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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

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

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Mar202017

The Commentariat -- March 21, 2017

Afternoon Update:

New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton dives deep into the conservative push to drastically reshape America's court system. Check it out. --safari

CW: There's a new link below on the smarmy Ms. Betsy under the heading "The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd."

.....

Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, took the extraordinary step on Monday of announcing that the F.B.I. is investigating whether members of President Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mr. Comey's remarks before the House Intelligence Committee created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump, who has insisted that 'Russia is fake news' that was cooked up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency. Mr. Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said agents would pursue it 'no matter how long that takes.' Mr. Comey also dismissed Mr. Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor during the campaign, a sensational but unfounded accusation that has served as a distraction in the public debate over Russian election interference." -- CW ...

... The Washington Post story, by Ellen Nakashima & others, is here. "Under questioning from the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Comey said no president could order such surveillance. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.... Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats 'made up' the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material." The Post has live video of the hearing. -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "The ninth week of Donald Trump's presidency began with the F.B.I. director calling him a liar.... The current president of the United States ... lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about -- among many other things -- Obama's birthplace, John F. Kennedy's assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women.... Trump sets out to deceive people.... Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign was an attack on the United States.... Yet now it has become the subject of an escalating series of lies by the president and the people who work for him[.]... A few hours [after Comey's testimony]..., Sean Spicer went before the cameras and lied about the closeness between Trump and various aides who have documented Russian ties." -- CW ...

"What Investigation? G.O.P. Responds to F.B.I. Inquiry by Changing Subject." Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The headline from Capitol Hill on Monday was bracing: confirmation of a criminal investigation into connections between associates of a sitting president and Russian operatives during a presidential election. But the response from Republicans was almost as striking: During hours of testimony in which James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, acknowledged the inquiry, they shrugged off its implications and instead offered a coordinated effort to defend President Trump by demanding a focus on leaks to news organizations.... The political strategy appears clear: Republicans are betting that they can deflect attention from the investigation into the president's campaign advisers by insisting that more needs to be done to prevent the leaking of classified material. Again and again on Monday, the president's allies urged Mr. Comey and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to answer for the illegal dissemination of information to reporters." ...

     ... CW: Shear has been faithful to the he-said/she-said school of reporting, so it's striking that even he noticed the GOP feint.

... Adam Schiff laid out non-classified evidence of the relationships between Trump associates and Russian operatives:

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker has more on Comey's responses to Congressional questions. -- CW ...

... Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "Put this all together and two things become clear. First, an unknown number of Trump campaign operatives and Trump-adjacent people were in touch with agents of the Russian government. Second, the Trump camp had no problem with Russian interference in the election, and at times seemed to welcome it. What we don't know is whether there's a connection between those two things -- that is, whether the Trump camp knew about the Russian hack while it was ongoing or worked with the Kremlin to weaponize it." -- CW ...

... Jennifer Williams of Vox: "It's official: Each of ... Donald Trump's claims about President Obama wiretapping him during the presidential election has now been officially debunked, under oath, by FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers.... Comey also officially stated on the record that the FBI is in fact currently investigating links between Trump allies and Russia. That directly undercut Trump's longstanding claims that any talk of Russian involvement in the election was a story ginned up by Democrats for political gain or to excuse Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016. Trump repeated that defense this morning just a short time before two of America's top law enforcement and intelligence officials shot it down." -- CW...

...Keepin' 'em Stupid.Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "On Monday morning  --  hours ahead of the House Intelligence Committee hearing where FBI Director James Comey disclosed that President Trump is under FBI investigation -- Trump's favorite morning morning show framed the whole question of Trump's ties to Russia as a nothingburger that American families don't care about. On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends was back at it, informing viewers who missed a hearing during which we learned that the president is under investigation that they 'didn't miss much.'" --safari...

... Philip Rucker & Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "On the 60th day of his presidency came the hardest truth for Donald Trump. He was wrong.... Trump did not merely allege that former president Barack Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower, of course. He asserted it as fact, and then reasserted it, and then insisted that forthcoming evidence would prove him right.... Questions about Russia have hung over Trump for months, but the president always has dismissed them as 'fake news.' That became much harder Monday after the FBI director proclaimed the Russia probe to be anything but fake.... The Comey episode threatens to damage Trump's credibility not only with voters, but also with lawmakers of his own party.... Furthermore, the FBI's far-reaching Russia investigation shows no sign of concluding soon and is all but certain to remain a distraction for the White House...." -- CW ...

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "With the House Intelligence Committee on Monday prepared to hold hearings on Russian influence in the 2016 election, the president issued tweets that did not hold up well as the testimony unfolded.... The president's tweets throughout the day were misleading, inaccurate or simply false. The gravity of the disclosures might have called for a more restrained response, as the White House's well of credibility is only so deep. But the president chose another approach -- which clearly backfired, tweet after tweet." -- CW

...Serial liar exposed for his lies, lies again to get debunked live.... Or, likely he's legitimately insane (see today's comments) --safari

... Shane Goldmacher & Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "The White House tried to downplay Comey’s testimony, as Trump escaped to Louisville[, Kentucky,] for a rally where he won a thunderous reception from an adoring crowd that cared not about whatever had been said on Capitol Hill earlier in the day." CW: Evidently, his handlers thinks the best way to keep the SCROTUS from losing it is to distract him with pretty, shiny things -- like an "adoring crowd." How pathetic is it when even his staff knows the boss can't handle the truth? ...

... Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump began Monday as he has started so many other presidential mornings -- by unleashing a blistering Twitter attack on critics who suggested his 2016 campaign colluded with the Russians. By the afternoon the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, had systematically demolished his arguments in a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president. Even a close ally of Mr. Trump, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, conceded that 'a gray cloud' of suspicion now hung over the White House by the end of the day's hearings.... But it's the obsessiveness and ferocity of Mr. Trump's pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse. Mr. Trump's allies have begun to wonder if his need for self-expression, often on social media, will exceed his instinct for self-preservation, with disastrous results both for the president and for a party whose fate is now tightly tied to his." -- CW ...

... Ed Kilgore: "No misadventure for the Trump White House is complete, it seems, without something unintentionally humorous from Press Secretary Sean Spicer that underlines it, tops it, or distracts from it. Today ... reporters peppered Spicer with various names, notably the much-discussed Russophiliac Paul Manafort. Spicer didn’t quite say: 'Manafort? Who is that?' but came close:

I think that when you read a lot of this activity about associates, there is a fine line between people who want to be part of something that they never had an official role and in people who actually played a role in the campaign or transition. Obviously there has been some discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.

... Wait, wait, Ed. You haven't heard from Kellyanne yet! Mark Hensch of the Hill: "White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says the real story from FBI Director James Comey's Tuesday testimony is that vote totals were not hacked during last year's election...." CW: How terrible that the mainstream "fake news" reports put this detail way down the page or nowhere at all. Conway blamed "Democrats and many of their friends" for spreading the false story that Russians hacked voter machines.

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "'By your announcement today, there is now a cloud that undermines our system,' Representative Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican, pointedly told the FBI director. Under questioning, Comey said that the FBI began the investigation in late July. That disclosure will likely inflame Democratic criticism that Comey chose to publicly discuss the bureau's inquiry into Hillary Clinton's emails during the closing days of the 2016 election but did not reveal it was also investigating the Trump campaign and Russian meddling. Comey's confirmation of an ongoing investigation was just one of several statements that amounted to an extraordinary rebuke of a president who has the power to remove him from office.... Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut [asked] Comey and Rogers about a tweet Trump had sent while they were testifying that asserted, 'The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.'... Comey refuted that one, too. 'It certainly wasn't our intention to say that today, because we have no information on that subject,' he said." -- CW ...

... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: "For the White House, which in recent weeks has urged intelligence and law-enforcement officials to parrot its skepticism about the 'Russian story,' Comey's public acknowledgement of the probe makes it all but impossible to meddle again without risking serious political and legal consequences." CW P.S. Love the grainy B&W photos of Comey & Rogers posted with the New Yorker stories. ...

... Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "The former White House council to Richard Nixon who was charged for helping cover up Watergate says he thinks President Trump's White House is 'in cover-up mode.'... [John] Dean said the White House's decision to distance itself from the testimony signals a 'cover-up.' 'There's just never been any question in my mind about that. I've been inside a cover-up. I know how they look and feel. And every signal they're sending is: "we're covering this thing up",' Dean said. 'Experienced investigators know this. They know how people react when they're being pursued, and this White House is not showing their innocence, they're showing how damn guilty they are, is what we're seeing.'" CW: You might want to watch the Chris Hayes segment that is embedded in Seipel's report. A clip of Dean's 1973 testimony before the Senate Watergate committee sounds just like what we've already seen in the Trump administration. ...

... Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "Former top officials for Hillary Clinton's campaign vented their frustration with both FBI Director James Comey and congressional Republicans on Monday as he testified on Capitol Hill." -- CW ...

... Amie Parnes of the Hill: Robbie Mook, "Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, said Monday that President Trump's campaign aides should be 'prosecuted for treason' if an FBI investigation proves they coordinated with Russia in the presidential campaign." -- CW ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Stephen Battaglio of the Los Angeles Times: "Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano is being kept off the air indefinitely amid the controversy over his unverified claims that British intelligence wiretapped Trump Tower at the behest of former President Obama.... Napolitano said on one program that 'Fox News has spoken to intelligence community members who believe that surveillance did occur, that it was done by British intelligence.'... [He made the allegation on-air several times.] 'By bypassing all American intelligence services, Obama would have had access to what he wanted with no Obama administration fingerprints,' Napolitano wrote in a column on FoxNews.com.... People familiar with the situation ... said Napolitano is not expected to be on Fox News Channel any time in the near future." ...

     ... CW: If Fox "News" fires the perps every time Trump repeats one of their lies, there won't be anyone left on-air except Shepard Smith.

Lori Aratani of the Washington Post: "Passengers traveling to the United States from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries will be prohibited from bringing laptops, tablets and other portable electronic devices on board with them when they fly, according to new rules set to go into effect Tuesday. Fliers can still travel with these items, but they must be packed in their checked baggage. The ban will remain in place indefinitely, federal officials said. Senior administration officials said the rules were prompted by 'evaluated intelligence' that terrorists continue to target commercial aviation by 'smuggling explosives in portable electronic devices.' 'Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration acting administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last-point-of-departure airports to the United States,' officials said late Monday." -- CW

Arshad Mohammed & John Walcott of Reuters: "U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China's president and will go to Russia later in April, U.S. officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them." -- CW

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Judge Neil M. Gorsuch presented himself on Monday as a creature of consensus during a sharply partisan Supreme Court confirmation hearing, clouded throughout by the bitter nomination fight that preceded it over the past year. Democrats, seething from the hearing's opening moments, made clear that they would not let the public forget about Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee last year, whom Republicans refused to even consider at a hearing, saying the seat should be filled by the winner of the presidential election. But when it was his turn, Judge Gorsuch reached often for comity during a well-practiced 16-minute speech, insisting that he favored no party above the law and appearing to brace for attacks from critics who have said his rulings tilt toward corporate interests." -- CW ...

... CW P.S. It turns out Gorsuch did not found a fascism club when he was a student at Georgetown Prep, even though his yearbook says he did. That was just a funny, funny joke. ...

... Matt Flegenheimer & others at the NYT report on highlights of the Gorsuch hearing.

The Most Unethical White House Ever, Ctd. Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "What role Ivanka Trump plays in her father's White House is among the pressing questions at the intersection of politics and business under the Trump administration.... Now, she also works out of a West Wing office and is in the process of getting a security clearance and government-issued devices. To address those concerns, Ms. Trump handed over day-to-day control of her company to her top executive, Abigail Klem, and transferred its assets to a new trust overseen by relatives of her husband. But details of the arrangement, which have not been disclosed, indicate how much power Ms. Trump continues to hold over the brand that bears her name." Abrams reports some of the details. Ivanka can pretty much do what she wants because everything is "voluntary." P.S. The article includes a lovely picture of Ivanka chatting up Angela Merkel during a White House meeting last Friday. -- CW ...

... Annie Karni of Politico: "In everything but name, [Ivanka] Trump is settling in as what appears to be a full-time staffer in her father's administration, with a broad and growing portfolio -- except she is not being sworn in, will hold no official position and is not pocketing a salary, her attorney said. Trump's role, according to her attorney Jamie Gorelick, will be to serve as the president's 'eyes and ears' while providing broad-ranging advice, not just limited to women's empowerment issues. Last week, for instance, Trump raised eyebrows when she was seated next to Angela Merkel for the German chancellor's first official visit to Trump's White House.... Ethics watchdogs immediately questioned whether she is going far enough to eliminate conflicts of interest, especially because she will not be automatically subjected to certain ethics rules while serving as a de facto White House adviser." -- CW ...

... NEW. The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Friends with Benefits. Shahien Nasiripour of Bloomberg: "Americans who default on some of their federal student loans are likely to pay more after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed an Obama administration directive limiting some fees.... The reversal [announced last Thursday] is almost certain to hand United Student Aid Funds Inc., the nation's largest guaranty agency, a victory in its two-year legal battle against her department. The fees could translate into an additional $15 million in annual revenue for the company, filings in a related lawsuit suggest. Until Jan. 1, United Student Aid Funds was led by Bill Hansen, who served as Deputy Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush. His son, Taylor Hansen, a former for-profit college lobbyist, was until three days ago one of the few DeVos advisers with professional experience in higher education. The younger Hansen resigned from the Education Department on Friday.... U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren ... [said]: 'There's no question' that Taylor Hansen's family ties posed a conflict of interest." -- CW

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "House Republican leaders, racing toward a planned Thursday vote on their proposed health-care overhaul, unveiled changes to the legislation late Monday that they think will win over enough members to secure its passage.... Some of the changes unveiled Monday were made to placate conservatives, such as accelerating the expiration of the ACA's taxes and further restricting the federal Medicaid program. But a major push was made to win moderate votes, including a maneuver that House leaders said would allow the Senate to beef up tax credits for older Americans who could see major increases in premiums under the GOP plan.... Opponents of the bill -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- called the deal a sordid giveaway on social media networks Monday night. Many compared it to the state-specific deals that were cut to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010 and panned by Republicans.... Trump is expected to press for the bill's passage in a Tuesday morning meeting with Republican lawmakers." -- CW ...

... Steve M. cites a Politico report that characterizes the Mar-a-Lago CAHCA meetings this last weekend as being conducted by Trump staffers while Trump himself "seem[]ed more interested in discussing other things." Steve: "He's not doing any of the dealmaking at all. The world's greatest dealmaker is leaving the making of deals to others.... He's not making deals because he can't -- he's never bothered to develop a grasp of ordinary politics and he's never bothered to absorb the details of the health care bill he's championing.... Yet whatever happens with the bill, his fans will continue to believe that he's almost supernaturally gifted in this area." CW: So maybe in his meeting today with GOP members of Congress he'll talk about his golf game and how his daughter was a hit with Angela (soft "g") Merkel. The "dealmaking" may consist of promising the fellas a ride on AF1. And, hey, it could work. ...

... Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said Monday night that Republican leaders are successfully picking off its members on Obamacare repeal -- a sign that the repeal bill may get enough support on the House floor Thursday. The hard-line conservative coalition won't take an official position against the bill even though they didn't get what it wanted in negotiations, he said. That could make it easier for members to break away. He backed off earlier claims that there would be 40 'no' votes against the repeal effort.... The negotiations for now are over, he said." -- CW ...

... Matt Fuller of the Huffington Post with a quite different take on Meadows' remarks: "As House Republicans scramble for votes on their health care overhaul, GOP leaders are betting that a visit from ... Donald Trump on Tuesday will help close the deal on the legislation ― and House Freedom Caucus leaders are swearing it will not. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) emerged from the group's weekly meeting late Monday night to tell reporters he was confident House leaders did not have the votes to pass their Affordable Care Act rewrite and that, even with pressure from Trump, conservatives would not waver." -- CW ...

... Shane Goldmacher: "On the precipice of the meatiest legislative fight of his young presidency, Donald Trump is increasingly talking about health care like the vegetables of his agenda -- the thing he must begrudgingly finish in order to get to what he really wants: tax cuts, trade deals and infrastructure. At a rally ... in Louisville, [Kentucky,] Trump time and again framed the passage of a repeal and replacement plan for President Obama's namesake health care law as a necessary step to achieve the rest of his ambitious agenda." CW: Have I mentioned that Trump doesn't give a rat's ass whether or not he lets you die? But tax cuts for himself? That's important. ...

... Besides, Goldmacher's report must be wrong because... Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "President Trump's focus is on getting an ObamaCare replacement bill done..., Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday." -- CW

AND, on the lighter side, Lee Moran of the Huffington Post: "Arnold Schwarzenegger took aim at President Donald Trump's low approval ratings on Tuesday as the duo's Twitter beef rumbled on. 'Oh, Donald, the ratings are in, and you got swamped,' the former California governor said in a video he posted online. 'Wow. Now you're in the 30s?' 'But what do you expect?' Schwarzenegger added. 'I mean when you take away after-school programs for children and Meals on Wheels for the poor people, that's not what you call "making America great again." Come on!'" -- CW

Like many of us, Frank Rich has "no sympathy for the hillbilly." Thanks to MAG for the link. He explains himself, in detail. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Jessica Elgot of the Guardian: British Prime Minister "Theresa May will trigger article 50, the formal mechanism for starting negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union, on Wednesday 29 March, the prime minister's spokesman has confirmed. The UK's permanent representative to the European Union, Sir Tim Barrow, notified the EU on Monday morning that a letter should be expected on that date. The move will put the UK on course to leave the EU on the same date in 2019." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd. Luke Harding, et al., of the Guardian: "Britain’s high street banks processed nearly $740m from a vast money-laundering operation run by Russian criminals with links to the Russian government and the KGB, the Guardian can reveal. HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are among 17 banks based in the UK, or with branches here, that are facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme and why they did not turn away suspicious money transfers. Documents seen by the Guardian show that at least $20bn appears to have been moved out of Russia during a four-year period between 2010 and 2014. The true figure could be $80bn, detectives believe. One senior figure involved in the inquiry said the money from Russia was 'obviously either stolen or with criminal origin'. Investigators are still trying to identify some of the wealthy and politically influential Russians behind the operation, known as 'the Global Laundromat'." --safari: With the potential puny fines dwarfing the massive gains, what major bank doesn't launder dirty money, really?

Reader Comments (18)

Reuters reporting Tillerson is skipping his 1st Foreign Ministers meeting at NATO April 4-5. He'll be traveling to Russia later in April. Rep Adam Schiff, on Maddow show, said the only reason for Tillerson to go to Russia would be to return his Friend of Russia medal. Trump is obviously worried and needs to get to Putin before the investigation is over.

It looks like Ivanka is being installed so she can run the country with her husband, the shadow SOS. Trump will be free to play golf, sign an occassional EO, hold campaign rallies, make $, tweet and tan. There are no words adequate to describe this family's corruption and abhorrent behavior.

March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

I do so hate James Comey. What a disloyal snake. He was perfectly happy to unend Hillary, but today he can't discuss an ongoing investigation? There is no end to the evil in these people. I have Maddow on now, and yes, Tillerson is skipping NATO, but thither he goes to Russia, this after doing NOTHING since he was confirmed, and what nothing he has done, he won't talk about. I would like to invite the entire sorry crew to ride on the Titanic and perish horribly in the north Atlantic. And now we get to be ruled by the pretty much unelected trumpists AND unelected Bannon. Okay, the Dems have been pretty dumb, but even the Dumb Dems don't deserve this crap. I know-- I sound unhinged, but I just cannot believe that an entire political party consists of treasonous SOBs, and the presidunce is a criminal, supported and propped up by thugs like Sean Spicer. I realize that this is a culmination of the last 35+ years, but I just cannot wrap my head around the sheer evil displayed by ALL of them. I think I must just turn it all off and read a silly novel.

March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

A few thoughts on the Merkel encounter:

When referring to the Obama wiretapping claims, all of the media have been focusing on the cynical "joke" he made about them "having something in common". While that is indeed insulting and should be pointed out, I didn't hear hardly anyone focusing on the few words uttered just before the joke.."AT LEAST we have SOMETHING in common". Taken in its entirety, the president of the United States just said that he essentially shares absolutely nothing in common with one of our greatest and most powerful allies in the world. I'm not sure if Drumpf understands that it's not just him vs. Merkel, but by disrespecting her this way he is equally disrespecting the entire nation of Germany, its values and support for spreading democratic norms, not to mention implying that our entire post-WWII history working together is essentially dead to the current White House. It's an unbelievable statement, and one heard by America's allies around the world to be sure. In one phrase, again uttered in pure fabrication of the truth for self-protection and egotistic purposes, he permanently frayed the rope holding together our historic alliance.

The more contact he has with world leaders, with the adeptness of a bull in a china shop, I'm wondering how permanent these scars will be to our allies. The Germans can hope and pray for a better post-Donald future, but they now have to be crystal clear about the temporary character of our seemingly permanent alliance.

And add to this the whole "handshake" debacle, knowing that Drumpf had already shaken her hand earlier in the day. The photos already exist, so why put on his faux-man show then? He only comes across as a mad man-child, cowering under his suit as his little peter further shrivels into his stomach as Merkel's aura of power makes Drumpf feel so vindictive and so sad!

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commentersafari

John Harwood covered yesterday's congressional hearing with Comey and concludes " Trump's 'big gray cloud' " means things will likely get worse before they get better

...just two months into his term, a new president who lost the popular vote and labors under historically low approval ratings faces real danger that things will get worse before they get better.

Lacking the usual honeymoon period for a president, this one could head straight to a divorce court. Perhaps what this country needs is a Presidential Pre-Nup. Yeah, and he gets to keep his kids—out of office.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

The word that is driving me nuts: LIAR. Yes he almost never tells the truth but a lie is a deliberate attempt to deny the truth. Not from Trump! He has no clue what the truth is and does not care. He is so remarkable that he never needs to find out the fact. My comment yesterday on googling the pronunciation of Merkels name really happened. It took me 18 seconds which is more time on Google than Trump has spent in his life.

By calling Trump a liar, we are denying the truth. He is a delusional nut case. Seriously, dangerously mentally ill.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Proofreading skills are what I use every day at work, but last night I was so angry/mad/frustrated/in disbelief that I wrote "unend" when I meant "upend." Apologies to all...

Today I am beside myself about the stupidness of banning laptops in the cabin of a plane-- what's to prevent a terrorist from hopping a second plane in Norway or wherever, with laptop in hand; OR, what's to prevent a terrorist from triggering whatever explosive device in the hold with a cell phone? Do these people ever think anything through? I'm so glad Ivanka is coming to the "administration" to provide fashion sense and a guiding hand...<snark>
Maybe she can improve Bannon's look of total dirtbaggery, and keep her father in line, while at the same time, grab more of the star power that keeps the grifters so wealthy...ugh ugh ugh.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Yesterday I watched both the Comey and Gorsuch hearings, going back and forth in order to catch the full frontal of the farrago as best I could. The former was gratifying and revealing to a point, while the latter was one of the best examples ever of the political divide.

Gorsuch–– handsome, statesman like, well spoken, sense of humor––golly, what's there not to like, say many. But we know Trump had a litmus test–-the biggest was to overturn Roe v Wade–- will this judge, as he says he will, stick to law ignoring the president's wishes? I couldn't help thinking how much this hearing reminded me of the Roberts' one: He, too, seduced and delighted and at the end there was the faint smell of lavender mist spread throughout the chambers. I'm looking forward to today's questioning, but I betcha this guy is going to sail through even with out those balls, strikes and umpire (false) analogy.

I am also thinking of Obama. Now that he's cleared of that dastardly deed, sneaking over to Trump Tower for some secret wire tapping, he must be sitting pretty in a soft sofa, drink in hand, smiling like a Cheshire cat––being a cool one himself––and ever so grateful he is, free at last. But like a lot of us his heart is broken–– but like a lot of us he hasn't given up hope.

Although I must say the wrath of our Jeanne today is something to behold: Drowning the lot of the loons in the cold ocean waters indicates a fury unalloyed. My own anger has dissolved into a deep sadness. I find I am quick to tear up––and cry at the drop of a hat. I need to grab some of Jeanne's jeremiads, stop sniffling and regain that mad-as-hell yell again. (Sending more money to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU is a start.)

@safari: I think sooner or later Trump will blow up before he facilitates a global blow up. I cannot conceive of us going through one disaster after another for too much longer. Other countries once veering to the right may look to us now and decide they sure as heck don't want this fuck-up so maybe we are serving some positive message.

And had to laugh at this:


" He only comes across as a mad man-child, cowering under his suit as his little peter further shrivels into his stomach..."

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Whew...

Hey kids, I dunno about you, but am I happy to hear that Neil (I'm only a judge because I'm a wingnut) Gorsuch is a "creature of consensus", a humble country lawyer, a fly-fisherman from way out west who means to be "above politics" and who favors no particular party "above the law".

Hmmmm....hang on...hang on...where have I heard this sort of spiel before? Wait...it's coming to me...

OH! Yes! I remember now. It was at the confirmation hearings of John (Little Johnny) Roberts and Sam (the Hitman) Alito. Of course. They promised a "neutral, modest judicial philosophy" during their confirmation lyings, er, hearings, and what happened?

Destruction of the Voting Rights Act, frightening diminishment of civil rights in general, the Hobby Lobby victory, a tilting of the court, almost to point of tipping over, in favor of corporations and against citizens, a distinct effort by the court's wingers to side with law enforcement--even tacitly instructing them as to the best ways to circumvent pesky legal concerns, and allowing cops to take your DNA whether or not you've been charged in a crime and keeping all your information on file, without your agreement (or even knowledge).

It may seem as if there were some big liberal victories from the Roberts court, but look again. Historically, the court sides with an administration about 70% of the time. In 2013 alone, the Obama administration won only 37% of the cases that came before the court thanks to the neutral, modest judicial philosophy of Little Johnny and the Dwarfs.

In fact, Roberts and Alito, after promising not to be crazy wingnuts, "...consistently voted to erode civil liberties, decrease the rights of minorities and limit environmental protections. At the same time, they voted to expand the power of the president, reduce restrictions on abusive police tactics and approve federal intrusion into issues traditionally governed by state law.

The confirmation process became broken because the Bush administration learned the wrong lesson from the failed Bork nomination and decided it could still nominate extremists as long as their views were hidden. To that end, it insisted that the Senate confine its inquiry largely to its nominees' personal qualities."

And who here believes that Gorsuch is not exactly such a wingnut wolf concealed under non-partisan duds?

Once Gorsuch is on the court, brothers and sisters, it will be Katie bar the door. You can just imagine the hundreds of far-right organizations licking their chops, drooling over the near absolute guarantee of the seismic changes to be brought about once Gorsuch joins Roberts, Alito, and Thomas in shoving the country into the ditch at the far right side of the road. AEI, Heritage, Cato, a battery of poor besieged corporations, religious groups, white supremacists, gun knobbers, and average everyday racist and misogynistic Confederates are all preparing attacks on common decency, historical precedent, political progress, civil rights, the ability of women to control their own lives, and the rule of law itself.

Whatever else happens to Trumpty Dumpty, whether he self-destructs and runs off screaming to Marred a Lago, whether he's impeached, or just reduced to mumbling to himself on Twitter, while Bannon, Kushner, and Ivanka run the country, this will be THE long-lasting victory of the Confederate mob (and the Russians) who shoved an ignorant, despicable boob into the White House.

Democrats should have told Trump to "fuck off, carrot top" that the American people need to "have some say" about the next Supreme Court justice, and refused to set foot in that hearing room suggesting that they'd be back when someone (not insane) sent up a new name.

Because now....

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Are Trump and Ryan assholes or loathsome lying reptiles?

Did I hear you say "both"?

You win.

So now, after millions of Trump's own supporters (and is it just me or does it strike you as egotistically, disgustingly monarchical to hear Trumpy refer to "my people"? Might as well just say "my subjects") complain loudly about the obscene CAHCA bill, both of these forked tongue snakes come out and say "Oh, well, this is just the first cut. I guess we'll have to do something about that $16,000 charge for that 64 year old guy in Alabama. Poor guy! Who could have done such a terrible thing?! No problem. Just hold on...we'll be right back with a GREAT plan! Yesirree Bob....just two minutes..."

Fuck that. This botched mayhem would have been the final product if so many people hadn't objected so vehemently.

If they were so concerned about that 64 year old guy in Alabama, they would never have created a plan like that in the first place. But they don't.give.a.shit.

They're backtracking now for one reason only. They got caught trying to screw the poor and middle class and hand over billions in tax cuts to their rich buddies. They got nailed trying to slide through a half-assed piece of shit bill, the only well thought out portions of which involved outrageous tax breaks for the one percent and insurance company CEOs.

That's it.

Paul Ryan must not have a single mirror in his house. How can he look himself in the face? Trump on the other hand has nothing but mirrors. And they all tell him what a good boy he is. Yeah, he's alright. Fucking lunatic.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Tone deaf Trumpies

Let's see. What's been happening down in TrumpLand of late?

Oh, I see the FBI is investigating Trump's many Russia Connections. And everyday there are more, it seems. Hmmm...what to do about that, eh? Might not be bad to lay low with the Russia stuff for a bit, don't you think?

Oh well, then you don't know Trumpado and his compadres in crime (and maybe treason).

Case in point, Rex (the Drillerman) Tillerson, the impossible to find Secretary of State.

Let's see....there's a big NATO meeting coming up soon. One expects that the American SOS would attend, right? But, hmmm...who really, really, really hates NATO? Oh yeah. Putin. So Tillerson decides not to go to the NATO meeting. First, because Trump hates NATO (even though he doesn't know fuck all about it, and what he does know, he made up) and also, perhaps, because Putin hates it even more. And that looks bad, right? So let's make it worse. Let's blow off NATO and go, instead to......RUSSIA!

Because no one will notice, and no one is looking into Trump-Russia ties, right?

These people truly are fucking morons.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

It can be difficult to evaluate the Trump mind. If I were in his position and innocent I would demand a serious investigation into the Russia crap. So it looks like he is hiding something. But for Trump, the idea that there is a person on earth who doesn't know he is perfect is beyond insulting. So is he hiding something or is his worthless ego in charge? Or both.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Bill O'Reilly says Trump was wrong (Huff post). Finally absolute proof for impeachment!!!!

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

*Texas Senate Passes Bill Allowing OBs To Keep Info From Pregnant Women*
by Catherine Pearson / The Huffington Post / 03.21.2017

[This bill] " . . . would effectively make it lawful for a care provider who is opposed to abortion to avoid conducting prenatal testing, downplay test results or even lie to patients about test results if they believe those patients might consider terminating a pregnancy . . . ".

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58d0870fe4b00705db521fb2?

[Ya'll now keep them executions a-comin', ya hear?]

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOphelia M.

The Gorsuch Kabuki

I had a chance to listen, for about half an hour or so, to the Gorsuch Senate Kabuki. Most instructive. And very depressing.

First, I got to hear Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) question Gorsuch.

Whitehouse's question period was measured, on point, eminently well researched, and deliberate. Gorsuch's responses were smug, evasive, pedantic, equivocating, and insulting.

Surprised?

The essence of the exchange involved the huge amount of dark money being employed to attack anyone who questions Confederate Gorsuch's elevation to the high court. Whitehouse asked Gorsuch whether he believed dark money employed in such a fashion was a problem and how, specifically, would we (the American public) know that one of Gorsuch's many financial backers, were they to bring a case before the court, did not present a conflict of interest for Gorsuch from which he should recuse himself.

Gorsuch sniffed that he knows nothing about any of that and if Whitehouse didn't like the law, he should change it, because he, Gorsuch, had no power do anything about it. "The founders didn't give me the power to do that" he demurred.

"Oh yes they did!" responded Whitehouse. The fact is that we HAD a law against such anonymous interference and Republicans on the Court changed it. You DO have the power."

Gorsuch (you could picture him rolling his eyes--he knows there's no way he's not going to be on the court) talked to Whitehouse as if he was a fifth grader who knows nothing. "Senator, there's such a thing as the First Amendment, you know."

Whitehouse then asked about Merrick Garland, and whether his views were that much different from Gorsuch's. Gorsuch parried that he couldn't say, even though he knows Garland pretty well. "Well, then" said Whitehouse, "Why is it that the same people who are helping you with ten million dollars--more than any campaign in history to support a Supreme Court nominee, to make sure your candidacy is successful--spent almost as much to make sure that Merrick Garland was not even granted a hearing?"

"You'll have to ask them, senator" sniffed Gorsuch.

"I'd love to" said Whitehouse, "but Citizens United won't let me". Whitehouse asked Gorsuch about gatherings of the kind the Kochs hold to judge potential allies in wingnuttiness to make sure they toe the ideological line, a practice even The Glorious Leader characterizes as the "Begathon", events at which Supreme Court justices show up and pray with the faithful. Gorsuch claimed to never have heard of any such thing. He's never even heard of any of those people or such practices. The idea! Whitehouse, not at all put off, declared that if he really doesn't know about such goings on, then he is too out of touch to be on the Court.

Whitehouse also brought up something I'd never heard of. Apparently there are right wing judicial bootcamps held by Confederate donors at which winger judges, appellate court and circuit court judges, are instructed in how to decide cases so as to benefit the right. I've never heard of this, but Whitehouse certainly has (and so has Gorsuch). He did give Gorsuch credit for never, as far as he knows, having attended such things, but asked if Gorsuch thought this was a good idea.

"First a-mend-ment. Sen-a-tor" sniffed Gorsuch. Have to tell you kids, after just a few minutes, I hated this snarky asshole.

Whitehouse won every single point. Gorsuch was pompous and self-satisfied. His every argument was destroyed, but it won't matter.

And as if to higlight the reason why, Whitehouse's eminently serious and insightful questioning was followed by mewling Confederate fraud Mike Lee who, rather than a questioner, was, like all the other Confederates on the committee, acting more like a "fluffer". Lee went to work straightaway trying to destroy Whitehouse's line of questioning by egregiously misrepresenting it. "Judge Gorsuch, Are you in charge of what other people think and do? Do you control them???" "No senator, I do not" "So, if someone says thus or such, you can't do anything about it, can you?" "Of course not, senator."

"Oh, and one more thing, Judge Gorsuch" Lee paused for dramatic effect...."How is it that you are such a learned, compassionate, and courageous judge?" (I am not making this up!)

"Oh, well, senator, I'm just a simple country lawyer..."

Barf.

But this lying, smug prick will be on the court within weeks and we'll get to see exactly what he does know.

Bad news for all of us.

But bravo for Senator Whitehouse. He's up there on now my good guy list.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58d0870fe4b00705db521fb2?

(complete http vs previous attempt?)

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOphelia M.

Oops!
Entered this/these beneath wrong heading.
Cellphone Sans Spectacles.
Mea Culpa.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOphelia M.

The Gorsuch Kabuki, cont.

If you have a chance, listen to Al Franken grill Gorsuch.

Here's the funny thing about these types of hearings. Under any rubric for rational argumentation, Franken crushes him. For instance, Franken reviews a case in which Gorsuch found for a trucking company and against a driver they decided to fire, and outright eviscerates him.

The driver was stranded in -14 degree weather with no heat in a damaged vehicle. The company told him, under no circumstance, was he to move. As he began to lose sensation in his feet and torso and lose consciousness, he unhitched his trailer and drove the cab so that he could stay alive.

He was fired. Gorsuch agreed with the corporation. In other words, the guy should have let himself die rather than disobey the COMPANY.

Franken, astounded by such rank stupidity and inhumanity in the service of corporate fealty, asked Gorsuch if he would agree to sit in a -14 degree cab with no heat for 10 hours, with death as the likely outcome, or would he try to save himself and stay warm.

Gorsuch, in typical self-serving, lying Confederate style, said he had no idea what he'd do because he wasn't in that situation. Which makes one wonder how a judge who was unable to, at the barest minimum, put himself in the place of another human being, and instead side with the letter of the law of a corporation, even at the price of a man's death, could possibly come to a reasonable, even lawful decision.

Franken knocked him out cold. He won the round. But Gorsuch, thanks to equally pusillanimous, rights hating Confederates, will win the fight.

Just imagine a judge who wags his finger at a human being who tried to save his own life, suggesting that he should have died rather than disobey a ridiculous rule (which Franken got Gorsuch to agree was beyond the pale), and thus could be fired outright with no recourse.

And this guy is going to sit on the Supreme Court.

Here's all you can say.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The Kochs and their ilk (Gorsuch most definitely among them) have no problem with the Bill of Rights. They just think we've been applying them to the wrong object, and they're hellbent to change that.

Now that the Supremes have granted corporations legal personhood and expanded the Constitutional rights that adhere to them, the days when people, singly or acting as a group in a class action, could stand up to corporate malfeasance are nearly over.

Central the the American Dream was the theoretical and (too seldom) practical protections our Constitution and our courts offered the little guy.

It was nice while it lasted.

We now live in the age of Big. Corporations and the people who run them already have the loudest and soon will have the only voice. Fair and equitable are quaint concepts. Though I've heard the Kochs the Pretender personally repulsive, they are nonetheless deliberately helping to institutionalize his bullying behaviors and his belief that the only people who really count are the wealthy.

This is the real deep state that should scare the hell out of all of us.

Even all the little people who voted for the Pretender, thinking he cared the littlest bit about them.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes
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