The Ledes

Monday, November 20, 2017.

New York Times: "The Argentine Navy disclosed on Monday that the crew of a missing submarine had been ordered to return to its home port on Wednesday after reporting a battery failure. The revelation was the first official confirmation that the Navy had known since Wednesday — when the submarine vanished — that the vessel was contending with equipment malfunction and might have the lost the ability to propel itself.... A multinational effort is underway to try to locate the submarine and its 44-member crew, amid mystery about what happened to the vessel.... The disclosure about mechanical failure is likely to add to fears that the crew has been lost."

New York Times:"Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series 'Touched by an Angel' and became an ordained minister in real life, died on Sunday night at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 86."

New York Times: "Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century..., died on Sunday in Kern County, Calif. He was 83 and had been behind bars for most of his life."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, November 19, 2017.

Tennessean: "Country Music Hall of Famer, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and Grand Ole Opry member Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida...."

New Yorker: Thomas Hargrove, a retired journalist, is developing an algorithm to solve serial murders. Interesting & not a bit nutty. Hargrove's research suggests that the number of serial killers still out their doing their jobs is much greater than police departments realize (or will admit -- serial killers are bad for local tourism). Also too, the percentage of murders that get solved has dropped precipitously in the last half-century.

Donaldo da Trumpo. Guardian: "On Wednesday, a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450.3m, rocking the art world.... On Thursday, that same art world was given a reality check, when a sketch by the less celebrated Donald Trump sold for just $6,875 at an auction in Los Angeles. Trump’s untitled piece, which depicts the Manhattan skyline, barely cleared its minimum price of $5,000.... The president took on his project in 2009 for a charity event. Trump seems to have used either pencil or ballpoint pen for the piece, which measures 8in x 5in. The sketch shows what appear to be skyscrapers, alongside something representing the Empire State Building. Nate D Sanders, the auction house handling the sale, presented the sketch in a 15in x 18in frame, along with a signed photo of Trump."

New York Times: "After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi' sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s 'Women of Algiers,' which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed." ...

... New York Times critic Jason Farago calls the painting "a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.... The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. [Some experts still think it's a copy.] Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted.... Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation."

A D.C. Hotel for Liberals. Bloomberg: Eaton Workshop will open an anti-Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., late next spring. It's the "world’s first politically motivated hotel, the flagship for a global brand that’s built around social activism and community engagement."

Mike Isaac of the New York Times, in an article written in all tweets: "On Tuesday, [Twitter] said nearly all of its 330 million users would now be able to tweet with 280 characters, the exact total in this paragraph.... The only Twitter users who will remain at 140 characters are those who post in Japanese, Korean or Chinese, the company said. Those languages have alphabets that typically allow for the expression of more thoughts in fewer characters...."

Travel Advisory. New York magazine: "Oh Good, Southwest Airlines to Host Live Country-Music Concerts on Flights."

Tuesday
Sep122017

The Commentariat -- September 13, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Manu Raju of CNN: "The Justice Department is preventing Senate investigators from interviewing two top FBI officials who could provide first-hand testimony over the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the latest sign that Special Counsel Robert Mueller could be investigating the circumstances around the firing, officials tell CNN. The previously undisclosed turf war comes as the Senate judiciary committee has not yet given assurances to the special counsel's office that it could have unfettered access to the transcript of the interview it conducted last week with the President's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., saying that the full Senate must first authorize the release of the information to Mueller's team." ...

... Josh Dawsey of Politico: "... Michael Flynn actively promoted a private-sector scheme to build dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle East known informally in the transition as the 'Marshall Plan.' But he did not publicly disclose that backers of the plan had paid him at least $25,000. Flynn communicated during the transition with the backers of the for-profit plan, billed as a way of strengthening ties between the U.S. and Arab allies looking to develop nuclear power capability. Meanwhile, the Trump adviser expressed his support for the plan with people inside the transition -- and discussed its merits with others beyond Trump Tower, according to sources within and close to the Trump team at that time. Flynn's consulting work for the company has been previously reported, but not the extent of his involvement during the Trump transition, nor the full amount he was paid for it." ...

... Manu Raju & Marshall Cohen of CNN: "House Democrats sent special counsel Robert Mueller what they say is evidence that former national security adviser Michael Flynn failed to disclose a trip he took to the Middle East to explore a business deal with the Saudi government and a Russian government agency. The Democrats allege the retired Army lieutenant general broke the law by omitting the trip, according to the letter they sent to Flynn's former business partners requesting more information about his overseas travels and contacts. The letter was sent by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the oversight committee, and New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee. No Republicans from the two GOP-led committees signed onto the letter...." ...

... Chris McDaniel & Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed: "... Donald Trump's personal attorney and confidant, Michael Cohen, is scheduled to speak next week with investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting. Cohen has been subpoenaed by lawmakers investigating Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. He is expected to speak with investigators on Sept. 19." ...

... Grumpy Trumpy. Mike Allen of Axios: "Behind the scenes in the West Wing, President Trump continues to rant and brood about former FBI Director Jim Comey and the Russia investigation that got him fired.Trump tells aides and visitors that the probe now being run by special counsel Bob Mueller is a witch hunt, and that Comey was a leaker. So White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was reflecting her boss's moods when she attacked Comey at length from the podium yesterday.... The Mueller investigation is hitting ever closer to home for Trump, and he's using the tools of his office to try to undermine the special counsel's future findings."

Tommy Christopher of Independent Journal Review (IJR): "On Tuesday, NBC News reporter Katy Tur released her big 2016 campaign book, 'Unbelievable,' coincidentally the same day that Hillary Clinton's 'What Happened' hit shelves and e-readers. Tur was Trump's absolute favorite media punching bag, and an anecdote from the book could help explain why. In the book, Tur reveals that Trump forced an unwanted kiss on her just before a November 11, 2015, appearance on Morning Joe. The details are pretty gross.... Just prior to that section in the book, Tur also recounts a married senior Trump staffer making pretty clear advances on her. If her displeasure at Trump's kiss was as obvious as it sounds, and/or if Tur's unwillingness to play around got back to Trump, it could go a long way in explaining why she became his favorite target. Or maybe being a woman was enough." See also Akhilleus's commentary in yesterday's thread.

Elaine Povich of the Washington Post: "Pete V. Domenici, a Republican lawmaker from New Mexico who became a leading voice on budget and energy policy during six terms in the Senate..., died Sept. 13 at a hospital in Albuquerque. He was 85."

... Pete Domenici was a pariah in my family. My parents lived in New Mexico & both were active environmentalists. Domenici was a friend of miners. My father used to write funny but insulting letters to him, & I'm sure my father treated Domenici with the same wry disregard when they met. One of the times my mother & a colleague went to see him, a secretary went into Domenici's office to tell him they were waiting. Domenici didn't look their way but the door to his office was open & he could see them. He groaned & said loudly -- meaning for my mother & her friend to hear -- "Oh, they're just a couple of little old ladies in tennis shoes." -- Marie Burns

Julia Manchester of the Hill: "Democrats flipped state House seats in New Hampshire and Oklahoma on Tuesday, replacing Republicans in two districts ahead of the 2018 midterm elections."

*****

Thought for the Day. The Republic of Texas believes in self-reliance and is suspicious of Washington sticking its big nose in your business. 'Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility.' So said Sen. Ted Cruz, though not last week. Sunday on Fox News, Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas would need upward of $150 billion in federal aid for damages inflicted by Harvey. The stories out of Houston have all been about neighborliness and helping hands and people donating to relief funds, but you don't raise $150 billion by holding bake sales. This is almost as much as the annual budget of the U.S. Army. I'm just saying. I'm all in favor of pouring money into Texas but I am a bleeding-heart liberal who favors single-payer health care. How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being hit by cancer? I'm only asking. -- Garrison Keilor. Thanks to PD Pepe for the link

Damian Paletta, et al., of the Washington Post: "White House officials trying to jump-start work on the GOP's top fall priority -- tax cuts -- are coming up against the same obstacle that has vexed PresidentTrump all year: divided Republican lawmakers. Trump advisers and top congressional leaders, hoping to assuage conservatives hungry for details, are working urgently to assemble a framework that they hope to release next week, according to White House aides and lawmakers. But after months of negotiations, the thorniest disagreement remains in view: how to pay for the giant tax cuts Trump has promised. Negotiators agree with the goal of slashing the corporate income tax rate and also cutting individual income taxes. But they have yet to agree about which tax breaks should be cut to pay for it all. In private talks, Trump advisers are pressing to eliminate or reduce several popular tax deductions, including the interest companies pay on debt, state and local income taxes paid by families and individuals, and the hugely popular mortgage interest deduction." ...

... Alan Rappeport & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Senate Democrats on Tuesday warned they would work to block any rewrite of the tax code that repealed the estate tax and the deduction for state and local taxes, arguing that those moves would make a mockery of Republican promises to target tax relief to the middle class. But before Republicans could consider Democratic demands, they still were struggling to overcome their own disagreements over the arcana of a rewritten tax code. The clash over specific tax measures comes as the promised tax overhaul enters a pivotal phase. The White House and congressional Republicans expect to unveil the framework of a plan later this month, and the courting of Democrats has already begun. Mr. Trump dined with senators from both parties Tuesday night, reaching across the aisle out of concern that Republican disputes will make it impossible to pass a tax bill with only Republican votes."

Dan Merica of CNN: "Hope Hicks, who was named interim White House communications director in August, will now hold the job on a permanent basis, a White House spokesperson told CNN Tuesday. Hicks, a longtime aide to ... Donald Trump who was one of the first staffers to join Trump's 2016 campaign, became the interim communications director after Anthony Scaramucci, the colorful and controversial Trump aide, was ousted from the job in July." Mrs. McC(ynical): It was just within the week that we learned Robert Mueller's team plans to interview Trump & she's had to hire an attorney for the occasion; surely a promotion to a permanent position in a prominent role is Trump's way of hoping to ensure she lies about Trump's involvement in drafting the fake reason for Donnie Jr.'s meeting with Russian operatives. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... BUT This Could Pose a Problem. Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Several of the lawyers representing current and former aides told Politico they're actively warning their clients that any bonds connecting them to Trump won't protect them from criminal charges if federal prosecutors can nail them for perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice." Mrs. McC: Hicks, who was reportedly present at the drafting of the phony reason for the Donnie Jr. meeting, might follow her lawyer's advice & rat on Donnie Sr. ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that the Justice Department should 'certainly look at' charging James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director whom President Trump fired, for what she described as leaks of classified information. Ms. Sanders made the remarks after being asked at the White House press briefing whether the president was aware that his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, had said in an interview on '60 Minutes' that firing Mr. Comey was the biggest mistake 'in modern political history.' Ms. Sanders did not answer the question directly, but she said that Mr. Trump had been proven right in firing Mr. Comey in May. Asked whether Mr. Comey should be prosecuted, Ms. Sanders replied, 'That's not the president's role.'" ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Donald Trump's Republican allies have always sought to discredit the Russia investigation by going on offense.... Their first attempt at offense focused on Barack Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice, who Republicans spent days attacking as a sinister 'unmasker,' until the charges against Rice quietly collapsed earlier this month. They have found a new target: the famous dossier on Donald Trump compiled by British intelligence agent turned private investigator Christopher Steele, which they hope to use to discredit former FBI director James Comey.... The dossier, left defenseless, became the 'salacious, unverified Steele Dossier,' the epitome of irresponsible speculation.... But unverified does not mean false. And ... several months of revelations have confirmed a number of Steele's findings.... The FBI reportedly used Steele's reporting in some capacity.... Working from the premise that Steele's dossier is discredited, Republicans hope to attach Comey to it, and thereby sink his reputation. But it's possible their argument will do something else entirely: They might prove Steele was right after all." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... John Hudson of BuzzFeed: "In the third month of Donald Trump's presidency, Vladimir Putin dispatched one of his diplomats to the State Department to deliver a bold proposition: the full normalization of relations between the United States and Russia across all major branches of government. The proposal, spelled out in a detailed document obtained by BuzzFeed News, called for the wholesale restoration of diplomatic, military, and intelligence channels severed between the two countries after Russia's military interventions in Ukraine and Syria. The broad scope of the Kremlin's reset plan came with an ambitious launch date: immediately.... Officials at the White House and State Department ... did not dispute the authenticity [of the document]. They denied giving the Russians explicit indications that their proposal was feasible." ...

... ** David Corn of Mother Jones: "... recent news reports revealing that [Donald] Trump was pursuing a huge development deal in Moscow in late 2015 and early 2016 show that during the campaign Trump committed a tremendous act of deception. On December 2, 2015, during an interview with an Associated Press reporter, Trump was asked about his relationship with a fellow named Felix Sater. Trump, who was then the front-runner in the GOP presidential nomination contest, replied, 'Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I'm not that familiar with him.'... At that very moment Trump was in the middle of the deal to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital and that Sater had put together the venture. As he was running for president, Trump was hiding this project from the American public, and he was insisting he barely knew the man at the center of it. This was serious deceit.... At the time Trump was running for president, he was endeavoring to pull off a major deal in Moscow that required government permission. That is, if Putin didn't favor this project, it wouldn't happen. Trump's right-hand legal man even asked Putin's office to help them. And through all this, Trump was making positive statements about Putin." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Just because Trump reportedly dropped this particular deal in about January 2016 because he could not get financing, doesn't mean his company -- now run by Uday & Qusay -- can't pursue the financing the Trump organization couldn't get earlier. This may help explain Junior's delight in hosting the June 2016 meeting with Russian operatives. Even if the Russians didn't provide the campaign with "dirt" on Hillary Clinton -- the reason for the meeting -- it was no doubt important to Donald Trump Sr. to show Putin he was maintaining a good-faith relationship with Putin & Putin's allies. (And even if the Russians didn't hand Junior a Clinton dossier at the June 2016 meeting (which they may have), they released some of the "dirt" via DCLeaks & Guccifer 2.0 a couple of weeks later. "The U.S. intelligence assessment says with high confidence that DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 were just a front for Russia's military intelligence agency...."

Sarah Sanders' Book Review. Louis Nelson of Politico: "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had one word to describe Hillary Clinton's new tell-all memoir on the 2016 campaign -- 'sad.' 'Whether or not he's going to read Hillary Clinton's book, I'm not sure. I would think he's pretty well-versed on what happened, and I think it's pretty clear to all of America,' Sanders said about ...Donald Trump at Tuesday's press briefing, offering a play on the title of Clinton's book, 'What Happened.'"

Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress: "Several Democratic voting experts including New Hampshire's secretary of state on Tuesday repudiated White House voting commission co-chair Kris Kobach's claim that thousands of out-of-state voters in New Hampshire likely tipped the Senate race to Democrats. Kobach acknowledged he should have hedged his wording, but did not admit he was wrong. In a Breitbart column last week, Kobach claimed that he had definitive proof that more than 5,000 out-of-state voters cast fraudulent ballots in 2016, tipping the Senate and potentially presidential race to Democrats." ...

... Ari Berman of Mother Jones: "Kobach's comments at Tuesday's hearing seemed designed to attack same-day registration in New Hampshire, which has been shown to increase voter turnout in states by up to 10 percent." ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "In late February, the Heritage Foundation learned something 'very disturbing' about President Trump's upcoming 'voter-fraud commission' -- the White House was planning to let Democrats serve on it. 'There isn't a single Democratic official who will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission,' a staffer (whose name has been redacted) at the right-wing think tank told Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an email obtained Tuesday by the Campaign Legal Center through a Freedom of Information Act request. 'That decision alone shows how little the White House understands about this issue.'... The fact that Heritage thinks it would have been perfectly appropriate for the president to let a panel composed entirely of conservative Republicans dictate voting reforms illustrates how instinctively authoritarian some corners of the conservative movement have become.... On Tuesday, at the commission's second meeting in (of all places) New Hampshire, [Kris] Kobach defended his baseless claim [that thousands of non-residents of New Hampshire voted in that state's general election], and was roundly rebuked by the committee's Democrats."

Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "The House unanimously cleared a resolution on Tuesday that condemns white supremacists and urges President Trump to speak out against them. The bipartisan resolution now heads to President Trump's desk for his signature, making it the first formal response by Congress to the violence that broke out during a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., last month. 'Tonight the House passed my resolution condemning hate groups & the Charlottesville attack. POTUS should sign a clear message & sign it ASAP,' tweeted Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), one of those who introduced the resolution.... Warner, along with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) introduced the resolution last week, which cleared both chambers ... in the past 24 hours."

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will introduce legislation on Wednesday that would expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program with the backing of at least 15 Democratic senators -- a record level of support for an idea that had been relegated to the fringes during the last Democratic presidency.... Sanders's bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, has no chance of passage in a Republican-run Congress. But after months of behind-the-scenes meetings and a public pressure campaign, the bill is already backed by most of the senators seen as likely 2020 Democratic candidates -- if not by most senators facing tough reelection battles in 2018.... Private insurers would remain, with fewer customers, to pay for elective treatments such as plastic surgery -- a system similar to Australia, which President Trump has praised for having a 'much better' insurance regime than the United States. But the market-based changes of the Affordable Care Act would be replaced as Medicare becomes the country's universal insurer. Doctors would be reimbursed by the government; providers would sign a yearly participation agreement with Medicare to remain with the system." ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer don't back Sanders's bill, and some argue that the Democrats are making a huge mistake by launching into another treacherous health care debate after just barely saving Obamacare. But for better or for worse, Sanders has officially managed, with astonishing speed, to make 'Medicare for All' a mainstream Democratic policy." ...

... Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel op-ed: "Every American should have affordable health coverage, and there is more we can do to make that a reality. I always have believed that our goal must be universal health care coverage for everyone, and my support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation being introduced this week is a statement of that belief." ...

... Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg: "The Senate's most conservative Democrat said Tuesday Congress should consider adopting a single-payer health-care system, a sign of how fast politics are shifting on what was once seen as a fringe issue on the left. 'It should be explored,' said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who faces re-election next year in a state ... Donald Trump carried by 42 points. 'I want to know what happens in all the countries that have it -- how well it works or the challenges they have.' Manchin, who was considered by Trump for a cabinet post, said he hopes the legislation will be considered by a congressional committee. He added that he's not ready to sign onto the Medicare-for-all proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont...."

** Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Over the objections of four liberal justices, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday night that Texas does not immediately have to redraw electoral districts that a lower court found diminished the influence of minority voters. The 5-to-4 ruling almost surely means the 2018 midterm elections will be conducted in the disputed congressional and legislative districts. The justices gave no reasons in their one-paragraph statement granting a request from Texas that it not be forced to draw new districts until the Supreme Court reviewed the lower court's decision.... But the court's liberals -- Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- signaled their unhappiness by noting they would not have agreed to Texas's request. The court's intervention was a victory for Texas Republicans, who had drawn the districts. It disappointed civil rights groups, who had noted that even though growth in the state's Hispanic population was the reason for additional congressional seats, none were drawn to favor minority candidates. The decision was yet another indication of the influence of President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch..."

Robert Barnes & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court agreed with the Trump administration Tuesday and put on hold a lower court decision that would have allowed more refugees to enter the country. The court issued a one-paragraph statement granting the administration's request for a stay of the latest legal maneuvering involving the president's executive order on immigration. There were no recorded dissents to the decision. At issue is whether the president can block a group of about 24,000 refugees, who have assurances from sponsors, from entering the United States. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had interpreted a Supreme Court directive this summer to mean that they should be allowed in, but the government objected." ...

... MEANWHILE. Julie Davis & Miriam Jordan of the New York Times: "The Trump administration is considering reducing the number of refugees admitted to the country over the next year to below 50,000, according to current and former government officials familiar with the discussions, the lowest number since at least 1980.... No final decision has been made, according to the officials, but as the issue is being debated, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the administration to bar almost any refugees from entering the country while it considers challenges to the travel ban order. The court will hear arguments in the case next month."

** Death of an American Hero. Robert McFadden of the New York Times: "Edith Windsor, the gay-rights activist whose landmark case led the Supreme Court to grant same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time and rights to a host of federal benefits that until then only married heterosexuals had enjoyed, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 88. Her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, confirmed the death, at a hospital, but did not specify a cause. They were married in 2016. Four decades after the Stonewall Inn uprising fueled the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in America, Ms. Windsor, the widow of a woman with whom she had lived much of her life, became the lead plaintiff in what is widely regarded as the second most important Supreme Court ruling in the national battle over same-sex marriage rights."

David Moye of the Huffington Post: "After a Los Angeles-based photographer accused '60 Minutes' of purposely altering the color to make former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon 'look like a bleary-eyed drunk' in an interview, journalism experts were quick to throw shade on the colorful conspiracy theory. In a new YouTube video, Peter Duke theorized that CBS technicians increased saturation on the shots of Bannon to make his eyes and lips red.... '60 Minutes' spokesman Kevin Tedesco was quick to dismiss Duke's theory of media bias. 'It's nonsense,' he said by email. Susan Farkas, a former senior producer for broadcast standards at NBC, and currently a journalism professor at the City University of New York, said..., 'The tendency is to make people look better,' Farkas said. 'When I saw the interview, I actually thought he looked better. They smoothed over his skin.'" Mrs. McC: So we weren't the only ones to think Bannon looked like a bleary-eyed drunk.

Heather Long of the Washington Post: "The incomes of middle-class Americans rose last year to the highest level ever recorded by the Census Bureau, as poverty declined and the scars of the past decade's Great Recession seemed to finally fade. Median household income rose to $59,039 in 2016, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year and the second consecutive year of healthy gains, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The nation's poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, returning nearly to what it was in 2007 before a financial crisis and deep recession walloped workers in ways that were still felt years later. The new data, along with another census report showing the rate of Americans lacking health insurance to be at its lowest-ever last year, suggest that Americans were actually in a position of increasing financial strength as President Trump, who tapped into anger about the economy, came to office this year. ...

     ... [BUT] "Inequality remains high, with the top fifth of earners taking home more than half of all overall income, a record. And yawning racial disparities remain, with the median African American household earning only $39,490, compared with more than $65,000 for whites and over $81,000 for Asians.... Meanwhile, the rate of people without health insurance declined only slightly last year, to 8.8 percent, the Census Bureau said. The Trump administration is widely expected to cut back on programs that promote enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, meaning that the ranks of the 28.1 million uninsured Americans might grow."

Beyond the Beltway

Jim Brunner & Daniel Beekman of the Seattle Times: "Seattle Mayor Ed Murray resigned Tuesday, just hours after new allegations that he had sexually abused a younger cousin decades ago in New York. Murray, a former Democratic state legislator elected mayor in 2013, said in a statement he is resigning effective 5 p.m. Wednesday.... City Council President Bruce Harrell will temporarily serve as mayor and will decide within five days whether to fill out the remainder of Murray’s term. If he decides against it, the council would pick another of its members to serve as mayor until the Nov. 7 election results are certified."

Reader Comments (19)

Since the death of Dark Lord Scalia, and the Confederates' malicious scheme to deny a sitting president his choice for a replacement, we've had a bit of a reprieve from decisions largely favoring the hard right extremists. But now the eye of that hurricane is moving on and we're back in the fetid whirlwind of hatred and legal machinations designed to favor one party only. The right leaning weeds will soon overrun the court. Should the Idiot in Chief get to make one more appointment, we will have ourselves a true Supreme Kangaroo Court. A rubber stamp for the far right wet dreams of every winger crackpot in the country.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

When Hillary went down to coal country and said that jobs in the coal industry were going to be kaput, she also added that she had ideas about job training and community college, but at the time the opposition to anything Clinton only cited the first part of her statement, not the latter. Well, now her proposals are taking off. Here's a piece about job training and community college that are putting coal miners on a new path. (with video). Listening to the pride in some of these former coal miners is uplighting. "I never thought I could go to college" one said, smiling ear to ear.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/job-training-community-college-put-coal-miners-new-path/

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

And here's our old friend Garrison Keillor who is asking some pretty durn good questions about the state of the state of Texas that he says believes in self-reliance and is suspicious of Washington sticking its big nose (hello Ted Cruz) in your bus-in-ness. Government is not the answer they always tell us.

"I'm all in favor of pouring money into Texas but I am a bleeding heart liberal who favors single-payer health care. How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being struck by cancer? I'm only asking."

http://digitaledition.courant.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=b1052c27-1e3c-47e7-a518-526b74d3569f

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

We took different routes, but Mr.Keillor and I arrived at the same destination.

This appeared in today's local paper:

"Texas’ need for federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Harvey reminds me of a friend who entertained us with stories of his frequently appalling escapades.

“Tim” was a big city boy, by my standards a rich kid.  He was daring and funny, generous to friends but thoughtless about people he didn’t know. He knew how to behave, but often chose to thumb his nose at the rules. He fascinated me.

I didn’t grow up with Tim.  I was a small-town kid, and our boyhoods couldn’t have been more different.  Maybe that’s why I never fully understood what made Tim tick, and now that Harvey has slammed Texas, I’m thinking again of the puzzle Tim’s behavior presented.

I can’t recall what prank Tim and his friends pulled to get him hauled to jail, but Tim told me his father said, “Tough,” and threatened not to bail him out.

Now it’s Texas that wants bailing to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Unlike Tim, Texans need the help and should get it, even though their government encourages unbridled development, builds thoughtlessly on flood plains and is home to a petrochemical industry that enthusiastically pumps enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to bring us 500-year floods nearly every year.  

Texas is also the state whose legislators refused to support federal assistance for Hurricane Sandy (which struck New Jersey and New York), and whose politicians talk so often of secession they’ve indoctrinated their youth with the Texas go-it-alone fantasy. A Texas Boys State gathering actually voted to secede from the Union (NYTimes.com).

In retrospect, maybe Tim wasn’t much of a puzzle at all. His entertaining exploits aside, Tim was simply a very spoiled young man, who thought mostly of himself.

He was just like most Texas legislators, but far more fun."

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

PD, thanks for the Keillor link. Says it all about the meaning of 'conservative'. No government, except for me.

And the Hand in Hand TV show last night showed the real meaning of United SA. I doubt if the white supremacists enjoyed it.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Akhilleus,

Have the same court fears and along that line would recommend Ian Millhiser's "Injustices," which I'm currently reading in an effort to gird myself for the outrages I also think are coming.

Thought by immersing myself in a sea of past Supreme attacks on the vision of the Bill of Rights, I might vaccinate myself ala Jenner's cowpox technique against all that Gorsuch portends, but the downside is that cowpox does make one a little sick.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Ken,

As does Gorsuch.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Wingerworld

Back when I was still a relatively fresh college freshman, a film came out called "Westworld". It was written and directed by sci-fi writer Michael Crichton whose "Andromeda Strain" I had devoured a few years earlier. The premise in Westworld (now a revamped HBO series) was that vacationers to a high-tech paradise could visit different "worlds", such as a medieval castle, the Roman forum, and the old west. In the Westworld area, greenhorns from back East could walk into a saloon, get into a gunfight with a fairly scary looking gunslinger, and win. The gunslinger was a robot. In this case, played by the very serious and deadly looking Yul Brynner. Pretty soon (as happens in all Crichton stories), bad shit starts to happen. Looking back now, it all looks pretty quaint. As computerized characters start to act up and go off the reservation, so to speak, the situation is described as a sort of contagious infection, what we today would call a computer virus. This idea is poo-poohed. Today, not so much.

The Yul Brynner character catches the virus and begins to run amok, he becomes an implacable foe, calmly tracking down vacationers to kill. He doesn't care about programming rules, morality, ethics, he can't be shut off or reasoned with. His job, as he sees it, is to win the gunfight and shoot the other guy dead.

This character has been resurrected by none other than Little King Donnie. This implacable killing machine is now played by Neil Gorsuch. Watch out for him, because neither legal reasoning, precedent, case law, nor a sense of justice will dissuade him from his appointed rounds, that of destroying any and all legal barriers to Wingerworld.

The Yul Brynner robot was stopped by acid and torches and explosive devices. I doubt we can use any of those to stop the Neil Gorsuch robot. He's coming. And he can't be stopped.

On a lighter note, looking at the cast of that original film, I see that the chief technician whose robots descend into murder and chaos was played by a guy named Oppenheimer! (Cue Twilight Zone music). Another character was played by Majel Barret, a member of sci-fi royalty. Besides being married to Gene Roddenberry, she played a number of Star Trek characters, but her best known "appearance" was as the voice of the computers in almost all of the Star Trek series and films. "Warning. Hull breach in fifteen seconds. Destruction imminent."

Maybe we can get her to do announcements during the Supreme Court sessions.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Unless Democrats take over control of the House in 2018 & both Trump & Pence are impeached or resign -- and it's unlikely all this will happen -- we are stuck with a Republican president until 2020. The next best thing is to do with the Supremes is to (1) hope a liberal Democrat wins the presidency in 2020 & (2) bribe a few confederate justices to resign. You probably couldn't bribe most of the liberal justices to resign, but confederates are notorious money-grubbers, so I can imagine a few of them would be happy to become partners in some big law firm that offered them fabulous multi-million-dollar up-front "signing bonuses." The source of the bonuses could be pretty obscure, but wouldn't it be great if it turned out that finally a few right-wing conspiracy theories turned out to be true? If & when reliable reports of the bribes came out, there would be a scandal, of course, but it wouldn't change the make-up of the Court. The bribees couldn't just get their old government jobs back & kick out the new kids on the bench.

Of course I'm kidding. Mostly.

September 13, 2017 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Single payer is good policy, but terrible timing IMO.

So far, Obamacare remains intact, and the percentage of uninsured is historically low. If the GOP had been able to kick off millions as they so dreamed, I can understand proposing such a drastic shift as the public might actually go along after realizing that they're about to be kicked back into the abyss.

But that's not the case, for anyone.

Instead, Democrats would be handing Republicans a giant single-issue hammer to relentlessly lie and foment fear of skyrocketing fees and the end of days.

I hate to say it, but the best way to get to a better healthcare system is only after Republicans make the current one explode, and then leaving the millions of Americans to flounder and suffer for at least one election cycle before rolling out a truly better system and ensuring at least those millions of votes to get back in the healthcare system. It may be a cynical strategy, and it would certainly cause needless pain and perhaps death, but what are the alternatives? Any Republican plan will be worse.

But proposing single-payer now, when most Americans are just now getting settled into the ACA-model, is too much change too fast, and not an urgent priority. The most urgent priority is taking back power in Congress, and then blunting any policies proposed. Single-payer can wait, Bernie. The stakes are too high.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Ice Skating in Texas

Texas, home of the Loners, the tough, the iconoclasts, the Libertarians, the guv'mint haters.

Until they need it, that is.

It is, of course, no sin to need government and what it can do about big problems. No, government isn't going to come to your ranch and pull your cows out of the water. But it will help with plenty of other things. For which it will get, as usual, no credit.

I've been meaning, for some time, to mention a little experiment in Libertarian fantasy taking place in Texas. A town with no taxes. A town where everyone does just exactly as they please. "Freest Little City in Texas"The they call it.

Of course, there are no police, no services, no new businesses (who would come into a town where the water supply is iffy, there's no security, and no municipal sanitation?) and, at this point, pretty much no town anymore.

Welcome to Van Ormy, TX:

"The abandoned cop cars sat in Trina Reyes’ yard for eight months. She wanted them gone, but there were no police to come get them. Last September, the police department in Von Ormy — a town of 1,300 people just southwest of San Antonio — lost its accreditation after it failed to meet basic standards. Reyes was mayor at the time, so the three patrol cars, as well as the squad’s police radios and its computers, ended up at her home. It was just another low point in a two-year saga that she now counts as one of the most difficult experiences of her life.

'This is one of the worst things I’ve ever done,' she said of being mayor. 'I’ve never dealt with such angry people. I’m washing my hands of everything. … I’m going to travel. I’m going as far away from Von Ormy as I can.'"

Yup. And that's the mayor. The sort of future--an Ayn Rand paradise-- wished for us by the likes of Paul Ryan and Rand Paul had come to Van Ormy. And the town almost disappeared. The former mayor, Martinez de Vara promised "...no charge for building permits, which...would be hand-delivered by city staff. The nanny state would be kept at bay, too. Want to shoot off fireworks? Blast away. Want to smoke in a bar? Light up. Teens wandering around at night? No curfew, no problem."

A few years later, there is no town left.

But guess who thinks that's great? Ahh...I can't fool you guys. REPUBLICANS! Of course!

"The GOP had also taken notice. In 2011 and 2012, Martinez de Vara served as chief of staff to one-term Representative John Garza, a San Antonio Republican. Then, in 2014, Senator Konni Burton, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Fort Worth, brought him on as chief of staff. That session, Burton introduced Senate Bill 710, which would codify the liberty city model as an official form of municipal government, with restrictions on regulations, debt and the implementation of taxes."

So now this guy, de Vara, is the assistant general counsel for the Texas Republican Party. Because nothing says "Republican" like abject failure to deal with reality.

The central problem with Ronald Reagan's oft-quoted quip about government being the problem, ignores the fact that government is not some faceless alien life force. WE are the government. Pretending it's something else allows followers of that canard to kick all problems down the road, to blame all failure on "GOVERNMENT", and such dissimulation invites experiments that are based on completely wrong data. It's like denying that water has to be at 32°F before ice forms, because that's just some liberal lie, then inviting everyone over for an ice skating party and acting surprised when they all drown.

So we'll help out all those Texans, with all that tax money from blue states. Because, at least for now, they're still American citizens. But as soon as it's all cleaned up and Ted Cruz can hop back on his "Government is the Problem" hobby horse, they'll be back to their old tricks and inviting everyone over for a fun time skating on the pond.

In July.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Safari,

You make a good point, but in the present political climate I don't see the single payer or medicare for all options so much as solid policy proposals with any chance of lurching into existence but rather as a litmus test for the Democrats trying to figure out who they really are.

Purification has been taking place in the Republican Party for the last fifty years and with the Pretender's election and the current supine Republican leadership in both the party and in Congress we now know exactly who they are (won't bother to list all the atrocities they promulgate or countenance because we here know them only too well).

I see the same thing happening on the Democratic side. What does the 2017 Democratic Party stand for? Don't know where it will end up but Democrats seem to be moving beyond their dalliance with neoliberalism and the limitations of the identity politics the party has actively practiced in the last few election cycles.

As you suggest, healthcare as a right may well bite Democrats in the butt in the near future, but over the longer term I'm thinking it's a winner.

And not nearly as divisive as abortion or gun rights.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

...and a nudder thing...

So I was going to add a coda to the above comment about a Libertarian experiment in Texas gone comically bad, but I decided instead to "reprint" a comment I made a few years ago on this exact topic. Rather than rehash the whole thing, it made more sense to copy and paste. The original comment was made in response to a Krugman column on the deficiencies of Libertarianism as a going concern. It was going, all right. It came and went. Certain idiots are trying to bring it back.

Anyway:

"I appreciate the lure of Libertarianism. At one time I dabbled in it too, back when I was a sophomore in college. I had just read what became the philosophical bible of Libertarians, Robert Nozick's 'Anarchy, State, Utopia'. It was a fascinating tour along the fault lines of liberal democracy and it was, for me, my first deep submersion into a political philosophy. But even as as a slightly callow fellow, I had to reject Prof. Nozick's conclusions. Even after carefully following through the whole big megillah, I felt that the thing was either too arch or too artificial. Maybe both.

I felt it lacked, for want of a more accurate term, humanity, even though the stated goal was to provide absolute freedom for humanity. That freedom even extended to being free of that humanity itself. You wanna be a misanthropic dickhead? Go right ahead. This is the part of Libertarianism that so intrigued Ayn Rand and her blithering followers (lookin' at you Lyin' Ryan), the idea that you can make it all about yourself and to hell with everyone else. What Rand did was to make that sideline option the final goal.

Some years later I discovered that a prominent philosopher agreed with me. It was Robert Nozick himself. In an essay published in his collection 'The Examined Life' (Nozick is nothing if not eminently interesting. His work is what I believe Stanley Cavell has always talked about when he refers to philosophy being explicated in 'plain language'; worth more than a glance, if you're so inclined), called 'The Zigzag of Politics'. Nozick, recognizing the shortcomings of Libertarianism, regroups:

'The libertarian position I once propounded now seems to me seriously inadequate, in part because it did not fully knit the humane considerations and joint cooperative activities it left room for more closely into its fabric.' He goes on to say '...the libertarian view looked solely at the purpose of government, not its meaning; hence, it took an unduly narrow view of purpose, too'.

Nozick is getting at what government can do--necessary things--that none of us can do on our own, not even corporations. Krugman refers to such enterprises. This is perhaps a primary reason conservatives want the ACA abolished and Social Security turned over to their big banking buddies (who will, of course, run it into the ground after looting it for all it's worth). They want to kill anything that makes it look like government can do good things, necessary things, and do them well. This is why, for people like Ryan, government just HAS to be bad.

Nozick talks about the idea of the relational ties that joint political (governmental) action can bring about. He addresses the problem that certain approaches can have when faced with the need for addressing issues such as economic inequality and caring for those who cannot care for themselves. Ayn Rand and her sociopathic pupils would just as soon let them die (it's all about 'me', remember?), but Nozick points out that even though citizens have the right not to give a shit about the poor (or medical care reform, or discrimination, or phosphates in the Great Lakes), that does not mean they don't have to help foot the bill (vis-a-vis paying taxes).

So there you have it. One of the leading intellectual lights of the Libertarian movement recants. And a Nobel economist declares it unworkable as an economic theory. A fantasy.

Libertarianism is still a nice pipe dream, but that's about it. It doesn't work in the real world. Gene Rodenberry's idea of a Federation of Planets is a more realistic political system, and that was on a sci-fi TV show."

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Ak: It's OK. You coulda spelt it nother!

"'Whole Nother': " Wrong or Right? The history of 'nother' goes back longer than you'd think. According to the authorities at Merriam-Webster: Based on the evidence, we have to ultimately rule that nother is indeed a word. It may be informal, but the fact that so many people are talking about it means that it very much exists..

As to the ongoing single-payer debate that seems to have been revived, today Margot Sanger-Katz, NYTimes writes about the pros & cons. Apparently, the take-away is that it is a worrisome issue that is mostly about the cons..or a warning to Progressives, be careful of what you wish for! "How Single-Payer Health Care Could Trip Up Democrats"

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Is Bernie Sanders reaching too far? Also, in line with Margot Sanger-Katz's piece mentioned previously, appears to be this commentary by Jonathan Chait , New York magazine "Bernie Sanders’s Bill Gets America Zero Percent Closer to Single Payer"

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

While we're holding our breaths until someone pushes a certain old lady down the Supreme court steps, trump is busy keeping in practise by strewing impediments on the road to the supreme court in the form of 14 appeals court judges, 18 district judges, and 23 us attorneys. You don't need a liberal supreme court if no liberal appeal can get there.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCowichan's Opinion

After the latest Flynn revelations, I'm beginning to see a new side to this disturbing Putin-Trump love affair, and it involves a deepening of the international right-wing o' sphere:

Firstly, what a clusterfuck! This paragraph from a Guardian article is, just, amazing. Is this real? "The plan called for the creation of an international consortium of US, French, Dutch, Russian, Gulf Arab, British, Ukrainian, and Israeli companies to design and build 40 nuclear power reactors. The plan included a service to maintain control of dangerous spent fuel. One slide provided to the committee said that Rosoboron, a Russian state-owned weapons exporter that is under US sanctions, would provide “total regional security” for the project."

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/13/michael-flynn-promoted-us-russian-nuclear-project-from-white-house

Flynn was the highest national security advisor in our gov't, and was working for the nuclear energy lobby and, in particular, with a Russian company that was obviously under sanctions at the time. Flynn is cooked. Fuck him. He needs to spend years and years in jail; make him a scapegoat if necessary. If Trump would pardon Flynn after so many blatant lies, the rule of law would mean absolutely nothing.

Secondly, how many crazy Putin-initiated "From Russia with Love" stories are we going to undercover? The Buzzfeed article linked above proposing the reestablishment of "full relations" makes political sense seen through Russia conniving. But when all of the Putin initiatives are taken together, how did he honestly think he would get away with all of this, without serious retribution? He hasn't gotten nearly what he deserves for open manipulations, yet he's already pooh-poohing the retaliatory measures. I say he needs a much stronger, giant kick in the ass, and I'm a full supporter of diplomacy. If we cut Russia off down to the bare diplomatic bones, we could still get info from our allies. Putin, however, would be devastated.

This dirty Russian laundry, exposed on a nearly daily basis, is not the work of a master chess player thinking three steps ahead. Putin is desperate, and it smells, like cheap cologne. Putin can hold his dark sneer as long as he wants, but he looks like a flailing sardine right now.

And what does that say about the US, and the GOP in particular? A pee-prick Russian hacked our election, helped elect a bumbling dumbfuck, and the GOP marches on to the orders of the patriotic 1%, tax reform before sovereignty.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commentersafari

First,

MAG and others,

The move toward single payer is certainly salubrious. It is truly the only serious solution to ensuring the type of decent and affordable healthcare all human beings deserve. Like those Texans who believe government assistance is only good if it flows to them, many Republicans will disagree. Of course they do. But I do have to agree with Safari's take that this is probably not the most strategic time. And a good strategy is absolutely necessary. I'm tempted, on one hand to recall the sentiment, "If not us, who? If not now, when?"

Well, the who is pretty clear. Confederates would rather die than guarantee any additional healthcare to the poor, especially minority poors. So the who is us, Democrats.

The when? We may have to massage that a bit.

But here's what I think is important about this discussion, and what offers hope for the future. The inculcation of a serious and important idea can take time. And patience. Look how long it took to get any kind of decent percentage of Americans to back Civil Rights, women's suffrage, entry into WWI. Look how long it took for the abomination of slavery to become an issue worth blood and treasure. Then look at how long it took Confederates to make "government" a dirty word. They worked hard at it. For years. They even got Democratic households who owed their existence to unions to piss on unions. That takes time and effort.

Talking about single payer is a vital and necessary precursor to actually encouraging enough Americans to appreciate how evil the Republican Party has been for decades when it comes to ensuring the improvement of their lives. Too many Americans have been brainwashed by evil (there really is no other word for it)right-wing media and scurrilous politicians into voting against their best interests. Fox has been haranguing Americans for decades. Single payer won't happen overnight, but talking about--seriously--is a good start.

Second,

Safari,

It's absolutely amazing what a no-good, slimy, grifter Michael Flynn is. No wonder Trump loves him. He is a balls-out greedy motherfucker. Americans have a built-in respect for military authority and generals seem to come in for a lion's share of that respect. But Flynn is the poster child for self-interest at the expense of national security and decent public service. Maybe he figures, well, hey, I put in my time and it's time I got my paycheck. ''

I guess that puts him smack dab in the middle of typical Confederate/Republican cupidity and Milton Friedman style self-interest. Goody for him.

My hope is that Flynn gets exactly what he deserves: a jumpsuit the same shade as his former boss's fake hair color.

Asshole.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Safari,

Okay, "pee-prick Russian". Good one.

But one more thing. The GOP does march to the beat of specific orders from the 1%, but tax reform is not one of those orders. Far from it. Tax reform requires serious thought, a revamping of who pays what and how much and why. This could be bad for the 1% who already pay far less than their fair share. So true tax reform is a much different animal--real, across the board tax reform--from what they're looking for, what the little king will deliver, and what Confederate jamokes will gleefully vote for.

The goal here is the lowest tax rates possible for the richest in the country. That's not reform, that's organized, authorized delinquency of civic duty. That's passing on personal responsibility (supposedly a mainstay of Republican political philosophy which has, interestingly, been less visible than the ivory billed woodpecker).

And speaking of peckers...Trump has promised to reveal all the details of his "tax reform" plan in two weeks. This seems to suggest that there IS some kind of actual plan in the works. There isn't. The plan is "I pay less, the rest of you pick up the check."

Talk about pee-pricks.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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