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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 15, 2019

Late Morning Update:

Carol Leonnig & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "The White House's top lawyer told the House Judiciary Committee chairman Wednesday that Congress has no right to a 'do-over' of the special counsel's investigation of President Trump and refused a broad demand for records and testimony from dozens of current and former White House staff. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone's letter to committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) constitutes a sweeping rejection -- not just of Nadler's request for White House records, but of Congress's standing to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice. In his letter, Cipollone repeated a claim the White House and Trump's business have begun making: that Congress is not a law enforcement body and does not have a legitimate purpose to investigate the questions it is pursuing. But Cipollone stopped short of asserting executive privilege. Instead, he told Nadler he would consider a narrowed request if the chairman spells out the legislative purpose and legal support for the information he is seeking." ...

... As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote yesterday re: the administration's argument that Congress had no right to examine Trump's finances, "Forget about the Unitary Executive Theory. This one is closer to the Divine Right of Kings."

Tony Romm & Drew Harwell of the Washington Post: "The United States on Wednesday broke with 18 governments and top American tech firms by declining to endorse a New Zealand-led response to the live-streamed shootings at two Christchurch mosques, saying free-speech concerns prevented the White House from formally endorsing the largest campaign to date targeting extremism online. The 'Christchurch Call,' unveiled at an international gathering in Paris, commits foreign countries and tech giants to be more vigilant about the spread of hate on social media. It reflects heightened global frustrations with the inability of Facebook, Google and Twitter to restrain hateful posts, photos and videos that have spawned real-world violence. Leaders from across the globe pledged to counter online extremism, including through new regulation, and to 'encourage media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist events online.' Companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter, meanwhile, said they'd work more closely to ensure their sites don't become conduits for terrorism. They also committed to accelerated research and information sharing with governments in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.... White House officials raised concerns that the document might run afoul of the First Amendment." ...

... That's Rich. Cristina Cabrera of TPM: "'Freedom of the press' is an eyebrow-raising reason for the White House to cite, considering ... Donald Trump's constant rants against' fake news' media and the fact that the White House recently slapped new restrictions on press access."

The Clueless Electorate. Tal Axelrod of the Hill: "A majority of registered voters believes President Trump is a successful businessman despite recent news reports about significant losses, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday. About 54 percent of respondents said they believe Trump has been successful in his business ventures, while 36 percent say he's been unsuccessful. Another 10 percent have no opinion. The results are starkly divided along partisan lines, with 85 percent of Republicans saying Trump is a success while only 30 percent of Democrats agreed. Nearly half, 49 percent, of Independents said Trump is a successful businessman, while 34 percent say he's been unsuccessful. The poll was conducted after the release of a New York Times report showing that Trump reported over $1 billion in losses from 1985 to 1994, citing IRS documents. Trump responded, calling the article 'a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job....'"

In commentary below, Akhilleus sums up the current state of U.S affairs: "The mad advising the incompetent leading the stupids, all relying on the obsequious."


Courtney Kube & Adam Edelman of NBC News: "... Donald Trump on Tuesday denied a report that his administration was considering sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East to respond to Iran -- but added that if the United States were to go with such a plan, 'we'd send a hell of a lot more.' Trump told reporters outside the White House that a New York Times story Monday night claiming his administration was reviewing military plans against Iran was 'fake news.'... U.S. officials told NBC News that the plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the region was one of a range of options that Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented to Trump's national security team during a recent meeting about Iran. The option involving as many as 120,000 troops represented a worst-case scenario contingency in the event that the U.S. and Iran were to go to war, the officials said.... According to The Times, which first reported the story, the revised plans presented by Shanahan -- which the newspaper said did not call for an invasion of Iran -- were ordered by Trump's national security adviser John Bolton, known for his hawkish stance on the country, according to the report." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Get that? There are no plans, but if there were plans, they would be a lot more spectacular than the plans that don't exist. Also, too, Trump doesn't seem to have any idea of what's going on. Is that because Bolton & Shanahan are hiding their plans from Trump or because Trump wasn't paying attention when they briefed him? Either case is plausible. In any event, we can now see -- as if we couldn't predict it -- how Trump would act in a military crisis. Be afraid. Be very afraid. ...

... Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The top British general in the US-led coalition against Isis has said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria, directly contradicting US assertions used to justify a military buildup in the region. Hours later however, his assessment was disowned by US Central Command in an extraordinary rebuke of an allied senior officer." --s ...

... Helene Cooper & Edward Wong of the New York Times: "The rare public dispute highlights a central problem for the Trump administration as it seeks to rally allies and global opinion against Iran.... Intelligence and military officials in Europe as well as in the United States said that over the past year, most aggressive moves have originated not in Tehran, but in Washington -- where John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, has prodded President Trump into backing Iran into a corner. One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential internal planning, said the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was 'small stuff' and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton. The official also said the ultimate goal of the yearlong economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States.... The anti-Iran push has proved difficult even among the allies, which remember a similar campaign against Iraq that was led in part by Mr. Bolton and was fueled by false claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." ...

... ** Fred Kaplan of Slate: "One week ago, National Security Adviser John Bolton seemed to be laying a trap for the leaders of Iran, squeezing them into a corner where they would have no choice but to lash out. Now he seems to be setting the stage to strike back -- to topple the regime by force -- if and when they take the bait. [Kaplan lists numerous instances in which Trump attempted to provoke Iran into attacking the U.S.] If all this rings a discordant bell -- echoes of Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam, WMD in Iraq, the Maine in the Caribbean, and other contrived provocations that have pushed the country to war -- well, there may be a good reason for that.... It is not yet clear what Trump himself wants.... Trump is playing escalation games with Iran -- games that could lead to war, whether Trump wants that or not -- while doing nothing to seek diplomatic alternatives or to make a case that war is justified, in fact alienating U.S. allies whose support would be useful (if not vital) in a war and, at the same time, ginning up a trade war with China, which, in its early phases, is already wreaking havoc with markets and threatening to damage an otherwise-healthy American economy. Trump isn't fiddling while the world is in turmoil; he's fanning the flames without realizing that's what he's doing."

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Bart Jansen of USA Today: "Lawyers for ... Donald Trump and the House clashed Tuesday in federal court over the extent of Congress' power to investigate him in the first legal test of Trump's effort to block sprawling probes of his finances and private business.... It is the first court test of how much information the half-dozen committees conducting investigations of Trump and his businesses might be able to obtain. Trump and his namesake businesses filed a lawsuit last month asking U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta to revoke a subpoena issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Trump's lawyers accused the Democratic-controlled committee of abusing their power and said there was no legislative purpose for the request.... Mehta ... suggested history might not be on the president's side, saying courts had not found that Congress overstepped its subpoena authority since 1880 and questioning Trump's lawyers about the basis for previous investigations of presidents. Trump's personal lawyer, William Consovoy, argued repeatedly that Congress was seeking the president's financial information for what is essentially a law-enforcement purpose -- which was outside its authority -- rather than to work on legislation. The subpoena sought Trump's financial records to look for inconsistencies in his financial disclosure forms, and whether he misstated his holdings for loans that could leave him beholden to foreigners.... At one point, Mehta asked whether Congress could investigate if the president was engaged in corrupt behavior in office. 'I don't think that's the proper subject of investigation as to the president,' Consovoy said, although executive agencies could be investigated. Mehta sounded incredulous, asking whether Congress could have investigated Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, and Whitewater, which led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Consovoy initially said he'd have to look at the basis for those investigations.... Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the House..., said Trump's lawsuit is so far outside the bounds of past Supreme Court decisions that he has 'no chance for success' and urged a quick decision in the case because of Congress's limited term." ...

... Andrew Desiderio & Kyle Cheney of Politico: "A federal judge raised pointed doubts Tuesday about arguments by ... Donald Trump's legal team that a Democratic effort to subpoena Trump's financial records was an invalid exercise of congressional power. Amit Mehta, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, indicated that he would have trouble ruling that Congress' goal in accessing the president's records was unconstitutional -- as Trump's lawyers have argued -- and he underscored that he believes Congress has a significant 'informing function' that doesn't necessarily require an explicit legislative purpose to justify an investigation involving the president.... Mehta ... suggest[ed] at one point that investigations of such financial violations are 'strictly' under Congress' purview and that the courts have 'very little, if any' discretion over Congress' asks."

Maggie Haberman & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached a deal on Tuesday for the president's eldest son to sit for a private interview with senators in the coming weeks that will be limited in time, an accord that should cool a heated intraparty standoff. The deal came after an aggressive push by the younger Trump's allies, who accused the Intelligence Committee's chairman, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, of caving to Democrats by issuing a subpoena for the president's son's testimony. They called the effort a political hit job against the White House, using the president's son as fodder. Mr. Burr told fellow Republican senators last week that the president's son had twice agreed to voluntary interviews but had not shown up, forcing the subpoena." ...

... Morgan Gstalter of the Hill: "Calls for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to resign began trending on Twitter Tuesday morning after the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman encouraged President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., to plead the Fifth. Graham on Monday said Trump Jr. should refuse to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which subpoenaed Trump Jr. to testify about his communication with Russian officials. 'You just show up and plead the Fifth and it's over with,' Graham told reporters, referring to the amendment that protects citizens from self-incrimination, according to The Washington Post."

Nicholas Fandos & Maggie Haberman: "The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether lawyers tied to President Trump and his family helped obstruct the panel's inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony, a series of previously undisclosed letters from its chairman show. The line of inquiry stems from claims made by the president's former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who told Congress earlier this year that the lawyers in question helped edit false testimony that he provided to Congress in 2017 about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Mr. Cohen said they also dangled a potential pardon to try to ensure his loyalty. In recent weeks, the committee sent lengthy document requests to four lawyers -- Jay Sekulow, who represents the president; Alan S. Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr.; Alan Garten, the top lawyer at the Trump Organization; and Abbe D. Lowell, who represents Ivanka Trump. The lawyers all took part in a joint defense agreement by the president's allies to coordinate responses to inquiries by Congress and the Justice Department."

The Oranges of the Mueller Probe, Ctd. Laura Jarrett of CNN: "Attorney General William Barr is working closely with the CIA to review the origins of the Russia investigation and surveillance issues surrounding Donald Trump's presidential campaign, according to a source familiar with the matter, broadening an effort that the President has long demanded to involve all major national security agencies. Barr is working in close collaboration with CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray, the source said.... As CNN previously reported, US attorney John Durham in Connecticut is heading up the effort with Barr. The source said Durham and Barr are doing a comprehensive review, and Durham is with working with the Justice Department's Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, as well." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: IOW, Durham & Horowitz will come up with a report or reports in which they find that the DOJ, FBI, the FISA judges did everything by the book. Durham & Horowitz will submit their reports to Barr, and Barr will write a four-page summary concluding that "spying did occur" against the innocents on the Trump campaign, and everybody in the DOJ, FBI & FISA court behaved very, very badly. Barr must know a very effective cosmetic procedure for wiping der Trumpenkacke off his nose. ...

     ... As Jonathan Chait points out in a post linked below, "Barr is meanwhile authorizing the fourth counter-investigation of the Russia probe. This will probably fail to yield any charges, but will succeed in making anybody in the Department of Justice think very carefully before looking into any crimes by Trump or his friends, with the full understanding that Republicans will harass them for years if they try." Mrs. McC: I'm not sure what fake investigations Chait is counting; maybe he's including the Devin Nunes/Jim Jordan fiascos of the last Congress. ...

... Barbara McQuade in the Daily Beast: "If you come at the king, you best not miss. That's the message Attorney General William Barr is sending to FBI agents, whether intentionally or not. Barr has authorized yet another investigation into the FBI's conduct probing links between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.... In [appointing John Durham], Barr is playing into the hands of President Donald Trump, who has already characterized Durham's assignment as an investigation into 'how that whole hoax got started.... The current outcry about the use of FISA surveillance and informants to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election is not sufficient predication for a criminal investigation.... It is unclear why Barr does not simply await ... results [of two probes already in progress] rather than appoint a new prosecutor to undertake another investigation.... In addition to harming the effectiveness of the FBI, Barr's complicity in Trump's tactics may also have a chilling effect. By advancing the 'investigate the investigators' mantra, Barr may cause the FBI to flinch next time it perceives a threat from powerful people within the government. He is incentivizing the FBI to sit idly by in the face of national security threats." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I suspect that's the message Barr wants to send: that the president is above the law; ergo, all investigations of his activities are illegitimate. In fact, that's exactly what the administration's attorney said in court, as the USA Today story, linked above, indicates.

... Charlie Savage, et al., of the New York Times: "The federal prosecutor tapped to scrutinize the origins of the Russia investigation is conducting only a review for now and has not opened any criminal inquiry, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. The prosecutor, John H. Durham, the United States attorney for Connecticut, is broadly examining the government's collection of intelligence involving the Trump campaign's interactions with Russians.... The distinction means that Mr. Durham for now will not wield the sort of law enforcement powers that come with an open criminal investigation, such as the ability to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify. Instead, he will have the authority only to read documents the government has already gathered and to request voluntary witness interviews. That distinction could have political consequences. Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters he would 'pull back' a proposed inquiry by his committee into what Mr. Trump's allies have portrayed as surveillance abuse because he did not want to get in the way of a criminal investigation by Mr. Durham. But later on Tuesday, told by a Times reporter that Mr. Durham was for now conducting only a review, Mr. Graham said, 'That is completely different.' He said he wanted the inquiry to be run by a prosecutor with the same power as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who scrutinized Trump-Russia links." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Thanks, Lindsey! What this country needs is yet another "investigation" of the investigators. But keep on keeping on, Lindsey. Your brilliant career is so much more important than annoying stuff like integrity, and we all appreciate what a Trump kiss-up you need to be to ensure those Palmetto Trumpbots will vote for you. ...

... New York Times Editors: "One of President Trump's enduring beliefs about the Russia investigation is that the Obama administration illegally spied on him, his associates and his campaign.... In Attorney General William Barr, the president has found an ally willing to legitimize his theories.... Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, said on Tuesday that the F.B.I. confirmed with him that Russian hackers had managed in 2016 to infiltrate two county voter databases in the state. They used techniques similar to those used by Kremlin operatives.... The F.B.I. has well-founded concerns that Russia will continue to meddle in American elections. So once the Trump administration is done investigating the investigators, it should turn its attention to ensuring the sanctity and security of the nation's ballot boxes."

** Jonathan Chait: "President Trump's progress in corrupting the Department of Justice -- and, to some extent, the entire federal government -- into a weapon of his autocratic aspirations relies on the acquiescence of figures like Rod Rosenstein. It is the Rosensteins who translate the president's lizard-brain impulses into practical directives and create a patina of normalcy around them. (Or, in some increasingly rare cases, refuse to do so.) And so Rosenstein's spate of valedictory remarks attempting to cleanse and justify his service to Trump give us real insight into the worldview of the compliant bureaucratic functionary.... Somehow, Rosenstein is able to look upon the situation he has left with pride. Mueller was never fired. More importantly, neither was Rosenstein himself. It is easy for the inside man to confuse a system that is intact with a system that is working."

Quinta Jurecic of Lawfare in the Atlantic: "For Congress today to look at the conduct described in the Mueller report and decide that it does not merit impeachment is for it to acquiesce to Trump's effort to establish his own corruption not only as the new norm, but as the way things have always been. To put it another way, given Congress's inaction, can you really blame Rudy Giuliani for trying his luck in Ukraine?"

Casey Michel of ThinkProgress: "[Rudy] Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, has worked in Ukraine since Trump's inauguration, nominally as a security adviser to the city of Kharkiv with his firm Giuliani Partners. However, one of his local clients claimed last week that Giuliani provided far more than technical advice and a handful of photo-ops. According to Ukrainian developer Pavel Fuks, Giuliani had been hired to work as a 'lobbyist' for the government of Ukraine, as well as for the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. 'This is stated in the contract,' Fuks told the Times.... Giuliani denied Fuks' claim, saying that Trump remains his 'only client.'... Fuks' claim adds significant fuel to longstanding concerns about Giuliani's decision not to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department -- even as the agency goes to unprecedented lengths to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act." --s

Damian Paletta
, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Tuesday rushed to placate furious farmers and Senate Republicans about his escalating trade war with China, with lawmakers now considering a package of fresh bailout funds to quell a rebellion in agricultural states.... On Monday, Trump suggested the standoff could last years and lead to structural changes in the global economy. On Tuesday, Trump offered conflicting forecasts, musing that a deal could come in the next month but also predicting a furious economic battle with Beijing.... The mounting concern from farmers and business groups showed signs of bleeding into the 2020 presidential campaign. Trump has attacked former vice president Joe Biden ... and alleged that Democrats didn't act forcefully enough to counter China in past decades. But Biden on Monday told the radio station WMUR that Trump was creating collateral damage with his blunt trade agenda, which has relied on costly tariffs that U.S. companies must pay to bring in Chinese products. 'The American worker is getting killed by this,' Biden said. 'The American farmers are getting killed.'"

Ha Ha. Shahien Nasiripour of Bloomberg News: "Trump Tower, once the crown jewel in Donald Trump's property empire, now ranks as one of the least desirable luxury properties in Manhattan. The 36-year-old building has been turned into a fortress since Trump won the presidency, ringed with concrete barriers and the two main entrances partially blocked off. It hasn't been substantially updated in years. And Trump's name has been a huge turnoff in liberal New York City. For anyone who owns a unit in the tower, the past two years have been brutal. Most condo sales have led to a loss after adjusting for inflation, property records show. Several sold at more than a 20% loss. By contrast, across Manhattan, just 0.23% of homes over the past two years sold at a loss, according to real-estate data provider PropertyShark, although the firm doesn't adjust for inflation.... While some corners of Trump's business empire have thrived, such as his Washington D.C. hotel, others have suffered from his high unpopularity. Rounds of golf are down at his public course in New York, a clutch of once Trump-branded buildings have torn his name off their fronts, and an ambitious plan to launch a new mid-tier hotel chain across the country fizzled." ...

... Ho Ho. David Fahrenthold & Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post: "Late last year, in a Miami conference room, a consultant for President Trump's company said business at his prized 643-room Doral resort was in sharp decline. At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort's net operating income -- a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid -- had fallen by 69 percent.... 'They are severely underperforming' other resorts in the area, tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak told a Miami-Dade County official in a bid to lower the property's tax bill. The reason, she said: 'There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.'... The troubles at Trump Doral -- detailed here for the first time, based on documents and video obtained under Florida's public-records law -- suggest the Trump Organization's problems are bigger than previously known. This is also the first known case in which a Trump Organization representative has publicly acknowledged the president's name has hurt business."

Morgan Chalfont of the Hill: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the United States would not tolerate future Russian interference in American elections. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Sochi, Pompeo said he told Lavrov that 'interference in American elections is unacceptable and if the Russians were engaged in that in 2020 it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been.' 'We would not tolerate that,' Pompeo said.... Pompeo spoke to reporters after meeting with Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The two said they discussed a variety of bilateral and global issues, including arms control, the political upheaval in Venezuela, North Korean denuclearization and Iran. The secretary of State later described the discussion as 'frank' and said the two discussed a variety of areas of disagreement, including Russia's support for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro." Mrs. McC: I wonder if Pompeo delivered the Russian interference memo deadpan or if he was chuckling.

Alexander Narzayan of Yahoo! news: "Charles C. Johnson [is] a Holocaust denier whom the Boston Globe has deemed 'one of the country's most notorious Internet trolls' ... who had been informally involved with the Trump campaign. Even so, he retained untrammeled access to the highest reaches of the Trump administration.... That much is clear from his surprising exchange [via email] with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on June 25, 2018.... Ross and Johnson did meet that summer.... [The Department of Commerce would not confirm that a meeting between Ross and Johnson took place.]...It is not known what they discussed[.] ... Ross's email address is redacted in the documents reviewed by Yahoo News. However, Democracy Forward had specified in its Freedom of Information request that it sought 'all communications sent to or from any nongovernmental email address established, controlled, or used by the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.' The back-and-forth with Johnson, therefore, had to have been conducted at least in part via an email address affiliated with Ross but not issued by the federal government." --s

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to vote against one of ... Donald Trump's judicial nominees on Tuesday. And he did so in part to defend former President Barack Obama. Romney cast the lone GOP 'no' vote against Michael Truncale, who was confirmed 49-46 on Tuesday morning to the Eastern District of Texas. Truncale called Obama an 'un-American imposter' in June 2011, and explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was 'merely expressing frustration by what I perceived as a lack of overt patriotism on behalf of President Obama.'... 'He made particularly disparaging comments about President Obama. And as the Republican nominee for president, I just couldn't subscribe to that in a federal judge,' Romney said in a brief interview. 'This was not a matter of qualifications or politics. This was something specifically to that issue as a former nominee of our party.'" Mrs. McC: How nice to know all other Republican senators were good with this guy.

Congressional Race 2019. Laura Barron-Lopez of Politico: "Dan Bishop, a state senator and author of North Carolina's controversial 'bathroom bill,' beat back nine other Republican candidates Tuesday to clinch the GOP nomination for this year's redo election in the state's 9th Congressional District. Bishop secured 48 percent of the vote, easily defeating Stony Rushing, the second-place candidate -- and clearing the threshold needed to avoid a nasty runoff that would have further hurt the GOP's chances of keeping a seat the party has held for decades. With Bishop's outright victory on Tuesday, he will face Democrat Dan McCready in the general election on Sept. 10." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One reason -- but definitely not the primary reason -- that Neanderthals like Bishop win elections is evident in the way stories about them are reported. All the major national outlets led with Bishop's notorious bathroom bill; the Raleigh News & Observer, which is not a horrible paper, didn't mention the bill till the sixth graf -- and then left it up to a citation from Democrats -- to bring up Bishop's cruel, disastrous bill.

Presidential Race 2020

Matt Stevens & Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Tuesday that she would not participate in a Fox News town hall as some other Democratic candidates have, calling the media outlet 'a hate-for-profit racket' that seeks to turn Americans against one another. In a series of messages posted on Twitter, Ms. Warren, who is one of 22 people seeking the Democratic nomination for president, accused the network of giving 'a megaphone to racists and conspiracists' and providing cover for corruption. She also returned to one of her campaign's central themes in her attack on Fox News, framing the network as the sort of corporate 'profit machine' she has railed against.... Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont took part in a town hall on the network in April and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota did the same last week. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., is expected to participate in one on Sunday."

Charles Pierce, in his ever-patient & soothing way, tries to explain to Joe Biden that Donald Trump is not the only little problem with the GOP. Mrs. McC: Biden fondly remembers the good old days when he was a senator & cut deals with Republicans in the mens' locker room. Anita Hill all over again? Yeah. Biden is Hillary redux. And we know how that turned out.

** Ian Millhiser
of ThinkProgress: "The greatest restraint on judges is that they are bound by a written text -- or, at least, that they are supposed to be.... Which is why Justice Clarence Thomas' opinion for the Supreme Court in Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt is troubling. Hyatt does not simply overrule a longstanding precedent, it does so while admitting that nothing in the text of the Constitution supports such an outcome. Loyalty to constitutional text and loyalty to written precedents are the twin pillars that stabilize our system of law. The Supreme Court just abandoned both of them." --s

Kyla Mandel
of ThinkProgress: "The concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere reached an unprecedented level this month. Researchers at the fossil fuel giant Exxon saw it coming decades ago.... According to an internal 1982 document from Exxon Research and Engineering Company ... the company expected that, by 2020, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would reach roughly 400 to 420 ppm. This month's measurement of 415 ppm is right within the expected curve Exxon projected under its '21st Century Study-High Growth scenario.'... Not only did Exxon predict the rise in emissions, it also understood how severe the consequences would be.... Despite this knowledge, the company chose not to change or adapt its business model. Instead, it chose to invest heavily in disinformation campaigns that promoted climate science denial, failing to disclose its knowledge that the majority of the world's fossil fuel reserves must remain untapped in order to avert catastrophic climate change." --s

Elaine Povich of the Washington Post: "Alice M. Rivlin, a master of budgetary policy who held senior positions in the executive and legislative branches of government -- notably as founding director of the Congressional Budget Office -- and whose stewardship of the D.C. Financial Control Board guided the once-insolvent city to solid financial footing, died May 14 at her home in Washington."

Beyond the Beltway

Alabama. Timothy Williams & Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "The Alabama Senate approved a measure on Tuesday that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state, setting up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a woman's constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The legislation bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalizes the procedure for doctors, who could be charged with felonies and face up to 99 years in prison. It includes an exception for cases when the mother's life is at serious risk, but not for cases of rape or incest -- a subject of fierce debate among lawmakers in recent days. The House approved the measure -- the most far-reaching effort in the nation this year to curb abortion rights -- last month. It now moves to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican. Although the governor has not publicly committed to signing the legislation, many Republican lawmakers expect her support." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Another manifestation of white male power in the Land Left Behind. Update: Think I'm kidding? Every single Alabama state senate Republican is a white man. Every one. Apparently Alabama's little ladies are staying home drinking sweet tea. No wonder Alabama sucks. Not fair, you say? Well, looky here ...

... The Best States Are Blue. Ed Kilgore of New York: U.S. News & World Report just published its ranking of states by livability. According to the report, "The Best States ranking ... draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state's economy, its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure, its public safety, the fiscal stability of state government, and the opportunity it affords its residents." Kilgore: "When you look at the states' political complexions, the patterns are quite clear. The No. 1 state is Washington, and eight of the top ten are states Donald Trump lost (the exceptions being Utah and Nebraska). Twelve of the bottom 13 are states Trump carried (New Mexico is the exception).... History buffs won't be surprised to learn that former states of the Confederacy, particularly the more conservative of them, don't do well in these rankings: Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are at the very bottom, while Arkansas (45th) and South Carolina (42nd) also do poorly. It's an interesting commentary on the ancient reactionary idea that a low-tax, low-regulation, anti-union environment guarantees growth." ...

     ... The U.S. News report on its rankings is here.

Florida. Trump Radio. Really. Justin Wise of the Hill: "A media company that operates multiple radio stations in Florida has vowed to broadcast portions of President Trump's speeches every hour of every day until the 2020 election. Gulf Coast Media Inc., the owner of the stations 'Classic Rock WRBA-FM 95.9, 'Country WKNK-FM "Hank FM"' and 'Adult Hits WASJ-FM 'BOB FM,"' announced in a press release that it would air Trump's speeches for the next 18 months." Mrs. McC: Whither the Fairness Doctrine?

Oklahoma, Where Sexual Assault Is a Laughing Matter. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "Two Oklahoma state lawmakers were caught on a live mic Monday joking about sexual predation. According to Oklahoma City CBS affiliate KWTV, which captured the exchange, the conversation took place minutes before a press conference by Gov. Kevin Stitt (R). In the video, Rep. Mark McBride (R) can be overheard asking Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R) whether he molested a female former state lawmaker. 'You molested this girl after Kannady did?' McBride asks, apparently referencing allegations against two other colleagues, Reps. Chris Kannady (R) and Kevin McDugle (R), who are under investigation for sexual assault.... In response to McBride's question, Fetgatter jokingly responds, 'No, I was at the table and I allowed it.'" --s

Way Beyond

Congo. Sarah Boseley of the Guardian: "An Ebola epidemic in a conflict-riven region of Democratic Republic of Congo is out of control and could become as serious as the outbreak that devastated three countries in west Africa between 2013 and 2016, experts and aid chiefs have warned.... More than 1,600 people have been infected with the Ebola virus in the North Kivu region of DRC and more than 1,000 have died so far -- the great majority women and children. At least 10 months since the outbreak began, the numbers are rising steadily and the fatality rate is higher than in previous outbreaks, at about 67%." --s

Europe. Arthur Nelsen of the Guardian: "Industry lobbies are mounting a push to roll back EU clean water regulations, even though less than half of the continent's rivers, wetlands and lakes are in a healthy state. The lobby offensive is aimed at weakening the bloc's floods and water framework directives, which require all states to ensure their waterways are in 'good ecological condition' by 2027.... The campaign by mining, agriculture, hydropower and chemical lobbyists has bee backed by five EU states: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Finland." --s

Reader Comments (11)

If Agent Orange catches wind his properties are nose-diving, the GOP and RNC are going to have to funnel even more of their deplorables' donations into Drumpf properties. Expect massive federal land selloffs and deregulation apace. He's probably pissed coal keeps taking 'cause Murray Energy was such a cash cow for his pocketbooks.

The newest saga of the "investigate the investigators" is going to fall flat on its face, culminating in a circular firing squad of flunky "coffee boys" all devolving into Russian "idiot assets" that raised alarms of the NSA & FBI. My biggest fear of Barr's latest distraction balloon is that it will result in yet more cover ups as the Russuan ties with the campaign grow evermore intricate and obscene. If any of that info comes out, Diaper Donnu will shit his pants again and cry for more investigations against his own investigators for "leaking" the undesirable findings.

While the shitshow clogs our collective sink, I still, somehow, find it astounding that "conservative" voters still support this flaming asshole at nearly 90% approval. A part from the spineless Senate, it's all those misinformed dumbfucks walking around our nation that represent the most dangerous threat to our Democracy. And they're not willing to learn.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Yes, safari. I too am dumbstruck by the idiots amongst us. Not only do they support and adore the monster-in-chief, they somehow infect the ones who are smarter and more connected. Last night there was a discussion about what the hell happened to Lindsey Graham, and I made up my mind that I don't care. So many states/congresspeople/senators to not care about, I am going out of my mind with not enough time to not care! What to do...??!! And now, so many lawsuits, so little time-- time to think about something else: the forced birthers in AL who, as Marie states, are all white men. One more reason to NEVER go there and spend money.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

I'm starting to think the internal "resistance" (remember the NYT op-ed? I can't believe Trump hasn't gone ape shit to ferret out the unloyal mole) has got it all wrong. Instead of resisting his calls to break laws, minimize obstruction and general suffering, a true resister should get evidence of the order and brazenly execute it for all to see, then ready his whistle when the laws comes calling. Depending his worst impulses is only putting lipstick on a fat orange pig, pretty enough for mass shoulder shrugs come 2020 voting booths nationwide.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Please tell me again why Trump might want to start a war with Iran?

Of course there IS a reason. Distraction, for one. I've been wondering how long it would take him to decide that tweets about browns at the border weren't enough to ward off obstruction of justice charges and what would be needed would be a nice little war during which he could kill a bunch of dirty mooslims, really fire up the base.

And will we be hearing a year from now when the body bags are streaming back to the US that he's surprised how hard it is to win a war? Because don't forget, Iran is not the Iraq that Bush and Cheney invaded on false pretenses (and even they weren't prepared for how tough that war was--they never even finished it!). Iran has sizable, well trained, well supplied armed forces and they have been so put upon by this asshat and his bigots that they are probably ready to take it right to the last man standing.

I know why Bolton wants a war. War is his default. But Trump? He may decide he needs to look tough. Again. He always wants to look tough. He needs to because Cadet Bone Spurs is a draft-dodging coward. He loves a fight, but only with those weaker than himself, those he's sure he can bully and beat down. But if he takes us to war with Iran there'll be no flowers, no month long war then home to write the memoirs and collect the medals. It'll be nasty and dirty, brutal, long, and immensely expensive. What is it about the Republican Party and war mongering?? We haven't even finished the last two wars they started, which cost trillions of dollars, and those were begun 16 years ago! Now they want another?

And so far the TrumpWarMongers have been saying that they've got double-secret information about Iran's triple-secret plans to something, something, something. But shhhhhh...they can't tell us what that is. Don't be surprised if they come out and say that Iran is hiding WMD. Hey, it worked for Bush.

Iran will not be easily pushed around. They're tired, they're pissed off, and they feel like they're being backed into a corner. Bolton is trying to instigate something (and by the way, how is Bolton running this show? He's a fucking advisor! He has no Constitutional powers to start a war or even to plan one.

And don't worry, if this happens, you know who they'll blame? Obama and the Democrats. Because, why not?

Trying to kill people by taking away their healthcare is bad enough. Tearing up the Constitution as well. But if Trump thinks he can play games with Iran, he is just as mistaken as, well, as he is about almost everything else.

We have an unstable toddler with his hand on the button, and a mad man leaning over his shoulder whispering "Do it! C'mon. Do it!"

Two things are for sure. One: you can't believe a single thing these creeps say. Lying is like breathing for them. Two: they have no idea what they're doing. The mad advising the incompetent leading the stupids, all relying on the obsequious.

This is bad.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The blue state/red state comparisons succinctly describe the relative success of competing ideologies in this country. States that don't believe in taxation or paying for decent education or housing or medical care are all losing badly. Their residents, except for the rich, are hurting.

Case in point, Kentucky. A friend who read this listing sent me the following information: three years ago, under the "leadership" of Governor Matt Bevin, a Trump clone like no other, Kentucky had the highest rate of food insecurity in the country. Almost three quarters of a million people, including a quarter million children, went hungry every day and had no idea where their next meal was coming from.

Since then, it's gotten worse. A lot worse. As of this year, for residents over 50, one in five goes hungry every day. Food insecurity. In the richest nation on the planet. That's red state leadership for you. Hundreds of thousands of kids wake up hungry and go to bed hungry. This is the sort of thing you used read about third world countries where you saw pictures of kids eating out of garbage cans. But under Republican "leadership", it's right here in the good ol' USA. But hey, we can't feed poor kids AND make sure the rich are taken care of, right?

Bevin is trying to blame Obama and the Democrats for all of this, because of course he is. But this is the same guy who was stunned to find out that inner city black kids played chess (aren't they all too stupid and out shooting innocent white people?). He's the same guy who called kids as young as 5 years old wimps for not standing at a bus stop for half an hour in 10 degree weather.

And this is the guy who wants to remain in power for another term. Maybe by the next gubernatorial election he can get the number of hungry Kentuckians up to 25%.

Everyone needs goals. Republican goals include screwing poor people. Even those who vote for them. In red states, that means ESPECIALLY people who vote for them.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Ak: You left out frowardly, obsequious & frowardly.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforrest.morris

One more thing about an idiot like Trump and a psycho like Bolton holding the power to bring us to war (the R senate will never say no).

With someone as unstable and unpredictable as Trump, and someone as foolishly aggressive as Bolton, the Iranians have to be asking themselves "Okay, what do we do? What are we getting ready for?" And the answer has to be "War". They'd be irresponsible not to be ready to fight back, especially with the US flooding their neighborhood with weapons of war. Even worse, because Trump has cut off all diplomatic channels, there's no safe way to disarm the whole situation. Now I hear that the US has ordered all personnel to abandon the embassy in Tehran. What does THAT say to the Iranians? They'd have to be stupid to ignore the signals, to pretend to themselves that Trump and Bolton are kidding. Maybe Trump is, but how do they know? He's an idiot, prone to doing anything.

And here's where it gets really dicey.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, one of the things the Kennedy people saw as vital to staving off war was to give the other side a chance to back down, but to save face doing it. This is a common streetfighting tactic. You gotta give the other guy a way out that doesn't involve complete mayhem and bloodshed.

But Trump is too stupid to think of this. He'd think it makes him look weak. And Bolton WANTS a war, so he's not gonna give the Iranians any chance to back down peacefully.

And in a situation like this, delicate decisions are difficult to even see, never mind make. With everything on the line, with the enormous stresses that accompany a lead up to a possible shooting war, huge mistakes can happen quickly without calm deliberation.

Does anyone think Trump is either calm or deliberate?

Watch this. Saying "Well, I didn't really mean it" afterwards will be cold comfort to the dead and thousands now about to die.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: "Fire one!" Yeah, that Richard Widmark flick looks pretty much the way Trump & Co. will get us into WWIII. Except it will involve a Trump tweet -- based on something he thought he heard on Fox "News."

In all seriousness, Trump has been frightening since Day 1, and every day he gets scarier. The world does not deserve what the Trumpbots gave us.

May 15, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Gee, all this Iran hugger mugger has made me almost forget all about the DOD billions reprogrammed to build a wall on our southern border, and the total stonewall the WH is erecting around any investigation of anything the Prez does. And the N. Korea BS. And all those tariff losses.


May 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

@Patrick: Gosh, do you suppose that's the point of the saber-rattling?

Let's hope so.

May 15, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Alabama and Georgia: It ain't JUST abortion...

If you thought Confederates going after Roe v Wade are just after abortion, think again.

Here's Julie Rovner, Chief Washington Correspondent for Kaiser Health News explaining that wingers won't be satisfied with just criminalizing abortion.

They're going after everything. Including birth control.

And they are SURE that Bart O'Kavanaugh is their man. Which means (okay, it's not a surprise, is it?) that he lied during his confirmation hearing.

But so did Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Gorsuch. They all lied.

The only members of the Supreme Court who told the truth during their confirmation hearings are the liberals. ALL the confederates lied through their teeth, mostly about Roe.

Soon, they'll be criminalizing birth control. Their goal is complete control over Americans (especially American women) who don't go along with their rigid, Christianist set of rules.

This is much worse than we thought. But then, Democrats are too wedded to the idea that everyone is playing by the rules, and playing nice. They're not. This is why impeachment will NEVER HAPPEN and TRUMP WILL BE REELECTED!!@!!!!!*%$#$

These people play for keeps. They don't give two shits about law or the Constitution, or fairness. Democrats play so they won't be criticized for looking like they're working for what they believe in.

Say goodbye, not only to choice, but to any control over your own life. Louie Gohmert and Mitch McConnell will tell you what you can and cannot do from here on out.

May 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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