The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

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

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

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

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

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

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

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

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Saturday
Jul152017

The Commentariat -- July 16, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Today in Crazy Trump Tweets. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump unleashed a new fusillade of tweets on Sunday morning, defending his son Donald Trump Jr., slashing the news media and tarring his long-vanquished opponent, Hillary Clinton. 'HillaryClinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News media?' he tweeted shortly before 7 a.m. Forty minutes later, he posted, 'With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country.'... The president tweeted his thanks to a former campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, 'for saying so powerfully that there was no Russian collusion in our winning campaign.' On Friday, Mr. Caputo testified before a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee. He emerged to say that he had witnessed no collusion between the campaign and Russia. 'The ABC/Washington Post Poll [linked below], even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!' he tweeted." -- CW

Josh Delt of the Hill: "The White House is launching a three-week 'Made in America' messaging campaign on Monday to refocus President Trump's public agenda." -- CW ...

... CW: Terrific! I sure hope Ivanka helps out. ...

     ... Matea Gold, et al., of the Washington Post (July 14): "While President Trump has chastised companies for outsourcing jobs overseas, an examination by The Washington Post has revealed the extent to which Ivanka Trump's company relies exclusively on foreign factories in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and China, where low-wage laborers have limited ability to advocate for themselves.... The Post found that her company lags behind many in the apparel industry when it comes to monitoring the treatment of the largely female workforce employed in factories around the world." -- CW ...

... "We'll Get Back to You on That." Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump, whose company outsources the manufacturing of many of its products to overseas factories, is unveiling 'Made in America' week at the White House to promote products made in the United States.... For years, the Trump Organization has outsourced much of its product manufacturing, relying on a global network of factories in a dozen countries -- including Bangladesh, China and Mexico -- to make its clothing, home decor pieces and other items.... Asked at Sunday's briefing whether 'Made in America' week would include a commitment from the Trump Organization or Ivanka Trump's company to make more of their products in the United States, [White House media affairs director Helen] Ferre told reporters, 'We'll get back to you on that.'" -- CW

It's the Secret Service's Fault. Esme Cribb of TPM: "Jay Sekulow, a member of ... Donald Trump's legal team, on Sunday aired a new defense for Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised him damaging information on Hillary Clinton: The Secret Service should not have 'allowed these people in' to meet with Trump's eldest son. 'I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in,' Sekulow said on ABC's 'This Week,' referring to Trump's protection detail as the Republican candidate. 'The President had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.'" -- CW

"Trump's Russian Laundromat." Craig Unger in the New Republic: "Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower -- in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics.... The public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians -- including the dirtiest and most feared of them all." -- CW: P.D. Pepe linked this the other day. Read on. Your president is mobbed up.

*****

Because Senator McCain has access to excellent health care, a vote to deny health care to millions will be delayed. -- D.C. Clark, in today's thread ...

... Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Saturday night that Senate consideration of legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare will be delayed while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recovers from surgery. McCain had announced earlier on Saturday that he would not be in the Senate next week, depriving Republicans of a key vote. Without McCain, Senate Republicans likely would not have had the 50 votes necessary to advance the legislation." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post: "Two organizations representing the U.S. health insurance industry just called a new provision of the Senate Republicans' health care proposal 'simply unworkable in any form' and warned that it would cause major hardship, especially for middle-class people with serious medical problems. The organizations, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, speak for the businesses that would be responsible for making the new system work ― or at least attempting to do so. That may help explain why, with a vote on the bill planned for next week, they are letting loose with what, by Washington lobbying standards, sounds like a primal scream. In a publicly posted letter to Senate leaders, the two groups focused their attention on an amendment [by Ted Cruz] that would undermine the Affordable Care Act's protections for people with pre-existing conditions." -- CW ...

... "Junk Insurance." Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "As Senate Republican leaders struggle to secure enough votes to repeal and replace the health law, the centerpiece of their effort to win conservative support is a provision that would allow insurers to sell such bare-bones plans again. The new version of the bill released on Thursday incorporates an idea from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas that would permit insurers to market all types of plans as long as they offer ones that comply with Affordable Care Act standards. The measure would also allow companies to take into account people's health status in determining whether to insure them and at what price. State insurance regulators say the proposal harks back to the days when insurance companies ... sold policies so skimpy they could hardly be called coverage at all. Derided as 'junk insurance,' the plans had very low premiums but often came with five-figure deductibles. Many failed to pay for medical care that is now deemed essential." -- CW ...

... Lenny Bernstein & Paige Cunningham of the Washington Post: "... experts say insurance simply doesn't work this way, and the 'Cruz amendment' would unleash destructive forces for individuals without employer-sponsored coverage as well as for the system." -- CW ...

... CW: Donald Trump has been lying for two years about having a plan to replace ObamaCare & with policies with lower premiums, lower deductibles and much better coverage. Now let us pause to recall that those nice, "mainstream" Republicans who keep getting re-elected have been making the same promise for eight years. So worse than Trump? Yeah.

Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: "About two weeks before the release of emails showing Donald Trump Jr. seeking opposition research from attorneys representing the Russian government, his father's reelection campaign began paying the law firm now representing Trump Jr. in the ensuing political and legal fallout. A new filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that President Trump's reelection campaign paid $50,000 to the law offices of Alan Futerfas on June 26. That was around the time, Yahoo News reports, that the president's legal team learned of a June 2016 email exchange in which Trump Jr., through an associate, solicited damaging information about 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton. When the New York Times revealed the email, and the meeting it set up, last week, Trump Jr. hired Futerfas, who is best known for representing four of New York's major Italian mob families.... The payment sticks out on a presidential campaign's expenditure list: Futerfas's expertise is in white collar criminal defense, not political and election law." -- CW

     ... CW: Yesterday, we learned that Trump was trying to get the Republican National Committee to pay his legal bills. Now, according to the FEC report, the campaign paid the Trump Corporation itself $90K for legal services. If Trump can pass payment for these "services," whatever they may be, to the RNC, then ma-and-pa donors will be lining Trump's pockets. Well, hell, maybe they should. This presidency is their fault. Let them pay for it. ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "We don't yet know if it was the Times' reporting that forced Don Jr. to retain counsel, but the fact that a lawyer may have been advising him before last week makes his initial public statement on the matter, drafted on Air Force One by presidential advisers, all the more baffling. Its almost comical falseness has since created a mounting set of problems for the presidential scion. The issue of Trump Jr.'s technical culpability in any possible collusion with Russia remains murky. Equally unclear is why Donald Jr., a business executive who serves no role in the Trump administration, should be having any of his legal fees paid by the presidential reelection campaign of his father." -- CW ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "... the President, loyal to nothing and no one but his family, argued that 'a lot of people' would have taken that meeting. Leaders of the U.S. intelligence community ... were quick to say that such a meeting was, at best, phenomenally stupid and, at worst, showed a willingness to collude with Moscow to tilt the election.... Social-media wags delighted in reviving the Trump-as-Corleone family meme and compared Donald, Jr., to Fredo, the most hapless of the Corleone progeny. This was unfair to Fredo.... The Republicans, the self-proclaimed party of family values, remain squarely behind a family and a Presidency whose most salient features are amorality, greed, demagoguery, deception, vulgarity, race-baiting, misogyny, and, potentially -- only time and further investigation will tell -- a murky relationship with a hostile foreign government." -- CW ...

... Andrew Higgins & Andrew Kramer of the New York Times examine Rinat Akhmetshin's career as a spy for hire, often for Russian entities. His specialty seems to be "focused on pilfering private information through hacking and physical intrusion into offices and filing cabinets." CW: So what could possibly be wrong with his showing up for at least one meeting with the von Trump Family Tenors & the Trump campaign manager? ...

... Andrew Kramer: "Paul J. Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, recently filed financial reports with the Justice Department showing that his lobbying firm earned nearly $17 million for two years of work for a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin. Curiously, that was more than the party itself reported spending in the same period for its entire operation -- the national political organization's expenses, salaries, printing outlays and other incidentals. The discrepancies show a lot about how Mr. Manafort's clients -- former President Viktor F. Yanukovych Ukraine and his Party of Regions -- operated.... Handwritten ledgers that surfaced last year indicated that the party had actually spent about $2 billion over the past decade or so, much or most of it illegally. Some outlays like payments to an election official possibly amounted to criminal bribery." ...

     ... CW: C'mon, people. Do you think a guy who pockets $17MM in two years from corrupt politicians is going to balk at a little quid pro quo here? And let's face it: this is the same reason that Elder Don & Younger Don see nothing wrong with their little deals with Russia to flip the election -- they're perfectly comfortable accepting ill-gotton gains. They've been doing it for a long time. ...

     ... Thanks why Elder Trump didn't think twice (as if he ever does) about once again on Saturday describing his Russia scandal as a "hoax." -- CW ...

... "An Unfortunate Coincidence." Jordyn Phelps & Meredith McGraw of ABC News: "The husband of the former Florida chair of the Trump campaign obtained a front-row seat to a June 2016 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing for Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who had met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower eight days prior.... Lanny Wiles told ABC News he has 'absolute, zero connection' to any relations the Russian lawyer may have had to the Trump campaign. Susie Wiles, who was working for the Trump campaign at the time, told ABC News she was not aware of who her husband reserved seats for in the Congressional hearing, and said she has no knowledge of Veselnitskaya's contact with the Trump campaign. 'It's an unfortunate coincidence that I was helping and supporting Donald Trump's candidacy while this meeting was going on,' she said." -- CW ...

... CW: How many "unfortunate coincidences" equal "a pattern of treacherous behavior"?

Scott Clement & Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "Approaching six months in office, Trump's overall approval rating has dropped to 36 percent from 42 percent in April. His disapproval rating has risen five points to 58 percent. Overall, 48 percent say they 'disapprove strongly' of Trump's performance in office, a level never reached by former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and reached only in the second term of George W. Bush in Post-ABC polling.... The president's strongest assets continue to be the healthy economy and a view among many Americans that the Democrats do not have a coherent message or program in opposition, other than opposition to the president." Emphasis added. -- CW

News Lede

Washington Post: "Martin Landau, an Oscar-winning character actor whose dagger-like physique, Cheshire-cat grin and intense gaze made him ideally suited to play icy villains and enigmatic heroes, notably disguise master Rollin Hand on the hit 1960s TV series 'Mission: Impossible,' died July 15 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 89.. -- CW

Reader Comments (10)

Because Senator McCain has access to excellent health care, a vote to deny health care to millions will be delayed.

This is a God. Thank you Ma'am.

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterD.C.Clark

That's an interesting photo with the WaPo article by Clement & Balz on Trump's approval ratings. Taken yesterday (following his trip to France) at the Bedminister Golf Club...the brim throws a shadow on most of his face, BUT look closely at Trump's face and he looks exhausted and bloated, barely able to muster any expression much less a smile. Wouldn't wonder that events are having an impact.

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Also in the Clement, Balz article -- 82% of Rs support the President.

Four out of five Rs still support him.

Many of these people share the road with you, provide you medical care, teach your children, handle your financial information, prepare your food, fix your brakes, pilot your aircraft ...

Makes me worry, are we safe anywhere surrounded by people with such judgment?

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

I wonder that, too, Patrick. It colors EVERYONE around us. The ones I really wonder about are the so-called Christians. All of this is still A-okay with them, I guess. It sends all of us into bunkers, doesn't it? RESIST bunkers...

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Yes, Patrick, it's that 82% that is the riddle of our times, one which writers have been struggling to unravel since the turn of the century (sad to say I remember when that phrase had another referent) which brought us Bush II, maybe most prominent among them Frank's musings on Kansas voters.

Along with them, I'm still struggling, too, but willing to take another crack at it.

From this distance, it's relatively easy to dismiss many Reagan Republicans by saying they were simply gulled by his smile and his smooth presentation of what they most wanted to hear. Vietnam was behind us and even if we had to indulge in a little magical thinking to get there, Things were gonna be All Right in America' morning.

About the time of the Gingrich Revolution, though, I detected a very disturbing change. The element of meanness in the Republican Party, already present in the Reagan welfare queen trope, became more prominent. The party's list of declared enemies became longer and more explicit and all things Democrats had traditionally supported, like the various social safety nets, were now hand outs to the underserving or government ponzi schemes to bilk the unsuspecting masses. Filling in the blanks left by Reagan's anti-government truisms, government itself was now the arch enemy of us all.

With his compassionate conservatism Bush II hearkened to the sunnier aspects of Reaganism, but though they were obscured by the smoke of 9/11 and its very distant cousin, Iraq, his policies followed the path Gingrich had laid out but not succeeded in implementing. He tried to scuttle Social Security, crony capitalism and its brazen raids on the national treasury were given a green light , and the nation as a whole became a brand new laboratory for expanding the noxious and always dangerous experiment of mixing politics and religion.

Bush's Brain simultaneously advanced the party's historical foray into identity politics, identifying enemies of good and true Republicans everywhere: Muslims primarily but all those who could possibly be classed as The Other. Marching along with this advance of identity politics were its companions of resentment and fear, which ironically got in the way of Bush's sensible effort to deal with the millions of undocumented workers we had imported to do our work for us more cheaply than we could do it for ourselves. Notably, here was an instance where Republican politics ran distinctly counter to sensible policy. The current health care debacle is the latest.

So what's happened? It's been a progression. The party has changed. It is more mean. It is more fearful. It is more greedy. It is more angry than it was forty or fifty years ago. But those changes have also changed its adherents, both by welcoming those it would have shunned decades ago (many who could rightly be termed deplorable) and by teaching its members that fear and anger and meanness and greed--all emotions I'd note--are not just OK but by themselves constitute a political identify and even a platform.

The Pretender is the apotheosis of that kind of politics, a politics that, given gerrymandering and the electoral college, can get elected but cannot govern. To summarize, the Pretender's appeal to his party has nothing to do with morality, little to do with sense or good governance, and as the indifference to the Russian meddling shows, almost nothing to do with traditional notions of patriotism. In a sense the political universe of today's Republicans doesn't even exist, because their world is limited to what they feel.

It's a truism that today's Republicans are not our fathers'. Their continuing support of the Pretender, that rich, mean, spoiled child we've placed in the White House, is only more proof of that.

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Unfortunately, there is no organized political party taking advantage of the attention being paid to the Republican debacle of "repeal and replace."
An improved Affordable Care Act, "Obama Care", presented and sold by an organized political party would expose the invidious Republican plan for the disaster it is.
There could be some great theirs versus ours comparisons

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercarlyle

OK, totally apolitical, with my bigliest grin in a long time, plus one whoop and two hollers (whaddaya, its Sunday). Full screen. Turn up the sound:

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40626273

I'm in love. Oh, and its all true. I expect to be picked up any day now.

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterD.C.Clark

Makes sense Mini Donalds' meeting with those nefarious Russians was the fault of the Secret Service. After all in 2016, it was still Obama's Secret Service.

But I'm still confused. If there was nothing wrong with the meeting, why blame anyone?

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

I listened to a few minutes of Jay Sekulow v. Chris Wallace this afternoon, the same session (CSPAN rerun) in which he suggested that the USSS should have kept the Russkis from DiJiTJr's door.

He sounded like a coked-up psycho. Not just the crazy logic, but the manic, pathetic delivery. It was almost funny. (But, Marie, no, I have not enjoyed a laugh yet, and I do have a sense of humor, but can't laugh at this bullshit.)

Imagine a world in which the USSS gets to decide who is allowed to meet with its protectees.

This guy Sekulow can. And he reps for the Prez.

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

This is how the world is talking about the (so-called) president of the (formerly?) United States of America.

July 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGloria
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