The Wires

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

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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Sunday
Jul162017

The Commentariat -- July 17, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Best Way to Launch Trump's "Made in America" Theme Weeks. Tracy Jan of the Washington Post: "The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced a one-time increase of 15,000 additional visas for low-wage, seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year..., following heavy lobbying from the fisheries, hospitality and other industries that rely on temporary foreign workers. The increase represents a 45 percent bump from the number of H-2B visas normally issued for the second half of the fiscal year, said senior Homeland Security officials in a call with reporters Monday. The visas are for workers taking temporary jobs in the seafood, tourism, landscaping, construction and other seasonal industries -- but not farm laborers.... Trump himself has used H-2B visas to hire temporary workers at his golf resorts in Palm Beach, Fla., and Jupiter, Fla." CW: To be fair, anything the foreign workers produce here will be made in America, just not by, you know, Americans.

Eric Lipton & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Actions by President Trump and his administration have created a historic ethics crisis, the departing head of the Office of Government Ethics said. He called for major changes in federal law to expand the power and reach of the oversight office and combat the threat. Walter M. Shaub Jr., who is resigning as the federal government's top ethics watchdog on Tuesday, said the Trump administration had flouted or directly challenged long-accepted norms in a way that threatened to undermine the United States' ethical standards, which have been admired around the world.... Mr. Shaub called for nearly a dozen legal changes to strengthen the federal ethics system: changes that, in many cases, he had not considered necessary before Mr. Trump's election. Every other president since the 1970s, Republican or Democrat, worked closely with the ethics office, he said. A White House official dismissed the criticism, saying on Sunday ... in a statement that misspelled Mr. Shaub's name ... that Mr. Shaub was simply promoting himself and had failed to do his job properly." -- CW

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post lists the various arguments the Trump camp has trotted out to excuse its campaign leaders' meeting with Russian operatives for the purpose of obtaining dirt on Clinton. Blake provides "a scorecard of each one, along with how plausible it is -- scored from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most plausible." The highest score Blake gives any of the arguments is 5. CW: I dunno. I kinda like the one about how a 39-year-old man is just a boy so can't be responsible for his mistakes. Not sure how that works for Paul Manafort, who is 68 years old.

Joe Biden, in a Washington Post op-ed: "In my 36 years as a senator, I saw my colleagues take plenty of hard votes. This just isn't one of them. If Republican leadership wants to improve the ACA, let's first come to an agreement that everyone should have health coverage. Then, based on that premise, let's have a debate about how best to improve care and reduce costs. Let's again make the commitment that in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy." -- CW

*****

Denise Grady & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The condition for which Senator John McCain had surgery on Friday may be more serious than initial descriptions have implied, and it may delay his return to Washington by at least a week or two, medical experts said on Sunday. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has already announced that votes on a bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will not begin until Mr. McCain's return. A statement released by Mr. McCain's office on Saturday had suggested that he would be in Arizona recovering for just this week, but neurosurgeons interviewed said the typical recovery period could be longer." -- CW ...

... Robert Pear: "The timing of the Senate vote is crucial. The more it is delayed, the more likely the bill is to fail, supporters and opponents say. Moreover, the Senate schedule will soon be packed with other legislation, like an increase in the statutory limit on federal borrowing and spending bills for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1." -- CW ...

... Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post: "Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price suggested Sunday that the nation's health insurance system ought to operate as it did before the Affordable Care Act was passed. During an appearance on ABC's 'This Week,' Price was asked to respond to a blistering criticism of the Senate Republicans' health care proposal by two major groups representing the U.S. health insurance industry. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this week, the groups called the latest version of the bill 'simply unworkable in any form' and warned that it would cause 'widespread terminations of coverage' to people with serious medical problems. 'It's really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare,' Price said, referring to an amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would allow insurers to resume sales of policies that leave out key benefits, such as prescription drugs or mental health treatment." Emphasis added. CW: Apparently that oft-told GOP promise of better coverage at lower cost is ever-so yesterday. ...

... Paul Krugman viciously attacks the Trump administration & Congressional Republicans. To read him, you'd think they were all soulless, conniving liars set on ruining the lives & well-being of millions of Americans. Unfortunately, they are. -- CW

Sunday 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 yesterday], even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!' he tweeted." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Brian Beutler: "Trump’s 'high quality' son and son-in-law let him fight with U.S. intelligence over Russia when they knew the truth.... Not only was the proof of Trump's unfounded doubts sitting in his son and son-in-law's inboxes, we now know thanks to Michael Isikoff's reporting that, as he dragged the U.S. intelligence community on the world stage, Trump's own lawyers knew of the email and the Trump Tower meeting in June of this year. It's all very curious, unless Trump has known about the conspiracy all along and has decided to lie about it until the bitter end." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Swan of Axios: "Trump's initial fury about [Jeff] Sessions' recusal from the Russia probe has turned to a simmering resentment that may have permanently poisoned their relationship, according to sources close to both of them.... In Trump's mind, Sessions bowed to political pressure and gave an opening to his enemies (Democrats and the media). Trump blames Sessions, in part, for his Russia headaches. But, but, but: This tension hasn't had any visible impact on Sessions' agenda at the Justice Department, where he has taken a sledgehammer to [President] Obama's legacy (especially on incarceration, voting rights, and private prisons)." CW: His recusal is probably one of the few ethical acts of an official nature that JeffBo has ever performed, so naturally Trump is fuming. ...

... 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 (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Arshad Mohammed & Howard Schneider of Reuters: "The U.S. Secret Service on Sunday denied a suggestion from ... Donald Trump's personal lawyer that it had vetted a meeting between the president's son and Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign.... Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman said the younger Trump was not under Secret Service protection at the time of the meeting.... The Secret Service's mission is to provide physical protection for the U.S. president. The agency also protects major presidential candidates. But its role in vetting people who meet with a U.S. president or candidates is limited to ensuring physical safety." -- CW ...

... CW: My best guess is that Sekulow is just blowing the same brand of smoke Kushner's lawyers are (see also update to "In Jared's Defense" post). But Josh Israel of ThinkProgress has a more interesting theory: if Sekulow is of the impression that the Secret Service vetted Junior's guest, maybe he's right. Maybe the Secret Service checked them over because the Russians also visited the only person in Trump Tower that day who did have Secret Service protection -- Donald Trump. It makes sense.

... "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. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Susan Glasser of Politico interviews Elizabeth Drew on the Nixon & Trump scandals. Includes transcript & audio (to hear the audio, click on the down arrow).

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 (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... 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 (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "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 (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The World over, the Greatest Threat to Democracy Is Donald Trump. Anne Appelbaum of the Washington Post: After Donald Trump cozied up to the right-wing president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, and his Law & Justice party, have, the Polish government "has, in the past few days, escalated its attack on its own constitution, pushing new laws openly designed to create a politicized judiciary. And it feels emboldened to do so by the visit of the U.S. president.... When Trump was elected president, many people, myself included, wrote of the impact he might have on international democracy. Many worried that he would encourage populist, nationalist or illiberal parties in Europe and elsewhere. And now he has." -- CW

Sam Levine of the Huffington Post: Earlier this year, "Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the official leading ... Donald Trump's voter fraud probe, apparently sought to amend federal voting law to make it possible to require proof of citizenship during the voter registration process, according to an email made public Friday as part of an ongoing lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union." -- CW ...

... CW: Some Americans, particularly those who are older, do not have birth certificates or other proofs of citizenship. Millions more would find the cost of obtaining proof to be a burden. In addition, states that wanted to suppress the vote could slow-walk birth-certificate requests. I discovered a couple of years ago that my original birth certificate misspells my name, which is a fairly common occurrence and one that could allow voting officials to decide the certificate was not proof of citizenship. Also, many people have adopted nicknames or diminutives [or hypocoristics!] of their given names & use these nicknames almost exclusively. Under Kobach's plan, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton might be turned away at the polls. But then that's the idea, isn't it?

New York Times Editors: "An administration uninterested in staffing federal agencies, at war with facts and eager to help Congress cut the budget is further endangering a cornerstone of American democracy:" the decennial census. "The Government Accountability Office already put the 2020 census on its list of high-risk projects early this year, due to uncertainty about its budget and technology, and Americans' increasing distrust of government data collection." -- CW ...

     ... CW: It's important to see lapses like these not as a series of isolated incidences of incompetence but as part of an overarching plan to destabilize our Constitutional form of government. As many have pointed out, it takes more than one person or small cabal to do it. Congressional Republicans are aiding & abetting his misdeeds & they are in the process of creating a judiciary that will do the same.

Amanda Holpuch of the Guardian: "Donald Trump's tax reform plans would, if enacted, increase the gap between rich and poor Americans and see the US slip below Greece on a new global index of inequality. According to the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) index, developed by researchers at Oxfam and Development Finance International, the US already distinguishes itself among wealthy countries by doing 'very badly' at addressing inequality. But it would fall a further six places from its ranking of 23rd overall if Trump's tax reform effort is successful, with the US's specific rating on tax policies plummeting 33 places from 26th to 59th -- just below Peru, Chile and Sri Lanka." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

CW: Time to take the guns away from Minneapolis-area police. This time Minneapolis city police shot dead at close range a white woman who had called in to report a possible altercation near her home. Pat Pheifer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. [Justine] Damond, in her pajamas [the shooting occurred at 11:30 pm CT], went to the driver's side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver's side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene." -- CW

Lewis Kamb & Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times: "An Oregon child-welfare investigator concluded that [Seattle Mayor] Ed Murray [D] sexually abused his foster son in the early 1980s, leading state officials to assert that 'under no circumstances should Mr. Murray be certified' as a foster parent in the future, according to public records obtained by The Seattle Times.... The documents, released to The Seattle Times this month by Oregon's Department of Human Services, also contradict public statements in recent months by Murray and his lawyer contending investigators had debunked [the complainant's] allegations at the time as false." Law enforcement officials brought no charges against Murray for the alleged abuse. -- CW

Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post: Roman Catholic nuns in Pennsylvania have built a rudimentary "chapel to block the path of a gas pipeline planned for their property." The pipeline company has started proceedings to take their land by eminent domain. -- CW

Way Beyond

Karen DeYoung & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done. The false reports said that the emir, among other things, had called Iran an 'Islamic power' and praised Hamas." -- CW

Reader Comments (7)

Yesterday Ken wrote an elegant piece on the demise of the Republican Party as he understood it and the divisions among the citizens of this country. The New Yorker has been featuring long articles on this same topic week after week. Lawrence Wright, in the July 10&17 issue wrote a lengthy piece called "The Future of Texas." One of the funniest bits was the profile of Steve Hotze, a Houston physician, and a long time ultraconservative kingmaker–-also a big supporter of Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor. He is a member of an evangelical Christian group called the Coalition on Revival, which endorses the idea that "the ultimate cause of all disease, deformity, disability, and death is the sin of Adam and Eve." Anything outside the Bible for these folks, like reason, experience, majority opinion, etc, should be ignored and only the word of God be accepted as the standard of governance. His big beef is with those nasty homosexuals and he's working hard to get rid of them.

Did I say funny? Hotze has clout and appears to have influence where it counts.

Now we move on to Colorado, where Peter Hessler takes up how Trump is transforming rural America and how Trump's tone has started rubbing off on residents.
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/24/how-trump-is-transforming-rural-america

So with Ken's political history piece and our ongoing understanding of how divided this country is I'm wondering again how influential this party has been on people's psyche or is/was it a matter of the elephants unearthing that large pile of muddy stuff that was always there to be dug up.

Maybe a combination of both.

July 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

I suppose that McConnell will use John McCain in the push for votes for the horror of a healthcare (tax for the rich) bill. Vote a patriotic "yes" for The Maverick. If McCain is out longer than a week and McConnell can't trade on his situation for a vote, I wonder what he'll do.

I wonder if the blood clot had any bearing on McCain's confused state in the Comey hearing?

July 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

As deeply as I dislike McConnell, this speech has confounded me since he delivered it. I realize somebody else wrote it, but Mitch delivered it with conviction.

Marie

July 17, 2017 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

RE: Mitch's speech on Rosa Parks: Tis one to confound! I agree, Marie.

"She helped unite the spirit of America"

"We are reminded of the simple acts of courage" [that she displayed]

Would that McConnell would do the same.

July 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

To PD: it was a well-written piece about the people in Colorado, but I only read half of it. I think I have decided I don't care about those people anymore. It's dangerous to my health to try to "understand" what the deplorables stand for or want. I don't need to walk around feeling that I should be doing something for those poor victims of changing times and technology. Maybe if I were one of them, I would feel differently. But I feel like a victim myself-- a victim of people's stupidity and the party of St. Ronnie. I just can't be bothered to feel sorry for them, as they brought this plague upon us, and I proudly proclaim that yes, I am an East Coast "elite" resident. Wish me luck on our family trip to northern Minnesota to see the relatives...

July 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

CREW successful in suit to get Mar-a-lago visitor logs on September 8th, subsequently making them public. The requests for WH logs and Trump Tower are pending. DHS stated they don't keep logs for Trump Tower (I call bullshit)

http://www.newsweek.com/mar-lago-visitor-logs-be-released-637756

July 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Speaks for itself:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/coast-guard-wants-to-kick-boats-off-potomac-river-when-trump-is-golfing/2017/07/17/8ac56828-6afd-11e7-9c15-177740635e83_story.html?hpid=hp_local-news_trumpriver-410pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

July 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterD.C.Clark
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