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June 20: New York Times: "You may be hunched over your phone right now, worrying about reports that young people are growing horns on their skulls from spending too much time hunched over smartphones.... Recent articles by the BBC and the Washington Post have cited a 2018 study in the journal Scientific Reports saying that these bone growths have been turning up more often than expected in people aged 18 to 30. The study suggests that 'sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets,' are to blame.... Experts give the report mixed reviews." ...

     ... Update. Uh, it seems one of the authors of the "scientific study" is a chiropractor called David Shahar, who used his own patients as subjects of the study AND, according to Quartz, is "the creator of Dr. Posture, an online store that advertises information and products related to forward head posture. One section tells users how to 'look and feel your best in three easy steps,' which include watching a video by Shahar, downloading at-home exercises, and sleeping with a Thoracic Pillow, which Shahar has trademarked and sold for $195." So hunch over, pick up your phones, & call your friends with the good news that the "study" is more likely a marketing scam than a warning about another dire effect of cellphone use. Thanks to safari for the link.

 

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

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

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Friday
Jul122019

The Commentariat -- July 13, 2019

** Prelude to Sunday's Day of Terror. This, unbelievably, is what passes for a Trump administration photo op:

... Michael Collins & John Moritz of USA Today:"With television cameras in tow, Vice President Mike Pence toured a pair of Border Patrol facilities in Texas on Friday as Republicans pushed back on reports that migrants detained in such centers are being held in deplorable and dangerous conditions. On his first stop, at a processing center for migrants just outside McAllen, Texas, Pence said he 'couldn't be more impressed' by what he described as 'the compassionate work' by Border Patrol agents. 'Every family that I spoke with told me they were being well cared for,' he said. The other stop, at an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station, offered a starkly different picture. A reporter traveling with Pence described a horrendous stench in the facility and said that nearly 400 men were housed in sweltering cages so crowded it would have been impossible for all of them to lie down. Some of the detainees shouted to reporters that they had been held 40 days or longer and complained that they were hungry. 'This is tough stuff,' Pence said at a news conference later. 'I was not surprised by what I saw,' he said. 'I knew we'd see a system that was overwhelmed.'" ...

... Mary Papenfuss of the Huffington Post has most or all of Josh Dawsey's pool report on conditions at McAllen here. Dawsey's Twitter feed is here for some additional commentary.

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump boasted earlier today (see Annie Karni's report linked below) that it was his idea to send pence to the border, and Trump excoriated the NYT for making up -- "they write whatever the want" -- a fake story about horrible conditions in border refugee camps.

Tal Axelrod of the Hill: "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled in favor of the Trump administration's efforts to prioritize federal dollars for local policing to towns and cities that complied with certain immigration policies. The ruling, a split 2-1 decision, said the Department of Justice (DOJ) was within its rights to withhold Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants from sanctuary cities and states over their refusal to work with federal immigratio enforcement authorities and instead prioritize agencies that focused on unauthorized immigration and agreed to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to jail records and immigrants in custody."

Dara Lind of ProPublica: "An unofficial commemorative coin has been circulating among Border Patrol agents at the U.S./Mexico border, mocking the task of caring for migrant children and other duties that have fallen to agents as families cross into the U.S. On the front, the coin declares 'KEEP THE CARAVANS COMING' under an image of a massive parade of people carrying a Honduran flag -- a caricature of the 'caravan' from last fall, which started in Honduras and attracted thousands of people as it moved north. (While the caravan included many women and children, the only visible figures on the coin appear to be adult men.) The coin's reverse side features the Border Patrol logo and three illustrations: a Border Patrol agent bottle-feeding an infant; an agent fingerprinting a teen boy wearing a backwards baseball cap; and a U.S. Border Patrol van. The text along the edge reads 'FEEDING ** PROCESSING ** HOSPITAL ** TRANSPORT.'"

Ryan Deveraux of the Intercept: "When news broke that thousands of current and former Border Patrol agents were members of a secret Facebook group filled with racist, vulgar, and sexist content, Carla Provost, chief of the agency, was quick to [condemn the 'inappropriate' posts & promise to hold the writers accountable].... For Provost, a veteran of the Border Patrol who was named head of the agency in August 2018, the group's existence and content should have come as no surprise. Three months after her appointment to chief, Provost herself had posted in the group, then known as 'I'm 10-15,' now archived as 'America First X 2.' Provost's comment was innocuous ... but her participation in the group, which she has since left, raises serious questions." (Also linked yesterday.)

So great looking [4 pinocchios] and smart [4 pinocchios], a true Stable [4 pinocchios] Genius [4 pinocchios]! -- Donald Trump, actual self-description, earning 16 pinocchios in only 9 words!, as tabulated by RAS in yesterday's Comments ...

Annie Karni of the New York Times: "Speaking for over 30 minutes in the hot sun on Friday morning, President Trump lashed out at his critics in no particular order, heaping vitriol on everyone from Democrats running for president to the former Republican House speaker, not to mention a foreign ambassador and the press.... The thing that bound Mr. Trump's disparate group of targets together was their recent public airing -- intended or not -- of something negative about Mr. Trump, or what he viewed as a critical portrayal of his policies." ...

... Aaron Rupar of Vox: "President Donald Trump spoke to and took questions from the media for about 30 minutes on Friday morning across a range of topics. He lied about just about all of them.... Trump's helicopter-side news conference ... was a master class in gaslighting.... It illustrated how Trump carefully manages the settings in which he makes himself available to reporters so he can control his message, no matter how divorced from reality it may be." --s

All the Best People, Ctd.

Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump has told confidants he's eager to remove Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, according to five sources who have discussed the matter directly with the president.... One potential replacement Trump has mentioned to multiple sources is Fred Fleitz, who formerly served as chief of staff to national security adviser John Bolton." ...

     ... Dan Spinelli of Mother Jones: "Fleitz, through frequent appearances on Fox News, has aligned himself much more closely with Trump, but his longtime benefactor and ideological ally is Bolton, whose relationship with Fleitz goes back nearly two decades. Fleitz served as Bolton's chief of staff in the State Department under President George W. Bush before going to work for him at the National Security Council last year, a position he left after less than six months in October. His selection as Bolton's deputy was sharply opposed at the time by Muslim and Jewish advocacy groups due to Fleitz's affiliation with the conspiratorial Center for Security Policy, where he now serves as president and chief executive. In 2015, he co-authored a report for the think tank that claimed more than 80 percent of American mosques are 'incubators of, at best, subversion and, at worst, violence.' Fleitz distanced himself from the report's most extreme policy recommendations last year -- like stripping Muslims who support 'shariah-compliant norms' of their citizenship -- but has been sharply critical of Islam in other venues."

Adios. Annie Karni & Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump said Friday morning that R. Alexander Acosta, his embattled secretary of labor, will resign following controversy over his handling of a sex crimes case involving the financier, Jeffrey Epstein, when he was a prosecutor in Florida. Mr. Acosta called the president this morning and informed him of his decision to resign, Mr. Trump said, as he left the White House for travel to Milwaukee and Cleveland." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Darlene Superville & Jill Colvin of the AP: "... Donald Trump, with Acosta at his side, made the announcement as he left the White House for a trip to Wisconsin and Ohio. The president said Acosta had been a 'great' labor secretary. 'I hate to see this happen,' Trump said. He said he did not ask Acosta to leave the Cabinet. Acosta said his resignation would be effective in seven days. Acosta said he didn't think it was right for his handling of Epstein's case to distract from his work as secretary of labor." Mrs. McC: Yes, it's sad to see somebody suffer for being extra-nice to a serial child sex abuser & child pornographer. BTW, Trump mentioned twice that Acosta was "Hispanic -- Acosta's parents were Cuban refugees; he was born in the U.S. -- a bid no doubt to Cuban-American voters. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

Labor Pick #1: Alleged wife-beater [Andy Puzder]; Labor Pick #2: Alleged child rapist protector; Labor Pick #3: Sweatshop enthusiast -- Jake Maccoby, in a tweet ...

... Meet Your New Acting Labor Secretary. David Badash of the New Civil Rights Movement: On Friday, "Trump named ... Deputy Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella [to become] Acting Secretary of Labor.... 'He's a good man, highly recommended by Alex,' President Trump said of Pizzella Friday. Pizzella, which few know, has a long history, going back to the late 1990's, of being a lobbyist for sweatshops, and, as Mother Jones reported, advocating to advance an economy of 'indentured workers.'... Just to be perfectly clear, the Secretary of Labor -- Acting or otherwise -- and the Dept. of Labor, are tasked with protecting workers and enforcing the laws that protect workers.... The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in 2017 released a letter opposing Pizzella as Deputy Labor Secretary. 'Pizzella worked closely with Jack Abramoff to lobby for policies on the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands that essentially allowed for unchecked slave labor to be performed with the imprimatur of the "Made in the U.S.A." label on goods and clothing.'" ...

... Here's Sen. Al Franken grilling Pizzella in confirmation hearings in 2017. Pizzella testified he didn't know nuthin' (despite Congressional hearings & extensive news reports about conditions on the Marianas), & he couldn't remember nuthin' about how he might have lobbied against labor protection laws (as Franken documented for him during a previous meeting):

     ... Via Noah Lanard of Mother Jones. Thanks to contributor Hattie for the link. ...

... Pizzella's Russia Connection. Reid Champlin & Jessica Piper of OpenSecrets: "Documents obtained by OpenSecrets show that Pizzella was one of the lobbyists who worked on behalf of a shell corporation connected to the Russian government in the late 1990s. He was listed in a 1997 lobbying disclosure form as the 'director of coalitions' for Chelsea Commercial Enterprises Ltd., a Bahamas-based organization working closely with the Russian oil company Naftasib, which was itself a close affiliate of the Russian government. Working alongside [Jack] Abramoff and others, Pizzella helped Chelsea Commercial advocate for 'various commercial business enterprises, including investments in Russian businesses.'" Mrs. McC: Oddly enough, in 2013 President Obama appointed Pizzella, a former Bush appointee, to the Federal Labor Relations Board.

... ** Frank Rich lambastes Jeffrey Epstein's elite facilitators & tries to to leave out anybody. "Compared to the Manhattan heavy hitters who went to Epstein's dinner parties, rode his private jet, and furthered the fiction that he was some kind of genius hedge-fund billionaire, the now-departed Alex Acosta was a mere flunky to be muscled (easily) by Epstein's attorneys in the Southern District of Florida." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... ** Acosta Resigns. The Caligula Administration Lives on. Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "Even with Acosta gone..., Epstein remains a living reminder of the depraved milieu from which the president sprang, and of the corruption and misogyny that continue to swirl around him. Trump has been only intermittently interested in distancing himself from that milieu. More often he has sought, whether through strategy or instinct, to normalize it." ...


... Witness Tampering. Benjamin Weiser
of the New York Times: "Just days after [the Miami Herald] expose last November drew new attention to Jeffrey Epstein's predatory behavior toward young women, he wired $350,000 to two people close to him, federal prosecutors revealed on Friday. Mr. Epstein, a financier who now faces sex-trafficking charges in New York, was using the money to try to buy the silence of possible witnesses against him, the prosecutors said. The United States attorney's office in Manhattan made the new allegations in a court filing asking that Mr. Epstein be denied bail while he awaits trial, saying the payments were evidence that he might try to influence witnesses if he were not detained.... Two days after the Herald published its expose, Mr. Epstein wired $100,000 to a person who had been named as a possible co-conspirator in his deal with Florida prosecutors a decade ago. Three days later, Mr. Epstein sent $250,000 to a person who not only had been named as a co-conspirator in the Florida agreement, but was also identified in the New York indictment as an employee who helped Mr. Epstein in his sex-trafficking scheme." ...

... Kara Scannell & Brynn Gingras of CNN: "Not long after a 14-year-old girl reported Jeffery Epstein to authorities in 2005, she says she received a warning from someone who claimed to be in contact with ...[Epstein]. The girl would be paid cash if she agreed not to cooperate with law enforcement, the person told the accuser, adding that 'those who help him will be compensated and those who hurt him will be dealt with,' according to a Palm Beach, Florida, police report reflecting the accuser's statement. The threat was one of many intimidation and bare-knuckle tactics that accusers and witnesses told police they faced after Florida authorities opened their first investigation into Epstein.... During [the Miami] probe, at least three private investigators who police believed were working on Epstein's behalf tracked down accusers and possible witnesses to the alleged attacks, according to the police reports. They sat in black SUVs outside the homes of accusers, questioned their current and former boyfriends, and chased one parent's car off the road, according to police reports and a lawyer for three accusers." Epstein also intimidated prosecutors & made false claims against a lawyer for defendants. ...

... Mike Baker & Amy Harris of the New York Times: "At the Dalton School on the Upper East Side, some students saw Mr. Epstein as an unusual and unsettling figure, willing to violate the norms in his encounters with girls.... Most remembered his persistent attention on the girls in hallways and classrooms.... None of the female students who spoke to The New York Times in recent days remembered Mr. Epstein making unwanted physical contact with them, and he has not been accused of any crimes related to his time at the school. But a few students said they had been discomfited by a close relationship he had with one of their female peers, a concern that had escalated so much that one of them had raised the issue then to a school administrator.... Mr. Epstein's time at Dalton was brief, and an administrator said it ended in a dismissal."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "E Jean Carroll, the esteemed New York journalist who has alleged Donald Trump raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the 1990s, now sleeps with a loaded gun by her bed having received online death threats.... She said she had received so many threats that she had been forced to stop looking at her social media feeds, and for the first time in her life had bullets loaded into the handgun in her bedroom." --s

Natasha Bertrand of Politico: "Attorney General Bill Barr has ordered an investigation into whether the CIA was correct to determine that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to boost Donald Trump during the 2016 election. But that question has already been asked and answered at the CIA's highest levels -- by Mike Pompeo, a Trump loyalist, according to three people familiar with the matter. Just after Pompeo took over as CIA director in 2017, he conducted a personal review of the CIA's findings, grilling analysts on their conclusions in a challenging and at times combative interview, these people said. He ultimately found no evidence of any wrongdoing, or that the analysts had been under political pressure to produce their findings. 'This wasn't just a briefing,' said one person familiar with the episode. 'This was a challenging back and forth, in which Pompeo asked the officers tough questions about their work and how they determined Putin's specific objectives.' Pompeo also asked about CIA's work with the FBI on the Russia probe in 2016. Two U.S. officials further confirmed to Politico that the interview occurred and was robust." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Wait, wait! I thought Barr was fake-investigating the oranges of the Russia investigation; Bertrand's opening graf suggests the citrus probe has been expanded to the point that Barr is about to fake-discover that Putin was not pro-Trump. I really am confused.

Erica Orden & Kara Scannell of CNN: "A federal investigation into whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign-finance laws appears to be wrapping up without charges being filed, according to people familiar with the matter. For months, federal prosecutors in New York have examined whether company officials broke the law, including in their effort to reimburse Michael Cohen for hush-money payments he made to women alleging affairs with his former boss ... Donald Trump....After Cohen made the $130,000 payment to [Stormy] Daniels, he was reimbursed, prosecutors said in court filings, by the Trump Organization. The company's executives authorized payments to him totaling $420,000, in an effort to cover his original payment, tax liabilities and reward him with a bonus, according to prosecutors, and they falsely recorded those payments as legal expenses in their books. The criminal inquiry centered on whether those payments, like the hush money Cohen gave to Daniels, violated campaign-finance law."

Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "A panel of federal appeals court judges on Friday appeared deeply skeptical of President Trump's arguments against a congressional subpoena seeking his financial records. The judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in Trump's appeal of a lower court ruling upholding a subpoena issued by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) for the president's records from the accounting firm Mazars. The arguments stretched on for twice the amount of time they were scheduled to take.... Judge Patricia Millet, nominated by former President Obama, said that it would make sense for lawmakers to scrutinize a sitting president. 'You keep talking like they picked some individual off the street to target,' Millet said. Oversight of the president 'sounds OK to me,' she added."

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "House Democrats said late Friday that they had postponed until July 24 two hearings with Robert S. Mueller III, which had been scheduled to take place next week, to allow for expanded questioning of the former special counsel. The reversal, after a day of negotiations with Mr. Mueller's associates, came as both Democrats and Republicans were deep in preparations for the testimony." ...

     ... Morgan Chalfont of the Hill: "Mueller has agreed to testify for three hours before the Judiciary panel, allowing all members the opportunity to question him." Mrs. McC: IOW, the hearing will devolve into a typically-disjointed, useless series of speeches by members of Congress preening for their local news broadcasts. Super-stupid. Democrats should have let Republicans shout about the deep state or whatever, while they -- Democrats -- assigned a professional interrogator to question Mueller.

David Shepardson of Reuters: "The Trump administration said late on Friday it was issuing final rules to suspend a 2016 Obama administration regulation that more than doubled penalties for automakers failing to meet fuel efficiency requirements."

Connor O'Brien of Politico: "House Democrats closed ranks to pass a massive $733 billion defense policy bill on Friday, teeing up a partisan clash with Senate Republicans over military funding and contentious foreign policy issues. The National Defense Authorization Act was approved 220 to 197, with all House Republicans opposing the bill -- enough to sustain a promised veto from ... Donald Trump." (Also linked yesterday.)

Ashley Killough & Clare Foran of CNN: "The House on Friday passed legislation to extend funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through 2090, weeks after the bill received nationwide attention following impassioned pleas for support from surviving first responders and comedian Jon Stewart. The bill easily cleared the House with a vote of 402-12, and will now be sent to the Senate, where timing on that vote is not yet clear, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a vote on the legislation. Moments after the House passage, McConnell's office issued a statement that the chamber would consider 'this important legislation soon.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Catie Edmondson of the New York Times: "The House voted Friday to curb President Trump's ability to strike Iran militarily on Friday, adopting a bipartisan provision that would require the president to get Congress's approval before authorizing military force against Tehran. The 251-170 vote reflects lawmakers' growing desire to take back long-ceded authority over matters of war and peace from the executive branch, a reclamation legislators contend has grown increasingly urgent amid escalating tensions with Iran.... Mr. Trump said last month he believes he does not need congressional approval to strike Iran. The vote Friday amounted to a pointed and bipartisan rebuttal -- led by strange ideological bedfellows, Representatives Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California, and Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of Mr. Trump's most strident Republican allies in Congress." (Also linked yesterday.)

Eliana Johnson of Politico: "Under leadership of Don McGahn, the White House counsel's office was focused almost singularly on filling the federal bench with conservative judges, and in [Michael] Kanne [an Indiana native who sits on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals], Trump's lawyers had spotted an opportunity to nudge out an old-timer and lock in a conservative...for decades to come.... Tom Fisher, Indiana's solicitor general and a former clerk for Kanne.... It seemed like the perfect plan -- until Vice President Mike Pence's aides got wind of it and scuttled Fisher's nomination.... As solicitor general of Indiana, Fisher had defended Gov. Mike Pence's policies in court, and aides to the now-vice president feared his nomination would dredge up events and information politically damaging to Pence." --s

Mark Landler of the New York Times leaves his gig as a White House correspondent: "Choosing a single day that epitomizes Donald J. Trump's presidency -- amid the endless tangle of jaw-dropping, reality-bending, norm-shattering days -- is a fool's errand. But for a White House correspondent departing the beat after eight years, Thursday came awfully close. From Mr. Trump's morning Twitter rant (asking how anyone could vote for a Democrat over 'what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!') to his social media summit (in which he praised a room of right-wing agitators for 'the crap you think of'), to a news conference that ended with his merry band of provocateurs almost coming to blows with reporters, the White House finally surrendered itself to being a stage set for Mr. Trump's greatest reality show." A good read.

Julia Wong of the Guardian: "The Federal Trade Commission has reportedly voted to approve fining Facebook roughly $5bn to settle an investigation into the company's privacy violations that was launched following the Cambridge Analytica revelations. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, both citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, reported Friday afternoon that the settlement was approved by a 3-2 vote that broke along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The justice department is expected make a final approval of the fine." ...

... Nilay Patel of the Verge: "Facebook's stock went up after news of a record-breaking $5 billion FTC fine for various privacy violations broke [Friday].... [T]he United States government spent months coming up with a punishment for Facebook's long list of privacy-related bad behavior, and the best it could do was so weak that Facebook's stock price went up.... The largest FTC fine in the history of the country represents basically a month of Facebook's revenue ... [and] increased Mark Zuckerberg's net worth.... That's actually the real problem here: fines and punishments are only effective when they provide negative consequences for bad behavior. But Facebook has done nothing but behave badly from inception, and it has only ever been slapped on the wrist by authority figures and rewarded by the market." --s

Beyond the Beltway

Alaska. Billy Corrigher of ThinkProgress: "Alaska's legislature has until Friday at midnight to override the governor's attack on the state's judicial system.... Using a line-item veto, Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) recently slashed the budget of the state's Supreme Court, due to its repeated protection of abortion rights. Dunleavy cut the budget of the Alaska Supreme Court and the court of appeals by 5%, as part of a sweeping set of cuts that also impacted the University of Alaska. The legislature has been unsuccessful in overriding the veto, after 22 Republicans refused to come to the state capitol to discuss the budget earlier this week.... Without a veto override, the University of Alaska is expected to fire hundreds of workers, slash its course offerings, and lose thousands of students.... But what's at stake for the state's courts is far more concerning." --s

Tennessee. Happy KKK Day. Natalie Allison of the Tennessean: "Gov. Bill Lee [R] has proclaimed Saturday as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, a day of observation to honor the former Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader whose bust is on display in the state Capitol. Per state law, the Tennessee governor is tasked with issuing proclamations for six separate days of special observation, three of which, including the July 13 Forrest Day, pertain to the Confederacy. Lee -- and governors who have come before him -- are also required by state law to proclaim Jan. 19 as Robert E. Lee Day, honoring the commander of the Confederate Army, as well as June 3 Confederate Decoration Day, otherwise known as Confederate Memorial Day and the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. 'I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven't looked at changing that law,' Lee said Thursday. He declined to say whether he believed state law should be changed to no longer require the governor to issue such proclamations or whether he had reservations about doing so." Mrs. McC: Obviously a governor with any guts & moral standards would just say no.

Way Beyond

Brazil. Dom Phillips of the Guardian: "Brazilian diplomats have reacted with scorn and dismay to reports that Jair Bolsonaro wants to make his son Eduardo the country's ambassador to the US, despite his lack of diplomatic experience.... On Friday Bolsonaro said the appointment would not constitute nepotism. 'That's for the supreme court to decide. It is not nepotism, I would never do that,' Bolsonaro said [sic]. That argument has failed to convince many in Brazil. 'If it's confirmed, the nomination will bring Brazil closer to becoming a banana republic,' wrote Bernardo Mello Franco in his blog for Rio's O Globo newspaper." --s

Casey Michel of ThinkProgress: "A series of reports over the past few months have [Mrs. McC: has!] pulled back the curtain on discussions about secret funding from Russia to far-right forces in Europe. Now, there are new questions about the connection the funding has with perhaps the most notorious international anti-LGBTQ group in existence -- a joint Russian-American brainchild called the World Congress of Families (WCF).... For years, the WCF has acted as the primary bridge between American Christian fundamentalists and Russian partners.... The WCF's Russian representative, Alexey Komov ... is at the heart of the burgeoning relationship between America's Christian fundamentalist contingent that looks warmly at the Kremlin and the financiers behind Russian designs, and the cultivation of far-right forces abroad. As such, it's unsurprising that Komov is also directly implicated in the new revelations [see BuzzFeed article linked yesterday] out of Italy." --s

Tom Miles of Reuters: "Saudi Arabia, Russia and 35 other states have written to the United Nations supporting China's policies in its western region of Xinjiang, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters on Friday, in contrast to strong Western criticism. China has been accused of detaining a million Muslims and persecuting ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, and 22 ambassadors signed a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week criticizing its policies.... The letter supporting China commended what it called China's remarkable achievements in the field of human rights ... [and was] signed by ambassadors from many African countries, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar, the Philippines, Syria, Pakistan, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain." --safari: All these Muslim-majority countries supporting ethnic cleansing of Muslim minorities. Incredible.

News Ledes

New York Times: "A power failure plunged a stretch of the West Side of Manhattan into darkness on Saturday night, trapping thousands of people in subways and elevators for a time, leaving drivers to fend for themselves at intersections with no traffic signals and eerily dimming the lights of a swath of Times Square.... Con Edison said that the power failed 6:47 p.m. and that 73,000 customers were in the dark for at least two hours, mainly on the West Side. The Fire Department said the failures stretched from 72nd Street to the West 40s, and from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River. Shortly after 10:30 p.m., Con Edison announced that six power networks had been knocked out, but that five had been restored. One between 32th and 42nd Streets still remained out, the utility said.... Mayor Bill de Blasio ... said Con Edison believed that the blackout was caused by a mechanical issue. Mr. de Blasio was speaking from Iowa, where he was campaigning for president."

The New York Times has live updates of developments re: Hurricane Barry. ...

... Weather Channel: "Tropical Storm Barry will make landfall today, possibly as a hurricane, along the northern Gulf Coast, spreading torrential rain up the lower Mississippi Valley, leading to major river flooding and flash flooding in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, along with storm-surge flooding and strong winds.... While Barry may become a hurricane before landfall, its water (rain, surge) impacts are bigger concerns than wind. Let's begin by listing current watches and warnings in effect.... Regardless of whether Barry is a tropical storm or hurricane, a major threat of heavy rain and flash flooding is in play the next few days in the lower Mississippi Valley, due to Barry's slow movement."

Reader Comments (12)

After witnessing Barr to this point, I have absolutely zero belief that any card-carrying member of the GOP will face any iota of serious scrutiny by the DOJ. Not now, and not ever.

IF, and a huge IF, Democrats take back the White House, the mouth breathers & ammo-sexuals on the right will steer off any attempt to hold anyone accountable from the current administration, with soaring rhetoric of "looking forward" while cowering from the present.

Agent Orange, his cherished Org. and all his spawn, are all carrying Never Go To Jail cards in their front pocket, know it, and flaunt it.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

When Philip Roth decided to write a novel about FDR being defeated by Charles Lindbergh in the election of 1940 with Jewish citizens being stigmatized as the enemy within, it gave Roth the opportunity to create a fictionalized version of a scenario he feared might actually happen in one form or another. "The Plot Against America" came out in 2004. Perhaps, Roth, if writing about this kind of plot a few years ago with a real estate mogul/scam artist/ TV personality/ pussy grabber as the man who took over the reins of the American government and plotted to destroy it would have been in the offing.

The display in the Rose Garden, the garbled response to questions before Trump took off for the midwest (I find it interesting that he scheduled the visit to the immigration sites when he would be away and sent Pence in his place–-slick maneuver) would be extra fodder for the fiction Roth might have put in his novel. Because we have been bombarded by unprecedented displays of phoney plays day after day for years we get almost numb to its duplicity and defacto disasters. To say that yes, Trump set out to destroy is exactly right, to say that he thinks of himself as some kind of savior/ King is also exactly right but to say that this is what we have to condescend to is wrong. And again I ask the question: How long?

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Safari,

Pretty much every single story coming out dealing with the DOJ sounds like they’re referring to Trump’s personal law firm. And not a very good one either (we’re paying these hacks?). In fact, it sounds more like the legal version of the Keystone Kops. These people aren’t working for taxpayers, they’re jumping up and down with every moronic, often illegal demand from the little king, most of which don’t make any sense, even in the upside down, backwards, sideways logic of right wing world.

A video of Trump composing a letter to “his” law firm has recently surfaced and I link it here as a public service. You’ll note that Both Barr and Trump seem to have lost some weight, but they’re every bit as weightless, intellectually, as they appear to be in the daily press releases.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_2LqmcjIeMU

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I was wondering what Donaldo would do for an encore at Labor after booting his most recent terrible choice. How do you beat a pro-corporate protector of child rapers?

Well! How about a guy who promotes slavery as the latest in right-wing labor policy?

Yeah, that’ll do it. That Donaldo. Never count him out when it comes to picking winners.

We’ve had too much winning, and now? SLAVERY.

Ohhhh-kaaay.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Participated in one of the vigils last night. Turnout a little disappointing to me but there were sufficient bodies to occupy the four street corners of a busy intersection here in northwest WA.

While I wished more protesters had shown up, I was encouraged by all the positive waves and honking horns that greeted them. Our community is heavily populated by Hispanics and I suspect that's one of the reasons, but partiularly heartening were all the younger drivers who approved.

Interesting note: averted eyes from some of the older set, but no middle fingers. Many of those who refused to engage seemed embarrassed.

As we all should be at what is happening in our name.

On another subject:

Sent this to the NYTimes last night on another death in the family:

"Add Tom Lehrer to the curriculum and you will have the better half of a wonderful education.

I read MAD in the 60's, my older son in the 80's, his younger brother in the 90's and now one of the grandsons is surely disappointed that his MAD subscription will lapse.

BTW, the kind and extent of the corruption and hypocrisy MAD railed against in picture and word now seems a little quaint, doesn't it, mild enough in comparison to today's daily, hourly assaults on conscience to inspire nostalgia?"

It's been a rough week.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Some sane people on a Friday night take to the road and go on a get-away weekend or watch a comic film about people doing silly things and have a lot of laughs. What does Phyllis Pepe do? She watches congressional hearings and last night spent most of the evening watching the Migrant Children & Border Security hearings–-two of them in succession. The first one had enough drama to fill two episodes of any political sitcom. On the panel were Debbie Lesko, (R-Ariz) the blond bomber who chastised the Dems for being so mean to "our President–-for shame!" She proceeded to call bunk on all the "bad press" on the situation at the border–-"NO one drinks out of a toilet–- that's simply preposterous!" But Alex O.C., who spoke to many women–-in Spanish––said that indeed they had been drinking from toilets because the facets in the sink were not working (she checked--they were not working). Rashida Tlaib was so passionate in her testimony that she started weeping. There was the former acting immigration customs enforcement Director, a Thomas Homan who ranted and raved –-his huge bulk along with his porcelain features made for someone to reckon with and the Dems went for him. He was one of the signers of the Family Separation Policy. Poor Gerald Connolly, when confronting Homan who kept interrupting him, literally yelled–-"This is MY time, Mr. Homan, NOT yours." There was a Columbia U. Law School professor, Elora Mukherjee, a lovely young women who not only was privy to the current problems but had worked with border control in the past and told us she had never encountered anything like this. She also had solutions.

And a word about Elijah Cummings–-the chair of these hearings: Here is a man of worth–-I am so impressed with the way he handles everyone with dignity and respect–-plus he has a sense of humor which is like a soft breeze that eases the heat of these hearings.

Suffice to say––without going into any more detail–-that we will be seeing some changes sooner than later. If not, then we've failed to fix a problem implemented by an administration that deliberately set out to destroy human lives.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Re:“Tour” Of Texas Border Facilities:

Is The Dude in Black sprouting a mustache? Moonlighting as an out of shape lifeguard? Or, like Medical Examiners, stanching the stench?

So, Señor Dense witnessed the compassionate care offered those in detention, eh? And conversed with (the concurring) families? Bueno. Entonces -

“¡Que te jodan, cabrón de mierda!”

This hateful, robotic, V.ery P.uritanical, christian-miming, “Mother”-forking (Well, they did hatch three chicks. And that rabbit.) scum-wad . . . Must now proliferate lots and lots of endorphins as analgesic.

And Some More:

I meet with most of my healthcare providers at a medical complex on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And know I have crossed 71st Street multiple times en route to the Downtown subway, never knowing (ain't of the glitterati) that the huge edifice with giant wooden doors was not some academy, nor an embassy. Rather, the “mansion” of this vile abuser. And now (uselessly) wonder if I may have shared a “Hi, there!”, in passing, with a schoolgirl-seeming preteen, actually a victim of this vile monster.

Toxicity and hatred as regenerating tsunami.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHattie

Ken Winkes,

Yes! MAD Mag!!!

As one of those rebellious “wise ass” teens, it was my kind of literature. A brilliantly written/artistic/satiric oasis for my wee self, ever-furious at the world’s (my own and the globe’s) stupidity and injustice.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHattie

PDPepe,

I was nodding in agreement - and reminded of the following - re: your apt description of the gentlemanly Elijah Cummings:

<< Tlaib, among other Democrats, took issue with Meadows inviting a black Trump administration employee to the hearing to demonstrate that President Donald Trump is not racist. >>

and

<< In response, Cummings said, "If there's anyone who is sensitive with regard to race, it's me. A son of former sharecroppers that were basically slaves. So I get it."

(The above, eliciting tears from us.)

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHattie

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/07/13/734430818/has-your-doctor-talked-to-you-about-climate-change

More possible jail time and fines for doctors who dare to talk about verboten subjects?

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/12/climate/epa-community-pollution-appeal.html?

I missed this yesterday. Must be time for the Pretender to make his next speech about how he's fixing the environment Obama wrecked.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes
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