 or 40 million Fox paid out, especially if we throw in a couple
of Eastern European hookers. I'm checking my funds now, but it
doesn't look good.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterForrest Morris

Please don't misjudge Tom Hanks. He is a VERY funny and quick-witted guy. He would definitely be on my list of people I'd like to be marooned with. He's been on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" several times and shows NO signs of stupidity or arrogance.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHaley Simon

Haley Simon: You're right about Tom Hanks. He was here a few
(many) years ago making Road to Perdition. Everyone here who
was involved loved him. Supposedly, his mother fell in love with
our lakeshore, so he bought her a summer cottage in the area. He
was a great supporter of gay rights in the Obama era, so I can see
why Confederates would be incensed that he's friends with the
Obamas. And what are trumps friends doing for anyone's rights,
other than destroying them?

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterForrest Morris

@Forrest, have you checked for loose change under your sofa cushions? Every little bit would help to achieve our goal.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

Re: "U.S. presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas election. But **Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer** saying, 'Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. **I'm no different than you**.'" (**my emphases**) Too shtoopid to decipher self-reflection.

As for Marine Le Pen, she's her Fathers', Daughter. Not so her Mother's:

I got such pleasure upon learning that Marine's Mom divorced her Dad because of his fascistic leanings, but not nearly so much as when shown her Playboy layout: Scantily posed, she performs house-wifery *chores for the sole intention of publicly humiliating her ex-hubby. "You go (went), Girl!"

(If so inclined, one *backstory can found by googling -
"Pierrette Le Pen’s Playboy Moment" by Robert Williams Urquhart)

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOphelia M.

@Haley: My point exactly re: Hanks and why Akhilleus' modest statement made me laugh. He and Tom would, I imagine, talk for hours and find common ground, with or without the sea breeze and the dry martinis.

April 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Women are denied the right of self determination and health care because life is sacred. Thanks, Gorsuch-sitting-in-Garland's-seat.

April 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

Pence family on holiday in a Sydney, Australia, courtesy US taxpayers.

April 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGloria
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.