The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, September 15, 2019.

New York Times: "Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88."

Public Service Announcement

September 5: Washington Post: "State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call." The NPR story is here.

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":


Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

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.”


The Commentariat -- September 13, 2019

Afternoon Update:

ABC & Republicans Thought This Was a Good Idea. Grace Segers of CBS News: "A dramatic ad targeting Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aired during the third Democratic debate on Thursday, comparing Ocasio-Cortez's support for democratic socialism to the brutal Khmer Rouge communist regime in Cambodia. The ad shows a picture of the young congresswoman bursting into flame to reveal a picture of a pile of skulls. The narrator of the ad, onetime Republican congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng, is the daughter of Cambodian immigrants. 'This is the face of socialism and ignorance,' Heng says in a voiceover as the picture of Ocasio-Cortez burns.... The ad was produced by New Faces GOP, a newly created Republican super PAC.... Ocasio-Cortez immediately slammed the ad, saying: 'Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren't racist.' '... What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP's white supremacist case,' Ocasio-Cortez wrote in another tweet.... 'GOP's message: No policy, no facts, just displays of violence + corporations like @ABCNetwork & Sinclair who amplify them. They profit from burning my likeness on TV. But who pays for heightened security? Who answers the phones for the threats resulting from a violent, false ad?' Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Friday morning." ~~~

~~~ Aris Folley of the Hill: "Twitter users pushed the 'BoycottABC' hashtag into the social platform's top trending items on Friday after a Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate aired an ad from a GOP super PAC that showed a photo of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) being set on fire."

Frank Bruni of the New York Times argues that even though Elizabeth Warren did not have her most effective debate night, she demonstrated why she has nowhere to go but up.

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Moments after Democrats took the debate stage on Thursday night, President Trump delivered a rambling and disjointed 68-minute speech accusing the news media and the 'radical left' of wanting to destroy America.... Intended as counterprogramming to the 10 Democratic candidates debating in Houston, the president's speech hit virtually every one of his usual political lines as he careened between prepared remarks, ad-libbed attacks and boasts about his record."

Courtney Kube of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's plan to pay for his proposed border wall by taking funds from more than four dozen Air Force military construction projects poses various national security risks for the U.S. armed forces, according to a report compiled by the U.S. Air Force.... The report, obtained by NBC News, details the importance of each of the 51 military projects chosen by the Trump administration to lose their funding, including construction of a new gate to address a growing security concern at an overseas U.S. base [in Turkey and] projects to build facilities to safely store more than $1 billion in munitions overseas...."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal appeals court has resurrected the first lawsuit ... Donald Trump faced over claims that his business dealings violated the Constitution's foreign emoluments clause, which bars federal officials receiving payments from foreign governments. On Friday, a panel of the New York-based 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 2-1, that a district court judge erred in 2017 when he dismissed a lawsuit challenging profits Trump has received from foreign officials doing business with his Washington, D.C., luxury hotel and other Trump-branded properties. The suit also took issue with Trump Organization licensing arrangements approved by foreign governments. The new 2nd Circuit decision sharply rejected a ruling two months ago from another federal appeals court, the Richmond-based 4th Circuit, which tossed out a similar emoluments suit filed in Maryland. Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval said the 4th Circuit and his dissenting 2nd Circuit College Judge John Walker regarded the suits with too much skepticism because they appeared to be politically motivated."

Matt Zapotosky & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "The legal team for Andrew McCabe has asked federal prosecutors in D.C. whether a grand jury had rejected their bid to indict the FBI's former acting director on charges of lying to investigators, pointing to media inquiries and news accounts detailing a series of unusual events in the case." CNN's report is here.

Nancy Cook of Politico: "At a mid-August fundraiser in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Ivanka Trump was asked to name the personality traits she inherited most from her parents. Without much of a pause, Trump told the crowd of roughly 120 high-end donors that her mother gave her an example of how to be a powerful, successful woman. And her father? He passed onto her his moral compass, she said, according to two event attendees." Mrs. McC: Yeah, I think we sorta knew that, but it's still surprising to learn that Ivanka has admitted it. Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

I'm sad to know that the hero of 9/11 has become a liar. -- Judith Nathan Giuliani, on Rudy ~~~

~~~ Mid-Afternoon Soap Opera Break. Sarah Nir of the New York Times: "Last spring, divorce proceedings began for the Giulianis [--Rudy & Judy --] after 16 years of marriage, setting off a rancorous battle that, like most everything Mr. Giuliani touches, demanded attention. In caustic legal proceedings this summer, the separated couple has battled over things as prosaic as her kitchen renovations and as rarefied as his splurges -- $7,131 on fountain pens and another $12,012 on cigars.... A primary issue is Mr. Giuliani's current income. His wife believes that Mr. Giuliani left his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, in 2018, a month after the divorce was filed, and chose to work for President Trump pro bono in order to reduce any future alimony.... Swirled into the current divorce proceedings is more scandal-ready fodder: intimations of Mr. Giuliani's involvement with yet another woman."


There is no morning update today because I got enmeshed in various reactions to debate points made last night & kept working till about 10:40 am ET on them. So if you were here earlier, you might want to take a quick look for links I've since added below. -- Mrs. McCrabbie

Presidential Race 2020

Marc Caputo & Nolan McCaskill of Politico run down some of the highlights of the Democratic presidential debate. Shane Goldmacher & Reid Epstein of the New York Times on the biggest moments in the debate.

New York Times reporters liveblogged the Democratic presidential debate. Politico reporters held a "debate night live chat" here. The linked Politico page includes a livefeed of the debate.

Mrs. McCrabbie: I did have the debate on, but the teevee was in the next room. Every time I head a candidate saying something sensible, it seemed the speaker was Pete Buttigieg, although this was a great moment:

     ~~~ Shifting the Overton Window. Emma Green of the Atlantic: "They're coming to take your guns away. That's the line conservatives have long used as a scare tactic in the United States gun debate. (It's the go-to hyperbole for the National Rifle Association.) Democrats have always contorted themselves to dodge this specific claim, afraid of legal challenges in the long term and, in the near term, alienating moderate voters who care about their Second Amendment rights. But Former Representative Beto O'Rourke of Texas is no longer shying away from this charge.... His impassioned arguments for gun control, born from his lived experience of leaving the campaign trail to sit with the victims of gun violence and their families, may set the Democratic conversation around guns, not least because O'Rourke's competitors seem eager to hand him the mic and listen." ~~~

     ~~~ Elliot Hannon of Slate: In response to Beto O'Rourke's preference for banning assault weapons, "Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain tweeted a not-so-thinly veiled threat at the presidential contender, tweeting 'My AR is ready for you Robert Francis,' calling O'Rourke ... by his first and middle names." O'Rourke responded, "This is a death threat, Representative. Clearly, you shouldn't own an AR-15 -- and neither should anyone else." Hanlon: "The O'Rourke campaign said it reported the 34-year-old state rep's tweet to the FBI. Twitter took down the tweet saying it had violated its terms of service."

Mrs. McCrabbie: The most controversial moment of the debate was when Julian Castro made a not-so-subtle stab at Joe Biden for being so out-of-it he couldn't remember what he'd said about his own health plan two minutes before. I thought Castro's attack was over-the-top because (1) he said it three times, but (2) I'll have to admit it should have struck home because -- although I was doing other things & was paying only a teensy bit of attention to the candidates' arguments for-and-against Medicare-for-All -- I missed Biden's saying one had to buy into the public option under his plan. Well, it turns out it was 44-year-old Julian Castro who was the one having the senior moment. Biden didn't say what Castro said he said. ~~~

     ~~~ Adam Raymond of New York: Castro's "implication was clear, but Castro was wrong. Two minutes prior, Biden said that under his health care plan, 'every single person who is diagnosed with cancer or any other disease can automatically become part of this plan.' And about 10 minutes prior to that, Biden said it more plainly: 'Anyone who can't afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have.'" ~~~

     ~~~ Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact goes to the actual plan posted on Biden's Website: "Biden does require those who want Medicare coverage to 'opt in,' but this requirement is not nearly as significant as Castro makes it seem.... Castro [-- under the plan posted on his Website --] would "allow individuals to obtain supplementary private insurance or opt out of Medicare if they have a high-standard private insurance plan...." But Castro's opt-out plan and Biden's opt-in plan don't seem significantly different." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: A man hears what he wants to hear. Castro clearly preplanned the attack because he felt this was a difference with a distinction. He could have simply argued that Biden was mischaracterizing his plan on the debate stage. Instead, he pretended Biden had called for a "buy-in" "to minutes ago" -- implying that not only did a would-be insured have to take affirmative action to access Biden's public option, he also might have had to put up some cash to get on the plan. Castro planned to take a cheap shot, and he did, even when the attack was counterfactual. ~~~

AFTER THE BREAK: Castro shoves Biden off stage, breaking his hip, then stands over him laughing maniacally. -- Jonathan Chait, in a tweet @9:25 pm ET Thursday

~~~ Contra most observers, Libby Watson of the New Republic doesn't think Biden understands his own healthcare proposal or his rivals'. ~~~

~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Here was a Biden lie I did catch in real time, and no one on the stage challenged it. Miriam Valverde of PolitiFact: "Joe Biden claimed that a key difference between the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump is that Obama didn't 'lock people up in cages.'" Valverde links to several photos published in 2014 of immigrant children housed in chain-link structures. LA Times reporting describes "children in cages," and other reports described the structures as "cages" or "makeshift cages." It is fair to say Biden was not responsible for "putting children in cages," but because of its prominence in the news during Trump's regime, Biden has to know it happened. It is not fair to say that the Obama administration did not do so, & Valverde points out that Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security Secretary at the time, has since admitted as much. ~~~

~~~ Say What?:

~~~ Besides, Biden attested to his age without any help from young Julian. Bridget Read of New York: "Joe Biden has a radical plan for addressing the systemic racism that has defined American life for the past 400 years since slavery: 'Make sure you have a record player on at night.'... Biden seemed to be gesturing toward ... improving the home lives of black children? With outdated audio equipment?... At one moment [he] accidentally referr[ed] to Bernie Sanders as the president.... [At another point,] he was interrupted by protestors, who chanted the numbers of people deported while he served as Vice President: three million." ~~~

~~~ Nobody should be in jail for a non-violent crime. -- Joe Biden, during the debate

So, um, not Donald Trump? Not Paul Manafort? Not Bernie Madoff? Not former governor of Illinois (pick a name)? -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Will Ed Rendell Please STFU. Holly Otterbein & Marc Caputo of Politico: "Former Democratic National Committee chairman and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell sparked a firestorm on social media by escalating attacks on Elizabeth Warren ahead of Thursday's closely watched debate, assailing her as a 'hypocrite' in an op-ed. The article, published Wednesday evening in The Washington Post, came days after Rendell, a top surrogate for Joe Biden, was quoted in The New York Times saying that Warren 'didn't have any trouble' taking his money until she swore off high-dollar fundraisers for her presidential bid this year." ~~~

~~~ Libby Watson of the New Republic: "What would happen if we did not open the newspaper to find an op-ed written by an old, aggrieved white man who has turned his rage about some personal slight against him into a column? Even setting aside the obvious need for more demographic diversity at op-ed pages, what if we just had one day's relief from the teeming multitudes of columnists -- all older, richer, and more conservative than the average American -- that are given space by America's newspapers to forever litigate the case of The People Who Personally Insulted Me v. My Wounded Pride?... In The Washington Post, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has written an op-ed accusing presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren of being a hypocrite on campaign finance. There's a case to be made against Warren on this issue. But in this case, rather than consider the compelling public interest at stake, Rendell has chosen to bizarrely center his criticism on his personal involvement with Warren."

Romney Won't Endorse Trump. Manu Raju of CNN: "Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said Thursday that he's planning to withhold his endorsement in the 2020 race both in the primary and in the general election, underscoring the uneasy relationship between the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee and the leader of his party.... Romney told CNN that he has concerns with the move by several states to cancel their primary contests in a bid to help Trump...." Mrs. McC: Romney said Trump was too mean to have a dog, but if Trump did have a pet, he would make it travel on the roof of his jet.

Will Steakin & Rachel Scott of ABC News: "... Donald Trump's campaign intends to counter-program the Democratic primary debate hosted by ABC News and Univision with an ad blitz that includes two full-page newspaper ads and flying a massive banner in the air that blasts socialism just before candidates take the stage." (Also linked yesterday.)

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday warned that if President Trump strikes a compromise with Democrats to expand background checks for gun purchases along the lines of the 2013 proposal from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), it would demoralize conservative voters and help Democrats capture the White House in 2020. 'If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights, that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren,' Cruz said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor...." ~~~

     ~~~ Steve M.: "After this summer's wave of mass shootings, some people have expressed surprise that the NRA -- weakened, under investigation, and generally in disarray -- still seems to hold sway over the thinking of the president and most elected Republicans on the subject of guns.... I don't think it is the money. I think Republicans are afraid that the NRA worldview has been internalized by so many of their voters that it functions on its own as a check on any Republican who might dare to vote for gun control legislation. I think if the NRA ceased to exist tomorrow, this no-retreat, no-surrender approach to gun laws would still hold sway with a large number of the party's base voters.... [Republican politicians are] afraid of their base. And they'd be afraid of their base even the NRA closed up shop."

Rebecca Shabad & Alex Moe
of NBC News: "The House Judiciary Committee took a big step Thursday morning in its ongoing investigation into whether to recommend the filing of articles of impeachment against ... Donald Trump, passing a resolution that set procedures and rules for future impeachment investigation hearings. The resolution passed along party lines, 24-17." Update: The New York Times story is here. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ David Kirkpatrick & Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "Throughout President Trump's term, officials said this week, the American military has been paying his money-losing Scottish golf resort to provide five-star accommodations to United States military flight crews and other personnel during refueling stops on trips to and from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and other locations. The chairman of the House Oversight committee has questioned if the spending at Turnberry is a violation of a constitutional prohibition on government payments to the president outside of his salary -- a provision known as the emoluments clause. Other House Democrats have said they expect the matter will now figure in their investigation of a possible impeachment.... There is little evidence of a systematic scheme to enrich Mr. Trump. But the military bookings at Turnberry are the latest in a series of episodes in which the president's private businesses have intersected with his public position in ways that he can profit from. The pattern also raises questions about how military officials failed to anticipate the questions that would accompany a large number of American military personnel marching into the opulent halls of one of the president's golf resorts at public expense." Read on.

Trump Aides Trying to Flee That Easy-to-Win China Trade War. Ben White & Adam Behsudi of Politico: "... Donald Trump's top advisers are rushing to find an escape hatch for a series of tariff increases in the coming months, worried about the potential for further economic damage. Many of the president's top economic officials are trying to resurrect the terms they previously were negotiating with China, a deal officials said was '90 percent' done before a sudden impasse this summer, according to a person familiar with the discussions." ~~~

~~~ Toussaint Campbell of CNBC: "Stocks rallied Thursday after ... Donald Trump made 'small concessions' to China by delaying tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods until the last half of October. Trump's 'gesture of goodwill' follows an earlier move by Beijing to exempt 16 types of American products from additional tariffs. Markets also got a boost after the European Central Bank cut its deposit rate and relaunched a bond-buying program."

Lisa Friedman & Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Trump administration on Thursday announced the repeal [link fixed] of a major Obama-era clean water regulation that had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and other bodies of water. The rollback of the 2015 measure, known as the Waters of the United States rule, adds to a lengthy list of environmental rules that the administration has worked to weaken or undo over the past two and a half years." (This is an update of a story linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump's "commitment" to "crystal-clean water" is what I mean by Trump's assault on the language. He isn't merely overturning the meaning of the phrase; he's making it altogether meaningless. "Crystal-clean" then can mean "pure" and "pristine" and "rife with carcinogens" and "filthy." When words have no meaning, everything he says is "true." This is different from an ironical reversal when you say, for instance, "I love it!" when both you & the listener know you're being facetious, and from black code language, which originated in slave days as a subversive means to communicate without raising white suspicions (where, for instance, "cool" means "hot"). ~~~

     ~~~ Bill Chappell of NPR: "The Trump administration is changing the definition of what qualifies as 'waters of the United States,' tossing out an Obama-era regulation that had enhanced protections for wetlands and smaller waterways. Thursday's rollback is the first step in a process that will allow the Trump administration to create its own definition of which waters deserve federal protection. A new rule is expected to be finalized this winter. The repeal ends an 'egregious power grab,' Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler says.... The EPA chief unveiled the shift in U.S. water policy Thursday during an event at the National Association of Manufacturers headquarters in Washington, D.C."

A Good Reason to Hate Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs & Exacerbate Global Warming. Elliot Hannon of Slate: "During the Democratic debate Thursday night, President Trump headed to Baltimore to speak at the Republicans' annual House retreat dinner.... At one point during Trump's typically free-wheeling remarks, the president meandered onto the topic of light bulbs, particularly the decade-long evolution from the old incandescent bulbs to more efficient LED ones, which Trump's administration is currently endeavoring to reverse.... The light bulb thing ... seemed like a frivolous rollback because, despite marginally more expensive bulbs, the savings gained on energy costs are dramatic.... 'The light bulb. People said what's with the light bulb? I said here's the story.... And I looked at it, the bulb that we're being forced to use, number one to me, most importantly, the light's no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.'"

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Try to Enter Here. Azam Ahmed & Paulina Villegas of the New York Times: "Thousands of people fleeing persecution, most from Central America, line up at the United States' southern border every day hoping for asylum. They wait for months, their names slowly crawling up a hand-drawn list until they are allowed to present their case to American immigration authorities. After the United States Supreme Court issued an order this week, almost none of them will be eligible for asylum. The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Trump administration to enforce new rules that bar asylum applications from anyone who has not already been denied asylum in one of the countries they traveled through on their way to the United States. The rule is among the most stringent measures taken by this administration in its battle to halt migration, upending decades of asylum and humanitarian norms." ~~~

~~~ Manny Fernandez, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal officials this week began operating tent-style facilities in Laredo and a handful of other border cities to ease the strain on immigration courts, part of a sweeping set of moves ... -- [including] keeping many asylum applicants waiting ... in Mexico -- ... intended to slow the flow of migrant families across the border. The tent courts, which are also opening in Brownsville, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz., are designed to speed up processing and end the long delays that have allowed many migrants to live and work in the United States for years before their court cases are decided.... The new measures by the administration appear to be having an effect, with federal officials reporting a major decline in border apprehensions last month.... Immigration advocates and lawyers ... called the new tent courts secretive, assembly-line proceedings for lawful asylum seekers, and said the policy has subjected them to kidnapping, assault and extortion. Homeland security officials have denied the public and the news media access to the tent courts...."

Jeff Stein, et al., of the Washington Post: "A team of Trump administration officials toured a California facility once used by the Federal Aviation Administration this week as they searched for a potential site to relocate homeless people, according to three government officials.... President Trump has directed aides to launch a major crackdown on homelessness in California, spurring an effort ... to determine how to deal with sprawling tent camps on the streets of Los Angeles and other cities, officials said.... It ... remains unclear how the federal government could accomplish getting homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles, or what legal authority officials would use to do so.... Some administration officials expressed skepticism that the federal government wanted to get in the business of operating a large homeless shelter in Los Angeles." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Jack Crosbie of Splinter summarizes the WashPo report & comments on what a great idea this is. (Also linked yesterday.)

** Of Course. Matt Zapotosky & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe's legal team has been notified that the Justice Department authorized prosecutors to seek an indictment against him for lying to investigators, according to two people familiar with the matter, though it remains unclear whether McCabe will be charged. McCabe's team was notified of Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen's decision in a message Wednesday, which said, 'The Department rejected your appeal of the United States Attorney's Office's decision in this matter. Any further inquiries should be directed to the United States Attorney's Office,' one person familiar with the matter said. McCabe's team was told last month that line prosecutors had recommended charges, and later, that D.C. U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu had endorsed that decision, a person familiar with the matter said.... The notification comes as a federal grand jury investigating McCabe was suddenly recalled this week after a months-long hiatus -- an indication its members would likely be asked soon to consider bringing charges. But the panel left with no immediate signs of an indictment -- a sign they might have balked, been asked to return later or filed a determination under seal.... McCabe authorized the FBI to begin investigating President Trump and has long been a target of the commander in chief's ire." The USA Today story is here. Politico's story is here. (Also linked yesterday.)

Tracy Jan of the Washington Post: "The Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development found no evidence of misconduct against Secretary Ben Carson in a $31,000 furniture order to replace a dining room set in his secretarial suite, according to a copy of the investigation obtained by The Washington Post. The investigation was launched more than a year ago following accusations that Carson had violated federal appropriations law in 2017 by ordering furniture worth more than $5,000 without notifying congressional appropriators. 'We found no evidence indicating that either Secretary or Mrs. Carson exerted improper influence on any departmental employee in connection with the procurement,' the 14-page report said. HUD officials had obligated $31,561 in agency funds to buy new dining room furniture for Carson's office suite in December 2017 and failed to notify congressional appropriations committees, as required by law, the inspector general said. But Carson ultimately canceled the order in March 2018 following media reports about the large purchase order.... Candy Carson declined to be interviewed during the inspector general's investigation." The Hill's story, based on a Fox "News" report, is here. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Of course the IG found Doc Ben innocent. He said it was his wife's fault. "Carson insisted that he had the furniture order canceled 'immediately' after finding out about it...." Even though, uh, internal emails cast doubt on this story, which Doc Ben told to a House committee.

Thanks, GOP! Jeff Fox of CNBC: "The U.S. government's red ink for fiscal 2019 swelled past the $1 trillion mark in August, the first time that level has been eclipsed in seven years, the Treasury Department reported Thursday. The total shortfall rose to nearly $1.07 trillion, thanks to a difference between revenue and expenses of more than $214.1 billion in August. The government last saw that large of a fiscal deficit in 2012, when the gap was nearly $1.1 trillion. During his presidential campaign..., Donald Trump promised economic growth that would easily take care of the tax cuts and new spending he planned. His 2017 tax break for corporations and individuals has helped contribute to a deficit that has grown from $584.6 billion in 2016.... As the deficit has grown so has the national debt, which is now at $22.5 trillion, up 13% since Trump took office." (Also linked yesterday.)

Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast: "Two fully grown, elected members of the United States Congress have spent two days fighting on Twitter over who loves ... Donald Trump more. Since at least Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Liz Cheney, both Republicans, have been trading barbs online (and on television) over foreign policy and who is in better standing with Trump."

Joan Biskupic of CNN: "Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote against ... Donald Trump's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but only after changing his position behind the scenes, sources familiar with the private Supreme Court deliberations tell CNN." Mrs. McC: But don't kid yourself; Roberts is still an elite-white-guy-confederate jurist, but -- as Biskupic lays out -- he doesn't like it when a shady Cabinet member lies about why he made his policy decisions. (Also linked yesterday.)

Sad News. Yamiche Alcindor of PBS News: "Gregory Cheadle, the black man ... Donald Trump once described at a rally as 'my African American,' is fed up. After two years of frustration with the president's rhetoric on race and the lack of diversity in the administration, Cheadle told PBS NewsHour he has decided to leave the Republican party and run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representative as an independent in 2020. Now, the 62-year-old real estate broker, who supported the Republican approach to the economy, said he sees the party as pursuing a 'pro-white' agenda and using black people like him as 'political pawns.' The final straw for Cheadle came when he watched many Republicans defend Trump's tweets telling four congresswomen of color, who are all American citizens, to go back to their countries, as well as defend the president's attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his comments that Cummings' hometown of Baltimore is 'infested.'" Mrs. McC: And it took Cheadle only three years to catch on. (Also linked yesterday.)

** Daniel Lippman of Politico: "The U.S. government concluded within the last two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cell-phone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, D.C., according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. But unlike most other occasions when flagrant incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel's behavior, one of the former officials said.... The devices were likely intended to spy on ... Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates -- though it's not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful. President Trump is reputed to be lax in observing White House security protocols." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Why, it was just the other day we learned that Trump "has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources... [because] spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders." So Israel can spy on him, but he opposes spying on Israel because then Bibi might not like him. ~~~

~~~ Elliott Hannon of Slate: "Perhaps the most galling part of Politico's reporting is that the Trump administration didn't do anything about it! 'One former senior intelligence official noted that after the FBI and other agencies concluded that the Israelis were most likely responsible for the devices, the Trump administration took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government,' Politico noted. 'The former senior intelligence official criticized how the administration handled the matter, remarking on the striking difference from past administrations....'" ~~~

~~~ Adam Silverman in Balloon Juice: "There are two parts to this operational security breakdown and counterintelligence nightmare. The first is a President who refuses to follow even the most basic rules for maintaining operational security and the second is a client state, Israel, which treats its patron, the US, as if it is a hostile foreign power.... The administration's failure to hold the Israelis accountable for this SIGINT collection operation only encourages them, as well as other foreign actors -- from allies and partners to hostile competitors -- to conduct similar operations in the future.... Anyone who is in contact with the subjects of the collection themselves become targets for collection."

Blake Montgomery of the Daily Beast: "The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is admitting that not only did the school hide donations from Jeffrey Epstein -- he wrote the accused sex trafficker a thank-you letter. 'It is now clear that senior members of the administration were aware of gifts the Media Lab received between 2013 and 2017 from Jeffrey Epstein's foundations,' MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement Thursday afternoon. 'Because the members of my team involved believed it was important that Epstein not use gifts to MIT for publicity or to enhance his own reputation, they asked [MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito] to agree to make clear to Epstein that he could not put his name on them publicly.... Reif's Thursday statement summarized the preliminary findings of an investigation by outside law firm Goodwin Procter into Epstein's connections to the Media Lab ... and to Ito and the university writ large."

Beyond the Beltway

California. Darwin BondGraham of the Guardian: "The private prison industry is set to be upended after California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday banning the facilities from operating in the state. The move will probably also close down four large immigration detention facilities that can hold up to 4,500 people at a time. The legislation is being hailed as a major victory for criminal justice reform because it removes the profit motive from incarceration. It also marks a dramatic departure from California's past, when private prisons were relied on to reduce crowding in state-run facilities.... The state's governor, Gavin Newsom, must still sign AB32, but last year he signaled support for the ban and said during his inaugural speech in January that the state should 'end the outrage of private prisons once and for all'."

News Lede

New York Times: "A potential tropical storm is brewing in the Atlantic and by late Friday could threaten areas of the Bahamas recently devastated by Hurricane Dorian, forecasters warned. The weather system remained a tropical depression but the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 p.m. update that a tropical storm warning was in effect for the Northwestern Bahamas, excluding Andros Island."

Reader Comments (15)

And another entry in the Battle of the Banners:

"The Bush Crash of 2008. 2.6 millions jobs lost. 1.2 million homes.

Brought to you by capitalism"

September 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Crackdown on the homeless? Another nadir in the force for vicious barbarism that is the Trump administration, being done purely to appeal to equally barbaric, heartless, and inhuman Trumpbots. “See how we clean up the trash brought on by godless lib’rul socialists?”
And as with too many other ridiculously simplistic right wing “solutions”, this is an answer that has no understanding of the original question. Crime? More prisons. Addiction? Longer sentences. Gun deaths? Thoughts and prayers. Global warming? Snowball in the senate.

I have no idea what Fatty’s plan is to “crackdown on homelessness” (even the term is fraught with mindless meanness) but I’ll bet you everything I have or ever will have that he doesn’t know either, and I’ll go double or nothing on that bet and say he doesn’t care.

It’s just another chance to kick the weak, the sick, the poor to entertain the insufferable, greedy, inhumane assholes in his base.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Yes, and it isn't clear to me whether or not homeless people would be forced to stay in these warehouses 24/7, effectively making the facilities jails for "vagrants." Or is Trump planning to send marshals around the city day and night picking up the "vagrants" & forcing them into buses that will scurry them back "home" to these lock-ups? Is he going to make them bathe & follow other rules imposed on "residents" of their new "homes"?

And who qualifies as "homeless"? What about a businessperson who has come to town that morning but hasn't checked into a hotel yet? Sounds "homeless" to me. How will Trump's muscle choose their prey? Somebody sitting on a park bench? How about standing on the corner watching all the girls go by? Is there a dress code? -- neat suits good/rumpled sweats bad/hoodies deplorable?

Is there a federal law that one must have a physical domicile? There could be, but I'm not aware of it. If there is one, I'm sure I've at least technically broken it, as I imagine millions of people have at one time or another. If there is no federal law against homelessness, under what law would Trump's agents pick up & effectively incarcerate these lucky duckies? Maybe Trump will declare another fake national emergency, by now better characterized as political emergencies.

And, no, Akhilleus, I won't be taking you up on that bet. Those scouts Trump set on L.A. are on a fool's errand, designed to plate the Fool-in-Chief. But "lock 'em up" is sure to be an oft-repeated chant in Trump's perpetual hate campaign.

September 13, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

While the Dems held their debate last night Fatty was sugar coating once again his greatness at an event in Baltimore. He started by ticking off the names of GOP luminaries that were at the event. In his sing-song listing he referred to Mike Pence as Mike Pounce––never corrected himself, just continued on talking about what a great event this was. Again, tweeter had a field day with this. One wonders what Pence thought about the Putz pronouncing his name as "Pounce"––will probably come up with something clever like....???? But if Fatty himself is furious that he is the butt of another "foe-paw" he'll conjure up another fake sharpie-gate. My favorite cleaning– up- big -dumps– operations was what he said in Helsinki holding Putin up as the innocent but later covered his ass later by saying this:

"The sentence should have been, "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia." Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good"

such fun and games:

I watched the debates: I have nothing to add to above reports except I thought Castro hurt himself by putting himself out there as a Biden bulldog.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Homelessness is another issue no one knew was so complicated.

No one, that is, but anyone with a little knowledge of human behavior and a minimally functiong brain.

The marked corruption that stains everything the Pretender says and does aside, his demonstrable lainess and stupidity may present our greatest danger.

Big, complicated problems can't be solved simply. They can be ignored, yes, or defined out of existence (clean water), but they won't go away, magicked into non-existence by fiat alone.

Where there are many moving parts, it takes many minds and the will of even more to solve a problem. Homelessness, healthcare, displaced populations moving across borders, environmental concerns that also extend across borders, none of these areas can be dealt with effectively without identifying their many contributing variables and then determining and employing the appropriate treatments for each.

Time and again, even the Magic Market has proved itself unable to do the trick.

Instead, these issues demand open minds and a ton of honest effort, all anathema to the Pretender and I suspect to his adherents.

So instead of solutions, we get prisons, cages or warehouses, and tho' they may be redefined or locked up out of sight, the problems don't go away.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes: Maybe Trump is relying on Hitler as his model. Although there is no reference cited, so the assertion may not be valid, "the Nazi government conducted raids on homeless people and in 1938, 11,000 so-called 'work-shy' individuals were arrested by the Third Reich authorities and transferred to concentration camps for labor purposes." According to this PBS report, "In preparation for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, German police rounded up thousands of people they deemed undesirable and sent them to concentration camps. These detainees included homeless people, beggars, and others labeled 'asocial,' as well as hundreds of Gypsies (Sinti). German authorities set up new camps for Gypsies, such as the site at Marzahn, on the outskirts of Berlin, which was not so much a camp as it was an open-air detention site with no facilities, not even toilets."

I'm not really kidding here. First, they came for the immigrants.... Then they came for the homeless.... The "indications" we've been counting for three years are coming to fruition. It might have seemed over-the-top once, but I don't think it's hair-on-fire crazy now to compare Trump to Hitler. It seems to be ... factual.

September 13, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie


Yes, I was tap-dancing around Godwin's law.

Final solutions may be final (for the victims), but they are not solutions.

They can't be because they never identify the problem.

I don't believe the Pretender has Hitler firmly in mind as a model (that would take study and thought), but he and some of his cronies do have a similar cast of mind, given to simple-mindedness, hatefulness, violence and a false sense of their own superiority.

That said, at some level Germany does strike a sympathetic nerve in the Pretender. He repeatedly says his father was born in Germany when he was not. Maybe that means something. Hard to tell.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes: I don't know that it's fair to apply Godwin's law when the Hitler-Trump comparison is becoming so obvious. It's not the debate that's devolving into an argumentum ad Hitlerum but Trump himself. I used to avoid making the argument because it did seem alarmist, but it isn't alarmist any more: Trump is locking up children, he is violating international norms & American tradition in turning away asylum-seekers, and now he's sending out his factotums to see about arranging for some extra-legal roundup of homeless people.

September 13, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie


You're right. Any hesitancy Godwin might have briefly imposed on my thoughts is more than countered by that other Law:

If it walks like a duck...

And how the Pretender (and the nation) got there doesn't matter as much as his evident arrival.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

California is seeking to end privatized prisons.

DiJiT wants to "solve" homelessness.

All we need to do is think up a better name than "poorhouse" or "workhouse" and, badabing, put those homeless in those vacated private prisons, give them some oakum to pick and gruel (or turnip soup) at cost and Bob's your uncle.

Also, we could employ the old Irish or Scots (looking at you DiJiT) solution, turn the poor out on "the roads". They'll die off fairly quickly, and local magistrates will hurry the temporary survivors out of their districts to avoid having to deal with the cadavers. Its an old European solution, and has been working in Africa lately too.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Is this headline not just too...too...?

And I would guess this woman spends a lot of time looking in a mirror.

Don't know what to say.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Patrick: Good points all. I recall reading that in Biblical times, it was preferable to be enslaved rather than "free" to fend for oneself, as slaveholders had an interest in keeping their slaves relatively well-fed & housed in order to get more work out of them, while "free" beggars could anticipate a lifespan of months rather than years. By those standards, Trump's "plan" is really humane.

And imagine how happy Trump's new wards would be to get out in the fresh air & tend to his golf courses. Perhaps the formerly-homeless ladies would enjoy learning to tat handsome laced jabots for their new lord & master. If not, there's always room for floor-scrubbers, bed-makers & toilet-cleaners.

September 13, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

But speaking of the Last (as in the first shall be....) Family's moral compasses, there's this:

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Marie: Interesting that you bring up the Hitler/Trump comparison ( I totally agree, by the way) because I just finished reading a piece by Chris Browning on "Giving in to Hitler" in which he reviews two new books: One on British appeasement and the other on the Munich agreement on Czechoslovakia. Interesting to read how long it took too many to understand Hitler's evil. And of course a reminder of Chamberlain's reluctance to view Hitler as an international prevaricator and warmonger at the very beginning–it was, of course, his downfall. Browning describes Neville's personality: stubbornly subordinated the evidence to the preservation of his own prior convictions. When confronted with an analysis of Hitler's own writings and statements that made his goal of war and anti-semitism perfectly clear he retreated into complete denial and said:

"If I accepted the author's conclusions I should despair, but I don't and I won't."

And here we are with many who refuse to see what is happening in and to this country. There are many Chamberlains but there are many others who are benefiting––at least they think they are. It should have been clear from the start that the man coming down that elevator had sold his soul decades ago and was about to run havoc on this teetering democracy.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Beto's remarks about "taking away" military-style guns is irresponsible and only hurting our cause. No way in hell the government could force the issue, there'd be blood everywhere by amped up ammosexuals. We need to ban the sale of military grade weaponery, close all the bullshit loopholes, and OFFER a gun buy back program. That's the only sensible solution that could even, maybe, somehow pass muster under the current politics.

That said, I feel like this whole Democratic debate is kubaki theater. I know we need to nominate a candidate, but we're so far from normal right now that the whole debate on such and such policy feels like a fools errand at this point.

Either Americans vote for overt fascism or against it. If he pulls out another electoral college victory, after four years of disaster and national self sabotage, we never deserved the democracy the Founders left us.

September 13, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari
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