The Wires

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

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

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

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

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


The Commentariat -- May 14, 2019

Matt Phillips of the New York Times: "Investors are dealing with a painful new reality: The trade war between the United States and China could last indefinitely. The anxiety caused by that realization rippled through the stock markets on Monday, and the S&P 500 suffered its steepest daily drop in months after China said it would increase tariffs on nearly $60 billion of American-made goods in response to a similar move last week by the Trump administration. The American stock benchmark fell 2.4 percent, pushing its losses for the month above 4.5 percent. Shares in trade-sensitive sectors like agriculture, semiconductors and industrials were particularly hard hit. Bonds and commodities, too, flashed warnings of a slowdown." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "Trade Wars Are Good, and Easy to Win." Ana Swanson, et al., of the New York Times: "The United States and China escalated their trade fight on Monday as Beijing moved to raise tariffs on nearly $60 billion worth of American goods in retaliation for President Trump's decision to punish China with higher tariffs on a slew of imports. China's finance ministry announced that it was raising tariffs on a wide range of American goods to 20 percent or 25 percent from 10 percent in response to Mr. Trump's decision to raise tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China's increase will impact the roughly $60 billion in American imports already being taxed as retaliation for Mr. Trump's previous round of levies, including beer, wine, swimsuits, shirts and liquefied natural gas. The S&P 500 fell more than 2 percent soon after trading began in New York, and shares of companies particularly dependent on trade with China, including Apple and Boeing, fared poorly." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Trump Tries to Protect His Base from ... Himself. Mary Papenfuss of the Huffington Post: "... Donald Trump is seeking an additional $15 billion in U.S. subsidies in an effort to protect farmers from the devastating impact of his trade war with China. That's on top of $12 billion already earmarked for the farmers to help them weather the fallout. That would be an additional bill for U.S. taxpayers already shouldering the cost of increased tariffs in the form of higher costs for products and parts from China. Trump revealed the subsidy figure in a tweet Friday. He suggested the government use the funds to buy agricultural products to ship to other nations for humanitarian aid, though setting up such a system would be extremely complicated. In his most recent budget proposal, Trump proposed eliminating three food aid programs, Politico noted. The president appeared to dismiss the impact of the cost as he falsely claimed -- again -- that 'massive' tariff payments are being paid by China 'directly' to the U.S. Treasury, which would presumably be used to cover the cost of the subsidy. There is 'absolutely no need to rush' to negotiate a deal with China, he tweeted. In fact, the tariffs are paid by U.S. importers, who pass on the extra costs to the American consumer in the form of higher prices for products...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Having lost more than a billion dollars of other people's money as a private businessman, Trump is digging in to lose many billions of all Americans' money. He was an incompetent ignoramus then; he's an incompetent ignoramus now. ...

... Zack Ford of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump kicked Monday morning off with a series of tweets defending his new tariffs against China. His latest tactic is to urge Americans not to buy products from American companies if they manufacture in China.... Trump said there is 'no reason' for U.S. consumers to pay the tariffs, before claiming that companies inside China would soon move to other countries. In the meantime, Trump said people should just buy products from inside the United States. Tariffs can still have an impact on the cost of a product, even if you buy it from inside the United States." --s ...

... No, No, Everything Is Going as Planned. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post: "President Trump has spent the past 24 hours tweeting manically about trade, repeating the absurd falsehood that China is paying us billions in tariffs. We keep hearing that this shows Trump 'doesn't understand' how tariffs work. But this is better seen as a straight-up, deliberate lie -- a lie upon which Trump is staking his reelection.... If Trump agrees to a deal that does not win real concessions, that will reveal his agenda of 'toughness' as hollow -- particularly if those concessions do not appear worth the pain that the tariff wars have already imposed on farmers, in the very region that's crucial to his reelection. So the New York Times reports that Trump is now hoping to flip the political calculus: No deal, followed by still more tariffs, will allow Trump to proclaim he's still being tough on China.... Central to this whole tale has always been the idea that Trump will take back for U.S. workers what this alliance of elites and foreign workers is stealing from them -- he will take back what is rightfully theirs.... Failure on China could be catastrophic for Trump. So he's just swapping in a new story: He's making China pay restitution to Americans it has ripped off for so long by forcing it to 'pay' us in tariffs."

** Eric Schmitt & Julian Barnes of the New York Times: "At a meeting of President Trump's top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said. The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump's national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said. The development reflects the influence of Mr. Bolton, one of the administration's most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.... On Monday, asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Mr. Trump said: 'We'll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.'" ...

... Chris Cillizza of CNN: "'We'll see what happens' is Trump's go-to phrase for saying absolutely nothing while simultaneously ruling absolutely nothing out. On virtually every major issue which he has been asked to address over his first two-plus years in office, he has, at one time or another, pledged to 'see what happens.'" Cillizza lists nine other matters of which Trump has said, "We'll see what happens."

... Michael Birnbaum & Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo crashed a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday to push for a united transatlantic front against Tehran and its nuclear program. But he failed to bend attitudes among leaders who fear the United States and Iran are inching toward war. Pompeo's last-minute decision to visit the European Union capital, announced as he boarded a plane from the United States, set up a confrontation between the top U.S. diplomat and his European counterparts, who have been scrambling to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal last year. At least one, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said he feared that unintentional escalation from the United States and Iran could spark a conflict -- an unusually bold statement that appeared to assign equal culpability to Washington and Tehran." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Zachary Basu of Axios: At a press spray, "President Trump on Monday praised far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his immigration policies, telling reporters: 'Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that's OK. You've done a good job and you've kept your country safe.' [When a reporter asked,] 'Mr. President, are you concerned about democratic backsliding in Hungary under this prime minister?' [Trump answered,] 'Well, people have a lot of respect for this prime minister. He's a respected man, and I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man, and he's done the right thing according to many people on immigration. And you look at some of the problems they have in Europe that are tremendous, because they've done it a different way than the prime minister.'" ...

... Asawin Suebsaeng & Sam Brodey of The Daily Beast: "On Monday afternoon, Donald Trump hosted Hungary's far-right leader Viktor Orban.... The Oval Office feting was a diplomatic coup for Orban and a culmination of a two-year effort to get the two nationalist, anti-immigration world leaders in the same room, glad-handing for the cameras." --s ...

... Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "Hungary is now the premier example of an emergent political model I've called 'soft fascism': a system that aims to stamp out dissent and seize control of every major aspect of a country's political and social life without needing to resort to 'hard' measures like banning elections and building up a police state. Orbán has also been explicit that his goal is the defeat of liberal democracy. Trump hasn't gone that far, but he has flashed some authoritarian instincts, and his party has shown it's willing to go along. David Cornstein, a longtime Trump associate currently serving as US ambassador to Hungary, told the Atlantic that the president 'would love to have the [political] situation that Viktor Orbán has.'... Orbán is one of the leading faces of the far-right backlash to democracy in the Western world today. In normal times, he would be condemned by the occupant of the White House, not treated as an honored guest. The fact that he isn't shows just how serious the threat to democracy in the West is -- and how worried Americans should be about the health of their own institutions." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In a system of supposed checks & balances, the real threat to democracy in the U.S. isn't Donald Trump; it's Congressional Republicans who refuse to check his excesses as long as he goes along with their other plans . We'll find out soon enough if the Trump Supremes join the open conspiracy. As for the GOP base, they're absolutely stupid enough to bring up the rear, their pitchforks points at their own rights -- and ours. That, BTW, is what they mean by a "Christian nation."

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: “... Donald Trump tried to take credit on Monday for a sudden turnaround in the Boston Red Sox' season, pointing out that the reigning World Series champions have gone undefeated since their fraught visit to the White House last week. 'Has anyone noticed that all the Boston @RedSox have done is WIN since coming to the White House!' Trump wrote in a tweet. 'Others also have done very well. The White House visit is becoming the opposite of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated! By the way, the Boston players were GREAT guys!' The Red Sox, who visited the White House last Thursday, swept all three of their home games over the weekend against the Seattle Mariners, scoring 34 runs across the three games. Boston has won eight of its last 10 games, a stretch that predates the team's reception with the president." Mrs. McC: I'm too lazy to check the stats, but I wonder if the Sox (Socks) players who boycotted the White House trip contributed to the wins. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Investigating the Investigators, Ctd. Adam Goldman, et al., of the New York Times: "Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to examine the origins of the Russia investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter, a move that President Trump has long called for but that could anger law enforcement officials who insist that scrutiny of the Trump campaign was lawful. John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has a history of serving as a special prosecutor investigating potential wrongdoing among national security officials, including the F.B.I.'s ties to a crime boss in Boston and accusations of C.I.A. abuses of detainees. His inquiry is the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into possible ties between Russia's election interference and Trump associates. The department's inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is separately examining investigators' use of wiretap applications and informants and whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions. And John W. Huber, the United States attorney in Utah, has been reviewing aspects of the Russia investigation. His findings have not been announced." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: There is nothing wrong with investigating a series of FISA court proceedings once to make certain that authorities have not overstepped Constitutional limitations. But three times? (And this of course doesn't count Rudy's aborted trip to Ukraine, where he planned to ask the incoming president to "investigate the origins" of the Russia probe.) This is a solution in search of a problem.

Betsy Woodruff & Adam Rawnsley of The Daily Beast: "Rod Rosenstein was a #Resistance hero -- and one of Donald Trump's favorite whipping boys -- for overseeing the Russia investigation. But Rosenstein's legacy at the Justice Department shows he was ... spearheading the president's war on leakers and whistleblowers.... In just two years, the Trump administration has come close to prosecuting the same number of cases as Team Obama, which prosecuted 10 government employees and contractors with similar offenses over the course of two terms.... Under the Trump administration, agencies' referrals of alleged leaks of classified information for consideration by the Justice Department have skyrocketed. The Justice Department fielded an annual average of 104 referrals in the first two years of Trump's presidency, compared to an annual average of 39 under Obama." --s ...

... Rosenstein's First Rewrite of History ... Casts Rosenstein as Faultless. Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein on Monday defended his role in the firing of James B. Comey from the FBI and criticized the bureau's former director as a 'partisan pundit' -- offering one of his most detailed public accounts of the hectic events that led to the appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel.... Rosenstein said he 'did not dislike' Comey but that Comey took steps that were 'not within the range of reasonable decisions' during the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. Rosenstein suggested that if he -- rather than Trump -- had been in charge, 'the removal would have been handled very differently, with fa more respect and far less drama.'"

Impeach Trump. Jamelle Bouie: "Democrats have the upper hand, but they aren't acting like it.... The logic of their arguments and accusations leads to impeachment, and there, they have flinched, worried that the public -- or at least Republican voters -- will rally to his side. Instead of a direct confrontation using everything at their disposal, Democrats want to maneuver around the president as if there's another path to victory. But there isn't. The next election will be about Trump. His base, as well as most Republican voters, will almost certainly be with him. What Democrats need is the confidence of their position. At this stage, when most Americans say they won't vote for Trump in 2020, they have the public. They have evidence of wrongdoing. They have all the tools they need to seize the initiative and center the next year of political conflict on the president's contempt for the Constitution and the welfare of the American people." ...

... Digby, in Salon: What all [the] failed impeachments [of the past] demonstrate is that as long as a president can hold one-third of the Senate plus one, he is immune from removal or legal punishment.... Our system has an extremely poor mechanism for removing a president who commits high crimes and misdemeanors. Donald Trump has decided to push that weakness to the limit. He isn't just exercising executive privilege. He's defying all congressional oversight.... If Republicans are able to demonstrate that Democrats won't move even against a president like Trump, I think we can be sure that further Republican presidents will no longer even bother to observe the law, much less the norms and rules that have governed our republic since the beginning. They've been heading this way for some time. Regardless of whether or not the Senate can protect the president from conviction, the risk of failing to impeach Trump is greater than the risk of doing it. If the Democrats refuse even to open an impeachment inquiry...[,] we will have shown that a president is literally unimpeachable...."

David Frum of the Atlantic: "Trump has tried to close [the] gap [between what the Mueller report says & what he wants it to say] by lying about it -- and by demanding that other people lie, too. When they don't and won't, Trump gets angry.... Trump got extra angry Sunday night ... [in] a sequence of rage tweets that included the line: 'The FBI has no leadership.'... Trump disjointedly tweeted over linked messages: 'The Director is protecting the same gang.....that tried to..... ...overthrow the President through an illegal coup...' Trump wants the FBI to endorse his own theory of victimhood --; and it won&'t.... Worse, the FBI ... received, and still holds, whatever information the investigation gathered about Russia's interference in the 2016 election.... [According to Mueller's report,] '... the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal or political concerns.'... What Trump means by leadership is compliance." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "If ... Donald Trump thinks he's been totally exonerated, as he says, why is he stonewalling Congress?... What worries me is that there';s another possible answer, and it's a lot worse. What if Trump is stonewalling Congress because the lesson he took from the Mueller report is that his behavior was perfectly okay? That is, what if Trump isn't pretending that he didn't do the misdeeds detailed in the report? What if instead he thinks that Attorney General William Barr, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans are now willing to go along with a theory of presidential power so expansive and unrestricted that even John Yoo and other advocates of executive authority are alarmed? Unfortunately, that theory fits with Rudy Giuliani's perfectly open plan to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. It also fits with a series of tweets and statements and actions by the president that appear to be a continuation of a cover-up."

Nicholas Fandos & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Allies of Donald Trump Jr. may have stirred up a firestorm among Republicans over a subpoena to recall the president's eldest son to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but the panel's Republican chairman has suggested to colleagues that the standoff is of the younger Mr. Trump's making. Twice in recent months Donald Trump Jr. agreed to sit for voluntary interviews with the Intelligence Committee, only to later back out, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the panel's chairman, told colleagues privately last week, according to two people.... The chairman said at a senators-only luncheon last Thursday that the evasions had left the committee no choice but to issue a subpoena on April 8 to give senators a chance to directly question the younger Mr. Trump as they seek to tie up loose ends on their investigation of Russian election interference."

They don't look like Indians to me. -- Donald Trump, in 1993, urging a House committee to investigate the heritage of members of a tribe that operates a Connecticut resort & casino ...

... Marc Fisher of the Washington Post explores a topic Akhilleus discussed last week: "... President Trump last week found time to tweet about an obscure House bill that would assure a Massachusetts Indian tribe control of 321 acres of land it wants to use for a gambling casino. The president was against the bill, he wrote, because it was 'unfair and doesn't treat Native Americans equally!'... Even though this president has a four-decade-long record of slamming American Indian casinos as scams that pose unfair competition to other gambling enterprises, notably his own, Trump's decision to weigh in on a measure that had strong bipartisan support seemed unusual for a chief executive who doesn't like to be bothered with the little stuff. But a closer look at House Resolution 312 and the favor it would do for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reveals a sprawling network of Trump-related interests, from the National Enquirer to a Rhode Island casino company -- a small but strikingly intricate example of the ways this president's business dealings, personal bonds and political alliances can complicate and color the ordinary doings of government.... The tribe's site is about 18 miles from Rhode Island, and that state's politicians aren't keen to have a new competitor go up against their two casinos, both of which are run by Twin River Worldwide Holdings, a public company with strong Trump ties."

Nick Miroff & Josh Dawsey
of the Washington Post: "In the weeks before they were ousted last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and top immigration enforcement official Ronald Vitiello challenged a secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities. According to seven current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the administration wanted to target the crush of families that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after the president's failed 'zero tolerance' prosecution push in early 2018. The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants -- including families with children.... But Vitiello and Nielsen halted it, concerned about a lack of preparation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the risk of public outrage and worries that it would divert resources from the border. Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence [whom Trump then tapped to replace Vitiello] were especially supportive of the plan, officials said, eager to execute dramatic, highly visible mass arrests that they argued would help deter the soaring influx of families.&"

Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "A growth in the undocumented immigrant population is not associated with an increase in local crime, according to a new study from The Marshall Project. The findings directly contradict one of the president's favorite talking points about immigrants and crime." --s

Lee Fang of The Intercept: "At a luxury resort [held the weekend of April 5-7] just outside of the nation's capital last month [in Middleburg, Virginia], around four dozen senior congressional staffers decamped for a weekend of relaxation and discussion at Salamander Resort & Spa. It was an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together and ... hear from health care lobbyists focused on defeating Medicare for All. The event was hosted by a group called Center Forward and featured a lecture from industry lobbyists leading the charge on undermining progressive health care proposals." --s

... Congressional Race 2019. Nothing Could Be Finer. Ed Kilgore of New York: "Republican voters in the south-central North Carolina Ninth Congressional District go to the polls Tuesday to choose a nominee for their star-crossed House seat, which has been vacant since January owing to election-fraud allegations against the campaign of Republican Mark Harris.... The front-runner in limited public polling and the best-financed Republican in the race is State Senator Dan Bishop, a staunch conservative who gained some unsavory national attention as the author of North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill, a law designed to force transgender folk to use restroom facilities denoted for the gender on their birth certificates. It was partially repealed in 2017 after Bishop's bill earned the state terrible publicity and the loss of convention, tourism, and other business, with cost estimates reaching $3.7 billion.... Believe it or not, though, Bishop is the more sedate of the top two Republicans in the race. Running second in the polls is County Commissioner Stoney Rushing, a gun-range owner whose trademark is to dress up like Boss Hogg, the corrupt southern pol in the old TV series The Dukes of Hazzard."

Presidential Race 2020

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who was twice elected to lead a state that President Trump carried by more than 20 points, entered the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, vowing to elevate the issue of campaign finance and, more implicitly, to make Democrats competitive again across the country's interior. 'We need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 and defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people's voice so we can finally make good on the promise of a fair shot for everyone,' Mr. Bullock said in a video centered on his record in Republican-leaning Montana."

Clio Chang of The Intercept: "Beto O'Rourke's Thursday hiring of Jeff Berman, a Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton veteran, is the latest step his presidential campaign has ... toward a more centrist and corporate strategic direction.... Berman ... is joining O'Rourke's campaign as senior adviser for delegate strategy.... An often overlooked part of his record, though, is his stint at law and lobbying firm Bryan Cave, a position for which he was hired immediately after Obama's presidential campaign.... According to the federal lobbying registry, between 2009 and 2011 Berman's clients on behalf of Bryan Cave included the private prison company GEO Group; TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline; and SeaWorld, which was then owned by massive private equity firm Blackstone." --s

Robert Barnes
of the Washington Post: “The Supreme Court's conservative majority overturned a 40-year-old precedent Monday, prompting a pointed warning from liberal justices about 'which cases the court will overrule next.' The issue in Monday's 5-to-4 ruling was one of limited impact: whether states have sovereign immunity from private lawsuits in the courts of other states. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to such immunity, although states are free to extend it to one another and often do. But the court's conservative majority overruled that decision, saying there was an implied right in the Constitution that means states 'could not be haled involuntarily before each other's courts,' in the words of Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote Monday's decision. Thomas acknowledged the departure from the legal doctrine of stare decisis, in which courts are to abide by settled law without a compelling reason to overrule the decision." Mrs. McC: So long, Roe v. Wade. ...

... Irin Carmon of New York: "On Monday, the normally plodding and passionless Justice Stephen Breyer issued a Cassandra-like warning in a dissent joined by the other liberal justices, calling the majority's overruling of a states' rights precedent 'dangerous' and adding ominously, 'Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.' If that wasn't clear enough, he twice mentioned the court's major abortion precedent when he didn't have to. Only running down the court steps shrieking would have been less subtle.... Brett Kavanaugh has already made it clear in a Louisiana procedural vote that he's willing to throw out abortion precedent in radical fashion as long as he can sound slightly calmer than he did in his confirmation hearings. Chief Justice John Roberts, the court's new swing vote, is no one's idea of a moderate and, despite voting to keep Louisiana's clinics temporarily open in a procedural move, has upheld every single abortion law that the court has considered in full."

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "A divided Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for iPhone owners to sue Apple for alleged 'higher-than-competitive prices' for apps sold in App Store. 'A claim that a monopolistic retailer (here, Apple) has used its monopoly to overcharge consumers is a classic antitrust claim,' wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.... The opinion does not resolve the merits of the consumers' allegations against Apple, rather simply allows them to proceed in court." Mrs. McC: Looks as if Brett thinks Apple ripped him off. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Lynh Bui of the Washington Post: "A federal judge ordered a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a widespread terrorist attack to remain in jail pending trial, overturning an earlier magistrate judge's decision to release Christopher Paul Hasson on home arrest. The decision Monday came in a hearing in U.S. District Court in Maryland, where prosecutors and Hasson's public defender clashed for the fourth time over whether Hasson should stay in jail if he faces drug and weapons charges but no terrorism-related offenses. Although the charges Hasson faces are 'unremarkable,' U.S. District Court Judge George J. Hazel said, Hasson's 'history and characteristics' and potential danger to the community weighed in favor of blocking release. The evidence the government brought showed specific alleged actions toward a plan, Hazel said. Hasson's alleged actions of amassing weapons, creating a target list of enemies and researching their locations ramped up after he started studying the manifesto of a Norwegian terrorist who killed 77, Hazel said."

Kate Taylor & Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "The actress Felicity Huffman ... pleaded guilty on Monday to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, acknowledging that she paid $15,000 to arrange for cheating on her daughter's SAT test.... Prosecutors have said that they would recommend four months behind bars for Ms. Huffman. They also have said that they would recommend a fine of $20,000 and 12 months of supervised release."

E. A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "The third-largest coal company in the United States has declared bankruptcy, leaving the future of its more than 1,000 workers uncertain.... Officials said the company's mines will continue to operate throughout the bankruptcy process; Cloud Peak operates two mines in Wyoming and one in Montana.... The company's workers lack union protections. But even coal miners backed by unions are at risk -- a ruling earlier this year allowed a coal company to abandon union contracts. And broader threats to federal funding for miner benefits are jeopardizing pensions for tens of thousands of workers." --s

Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "'One hundred thousand dollars a day? That's just off the charts.' That's how Deborah Rhode, a legal ethics expert from Stanford Law School, put it after reviewing a memo from ex-NRA president Oliver North.... Meanwhile, the NRA's latest financial disclosures forms show its revenue has slumped under the gun-friendly Trump administration. North's memo --; which NRA top brass dispute -- raises new questions about the association's finances at an extraordinarily fraught moment for the grassroots gun-rights powerhouse.... Meanwhile, numerous legal ethics experts who reviewed the memo told The Daily Beast they found it astonishing, especially for a nonprofit -- and the kind of thing that could draw attention from the IRS." --s ...

... Wayne's World. He Shopped Till He Dropped ... $39K in One Day. Ashley Reese of Jezebel: "The National Rifle Association, it brings me no pleasure to report, is fully in the shit: The Wall Street Journal reports that leaked internal NRA documents reveal, among other things, that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre billed more than $542,000 worth of clothing, travel, and other expenses to its longtime ad agency, Ackerman McQueen Inc. (It's worth noting that the NRA and Ackerman McQueen are in the middle of a lawsuit over, you guessed it, money.) One of the more amusing aspects of the leak revealed that LaPierre once spent $39,000 in one day at Beverly Hills designer boutique called Ermenegildo Zegna." With illustrations!

News Lede

New York Times: "Tim Conway, whose gallery of innocent goofballs, stammering bystanders, transparent connivers, oblivious knuckleheads and hapless bumblers populated television comedy and variety shows for more than half a century, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 85."

Reader Comments (16)

In his address to the Emory University graduating class yesterday, Ambassador Andrew Young spoke of fruitless days of talking between Sadat and Begin at Camp David. As the conference was coming to an end, President Carter handed each man a picture of himself surrounded by his respective grandchildren and, if I remember what Mr. Young said correctly, asked each man if he really wanted to pass the conflict on to children in the picture, at which point they went back in to the negotiating room and hammered out a deal in three days, an agreement that still stands.

I cannot see any congressional or senate Republican doing anything to make life better for their offspring. They may think that funneling all the money to them is the solution, but they can't live in gated communities (communes???) forever.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy


said Adam Schiff on Hayes last night.

Really???? When did you finally decide that he, indeed, was not only "this awful" but also this dangerous? The character of this man was pretty clear from the get-go and yet Congress, with the exception of Maxine Waters and a few other Democrats who were crying foul and calling for impeachment, let those cockalorum chips fall where they may until finally we find ourselves in what some say is a constitutional crisis or damn near one.

Watching this impaired man playing the role of a president of this country welcoming another facist-like leader from another, one Viktor Orbán, was alarming. To realize we have allowed the Trump administration to run roughshod over this land––a land we thought could stand, if not straight up, at least would not topple toward destruction.

"His sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation."
––––JFK about Robert Frost

How we wish more had this kind of mindset.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

PD: I think when he was called Pencil-neck by the Horror-in-chief, Adam Schiff came to realize that he IS the worst we can imagine... All along AS has tried to be rational and calm, like many others, but at this point, that is useless, given the Greedy Old People, who give new meaning to giving aid and comfort to the enemy. I note that drumpf feels free to use the word "treason" where most of the people he is targeting do not. This is soooo not the time for calm.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

NiskyGuy's Jimmy Carter anecdote calls to mind a scene some years in the future when kids who aren't even born now look at the aging Democratic politicians and leaders in the MSM and say "You all knew how bad Trump was. Why didn't you do anything to stop him?"

Will Democrats answer "Well, it wouldn't have been polite"? Will the media people answer "We had to be fair to everyone"? "By the way", they might ask, "What are you kids doing in school these days?"

"We go to the Betsy DeVos Middle School. We don't do anything. We watch Fox all day."

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

By the way, Carter's ploy of asking Begin and Sadat to consider the children would never work today.

First, Trump would show them both a picture of a Cayman Islands bank vault. Second, there is no Sadat-like figure today. Who would sit on that side of the table? On the other side of the table, if you showed Bibi pictures of children, he'd think: "Future warriors".

Not to mention that the idea of Trump sitting down trying to work out a peace plan for the Middle East is ludicrous (he couldn't negotiate a peace plan between a couple of soccer moms at Starbucks). The Camp David Accords were in the works for well over a year before anyone met in Maryland. Serious career diplomats on all sides worked feverishly to hammer out a general agreement long before Begin and Sadat came to Washington. Then it took another two weeks of round the clock back and forth before the agreement was finalized.

Know what constitutes "serious diplomacy" under Trump? Insulting and threatening tweets. Or Mike Pompeo (can you really compare this egregiously unqualified, jumped up teabagger with Cyrus Vance?) barging into a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels and demanding that they all do what he sez. Or Jared Kushner making "secret" phone calls on an open line to Saudi Arabia to see just how much dough members of the royal family want to invest in one of his real estate scams.

It's not just that these people are assholes. It's not just that they're greedy and incompetent, unqualified and ignorant, who work solely for their own personal glorification and enrichment at the expense of the needs of the United States. It's not just that they're all in it for themselves.

It's all of those things.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I think we should all be very scared about the Trump Supreme Court.

Republicans have been salivating over this moment for decades, the time when they ruled everything and could do exactly whatever the hell they wanted to without some pesky Supreme Court saying "Sorry, you can't do that. That shit is unconstitutional."

This is why elections matter. This is why Confederates have been working hammer and tong at gerrymandering, at disenfranchising anyone who votes against them, at outright election theft. And Trump is here to hand out their final exam.

And John me no Roberts. I've read a lot of claptrap about how John Roberts isn't a Trump rubber stamp and how he is concerned about his legacy and blah, blah, blah. John Roberts is the guy who knifed the Voting Rights Act in the neck. Okay? He is no friend of the Constitution.

And now we've got Trump's handpicked rubber stamps to go along with winger zombies Alito and Thomas. Will John Roberts stand between all of them and what they see as their destiny? Being able to run roughshod over anyone who isn't on their side, and right over the shredded remnants of the Constitution even as they protest that they are the ones protecting it from evil liberals?

It IS bye-bye to Roe v Wade. And a lot of other things. IOKIYAR is soon to become federal law. And John Roberts will be along for the ride. Oh, he may put the kibosh on a couple of the most outrageous power grabs, but he'll hold the door for the rest of the anti-American hooligans coming our way.

Bart must have a couple of cases of cold ones ready for the party.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Eyebrows to the top floor...

It's an indication of just how far Trump has dragged his party into lawlessness and authoritarianism that John Yoo (!!!!) thinks they've all gone too far. This is the guy who authored the Torture Memo for Cheney's hit men in the CIA. The guy who gave Bush the thumbs up for his illegal war.

It's like Jack Kevorkian saying "Hey, hold on a minute. You guys are offing healthy people now!"

When Dr. Death thinks you've gone too far, you're completely off the grid.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Yes, I think those of us who scoffed at "Tenthers" may become Tenthers ourselves -- fighting for states' rights so that at least in blue states, residents can have a few individual rights & people will be treated with dignity.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Trump's outrageous lies about China footing the bill in his trade war will gain traction. Pretty soon, R's who have a vague suspicion of what a tariff really is will have to go along with Trump's story of the week. Of course, that could change. Next week there could be a different story (with the same ending, however, America loses).

I don't know about Trump being completely ignorant about how tariff's work, but it's a lead pipe cinch that he's lying (meaning he knows the truth but chooses the lie). I'm certain that Trump couldn't do a lesson plan on tariff's but I'm equally sure that he prefers his story (China is getting their asses kicked by Sheriff Trump) over the truth.

The fact that Republicans, especially those in congress who actually do know international trade laws and understand tariffs, will go along with his lies is more evidence that no one on that side will ever, ever stand up for America again. Not once ever. He's their useful idiot and if he wants to tell a few "fibs" to the American public, they're fine with it. Look, after their treasonous ploy gave Trump the opening to appoint sieg heiling Republican Nazis to the Supreme Court, and on the verge of making abortion a crime and being able to send women and their doctors to prison for going against their Christianist doctrine, Trump can do and say whatever he wants.

I've read that Trump's trade war, if it goes unchecked for a long time, could be his downfall. I'd like to believe that, but 40% of the voters will pick him no matter what. If they lose their jobs, their houses, their cars, and have to sell their kids, they'll still vote for Trump. Why?

Because he hates the same people they hate and he promises to punish them severely. So what if they have to drink the vinegar too.

Even insane people respond to hate. Republicans have found the perfect puppet for their schemes.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I want to know what Democrats are waiting for. What? A burning bush talking to them? A note from their moms?

Here's the deal. Patient comes in to the ER. They run a test. The patient has a malignant tumor threatening his heart. Hmmm....let's run another test. Same result. They get a consult. Yup. Tumor. They decide to hold a hearing where they invite other doctors in. The other doctors say "Patient will die if not treated immediately". Three days later they decide to release the patient. "Take two aspirin every 24 hours and call us in three weeks."


We're dying here. And Democrats are holding hearings and telling each other it might be too risky to remove the tumor. They might lose their medical licenses.

But doesn't that license authorize them to treat dying patients???

I say "Take the fucking thing out. I'd rather die because something positive was done to save my life than to go into a coma and croak because nothing at all was done."

What do Democrats say?

"We'll think about it".

Here's what's gonna happen. Democrats will do something. Some little thing, maybe. But it will be too late. Trump will gain steam, people on the fence will say "He can't be that bad or they'd impeach him. Maybe they're full of shit."

Well, they're right there.

I'm seeing a lawyer. I gotta make out my will.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

That dude, Wayne LaPierre must really believe that 'clothes maketh
the man'. But like my old granny used to say "you can't make a
silk purse out of a sows ear". (We lived on a farm).
But I'm right up there with old Wayne. Just last month I spent $39
at T J Maxx on sox, or socks, and couldn't write it off since I guess
most landscapers wear socks, or sox.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforrest.morris

Just a note of what is coming our way. Three radio stations in the Florida panhandle will be broadcasting snippets of Trump speeches every hour until the elections.

Your state could be next.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee

Bobby Lee,

Wow. This really is becoming an authoritarian nation. If they start putting up gigantic pictures of Trump on the front of public buildings, don't tell me. I'll have to start looking for land in Quebec.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Hey, did you check out that $300 bathing suit from Zegna? Bet ol' Wayne-O is a reg'lar chick magnet in those. But where does he hide the gun? I know. He bought the $300 bathing suit with the $700 hand-tooled (accent on tool) leather holster accessory. Can't be caught at the beach without your Glock now, can you? The only thing that can stop a seagull from scarfing down one of your Cheez-Its is a good guy with a gun. Or something...

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Fox tries to weasel Elizabeth Warren into doing one of their Town Halls (not for the purposes of expanding the public discourse, mind you, but to make money on all the extra eyeballs and to give the spur to their in-house drudges to tear into her) but she told them to fuck off, calling Fox a "hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists".

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

From The New Yorker:

“We’re going to need a bigger bookshelf”

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Hattie
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