The Wires

The Los Angeles Times has the full list of Oscar nominees here.

NBC Sports: "Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, and Mike Mussina have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America as part of the 2019 class. The results were just announced on MLB Network. Rivera received votes from every single writer who submitted a ballot, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Halladay and Edgar Martínez each received 85.4 percent of the vote and Mussina appeared on 76.7 percent of ballots. Rivera, 49, spent all 19 of his seasons in the majors with the Yankees. He was initially used as a starter, but quickly moved to the bullpen, becoming the greatest closer of all-time. He racked up 652 saves — the most in baseball history — during the regular season along with a 2.21 ERA anda 1,173 strikeouts across 1,283 2/3 innings. He saved his best work for the postseason. Rivera appeared in 96 postseason games, saving 42 saves in 47 opportunities with a 0.70 ERA and a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 innings. Rivera won five championships, five Rolaids Relief Awards, as well as MVP awards in the World Series, ALCS, and All-Star Game. He made the AL All-Star team 13 times."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

New York Times: "The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the novelist MacKenzie Bezos announced on Twitter Wednesday that they are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. In a statement posted on Mr. Bezos’s Twitter account, the couple said they had been separated for a long period of time, but planned to remain involved as 'parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects.' According to a 1999 profile in Wired, the two met when they both worked at D.E. Shaw, a New York-based hedge fund, before moving in 1994 to Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. They have four children.... As is the case in any celebrity split, the financial details of the divorce are sure to be complicated despite the couple’s vow to “remain cherished friends.” According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of billionaires, his net worth is estimated at $137 billion and he is the richest man in the world. While much of his wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, Mr. Bezos, 54, the company’s chief executive, is also the owner of several companies, including The Washington Post and Blue Origin, a space travel company."

Here's a list of the Golden Globe winners, via Market Watch. CNN has posted highlights on a liveblog & currently has a whole buncha links to related stories on CNN Entertainment. And if you're in it for the red carpet, there's this:

New York Times : "Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved, 4,400-year-old tomb of a royal priest and his family in Egypt, in a 'one of a kind' find, the Egyptian authorities announced on Saturday. The tomb was unearthed in Saqqara, a city south of Cairo and a vast necropolis from ancient Egypt. The discovery dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, according to Khaled al-Anani, Egypt’s minister of antiquities. The fifth dynasty governed for less than two centuries, from 2,500 B.C. to about 2,350 B.C., according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tomb had remained untouched, said Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities, according to Reuters."

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."


The Commentariat -- July 11, 2018

Late Morning Update:

... Update to Story Linked Earlier. Michael Birnbaum & Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "NATO leaders, including President Trump, approved a sweeping set of plans Wednesday to bolster defenses against Russia and terrorism, despite a blistering attack by the U.S. leader earlier in the day against Germany and other allies. Leaders also reiterated their pledge to increase defense spending, Trump's main focus going into the meeting. The decision suggested that Trump is holding back from slashing support for the alliance, despite his anger over what he says is Europe's taking advantage of the U.S. security umbrella. But NATO leaders are still concerned that he will make concessions to Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two meet on Monday." ...

... Rick Noack of the Washington Post explains the controversies over the 800-mile, planned gas pipeline which is to carry Russia's natural gas to Germany. Also, it's comforting to know that Germany's former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is just as corrupt as our current president*. Germany survived; perhaps we will, too. ...

... News from the Trump Retraining Camp. Jonathan Chait: Trump's "efforts to train the Republican base to reverse its long-standing views on the relative merits of NATO and Russia have borne fruit. According to a recent poll, just 40 percent of Republicans think the U.S. should should stay in NATO, while 56 percent of Republicans consider Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin good for the United States.... It may seem bizarre that one man could do this, especially given that almost nobody in Trump's administration or the ranks of the party's political professionals share his goal of jettisoning NATO or closely courting Russia. Yet Trump has shown the ability to lead his base wherever he wants to take it. And where the base has gone, the party has eventually followed." ...

** "Where's the Outrage?" David Corn of Mother Jones: "In 1938, Winston Churchill published a collection of his speeches warning that his homeland was not adequately contending with the threat posed by Nazi Germany. The title: 'While England Slept.' Eighty years later, a similar observation can be rendered concerning the United States. Much of the political and media elite and the citizenry seem to be sleepwalking past a horrific and fundamental fact: The current president of the United States has helped to cover up a serious attack on the nation. This profound act of betrayal has gone unpunished and, in many quarters, unnoticed, even as it continues. With Donald Trump about to meet Vladimir Putin on Monday -- rewarding the thuggish authoritarian Russian leader with a grand summit in Helsinki -- this is an appropriate moment to remember that their dark bromance involves a mutual stonewalling of wrongdoing." Read on.


The Ugly American. New York Times: "Mr. Trump got the NATO meeting off to a confrontational start Wednesday morning, telling the secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that other nations must spend more on defense.... He singled out Germany for particularly sharp criticism, saying the country was 'totally controlled by Russia' because of its dependence on Russian natural gas. The United States spends heavily to defend Germany from Russia, he said, and 'Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.'" The Times is posting updates on the page. ...

... Michael Birnbaum & Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "President Trump unleashed a blistering attack Wednesday on Germany and other NATO allies, wasting no time at the outset of a week of high-stakes diplomacy to hit at Washington's closest partners for what he said were hypocritical demands for U.S. security protection.... Trump [engaged] NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a fiery on-camera exchange that was nearly without precedent in the history of the post-World War II alliance.... Even Stoltenberg -- a mild-mannered former Norwegian prime minister who has cultivated a positive relationship with Trump -- appeared reduced to spluttering as Trump cut him off after he started to explain that allies traded with Russia even during the Cold War. Earlier in the exchange, Trump demanded credit from Stoltenberg for forcing an increase of NATO defense budgets." ...

... MEANWHILE, Back Home. Tom Barrett of CNN: "The Senate took a bipartisan swipe at ... Donald Trump on Tuesday when it overwhelmingly approved a motion of support for NATO. The 97-2 vote reflects the broad concerns on Capitol Hill over Trump's seeming ambivalence about the alliance and his commitment to it. The vote came the same day Trump arrived in Brussels, Belgium, for a summit of NATO nations and shortly before he heads to Helsinki, Finland, for a one-on-one session with Russian President Vladimir Putin.... Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who authored the nonbinding motion, spoke on the Senate floor. 'No one should ever doubt the United States' resolve in meeting its commitments to the mutual defense of the NATO alliance,' Reed said. 'Unfortunately, this motion has become necessary because some of our closest allies have come to question the US commitment to collective self-defense. President Trump has at times called the alliance "obsolete." Our allies are starting to wonder whether they can rely on the United States to come to their defense in a crisis.'" The two nay votes were Rand Paul (R-Ky.) & Mike Lee (R-Utah). ...

... Lorne Cook of the AP: "A senior European Union official lashed out Tuesday at ... Donald Trump, lambasting the U.S. leader's constant criticism of European allies and urging him to remember who his friends are when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin next week. On the eve of a NATO summit meant to showcase the West's unity and resolve to counter Russia, European Council President Donald Tusk directed a remark at Trump, saying 'it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Andrew Flanagan of NPR: "Ahead of the president's visit to the U.K. on July 12, a new effort to make Green Day's song 'American Idiot' reach the top of the charts is underway.... Protests are expected throughout the U.K. on the occasion of Trump's visit, with The New York Times reporting that British police anticipate 100,000 demonstrators. Protests include a giant 'Trump Baby' float in London and loud music being played at the residence he's expected to sleep in on July 12. The U.S. Embassy in London has advised American citizens in the country to 'keep a low profile' while Trump is in the country." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Here's video of the song. The lyrics are here. ...

... With Friends Like These. Robert Mackey of The Intercept: "Ahead of his ;visit to Britain this week, President Donald Trump took a moment to undermine Prime Minister Theresa May by praising her rival Boris Johnson, who stepped down as foreign secretary on Monday over May's plan to pursue close ties to the European Union even after Brexit.... 'Boris Johnson is a friend of mine; he's been very, very nice to me,' Trump said.... Johnson had [previously] denounced [Trump] as 'clearly out of his mind'... [and as]...'betraying a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit to hold the office of president of the United States.'" --safari ...

... Dana Milbank: "After Belgium, Trump goes to Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May helped limit Trump's exposure to protests (including a giant balloon of a baby Trump in a diaper) and arranged an audience with the queen. Trump repaid her Tuesday by lavishly praising Boris Johnson, the Brexit leader whose resignation as foreign secretary has brought May's government to the verge of collapse." ...

... ** Adam Entous of the New Yorker: "[Before and after the election] officials from ... three countries [Israel, Saudi Arabia and U.A.E.] have repeatedly encouraged their American counterparts to consider ending the Ukraine-related sanctions in return for Putin's help in removing Iranian forces from Syria. Experts say that such a deal would be unworkable, even if Trump were interested. They say Putin has neither the interest nor the ability to pressure Iranian forces to leave Syria.... [A]n Israeli Cabinet minister with close ties to Netanyahu ... pitched ... the idea of 'trading Ukraine for Syria.'... The Americans who heard the Israeli, Emirati, and Saudi pitches in late 2016 and early 2017 assumed that the idea was dead. But ahead of the Helsinki summit, Trump started making statements that suggested he could be open to making a deal with Putin after all." --safari

Combing the Nation for Reprobates, Trump Finds Some More to Pardon. John Wagner & Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Tuesday granted pardons to father-and-son cattle ranchers in southeastern Oregon who were sentenced to serve prison time on two separate occasions for the same charges of arson on public lands. The return to prison of Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond helped spark the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum, a rancher who acted as the protesters' spokesman, was killed by a state trooper during an encounter between the armed occupation group and law enforcement -- a shooting that led to charges against an FBI special agent. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said an 'overzealous appeal' of the Hammonds's original sentences during the Obama administration, which sent them back to prison, was 'unjust.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

John Wagner: "Asked Tuesday about his administration missing a court-imposed deadline to reunite migrant children under age 5 with their parents, President Trump said he had 'a solution.' 'Tell people not to come to our country illegally,' Trump told reporters. 'That's the solution. Don't come to our country illegally. Come like other people do. Come legally.'" Mrs. McC: What Trump doesn't say & Wagner doesn't write is that many of the families whom Trump surrogates have separated came here legally under U.S. & international law, seeking asylum. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Ted Hesson & Dan Diamond of Politico: "A federal judge on Tuesday pressed the Trump administration to reunify dozens of separated migrant children under age 5 by the end of the day or shortly thereafter. U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw called on the administration to join 59 separated children in that age group with their parents 'today or within the immediate proximity of today.' 'These are firm deadlines,' Sabraw said during a court hearing in San Diego. 'They are not aspirational goals.'" ...

... Manny Fernandez & Caitlin Dickerson of the New York Times: "Facing a legal deadline to return young migrant children separated from their parents at the border, federal officials on Tuesday said that they had reunited four families, with an additional 34 reunions scheduled before the end of the day. The relatively slow pace of unwinding the Trump administration's family separation policy fell short of an original court order, which had directed that all children under age 5 -- a total of 102, by the government's latest count -- be returned to their families by Tuesday." ...

Miriam Jordan, et al., of the New York Times: "Faced with a pair of court orders restricting immigration detentions, federal officials said that they could not hold all of the migrant families who had been apprehended. They said that their hands were tied by dueling requirements to release children from detention after 20 days and also to keep them with their parents or other adult relatives.... 'Parents with children under the age of 5 are being reunited with their children and then released and enrolled into an alternative detention program,' Matthew Albence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations, told reporters on Tuesday. He said that means the migrants will be given ankle bracelets 'and released into the community.'" Reporters describe the chaotic way in which the government is returning parents to their children. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I find the Times' casual use of the term "catch and release" -- as the reporters do three times in the story & in the URL -- offensive. You "catch and release" fish, not people. Use of the term dehumanizes the very victims of Trump administration abuses whom the report highlights.

... ** Justin Glawe & Adam Rawnsley of The Daily Beast: "U.S. government officials recently told four immigrant women that they must pay for DNA tests in order to be reunited with their children, according to the shelter that housed the women.... The tests are being administered by a private contractor on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement.... HHS has refused to name the contractor, which may be a violation of federal law.... Iliana Holguin, an immigration attorney ... said the government made some of her clients pay between $700 to $800 to prove their relationship to a relative as part of their citizenship cases. 'The government wants the parents to foot the bill for the DNA testing when they&'re the ones that caused the need for DNA testing,' Holguin said. 'It's incredible.'" --safari ...

... Joshua Partlow & Nick Miroff of the Washington Post: "While President Trump regularly berates Mexico for 'doing nothing' to stop illegal migration, behind the scenes the two governments are considering a deal that could drastically curtail the cross-border migration flow. The proposal, known as a 'safe third country agreement,' would potentially require asylum seekers transiting through Mexico to apply for protection in that nation rather than in the United States. It would allow U.S. border guards to turn back such asylum seekers at border crossings and quickly return to Mexico anyone who has already entered illegally seeking refuge.... The proposed agreement has divided the Mexican government and alarmed human rights activists who maintain that many of the migrants are fleeing widespread gang violence and could be exposed to danger in Mexico.... [A] senior DHS official said the U.S. government has signaled to Mexico that it would be prepared to offer significant financial aid to help the country cope with a surge of asylum seekers, at least in the short term." ...

... MEANWHILE. Mark Stern of Slate: "The Office of Refugee Resettlement is preparing for the possibility of another surge in family separations.... The ORR's budgeting exercise is premised on the possibility that the agency could need as many as 25,400 beds for immigrant minors by the end of the calendar year.... To help cover these potential costs, the documents say, HHS will seek supplemental appropriations from Congress. The documents also indicate that HHS plans to pay for child separation by reallocating money from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.... In addition, HHS plans to reallocate $79 million from programs for refugee resettlement, a move that could imperil social services, medical assistance, and English language instructions for refugees in the U.S., as well as programs for torture survivors."

I'll bet you were wondering what Trump's "spiritual advisor" Paula White, thinks about the President*'s immigration policies. Well, we're here to help you out. Samuel Smith of the Christian Post: "'I think so many people have taken biblical scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, "Well, Jesus was a refugee,'" White [said]. 'Yes, He did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If He had broken the law then He would have been sinful and He would not have been our Messiah.'"

Gabriel Sherman
of Vanity Fair: "The ascent of [Bill] Shine, [Trump's new deputy chief of staff,] who was ousted from [Fox 'News"] for his handling of its myriad sexual harassment scandals, has intensified speculation in the West Wing that the president's long-suffering chief of staff and nemesis, John Kelly, will soon be departing. Kelly opposed the hiring of Shine and has seen his role continue to be diminished, sources said, sometimes in humiliating ways. 'They've basically stopped telling Kelly when meetings are. People leave him off the calendar,' one administration official told me.... A Republican close to the White House told me that Trump hopes Shine's expanding role will encourage Kelly to quit. 'Trump is too chickenshit to fire Kelly himself,' the source said."

Spencer Hsu & Rosalind Helderman
of the Washington Post: "In Michael Flynn's first appearance in federal court since pleading guilty seven months ago, his lawyers confirmed that he continues to cooperate with prosecutors and is eager to be sentenced and wrap up his case. But it was no clearer after Tuesday's hearing when President Trump's former national security adviser's federal case will conclude. Flynn's presence in court in Washington punctured ongoing speculation by conservative media that the prosecution of Flynn is falling apart and that the retired Army lieutenant general might withdraw his guilty plea in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's probe." ...

... Welcome to the Firm. Tracy Connor, et al., of NBC News: "... Flynn was named as the director of global strategy for a new Washington lobbying firm, Stonington Global, run by Nick Muzin and Joseph Allaham. The partnership's website says that Flynn 'will direct the firm's business development and provide strategic consulting on international military and peacekeeping activities.'... Muzin, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Allaham, who owns high-end kosher restaurants, lobbied on behalf of Qatar during last year's Gulf diplomatic crisis." Mrs. McC: Read on. These guys sound very up-and-up. A bit like the bank that hired Tracey Ullman's "Barbara" (see Infotainment). See update below. The NBC story also has been updated to reflect the "misunderstanding" about Flynn's new job. ...

     ... Kevin Drum: "'Wingnut welfare' has now reached the parody stage[.].... Flynn didn't just 'resign in disgrace.'... He committed a felony and pled guilty to it. Nor has he 'paid his debt to society.' He hasn't even been sentenced yet. Nor is he otherwise an upstanding member of the intelligence and foreign policy community. He's a conspiracy theorist who's widely believed to have gone deranged during and after his tenure as DIA director -- 'right-wing nutty,' as Colin Powell called him." ...

     ... ** UPDATE, via The Daily Beast: "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn will no longer be joining the global lobbying firm Stonington Global LLC, with Flynn's lawyers citing a 'misunderstanding.' The Wall Street Journal reports that Flynn's deal to 'partner' with the firm is 'off' and the release from Stonington was a mistake on its part." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I wonder if Mueller told Flynn he'd better steer clear of any more "foreign entanglements" prior to his sentencing.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: Donald Trump, Jr., has said on Fox "News" & in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he couldn't recall speaking with Russian pop musician Emin Agalarov about the infamous Trump Tower meeting. But Agalarov remembers. "When a full transcript of [Junior's] testimony was released..., we learned ... that Agalarov had called Trump Jr., that Trump Jr. then received a call from a blocked number and that he then called Agalarov back.... In [his] testimony, though, Trump Jr. insisted that he didn't know whether he'd spoken with Agalarov or who was at the blocked number. (His father's private residence has a blocked number, according to former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.) Agalarov called him the next morning, too, after which Trump Jr. called both Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner -- the two people who joined him in that meeting at Trump Tower.... In an interview with 'VICE News Tonight' on HBO airing Tuesday, the mystery is solved. According to Agalarov..., he and Trump Jr. did speak before the meeting was set up."

Louis Nelson of Politico: "A federal judge [T.S. Ellis] on Tuesday ordered that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, currently jailed while awaiting trial, be moved to a detention center in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort had been held at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, roughly two hours south of Washington." ...

... Never Mind. Sarah Burris of the Raw Story: As Rachel Maddow reported last night, "Last week, while preparing for his trial, Manafort asked the judge for a long delay, saying that it caused a burden that he was in a prison so far away from his attorneys.... 'Today, this morning, surprise! The judge in the Paul Manafort case said, "Sure!" Called his bluff...." Mrs. McC: Burris doesn't say so, but late yesterday, according to Maddow, Manafort's lawyers "respectfully" asked the judge to rescind his order. Turns out Manafort is happy out there at Club Fed, & the "long-distance" complaint was a stalling tactic. ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maddow's report on DOJ ADA nominee Brian Benczkowski was more disturbing:

     ... If you're still wondering how Murkowski & Collins will vote on Trump's Supreme Court nominee, I'd say this vote is a mighty good indicator.

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Lisa Page, the former FBI attorney whose anti-Trump text messages have fueled ... Donald Trump's contention that the bureau's Russia investigation is a 'witch hunt' against him, intends to defy a congressional subpoena demanding her testimony on Wednesday, Page's lawyer says. Page's attorney, Amy Jeffress, said the House Judiciary Committee -- which issued the subpoena on Saturday -- failed to provide her with enough detail about the nature of lawmakers' questions and that the FBI had so far refused to provide key documents for her to review."

GOP Senators Dispute Stupidest Senator's Account of Russia Meetings. Andrew Desiderio of the Daily Beast: "A top Republican senator shocked his colleagues when he suggested, after returning from a trip to Moscow with fellow GOP lawmakers, that U.S. sanctions targeting Russia were not working and the Kremlin's election interference was really no big deal. Now, the senators who joined him for the series of meetings with senior Russian officials are sharply disputing not only Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-WI) conclusions -- but also his account of what went on behind closed doors in Moscow. 'I think the sanctions are hurting them badly...," Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) ... said in an interview. 'I don't want to over-state this, but these were very tense meetings.'... In private, according to the senators who attended the meetings, they confronted their Russian counterparts over a host of issues, most notably Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.... Johnson, for his part, appeared to walk back some of his earlier remarks."

Tony Romm & Elizabeth Dwoskin of the Washington Post: "Facebook is staring down its first fine for allowing Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data about millions of people, potentially opening the door for governments around the world to slap the social media giant with other tougher penalties and stricter regulation. On Tuesday, U.K. watchdogs announced a $664,000 preliminary fine -- the maximum amount allowed -- after finding Facebook lacked strong privacy protections and overlooked critical warning signs that might have prevented Cambridge Analytica from trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of clients around the world, including those who sought to withdraw Britain from the European Union in 2016.... In the United States..., a probe by the Federal Trade Commission could result in a penalty well into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also looking into Facebook's ties to Cambridge Analytica." ...

... Donie O'Sullivan, et al., of CNN: "A Russian internet company with links to the Kremlin was among the firms to which Facebook gave an extension which allowed them to collect data on unknowing users of the social network after a policy change supposedly stopped such collection. Facebook told CNN on Tuesday that apps developed by the Russian technology conglomerate Mail.Ru Group, were being looked at as part of the company's wider investigation into the misuse of Facebook user data in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.... Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to CNN that Facebook's relationship with Mail.Ru deserved further scrutiny."

: "The Trump administration on Tuesday published a list of $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that it proposes to hit with an additional 10 percent tariff, escalating a mounting trade war between the two countries.... The latest action carries through on a threat that ... Donald Trump made in June, when he ordered trade officials to draw up a list of $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that would be hit with a 10 percent tariff after Beijing vowed the retaliatory moves.... Administration officials said they took care to minimize the effects on consumers." Mrs. McC: Right. According to Politico, "... the new $200 billion list brings the percentage of Chinese imports facing new U.S. duties to about 50 percent." Yet somehow the prices of these imports are not going to rise. Another Trump miracle. ...

... Bloomberg has a running blog on the China trading war, where this gem came up: "China vowed to fightback against the Trump administration's plans to impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods; said it's 'shocked' at U.S. actions and will definitely take countermeasures in trade. Yet China earlier tempered that response, saying 'they go low, we go high.'" --safari ...

... Trade War News from Trump Country. Charleston, S.C. Post & Courier: "Automaker BMW says it will build more of its popular SUVs overseas to offset the higher cost of sending cars to China due to recently enacted tariffs. BMW also said it will raise the price of South Carolina-built vehicles sold in China to help offset that country's new 40 percent import tax on cars from the U.S., retaliation for higher tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by ... Donald Trump. The dpa news agency reported that Munich-based BMW said Monday it is 'not in a position to completely absorb the tariff increases.'... BMW builds key SUV models in Spartanburg County, where it employs 10,000 people. Those vehicles are exported to 140 countries, making BMW the largest U.S. auto exporter. Most of the cars made in the Upstate are shipped overseas through the Port of Charleston's Columbus Street Terminal."

Mike Pompeo's meetings in North Korea did not go well:

... And WHY didn't Kim meet with Pompeo? CBS News: "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have been too busy visiting a potato farm to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pyongyang's state media implied Tuesday. The North's state media normally lead their television bulletins and front pages with Kim's doings, but a seven-day absence from the headlines, including during Pompeo's recent visit, had prompted speculation on his whereabouts among Korea-watchers." Mrs. McC: Could it possibly be that Kim was snubbing Pompeo? Or maybe it was just Kim's way of backing up Trump's assurance that NK is no longer a nuclear threat.

Your Daily Poison. Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica: "The chemicals once seemed near magical, able to repel water, oil and stains.... Known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, they were a boon to the military, too, which used them in foam that snuffed out explosive oil and fuel fires.... Now two new analyses of drinking water data and the science used to analyze it make clear the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense have downplayed the public threat posed by these chemicals. Far more people have likely been exposed to dangerous levels of them than has previously been reported because contamination from them is more widespread than has ever been officially acknowledged. Moreover, ProPublica has found, the government's understatement of the threat appears to be no accident." --safari ...

... Rats Fleeing a Sunk Ship. Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "Several top aides to former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt are leaving the agency, less than a week after Pruitt resigned his post amid a slew of inquiries into his spending and management practices. The departures include Jahan Wilcox, who as Pruitt's combative spokesman fiercely defended the embattled Cabinet member and found himself facing criticism for his sometimes antagonistic approach to reporters covering the EPA; Lincoln Ferguson, a longtime aide and confidant who worked for Pruitt in Oklahoma and was nearly always by his side during his travels; Hayley Ford, deputy White House liaison; and Kelsi Daniell, an EPA spokeswoman. With the exception of Daniell, who had served notice before Pruitt resigned on Thursday, all of the appointees were close allies of [Pruitt]"

Michael Wines of the New York Times: "From the moment it was announced in March, the decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census was described by critics as a ploy to discourage immigrants from filling out the form and improve Republican political fortunes. The Commerce Department, which made the decision, insisted that sound policy, not politics, was its sole motivation. Now a federal lawsuit seeking to block the question has cast doubt on the department's explanation and the veracity of the man who offered it, Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. And it has given the plaintiffs in the suit -- attorneys general for 17 states, the District of Columbia and a host of cities and counties -- broad leeway to search for evidence that the critics are correct.... [Ross has issued conflicting statements.] After Mr. Ross's explanation for the citizenship question&'s origin shifted, Judge [Jesse] Furman said it appeared that the Commerce Department had acted in 'bad faith' in deciding to add the question.... Judge Furman called Mr. Ross's March explanation of his decision both 'potentially untrue' and improbable...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Because Obama. Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration is eliminating most of the funding for grass-roots groups that help Americans get Affordable Care Act insurance and will for the first time urge the groups to promote health plans that bypass the law's consumer protections and required benefits. The reduction, the second round of cuts that began a summer ago, will shrink the federal money devoted to groups known as navigators from $36.8 million to $10 million for the enrollment period that starts in November. Last August, federal health officials announced they were reducing the navigators' aid by 41 percent -- from $62.5 million -- and slashing a related budget for advertising and other outreach activities to foster ACA enrollment by 90 percent. The new reduction of help for navigators, announced late Tuesday afternoon by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, fits within a pattern of moves by the administration to weaken the sweeping health-care law that President Trump has vowed to demolish."

Elaina Plott
of The Atlantic: "The warm statements [from GOP influence-peddlers] appear to be another clear sign that the party apparatus -- and, perhaps even more significantly, its donor network -- will remain loyal to Trump, even as his stances on immigration and trade drift further and further from GOP orthodoxy. 'As long as he sticks to safe picks for scotus , he'never really lose the support and money of the party,' said a GOP operative involved in key Senate campaigns.... For now, many Republicans are finding this fact worth the tradeoff -- worth any deeper, institutional threats that this administration may pose." --safari

Melanie Zanona of The Hill: "Rep. Jim Jordan said he is still contemplating a bid for Speaker if the GOP keeps its majority, even as the Ohio Republican battles allegations that he ignored accusations of sexual abuse on the Ohio State University wrestling team while he was a coach there." --safari: Imagine that, the "family values" party with TWO leaders who promote hetero- AND homosexual abuse. Expanding the base!

Sheryl Stolberg & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Senate Democrats, facing an uphill struggle to reject the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, opened a broad attack on Tuesday, painting him as an arch-conservative who would roll back abortion rights, undo health care protections, ease gun restrictions and protect President Trump against the threat of impeachment. But the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, excoriated Democrats for engaging in what he called 'cheap political fear-mongering,' and for declaring their opposition to Judge Kavanaugh even before his nomination was announced." ...

... Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, has a theory about why Donald Trump settled on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. On Tuesday he said that Trump is 'worried' about an investigation over Russian collusion in the 2016 election and believes Kavanaugh would serve as a 'barrier' should the inquiry end up before the supreme court. As a brutal confirmation battle over Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement begins, Schumer said Kavanaugh should expect to face tough questions over his past writings that argue a sitting presidents should be exempt from lawsuits and criminal investigations." ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "Senate Democrats can successfully orchestrate the rejection of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday morning, if they can convince the American people that his confirmation will lead to the undoing of abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act by the Supreme Court.... But keeping Democrats unified in opposition to Kavanaugh could prove to be as tough a task as finding a GOP senator to partner with. Several Democratic senators are up for reelection this year in states where Trump won in 2016, including some where the president won by a wide margin." ...

... MEANWHILE. Burgess Everett & Heather Caygle of Politico: "[Susan] Collins (R-Maine) ... touted Kavanaugh's experience and sounded warm notes about him while insisting she has yet to decide. 'It will be very difficult for anyone to argue that he's not qualified for the job...,' Collins said. 'But there are other issues involving judicial temperament and his political, or rather, his judicial philosophy that also will play into my decision.'... '... There were some who have been on the list that I would have had a very, very difficult time supporting, just based on what was already publicly known about them,' [Lisa] Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in an interview on Monday. 'We're not dealing with that.' Both senators also voted for Kavanaugh's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court in 2006." Mrs. McC: Ooh, I just can't guess how they'll vote. ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Brett M. Kavanaugh thanked President Trump for his nomination.... Almost immediately, he made a thoroughly strange and quite possibly bogus claim. 'No president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination,' Kavanaugh said. It may seem like a throwaway line.... But this was also the first public claim from a potential Supreme Court justice who will be tasked with interpreting and parsing the law down to the letter.... It is basically impossible to know everybody with whom George W. Bush consulted on his Supreme Court nominations, much less George Washington.... The claim does fit a pattern with Trump, though, in which those around him feel pressure -- whether overt or not -- to flatter him in the most glowing and hyperbolic terms possible." ...

... Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker writes a brief bio of Brett Kavanaugh. "The portrait of Kavanaugh, seen in full, is of a Republican careerist who has pleased his patrons while edging close to, but not over, the line of mainstream acceptability. With lifetime tenure on the nation's highest court, his truest self will likely emerge -- and it will be the one that has been mostly (but not entirely) in plain view all along."

Jessie Hellmann of The Hill: "Pfizer announced on Tuesday it was postponing its price hikes on certain drugs after criticism from President Trump, who earlier in the week blasted the company for raising costs of certain products." --safari: So Pfizer admits it was just price-gouging for profit.

Neal Boudette of the New York Times: Tesla "said Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the Chinese authorities to build a battery and automobile factory in Shanghai -- its first plant outside the United States -- that would eventually be capable of producing 500,000 electric vehicles a year. The company did not disclose how much it planned to invest in the venture, but it said it would be the sole owner.... The investment in China is the latest initiative that Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, has announced with lofty ambitions, some of which he has fallen well short of achieving."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Melanie Schmitz of ThinkProgress: "At least 38 people were killed Sunday in anti-government protests covering much of Nicaragua, human rights officials said this week -- the single deadliest day since the protests began back in April.... The latest update brings the overall death toll in the protests to more than 300." --safari

Reader Comments (27)

More assurance that we will not soon run out of white idiots who don't live or work in the White House or the House of Representatives.

Wonder who this bozo voted for in 2016.

July 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes: Thanks for that. If that drunken Trumpbot wasn't bad enough, the cop was worse. The drunk repeatedly accosted the woman, she repeatedly asked for help, and the cop did zip. The cop finally appears to have said something to the drunk after a MAN complained to the cop about the drunk harassing the woman.

July 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

If it wasn’t already obvious that the so-called Confederate moderates (rather like a political dodo bird—flightless when it lived and extinct now), Collins and Murkowski, would do what they’re told and sieg heil for Trump’s Nazi judge, their obsequious delight in his selection is tantamount to a rock solid endorsement. Fuck morality and justice.

July 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Gee, I never realized just how multi-talented little Donnie is. How in the world is he able to lecture the Germans about their dependence on Russia while he has his lips wrapped around Putin’s dick. That’s talent. Or something.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Here is a live version of American Idiot from the beginning of their 2005 world tour. I especially like where he implores the sea of English fans to sing loud enough for "every fuckin' redneck to hear you."

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

So glad the Benczkowski story is here. When I learned about this last night I was stunned––and then anger surfaced once again at the absolute abstruseness and craziness of this appointment. But then, as Rachel suspects, B. could somehow be tied to a possible getting out of jail card for the Trumpster –-after all B. was hired by Alpha Bank to whitewash their Russian scams ( albeit not too well) so why not get this guy to do the same for me, figured T. I will be watching his confirmation hearing today and wish upon a star.

Something that Sunstein related in his superb piece that we discussed last week, has stayed with me. A German philologist is telling of his experience during the early days of Hitler Regime. He emphasized the devastatingly incremental nature of the descent into tyranny and said:

"We had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing little by little, all around us."

He pointed to a regime that was hell bent on diverting its people through endless drama ( often involving real or imagined enemies), and "the gradual habitation to be governed by surprise." and here's the kicker:

Each step was so small at first, seemingly so inconsequential, so well explained,or in some instances, regretted , that people could no more see it "develop from day to day then a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head."

WILL we let this happen here? If that "corn" growing daily in this inept, corrupt administration gets over our heads, but then what? Do we have enough ammunition to fight with our voices and our votes?

In a small. far away country some very brave rescue divers managed to rescue 12 children and their coach; in this country refugee children are still crying for their parents.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

I am puzzled about a couple of things.

First, I wonder why I have not seen demanded, nor heard any Senator state, that DT's nominee for the Supreme Curia must swear in public that if confirmed he will recuse himself from any matter reaching SCOTUS which concerns the personal criminal liability of DT.

Second, amid the overheated blather about what Sen. Collins and Sen. Murkowski will do -- a matter about which no conscious being can be in the slightest doubt -- why have I heard nary a peep about those estimable Senators Flake and Corker? Those guardians of the conscience (!) of the Republican Party, if they are so appalled about the criminal in chief, could refuse to confirm any appointee to SCOTUS while they and DT are both in office. But, of course, this presumes that any R Senator possesses the organ of conscience or recognizes any duty higher than the care & feeding of his/her own political grandeur. My bad.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Howard

Anyone else notice the obvious connection (OK, I made it up) between Paula White's close reasoning (above) and the Right's affection for the legal philosophy they like to call "strict constructionism?"

I would that connection describe this way: First, draw a comfortable conclusion. Then, drawing on the cloudy and by contemporary standards the ancient and often irrelevant writings of either the Bible or the U. S. Constitution, construct (strictly, of course) an argument that suits your adopted position.

I could be wrong. Perhaps I've presented an argument that is "fundamentally" flawed...

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Keith Howard: So far Congress has not tried to exercise any control over Supreme Court recusals or to impose a code of ethics on the Supremes. If Congress did so, I assume the matter would wind up in, um, the Supreme Court.

Justices don't normally recuse themselves except in cases where they have a particular interest -- say, stock in a company that has a case before the Court.

Nonetheless, Dick Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has called for Kavanaugh to recuse himself from "cases involving 'Trump's personal financial dealings' and special counsel Robert Mueller."

Elena Kagan recused herself from a case or two involving the Obama administration, but that was because she had worked on those cases when she was solicitor general. But justices usually don't recuse themselves from cases just because a party to the case is the president who appointed them. If they did, this could mean a lot of tied decisions because the junior members of the Court couldn't weigh in. Such a practice would mean new justices likely would be severely limited in their roles.

July 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Everyone is saying how smart Brett Kavanaugh is. I don't think so.

Kavanaugh's argument that a sitting president should not be investigated doesn't pass Constitutional muster. The Congress has the power to impeach & try the president, but they're not supposed to do so in a frivolous manner. They're not supposed to draw articles of impeachment & try the president because they think maybe s/he did something impeachable. Yet if no one can conduct an inquiry into a president's possible wrongdoing, Congress could only impeach a president in cases where s/he has publicly done something so egregious that the damning facts are in evidence for all to see. This is basically then a free pass for every president to act lawlessly for four years, then move to Brazil.

The Congress's Constitutional power to impeach & try a president for "high crimes & misdemeanors" implies its power to investigate the president or cause him to be investigated. This is pretty elementary, & if Kavanaugh is too dumb to see it, he's too dumb to be a judge, much less a Supreme Court justice.

July 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Have not watched clips of His Extreme Toadness (not meaning to slight toads--)acting like the spoiled bully he is with the NATO folks-- but body language says it all. My husband says he lurched across someone (a la the guy from Monte Negro he pushed aside awhile back--) to shake hands with someone else-- But I am so embarrassed that we have to put up with such a disaster on the world stage. I have proved unable to stand listening to anything out of his fat big mouth for more than the time to leave the room or mute the tv.

Re the man tapped to head the criminal division of Justice, he looks like he stuck his head in a possum hole. No one in this administration can read anyone by looking at them... And don't they luv them some Russians...

Re the children-- Charlie is correct-- a truck should be backed up to any building in DC containing Health and Human Services and Homeland Security and Congress and wholesale deliver them to the biggest jail we have. Horrible horrible people, all of them.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Yeah, well, BMK may not be so smart, but he is jebbie-trained in the art of casuistry, reinforced by Federalist grooming, so he doesn't need to be smart or right. Just ... committed.

GOPers should watch out, though. He has always been a captive of his mentors and friends. Once he realizes he is part of history, he could easily turn into a Brennan or O'Connor rather than another Scalia.

For Gorsuch, no such hope. That guy's a walking "Lochner"ite.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Only today did I start to wonder how the Green Day album and performance related to the ostracization of the Dixie Chicks.

According to Wikipedia, on May 10, 2003, just before the W invasion of Iraq, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines said at a London concert: "We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas." This led to boycotts, public disposals of their albums, and the band being blacklisted. They resumed touring in 2010.

Green Day released their album American Idiot in 2004. Their concert in England where they essentially call rednecks "morons" was in 2005. Nothing like the Dixie Chick treatment followed. Seems to me it is just another part of our grand misogyny history.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

My question for Judge Kavanaugh: How do you interpret the Emoluments Clause?

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

Last night I watched a Frontline about the Trumpification of the Party of Traitors. The storyline was familiar but something jumped out at me right away that explains a lot about the mess we're in.

Now, I like Frontline. I think, for the most part, they do a great job covering important events and issues. They try to get both sides in on any discussion, something you'll never see on a Confederate outlet, or if you do, they'll get someone like Juan Williams and pretend he's an actual liberal, or a guy like Morton Kondracke who used to be a regular on John McGlaughlin's yell-a-thon; not really a liberal, he just filled that spot on TV.

But this Frontline episode on Trump had actual wingers: Eric Cantor, David Brat, Jeff Flake, and right-wing commentators.

Then there was Corey Lewandowski.

Why they bothered with this asshole is beyond me. He was probably the only one they could get, besides Kellyanne, who had been inside the Trump pentagram. But nothing he said bore any relation to the real world. Essentially his every statement boiled down to "Trump, great. Those who won't bow to his greatness, losers and morons".

It didn't matter what they were talking about. The attack on the ACA, the tax was just Trump=brilliant, everyone else=stupid losers.

What is the point? But this is the problem. At one point (a pretty funny one) David Brat whined that after it came out that his party was actively working to shiv the ACA, the R's went back to their districts and were excoriated by constituents who, rightly, called them out for trying to take away their healthcare. He sniffed that people were "throwing out f bombs" and complained that it was impossible to have an intelligent discussion with people like that. Sure it is. Especially if they have it right and you DO want to take away their healthcare. What kind of "intelligent discussion" did he have in mind? "We're killing the ACA and we have nothing to replace it with, so shut up and go home."

Not much room for discussion there, intelligent or otherwise.

So the problem becomes that the Trumpers are not interested in compromise or actual "intelligent discussion", they're interested in insulting you, calling you names, and demanding that you obey.

As clearly demonstrated by the dismissive, thug-like attitude of Lewandowski, there is no interest on the right of discussion of any kind. You either go along with Trump or they'll come after you. This isn't a new revelation or anything surprising, it's just so obvious when you see people on one side trying to work out thoughtful analysis and the avatar of Trumpism on the other calling everyone a loser.

Thuggish ignorance and authoritarianism in a nutshell.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Kavanaugh SHOULD recuse himself from any decision having to do with the investigation into Trump's collusion with Russia.

For that matter, so should Gorsuch.

And about Kavanaugh, yesterday I heard Lisa Mullins, an interviewer on the NPR show "Here and Now", working hard to get something out of guest Justin Walker, a University of Louisville law professor who once clerked for both Kavanaugh and Anthony Kennedy. She was attempting to connect the dots between Trump's stated desire to install judges who would overturn Roe by getting Walker to agree that there simply has to be an understanding between Trump and his latest future Nuremberg Trials defendant about taking away a woman's right to choose.

Walker was adamant that there has been no such discussion, that Trump would never ask such a thing ( I don't believe that for an instant) and that there is no such thing as a litmus test for winger judges (ditto--although there really doesn't need to be, simply being a modern winger judge means you've already passed all the litmus tests).

But as I listened to her repeated attempts (even playing tape of Trump saying clearly that killing was Roe was his goal), I realized that she was wasting her time. For two reasons. First, Walker would never admit anything like that. They're all too well coached. Second, even if Trump did do the wink-wink, nudge-nudge thing with Kavanaugh, he didn't have to. There is no judge the Federalists would send up who would support Roe. (Walker also vehemently denied that any outside group had anything to do with Trump's pick, declaring that this choice was the result of Trump's personal investigation and hard work-hahaahahahaha. Another lie. Two lies, actually.)

No discussion would be needed. These guys are all cut from the same cloth. Up business, down workers, Down unions, up capitalism, kill healthcare, support Christians against everyone else, don't worry about precedence if it gets in the way of the winger agenda, weaken voting rights for non Republicans as much as possible, and most importantly, kill Roe v Wade.

Waste of time to try to get any of these guys to admit any of this, but it's there nonetheless. We know it, they know it. And Trump, surely knows it. Nonetheless, much of the media pretends otherwise.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

With the latest round of tariffs levied on Chinese products now expanded to include consumer goods what are the chances that any connected to Ivanna will be affected?

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee

The Saint Trumpus Dancers

500 years ago this summer, a curious state of affairs brought the city of Strasbourg on the French-German border to its knees, or rather, its feet. A plague of dancing gripped the townspeople. During the very hot summer of 1518, several hundred people began to dance uncontrollably, many to the point of unconsciousness and death.

It began with one woman, then a few more came out to twist again like they did last summer, then more and more. The burghers controlling the town thought, interestingly, that the best way to stop them from doing the crazy dance was to encourage more of it. So, okay, Trump Amerika is not the only place where logic has lost its foothold. Finally, they decided that it must be Saint Vitus, whose name is now attached to a condition that makes people act like Elaine Benes on the dance floor.

The idea was that Saint Vitus would offer a year of good health to believers who danced in front of his statue. Don't know how that got started, but the story goes that old Vitus was boiled in oil which would certainly make me do a jig. Anyway, it appears that someone decided that Vitus was pissed at certain people in Strasbourg and was making them Boogaloo down Broadway, straight to hell. The whole thing lasted for months.

Here's what may have been going on:

"One particular idea appears to have lodged in the cultural consciousness of the region: that St Vitus could punish sinners by making them dance... Such beliefs in supernatural agency can have dramatic effects on our behaviour. A classic case is 'spirit possession', in which people act as if their souls have been taken over by a spirit or deity. The US anthropologist Erika Bourguignon has written about how being raised in an 'environment of belief', in which spirit possession is taken seriously, primes people to enter a dissociative mental state, where normal consciousness is disabled."

Ergo, the crazy dancing. But there were likely other reasons. "Life in Strasbourg in the early 1500s satisfied another basic condition for the outbreak of psychogenic illness: the chronicles record plenty of the distress that brings about a heightened level of suggestibility. Social and religious conflicts, terrifying new diseases, harvest failures and spiking wheat prices caused widespread misery."

So, social unrest and the heightened influence of religion also may have played a part in the Crazy Dance. And, okay, this is a stretch, but today we have people doing the Crazy Trump Dance, people for whom society no longer seems to recognize white people as lords and masters, a society that allows black and brown people and Jews and Muslims to walk about freely. The idea! And what is the condition of Trumpism if not a dissociative mental state? And don't forget the toxic and conditioning "environment of belief" inhabited by the Trumpbots who experience a "heightened level of suggestibility".

1518 was well within the time frame we now recognize as the Renaissance, but in truth, much of Europe was still mired in medieval thinking and belief systems. 100 years after the events in Strasbourg, the religious conflict we call the Thirty Years War broke out. By the time it was over in 1688, Europe, with the Peace of Westphalia, moved into what can be termed the beginning of the modern era. Diplomatic relations between nations were arranged so that a recognition of the sovereign state became a prime feature of international relations. No longer would it be considered okay for countries to screw with the internal workings of other states, such as ratfucking elections. The modern world was upon us.

So it is that Trump, 500 years after Strasbourg, has his own suggestible dancing idiots and he is working fast, with his pal Putin, to push the West back to a medieval state that existed prior to the treaties signed in Westphalia.

Making the Middle Ages Great Again. By the way, has anyone seen Brett Kavanaugh dance?

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I love what you've written about crazy dancing, Akhillius, but the story I got had to do with ergot poisoning. Ergot (a derivative of which is LSD) develops in the mold on rye bread, which is what peasants had for bread. In the human at toxic levels, ergot causes spasms of large arteries. This is very painful and causes sudden weird posturing or jerking of arms and legs. Delirium, coma, convulsions, and death follow. It used to be seen in ER's in the 70's until the ergot derivatives given to women for gynecological procedures were prohibited (the cure is a simple infusion of calcium). But now that I think of it, the ergot poisoning might be "st. anthony's fire", and "st. vitus dance" may be the choreoathetosis of strep infections. So many saints; so many weirdnesses.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Woof...must have missed this...

Bill (It was just a little misogyny!) Shine, new Communications something for the little dictator brings more than just a history of protecting sexual abusers to the job. He brings....DARLA SHINE!

Shine's wife almost makes Trump look like a Black Lives Matter member.

Jesus....I can't even begin to summarize all her racist tweets. Now usually I think spouses shouldn't be pulled into the fray, but this stuff is beyond the pale. And she's prolific with her hatred.

Where do these people come from????

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Good call. The author of that piece raises the possibility of ergotism:

"For some time, ergotism looked like a good contender. This results from consuming food contaminated with a species of mould that grows on damp rye and produces a chemical related to LSD. It can induce terrifying hallucinations and violent twitching. But it is very unlikely that sufferers could have danced for days. Just as improbable is the claim that the dancers were religious subversives. It was clear to observers that they did not want to be dancing. The most credible explanation, in my view, is that the people of Strasbourg were the victims of mass psychogenic illness, what used to be called 'mass hysteria'."

Plus, mass hysteria sounds much more like what's going on in Trump World.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Thank you, Mrs. McC., for that clarification re SCOTUS recusals. I did remember the Kagan story, and its reason, but I had not heard of Blumenthal's remarks. I do agree with some others here that both Gorsuch and (if confirmed) Kavanaugh will be forever discredited, and their writings always footnoted, with the fact that they were appointed by a criminal occupant of the White House under circumstances which should have made any honest jurist refuse such an appointment. SCOTUS itself, since Gore v. Bush, has thrown away its credibility. I feel quite sure that the present POTUS intends to ignore any adverse decision(s), and that the the R party will happily enough wallow with him in that sewer.

WRT Kavanaugh's writing on the subject of investigating a sitting POTUS, I noticed an interesting post by Ben Wittes at Lawfare. Here's the link:

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Howard

Oops.... the Peace of Westphalia was 1648 not 1688. 1688 was the little known Peace of East by Northeastphalia, just a little to the left. Also in 1688 William Dampier became the first explorer to visit Christmas Island where he founded the world's first Christmas Tree Shop. He had a special on blinky Rudolph ornaments that season which would have been a big seller had the place been inhabited.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Ak, weren't there some funky stone men there? Or am I confusing it with a different place named after another fake holiday?

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed


Yeah, I think that was Easter Island, or maybe Arbor Day Island, I could be wrong...Groundhog Day Island? I guess that would be the place with giant stone groundhogs. But if there were ten giant stone groundhogs and on February 2nd it was sunny and they saw their shadows, would winter persist for another 60 weeks? The tourist trade would suck. Maybe Trump could threaten them with a tariff.

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

How would it fly if instead of the arcane term "tariffs" we were to call them an "import tax"?

July 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee

@Bobby Lee: Trump's first round of China tariffs ($34BB subject to a 25% tariff) specifically excluded clothing & shoes. However, in this round ($200BB, @ 10%), clothing & footwear are included. "The American Apparel & Footwear Association said Trump's move would negatively impact consumers in the U.S." This last round of tariffs has not gone into effect yet, so, as our Dear Leader says, "We'll see what happens."

July 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie
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