The Wires

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

The only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America."

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody."

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings."

Click on the picture to see larger image.... AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress."

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco."

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers."

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends."

Thursday
Feb162017

The Commentariat -- February 17, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "An Oklahoma judge on Thursday ordered Scott Pruitt, the stat's attorney general and President Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, to turn over thousands of emails related to his communication with the oil, gas and coal industry. The Center for Media and Democracy has been seeking the release of Pruitt's correspondence with fossil-fuel representatives under public records laws for more than two years. The group filed suit over Pruitt's refusal to turn over the documents and requested the expedited hearing that led to the judge's decision, which was first reported by E&E News. The ruling by District Court Judge Aletia Timmons, who said there had been 'an abject failure to provide prompt and reasonable access to documents requested,' came a day before the Senate is expected to vote on confirming Pruitt to head the EPA, an agency that he has sued repeatedly during the Obama years." -- CW

Garance Burke of the AP: "The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press. The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana. Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal -- California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four -- Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the AP report was '100 percent not sure' and 'irresponsible.' 'There is no effort at all to utilize the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants,' he said." Thanks to Periscope for the link. ...

     ... CW: Aside from the obvious horrors of the content of the report, we must offer congratulations to Sean Spicer for thinking up a novel way to express the non-denial denial. Evidently a quick study, he's learning from the master (a number of pundits figured Trump held his press conference yesterday to show Spicer how it's done. But "100 percent not sure" is a humdinger. Deal with that, Akhilleus! (See today's comments.)

Amanda Taub & Max Fisher of the New York Times: "A wave of leaks from government officials has hobbled the Trump administration, leading some to draw comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as 'deep states,' undermine and coerce elected governments. So is the United States seeing the rise of its own deep state? Not quite, experts say, but the echoes are real -- and disturbing. Though leaks can be a normal and healthy check on a president's power, what's happening now extends much further. The United States, those experts warn, risks developing an entrenched culture of conflict between the president and his own bureaucracy." -- CW

Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: "... as the official White House press conference disintegrated further into unhinged criticism and belligerent sniping, reporters seated in the East Room could hardly contain themselves. There was an awkward mix of laughing with Trump, and chuckling at him as the president kept venting and sneering. The reporters present couldn't stop quietly gossipping about Trump. 'What is going on?' one journalist whispered to another. 'This is insane' and 'What the hell?' were other popular refrains in the room." -- CW ...

... John Podesta in a Washington Post op-ed: "Trump is deploying a strategy, used by autocrats, designed to completely disorient public perception. He's not just trying to spin the bad news of the day; all politicians do that. He seeks nothing less than to undermine the public's belief that any news can be trusted, that any news is true, that there is any fixed reality. Trump is attempting to build a hall of mirrors where even our most basic sensory perceptions are shrouded in confusion. He is emulating the successful strategy of Vladimir Putin.... The media ... are the foundation of an informed democratic dialogue. Our president is throwing mud all over that -- deliberately, with malice aforethought. He's telling us we are being lied to all the time. That has a corrosive effect...." -- CW ...

... Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic runs down how the right-wing media "reported" Trump's presser. "... a great many of [Trump's supporters] aren't seeing the same information as those who oppose Trump -- they are being fed lies and untruths by coastal-dwelling millionaires like Hannity and Limbaugh; and they exist at a time when even more responsible right-leaning outlets that make up their information bubble are unlikely to target the lies they encounter, and in a culture where [right-wing commentators] sees what's going on and [celebrate] it as Trump playing the game well." -- CW

*****

Undaunted by Negative Reports, Trump Makes Compelling Argument He Is Insane. Ashley Parker & John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Thursday aired his grievances against the news media, the intelligence community and his detractors generally in a sprawling, stream-of-consciousness news conference that alternated between claims that he had 'inherited a mess' and the assertion that his fledgling administration 'is running like a fine-tuned machine.' 'To be honest, I inherited a mess,' Trump said, in a news conference that lasted more than an hour and was at times rambling, combative and pointed.... Yet moments later, the president seemed to acknowledge the widespread reports of turbulence and upheaval emanating out of his West Wing, only to claim that his White House -- which so far has been marred by staff infighting, a controversial travel ban, false statements and myriad leaks -- was operating seamlessly. 'I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos -- chaos,' he said. 'Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can't get my Cabinet approved.'" -- CW ...

Tomorrow, they will say, 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.' I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you. You know, you're dishonest people. But -- but I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it. -- Donald Trump, in a hastily-scheduled 80-minute press conference Thursday ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump dismissed reports about contacts between his advisers and Russia on Thursday and defended his performance in his first four weeks in office in a contentious news conference that showcased his unconventional and unconstrained presidency. At a hastily organized White House event ostensibly intended to announce a new labor secretary, Mr. Trump engaged in an extended attack on the news media and boasted that his new administration was a 'fine-tuned machine,' not the chaotic operation perceived by many in Washington." -- CW ...

... Josh Dawsey & Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "After stewing in anger during four rocky weeks in the White House..., Donald Trump had his say Thursday. He spent 80 minutes in an impromptu East Room news conference shredding his critics, relitigating the election, bragging about his crowds, crowing about his accomplishments and denying, deflecting and obfuscating a series of mushrooming bad stories that have dogged his presidency and depressed his approval ratings. It was an extraordinary scene in the White House, which Trump essentially turned into a venue for a campaign rally, trashed the country's most influential news outlets, cited approval polls and spread misinformation. It came two days before Trump will hit the road for a campaign rally in Florida, where he said the crowds would be 'massive.'" -- CW ...

... Stephen Collinson of CNN: "... Donald Trump launched an extraordinary denunciation Thursday of his critics, complaining he inherited a 'mess' and slamming stories that his campaign was constantly in contact with Russia as 'fake news.' Trump held court during a news conference that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, carving out a stunning moment in modern American political history. He displayed a sense of anger and grievance rarely vented by a President in public -- let alone one who has been in office for just four weeks." -- CW ...

... Here's the transcript. -- CW ...

... Maggie Haberman & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times provided running commentary & some fact-checks. Amusing. ...

... Kevin Drum fact-checked the Trumpster fire of a presser, an exercise that required him to allude to Schrödinger's Cat. -- CW ...

... AND NBC's Peter Alexander Fact-checked Trump in Real Time. Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "Trump had claimed in his opening remarks that he had won the biggest Electoral College victory since Ronald Reagan, which is demonstrably false. 'You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan,' Alexander said.... He then began to list recent electoral victories bigger than Trump's, which include both of Barack Obama's victories, both of Bill Clinton's victories and George H.W. Bush's 1988 victory, all since Reagan. 'Well, I was talking about Republicans,' Trump said. George H.W. Bush, who was also a Republican, received 426 electoral votes, well above Trump's 304. 'Why should Americans trust you?' Alexander asked. Trump said he had just been given the information, seeming to imply he had been given incorrect information." -- CW ...

... All Black People Hang Together. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Over the course of the lengthy and bizarre news conference that President Trump held Thursday, few moments crystallized the unusual nature of his presidency as effectively as an exchange he had at the end with April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. Ryan [-- who is black --] asked Trump if he would include the CBC in discussions about his agenda for addressing urban policy. The CBC ... is the Congressional Black Caucus.... Trump appeared briefly to be unaware of what the initials stood for, and so Ryan asked the question more pointedly.... 'Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus ... and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as ...?. 'Well, I would,' Trump interrupted. 'Tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting.' Read on. Trump went on to lie about Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- Md.), who is black, and to insult a Jewish reporter, while boasting he is the least racist & least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen. -- CW ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... nobody until now has used a press conference to send one basic message over and over: With a few exceptions the people in this room are all lying scoundrels and you should not believe a word they say. Because that was Trump's message: Every grievance he could dredge up, dating back to the ups and downs of the campaign trail, found its way into his tongue-lashing of the media today.... It is hard to change the behavior of a politician who craves media criticism...." -- CW ...

... Josh Alvarez of the Washington Monthly: "Trump really outdid himself in this one. It was meant to be a press conference simply announcing his new pick for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Acosta.... Instead, he singlehandedly attempted to squash Tuesday night's revelations by The Failing New York Times and Fake News CNN -- that multiple Trump campaign staff and associates were in regular contact with Russian intelligence officials.... Ignoring all the specious dust Trump kicked up yields the two most important facts. First, he neither confirmed nor denied that his campaign staff was in contact with Russian officials during the campaign. Second, he denied ordering Flynn to talk to the Russians about sanctions, but he 'would have directed him to do it.'... It was clear to any observer that he was fully enjoying the experience and it was entertaining in the way WWE once was. But the outlines of a criminal, treasonous conspiracy remain in place." -- CW ...

... Trump's Harangue Was a Conservative Manifesto. Steve M.: "But that's what conservatism is now -- angry white people saying 'Respect ME, dammit!' and insisting that everyone who doesn't agree with them deserves to be harangued or intimidated into silence.... During the campaign, many concerned political observers asked, "What does conservatism stand for now?" This is what it stands for. It stands for I have the floor, so you just shut the hell up." -- CW ...

... See also yesterday's comments on Trump's insane presser.

Republicans Begin to Make Good on Plans to Destroy the Environment. Devin Henry of the Hill: "President Trump on Thursday signed legislation ending a key Obama administration coal mining rule. The bill quashes the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste that officials finalized in December. The legislation is the second Trump has signed into law ending an Obama-era environmental regulation. On Tuesday, he signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution undoing a financial disclosure requirement for energy companies. Both the mining and financial disclosure bills are the tip of a GOP push to undo a slate of regulations instituted in the closing days of the Obama administration. The House has passed several CRA resolutions, and the Senate has so far sent three of them to President Trump for his signature. Regulators finalized the stream protection rule in December, but they spent most of Obama's tenure writing it." -- CW

Erika Kinetz of the AP: "The government of China awarded ... Donald Trump valuable rights to his own name this week, in the form of a 10-year trademark for construction services. The registration became official on Feb. 14 and was published in a trademark registration announcement on the website of China's Trademark Office on Wednesday.... The registration this week came as a surprise win for Trump after a decade of trying - and failing - to wrest the rights to his name back from a man named Dong Wei.... Critics say Trump's global intellectual property interests could be used by foreign states as leverage over the president and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless explicitly approved by Congress. These concerns are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: As Haley S. pointed out in yesterday's Comments, the trademark case just happened to accidentally be resolved in Trump's favor right after he "climbed down on past threats and agreed to honour the so-called 'One China' policy." Total fucking amazing coincidence.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: "President Trump's meeting on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed that he has no understanding of Middle East politics or of what a peace treaty with the Palestinians would require. Trump believes that his desire for a deal puts him halfway toward achieving one and that his close friendship with Netanyahu moves him a bit closer still. He doesn't get that Netanyahu doesn't need or want a peace deal with the Palestinians at this point. Nor do the Palestinians; nor do the Sunni Arab countries -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates -- that Trump wants to drag along to the table." -- CW ...

... Ignorant by Choice. Ashley Dejean of Mother Jones: "Keep it short and free of nuance -- that is the new guidance that has recently circulated to some intelligence analysts who compile materials for the President's Daily Brief on security threats around the globe. The classified guidance, which was reviewed by Mother Jones, suggests that President Donald Trump's daily national security briefing contains far less information than the daily reports presented by the intelligence community to past presidents -- and about a quarter of the information President Barack Obama received. The memo sent to certain analysts within the intelligence community notes that the commander in chief's daily briefing book typically contains reports on only three topics, typically no more than one page each." -- CW

Tim Egan looks back at the month that was, and kinda can't believe it.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "President Trump is stuck in a time warp.... 'The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story -- RUSSIA. Fake news!' Trump tweeted Thursday, noting in parentheses the number of electoral votes he won in November.... His priorities worry those who see in Russia's behavior a real threat to U.S. security -- not only last year, but also going forward.... His priorities worry those who see in Russia's behavior a real threat to U.S. security -- not only last year, but also going forward.... The campaign environment remains his comfort zone. So eager is he to return that on Saturday, he will hold a rally in Florida that White House press secretary Sean Spicer described as 'a campaign event.'" CW: To those who argued before Trump gook office that he never wanted to govern, you got that right. And how! (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Follow the Money. Luke Harding, et al., of the Guardian: "Deutsche Bank, which is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and is facing intense regulatory scrutiny, [conducted an internal investigation] looking for evidence of whether recent loans to [Donald] Trump, which were struck in highly unusual circumstances, may have been underpinned by financial guarantees from Moscow.... The president's immediate family are Deutsche clients. The bank examined accounts held by Ivanka Trump..., Jared Kushner..., and Kushner's mother. The internal review found no evidence of any Russia link, but Deutsche Bank is coming under pressure to appoint an external and independent auditor to review its business relationship with President Trump. Democratic congressman Bill Pascrell Jr, a member of the House Ways and Means committee, said ... the bank was under federal investigation for aiding Russian money-laundering - a 'troubling potential conflict'." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Justice Department told a federal appeals court on Thursday that it would not seek a rehearing of a decision that shut down President Trump's targeted travel ban. Instead, the administration will start from scratch, issuing a new executive order, the department said. Last Thursday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked the key parts of the original executive order.... The panel said the original ban was unlikely to survive constitutional scrutiny. The Justice Department said that the panel's decision was riddled with errors but that the flaws it noted would be addressed in the new executive order." -- CW

Katie Mettler of the Washington Post has more on a shocking El Paso Times story linked yesterday: "A hearing in El Paso County in Texas went from ordinary to 'unprecedented' last week when half a dozen Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her." CW: And President Puss E. Grabber doesn't give a rat's ass.

** Sari Horwitz & Adam Entous of the Washington Post: "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country's ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said. The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy, as lying to the FBI is a felony, but any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department. Some officials said bringing a case could prove difficult in part because Flynn may attempt to parse the definition of sanctions." -- CW ...

     ... Update. Evan Perez of CNN: "The FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against ... Michael Flynn regarding a phone call with Russia's ambassador, barring new information..., law enforcement officials told CNN Thursday.... Flynn initially told investigators sanctions were not discussed. But FBI agents challenged him, asking if he was certain that was his answer. He said he didn't remember. The FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn't remember all of what he talked about, they don't believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say." CW: Thanks, Jim Comey! ...

... Adele Stan of the American Prospect speculates on what Michael Flynn knows that Donald Trump doesn't want you to know. She notes that the dossier compiled by Brit Christopher Steele alleges that Trump had a "long-standing deal with the Russian government of quid pro quo information-trading between the Trump Organization and the Kremlin. Over the course of several years, Steele's sources told him, the Trump team gathered information on Russian oligarchs with U.S. assets, and delivered it to Russian operatives in exchange for information on Hillary Clinton and Democrats." -- CW ...

... Jim Sciutto, at al., of CNN: "Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward turned down ... Donald Trump's offer to be national security adviser Thursday, depriving the administration of a top candidate for a critical foreign policy post days after Trump fired Michael Flynn.... A friend of Harward's said he was reluctant to take the job because the White House seems so chaotic. Harward called the offer a 's[hit] sandwich,' the friend said. A Republican official told CNN that Harward made it a condition of taking the job that he could form his own team. In the end, he didn't feel that was the case. And a senior Republican familiar with the process added that 'a question of clarity regarding the lines of authority' was central in Harward's decision." CW: Mixed-up metaphors! It's not "a shit sandwich"; it's "a fine-tuned machine." And now it's time to bring on David Patraeus, Trump's alternate choice for national security advisor. Luckily for Loose-Lips Patraeus, the job doesn't require Senate confirmation.

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Moving quickly after his first choice for labor secretary withdrew his nomination amid controversy, President Trump made a seemingly safe selection on Thursday in R. Alexander Acosta, a Florida law school dean and former assistant attorney general. In Mr. Acosta, Mr. Trump has chosen a nominee with deep experience in labor relations, law and education. The pick answers concerns about the lack of diversity in the Trump administration, in that Mr. Acosta would be the first Hispanic in the president's cabinet. And his chances of being confirmed appear relatively high, since Mr. Acosta, currently the dean of Florida International University's law school, has made it through the Senate process three times for different roles." -- CW

Alan Rappeport: "A divided Senate confirmed Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina to be President Trump's budget director on Thursday, installing in his cabinet a fiscal hawk who will play a central role in the administration's plans to reshape the federal government. Mr. Mulvaney was confirmed to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget by a vote of 51 to 49, narrowly making the cut over a unified front of Democrats, joined by Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee who accused Mr. Mulvaney of being antimilitary. Mr. McCain was angered by Mr. Mulvaney's support for firm spending limits on the Defense Department." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency have been calling their senators to urge them to vote on Friday against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump's contentious nominee to run the agency, a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages turbulent times ahead for the E.P.A. Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in E.P.A. offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting -- by a president who has vowed to 'get rid of' it." -- CW

Jessica Garrison, et al.,of BuzzFeed: "A Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump's son, Eric, is seeking permission to import almost two dozen additional foreign workers, according to a petition posted by the Department of Labor on Thursday.... Last fall, a special envoy from the United Nations raised concerns about the federal guest worker program, saying it puts workers at risk of exploitation and even trafficking. A BuzzFeed News investigation in 2015 found that H-2 workers were often exploited, and sometimes raped or beaten. BuzzFeed News also found that many Americans were denied jobs in favor of guest workers.... The winery's website says it is not owned by the president but rather by his son Eric, who was given the operation by his father in 2012.... Still..., last year, Trump ... claimed ownership of it. Speaking before a table stacked high with wine, he said: 'I own it 100 percent, no mortgage, no debt.'" -- CW

** Paul Krugman: "... you can't understand the mess we're in without appreciating not just the potential corruption of the president, but the unmistakable corruption of his party -- a party so intent on cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating banks and polluters and dismantling social programs that accepting foreign subversion is, apparently, a small price to pay.... This nightmare could be ended by a handful of Republican legislators willing to make common cause with Democrats to demand the truth. And maybe there are enough people of conscience left in the G.O.P. But there probably aren't. And that's a problem that's even scarier than the Trump-Putin axis." -- CW

Pew Research Center: "Less than a month after Donald Trump took office, the public's initial impressions of the new president are strongly felt, deeply polarized and far more negative than positive. The latest national survey by Pew Research Center conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults, finds that Trump's overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office: 39% approve of his job performance, while 56% disapprove. The intensity of the public's early views of Trump is striking: Fully 75% either approve or disapprove of Trump strongly, compared with just 17% who feel less strongly. Nearly half (46%) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29% strongly approve." -- CW ...

... What Even Paul LePage Can See. Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a supporter of President Donald Trump, said Thursday morning that too many people are vying for power within the White House and that the President should stop treating it like a TV show. 'The thing I'm sensing is that there's three or four chiefs at the top,; the Maine governor told Newsradio WGAN. 'I would say this: You've got to put someone somebody in charge.'" -- CW

A Win for Free Speech & Gun Safety. Curt Anderson of the AP: "A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment's right to free speech. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients' Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn't want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor. 'The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,' wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan in one of two majority opinions covering 90 pages. 'There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.'Circuit Judge William Pryor, who was a finalist in ... Donald Trump's search for a Supreme Court nominee, said in a separate concurring opinion that the First Amendment must protect all points of view." -- CW

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "The new US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has said he is ready in principle to work with Moscow after meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on the margins of a G20 foreign ministers summit in Bonn on Thursday.... Tillerson, under attack from Democrats in the US for being close to Moscow, stressed that Russia had a duty to abide by the Minsk peace agreements in Ukraine and said the US would only cooperate practically if it were in the country's interest to do so....In his brief conversation with Lavrov, described by the latter as productive, Tillerson struck a balance between standing firm on issues such as Ukraine, Iran and nuclear weapons, and trying to find ground from which to build the new counter-terror alliance sought by Trump.... Separately, James Mattis, the new US defence secretary, said on a visit to Nato in Brussels that it was too early to talk of military cooperation, dealing a blow to Moscow's hopes of swiftly mending ties with Washington under Trump.... Mattis went out of his way to soothe European fears that Trump was about to abandon Nato, saying the US commitment to article 5 of the Nato alliance, the commitment to mutual self-defence, was rock solid." -- CW ...

MEANWHILE, Way Beyond the Beltway

Irina Resnik, et al., of Bloomberg: "The Kremlin ordered state media to cut way back on their fawning coverage of ... Donald Trump, reflecting a growing concern among senior Russian officials that the new U.S. administration will be less friendly than first thought, three people familiar with the matter said. The order comes amid a growing chorus of anti-Russian sentiment in Washington, where U.S. spy and law-enforcement agencies are conducting multiple investigations to determine the full extent of contacts Trump's advisers had with Russia during and after the 2016 election campaign." -- CW

Reader Comments (24)

SO may flying monkeys. Now that Steinberg has been named to probe the leaks (can't say that without thinking of the transvaginal torture device) I am wondering about his authority to access high level intelligence. He's just a private person. Does he get a security clearance from the people he's investigating?

February 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Only 30,000 professional agitators according to Breitbart and Co.?
Methinks they "misunderestimate," by millions upon millions...
Seems Obama is getting more credit now from wackos on the Right for doing a good job than he ever did during the eight years of his Presidency. Kind of 'em to finally come around.

And the poor misunderstood Pretender....is stuck. He craves the limelight, the TV appearances. The lure is so strong he can't stay away, but every time he gives in to the urge to perform in front of the camera, he exposes himself to more and more people--I would hope some who actually voted for him--as the unmistakable and undeniable nut job he is.

What a clown. What a mess (not Obama's) we're in.

February 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Trumps absurd comments over last two days about racism and anti-semitism are simply a reflection of his basic problem. Nothing matters except Trump. He really wants Jews and blacks to love him. His problem is that he wants the whole world to love him and currently the racists and anti-Semites love him. So how do you keep both sides? Tough problem for the Trump. Of course he could stand up for the right thing? The problem is that the only 'right' thing is the Trump. NPD.

February 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

On another front (there are so many in the so well coordinated roll out of the new administration*--that word too now begs an asterisk--let's talk about pot, not going to, but weed.

We now have anointed Jeff Sessions, whose record as an anti-drug warrior parallels his racist history. And we have some states that have legal pot, in some overseen by the state and its sales taxed, some in which it is merely de-criminalized by law or in practice.

It so happens most of the states that have decided weed is not their biggest problem and a possible source of revenue have at least a blue tinge.

Who could not like that move toward sanity (maybe blue's definition)? It's not a hard question.

Have seen two articles recently. This one from the LATimes:

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-marijuana-20170201-story.html

and another, an AP story from January 30, suggesting CA is looking forward to developing a 7 billion dollar pot industry.

Again, who could object? Only those who have a penchant for warring on drugs, which coincidentally makes non-voting felons out of thousands of dark skinned pot users, and those champing at the bit to stick it to blue states.

Anyone else want to predict a federal drug war escalation with its major offensive mounted on the Left Coast?

Something else to keep track of in the maelstrom.

February 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

I thought trump had done it yesterday with his 'well oiled machine of an administration'. But no, the stunned reporters restrained themselves. One of these days, soon, trump is going to make a statement so outrageously beyond the rational that the whole circus will break down in laughter.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCowichan's Opinion

I add my voice to those who think scrotus does not exhibit childish behaviour. All through the campaign people were accusing teenage girls, eighth graders, eight year olds and five year olds of behaving like the fat guy now occasionally in the WH. I kept casting my mind back to my children at those ages, and I couldn't think of any instances when they behaved so badly, spoke so poorly, or looked so ragged. Not when they were eight, five, two or six months. So I am glad to hear others with similar experiences with children. He may be mentally ill, but he is also a dope and a jerk, not "childish".

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

CNN reports (linked above) that retired VADM Harward declined the President's request to replace Mr. Flynn.

This is really strange. Normally, when the President asks you to take on such a job, a retired professional feels compelled to accept, even when it is a hardship, even when you feel the assignment is a loser. When the President taps you on the shoulder, it is almost impossible to decline honorably.

So maybe Harward just doesn't feel that the guy who tapped him is really the President, or that he (Harward) discerns that he really would not be capable of working with DJT?

Cynics might think that Harward just wants to keep that sweet post-retirement Lockheed income, but that's really not the way these guys think. They generally are really impelled by duty. So you can conclude that Harward feels no duty to serve for this President. That is a pretty significant judgment of DJT's legitimacy.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

There was no POTUS news conference yesterday. The only subject was Trump, not the US. And the main problem is that when there is news, the media actually reports it. So when Flynn lies to the FBI it is seriously unAmerican to report it. The most important issue of the day was the fact that Trump beat everyone in the electoral college number. So before I planned to speak to the whole world, I just Googled 'electoral college results history' and got different numbers than Trump. Took about 90 seconds. NPD

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

VADM Harward 'sounds' savvy to me...he might have been brought up in the culture of the captain going down with his ship....but, not if you don't get on board of the hole-punctured damn tub in the first place!

He smartly sees this Ship of Fools is already laded with the rankest
of the rank opportunists for various Cabinet positions— rats scrambling on to a severely damaged vessel.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

the "childish" word doesn't do it for me either, but simply because it isn't really accurate to the word. FFvC is an adult who acts and speaks as if he has no prefrontal cortex. this area of the brain is the part which matures in young adulthood, and seems to be the locus of what we call "mature" functioning: insight, judgment, restraint - especially of socially inappropriate impulses, altruism, empathy, etc.
We have seen that FFvC has none of these attributes. The sources could be congenital, but more likely could be related to certain forms of dementia.
This is just another thought, and doesn't preclude all the other hypotheses regarding the president*.
I have come up with my own descriptor for him: "degueulasse" (don't have the accent sign on the first e).

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Watching the press conference yesterday was one of the most uncomfortable and infuriating in memory. How I would love to see the whole press corp simply throw up their hands and walk out one of these days. What a display it would be––and perhaps they could in unison yell––"you're fired!"

Today Scott Pruitt is supposed to be up for the vote of EPA head. But this little weasel has been up to no good for a loooong time. Below is Rachel's thorough piece ( it's under "What it looks like when a President fails.") on Pruitt going back to his involvement as Oklahoma's A. G. in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. She also digs up the NYT's piece by Eric Lipton (he won a Pulitzer for this reporting) on "Energy firms in secret alliance with A.G." Pruitt has refused to open his record requests for communications between his office and oil companies BUT yesterday a judge (bless her) has ordered him to do so––thousands of records–--by Tuesday of next week. Will the democrats insist on postponing the voting until those papers are scrutinized? Will Republicans?

If this is not done we are in worst shape than we think we are and we do indeed think we are.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Today's editorial in New York Times urges: " Bring on the Special Prosecuter " in their argument, they highlight:

"Perhaps most important are Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which could tell us whether he is beholden to, and thus compromised by, the Russians? ."

...also, the editorial quotes from a published piece prior to the election:

“The appropriate response when the subject matter is public and it arises in a highly charged political atmosphere is for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel of great public stature and indisputable independence to assure the public the matter will be handled without partisanship.”

The co-author of this piece, Jeff Sessions!

Hah! let's see what Beauregard does.

Update on signatures to the White House petition as of 9:20 AM today for
Immediately release Donald Trump's full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance. currently stands at:
1,011,137 signed.

Right, Kellyanne, no one wants to see the tax returns.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

John Kasich (R-Gov.-OH) has a commentary in Der Spiegel advocating support of NATO.

"Here in America, I see the erosion of our alliances caused by growing tensions across the world and fed by angry voices at home. These forces threaten the future of an international security framework that has long ensured the United States and its partner nations of a stable world and the free flow of ideas and trade. Hearing those voices, many here are second-guessing the alliances and relationships that have served us so well in the post-war era...Instead of listening to the siren song of false prophets, we must relearn to work together with respect for opposing points of views in a search for the common ground and a recommitment to shared values that will help us together reaffirm our common humanity."

I'm not sure if he's setting himself up for 2020 or just trying to reassure Europeans that there is a least one reasonably sane Republican Confederate left here.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

The Logical Fallacist

These must be halcyon days for those teaching logical argumentation, especially with a concentration on how not to do it. The picking out of logical fallacies has been a useful, if often depressing, armchair sport since Aristotle, and Trumpado is the sine qua non of logical fallacies.

If you thought The Decider was bad (and he was), Trumpty Dumpty, on occasion (on occasion, mind you) makes him look like Socrates. Yes. He really is that bad. I won't bug you with a deconstruction of the entirety of yesterday's surreal rat's nest, but let us see exactly how long it takes for Trumpy to rip off just two or three logical fallacies.

Ready?

"I'm here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration."

Just 23 words in (starting with the beginning of the tirade), we have our first logical fallacy, the Argument from Ignorance. I know, I know, that was an easy one. But this is a pretty common one with Donaldo. This one is sometimes referred to as the untested hypothesis. "Incredible progress" is only true if you decide not to test the truth of the statement. Trump doesn't. Therefore, it must be true. Yeah.

Okay, next.

"We have made incredible progress. I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done."

Same fallacy. In the very next sentence. He likes that one. Statements that make him look good but don't require that he provide proof. Great. Tremendous. The best!

Next.

"A new Rasmussen poll, in fact -- because the people get it -- much of the media doesn't get it."

People get it ("all the people" is the assumption). The media doesn't. By "much of the media" he is referring to everyone except outposts of right-wing hard core dogmatism and alternative facts, like Breitbart and Fox. So here we have the Law of the Excluded Middle. There can only be two options. People love me. Media hate me.

So here we have the first three sentences of the diatribe and all include neon colored logical fallacies.

There are plenty of other logical lapses throughout. Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones (linked above) compares some of these to Schrödinger's Cat, a thought experiment in which a cat is both dead and alive at the same time. So "Everything is great" is followed by "Everything is a mess". "We're losing jobs" followed by "Loads of jobs!" Only a few paragraphs in, we find this non-sequiturial gem: " I ran for president to present the citizens of our country."

Then there is the supreme tautology: "Fake news is fake news." But of course it is!

Don't you love it?

If I have time, I may, just for shits and grins, as philosophers like to say, run down the rest of the logical fallacies in this pile of donkey dung. Then again, I may shove a few bamboo shards under my fingernails while I'm at it.

I was reading a piece in the NYRB a few weeks back about China. The author observed the ways in which our system of choosing a president often confuses America watchers in that country. They can't get their heads around the way, every four or eight years, the whole shebang is rolled up and a new bunch of people come in. New people, new ideas, new policies. They think this is nuts. Where's the continuity? Well, one could easily counter this argument by asking how much fun it was to have fear and loathing and purges for decades under Mao. How you like that for continuity? But this year, I must admit they might have a point. Look at it from the position of an objective observer. One day, we have a smart, rational, logical, well read, well spoken practitioner of democracy working for the good of all the American people. The very next day, the next fucking day(!) we get a paranoid lunatic whose sole goal is self-aggrandizement, personal enrichment, and demonization of everyone he sees as an enemy, meaning millions of people all around the world.

So, okay. I get your point there.

But logically (since we're on that ship already), one might assume that, given his well documented history of an almost crippling inability to change, to adapt, to accommodate facts that don't fit his personal views, and given that he is no longer in an environment that will allow such silliness to continue unchallenged by either the hard facts of his current position or the requirements of those in the other branches of government (at least those who aren't already hopelessly corrupt and cowardly, meaning those who aren't Confederates), a reckoning is nigh.

And this reckoning could take many forms. The worst of which is that those who wish to do harm to the country see this as a once in a--well, forever--opportunity to get that ball rolling, while an unqualified, ignorant, delusional moron is in charge, and while most of the important security positions in his administration remain unfilled due to incompetence and criminal neglect. That's the worst. But there could be many other problems that will arise very shortly.

That's logical. Fallacy not included.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/trump-weighs-mobilizing-nat-guard-for-immigration-roundups/

Ahh, isn't that sweet. His first baby step toward instituting martial law. Baby tyrant is making us proud.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeriscope

More like Captain Queeg every day.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRockygirl

The draft immigration memo indicated "fear interviews" would be conducted on detainees. Sounds like a thinly veiled reference to torture, as if mobilizing the Natational Guard wasn't frightening enough.

I've been reading that Harvard would not be allowed to choose his own staff. In particular, Trump refused to get rid of KT McFarland.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Per Politico six transition folks at the WH were let go because they could not obtain a security clearance.

This is sort of interesting. Often, the surest way to have a clearance denied in such a short period is if the applicant is found to have falsified information on the background information questionnaire (SF86). Even then, for political hires, adjudicators are often willing to allow applicants to change their answers to clear the record .... e.g., if you say on the form you never used drugs, but your National Agency Check says you have a citation for possession/use, you would be turned down for a clearance because you falsified your statement -- not because you had a record. Sometimes adjudicators will will allow the applicant to fess up when interviewed, note the record, and allow the clearance.

These things can be delicate, because some of them come down to he said/she said stuff when investigators interview references. And they usually take a lot of time because adjudicators need to get it right.

So it is not normal that 6 applicants would be denied so quickly in a new administration. It usually takes longer, and applicants ride on "interim clearances" while waiting.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

re Childishness:

Some years ago, a friend of mine said to me:

"I think I've finally figured out what it means to grow up. You just get tired. You get tired of your own Bullshit. You just get the Hell over your silly little self."

It that's a criterion, and I think its a pretty good one, Le Donald has never grown up and does not seen likely to.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterD.C.Clark

Well, it was a nice gesture by that Oklahoma judge to try to pry loose the evidence that Scott Pruitt was trying to hide, that he is not just against the EPA, but is one of the single most deadly foes of the EPA in its history, and a hater of its originating mission.

Confederates (and two DINO's -- both of whom, Manchin and Heitkamp, should be targeted by some actual Democrats in their states) decided that it wasn't necessary to look into the background of Pruitt's hatred of the EPA, because, well, they hate it too. So let's not worry about holding off the vote until all vital information has been seen. Fuck that.

Environmental protection??? Let's put EPA hater Scott Pruitt in charge of environmental "protection" in the United States. Haw haw! Won't polluting corporations be happy now? They'll be filling our re-election coffers six ways to Sunday.

These are the same type of people who attacked Rachel Carson decades ago for having the temerity to tell the truth about environmental dangers. How dare she? Besides, a woman? Telling us what's right? Fuck that.

And really, does anyone think that Trumpado would appoint anyone who didn't hate the EPA? He's had run-ins with environmental regulations over the years and, naturally, hates having his royal wishes countermanded by something as inconsequential as concern for the environment. And if he was going to appoint someone to head the EPA, why would anyone think that a far right nominee from that epicenter of concern for the environment, Oklahoma, would be not a good one? The best. Tremendous.

One more long-standing grievance addressed.

What's next on the list for evisceration?

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Emily Jane Fox in Vanity Fair observes the high maintenance of: " Trump's Self-Care Tour Costing America Millions " adding "...those are pennies compared to what it costs every day to secure Trump Tower, where Melania and Barron have chosen to stay despite the incredible logistical and security challenges involved in protecting them as they shuttle back and forth between one of the busiest locations in Manhattan and Barron’s school uptown. The Post reports that police officials estimate it costs $500,000 a day to do so—a fee that could reach $183 million in a year.

Elsewhere, I spotted another article on the cost of presidential trips, which indicated that the total cost for Obama's 8 years that included vacations in Hawaii, summers on the Cape, etc —at around $97,000.000. That averages out at $12,125,000. per year

Compared to, just into his first month in office, DJT has scheduled a third trip to Mar-a-Lago. Rough estimate of the costs to the American people for the 3 trips: $10,000,000. He does it "...because Trump is worth it!" Apologies to L'Oreal for messing with your line.

Speaking of hair, this photo slide show is tres amusant: " Donald Trump Versus the Wind "

and...
(P.S. Prosecutor not Prosecuter. Earlier post. Spellcheck fail.)

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Degueulasse fits perfectly!

I was listening to a BBC interview of a scrotus supporter who was insisting that the biased press should meet frump half way. This is so dangerous because it sounds like a reasonable position unless you analyse it, or unless you're an idiot. I was urging, in vain, the interviewer to ask what does it mean to meet a liar half way? Does one assert that only half his lies are lies? Or that all his lies are "half" lies? Is he lying only half the time? That the truth is only the truth half the time? There will be no enlightening hard boiled believers, but the middle need to have it explained that there is no half-way between lies and truth. That's it. The earth is flat. The earth is spheroid. The earth is a hemisphere is not a reasonable compromise because there is no compromise between true and false facts. We can't give ground on this. The entirety of the regime is a litany of lies, and it is essential that they eradicate the truth from the minds of their followers. The discrediting of the press is the discrediting of the truth.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

When Johnny Carson had Dolly Parton on his show the conversation naturally went the way of her ample bosoms to which Dolly informed Johnny that yes, they were real. His response: "I'd give a year's salary to peek under that blouse." I thought of that exchange because I'd like to give a large dish of dimes to peek into the West Wing for just a week or so. What REALLY is going on there––who REALLY is in charge? That "well oiled machine" is something I'd like to see in operation. There is something rotten in the ways and means of this administration that fumbles and tumbles into deeper and deeper piles of manure.

And speaking of manure: Scott Pruitt has been confirmed and I am sick at heart. We were appalled at Flint's water debacle––we ain't seen nothin yet! Methane fumes are coming your way along with dead fish and more earthquakes.

Another thing: Trump sometimes reminds me of his real calling as an owner of a grand hotel where his only REAL job is to go around the tables and ask in that voice he has when he tells us that he's going to fix everything, and he says to his guests: "Everyone comfortable? enjoying the food? Everything to your liking? EVERYONE know their place?

And in the kitchen there is chaos!

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@PD Pepe: Your comment reminds me of this, especially the part about the Immigration official. Kelsey Grammer, BTW, is a Trump supporter.

Marie

February 17, 2017 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader
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