Discuss: Political Madness All the Time


Lynna is your curator. I don’t think this thread will run dry for a long time.

gop-2016-trump

(Previous thread)

Comments

  1. says

    About that idea of turning Trump’s border wall into a solar power plant:

    […] Factoring in equipment and development costs, the solar project would add an additional $7.6 billion to Trump’s $20 billion border wall.

    If constructed, the border-wall-solar-plant would generate about $221 million in annual profit. Without adjusting for inflation, taxpayers would be in the black after a term of just 125 years.

    Unfortunately, the value of money changes over time. So, discounting at a rate of 10 percent, even 215 years of $221 million annual payments would shrivel up to $2.2 billion in real dollars—leaving a $25.4 billion gap.

    In other words, taxpayers would never recoup their costs.

    It gets worse. “Solar panels aren’t even supposed to last 100 years,” Johnson said in an interview Thursday. “So you’d probably have to replace them at some point.” […]

    Bloomberg link

  2. blf says

    I got a great idea! Let’s fire Archibald Cox!! That’ll stop this witch hunt!!! Trump may sack special counsel in Russia inquiry, says friend:

    President’s allies have begun raising questions about former FBI director Robert Mueller’s impartiality

    High-profile supporters of Donald Trump are turning on special counsel Robert Mueller, […] with one friend of the president floating the possibility he could fire Mueller.

    Trump’s allies have begun raising questions about the former FBI director’s impartiality, suggesting he cannot be trusted to lead the investigation.

    Probably, in current-day lingo, they are JAQing off.

    […]
    Chris Ruddy, a friend of Trump’s and the chief executive of Newsmax, a US news outlet, went so far as to suggest the president was already thinking about “terminating” Mueller.

    […]

    The talk about dismissing Mueller appeared to be coming from Trump allies — including some close to the White House strategist Steve Bannon — who are increasingly frustrated over the prospect of a long and winding inquiry.

    They say Trump did not collude with Russia and see the investigation as a politically motivated sham that handicaps Trump’s ability to execute his agenda, according to one person who advises the White House on how to handle the investigation.

    […]

    The article does not list / detail the alledged “questions”, but from the summary, it seems the wingnuts are annoyed Mueller is hiring competent people (in addition to the matter not somehow magically vanishing, the world not kowtowing to hair furor, and the Entwives still misplaced).

  3. blf says

    Trump trolled by Democrats after staff take turns praising the president (video): “A video of US president Donald Trump listening to each member of his cabinet heaping praise on him and saying they are blessed to serve your agenda has been swiftly mocked by the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who posted his own video to Twitter of his staff showering him in compliments about his hair and television appearances”.

    (I haven’t actually listened to the video, since it started off with the hair furor kowtowthon, instead rapidly putting on Dan Ar Braz & L’héritage des Celtes in an effort to preserve my desk & head.)

  4. blf says

    How the US anti-Muslim marches were defeated:

    […]
    In cities and towns across the country, counterprotesters outnumbered participants in the National March Against Sharia, which ACT for America said it had called for in response to alleged attempts to implement sharia — or Islamic law — in the United States.

    The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) told US media outlets that the anti-Muslim marches were “a bust”.

    In many places, the anti-Muslim marches were shut down or blocked from their routes, while anti-fascist protesters, known colloquially as Antifa[†], confronted and clashed with them in others.

    […]

    In a statement published before the National March Against Sharia, the Refuse Fascism activist group called for counterprotests against the “hateful rallies”.

    “The bottom line: these people are fascists,” the statement said. “They will not go away if ignored; they must be confronted and their programme must be defeated.”

    […]

    In Santa Clara, California, a diverse group of more than a thousand counterprotesters outnumbered the National March Against Sharia participants 20-to-one, according to CAIR.

    […]

    In Syracuse, New York, around 100 black-clad anarchists, socialists and other counterprotesters showed up at the local march and shouted at the ACT organisers as they tried to give speeches, local media reported. “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” they hollered. “Muslims are welcome here.”

    […]

    In New York City, the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) and other groups staged a noise rally in an attempt to drown out the National March Against Sharia participants’ speeches and chants.

    In a press release, MACC said the counterprotest was the first action in a new campaign called “No Platform for Fascism”.

    “These are not just words; they’re actions,” Marisa Holmes, a spokesperson for MACC, told Al Jazeera by telephone before Saturday’s marches. “They need to be confronted both on a discursive level and in the streets.”

    […]

    [In NYC (I think, Al Jazeera isn’t very clear here)] The ACT for America supporters chanted back: Commie scum, off our streets. Others yelled: One people, one nation, end immigration.

    Of course, if they really really mean one people, then one must wonder what the feck they are doing, almost certainly not being First Nations.

    Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes, […] delivered a tirade against Muslims and feminism, mocking rape victims in one part.

    […]

    Brigitte Gabriel, ACT for America’s founder, is a Lebanese American who has in the past accused the Muslim Brotherhood political movement of conspiring to conquer the US. She has also referred to Arabs as barbarians and claimed they have no soul.

    Alia Salem, a Dallas-based Muslim-American and social justice activist, described the relationship between these groups [anti-Muslim & other fascists] as “more an unveiling rather than a convergence.

    “It has the same white supremacist thread running throughout all of it,” she told Al Jazeera by telephone. “I’ve never met a person who is pro-immigration and anti-Muslim, for instance.”

    […]

      † I‘ve only ever seen Al Jazeera use the term Antifa, albeit the article does mention the activist group Northern Colorado Antifa Collective. My initial reaction is “meh”, preferring the clearer term anti-facist. Tomato / tomato, I suppose.

  5. blf says

    Qatar steps up to bat for Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera off the table in any Gulf crisis talks […]:

    Qatari news broadcaster will not be discussed in any negotiations to end blockade against Doha, says foreign minister.

    Al Jazeera Media Network is an “internal affair” and there will be no discussion about the fate of the Doha-based broadcaster with nations that imposed a blockade on Qatar, its foreign minister says.

    Reports have suggested countries behind the economic sanctions on Qatar — Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and others — are demanding the closure of Al Jazeera, a media group that has been targeted in the Middle East because of its critical reporting.

    […]

    After the crisis erupted last week, Saudi Arabia closed Al Jazeera’s bureau in Riyadh and halted its operating license, accusing the network of promoting terrorist groups in the region.

    Jordanian officials quickly followed announcing the closure of the Al Jazeera bureau in Amman and the withdrawal of its operating license.

    Egypt long ago kicked Al Jazeera out of the country after confiscating its Cairo bureau’s equipment.

    The government of President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has locked up several Al Jazeera journalists for months. Producer Mahmoud Hussein has been jailed in Egypt now for 175 days.

    Journalist watchdog Reporter’s Without Borders has condemned the crackdown on Al Jazeera.

    […]

  6. says

    “Russian Breach of 39 States Threatens Future U.S. Elections”:

    Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

    In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

    The scope and sophistication so concerned Obama administration officials that they took an unprecedented step — complaining directly to Moscow over a modern-day “red phone.” In October, two of the people said, the White House contacted the Kremlin on the back channel to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia’s role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict.

    The new details, buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept, show the scope of alleged hacking that federal investigators are scrutinizing as they look into whether Trump campaign officials may have colluded in the efforts. But they also paint a worrisome picture for future elections: The newest portrayal of potentially deep vulnerabilities in the U.S.’s patchwork of voting technologies comes less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress that Moscow isn’t done meddling.

    Such operations need not change votes to be effective. In fact, the Obama administration believed that the Russians were possibly preparing to delete voter registration information or slow vote tallying in order to undermine confidence in the election. That effort went far beyond the carefully timed release of private communications by individuals and parties.

    One former senior U.S. official expressed concern that the Russians now have three years to build on their knowledge of U.S. voting systems before the next presidential election, and there is every reason to believe they will use what they have learned in future attacks.

    In many states, the extent of the Russian infiltration remains unclear. The federal government had no direct authority over state election systems, and some states offered limited cooperation. When then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said last August that the department wanted to declare the systems as national critical infrastructure — a designation that gives the federal government broader powers to intervene — Republicans balked. Only after the election did the two sides eventually reach a deal to make the designation….

    I assume Johnson’s testimony yesterday sparked the disclosure of this information, which the public should have had long ago.

  7. says

    Sessions’ testimony will be on C-SPAN3 at 2:30 ET today. (CNN and MSNBC should be carrying it as well, but I still don’t entirely trust them not to cut away). Expect Sessions to use a variety of means to avoid full, truthful answers.

  8. says

    From John Harwood’s report on Trump’s cabinet of sycophants meeting yesterday:

    …He began with an opening statement laced with the sort of wild, self-congratulatory boasts that are his trademark.

    “Never has there been a president, with few exceptions … who has passed more legislation, done more things,” Trump declared, even though Congress, which is controlled by his party, hasn’t passed any major legislation.

    He hailed his plan for the “single biggest tax cut in American history,” even though he hasn’t proposed a plan and Congress hasn’t acted on one. He said “no one would have believed” his election could have created so many new jobs over the past seven months (1.1 million), even though more jobs (1.3 million) were created in the previous seven months….

  9. says

    ProPublica – “Trump’s Personal Lawyer Boasted That He Got Preet Bharara Fired”:

    Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations.

    Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you,” according to a person familiar with Kasowitz’s account.

    Those who know Kasowitz say he is sometimes prone to exaggerating when regaling them with his exploits. But if true, his assertion adds to the mystery surrounding the motive and timing of Bharara’s firing.

    The Southern District of New York conducts some of the highest profile corporate investigations in the country. According to news reports, it is currently probing Fox News over payments made to settle sexual harassment charges against the network’s former chairman, the late Roger Ailes. The office is also looking into Russian money-laundering allegations at Deutsche Bank, Trump’s principal private lender.

    Trump has…turned to Kasowitz’s firm to fill jobs in the administration. David Friedman, a former name partner of the firm, is now ambassador to Israel. Trump considered former senator and Kasowitz Senior Counsel Joseph Lieberman to replace Comey.

    One of the names floated to replace Bharara is Edward McNally, a partner at Kasowitz’s law firm. More than three months after Bharara was fired, Trump has not nominated anyone to fill the Southern District job or most of the other U.S. attorney positions….

  10. blf says

    If Greg Gianforte were an immigrant, he’d be deported. Not heading to Congress:

    Immigrants are held to a higher standard than citizens. They are deported for far lesser crimes than the Montana Republican plead guilty to

    Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter. After pleading guilty to assault on Monday and receiving a sentence of community service and anger management classes, he will soon become the newest member of Congress. For doing much less, tens of thousands of immigrants are deported every year.

    Gianforte’s assault of Ben Jacobs […] illustrates a double-standard that runs through immigration law: immigrants are held to a higher standard than citizens. Yet politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, regularly tout schemes to separate the good from the bad immigrants. Gianforte’s experience illustrates that regardless where they were born, people cannot be categorized so neatly.

    That’s a reasonable synopsis of why I despise the term — and to a large extent the concept — illegal immigrant. It is possible to unreasonably violate sensible law when exiting one country, or entering or staying in another, but at no point is the very act of moving countries illegal. It’s a fictional classification akin to race and used to demonise & discriminate others. (Of course, I myself could be considered an immigrant, so I do have a polluted ocean in this rotten oar.)

    [… discussion of the hypocritical nonsense of most deportations under Obama & and now the “unhinged” hair furor …]

    Ohio Republican Congressman and the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee Steve Stivers exemplified the willingness to see more than this one incident when he explained: From what I know of Greg Gianforte, this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes. I don’t know Gianforte, so I can’t attest to his character. But on this much I am sure Stivers is correct: [like] all of us, Gianforte is an imperfect person.

    Part of what makes us human is our propensity to fall short of being our best selves. This is true of Gianforte as it is true of immigrants. Yet immigration law does not make much room for imperfect humans. A run-in with the criminal justice system frequently leads into the immigration detention and deportation pipeline. Thanks to the accident of birth, Gianforte heads to Congress despite activity that is far worse than what separates hundreds of thousands of people from their families and friends every year.

  11. blf says

    To understand the following, you need a basic overview of modern Northern Ireland politics. N.Ireland, physically located on the island of Ireland, is part of the UK. N.Ireland has the only UK land border with (the rest of) the EU, specifically with the Irish Republic (Ireland). That border has been, since the Good Friday agreement which stopped the so-called “Troubles”, famously open; it is quite possibly the most open border within the EU.

    Politics anywhere on the island are weird†, albeit in the Republic they can almost be understood after a lifetime of study. Multiple lifetimes are needed in N.Ireland, which is perhaps one reason even the simplest of statements can provoke long & loud arguments.

    There are some more-or-less adult political parties in N.Ireland, and they were an important driving force in setting up the negotiations which led to the Good Friday agreement. However, current politics is divided mostly between two other groups, Sinn Féin and the DUP. Both have generally been considered “untouchable” in both the Republic and the rest of the UK, as both have long connections to paramilitary groups. As part of the Good Friday agreement, they sat down in the same assembly — a remarkable feat. (There is also a mechanism for distributing local minister posts.)

    Since they are rarely capable of resolving disputes with each other, the Good Friday agreement set up some big uncles to try to keep the brats calm. One is the UK’s Northern Ireland Office, a cabinet-level position.

    At the moment, the N.Ireland “government” is broken (again), the proximate cause being a scandal involving the DUP. Adult parties would be able to work through the mess whilst keeping routine functions functioning. But this is N.Ireland, so instead everybody stormed out of the assembly. The uncles are now trying to glue it all back together again.

    Who is one of those uncles? The UK’s Nothern Ireland Office. What do they do? Try to be an “honest broker” between, mostly, Sinn Féin and the DUP. And who now is (or soon will be) in, and arguably controlling, the UK government? Why the DUP of course!

    (I personally consider the N.Ireland Office’s “neutrality” to be a polite fiction.)

    Upshot is people who have some understanding of N.Ireland are really really worried about UK PM May’s sucking up to the DUP. This includes people like former UK PM John Major, who played a large role in initiating the process which ultimately led to the Good Friday agreement.

    He is not happy, Former PM Major warns against Tory pact with DUP:

    […]
    “I am concerned about the deal, I am wary about it, I am dubious about it, both for peace process reasons but also for other reasons as well,” Major said, warning that if peace unravelled. Northern Ireland’s “hard men” could return to violence.

    The former PM, who was central to the start of the peace process, said an alliance with the DUP would jeopardise the UK government’s crucial role as an “honest broker” in Northern Ireland.

    “People shouldn’t regard it as a given,” he said of peace in Northern Ireland. “It isn’t certain, it is under stress. It is fragile. And although I don’t expect it suddenly to collapse — because there is a broad consensus that wishes it to continue — I think we have to take care with it, and take care that everything we do does not exaggerate the underlying differences that still are there in the Northern Ireland community.”

    […]

    “A fundamental part of that peace process is that the UK government needs to be impartial between all the competing interests in Northern Ireland,” he said. “The danger is that however much any government tries, they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal, at Westminster, with one of the Northern Ireland parties.

    “And you never know, in what unpredictable way, events will turn out. And we cannot know if that impartiality is going to be crucial at some stage in the future.”

    Major continued: “The question arises — if they cease to be seen as such by part of the community in Northern Ireland, then one can’t be quite certain how events will unwind. And that worries me a great deal about the peace process.

    “The last thing anybody wishes to see is one or other of the communities so aggrieved that the hard men, who are still there lurking in the corners of the community, decide that they wish to return to some form of violence. We really need to do everything we conceivably can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

    Major also warned against the “baggage” of a deal, not least the DUP seeking extra funding for Northern Ireland, and the potential resentment this could cause among voters in other places […]

      † A famous saying is “there’s a right way, a wrong way, and an Irish way.”

  12. says

    UVA student Otto Warmbier, who had been sentenced to 15 years hard labor for taking down a poster, has been released by the North Korean government and is on his way back to the US. He’s evidently been in a coma for more than a year, after (according to the NK regime) contracting botulism and then being given some sort of sleeping pill from which he never woke.

  13. blf says

    So a Trump-like Caesar was killed on stage. But Republicans spill real blood:

    The same oligarchs currently pushing through a healthcare bill that will kill more people each year than gun homicides want to cry foul over Shakespeare?

    The conservative media is losing its collective marbles over a “provocative” production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Staged by the Public Theater in New York City, the play depicts a suspiciously Trump-like Caesar getting gruesomely assassinated by a group of women and minorities who decide he’s fired.

    […]

    To take it from Fox, the Public Theater’s production is a dangerous piece of propaganda about how murdering tyrants will solve all our problems. But as anyone who did their 10th grade English homework will tell you, the play is deeply critical of political violence.

    Brutus thinks he’s saving the Roman Republic when he stabs his friend on the Senate floor. Instead, he unleashes a chaotic chain of events that ultimately culminate in the deaths of the conspirators, their associates, and the very Republic they were trying to save.

    Fans of Trump should not be boycotting the Public Theater’s sponsors, but thanking it for spreading the message that their lecherous leader deserves to live.

    In a moment of extreme optimism about the Fox News crowd’s desire to understand Shakespeare, Director Oskar Eustis tried to explain. “Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means,” he wrote on the Public Theater’s website. “To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him.” […]

    All this hysteria over an imaginary depiction of violence by an arcane art form nobody really cares about anymore seems especially rich coming from a political sect with gallons of actual blood on its hands.

    After all, these are the same oligarchs currently pushing through a healthcare bill that will kill more people each year than gun homicides, and whose airstrikes killed over 1,000 civilians in Syria and Iraq in the month of March alone.

    The same ones who want to legalize vehicular homicide of protesters, and who think Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group. […]

    Not to mention, these are the same people who cry censorship any time one of their own gets in trouble for saying something that offends liberals. When Trump jokes about sexually assaulting women or murdering his opponent, it’s just talk, and when the alt-right wants to preach eugenics on college campuses, it’s freedom of expression. But when a black socialist feminist gets silenced by death threats, they say nothing. It’s almost like the Republican party only cares about freedom of speech for select groups of people, and not as an across-the-board principle of democracy.

    […]

  14. blf says

    Japan accused of eroding press freedom by UN special rapporteur:

    Investigation prompted by concern over government pressure on country’s media over issues such as Fukushima and WW2
    […]
    In a report submitted to the UN human rights council, [the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression] David Kaye said he had identified “significant worrying signals” about Japan’s record on freedom of expression.

    […]

    While Kaye did not refer to specific reports on the Fukushima meltdown, he did voice concern over the removal from school textbooks of references to Japan’s wartime use of sex slaves.

    Kaye noted the gradual disappearance of references to “comfort women” — tens of thousands of women, mostly from the Korean peninsula, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the war.

    In 1997, all seven history textbooks approved for use in junior high schools addressed wartime sexual slavery, yet none referred to the issue between 2012–15, and only one mentioned it last year.

    Kaye said the lack of public debate over Japan’s wartime role, restrictions on access to information, and government pressure that has led the media to practise self-censorship “require attention lest they undermine Japan’s democratic foundations”.

    […]

    [Japan’s ambassador to the UN, Junichi] Ihara rebutted Kaye’s claim that a law permitting the government to suspend broadcast licences for TV and radio networks for unfair reporting was being used to pressure senior editors into underplaying or ignoring sensitive political stories.

    Last year, the internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, prompted an outcry after saying that broadcasters that repeatedly failed to show fairness in their political coverage, despite official warnings, could be taken off the air.

    Soon after, three veteran news anchors — all with a reputation for grilling government politicians — left their jobs almost simultaneously, sparking allegations that they had been pressured to quit after Abe and his colleagues complained about them during private dinners with media executives.

    […]

    Kaye’s report was similarly critical of the 2014 state secrets law, under which journalists can be imprisoned for up to five years for reporting classified information passed on by whistleblowers. He said the law was “overly broad” and risked being applied arbitrarily, adding that the government “should not be in the position of determining what is fair”.

    […]

    The rift between Japan and the UN widened after Joseph Cannataci, special rapporteur on the right to privacy, said an anti-conspiracy bill being debated in parliament could “lead to undue restrictions to the rights to privacy and to freedom of expression”.

    […]

    Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd in its global press freedom index — the lowest among the G7. The country has slid down the rankings since 2010, when it was placed 11th.

    The proposed anti-conspiracy law is apparently also a nasty piece of work (from the embedded link, Anti-conspiracy bill blasted from all sides over human rights):

    […]
    A statement issued in the name of the JFBA [Japan Federation of Bar Associations] president has said the law “would lead to a society under permanent monitoring, and there is a strong danger of widespread infringement of citizens’ human rights and freedom.”

    Sota Kimura, a constitutional law professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University, noted the possible unconstitutionality of the proposed law […].

    “The Constitution guarantees freedom of thought,” he said. “In terms of restraining punishment, it would not be desirable if it becomes a crime to simply go to a location (of a planned crime).”

    Kenta Yamada, a professor of media law at Senshu University in Tokyo, said the law could be used for more nefarious government plans, such as eliminating from society people it does not want expressing their views.

    Lawyer Teiji Izumiyama raised concerns based on his judicial background of heading the Sendai District Court.

    He pointed out that courts rejected only 0.04 percent of the requests for ordinary arrest warrants submitted by police, casting doubt on the argument that the courts would provide a check on the new law.

    Participants at the gathering also feared the law would make it more difficult to take part in public protests.

    […]

    The Japan Scientists’ Association issued a statement that said the bill was no different from previous failed attempts to criminalize the planning of major crimes. It called for defeating bills that trample on fundamental human rights protected by the Constitution.

    In addition, the Japan P.E.N. Club, an organization of writers, said the law not only could heighten monitoring of people’s lives, but it might also label certain people as terrorists.

    […]

  15. blf says

    I got a giggle from this title, Macron Meets May: Unstoppable Monsieur Europe vs floundering Madame Brexit. Macron and May are meeting today, and the article itself seems a fairly “meh” bit of routine reporting.

    One possibly-interesting tidbit is this speculation:

    Russell Foster, an expert on European and international relations at King’s College London, said that Macron “is now looking more and more like the leader of the EU”. And he warned that the 39-year-old, who has made clear his contempt for Brexit and the leaders of the Leave campaign, “wants a hard Brexit precisely because he is so pro-European”.

    The French president is eager to show the benefits of EU membership and is intent on proving that the 27-member bloc, excluding Britain, is the best shield for European citizens in an age of globalisation.

    “This is Emmanuel Macron’s short window of opportunity to push for a very strong federalist Europe,” Foster added.

  16. blf says

    Emperor Trump’s sycophantic cabinet meeting stinks of Beijing-like obeisance:

    In a shift in political culture, Trump’s cabinet, staff members and even some Republican lawmakers seem increasingly required to praise him publicly

    The ancient Chinese act of kowtowing required touching the ground with one’s forehead in deference to the emperor. The modern American act of kowtowing requires absurdly praising President Donald Trump.

    We thank you for the opportunity and blessing, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said at a June 12 cabinet meeting, to serve your agenda. […]

    Those remarks sound similar to some of the toady public statements of China’s Premier Li Keqiang, who in early March attributed all of the achievements of the past year to the sound leadership of the top of the Communist Party — with his boss China’s President Xi Jinping at its core.

    Sadly for Americans, Trump’s requirement that his underlings praise him is not the only way the president is prodding Washington towards Beijing-like levels of obeisance, opacity, prevarication and corruption. Trump’s insistence on loyalty from government officials […] calls to mind the chief Chinese corruption investigators, heads of the state-security and cyber-security agencies and the journalists who have pledged absolute loyalty to Xi.

    Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway’s February tweet about serving at the pleasure of @POTUS. His message is my message. His goals are my goals, echoes a notorious remark by Mao Zedong’s wife Jiang Qing: I was Chairman Mao’s dog, Jiang Qing said at her 1980 trial. Whomever he told me to bite, I bit.

    And Trump’s attacks on the media — from his February tweet calling the mainstream American media the enemy of the American People, to his recurring attacks on true reporting as fake news — stems from a desire for positive press coverage: the only type of press coverage Chinese media offers on Xi.

    […]

    […] Beijing still repetitively pretends Tibetans and Uighurs live happily under Chinese rule, […] or that Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of assembly. Similarly Trump seems to believe that uttering something — the size of his inauguration crowds, or the breadth of his achievements — makes it so.

    And finally, Jared and Ivanka Kushner are the first American princelings — a Chinese term referring to the sons and daughters of the red aristocracy, who enrich themselves via their family connections and play an exceptionally large role in politics — to wield such power in the White House.

    […]

    There’s a nice snark I redacted from the above excerpt, “the Trump White House leaks like a punctured carburetor.”

  17. blf says

    Hair furor accidentally accomplished something useful, Carlsberg aims for zero carbon emissions after Trump’s Paris pullout:

    […]
    Carlsberg has unveiled plans to reduce its brewery carbon emissions to zero, singling out Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate agreement as a motivating factor.

    The Danish brewer […] said it would eliminate brewery emissions and halve its water usage by 2030 as part of a new sustainability drive.

    This will include closing down small coal power stations at breweries in China, India and Poland, replacing them with renewable sources such as solar panels and biogas. [Huh? How is biogas zero emissions?† –blf]

    Carlsberg’s resolve to go green had been hardened by Trump announcing plans for the US to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, its chief executive Cees t‘Hart said.

    […]

      † I’ll ignore here the production, shipping, and (perhaps) installation of solar panels is also not zero emission. (And biogas is renewable & environmentally less-damaging than coal, so is a considerable improvement despite not being zero emission.)

  18. says

    In comment 26, blf brought us up to date on some of the attempts to restrict the press (all media) in Japan. We’ve also seen attempts to shutter Al Jazeera, which is headquartered in Qatar.

    Here’s another attempt to restrict the press in the USA. From Kasie Hunt:

    ALERT: Reporters at Capitol have been told they are not allow to film interviews with senators in hallways, contrary to years of precedent
    ————–
    CONDITIONS for any interview: Previously granted permission from senator AND Rules Committee of Senate

    WTF? This is Mitch McConnell’s doing. Not normal. Not good.

  19. says

    Trump blocked VoteVets (@votevets) from his Twitter feed.

    VoteVets did not post anything offensive, unless you count their tweet that included a video excerpt of Sean Spicer dedicating 21 seconds to the war in Afghanistan. Spicer being obnoxious is a daily occurrence, so I don’t think VoteVets can be blamed for that.

    VoteVets also posted the definition of sycophant after the butt-kissing Trump cabinet meeting aired.

    All mild stuff, but Trump was too delicate and thin-skinned to let it go. He needs his Twitter account to be a safe space for his assholery.

    https://twitter.com/votevets/status/874599756143755264

  20. says

    Kristin Lemkau, Chief Marketing Officer of JP Morgan Chase, pulled the company’s ads from Megyn Kelly’s show after Kelly gave air time to a Sandy Hook Truther.

    As an advertiser, I’m repulsed that @megynkelly would give a second of airtime to someone who says Sandy Hook and Aurora are hoaxes. Why?
    —————–
    JP Morgan Chase & Co. has asked for its local TV ads and digital ads to be removed from Ms. Kelly’s show and from all NBC news programming until after the show airs, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company doesn’t want any of its ads to appear adjacent to any promotions for the interview, the person added.

    More blowback:

    Sandy Hook Promise, a leading gun violence prevention organization, and NBC host Megyn Kelly have agreed that Kelly will no longer host the organization’s annual Promise Champions Gala on Wednesday, June 14th, in Washington DC. This decision was spurred by NBC’s planned broadcast of Kelly’s interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who believes the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, was a hoax.

    “Sandy Hook Promise cannot support the decision by Megyn or NBC to give any form of voice or platform to Alex Jones and have asked Megyn Kelly to step down as our Promise Champion Gala host,” said Nicole Hockley, co-Founder and Managing Director. “It is our hope that Megyn and NBC reconsider and not broadcast this interview.”

    Link

  21. says

    Follow-up to comment 30. The Senate Rules Chair says, nope, not true.

    Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chair of the Senate Rules Committee, on Tuesday said the panel has not imposed new restrictions on reporters conducting on-camera interviews with senators, despite reports that new barriers were put in place. […]

    He said the committee “has been working with the various galleries to ensure compliance with existing rules in an effort to help provide a safe environment” but has not imposed new guidelines.

    However, something is going on. More from Kasie Hunt:

    WHAT HAPPENED: Reporters were in hallways this morning per usual. Gallery staff were dispatched to issue verbal directive: Stop filming
    —————–
    Gallery staff told us the decision was from the Senate Rules Committee and to call them for future interview permission

    From Kevin Cirilli:

    I was just told I cannot stand outside of the Budget Committee hearing room to interview lawmakers.

    From Marianna Sotomayor:

    NBC’s coverage teams & other TV outlets were waiting to get reactions from senators at several hearings when we were told to evacuate halls

    From Dylan Byers:

    Rep for Mike Matrisian, who gave directive re not filming Senate, is no comment. I ask her name. “I’m not going to give you that,” hangs up.

    From Phil Mattingly:

    This includes the public office buildings, which are open to anyone. This is a very bad policy, designed to restrict coverage. Period.

    From Manu Raju:

    Senate Rules Committee and @SenateSAA trying to SHUT DOWN press access in halls. No more staking out hearings without permission. Not OK.

    From Amy Klobuchar:

    As ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee I call on the majority to allow reporting in the Capitol to proceed as usual.

    From Igor Bobic:

    Sen. @amyklobuchar, the top Dem on Senate Rules, said she found about the press restrictions on social media. Not told by the majority

    From Chuck Schumer:

    Press access should never be restricted unfairly, particularly not when one party is trying to sneak a major bill through Congress.

    From Jeff Merkley:

    This is not right. Free press is essential to our #WeThePeople democracy. Reporters, I’m on your side.

    From Todd Zwillich:

    .@SenatorTimScott suggested to reporters some senators don’t feel safe, so restricting camera access in public hallways is justified.

    From the DNC:

    Republican senators want so badly to hide their healthcare repeal that they’re barring the filming of interviews in their hallways. This is a pathetic and disturbing attempt to silence the press.

  22. blf says

    What is on my own shortlist of reeeeally stoooopid international disputes may, finally, be moving to resolution (or at least a pragmatic breaking of the current stalemate), Macedonia and Greece appear close to settling 27-year dispute over name:

    Skopje sends foreign minister to Athens for talks to end long-standing row between neighbouring states over Macedonia name

    Signalling that a compromise is in the offing, Zoran Zaev, the Balkan state’s new Social Democrat leader, used his first official trip to Brussels on Monday to announce that a solution was possible. “I know that if we have friendly relations and a good approach then a solution is feasible,” he told reporters before talks between Macedonia’s foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, and his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias, in Athens on Wednesday.

    Zaev, whose investiture two weeks ago followed prolonged political turmoil in the former Yugoslav republic, said he wanted the small but strategic nation to join Nato and the EU “in the shortest possible time”. Macedonia, he suggested, could participate in both under the provisional name it currently uses at the UN — FYROM or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “We will try all possible measures to move Macedonia to membership,” said the pro-European prime minister standing alongside Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg.

    […]

    In a television interview the new prime minister said the politics of antagonising Athens would be terminated immediately. “I can only say that the era of monuments, renaming of highways, airports, sports halls and stadiums with historical names ends,” said the leader whose lividly scarred forehead is testimony to the civil unrest that has gripped the mini-state. “We shall generate a politics of joint European future.” Zaev was injured when, in an orgy of violence, a pro-Grueski mob stormed parliament in April [Nikola Grueski is the wingnut who was Macedonia’s pervious PM –blf].

    […]

    In what was seen by Athens as a major compromise, Greece announced in 2007 that it would give its consent to a composite name in which the word Macedonia could feature. At the time the compromise was supported by Panos Kammenos, the leader of the small nationalist Independent Greeks party currently in power with prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist Syriza party.

    Since then, emotions have abated as a sense of realpolitik in both countries has taken root. While Zaev believes membership of Euro-Atlantic bodies will help stabilise his ethnically fractious nation, debt-stricken Greece also sees a solution as bolstering its crisis-wracked economy in the Balkan peninsular.

    […]

    Greece opposes the name “Macedonia”, claiming it’s cultural appropriation (and other things) — Macedonia was the name of Alexander the Great’s empire — and construing from that that that means Macedonia intends to invade; Macedonia’s now-terminated reprisal of deliberately trolling Greece clearly didn’t help.

    (And there are claims of Russian meddling…)

  23. says

    Cable news shouldn’t have on Trump surrogates unless the reporter or someone else is prepared and willing to challenge their falsehoods in real time. Their latest talking point in the attempt to interfere with or shut down the investigation (repeated by Ruddy on MSNBC today) is the disingenuous claim that the investigation itself is illegitimate because no one can point to any underlying crime that’s being investigated. Ari Melber did a two-part segment on The Point on Sunday about the laws related to US people that are or could become part of the probe. These (drawing from my recollection of the show, other reports, and my imagination) include:

    – laws related to computer intrusion
    – laws related to campaign finance and foreign involvement with campaigns
    – laws related to interference with voting systems/processes
    – laws related to dealings with sanctioned people or entities
    – laws related to bribery
    – money-laundering
    – tax evasion
    – the Logan Act
    – espionage
    – FARA
    – lying on security-clearance forms
    – lying to the FBI
    – perjury
    – obstruction of justice

  24. blf says

    Bit of an update on Finland (see @481(previous page)), buried in this France24 article, Hung parliaments, minority and coalition governments: who’s in charge if no one wins?:

    [… I]n Finland, the three-party coalition that has been governing for more than two years announced Monday it would dissolve after the leader of the junior party was replaced with an anti-immigration nationalist whose values were deemed too far out of line with those of his governing partners. A day later, the larger moderate faction of that party split from its more hardline wing, saving the ruling alliance.

    So it sounds like we go back to ignoring Finland… </snark>

  25. blf says

    This is apparently a genuine coincidence, but still awkward, US envoy to Qatar to leave her position this month:

    […]
    “This month, I end my 3 years as US Ambassador to #Qatar. It has been the greatest honor of my life and I’ll miss this great country,” Dana Shell Smith said on Twitter on Tuesday.

    Many US ambassadors leave their posts after serving about three years.

    Yet, there were some suggestions in US media that Shell Smith was leaving her post because of US President Donald Trump’s comments last week that signalled support for Saudi-led moves against Qatar amid a major diplomatic crisis.

    But the State Department said later on Tuesday that the ambassador’s decision had been taken earlier this year.

    […]

    Al Jazeera also understands that Shell Smith’s decision was taken before the Gulf diplomatic crisis erupted last week.

    […]

    Hours after the Saudi-led moves were announced against Qatar, Shell Smith had taken to Twitter to repost some of her previous statements praising Doha’s efforts in fighting “terrorism” financing and its role in countering the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS [daesh]) armed group.

    […]

    Last month she appeared to express dissatisfaction with political events back home in another message posted on social media.

    She took to Twitter in the hours after Trump’s dramatic sacking of FBI director James Comey, tweeting: “Increasingly difficult to wake up overseas to news from home, knowing I will spend today explaining our democracy and institutions.”

    […]

  26. blf says

    Saudi Arabia’s Jubeir: Qatar is not under blockade (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    Foreign Minister Jubeir says Qatar’s airports and ports are open and the move against Doha is a boycott not blockade.
    […]
    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who is in Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, describing measures taken against Qatar as a boycott not a blockade.

    […]

    There is no blockade of Qatar. Qatar is free to go. The ports are open, the airports are open, Jubeir said alongside a silent Tillerson […]

    […]

    Al Jazeera analyst Marwan Bishara said that Saudi Arabia seemed to be toning down its rhetoric against Qatar through Jubeir’s statement.

    “Instead of backtracking on previous Saudi threats to Qatar, {Jubeir} tried to clarify that Qatar is not under blockade and Riyadh was only exercising its sovereign rights with the measures it took,” he said.

    “He tried to express that Saudi Arabia is not imposing aggressive draconian punitive measures against Qatar.”

    Qatar is a country that heavily relies on imports of food and water, among other products.

    […]

    The three Arab Gulf countries also ordered Qatari nationals to leave within 14 days, while Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens were also given the same timeframe to leave Qatar.[†]

    […]

      † From memory, Al Jazeera is misleading here. Qatar has not ordered anyone to leave, the order for Saudi, &tc, nationals to leave Qatar is that of Saudi Arabia, &tc.

  27. says

    SC @41, albeit more craftily, Sessions is following the lead of other Republicans (like Paul Ryan) who have claimed that Trump is innocent of wrongdoing when it comes to trying to quash any investigations because Trump is ignorant.

    That stupid excuse for Trump’s mafia-boss-like actions has already been debunked several times by pointing out that Trump knew he was doing something wrong when he ordered all the witnesses out of the room; and by pointing out that Trump repeatedly excoriated Bill Clinton for meeting with Attorney General Lynch during the campaign. Trump does not get a pass based on ignorance.

    Furthermore, Sessions has now repeated his “Comey should have known better” story line so many times that I feel like he worked with team Trump to come up with that obscure-the-issue-with-bullshit tactic. I am sick of hearing Sessions trot out that line over and over, though you have to give him credit for varying the story a tiny bit every time he repeats it. He put some work in on that.

    Disgusting.

  28. says

    Donald Trump Junior gave his opinion of Sessions’ opening statement:

    Crushed it.

    This makes me believe even more strongly that Junior is involved in Daddy’s politics and policy-making, and that Sessions made use of team Trump when preparing his opening statement.

  29. says

    Excerpts from Sessions’ opening statement:

    […] The scope of my recusal, however, does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the FBI, which has an $8 billion budget and 35,000 employees. I presented to the President my concerns, and those of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, about the ongoing leadership issues at the FBI as stated in my letter recommending the removal of Mr. Comey along with the Deputy Attorney General’s memorandum, which have been released publicly by the White House. It is a clear statement of my views. It is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation would render an Attorney General unable to manage the leadership of the various Department of Justice law enforcement components that conduct thousands of investigations.

    Finally, during his testimony, Mr. Comey discussed a conversation he and I had about a meeting Mr. Comey had with the President. I am happy to share with the committee my recollection of the conversation I had with Mr. Comey. Following a routine morning threat briefing, Mr. Comey spoke to me and my Chief of Staff. While he did not provide me with any of the substance of his conversation with the President, Mr. Comey expressed concern about the proper communications protocol with the White House and with the President. I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow Department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House.

    [Here is some of the blame-comet content] Mr. Comey had served in the Department of Justice for the better part of two decades, and I was confident that Mr. Comey understood and would abide by the Department’s well-established rules governing any communications with the White House about ongoing investigations. My comments encouraged him to do just that and indeed, as I understand, he did. Our Department of Justice rules on proper communication between the Department and the White House have been in place for years. Mr. Comey well knew them, I thought, and assumed correctly that he complied with them.

    […] I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for President, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations. At all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process, and since becoming Attorney General, I have dedicated myself to the highest standards. […]

    These false attacks, the innuendo, and the leaks, you can be sure, will not intimidate me. In fact, these events have only strengthened my resolve to fulfill my duty to reduce crime, and to support our federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who work our streets every day.

    [And here is the fear-mongering, “be afraid, be very afraid” content] Just last week, it was reported that overdose deaths in this country are rising faster than ever recorded. The murder rate is up over 10 percent—the largest increase since 1968. Together, we are telling the gangs, the cartels, the fraudsters, and the terrorists—we are coming after you. Every one of our citizens, no matter who they are or where they live, has the right to be safe in their homes and communities. And I will not be deterred, and I will not allow this great Department to be deterred from its vital mission. […]

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sessions-opening-statement

  30. says

    The whereabouts of that other set of Comey memos has been cleared up:

    […] Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor who Comey identified last week as the go-between who helped disseminate the content of his memos to the press last month, said he is turning the materials over to the FBI […]

    Richman’s decision comes as several congressional committees have asked for copies of Comey’s memos. […]

    Link

    Seems like a wise move on Richman’s part.

  31. says

    Sessions seems to be working hard to get back into Trump’s good graces.

    Sen. Heinrich finally pins Sessions in an attempt to figure out just what this non-executive privilege standard of disclosure Sessions has been citing in his refusal to answer questions is:

    Heinrich: Attorney General Sessions, has the president ever expressed his frustration to you regarding your decision to recuse yourself?

    Sessions: Senator, I’m not able to share with this committee private communication.

    Heinrich: Because you’re invoking executive privilege.

    Sessions: I’m not able to invoke executive privilege.

    Heinrich: You took an oath. You raised your right hand here today and you said that you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing built the truth. And now you’re not answering questions. You’re impeding this investigation. So my understanding of the legal standard is that you either answer the question, that’s the best outcome. You say, “This is classified. Can’t answer it here. I’ll answer it in closed session.” That is bucket number two. Bucket number three is to say, “I’m invoking executive privilege.” There is no appropriateness bucket. It is not a legal standard. Can you tell me what are these long standing DOJ rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoking executive privilege?

    Sessions: I’m protecting the president’s constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to review it. And secondly, I am telling you the truth in answering your question in saying it’s a long standing policy in the Department of Justice — and to make sure the president has full opportunity to decide these issues.

    Heinrich: Can you share those policies with us? Are they written down at the Department of Justice?

    Sessions: I believe they are. Certainly —

    Heinrich: The appropriate legal standard for not answering the inquiries?

    Sessions: It’s my judgement that it is inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer, one. There are also other privileges that could be invoked. […]

    Slate link

  32. blf says

    Pay to sway: report reveals how easy it is to manipulate elections with fake news:

    Fake News Machine research comes amid increasing concern about hacking elections and the ways that fake news on social media has manipulated voters

    Political campaigns can manipulate elections by spending as little as $400,000 on fake news and propaganda, according to a new report that analyzes the costs of swaying public opinion through the spread of misinformation online.

    The report from Trend Micro, a cybersecurity firm, said it also costs just $55,000 to discredit a journalist and $200,000 to instigate a street protest based on false news, shining a light on how easy it has become for cyber propaganda to produce real-world outcomes.

    […] The report delves into the underground marketplaces that can allow campaigns, political parties, private companies and other entities to strategically create and distribute fake content to shift public perceptions.

    The analysis of Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern, and English-based fake news services found that these options offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional advertising and promotional efforts, often by manipulating social networks to spread dubious content.

    […]

    With targeted spending, fake content can spark real protests, the report found. For example, campaigns can create and populate social media groups that discuss relevant ideologies for the cost of about $40,000, Trend Micro wrote.

    To maximize the reach of the content, campaigns can spend $6,000 to gain about 40,000 “high-quality” likes. Within these fake news services, it can also cost $5,000 for 20,000 comments and $2,700 for a false story. Campaigns can further buy retweets and other promotional services, such as the placement of related videos on YouTube that help the stories go viral. It can cost $10,000 to announce and promote a resulting protest on social media.

    A key ingredient, the report noted, is “fake news fabricated as truth that panders to its audience’s ideologies and promises an illusion of the future — enough to compel people to join an imagined cause”.

    […]

    Some of these networks will also distribute real news, allowing the sites to build a reputation and blur the line between propaganda and legitimate content. In total, a yearlong campaign with a $400,000 budget should be able to “manipulate a decisive course of action”, the research found.

    A group that wants to attack a reporter can also easily mount a “four-week fake news campaign to defame the journalist”, the paper said. Weekly propaganda, promoted with 50,000 retweets, garnering 100,000 visits would cost $2,700 a week. In addition to discrediting the journalist, “a more daunting consequence would be how the story, exposé or points the journalist wanted to divulge or raise will be drowned out by a sea of noise fabricated by the campaign”, Trend Micro wrote.

    […]

    [Trend Micro cybersecurity architect Simon] Edwards said the research also highlighted the need for readers and social media users to become more educated in spotting false news: “It’s really important that people think about what it is they ingest and question everything you see.”

    The impression I have, based on this article only (I haven’t read the report itself), is the report is more about what “services” are available, and the claims being made for those “services”, rather than what actually happens or any reliable metrics / measures of what happens or its actual effect. That is, the article gives the impression that by dropping $c.0.4m you get any old thing circulating in various echo chambers by dupes. It might be that easy in some echo chambers, but in the wider world…?

  33. says

    Quick summary:

    – I thought Warner spoke during his opening (which was good) about people in the IC attempting to undermine the investigation. Wasn’t sure what this referred to. Will have to watch again.
    – Sessions offered a weak explanation for his response to Franken’s question during his confirmation hearing – he seems to get flustered fairly easily (see below)
    – Sessions was smarmy, especially at the beginning – kept referring to them as “colleagues”
    – one of his weakest points was the response to questions about Comey’s firing and how it happened
    – He claimed he attended the Mayflower Hotel event as an “interested person.”
    – I thought he was also weak on his description of his meetings with the DoJ ethics people – said it was always about his being a member of the campaign, but then admitted that CFR didn’t actually come up at the first meeting and that it wasn’t until several weeks later that this was decided.
    – He offered the obnoxious answers re Comey discussed above – also added that after Comey talked to him, he thought he needed to “restore discipline” by having Comey better follow the rules.
    – said he hasn’t talked to Trump about Mueller (I don’t know why this wasn’t “privileged,” but his quick denial should make everyone more suspicious that the answers he won’t give are yeses/damaging)
    – offered a series of weak rationalizations for not answering questions that would make him/Trump look bad (they made clear that they’ll follow up)
    – said never talked to Comey about alleged issues with his leadership before firing him, even though he and Rosenstein had discussed it for months, which is, aside from everything, really awful
    – acknowledged re the Russian DNC hacking/release that “it’s likely that laws were violated” “if that actually occurred”; very noncommittal about the reality and extent of the Russian interference
    – he didn’t answer a good question from Heinrich about firing Comey within the context of his recusal, and unfortunately wasn’t called on it
    – he kept saying his conversations advising Trump about some of these matters were privileged, but as Joy Reid pointed out he’s not supposed to be advising on these matters at all given his recusal
    – he admitted his evaluation of Comey was never written, even though it was supposed to be a months-long process
    – he stated he hadn’t asked for or received a briefing on the Russian active measures; then, in response to a question by Manchin about what he thinks they should be focused on (?!), says it should be the Russian active measures; then, during questioning from McCain, says didn’t really talk about the active measures with Trump, and was never asked by Trump about them, over the months of the campaign and didn’t discuss any Russia-related security concerns (or Syria) with Kislyak; also gave very vague and hollow answer about what he and the DoJ are doing about the threat from Russia, despite the fact that it’s a “big concern”
    – Burr and Warner did a solid job. As was the case in previous hearings, the best questioners were Heinrich, Harris (who was again interrupted while she made Sessions “nervous” with her reasonable questions), King, and Reed. I actually thought Reed got him – he had on hand Sessions’ approving comments about Comey’s actions re Clinton during the campaign and contrasted them with Comey’s explanation for firing him. Sessions had no good answer, and looked guilty. He also had no answer when Reed asked him about the obvious fact that the Rosenstein memo (and the explanation therein) was used as a pretext for firing Comey.

  34. says

    Matthew Miller:

    “Testy, defensive, evasive, at times openly hostile. This is not a confident appearance by Sessions.”

    “Takeaway: if Mueller is investigating obstruction, Sessions just earned himself a trip to the grand jury to discuss those convos w/ Trump.”

  35. tomh says

    I thought the Wash Post hit the nail on the head when they began their story on the testimony, “… about the only thing he could recall is that he didn’t do anything wrong.”

  36. says

    I thought the Wash Post hit the nail on the head when they began their story on the testimony, “… about the only thing he could recall is that he didn’t do anything wrong.”

    Yes! I can’t believe I left the endless stream of “I don’t recall”s out of my summary.

  37. blf says

    I can’t believe I left the endless stream of “I don’t recall”s out of my summary.

    You didn’t recall.

  38. blf says

    “It’s unacceptable that Sessions — the top law enforcement official in the country — cannot name his legal basis for evading questions.”

    That’s what article XII of the constitution is about (which also explains why hair furor protects it so strongly).

  39. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    There’s a disturbance in the force. I agree with Trump.

    President* Donald Trump told Republican senators lunching at the White House Tuesday the House-passed health care reform bill he celebrated earlier this year was “mean,” a source told CNN.
    Trump made clear multiple times that he was pleased that the Senate negotiations appeared to be moving away from where the House version of the repeal and replace effort ended up, according to three sources familiar with the meeting.
    Trump told the lawmakers that the House bill didn’t go far enough in protecting individuals in the marketplace — and appeared to use that as his rationale for why he has ambiguously called twice for the Senate to “add more money” to the bill.

    Good thing he didn’t have a keg party to celebrate it’s passage….

  40. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    The Apostrophe Conservation Society wishes to register its objections to the egregious waste of an apostrophe in the previous post.

  41. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC #62, I’ll try to stay up. (fell asleep after dinner last night, and woke up at 2 am).

  42. says

    There’s a disturbance in the force. I agree with Trump.

    Except he doesn’t care that it’s mean, or even what’s in it. He had a healthcare hootenanny when it passed the House. He only cares that the public recognizes that it’s mean (and/or that the public thinks he cares that it’s mean), because it’s affecting his popularity. He actually donated to charity until he realized he could just lie about donating to charity and get similar PR. He only professes to care about veterans when he can use it to enhance his image.

  43. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    So, primary night here in VA. Corey Stewart (CSA) is doing alarmingly well on the Republican side; still too close to call (not that Ed Gillespie is much better).

    Fortunately, on the state level VA is becoming increasingly blue, so there’s a good chance that Northam will win in November.

  44. says

    I think Trump may have just slipped up when he said the House Republican health care bill was “mean.” Yes, it is mean, but Trump usually praises whatever meanness he thinks will put points on the board for him, and he usually praises such meanness with weasel words and/or out and out lies.

    The Senate health care bill is equally mean. Trump can’t magically make it less mean by throwing some more money at it. The foundation of that bill, which is a tax cut for rich people, makes it necessarily mean. (There’s also some anti-abortion stupidity thrown in, and lots of loopholes for insurance companies, etc., the basic problem is that you cannot improve health care for low income and poor people by giving rich people tax cuts.)

  45. tomh says

    Dana Milbank has a good column, “What Republicans are doing while you’re distracted by Sessions and Comey”, starting with a bill that has one of my favorite all-time titles, the Hearing Protection Act. Maybe they’re subsidizing ear plugs? Nah, they’re relaxing restrictions on gun silencers, dealing with that annoying problem of loud noises when you shoot people.

    Repealing financial reforms, blocking illegal immigrants from health care, rushing a secret health-care plan to a vote, those crafty Republicans are busy little bees.

  46. says

    ok I’m going to set off a bomb right here. I was a Berniecrat during the primaries, but was fully onboard with HRC once they were over. I now have changed my mind, and think Bernie is a bad influence on progressive politics, and this thread sums up why in many ways.

    I remember poopyhead being very pro bernie as well, but I haven’t seen him pick a side yet on this internal struggle between these 2 factions within the left. I can’t clearly name name them, maybe “far left” and “progressives”?

    It reeks to me of the days when the skeptic / atheist community split, and it wasn’t hard for me to choose a side then. I’m guessing that most who read this thread and follow poopyhead will agree with me, that bashing HRC and propping up BS (yes, those are his initials) is bad for the party, but I specifically remember poopyhead claiming he would “hold his nose” and vote for HRC after being a Bernie fanboy for quite some time (as was I).

    Has that stance changed? I’d like to know. I consider PZ to be a thought leader, at least in my world, so while I won’t immediately change my mind if he disagrees, it would be nice if he dropped in here and provided his thoughts on this debate that is raging on the internet at large.

  47. anat says

    Senate Republicans are planning on passing their awful and totally inadequate version of healthcare legislation this month. However there are a few Senators who might be persuaded by their constituents to oppose the bill. If any of the following are your senators, please call them and let them know what you think about the healthcare proposal: Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Dean Heller (NV), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Bill Cassidy (LA), Rob Portman (OH), Tom Cotton (AR), Cory Gardner (CO), Jeff Flake (AZ), Pat Toomey (PA) and Dan Sullivan (AK).

    For more information, including a script for your call, see here.

  48. blf says

    Quoting from The Onion in full, Robert Mueller Driving SUV 100 MPH Down Runway As Air Force One Narrowly Lifts Off:

    Sending a pair of guards scrambling for safety as he gunned his black SUV through a chain-link gate and onto the tarmac, Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was recently tapped to lead the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, chased Air Force One down the runway at Joint Base Andrews moments before takeoff, sources reported Tuesday. “Special Counsel — outta my way!” shouted Mueller, swerving around fuel trucks and screeching onto an active taxiway as the Boeing 747 revved its engines to full power and began accelerating for liftoff. “Stop! Stop the goddamn plane! I need to speak with the president!” At press time, Mueller had brought his SUV to a rapid, sliding halt at the end of the runway and could be seen yelling obscenities and pounding the hood of the automobile as the aircraft climbed into the sky and banked away to the northwest.

    I suppose he was a bit too late to stand on the runway in front of the oncoming furor and shout “You shall not pass!” Preferably whilst waving some subpoenas.

  49. says

    “Head of Michigan health department charged with manslaughter in Flint water crisis”:

    The head of the Michigan health department was charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter, the highest-ranking member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to be snagged in a criminal investigation of Flint’s lead-contaminated water.

    Nick Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area, which has been linked by some experts to poor water quality in 2014-15….

  50. militantagnostic says

    Shooting at baseball practice apparently targeting Republican congress people. Shooter had a semi automatic.

    5 wounded including the shooter. Majority House whip is among the wounded. Since the shooter is still alive, dollars to doughnuts he is white.

  51. tomh says

    @ 75
    Seriously? You think that an active shooter, who was spraying bullets around, was carefully wounded instead of killed because of his color?

  52. Rowan vet-tech says

    Well, tomh, considering that I’m extremely damned certain that if the shooter had been black or brown he would be dead…. kinda. ‘Carefully wounded’ not so much, but not shot at with intent to kill by the police? absolutely.

  53. tomh says

    Really, and after the police had their own shot also. By the way, the shooter is dead.

  54. militantagnostic says

    Rowan vet-tech

    Given that it was pistols vs a rifle at a range that favoured the latter. I expect they were simply shooting at the torso. I think the difference comes once the shooter was down, They didn’t finish him off or delay first aid. Another factor may be that the incident was dealt with by the Capitol Hill police and was over by the time local (Alexandria Virginia) police showed up.

  55. says

    Follow-up to comments 72 and 68.

    Politico posted an article that gets to the heart of what Trump wants from the Republican health care bill: he wants good press (and he still doesn’t give an eff about the details).

    […] Republicans risk getting savaged in the 2018 midterms if they fail to repeal Obamacare after a seven-year campaign against the law.

    But he [Trump] made clear that the Senate needs to pass a bill that Republicans are able to more easily defend and is not viewed as an attack on Americans from low-income households, as the House bill has been portrayed by critics, the sources said. He also advocated more robust tax credits for people who buy insurance on the individual market, a move that would increase the bill’s cost. […]

    Trump has told associates that news coverage of the House health care bill was “terrible,” in the words of one associate who has spoken with him. […] aides and associates said he has not liked the news coverage and has shown little interest in what is in the bill — but wants it to be received well. […]

  56. militantagnostic says

    SC @41

    The letters seem quite sane and reasonable. Not a left wing extremist by any means. By rest of the worlds standards a bit left of center. I can see how someone who sees the government as being bought and paid for by few billionaires deciding the bullet is more effective than the ballot in a pseudo democracy.

  57. says

    SC @87, “domestic violence” keeps showing up in guys that decide to shoot other human beings. One has to ask why such individuals still have access to guns.

  58. says

    Reaction from rightwing media:

    [From InfoWars]: We have been warning for months that the mainstream media’s hysterical anti-Trump narrative and the left’s insistence that Trump is illegitimate will radicalize demented social justice warriors and prompt them to lash out with violence. It looks like that’s exactly what happened today. The blood is on their hands.

    When will the mainstream media stop radicalizing domestic terrorists with their hysterical anti-Trump narrative?
    ——————-
    [From Mike Cernovich, a rightwing Twitter “star” who also hosts an InfoWars radio show]: The fake news media is inciting violence, @RealAlexJones and I warned this would happen on yesterday’s broadcast.
    —————–
    [From Editor-at-large Joel Pollack, who wrote that the shooting] may have been a deliberate, premeditated act of political violence […] would be one of the worst acts of political violence in the United States in decades.

    [Democrats] rushed to blame the Tea Party for the mass shooting that nearly killed then-Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson in 2011, [but] the perpetrator was mentally disturbed and did not have political motivations.

    Regardless of whether the gunman intended to kill Republicans specifically, if he asked about political affiliations before the attack, that would likely be enough to classify the event as an act of domestic terrorism.
    ————————
    [From Bill Mitchell, a pro-Trump radio hos]: Between sick Kathy Griffin, plays portraying Trump’s assassination [Shakespeare in the Park in NYC] and Antifa violence, is this surprising?

    The Left in this country is ushering in a new #CultureOfViolence where violent hate is the new normal. #DomesticTerrorists.
    ————————–
    [From Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York]: I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric. The rhetoric has been outrageous – the finger-pointing, just the tone and the angst and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters. Really, then, you know, some people react to things like that. They get angry as well. And then you fuel the fires.

    Maybe this is a wake-up call. I’m not saying it will be. But let’s hope we could disagree on a more polite, conversational basis and not do things like what they did at my office a couple weeks ago.

  59. says

    A pro-Russian lobbyist who used to work with Paul Manafort (and maybe still does?) continues to hang out at the White House:

    Rick Gates, the longtime lobbying partner of ousted Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is still making multiple visits to the White House […]

    Manafort may be under investigation for alleged Russia ties, and thus persona non grata at the Trump White House. However, his top deputy Gates—who also worked on behalf of Russian interests—has managed to wedge himself back into Trump-world. having landed a sweet new gig with one of President Donald Trump’s best and wealthiest friends.

    […] Gates is now working directly for Tom Barrack, according to eight sources in and around the Trump White House. Barrack, a millionaire and former Trump fundraiser who went on to lead the presidential inaugural committee, is a longtime friend of the president who still sends Trump friendly emails to remind him that, “YOU ROCK!” The Trump ally was also instrumental in bringing Manafort into Trump’s political orbit during the campaign.

    […] when Barrack stops by to meet Trump in the West Wing, he has brought Gates with him, […]. Late last week, Barrack was again at the White House, with Gates in tow, two White House officials confirmed. […]

    “Trump still hates him,” another GOP source familiar with the relationship told The Daily Beast, describing Gates as “Manafort’s rabbi.”

    According to two former senior Trump campaign officials, Trump’s dislike for Gates began as a case of mistaken identity.

    That figures! Trump is really good at making mistakes.

    For weeks after Gates’ hiring, when aides would mention “Rick,” then-candidate Trump would always assume that they meant his national political director Rick Wiley, not Gates. […]

    It wasn’t until weeks after Gates’ hiring that Trump, according to one former senior campaign official, saw Gates and asked, “Who the hell is that?”

    […] One former Trump campaign official simply referred to Gates as a “whipping boy” for Trump. […]

    But he’s not the only one. President Trump can’t seem to shake his habit of top advisers and senior staffers carrying Russia-related baggage. His son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner definitely isn’t going anywhere, no matter how many secret Kremlin backchannels he wants to initiate. Trump still wants ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn—who left the administration specifically because of a Russia controversy—back in his administration. After the election, Manafort himself was still advising Trump and his transition team on cabinet picks. […]

    Link

  60. says

    “Democrats in Congress Sue Trump Over Foreign Business Dealings”:

    Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments.

    The plaintiffs — believed to be the most members of Congress to ever sue a sitting president — contend that Mr. Trump has ignored a constitutional clause that prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers without congressional approval.

    It is the third such lawsuit against Mr. Trump on the issue since he became president, part of a coordinated effort by the president’s critics to force him to reveal his business entanglements and either sell off his holdings or put them in a blind trust.

    Like the previous two federal lawsuits, this one, filed in federal court in Washington, accuses Mr. Trump of illegally profiteering from his businesses in a variety of ways, including collecting payments from foreign diplomats who stay in his hotels and accepting trademark approvals from foreign governments for his company’s goods and services.

    But it creates a new group of plaintiffs who claim the president’s actions have damaged them: Democratic members of the House and Senate who say they have been wrongly deprived of their constitutional right to rule on whether Mr. Trump can accept such economic benefits from foreign governments, according to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who led the effort with Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

    A total of 196 members of Congress — nearly seven in 10 Senate Democrats and nearly nine in 10 House Democrats, but not a single Republican — joined the suit, Mr. Blumenthal said. He said members of Congress have previously sued presidents, alleging that they had been wrongly deprived of their right to carry out their constitutional duty.

    But the number who joined the emoluments lawsuit is unprecedented, because the scope of the president’s business interests — and his alleged violations — “is truly unprecedented,” he said.

    In related news,

    “Most Trump real estate now sold to secretive buyers”: “Over the last 12 months, about 70% of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies – corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names. That compares with about 4% of buyers in the two years before.”

    “China approves 9 Trump trademarks previously rejected”: “China has also granted formal approval for dozens of Trump trademarks in the last few weeks, bring to 39 the total number of official registrations China has given the Trump family business since President Trump took office, according to records from China’s Trademark Office.”

  61. says

    Some good news today – “Turkish Guards Will Be Charged in Embassy Protest, Officials Say”:

    Law enforcement officials plan to announce charges Thursday against a dozen members of the Turkish president’s security detail for their involvement in a brutal attack on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here last month, two American officials said on Wednesday.

    Authorities have already charged several others, including two Americans and two Canadians, with taking part in the violent skirmish.

    The Washington police have been investigating the May 16 incident along with the State Department and the Secret Service. The police planned to announce the charges at a news conference on Thursday morning, according to the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the charges before they were made public….

    They’re back in Turkey and so very likely will never have to face the charges, but they can’t return to the US (or any other country that would extradite them to the US?).

  62. says

    Yes, Trump is under investigation:

    Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is looking into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice, the Washington Post reported late Wednesday.

    The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that the investigation into whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice began shortly after he abruptly fired James Comey as director of the FBI in May. According to the report, Mueller’s office later took up the probe.

    Mueller’s investigators have scheduled interviews with intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers and former deputy NSA director Richard Ledgett, the Washington Post reported, citing five unnamed sources briefed on the requests.

    A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment to the Washington Post.

    Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, responded: “The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”

    Talking Points Memo link

  63. says

    Follow-up to comment 88:

    […] violence against and hatred toward girls and women is a more common predictor of committing mass acts of violence than opposition to Republican policies or politicians is.

    Hodgkinson is just one of many mass shooters who have documented histories of violence toward women, but who end up being able to access weapons anyway because this red flag goes unnoticed. […]

    https://thinkprogress.org/mass-shooting-domestic-violence-fafb6de46b00

  64. says

    Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, responded: “The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”

    They keep acting like it’s obvious these leaks are coming from the FBI/CIA/…, when they seem most often to appear just after someone from one of the organizations meets with legislators or informs people in the WH (both demonstrably sources of massive leaks – not the legislators themselves necessarily, but their staffers and so forth).

  65. says

    SC @99, right. Team Trump does continue to insist that leaks are coming from the FBI. Chris Hayes interviewed the Washington Post reporter that broke the news that Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice. She pointed out that the Washington Post cited five sources, and did not identify any of those sources as being from the FBI.

    Also, Corallo complained about the leaks, but he did not dispute the facts.

  66. says

    Follow-up to comment 103.

    Chris Hayes spoke to Sari Horwitz, one of the Washington Post reporters. Three other WaPo reporters also contributed to the report.

  67. says

    Also from the WaPo story: “Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.”

    SC @99, right. Team Trump does continue to insist that leaks are coming from the FBI. Chris Hayes interviewed the Washington Post reporter that broke the news that Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice. She pointed out that the Washington Post cited five sources, and did not identify any of those sources as being from the FBI.

    And as your quote suggests, they’re interviewing Coats, Rogers, and Ledgett, so anyone on their staffs could be talking. As I think Matt Miller pointed out on Chris Hayes, the more people they interview, the more people know about the investigation and what it’s looking into.

  68. says

    Josh Marshall:

    If Mueller is taking a serious prosecutor’s lens to Trump’s financial world and the financial worlds of Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn and numerous others, there’s going to be a world of hurt for a lot of people. And that is if no meaningful level of 2016 election collusion even happened.

    And I don’t think that’s true.

  69. says

    Alexey Kovalev – “Oliver Stone Has Launched Putin’s Re-Election Campaign: Putin is leveraging Western disciples like Oliver Stone to boost his changes of another term in office.”:

    …Stone’s refusal to challenge Putin places the director in the company of other B-list Western celebrities who have tied their sails to the Kremlin mast. Stone has joined their chorus by willingly defending Putin as someone “insulted” and “abused,” by the Western media.

    But Stone is arguably Putin’s biggest catch: a Western celebrity blinded by Putin’s charisma and his own anti-Western contrarianism. The footage that has been released so far shows him repeating many of Putin’s talking points, even though they are already powered by the president’s $2bn a year propaganda machine.

    Naturally, those same government news channels are treating “The Putin Interviews” for what it is: a grand endorsement.

    Every trifling bit of yet-unaired interview, every tired, fact-less banality Putin says is recycled and catapulted to top national news by hundreds of loyal outlets. Russia’s biggest state-owned network has already purchased licensing rights.

    “The Putin Interviews” release coincides with Putin’s annual live “phone-in,” a marathon question and answer session broadcast live on television. Like Stone’s interviews, it is carefully choreographed for Putin to shine as an all-knowing, caring leader. It also coincides with the anticipated launch of Putin’s 2018 presidential campaign, which may come during the phone-in.

    In our postmodern times, Gatov told The Moscow Times, Oliver Stone’s film is being presented in the Russian media as a film for “ordinary Americans” so they finally recognize Putin’s superiority over other world leaders….

  70. militantagnostic says

    Lynna @103

    Also, Corallo complained about the leaks, but he did not dispute the facts.

    If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the the law is on your side pound the law. It neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the table leaks.

  71. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 111.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] The White House’s infrastructure plan is already overdue, but Kushner and his “SWAT team of strategic consultants” are apparently moving forward with a series of “transformative” ideas.

    And that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except the plan sounds awfully familiar.

    Barack Obama’s White House, for example, championed a high-speed rail system across much of the country, but the plan met fierce and immediate opposition from Republicans at the state and federal level. Not only would GOP members of Congress not invest in the projects, but Republican governors such as Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker balked at accepting money for high-speed rail projects that had already been allocated.

    Building broadband networks in rural areas is another idea with merit, which the Obama administration pushed over and over and over again.

    As for focusing on job-training programs, that too was a Democratic priority in the Obama era, but even putting that aside, Kushner and his colleagues may want to take a look at the Trump administration’s budget plan, which slashes funding in job training.

    It’s not that Kushner is on the wrong track. On the contrary, as a substantive matter, the Office of American Innovation seems to be kicking around some credible ideas. The trouble is, they’re ideas Kushner’s father-in-law and his party have no use for.

  72. says

    Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull mocked Trump:

    […] “It was beautiful. [In reference to his meeting with Trump at the White House.] It was the most beautiful putting-me-at-ease ever,” he jokes. He even does a Donald Trump impersonation.

    “The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much, we are winning, we are winning like we have never won before,” he says. […] “Not the fake polls. Those are the ones in which we are not winning.” […]

    He also alludes to the probe into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia, adding: “I have this Russian guy… Believe me, it’s true, it is true.” […]

    9 News Australia link

  73. says

    Republicans don’t so much want people to read the Senate version of the health care bill as they want a majority to vote for it … whatever it is doesn’t matter, just vote for it:

    […] Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was asked Monday how much time the public deserved to see the bill before a vote and whether a few days would suffice.

    “Well I think we’re not worried so much about that as we are getting it together so we can get a majority to vote for it,” Hatch said.

    TPM link

  74. says

    The WH is confirming that Mueller was there interviewing for a high-level position (presumably the FBI Director job) the day before he was named special counsel.

  75. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    *Snicker* Just got a call that came up on caller ID as RNC. Tried to get me to commit to the rethug/Trump line. I told him I was a progressive, Trump and the rethugs are full of shit, and to put me on their “do no call” list.
    I have no idea on why they think I would have agreed with them.

  76. says

    “Lobbyist for Russian interests says he attended dinners hosted by Sessions”:

    An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general’s sworn testimony given this week.

    Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.

    “I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions,” Burt said.

    Asked whether Sessions was unfamiliar with Burt’s role as a lobbyist for Russian interests – a fact that is disclosed in public records – or had any reason to be confused about the issue, Burt told the Guardian that he did not know.

    Several media reports published before Trump’s election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally….

  77. says

    Ari Melber suggested to Rachel Maddow last night that Rosenstein could very well be a witness in an obstruction of justice investigation, which would put Rachel Brand in charge of the Russia-Trump probe. Brand – who went to the University of Minnesota Morris! – is very rightwing, which is unsettling. I also wonder whether Trump or his minions have attempted to contact her to sound her out.

  78. says

    SC @117, I’m so glad to see that good news. Trump can order all kinds of ill-conceived actions, but our court system is stopping him or slowing him down. Kudos to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists for continuing to fight the issue in the courts.

    From SC’s link:

    […] In a 91-page memorandum opinion, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “largely complied with the National Environmental Policy Act.”

    However, he says, the Corps “failed to adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on Standing Rock’s fishing and hunting rights and on environmental justice, and in February 2017, it did not sufficiently weigh the degree to which the project’s effects are likely to be highly controversial in light of critiques of its scientific methods and data.”

    This ruling does not order a halt to pipeline operations. But it opens the door to that possibility.

    The judge writes that the standard remedy in this situation would be to vacate the pipeline’s permits and easement, thereby halting pipeline operations until the Army Corps is in compliance with environmental procedures.

    “Such a move, of course, would carry serious consequences that a court should not lightly impose,” Boasberg says. He ordered the parties to submit briefings about the legal question and scheduled a status hearing for next Wednesday. […]

  79. says

    More good news:

    […] The Senate voted 97 to 2 in support of legislation imposing new economic sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow’s intervention in the American presidential election. The same measure, which now heads to the House, would block the White House from acting unilaterally on easing sanctions against Moscow — a move Donald Trump has reportedly considered more than once.

    For many Senate Republicans, this was literally the first time in 2017 in which they voted against Trump’s preference.

    There are a variety of interesting questions surrounding the bill — most notably, no one knows if the president would veto it — but let’s not miss the forest for the trees. The fact that the chamber took this action at all demonstrated something important: nearly every member of the Senate cares that a foreign adversary attacked our democracy, and they’re taking steps to do something about it.

    Donald Trump, meanwhile, seems indifferent, if not outwardly hostile, to the core details — which is difficult to accept at face value, and even harder to defend.

    Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, talked to CNN on Tuesday and expressed his frustration about Trump’s and his administration’s indifference. His comments were quite candid:

    “The other question [Attorney General Jeff Session] didn’t answer — I’ve got to say, it really, really disturbed me — and that is, ‘Have you looked into what the Russians did? Have you asked for any briefings? Do you understand the magnitude of what was done to us?’ And the answer was no.

    “And Jim Comey essentially said the same thing last week about the president. He had nine interactions with the president. The president never asked, ‘What did the Russians do? How did they do it? How do you know they did it?’ […]

    “[T]his is the most serious attack on our country since September 11. An adversary is aiming an arrow at the heart of our democracy. And these folks are just shrugging it off and saying, you know, ‘Let’s move on and talk about other issues.’ I understand their defensiveness on whether they were involved in it or not, but the fundamental story of what the Russians did — and that they’re still at it and will continue to be at it — is just being ignored, and it really bothers me when the Commander in Chief takes that position.” […]

    Link

  80. says

    Betsy DeVos continues to have a negative effect on education in the USA. We all remember how Trump University was outed as a scam, and Trump had to pay a $25 million fine. Well, there are other for-profit “universities” out there still trying to rip off students. DeVos has sided with the scammers.

    […] The federal government will abandon two signature efforts to hold for-profit colleges accountable to the taxpayers who fund them or the Americans who take out loans to attend their classes, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced.

    DeVos has canceled a pair of new regulations intended to thwart firms that over-promise and under-deliver on higher education credentials marketed primarily to lower-income adults eager to trade low-wage jobs for long-term careers. The move comes two months after DeVos rescinded another Obama-era policy aimed at protecting student loan borrowers from predatory debt servicers.

    One of the now-ended federal policies is known as the “gainful employment rule.” It was hammered out over years of research and compromise, and was finalized in 2014. The policy restricted companies’ access to taxpayer-funded student loan dollars if too few of their graduates ultimately find jobs that pay well enough to allow them to repay their loans.

    While some critics worried the final rule was too lax, the outgoing Obama team announced that some 800 programs nationwide were failing to meet its standards as of early January.

    The other rule DeVos canceled Wednesday is no less important to ensuring for-profit schools aren’t swindling vulnerable people into mountains of needless debt only to leave them with useless degrees. Known as “defense to repayment,” or DTR, the second rule established a formal process for students who believe they were defrauded by an educational company to seek the cancellation of their loans. […]

    “This means that the vast majority of former for-profit students who are fighting for relief are getting screwed over by the same administration that promised to ‘drain the swamp’ […]” organizers from The Debt Collective wrote in a statement on DeVos’ decision. “Mark our words: we will fight today’s decision, in court and elsewhere.”

    Politicians in both parties have long supported for-profit college companies in their pursuit of taxpayer dollars, despite substantial evidence that their degrees are of far lesser value than a degree from a traditional higher-education institution. […]

    Think Progress link

  81. says

    There are a variety of interesting questions surrounding the bill — most notably, no one knows if the president would veto it — but let’s not miss the forest for the trees. The fact that the chamber took this action at all demonstrated something important: nearly every member of the Senate cares that a foreign adversary attacked our democracy, and they’re taking steps to do something about it.

    And actually 99 of them support this part of the bill. Bernie Sanders voted against the bill because it’s also an Iran sanctions bill and he fears those sanctions will cause problems for the nuclear deal. He supports the Russia portion. Only one, Rand Paul, really voted against it.

  82. says

    From Ezra Klein, writing for Vox:

    […] Trump is responding to reports that special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating him for obstruction of justice. Watch the pronouns he uses: “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice”

    To Trump, this is something “they” did to him. In reality, of course, this is something Trump did to himself.

    According to former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony, Trump was not personally under investigation in the early stages of the Russia probe. Trump asked Comey to say that publicly, and Comey refused, in part because it meant he would then have to correct himself publicly if the investigation expanded to include Trump personally.

    Trump subsequently fired Comey, and said he did so as a way of relieving the pressure of the Russia probe. It was that act — which Trump undertook entirely at his own discretion — that led to the obstruction of justice investigation.

    So Trump, in his zeal to show he wasn’t being personally investigated and rid his administration of a troublesome probe, made himself the focus of an investigation and created a much more troublesome probe for his administration. “They” didn’t do this to Trump. Trump did this to Trump.

    But Trump doesn’t seem to understand what he did, or how his actions led to his current problems. After Comey’s testimony, Trump called him a liar and suggested he would testify to his version of events under oath — a disastrous strategy. Earlier this week, reports emerged that Trump was thinking about firing Mueller, too — an act that would likely lead to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s resignation, and perhaps a governmental crisis. Trump was eventually talked down by his staff, but no one knows if Trump will stay talked down. […]

    Behind this furor, and its uneasy resolution, is the reality that Trump isn’t learning from his mistakes — he’s becoming embittered by them. You could see this in another Trump tweet this morning: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

    Trump’s resistance to taking responsibility for his actions is perhaps the single greatest threat facing his presidency. If he realized the damage he was doing to himself, he could perhaps stop doing it. But so long as he sees his problems as the product of an unfair “WITCH HUNT,” he will continue to see his reckless, enraged reactions as a reasonable response, and so will continue destabilizing his presidency.

  83. says

    SC @126, I wish that the bill had been cleaner, that it had addressed only the issue of the sanctions against Russia. Adding the Iran sanctions was not a good idea. I guess we’ll see what blowback we may have to deal with thanks to the (I think) unwise and unnecessary sanctions against Iran.

  84. says

    An Abdication of Duty: By letting James Mattis decide U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Trump is proving once again how unfit he is to lead.

    […] Trump has decided to let Secretary of Defense (and retired four-star general) James Mattis set U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan—a move that amounts to yet another indication, in some ways an admission, that the commander in chief is not up to the job.

    It would be one thing if Trump laid out his political and strategic aims in the war, then let his military chiefs calculate how many troops would be needed to accomplish those goals. This is what presidents usually do, […].

    But Trump hasn’t done that. (By contrast, President Obama ordered a review after one week in office, then chaired 10 National Security Council meetings to discuss the subject.)

    What is the goal of the war—to defeat the Taliban, to defeat only the jihadi fighters, or to drive one or the other to the negotiating table, and if so, with what desired end-state? Should U.S. troops engage in combat or just train and assist the Afghan army, and, if the latter, how close should they get to the battlefields? Is it possible to win this war (and what does win mean?), if the Afghan regime remains corrupt? If not, are there ways for us to help the regime reform? And if not, should we phase out our involvement? […]

    Trump has fluffed the obligation and passed it to Mattis. Maybe he concluded the questions were too hard. […] Maybe he doesn’t want to be held responsible if the war stalls in stalemate or worse, just as he tried to blame his generals for the failed raid in Yemen at the start of his term. […]

  85. says

    SC @126, I wish that the bill had been cleaner, that it had addressed only the issue of the sanctions against Russia. Adding the Iran sanctions was not a good idea.

    It was the reverse – the Russia part was an amendment to the Iran bill (described in the link @ #21). Not sure why they didn’t just do a whole separate bill.

  86. says

    Investigative work by BuzzFeed – “From Russia With Blood”:

    …A two-year investigation by BuzzFeed News has now uncovered explosive evidence pointing to Russia that the police overlooked. A massive trove of documents, phone records, and secret recordings shows Young was part of a circle of nine men, including the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who all died suspiciously on British soil after making powerful enemies in Russia. The files reveal that Young lived in the shadow of the Russian security services and mafia groups after fronting for Berezovsky – a sworn enemy of the state – in a series of deals that enraged the Kremlin, including the doomed Russian property deal known as Project Moscow. British police declared the deaths of all nine men in Berezovsky’s circle non-suspicious, but BuzzFeed News can now reveal that MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, asked its US counterparts for information about each one of them “in the context of assassinations”.

    Earlier this week, we revealed that US spy agencies had handed the British government high-grade intelligence that the Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichnyy, who died in Surrey in 2012, was likely assassinated on the direct orders of the Kremlin – but the authorities sidelined that and other evidence pointing to murder, instead declaring that he had died of natural causes. Today, we can reveal that US intelligence officials suspect a further 13 people – including Berezovsky and eight members of his circle – have been assassinated on British soil by Russia’s security services or mafia groups, two forces that sometimes work in tandem.

    That intelligence – based on human sources, intercepted communications, and public material gathered by US spy agencies – has been shared with Britain in relation to all 14 deaths. Yet British police have ruled out foul play in every last case.

    The story of this ring of death illuminates one of the most disturbing geopolitical trends of our time – the use of assassinations by Russia’s secret services and powerful mafia groups to wipe out opponents around the globe – and the failure of British authorities to confront it.

    The intelligence pointing to a campaign of targeted killings in Britain comes amid mounting international concern that the Kremlin is brazenly interfering in the West, and as the investigation into Russian ties to President Donald Trump’s advisers gathers pace.

    Russian assassins have been able to kill in Britain with impunity over the past decade, 17 current and former British and American intelligence officials told BuzzFeed News. The reasons for Britain’s reticence, they said, include fear of retaliation, police incompetence, and a desire to preserve the billions of pounds of Russian money that pour into British banks and properties each year. As a result, Russia is making what one source called increasingly “bold moves” in the UK without fear of reprisals….

    Much more at the link.

  87. says

    About those additional sanctions against Iran:

    […] John Kerry said Monday that the Iran nuclear deal could hold even if President Donald Trump pulls out but he warned that imposing new economic sanctions against Tehran could be dangerous. […]

    “If we become super provocative in ways that show the Iranian people there has been no advantage to this, that there is no gain, and our bellicosity is pushing them into a corner, that’s dangerous and that could bring a very different result,” Kerry said.

    Last month, the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-3 in favor of legislation that would authorize Trump to impose mandatory sanctions on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure also would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

    Trump promised during his campaign to renegotiate or leave the Iran nuclear deal. […]

    Kerry added that there is a view that seems to dominate the Trump administration that “the United States can do anything that it needs to do all by itself” and he urged those in attendance to do more to fight for the government to recognize the value of diplomacy.[…]

    Washington Post link

    Much more at the link.

  88. says

    Deconfliction of investigations seems to be going fairly well:

    The Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that it would not investigate whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice by interfering in the FBI probe of his associates’ possible collusion and coordination with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

    “It’s never been part of our” investigation, committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) told CNN on Thursday, referring to obstruction of justice. Burr noted that “[o]bstruction is criminal — there’s a criminal aspect to that.” Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) told the network: “The criminal piece of the investigation will be handled by the special counsel, but if we find facts we can turn this over to the special counsel.” […]

    Link

  89. says

    From The New York Times:

    The Energy Department is closing an office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technology, another sign of the Trump administration’s retreat on climate-related activities after its withdrawal from the Paris agreement this month. […]

    The small office also played a lead role preparing for the annual Clean Energy Ministerial, a forum in which the United States, China, India and other countries shared insights on how best to promote energy efficiency, electric vehicles and other solutions to climate change.

    Is this Rick Perry’s work? Or is Rick Perry just doing what Trump tells him to do?

  90. says

    Hmmm. Is this a possible tactical reason for tying the Russia and Iran sanctions together in one bill? If Trump vetoes the new sanctions against Russia, he will also veto the sanctions against Iran. Trump wants the sanctions against Iran.

  91. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If Trump vetoes the new sanctions against Russia, he will also veto the sanctions against Iran. Trump wants the sanctions against Iran.

    Welcome to politics Mister Trumpf. You don’t always get your way. Deal with it in private if you are competent….*snicker*

  92. says

    “Special counsel is investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings”:

    Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, as part of the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to officials familiar with the matter.

    FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was listed as a foreign policy adviser for the campaign.

    Before he met with the president, Comey gathered his leadership team at the FBI to discuss with them whether he should be prepared to assure then-President-elect Trump that the FBI was not investigating him personally.

    Comey testified that not everyone on his FBI team agreed he should. Comey did not name the dissenter, but The Washington Post has learned it was FBI General Counsel James A. Baker. Comey testified that the member of his leadership team said that although it was true at the moment that Trump was not under investigation, it was possible that could change….

  93. says

    “I’ve covered Obamacare since day one. I’ve never seen lying and obstruction like this.”:

    Republicans do not want the country to know what is in their health care bill.

    This has become more evident each day, as the Senate plots out a secretive path toward Obamacare repeal — and top White House officials (including the president) consistently lie about what the House bill actually does.

    There was even a brief moment Tuesday where Senate Republicans flirted with the idea of banning on-camera interviews in congressional hallways, a plan quickly reversed after outcry from the press.

    “The extreme secrecy is a situation without precedent, at least in creating health care law” writes Julie Rovner, who has covered health care politics since 1986 and is arguably the dean of the DC health care press corps.

    My biggest concern isn’t the hypocrisy; there is plenty of that in Washington. It’s that the process will lead to devastating results for millions of Americans who won’t know to speak up until the damage is done. So far, the few details that have leaked out paint a picture of a bill sure to cover millions fewer people and raise costs on those with preexisting conditions.

    The plan is expected to be far-reaching, potentially bringing lifetime limits back to employer-sponsored coverage, which could mean a death sentence for some chronically ill patients who exhaust their insurance benefits.

    Voters can oust Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections if they don’t like the health care plan. But for people like Cliff and Timmy, the damage will already be done. The election is secondary to their ability to get health insurance coverage. This is the most damaging part of the lack of public discourse around the Republican repeal efforts: There are millions of real lives at stake that could be hurt. These people would suffer the consequences that will happen much faster and matter much more than any election.

  94. says

    OMG, another dubious appointment from Trump: he wants to make his event planner the head of federal housing programs in New York:

    She’s arranged tournaments at Trump golf courses, served as the liaison to the Trump family during his presidential campaign, and even arranged Eric Trump’s wedding.

    […] Trump has appointed longtime loyalist Lynne Patton — who has zero housing experience and claims a law degree the school says she never earned — to run the office that oversees federal housing programs in New York.

    Patton was appointed Wednesday to head up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, where she’ll oversee distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars…. As head of the biggest HUD regional office in the U.S., Patton will oversee distribution of billions in cash to public housing authorities — including NYCHA — as well as tens of thousands of rental vouchers and block grants that fund housing inspections and senior citizen programs.

    Patton’s tight relationship with the Trump clan dates back to 2009, when she began serving as the family’s “event planner.” […]

    Patton is not subject to Senate confirmation.

  95. says

    Trump’s staff seems to think that he has already gone ’round the bend, or that he is about to:

    […] The greatest threat to Trump and his presidency, say administration officials and outside advisers, comes from his own conduct and obsessive behavior after he took office. While congressional and FBI investigations may prove Trump or his team broke laws before he took office, his advisers say they’re more worried that the things he’s done since the inauguration may have left him exposed to obstruction of justice or other charges.

    Trump, for months, has bristled almost daily about the ongoing probes. He has sometimes, without prompting, injected. “I’m not under investigation” into conversations with associates and allies. He has watched hours of TV coverage every day — sometimes even storing morning news shows on his TiVo to watch in the evening — and complained nonstop. […]

    Just as he has done publicly on Twitter, Trump has told friends and associates that the investigation is a “witch hunt” and that others are out to get him. “It’s basically all he talks about on the phone,” said one adviser who has spoken with Trump and his top aides. […]

    Two people close to Trump note that his is an obsessive personality — whether about businessmen who wronged him over the years, his years-long and fruitless quest to prove President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, to reporters who have written negative stories about him. One transition official said Trump lashed out at reporters over old stories within a day of winning the election in November. […]

    They have urged Trump to stop meddling — but he won’t. […] “He is totally in a box now,” one friend said. “And it might make him want to fire Mueller more.” […]

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/15/trump-russia-investigation-obsession-239614

  96. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Trump’s staff seems to think that he has already gone ’round the bend, or that he is about to

    Trump’s gone around more bends than there are on the road up L’alpe d’Huez.

  97. says

    An independent commission is probing team Trump’s handling of civil rights:

    An independent watchdog group on Friday approved an investigation of civil rights enforcement in the Trump administration, saying it has “grave concerns” about signals coming from federal agencies — calling out comments by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in particular.

    The 6-2 vote by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights approving the statement calling for a two-year review followed a dispute between two commissioners over the language that calls out DeVos. That language cites that the Education secretary’s “repeated refusal in Congressional testimony and other public statements to commit that the department would enforce federal civil rights laws” is “particularly troubling.” […]

    Link

  98. says

    Kellyanne Conway worships Trump. And if you don’t worship Trump, she thinks you are responsible for some guy shooting Steve Scalise.

    A day after Trump referred to the team former FBI Director Robert Mueller has assembled to investigate him as “very bad and conflicted people” and Hillary Clinton as “crooked,” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested that overheated Democratic rhetoric is partially responsible for the mass shooting that happened during a Republican congressional baseball practice in Virginia on Wednesday.

    Trump — who during his young presidency has called the press as “the enemy of the American People,” advocated a health care bill that would leave 23 million people uninsured, and overseen a crackdown on immigration and refugees — should get credit for being “our healer in chief,” Conway said […]

    Asked about the vibe at the congressional baseball game on Thursday night, Conway said “there was a feeling of unity and healing, and I think that was brought about by our leader — President Donald Trump. He’s being a healer in chief, he’s being remarkably wonderful to the entire country, calling for unity, praying for those who have been injured.” […]

    “You can oppose policies, but it’s done with such hateful, charged rhetoric that active resistance becomes armed resistance in the case of this lone gunman,” she said. […]

    “If I were shot and killed tomorrow, half of Twitter would explode in applause and excitement,” she said. “It’s terrible […] you can’t attack people personally in a way and think that tragedies like this won’t happen.”

    She concluding by making an ominous suggestion about what could happen if the the rhetoric isn’t toned down. “We don’t want to live in a police state because we can’t get control of people’s rhetoric,” she said. […]

    Think Progress link

  99. says

    Oh, FFS. Surely Gregg Abbott’s administration will be taken to court over this. The bill he just signed would let providers deny LGBTQ youth welfare services:

    On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill that will allow child welfare service providers to decline to provide certain kinds of care based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill, House Bill 3859, will permit discrimination against LGBTQ couples wishing to adopt children, in addition to allowing LGBTQ children to be placed under the agencies’ care in “religious education.” The bill goes into effect in September.

    […] the bill affects not only child placement services (think adoption agencies), but group homes, counseling services, care for abused children, and other resources for children with complicated family situations. The bill will have a broad reach, affecting organizations that provide a wide variety care options for a large number of children.

    When the bill goes into effect, those organizations can legally refuse to provide care for children on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity, or on the basis of the sexuality or gender identity of someone in their family, as long as the provider can cite “religious beliefs.” […]

    Texas state Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D) pointed out that it could be used to justify, for example, a Christian organization refusing to provide services to a Jewish family. All an organization that denies service to someone must provide is a link to “the web page on the department’s Internet website that includes a list of other licensed child welfare services providers” and a referral to another organization. The bill makes no mention of what a child already receiving care can do if they want that care to change. […]

    Link

  100. says

    Follow-up to comment 154.

    […] “He’s furious at Rosenstein, but the list of his people who enrage him is ever-growing,” a longtime Trump confidant, who recently spoke to the president, told The Daily Beast. “He has no qualms about throwing [Rosenstein] under a bus.” […]

    […] in raging against circumstances his actions brought about, Trump has given Mueller another building block for the investigation.

    Former Justice Department officials said that Trump’s tweet has put Rosenstein, who just months ago enjoyed a sterling reputation, in an untenable position. At the minimum, Rosenstein is likely to come under overwhelming pressure to recuse himself from his role overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump.

    “It’s clear that this tweet has not been vetted by his [Trump’s] attorney,” said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. “In addition to confirming that he is under investigation, the tweet makes a factual statement regarding the president’s decision to fire James Comey, which is a subject of the investigation. You can bet that when the president testifies regarding his role in Comey’s firing, he will be asked about this tweet.” […]

    Daily Beast link

  101. says

    Kellyanne Conway: “He’s being a healer in chief, he’s being remarkably wonderful to the entire country, calling for unity, praying for those who have been injured.”

    See #138 just above.

  102. says

    Senator Dianne Feinstein is fed up:

    I’m growing increasingly concerned that the president will attempt to fire not only Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible obstruction of justice, but also Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein who appointed Mueller.

    The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn’t apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired. That’s undemocratic on its face and a blatant violation of the president’s oath of office.

    First of all, the president has no authority to fire Robert Mueller. That authority clearly lies with the attorney general—or in this case, because the attorney general has recused himself, with the deputy attorney general. Rosenstein testified under oath this week that he would not fire Mueller without good cause and that none exists.

    And second, if the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening. Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law.

    “It’s becoming clear to me that the president has embarked on an effort to undermine anyone with the ability to bring any misdeeds to light, be that Congress, the media or the Justice Department. The Senate should not let that happen. We’re a nation of laws that apply equally to everyone, a lesson the president would be wise to learn.

    https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?id=A365B3BF-9922-47BB-9633-515F1F702736

  103. says

    “Republican secrecy faces mounting criticism as GOP senators work behind closed doors to repeal Obamacare”:

    Senate Republicans are facing increasing criticism for ducking public scrutiny as they craft legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act with little input from outside experts, patients, physicians and others most affected by healthcare legislation.

    The GOP’s secretive process marks a sharp departure from the traditional way the Senate has developed large, complex bills, which are often debated for years with multiple committee hearings to ensure broad input and careful analysis.

    The closed-door approach, which is even more opaque than the process used earlier this year in the House, is all the more remarkable given the bill’s likely impact on tens of millions of Americans, many of whom could see their health insurance protections substantially scaled back or eliminated altogether.

    “It is deeply disturbing,” said Erika Sward, assistant vice president of the American Lung Assn. “Patients groups like ours need to make sure that our patients’ needs for healthcare will be met. … We can’t do that if we can’t see what is being proposed.”

    The lung association is among 120 patient groups that this week sent a letter to senior Republican senators expressing deep concerns about GOP proposals to fundamentally restructure Medicaid, which provides health coverage to more than 70 million poor Americans.

    Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he wants to vote on a bill in the next two weeks, Senate Republicans thus far haven’t disclosed details of their Medicaid plans, or any other part of their healthcare legislation.

    The lack of public debate appears to be a deliberate strategy by McConnell and his lieutenants to minimize opportunities for critical evaluation of their bill, which is likely to be highly controversial.

    Major physician groups, hospitals, consumer advocates and organizations representing millions of patients with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other serious illnesses have been pleading with Republican leaders for months to open up the process and listen to their concerns.

    This week, a group of more than 15 patients groups — including the American Heart Assn., the March of Dimes, the American Lung Assn. and the American Diabetes Assn. — asked McConnell’s office to meet with them next week, proposing any time between Friday and June 22.

    A representative from McConnell’s office told them staff schedules were too busy, according to representatives of several of the organizations….

  104. says

    […] From the list of hires, it’s clear, in fact, that Mueller is recruiting perhaps the most high-powered and experienced team of investigators ever assembled by the Justice Department. His team began with three lawyers who also quickly left WilmerHale, the law firm where Mueller has also worked since he left the FBI in 2013—Zebley, James Quarles III, and Jeannie Rhee. […]

    WIRED link

  105. says

    More from the link in comment 166:

    […] Mueller added Michael Dreeben, who has worked for years in the Justice Department’s solicitor general’s office, which argues the government’s cases before the Supreme Court.

    “Dreeben is 1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times,” tweeted Preet Bharara, the former top Manhattan federal prosecutor.

    Walter Dellinger, an accomplished law professor at Duke and former acting solicitor general, went one step further, telling The Washington Post, “Michael is the most brilliant and most knowledgeable federal criminal lawyer in America—period.”

    Writing on the Lawfare blog, Paul Rosenzweig recalled watching Deeban argue a Supreme Court case—one of more than a hundred he’s done—without a single note, and also concluded, “He is quite possibly the best criminal appellate lawyer in America (at least on the government’s side). That Mueller has sought his assistance attests both to the seriousness of his effort and the depth of the intellectual bench he is building.” […]

  106. says

    Trump’s lawyers are now hiring lawyers for themselves.

    Michael Cohen, longtime personal attorney to […] Trump, has retained his own legal counsel to handle the sprawling probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

    Cohen has hired Stephen Ryan of Washington, D.C. law firm McDermott, Will & Emery, […] Much of Ryan’s practice is devoted to trying cases for lobbyists, but he also has experience prosecuting criminal cases and directing investigations into organized crime networks.

    The House Intelligence Committee approved subpoenas for Cohen back in May, asking for testimony, personal documents and business records. […] he has extensive business ties to immigrants from former Soviet republics living in the U.S. and earlier this year helped deliver a Ukrainian lawmaker’s “peace plan” that called for lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia to the desk of Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser. […]

    Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who has also been asked to turn documents over to the House Intelligence Committee, has retained Dennis Vacco, a partner at New York law firm Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, […] Caputo also has been contacted by the FBI. […]

    Link

    Trump’s job creation program is working well for lawyers.

  107. says

    well I won a small battle tonight. Laurence Tribe had RT’d Claude Taylor and was promoting it like it was real.

    Claude’s claim was that Steve Bannon is now under the investigation as well, and that he has threatened bodily harm against other staffers. No one else is reporting this, but it’s entirely plausible.

    In 3 days, no one that follows Claude will remember this bad miss, which is one among many, but if something like it it comes true 3 months from now, it will become a hit.

    So I @’d some people who have followers and who have been consistent critics of the #scoobygang and I got a few RT’s and likes from them and next thing you know, the tweet was gone. Laurence Tribe deleted it within 10 minutes of posting it, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of me lol. I just saved him some humiliation.

    Go me.

  108. says

    CNN is reporting that the House Intel Committee wants to speak with Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director. Rick Wilson tweeted: “A little bird tells me that a certain White House staff member whose name rhymes with Beeve Stannon is crapping diamonds over Parscale.” I thought there was possibly something fishy about the arrangement when I saw the August and September FEC filings.

  109. says

    I believe there are still seven sailors missing after a US Navy destroyer collided with a Japanese container ship. No information on what caused the collision. No US ambassador to Japan. No Navy Secretary. No word from Trump.

  110. says

    Today is the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break in, so there are various specials revisiting the history of Watergate. I watched last night’s ABC version, and have a couple of thoughts.

    First, I hope MSNBC’s (tonight) and others don’t go with the same framing that tries to encourage viewers to see Nixon’s resignation, final speech to staff, and departure as a sad moment. It wasn’t at all. Nixon – who was still worlds better than Trump as a public figure and human being – was an authoritarian, corrupt, bigoted, power-hungry criminal and psychologically unfit for the office. He wrecked many lives and attempted to destroy many more. His resignation marked a victory for justice and democracy, and should be celebrated.

    Second, it renewed my suspicions that some in Washington might have been blackmailed during the past year.

  111. blf says

    The silence of the violins is deafening†, Tense times for Marine Le Pen’s National Front as electoral fortunes wane:

    The far-right National Front has touted itself as France’s top party since Marine Le Pen took over its leadership in 2011, and racked up steady gains and glittering first-round scores nationally in consecutive elections. No longer.

    The first round of the legislative elections last Sunday was a clear setback for the National Front (FN), dashing high expectations built up since Jean-Marie Le Pen’s heir took over the leadership from her party-founder father six years ago.

    A tidal wave of votes nationally for centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM, and previously ‘En Marche!’) — which is forecast to win up to 455 of the 577 lower-house seats in next Sunday’s run-off [tomorrow –blf].

    But, just after Marine Le Pen’s solid performance in the finale of the presidential election last month, her anti-immigration Europhobic party expected much, much more from this vote.

    The FN had reportedly highlighted 45 “winnable” seats, in places where Le Pen took more than 50 percent of the vote against Macron on May 7. But when this legislative election wraps up on Sunday, the FN is now expected to win scarcely more than the two seats it has held since 2012. Pollsters are forecasting a haul of between one and five seats […]

    Significantly, the FN scored slightly lower nationally [in the first round of the Parliamentary elections last Sunday] than it did in 2012, earning 538,000 fewer votes — this is the first time since Marine Le Pen took the helm that the longtime pariahs of French politics have lost voters from one comparable election to the next.

    [… reports of infighting amidst a probable decrease in funding …]

    If party infighting weren’t worrying enough for the FN’s embattled leader, Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, has also threatened to weigh in at a meeting of the party’s political committee slated for next Tuesday, just after the election.

    The FN’s rabble-rousing founder’s inflammatory statements […] have cost him his membership in the party he founded. But the 88-year-old went to court to obtain his reinstatement as the FN’s “honourary president” and appears poised to use it. In that event, one party executive recently suggested the party would be willing to pay a 2,000-euro legal fine just to keep ‘papa’ Le Pen at bay.

    All in all, it’s not the confident, forward-looking atmosphere one would expect for a party just weeks past its all-time electoral peak. Au contraire.[‡]

    I have the suspicion the France24 journalist rather enjoyed writing that article.

      † Actually, as it so happens, I have Horslips High reel on at the moment, at a rather deafening volume…

      ‡ And perhaps even more appropriate, Trouble With A Capital ‘T’ is now playing…

  112. blf says

    Al Jazeera Arabic Twitter account restored:

    Doha-based network says brief suspension of official account appeared to be caused by an ‘organised campaign’.
    […]
    Engineers at Al Jazeera Arabic who were in communication with Twitter said there was a “storm attack” of mass reports of the account to Twitter, which forced the algorithm to temporarily suspend the account.
    […]

  113. blf says

    IFJ: Saudi, UAE using journalists as political football:

    Journalists and their families in Qatar facing devastating impact of Saudi bloc’s actions, says respected media body.

    The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and their allies that have cut ties with Qatar to stop using journalists as “political footballs”, as the risk of families being separated and demands to close Al Jazeera persist.

    […]

    Those of Saudi, Bahraini, and Emirati nationality living in Qatar were told by their countries to leave within 14 days.[†]

    The [blockade was] put in place following the cutting off of diplomatic ties by these countries with Qatar for its alleged support of terrorism.

    But the demands that have been leaked to the press […] appear to focus more on media freedom in the region and support for political dissidents and opposition groups in the region.

    “At Al Jazeera and Bein Sports alone, 44 Saudi nationals, 13 Bahrainis and one from the United Arab Emirates are under threat,” the IFJ reported.

    “With hundreds of journalists having settled in Doha as they took up work with Qatari news media, many have put down roots and married Qataris. Now those families face being forced apart.”

    One of the demands of the Saudi-Emirati bloc regarding Qatar allegedly involves the closure of the Al Jazeera Media Network, which the IFJ addressed directly.

    […] “We utterly condemn moves to force the closure of Al Jazeera, throw its journalists out of jobs and undermine the freedom to inform, and the right to free speech and free media.”

    […]

      † This time Al Jazeera makes it clear Qatar is not expelling anyone (see @42).

  114. says

    From SC’s link in comment 190:

    The White House plans to work with House Republicans on administration-friendly changes to the Senate’s overwhelmingly bipartisan bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia and curbs President Donald Trump’s power to ease penalties against Moscow, according to a senior administration official.

    The White House is concerned that the legislation would tie its hands on U.S.-Russia relations, a sentiment publicly expressed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But Senate Democrats fear the White House may go overboard in preserving its power to talk to Russia and seek to defang the sanctions bill […]

  115. says

    In other news, Trump continues to make money … and the money he is making is increasing thanks to the fact that he is president:

    […] Trump’s Washington hotel saw almost $20 million in revenue during its first few months of operation — a period that coincided with his election and inauguration as the 45th president. His Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which he’s visited seven times as president, pulled in millions of dollars more than it had previously.

    The new details were included in a financial disclosure that Trump voluntarily submitted Friday to the Office of Government Ethics […]

    He has at least $1.4 billion in assets and reported at least $594 million in income from January 2016 through this spring. Those top-line numbers were largely the same as he had reported in his previous filing, which included all of 2015 and part of 2016. […]

    The latest report shows Trump resigned from more than 500 positions, stepping down from many on the day before his inauguration. He listed at least $315 million in liabilities, about the same as in the previous report.

    The president still owes more than $100 million to Deutsche Bank and a similar amount to Ladder Capital Finance, a New York-based real estate investment trust.

    What is unclear from the disclosure is whether Trump added to his debt in any significant way to help pay for his presidential campaign. Because the ranges required for disclosure under federal ethics laws are so wide — Trump’s documents list five separate liabilities each at “over $50,000,000” — it is impossible to tell whether his debt load has changed appreciably.

    Some of Trump’s ventures appear to be making more money than they had a year earlier.

    His book “The Art of the Deal” is having a comeback of its own. […]

    Trump’s management fees from Indonesian companies tied to two planned resorts there more than doubled. The latest disclosure puts the fees $380,000, up from $167,000 he reported in 2016. Trump is partnering with a billionaire Indonesian, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, on the two ventures. One is planned for the tourist island of Bali, the other near Jakarta.

    Mar-a-Lago, where Trump played host to several foreign dignitaries during his seven weekends there this winter, has improved its finances. Trump listed the resort’s income as about $37 million, up from about $30 million it had taken in prior to his 2016 financial report. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

  116. says

    Senator Elizabeth Warren fought back against Zions First National Bank CEO Harris Simmons. Simmons told the feds in 2006 that the banking industry didn’t require any regulation, and that unregulated commercial real estate was hunky dory:

    Warren: Now within two years of your testimony the bank you lead [Zions] needed nearly 1.5 billion dollars in taxpayer bailout money to stay afloat; and here’s a kicker, that was in part because your bank was highly concentrated in commercial real estate lending the exact thing that you told Congress was not an issue nothing to worry about. So Mr. Simmons when you say today that Congress can safely rollback the rules on banks like yours and there won’t be any risks to taxpayers why should anyone believe you?

    At that point in the testimony in front of the Senate committee, Simmons claimed that his bank didn’t need the money. From Walter Einenkel, writing for Daily Kos:

    Warren says “You didn’t need the money?” and Simmons acts sheepish because his bank either needed that money and he’s full of shit, or his bank didn’t need a billion and half dollars in hard-earned citizens’ tax dollars and he’s full of shit. His comeback is literally an attempt to go back to why deregulation works—as if Sen. Warren didn’t just expose him for being the fraud he is. Senator Warren doesn’t let up, asking him what his credibility is if he’s a fraud and his comeback is that all the banks took bailout money. Seriously. Sen. Warren runs out of time and closes up her statement by dropping the mic firmly on Simmons’ head.

    Warren: I just want to say here you know, what I noticed about this is whenever things are going okay the banks come in here and say yay let’s reduce the rules, […] what could possibly go wrong? And then when things go wrong, banks like yours line up and say to the taxpayers, “bail me out.” Our job is to make sure that we do not permit the next failure to happen because it helps short-term bank profits. Our job is to watch out for the taxpayers and the security of this economy.

  117. says

    Another analysis of how Trump is profiting off the presidency.

    […] The documents provide financial information for the period of time between last January and this spring — encompassing the lead-up to the presidential election and Trump’s transition into the White House.

    Trump’s sprawling business empire is difficult to definitively quantify. However, the filings do show that the properties Trump has visited frequently as president have seen significant gains in income, the D.C. hotel at the center of an ethical controversy has generated millions in revenue, and the royalties for Trump’s books have soared. […]

  118. blf says

    This is violence against Donald Trump: rightwingers interrupt Julius Caesar play:

    […]
    A rightwing protester has been charged with trespassing after interrupting a New York production of Julius Caesar during the assassination scene and shouting: This is violence against Donald Trump.

    The protester, […] Laura Loomer, interrupted the Shakespeare in the Park production on Friday night and shouted this is political violence against the right while audience members booed and told her to get off the stage.

    The incident was filmed by Jack Posobiec, a rightwing provocateur best known for helping to spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He stood up as Loomer was escorted off stage by security guards and yelled at the crowd: You are all Goebbels. You are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels{…} You are inciting terrorists. The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands.

    […]

    After the shooting in Virginia, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, drew an immediate link on Twitter between the staging of a play often read in secondary school and the violent attack.

    On Monday, a Public Theater spokeswoman said: “Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.”

    Indeed. Numerous people have pointed out Julius Caesar is, amongst other things, an illustration of how political assassination doesn’t work. For example, Trump as Julius Caesar: anger over play misses Shakespeare’s point, says scholar:

    […]
    For anyone who has seen the Public’s production — or read Julius Caesar — the message is not particularly ambiguous. Julius Caesar is not a pro-assassination play.

    […]

    Stephen Greenblatt, a leading Shakespeare scholar at Harvard University, said: “What’s kind of amusing, in a slightly grim way, about this is to have Julius Caesar of all things suddenly the point at which the right can no longer endure free expression, which they’ve been hollering for{…} Every time they send out a crazy provocateur on campus, they go bonkers if there are protests.”

    The point of the play, Greenblatt said, is that it can be dangerous to get what you think you want — and that the assassination of a hated leader “could bring an end to the very republic you’re trying to save”.

    “It’s weird to have that, then, be the object of this kind of hysteria,” he said.

    […]

    Greenblatt, the Shakespeare scholar, said the kind of outrage this production was prompting was reminiscent of the way that Shakespeare plays had been used in Eastern Europe under communism, or in the Middle East, to stage implicitly political messages under regimes that suppressed political messages.

    Outside the Delacorte Theater in Central Park on Monday morning, a mother and daughter visiting from Colorado called the decision to cut funding “shocking” and “so sad”.

    “It’s the failure of the school systems to educate people,” said Jane Apostol […]. “I wonder how old the people are who made the decision.”

    […]

    “This play was written hundreds of years ago,” Apostol’s 14-year-old daughter, Zuri Rose, said.

    […]

    The young Ms Rose seems to have much more sense than the fecking pizzagate eejits. Comparing to Goebbels! Good grief. (Redacted from the above excerpt, the eejits were ejected very quickly, in the space of about a minute, when “[t]he audience rose to their feet to thank the actors […]”.)

  119. blf says

    Follow-up to @26, Japan passes ‘brutal’ counter-terror law despite fears over civil liberties:

    […]
    Japan has passed a controversial law targeting conspiracies to commit terrorism and other serious crimes, despite a warning by the UN that it could be used to crack down on civil liberties.

    The ruling Liberal Democratic party and its junior coalition partner pushed the bill through the upper house of Japan’s parliament as thousands of people protested outside.

    […]

    [… T]he ruling bloc took the rare, contentious step of skipping a vote in an upper house committee and moving directly to a vote in the full upper house.

    […]

    A Kyodo news agency survey last month showed voters are split over the bill, with support at 39.9% and opposition at 41.4%.

    An estimated 5,000 people demonstrated in front of the parliament building, denouncing the new law as “autocratic” and vowing to prevent Japan from turning into a “surveillance society”.

    “Peaceful demonstrations could be prohibited for being viewed as terrorism,” Miyuki Masuyama […], told Kyodo news. “Our freedom of expression will be threatened.”

  120. blf says

    Follow-up to @36(previous page), We will break every bone: Islamist leaders threaten Bangladeshi lawyer:

    Sultana Kamal, chair of Transparency International Bangladesh, angered hardline Islamists by defending installation of statue outside Dhaka’s supreme court

    Human rights groups have warned about the safety of a prominent Bangladeshi lawyer after Islamist leaders threatened to break every bone in her body for defending the installation of a Lady Justice statue outside the country’s supreme court.

    Sultana Kamal’s remarks on a television talk show last month have earned her death threats from Muslim hardliners in Bangladesh, where religious fanatics are suspected to have killed 30 activists and writers among others in the past four years.

    […]

    During [a televised] debate, a Hefazat leader argued the statue was a religious object, and therefore had no place outside the supreme court of the country, which has been officially secular since it broke away from Pakistan in 1971. Kamal responded that by the same logic, “no mosques should be on the premises either”.

    […]

    Hefazat, a conservative mass movement based in the country’s privately run religious schools, has been growing in influence in Bangladesh, exerting pressure on the government to insert Islamic references into textbooks, ban men and women from mixing in public, and crack down on writers who offend religious sentiments.

    A campaign started by the group and adopted by more mainstream Islamic movements led the government to relocate the Lady Justice statue to the front of another, less prominent building in the court complex.

    This week, a coalition of human rights groups including Amnesty International called for police to investigate the threats of violence against Kamal and ensure she received adequate protection.

    […]

  121. says

    blf @196:

    The incident was filmed by Jack Posobiec, a rightwing provocateur best known for helping to spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

    Oh, FFS. Of all the people who might complain about inciting violence! sheesh. Posobiec and his ilk incited a guy to actually go into a pizza restaurant and start shooting.

  122. says

    Scroll down to view a video segment from Chris Hayes that explains Mitch McConnell’s trickery in relation to the AHCA: “almost unbelievably devious”, etc. Hayes also interviewed the former Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services administrator Andrew Slavitt.

    The video is only 2:16 minutes long, but it covers the issue well. (Segment one of two.)

    McConnell will introduce a “substitute amendment” as the very last amendment before the bill is voted on. The “substitute” will sort of erase the first bill (probably something similar to the House version of the health care bill), and will then substitute, wholesale, new language for the Senate bill.

    That’s right, a brand new bill will be, effectively, introduced right before the vote. CBO scores, be damned. Hearings, be damned. Having one’s colleagues read and then offer amendments to the actual language of the bill… to hell with all those niceties. From Slavitt:

    They will vote on a bill that hasn’t been vetted by the economic or medical filed and more importantly, hasn’t been read by all of our senators […]

    From Daily Kos:

    Mitch McConnell and a few republican senators, can waste the required 20 hrs having debates over a bill that Mitch McConnell will then propose an amendment to that will zero out what has been debated, substituting that Bill at the last minute with a Bill of his choosing.

    It’s not just the lie that Obamacare is “collapsing” as every republican politician has been spreading to cover their malfeasance. It is as Chris Hayes named it: “almost unbelievably devious”

    The Slavitt interview is near the bottom of the article. It is 1:25 minutes long.

  123. says

    Here is another view of the many tactics that team Trump is taking in order to discredit Mueller. Even if Trump does not succeed in firing Mueller, he may have some success in throwing doubt onto any conclusions or reports that follow Mueller’s investigation.

    President Trump’s legal team is zeroing-in on the relationship between former FBI directors Robert Mueller and James Comey to argue that their long professional partnership represents a conflict of interest that compromises Mueller’s integrity as special counsel. […]

    Those making the case that Mueller is compromised because of his relationship with Comey point to a Justice Department statute that says recusal is necessary when there is the “appearance” of a “personal” conflict of interest.

    “Mueller is compromised by the close professional — and I would sure think personal — relationship with Comey,” said Bill Otis, the former special counsel for President George H.W. Bush. “That is an encompassing standard…that should be interpreted broadly so that the public will have maximum confidence in the outcome of the special counsel’s work, however it winds up.” […]

    The Hill link

    You will not be surprised to hear that some people in the legal community are irate over team Trump’s tactics.

    “Mueller is absolutely not compromised by his professional relationship with Comey,” said Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “This is just an effort to undermine the credibility of the special counsel.”

  124. blf says

    This is incredibly brave, GCC citizens launch petition to end Gulf crisis:

    Amid GCC rift, citizens across the region demand to be included in ‘political decision-making process’.

    A group of Gulf academics and nationals has initiated a petition calling for citizen participation in the political decision-making process in all of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, amid a major ongoing rift that has resulted in several Gulf countries severing ties with Qatar.

    Addressed to GCC leaders and policymakers, the petition, which began circulating on social media platforms on Saturday, has gained more than 500 signatures from academics and individuals across the Gulf region — a figure the initiators say has exceeded expectations.

    […]

    The signatories state it is time to implement a democratic process that grants “ordinary citizens a bigger role in determining their fate”.

    […]

    One of the petition writers and key initiators, Qatar University PhD student Esraa al-Muftah, told Al Jazeera that the petition calls for the “immediate cessation of any actions that lead to the escalation of the situation and which the impact the ability of people to move and freely reside within the GCC states.”

    She added that GCC citizens were concerned, as they had “no say in the ensuing events” that are currently affecting the lives of people and families across the region.

    The petition also includes long-standing grievances that some analysts believe to be the primary cause for the GCC crisis.[†] Lack of popular participation and the lack of effective political and economic integration between the GCC nations have rendered the people’s parliaments futile, the signatories told Al Jazeera.

    […]

    In addition to including democratic elections, says Muftah, the call for popular participation includes the implementation of a democratic constitution.

    […]

    Another initiator, Kuwaiti national Awad al-Mutiri, told Al Jazeera that the signatories were “alarmed and shocked by the diplomatic crisis”.

    “We came to the realisation that such arbitrary and extreme actions would not be taken so quickly and carelessly if ordinary citizens were involved in the decision-making and political process,” he said.

    Asked whether the petition called for democratic elections, Mutiri said: “A freely elected parliament, which truly represents citizens, would not vote for such measures when considering the effect that they would have on their constituencies.”

    The cynic in me says Mr Mutiri has a naïve, if charming, view of supposedly-representative legislatures and their ability to control feudal authoritarians. That does not mean he, and Ms Muftah are, in any sense, wrong — far from it — but it’s neither as simple nor effective as that.

    […]
    The petition has no limit and is open to everyone across the region, regardless of age, profession, or gender.

    Which is part of what makes it so brave: Saudi Arabia has, as one example, announced draconian penalties — something like 15 years in prison — for expressing “sympathy” with Qatar.

      † Al Jazeera’s writing here seems muddled: Opposition to free expression (such as Al Jazeera itself) & and representative government (or in short, the Arab Spring), as well as Qatar’s independent foreign policy (including dealing with Iran), is what many analysts say are the motivations for the blockade.

  125. blf says

    Saudi Arabia really really doesn’t like freedom of expression or the media, TRT reporter says S[audi] Arabia briefly detained his team:

    Statement by Pakistani reporter says he was held with his cameraman while covering a visit by Turkey’s foreign minister.

    Saudi Arabia detained a Pakistani journalist and his Turkish cameraman working for Turkey’s state-run English language television channel for some 10 hours on Friday, according to a statement by reporter Hasan Abdullah.

    TRT’s Abdullah and cameraman Nihat Yayman were held during a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and were asked questions about the ongoing political crisis between a Saudi-led group of countries and Qatar, the statement said.

    The two TRT workers, who were covering the talks, were detained by Saudi authorities at their hotel in Mecca after a live television appearance, but then released after Cavusoglu personally intervened with the Saudi king, the statement said.

    “We had been there with official ‘Special Visa’ to cover the Turkey–Saudi meeting. The ordeal lasted nearly 10 hours during which we faced multiple interrogations and lock-up,” it said.

    […]

  126. blf says

    Why am I not surprised, China approves nine Trump trademarks it had previously rejected:

    ● New provisional approvals shore up president’s brand in China
    ● Intellectual property lawyers say decision ‘suggests special treatment’

    […]

    Publicly available records do not indicate why the nine applications were initially rejected, nor why the trademarks were then granted provisional approval eight to 15 weeks later.

    “The speed with which these appeals were decided is mind-blowing,” said Matthew Dresden, an intellectual property attorney at Harris Bricken in Seattle. “I have never seen any decisions made that quickly. That suggests special treatment. But that’s just procedural. Substantively, it’s impossible to say whether any of this is unusual.”

    […]

    China has also granted formal approval for dozens of Trump trademarks in the last few weeks, bring to 39 the total number of official registrations China has given the Trump family business since Trump took office, according to records.

    Those marks include branded spa and massage services, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, restaurants, bars, and a trademark class that covers bodyguards, social escorts, and concierge services, according to Chinese records.

    […]

    The data [Trump Organization lawyer Alan] Garten gave to Congress […] is at odds with public records in China.

    Garten wrote that the company had filed 117 trademark applications in China and said that while some trademarks had been granted provisional approval none have been formally registered since 2015. But records from China’s trademark office indicate that from 14 Feb through 7 June of this year, 39 trademarks have been formally registered.

  127. says

    From a Guardian opinion piece on Theresa May and the Grenfell Tower fire:

    That tower is austerity in ruins. Symbolism is everything in politics and nothing better signifies the May-Cameron-Osborne era that stripped bare the state and its social and physical protection of citizens. The horror of poor people burned alive within feet of the country’s grandest mansions, many of them empty, moth-balled investments, perfectly captures the politics of the last seven years. The Cameron, Osborne, Gove Notting Hill set live just up the road.

  128. says

    “Six People Have Resigned From Trump’s HIV/AIDS Advisory Council Because He ‘Doesn’t Care'”:

    Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) have resigned, furious at what they say is the new administration’s regressive health policies and a lack of care shown by President Trump.

    Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados announced their resignations publicly in a joint letter for Newsweek magazine.

    “As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care,” they wrote.

    “The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.”

    As part of the changeover in administrations, the Office of National AIDS Policy website was immediately taken down when Trump took over, but roughly five months into his presidency a new website is yet to be established. Further, like many positions in the executive branch, the president has still not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy….

  129. blf says

    He’s not quite gone, unfortunately, Trump administration: Sheriff David Clarke withdraws from homeland security post:

    […]
    David Clarke, the controversial [Milwaukee, Wisconsin county] sheriff and self-described “Trumpster” [überfascist –blf], has removed himself from consideration for a senior position at the department of homeland security.

    […]

    Clarke strongly backed Donald Trump during the US presidential election and compared Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan. He said black Americans sell drugs because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt.

    At Trump’s inauguration celebrations in January, Clarke told a crowd the only time he would reach across the aisle to work with liberals would be to grab one of them by the throat.

    […]

    Clarke has been criticised for alleged neglect in his law enforcement position following the deaths of four inmates at the Milwaukee County jail in the past year. One of the deaths, in which a 38-year-old with bipolar disorder died of dehydration after his water supply had been shut off for six days in response to his erratic behavior, was ruled a homicide.

    Clarke called the storm over the jail deaths a manufactured issue. This is a disguised political attack. Four deaths in a jail, yeah, OK, there were four deaths in a jail, not connected in any way. People die in hospitals, people die in nursing homes, people die — doesn’t mean we had anything to with it.

    […]

    Supposedly, this nutcase could be offered some other position in the hair furor’s dalekocracy.

  130. says

    SC @218, that is alarming.

    Joy Reid also hosted a segment on voter suppression by Republicans in Georgia. 40,000 voter-registration forms were not properly processed (for mostly low-income black residents and students); 10,000 Koreans were also not registered as voters, even though the registration work had been done (the Korean community in Georgia is solidly Democratic).

    Karen Handel (the Republican candidate in the special election in Georgia’s 6th district) backed the use of “Cross Check” to delete thousands of names from the voter roles. Cross Check has been shown to be extremely inaccurate. For example, supposed duplicates of “John Brown” were deleted from the voter roles, even though over 300 men named John Brown were legitimate voters in Georgia alone. It’s just a common name, especially in black communities. Differing middle names and ages were ignored during the purging process. Ditto for the common Korean name, David Kim.

    Jon Ossoff will have to overcome such obstacles to win.

  131. says

    Joy Reid also hosted a segment on voter suppression by Republicans in Georgia.

    That was an excellent segment with Greg Palast. I hope they make the video available.

  132. says

    Follow-up to SC @217.

    SC, contrary to Trump’s tweet, the Rasmussen poll is known for its inaccuracy. That Republican-leaning poll is often an outlier. Other polls show, for example, a 36% approval rating (Gallup), and not the 50% approval that Rasmussen is showing. Trump is the only president to hit a 60% disapproval rating within the first 4.5 months of his presidency.

    Also, Trump’s claim that he has higher approval ratings than Obama is not true. As is usual for him, Trump crammed more than one falsehood into 140 characters on Twitter. On June 16, 2009, President Obama had a 56% approval rating.

    As for Rasmussen’s supposed accuracy: FiveThirtyEight gives the poll a C+.

  133. says

    One of Trump’s lawyers went on the Sunday shows to say that Trump didn’t say what he said, and that Trump didn’t tweet what he tweeted. Yeah, right.

    […] On NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” [Jay] Sekulow claimed Trump was not under investigation for obstruction of justice, despite a Washington Post report to the contrary and a tweet from the President that appeared to confirm the report.

    “There is not an investigation of the President of the United States. Period,” Sekulow said.

    On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sekulow also claimed Trump was not notified that he was under investigation.

    “There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation,” he said. “I can’t imagine a scenario where the president would not be aware of it.”

    On “Fox News Sunday,” however, Sekulow appeared to be less clear on his talking points.

    “So he’s being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take, by the agency who recommended the termination,” Sekulow said.

    “You’ve now said that he is being investigated after saying that you didn’t,” Chris Wallace noted.

    “No, he’s not being investigated,” Sekulow interjected.

    “You just said, sir, you just said that he’s being investigated,” Wallace said.

    Sekulow then reversed direction.

    “Let me be crystal clear so you completely understand. We have not received, nor are we aware of, any investigation of the President of the United States. Period,” Sekulow said, using similar phrasing for emphasis as he did on “Meet the Press.”

    “You just said two times that he’s being investigated,” Wallace said.

    Sekulow also claimed Trump has not said anything about Mueller, though Trump has repeatedly railed against the appointment of a special counsel and the investigation that Mueller is heading. […]

    Link

    Twisted tales. Several other news sources pointed out that investigators often do not notify the targets of investigations that they are under investigation. Sekulow may not know whether or not Trump is under investigation.

  134. says

    From Representative Adam Schiff:

    The President wants to take down Bob Mueller. His lawyer wants to take down Bob Mueller.

    The question is why.

    I think the answer is they want to lay the foundation to discredit whatever Bob Mueller comes up with. They’re essentially engaging in a scorched earth litigation strategy that is beginning with trying to discredit the prosecutor. […]

    I don’t think we should acquiesce in the besmirchment of this good man. We ought to let him do his job.

    The quotes are excerpted from ABC News’ “This Week” program.

  135. says

    Steve Scalise’s condition has been upgraded to “serious.” Scalise was listed as being in “critical” condition earlier, after being shot while at a baseball practice.

    Congressman Steve Scalise is in serious condition. He underwent another surgery today, but continues to show signs of improvement. He is more responsive, and is speaking with his loved ones.

  136. says

    Follow-up to comment 223.

    Let’s look at another poll. The most recent AP-NORC poll shows Trump’s approval rating at 35%.

    Even worse news for Trump: “Nearly a third of Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican party think Trump has little to no respect for the country’s democratic institutions, and a quarter disapprove of the job he’s doing as president.”

    https://apnews.com/024824c4f6ce4eddae98f4156e36553e

  137. says

    Regarding Trump’s campaign promise to lower the price of prescription drugs, he’s breaking that promise:

    During his campaign for president, Donald Trump […] promised to implement sweeping government reform to lower drug prices and called Big Pharma executives “disgusting” for profiting off life-saving medication. […]

    According to reporting from Kaiser Health News and Politico, the Trump administration’s task force working on policy solutions for rising drug prices is now cozying up to pharmaceutical industry interests.

    […] the administration is backing away from ambitious reform, such as allowing the government to directly negotiate with Medicare over drug prices, in favor of focusing on policy priorities that mirror Big Pharma talking points.

    […] one of the “principles” outlined in the documents is extending the patent monopolies on drugs overseas, a policy that threatens to drive up prices because it thwarts generic competition in the global marketplace. […] rolling back programs that require pharmaceutical companies to provide discounted medication to clinics serving low-income patients.

    It’s hardly the first example of Trump’s promises regarding health care reform falling totally flat. […]

    Think Progress link

    Team Trump is consistent when it comes to screwing the poor and low-income segments of the population: “rolling back programs that require pharmaceutical companies to provide discounted medication to clinics serving low-income patients.”

  138. says

    Some events:

    – today: French legislative elections (looks like low turnout, landslide for Macron’s party)
    – tomorrow: hearing on opening Felix Sater files (mentioned in #212 above)
    – Tuesday: Georgia Sixth election
    – Wednesday: former DHS head Jeh Johnson will testify in open session before the House Intelligence Committee

  139. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    In light of the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez in the murder of Philando Castile, this article, while not exactly news, is relevant.

    Fittingly, the most chilling scene in the movie doesn’t take place on a city street, or at a protest, or during a drug raid. It takes place in a conference room. It’s from a police training conference with Dave Grossman, one of the most prolific police trainers in the country. Grossman’s classes teach officers to be less hesitant to use lethal force, urge them to be willing to do it more quickly and teach them how to adopt the mentality of a warrior. Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in July, had attended one of Grossman’s classes called “The Bulletproof Warrior” (though that particular class was taught by Grossman’s business partner, Jim Glennon).

    In the class recorded for “Do Not Resist,” Grossman at one point tells his students that the sex they have after they kill another human being will be the best sex of their lives. The room chuckles. But he’s clearly serious. “Both partners are very invested in some very intense sex,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job. You find one, relax and enjoy it.”

    Grossman closes the class with a (literal) chest-pounding motivational speech that climaxes with Grossman telling the officers to find an overpass overlooking the city they serve. He urges them to look down on their city and know that they’ve made the world a better place. He then urges them to grip the overpass railing, lean forward and “let your cape blow in the wind.” The room gives him a standing ovation.

    There are even more disturbing details in the linked article.

    The trailer for the documentary is here; worth watching especially if you were starting to get warm fuzzies for Jim Comey.

  140. blf says

    Third noose found hanging near major Washington museums

    […]
    Authorities said a noose was found hanging from a lamp post outside a museum in Washington on Saturday afternoon, in the third such incident in recent weeks.

    US park police Sgt Anna Rose said the noose was found outside the National Gallery of Art. […]

    Tourists found a noose last month on the floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. A few days earlier another noose was found on the grounds of the Hirshhorn Museum, which features contemporary art and culture.

    […]

  141. says

    What a Maroon @231,

    In the class recorded for “Do Not Resist,” Grossman at one point tells his students that the sex they have after they kill another human being will be the best sex of their lives.

    Disgusting. I don’t have the right words to condemn this attitude.

  142. blf says

    An amusing resistance action (from Victories against Trump are mounting. Here’s how we deal the final blow): “In Southern California, a Latino–Muslim alliance started a project called Taco Trucks at Every Mosque, timed to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan.”

    Related links: An LA Times article, Muslim and Latino groups unite during Ramadan, breaking fast with tacos at mosques (en español); and a set of photographs — which will probably make hungry (you have been warned!) — Taco Trucks at Every Mosque.

  143. says

    What Europeans think of Trump:

    […] Three months into his presidency, the rest of Europe is still deeply unsettled over this new president unlike any other, confused about whether he’s a dangerous ideologue or merely dangerously ignorant—and desperately seeking ways to stop him from pursuing the foreign policy of Russia-reconciling and European Union-bashing he promised on the campaign trail. […]

    “Donald Trump is probably one of the least popular American presidents on this side of the Atlantic for a very long time,” says [former Swedish Prime Minister Carl] Bildt, […]

    Do Europeans dislike Trump even more than George W. Bush, I ask, recalling the hostile days after the 2003 invasion of Iraq that most Europeans opposed and which keeps Bush from visiting the continent to this day?

    Yes, Bildt tells me. Trump’s “brutal” and “vulgar” campaigning, his disdain for the facts, his lack of “civility,” are much worse than the policy disputes of the Bush era; they’ve already “caused a gulf to open up between us.” […]

    “The media treat him like he’s Princess Diana,” said one diner next to us in a restaurant in England’s Lake District. “I don’t mean that in a positive way, but they can’t seem to take him off the front page.” […]

    Do you know anyone who has a favorable opinion of Trump, we asked our fellow diner and his partner, two men from Coventry.

    “I’m sure there’s someone,” was the answer, “but I certainly don’t know anyone.” […]

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/01/trump-europe-carl-bildt-global-politico-215087

  144. says

    A new ad backed up with a $1.5 million ad buy targets the following Republicans: Susan Collins), Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, Dean Heller and Shelley Moore Capito. The ad’s goal is to get Republicans to vote against the Trump health care bill.
    Link

  145. blf says

    Doha yet to see demands from Riyadh and allies:

    Amid diplomatic rift, foreign minister says Qatar has not received list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies.

    Qatar has yet to see any demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies as they continue an embargo on the country, according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister.

    Kuwait is working to mediate the dispute between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states that began nearly two weeks ago.

    “So far Kuwait hasn’t received any demands from any GCC nations or even a list of the so-called accusations,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman said on Saturday in an interview with Qatar TV.

    “We’re just confused about what these demands could be.

    “The fact that they don’t even have clear demands ready shows that all of their accusations are baseless.”

    […]

    There is actually someone, besides N.Korea, as bad as this diplomacy thing as hair furor — the feudal nutcases in Saudi Arabia.

  146. blf says

    Locally, only c.40% voted, with an almost perfect split between teh wingnuts and Macron’s mob (both c.50%). The Macron candidate squeaked in by a margin of c.200 votes, or something a bit over one tenth of a percent (> 0.1%).

  147. says

    One of the major organizations still fighting against marriage equality held a rally in Washington, D.C. About 50 people showed up. Here’s a report:

    […] Fifteen minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, about 20 adults were milling around an empty stage while several children worked to unfurl large red and blue banners to carry during the march. One passerby wondered whether they were going to a kite festival. Gradually, a few more participants arrived, including five men wearing the signature capes of the group Tradition, Family and Property and carrying a “Honk for Traditional Marriage” sign. […]

    Brown [National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown] told the crowd not to be discouraged by their small numbers, comparing their cause to that of abolitionists in the 18th and early 19th century.

    “We are on the side of truth,” he said. “We are on the side of true human rights, we are on the side of true civil rights. […] There may not be thousands of us here today. It doesn’t matter. There were only a few that stood with William Wilberforce when he stood up and said ‘no’ to the slave trade in England. He was mocked, he was derided, he was laughed at. We remember him as a hero now, […]”

    Brown insisted that the Supreme Court “did not and could not and will not change the nature of marriage” but has instead “put a lie within the law.” […]

    “The court has been wrong and wrong time and time again,” he said, citing the rulings in Dred Scott, Buck v. Bell and Roe v. Wade. “And guess what? The court has overturned its own rulings that were wrong. It’s going to take another justice, maybe two. […]”

    Brown pointed to his many travels overseas, where he works to unite global anti-LGBTQ leaders with the World Congress of Families, saying that while the U.S. has “made a very damaging mistake” at home, “around the world, good things are happening.” He mentioned the recent WCF conference in Hungary, which has restricted marriage in its constitution, and travels to Romania and Taiwan, where he met recently with activists working to overturn a court ruling granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.

    Yuck. Exporting the worst of American anti-gay prejudices.

    Longtime NOM strategist Frank Schubert also addressed the rally, calling the Obergefell decision “anti-constitutional” and “illegitimate” and saying that “it will only take one new justice on the Supreme Court” to reverse it. […]

    Another participant in Wallace’s summit, Denise Walker of Everlasting Light Ministries, told the NOM crowd that Americans in general, and African-Americans in particular, have turned their back on the “God who delivered us out of slavery” and “later brought the Civil Right’s Movement.”

    “We left God,” she said, “then we allowed ourselves to be aligned with ungodly movements. This gay rights movement is ungodly, it’s from the pit of hell.”

    Right Wing Watch link

  148. says

    Corey Lewandowski is still as stupid as he ever was. Here are some of his opinions about Robert Mueller and the ongoing investigation:

    […] I think, if you look at what the president’s been able to accomplish, in the first 10 percent of his administration, it has been unbelievably successful. His campaign had made a number of promises, and he’s fulfilling those promises.

    But now you have to ask yourself, what is [Russia probe special counsel] Robert Mueller’s job anymore? Because the public testimony that [former FBI Director] Jim Comey has given, Democrats have agreed to, is that there has been absolutely no collusion with the Russians in any way, shape, or form of this campaign and candidly of the election outcome, which means Donald Trump won fair and square.

    So what is Mueller supposed to be investigating? Everybody has now said there is no collusion, which is what he was designed to look at originally, so the question now becomes, “What is he doing anymore?” He’s already moved on from the Russia investigation to something else, and what we’ve seen, unfortunately, is the individuals that he’s bringing on board for this investigation are main contributors to Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, they’re partisan hacks, they’re part of the deep state, and they have a different agenda, which is to destroy this president.

    The quote comes from an interview on Fox News.

    Conspiracy theory shit storm.

  149. says

    “The court has been wrong and wrong time and time again,” [Brian Brown] said, citing the rulings in Dred Scott, Buck v. Bell and Roe v. Wade.

    One of these things is not like the others.

    “And guess what? The court has overturned its own rulings that were wrong.

    Scarily, they have not overturned Buck v. Bell.

    Lewandowski:

    Because the public testimony that [former FBI Director] Jim Comey has given, Democrats have agreed to, is that there has been absolutely no collusion with the Russians in any way, shape, or form of this campaign and candidly of the election outcome, which means Donald Trump won fair and square….Everybody has now said there is no collusion…He’s already moved on from the Russia investigation to something else…

    The fuck? I know it’s basically the talking points, but it’s all so blatantly false.

  150. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Hiring a lawyer like Kellyanne Conway who lies for pay won’t help Hair Furor, except with his base. The lies are too transparent.
    I would love to see those opposing the Furor trying out explaining what a scam is an how to detect it, so you can dismiss it.

  151. says

    Ari Melber is reporting on Nixon-era documents from the Watergate prosecution providing evidence in support of Daniel Ellsberg’s claim that Nixon people, especially Chuck Colson, hired thugs to beat him up with the intent to incapacitate him at a DC rally (they didn’t get to him). He’s interviewing the person who wrote the memo, Nick Ackerman, right now. Ackerman is saying Watergate was a “much, much broader attack on our democracy” than is generally recognized. One of my thoughts on the Watergate specials is that this whole cluster of actions isn’t being covered sufficiently.

    …And now we’re hearing some nonsense from Human Pinky Ring.

  152. microraptor says

    What a Maroon @231:

    In the class recorded for “Do Not Resist,” Grossman at one point tells his students that the sex they have after they kill another human being will be the best sex of their lives. The room chuckles. But he’s clearly serious. “Both partners are very invested in some very intense sex,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job. You find one, relax and enjoy it.”

    Aside from being disgusting, isn’t that a major action movie cliche? The hero kills the bad guy, then has bed-destroying sex with the grateful heroine?

  153. Owlmirror says

    Sekulow. Not only is he a Christian Right fanatic,* but also possibly something of a self-dealing grifter. Ed Brayton was writing about him more than a decade ago (evidently there was a 2011 sequel to the article quoted by Brayton, but unfortunately both of the original articles are now gone).

    This review by the Forward links to the article from 2005.

    Interestingly, trying to access the 2011 article at archive.org gets a message stating: "This URL has been excluded from the Wayback Machine." !!

    Well.

    * He calls himself a “Messianic Jew,” which, I’m sorry, is a Christian.

    Eh. . . I’ve had the long argument about labeling already, and I’m inclined to let him call himself whatever he wants. And noting that what he does is more important anyway.

  154. blf says

    Oh for fecks sake, apparently the facists cannot stand anyone who didn’t write either Mein Kampf or the Protocols, US Shakespeare theaters report abuse amid uproar over Trump-like Caesar:

    Multiple theaters say they have received hateful messages following rightwing protests over a controversial New York City production of Julius Caesar

    American theaters bearing William Shakespeare’s name have reported a surge of abusive messages from members of the public, following rightwing protests over a New York production of Julius Caesar in which the doomed title character was dressed to look like Donald Trump.

    […]

    Amidst sustained pressure from infuriated conservative activists and media, the New York company lost major sponsors. Such anger appears to have radiated outwards – with a loss of focus on the way.

    In Lenox, Massachusetts, an all-year Shakespeare festival received around 40 abusive messages, the Boston Globe reported. One reportedly wished Shakespeare & Company the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die.

    In Texas, meanwhile, Shakespeare Dallas artistic director Raphael Parry reported the receipt of around 80 messages including threats of rape and death and one suggestion, referencing the fate of Shakespeare’s Caesar, that theater staff should be sent to Isis to be killed with real knives.

    […]

  155. says

    Eh. . . I’ve had the long argument about labeling already, and I’m inclined to let him call himself whatever he wants. And noting that what he does is more important anyway.

    I’m also so inclined. I never said he couldn’t call himself whatever he likes. I said that in my view Messianic Jews are Christians. WP:

    Messianic Judaism believes that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and “God the Son” (one person of the Trinity), and that the Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, and New Testament are all authoritative scriptures.[12][13][14][15] Salvation in Messianic Judaism is achieved only through acceptance of Jesus as one’s savior,[8][13][14][15][16][17] and Jewish laws or customs which are followed do not contribute to salvation.[16][17]

    That’s Christianity.

  156. says

    This review by the Forward links to the article from 2005.

    Although this certainly looks like a mirror of the article, FWIW.

    Thanks! From the 2011 article:

    Along with its spiritual benefits, Sekulow’s new calling has come with significant financial benefits.

    Since 1998, the two charities have paid out more than $33 million to members of Sekulow’s family and businesses they own or co-own, according to the charities’ federal tax returns, known as form 990s.

    One of the charities is controlled by the Sekulow family — tax documents show that all four of CASE’s board members are Sekulows and another is an officer — an arrangement criticized by a nonprofit watchdog group.

    Among the payments since 1998:

    $15.4 million to the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, a law firm co-owned by Jay Sekulow. According to the 2009 tax form, he owns 50 percent of CLAG. The firm was known as the Center for Law and Justice when it received some of the payments.

    $5.7 million to Gary Sekulow, Jay Sekulow’s brother. He is paid for two full-time jobs — as CFO of both the American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, and Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, or CASE. In 2009, his combined compensation topped $600,000.

    $2.74 million in private jet lease payments to Regency Productions, a company owned by Jay Sekulow, and PFMS, a company owned by his sister-in-law, Kim Sekulow.

    $1.78 million to Regency Productions for leasing office space and media production.

    $1.11 million to PFMS for administrative and media buying services.

    $1.6 million to Pam Sekulow, Jay Sekulow’s wife, including a $245,000 loan from CASE, which she used to purchase a home from the charity. The balance of the loan was later forgiven over several years and reported on the 990s as income.

    $681,911 to Jay Sekulow’s sons, Logan and Jordan, for media work and other duties at CASE.

  157. blf says

    One thing that has been sort-of bothering me for awhile is why did hair furor tweet support for Saudi Arabia et al’s blockage of Qatar. I previously speculated “I presume hair furor just got taken in by Saudi Arabia’s pathetic terrorism sponsor line. Or perhaps about as likely, Steve Bannon believes something like that and, reinforced by the Saudis and maybe Israelis, instructed him”.

    I overlooked the obvious, which the New York Times has just pointed out, Trump’s Business Ties in the Gulf Raise Questions About His Allegiances:

    President [sic] Trump has done business with royals from Saudi Arabia for at least 20 years […]. Mr Trump has earned millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates for putting his name on a golf course, with a second soon to open.

    He has never entered the booming market in neighboring Qatar, however, despite years of trying.

    […]

    “Other countries in the Middle East see what is happening and may think, ‘We should be opening golf courses’ or ‘We should be buying rooms at the Trump International,’” said Brian Egan, a State Department legal adviser under the Obama administration. “Even if there is no nefarious intent on behalf of the president or the Trumps, for a president to be making money from business holdings in sensitive places around the world is likely to have an impact.”

    […]

    Mr Trump’s dealings with the Saudis extend back to at least 1995, when he sold the Plaza Hotel to a partnership formed by a Saudi prince and an investor from Singapore. The deal, for $325 million, enabled Mr Trump to escape a default on his loans. (The same prince had reportedly bought Mr Trump’s yacht for $18 million four years earlier.)

    The Saudis “buy apartments from me,” he said in August 2015 at a rally in Mobile, Ala. “They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

    […]

    In May [2017 (I presume)], the rulers of the kingdom agreed to invest $20 billion in a fund to invest in American infrastructure, billed as part of an initiative Mr Trump has championed. The $20 billion investment went to a fund set up by the money manager Blackstone, whose founder is close to Mr Trump, his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.

    […]

    [… T]he Trumps had less luck in Doha. Their only business with Qatar was leasing office space in Trump Tower, in Manhattan, to the national airway. The airline moved out before Mr Trump became president.

    […]

    Duh. Of course. Follow the money! Follow the money!! Follow the money!!!

  158. KG says

    blf@268,

    Thanks very much for that! But what will Trump’s Saudi chums make of the arms deal with Qatar?

  159. blf says

    [… W]hat will Trump’s Saudi chums make of the arms deal with Qatar?

    That — plus what Bannon & hair furor “think” — has also been bugging me. I haven’t seen any analysis of the deal, and for that matter, very few mentions.

    I may be mistaken here, but as far as I am aware, teh trum-prat’s & family’s kleptomania is not too heavily — or at least directly — involved in teh military-murder machine, so there’s no obvious finanical straight line to be drawn. (Again, I could easily be wrong.) Hence, I sniff the ordure of Bannon’s Islam-is-bad paranoia. Don’t be distracted by the point Saudi Arabia is majority Muslim, since there are hints of Israeli shenanigans — another case of Follow the money! — “US legislation [HR 2712] threatening to sanction Qatar for its support of Palestinian terror was sponsored by 10 lawmakers who received more than $1m over the last 18 months from lobbyists and groups linked to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.”

  160. says

    Follow-up to #s 252-254 – Here’s the NBC article about the Melber segment: “NBC News Exclusive: Memo Shows Watergate Prosecutors Had Evidence Nixon White House Plotted Violence.” It’s supposed to contain links to the 1975 Akerman memo about the investigation as a whole, which is very interesting on a number of historical and contemporary fronts, and to another memo specifically about their interview with Roger Stone regarding the incident, but unfortunately right now both links go to the first memo. Hopefully they’ll correct the second link soon.

  161. blf says

    Justices Strike Down Law Banning Disparaging Trademarks:

    The government may not deny trademark registration to disparaging terms, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday [today] in an important statement on the meaning of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

    The decision was unanimous, but the justices were divided on the reasoning.

    The decision, concerning an Asian-American dance-rock band called the Slants, probably also means that the Washington Redskins football team will win its fight to retain federal trademark protection.

    The law at issue in both cases denies federal trademark protection to messages that may disparage people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”

    […]

    [… T]he court said in 2015 in Reed v. Town of Gilbert that laws “that target speech based on its communicative content” were “presumptively unconstitutional.”

    On the other hand, the Supreme Court has said that the First Amendment falls out of the analysis when the government is not acting as a censor, but is merely choosing what speech to adopt or support. In 2015, in a 5-to-4 decision in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, the court ruled that Texas could refuse to allow specialty license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag because the plates were the government’s speech and were thus immune from attacks on First Amendment grounds.

    […]

    The government has applied the law inconsistently when faced with trademarks based on ethnic slurs. It has, for instance, both registered and rejected trademarks for the terms “Heeb,” “Dago,” “Injun” and “Squaw.”

    […]

    This is breaking news — I literally got an alert whilst editing my previous comment (@270 about Qatar) — so I am not too surprised the article does not further explain the differing reasonings.

  162. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Some more details on the terrorist attack on the mosque in London. One man has died.

    Meanwhile, Imam Mohammed Mahmoud gives us a lesson in empathy and compassion:

    We arrived at the scene within minutes and we found the assailant on the floor. He had been restrained by around three people. We found a group of people quickly started to collect around the assailant. And some tried to hit him, either kicks or punches. By God’s grace we manage to surround him and to protect him from any harm. We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming from every angle.

    A police van drove past so we flagged them down we told them the situation. There’s a man he’s restrained. He mowed down a group of people and there’s a mob attempting to hurt him.

  163. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    And Il Douchebag’s response to the London terror hasn’t changed (see comment 258).

  164. blf says

    Apparently, in Ozland, there is an effort underway to pass some sort of a “clean energy” bill. What is does, and doesn’t, do is not-known to me. However, it does seem, in part, a fraud, as it apparently considers coal (and possibly gas) a form of “clean energy” (the coal bit, at least, is very obviously another case of Follow the money!). At any rate, the Ozland nazis (First Nation), have decided “clean energy” doesn’t result in as big of bribes, or something, One Nation confirms it will vote against clean energy target […]:

    […] One Nation declared on Monday it would not support a new clean energy target under any circumstances […].

    “There won’t be any support for a clean energy target,” a spokesman for the One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, told Guardian Australia. […]

    Fascist fruitcake Roberts is the eejit who denies AGW, even when presented with evidence, claiming Nasa et al makes it all up.

  165. blf says

    Jailed for calling Ugandan president a ‘pair of buttocks’, activist vows to fight on (the Grauniad’s edits in {curly braces}):

    A Facebook post criticising Yoweri Museveni landed academic Stella Nyanzi in jail, but she vows to continue her fight against oppression and poverty in Uganda

    A few minutes into our interview at one of Kampala’s hotels, Stella Nyanzi’s lawyer tells us the place is no longer safe for her and she needs to leave. She is constantly monitored by security agents these days, she says, which is perhaps not surprising as the academic and activist is one of the fiercest critics of the Ugandan government. But she is not about to back down.

    Not even the 33 days she spent in the country’s maximum security Luzira women’s prison for describing the president, Yoweri Museveni, as a “pair of buttocks” could change her stance.

    “My language will grow sharper if the government continues to oppress us,” says Nyanzi, who was suspended from her job at Makerere University for abusing the first lady and education minister, Janet Museveni. Nyanzi called her a “big-thighed cow” with an “empty brain”.

    On top of that, she has accused the Musevenis of raping the country and leaving millions of Ugandans in poverty during their three-decade rule.

    “I am a critic of government and I choose the words to use {carefully},” she told the Guardian while out on bail.

    “If you are going to stand with the powerless against the oppression {by} the powerful, someone will not like it. That person is usually the powerful.”

    […]

    Her arrest elicited widespread condemnation, with Human Rights Watch describing it as “the most flagrant attack on free expression in many years and a vengeful use of Uganda’s justice system to silence a government critic”. She is currently barred from travelling out of the country.

    […]

    Ms Nyanzi is also behind the campaign to “[raise] money to buy sanitary towels for girls who can’t afford them. […] At least 30% of teenage girls in Uganda miss school when they start having their periods.” This has apparently been quite a success (more details at the link).

  166. says

    Amy Klobuchar just told Andrea Mitchell that Rosenstein told them in closed session (and told them they could repeat it publicly) that Trump told him before he wrote the memo about Comey that he had already made his decision regardless. Is that something that was known?

  167. says

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether electoral maps drawn deliberately to favor a particular political party are acceptable under the Constitution in a case that could have huge consequences for American elections.

    One would think the answer to this is obvious.

    Of the Republican gerrymander:

    “Wisconsin’s gerrymander was one of the most aggressive of the decade, locking in a large and implausibly stable majority for Republicans in what is otherwise a battleground state,” said redistricting expert Thomas Wolf of the Brennan Center. “It’s a symptom of politics going haywire and something that we increasingly see when one party has sole control of the redistricting process.”

  168. blf says

    Update on @241, Women to take more than a third of seats in France’s parliament:

    In the second round of legislative elections on Sunday, 223 women were elected to France’s lower house. With 38.65% of seats in the National Assembly, the election marks a new record for female representation in the French parliament.

    It’s good news for equality: Women now hold 223 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, a significant increase over the previous legislature’s 155 […]

    The marked increase can be explained in part by the success of President Emmanuel Macron’s year-old La République en Marche (Republic on the move or LREM) party, 47% of whose parliamentarians are now women. But LREM is closely followed by the Democratic Movement party (46%), France Insoumise (41%) and the Socialist Party (38%) in terms of its female representation. […]

    […]

    There are also legal reasons for this trend [of increasing numbers of female Parliamentarians]. “Two recent laws have favoured an increase in female candidates,” says Mariette Sineau, political scientist at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po (Cevipof). One law has doubled the fines imposed on parties whose MP nominations do not include the required 49% reserved for female candidates.

    A second piece of legislation now forbids parliamentarians from concurrently serving as mayors or regional councilors as they have in the past, a move that has opened up these positions to others, including women and young people.

    The head of the National Assembly may also turn out to be a woman from Macron’s party. Barbara Pompili — a former Green candidate supported by the LREM party who won re-election in the Somme region with 61.89% of the vote — is regularly cited as a possible candidate.

    […]

    Broadly, Macron’s mob won c.320 seats (lower than the c.400 polls indicated), and their allies, c.40; the wingnuts are the second largest with only c.125. Teh le penazis got slightly more than polls predicted, c.8. (All figures are approximate because I am using a dated report as the source (laziness, sorry!).)

  169. says

    Josh Marshall asks, as I have in the past, why Ezra Cohen-Watnick still has a job and apparent influence in the NSC – “There is some unseen power center at work here. Is it the President? Is it Steve Bannon? Is it Flynn? From what I can tell it’s not clear. But it seems pretty important to find out.”

  170. blf says

    KG@286, Yeah, I read that (in the dead-tree edition, as I now recall). It is the best historical backgrounder on the situation I’ve read. Many thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention!

  171. says

    Here’s more about the exposure of personal data for 200 million US voters by a Republican data firm.

    …One exposed folder is labeled “Exxon-Mobile” [sic] and contains spreadsheets apparently used to predict which voters support the oil and gas industry. Divided by state, the files include the voters’ names and addresses, along with a unique RNC identification number assigned to every US citizen registered to vote. Each row indicates where voters likely fall on issues of interest to ExxonMobil, the country’s biggest natural gas producer.

    The data evaluates, for example, whether or not a specific voter believes drilling for fossil fuels is vital to US security. It also predicts if the voter thinks the US should be moving away from fossil-fuel use. The ExxonMobil “national score” document alone contains data on 182,746,897 Americans spread across 19 fields….

  172. says

    Bad news: Republicans are set up fairly nicely to move the courts in the USA to the right:

    […] “The courts — of all the things that we should be able to accomplish with this president and this Senate — the courts have the longest reach into the future,” McConnell said. “We have a significant number of vacancies coming into this administration. The president knows this is a way to have an impact on our country far beyond his tenure in office.”

    […] Many conservatives who recognized Trump’s profound flaws last year voted for him anyway because they wanted to move the judiciary to the far-right, and they knew a Republican White House and a Republican Senate could deliver, filling vacancies McConnell created by blocking Obama-era nominees.

    […] the Trump White House has already sent 22 judicial nominations to the Senate, as compared to the four judicial nominations the Obama White House had made at this point in 2009. […]

    Making matters worse for the left, the GOP isn’t just moving forward with plans to reshape the judiciary — remember, filibusters on all court nominees have been eliminated — they’re embracing jurists who are ridiculous even by 2017 standards. Indeed, […] the White House and Senate Republicans are advancing “polemicists and bomb-throwers, performance artist lawyers who have spent their intellectual lives staking out absurd and often abhorrent legal positions.” [quoting Dahlia Lithwick].

    […] Trump and congressional Republicans will be in a position to do an enormous amount of damage while in power, but in many areas, changes made now can be changed back in the future. Health care benefits can be restored; alliances can be rebuilt, etc.

    The federal courts, however, are different because federal jurists serve lifetime appointments. In other words, we’ll be dealing with the consequences of Trump’s – and his party’s – eagerness to move the court sharply to the right for decades to come.

    Maddow Blog link

  173. says

    Trump continues to sound and look ridiculous when he meets with foreign leaders:

    As President Donald Trump reminisced Monday on the United States’ role in building the Panama Canal, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela reminded him that more than a century has passed since.

    “The Panama Canal is doing quite well,” Trump said, sitting with Varela for a photo opportunity. “I think we did a good job building it, right?”

    “Yeah. A hundred years ago,” Varela said.

    “We did a very good job,” Trump continued, speaking over Varela. “But things are going well in Panama.”

    Link

  174. says

    Oh, dear. We have a dunderhead in place as the Energy Secretary for the federal government:

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday that the primary contributing factors to climate change are the “ocean waters and this environment that we live in” — not rising CO2 levels.

    “Do you believe CO2 is the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate?” asked CNBC’s Joe Kernen.

    “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in,” replied the secretary. He then began to complain about the backlash against “being a skeptic.”

    There is broad consensus in the scientific community that the Earth’s temperatures are rising as a result of greenhouse gases, caused by human activity.

    “This idea that science is just absolutely settled and if you don’t believe it’s settled then somehow you’re another Neanderthal, that is so inappropriate from my perspective,” Perry said.

    Being a “skeptic,” according to Perry, is “quite alright.”

    At the ended of the interview, Kernan gave Perry a verbal pat on the back. “Alright, Mr. Secretary, that’s a pretty good answer. You did well there.”

    Hey, CNN, WTF? You can do better than that.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/rick-perry-epa-climate-change-temperatures-rise-co2

  175. says

    Whoops. In comment 297, it was a CNBC host that failed to follow up properly when questioning Rick Perry. It was not a CNN host.

  176. says

    SC @264, thanks for that closer look at Sekulow’s history of ripping off religious charity organizations in order to enrich his family. He’s a grifter, just like Trump.

    Peter Montgomery, writing for Right Wing Watch, explained “what made Trump hire religious right lawyer Jay Sekulow”:

    Religious Right attorney Jay Sekulow, founder of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), is in the national spotlight after he made the rounds of Sunday political talk shows, including a not-very-successful appearance on Fox News Sunday. […]

    Salon’s Heather Digby Parton surmised that Trump may have hired Sekulow after seeing him on Fox, where he has frequently appeared as a guest commentator. […]

    Sekulow may have also proven his Trump-worthy chops by urging Republicans not to consider an Obama nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Or maybe Trump admired Sekulow’s long history of promoting right-wing conspiracy theories, most recently the Sean Hannity-promoted argument that former DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered over his supposed links to WikiLeaks.

    During the presidential campaign, when Trump made his infamous remark about women who have abortions needing to face “some sort of punishment” if the procedure is outlawed, Sekulow went to great lengths on his radio program to argue that Trump was not “legally wrong.”

    Early in the Obama administration, Sekulow manufactured an alarmist right-wing campaign against a stimulus bill for supposedly including language to institutionalize anti-religious discrimination on college campuses. Over the years, Sekulow and/or the ACLJ have also promoted a number of other bogus right-wing charges, including:

    – that secular humanists and “Satan’s legions” are persecuting Christians in America […]
    – that gay people are out to “destroy” families and communities
    – that President Obama tried to suppress the votes of Ohio military service members serving overseas
    – that Sharia law is a threat to the U.S. Constitution and Muslims cannot be loyal Americans because “devout Muslims cannot truthfully swear the oath to become citizens of the Unites States of America.” […]

  177. says

    This is a follow-up to the Jim Acosta quote to which SC linked earlier.

    Reporters were barred from recording video or audio footage during Monday afternoon’s White House press briefing. […] On CNN, Acosta described White House press briefings as becoming “kind of useless,” and questioned why journalists bother attending if they are not allowed to record on camera or with audio. “It just feels like we’re slowly but surely being dragged into what is a new normal in this country where the President of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions.”

    Link

  178. says

    John Oliver discussed Trump’s ridiculous rhetoric about bringing back coal mining jobs. The video is 24:20 minutes long, and it also calls Scott Pruitt’s bogus job-creation figures “bullshit.”

    Oliver does a good job of debunking Trump, Pruitt and other members of team Trump.

  179. says

    Trump’s deportation force is still running amuck. Here’s one new example:

    Carlos Humberto Cardona is one of the thousands of 9/11 recovery workers who suffers from health issues […] after breathing in toxic air following the deadly terror attack. Cardona is also one of the tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants to have been swept up by Donald Trump’s deportation force in the past months.

    Cardona was initially issued a deportation order in 2000, but federal immigration officials decided he could stay so long as he stay out of trouble and check in regularly with ICE, which he has done since. Even with the threat of deportation from the U.S. looming over his head, Cardona did what he felt was right and helped clear the rubble of 9/11.

    But following Trump’s inauguration, Cardona was arrested due to an attempted drug sale conviction from over 25 years ago, a transaction the family insists he was not a part of. Despite the fact that Cardona has lived here for over 30 years, has not been in trouble since the 1990 conviction, and checked in regularly with ICE since 2000, the administration has decided this 9/11 worker is a priority for deportation:
    “I can’t believe that this is happening to him after all of the sacrifices he has made. He says he feels like he’s being treated like a criminal,” [Cardon’s wife] Liliana told the Daily News.

    According to Think Progress, “Cardona fled Colombia for the United States at the age of 17 in 1986 after his two brothers, who served as police officers, were killed by anti-government rebels during his home country’s civil war.” In the time since then, Cardona has attempted to sort out his legal status […]

    Last week, Barua filed a legal action asking a Brooklyn federal judge to make the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services hurry and decide a basic 2014 application verifying his marriage to Liliana, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen. […]

    Cardona and his family worry not just about the danger he could face back in Colombia, but also about his medical needs. “He’s very much an American,” Cardona’s attorney Rajesh Barua said. “He’s scared of going back to Colombia. He doesn’t know how he’ll maintain a living and what kind of treatment he’ll have for respiratory problems, which are very real.”

    Daily Kos link

    NY Daily News link

    Think Progress link

  180. says

    Otto Warmbier has died. It sounds like he’s basically been on life support since his return and they had to make the decision to take him off (I’m not positive about that.)

  181. says

    “House Dems pry into reported Flynn, Saudi Russia energy deal”:

    A pair of top House Democrats are digging into whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn may have misled officials on his security clearance firm about two Middle East trips — including one reportedly about building $100 billion worth of nuclear energy plants with help from Russia’s nuclear power agency.

    House Republicans had not signed onto the request as of Monday afternoon. Spokespeople for House oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy and House foreign affairs Chairman Ed Royce were not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.

    Best part: “Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the oversight committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the foreign affairs committee, also asked for more details about an October 2015 trip Flynn took to the Middle East, citing details from Flynn’s security clearance, including what Flynn told investigators. The hotel Flynn says he stayed at does not exist, and there is no record of a travel companion he took with him, Cummings and Engel wrote.”

  182. says

    Further to #131 (I think I missed one in between) – “The Man Who Knew Too Much: His nuclear research helped a judge determine that former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko had been assassinated – likely on Putin’s orders. Just months after the verdict, the scientist himself was found stabbed to death with two knives. Police deemed it a suicide, but US intelligence officials suspect it was murder.”

  183. says

    Spicey wants out?

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer is leading a search for his own replacement on the briefing room podium as part of a larger plan to shake up the White House communications operation, according to two people with knowledge of the effort.

    Last week, Spicer and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reached out to Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham about the role of press secretary and Daily Mail U.S. political editor David Martosko about the role of communications director, according to a White House official.

    Spicer and Priebus have had preliminary discussions with Ingraham, and Martosko met with chief strategist Steve Bannon last week, according to the White House official. […]

    Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was considered for press secretary during the transition, is not interested in the position and has not been interviewed, according to the people familiar with the effort.

    Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has frequently filled in for Spicer, has told people that she doesn’t want the job of press secretary, according to a source close to her. […]

    Link

  184. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Just saw my Junior Senator, Tammy Duckworth, on Meet the Press Daily. Liked her idea of allowing people to buy into Medicare if there is no competition….
    The private insurers would shit bricks if they had competition from “Medicare” in the exchanges. They absolutely want to beat back true effective government intervention, but if they can’t maintain obscene profits with real competition they have a big problem….

  185. says

    People are sharing Republican messages of feigned outrage over the process through which ACA was developed and passed. As Chris Hayes points out, many of them were making these claims about a secret, rushed, partisan process months in – after dozens of public hearings, committees, and amendments. This takes the cake: “What an act of arrogance!”

    It’s reasonable to conclude that the Republican Party has gone very far down the Hugenberg road, basically turning their backs on democracy. Secret legislation rushed through without public debate, hiding from the press, lying to the public about the content of bills, relying on billionaire-funded propaganda to manipulate the public, refusing bipartisan deliberation or compromise, destroying the social conditions necessary for democratic participation, corrupt dealings, avoiding and defaming their constituents while meeting with corporations, obscene gerrymandering, voter suppression, voter disenfranchisement, voter intimidation, minimizing an attack by a hostile foreign power on our political system, enabling a criminal and unfit executive, tolerating rhetorical attacks on the independent judiciary, stealing a Supreme Court seat,…

  186. says

    Topher Spiro:

    Based on what I’m hearing, I’d wager a 55% chance we defeat Trumpcare. Razor close but winnable. Everyone says McConnell will force a vote with or without having the votes. They need finality to move on. As of right now the bill isn’t 100% finished and the votes are not there. They’re still trying to lock down the holdouts. I’m hearing the holdouts as of right now are CAPITO, FLAKE, COLLINS, MURKOWSKI, and HELLER. They need to hear from you!* We can win this! Please know that pressure is making a big difference—and double down. Now’s the time.

    * See #s 15 and 16 above for practical information.

  187. says

    Here’s the video of the AM Joy segment with Greg Palast mentioned @ #s 221 and 222 above.

    People who support/vote for politicians like Handel who happily engage in voter suppression should recognize that one day they could be the ones suppressed. They’re empowering people to manipulate democratic institutions in a way that could and would be turned against them as soon as they come to be seen as unreliable or resistant.

  188. blf says

    A follow-up to @22, [UK PM] Theresa May faces legal challenge over proposed deal with DUP:

    Legal team preparing to apply for judicial review of Tory–DUP pact on grounds that it breaches the Good Friday agreement

    Theresa May is facing a landmark legal challenge over her proposed deal with [Northern Ireland’s] Democratic Unionist party [DUP] on the grounds that it breaches the Good Friday agreement.

    An experienced legal team, which has been involved in constitutional challenges, is planning to apply for a judicial review of the deal once it is announced, the Guardian has learned.

    High court judges would be asked to examine whether the pact breaches the British government’s commitment to exercise “rigorous impartiality” in the Good Friday agreement.

    The case, which could be heard in the supreme court because of its constitutional significance, follows warnings by politicians from all sides that the deal risks undermining the peace process in Northern Ireland.

    […]

    An announcement of a deal between the Conservatives and the DUP to form a minority government was expected last Wednesday but was delayed due to [London’s] Grenfell Tower fire, in which at least 79 people died or are presumed dead.

    Politicians from all sides have warned the prime minister that striking a deal with Arlene Foster’s party could put the fragile peace in Northern Ireland at risk.
    Sir John Major said last week that a deal risked alienating armed republicans and loyalists, and cause resentment in other parts of the UK if the government made promises to spend large amounts of public money.

    The Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, also accused May of not honouring the Good Friday agreement after meeting the prime minister last week.

    The Guardian is also aware that a Northern Ireland law firm has considered a similar challenge.

    […]

    As I wrote in @22, “people who have some understanding of N.Ireland are really really worried about UK PM May’s sucking up to the DUP.” Whilst the DUP’s positions on other things, such as abortion & same-sex marriage, and so on, are quite far-right xianity, it’s the prospect of basically undoing the progress in N.Ireland — simply by the DUP’s being part of the UK “government” — which is exceptionally unnerving: As far as I am aware, nothing else within the UK could so easily lead to (the resumption of) a war (euphemistically called “the Troubles”).

  189. says

    SC @321,

    It’s reasonable to conclude that the Republican Party has gone very far down the Hugenberg road, basically turning their backs on democracy. Secret legislation rushed through without public debate, hiding from the press, lying to the public about the content of bills, relying on billionaire-funded propaganda to manipulate the public, refusing bipartisan deliberation or compromise, destroying the social conditions necessary for democratic participation, corrupt dealings, avoiding and defaming their constituents while meeting with corporations, obscene gerrymandering, voter suppression, voter disenfranchisement, voter intimidation, minimizing an attack by a hostile foreign power on our political system, enabling a criminal and unfit executive, tolerating rhetorical attacks on the independent judiciary, stealing a Supreme Court seat,…

    Well said.

    In other news, here is a WTF moment:

    White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said that White House briefings were increasingly being held off-camera because “Sean got fatter,” referring to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, The Atlantic reported Tuesday.

    According to The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray, to whom Bannon made the comment via text message, he did not respond to a follow-up question.

  190. says

    An ironworker named Randy Bryce has decided to run against Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, and Bryce’s first campaign ad is great. The ad opens with a focus on healthcare.
    Link.
    Scroll down to watch the ad.

    Randy Bryce is a U.S. Army veteran, cancer survivor, and union ironworker in southeast Wisconsin who’s ready to mount a serious challenge to House Speaker Paul Ryan for WI-01. Yesterday Bryce released a video announcing his candidacy and it is a grand slam. The video focuses on health care, featuring his own mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Real life, real families, real struggles. It is one of the best we’ve ever seen, and quite frankly it is a roadmap for Democrats nationwide. The Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act remains deeply unpopular, with only 24 percent of American approving of the Republican plan.

    See the ad that has southeast Wisconsin AND D.C. buzzing. […]

  191. says

    Mueller added Russian-speaking attorney Elizabeth Prelogar to his investigative team.

    […] Prelogar, a former law clerk to Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, is a Harvard Law School graduate and formerly worked in private practice at Hogan Lovells. Her involvement in the Russia probe has not previously been reported.

    Prelogar also appears to be fluent in Russian. As an Emory College undergraduate, she majored in English and Russian. After graduating from Emory she was a Fulbright scholar in Russia. When she was a 1L at Harvard Law in 2006, she won an Overseas Press Club scholarship to study Russian media and censorship. […]

    http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202790561562/Mueller-Recruits-Another-Lawyer-from-Solicitor-Generals-Office-to-Russia-Probe

  192. says

    McConnell refuses, again, a request for more than ten hours to review the Republican healthcare bill:

    Schumer: I’ll just renew my request for one more. Will we have time, more than ten hours since this is a complicated bill, to review the bill? Will it be available to us and the public more than ten hours before we have to vote for it? Since our leader has said—our Republican leader—that there will be plenty of time for a process where people can make amendments. You need time to prepare those amendments.

    McConnell: I think we’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.

    Schumer: Will it be more than ten hours?

    McConnell: I think we’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.

    Schumer: I rest my case.

  193. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    SC @321,

    OK, but apart from

    Secret legislation rushed through without public debate, hiding from the press, lying to the public about the content of bills, relying on billionaire-funded propaganda to manipulate the public, refusing bipartisan deliberation or compromise, destroying the social conditions necessary for democratic participation, corrupt dealings, avoiding and defaming their constituents while meeting with corporations, obscene gerrymandering, voter suppression, voter disenfranchisement, voter intimidation, minimizing an attack by a hostile foreign power on our political system, enabling a criminal and unfit executive, tolerating rhetorical attacks on the independent judiciary, stealing a Supreme Court seat,…

    what have the Republicans ever done to us?

  194. blf says

    Nice! Gay chorus group drowns out anti-gay protesters with music in Knoxville (video): “The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington encircle anti-gay protesters and decide to confront them ‘the only way the know how — with music’. The group give an impromptu performance of Make Them Hear You, from the musical Ragtime, after spotting the protesters while travelling back to their hotel. They had just performed at the Knoxville PrideFest in Tennessee.”

  195. says

    Here are more details regarding Trump appointees that spout fraudulent “scientific” alternative facts that they’ve read or viewed on rightwing media. It’s not just Rick Perry (comment 297) who is anti-science. The Los Angeles Times described the “four horsewoman of disinformation” on abortion and contraception.

    A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine called out four of President Donald Trump’s recent appointees for promoting bad policy on contraception and abortion — policies that are rooted in “alternative science” supported by discredited research and right-wing media.

    […] Trump’s appointment of Charmaine Yoest, Teresa Manning, and Valerie Huber to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as his assignment of Katy Talento to serve as a health care adviser on his Domestic Policy Council […] exemplified how “reproduction has become the victim of alternative science, rife with alternative definitions of well-understood medical conditions.”

    In a June 15 article for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik characterized Charo’s article as “identifying four Trump appointees as carriers of the disinformation virus” and called the appointees “the four horsewomen of disinformation.” […] these four appointees “could influence an entire generation’s attitude toward contraception, for the worse.”

    […] One of Yoest’s most egregious and often repeated claims is that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, […]

    Teresa Manning, […] doesn’t believe that contraception can be effective, she is now in charge of the Title X program, which provides family planning funds for low-income people. Manning’s belief, which will shape the federal policy, is not supported by science. […]

    […] As the former head of a group called Ascend, Huber promoted abstinence-only sex education, which Charo rightfully identified as having “repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at preventing” teen pregnancy. […]

    The final appointee Charo criticized was Katy Talento, who now serves as a health care adviser on the Domestic Policy Council. Talento believes birth control causes infertility and miscarriages, […]

    […] misinformation on abortion and other reproductive choices has “been used to support abortion restrictions” at the state level, despite having little factual or scientific basis. […]

    Fox News has continually provided legitimacy to the discredited anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress and carried water for its disproven claims about fetal tissue donation and Planned Parenthood. Fox News has also hosted people like White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who advocates for 20-week abortion bans based on a flawed scientific premise and has a long history of promoting anti-choice misinformation during her appearances on the network. […]

    Trump’s health care appointees exist in the right-wing media world of “alternative science.” And as the New England Journal of Medicine reported, the impact of these discredited anti-choice views will lead to unsound policies that will have a substantial impact on abortion access and reproductive health throughout the country

    Media Matters link

  196. blf says

    More on Jay Sekulow, New Trump lawyer speaks directly to the evangelical base:

    A new addition to Donald Trump’s legal team has recently blasted into the consciousness of Americans after he ran the gamut of Sunday news shows this week, but for the US president’s [sic] dedicated evangelical base he is a familiar and reassuring face.

    With the appointment of Jay Sekulow to his legal team, Trump seems to be taking a page out of President George W. Bush’s book. The former president often laced his speeches with phrases taken from the Bible or from beloved hymns that signaled to evangelicals that he spoke their language and was one of them.

    Trump has yet to try the religious doublespeak and makes no claims to being inside the evangelical fold, but in dispatching Sekulow to face the Sunday talk-show interrogations, he is sending a message to the religious right that he has the support and approval of their reigning high priests. And Sekulow’s hiring — likely by Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who put together Trump’s lineup of personal lawyers — shows that the White House is very much attuned to the evangelical base that propelled this administration to office.

    Sekulow has been known to evangelicals for decades. He is the Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), an organization founded by […] Pat Robertson in 1990 as a counterbalance [sic] to the ACLU, and has argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court on the issues most important to the evangelical community.

    […]

    In using Sekulow as his surrogate, not only is Trump borrowing from the Bush playbook but relying on the same personalities as well. When Bush signed the partial-birth abortion ban in 2003, Sekulow was standing by his side along with a cabal of evangelical [nutcases …]

    […]

    [… U]nlike George W.…Bush, [hair furor] is not one of them, Trump has gained the loyalty of evangelicals by appointing conservative judges whom they hope will pass laws to curb abortions — the issue this die-hard pro-life bloc cares about most. Just last week Trump announced the nominations of 11 conservative judges for federal and district positions. Evangelicals have long been convinced that the most effective route to building a nation that reflects their values is through the courts, and they are hoping that Trump will be able to change the shape of the judiciary for decades to come.

    […]

    Sekulow is on the team […] to serve as the president’s mouthpiece, and to communicate to a very specific audience. He is there to make sure that through all the legal wheelings and dealings, the support of the evangelical base remains intact. And for that job, he is uniquely qualified.

  197. blf says

    Hair furor’s weird obsession with Russia shows up in another way, Ukrainian president to ‘drop in’ on Donald Trump during Washington visit:

    Hours before Petro Poroshenko’s arrival, details of the meeting had still not been confirmed with the apparently reluctant US president [sic]

    Donald Trump is expected to meet the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, at the White House on Tuesday but the encounter is likely to be a brief and leave questions unanswered over the administration’s commitment to Ukraine.

    […]

    […] Sean Spicer said only he was meeting Vice President Mike Pence. In the end, a compromise was reached by which the Ukrainian leader would be hosted by Pence and the two of them would “drop-in” to see Trump and his national security advisor, HR McMaster.

    The format means that Trump is not obliged to stand alongside Poroshenko as is the norm for most visiting foreign leaders, and make statements about bilateral relations. That would entail a public position on the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the 2014 annexation of Crimea, something he has avoided until now, leaving it to secretaries of state and defence to articulate policy.

    Poroshenko’s treament is likely to be seen in Ukraine, the rest of Europe and by many in Washington as a partial snub, given the number of world leaders Trump has met since taking office, and the strategic importance of Ukraine as the front line in the West’s battle of wills with Vladimir Putin.

    […]

  198. blf says

    Trump’s silence after the London mosque attack speaks volumes:

    The US president [sic] clearly thinks Muslims injured by a white Christian man are not worthy of attention because they do not serve his agenda

    […]

    Donald Trump didn’t send out a tweet after the terrorist attack in Finsbury Park in London that killed one and injured many more. His silence after this attack was markedly different from his immediate, fevered tweeting after numerous other terrorist attacks in Europe — and that matters.

    As per @255 & @274, a fascist terrorist drove a van into people leaving a mosque, allegedly shouting I want to kill all Muslims. At one least one person is dead, and three(?) are still in hospital.

    For Trump, it’s clear that this wasn’t the right kind of attacker and these weren’t the right kind of victims.

    Decades ago, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky coined the term “worthy and unworthy victims” to differentiate between those whose suffering benefits a particular ideological or political agenda, and those whose suffering does not.

    In the case of Finsbury Park, Muslims injured by a white Christian man are not ‘worthy’ of attention because they do not serve Trump’s larger project of the demonization of Muslims, refugees and immigrants: an indistinguishable human mass in the eyes of the US president. Nor do they serve the interests of portraying white Christian Europe (and, by association, white Christian America) as the bastion of all that is decent and good.

    […]

  199. blf says

    Indian government: pregnant women should shun meat, eggs and lustful thoughts of sex:

    […]
    Doctors say the advice is preposterous, and even dangerous, considering India’s already poor record with maternal health. Women are often the last to eat or receive health care in traditionally patriarchal Indian households.

    Malnutrition and anaemia, or iron deficiency, are key factors behind India having one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality, with 174 of every 100,000 pregnancies resulting in the mother’s death in 2015. […]

    […]

    “The government is doling out unscientific and irrational advice, instead of ensuring that poor pregnant women get to eat a nutritious, high-protein diet,” said gynaecologist Arun Gadre, who is based in the western Indian city of Pune but works in rural areas.

    The government booklet, titled Mother and Child Care, smacked of religious dogma and ignored widely accepted medical evidence that pregnant women benefit from eating protein-rich meats […].

    It says pregnant women should also shun impure thoughts and look at pictures of beautiful babies to benefit the foetus.

    Pregnant women should detach themselves from desire, anger, attachment, hatred and lust, reads the booklet, released last week by the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, a part of the government’s ministry that promotes traditional and alternative medicine.

    Aka the Dept of Woo-Woo & Faeries.

    The traditional medicine minister defended the booklet as containing wisdom accumulated over many centuries […]

    The Minister for WHAT!?

    [… Amit Sengupta, a physician and health care activist with the Delhi Science Forum, a public advocacy organisation] said the government’s advice to pregnant women betrayed “backward thinking” and hostility toward evidence-based science.

    […]

    Woo-woo can kill.

  200. militantagnostic says

    blf @339

    Just carrying on in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi (unless it was himself that was ill – then it was “Western” medicine all the way).

  201. Alex the Pretty Good says

    There was an explosion in the Central train station of Brussels a little over an hour ago. A suspect “with wires sticking out of their coat” (the coat Alone must have been suspect… It’s around 30 f’ing degrees here) was neutralised by one of the soldiers who patroll the area. No other victims.
    The suspect alledgedly woud have yelled ‘Allahu Ackbar’.

    I walk on that part of the station to catch my train at least once a week.
    And if that A-hole had done this around 18:00 instead of 21:00 the impact would probably have been a lot worse.

    For now, the police considers this “a isolated incident”.
    Trump tweet in three…two… One …

  202. Alex the Pretty Good says

    Minor update…
    The explosion was apparantly in a gravel suitcase the suspect left behind, but the damage is limited.
    The suspect didn’t wear a coat (bad translation on my part from reading a French newscast instead of Dutch) but jeans and shirt, with “wires sticking out over the belt / under the shirt” (there’s the “Veste” I mistranslated)
    Suspect is apparantly still alive but might be in a critical condition.

  203. says

    Uh-oh. Weather may play a role in the election in Georgia.

    Parts of Georgia’s 6th District are under a flash flood warning as voters head to the polls Tuesday afternoon […]

    Rain is falling throughout the district, prompting worries that inclement weather could depress Election Day turnout. Democratic-leaning sections of the district seem to be most acutely affected by the rain, and the flash flood warning is concentrated in places where Democrat Jon Ossoff is expected to run ahead of Republican Karen Handel.

    Oh, that’s bad news! I wonder how many on the religious right will claim that as a sign from god.

    At DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, which sits in the state’s 5th District but is close to a heavily Democratic part of the 6th District, 4.58 inches of rain fell between noon and 4 p.m. Eastern Time — almost as much as typically falls in the entire month of June.

    But in Cobb County, home to more Republican voters, far less rain has fallen. As of 4 p.m. at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, just 0.86 inches of rain had fallen. […]

    Link

  204. says

    Say, what now?

    The Trump administration believes that foreign investment will be a key component in fulfilling the president’s promise to upgrade U.S. roads, bridges, airports and other public works.

    Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Tuesday that the success of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure package – which is expected to rely heavily on the private sector – will likely depend on help from foreign investors. […]

    Trump’s infrastructure proposal will try to encourage even more private sector involvement [more than already exists] through various incentives, with the administration hoping to spend $200 billion to leverage $1 trillion worth of overall investment.

    The White House has also endorsed an idea known as asset recycling, which entails selling off public assets to the private sector and using the proceeds to pay for other transportation projects. [alarm bells]

    And Trump’s infrastructure proposal is also expected to include massive permit and regulatory reform in order to speed up project delivery and create a more attractive environment for private firms. […]

    http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/338649-white-house-says-foreign-investment-key-to-infrastructure-plan

  205. says

    An update on cost sharing reduction subsidies associated with Obamacare:

    The Trump administration has made critical ObamaCare payments to insurers for the month of June but won’t provide any certainty about whether they’ll continue in the future.

    The payments, known as cost sharing reduction subsidies, reimburse insurers for providing discounts to low-income patients.

    Insurers have been threatening to raise premiums — or leave the ObamaCare markets — if they don’t receive certainty about the payments from Congress or the White House.

    But the Trump administration continues to say they have not made a decision about future payments. […]

    Insurers across the country have blamed uncertainty surrounding the payments for proposed double-digit rate increases for 2018. […]

    Link

  206. says

    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has lawyered up.

    Sessions hired Chuck Cooper, a Republican who was a member of Reagan’s Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Cooper defended California’s anti-gay, anti-equality “Proposition 8” all the way to the Supreme court.

    These are team Trump guys who have, so far, hired personal lawyers:
    Trump
    Pence
    Kushner
    Sessions
    Flynn
    Manafort
    Page

  207. says

    I walk on that part of the station to catch my train at least once a week.

    Glad you’re OK!

    (I have a nice memory from there (could have been one of the other Brussels stations, but it was the same city in any case). I had a very tight connection and my train coming in was of course delayed. When I got off I saw that the other train was already finishing boarding and the platform was at the top of a huge staircase. I basically shouted “Help!” and pointed while looking panicked and two kind men instantly realized my problem, each grabbed one end of my (admittedly huge) bag, and ran with it up the stairs so I could make it on just in time. It was so generous and nice. So my recollection will always stand as “Belgians – good people.”)

  208. says

    Sessions hired Chuck Cooper, a Republican who was a member of Reagan’s Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

    Now why does that name sound familiar?

    Cooper defended California’s anti-gay, anti-equality “Proposition 8” all the way to the Supreme court.

    Oh, right.

    These are team Trump guys who have, so far, hired personal lawyers:…

    And Cohen!

  209. Alex the Pretty Good says

    Suspect is confirmed to have been wearing a bomb-belt which has been neutralised in a controlled explosion by the bomb squad.
    No update on whether the attacker is still alive or not.

  210. KG says

    blf@328,

    There is as yet no Tory-DUP agreement, despite continual claims that it will soon be finalised. Rumour is that the DUP are asking for too much money for northern Ireland, but I suspect that after the Grenfell Tower fire and May’s abysmal response, the DUP don’t want to be too closely associated with her. They will support the Tories over the Queen’s Speech, though – they won’t risk precipitating another election, which Labour might win.

  211. militantagnostic says

    Lynna @344

    Democratic-leaning sections of the district seem to be most acutely affected by the rain, and the flash flood warning is concentrated in places where Democrat Jon Ossoff is expected to run ahead of Republican Karen Handel.

    Now I know why the Repugnicans don’t want to halt global warming.

  212. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Watching MTP Daily. Ossof was helped by early voting. The Rethugs voted on the day of the election.
    Maybe conventional wisdom will the backwards for today’s election.

  213. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    SC @352,

    In Trump’s defense, if you’ve ever taught ESOL, you know that articles are one of the hardest things to master. And I think it’s well-established that Trump does not have native-like control of the English language.

  214. says

    “Despite Concerns About Blackmail, Flynn Still Heard C.I.A. Secrets”:

    Senior officials across the government became convinced in January that the incoming national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, had become vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

    At the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — agencies responsible for keeping American secrets safe from foreign spies — career officials agreed that Mr. Flynn represented an urgent problem.

    Yet nearly every day for three weeks, the new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, sat in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation’s most sensitive intelligence — with Mr. Flynn listening. Mr. Pompeo has not said whether C.I.A. officials left him in the dark about their views of Mr. Flynn, but one administration official said Mr. Pompeo did not share any concerns about Mr. Flynn with the president.

    The episode highlights another remarkable aspect of Mr. Flynn’s stormy 25-day tenure in the White House: He sat atop a national security apparatus that churned ahead, despite its own conclusion that he was at risk of being compromised by a hostile foreign power.

    Mr. Pompeo sidestepped questions from senators last month about his handling of the information about Mr. Flynn, declining to say whether he knew about his own agency’s concerns….

    After Mr. Pompeo’s Senate testimony, The New York Times asked officials at several agencies whether Mr. Pompeo had raised concerns about Mr. Flynn to the president and, if so, whether the president had ignored him. One administration official responded on the condition of anonymity that Mr. Pompeo, whether he knew the concerns about Mr. Flynn or not, had not told the president about them….

  215. says

    SC @352,

    In Trump’s defense, if you’ve ever taught ESOL, you know that articles are one of the hardest things to master. And I think it’s well-established that Trump does not have native-like control of the English language.

    Seriously, though, it is a hard habit to break. I grew up learning that it was the Ukraine, and didn’t know it was a political issue until fairly recently. But for someone in Trump’s position and with his particular baggage re Putin, it could easily be seen as an intentional or semi-intentionally negligent slight.

  216. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Yeah, I have the same issue, also with Sudan and Congo. And English is a bit of an outlier that way; other languages with definite articles are more likely to use them in the names of countries (hell, in French they use it with their own country–La France).

    But you’re right, of course. The alleged president should be making an effort to use the internationally accepted English name of the country.

  217. Saad says

    Looks like Handel will win.

    Even after the catastrophe of the orange rapist, white people still aren’t waking up.

    “I’m against a liveable wage”

    They said “yup. we like that.” LOL. Jesus Christ.

  218. says

    ffs, these swings tonight are huge. at least 15 points in GA, way over 20 in SC. MT was way closer than they wanted. Make no mistake, real polisci observers show R’s on the run.

  219. KG says

    Further to my #353, the Daily Mirror headline this morning is: “Now Even the crackpots can’t work with May”.

  220. blf says

    KG, Yes I am aware of there is, as yet, no nasty party–DUP agreement. So what? That’s largely the DUP’s standard operating procedure — be obstinate & say no! until all of their demands are met — since their founding by Dr “No” (Ian Paisley) forty-something years ago.†

    Agreement or not, as long as they are perceived as having any actual power or influence over the Northern Ireland Office, there is a serious risk of the already-unstable and always-fragile N.Ireland peace breaking.

    Not immediately, for multiple reasons, and is unlikely to happen if (1) Stormont (the N.Ireland “government”) can be resumed; (2) the UK “government” scrupulously and plausibly avoids providing any reason for suspecting the DUP has power or influence over the Northern Ireland Office; and (3) Sectarian demands are robustly refused.‡

    It’s largely about perception: Thus, even if there is no agreement, the risk remains. The DUP will never get in bed with Jeremy Corbyn (or so all the analysts say), suggesting they “want” the nasties / May in power. And she / they seem to think they “need” the DUP to stay in power. Hence, it will be very very difficult to avoid forming a perception of power / influence over the Northern Ireland Office, and near-impossible to alleviate should such a perception take hold.

    As a side note, I myself am not quite as confident as the analysts the DUP won’t assist Corbyn in some form. First off, some of what they want and he want are not too different, albeit there are vast differences on other points, and Corbyn presumably doesn’t want to go near the loonies with a reinforced extra-long barge pole. But, and secondly, history: The analyses also mostly said the DUP, and Dr “No” specifically, would never agree to a deal with Sinn Féin (who also didn’t want to go anywhere near their fellow loonies), but they did.

      † Although, as the Irish Times points out (How will the DUP exercise its new-found power?), the current DUP leadership “are politicians […] who for most of 10 years were able to share power with their mortal enemies in Sinn Féin and run a functioning Executive.”

      ‡ As the above †-linked Irish Times analysis points out, at the moment, there’s very little risk of sectarian demands§ being part of any agreement — at present. That can change the longer an agreement survives.

      § “Sectarian demands” basically means actions which are not agreed to by the other traditions. As one example, the routing of Orange Order parades: Some of the traditions find the routes of those parades very provocative (not unlike the KKK marching through a black majority community). Hence, a somewhat complicated mechanism has been set up to arbitrate routing and other parade-related issues. None of the traditions is completely happy with all the results, and it is known some in the Orange Order want the DUP, as a result of being in a position of power & influence in the UK “government”, to undo(? alter?) some of the route changes which have been done.

  221. blf says

    Major publishers move to defend Greenpeace in dispute with logging firm (the Grauniad’s edits in {curly braces}):

    Firms including Penguin Random House and HarperCollins have spoken out about timber company’s ‘dangerous’ moves to quash campaigners’ claims

    The world’s biggest book publishers have been dragged into a bitter dispute between a US logging company and environmental campaigners Greenpeace. It follows legal action taken by the logging company, Resolute Forest Products, which campaigners and publishers fear has implications for freedom of speech.

    The dispute centres on claims by Greenpeace about the company’s logging practices in sections of Canada’s boreal forest, which are home to indigenous peoples as well as endangered wildlife. Greenpeace alleges that Resolute: “Is responsible for the destruction of vast areas of Canada’s magnificent boreal forest, damaging critical woodland caribou habitat and logging without the consent of impacted First Nations.”

    Resolute strongly disputes the claims. Last year, it followed up a 2013 defamation and economic interference lawsuit launched in Canada with a $226m (£178m) US claim under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (Rico). Passed in 1970 to counter organised crime, the use of the act has been criticised as an attempt to silence both Resolute’s critics and for setting a “dangerous” precedent for whistleblowers and NGOs.

    Publishers, including Penguin Random House and Murdoch-owned HarperCollins, became involved after a petition signed by more than 100 authors in support of Greenpeace was handed in at US publishing trade show BookExpo. The petition called for publishers using Resolute products to use their clout to pressurise the company into dropping the lawsuit and addressing alleged logging practices.

    […]

    […] Ronald Blunden, senior vice-president of corporate communications [for Hachette Livre] said: “It is the {scale} of the damages being sought in the suit. We are concerned that it is about muzzling Greenpeace at a time when the US government is pulling out of the Paris accord on climate change.”

    He added: “You need these NGOs to be able to do their work and be whistleblowers, because if they disappear, and if the US pulls out of the Paris accord, who will be left to speak up and defend the environment?”

    […]

    (Disclaimer: I have been a contributor to Greenpeace starting with the time of Ronald Raygun.)

  222. blf says

    As per some previous comments, the proximate cause (excuse to act) for the blockade of Qatar was a hack of a Qatari news site & bogus article claiming the emir said a variety of things. His claimed comments were almost perfect to incite Saudi Arabia and probably hair furor. However Qatar has always insisted it was a hack, a claim backed up by the FBI. The FBI also asserted Russian involvement (more on this below, after the following excerpt).

    Qatar: QNA hacking linked to countries boycotting Doha:

    Attorney general says evidence shows cyberattack on state-run news agency is linked to states that cut ties with Qatar.

    Qatar says it has proof that the recent hacking of its state-run news agency and government social media accounts […] is linked to countries that have recently cut ties with it.

    […]

    “Qatar has evidence that certain iPhones originating from countries laying siege to Qatar were used in the hack,” Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri, Qatar’s attorney general, told reporters in the capital, Doha, on Tuesday.

    He said it was too early to explicitly name the countries responsible for the hacking and declined to comment when he was asked if individuals or states were behind it.

    […]

    I had to go back and check the FBI’s “Russia” claims, since, at first glance, the above seems quite different. It is not, the critical sentence from Russian hackers to blame for sparking Qatar crisis, FBI inquiry finds: “It is believed that the Russian government was not involved in the hacks; instead, freelance hackers were paid to undertake the work on behalf of some other state or individual. Some observers have claimed privately that Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates may have commissioned the hackers.”

  223. blf says

    Ivanka Trump shoes slated for production at China factory despite brand’s denial:

    After three Chinese activists were arrested investigating a factory where Trump’s shoes were made, her brand claimed none were produced after March

    When three activists investigating labour abuses at a factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes in China were arrested, the brand stayed silent for a week and then attempted to distance itself from the controversy by saying it had been months since its products were manufactured there.

    But production tables reviewed by the Guardian contradict public statements made by the brand owned by Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the US president, Donald Trump. They show that Ivanka Trump shoes were still scheduled to be made at the factory two months after the brand said they had stopped.

    […]

    After the three men were arrested, the brand waited a week before releasing its only public statement, defending working standards and saying: Ivanka Trump brand products have not been produced at the factory in question since March.

    But a 14 April production table from the factory in Ganzhou in southeast China show nearly 1,000 shoes were slated to be manufactured between 23 and 25 May. The order was set to be delivered by 30 May. Material for clothing and shoes is typically ordered months in advance.

    In response to questions from the Guardian, Ivanka Trump’s brand did not refute the information contained in the production tables.

    Ivanka Trump HQ is committed to only working with licensees who maintain internationally recognised labor standards across their supply chains, Abigail Klem, president of Ivanka Trump, said in a statement. Our licensees and their manufacturers, subcontractors and suppliers must comply with all applicable local and international labor laws, and the legal and ethical practices set forth in our vendor code of conduct.

    Klem did not respond to questions about previous statements contradicted by factory productions tables. She also declined to respond to questions about how the brand ensures standards are maintained or about the fate of the three arrested labour activists.

    Marc Fisher, the company that licenses the Ivanka Trump brand to make shoes, declined to comment. The factory in Ganzhou, owned by Huajian Group, also declined to comment on the production timetables or arrested activists.

    […]

    The three detained activists, who worked for New York-based NGO China Labor Watch, were preparing to release a report that showed a host a labor violations at the factory, which also makes shoes for brands such as Coach, Karl Lagerfeld and Kendall + Kylie.

    Those abuses include paying below China’s legal minimum wage, managers verbally abusing workers and “violations of women’s rights”.

    […]

    The three arrested activists’ ties to the New York-based NGO may now complicate their cases. Police have accused the men of giving information to foreign organisations with the goal of receiving payment, according to local news reports.

  224. blf says

    Republicans say they will release draft of health bill amid pressure over secrecy:

    Senate leaders announce plan to reveal draft language on Thursday morning, with a finalized version to be released after budget office analysis

    Senate Republican leaders said they would release draft language of their healthcare [sic] bill on Thursday as lawmakers in both parties vented frustration over the way the bill is being assembled — behind closed doors and without a single public hearing scheduled. A vote is expected next week.

    The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said he expects to have a “discussion draft” of legislation that would dismantle key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ready by Thursday morning.

    McConnell said a finalized version of the bill would be released after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) publishes its analysis, which is expected to occur sometime next week.

    […]

    Several Republican senators have raised concerns about elements of the bill, which is being assembled by a 13-person working group that includes the most conservative senators but excludes key moderate members.

    […]

    Republicans, who hold a small, 52-seat majority in the 100-member Senate, are using a special budget process called reconciliation that allows them to bypass a Democratic filibuster. But their margin is slim: they can only afford to lose two GOP senators to earn the necessary 50 votes, with Vice-President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.

    […]

    In a video on Tuesday, Senator Mike Lee, a conservative from Utah who is in the healthcare working group, said even he had not yet seen a draft.

    “It has become increasingly apparent over the past few days that even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing the bill within the working group, it’s not being written by us,” Lee said. He concluded: “So if you’re frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration wholeheartedly.”

    […]

    McConnell on Tuesday parried accusations that the process was carried out in secret. I think this will be as about as transparent as it can be, he said.

    […]

  225. says

    Jeh Johnson’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee will be on C-SPAN3 at 10 AM ET (about 20 minutes from now). I think this is flying under the radar – he could present some very significant information.

  226. blf says

    The BBC steps up to bat for May. Er. Sortof. Huw Edwards mesmerises the nation during BBC’s silent News at Ten:

    A BBC computer glitch left the experienced presenter on air doing absolutely nothing for two minutes

    Some said it was just the news bulletin we needed in the UK after a couple of months of terror attacks, an inconclusive general election and a feeling that the country was struggling to cope with the pace of events. On Tuesday night Huw Edwards opened the BBC’s flagship News at Ten with a stunning few minutes of mesmerising live on-air silence.

    […]

    People couldn’t help making political jokes based on the error.

    “Huw Edwards” spends two minutes to find something positive to say about Theresa May and her Team and can’t find anything […]

    […]

    Some of the readers’s comments are amusing, e.g.:

    ● “And now, Huw reads out the things May hasn’t U-turned on and the good things that will come of it”

    ● “John Cage wants his royalties.”

    ● “Shame he didn’t get up and have a walk around if only to confirm what we’ve long suspected, that newsreaders are indeed naked from the waist down”.

    ● “News at Zen.”
     (I rolled on the floor at this one!)

    ● “I thought for a moment that something utterly stunning had happened — T[h]eresa May running screaming out of No 10, shrieking that she just couldn’t do it anymore, for example — and the BBC was in meltdown about how to spin it. How disappointing to be just a technical fault.”

    ● “[It was] Theresa May’s strategy for negotiating Brexit”

  227. says

    When Conaway was speaking during the Johnson hearing, and I think this is new, C-SPAN3 had a box reading: “Rep. Conaway is leading the investigation for the majority because committee chair Rep. Nunes (R-CA) recused himself in April 2017.”

  228. says

    SC @380, I think Nunes may be the leader of a small group that thinks he did not recuse himself. Nunes is such a dolt.

    From Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s testimony:

    […] “Why did it take the administration so long to make a public statement that a foreign adversary was trying to influence the American election?” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, asked Johnson. […]

    “First, as you know well, we have to carefully consider whether declassifying the information compromises sources and methods,” he said. “Second, there was an ongoing election and many would criticize us for perhaps taking sides in the election.” […]

    “One of the candidates [Trump], as you’ll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way,” he said. “And so we were concerned that by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.” […]

    “My view is that we needed to do it and we needed do it well before the election to inform the American voters of what we knew and what we saw and it would be unforgivable if we did not pre-election,” he said. […]

    “I think the larger issue is it did not get the public attention that it should have, frankly, because the same day the press was focused on the release of the ‘Access Hollywood’ video,” he said. “That’s what made our news below the fold news that day.”

    TPM link

  229. says

    From Sean Hannity, speaking on Fox News:

    […] “A soft coup is underway right here in the United States of America, in an attempt to overturn November’s election results and forcibly remove a duly elected President from office,” he said.

    He said Americans are facing five “dangers,” including the “destroy Trump media that has been lying to you now, provable lies for 11 months, nonstop” and the “deep state,” which has been selectively leaking information to damage Trump and his administration.

    He called special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, into whether the President’s campaign associates worked with Russia to swing results of the 2016 election, “mission creepy” and an “out of control, political witch hunt” that needs to be stopped. […]

    “All the manufactured turmoil putting President Trump’s agenda in jeopardy, which ends up directly impacting everyone of you out there, the American people,” he said.

    He also likened efforts to “override the will of the American people” to change the results of the 2016 election to a “national security crisis.” […]

    TPM link

    Just so you know what we’re up against. This conspiracy theory outlined by Hannity is widespread.

  230. says

    Trump’s proposed budget cuts programs that help poor people find and afford housing. That same budget preserves programs that put more money in the pockets of landlords:

    […] One of those landlords is Trump himself, who earns millions of dollars each year as a part-owner of Starrett City, the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex. Trump’s 4 percent stake in the Brooklyn complex earned him at least $5 million between January of last year and April 15, according to his recent financial disclosure. […]

    Trump once called Starrett City “one of the best investments I ever made,” but it was his father who was an investor in its construction, according to a representative of Starrett City.

    “Upon Fred Trump’s death, his four children inherited his interests,” Bob Liff, a spokesman for Starrett City Associates […]

    The budget calls for a nearly 29 percent cut, or $1.8 billion, to public housing and a 5 percent drop, or nearly $1 billion, in vouchers that allow tenants to use the aid on the housing of their choice, according to Douglas Rice, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In contrast, the program that directs money to Starrett City and other privately owned housing would see a reduction of about half a percent, or $65 million, from its $10.8 billion allocation. […]

    Washington Post link

    Summary: A 29% cut to programs that help poor tenants, and a half a percent cut to programs that pay already-wealthy landlords. Trump screws the poor and protects the rich.

  231. says

    Trump is being sued … yes, we are adding another lawsuit to a long list:

    President Donald Trump’s administration is being sued for attempting to deport Chaldean Christians back to Iraq, an unexpected development for a president who vowed to assist persecuted Middle Eastern Christians.

    The lawsuit, which was filed last week by the ACLU, revolves around a recent spate of detentions in the Detroit, Michigan area. Over the past week and a half, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents rounded up roughly 100 Chaldean Christians from Iraq — mostly on a Sunday — sparking a flurry of protests led by family members and advocates.

    ICE claims all of those arrested have outstanding removal orders and criminal offenses, but demonstrators argue most already served their time years ago, and that deporting those arrested to Iraq will only subject them to persecution from local authorities or murderous groups such as ISIS. […]

    Think Progress link

    Re SC’s comment 385, I hope Tammy Duckworth raises holy hell over that. We’ll probably also hear from veteran’s groups.

  232. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of the special election in Georgia:

    It’s the day after the special election in GA-06, so of course the usual suspects are Monday morning quarterbacking about how Jon Ossoff’s narrow loss IN AN R+20 DISTRICT means Democrats can’t win anything ever again.

    Yep, this wasn’t just a special congressional election. It was the BELLWETHER of the ZEITGEIST, which means Democrats should probably just give up forever. If a brand new young candidate with a cute butt can’t beat a well-funded asshole lady Republican in a district full of rich Republicans, then shouldn’t the Democratic Party just go ahead and disband? […]

    Ossoff spent a few million more to ultimately get beat in a deep red district by a dickhead GOP lady who loves voter suppression. Big effing deal. […]

    Another way to look at this would be that, in a special election with muuuuuuch lower turn-out, Jon Ossoff managed to get almost as many people to vote for him as the Democrat got in 2016, […] Democrats showed the fuck up, IN THE OFF SEASON, […]

    A lot of TV analysts want to make the GA-06 results JUST a referendum on Donald Trump, which is partially right. We have a pathetic loser president whose approval rating is swimming in shit river at 36%. And that’s after just five months of #winning! Imagine how low that’ll go as Trump deteriorates into madness, at the mercy of the Russia investigation and his own incompetence. That’s motivating a lot of people to get to the polls, and it’ll continue. […]

  233. says

    The New York Times reported on a draft version of an executive order that Trump plans to sign. The order looks like a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry, and not, as Trump touted during his campaign, a way to lower prescription drug prices:

    […] The draft, which The New York Times obtained on Tuesday, is light on specifics but clear on philosophy: Easing regulatory hurdles for the drug industry is the best way to get prices down.

    The proposals identify some issues that have stoked public outrage — such as the high out-of-pocket costs for medicines — but it largely leaves the drug industry unscathed. In fact, the four-page document contains several proposals that have long been championed by the industry, including strengthening drugmakers’ monopoly power overseas and scaling back a federal program that requires pharmaceutical companies to give discounts to hospitals and clinics that serve low-income patients. […]

    NY Times link

    This is just more of team Trump’s “ease regulations” approach in action. Easing regulations endangers people who take prescription drugs, and it does not magically lower prices.

    […] “I do believe that the president wants to do something to lower drug prices for people, but this is a far cry from what he said on the campaign trail,” said David Mitchell, the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs, a nonprofit that does not take money from the industry. “I don’t see anything there that addresses the drug companies getting away with murder, and it appears that is because Pharma has captured the process.” […]

  234. says

    The Environmental Protection Agency, with Scott Pruitt at its head, is throwing scientists off the team:

    The Environmental Protection Agency gave notice to dozens of scientists that they would not receive a second three-year term on an advisory board after their current term expires, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. […]

    The Post noted that it is standard practice for members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), which reviews research performed by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, to receive a second three-year term.

    In May, half of BOSC’s executive committee members were told their terms would not be renewed — a decision that itself prompted resignations from the board in protest. The same notice has now been extended to a number of scientists on the board’s various subcommittees.

    “[W]ith the latest information from EPA, 38 of the 49 remaining subcommittee members will not be renewed at the end of August,” […]

    She added in an email to Mic: “This latest action is consistent with the actions and statements from EPA administration that they wish to wipe the slate clean, appoint their own advisors, who will be representative of industry.” […]

    Link

  235. says

    From Josh Marshall, who pointed out in his long article that Jeh Johnson glossed over one of the FBI’s “most epic fails” in his testimony today:

    […] it is astonishing that the FBI had learned that Russia had compromised the computer networks of one of the country’s two main political parties and was content to have a single agent leave messages with someone at the DNC’s tech support help line to try to sound the alarm. It’s simply astonishing, and even more so since the FBI, as late as December was still in CYA mode spinning the story to reporters as the DNC’s fail. […]

    Read the entire article to get all the salient details.

  236. says

    Why does Jared Kushner still have a security clearance?

    Democrats on the House Oversight Committee asked White House chief of staff Reince Priebus […] to produce documents explaining why senior adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance hasn’t been revoked amid reports he’s under investigation for failure to disclose multiple meetings with Russian officials. […]

    […] on Jan. 13, when White House press secretary Sean Spicer shared a timeline of interactions between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, but failed to share information about an in-person meeting between Kislyak, Flynn and Kushner at Trump Tower in December.

    “We do not know who at the White House — other than General Flynn — knew about Mr. Kushner’s multiple contacts with Russian officials before they became public. It would be gravely concerning if Mr. Spicer, Ms. (Hope) Hicks, Ms. (Sarah Huckabee) Sanders or President Trump were aware of Mr. Kushner’s Russian contacts when they made their misleading statements. It would also be concerning if Mr. Kushner concealed his Russian contacts from them and allowed them to continue making misleading and inaccurate public statements while also omitting these contacts from his security clearance application,” the letter, signed by 18 House Democrats, said.

    “In any case, it is unclear why Mr. Kushner continues to have access to classified information while these allegations are being investigated,” they added. […]

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/why-kushner-have-security-clearance

  237. says

    The Congressional Black Caucus is not happy with Trump, and they let him know it. The CBC is also refusing a meeting with Trump:

    The Congressional Black Caucus turned down a follow-up meeting with President Donald Trump […], citing a number of actions taken by his administration that the group’s members said hurt their constituents and all black Americans. The CBC also cited their own ignored attempts at outreach to the White House.

    “[W]e have seen no evidence that your Administration acted on our calls for action, and we have in fact witnessed steps that will affirmatively hurt Black communities,” CBC Chair Cedric Richmond (D-LA) wrote to Trump on Wednesday. “While we agreed to explore possible future discussions when we first met, it has become abundantly clear that a conversation with the entire CBC would not be entirely productive, given the actions taken by your Administration since our first meeting.”

    Politico first reported Wednesday that the CBC was expected to decline an invitation to meet with Trump for a second time, reportedly in part due to concerns that the event would be used as a photo-op. […]

    Richmond’s letter goes on to list a number of actions taken by the Trump administration — from proposed cuts to Pell Grants and low income energy assistance to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ acceleration of the war on drugs, to Republicans’ attempts at dismantling Obamacare — that he said would devastate both the constituencies of members of the CBC and Americans who voted for Trump.

    “We have voiced all of these concerns in various forms, most of them in writing, but have heard nothing from you or your Cabinet officials,” Richmond wrote, listing the CBC’s letters to Trump and members of his administration, in addition to a 130-page policy document, “We have a Lot to Lose.”

    “Given the lack of response to any of the many concerns we have raised with you and your Administration, we decline your invitation for all 49 members […]

    Link

  238. says

    Steve Bannon roots for the bad guys in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. I’ll link to an explanation of Bannon’s fanboy attitude to Sparta because the article illuminates Bannon’s world view. In short, Bannon loves and admires oligarchical, tyrannical governments; and he thinks more democratic societies are “decadent.”

    Link to a Slate article by Osita Nwanevu.

  239. says

    Trump plans to hold his first major fundraiser for his 2020 election campaign at his hotel in Washington, D.C.

    […] The June 28 fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington is for larger donors. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee will share proceeds. […]

    The president can see the hotel, in the historic Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue, from the White House lawn. It’s the center of the political universe in his Washington, occasionally housing incoming administration officials and serving as a dinner-and-drinks destination for would-be influencers and past and present Trump aides.

    Trump himself foreshadowed the choice of location last week in a text message to supporters. Trying to encourage small donors to participate in a drawing to gain admittance, the campaign wrote, in the voice of Trump: “Do not worry about a thing. We will fly you to DC, we will take a picture together, and you will stay at a beautiful hotel. BIG LEAGUE.” […]

    Link

  240. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Joy, I’ll be listening in on a town hall meeting hosted by my democratic congresscritter at 7 pm cdt.
    #385, Since Duckworth (my jr. senator) is on it, clenched tentacle salute.
    #388, I doubt if an executive order can do much to take ICH regulations off the backs of the drug industry. If they don’t follow ICH regulations (codified into the US Codes by the FDA), since it would mean they could only sell their products here in the US. No other first world country would touch their drugs.

  241. says

    From Joshua Roberts, writing for The New Yorker:

    The most striking thing about the first meeting of President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, last Friday, in Washington, D.C., was how normal it was, like a throwback to some earlier, more rational Administration.

    Recognized experts on addiction gave considered testimony, for which the commission’s chairman, Chris Christie, politely thanked them. The physicians and the advocates who testified made consistent, coherent points: We can’t incarcerate our way out of the overdose epidemic, which now kills more Americans than car accidents or gun homicide. Addiction is a chronic brain disease, not a moral failing, and we need a national messaging campaign to spread that idea. We should implement treatment that is evidence-based—in the case of opioid addiction, this means opioid-based medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine, which help curb cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms, combined with psychosocial support to help people rebuild their lives. We need to invest in training medical professionals to handle addiction. People need health insurance that allows them access to treatment.

    I like that paragraph above. It’s a good summary.

    Jared Kushner and Kellyanne Conway, representing the White House, sat silently through the proceedings, but most speakers weren’t shy about saying that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be a disaster.

    Dr. Joe Parks, the medical director of the National Council for Behavioral Health, pointed out that “Medicaid is the largest national payer for addiction and mental-health treatment,” and that the Medicaid expansion had been crucial to getting people into treatment in the past few years. “We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think that what is happening over in Congress, regarding issues of health care, matters to this issue,” Roy Cooper, the governor of North Carolina, who sits on the commission, said, adding, “If we make it harder and more expensive for people to get health-care coverage, it’s going to make this crisis worse.”

    Another commission member, the former congressman Patrick Kennedy, acknowledged that the fate of the A.C.A. is “the elephant in the room.” […]

    Link

  242. blf says

    The New York Times finally weighs in on an actual reason for the blockade of Qatar, Misguided Attacks on Al Jazeera:

    Muzzling Al Jazeera, the state-funded news station that has projected Qatar’s influence throughout the world, was high on the agenda when Saudi Arabia [et al] moved to isolate the tiny nation […]

    [… B]y attacking Al Jazeera, the Saudis and their neighbors are trying to eliminate a voice that could lead citizens to question their rulers. […]

    Amusingly enough, it was Al Jazeera itself which alerted me to the NYT’s editorial, New York Times slams ‘misguided attack on Al Jazeera’.

  243. blf says

    [… T]he magic Muslim word for terrorism are being reported.

    Lone wolf ? </snark>

    (Isn’t the words / phrase meant actually Arabic — “Muslim”, after all, is not a language.)

  244. blf says

    While Sudanese officials deny cholera epidemic, doctors work round the clock:

    For the past few months, a deadly cholera epidemic has been sweeping through Sudan. Yet officials in Khartoum still haven’t officially recognised the epidemic or mobilised the resources to stem the spread of the disease. Faced with the government’s stark denial of the problem, doctors and volunteers are left to do the best they can as more and more people fall ill.

    Starting in August 2016, several states in Sudan have seen an alarming increase in cholera rates. But it wasn’t until June 7, 2017 […] that the health minister finally issued a statement. Even then, he failed to acknowledge the scope of the situation. In a press release, the minister stated that there had been 16,000 cases of “serious diarrhea” leading to more than 260 deaths across the country. Yet he didn’t mention the word cholera once.

    When questioned by members of parliament, Health Minister Bahar Idris Abu Garda said that these cases of “serious diarrhea” didn’t fall under his jurisdiction and were, instead, an issue to be sorted out by the minister of water resources and irrigation.

    Meanwhile doctors contacted by FRANCE 24 described overcrowded hospitals and increasing fears of medicine shortages, especially the antibiotics needed to treat severe cholera.

    The US Embassy in Khartoum released a statement warning its citizens about “confirmed reports of cholera cases in some areas of Sudan, including the greater Khartoum metropolitan area, that have resulted in fatalities.”

    […]

    Since President Omar al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 on accusations of war crimes carried out in Darfur, many humanitarian organisations are no longer allowed to carry out their work in Sudan (including, among others, Doctors Without Borders [Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)], the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam International and Save the Children).

  245. says

    SC @399:
    I wonder how many Republicans know that they have a black lesbian to thank for saving them. If Scalise had not been in attendance, neither would Griner or her partner. They helped avert a far greater tragedy.

  246. says

    SC @399:
    I wonder how many Republicans know that they have a black lesbian to thank for saving them. If Scalise had not been in attendance, neither would Griner or her partner. They helped avert a far greater tragedy.

    It would have been a massacre.

    I was surprised several days ago when Scalise’s wife Jennifer said in a statement that “Crystal and David have been family to us for years.”

  247. says

    “FBI Fired Sebastian Gorka for Anti-Muslim Diatribes”:

    The inflammatory pundit Sebastian Gorka worked for the FBI while he was a paid consultant to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, lecturing bureau employees on counterterrorism issues.

    Until the FBI terminated Gorka for his over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.

    The Daily Beast has learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended its contract with Gorka just months before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump.

    Law-enforcement officials attending an August 2016 lecture from Gorka, whose academic credentials and affiliation with a pro-Nazi group have recently come under fire, were disturbed to hear a diatribe against Muslims passed off as instruction on the fundamentals of counterterrorism….

    Much more at the link.

  248. says

    “White House Tries to Get G.O.P. to Water Down Russia Sanctions Bill”:

    The White House is quietly lobbying House Republicans to weaken a bill overwhelmingly passed by the Senate last week that would slap tough new sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and allow Congress to block any future move by President Trump to lift any penalties against Moscow.

    The effort is designed to head off an awkward and politically damaging veto fight between the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress on Russia at a time when Mr. Trump is laboring under the shadow of multiple investigations about his campaign’s potential collusion with Moscow.

    House Republicans, normally hawkish on Russia, face a choice between demonstrating a hard line against Moscow in the face of its misconduct and sparing their own president a potentially embarrassing confrontation.

    The battle over the sanctions bill is unfolding two weeks before Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are expected to meet at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany. On Tuesday, in what many observers interpreted as a move to demonstrate toughness on Russia to skeptical lawmakers, the Treasury Department added to the existing sanctions, imposing restrictions on over three dozen individuals and organizations that have participated in the country’s incursion in Ukraine.

    The move prompted an angry reaction from the Russians, who abruptly canceled a meeting this week in St. Petersburg between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and Thomas A. Shannon, the under secretary of state for political affairs….

  249. says

    Topher Spiro: “This is it. TODAY IS THE DAY. Massive blowback in the next 48 hours will determine the fate of this immoral monstrosity. Let’s go.”

    He also says “Everyone in the DC metro area: there will be a protest at DCA airport tonight as Senators fly home. Details coming.”

  250. says

    “Intel chiefs tell investigators Trump suggested they refute collusion with Russians”:

    Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources.
    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.

    Sources say both men went further than they did in June 7 public hearings, when they provided little detail about the interactions.

    The sources gave CNN the first glimpse of what the intelligence chiefs said to Mueller’s investigators when they did separate interviews last week. Both men told Mueller’s team they were surprised the President would suggest that they publicly declare he was not involved in collusion, sources said. Mueller’s team, which is in the early stages of its investigation, will ultimately decide whether the interactions are relevant to the inquiry.

    Rogers’ interaction with the President is also documented in a memo written by his deputy at the NSA, Richard Ledgett.

    One congressional source who has seen the memo tells CNN that it is one page and, unlike memos written by former FBI Director James Comey, does not have many details of the conversation. Instead, it simply documents that the interaction occurred — and makes clear that Rogers thought it was out of the ordinary.

    Coats did not document his conversations with the President about the issue, the source said.

  251. says

    Jonathan Chait – “Donald Trump Is a Crook”:

    …Trump is using his budget to suspiciously single out for favoritism a program from which his firm benefits, and then installing a wildly unqualified personal loyalist in a position where she could protect his funding stream. This scandal alone could shake a non-Trump presidency to its foundations.

    That it has caused barely a ripple helps to explain why Trump feels emboldened to locate the first fundraiser for his reelection campaign at his hotel in Washington. Trump’s Washington hotel has already raked in cash from lobbyists and government officials, foreign and domestic, seeking to curry favor with the First Family. Trump has gotten away with it because his party has evinced zero interest in restraining him. The GOP Congress has quashed investigations of his profiteering or demands that he produce his tax returns. Now the party elite will literally be suborned at an event conjoining his public duties and the fattening of his own wallet….

  252. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    John Oliver: Prophet

    A Republican coal baron is suing John Oliver, HBO, Time Warner, and the writers for Oliver’s show over the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight.

    The suit, filed on June 21 in the circuit court of Marshall County, West Virginia, holds that Oliver and his team “executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies” by airing an episode that ripped into him. Murray runs the country’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy Corporation.

    “They did this to a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case,” reads the complaint, which also lists Murray’s companies as plaintiffs.

    The lawsuit isn’t a surprise to Oliver. In fact, the British comic said on the episode of his show that aired on June 18 that he expected it, noting that Murray has sued several other media outlets in the past (including, in May, the New York Times). In the episode, Oliver criticized Murray’s business practices, saying he doesn’t do enough to protect his miners’ safety. Oliver also noted that his team contacted Murray’s company before the episode aired, and that the company sent a cease-and-desist letter––the first time that had ever happened to his show.

    The episode is here.

  253. blf says

    There’s a heatwave at the moment, so of course some authorities are being arseholes, and insisting on strict interpretations of already-dubious rules. Two different sets of people suffering from the same problem — not being allowed to wear shorts despite working in the heat — came up with the same protest / solution: Overheated French male bus drivers don skirts in defiance of dress code, and (in the UK) Teenage boys wear skirts to school to protest against ‘no shorts’ policy. In both cases, the point was people who identified as female had an allowed† form of relief (skirts) broadly-equivalent to what these individuals were asking (shorts).

    Apparently, in the case of the UK schoolboys, they also must wear blazers, even in the heat. If correct, that seems to be a form of abuse, not just blinkered (you must follow the rules!) cruelty.

      † Possibly even mandatory, it is not unknown for dress / uniform codes to require people who identify as female to wear skirts and not trousers. If you “have” to have a uniform, I like the solution a school in New Zealand devised, which applies to everyone: Trousers or kilt.

  254. blf says

    Israeli airline can’t make women move seats for religious reasons, court rules:

    El Al loses case brought by Holocaust survivor asked to move after ultra-orthodox man refused to sit next to her

    Flight stewards working for Israel’s national carrier El Al cannot request female passengers to move seats to accommodate ultra-orthodox men who do not want to sit next to them, a court has ruled.

    […]

    Describing the controversial practice as “discriminatory”, judge Dana Cohen-Lekah ruled that “under absolutely no circumstances can a crew member ask a passenger to move from their designated seat because the adjacent passenger doesn’t want to sit next to them due to their gender”.

    [… Renee] Rabinovitz, a retired lawyer who fled the Nazis as a child, said she was thrilled with the verdict.

    “I didn’t think the judge would close this case today. It was supposed to be a preliminary discussion. I’m happy with the verdict,” she said.

    […]

    In an interview with the Guardian last year, Rabinowitz said: “The man had no other reason to complain than my gender — and that’s unlawful discrimination. It’s no different than if a person of another religion had said: ‘I don’t want to sit next to a Jew.’ And I don’t believe El Al would move a person in those circumstances.

    “I asked the flight attendant point blank if the man sitting next to me had asked me to be moved, and unabashedly he said yes. I then went back to the man and said: ‘I’m an 81-year-old woman, what’s your problem?’

    “He started to tell me it was forbidden by the Torah. I interrupted him to say the Torah says nothing about a man sitting next to a woman. He conceded I was right but said there was a general principle that a person should not put himself in a dangerous situation.”

    […]

    A person should not put himself in a dangerous situation — yeah, them cooties get everywhere.

  255. says

    From Patrick Caldwell, writing for Mother Jones,:

    […] The bill takes 25 pages to get to perhaps its most significant effect: a massive tax cut, with most of the benefits going to the wealthiest Americans. Like the health care bill that passed the House last month, the Senate’s legislation ditches all of Obamacare’s taxes and pays for that move by slashing spending on Medicaid—both Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid and general Medicaid funding.

    The bill puts a general cap on how much money the federal government will give states under Medicaid, ending the program’s open-ended promise to fund the health needs of poor people. In the long run, that will result in a massive reduction in Medicaid spending. The bill also grants states the option of adding a work requirement to their Medicaid programs.

    The measure would also revoke federal funding from Planned Parenthood. Before the bill was released, it was unclear whether the Senate would adopt the House’s provision to repeal all federal Medicaid spending on the women’s health provider. Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, had indicated that cutting funds to Planned Parenthood might prevent them from voting for the bill.

    The bill bans any subsidies for insurance plans that offer abortion coverage. That would go into effect immediately, potentially wreaking havoc on the markets in liberal states that currently offer such plans.

  256. says

    From Rebecca Leber, writing for Mother Jones:

    […] Trump promised to “get rid of” the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form” and leave it in “little tidbits.” […] by putting climate change deniers in charge, bringing Obama-era regulations to a standstill and asking Congress to slash the agency’s budget by a third. But Trump’s attack on environmental policy hasn’t been limited to changing rules—he’s also undermined the workplace culture at the EPA. That lowered morale is evident in a report released this week filled with warnings from the people who know the EPA best—its longtime staffers.

    The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative is a watchdog group that formed after the election to monitor and archive federal data that many feared might be at risk in the Trump administration. On Monday, a team of EDGI researchers published a report, titled “The EPA Under Siege,” […] Because these accounts are anonymous, there is no way of knowing how reliable the specific accusations are what any given interviewee’s current status at the agency is. […] confusion and fear have dominated agency life in the first half-year of Trump’s presidency. […]

    EDGI’s interviews (and my own reporting) suggest that Pruitt and Trump’s team set a hostile tone early on. Trump’s appointees left career staffers out of the loop and planned photo-ops in a way that would antagonize staff, inviting coal baron Robert Murray and other agency foes to attend Trump’s and Pruitt’s events.

    […] “Nobody was invited to [Trump’s visit to EPA HQ] which was as in your face, insulting thing as I’ve experienced in my time here,” one person says in the report. […]

    “I have worked under six Administrations with political appointees leading EPA from both parties,” one says. “This is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies of an Administration and by extension [Pruitt].”

    […] One interviewee notes: “To get those [staffing budget] numbers down, they’re probably going to have to try to get rid of a lot of the institutional knowledge too, the old-timers.” Meanwhile, Pruitt is moving ahead with a plan to buy out 1,200 employees at the agency this summer, with Trump’s budget proposal calling for an eventual workforce reduction of more than 3,000.

    Those reductions will compound the problems created by six years of budget cuts and attacks from a Republican majority in Congress, which have already left the EPA with about 1,650 fewer staffers than in 2009. That’s left the career staff stretched thin with more work than ever, even as they face significant new tasks, such as implementing the toxic chemicals law Congress passed last year.

    […] Pruitt has been making promises that could be impossible to keep if Trump manages to get most of his budget cuts: […] he told concerned Republicans that despite the proposed funding cuts, he’d still fulfill the agency’s responsibilities for hazardous waste cleanup, Great Lakes restoration, and other work. […]

    “I think there’s a general consensus among the career people,” one person says, “that at bottom they’re basically trying to destroy the place.”]

  257. says

    On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Willie Geist fact-checked Trump’s rally speech from yesterday:

    [Trump] says he signed, quote, “hundreds of billions of dollars worth of agreements with Middle Eastern countries,” but some of those deals were put into place, you’ll remember, under President Obama, and many are preliminary and require further negotiation.

    [Trump]t said a coal mine just opened in Pennsylvania for the first time in decades. Last year the state’s Cresson Mine was being put back to work following weaker coal production in Asia.

    [Trump] suggested CNN shut off its cameras when they didn’t like what he was saying. It’s a line he’s used at rallies in the past, including just a month before the election. Last night Fox was the only network to take the president’s comments in full.

    […] Trump said home builders are starting to build again. As Reuters reported last week, quote, “U.S. housing starts hit eight-month low.”

    [Trump] pointed to new, stricter guidelines for how immigrants can receive welfare. As NBC says, quote, “Those requirements, or something similar to them, do already exist.”

    [Trump] attacked the Paris climate deal saying, quote, “Like hell it’s nonbinding.” The New York Times Q&A from last month reads, quote, “The deal is nonbinding.”

    […] Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star who pointed out many of these falsehoods. He said, “The level of lies rivaled some of the president’s 2016 campaign speeches.”

    Link

    Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from the delusional views aired by Fox News:

    SMITH: […] he was so energized, and that was what everybody predicted when he said he was going to go and do one of these rallies in the state of Iowa […] yes, he did take a few moments during that speech to point out where he is winning.

    KILMEADE: […] That was the president just talking, having a conversation, intimate conversations, with thousands of people. But he did make a little bit of news. He went over infrastructure, things he wants to accomplish and things on deck and he says, “Don’t worry, it’s all coming.” But he also says, “I got some new rules for immigrants who want to come here.” […]

    DOOCY: They call it a rally there at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids with 6,000 people, but really, it’s a progress report. And he’s telling the people of America, “OK, on the campaign trail, I promised you this, this, and this, and this is the status on all of that stuff.” Here’s a note to whoever is running his schedule: Do more of this. Because whether you voted for him or not, it is, in real-time, a progress report of what the United States is doing. […] Whether you voted for him or not, it’s great to hear the president of the United States talk about what direction we’re going in.

    SMITH: Yeah, it was incredibly optimistic. I think it rallied his base. And it was an opportunity for him to point out everything he has gotten done and what he intends to do.

  258. says

    Yeah, that’s right, Trump did not tape his conversations with Comey. That tweet about tapes was just a bullying tactic.

    Trump informed us today:

    With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.

    The Chief Bullshitter had to say something today because Friday is the deadline given by the House Intelligence Committee for the White House to turn over any tapes.

    From deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders :

    I don’t have anything to add. You guys asked for an answer. He gave you one.

  259. says

    Another lawsuit aimed at team Trump:

    An ethics watchdog group claims in a new lawsuit that White House staff are illegally hiding internal communications from public view through the use of encrypted messaging apps
    .
    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against President Donald Trump and the Executive Office of the President on Thursday. The complaint claims, citing news reports, that West Wing officials use encrypted messaging apps such as Signal to communicate internally. Those apps automatically delete past messages, which would prevent them from being archived by the government as required by law, CREW said. […]

    “Reports that Trump administration officials are disregarding this [archiving] requirement—either by not following private e-mail protocol or by using encrypted messaging apps that prevent any kind of preservation—raise serious concerns that presidential records are at risk,” said Tom Blanton, director of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, who joined CREW as a plaintiff. […]

    Link

  260. says

  261. says

    Oh, FFS!

    The Trump administration, acting on the fairly sound logic that its supporters don’t care in any way whatsoever about the civic principle that the government should be scrutinized by a free press, has started to cut down on the number of press conferences it gives that occur on camera. Yesterday, the administration announced that Thursday’s* press briefing by Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be one such no-video affair, then introduced a Kafka-esque twist by declaring that the announcement itself was “NOT REPORTABLE.”

    Slate link

  262. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    So four Republican Senators say they can’t vote for the health care bill as it currently stands. Only their not the four that you might expect, and they’re not opposing it for encouraging reasons.

    Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee and Rand Paul said they were “not ready to vote for this bill”, but were “open to negotiation”.

    […]

    “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” the statement from the four senators said.

    “There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current healthcare system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their healthcare costs.”

    The silver lining is the possibility that in trying to appease those four, the Senate crafts a bill that other gop senators can’t support.

  263. says

    Update to #410 – The airport protest is at 5 PM. I don’t know where specifically at the airport. People with disabilities (and I think others) are protesting at the Capitol, and some have been arrested – people were literally pulled out of wheelchairs.

    Chris Murphy: “No tweaks by amendment can fix this monstrosity. If you vote for this evil, intellectually bankrupt bill, it will ruin millions of lives.”

    Neera Tanden/CAP statement on the Senate bill:

    The Senate version of the American Health Care Act is a moral abomination and, in critical ways, is even more cruel than the House version. After telling us they would start from scratch and write their own bill, Senate Republicans stuck to the House formula: massive cuts to health care for the poor and sick to pay for massive tax cuts for the rich.

    The Senate bill makes even deeper cuts to Medicaid over time, resulting in at least 14 million fewer people enrolled in Medicaid, who would instead be uninsured. Millions of people with pre-existing conditions would lose coverage or face cost increases of thousands of dollars because their essential benefits would no longer be covered—especially maternity care, opioid addiction treatment, and expensive drugs for diseases such as cancer. The Senate bill would also end insurance tax credits for many families in the middle class, and combined with lax regulation, this would result in a massive age tax of thousands of dollars for older enrollees. By making only skimpy plans affordable, the Senate bill would increase deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs significantly.

    What we’re left with is a string of broken promises: “Insurance for everybody” means many millions uninsured; not touching Medicaid means gutting the program and ending Medicaid as we know it; lower deductibles mean higher deductibles. But this alternative reality would not be the reality of the tens of millions of Americans who would lose coverage from this law. No congressional legislation has done so much to hurt so many people in my lifetime. Any senator who votes for this immoral monstrosity will have to answer to the American people and to their conscience.

  264. says

    Barack Obama’s statement on the bill:

    Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

    I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

    We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

    Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

    And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

    We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

    At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

    That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

    But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

    The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

    Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

    I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

    To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

    That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

    After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

  265. says

    From NBC News:

    One of President Donald Trump’s newest appointees is a registered agent of Saudi Arabia earning hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on the kingdom’s behalf, according to U.S. Department of Justice records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

    Since January, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has paid longtime Republican lobbyist Richard Hohlt about $430,000 in exchange for “advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.”

    Trump’s decision to appoint a registered foreign agent to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships clashes with the president’s vow to clean up Washington and limit the influence of special interests.

    Trump singled out lobbyists for foreign governments for special criticism, saying they shouldn’t be permitted to contribute to political campaigns. Hohlt is himself a Trump donor, though his contributions came before he registered to represent Saudi Arabia.

    “I will issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a FOREIGN GOVERNMENT! #DrainTheSwamp,” Trump tweeted in October. […]

    Link

  266. says

    Follow-up to comment 437:

    More than 100 former federal lobbyists have found jobs in the Trump administration, despite President Trump’s campaign pledge to restrict the power of special interests in Washington,[…]

    And roughly two-thirds of them — 69 — work in the agencies they have lobbied at some point in their careers, according to research by American Bridge 21st Century. They include about three dozen recent lobbyists who have not received waivers from Trump’s ethics rule that bar industry insiders and former lobbyists from working on specific matters that benefited their former employers or clients for two years after their appointments.

    The prevalence of lobbyists in the new administration shows that Trump and his aides are “are holding themselves to a different standard than we expected,” said Lisa Gilbert of the liberal-leaning group Public Citizen, which is expected to release its own study this week, highlighting ex-lobbyists working on the same issues in government as they did in their recent lobbying posts. […]

    USA Today link

  267. says

    President Obama spoke out today. Here are some excerpts from the essay he posted on Facebook:

    […] I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

    […] we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

    […] For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

    We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

    At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

    […] public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

    [Trumpcare] would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office […]

    The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. […] Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. […]

    Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

    […] To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

    […] If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.
    After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

  268. says

    Trump’s carrier “deal” was always a scam. As I said at the time, no deal negotiated without the unions (in this case, without their knowledge) is going to be for them. And when union leader Chuck Jones called out one of Trump’s lies, Trump bashed him on Twitter, leading to death threats.

    This part:

    In announcing the deal with Carrier, Trump said he was sending a signal to corporate America that the rules would be changing in his administration. Moving jobs to Mexico or elsewhere offshore would no longer be tolerated.

    “They can leave from state to state, and they can negotiate good deals with the different states and all of that. But leaving the country is going to be very, very difficult,” Trump said.

    “Race to the bottom all you want domestically, corporations” was a truly populist message. Who could possibly have known back in December that he wasn’t a real champion of labor?

  269. says

    More commentary and fallout related to Trump’s tweets:

    […] “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” Trump wrote.

    It was a bizarre suggestion that took some in the White House off guard. “No clue what the thinking was,” a White House staffer said of the tweets. “He could’ve just said there are no tapes. It’s baffling, frankly.”

    Informed of the president’s denial that he had recorded his conversations with Comey, a senior administration official replied, “At least that’s behind us.” When alerted to his apparent suspicions of Oval Office surveillance, the official replied in a text message, “fml.”

    That’s shorthand for “fuck my life.”

    Trump’s tweets came just minutes before White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was scheduled to brief reporters. Asked about Trump’s vague allegations of a potential wiretap, Sanders suggested that law enforcement authorities would have to answer whether they have the President of the United States under surveillance.

    “I think those are questions you’d have to ask those law enforcement agencies,” Sanders said when asked if the president suspected he was being monitored by the CIA, the FBI, or another agency. “There’s public record that talks about surveillance, that talks about unmasking, we know those practices take place.”

    “I don’t know specifically if there’s a direct concern” about Oval Office surveillance, Sanders said. Questions “about specific instances” should be directed to the relevant agencies. […]

    Daily Beast link

  270. says

    …When alerted to his apparent suspicions of Oval Office surveillance, the official replied in a text message, “fml.”

    That’s shorthand for “fuck my life.”

    Hee.

  271. says

    Um…

    Oh! :) I meant in a sort of celebratory sports-reporting way. There was actually a tweet with the greatest distances accompanied by the flags of each sniper’s nation like they were scores in a competitive event.

  272. blf says

    Close al-Jazeera: Saudi Arabia issues Qatar with 13 demands to end blockade:

    The list also demands the nation cut back ties to Iran and sever all links to the Muslim Brotherhood
    […]
    In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries [Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain] demand [Qatar close al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran, sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and end] Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.

    […] Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.

    […]

    According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.

    […]

    More broadly, the list demands that Qatar align itself politically, economically and otherwise with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional club that has focused on countering the influence of Iran. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led nations have accused Qatar of inappropriately close ties to Iran, a Shia-led country and Saudi Arabia’s regional foe.

    […]

    Not only must Qatar shut down the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, the list says, but also all of its affiliates. That presumably would mean Qatar would have to close down al-Jazeera’s English-language sister network.

    Supported by Qatar’s government, al-Jazeera is one of the most widely watched Arabic channels, but it has long drawn the ire of Mideast governments for airing alternative viewpoints.

    As the article notes, Qatar has previously made clear it will not discuss closing Al Jazeera (see @5). In addition, it’s position at the moment is it won’t enter any discussions until the blockade is lifted.

  273. blf says

    Turkish schools to stop teaching evolution, official says (the Grauniad’s edits in {curly braces}):

    Board of education chairman says subject is debatable, controversial and too complicated for students

    Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition.

    Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.

    We believe that these subjects are beyond their {students} comprehension, said Durmuş in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

    Durmuş said a chapter on evolution was being removed from ninth grade biology course books, and the subject postponed to the undergraduate period. Another change to the curriculum may reduce the amount of time that students spend studying the legacy of secularism.

    […]

    The subject of evolution in particular stirred debate earlier this year after Numan Kurtulmuş, the deputy prime minister, described the process as a theory that was both archaic and lacking sufficient evidence.

    […]

    The wider context here is Erdoğan’s contempt for Turkey’s nonsectarian & democratic foundation. As the article observes, “the president and his party are reshaping Turkish society and clinging to neo-Ottoman ideals that see Turkey as the vanguard of a greater Islamic nation.”

  274. says

    As noted by Steve Benen:

    At his campaign rally in Iowa this week, Donald Trump again boasted, “We’re 5-0 in special elections.” That’s still wrong: Republicans have won four congressional special elections by closer-than-expected margins, and a Democrat easily prevailed in a California special election earlier this month.

    In other news, Trump’s boasts about saving jobs are coming back to haunt him:

    […] Trump exaggerated the number of jobs saved [at Carrier], rewarded a company with taxpayer money that was closing a plant and shipping jobs to Mexico, and fudged the facts about how many of the saved jobs will be eliminated anyway.

    CNBC reported yesterday that the story looks even worse now.

    More than 600 employees at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis are bracing for layoffs beginning next month, despite being told by President Trump that nearly all the jobs at the plant had been saved. […]

    In fact, after the layoffs are complete later this year, a few hundred union jobs will remain at the plant. But that is far different from what then-President-elect Trump said just three weeks after the election.

    […] Trump said there was a “100 percent chance” he would save the jobs at the plant. “Carrier stepped it up, and now they’re keeping over 1,100 people,” […] “And by the way, that number is going to go up substantially as they expand this area, this plant. The 1,100 is going to be a minimum number.”

    And while this looked at the time like a public-relations coup for the president, we now know the boasts weren’t true. Trump was counting hundreds of engineering and technical jobs that were never scheduled to be cut, and he ended up misleading plant workers whose jobs are now being outsourced.

    Soon after, Trump traveled to a Boeing factory in South Carolina, his first outside-the-Beltway visit to a business after his inauguration. “We’re here to day to celebrate American engineering and American manufacturing,” he said at the time. “We’re also here today to celebrate jobs. Jobs!”

    This factory is now laying off workers, too. […]

    [Trump] only made hundreds of Carrier workers a “100 percent” guarantee he didn’t understand, he also spent months pointing to various companies’ job announcements as proof of his economic genius. In nearly every instance, those private-sector announcements reflected business decisions made during the Obama era, but Trump didn’t care: if a major corporation was expanding its workforce, the Republican president felt entitled to credit.

    Link

  275. says

    Trump commented about the way he handled firing Comey and then tweeting about “tapes” afterward, “it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.” Sheesh.

    […] This morning, Fox News aired a new interview with Trump, asking about his bogus tweet, and after whining about the Obama administration for a while, the president argued that he was simply trying to intimidate the former FBI chief in advance of his sworn testimony in the investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal.

    “But when [Comey] found out that there may be tapes out there, whether it be governmental tapes or anything else, I think his story may have changed … my story didn’t change, my story was never a fake story.”

    When the Fox News host gushed that Trump’s tweet “was a smart way” to make sure Comey “stayed honest in those hearings,” the president, pleased with himself, replied, “Well, it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.”

    […] As of two weeks ago, the president’s argument was that Comey lied under oath, effectively committing perjury by repeating falsehoods about the scandal. Trump’s new argument is that Comey told the truth under oath, but only because the president — the strategic mastermind that he is — tricked him by publishing a deceptive tweet about tapes that don’t exist.

    In other words, Trump, while boasting about not changing his story, changed his story.

    Making matters just a little worse, the president also seems to believe he was fiendishly clever to publish a tweet that helped lead to the appointment of a special counsel, who’s reportedly made Trump the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.

    All of this, of course, also raises possible legal questions about witness tampering.

    But don’t worry, “it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.”

    Link

    Bringing us up to date on other comments by Trump that are very stupid:

    […] Yesterday, for example, Trump lied about former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s congressional testimony from the day before. Worse, despite Trump administration officials repeatedly acknowledging Russia’s interference in the American election, the president himself yesterday ignored his own administration’s intelligence findings and dismissed the meddling allegations as “all a big Dem HOAX.”

    It’s important to recognize that Trump is actually regressing. Note the sequence of his arguments:

    1. Trump used to argue that Russia didn’t interfere in the election.
    2. Trump then argued that Russia may have interfered, but it didn’t matter.
    3. Trump then argued that it may have mattered, but the Trump campaign didn’t cooperate with the Russian crimes.

    As of yesterday, the president seems to have started over.

    I see. It’s a cycle. Trump is caught in an endless loop. My mother, who had Alzheimers, was frequently caught in endless loops when she tried to talk.

    I’m not trying to diagnose Trump. I am just struck by the futility of trying to educate Trump so that he is not so loopy.

  276. says

    Republicans are redefining “transparency” and “openness” to mean “total secrecy.”

    Sen. Pat Roberts (Kansas): “There’s no lack of transparency…. You shouldn’t even ask that question.”

    Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas): “I can’t imagine a more transparent and open process.”

    Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (South Dakota): “There hasn’t been any secrecy.”

    Those Republican’s are talking about writing their healthcare bill behind closed doors, refusing to hold legislative hearings (including committee hearings), etc. They also refused to meet with doctors’ organizations and with leaders of other organizations in the health care arena.

    Republicans are gaslighting all of us.

  277. says

    At his campaign rally in Iowa, Trump said, “One by one we are keeping the promises we made to the people of Iowa and the people all over our country.”

    Here’s the promise he made during the campaign about health care: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody…. Everybody’s going to be taken care of […] lower premiums […] much lower deductibles […] never cut Medicaid.”

    Trump is betraying all of the people who voted for him. Trumpcare does not fulfill any of those promises.

    Many Republicans are backing Trump up on this, saying things like, “Medicaid is not being cut.” More redefinition of terms, I guess.

  278. says

    Trump is spreading the blame for the Russia probe. He now includes White House counsel Donald McGahn.

    […] McGahn, who was one of the first Washington elites to support the President during his campaign, took a step back from the Russia probe when Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz was h