The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, September 15, 2019.

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

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thursday
Aug222019

The Commentariat -- August 23, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Angry Man in White House Pledges to Punish You Some More. Alan Rappeport & Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "President Trump, angered by Beijing's decision on Friday to retaliate against his next round of tariffs and furious at his Federal Reserve chair for not doing more to juice the economy, said he would increase taxes on all Chinese goods and demanded that American companies stop doing business with China[.] Mr. Trump, in a tweet, said he would raise tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods to 30 percent from the current rate of 25 percent beginning Oct. 1. And he said the United States would tax the remaining $300 billion worth of imports at a 15 percent rate, rather than the 10 percent he had initially planned. Those levies go into effect on Sept. 1.... Those levels are likely to exacerbate the financial pain already being felt from the tariffs as companies and consumers face higher prices for products that they buy from China. Even before the new 30 percent rate, the tariffs were expected to cost the average American household more than $800 per year, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York." The CNBC story is here.

Elizabeth Thomas & Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently treated for a 'localized malignant tumor' on her pancreas, a court spokesperson said Friday. 'The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,' the spokesperson said."

Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts is dropping out of the presidential race, ending a candidacy that emphasized Mr. Moulton's centrist politics and military service but gained no traction with Democratic primary voters.... He warned in [an] interview that if Democrats were to embrace an overly liberal platform, it could make it harder for the party to defeat President Trump." The CNN story is here.

Yun Li of CNBC: "China said Friday it will impose new tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods and resume duties on American autos. The Chinese State Council said it decided to slap tariffs ranging from 5% to 10% on $75 billion U.S. goods in two batches effective on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. That happens to be when President Donald Trump's latest tariffs on Chinese goods are to take effect. It also said a 25% tariff will be imposed on U.S. cars and a 5% on auto parts and components, which will go into effect on Dec.15. China had paused these tariffs in April. Stocks tumbled and bond yields fell following the announcement." ...

... ** Morgan Chalfont of the Hill: "President Trump on Friday pledged to respond to China's latest round of tariffs 'this afternoon,' further ratcheting up the trade war between Washington and Beijing. In a string of tweets sent Friday morning, Trump also said he was ordering U.S. companies to 'immediately start looking for an alternative to China,' proposing they begin making their products in the United States, though it was not immediately clear what authority he was attempting to invoke. Trump has previously pressured companies including Apple to begin producing their goods in the U.S. 'The vast amounts of money made and stolen by China from the United States, year after year, for decades, will and must STOP. Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing ... your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,' Trump tweeted." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I don't have to tell you Trump's "order" is insane. Maybe in a state of emergency -- like war -- Trump could "order" private corporations to alter their trade practices, but I know of no authority a president or president* has to do so for political or economic reasons in peace time. Trump so firmly believes he's a dictator who can push everyone around that he doesn't think twice before trying it. ...

     ... Update. The Washington Post story, by Taylor Telford & others, is here. "The White House does not have the authority to force companies to follow such directives, but his comments came in the middle of a Twitter tirade in which he appeared to be expressing mounting fury that his economic agenda is not coming together. 'I have no idea how the president thinks he can order companies to stop working with China. I'm baffled,' said Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank." See, especially, safari's third comment in the thread below. ...

     ...OR, as Kevin Drum puts it, "Anyway, the president obviously doesn't have the authority to order US companies to do anything, even if he does use a big word like 'hereby.' Still, I assume Republicans will all be shocked and outraged by this megalomaniac attempt to interfere in the free market. Right?" Akhilleus, in commentary below, invokes the Obama Corollary.

     ... Update 2. Fred Imbert of CNBC: "Stocks plunged on Friday after ... Donald Trump ordered that U.S. manufacturers find alternatives to their operations in China. Apple led the way lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 623.34 points lower, or 2.4% at 25,628.90. The S&P 500 slid 2.6% to close at 2,847.11. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3% to end the day at 7,751.77. The losses brought the Dow's decline for August to more than 4%." This is an update of an earlier report. Mrs. McC: What? Just because the POTUS* is insane? You people haven't been paying attention. ...

... Earlier, that same morning:

... Jacob Pramuk of CNBC: "... Donald Trump on Friday again ripped into Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, comparing him to Chinese President Xi Jinping. 'My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel or Chairman Xi?' Trump tweeted, misspelling Powell's last name.... Trump tweeted his attack not long after the text of Powell's speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was made public. Powell on Friday promised to take the steps needed to maintain U.S. economic growth as fears about a potential recession grow. In his remarks..., [Powell] said the economy has 'continued to perform well overall' but acknowledged 'trade policy uncertainty seems to be playing a role in the global slowdown.' In a previous tweet Friday, Trump said, 'as usual, the Fed did NOTHING!' It is unclear what Trump expected the central bank to do at its symposium, as it does not have a policy meeting until the middle of next month." ...

     ... Update. The New York Times story, by Jeanna Smialek, is here.

Robert McFadden of the New York Times: "David H. Koch, who joined his brother, Charles G. Koch, in business and political ventures that grew into the nation's second-largest private company and a powerful right-wing libertarian movement that helped reshape American politics, has died. He was 79." Thanks to unwashed for the lead. Here's the NBC News obituary.

Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker interviews "Amy Wax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School..., the academic who perhaps best represents the ideology of the Trump Administration's immigration restrictionists. Wax, who began her professional life as a neurologist, and who served in the Solicitor General's office in the late eighties and early nineties, has become known in recent years for her belief in the superiority of 'Anglo-Protestant culture.' In 2017, Wax said..., 'I don't think I've ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half.' The dean of Penn Law School, Theodore Ruger, said that Wax had spoken 'disparagingly and inaccurately' and had been barred from teaching core-curriculum classes.... During our conversation..., Wax expounded on her beliefs that people of Western origin are more scrupulous, empirical, and orderly than people of non-Western origin, and that women are less intellectual than men. She described these views as the outcome of rigorous and realistic thinking, while offering evidence that ranged from two studies by a eugenicist to personal anecdotes, several of which concerned her conviction that white people litter less than people of color."

Lynh Bui of the Washington Post: "Leon Haughton, a legal U.S. resident & green-card holder, bought three bottles of honey from a Jamaica roadside stand last Christmas "before heading home to Maryland. It was a routine purchase for him until he landed at the airport in Baltimore. Customs officers detained Haughton and police arrested him, accusing him of smuggling in not honey, but liquid meth. Haughton spent nearly three months in jail before all charges were dropped and two rounds of law enforcement lab tests showed no controlled substances in the bottles." There's an AFP report here.

~~~~~~~~~~

The irony here is that Trump's erratic, chaotic approach to the economy is probably the most significant economic risk factor in the world right now. Their response is just to show even more erratic behavior. It's economic narcissism. It's economic policy by whim, pride, ego and tantrum. -- Gene Sperling, top economist in the Clinton & Obama administrations

This administration has not done itself a whole lot of favors in talking about the economy. They have done a lot of communicating that is verifiably false on the economy. -- Tony Fratto, top economist in the Bush II administration ...

... Damian Paletta, et al., of the Washington Post: "Even as his aides warn of a business climate at risk of faltering, the president has been portraying the economy to the public as 'phenomenal' and 'incredible.' He has told aides that he thinks he can convince Americans that the economy is vibrant and unrattled through a public messaging campaign. But the internal and external warnings that the economy could slip have contributed to a muddled and often contradictory message. Administration officials have scrambled this week to assemble a menu of actions Trump could take to avert an economic downturn. Few aides have a firm sense of what steps he would seriously consider, in part because he keeps changing his mind." Here's an ABC News story on Trump's mixed messages on the economy. ...

... The Ripple Effect of Trump's Trade War. Jonelle Marte of the Washington Post: "The prolonged trade war between the United States and China is taking a toll on the manufacturing sector, which contracted for the first time since 2009, data show.... Sales of U.S. exports decreased at the fastest pace since August 2009, according to the report. When exports fall, manufacturers typically respond by reducing inventories and cutting production. Over time, that gloominess could lead manufacturers to trim jobs.... A contraction in manufacturing can have large ripple effects across the economy, [Mark] Zandi [of Moody's Analytics] said. Factories that produce fewer goods tend to cut back on shipping and distribution, which affects transportation companies, warehouses, seaports and airports, he said. Struggling manufacturers also have less need for general business services such as accounting, media and advertising. And when factories start reducing staff, those workers cut back on spending, hurting retailers and service providers, Zandi said." Here's the CNBC story.

Tim O'Brien of Bloomberg: "The Trump of the past few weeks is the same disordered figure of the past several decades with, I suspect, a big dollop of something new blended in: unbridled and unmanageable panic.... When Trump gazes into the sky at the White House and says that he's the chosen one, he's not the type who thinks he can actually walk on water. He's the type who's hoping that droves of evangelical voters might keep falling for his shtick. And Trump is willing to playact in this extraordinary way, I think, because he's mired in fear.... Trump, understandably, has started to panic and his attempt to convince people that he's the second coming shows how deeply worried he is about things he can't control -- and how increasingly reckless he might become."

Phil Rucker of the Washington Post has a good piece on the transactional nature of Donald Trump's pro-Israel stance. He begins, "President Trump decided long ago that it would be smart politics for him to yoke his administration to Israel and to try to brand the Democratic Party as anti-Semitic. He set about executing a pro-Israel checklist: moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights as part of sovereign Israel, and taking a hard line against Iran. And he promoted himself as the greatest president -- a deity even -- for Jewish people." Mrs. McC: Rucker very much backs up what I wrote in Wednesday's thread in response to a reader who argued that Trump was Israel's BFF. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... AND Talia Lavin, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... the series of bizarre statements Trump made about Jews this week do a lot to clarify why the president appears to be pressing for the Jewish vote. Assailing a minuscule, politically left-wing ethnic group under the guise of right-wing outreach makes a lot more sense when you realize it was never really about, or for, American Jews at all. Trump's appeals both reflect and attempt to reach a different population entirely, one much more likely to talk about the second coming of God or anoint a King in Israel: evangelical Christians.... Their support for Israel is grounded in the Book of Revelation, which dictates that Israel must be 'restored' to the Jews before the Jews convert en masse, redeeming themselves for having once rejected Jesus. This redemption comes in fire, and at the cost of complete erasure of any distinct Jewish identity; it is a hallmark of the end of history, a time of tribulation that will exterminate the faithless." ...

... Javanka MIA. Again. Kaitlan Collins & Betsy Klein of CNN: "During a week filled with uncertainty over the economy, retweets of conspiracy theorists, battles for his ear on gun legislation and an unsolicited fight with the prime minister of Denmark over buying Greenland, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have remained under the radar. The couple was on vacation in Wyoming with their children over the weekend, and, on Monday, participated in a Trump Victory fundraiser alongside his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. They returned to Washington this week but with a limited presence in the West Wing, people familiar with the situation said. The President's daughter and son-in-law -- who are Modern Orthodox Jews -- stayed silent publicly as Trump caused a firestorm by questioning the loyalty of some Jewish Americans to Israel. Trump has recently decided that branding the Democratic Party as anti-Semitic would be savvy political strategy -- and aides have largely supported the fight, but when he questioned the intelligence and loyalty of Jewish people who support Democrats, some inside the West Wing privately conceded to CNN he had gone too far.... Trump's daughter and son-in-law have developed a pattern of being absent amid some of the biggest controversies of his presidency."

Trump's Second-Term Project: Gutting Medicare & Social Security. Bess Levin of Vanity Fair: "While Republicans do not expect Trump to push for cuts [in Medicare & Social Security] while campaigning for reelection, they've apparently encouraged him to do so should he win a second term -- a proposition to which President 'I'm not going to cut Social Security, I'm not going to cut Medicare' has reportedly been receptive. 'We've got to fix that,' Senator John Thune, the number two Republican in the Senate, told the Times. 'It's going to take presidential leadership to do that, and it's going to take courage by the Congress to make some hard votes. We can't keep kicking the can down the road. I hope in a second term, he is interested,' Thune said of Trump.... Republicans, said Senator John Barrasso, who seems to regularly chat with the president, have 'brought it up with President Trump, who has talked about it being a second-term project.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This, of course, is what Republicans do: cut taxes to balloon the deficit, then demand cuts to social services programs. And Republican voters go along with the program time & again, never, ever figuring out the con.

Alan Rappeport & Edward Wong of the New York Times: "President Trump has shifted his stance on the unrest in Hong Kong in recent days to show greater solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters after coming to view the issue as a point of leverage in trade negotiations with China. For months, Trump administration officials described the Hong Kong uprising as an internal matter for China.... But as the protests have dragged on, advisers to Mr. Trump have succeeded in making the case that wading into the issue could prove necessary -- and advantageous -- to the United States as it tries to push Beijing to accede to its trade terms. After previously saying Hong Kong was a 'very tough situation' that was up to Chinese leaders to handle, Mr. Trump has more recently called on those leaders to offer a 'humane' response and urged Mr. Xi to engage in dialogue with the protesters.... The words were couched in practical terms centered on a trade deal, not in the language of human rights, but they were nevertheless surprising given Mr. Trump's earlier passive remarks on Hong Kong." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Of course Trump's sudden "interest" in democratic rights is a tactic, not a principled stance.

Trump Invited Himself to Denmark, Then Blew off Danes. Erin Banco & Sam Stein of the Daily Beast: "Speaking to reporters on the White House's South Lawn in late July..., Donald Trump revealed that he was 'looking at' a stop in Denmark after an upcoming trip to Poland to attend a World War II commemorative ceremony. For officials in Copenhagen, the comment came as a surprise. Although it is customary in Denmark for there to be a standing invitation for the U.S. president -- and though officials in both countries had been discussing the possibility of an American delegation visiting -- no formal invitation had actually been extended to Trump, according to two senior Danish officials and an individual who works closely with the Trump administration in Copenhagen. By the next day, Queen Margrethe II had issued the invite, and the White House had officially announced the president's plans to visit the country." The Danish government, including the Queen, were in the midst of elaborate preparations for Trump's visit when they learned he had decided not to show up, after all. ...

... Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday defended President Trump's push to buy Greenland, revealing that he discussed the idea in a conversation with the president [more than a year ago] and even proposed it in a meeting with the Danish ambassador [a few months back]. It was unclear whether Cotton was the first person to raise the idea to the president. Cotton said Wednesday that Trump had received the suggestion 'from me and from some other people as well.'" The USA Today story is here. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As a reminder of who Tom Cotton is, here's a November 2017 post by Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker which asks the question, "Is Tom Cotton the Future of Trumpism?" ...

... Sam Stein & Will Sommer of the Daily Beast: Carla Sands, "the United States ambassador tasked with cleaning up bizarrely strained relations with Denmark in the wake of Donald Trump's failed attempt to buy Greenland is a frequent retweeter of conspiracy theories who once starred in a movie so bad it was parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Since becoming ambassador, she has frequently retweeted bizarre claims on her personal Twitter account.... It's rare for a top diplomat to be the one openly spreading conspiracies, even under a private account.... Sands ... appeared utterly caught off-guard by [Trump's] cancellation [of his Denmark visit].... How Sands performs in this now-delicate role could raise a myriad of questions, from why the U.S. government continues to rely on unseasoned hands in ambassadorial roles to how she ended up in this spot in the first place." (Also linked yesterday.)

Steve Peoples & Hanah Fingerhut of the AP: "About 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of ... Donald Trump's overall job performance, according to a new poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which finds some support for the president's handling of the U.S. economy but gives him weak marks on other major issues. Just 36% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president; 62% disapprove."

Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed News: "An email sent from the Justice Department to all immigration court employees this week included a link to an article posted on a white nationalist website [VDare] that 'directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,' [including an antisemitic slur] according to a letter sent by an immigration judges union and obtained by BuzzFeed News.... The post detailed a recent move by the Justice Department to decertify the immigration judges union.... After publication of this article, [Executive Office for Immigration Review] Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly told BuzzFeed News 'the daily EOIR morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included. The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.'" ...

... Steve M.: "It's appalling that the Justice Department would link to anything at the [VDare] site. [Steve elaborates on this.] But the post doesn't seem to attack any of the targeted judges in a specifically anti-Semitic way. On the other hand, it does refer unfavorably to a New York Times story with the word '#Lugenpresse' -- 'lying press,' a term used by the Nazis in reference to anti-Nazi journalism. The Times story in question is 'Trump Administration Moves to Decertify Outspoken Immigration Judges' Union' by Christina Goldbaum. Referring to a woman named Goldbaum as a member of the Lugenpresse? That's over the line."

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha

Niraj Chokshi of the New York Times: "Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary, will join Fox News as a contributor next month, reinforcing the strong ties between the conservative cable network and the Trump administration. Ms. Sanders, who left the administration less than two months ago, will make her debut on Sept. 6 on 'Fox & Friends,' the network said in a statement. In her new role, she will provide political commentary and analysis across Fox properties, including Fox News and Fox Business Network as well as digital and radio outlets." ...

... Matt Gertz of Media Matters: "In perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Fox News has hired ... Sarah Huckabee Sanders as a contributor. Sanders' White House tenure was characterized by the total contempt in which she held journalists and the public at large. She shamelessly lied from the press room podium and constantly belittled the reporters who tried to pry actual information away from her. In the end, she stripped them of access and eliminated the press briefings altogether." ...

... MEANWHILE, Elizabeth Williamson of the New York Times profiles Trump's latest (and most invisible) press secretary, Stephanie Grisham: "... the White House is the loftiest stop in a turbulent career trajectory that has mixed toughness and loyalty to her bosses with professional scrapes, ethical blunders and years spent alternately wooing and pounding the press on behalf of scandal-prone Arizona Republicans.... Her career history ... include[s] losing a private-sector job after being accused of cheating on expense reports, a later job loss over plagiarism charges and two arrests for driving under the influence, the second while working on Mr. Trump's campaign." Mediaite has a short summary of the lowlights of the Times report. Mrs. McC: All the best people, etc. ...

     ... Walter Einenkel of Daily Kos: "The real takeaway from this profile is that Grisham comes with all of the warning signs we have come to expect from a Republican administration, and maybe more so from this current crew of cons and grifters."


Weird News. Scarce
of Crooks & Liars: "The Topeka Capitol-Journal reported [Thusday night] that congressman Steve Watkins, [R-Kansas] barely eight months in office, is being asked to step down immediately by Republicans in Kansas and DC. The odd thing is though that no one will say why.... Speculation so far has centered around Watkins unorthodox 'open marriage', and allegations of inappropriate behavior towards multiple women." Here's the enigmatic Topeka Capital-Journal report. Best graf: "The Topeka Capital-Journal reported he was dating women in Topeka during the campaign while engaged to be married and after he was wed, and identified a Wasilla, Alaska, resident who accused Watkins of unwanted sexual advances. Watkins called the allegations 'preposterous.'" Oh what Wasilla resident could that be?

Presidential Race 2020

Biden's Enthusiasm Gap. Katie Glueck of the New York Times:"... there are signs of a disconnect between [Joe Biden's] relatively rosy poll numbers and excitement for his campaign on the ground [in Iowa], in the state that begins the presidential nominating process. In conversations with county chairs, party strategists and dozens of voters this week at Mr. Biden's events, many Democrats in Iowa described a case for Mr. Biden, the former vice president, that reflected shades of the one his wife, Jill Biden, bluntly sketched out on Monday. 'You may like another candidate better, but you have to look at who is going to win,' she said, citing Mr. Biden's consistent lead in early surveys.... That stands in stark contrast to the way voters explain their support for candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who drew 12,000 people to an event this week in Minnesota..., or Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who also draws large crowds and maintains a core base of die-hard fans." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: To this, I say, "Remember President John Kerry. And don't forget President Al Gore."

Alexander Kaufman & Chris D'Angelo of the Huffington Post: "A panel of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday rejected a proposal to host a single-issue debate on the climate crisis. At a party conference Thursday in San Francisco, the DNC's resolutions committee voted 17-8 against a resolution that has become a cause célèbre for activists and for more than a dozen presidential contenders who felt the traditional debate format failed to adequately address the looming threat of catastrophe. The issue could resurface during the full committee's general session on Saturday.... The vote came a day after ... climate candidate Jay Inslee, who had been pushing for the debate, dropped out of the race."

Ken Vogel & Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "Months after backing out of a trip to Ukraine amid criticism that he was mixing partisan politics with foreign policy, Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, has renewed his push for the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into political opponents of Mr. Trump. Over the last few weeks, Mr. Giuliani has spoken on the phone and held an in-person meeting, in Madrid, with a top representative of the new Ukrainian president, encouraging his government to ramp up investigations into two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump. One is whether Ukrainian officials took steps during the 2016 election to damage Mr. Trump's campaign. The other is whether there was anything improper about the overlap between former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine and his son's role with a gas company there." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Pamela Brown & Caroline Kelly of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he had spoken with a Ukrainian official about Joe Biden's possible role in that government's dismissal of a prosecutor who investigated Biden's son. The move shows [Giuliani] is making a renewed push for the country to investigate ... Donald Trump's political enemies." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... It Gets Worse. Allan Smith of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani confirmed Thursday that the State Department assisted his efforts to press the Ukrainian government to probe two prominent Democratic opponents of the president: former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.... [Giuliani] confirmed to NBC News that the State Department helped put him in touch with ... Andriy Yermak, a lawyer and close ally of recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky.... The State Department put Yermak 'in contact with me,' Giuliani said. 'Not other way around....'"


New Poll Finds What We Knew All Along. Jill Filipovic
in the Guardian: "A new poll shows ... the 'pro-life' movement is fundamentally about misogyny. A Supermajority/PerryUndem survey released this week divides respondents by their position on abortion, and then tracks their answers to 10 questions on gender equality more generally. On every question anti-abortion voters were significantly more hostile to gender equity than pro-choice voters." (Also linked yesterday.)

Eric Levitz of New York: "... on certain segments of the right, criticisms of the [New York Times' 1619 Project] have been so histrionic, they read less as arguments than primal screams.... But if the right's catastrophizing response to the 1619 Project is incomprehensible in intellectual terms, it's more understandable in psychological ones. The Times's narrative ... does challenge the legitimacy of white American identity -- and the secular saints and potted histories that lend that identity its substance. And for many white conservatives in the U.S., the idea of surrendering that identity is quite painful."

New York Times: "Patrick Byrne resigned as chief executive of the online retailer Overstock.com on Thursday, saying he had no choice but to quit because of the attention stirred up by his public disclosure of a relationship with [Maria Butina,] a woman accused of being a Russian agent.... The company's shares were up more than 10 percent on Thursday after Mr. Byrne announced his resignation."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Brazil/Earth. The Devastating Effects of Right-Wing "Populism." Leah Asmelash of CNN: "The Amazon rainforest is an ecological marvel. It's twice the size of India, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and it's the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world. It's home to at least 10% of the world's biodiversity, produces 20% of the world's oxygen and helps regulate the temperature of the whole planet. Without it, climate change could become irreversible -- a reality brought to light by the fires in the region that have been raging this week. Here are some ways the Amazon rainforest helps the environment, and what these devastating fires could mean for climate change." ...

... Tom Phillips of the Guardian: "France's president, Emmanuel Macron, has said the fires in the Amazon are an 'international crisis' and called for them to be top of the agenda at the G7 summit, prompting a furious response from Brazil's leader. 'Our house is burning. Literally,' Macron tweeted.... Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist who bristles at the idea of foreign interference in the Brazilian Amazon, took exception to his French counterpart's comments. 'I regret that president Macron seeks to take advantage of what is a domestic Brazilian issue and of other Amazonian countries for personal political gain,' Bolsonaro tweeted, targeting what he called Macron's 'sensationalist tone'."

Reader Comments (20)

Yes, we have economic policy by whim as Sperling notes. Hell, we have "policy" by whim, no need to restrict it to "economic."

But Tony Fratto is also way too restrictive on his statement. All through the Obama years, the entire Republican caucus and their propaganda network whined that the economy was awful even while they kneecapped* economically sound methods to re-invigorate the economy. (*My wife broke her kneecap in the spring. Recovery continues, but it involves a great deal of daily work that wasn't necessary for ordinary life, in the form of stretching and weight exercises, time that could have been spent on more productive and/or fun things.)

Imagine where we would be if Republicans had let real infrastructure spending move forward after the initial stimulus package (that they also crippled by keeping it from being large enough)? They were hair-on-fire about deficits, like those ones they are running now when the economy is "good."

The WaPo article by Paletta et al. does not dip even a tiny toe into the cesspool of misinformation coming from the R side about the economy over the last decade and more. So that's just another Win for them.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

Will Trump talk turkey to his bro Bolsonaro, the beastly bastard with whom he held hands with in the oval office and told us what a great job this guy was doing? These fires in the Amazon should be everyone's concern since it effects everyone's home–-that thing called the planet!

@Nisky: Couldn't agree with you more––this is the kind of sabotage the R's continue to dump on us time after time and one wonders if it ever bothers their sleep at night knowing what miserable people they are.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The Orange Menace couldn't give two fucks about Medicare &/or Medicaid, but he knows how craven his party members are, and he knows how to save his skin. Jollying about ripping apart the programs is just him strengthening the noose around the GOP's necks. How could they pull their support now with that big fat golden goose egg staring at them on the other side of the 2020 elections. He's got them by the balls, comatose.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Finally, some heartening news. David Koch dies.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

My comment on last night's Krugman column.

Unintentionally perhaps, each time Professor Krugman brings up "voodoo economics," by discussing it he implies Arthur Laffer is a real economist, that is someone who sincerely tries to figure out and explain how an economy works and not simply a paid shill for the Greedy Old Party--and that is a major disservice to his own or any fact-based profession.

"There is no economic explanation for the voodoo economics Professor Krugman so often writes about, so I suggest we all stop trying to find one.

Tax cuts for the rich were never about stimulating the economy or distributing wealth more fairly. They have always been a heist, pure and simple, perpetrated by the people most able to pay their own way and least willing to do so.

As long as most of our politicians are beholden to the wealthy for the positions they hold they have little choice but to do their bidding--and their bidding as a general rule is lower taxes.

We have a poisonous political system in cahoots with an economic system rigged for the wealthy and against the middle and lower classes. *

And as wealth distribution becomes ever more skewed upward (a trend that began in the 1980's and has only accelerated since) and the wealthy accumulate ever more power to exert influence and get what they want, democracy, which is based on the disappearing ideal of equal representation, becomes just another empty promise.

What is happening to us has everything to do with money, but nothing at all to do with economics.

*One political party wholly fine with the arrangement; the other, struggling and a bit bi-polar."

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

David Koch is dead and I'm heading out to find some tasty craft beers. The two events are not necessarily related.*


*they are.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

It's worthwhile to recall that the Kochs, got their start, like Trump, by inheriting a fortune as well as a business, from their father, who made his money by helping Josef Stalin.

You see, socialism is only a bad thing when Republicans, who have been shored up by the Kochs for decades, can weaponize it against their enemies. As long as they get something from it, it's A-Ok. Like the way Trump bolsters his ego by swanning around with ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin, whose prior career was killing people for the Soviet Union.

So never mind that the Koch fortune got its start by helping brutal socialist dictator and murderer Uncle Joe Stalin power his empire by building oil refineries for him (he did the same for Hitler, just so's we don't forget that one neither). Just point the finger at Democrats who want to help fellow Americans, scream "SOCIALIST!", pat yourself on the back, cash that check from the Kochs and head off to another meeting with the Orange Menace where you'll nod your head as he declares that its time to let Putin back into the company of other nations.

Maybe Dave is having boat drinks with Stalin as we speak. "Thanks for the start, Uncle Joe!" Do svidaniya, Dave.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I liked this one.

Much more worth reading than my rehash of tired old complaints above.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/23/us/trump-obama-change-blake/index.html

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes: Thanks for the link. I agree with Blake in most particulars. But what I have finally come to realize is that presidential elections are more "snapshots in time" than they get credit for. The vast majority of the electorate can't seem to remember anything that happened more than six months prior. Some, I think, don't remember much past their election-day breakfast: good breakfast -- vote for the incumbent; bad breakfast -- vote for change! It's like Groundhog Day; but every day is the first day in history.

So, yeah, a Democrat may win the presidency this time, but by the next election -- hard as this is to believe & however much it should not be -- voters will forget what a dangerous, demented, incompetent president* Trump was & they'll be willing to vote for another (or the same!) charlatan spouting a pack of lies. Sorry, George Santayana; we are condemned.

August 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Lies and lying liars, continued

So it goes. Liarbee Sanders has the same job (lying to Americans) but a different venue, Lying Fox "News", as opposed to the Lying Trump White House.

And Nisky Guy's comment about how Republicans will do anything to sabotage their political opponents, including killing the economy popped into my head when I read a lede in Murdoch's NY Post that sez the economy is fine, perfectly fine, great even, why worry? Democrats are just lying when they talk about a recession.

Now this isn't just an opinion piece by some Arthur Laffer moron, or a know-nothing phony economist like Larry Kudlow. This piece of work is written by the Post editorial board. So, okay. Not one moron, a bunch of morons.

But maybe not. So after praising the Orange Menace to the high heavens for his wonderful economy, they say BUT....

And here it comes.

They go on to suggest that well, ya know, maybe, sort of, kind of, ya know, those recession thingies, they DO happen. Sometime. Sort of. As if wholesale economic downturns happen out of the blue. And we do have about a trillion dollar budget shortfall (oops, who could possibly be responsible for that?), AND there is that pesky trade war with China that could use some fixing.

But hey, tax cuts will fix everything!

And forget what we said about recessions and budget problems and Trump's tariff war. Everything is jake!

So let's just open a bottle of champagne, toast to Democrats and liberals and immigrants and women and healthcare and....blah, blah, blah...being vanquished by the great Donald.

And forget that you might not have a job in a few months. Whatever it takes to prop up the Trump regime. What's a few lies to the public about something as inconsequential as the economy, as long as the Orange Menace can be saved to do his worst?

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Maybe it's not such a terrible thing that Trump and his ratfucker in chief, Giuliani (talk about a terrible second act in a public life, Giuliani had a sterling reputation in the aftermath of 9/11 and he traded it all in to be a boot licking con man's sidekick doing his dirty work and spreading his lies just to get his face back on the TV once more) are going after Biden and his family with their usual array of nastiness, innuendo, lies, and dirty tricks.

It could accomplish a couple of things that I believe are absolutely necessary at this point. First, it draws attention, however unfair and unwarranted, to what I'm sure the media will call some questionable dealings (nothing questionable about Trump's machinations, however).

This may have the effect of tamping down support for Biden. But it may also leave Warren relatively free to build her own support as we come around the corner out of the preseason into the real-deal election season when games start to matter.

I have no delusions that Trump will leave her alone, he has hate and dirty tricks to burn. But so far his attacks against Warren have been lame and, well, stoopid. He and his pet rat Giuliani will go after Biden as long as he has that double digit lead among Democrats, which causes them to see him as Trump's main competition in 2020.

I'm also liking the idea of one or more R's jumping into the arena to challenge Fat Boy on his own turf. If nothing else, that will be a distraction to the Orange Menace and his staff of ratfuckers. Love to see how Fox will go after a Tea Party hee-roe (Walsh).

It's gonna get messy.

These things always look so obvious and clear in histories written five or six years down the road. When you're in the maelstrom, usually all you can see is swirling walls of water all around. The only solace is that, once and a while, if you look up, you'll see blue skies.

Hopefully, if Warren wins, they'll be blue skies from now on (thank you Irving Berlin).

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Bea,

Understand you having a Hegel moment (“The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”).

I have them, too, but I vacillate. When I linked the Blake piece, I recalled the way the Pretender's election immediately motivated so many to march and protest in one way or another, and while that intitial enthusiasm for public protest has diminished somewhat, the feeling is still reflected in the polls and according to those same polls has in fact grown among some demographics.

So...maybe a little learning. Maybe.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Trumponomics 101

I keep reading about anonymous White House aides who are trying to push the OM toward doing something (anything) to keep the economy from taking a nose dive off Trump Tower into a Dixie Cup on 5th ave.

Who are these people? In my estimation, Trump has shown the door to anyone with half a brain and those with a tiny bit more than half a brain have all decamped. Mostly what's left are the dregs, the sycophants, the Kool-Aid guzzlers, the chiselers, the schemers, and the obsequious.

So who are these economic experts counseling Trumpy?

I'm gonna guess it's a group that could include the girl who makes copies of confidential, top secret documents for Javanka (so they'll have something with which to make small talk on their many vacations). She probably gets a glimpse at stuff like, ya know, facts, before the Trumpies can re-jigger them.

Maybe the kid who makes the coffee. Perhaps the sous chef in the White House kitchen, just after instructing the staff to increase the fat content in the burgers to make them more McDonald-like. I'm betting there are some pretty smart domestics there as well, left over from the Obama days.

Oh, and don't forget the FedEx lady who delivers packages of new golf balls. Truck drivers know where the rubber meets the road, economically speaking.

It's also possible that kids from Mrs. McGillicuddy's fifth grade class from Falls Church Public Schools on a White House tour could toss out a few bon mots about the economy as Trumpy stumbles out of Egg-zecutive time, around one in the afternoon, Fox misinformation leaking out of his cauliflower ears like oil from a blown head gasket.

So there ya have it. The Trump brain trust, circa mid-2019.

It's the economy, stupid.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Damn! Xi burned Drumpf HARD dropping new tariffs right as he stumbles into another looming disaster at the G7. This is the diplomatic equivalent of a giant kick in the balls to The Pretender (thanks Ken). No way he'll be able to "concentrate" on anything as he flails and fails in front of world leaders.

The US stature is in the world is going to take a massive hit this weekend. This will not end well.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

The little king is “ordering” American corporations and businesses to do what he tells them.

No pushback from the confederates. Just imagine the howls has Obama issued such a command.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Here are two perspicacious pieces from Krystal Ball, linked this morning at NakedCapitalism.com:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltFF8LDKzw8
https://youtu.be/n7vedsc92PA

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Howard

Don't know if I'll summon the time or interest to look at Ms. Wax's powers of analysis in more detail, but from this distance, which may be as close to her as I will care to get, it would seem she's never heard of culture.

I'd hate to generalize, but if we take the evidence of her "thinking" as representative of Anglo-Protestant* superiority, there are a lot of us in trouble.

Whadda piece of work!

*Fortunately, I was raised Catholic.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes: Yeah, Wax's "thinking" is itself a mighty poor argument for "Anglo-Protestant superiority"; on the other hand, she does say women are less "intellectual" than men. I can't get over universities like Penn & U.C.-Berkeley (John Yoo) hiring such jerks. Teaching "competing ideas" doesn't mean at least one has to be stupid. As for her being unable to recall a black student at the top of the class, she either can't remember anything that conflicts with her bigoted theory or she just can't see you if you're black. Here's the interview where she says black students fare poorly.*

* Update: I stand corrected. Wax is not an Anglo-Protestant. She's Jewish & of Eastern European heritage. So, gosh, maybe she's right. I wish I were a man so I could be nearly as smart as the whitey-whitest Anglo-Saxon boy in England.

August 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Glad to hear that RBG has fared well through this latest cancer situation. Since he hasn't yet made fun of RBG's cancer, I'm thinking it must KILL Fatty to keep quiet and not wish a Supreme Court Justice who is not a Fat Boy rubber stamp a swift death, as is his repulsive wont.

A worse human being you'd have to climb into pits so deep, dank, and stinking that light--not even high energy neutrinos--could penetrate to his level.

Here's hoping RBG lives long enough to write the majority opinion sending Trump to federal prison.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I can't begin to equal the comments made today about our "dear leader" but I just hope I'm still around the day someone at one of these impromptu news conferences just busts out laughing. I'm surprised it hasn't already happened.

August 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee
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