Comments

  1. says

    I’m actually surprised by this: “House Oversight Committee says that the that the Trump transition email issue is up to the courts to decide, and not Congress: ‘These are issues to be briefed by the parties (or others with cognizable legal claims and standing) and decided by the court — not Congress’.”

  2. says

    Garry Kasparov:

    Since the start of his campaign, Trump has dedicated himself to attacking defining American institutions: electoral system, free press, separation of powers, law enforcement. Every one of these moves has been under the cover of the autocratic attack on the objective truth. Lying constantly while attacking his targets for lying, for “fake news”, for treasonous behavior. This method has served another end, perhaps the greater goal, of splitting the US even more deeply, a division that makes recovery from other attacks much harder. The escalation of rhetoric to dictatorial extremes has a numbing effect. Terms like “enemies of the people”, “coup” and “treason”. When actual enemies, real treason, are exposed, they’ve already been used up, discredited. It also requires stronger doses each time to achieve the same impact, the distraction, the clicks, the outrage. The media reaction of amplifying each time more than the last makes it worse. Democratic govt is based on institutions. If someone is attacking those institutions instead of strengthening them, it’s time to pick a side. Rule of law or by strongman? Rule of institutions or of tribe? The history of making the wrong choice here is clear. We chose wrong and failed democracy in Russia. We failed by choosing a man, even a decent man, Yeltsin, over strong democratic institutions. We paid for it with Putin, and are still paying for it, as is everyone else. Even if you like Trump, or tolerate him for what you think he can do for you or your cause, you are choosing against those American institutions. If you think they are broken, fix them, don’t help Trump destroy them. Choose.

  3. says

    Yes, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, is going to subpoena top officials at the FBI and the Justice Department. Goodlatte wants to question them about their supposed bias against Trump.

    […] Republicans have zeroed in on FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, top counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, FBI attorney Lisa Page, and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr and his wife, Nellie, who reportedly worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled opposition research on Trump in 2016. […]

    Republicans have focused on Strzok with greater intensity in recent days, after the Justice Department released a series of text messages he sent to Page in 2016 that showed hostility toward Trump.

    Democrats have dismissed the complaints as a sideshow, noting that FBI agents are expressly permitted to have political views, so long as they don’t act on them to taint investigations. So far, they say, no evidence has shown Strzok or Page took any actions based on their dislike of Trump. Their texts also revealed disdain for other political figures on both sides of the aisle.

    Strzok was a key figure in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email use and was tapped in the spring to join special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller dropped him from the probe over the summer after learning of the texts.

    […] Jeanine Pirro, a Trump ally, opened her show [on Fox News] with a harsh indictment of the FBI, which she called a “crime family” under the leadership of former FBI director James Comey, who Trump fired in May.

    Jordan [Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio] said Pirro’s opening “was perfect.” He was joined on the show by Rep. Ron DeSantis, who also suggested he might pursue contempt citations for FBI Director Chris Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if they fail to turn over more documents related to their inquiries. […]

    Link

  4. says

    Fox News is pushing the propaganda that the Mueller investigation is a “coup” to oust Trump:

    […] The suggestion occurred shortly before an interview Saturday evening with White House Spokesperson Kellyanne Conway on the Fox News show Watter’s World. In the lead up to the segment, host Jesse Watters cast aspersions on the investigation, which has included the indictment of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. After pointing to recently unveiled anti-Trump text messages from FBI agents who have since been removed from the investigation, Watters suggested he “may have proof” that the probe “was weaponized to destroy [Trump’s] presidency for partisan political purposes,” adding, “if that’s true, we have a coup on our hands in America.”

    When Conway joined him on the program seconds later to echo Watters in besmirching the integrity of the probe, a chyron appeared beneath them: “A coup in America?”

    Watter’s use of the term does not match its traditional definition, which is typically synonymous with an armed insurrection against an established power. The chyron immediately triggered outrage from journalists and academics who cover or study real-world coups or armed uprisings. […]

    Link

    From Kevin Baron:

    Coup?! I cover wars. Militaries. Actual coups. Where citizens violently rise up and kill each other for power over each other.

    This is alarmingly irresponsible language, even for Fox. Inflammatory. Baseless. Dangerous.

    From Marcel Dirsus:

    I’m an academic studying coups. This is embarrassing and dangerous. There is no coup in America, but there is a de-facto state propaganda outlet named Fox News.

    From conservative Republican political strategist, Ron Nehring:

    Use of the word “coup” by @FoxNews after Russia has deliberately worked to destabilize US democracy is extremely irresponsible and should be roundly condemned.

  5. says

    Follow-up to comment 9.

    Here is a response from Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii:

    Attacks from Trump allies & the far right on the special counsel’s investigation & integrity invoke shades of creeping McCarthyism. We will continue to fight to allow Mueller’s independent investigation to continue.

  6. says

    Quick follow-up to a couple comments on the previous iteration – A few days ago, I was furious because I happened to see* a few minutes of Chris Matthews’ show when he was talking about the AL election. He regurgitated the stupid rightwing talking point about “abortions right up until the last minute” and another rightwing talking point about Doug Jones supporting this, and then launched into a rant (“I have a dog in this race…”) about how Democrats should focus on the economy and not “cultural issues” like “abortion up until the last minute.” Which was fucked up in so many ways but also flipped on its head the clear message of the fact that a Democrat who supports women’s reproductive rights won a Senate seat in Alabama. Not only are few people in the media talking about that – despite the endless comments during the campaign about how Jones would definitely lose because of this one position – but people like Matthews take advantage of his victory to urge the Left to avoid defending women’s rights. And his guests are expected to just silently abide these rants (not that they could get a word in edgewise in any case).

    Also, the special about Michael Flynn that Matthews hosted last week on MSNBC (even aside from his grating narration) was terrible, and a great illustration of the many facets of white male privilege.

  7. says

    [OT rant:]

    To the geniuses at whatever ad agency made the most recent Chantix commercial:

    I don’t think prescription drug advertising should be allowed under any circumstances or that for-profit drug companies should exist, and have no idea about the effectiveness of your product, but that’s neither here nor there. If you’re going to show someone allegedly helped by your product walking on the beach or paddling a canoe, fine. But if you’re going to show them engaging in an activity that has an end goal, you need to show the fucking result. If they’re climbing a mountain, show them at the summit. If they’re restoring furniture, show the restored goddamn furniture.

    This woman goes to an antiques market and buys a beat-up bedside table. Now, I don’t have much confidence in her Chantix-enabled efforts, since she inexplicably appears to be sanding it while the hardware is still on. But you show her painting. And then it ends. This is unacceptable. The woman placing a vase of flowers and a lamp on her beautiful, freshly painted bedside table is how this ad needs to end, you assholes.

    Where is that table now? Sitting in some prop lot – half-painted, neglected, and pitiful? I hate you, ad agency.

    [/OT rant]

  8. says

    In the previous iteration, I listed some questions I still have as the year ends. One was: “What shady connections did Nigel Farage…deploy in the Brexit and US presidential campaigns?”

    “The Farage staffer, the Russian embassy and a smear campaign against a Kremlin critic”:

    A senior member of Nigel Farage’s parliamentary group staff in Brussels was known for making trips to the Russian embassy in Belgium and was accused of orchestrating a smear campaign against a critic of the Kremlin, the Guardian has been told.

    Two former staffers who worked for Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD) and who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity said a senior member of the group’s staff, a native of Malta* named Kevin Ellul Bonici, was known to have a relationship with the Russian embassy.

    According to the accounts of two former parliamentary staffers, in June 2015 a top aide to Farage named Michael McManus, who works for the EFDD, claimed to them that Ellul Bonici was a frequent visitor to the Russian embassy and had a relationship with officials there.

    “I was told in June 2015 that this gentleman had a relationship with the Russian embassy in Brussels and that every time he came back from the Russian embassy he would return with a bootload of propaganda,” one former staffer told the Guardian.

    The remarks were confirmed by another former staffer who also allegedly heard them from McManus.

    Ellul Bonici speaks fluent Russian and was educated in the former Soviet Union in the early 1980s, according to a biographical essay he published about his experience.

    Unlike most conservatives in the UK, who have traditionally taken a tough stance on Russia, the former Ukip chief has been a consistent cheerleader in support of Vladimir Putin, whom he once described as the leader he most admired.

    Farage’s proximity to pro-Kremlin actors was first made apparent in late 2014, after alleged actions by Ellul Bonici became the source of a complaint.

    In December that year, the Maltese staffer walked into the European parliament and distributed hundreds of books to members’ pigeonholes without authorisation, according to the results of an internal investigation that was later conducted by the parliament’s security service.

    The book was called Red Dalia, a highly critical biography of Dalia Grybauskaitė, the president of Lithuania and Putin critic, who weeks earlier had referred to Russia as a “terrorist state”.

    The EFDD said in a statement at the time that it had not authorised or supported the distribution of the books and that the issue would be subject to an internal review and “adequate follow-up”. Ellul Bonici’s wife, who is a Eurosceptic member of the European parliament and works closely with Marine Le Pen, denied in reports at the time that her husband had been involved….

    * Malta again.

  9. says

    Topher Spiro: “I have some news for you: the entire thrust of the bill is a massive #CorkerKickback that personally enriches every single wealthy Republican Senator, every single wealthy cabinet member, and of course Donald Trump himself. #mepolitics”

  10. KG says

    The racist far right – and Putin – take another big step forward in Europe with the entry into government of the Austrian FPÖ, which was founded in the 1950s by “ex”-Nazis, is fanatically anti-migrant and Islamophobic, covertly antisemitic, and has close ties with Putin’s United Russia. It has declared its wish to weaken the EU sanctions on Russia.

  11. says

    One of Joy Reid’s segments on “AM Joy” took a deep dive into into Trump’s attempts to create an authoritarian state.

    More:
    http://www.msnbc.com/am-joy/watch/trump-lawyer-some-in-congress-call-to-replace-mueller-1118508099865

    In other news, Trump appointed a new “labor advisor,” James Sherk. Sherk’s goal seems to be to cut salaries and benefits for federal workers, while making them work longer hours. Josh Marshall looked into Sherk’s background:

    James is a 2003 graduate of Hillsdale College, the uber-ideological rightwing college in Michigan, which churns out far-right shock troops. (Hillsdale first became a rightwing cause celebre when it refused all federal aid so as to not come under federal regulations opposing racism. They’ve maintained the tradition. […]) Then James did three years getting a Masters at the University of Rochester. From the time he left there until a few months ago he’s held various policy jobs at The Heritage Foundation. […]

    Sherk thinks that federal workers are fat and lazy and need to be kicked into shape. He has literally had no experience in the private sector, ever. He has had no experience working in government, ever. […] His entire professional life has been spent at Heritage.[…]

    The Washington Post also outed Sherk as having a plan to cut, potentially, even paid holidays.

    […]Restrict within-grade increases, also known as step increases. These pay hikes are based largely on tenure, rather than performance. “Limiting the size of step increases would, over time, lower pay for all federal employees.”

    Undermine the federal retirement program by moving away from defined-benefit pensions, which cost employers more, to a defined-contribution system, which provides less certainty and higher costs for federal workers.

    Shrink pensions significantly in the future, basing them on the average of employees’ annual career salaries instead of the current high three years […]

    Kill federal retiree health-care benefit subsidies for new hires.

    Extend the probationary period to three years, giving managers more time to fire workers at will.

    Speed the firing process by limiting the opportunity to appeal terminations and lowering the proof needed to give workers the boot from “a preponderance of evidence” to “substantial evidence.”

    Cut paid time off, including vacation and sick time. The authors noted that few private employers provide paid time off for every federal holiday, implying that federal employers also should not provide it. (The rationale for Columbus Day as a federal holiday is weak, but that’s another story).

    “These policies would boost federal employees’ productivity by increasing the number of days they work,” Greszler and Sherk wrote, “and thus could reduce the number of federal employees needed to carry out government functions.” […]

    As Joe Davidson pointed out in the Washington Post article, Trump and Sherk “would unite Uncle Sam with employee-regressive business practices designed to maximize profits. But Sam is in the business of service, not propelling profits.”

  12. says

    “FBI warned Trump in 2016 Russians would try to infiltrate his campaign”:

    In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would likely try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign, according to multiple government officials familiar with the matter.

    The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton, they added. They said the briefings, which are commonly provided to presidential nominees, were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies.

    The candidates were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns, the officials said.

    It’s unclear whether the warning about Russia was passed on to other campaign officials.

    Still, the revelation that the Trump campaign was warned about spying threats from Russia and other adversaries, which has not been previously reported, casts a new light on the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russians in the months before the November election.

    The situation was complicated by the fact that the FBI had already become aware of contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, and was beginning to investigate further. Former CIA Director John Brennan has said he told the FBI about a pattern of contacts the CIA observed between members of the Trump team and Russians, and former FBI Director James Comey said the bureau then began investigating in July 2016.

    Montoya and other former FBI officials told NBC News the FBI would not have wanted to compromise that investigation by saying too much in the counterintelligence briefing of Trump.

    By the time of the warning in late July or August, at least seven Trump campaign officials had been in contact with Russians or people linked to Russia, according to public reports. There is no public evidence that the campaign reported any of that to the FBI….

  13. says

    “Trump Transition Officials Waived Privacy Rights, Per Government Memo”:

    Counsel representing the remnants of President Donald Trump’s transition team has claimed, in a lengthy, headline-grabbing letter to Congress, that Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller improperly obtained transition emails from the General Services Administration, which the transition contends was not within its rights to hand over thousands of documents preserved on government-owned IT infrastructure.

    That claim appears to conflict with the agreement the Trump transition entered with GSA before the election, which contains no obvious prohibition on GSA providing law enforcement officials with transition documents, no provision denoting the documents as being the property of the transition team, and even suggests Trump transition officials waived their privacy rights when they accepted government-furnished laptops and smartphones.

    The memorandum of understanding between the GSA and Trump—which I obtained over a year ago, pursuant to an unrelated FOIA request for “[a]ll memoranda of understanding and correspondence between the GSA and the Trump PTT produced after May 6, 2016”—specifically, and with added emphasis, advises the Trump transition that “Office of the President-elect staff members will be required to individually sign and accept [government furnished] laptop and Smartphone while accepting IT Rules of Behavior to safeguard the assets and the integrity of the network infrastructure.”

    Those rules of behavior include a privacy waiver, which notes that, “Users have no expectation of privacy on GSA IT resources since all activities are subject to monitoring.”…

  14. says

    If Trump removes climate change from the list of national security risks, the climate change problem ceases to exist right?

    […] Trump’s new National Security Strategy, released Monday, removed all mentions of climate change as a national security threat, a decision in line with major steps taken by the administration over the past 11 months to downplay the perils of climate change. Two years ago, the Obama administration issued a strategy that identified climate change as “an urgent and growing threat to our national security.”

    Trump’s decision to exclude climate change from current national security threats comes only a month after government scientists released the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which contained a dire warning on the impact of climate change, including an increase in wildfires due to heat waves and severe droughts. In a separate report on climate change adaptation, released last week, the Government Accountability Office explained that the expected impacts associated with climate change pose operational risks to Department of Defense overseas installations. […]

    Despite no mention of climate change in the new strategy, the Department of Defense has been warning that climate change poses a critical national security threat. James Mattis, Trump’s Secretary of Defense, has stated that climate change is real and a threat to the military’s assets and activities, a position at odds with the views and actions of the president. Mattis also believes the U.S. military needs to cut its dependence on fossil fuels and use renewable energy where it makes sense.

    “This is an incredibly senseless move from a president whose first term was marked by devastating superstorms and wildfires,” Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement Monday. “Climate change will exacerbate future extreme weather events, fueling geopolitical instability, and threatening security around the world. Trump’s single-minded mission to protect fossil fuel companies gravely endangers the health, safety and security of Americans at home and abroad.” […]

    Link

  15. says

    “In FBI Agent’s Account, ‘Insurance Policy’ Text Referred to Russia Probe”:

    An FBI agent’s reference to “an insurance policy” in a much-debated text message was meant to convey that the bureau needed to aggressively investigate allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, according to people familiar with his account.

    The agent didn’t intend to suggest a secret plan to harm the candidate but rather address a colleague who believed the Federal Bureau of Investigation could take its time because Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was certain to win the election, the people said.

    Mr. Strzok wrote, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…”

    The text came after a meeting involving Ms. Page, Mr. Strzok and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, according to people close to the pair and familiar with their version of events. At the meeting, Ms. Page suggested they could take their time investigating the alleged collusion because Mrs. Clinton was likely to win, the people said.

    If they move more deliberately, she argued, they could reduce the risk of burning sensitive sources.

    Mr. Strzok felt otherwise, according to these people.

    His text was meant to convey his belief that the investigation couldn’t afford to take a more measured approach because Mr. Trump could very well win the election, they said. It would be better to be aggressive and gather evidence quickly, he believed, because some of Mr. Trump’s associates could land administration jobs and it was important to know if they had colluded with Russia.

    Mr. Strzok emphasized the seriousness with which he viewed the allegations in a message to Ms. Page on Aug. 11, just a few days before the “insurance” text. “OMG I CANNOT BELIEVE WE ARE SERIOUSLY LOOKING AT THESE ALLEGATIONS AND THE PERVASIVE CONNECTIONS,” he texted….

    The “pervasive connections” text…doesn’t help the pro-Trump authoritarian propagandists.

  16. says

    “The Senate’s Russia Investigation Is Now Looking Into Jill Stein, A Former Campaign Staffer Says”:

    The top congressional committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has set its sights on the Green Party and its nominee, Jill Stein, according to a former campaign employee.

    Dennis Trainor Jr., who worked for the Stein campaign from January to August of 2015, says Stein contacted him on Friday saying the Senate Intelligence Committee had requested that the campaign comply with a document search.

    Trainor, who served as the campaign’s communications director and acting manager during that time, told BuzzFeed News that he was informed of the committee’s request because during his time on the campaign, his personal cell phone was “a primary point of contact” for those looking to reach Stein or the campaign. That included producers from RT News, the Russian state-funded media company, who booked Stein for several appearances, Trainor said….

  17. says

    “The Republican tax bill got worse: now the top 1% gets 83% of the gains”:

    By 2027, more than half of all Americans — 53 percent — would pay more in taxes under the tax bill agreed to by House and Senate Republicans, a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center finds. That year, 82.8 percent of the bill’s benefit would go to the top 1 percent, up from 62.1 under the Senate bill.

    And even in the first years of the bill’s implementation, when it’s an across-the-board tax cut, the benefits of the law would be heavily concentrated among the upper-middle and upper-class Americans, with nearly two-thirds of the benefit going to the richest fifth of Americans in 2018.

    The paper is the first rigorous analysis of who wins and loses under the bill as agreed to in conference committee. House and Senate negotiators agreed to a number of changes in the bill, most notably lowering the top income tax rate for individuals to 37 percent from its current level of 39.6 percent. The analysis does not include an additional cost of the legislation: its repeal of the individual mandate, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates could cause as many as 13 million fewer people to have health insurance, reducing federal spending for poor and middle-class Americans’ health insurance by $338 billion over 10 years. That worsens the bill’s distribution for the poor and middle class….

  18. says

    “Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination”:

    For nearly eight months, President Trump has boasted that appointing Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court ranks high among his signature achievements.

    But earlier this year, Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination, venting angrily to advisers after his Supreme Court pick was critical of the president’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary in private meetings with legislators.

    Trump, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions, was upset that Gorsuch had pointedly distanced himself from the president in a private February meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), telling the senator he found Trump’s repeated attacks on the federal judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

    The president worried that Gorsuch would not be “loyal,” one of the people said, and told aides that he was tempted to pull Gorsuch’s nomination — and that he knew plenty of other judges who would want the job.

    Despite Trump’s early concerns, Gorsuch’s young tenure has given the president little reason to question his appointment to the Supreme Court. If anything, the justice — who has emerged as one of the court’s most conservative members — has been criticized for not distancing himself enough from both the president and the Republican Senate leaders who championed his nomination through the highly partisan confirmation process.

    Gorsuch traveled to Kentucky with McConnell to lecture at the senator’s two alma maters. One of his first public speeches was to a conservative scholarship organization that held its luncheon meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the subject of a lawsuit alleging that payments to Trump’s companies violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

    Gorsuch also was the featured speaker at the annual black-tie gala of the Federalist Society, which had recommended him to Trump for the Supreme Court, telling the cheering crowd that neither originalism nor textualism “is going anywhere on my watch.”…

    Everything about this has been obscene. Every single thing the Republicans have said and done relative to this since Scalia died has been an outrage.

  19. says

    “Why is Theresa May protecting the DUP’s dirty little (Brexit) secret?”:

    Today, Theresa May’s Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is going to try to sneak a big favour to the DUP, the small party now propping up May’s government in parliament – and in effect holding the future of Britain, Ireland and Europe hostage.

    Hoping that journalists and MPs will be too hung-over after yet another Christmas party to pay much attention to a new legislative detail, Brokenshire has chosen the quiet moment before the break to smuggle through a measure which will deny British citizens the right to know who funds their politics. And in particular, it will block all of us from knowing who gave the DUP a highly controversial £435,000 donation to campaign for Brexit last year.

    Of course, that’s not what Brokenshire says he’s doing. Listen to his speeches, and you’d believe that his parliamentary order – which comes before a specially convened committee of 17 MPs today – is designed to deliver long-awaited transparency on political donations to the people of Northern Ireland.

    In a sense, it will. Unlike in the rest of the UK, donors can give any amount of money to political parties in Northern Ireland and still keep their names secret. Brokenshire’s move will change this.

    But here’s the catch. The Northern Ireland Secretary wants to make the new transparency rules effective 1st July 2017 – when in fact, a law was passed three years ago which would have allowed donors to be publicly named from 1st January 2014.

    This timing is crucial. If Brokenshire was granting transparency from 2014, it would mean revealing who gave the DUP the mystery £435,000 – the largest donation ever received by a Northern Irish party, which was spent on lavish pro-Brexit campaigning in the weeks before the tightly-fought EU referendum vote.

    This matters to citizens across the UK because almost none of this secret donation was spent in Northern Ireland. In fact, much of the cash was used to fund expensive wrap around adverts in the Metro freesheet in major cities on the mainland.

    In effect, the DUP laundered a huge sum of cash for someone who wanted to bankroll the Leave campaign across the UK, and abused an out of date Northern Irish loophole to keep their identity a secret. And now Theresa May’s government is cleaning up after them.

    There is a final, crushing irony in all of this – even beyond the fact that Theresa May’s government is being propped up, as it negotiates Brexit, by a party funded by secret Brexit donors.

    It is this. Just last week, the DUP’s leadership made headlines across for Europe for blocking the Brexit negotiations from progressing. Why? Because they did not want Northern Ireland to be treated any differently from the rest of the UK.

    In the same breath, they want to keep abusing a uniquely Northern Irish legal loophole to ensure the secrecy of the biggest donation they have ever received – cash which sought to influence the biggest democratic decision the British people have made for a generation.

    In a bid to prevent our elected representatives from stopping this stitch up, the government has proposed this change to the rules in a way which means MPs can’t simply make an amendment, as they can with most other laws. But the special committee of 17 MPs looking at this proposal, which meets tomorrow, can kick up a fuss and attempt to force the government to reconsider. If Brexit was ever about Taking Back Control, they must.

  20. says

    Matthew Miller:

    New motion filed by [Ted Boutrous] in Fusion GPS’s fight with House Intel Cmte makes an incredible point: the only subpoena the committee has sent to a financial institution in its entire Russia probe is for Fusion’s bank.

    Devin Nunes is hard at work finding the real killers.

  21. says

    “Trump team’s meeting with Mueller’s office poised to ratchet up tensions”:

    White House lawyers are expected to meet with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office late this week seeking good news: that his sprawling investigation’s focus on President Trump will soon end and their client will be cleared.

    But people familiar with the probe say that such assurances are unlikely and that the meeting could trigger a new, more contentious phase between the special counsel and a frustrated president, according to administration officials and advisers close to Trump.

    People with knowledge of the investigation said it could last at least another year — pointing to ongoing cooperation from witnesses such as former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as a possible trial of two former Trump campaign officials. The special counsel’s office has continued to request new documents related to the campaign, and members of Mueller’s team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018, at a minimum.

    The dynamic threatens to intensify the already inflamed political atmosphere enveloping the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election….

    The high-stakes meeting between White House lawyers and Mueller’s team comes as conservative lawmakers and pundits have intensified their demands for a second special counsel to investigate the FBI, pointing to text messages between two former FBI officials discussing their dislike of Trump.

    A White House adviser said the president has enjoyed the attacks. In recent weeks, he has spoken to a number of Fox News hosts, Republican lawmakers and others who have castigated Mueller’s team, the adviser said….

  22. says

    “Republican Senators Will Save Millions With Special Real-Estate Tax Break”:

    When the U.S. Senate takes up the final tax bill this week, more than a quarter of all GOP senators will be voting on a bill that includes a special provision that could give them a new tax cut through their real estate shell companies, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times.

    The provision was not in the original bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 1. It was embedded in the final bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is among the lawmakers that stand to personally benefit from the provision.

    In response to Democratic lawmakers who have slammed the provision as a lobbyist-sculpted giveaway to the rich, Republican Majority Whip John Cornyn promoted on Twitter a column by Ryan Ellis, a registered bank lobbyist who has been working to influence the tax legislation and who has defended the provision.

    In all, 14 Republican senators (see list below) hold financial interests in 26 income-generating real-estate partnerships — worth as much as $105 million in total. Those holdings together produced between $2.4 million and $14.1 million in rent and interest income in 2016, according to federal records.

    Beyond Republican senators, other major beneficiaries of the provision could be President Donald Trump, who owns or directs over 560 companies, most of which are LLCs or LPs. Democrats in recent days have seized on the provision — and its potential benefits to Republican lawmakers — in demanding the bill be halted.

    “President Trump made several promises to the American people on tax reform, including the assurance that his tax proposal wouldn’t enrich people like him,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware told IBT in an emailed statement. “Unfortunately, Republicans are rushing through a tax plan that does indeed enrich the wealthiest people in our country, including business-owners like Mr. Trump. It’s regrettable and, frankly, shameful that my Republican colleagues are rushing ahead with their partisan tax bill despite the mounting questions and concerns about its provisions.”…

  23. says

    SC @46, Paul Ryan told us to ignore the bad poll numbers for the Republican tax bill. He said that so many pundits are spouting deceptive facts that it is no wonder the public is confused. Ryan was all shiny-eyed and glowing when he spoke to the press today. He sees this tax cut as the culmination of his career as a politician.

    About those poll numbers:

    Opposition to the bill has grown 10 points since early November, and 55% now oppose it. Just 33% say they favor the GOP’s proposals to reform the nation’s tax code.

    Two-thirds see the bill as doing more to benefit the wealthy than the middle class (66%, vs. 27% who say it’ll do more to benefit the middle class) and almost four in 10 (37%) say that if the bill becomes law, their own family will be worse off. That’s grown five points since early November. Just 21% say they’ll be better off if the bill becomes law.

    That’s according to a CNN poll.

  24. says

    Trump said this:

    The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!

    The Trump administration’s budget plan calls for cuts of federal aid to the rail systems in the U.S., and that includes Amtrak.

    The infrastructure plan he mentioned does not exist. Whatever Trump comes up with will require 60 votes to pass. Trump is all bluster, no content.

    The derailment in Washington state was not caused by faulty infrastructure.

    People died yesterday, but Trump’s announcement sounds petty, ill-informed and narcissistic.

  25. says

    The fourteen senators who will benefit from the “Corker Kickback” loophole in the tax scam: Bob Corker (Tennessee); Steve Daines (Montana); Lamar Alexander (Tennessess); Ron Johnson (Wisconsin); Rob Portman (Ohio); James Risch (Indiana); Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma); John Kennedy (Louisiana); Johnny Isakson (Georgia); John Barrasso (Wyoming); Luther Strange; Rand Paul (Kentucky); Orrin Hatch (Utah); John Hoeven (North Dakota).

    [14 senators] hold financial interests in 26 income-generating real-estate partnerships — worth as much as $105 million in total. Those holdings together produced between $2.4 million and $14.1 million in rent and interest income in 2016, according to federal records. […]

    Because the provision was added by the conference committee, it is “unlikely to have been fully priced into the revenue estimate, because the new provision was never subject to the benefits of crowdsourced analysis of all its implications,” University of Southern California law professor Edward Kleinbard told IBT. […]

    Elaine Hatch, the wife of the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee who said Monday that he wrote the real-estate tax break and disputed IBT’s report that the provision had not been in previous versions of the bill, owns a stake in a real-estate LLC worth up to $500,000 that generated between $5,000 and $15,000 of income from rent/royalties, interest and capital gains in 2016.

    International Business Times link

  26. says

    Election news:

    In Honduras, mass protests continue. The election tribunal declared JOH the winner, but pretty much no one is buying it.* Even the OAS is calling for new elections. A few days ago, JOH’s sister and other government/military officials were killed in a helicopter crash. I’ve seen no suggestions of foul play – it appears it happened in the mountains in very bad weather.

    Chile elected a rightwing billionaire president on low turnout.

    Podemos is trying to forge a leftwing coalition around Catalan elections coming up on Thursday (the 21st).

    * I spoke too soon! Naturally, the US “administration” has rushed to recognize the declaration.

  27. says

    Republicans are out in force to prime the propaganda pump for their tax scam:

    […] leading House Republicans went on cable news on Tuesday morning to make their final arguments for an overhaul of America’s tax code that will skew roughly 82 percent of its benefits to the richest one percent over time. Suffice it to sale their sales pitches did not go well.

    On CNN, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a member of the House-Senate conference committee on taxes, argued that the unpopularity of the bill — recent polling shows 55 percent of American opposed to it — isn’t actually a bad thing, as it creates “low expectations.” […]

    Later, Roskam argued that while millions of people in blue states like his may end up experiencing tax increases under the GOP plan, top earners in those states will at least see a decrease. He also dismissed concerns that the legislation includes provisions specifically benefiting real estate developers like President Trump and his family, asserting (falsely) that “everybody” benefits.

    Meanwhile, over on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) dodged a tough line of questioning from hosts about why the bill skews benefits toward hedge funds and Wall Street. He argued that what Americans really care about is “that average family making $73,000 a year — I mean, both blue collars workers — will see a tax cut of $2,059 in this tax bill.” […]

    Roskam and Brady didn’t get as creative as President Trump’s favorite TV show did the day before in its effort to sell the bill. On Monday’s edition of Fox & Friends, hosts and former White House communications boss Anthony Scaramucci devoted a segment to discussing how unpopular President Reagan’s tax cuts were when they were they were enacted in 1986 — the suggestion being that the American public may simply not know what’s good for it. […]

    Link

  28. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says he will investigate potential voter fraud in the state’s special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat, which Democrat Doug Jones won by a narrow margin on December 12. This investigation apparently hinges on a single offhand remark by a man at the Jones victory celebration on election night, according to Mobile Fox affiliate WALA.

    The man in question spoke with FOX10 News Reporter Kati Weis shortly after the race was called. In a live interview, the man remarked that he was excited about Jones’ win.

    “We came here all the way from different parts of the country as part of our fellowship, and all of us pitched in to vote and canvas together, and we got our boy elected,” he said. […]

    “It’s very disconcerting when someone who’s not from Alabama says that they participated in our election,” Merrill said Tuesday. “So now it’s incumbent upon us to try to identify this young man, to see what kind of role he played, if it was to simply play a canvassing roll, or if he was part of a process that went out and tried to register voters, or if he himself actually became a registered voter.”

    While right-wing outlets continue to push this example as proof of massive voter fraud in the Alabama election, Merrill himself has said that evidence to support that theory is scant. But he’s prepared to push forward with an investigation anyway.

    “We don’t have any evidence of people doing that, our numbers do not indicate that has happened, but when you have someone actually recorded on television saying that they voted, and that’s what he said, then we’ve got to get to the bottom of that,” he said. […]

    Link

  29. says

    The CEO of Wells Fargo revealed the scam at the heart of the Republican tax bill. Tim Sloan described how trickle-down economics will work for Wells Fargo:

    “Is it our goal to increase return to our shareholders and do we have an excess amount of capital? The answer to both is, yes,” Sloan told CNN Money. “So our expectation should be that we will continue to increase our dividend and our share buybacks next year and the year after that and the year after that.”

    Link

    Some economists have also made the point that not all beneficiaries of the Republican tax plan are living in the U.S. About $500 billion will go to already-wealthy people living outside of the U.S.

  30. says

    Follow-up to comment 53.

    Roy Moore has not conceded. He does not accept his loss to Doug Jones in the Alabama senate race. Moore continues to fundraise on the basis of a supposedly fraudulent vote count.
    Link

  31. says

    Tax lawyers are preparing to take advantage of the loopholes in the Republican tax plan.

    […] Without proper safeguards and anti-abuse measures, taxpayers can take advantage of several tax provisions riddled with problems, according to a 30-page analysis released Monday by 13 tax scholars.

    “Unless they pretty fundamentally change course on some of these key provisions, the bill is quite possibly going to cost more than it is now expected, and certainly more than the trillion dollars that’s already been estimated,” says David Kamin, a law professor at New York University who served as former President Barack Obama’s special assistant for economic policy. “My sense is that the estimates have not so far taken into account the ways in which the taxpayers are going to game the system.”

    […] the top 1 percent of taxpayers will reap 83 percent of tax benefits in 2027 and see a cut, on average, of $20,660. Meanwhile, the bottom 40 percent of households would see a tax increase on average in 2027.

    [snipped explanations of some unintended consequences of hastily-written provisions in the bill]

    Business owners could also gain relief through a lower tax rate on pass-through income. Changes in the legislation “will result in substantial tax planning and lower taxes for anyone able to characterize their livelihood as an eligible business rather than as a job,” the report states. In the final bill, for instance, a provision would let pass-through companies take advantage of a 20 percent deduction on income without the same safeguards that were in place in a Senate version of the bill, leaving an opening for companies with tangible property and few employees, providing a tax break to President Donald Trump, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and other real estate developers. […]

    Link

  32. says

    This is an incredibly important interview – “Kaffer: 8 years into tests of abandoned rape kits, Worthy works for justice”:

    Ten thousand rape kits tested. One hundred twenty-seven convictions won, 1,947 cases investigated, 817 serial rapists identified.

    It’s been a long eight years for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

    In 2009, 11,341 untested sexual assault kits — the results of an hours-long process that collects evidence from the body of a rape victim — were found during a routine tour of a Detroit police storage warehouse, some dating back to 1984. Worthy and her team started the long and laborious process of testing those kits, investigating the crimes, and prosecuting the perpetrators — and launching Enough SAID, an effort to raise the money to complete the work. It’s a reversal of a decades-long miscarriage of justice. This month, Worthy spoke to the Free Press about the work done thus far — and the long road ahead….

  33. says

    Trump administration asks Supreme Court to prevent detainee from having abortion

    The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to intervene and stop one of two undocumented immigrant teen girls in federal custody from having an abortion.

    A federal district court judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday to stop administration officials from preventing two 17-year-old girls, known in court documents as Jane Roe and Jane Poe, from having the procedures.

    But the government right now is only appealing the abortion of Jane Roe, who according to court documents is about 10 weeks pregnant. The government said only that there are “differing circumstances surrounding Ms. Poe’s case.” […]

  34. says

    Sally Yates – “Who are we as a country? Time to decide”:

    …What are the values that unite us? You don’t have to look much further than the Preamble to our Constitution, just 52 words, to find them:

    “We the people of the United States” (we are a democratic republic, not a dictatorship) “in order to form a more perfect union” (we are a work in progress dedicated to a noble pursuit) “establish justice” (we revere justice as the cornerstone of our democracy) “insure domestic tranquility” (we prize unity and peace, not divisiveness and discord), “provide for the common defense” (we should never give any foreign adversary reason to question our solidarity) “promote the general welfare” (we care about one another; compassion and decency matter) “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (we have a responsibility to protect not just our own generation, but future ones as well).

    Our forefathers packed a lot into that single sentence. Our Bill of Rights is similarly succinct in guaranteeing individual liberties — rights that we have come to take for granted but without vigilance can erode and slip away, such as freedom of speech (our right to protest and be heard); freedom of religion (the essential separation between how one worships and the power of the state); and freedom of the press (a democratic institution essential to informing the public and holding our leaders accountable).

    Our shared values include another essential principle, and that’s the rule of law — the promise that the law applies equally to everyone, that no person is above it, and that all are entitled to its protection….

    The rule of law depends not only on things that are written down, but also on important traditions and norms, such as apolitical law enforcement….

    And there is something else that separates us from an autocracy, and that’s truth. There is such a thing as objective truth. We can debate policies and issues, and we should. But those debates must be based on common facts rather than raw appeals to emotion and fear through polarizing rhetoric and fabrications.

    Not only is there such a thing as objective truth, failing to tell the truth matters. We can’t control whether our public servants lie to us. But we can control whether we hold them accountable for those lies or whether, in either a state of exhaustion or to protect our own political objectives, we look the other way and normalize an indifference to truth.

    We are not living in ordinary times, and it is not enough for us to admire our nation’s core values from afar. Our country’s history is littered with individuals and factions who have tried to exploit our imperfections, but it is more powerfully marked by those whose vigilance toward a more perfect union has prevailed.

    So stand up. Speak out. Our country needs all of us to raise our collective voices in support of our democratic ideals and institutions. That is what we stand for. That is who we are. And with a shared commitment to our founding principles, that is who we will remain.

  35. says

    Today in 1939:

    Lothrop Stoddard, US writer & eugenics enthusiast (author of “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy”), now meeting Hitler in Berlin- only foreign journalist to do so since war began.

    Stoddard is sympathetic to Nazi beliefs. “His enemies depict him as a sinister, even inhuman figure… but Hitler greeted me simply, naturally.”

    “Hitler told me no deep, dark secrets- heads of state don’t do that sort of thing with foreign visitors. He talked of the great rebuilding plans which the war had constrained him temporarily to lay aside.”

  36. says

    From Matthew Yglesias:

    Over the course of 2017, both in Congress and in the executive branch, we have watched the task of government devolve into the full-scale looting of America.

    Politicians are making decisions to enrich their donors — and at times themselves personally — with a reckless disregard for any kind of objective policy analysis or consideration of public opinion. […]

    Meanwhile, in the background an incredible flurry of regulatory activity is happening out of public view — much of it contrary to free market principles but all of it lucrative for big business and Trump cronies.

    […] Members of Congress who under other circumstances might be constrained by shame, custom, or the will of their constituents have learned from Trump’s election that you can get away with more than we used to think. […]

    The tax bill pending in Congress this week is, naturally, front of mind and unquestionably represents the linchpin of the 2017 looting agenda. But in some ways, the clearest example of the difference between a regime of corporate looting and one of free market ideology came on the lower-profile topic of financial regulatory policy, where the Trump administration quietly signaled a major shift last month. […]

    The Trump administration has taken up the deregulatory baton with gusto, appointing Wall Street lawyers to run key agencies and turning what was intended to be an interagency working group on identifying financial risk into a forum for advancing deregulation.

    […] In the short term, of course, lax banking regulation will almost certainly pay off in the form of higher bank profits and stock valuations. The problem is when the crisis hits down the road. But that’s exactly the triumph of short-term thinking that pervades everything Trump does, from debt-financed tax cuts for the rich to disinvestment in education, rollback of environment regulations, and approaches to the telecom sector that prioritize the profitability of today’s incumbent businesses over tomorrow’s regulators.

    Across the board, it’s about letting whoever’s powerful now squeeze as much out as they can without worrying too much about the consequences — like enormous, deficit-financed tax cuts passed with no regard for budgetary or economic effects. […]

    Much more at the link.

  37. says

    From Chauncey DeVega:

    The presidency of Donald Trump has forced the American people to confront questions most of us had never before considered possible. What happens when a president has no respect for the Constitution and the country’s democratic institutions and traditions? When a president and his allies consider themselves above the law, what is to be done? If a president creates his own version of reality by behaving like a political cult leader, what forms of resistance are effective — or even possible? Is the president of the United States a fascist and demagogue who may be under the influence of the country’s enemies?

    […] the rise of Trump’s authoritarian movement (dishonestly operating under the mask of “populism”) has both empowered and revealed the tens of millions of Americans who have authoritarian or fascist leanings. The threat to American democracy is deep; it will take a long time to purge this civic sickness and political disease from the body politic.

    […] I recently spoke with Brian Klaas. He is a fellow in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics. In addition to writing columns and essays that have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, Foreign Affairs and numerous other publications, Klaas is the author of several books. His latest, published in November, is “The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy.” […]

    Is Trump a fascist? Why do you think so many in the mainstream media and America’s political class are afraid to describe him using that language or at minimum to label him an authoritarian?

    He is an aspiring despot. That distinction is important because I have studied fully authoritarian societies where there are no checks and balances, no free media, no different branches of government, and it is far worse than the United States. But in terms of tactics, there is in immense amount of evidence to support the fact that Trump is behaving like an authoritarian and that he is mainstreaming fascism. Like other despots throughout history, Trump scapegoats minorities and demonizes politically unpopular groups. Trump is racist. He uses his own racism in the service of a divide-and-rule strategy, which is one way that unpopular leaders and dictators maintain power. If you aren’t delivering for the people and you’re not doing what you said you were going to do, then you need to blame somebody else. Trump has a lot of people to blame.

    Others who want to deny that Trump is a fascist or authoritarian will object that he is too bumbling and incompetent for such strong labels to apply.

    I completely disagree. You do not have to be effective to be destructive. Most despots are bumbling. Around the world we have seen examples of how they are often comical idiots and egotistical head cases. Despots are not necessarily the smartest people.

    Trump is extremely destructive. […] democracy is like a sand castle. It takes a long time to build and much longer to perfect. Trump is just washing it away. He is a wave and the castle is not going to be knocked down in one single tide. But the castle, and our democracy, gets eroded steadily over time. That is where we are now. How does a democracy function when a third of its people are cheering authoritarian tactics, embracing them, pushing for more candidates to mimic them and fundamentally believe a huge number of things that are false? […]

    The long-term corrosion of democracy that Trump is inviting is not going to end when he leaves office. It is going to be a persistent problem where he has opened up the possibility for a much more insidious and effective successor. […]

    Another important aspect of how Trumpism and his petit-fascist movement have taken hold is that the Republican Party is largely in agreement with his agenda. Political polarization and gerrymandering have made Republicans largely immune from accountability by the American people. […]

    […] On top of that you have Fox News and a broader right-wing echo chamber that are de facto outlets for Trump, akin to some type of state-sponsored media in an authoritarian or dictatorial regime. […]

    Much more at the link.

  38. says

    Just got back from House votes. There is WIDESPREAD opposition to @SenatorCollins’ demand for CSR payments. Both moderate and Freedom Caucus GOPers say they’ll oppose it in the CR this week.”

    Collins is not getting her deal. She knows it, her constituents know it, and the whole country knows it. That’s the context in which she’ll vote.

  39. says

    Follow-up to SC @68.

    Yes, the Republicans cheered. In part, they also cheered for the fact that they are taking health care away from 13 million people.

    […] The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has reported that the elimination of Obamacare’s individual mandate will increase the number of uninsured people by 13 million by 2027, and drive up insurance premiums for those who remain in the market by at least 10 percent.

    Because millions of people will no longer be insured and receiving government subsidies, the mandate’s repeal is expected to save the government more than $300 billion dollars over 10 years, though government and independent analysts say the bill will still increase the federal deficit by more than $1 trillion even when factoring in economic growth. Many Republican lawmakers have insisted without evidence that these reports are incorrect and that the tax bill will fully pay for itself and then some. […]

    Link

    So, yeah, with a tax cut bill the Republicans managed to put another nail in the coffin of Obamacare.

  40. says

    From Josh Marshall, a definition of the “Corkerkickback”:

    […] The provision being labeled the “Corkerkickback” is a special rate for LLC’s with large amounts of depreciable property (usually commercial real estate) and very few employees. Translated that comes out to: a special rate for people making large sums of passive income while employing few or no people. It is literally a rentier tax break. What possible public policy rationale could exist for such a provision beggars the imagination.

    But again, the big picture is one of political pessimism and desperation leading to a public policy of generalized looting. That’s the story of this bill. Tax cuts are the driving force of elite Republican politics. The lack of a bill was demoralizing the donor class, driving down contributions. 2018 looks bad but with literally no major legislative accomplishments to show, maybe it gets even worse. So you need to pass something. Where do you get the votes? Sell them. Every man and woman for himself. Everybody take a few appliances out of the store before we burn it down. That’s the story of this bill. It doesn’t even add up in conservative policy terms. It’s really just a heist. Organized looting.

  41. says

    From Chris Hayes:

    The typical American household, two parents, two kids, 7 limited liability partnerships, a dozen individual real state LLC’s, several investment vehicles throwing off streams of passive income, will be doing quite well!

  42. says

    The Republican tax bill rewards Wells Fargo for bad behavior:

    Wells Fargo in 2016 was fined $185 million for issuing millions of fake credit card accounts. In 2017, it was caught overcharging clients on currency trades and improperly charging homebuyers to lock into low mortgage rates.

    And in 2018, it could be about to get the best tax deal of all the big banks.

    The Republican tax bill, which seeks to lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, would lead to an average 14 percent in earnings growth for seven of America’s largest banks next year, according to a Monday note from Goldman Sachs analyzing the plan’s implications. […] The biggest winner: Wells Fargo, which would see its earnings jump by 18 percent thanks to the GOP proposal. […]

    Wells Fargo has earned a reputation as one of the financial industry’s worst actors in the wake of a string of recent scandals.

    The San Francisco-based firm created up to 3.5 million fake accounts for its customers over a more than seven-year span, resulting in a $185 million fine levied in September 2016, including $100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal government’s top consumer watchdog. Wells Fargo fired at least 5,300 employees who were involved in the scam, in which they issued credit cards without customers’ consent that were only discovered when they began accumulating fees. The bank’s CEO, John Stumpf, was forced into retirement.

    And the trickle of bad behavior out of Wells Fargo has continued.

    In July, Wells Fargo said it was “extremely sorry” for charging 570,000 customers for auto insurance they didn’t need. In November, the Wall Street Journal reported that some of Wells Fargo’s employees overcharged hundreds of clients for foreign exchange operations in pursuit of higher bonuses.

    The company in October admitted to wrongly charging thousands of homebuyers fees to lock in low mortgage rates and said it would refund the money. […]

    “Rather than holding Wells Fargo responsible for cheating its customers, Republicans are looting the Treasury to funnel billions of dollars to the bank,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said in an emailed statement to me, reacting to Wells Fargo’s steep benefits from the tax bill. “For the Republican Party, there is no accountability for the rich and powerful — only more handouts.” […]

    Link

  43. says

    More unintended consequences of the Republican tax bill: it encourages corporations to sequester their profits overseas:

    […] The bill would take currently untaxed profits of US companies being stored abroad — profits that would normally be taxed at a 35 percent rate upon being brought back to the US — and tax them at new ultra-low rates: 8 percent for profits invested in real estate and other hard assets abroad, and 15.5 percent for profits in cash and stock and other liquid assets.

    […] The repatriation provision in the tax bill would effectively reward companies that kept profits abroad rather than pay the 35 percent US corporate tax rate on them. That doesn’t raise money — and, what’s more, it costs money in the long term by telling companies that storing profits overseas will be rewarded in the future.

    That isn’t a theoretical objection. Congress did something very similar in 2004, offering companies a one-time “repatriation holiday” where they could bring back earnings and face a tax of only 5.25 percent, about a seventh of the normal 35 percent rate. The hope was that this money would then be invested in job-creating business activities in the US. But that’s not what happened: The top companies repatriating earnings actually shed jobs over the next few years, and the funds were mostly funneled to shareholders in the form of higher dividends and more stock buybacks. That helps wealthy stock owners, but not the overall economy. […]

    Link. The analysis is from Dylan Matthews.

  44. says

    Trump administration appointees just hit labor unions on the head with a hammer (metaphorically speaking):

    The National Labor Relations Board is an independent agency tasked with “encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.” Under the Trump administration, however, it appears to have adopted a new mission: to incinerate every Obama-era rule as quickly as possible.

    Last week, the NLRB issued a staggering five decisions overturning union-friendly rules that the agency had either enacted or strengthened under President Barack Obama. Stacked with a majority of Republican appointees, the board scrapped policies that helped smaller unions organize, bolstered the bargaining rights of franchise employees, and shielded workers from union-busting tactics. And that’s just the start: The board’s new Trump-appointed general counsel, Peter Robb, has announced that he will move to reverse many more Obama-era decisions. This raid on precedent is extremely unusual for an independent agency. It’s also fairly predictable. The Trump administration is engaged in a full-fledged legal assault on unions that’s poised to wreak havoc on collective bargaining. […]

    […] the board overturned a 2016 decision requiring settlements to provide a “full remedy” to aggrieved workers. Second, the board reversed a 2004 decision bolstering workers’ rights to organize free from unlawful employer interference. […] the board reversed a 2016 decision safeguarding unionized workers’ rights to bargain over changes in employment terms. […]

    All of these rulings were issued in one week […]Each of them was a 3–2 decision, with Republicans in the majority and Democrats dissenting. Taken together, this spate of decisions will hinder millions of employees’ abilities to unionize and bargain collectively.

    One group of workers will be particularly hard hit by the most indefensible and consequential of these rulings: fast-food workers. The 2015 ruling on joint employers likely would’ve revolutionized collective bargaining in the fast-food industry. Fast-food companies like McDonald’s license franchisees to run most of their restaurants. McDonald’s instructs these franchisees on how to operate but leaves them to control many aspects of their day-to-day business. For decades, franchise employees who wished to bargain collectively were caught in a catch-22. Their boss, the franchise operator, could insist that McDonald’s controlled the terms of their employment. But if they tried to bargain with McDonald’s, the company would insist that the franchise operator was their true employer.

    The Obama-era NLRB solved this problem by clarifying that companies like McDonald’s are, jointly with franchise operators, employers of these workers. The board held that an employer can be forced to the bargaining table if it exercises “indirect control” over working conditions or if it has the unexercised authority to exert direct control. […] It would’ve permitted much more meaningful collective bargaining among millions of low-wage workers.

    But on Thursday, the NLRB’s GOP majority scrapped this standard, returning to an old, stringent policy that requires employers to exercise “immediate and direct” control in order to be liable under labor law. […]

    In a scathing dissent, the two Democratic board members essentially accused their Republican colleagues of breaking the law. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs federal agencies, the NLRB must fashion rules through a process that is both “logical and rational.” To meet this requirement, the NLRB usually invites the public to comment on proposed rules through amicus briefs. […]. Yet the board did no such thing in this case. The Democratic dissenters argued that their colleagues’ “failure to engage in the reasoned decision-making required of administrative agencies” violates the APA. (APA-based challenges to NLRB rulings rarely succeed because courts traditionally defer to the board’s decisions.) […]

    Link. The article is by Mark Joseph Stern.

    Summary: workers are screwed by Trumpism … again.

  45. says

    Update – “Gowdy walks back hints that FBI deputy could be on the way out”:

    Several hours into an interview with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Tuesday threw cold water on his own speculation that McCabe’s days at the bureau might be short-lived.

    In an interview last week, Gowdy told Fox News he would be “a little bit surprised if [McCabe’s] still an employee of the FBI this time next week” — setting off a firestorm of speculation that his firing might be imminent.

    As late as Tuesday morning, Gowdy told reporters that “it’s not 2 o’clock yet” and “I hope he’s there at 2” when asked if he believed McCabe should remain at the FBI. His remark appeared to suggest that McCabe could be on his way out before his scheduled interview.

    But Gowdy told The Hill his remarks were based on nothing more than McCabe’s request to reschedule an interview that had been set for last week. In the past, he said, such circumstances have resulted in barriers to witness testimony.

    McCabe on Tuesday convinced Gowdy that the scheduling snafu was nothing more than “a good faith error,” he said. The deputy director was always planning on appearing today, he said, and “I take him at his word.”

    Asked by The Hill if he was hinting that McCabe would be dismissed or resign from the bureau by Tuesday, Gowdy said, “I probably was, but I was probably wrong.”

    “Fairness is not always rewarded in my line of work, but I probably should have waited to hear his side of it,” he said….

    What a worthless POS.

  46. says

    “After U.S. veto, U.N. General Assembly to meet on Jerusalem status”:

    The 193-member United Nations General Assembly will hold a rare emergency special session on Thursday at the request of Arab and Muslim states on U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

    Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour said the General Assembly would vote on a draft resolution calling for Trump’s declaration to be withdrawn, which was vetoed by the United States in the 15-member U.N. Security Council on Monday.

    Mansour said on Monday he hoped there would be “overwhelming support” in the General Assembly for the resolution. Such a vote is non-binding, but carries political weight.

    U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, in a note on Twitter, warned the United States would remember those who voted for the resolution criticizing the U.S. decision.

    “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names,” she wrote….*

    * Shorter Haley.

  47. says

    Josh Marshall quoted in Lynna’s #71: “It is literally a rentier tax break.”

    It literally is! Marx, Engels, and Kropotkin are pounding on the lids of their coffins demanding that their work be read.

  48. says

    SC @89, Jill Stein is weird. All of her disparate policy statements and her praise for the Russians simply do not compute.

    SC @86, I think we still don’t have a good idea of what went on that room where McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee for 8 hours. I do know that quite a few Republicans have been calling for McCabe to be fired. They wanted to grill him first.

    In other news, Paul Ryan said, “Nobody knows,” in answer to the question, “Will the Republican tax cuts pay for themselves.” I think we do know. The answer is, “No.”

  49. says

    Donald Trump Junior is adding fuel to come conspiracy theories.

    During a speech Tuesday night in Palm Beach, Florida, Donald Trump Jr. suggested that there are top officials in the United States government working to undermine the Trump administration, feeding the conspiracy theory pushed by some Trump officials earlier in the year that the “deep state” is working against President Donald Trump.

    Trump Jr. did not specifically mention the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, but he referenced text messages sent by a former member of Mueller’s team about his father, suggesting that he believes that investigators on the Russia probe are out to destroy his father. […]

    He went on to suggest that the text messages suggest that the system is in fact rigged against his father.

    “My father talked about a rigged system throughout the campaign, and people went, ‘Oh, what are you talking about?’ But it is,” Trump Jr. said. “There are people at the highest levels of government that don’t want to let America be America.” […]

    Link

    Video available at the link.

  50. says

    I don’t know if Senator Flake is being rolled or not. But this does sound suspiciously like some of the promises made to Collins: promise a lot, deliver little or nothing.

    Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Wednesday that party leaders have assured him the Senate will vote in January on bipartisan legislation to protect certain young immigrants from deportation.

    Flake, who had pressed for a guarantee during talks for his support on the tax bill, said in a statement he was pleased that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was committed to bringing the immigration bill “we are currently negotiating to the Senate floor in January.” […]

    Link

  51. says

    Gender party gap discovered on E! News:

    Television host Catt Salder announced Wednesday that she will be leaving E! News after 12 years, upon learning her male co-host earns double her salary.

    In a post on her personal blog, Sadler wrote she discovered the pay discrepancy while negotiating the contract with the network. She had suspected a pay disparity existed after an executive brought it to her attention, but had no idea just how large the gap was. Her co-host Jason Kennedy was earning close to double what Sadler made for what she describes as “doing essentially similar jobs, if not the same job.”

    “Know your worth. I have two decades experience in broadcasting and started at the network the very same year as my close friend and colleague that I adore. I so lovingly refer to him as my ‘tv husband’ and I mean it,” wrote Sadler in her statement. “But how can I operate with integrity and stay on at E if they’re not willing to pay me the same as him? Or at least come close? How can I accept an offer that shows they do not value my contributions and paralleled dedication all these years? How can I not echo the actions of my heroes and stand for what is right no matter what the cost? How can I remain silent when my rights under the law have been violated?” […]

    Link

  52. says

    From Casey Quinlan:

    […] Experts on K-12 and higher education policy say the tax bill is a giveaway to corporations and could hamper public investment in K-12 schools and public universities. The finally bill doesn’t include a change to teacher tax deductions — which was eliminated in a House bill last month — so teachers can still deduct $250 for supplies they buy out of their own pockets. The provision on a tax on tuition waivers for graduate students was also removed.

    But the overall picture for students is grim, said Ben Miller, senior director for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress.

    “You’re definitely seeing folks breathe a sigh of relief because these narrow provisions are gone,” Miller said. “But it’s like saying, ‘Thank god my paper cut healed while someone cut off my arm.’ The long-term damage of the overall bill is quite bad.” […]

    One of the biggest changes for K-12 schools is a $10,000 cap on the deduction for state and local taxes. Policy experts say that cap will make it more challenging for states and localities to raise taxes, and state and local money are a huge chunk of school funding. […]

    “The existence of that deduction [is responsible for] state and local funding of public education, which is the biggest line item or near the biggest line item in most states and certainly local expenditures,” said Neil Campbell, director of innovation for K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. […] “You know it’s clear that in a lot of communities, it will make raising revenue more challenging because people will feel the full change in raises in rates going forward at the local level.”

    The expansion of 529s, which would allow families to save up to $10,000 for private school, would also benefit mostly wealthy families and take states by surprise, Campbell explained, since only wealthy people could afford private school tuition a year before their child begins school.

    “It’s not going to help lower income people afford these private schools. It’s just going to be a tax shelter for the wealthy who are already send their kids to private schools,” Campbell said. […]

    Much more at the link.

  53. says

    From David Corn:

    […] President Donald Trump has brought about a profound crisis that is undermining the nation’s democratic system, and it is so pervasive and encompassing that it is not being fully acknowledged. […]

    The crisis is not rooted in Trump’s advocacy of conservative policies—the Muslim ban, tax breaks for the wealthy, hollowing out the State Department, killing climate change action. Nor is it triggered by his rude and classless behavior, as he spends long hours watching cable news, consuming Diet Coke, and rushing to Twitter to attend to petty grievances, instead of working diligently to advance the interests of the citizenry. The country can survive bad policies and an immature and erratic commander in chief (unless, of course, his recklessness leads to nuclear war). What the United States faces this holiday season is an unparalleled, widespread, Trump-inspired assault on the principles, norms, and purpose of democratic governance.

    Creeping authoritarianism, creeping autocracy, creeping kleptocracy—call it what you want. But the creep has turned into a sprint. The offenses to good government and fundamental values are happening each day, often several times a day—and in such a fusillade that there is often not enough time to ponder the horrendous implications of each one. And not enough space to consider the fundamental deterioration under way. […] We are too busy being slammed by what’s coming out of the fire hose to see the water damage that is being done. […]

    Trump’s reckless disregard for norms and rules has been embraced by his champions and foot soldiers. Claiming to be a law-and-order sort of guy, he has viciously attacked law enforcement that might affect him and his cronies. […] It’s not just party over country; it’s Trump over party over country.

    […] GOPers are joining Trump in embracing political power instead of principle and, like the president, making it easier for a foreign foe to assault the United States and then escape consequences. This is a violation of their oath of office, and they don’t care.

    Meanwhile, special interests run amok on Capitol Hill, writing a tax bill that is jammed through Congress without true and serious deliberation. There is a recklessness driving this process that is encouraged by Trump. Debate, discourse, expertise—none of it matters. All that counts is raw power. […]

    Ethics guidelines are routinely and casually flouted by Trump officials (and relatives). The message is clear: rules are for others. Inexperienced people are placed in important jobs (and judgeships), and entire departments are hollowed out. Agencies are instructed to ignore science and facts—meaning, reality. The goal is obvious: diminish the reputation of government and its ability to serve the public. […]

    […] His basic view is evident: l’état, c’est Trump. […]

    If Trump tries to fire Mueller or orders a reckless attack on North Korea, it will be obvious that a crisis is at hand. But a (relatively) quiet crisis has taken hold: Trump and his comrades are seeking to empower themselves and supplant national priorities with self-serving and self-enriching ones, while delegitimizing those components of government they cannot use for their own ends or that would check their own prerogatives. […]

  54. says

    Well, of course. If you want to attend the New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, you will have to pay more. Trump just raised the ticket price.

    […] Ticket prices for the annual Dec. 31 bash at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in South Florida are going up to $600 for dues-paying members and $750 for their guests, according to members of the private Palm Beach club. Last year’s tickets went for $525 for members and $575 for guests. […]

    Link

  55. says

    Wonkette covered the fact that the Republican tax scam hurts Puerto Rico:

    The job of rebuilding Puerto Rico will get an extra little bit harder, thanks to some tax-“reform” fuckery inserted into the GOP Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads bill slated to be passed today (again, because they fucked up the first time) and signed by Donald Trump […]

    You see, even though Puerto Rico was already stuck with a $70 billion debt crisis before it was devastated by Hurricane Maria, a mostly unnoticed provision in the new tax bill will raise taxes on businesses operating on the island, making it more expensive for them to manufacture stuff and provide services than on the US mainland. Why? Apparently because the idiots writing the bill forgot Puerto Rico is actually a US territory — or just wanted to stick it to the island. HuffPost explains:

    House Republicans voted Tuesday to impose a 12.5 percent tax on intellectual property income made by U.S. companies operating on the island and a minimum 10 percent tax on their profits in Puerto Rico […]

    The provision, tucked into the GOP’s tax reform bill, was intended to stop American companies from dodging federal taxes by shifting their profits overseas. But because the U.S. tax code treats Puerto Rico as a foreign territory, business operations on the island will get hit.

    It’s not like Puerto Rico didn’t try to remind Congress that it actually is part of the USA and that Puerto Ricans are US citizens — leaders from the territory had been urging Republicans to exempt Puerto Rico from that tax increase. But Puerto Rico doesn’t actually have a vote in Congress, just a non-voting “resident commissioner,” […]

    For all the good it would do, New York Rep. Nydia Velázquez warned that the tax bill would hit the already-struggling island — where, oh yeah, only 70 percent of the electrical grid is restored after three months — with an “economic hurricane” […]

    Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, condemned the tax measures, saying they would have a negative impact on half of the Puerto Rican economy, affecting 30 percent of the island’s governmental revenue and as many as 250,000 jobs in an economy where unemployment has sharply increased following the economic crisis and then the hurricane. […]

  56. says

    Oh, FFS. Nikki Haley sounds like Trump.

    In a threat to the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. ambassador to the international body, Nikki Haley, forewarned that the U.S. “will be taking names” ahead of a vote this week to condemn President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and pressure him to rescind his declaration.

    “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more,” Haley tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. “So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.” […]

    Link

  57. says

    Trump said something stupid:

    […] The individual mandate is being repealed. When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed because they get their money from the individual mandate. [Trump was speaking before the start of a cabinet meeting.]

    We didn’t want to bring it up. I told people specifically, “Be quiet with the fake news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it,.” Because I didn’t know how people would — but now that it’s approved I can say the individual mandate on health care, where you had to pay not to have insurance, okay, think of that one, you pay not to have insurance. The individual mandate has been repealed. […]

    Link

  58. says

    Update to #42 – “Northern Ireland Electoral Commission in new bid to honour transparency laws from 2014”:

    The head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, Anne Watt has repeated her demand to the UK government that legislation should be put in place to allow the publication of full details of donations and loans to political parties made since 2014.

    The call by Ms Watt was made less than a day after a special committee in Westminster advanced the progress of a new law on political donations in Northern Ireland that will limit full transparency only to funds received after July this year.

    By a majority of one, the government effectively succeeded in keeping secret the full details of a £435,000 donation to the DUP that was made during the Brexit referendum in 2016. The majority of the cash was spent on the UK mainland on pro-leave campaigning and included payments to two digital analysis groups currently under investigation by the UK authorities.*

    The origins and full details of the record DUP donation, were arranged through a former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives, Richard Cook, who runs a small Glasgow-based organisation called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC).

    The CRC was fined £6,000 by the Electoral Commission in August. However the current law in Northern Ireland protects any details of the fine from being published.

    Watt’s demand is deeply embarrassing for the Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, and his junior minister, Chloe Smith. During the heated and often angry debate in Commons committee, Smith claimed the government had consulted the Electoral Commission, fulfilled its statutory obligations and insisted there was “widespread support” among parties in Northern Ireland for no backdating of transparency other than from July 2017.

    Although the Commission’s head welcomed the planned new law – that will now be voted on by the full House of Commons soon after the holiday recess – her statement added : “We continue to call on the Secretary of State to put in place the necessary legislation that will allow us to publish details of donations and loans received since January 2014.”…

    * AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica!

  59. says

    I’ve seen/heard several interviews with Ioffe about this article, but hadn’t read it until today: “What Putin Really Wants.” It’s very good. This especially caught my attention:

    For the most part, the Kremlin is focused not on any positive development program, but on staving off that fate—and on taking full advantage of its power before the state’s inevitable demise. That’s one reason corruption among the ruling elite is so breathtakingly brazen: A Russian businessman who works with government clients describes the approach as the “last day of Pompeii,” repeated over and over. Another businessman, who had just left the highest echelons of a big state-run bank out of frustration at its corruption and mismanagement, told me, “Russia always rises from the ashes, time and time again. But I have a feeling that we’re about to go through a time of ashes again.”

  60. says

    “Pussy Riot’s Alyokhina Detained In FSB Protest On Secret-Police Centenary”:

    Maria Alyokhina, a member of the punk protest band Pussy Riot, has been detained while staging a protest at the headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the feared Soviet secret police.

    Police detained Alyokhina on December 20 after she unfurled a banner reading “Happy Birthday, Executioners” at an entrance to the FSB building on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square, she and fellow protester Olga Borisova said.

    Alyokhina could be jailed for up to 15 days for the demonstration.

    “We decided to come out today and congratulate the chekists, because everybody knows this is considered their holiday,” Alyokhina told RFE/RL’s Russian Service in a telephone interview from the police station where she was being held.

    Speaking at a ceremony in Moscow to mark the event, President Vladimir Putin, a longtime KGB officer and former FSB chief, said the creation of the Cheka was “an inseparable part of our history” and praised the members of security services as “true statesmen and patriots.”

    Under Putin, who has put many people with similar backgrounds in positions of power, December 20 is officially marked as the Day of the Security Service Workers.

    She and the photographers face up to 15 days in jail or a fine.

    FSB officers “were in some kind of panic” she said of their reaction to the protest. “But I don’t think anyone would be pleased to feel like an executioner. And no matter what kind of uniform one wears, every one of us has something humane inside, and it seems to me that the FSB is not excluded.”

    The FSB “is the direct successor of the KGB,” Alyokhina said. “We just reminded them of this once again.”…

  61. says

    Trump celebrated the passage of the Republican tax scam with a cabinet meeting, and an opening prayer:

    […] President Trump celebrated passage of the Republican tax cut bill with a cabinet meeting that felt more like a gathering of the cult of Trump.

    After Trump bragged about doing “a job like no administration has done,” the president asked HUD Secretary Ben Carson to say a prayer. But before Carson started, Trump addressed reporters, telling them to stick around because they “need the prayer more than I do, I think.”

    “Maybe a good solid prayer and they’ll be honest, Ben, is that possible?” Trump asked.

    Carson proceeded to offer a prayer where he thanked God “for the unity in Congress that has presented an opportunity for our economy to expand, so that we can fight the corrosive debt that has been destroying our future.” The tax bill approved by congressional Republicans will add at least $2 trillion to the national debt.

    Trump then asked Vice President Mike Pence to say a few words. Pence responded with a prayer, of sorts, to Trump.

    Pence effusively praised the president and thanked him “for seeing through the course of this year an agenda that truly is restoring this country” and for spurring “an optimism in this country that’s setting records.”

    “Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of American are forgotten no more, and we are making America great again,” Pence added, while Trump sat scowling with his arms crossed. […]

    Link

  62. says

    “Senior White House adviser at Homeland Security repeatedly promoted fringe conspiracy theories on the radio”:

    A White House senior adviser at the Department of Homeland Security promoted several far-right conspiracy theories in past radio appearances, a CNN KFile review has found.

    Frank Wuco, a former naval intelligence officer and conservative talk radio host, has served as the White House adviser to DHS since January and leads a team tasked with helping to enforce President Donald Trump’s executive orders.

    A KFile review of more than 40 hours of Wuco’s radio appearances shows he regularly promoted unfounded conspiracy theories that have been spread by members of the far right over the years. Among the conspiracy theories Wuco pushed were claims that former President Barack Obama’s memoir was ghost written by former anti-Vietnam War radical Bill Ayers, claims that former CIA director John Brennan converted to Islam and claims Attorney General Eric Holder had been a member of the Black Panthers.

    KFile previously reported Wuco pushed false claims during radio appearances that Obama was not born in the US, made disparaging comments about the LGBT community, and lamented what he called the “Zimbabwe-fication” of America….

  63. says

    Wall Street Journal Killed Editorial on Trump’s Mob Ties”:

    In a short period of time, five staffers have departed The Wall Street Journal editorial page. The general cause of their departures, willing and otherwise, is known: the Journal editorial line has increasingly conformed with the pro-Trump dictates of the rest of the Murdoch media empire….

    Sam Tanenhaus, deep into his excellent story on the dwindling band of anti-Trump conservative intellectuals, reports more specifically on the circumstances surrounding their departure. As Trump’s chances of winning the nomination grew, the paper buried an editorial highlighting his underworld connections:…

  64. says

    Francesca Rossi’s victim impact statement – “Cyberstalking Victim Calls Out NYPD for Failing to Protect Her in Powerful Court Statement”:

    …The abuse and victimization that I was subjected to is not unusual. Intimate Partner Violence needs more legal attention, given that 93 percent of female homicides are committed by a man the victim knows. We know that in the past year, each man who has committed domestic terrorism has a history of domestic violence. The charges of “cyberstalking” & “hoax threats” Juan pled guilty to are inextricably linked. If the police had recognized the stalking and abuse as domestic violence when I reported it, many times, hundreds of people’s lives would be different.

    …I’m here because I need everyone to know the destruction that Juan is capable of. And that digital technology should be recognized as a powerful weapon to inflict violence. Countless people are subjected to the same type and degree of stalking and abuse that Juan inflicted on me. And worse.

    This is not an “internet crime”; technology may have facilitated it, but all of this occurred in real life. The police diminished my abuse because my life-threatening attacks came from phones and computers. This is what domestic violence looks like now.

    My abuse was not legitimized until an entire community, and the country, was terrorized. Juan used modern technology to exploit antiquated laws. However, we can prevent this from happening to other women. Let my story shape the way we recognize the modern behaviors of attack and the weapons that are used. Let us Believe Women when they tell us of their abuse, because the men who inflict it only get worse. I urge you to not let there be a next time, don’t let Juan do this to another woman, another community, or the country.

    Juan’s pathology and misogyny will still exist when he comes out. Each time we see an act of domestic terrorism, we find its roots in violence against women. Every time. And I do not trust he won’t do this again. I know there are other Juans out there, doing this to other women. We have the power to stop them, starting right now by holding Juan Thompson fully accountable for his crimes.

  65. says

    OAS statement on the Honduran election:

    …As previously reported by the [Electoral Observation Mission], the electoral process was characterized by irregularities and deficiencies, with very low technical quality and lacking integrity.

    Deliberate human intrusions in the computer system, intentional elimination of digital traces, the impossibility of knowing the number of opportunities in which the system was violated, pouches of votes open or lacking votes, the extreme statistical improbability with respect to participation levels within the same department, recently printed ballots and additional irregularities, added to the narrow difference of votes between the two most voted candidates, make it impossible to determine with the necessary certainty the winner.

    The Honduran people deserve an electoral exercise that provides democratic quality and guarantees. The electoral cycle that the TSE concluded today clearly has not met those standards.

    For the aforementioned reasons, and given the impossibility of determining a winner, the only possible way for the victor to be the people of Honduras is a new call for general elections, within the framework of the strictest respect for the rule of law, with the guarantees of a TSE that enjoys the technical capacity and confidence of both the citizens and political parties.

    The channels of political dialogue must be rebuilt without tension or sectarianism.

    It is the permanent vocation of the OAS General Secretariat to accompany Honduras on this path. That is why I have decided to designate as Special Representatives former Presidents Jorge Quiroga and Alvaro Colom to carry out the necessary work for a new electoral process and national democratic reconciliation in Honduras.

    I ask all parties to support the work of the former Presidents. I am convinced that it is the only way for Hondurans to live in democratic peace and move forward in the path of shared prosperity….

    As I noted in #51 above, Trump and Kelly don’t share these concerns about democracy – “U.S. signals support for incumbent president in disputed Honduras election”:

    The Trump administration signaled support Wednesday for the incumbent president in Honduras in his much-disputed reelection bid, backing a longtime U.S. ally in Central America.

    After initially saying it was awaiting a report by the Organization of American States, which monitored the election, the Trump administration has decided to disregard that group’s call for a new election because of widespread irregularities in the Nov. 26 vote.

    Instead, Washington has sided with the Honduran Supreme Election Tribunal and decided to recognize conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez over his rival, Salvador Nasralla, whose coalition includes Honduran leftists.

    Mexico echoed the United States and congratulated Hernandez, who has been an ally of Washington and especially of the Trump administration….

  66. says

    “White House Counsel Knew in January Flynn Probably Violated the Law”:

    The White House turned over records this fall to special counsel Robert Mueller revealing that in the very first days of the Trump presidency, Don McGahn researched federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments, according to three people with direct knowledge of the confidential government documents.

    The records reflected concerns that McGahn, the White House counsel, had that Michael Flynn, then the president’s national security advisor, had possibly violated either one or both laws at the time, according to two of the sources. The disclosure that these records exist and that they are in the possession of the special counsel could bolster any potential obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump.

    The records that McGahn turned over to the special counsel, portions of which were read to this reporter, indicate he researched both statutes and warned Trump about Flynn’s possible violations.

    McGahn conducted the analysis shortly after learning that Flynn, on Dec. 29, 2016 — while Barack Obama was still president — had counseled the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey Kislyak, not to retaliate against U.S. economic sanctions imposed against Russia by the outgoing administration….

  67. says

    “Russian trolls went on attack during key election moments”:

    …”@realDonaldTrump Can’t wait to see you in the WH,” tweeted the Russian troll an hour before the debate began. Right as the debated ended, the Russian troll account tweeted to Donald Trump, “We are proud of you!”

    The online troll games entered the real world two days after the election

    On Nov. 10, a banner was removed from the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, U.S. Park Police confirmed to NBC News.

    “Goodbye Murderer” read the captioned portrait of President Barack Obama, according to photos recovered from online archives tweeted by an identified Russian troll whose activity appeared in the NBC News database.

    The troll said he and fellow “political activists” had hung the banner. “Goodbye to murderer @BarackObama #ThanksObama” tweeted the account, @LeroyLovesUsa, using the hashtag for a popular meme.

    The account, which portrayed itself as that of a military veteran turned activist, also tweeted the images to @realDonaldTrump.

    Leroy’s tweets got hundreds of likes, and retweets and were amplified by other identified Russian trolls.

    As they spread across social media sites, the Russian state-owned media organization RT reported on the banner.

    A spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, Sgt. James Dingeldein, confirmed that a park police officer had removed the banner and that it was destroyed this fall. A Freedom of Information request filed with the park police by NBC News wasn’t fulfilled before publication.

    In January 2016, a pro-Kremlin art group called Glavplakat claimed responsibility for hanging a Shepard Fairey-style poster of Obama opposite the U.S. Embassy in Moscow with the word “Killer.” The group has hung other banners criticizing opponents of the state around the Russian capital tightly controlled by the Putin regime.

    Who hung the banner in D.C. or took the photo, or what their connection to the Russian troll who tweeted it remains a mystery.

    NBC News did not find any records of the images being posted anywhere online else before the account posted them….

  68. says

    Related to earlier discussion of the WSJ:

    WASHINGTON POST RAIDS WALL STREET JOURNAL: Journal reporters Paul Sonne and Shane Harris are soon heading to the Post to cover the Pentagon and intelligence, respectively, according to sources familiar with the moves. The Post has already hired three other reporters from the Journal’s Washington bureau this year — Devlin Barrett, Beth Reinhard, and Damian Paletta — and last year nabbed Adam Entous, who is now heading to the New Yorker.

  69. says

    “How Tough Is It to Change a Culture of Harassment? Ask Women at Ford”:

    …In recent months, as women have spoken out about harassment — at media companies and technology start-ups, in the entertainment industry and on Capitol Hill — they have spurred quick action, with accused men toppling from lofty positions, corporations pledging change and lawmakers promising new protections.

    But much less attention has been focused on the plight of blue-collar workers, like those on Ford’s factory floors. After the #MeToo movement opened a global floodgate of accounts of mistreatment, a former Chicago worker proposed a new campaign: “#WhatAboutUs.”

    Their story reveals the stubborn persistence of harassment in an industry once the exclusive preserve of men, where abuses can be especially brazen. For the Ford women, the harassment has endured even though they work for a multinational corporation with a professional human resources operation, even though they are members of one of the country’s most powerful unions, even though a federal agency and then a federal judge sided with them, and even after independent monitors policed the factory floors for several years.

    At a moment when so many people are demanding that sexual harassment no longer be tolerated, the story of the Ford plants shows the challenges of transforming a culture….

  70. KG says

    Today is election day in Catalonia, elections for the regional assembly imposed by the Spanish government after dismissing the previous government (which had called a referendum on independence, then declared an independent republic). Opinion polls suggest a close race between pro- and anti-independence parties. However, there are concerns about possible electoral fraud: the Spanish government has refused to allow international observers, and information from local (manual) counts is to be reported through a private company, Indra Systems. One of the major shareholders of Indra Systems, the Spanish sovereign wealth fund, has as its Chief Executive Officer a politician associated with and imposed by the Partido Popular, the ruling party in Spain. Partido Popular is also a client of Indra Systems, and is standing in the elections, and Indra Systems is also accused of corrupt payments to PP politicians. (Note: while I heard somethnig about this at a demonstration this morning, the detailed information comes from Eurasia Review, the title of which makes me suspicious that it may be a Russian Government front – I have not been able to confirm or refute this online.)

  71. says

    .@nikkihaley: U.S. ‘will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation…We will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more’.”

    This bullying speech, in which they threatened to withhold funding from the UN (which they would do anyway) and acted like both victim and bully, was a low point, as were Trump’s stupid petulant comments about “Let them vote against us – I don’t care.”

    And already…

    BREAKING: Canada considered voting against the UNGA resolution on Trump’s Jerusalem announcement but changed vote to abstention after hearing Trump’s threats in order not to be perceived as US puppet, Western diplomats tell me.”

  72. says

    “Mueller Is Looking Into a U.S. Foundation Backed by Russian Money”:

    …The foundation, called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative (HRAGI), offers a window into Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics before the presidential election. It was financed by $500,000 in donations, mostly from wealthy Russians with ties to Petr Katsyv, deputy director of Russian Railways and a longtime acquaintance of Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika. Rather than a nonprofit helping unite Americans with Russian adoptees, the foundation was a lobbying vehicle against sanctions.

    “This whole organization is a sham and a front to pursue the Russian government’s objectives,” said Bill Browder, a U.S.-born fund manager whose accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, died in a Russian prison after accusing Russian officials of fraud. Browder, founder of Hermitage Capital Management, persuaded the U.S. to pass the Magnitsky Act sanctioning Russian officials implicated in his death. He also got other countries, including the U.K. and Canada, to pass variations of it.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. added five new Russian nationals to the list of sanctioned individuals under the Magnitsky Act.

    The foundation’s website shows pictures of hugging families, but most of its pages have been “under construction” since its inception in 2016. Its Washington address was a building hosting several hundred small organizations and businesses. By setting up a U.S. nonprofit, the foundation effectively concealed its sources of financing, which may have required registering as a foreign agent. The foundation hired high-powered lobbyists such as former Representative Ron Dellums of California to push for repeal of the Magnitsky Act.

    Most of the Russians financing the foundation said in interviews that they knew nothing about U.S. adoptions of Russian children, contradicting the foundation’s U.S. disclosure forms.

    The foundation didn’t disclose those donations as a source of funding in lobbying disclosure forms. It reported spending just $50,000, less than the amount reported by outside lobbyists it hired. It disclosed to the Internal Revenue Service $526,740 in contributions and spending of $413,831 on “campaigns relating to human rights issues including foreign adoption.”…

    This is the organization with which Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya are involved.

  73. says

    Good god – “10 a.m. McCabe closed door interview hasn’t started yet! 13 Oversight and Judiciary Dems in room with McCabe, waiting; Repubs in another room, apparently, still strategizing.”

    On top of everything else, this is extremely rude.

  74. says

    “J20 protest trial latest: Anti-Trump activists found not guilty and avoid lengthy prison sentences”:

    Six defendants facing decades in prison for protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration have been found not guilty, in a trial that sparked a national conversation on First Amendment rights in the age of Trump.

    A Washington, DC jury cleared the defendants of all seven charges against them. The defendants were the first of nearly 200 people slated to stand trial for their involvement in the 20 January protests. Their trial is expected to set the precedent for how the remainder of the defendants will be prosecuted moving forward.

    Jude Ortiz, a member of the Defend J20 team that mobilised to support the defendants, called the decision “a victory for political organising”.

    “The prosecutor was trying to claim political organising was conspiracy,” Mr Oritz told The Independent, “…and these acquittals show that that logic is not being bought.”

    He added: “Hopefully that will send a very persuasive message to prosecutors everywhere that they’re not going to get away with criminalising protest organising.”

    Love this: “‘Each of them made a choice, and each of them played a role’, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff told jurors of the defendants, according to the Huffington Post. ‘You don’t personally have to be the one who breaks the window to be guilty of rioting’.” You have to fucking commit a crime to be guilty of a crime. Public money and DoJ resources are being used to try these ridiculous cases.

  75. says

    Steve Schmidt: “The appalling sycophancy led by the Vice President at yesterday’s cabinet meeting is an affront to our Democratic norms. The President should not be venerated by his cabinet the way a pack of miscreant cronies would bow and scrape to an autocrat leading a banana republic.”

  76. quotetheunquote says

    RE: SC #34 & #36:
    Canada abstains. Oooooh, *headdesk*.

    I’ve been willing to cut Trudeau (junior) a lot of slack up until now, because he is SUCH a big improvement over his predecessor… but now, fuck him. Wimp, toady, servile swine.

    (What’s a blank [e.g. El Salvador] mean? Absent from the session?)

  77. says

    Cross posted from the “Remember This” thread.

    Yeah, I couldn’t bear to quote that suck-up [from Mike Pence] on the Political Madness All the Time thread either.

    Beyond belief. This part from Mike Pence resonated particularly strongly for me after I listened to Nikki Haley threaten and scold all of our allies at the United Nations today:

    You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage. We’re standing with our allies. We’re standing up to our enemies.

    So, yeah, lying at all levels and in all venues.

    The U.N. voted 129 to 9, (with 35 abstentions) to declare Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void.”. Not exactly restoring American credibility on the world stage.

    Excerpts from Nikki Haley’s speech:

    The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in this assembly. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the UN and when other member nations ask Washington to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

    […] That [put its embassy in Jerusalem] is what the American people want us to do and it is the right thing to do. This vote will make a difference in how Americans look at the UN. And this vote will be remembered.

  78. says

    Canada abstains. Oooooh, *headdesk*.

    Evidently even the plan to vote against (!) was in keeping with Trudeau’s previous positions. In this, like many US politicians who are progressive on other issues, he’s out of step with the citizenry.

    (What’s a blank [e.g. El Salvador] mean? Absent from the session?)

    El Salvador’s representative said his country didn’t vote because of procedure for preparing draft and lack of consultation with other countries before the draft being presented for vote” (which may or may not be true). I don’t know what reason the others gave.

  79. says

    Fact-checking Trump’s, (and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’), grandiose claims about the stock market:

    President Trump likes to talk about the stock market’s strong performance since took office, including how the S&P 500 keeps hitting record highs. But, in terms of percentage growth, the index’s performance under Trump actually lags its performance through the first 11 months of President Obama and the first President Bush.

    Obama also oversaw stronger percentage performance for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAQ over his first 11 months in office than has Trump, although the two inherited much different sorts of economies.

    Axios link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Obama inherited an economy in crisis, turned things around, and the markets soared. Trump inherited a healthy economy, and immediately took credit for its strength, despite creating few new economic policies of his own.

    My point isn’t that Wall Street is struggling under Trump. In fact, the markets have had a very good year and investors have reason to be pleased. But the president and his allies have somehow convinced themselves that the bull market is not only evidence of Trump’s genius, but also that Obama’s record on this metric pales in comparison to his successor’s.

    The trouble, of course, is that reality keeps getting in the way. […]

  80. says

    President of the fascistic Catalan PP: “It’s a very bad result”; “Today is a very bad day for the PP.”

    Aide to Carles Puigdemont: “As you see, we are the comeback kids.”

    :)

  81. says

    A good article about the election results – “Catalonia election set to give victory to pro-independence parties”:

    Catalan pro-independence parties look set to hold on to their absolute majority in Thursday’s snap regional elections, dealing a severe blow to the Spanish government, which called the polls in the hope of heading off the secessionist threat.

    With 90% of the votes counted, the three separatist parties are on course to win 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament even though the centre-right Citizens party appears to be the single party with the most seats.

    Together for Catalonia, the party led by deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, is expected to take 34 seats, the Catalan Republican Left 32 and the far-left, anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy four. Between them, they will have enough seats to reassemble the parliamentary majority that put them into office after the 2015 elections.

    The Citizens party, which has taken a fiercely anti-independence stance, is on track to win 36 seats, the Catalan socialist party 17, Catalunya en Comú-Podem (the Catalan version of the anti-austerity Podemos party) eight and the conservative People’s party four.

    Xavier Albiol, the leader of the Catalan People’s party, congratulated the Citizens party on its results and conceded it had not gone well for his own party.

    Speaking as the count neared completion, the vice-president of the grassroots pro-independence Catalan National Assembly declared victory and demanded the release of the Catalan leaders who have been jailed pending investigations into their roles in the referendum and independence declaration.

    “The independence movement has won the elections,” said Agustí Alcoberro.

    “The citizens of Catalonia have revoked 155 and the suspension of autonomy. We demand the release of the political prisoners and the representatives in exile and the restitution of the legitimate government.”…

    The PP went from 11 seats to 4, which I’m savoring in this week of bad news. (Amazingly, people didn’t jump at the chance to vote for a party that sent in police to bash skulls and throw people down stairs.) Rajoy needs to go.

  82. says

    From Masha Gessen, writing for The New Yorker:

    Donald Trump has scored a legislative victory with staggering costs. The price of the tax bill has to be measured not only in the loss American society will face in the increase in inequality, in the impact on public health, and the growth of the deficit, but also in the damage to political culture inflicted by the spectacle of one powerful man after another telling lies of various sorts.

    All along there has been Trump claiming that the bill was a “gift” to the middle class. That this assertion appears to have no basis in fact has not affected the President’s statements. The President’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, maintained that his department had run the numbers and had shown that the tax bill would pay for itself. It appears that he lied, not so much about the result of the Treasury’s study but about the existence of the study itself […]

    This was a Trumpian lie, which is distinct from other kinds of political lying. It might be called a power lie: its purpose is not to convince the audience of something that isn’t true but to demonstrate the power of the speaker. Trump tweets blatant lies, repeatedly, to show that he can—and that by virtue of his bully pulpit, his words, however absurd, always have consequences. Mnuchin showed that he can do the same thing, and that he has more power than the opposition.

    That’s an interesting assessment of “Trumpian” lies. I haven’t heard that before, but it makes sense.

    […] The bill’s passage occasioned an orgy of false public ritual. […]

    Later in the day, the Republican leaders of both houses of Congress, the Vice-President, and other Republican politicians gathered at the White House to offer praise to their leader. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and others hailed Trump for setting records in judicial appointments and, now, for passing the tax bill. Representative Diane Black, of Tennessee, thanked Trump “for allowing us to have you as our President.” Orrin Hatch, of Utah, who has been in the Senate for forty years, predicted that the Trump Presidency will be “the greatest Presidency we have seen not only in generations but maybe ever.” Pence performed, too, again, addressing Trump: “You will make America great again.”

    Political speeches are rarely occasions for truth-telling. But the good ones combine a description of shared reality with the expression of a vision, or with words of celebration. The mediocre ones consist of platitudes—well-intentioned but lacking the force of inspiration or recognition. And then there is the genre of the thoroughly insincere pronouncement that is all empty ritual. This is not normally observed in countries with functioning democratic institutions, because hollow words are the very opposite of accountability. These kinds of speeches are usually given in dictatorships: their intended audience is not the public but the tyrant. This is what we observed in Washington on Wednesday, and it’s the scariest part of Trump’s big tax triumph.

  83. says

    Despite Trump’s claim that the Republican tax scam “effectively repeals Obamacare,” Obamacare is not dead. Here is an update on the status of the patient:

    The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that despite the Trump administration’s many attempts to undermine and weaken the Affordable Care Act, enrollment in the federal health care marketplace nearly reached last year’s total of 9.2 million, clocking in at 8.8 million.

    Considering that the Trump administration cut the length of the open enrollment period in half, severed partnerships with hundreds of grassroots health organizations, slashed 90 percent of the federal outreach and advertising budget, and has consistently declared the law “dead” and “essentially repealed,” the robust enrollment total is astonishing. Even the most optimistic estimates from health care experts and advocates expected enrollment to drop off by a few million due to the Trump administration’s cutbacks. […]

    […] the total does not include the people who enrolled between midnight and 3 a.m. on the final day, nor those who were stuck trying to enroll when the deadline hit, and who were called back by HHS and later enrolled. […]

    Advocacy groups like Get America Covered heavily invested in outreach during the final week of enrollment, using digital ads targeted at the young consumers the health care marketplace desperately needs to keep prices down. The group estimates that their ads drove hundreds of thousands of people to Healthcare.gov, though how many actually enrolled is unknown. Several insurance companies also stepped up their advertising in the wake of the federal government’s decision to all but abandon outreach.

    The CEO and co-founder of the insurer Oscar Health announced Thursday that after a “comprehensive marketing campaign,” they have broken their all-time record for signups. “Enrollments surged at the start and never stopped,” Mario Schlosser said in a statement. “Oscar will enroll over 250,000 members, well over double our total from last year.”

    The federal total does not include the dozen states that run their own health care marketplaces, many of which have invested heavily in outreach and are seeing record enrollment, including populous states like California. T[…]

    Ironically, one of the moves by the Trump administration designed to weaken the Affordable Care Act may have backfired—the termination of billions of dollars of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers reimbursing them for covering low-income patients with severe health needs. Millions of people actually had access to better and cheaper plans this year due to how state insurance officials adjusted their programs in response to Trump defunding CSRs. […]

    Yet danger still lurks on the horizon for the federal health care marketplace. Congress passed a tax bill this week that kills the Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty, a key mechanism for pushing young and healthy people to buy health insurance. The mandate’s repeal doesn’t kick in until 2019, but amid documented mass confusion about the status of the law, there is a chance many people will think they do not need health insurance in 2018, […]

    Link. “Obamacare Refuses to Die.”

  84. says

    “The Miss America Emails: How The Pageant’s CEO Really Talks About The Winners”:

    …Many prior winners, or as they’re called, “formers,” consider the pageant a wonderful, wholesome activity for young women. But Haskell’s behavior behind closed doors shows he regularly maligned, fat-shamed and slut-shamed the former Miss Americas, calling them shocking names and in one case laughing at the suggestion that one of the women should die.

    For this story, HuffPost reviewed nearly three years of internal emails provided by two sources. They reveal a CEO who regularly wrote and responded to unprofessional, offensive emails about the women who poured their hearts into the pageants and the organization he was leading….

    (Please no “What did they expect from a sexist pageant?” responses.)

  85. says

    “Top FBI official grilled on Comey, Clinton in Hill testimony”:

    FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe faced numerous questions this week about his interactions, conversations and correspondence with his one-time boss, former FBI Director James Comey, spanning both the FBI’s Russia investigation and its probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, according to multiple sources from both parties with knowledge of his testimony.

    In private testimony before the House Intelligence Committee this week, McCabe told lawmakers that Comey informed him of conversations he had with President Donald Trump soon after they happened, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.

    The testimony suggests McCabe could corroborate Comey’s account, including Trump’s ask that Comey show him loyalty, which the President has strongly disputed. Comey previously testified that he briefed some of his senior colleagues at the FBI about this conversation with Trump.

    McCabe appeared for more than 14 hours of testimony behind closed doors in two sessions this week before members of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Judiciary committees, amid growing calls for his firing from Republicans critical of the FBI’s handling of both investigations….

  86. says

    John Brennan (former CIA director): “Trump Admin threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in UN to oppose US position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows @realDonaldTrump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone—qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats.”

  87. says

    “Little girl thanks Trump ‘for letting us say Merry Christmas again!’ in new pro-Trump ad: Fact check: there was no prohibition against saying ‘Merry Christmas’ when America had a black president”:

    A pro-Trump nonprofit says it is spending $1 million to air a new pro-Trump ad that concludes with a little girl saying, “Thank you President Trump for letting us say ‘Merry Christmas’ again!”

    America First Policies — a group including Trump’s digital and data director Brad Parscale, freshly-indicted former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and former Mike Pence campaign advisers — says the “ad blitz” will begin on Christmas day.

    The notion that saying “Merry Christmas” was in some sense prohibited under President Obama is, of course, a myth, as this supercut of the Obamas wishing people a Merry Christmas reveals. Nonetheless, Trump seems to have convinced himself that nobody said it during the Obama years — a period of time during which Trump rose to political prominence thanks to the racist conspiracy theory he pushed about Obama not actually being an American citizen….

  88. KG says

    The election in Catalonia has, predictably, solved nothing. (Even if the unionist parties had won a majority, nothing would have been solved, as the separatists would have claimed, quite reasonably, that the elections had not been free and fair, held in an atmosphere of repression, with their leaders in prison and exile.) The separatist parties actually lost two seats and 0.2% in popular vote share to 47.6% (their two main parties, which ran as one in 2015, ran separately this time), but retained a narrow overall majority, provided the separatist and anti-capitalist CUP can reach some agreement with the two larger separatist parties (it lost 6 seats out of 10, much of its vote apparently going to the separatist and social democratic ERC, the Republican Left of Catalonia). The unionist vote consolidated behind Ciudadanos (so-called centrist, actually aiming to replace the Popular Party as the national party of the right), with the PP being the biggest losers. In popular vote terms, the balance is held by Catalunya en Comú–Podem, an ecosocialist party with an ambiguous stance on independence (the “Podem” refrs to Podemos, the Spanish party, but Podem in Catalonia has had disagreements with the main party – I don’t know the exact state of their current relationship).

    If Rajoy retains power in Madrid, I predict continuing stalemate, and possibly a continuation of direct rule over Catalonia. I don’t know how strong his position is within the PP, but he heads a minority government, and with Ciudadanos and to a lesser extent the PSOE (social democrats) presumably feeling optimistic after their good showing and the PP’s drubbing in Catalonia, and the obvious failure of Rajoy’s bid to end the constitutional crisis, I would think a vote of no confidence in Madrid and a new Spanish general election is a real possibility.

  89. says

    Correction to #148: PP actually lost 8 seats – down to just 3. Total collapse.

    I don’t know how strong his position is within the PP, but he heads a minority government, and with Ciudadanos and to a lesser extent the PSOE (social democrats) presumably feeling optimistic after their good showing and the PP’s drubbing in Catalonia, and the obvious failure of Rajoy’s bid to end the constitutional crisis, I would think a vote of no confidence in Madrid and a new Spanish general election is a real possibility.

    I think this would be the best outcome, and the only hope for real talks (which are the only potential means of getting out of the crisis, especially given the divisions within Catalan society itself).

  90. says

    “Russian hackers targeted more than 200 journalists globally”:

    …The Associated Press found that Lobkov was targeted by the hacking group known as Fancy Bear in March 2015, nine months before his messages were leaked. He was one of at least 200 journalists, publishers and bloggers targeted by the group as early as mid-2014 and as recently as a few months ago.

    The AP identified journalists as the third-largest group on a hacking hit list obtained from cybersecurity firm Secureworks, after diplomatic personnel and U.S. Democrats. About 50 of the journalists worked at The New York Times. Another 50 were either foreign correspondents based in Moscow or Russian reporters like Lobkov who worked for independent news outlets. Others were prominent media figures in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics or Washington.

    The list of journalists provides new evidence for the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Fancy Bear acted on behalf of the Russian government when it intervened in the U.S. presidential election….

  91. says

    Three apt characterizations:

    Of Bannon: “Stuart Stevens, a veteran of five Republican presidential campaigns, told me that Bannon is ‘an odd, strangely repulsive figure who is trying to use the political process to work through personal issues of anger and frustration’.”

    Of Ivanka: “If Trump cared to do her homework, she wouldn’t say objectively false things. She wouldn’t treat the pittance that Republicans gave to poor families as a grand accomplishment. Then again, perhaps she has learned at her father’s knee to be a flim-flam artist, a con woman and an entitled child of wealth who looks out for herself and only herself. Those who thought that she’d bring smarts, empathy and reason to the White House sure missed the mark.”

    Of the tax heist: “Congressional Republicans would certainly deny that they are modeling their tax legislation on Trump’s business failures. Yet, the resemblance to his mismanagement of the casinos — his only other real experience with large, public organizations — is unavoidable: run up huge debts based on implausible promises in order to benefit the few at the expense of the many.”

  92. says

    From Steve Benen, a real example of a middle-class tax cut. This article features the chart that Chris Hayes showed on his show last night.

    […] when President Obama and congressional Democrats approved the Recovery Act – better known at the time as the Dems’ “stimulus” package – they didn’t just rescue the economy from the Great Recession. In the process, they also passed one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in recent memory.

    Roughly a third of the Recovery Act went toward direct investment, a third went to assist states, and a third went to cut taxes – with a special emphasis on working families. In fact, […]

    From Chris Hayes:

    “Here`s the thing about that stimulus bill: it included substantial tax cuts for middle-class and working-class families. For most people – listen to this – the bottom three-fifths of earners, those tax cuts that were in the much-hated ‘stimulus’ were bigger than what is in the current Republican bill that got passed today.”

    More from Steve Benen:

    […] While the Republican plan, when fully implemented, would raise taxes on the bottom 60% of Americans, next year, those same folks in the bottom three-fifths will get a small tax cut.

    It just won’t be as big as the tax cut Obama and congressional Democrats delivered in 2009. (And unlike Trump’s plan, the Recovery Act didn’t feature a middle-class tax increase down the road.)

    This came to mind the other day when Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser in Trump’s White House, reportedly told Axios, in reference to the Republican tax plan, “We did not set out to give the wealthy a tax cut.” […]

    It’s as if we’re supposed to believe Republicans cut taxes for the wealthy accidentally. […]

    The point is, it didn’t have to be this way. Obama’s “stimulus” package offers real-world proof that it’s possible – indeed, it’s quite easy – to craft tax legislation in a way that helps working families, not the richest of the rich.

    Republicans made a deliberate choice not to pursue such a policy.

    See the chart at the link above; or, view the chart as part of the Chris Hayes’ segment called “The Long Con.”

  93. says

    Seth Meyers took a closer look at the way in which Trump is marketing the Republican tax scam. Meyers also subjected Mike Pence to some well-deserved scorn.

    Scroll down to see the video, which is 7:38 minutes long.

  94. says

    Rachel Maddow analyzed her interview with Representative Adam Schiff. In summary form, Maddow covered the fact (again) that Devin Nunes is heading a secret Republican group that is using documents received for House committee investigations to instead indict the FBI. Maddow also highlighted the questions raised by Schiff regarding Russians laundering money through the Trump Organization and/or guaranteeing loans for the Trump Organization. The video is 2:43 minutes long.
    Link

    An interview with Senator Ron Wyden explored the same issues: Wyden emphasizes need to follow Trump money in Russia probe. Wyden pointed out that the Treasury Department is stonewalling the Finance Committee and refusing to provide documents related to Trump’s financial structures. Wyden says the committee can’t “follow the money.” The video is 6:18 minutes long.

  95. says

    “A trio of House Republicans lobbing attacks on Mueller have been in touch with the White House”:

    … Jordan is not the only Republican congressman seeking to undermine Mueller who has been in touch with the White House in recent weeks.

    Rep. Matt Gaetz, the first lawmaker to openly demand Mueller’s firing, discussed the special counsel’s investigation with Trump aboard Air Force One earlier this month ahead of a rally in Florida.

    Gaetz, who is friends with Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime confidant, and has accused Mueller of plotting a “coup d’etat,” told Trump he was “concerned that this investigation was infected with bias,” according to Politico.

    Gaetz told Politico that Trump replied, “That’s why you guys have got to do your job.”

    Rep. Ron DeSantis, a House Judiciary Committee member who put forward a provision in August that would have severely limited the scope and funding of Mueller’s investigation, was also on the flight with Gaetz and Trump….

  96. says

    Jim Acosta: “No surprise Trump did not hold year end news conf. Q’s he avoided:
    1. Threatening US allies at UN? 2. How would tax plan benefit you? 3. Regret endorsing accused child molester? 4. Pledge you won’t fire Mueller? 5. Will you deport Dreamers? 6. Where’s your health care plan?”

  97. says

    Update to #105: “Very good news: Masha Alekhina of Pussy Riot released after being arrested yesterday for protesting in front of FSB (KGB) headquarters. Putin realized he’d be more of a hostage than her. She’s one of the bravest people I’ve ever met.”

  98. says

    Benjamin Wittes – “What Did Mike Pompeo Say to the CIA Workforce in his Holiday Message?”:

    I confess that I don’t know the answer to this question.

    But the grapevine has been buzzing this morning in response to a Christmas letter the CIA director apparently sent to his workforce—a message which has a bunch of agency eyebrows heading skyward about the director’s supposedly political and exclusionary words.

    This seems like a job for the Freedom of Information Act….

    He’s already filed a FOIA request, but I suspect it’ll leak soon enough.

  99. says

    “Poland Overhauls Courts, and Critics See Retreat From Democracy”:

    Poland’s president signed sweeping legislation on Wednesday to overhaul the country’s judicial system, a move critics say fundamentally undermines the rule of law in a nation that only three decades ago broke free from the yoke of the Soviet Union to embrace democracy.

    The new laws effectively put the Polish courts under the control of the right-wing governing party, Law and Justice. In signing them, President Andrzej Duda defied a formal warning delivered only hours earlier by the European Union, which called the legislation a “serious breach” of bedrock values like the rule of law.

    Once viewed as a symbol for the successful integration of former Eastern Bloc countries into the West, Poland is now seen as portending a far darker trend — a turn toward right-wing populism and away from values like pluralism and respect for dissent.

    The commission’s warning will also be seen as a clear signal to other countries in the region — including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia — that to varying degrees have seen voters embrace populism.

    The dispute between Poland and other members of the European Union has been building for more than two years, since the populist Law and Justice party swept into power promising to rid Poland of corruption and the remnants of communism.

    The party has curbed public gatherings, increased control over the news media, undermined the independence of the Civil Service and the prosecutor’s office, and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

    An earlier attempt to overhaul the judiciary failed over the summer after tens of thousands took to the streets night after night to voice their opposition, many waving gray flags emblazoned with a single word: “konstytucja,” or “Constitution.”

    The legislation prompted the European Union’s first investigation into a member country’s respect for the rule of law, and under pressure from the protesters and world leaders, Mr. Duda defied his own political camp and unexpectedly vetoed the bills.

    Later, however, he huddled with the party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a fierce ideologue who controls most of the levers of power in Poland, about ways to rewrite the legislation to make it more palatable….

    In Brussels, the executive arm of the European Union invoked Article 7 of the bloc’s founding treaty. The treaty includes provisions intended to ensure that the 28 member countries maintain “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights.”

    Vladimir Bartovic, director of the Europeum Institute for European Policy, a Prague-based group that focuses on Central and Eastern Europe, said the warning from the European Commission is “a very serious thing, the first time in the history of the E.U. that this procedure will be officially started.”

    But the commission’s move was not without risks of its own….

  100. says

    SC @173, they have thrown the concept of checks and balances out the window. Adam Schiff and others are right to flag these Republican actions as anti-Democratic. Also sounds like, looks like, smells like obstruction of justice.

  101. says

    Follow-up to comment 150.

    Steve Benen discussed just how confused and how wrong Trump is when he says, “Obamacare is over.”

    […] Trump insisted that the end of the ACA’s individual mandate “means Obamacare is being repealed.” He added soon after: “We – I hate to say this – but we essentially repealed Obamacare because we got rid of the individual mandate, which was terrible. And that was a primary source of funding of Obamacare.”

    […]Trump really should have a better sense of basic details. The president thinks the “primary source of funding” for the Affordable Care Act is the individual mandate, which isn’t even close to being true.

    But it does help shed light on the Trump’s confusion. He’s apparently under the impression that the ACA is “over” because he just took away the system’s funding source. That’s ridiculous, but it’s what the president seems to believe. […]

    What the president and Republicans did was weaken the American health care system, for purely political reasons, in ways that will destabilize markets, push costs higher, and increase the ranks of the uninsured.

    But “Obamacare” isn’t dead. Medicaid expansion is intact, as are protections for those with pre-existing conditions and subsidies to consumers. The GOP policy will undermine the system, but it won’t kill the system.

    Complicating matters is the politics of the fight. Trump and his party now own the mess they created, […] Senate GOP leaders – no doubt feeling once bitten, twice shy – conceded this week that the push to repeal and replace “Obamacare” now appears to be over, as the party moves on to other priorities.

    That leaves the party in an exceedingly awkward place: taking ownership of a health care system they’ve deliberately damaged and aren’t prepared to fix. […]

    Postscript: The repeal of the mandate will save the government billions, which GOP policymakers just handed over to the wealthy and big corporations in the form of tax cuts. If and when Republicans were to consider a serious attempt at health care reform, that will be vastly more difficult with far less money at their disposal.

  102. says

    Trump lost one court battle:

    A federal appeals court in Virginia on Thursday denied a Trump administration request to delay a requirement that it begin allowing transgender people to enlist in the military on Jan. 1.

    A three-judge panel of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a short order that it would not grant the request as an appeal of a lower-court ruling proceeds.

    […] Trump tweeted in July that the federal government “will not accept or allow” transgender individuals to serve “in any capacity” in the military. That would reverse a 2016 policy change under President Barack Obama allowing transgender people to serve openly.

    Trump later formally directed the Pentagon to extend indefinitely a ban on transgender individuals joining the military, and he gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis six months to come up with a policy on how to deal with those currently serving.

    Several legal challenges to that proposed ban are ongoing. […]

    The ACLU hailed the 4th Circuit’s order. “We are happy that the court saw through the government’s smoke screen and rejected its request to further delay the policy allowing transgender people to enlist. […] the government failed to offer any credible reason why transgender people should be barred from enlisting if they can meet the same rigorous standards that apply to everyone else,” senior staff attorney Josh Block said in a statement.

    The Department of Justice disagrees with the court’s ruling and is currently evaluating next steps, spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said.

    The Pentagon said last week that the enlistment of transgender recruits will start Jan. 1 and go on amid the legal battles.

    Link

    Would that we could all just ignore Trump.

  103. says

    Yikes. Kansas can be a cruel place when it comes to arranging for an elderly person to enter a nursing home. This is from the Kansas City Star:

    Administrators at Villa St. Francis nursing home in Olathe have a checklist of questions before taking in a new resident with a pending Medicaid application.

    How many Medicaid-pending residents are we already subsidizing? Is this person likely to survive the months it will probably take for the state of Kansas to approve their application? If not, is there a loved one who is willing to follow through on the application after this person dies? […]

    Morgan Bell, a social worker at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka, told a KanCare legislative oversight committee last month that she was recently looking for a nursing home for a patient who had fallen into a coma.

    “It came to my attention that even the couple of facilities that would make exceptions for KanCare-pending applicants are not able to take these patients if they have a limited life expectancy, solely because they will not receive payment if the patient dies before the application is approved,” Bell said. […]

    This is from the Kansas Health Institute:

    The Medicaid application backlog in Kansas is on its way back up, threatening months of progress on a coverage problem that has vexed health care providers across the state.

    For more than a year, providers that rely on Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare, have been stung by delayed payments as they wait months for eligibility determinations that by federal rule are supposed to take no more than 45 days. […]

    From Chris Reeves:

    […] Today, more than a thousand Kansans sit, waiting, unsure of end of life or extended placement because of a system clearly in violation of federal rules. There is little risk to Kansas, though, as most observers believe the Trump administration has little interest in forcing compliance with these regulations or invoking any penalties. […]

  104. KG says

    SC@180,

    That’s a useful article, despite the usual NYT weaselly “critics say…” nonsense. Of course democracy is under threat in Poland, as the list of actions by the Polish government they give demonstrates; that’s plain fact, not just something “critics say”. And as the article notes, the EU is hamstrung because the Hungarian government – equally authoritarian, and with its most serious challenger the more-or-less openly fascist Jobbik – will veto any serious move against Poland. With the far right in government also in Austria, a mini-Trump elected President in the Czech Republic, and even supposedly social democratic parties in eastern Europe increasingly open about their racism, the advent of full-on fascism in at least one EU state looks increasingly likely.

  105. tomh says

    @ #190
    Painter has an op-ed in the NYT on The Four Threats to Robert Mueller. Short version – (1) Curbing the investigation by replacing Rosenstein or Sessions with someone to control Mueller, (2) Issuing pardons, (3) Smearing Mueller (already in full swing), and, of course, (4) Firing him, one way or another.

  106. says

    Great piece from Daniel Dale – “Donald Trump has spent a year lying shamelessly. It hasn’t worked”: “This is no good-news story. Trump’s year of lying shamelessly has deceived tens of millions, fomented hate, left the world unable to accept even the most trivial words of its most powerful person, and forced Americans, like the residents of totalitarian states, to expend precious energy grounding themselves in the reality their leader is deliberately trying to get them to forget.

    What it has not done is work. In office, at least, Trump’s lies have hurt him more than they have helped.”

  107. blf says

    Incompetents amuck and abroad, US ambassador to Netherlands describes own words as ‘fake news’ (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    New ambassador Pete Hoekstra then denied saying he’d used the phrase in interview with Dutch TV
    […]
    Trump’s new choice for ambassador [to the Netherlands], Pete Hoekstra […] was being interviewed for current affairs programme Nieuwsuur by reporter Wouter Zwart.

    Zwart says: “You mentioned in a debate that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands, and that cars and politicians are being set on fire in the Netherlands.”

    Hoekstra replies: I didn’t say that. This is actually an incorrect statement. We would call it fake news.

    Hoekstra is then shown clips of him saying: The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burnt, there are politicians that are being burnt{…} and yes there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.

    Challenged about having called this “fake news”, Hoekstra then went on to deny to Zwart that he had in fact used the phrase “fake news”.

    […]

    Hoekstra, who is apparently a tea bagger founder, is notoriously anti-Gay, anti-abortion, and supports judical murder (death penalty), making him an already insulting choice as Ambassator to the first country to legalise SSM (Gay rights opponent picked as ambassador to Netherlands by Trump). I presume Hoekstra — who is also anti-abortion, an Islamaphobe, and so on — is a deliberate attempt, presumably at Putin’s behest, to drive a wedge between the Netherlands and the States.

  108. blf says

    Ex-Trump adviser Carter Page accused academics who twice failed his PhD of bias:

    […]
    Carter Page […] accused his British examiners of anti-Russian bias after they took the highly unusual step of failing his “verbose” and “vague” PhD thesis, not once but twice.

    […] Page took three attempts to gain his doctorate from the University of London, finally succeeding in 2011.

    In emails seen by the Guardian, Page compares his decade-long struggle to get a postgraduate qualification to the ordeal suffered by Mikhail Khodorkovsy — the Russian oligarch sent to a Siberian prison by Vladimir Putin.

    In one unhappy note to his examiners, he writes: Your actions to date have been far more destructive than anything I have personally experienced in my 39 years on this planet. The fate of Khodorkovsky, he adds, represents the closest analogy in recent history to my trials.

    […]

    Page first submitted his thesis on central Asia’s transition from communism to capitalism in 2008. Two respected academics, Professor Gregory Andrusz, and Dr Peter Duncan, were asked to read his thesis and to examine him in a face-to-face interview known as a viva.

    Andrusz said he had expected it would be “easy” to pass Page, a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas). He said it actually took “days and days” to wade through Page’s work. Page “knew next to nothing” about social science and seemed “unfamiliar with basic concepts like Marxism or state capitalism,” the professor said.

    The viva, held at University College, London, went badly. “Page seemed to think that if he talked enough, people would think he was well-informed. In fact it was the reverse,” Andrusz said. He added that Page was “dumbfounded” when the examiners told him he had failed.

    Their subsequent report was withering. It said Page’s thesis was “characterised by considerable repetition, verbosity and vagueness of expression” […]

    […]

    “Carter Page wanted to become a rich man. He hinted at having contacts in high places in Russia who were his informants,” Andrusz observed. The professor […] said during his three decades as a lecturer he failed just one PhD student twice: Page.

    […]

    Asked about claims he accused his examiners of prejudice, Page told the Guardian: I have infinitely more important things to think about today. You’re asking me about ancient, irrelevant history […]

    […]

  109. says

    From the article @ #196: “Soas refuses to identify the academics who eventually passed Page’s PhD thesis, citing data protection rules.”

    What? Doesn’t it have to be entered into an international database? Isn’t it in the university library? A dissertation is supposed to be a contribution to global scholarship; it’s not supposed to be secret. Also, isn’t SOAS publicly funded?

  110. blf says

    Nonsense on Stilts 2017:

    Another year, another round-up of the dangerous and the daft. There was so much to choose from this year so this is just the tip of the iceberg of nonsense on stilts. […]

    […]

    A Church says starve for three days to cure homosexuality and that people are just claiming to be gay to get attention because they see celebrities doing it. This really doesn’t help when nearly half of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people are bullied for being LGBT at school and when homophobic attacks in the UK rose by 147% in three months after the Brexit vote.

    From the embedded link (British church tells man he can be cured of homosexuality if he starves himself):

    The journalist also recorded the pastor yelling at a group session: Die in the name of Jesus and Christ.

    You are a liar. Die in the fire.

    Commenting after the footage was released, the church pointed out that “nobody has dropped dead” from their suggested fast.

    Back to nonsense on stilts:

    […]
    For a change, a bit of abuse of history instead of science: why lazy journos comparing Trump with Roman emperors are wrong.

    An excerpt from that embedded link (Ancient History in the Age of Trump: Time for the Media to Update their Classics):

    In many ways, the founding myth of the USA is rooted, like that of ancient Rome, in the idea of a population made of « numerous peoples » that had become « fellow-citizens », and historical evidence amply show that these representations reflect the very early multicultural nature of both these societies. Seen in this light, the populist, exclusivist, and racist rhetoric currently promoted by Trump, May, Le Pen and many other politicians and public figures represents a denial not only of history, but also of what humanity is fundamentally about: movement and cultural diversity.

    And again to nonsense on stilts:

    […]
    Finally, an ancient fairy curse causes dips in the road in Ireland, according to an Irish MP. I love this one and really wish it were true. He said if someone told me to go out and knock a fairy fort or touch it, I would starve first. The council’s road department said the dip was due to an “underlying subsoil / geotechnical problem.” They’ll be sorry when their socks go missing and their cows’ milk dries up.
    […]

    The original Irish Times article, Danny Healy-Rae claims fairy forts caused dip in Kerry road: “Independent TD insists the mysterious recurring issue is a result of the sacred places“.

    (Found via Bad Science.)

  111. blf says

    Re @196/@198: Here is the EThOS link, and Soas link, to Carter Page’s “successful” 2011 thesis, The influence of semiperipheral powers on the balance between capitalism and socialism in Central Asia: an analysis of Russiaʼs impact on governance and the regional energy sector, 1987–2007. Neither c.450 page(!) thesis itself, nor much information surrounding it (e.g., the supervisor) is available.

    However, this very recent New York Times article, What (if Anything) Does Carter Page Know?, notes:

    […] Page’s doctoral adviser for his degree, received in 2011 from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, was Shirin Akiner, a controversial scholar who has been derided by fellow academics and human rights groups for trying to whitewash human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. But in an email, Akiner told me, “I am afraid I have no information about Carter Page — some 10 years ago, he was one of my many students.”

    Page tried unsuccessfully to publish his doctoral dissertation, on energy in Central Asia and Russia, as a book — a failure for which he has blamed the anti-former Soviet Union, anti-Russia sentiment of various academic publishers. But one political scientist who reviewed Page’s manuscript told me: “It was very analytically confused, just throwing a lot of stuff out there without any real kind of argument. I gave it a thumbs down — and that’s kind of rare in this business for a review of a full book manuscript.”

    I’ve never heard of Dr Shirin Akiner.

  112. says

    Neither c.450 page(!)

    Hey now. :)

    thesis itself, nor much information surrounding it (e.g., the supervisor) is available.

    That is truly bizarre. But I think it has to be in the university library.

    I’ve never heard of Dr Shirin Akiner.

    As soon as I read the name, I remembered that Sarah Kendzior was speculating that that was who it was several weeks ago:

    “Anyone know who Carter Page’s advisor was at SOAS? My *guess* is Shirin Akiner. Page published with her; and she backed dictators in past.”

    “Note this is only a guess, not confirmed. Page has an article in Akiner’s 2004 collection ‘The Caspian: Politics, Energy and Security’.”

    “In 2006, I critiqued Akiner for backing Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov and lending legitimacy to his propaganda.”

    It looks like SOAS is doing a lot of covering for both Page and Akiner.

  113. blf says

    Re @201, I meant “not available on-line“. I also presume the thesis is available in the University of London or Soas library(s?).

  114. says

    >Re @201, I meant “not available on-line“. I also presume the thesis is available in the University of London or Soas library(s?).

    Yes, I was referring mainly to the other information listed as “Not available,” including the abstract and supervisor.

  115. says

    blf @196, more proof, (as if we needed any) that Trump hangs out with “all the best people.” Apparently, Carter Page’s keep-talking-until-they-believe-you technique worked well enough to get him a spot on Trump’s national security advisory team, where pro-Russian sentiments clumsily expressed were virtue.

    Meanwhile, what is really true is that some of the best people are leaving the Trump administration, or being fired. In addition to miscreants like Mike Flynn, the Trump administration is hemorrhaging staff that may have just been trying to do their job. The Trump administration has a 30% turnover rate for its first year, (Obama’s turnover rate was in single digits). Rachel Maddow covered the hemorrhage.

    In the “best people” story we should include disgraced banker, Albert Kelly. Kelly is a friend of Scott Pruitt and that’s how Kelly came to be in charge of cleaning up superfund sites. Kelly is spectacularly unqualified. Again, Rachel Maddow covered the story. This segment contains a lot of humor, albeit of the black comedy variety. The video is 8:42 minutes long. I’d recommend this segment since it covers the general incompetence of Trump administration leaders, the ways in which they are trying to dismantle the agencies they lead (like the EPA), and the ridiculously childish approach to producing reports that have no basis in fact (no agendas for meetings, no minutes for meetings, and “no reference materials”).

  116. says

    Here’s an interesting statistic: More than 80 percent of Obamacare enrollees live In Trump-won states.

    […] An Associated Press analysis of new figures from the government found that 7.3 million of the 8.8 million consumers signed up so far for next year come from states Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. The four states with the highest number of sign-ups — Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, accounting for nearly 3.9 million customers — were all Trump states.

    “There’s politics, and then there’s taking care of yourself and your family,” said analyst Chris Sloan of the consulting firm Avalere Health. “You can have political views about a program like the Affordable Care Act, but when you get an opportunity to get subsidized health insurance for you and your family … politics is a distant consideration.” […]

    Link

    Yeah, I think Trump’s lies about having repealed Obamacare, and that Obamacare is “dead,” will come back to haunt him.

  117. blf says

    Update to @203/@201/&tc, Nicholas James, who seems to be studying at LSE, has read Carter Page’s 2011 thesis:

    I read Carter Page’s dissertation: imagine if a banker decided to write a very unfocused/messy political economy piece on Central Asia using references to the Silk Road. That’s what it is. A main point was that shared-historical traditions explain modern energy policies in CA.
    […]
    I mean it’s just a dumb dissertation. Here is his main hypothesis (which is never proven really): States/individuals of CA balance traditions of liberal econ/globalization with central gov control and narrow economy. (Tradition of globalization being the Silk Road era)

    Mr James also has a scan / image of page from the thesis where Page acknowledges Shirin Akiner as the supervisor.

      ─────────────────────────

    Unrelated, Mr James also, via a chain, links to this article by Jon Worth, Joseph Mifsud. The “professor” in the Papadopoulos — Manafort revelations, which is long & detailed and contains a chart showing how Mifsud is connected to numerous characters and institutions.

  118. says

    This is such a disgrace. Trump changed the Presidential Challenge coin.

    […] The Presidential Challenge Coin, a token that American presidents have given to service men, laid on veterans’ graves in Arlington, and handed out to as a honorary token of appreciation has been given a Trump makeover. And it’s exactly what you would imagine from an insecure narcissist who wants to be the King of the world.

    The presidential seal has been replaced by an eagle bearing President Trump’s signature. The eagle’s head faces right, not left, as on the seal. The 13 arrows representing the original states have disappeared. And the national motto, “E pluribus unum” — a Latin phrase that means “Out of many, one” — is gone.

    Instead, both sides of the coin feature Trump’s official campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”[…]

    Link

    Washington Post link, where you can see a photo of the newly-tawdry coin.

    […] In addition to his signature, Trump’s name appears three times on the coin, which is thicker than those made for past presidents. And forget the traditional subdued silver and copper: Trump’s coin, a White House aide marveled, is “very gold.”

    The aide said the president, whose real estate properties are known for their gilded displays of wealth and status, was personally involved in redesigning the coin. Trump, who also had a hand in creating his famous red campaign hat, “wanted to weigh in on it,” the aide said. “It’s beautifully made.” […]

  119. blf says

    … the ridiculously childish approach to producing reports that have no basis in fact (no agendas for meetings, no minutes for meetings, and “no reference materials”).

    Sounds like many many of the business meetings (of any nature) I’ve been in, and supposedly-technical reports I’ve been given. As hair furor’s dalekocracy seems to be mostly composed of quite bad (in multiple senses) “business” executive types, I’m not surprised at the shite & superficial processes.

    The reports I’ve read generally don’t ever seem to be read. More than once its seems only I had any idea what it said — literally: Sometimes even the author seemed very confused about the content. Some people seemed to think they could read and understand, or at least get the ghist, of the paper by skimming it during the related meeting. (Nowdays, I speculate I was seeing a variant of Dunning–Kruger as some of those skim-during-the-meeting people would then unhelpfully pontificate.)

    I once got so fed up with the non-reading I demonstrated the tendency by including, verbatim and without explanation, the whole of Jabberwocky in the middle of a report I wrote. And very carefully made sure it was listed in the ToC. Despite that hint, no-one ever queried / mentioned it !

  120. says

    Everything about this is so terrible I struggle to accept that it’s reality – “Stoking Fears, Trump Defied Bureaucracy to Advance Immigration Agenda”:

    Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged.

    Five months before, Mr. Trump had dispatched federal officers to the nation’s airports to stop travelers from several Muslim countries from entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would deliver on his campaign promise to fortify the nation’s borders.

    But so many foreigners had flooded into the country since January, he vented to his national security team, that it was making a mockery of his pledge. Friends were calling to say he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.

    According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

    More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

    Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

    Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

    Like many of his initiatives, his effort to change American immigration policy has been executed through a disorderly and dysfunctional process that sought from the start to defy the bureaucracy charged with enforcing it, according to interviews with three dozen current and former administration officials, lawmakers and others close to the process, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private interactions.

    But while Mr. Trump has been repeatedly frustrated by the limits of his power, his efforts to remake decades of immigration policy have gained increasing momentum as the White House became more disciplined and adept at either ignoring or undercutting the entrenched opposition of many parts of the government. The resulting changes have had far-reaching consequences, not only for the immigrants who have sought to make a new home in this country, but also for the United States’ image in the world.

    Cecilia Muñoz, who served as Mr. Obama’s chief domestic policy adviser, said she was alarmed by the speed with which Mr. Trump and his team have learned to put their immigration agenda into effect.

    “The travel ban was a case of bureaucratic incompetence,” she said. “They made rookie mistakes. But they clearly learned from that experience. For the moment, all of the momentum is in the direction of very ugly, very extreme, very harmful policies.”

    By year’s end, the chaos and disorganization that marked Mr. Trump’s earliest actions on immigration had given way to a more disciplined approach that yielded concrete results, steered in large part by Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general. As secretary of homeland security, he had helped unleash immigration officers who felt constrained under Mr. Obama. They arrested 143,000 people in 2017, a sharp uptick, and deported more than 225,000….

  121. blf says

    Somewhat related to @210, The invisible wall: how Trump is slowing immigration without laying a brick:

    [… T]he Trump administration also appears to have orchestrated a more subtle attack on immigration that touches the most vulnerable populations, like refugees, as well as powerful business people who work in the US.

    […]

    [An immigration lawyer in Minnesota, Sandra] Feist, who has worked in immigration law for 16 years and is a part of the American Immigration Lawyers Association media and advocacy committee, said a slew of small administrative changes have drastically slowed the visa process.

    […]

    A concern for immigration lawyers is the direction of the USCIS under its new ombudsman, Julie Kirchner, who for 10 years was director of Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR], a group that has advocated extreme restrictions on immigration.

    The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) called for her removal in May. “We do not believe that a person who has spent over a decade attacking immigrant communities will now work effectively and thoughtfully to advance the rights of immigrants and fulfill the important duties that are required of this role,” the CHC said.

    […]

    Trump appointees have also dramatically shifted how the federal government speaks about asylum, going as far as to suggest in public communications the unproven claim that asylum is a routinely abused legal loophole.

    We also have dirty immigration lawyers who are encouraging their otherwise unlawfully present clients to make false claims of asylum providing them with the magic words needed to trigger the credible fear process, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said in October.

    USCIS said it does not have data that shows widespread abuse of the asylum system.

    The Department of Justice, which Session heads, directed the Guardian to five press releases and one news story about immigration fraud. None of these cases demonstrated abuse of the asylum system — though a Bosnian was found to have lied about his involvement in the country’s civil war in order to obtain refugee status.

    Three of the fraud schemes were orchestrated fully, or in part, by Americans.

    […]

    According to the embedded link (Former Director of Anti-Immigration Group Set to Be Named Ombudsman at US Immigration Agency), “The SPLC has labeled FAIR a hate group.”

  122. blf says

    Follow-up to @195/@166/@168, US ambassador to Netherlands says sorry for ‘fake news’ interview debacle:

    Pete Hoekstra contradicted himself twice in a minute on Dutch TV, denying he had spoken of Muslim-only no-go zones then denying the terms of his denial
    […]
    I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology, Hoekstra shared on Twitter.

    […]

    What apology? The imbecile has not retracted his original lie about no-go areas, and is utterly non-specific about the exchange: That so-called apology can easily be interpreted as There are too no-go zones and I fully regret having wasted my time with that fake news interview!

    Some of the replies to the so-called apology make similar points:

    You regret what?
    Giving the interview?
    Lying during the interview?

    Getting caught.

    He regrets that there was a video of him telling lies.

    […]

    You offer no substance or clarification, no repudiation of your bigoted sentiments, no bona fides in Ambassadorship other than an accident of birth [Hoekstra was born in the Netherlands –blf], and no apology for these blatant lies, upon which you stacked others beating a hasty retreat.

    […]

    The best way you can apologize for your blatant dishonesty is to withdraw as U.S. ambassador to The Netherlands. It is also in the U.S. national interest that you do this. You have lost all credibility. Step down.

    […]

    Sir, “I regret the exchange” is what one says when one speaks more harshly than one intends. What you did was lie. Hard. And got caught. What you should have said is that you regret lying.

    […]

    LIAR

    […]

    how long until you deny tweeting this

    And on. And on. And it just keeps going.

  123. says

    “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!

    Man, do I hope they get this monumental asshole. (And for me to be rooting for the fucking FBI is something.) He’s going after people who’ve dedicated their lives to this organization. More indictments can’t come soon enough.

  124. says

    This is the background to Trump’s attacks on McCabe. These are the tweets before and after the one @ #213:

    “How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?”

    “Wow, ‘FBI lawyer James Baker reassigned’, according to @FoxNews.”

    Baker appears to be enormously respected by pretty much everyone, and they’re angry about how he’s being smeared.

  125. blf says

    Scammers ahoy! How Scientology is trying to insert itself into Irish schools (Irish Times edits in {curly braces}):

    The controversial church [sic] is giving out teaching materials that hide its involvement
    […]
    An Irish Times investigation has found that over the past two years the Church of Scientology has made a huge effort to insert itself into Irish society. As well as sending thousands of brochures to schools around the country, the church has attempted, sometimes successfully, to convince government-funded charities — including those working with drug addicts, prisoners and sex offenders — to use its material promoting Hubbard’s world view [sic].

    Experts warn that these efforts are an attempt to normalise the church and to help it obtain charitable status in Ireland, meaning it wouldn’t have to pay tax. They say that despite its social programmes in Ireland it is still the same organisation that has been accused of indoctrinating members while forcing them to donate huge sums of money and to disown any family or friends who object; the same organisation that in the 1970s engaged in a criminal conspiracy to infiltrate the US government to destroy incriminating records on its founder.

    […]

    Most teachers who spoke to this newspaper say they did not use the material when they learned of its connection to Scientology. Others say they found it too US-focused for an Irish class. But there is some evidence of the material finding its way into classrooms; a Scientology spokeswoman says the church is regularly invited to speak at schools about its community programmes.

    […]

    Schools are just one part of the church’s push in Ireland. Other initiatives include engaging in drug outreach work, putting on free concerts and lectures, and even setting up a free Christmas funfair at its Firhouse centre.

    On the corporate side the church has hired a big advertising firm to publicise its events, as well as the public-relations company CCIPR. The well-known defamation lawyer Paul Tweed has also been retained to deal with negative Irish coverage of Scientology’s international leader, David Miscavige. Tweed has already helped to prevent publication of one negative story about the organisation that was due to run in a tabloid newspaper.

    […]

    The Dublin South-West TD [Irish MP –blf] Seán Crowe calls Scientology a cult and is worried the group is attempting to become part of the fabric of the community in Tallaght before starting to recruit people.

    He is particularly worried about Scientology’s drug outreach work. Its groups have been distributing anti-drug leaflets widely around Dublin. […]

    […]

    [The Scientology group Criminon] claims it can reform criminals and stop recidivism. Criminon has been examining lists of crime-prevention groups in Ireland before writing to them to offer their services, according to documentation seen by The Irish Times.

    “They called in with boxes of materials{…} When you actually look at the materials in any detail you can tell it’s Scientology,” says Lisa Cuthbert of Pace, a State-funded organisation that specialises in sex-offender treatment. “I remember being very alarmed reading it. After that we didn’t let them darken our door again.”

    Criminon sent another letter to Pace, offering its services to offenders. She says she wrote back “to tell them to take a running jump”. She also told the Probation Service and asked it to alert other agencies about Criminon’s connections. “I just have issues with a cult trying to access vulnerable people,” she says.

    […]

    “It’s called safe-pointing,” says Tony Ortega, an American journalist and author who specialises in covering Scientology and has been monitoring its Irish activities. (A Scientology spokeswoman said Ortega is a blogger with a history of falsifying stories.) “I’ve seen it so many times, exactly like it’s happening in Ireland,” Ortega says. He explains that, in Hubbard jargon, “safe-pointing” is the creation of a positive public image of Scientology in a community that allows it to grow and thrive.

    […]

    The church says it has had thousands through its doors in Firhouse since its centre there opened. When The Irish Times visited last Sunday it was almost empty. A morose-looking Santa Claus sat in a corner while the Winter Wonderland fairground rides lay idle, although staff said it had been much busier earlier in the weekend.

    Part of the church’s problem, according to Ortega, is that it still uses the original strategies Hubbard laid out decades ago. “David Miscavige keeps telling his followers that if they just open these buildings the public will come rushing in. This is a strategy that utterly fails every time, but they just keep doing the same thing over and over again. The one opened in Dublin will become just as empty as everywhere else.”

  126. says

    “FCC Fines Sinclair Broadcast Group $13.4 Million for Running Sponsored Content as News”:

    The FCC is slapping Sinclair Broadcast Group with a $13.4 million fine for running news stories on a cancer foundation but failing to disclose that the foundation was paying for them to air.

    The FCC said that the programming was broadcast more than 1,700 times, “either as stories resembling independently generated news coverage that aired during the local news, or as longer-form stories aired as 30-minute television programs.” The agency said that it was the largest fine ever imposed for a violation of its sponsorship identification rules.

    The fine is also expected to give critics of Sinclair’s proposed merger with Tribune Media fodder for the argument that the transaction is not in the public interest. The FCC is currently reviewing the transaction.

    Sinclair said in a statement that it would challenge the FCC’s sanction.

    Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel , the two Democrats on the FCC, dissented from the decision because they believe the fine should be greater.

    Clyburn noted in her statement that Sinclair has been fined repeatedly over the years, including a $9.5 million settlement in 2016 for failing to negotiate in good faith for retransmission consent negotiations, and sanctions for violating other regulations, including children’s television rules.

    Rosenworcel said, “In light of this substantial history of failure to comply with our policies and the sheer number of violations before the agency now, the immediate notice should seek the highest fines permissible under our rules. But instead of doing so, we offer unreasonable and suspicious favor to a company with a clear record of difficulty complying with the law.”…

  127. says

    This is true and extremely important. I saved an article from the spring 2015 SPLC Intelligence Report called “Right-Wingers Depict Ebola Virus as Obama Conspiracy”:

    …While politicians of all stripes ignored expert opinions suggesting that travel bans and quarantines could be counterproductive and instead called for both, right-wing personalities spread medically questionable “facts” about how the disease could spread and stoked nativist fears with panicked predictions that infected immigrants could swarm the border. Quite a few even suggested that President Obama was responsible for the virus’ spread.

    Reacting on Oct. 24 to news that a doctor who treated Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the illness after returning to New York City, billionaire [sic] birther Donald Trump tweeted, “Ebola has been confirmed in N.Y.C., with officials frantically trying to find all of the people and things [the victim] had contact with. Obama’s fault.”…

    A global pandemic – which Trump and his minions (happily) make increasingly likely by their actions – would be the worst sort of political crisis in this environment. The response not only of crazy people like Paul LePage but of presumably more reasonable authoritarians like Chris Christie to Ebola was a precursor. We have to be prepared for the racist, violent, sick, conspiratorial, destructive response.

  128. says

    So…

    President Trump kicked off his holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago Friday night at a dinner where he told friends, “You all just got a lot richer,” referencing the sweeping tax overhaul he signed into law hours earlier. Mr. Trump directed those comments to friends dining nearby at the exclusive club — including to two friends at a table near the president’s who described the remark to CBS News — as he began his final days of his first year in office in what has become known as the “Winter White House.”

    The president has spent many weekends of his presidency so far at the “Winter White House,” where initiation fees cost $200,000, annual dues cost $14,000, and some of the most affluent members of society have the opportunity to interact with the president in a setting while many Americans cannot….

  129. says

    SC @219, I am surprised that Sinclair was fined at all. That’s how cynical I’ve become about any government agencies operating under Trump’s rightwing umbrella. I thought it likely that Sinclair would not only get away with presenting paid content as news, but that they would also get away with a merger that would give them 70% penetration of the local news market.

    Sinclair is Fox News-ish, but undercover. I don’t want my local news poisoned by pre-produced rightwing content.

    The fine from the FCC is too small, but at least Sinclair was fined, and that’s a step in the right direction.

    From the information you posted, one can also tell that Sinclair operates as if the rules don’t apply to them. Trumpian.

  130. says

    Beneficiaries of the Republican tax scam, a summary: the middle class does receive almost-not-noticeable benefits in the short term, and then those benefits disappear to leave the middle class paying more in the long run. Sneaky, eh? Meanwhile rich people benefit in the short term and in the long term. For example:

    […] Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary; Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration; Betsy DeVos, the education secretary; Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary; and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, will benefit to the tune of $4.5 [million] from changes to the estate tax, according to the CAP [Center for American Progress].

    The Guardian link

    From Steve Benen, in reference to The Guardian article:

    […] The same article also highlighted the effects of Republican changes to rates on “pass-through” income, which will reportedly deliver estimated benefits to Jared Kushner between $5 million and $12 million, and $2.7 million for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.[…]

    From The New York Times:

    […] President Trump would save about $11 million on his taxes, if the new Republican tax overhaul were applied to his 2005 tax return, a New York Times analysis has found. The savings would be a roughly 30 percent cut. He would also save another $4.4 million on his eventual estate tax bill. […]

    On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “In some ways, particularly on the personal side, the president will likely take a big hit.” Last month, Mr. Trump said he would be a “big loser” under the tax bill.

    In fact, high-income earners like Mr. Trump are likely to benefit disproportionately from the new law. Nearly 43 percent of the tax overhaul’s total benefits will flow to the top 5 percent of taxpayers, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. […]

    From The Washington Post:

    The Republicans’ first legislative triumph of 2017 will ensure a financial windfall for the president and his family in a way that is virtually unprecedented in American political history, experts said.

  131. says

    As you probably know, Trump claims to be working hard right now, but what he is actually doing is playing golf at his resort closest to Mar-a-Lago.

    I hope this news from a Gallup poll puts him off his game:

    Americans named former President Barack Obama the most admired man in the world for the 10th year in a row, making President Donald Trump one of a handful of sitting presidents who have fallen short of that accolade, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday. […]

    According to Gallup, only a few incumbent presidents have not been named the most admired man in the world since the research company began asking the question in 1946. Trump joins a list that includes Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was Americans’ most admired woman in the world, according to the poll. She beat former first lady Michelle Obama by two percentage points, with 9 percent of respondents choosing Clinton. Only one percent of respondents did the same for current first lady Melania Trump.

    According to Gallup, Clinton has retained her title for 16 consecutive years, while Obama has retained his for 10 years, including the current year, all eight years he was in office as president and the year he was first elected, in 2008. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

  132. says

    It was so nice to see President Obama featured in news stories today:

    Former President Barack Obama would like to see people in leadership find ways for the public to “recreate common space” on the Internet, he said in his first interview since leaving the White House, broadcast Wednesday.

    While the former president did not once mention his successor President Donald Trump by name, he pointedly remarked on the importance of using the internet and social media to unite rather than divide, a tactic Trump is known to ignore, with his near-daily Twitter rants against the media, individuals and even members of his own administration.

    “One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities,” he said in the interview with BBC’s Radio 4 Today, which was guest edited by Prince Harry Charles Albert David. “They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. … The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanization of society and allows ways of finding common ground.” […]

    Link

    Link to article that includes video of the interview.

  133. says

    Joseph Flynn is among the people calling for Trump to pardon Michael Flynn.

    Joseph Flynn, the brother of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and campaign aide Michael Flynn, said Tuesday it is “about time” the President pardons his brother.

    “About time you pardon General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall given the illegitimacy of his confessed crime in the wake of all this corruption,” Joseph Flynn reportedly tweeted Tuesday afternoon and deleted 15 minutes later. Newsweek confirmed with Joseph Flynn that he had sent the post, which he said he tweeted in response to Trump’s post attacking the FBI and Hillary Clinton for the famous Christopher Steele dossier. […]

    Joseph Flynn told Newsweek that he stands by his original tweet, even though he deleted it and later sent another, toned-down tweet to Trump asking for a pardon on Tuesday evening.

    “Mr. President, I personally believe that a pardon is due to General Flynn, given the apparent and obvious illegitimacy of the manner in which the so called ‘crimes’ he plead guilty to were extracted from him,” he said. “I ask for quick action on this. Thank you and keep up the good work!” […]

    Link

  134. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Wouldn’t pardoning a person who has plead guilty to some of the charges and is fully cooperating with the investigators be considered obstruction of justice? Or is that just for non-rich non-conservatives?

  135. says

    Ogvorbis @235, looks like obstruction to justice to me, but I still bet that Trump would get away with it. The president can pardon anyone, guilty or not. However, Flynn would still be subject to any charges that are state-based, (as opposed to federal), so it is likely that he would not go free anyway.

    The only result would be a further diminishment of Hair Furor.

  136. says

    Trump habitually makes sure that the presidency benefits properties that he owns. We know that, but these particular facts still startled me:

    After living in Washington for nearly a year, […] Trump has yet to enjoy a single non-working meal at a restaurant that doesn’t pay him rent. He hasn’t taken in a performance at the Kennedy Center; hasn’t been to a sporting event; hasn’t toured most of the sights. […]

    “I would say that Trump has been the least present of any of the most recent presidents,” said Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Washington D.C. City Council and a Democratic member of the council since 1999.

    It’s not just restaurants, says Mendelson. Trump has been less engaged on the local charity circuit than other recent presidents, with no stops at local food banks or to help elementary school reading drives. First lady Melania Trump has been venturing out more often, appearing with Jordan’s Queen Rania at a girls’ charter school, attending a holiday toy drive sponsored by the military and visiting with patients and staff at Children’s National hospital.

    But the homebody president rarely goes out — and when he does it’s almost always to properties that bear his name.

    Trump has spent at least part of more than 100 days of his presidency at properties he owns — taking winter weekends at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and summer weekends in Bedminster, New Jersey, or at his Virginia golf club. […]

    Link

    Follow-up to comment 236: there are quite a few experts who say that even though the president can pardon anyone, doing so with the intention of obstructing justice would still be a crime.

  137. says

    Breitbart and Steve Bannon continue to support Republican candidates that are anti-semitic neo-Nazis, (and that express racist views against blacks as well):

    Paul Nehlen is trying to flank Paul Ryan from the right in Wisconsin’s 1st district, his second attempt to unseat the House speaker. Nehlen is a Breitbart favorite, appearing on Steve Bannon’s Sirius XM radio show, endorsed by Breitbart favorites like Ann Coulter and being featured and promoted in dozens of articles on the racist, conspiracy-heavy website run by Steve Bannon.

    Nehlen appeared on Twitter to promote a book he’s reading. […] As Jake Tapper noted, this book was written by an “academic” in the Neo-Nazi movement:

    Book blaming Jews for anti-Semitism, written by the Neo-Nazi movement’s fave “academic,” being pushed by Breitbart favorite Paul Nehlen.

    An excerpt from Nehlen’s response:

    Don’t let anyone say “You hate Jews” when in fact you are simply unwilling to let anyone (including Jews) put their interests ahead of White people (or fill in the blank if you are not White, but you get my drift.)

    Yeah, we get your drift.

    Link

    More at the link.

  138. says

    The Trump administration is rescinding more regulations:

    In its latest flurry of anti-regulatory activity, the Trump administration is seeking to rescind rules put in place by President Obama after the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, The Wall Street Journal reports:

    The proposed rule would relax requirements to stream real-time data on oil-production operations to facilities onshore, where they currently are available to be reviewed by government regulators. It also would strike a provision requiring third-party inspectors of critical equipment — like the blowout preventer that failed in the Deepwater Horizon case — be certified by BSEE.

    The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says the changes would save the oil industry about $900 million over the next decade. And in this administration, the financial well-being of that sector tends to take precedence over everything: safety, the environment, baby seals, you name it. […]

    New York magazine link

    Wall Street Journal link

  139. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    $900 millions over the next decade? $90 millions a year? That isn’t even a pimple on the giant ass of corporate earnings for the oil companies.

  140. says

    Update to comment 238.

    It looks like Paul Nehlen has been tossed overboard by Briebart News and by Steve Bannon after Nehlen’s anti-semitic rants got a lot of coverage:

    Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and his conservative outlet, Breitbart News, have cut ties with a far-right activist challenging Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in 2018 after the candidate posted several controversial tweets.

    “Nehlen is dead to us,” Arthur Schwartz, a Bannon adviser, told CNN on Wednesday regarding Wisconsin congressional candidate Paul Nehlen (R).

    “We don’t support him,” Breitbart editor Joel Pollak tweeted late Tuesday. “He’s disqualified himself.”

    Link

    And, as is usually the case in these “we had no idea he was a bigot” stories, Breitbart is now trying to claim that they hardly knew the guy. Editor Joel Pollak tweeted:

    No. We don’t support him. Haven’t covered him in months. I had no real idea of his recent antisemitic statements when we spoke, Jamie, but I’ve since looked into it (and responded).

  141. says

    From Judd Legum:

    AT&T: We are giving all our workers a $1K bonus!

    Trump: See, I told you, my corporate tax cut is working!!!

    [3 days later]

    AT&T: Oh yeah, and we are also laying off 1,000+ workers. And probably a lot more next year.

    Trump: [out golfing]

  142. says

    The Trump administration is killing some regulations so that it will easier, (or at least less expensive), for nursing homes to harm your grandmother:

    […] the Trump administration is making nursing homes great again.

    Back in August, Trump decided to ditch an Obama-era rule and make it legal, once again, for nursing homes to require patients to sign away their right to sue them in a court of law, and bind them to arbitration should something terrible happen to them during their stay. But nursing homes and elder abuse enthusiasts just did not feel that was quite enough.

    After much lobbying, they got their wish. The Trump Administration is now easing fines on nursing homes found to be mistreating residents.

    The Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury, part of a broader relaxation of regulations under the president.

    The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry. […]

    Since 2013, nearly 6,500 nursing homes — four of every 10 — have been cited at least once for a serious violation, federal records show. Medicare has fined two-thirds of those homes. Common citations include failing to protect residents from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores.

    The purpose of these fines, of course, is not to […] drain these nursing homes of money they don’t have. It is to put the kibosh on a serious problem and make these homes work hard to take it seriously.

    With the new regulations, even if your neglect literally kills someone, you will not get fined more than $21,000. Like in this instance:

    In September 2016, for instance, health inspectors faulted Lincoln Manor, a nursing home in Decatur, Ill., for failing to monitor and treat the wound of a patient whose implanted pain-medication pump gradually slipped over eight days through a ruptured suture and protruded from her abdomen. The patient died.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fined Lincoln Manor $282,954, including $10,091 a day for 28 days, from the time the nursing home noticed the problem with the wound until supervisors had retrained nurses to avoid similar errors. An administrative law judge called the penalties “quite modest” given the “appalling” care.

    It is understandable that nursing homes find these fines overwhelming, or that they are mad about the amount of paperwork they have to do in order to comply with regulations. Paperwork sucks! But you know what probably sucks more? Dying because the nursing home you are in failed to comply with regulations, or losing a parent or grandparent as the result of neglect in the nursing home they are in. […]

    Link

  143. says

    Ogvorbis @244, I see that Steve Bannon joins Roy Moore in complaining about supposedly fraudulent voting (or vote counts?) in Alabama. Moore is particularly exercised about the turnout in majority black districts. As Moore looks more and more ridiculous, (which we didn’t think was possible), I wonder if the whole “I am a bigoted, ridiculous blowhard divorced from reality” conclusion will rub off on Bannon. Even Republicans are fed up with Moore.

    In other news, Trump is performing one of his favorite rituals, repeating a lie so much that he comes to believe it, and he expects others to believe it.

    Last week, Donald Trump adopted a new talking point, which the president apparently sees as proof of his greatness: he “broke “Harry Truman’s Record,” Trump wrote, for “Legislative Approvals.”

    The phrasing was awkward – in the United States, we don’t usually refer to “legislative approvals” – but I think he was trying to say he’s signed more bills into law than any president since Truman left office 65 years ago.

    Later that day, Trump repeated the claim when signing the Republican tax plan into law. “We have more legislative victories than any other president, not including this,” he said. “But this is the capper because this is, again, the biggest tax cut, the biggest reform of all time.”

    It’s actually the eighth biggest since 1918, and Trump doesn’t have more legislative victories than any other president.

    […] The president visited a Florida fire station yesterday and was eager to tell the first responders how impressed he is with himself. “You know, one of the things that people don’t understand – we have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman.” At the same event, he repeated the boast, insisting, “We have more legislation passed, including – the record was Harry Truman. That’s a long time ago. And we broke that record.”

    Politico noted how very wrong Trump’s claim is.

    [Trump] has now signed the fewest number of bills into law of any first-year president dating back to Dwight Eisenhower […]

    It’s a problem, of course, that the president keeps running around bragging about an accomplishment that doesn’t exist, but in this case, it’s not the only problem.

    […] presidents are remembered for their accomplishments, not the number of bill-signing ceremonies they hosted. Trump’s boast is wrong, but it’s also irrelevant for reasons he doesn’t seem to understand.

    So why does he keep repeating the bogus claim? It probably has something to do with the president’s frustration with his woeful public standing. Indeed, when Trump was bragging at the firehouse yesterday, the phrase that stood out for me was, “People don’t understand.”

    Trump is convinced of his own greatness, so he’s apparently searching for a talking point that will help Americans “understand” the scope of his awesomeness. It’s not going well.

    Link

  144. says

    Follow-up to comments 191, 234, 235, and 236.

    From Trump:

    All agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon.

    Some legal scholars offer caveats to Trump’s statement:

    […] Legal scholars agree that the U.S. president has “fairly absolute” authority to pardon any other U.S. citizen for any federal crime, Fordham University law professor Jed Shugerman said in a phone interview.

    “Obviously what he can’t do is take office and say, ‘I pardon everyone in advance for this crime I’m about to run from out of the Oval Office,’” Duke University law professor Lisa Griffin said. “So you can pardon anyone from the time that the offense has been committed. There do not have to be charges pending; there certainly does not have to be a conviction.” […]

    There are important exceptions and unsettled areas of the law that come into play with the Russia probe […] extant Justice Department memoranda from previous administrations have bolstered a key conclusion of most legal scholars and commentators: the President cannot preemptively pardon himself before leaving office.

    Then there is the problematic exercise of executive clemency to impede an investigation, a “corrupt intent” which Shugerman said could make the President “liable for obstruction of justice charges.”

    […] Mueller has assigned career government attorney Michael Dreeben to research the limits of executive clemency, according to Bloomberg.

    The most significant workaround for law enforcement is the President’s inability to pardon individuals found guilty of state crimes.

    “That’s the lynchpin of all of this,” Shugerman told TPM. “[Mueller’s strategy] seems to be to make sure the indictments he brings and the guilty pleas he obtains preserve for state prosecutors the backup plan against pardons.”

    […] Analogue charges for federal crimes such as money laundering exist on the local level in every jurisdiction, Griffin noted. New York would be the likeliest legal battleground if Trump preemptively pardoned individuals like his son-in-law […]

    Link

    I wonder if Trump understands any of this.

  145. says

    Trump tweeted:

    Vanity Fair, which looks like it is on its last legs, is bending over backwards in apologizing for the minor hit they took at Crooked H. Anna Wintour, who was all set to be Amb to Court of St James’s & a big fundraiser for CH, is beside herself in grief & begging for forgiveness!

    Anna Wintour is the editor-in-chief of Vogue. She has nothing to do with Vanity Fair.

    The backstory:

    […] Trump’s unsolicited input could reignite a debate that Vanity Fair sought to extinguish with a statement of apology Wednesday evening. The publication said it “missed the mark” when it published a video featuring Vanity Fair editors offering Clinton ideas for a New Years resolution. In the video, which Vanity Fair said was meant to be funny, the editors offered Clinton suggestions on new hobbies that would prohibit her from running for president again, like taking up knitting or volunteering.

    Online outcry ensued quickly over the remarks, which were perceived by many as anti-feminist. […].

    From Patricia Arquette:

    Hey STOP TELLING WOMEN WHAT THE F-CK THEY SHOULD DO OR CAN DO.

    Some journalists defended Vanity Fair, saying the whole issue was being blown out of proportion. Trump helped to make this a big story.

  146. says

    Josh Marshall made a heroic effort to explain WTF Devin Nunes is up to:

    From the Devin Nunes Intelligence Agency, we have theory 14 why Donald Trump should be immune from the rule of law. Remember, Nunes is the House intelligence committee chair who got involved with Mike Flynn’s effort to surveil and disrupt the Russia investigation in the first days and weeks of the Trump presidency. Nunes was bounced from running the House Russia probe in part because of that. But now he’s back, largely in the form of mounting a counter-probe, a probe into alleged bias in the probe itself. To that end, he has subpoenaed a man named David Kramer, who played a role in Sen. John McCain’s bringing a copy of the Steele ‘dossier’ to then-FBI Director James Comey in late 2016. (Comey already had a copy.) This is all prologue to a new, or newly refined theory: the Steele dossier was not a perhaps imperfect guide to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. It was the interference itself.

    Byron York approvingly lays out the theory in a new column here in The Washington Examiner.

    There is a growing belief among some congressional investigators that the Russians who provided information to Steele were using Steele to disrupt the American election as much as the Russians who distributed hacked Democratic Party emails. In some investigators’ views, they are the two sides of the Trump-Russia project, both aimed at sowing chaos and discord in the American political system.

    This is not an inherently nonsensical idea. […] not that the whole dossier is a disinformation effort but that some of the Russians Steele spoke to may have fed him misinformation. […] The broader point is that we shouldn’t assume the Russian interference campaign was entirely ‘logical’ and linear. It could have worked on multiple fronts to create chaos and confusion. […] operatives were simultaneously pushing racist and xenophobic memes while also creating ersatz Black Lives Matter-inspired front groups on the other side of the equation. They were backing Trump; they were also pushing Jill Stein.

    […] But there are numerous reasons to doubt this new theory. First and foremost is that it comes from Devin Nunes and House ‘investigators’ working on his behalf.

    […] Steele is known as a 1st tier spy with deep experience in Russia and contacts with Russians. Could he have been duped? Certainly. But this wasn’t some random guy with no area experience. Quite the opposite. So it’s possible but we should be skeptical.

    […] Is this legit or is it disinformation? Either from Russia or some other country? They [the FBI] have lots of avenues to probe that question. There’s simply working to confirm claims in the dossier. There’s human and signals intelligence. It’s probably the first question they would have looked at. And it’s pretty clear they did not think this was the case.

    […] the belief of “some congressional investigators.” This is rather transparently the Republican investigators working with and for Devin Nunes. […] you can pretty easily dismiss this as a crock. […]

    Congressional Republicans have increasingly focused in on the Steele dossier as the lynchpin undergirding the entire Russia probe. Discredit its origins or invalidate its claims and the whole Russia probe falls apart. But that’s clearly not true.

    The Steele dossier may have played a role at the outset of the investigation. But nothing Mueller’s team is doing now relies on Steele’s work, unless it’s been independently validated. […]

    There’s no evidence or reason to believe the Steele Dossier was the product of disinformation from Russian intelligence. But even if it were, it would count more as irony than any discrediting smoking gun since it played a part in triggering investigations which uncovered numerous instances of Trump family members and associates trying to work with Russian intelligence officials and cut outs to defeat Hillary Clinton. We don’t need the Steele dossier for those. We have emails, testimony, wire intercepts, admissions.

    It just doesn’t matter and it’s not even true. From January forward Chairman Nunes has worked doggedly not to oversee the executive branch but rather to obstruct investigations into the executive branch – both congressional investigations and the criminal investigation itself.

  147. says

    Josh Marshall discussed the consequences of the end of “SALT” tax deductions:

    […] ‘SALT’ refers to state and local taxes which have been deductible against your federal income tax burden. Starting in 2018 that deduction will be capped at $10,000. The impact of this will vary dramatically depending on where you live, how much money you make and how you spend that money. But the big picture is that it will have the biggest impact in high tax states and particularly on individuals who live in high tax states, are affluent enough to have a relatively high state income and property tax burden but are yet not so wealthy that they get the big benefits from the corporate and federal income tax reductions in the tax bill.

    From a macro perspective the SALT change means that the higher tax states (mainly but not exclusively blue states) will be sending a lot more money to the federal government. This is on top of the fact that blue/high tax states already send much more money in taxes to the federal government than they receive back in services, grants, general spending, etc. […] by and large federal taxing and spending policy draws money from the blue states and reallocates it into the red states. […] in addition to having fewer social services, they [red states] finance their state budgets in part from subsidies from the federal government. […]

    This is all by design. This policy is intended to punish states that tend to vote Democratic. The more high-minded explanation of the motivation is that it gives an incentive to lower state taxes. Generic punishment is probably the better way to look at it.

    In any case, here’s why I think this is likely to be the most politically consequential part of the bill. We talk about “blue” states and “red” states. But blue states still have lots of Republican representatives in the House. Meanwhile the greatest bleed Republicans have seen so far this year is in affluent and educated suburbs that tend to be mixed or vote Republican. It’s precisely in those parts of blue states (and some red states too) where the SALT change is likely to be felt most keenly. Again, we’re talking about the merely affluent or even rich but not super-rich. […]

  148. blf says

    Update to @244 and others, Beaten Republican Roy Moore fails in challenge to Alabama Senate result:

    […]
    Roy Moore […] has failed in his attempt to delay the confirmation of the Democrat Doug Jones as the state’s new junior senator.

    Late on Wednesday, Moore’s lawyers filed a request for a restraining order to stop Alabama’s canvassing board from certifying Jones’ victory. In a statement, Moore’s team called for a new special election and claimed Alabama will suffer irreparable harm if the election results are certified without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud.

    But even before Montgomery circuit judge Johnny Hardwick denied Moore’s request in a Thursday ruling, state officials rejected Moore’s claims and said Jones would be certified the winner.

    […]

    Moore’s court filing, which spanned dozens of pages, pointed to turnout exceeding expectations in Jefferson County, where Jones won more than 68% of the vote and was buoyed in part by high turnout among black voters.

    The filing cited “experts” including Richard Charnin, who has a blog dedicated to John F Kennedy conspiracy theories and has also floated conspiracies over the 2016 death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer. Another cited authority, James Condit Jr, has espoused antisemitic views and promoted conspiracies about a supposed Jewish takeover of the Vatican.

    […]

  149. blf says

    Private prison investors set for giant windfall from Trump tax bill:

    Prison firms that restructured as real estate investment trusts see substantial tax cut — more good news for those who benefit from increased incarceration
    […]
    Under the new GOP law, investments in so-called “real estate investment trusts” (reits) will see a 25% reduction in tax, from 39.6% down to 29.6%.

    Corecivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and the Geo Group, which together own more than 80% of private prison beds in the US, both restructured as reits in 2013 after a private letter ruling by the Obama Administration IRS green-lit the change.

    “This tax act is of unprecedented benefit for reit investors,” said David Miller, a tax partner at Proskauer Rose. “I think reits will explode in popularity as a result of this act.”

    With dividends of more than $430m paid out by the two major private prison companies in 2017, in theory, prison investors could see an additional $50m in dividend earnings next year, thanks to the GOP legislation. The actual figure will be lower than that, however, as some proportion of those shares are owned by institutional investors which are taxed differently from individuals. The exact breakdown between the two is not available in public filings.

    Even without the new lower tax rate, the reit classification was already a huge boon to the private prison industry. Before converting to a reit in 2013, Corecivic was subject to a 36% corporate tax rate. After the reorganization, it reported paying an effective tax rate in the first quarter of 2015 of just 3%.

    […]

    According to [an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice, Lauren-Brooke] Eisen, prison companies have essentially argued that renting out cells to the government is the equivalent of charging a tenant rent, thus making such business primarily a real estate venture. […]

    From memory, private prisons are paid on the basis of how many people they lock up (and not on, e.g., based on jobs and (the lack of) recidivism).† As such, the jump to this goofy rent hypothesis perhaps isn’t quite so surprising. But still utterly misguided and foolish.

    […]
    The tax bill gift to private prison investors mirrors the cosy relationship Trump has had with the industry overall. After years elsewhere, in 2017 the Geo Group hosted its annual leadership conference at the Trump National Doral golf club in Miami. The company also gave nearly half a million dollars to Trump through his inauguration committee and Super Pacs. Shortly thereafter, it secured the administration’s first contract for an immigration detention center, a deal potentially worth millions.

    […]

      † This article (6 shocking revelations about how private prisons make money, Sept-2013) reminded me some State contracts with private prisons require high occupancy rates (up to, and including (at least at that time), 100%).

  150. says

    A U.S. district judge has stopped Arizona from doing something unbelievably stupid:

    U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima has permanently banned Arizona education officials from enforcing a Republican-created law that banned Mexican-American studies in Tucson schools, calling the 2010 legislation “not for a legitimate educational purpose, but for an invidious discriminatory racial purpose and a politically partisan purpose.”

    One of the creator’s numerous racist posts probably gave that away. While Judge Tashima had declared the law unconstitutional back in August, this week’s ruling “put the final nail in the coffin,” per Roque Planas:

    Conservative lawmakers led by then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and then-state Sen. John Huppenthal, who later succeeded Horne, derided Tucson’s Mexican-American studies curriculum as an anti-American politicization of public school classrooms. To shut the classes down, they spearheaded the passage of a state law in 2010 that prohibited classes aimed at students of a specific ethnicity, that fostered racial discord or that encouraged the overthrow of the U.S. government.

    Research showed “students who participated outperformed their peers in grades and standardized tests,” […] Huppenthal’s attempt to squash brown history backfired, after “the publicity generated by the court battle spurred efforts in other states to create ethnic studies programs modeled on or influenced by the Tucson classes”:

    When the legal battle came to a head over the summer, Tashima ruled that lawmakers had violated students’ First Amendment right to receive information. […] Republicans who favored the ban, including the former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, and his successor John Huppenthal, “argued that the ethnic studies classes bred resentment against whites.”

    According to Tashima’s ruling over the summer, Huppenthal, also a former Republican state senator, commented, “I don’t mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English.” Huppenthal also reportedly compared Mexican-American studies to the “technique that Hitler used in his rise to power.”

    […] Tashima’s judgment also sticks the state of Arizona with the bill for the plaintiff’s legal fees. The court has yet to determine the amount.

    Link

    Ha! Nice schadenfreude moment.

  151. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    The right wing rage machine is winning. From CNN:

    A Drexel University professor who received death threats after posting several controversial tweets said Thursday he is resigning because the year-long harassment has made his situation “unsustainable.”

    ====================

    The situation involving Ciccariello-Maher prompted questions about free speech on college campuses and whether the First Amendment gives faculty the freedom to speak about public issues.

    Why are people on the right allowed to express any repugnant thought that pops into their pointy little heads, but progressives are hounded from office and job for pointing out inconsistencies, ironies, and stupidity?

  152. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    This comment is driving me nuts. First I dumped it on the wrong thread (sorry, Caine), then I corrected it on the wrong thread (sorry Caine) and WordPress tried to stop me because it was the same comment with the homage to Borkquotia removed. So, here is what I intended:

    The right wing rage machine is winning. From CNN:

    A Drexel University professor who received death threats after posting several controversial tweets said Thursday he is resigning because the year-long harassment has made his situation “unsustainable.”

    =========================

    The situation involving Ciccariello-Maher prompted questions about free speech on college campuses and whether the First Amendment gives faculty the freedom to speak about public issues.

    Why are people on the right allowed to express any repugnant thought that pops into their pointy little heads, but progressives are hounded from office and job for pointing out inconsistencies, ironies, and stupidity?

    ==========

    Sorry about doubling the comment, with the obligatory homage to Borkquotia, offspring of Tpyos, in two different threads on two different blogs. This may be the ultimate and bestest homaging ever. Believe me.

  153. says

    Here we go, folks. Trump gave an unsupervised interview to a New York Times reporter. No lawyers or minders were present. Trump’s aides didn’t know about the interview until it was published. You know where this is going: Trump said a lot of stupid stuff, and he repeated some of his favorite lies and/or misapprehensions.

    […] The President told the newspaper 16 times that the [Mueller] probe has discovered “no collusion” by his campaign, but added that he thinks Mueller is “going to be fair” to him.

    Those comments are in line with what Trump has said previously, but run counter to a weeks-long effort by his supporters in Congress and in the conservative media to paint the investigation as hopelessly tainted by partisan bias. […]

    Trump called [Paul] Manafort, who was indicted on a slew of financial crimes charges, a “very nice man” and “an honorable person,” repeating that he only managed the campaign for a short period of time. Manafort worked for Trump from March to August 2016.

    Trump did not appear bothered by his associates’ indictments and plea agreements, or the fact that Mueller’s probe is continuing past the Christmas deadline his lawyers provided to reporters because, he said, there is nothing incriminating to find.

    The Russia allegations were invented by Democrats “as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election,” he told the Times.

    Trump also again took shots at his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, calling it a “terrible thing” and “certainly unnecessary.”

    He praised the “loyalty” of Barack Obama’s first Attorney General, Eric Holder, and said he has “great respect” for what Holder did to “totally protect” the President.

    Though Trump denied any interest in reopening a Justice Department investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, he asserted that he has the “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” […]

    Link

    NY Times link

    WTF? Trump thinks that Attorney General Eric Holder protected President Obama? Trump must be feeding his own delusions … they’re growing.

    I guess there is no way to get Trump to understand what the relationship between the Department of Justice and the Executive Branch is. Hint: the DOJ protects the constitution, not the president.

    The assertion that he has the “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department” is so bonkers.

    Ogvorbis @254, I like the homage to Borkquotia. It’s a doozy.

  154. says

    Follow-up to comment 255.

    Excerpts from Trump’s replies to the NY Times reporter’s questions:

    […] Mr. Trump disputed reports that suggested he does not have a detailed understanding of legislation, saying, “I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most.”

    Later, he added that he knows more about “the big bills” debated in the Congress “than any president that’s ever been in office.” […]

    “Paul [Manafort] only worked for me for a few months,” Mr. Trump said. “Paul worked for Ronald Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob Dole, worked for many Republicans for far longer than he worked for me. And you’re talking about what Paul was many years ago before I ever heard of him. He worked for me for — what was it, three and a half months?”

    Mr. Trump said it was “too bad” that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump did not directly answer a question about whether he thought that Eric H. Holder Jr., President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, was more loyal than Mr. Sessions had been.

    “I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him,” Mr. Trump said. He added: “When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest.” […]

    “Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,” Mr. Trump said, then invoked one of his preferred insults. “Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.” […]

    Mr. Trump said he believes members of the news media will eventually cover him more favorably because they are profiting from the interest in his presidency and thus will want him re-elected.

    He added: “So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”

  155. says

    On Wednesday of this week, Trump fired the remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. No reason was given for the wholesale dismissal.

    […] After six members of PACHA resigned in June, the White House on Wednesday terminated the remaining 16 members without explanation via a letter from FedEx.

    Scott Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and senior attorney for Lambda Legal, was one of the six who resigned in June over Trump’s inaction on HIV/AIDS and said on Twitter the remaining members were fired.

    “No respect for their service,” Schoettes said. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed.” […]

    https://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/12/28/trump-fires-members-hivaids-council/

  156. says

    Follow-up to comments 255 and 256.

    Reaction from Joy Reid:

    Now that I’ve read the entire transcript of @nytmike’s Trump interview, a few observations:

    1. Trump speaks a lot like a child does. Lots of focus on who likes him, who loves him, who is his friend… his biographers all emphasize his deep desire to be loved & it comes through.

    2. Trump repeats whatever he is fixated on over and over again. I counted 15 “no collusion” repeats, sometimes two or three times in a single paragraph. And he keeps returning over and over again to the election and how he managed to win via the Electoral College. He’s fixated.

    3. Trump things being president means he can do whatever he wants. He has an autocrat’s impulse, and believes literally everyone in government, from the attorney general to every member of Congress, essentially works for him, owes him loyalty, and must “come to him” for mercy.

    He literally adopted a “Godfather” phraseology to all but say Democrats could have avoided blue state tax hikes via SALT if they had “come to him” to plead for his largesse. It’s a combination of the impulses of 1. and 3.

    4. Trump thinks he is still the star of a TV show, and that the media has the power to decide who wins elections, based on ratings. Seriously.

    5. Trump invents his own reality, and then states that everybody else believes his version of reality too. And since he is so transparent, it’s hard to argue that this is a strategy, rather than a form of self-delusion or just stubborn refusal to accept what is real.

    There are literally no Democrats who believe that. None. But he repeats that over and over in the interview. [Trump said, “Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion.”]

    I’ve never observed anyone who is more precisely like his biographers have described him. And Trump’s biographers have, to put it mildly, not been kind. He lives inside his own reality, where he is part beloved autocrat/dictator and part main character in a never-ending TV show.

    It is absolutely stunning that this person is president of the United States.

    I’m not sure, by the way, what this means for Democrats. Trump clearly assumes that they HAVE NO CHOICE but to come crawling to him to do infrastructure, DACA, and inexplicably, to make a new, *better* healthcare (he specifically says “not Obamacare.”)

    He clearly thinks this will happen, and that somehow magically, they will “do bipartisan.” That’s his actual phrase: “do bipartisan.” Not “do bipartisan legislation,” just “do bipartisan.” He thinks it naturally will happen.

    If Democrats go along, it will only feed his grandiosity. If they don’t, it feeds his rage and opens the black hole of vengeance inside him, which he could take out on them, vulnerable populations, maybe other countries (war is still not unthinkable…) I just don’t know.

    But it’s absolutely stunning that this is what’s happening. But it is what’s happening.

    https://twitter.com/JoyAnnReid/status/946595725944786944

  157. says

    Follow-up to comments 43, 171, and 248.

    A new fact to add the Devin Nunes saga: he received campaign donations from the original funder of the Trump-Russia dossier:

    Republican Congressman Devin Nunes received a $5,400 contribution to his campaign committee from the owner of the Washington Free Beacon, the original funder of the Trump-Russia Dossier. The contribution was made on April 7th, 2015. It was reported in the NY Times in late October that Paul Singer’s conservative website originally funded the research for what became known as the Dossier: http://www.nytimes.com/...

    One thing is certain: it’s time for Nunes to be removed from the House Intelligence Committee. #RemoveNunes […]

  158. says

    Trump tweeted a ransom note this morning. If Democrats want to protect DREAMers, they have to build his wall.

    The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!

    Sounds like a love note to Trump’s white nationalist supporters.

    From Travis Hale, a self-described “Alt Right Evangelist”:

    I remember days when chain migration was niche topic only @jartaylor or @peterbrimelow would discuss. Trump isn’t perfect but be thankful!

    Background, regarding the individuals Hale mentions above: Media Matters identifies Jared Taylor as “publisher of the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance.” Peter Brimelow is “founder of the white nationalist anti-immigration site VDare.com.”

  159. says

    Bill Browder did a short interview with the BBC in which he describes his experiences in Russia and the Magnitsky Acts. He talks at the end (from around the 10-minute mark) about how he testified in Parliament that “the central part of London is levitating off of a sea of dirty Russian money,” and that several politicians, including members of the House of Lords, are in the pay of the Kremlin/Russian gangsters. He claims that these legislators received payments specifically in exchange for their unsuccessful attempts to block the EU Magnitsky Act. When he made these allegations in an interview with the Home Affairs Select Committee on the Proceeds of Crime Act last year, one of the members asked if he had documentation to back them up. He says he produced it to the committee, but when the information appeared on the parliamentary web site, the names were redacted. Seems like information the public has a right to know and that an investigation is in order.

    Meanwhile, Browder tweeted a few hours ago: “Russia is applying to Interpol for the 6th time for my arrest after the previous 5 requests were rejected as illegitimate and political. It’s time for Interpol to suspend Russia’s membership for flagrant abuse of the Interpol system.”

  160. says

    Follow-up to comments 255, 256, and 258.

    I think this analysis from Josh Marshall is spot on, (bolding is mine):

    […] Carl Hulse [from the Times said] that he thought President Trump saying Bob Mueller would “be fair” contradicted and in some ways complicated the chorus of attacks on Mueller we see from Republicans on Capitol Hill. ‘You say Mueller is biased and on a witch hunt. But the President himself says Mueller is fair’, and so forth. I think this misreads what the President said.

    President Trump has a decades-old penchant for public comments which are nominally conciliatory but contain an indifferently concealed note of menace. […]

    This is in line with the tough guy antics you see from the mobsters Trump has long openly admired and imitated. In the case of Mueller I think Trump states pretty clearly that he thinks Mueller will be “fair” because he has no choice. “Fair” means exonerating Trump. The President thinks he’ll do that because he has to. […]

    TRUMP: No, it doesn’t bother me because I hope that he’s going to be fair. I think that he’s going to be fair. And based on that [inaudible]. There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair. And if he’s fair — because everybody knows the answer already, Michael. I want you to treat me fairly. O.K.?

    SCHMIDT: Believe me. This is —

    TRUMP: Everybody knows the answer already. There was no collusion. None whatsoever.

    The key sentence is “And if he’s fair – because everybody knows the answer already, Michael.”

    The President is saying that we already know the facts, i.e., “there was no collusion.” […] For practical purposes the investigation is already over. All that’s left is whether Mueller is honest about the results. Literally the only choice is to exonerate the President, i.e. “be fair”. Unless of course you want to lie or do something terrible and engage in a witch hunt. […]

  161. says

    Very cold weather in the U.S. is killing people. Homeless people, especially, are at risk. In many cases politics has played a part in increasing the risk of dying.

    […] “It’s life and death out there,” Stephen Welch, the director of development for a nonprofit organization that serves the homeless community in Boston, told a local CBS affiliate on Thursday. “I talked to a couple of guys who thought they were going to die today. They could barely move.”

    In Cincinnati, a 55-year-old homeless man named Ken Martin was found dead at a bus stop this week. Advocates from nonprofit group Maslow’s Army, which has long pushed for a 24-hour shelter for homeless people to seek refuge, blamed Martin’s death on the city’s shortage of resources to assist homeless people. […]

    Many people do freeze to death in the United States. Although there aren’t comprehensive national figures about how many people die on the street, advocates memorialize several thousand of these deaths each year.

    Part of the issue, city officials and nonprofit leaders say, is uneven federal and state funding for shelters — as well a lack of adequate investment in the affordable housing units that can help low-income people move off the streets altogether. […]

    There’s no sign of the situation improving under the Trump administration, which has shown little regard for strengthening safety net programs for people struggling to keep a roof over their head. President Trump’s proposed budget for FY 2018 would make huge cuts to public housing and homeless assistance grants — cuts that anti-homelessness advocates characterize as “devastating.” The White House has also proposed eliminating the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness altogether, despite evidence that getting rid of this council would hamper national efforts to end homelessness.

    According to estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the homeless population in the United States increased this year for the first time since 2010 — largely driven by the lack of affordable housing […].

    https://thinkprogress.org/cold-snap-homeless-shelter-4bf398c416f1/

  162. says

    We all knew that Trump had not really turned over “complete and total control” of his businesses to his sons. Now we have more solid proof:

    REVEALING LEAKED EMAIL from @TrumpDC hotel exec: “DJT is supposed to be out of the business & passed on to his sons, but he’s definitely still involved…he was asking about banquet revenues & demographics &…if his presidency hurt the businesses.”

    https://twitter.com/kenvogel

    From Betsy Woodruff, writing for The Daily Beast:

    […] Since his inauguration, he [Trump] has maintained that he isn’t involved in the management of his businesses. But an email from the director of revenue management for the Trump Hotel in Washington, which The Daily Beast reviewed, indicates that may not be the case.

    Jeng Chi Hung, who holds that position, sent that email to an acquaintance on Sept. 12 of this year. The email opens with a few pleasantries. Then, Hung writes that he met with Trump, and that the president asked him specific questions about banquet revenues, demographics, and how his presidency impacted the business.

    The email says this:

    The company is interesting to work for being under the Trump umbrella. DJT is supposed to be out of the business and passed on to his sons, but he’s definitely still involved… so it’s interesting and unique in that way. I had a brief meeting with him a few weeks ago, and he was asking about banquet revenues and demographics. And, he asked if his presidency hurt the businesses. So, he seems self aware about things, at least more than he lets on. I am far left leaning politically, so working here has been somewhat of a challenge for me. But, it’s all business.

    Hung’s email did not say when he met with Trump. The president dined at Trump Hotel in Washington on July 29 of this year, along with Gen. John Kelly, Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross, and Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin, according to ABC News. That meal came about six weeks before Hung sent his email about meeting with Trump, though it’s unclear if it coincided with that meeting. […]

    Mickael Damelincourt, the managing director of the hotel, told The Daliy Beast that Hung told him the email was a lie.

    “This is total nonsense,” Damelincourt said. “Upon review of the email referenced in your inquiry, we have met with the individual and he has confirmed that he made these comments up in an effort to enhance his sense of importance to a former employer. In fact, this individual confirmed to me today that he has never met the President nor did any conversation ever take place. We are continuing to investigate this matter internally.”

    […] Trump has spent a significant amount of his time as president visiting his own businesses. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a good-governance watchdog group, calculated that he has visited one of his properties –– including his golf club in Northern Virginia, his Mar-a-Lago club in West Palm Beach, and his hotel in downtown Washington D.C. –– about one of every three days he’s been in office. […]

  163. says

    Follow-up to comment 255.

    Eric Holder responds:

    Wrong/dangerous. Trump doesn’t have absolute rights with DOJ. But women and men there have ABSOLUTE duty to follow Constitution and rule of law – not a man. Career DOJ people have ABSOLUTE right to defy illegal orders. And they will. I know them.

  164. says

    Incoherent, authoritarian, uninformed: Trump’s New York Times interview is a scary read.

    The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore. […]

    As for Trump’s contention that “it’s been proven that there is no collusion,” it’s hard to even know how to begin responding to that. In recent months, Trump’s former campaign manager and national security adviser have both been charged with crimes by Robert Mueller, and the investigation is not just ongoing but apparently widening in its scope and ferocity. Yet here is Trump’s take:

    I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion. She’s the head of the committee. The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they’re so angry because there is no collusion. So, I actually think that it’s turning out — I actually think it’s turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion.

    Sen. Feinstein has not said that she, or any of the ongoing investigations, has concluded that there was no collusion. What she has said is that investigators believe Trump may have obstructed justice in his efforts to derail inquiries into collusion:

    The [Senate] Judiciary Committee has an investigation going as well and it involves obstruction of justice and I think what we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.

    It speaks to Trump’s habits of mind, to the sycophantic sources from which he prefers to get his news, that he heard something Feinstein said and has come to believe she has absolved him — yet misses the actual thing she said that threatens him. […]

    Much more at the link.

  165. says

    A Little Preview Of How Trump Gonna Hand Our Infrastructure $$$ To His Golfing Pals, from Wonkette, (bolding is mine).

    From Providence, Rhode Island, comes this tale of what Donald Trump’s glorious infrastructure plan might look like: much, much higher costs to states and municipalities that want to improve their roads and bridges and tunnels.

    […] the Rhode Island Department of Transportation needs to replace bridges and a freeway interchange on Route 95,[…] They had already applied for a federal grant to help fund the project under the Obama administration, under a program called “FASTLANE.” But that program was killed off by the Trump administration and replaced with something called “INFRA,” […] The big difference between the programs is that INFRA is a “public-private partnership,” meaning that instead of financing the road and bridge project with government bonds, the state will have to get financing from private equity […]

    And how maximally efficient is the new scheme? To build what’s essentially the same project, the cost will go from $226.1 million under the original plan to $342.9 million with the new one. The biggest chunk of the increased costs will go to cover interest on a $45-million private loan and a “15-percent return to the private partner,” as mandated by the new Trump rules.

    […] it will be far more expensive — even with the elimination of a $15 million pedestrian bridge that had been included in the design from last year. Just as well, since as everyone knows, pedestrians and bicycles are part of the UN agenda for world domination. […]

    While the Trump administration hasn’t yet put forward a formal plan for its promised trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, Trump has said from the campaign going forward that it will largely rely on public-private partnerships for funding, to reduce the amount of federal outlay for infrastructure. That sounds great until you realize it translates to much higher costs for the states and cities that want to upgrade roads, bridges, and tunnels, all so that some private equity firms can get a piece of the action. You might almost get the impression that Trump is less interested in fixing the nation’s infrastructure than in steering hundreds of billions of dollars to middlemen, huh? […]

  166. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    You might almost get the impression that Trump is less interested in fixing the nation’s infrastructure than in steering hundreds of billions of dollars to middlemen

    Oh, no. I’m sure that is just an innocent result of a brilliant idea to rebuild America. Really. And if you think otherwise, that is FakE NEewzz!!1!!!!111

    Transferring the costs to the states is bad enough. Transferring the costs to the states WITH PRIVATE EQUITY FINANCING is horrible. If they insist on transferring the costs to the states, wouldn’t it make more sense for the federal government to lend the monies, rather than a for prophet group?

    One thing positive I will say about Trump is that he has brought the whole shell-game out in the open. He and his cronies don’t care how obvious the thefts are. Which may, in the long run, be good. In the short run? Oh, shit.

  167. says

    Wonkette also covered some of the word salad that Trump spouted about health care. Trump said:

    Now here’s the good news. We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care. Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing. And the individual mandate. So now you have associations, and people don’t even talk about the associations. That could be half the people are going to be joining up. … With private [inaudible]. So now you have associations and the individual mandate.

    I believe that because of the individual mandate and the associations, the Democrats will and certainly should come to me and see if they can do a really great health care plan for the remaining people. […]

    But the Democrats should come to a bipartisan bill. And we can fix it. We can fix it. We can make a great health care plan. Not Obamacare, which was a bad plan. We can make a great health care plan through bipartisanship.

    An excerpt from Wonkette’s analysis of the Trumpian word salad:

    […] See? The man knows all about how he’s created associations that millions of people have joined, maybe half the people. And bipartisanship. TOTAL DOMINATION OF POLICY DETAILS.

    Just one thing: What the hell was he talking about with these “associations” that millions have supposedly shifted to? […]

    […] that is what Trump was talking about with the “associations”: his October executive order that calls on federal agencies to write new rules expanding the ability of consumers to buy “association health plans” and short-term policies, both of which tend to be a lot cheaper than the individual policies in the ACA marketplaces, because they tend to be crappy insurance.

    Association health plans (AHPs) have been around a long time, and are insurance policies sold to groups of similar small businesses that join together […] to purchase health insurance. The idea is to give small businesses the purchasing power of a large employer.

    Before Obamacare, these associations would often tailor their “coverage” to meet the insurance standards of states with the most minimal requirements, so those policies could be sold to buyers all over the country, even in states with strong insurance standards. The result was usually cheap, crappy “junk insurance” that often left policyholders responsible for huge medical bills when their care wasn’t covered. The ACA treated AHPs like small businesses and required them to provide a full set of essential health benefits and protections for folks with preexisting conditions.

    No fun! Trump’s executive order would go much of the way back to the bad old days, allowing plans that skirt ACA requirements and opening the way for large association plans that could sell stripped-down policies that would cost less […]

    Oh, and those new rules aren’t actually in place yet. […] Trump is completely talking out of his ass when he says millions of people have already signed up for the things, because the executive order didn’t make them magically spring into existence. […]

    […] AHPs have tended to fall far short of providing good healthcare, and have often been prosecuted for fraud.

    Of course there’s a simple solution if those marvelous associations turn out to be fraudulent. Trump’s administration won’t see any need to prosecute them. Problem solved!

  168. says

    From SC’s link in comment 273:

    […] If you look at Michael Flynn Jr’s Twitter account, and Flynn’s, the number of accounts that they interacted with that have since been identified as Russian-backed accounts, it’s a little hard to believe that they had no idea that they were re-tweeting and actively promoting content from accounts that were funded and run by the Russian government. […]

    Reportedly, Breitbart, Infowars and Cambridge Analytica are now being scrutinized by Mueller. This Flynn (plea deal) may open a lot of floodgates to that right-wing media ecosystem, and also to some of the data operations. […]

    […] the reason that Infowars (which hosts Cernovich) and Breitbart are under investigation right now is because of how closely aligned their coverage was with Russia Today and Sputnik. There are certain storylines and narratives where they were pushing out the same stories almost literally down to the minute, and it’s hard to believe that that was a coincidence. The really disturbing part is that it hasn’t stopped. […]

    Mercer and his family are the money behind Cambridge Analytica. He also funded Breitbart and continued to fund them until just a few weeks ago, when he sold or gave his stake to his daughter. […]

    When you look at the ventures they’re funding and how deeply connected they are into the media ecosystem, it paints a picture that is really startling.

    It looks like this billionaire class trying to own what information you are allowed to access and the information space. And if you own the information space, you really own the future. If you can silo off the truth and create an alternative reality where you tell people what you want them to hear, and you block them off from seeing and hearing other information through manipulating search algorithms and other things, it’s scary. […]

    Much more at the link. And, as SC said, it is a very interesting interview.

  169. says

    Excerpts from Charles P. Pierce’s response to the New York Times interview of Trump:

    […] ….What Schmidt actually got out of this interview is a far more serious problem for the country. In my view, the interview is a clinical study of a man in severe cognitive decline, if not the early stages of outright dementia.

    Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen my father and all of his siblings slide into the shadows and fog of Alzheimer’s Disease. (The president’s father developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s.) In 1984, Ronald Reagan debated Walter Mondale in Louisville and plainly had no idea where he was. (Would that someone on the panel had asked him. He’d have been stumped.) Not long afterwards, I was interviewing a prominent Alzheimer’s researcher for a book I was doing, and he said, “I saw the look on his face that I see every day in my clinic.” […]

    In this interview, [Trump] is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier. To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart. […]

    Esquire link to the complete article.

  170. says

    Another way for the Jeff Sessions version of the Department of Justice to dispense injustice: DOJ wants 2020 census to ask about citizenship status:

    The Department of Justice is asking for a citizenship question on the 2020 census, a move that could suppress undocumented Americans from participating, impact federal funding allocations, and affect congressional restricting.

    The DOJ told the Census Bureau in a December 12 letter it needs better census data on citizenship to protect minority populations from voting discrimination, […] But such a question would discourage undocumented people from participating out of fear that providing such information would be used for negative purposes […]

    Since its 1790 origin, the goal of the census has been to count everyone in the country, not just citizens. […] Census population data, which is updated every 10 years, impacts the alignment of congressional districts and where federal dollars are dolled out. […]

    In the past, conservatives have attempted to exclude non-U.S. citizens from being considered during the drawing of legislative districts, in an effort to shift power away from urban areas to more Republican-leaning rural areas. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled election districts could be drawn based on the total population of an area — as they historically have — instead of just the number of people who are eligible to vote. But the justices did not say whether other approaches would be constitutional. This change to the census could potentially make it easier for states to try a citizens-only redistricting approach, since it would provide citizenship data every ten years […]

  171. says

    Ah, good. This is another loss for team Trump:

    On Friday afternoon, the Trump administration confirmed that it would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a ruling that has blocked the ban on transgender troops in the military. This means that on January 1, openly transgender people will be allowed to join the U.S. military.

    “The Department of Defense has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks. […]

    “Plaintiffs allege, and the Court agrees, the ban sends a damaging public message that transgender people are not fit to serve in the military,” U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal said in his ruling. “There is nothing any court can do to remedy a government-sent message that some citizens are not worthy of the military uniform simply because of their gender. A few strokes of the legal quill may easily alter the law, but the stigma of being seen as less-than is not so easily erased.”

    The Trump administration was considering asking the Supreme Court to intervene, but has decided not to. So the Obama-era directive lives on. […]

    Link

    Let’s hope that “in the coming weeks,” which is a common phrase used by Trump himself, indicates that the “independent study” will not be completed, or that the study will confirm that transgender people are a plus for the military.

  172. says

    Trump is playing favorites again when it comes to Russia and to Putin. Trump tweeted:

    Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!

    Note that Trump did not mention Russian tankers smuggling oil to North Korea:

    […] a person identified as a “senior State Department official” explained to CNN that “certain vessels have engaged in UN [United Nations]-prohibited activities, including ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum and the transport of coal from North Korea.” The source noted that some of those vessels “are owned by companies in several countries, including China.”

    But Friday evening, Reuters reported that at least one of those countries is one that Trump has generally refused to criticize: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

    According to the wire service, “two senior Western European security sources” claim that Russian tankers have transferred fuel cargo at sea to North Korea at least three times over the past few months, an apparent violation of United Nations sanctions.

    Since Reuters posted its story late on Friday afternoon, Trump and his press secretary have tweeted virtually identical statements about Iran, but said nothing about Russia’s apparent involvement in exactly what he accused China of doing. […]

    Link

  173. says

    Trump played golf again today.

    […] Trump visited his private Florida golf course for the fifth straight day on Saturday, according to a White House pool report.

    Trump, who is staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the holidays, traveled to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Saturday morning.

    The president has visited the property each day for the past five days, and has made seven trips there total since he arrived in Florida last Friday. […]

    Trump has visited his golf properties 89 times since taking office, and has spent 115 days at Trump properties, according to a NBC News tracker.

    Link

  174. blf says

    Trump aide told Australian diplomat Russia had dirt on Clinton:

    […]
    The FBI reportedly launched its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election after George Papadopoulos, then a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, told an Australian diplomat that Moscow had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

    […] Papadopoulos made the revelation to Alexander Downer, the Australian high commissioner to the UK, “during a night of heavy drinking” at the Kensington Wine Rooms in London in May 2016.

    Papadopoulos reportedly told Downer that Russian officials possessed thousands of emails that could harm Clinton’s candidacy.

    […]

    Papadopoulos edited an outline of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech in April 2016, in which the candidate expressed his desire to improve US-Russia relations. Papadopoulos […] highlighted the speech to his contacts in Moscow, suggesting it was a “signal to meet”.

    The above is an excerpt from the Grauniad about a report in the New York Times, How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt:

    […]
    The information that Mr Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

    It was not, as Mr Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

    Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.

    […]

    Traveling in Italy [in March 2016], Mr Papadopoulos met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor at a now-defunct London academy who had valuable contacts with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Mifsud showed little interest in Mr Papadopoulos at first.

    But when he found out he was a Trump campaign adviser, he latched onto him, according to court records and emails obtained by The New York Times. Their joint goal was to arrange a meeting between Mr Trump and President Vladimir V Putin of Russia in Moscow, or between their respective aides.

    […]

    […] Mr Mifsud connected Mr Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, a program director for the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club, a gathering of academics that meets annually with Mr Putin. The two men corresponded for months about how to connect the Russian government and the campaign. Records suggest that Mr Timofeev, who has been described by Mr Mueller’s team as an intermediary for the Russian Foreign Ministry, discussed the matter with the ministry’s former leader, Igor S Ivanov, who is widely viewed in the United States as one of Russia’s elder statesmen.

    […]

    Mr Papadopoulos was trusted enough to edit the outline of Mr Trump’s first major foreign policy speech on April 27, an address in which the candidate said it was possible to improve relations with Russia. Mr Papadopoulos flagged the speech to his newfound Russia contacts, telling Mr Timofeev that it should be taken as “the signal to meet.”

    “That is a statesman speech,” Mr Mifsud agreed. […]

    […]

    Mr Mifsud proposed to Mr Papadopoulos that he […] serve as a campaign surrogate. He could write op-eds under the guise of a “neutral” observer, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email, and follow Mr Trump to his rallies as an accredited journalist while receiving briefings from the inside the campaign.

    In late April, at a London hotel, Mr Mifsud told Mr Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” […]

    […]

    Mr Trump’s improbable victory raised Mr Papadopoulos’s hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.

    Mr Millian has bragged of his ties to Mr Trump […]. He headed an obscure organization called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, some of whose board members and clients are difficult to confirm. Congress is investigating where he fits into the swirl of contacts with the Trump campaign […].

    Mr Millian proposed that he and Mr Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires “who are not under sanctions” and would “open all doors for us” at “any level all the way to the top.”

    One billionaire, he said, wanted to explore the idea of opening a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. “I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,” he wrote.

    […]

    The New York Times article excerpted above is long and detailed, and I have redacted many sections and connections.

  175. blf says

    Whilst not about yourude specifically, in a recent New York Times was the column Confessions of a Digital Nazi Hunter, about corrosive comments and the efforts of the author & others to neutralize them. According to the column, the authour’s team devised an approach which seemed to be working, until it was banned because it worked so well the corrosive commentators complained about it.

  176. says

    blf @285, so George Papadopoulos, the so-called “coffee boy,” was talking to a diplomat from Australia? Maybe Papadopoulos was not the coffee boy after all? /sarcasm

    Also, nice timeline. It totally blows Trump’s claim about the Steele dossier out of the water.

    WOW, @foxandfrlends “Dossier is bogus. Clinton Campaign, DNC funded Dossier. FBI CANNOT (after all of this time) VERIFY CLAIMS IN DOSSIER OF RUSSIA/TRUMP COLLUSION. FBI TAINTED.” And they used this Crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump Campaign!

    Nope. Wrong. The investigation began based on the tip from Australia. The dossier only comes into play later. Also, many of the claims in the dossier have been verified. It is not the “pile of garbage” Trump claims it is. Trump should get his news from sources other than Fox.

  177. says

    A shooting in Denver, Colorado looks like the result of a set-up meant to ambush and kill law enforcement officers:

    Five sheriff’s deputies have been shot and at least one killed in the Denver, Colorado suburbs early Sunday morning while responding to a domestic disturbance, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

    Two civilians were also injured. The suspect has been shot and the situation is no longer active. […]

    https://thinkprogress.org/douglas-county-shooting-f075bef4b928/

  178. says

    Follow-up to comments 285 and 288.

    From Wonkette’s coverage of George Papadopoulos telling an Australian spy that he is colluding with the Russians:

    Coffee boy needs to learn to hold his liquor! Also, too HA FUCKING HA! […] the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign didn’t start with The Dodgy Dossier. It wasn’t a Deep State Conspiracy or some “insurance policy” cooked up by Hillary lovers at the FBI. […] Nope it was campaign staffer George Papadopoulos getting wasted and blabbing that Russia had hacked the DNC and was going to use the emails to destroy Hillary’s campaign. […]

    Did the Australian write it off as some drunken douchebro making shit up? Well, who wouldn’t! But two months later when those emails started appearing online, the Australians dialed up their buddies in the US Government and said, “Oy, Mate! We thought the lad was just taking the piss. But turns out he’s fair dinkum! Might want to have a looksee, right?” Actual quote! (Not actual quote.) […]

    since it’s Saturday and a holiday weekend, let’s do the Cliffs Notes version of what we learned here.

    Trumpland knew two months before they leaked that the Russians had DNC emails.

    They knew that the Russians hacked Democrats specifically to harm Clinton’s electoral campaign. (Dammit, there goes Devin Nunes’s shiny new lie!)

    The Trump campaign had one gazillion contacts with Russian spies.

    The FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s one gazillion Russian contacts DID NOT arise from a political vendetta.

    George Papdopoulos has vanquished all comers and walks off with the Stupidest Member of Team Trump Belt. […]

    Oh, also these people are SOOOO FUUUUCKED!

  179. says

    To start the new year off right, Trump insulted a different, nuclear armed country:

    The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!

    Trump’s previous target was Iran.

    It is worth noting that the U.S. continues to depend on Pakistan for support in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and for keeping supply routes to U.S. troops open.

    Excerpt from Pakistan’s response, from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry:

    No country in the world has suffered more than Pakistan from the scourge of terrorism, often perpetrated from outside our borders. It is, therefore, disappointing that the US policy statement ignores the enormous sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation in this effort. […] As a matter of policy, Pakistan does not allow use of its territory against any country.

  180. says

    Follow-up to comment 291.

    More response from Pakistan to Trump’s insults, from the Pakistani Minister of Denfence:

    Pak as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust. They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis.

  181. says

    Trump seems determined to end Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from El Salvador. Bishop Mark Seitz discusses the problems:

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must decide by Jan. 8 whether to extend or end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador. TPS was created by Congress in 1990 and allows people whose countries have experienced natural disasters, armed conflicts or exceptional situations to remain temporarily in the United States.

    […] roughly 260,000 Salvadorans and Honduras live and work legally in the United States. […]

    The economic contributions of TPS holders, particularly their entrepreneurial skill, high employment levels and the taxes they pay to our government, are notable. If TPS for El Salvador is not extended, those financial impacts will be directly felt by our communities; certain industries, such as home health care and construction, will be directly and negatively affected. […]

    Salvadoran TPS holders are parents to an estimated 192,000 U.S.-citizen children.

    […] Will these families face separation and breakdown, so that their U.S.-citizen child can access the benefits of an American education? Or will families stay together and leave to their parents’ home countries, facing a decided lack of opportunity and, worse, extreme violence and possible exploitation? The end of TPS for El Salvador would force such a heartbreaking decision upon thousands of families. […]

    I have sat with youths who tearfully explained to me why they attempted to migrate north, forced out of their homes, extorted by gangs. I have heard from young girls who faced sexual assault and domestic abuse; teen-aged boys have spoken with me about being afraid to go to school because of the fear of encountering gangs on the way and having to pay daily to enter and leave their neighborhood.

    If TPS for El Salvador is not extended, this is what many U.S. children with TPS-recipient parents likely will face. Worse, they may be targeted precisely because of their U.S. citizenship status, their American habits and their English-language skills. […]

    How we treat the most vulnerable in our society is reflective of who we are […]

    Link

  182. says

    So far, 12 people have been killed during the protests in Iran (unconfirmed numbers). And the protests are still ongoing.

    Iran’s anti-establishment protests that began sweeping the country on Thursday had its deadliest night Sunday as 10 people were killed when “armed protesters” tried to overrun police stations and military bases […] That brought the number of people who have been killed in the demonstrations that are the biggest challenge to authority since 2009 to at least 12. The report about the clashes on Sunday didn’t come accompanied by any evidence to back up the claims and the numbers were impossible to confirm by independent media.

    President Hassan Rouhani once again tried to ease tensions by defending the right of Iranians to protest as long as they aren’t violent. “Recent protests seem to be a threat, but they are actually an opportunity to see what the problem is,” Rouhani said on Monday. He also seemed to backtrack from claims by others in his administration who have been blaming foreign powers for the recent outbreak of protests, saying that wasn’t the full story. “All the protesters are not guided by foreign elements; a number of them are the people who came to the streets because of their (economic) problems.” […]

    Rouhani sounds reasonable when compared to Trump. Trump tweeted:

    Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!

    More info from independent news sources:

    […] As many as 400 people have reportedly been arrested since the protests began, 200 of them in Tehran on Saturday night. Meanwhile, authorities continue to sporadically block access to social media, particularly messaging app Telegram and Instagram, where many of the calls to protest appear to originate. […]

    Rouhani harshly criticized Trump on Sunday, calling him an “enemy of the Iranian nation from the top of his head to his very toes.” […]

    Link

  183. says

    Excerpts from Robert Reich’s “New Year’s update for Trump voters”:

    1. He told you he’d cut your taxes, and that the super-rich like him would pay more. […]. By 2027, according several nonpartisan analyses, the richest 1 percent will have got 83 percent of the tax cut and the richest 0.1 percent, 60 percent of it. […]

    2. He promised to close “special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors but unfair to American workers,” especially the notorious “carried interest” loophole for private-equity, hedge fund, and real estate partners. […] the new tax law keeps the “carried interest” loophole.

    3. He told you he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “beautiful.” […] he didn’t repeal and he didn’t replace. […] he’s doing what he can to cut it back and replace it with nothing. […]

    4. He told you he’d invest $1 trillion in our nation’ crumbling infrastructure. […] after his giant tax cut for corporations and millionaires, there’s no money left for infrastructure.

    5. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. […] he’s brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, […] he’s filled departments and agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants […]

    6. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White House into shape. […] he has created the most dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history, […]

    7. He told you he’d “bring down drug prices” by making deals with drug companies. […] now the White House says that promise is “inoperative.” […]

    9. He told you “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” […] already planning such cuts in order to deal with the ballooning deficit created, in part, by the new tax law for corporations and the rich. […]

    12. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. You bought it. But then he bombed Syria.

    13. He said he’d build a “wall” across the southern border. […] there’s no money for that, either. Chief of staff John Kelly says it is “unlikely that we will build a wall, a physical barrier, from sea to shining sea.” […]

    15. He said he would not be a president who took vacations. “I would not be a president that takes time off,” he promised, and he called Barack Obama “the vacationer-in-Chief.” […] since becoming President he has spent nearly 25 percent of his days at one of his golf properties for some portion of the day, […] at a cost to taxpayers of over $77 million. That’s already more taxpayer money on vacations than Obama cost in the first 3 years of his presidency. […]

    16. He said he’d force companies to keep jobs in America, […] Carrier, Ford, GM, and the rest have continued to ship jobs to Mexico and China. […]. GE is sending jobs to Canada. IBM is sending them to Costa Rica, Egypt, Argentina, and Brazil. […]

    17. He promised to revive the struggling coal industry and “bring back thousands” of lost mining jobs. […] coal jobs continue to disappear. […] Utilities continue to switch to natural gas instead of coal.

    18. He promised to protect steel workers. […] steel imports were 19.4 percent higher in the first 10 months of 2017 than in the same period last year. […]

    20. He said he’d release his taxes. “I’m under a routine audit and it’ll be released, and as soon as the audit is finished it will be released,“ […] He hasn’t released his taxes.

    https://www.salon.com/2018/01/01/new-years-update-for-trump-voters_partner/

  184. says

    Luther Strange continues lied like a Republican politician:

    […] This piece originally ran May 11, 2017.

    […] Alabama GOP Sen. Luther Strange just released a new web ad featuring a fictional paper with a fictional headline proclaiming that as state attorney general, he investigated the disgraced now-ex-governor who actually appointed him to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. As the ad goes on, the narrator credits Strange for Gov. Robert Bentley’s resignation even though Strange was no longer attorney general by that point, while another fake headline claims that Bentley pled guilty to a “sex coverup,” which is also false. […]

    […] Bentley, as you may know, was accused last year of using state resources and personnel to cover up a long-term affair with a top staffer. The Republican-led legislature began a slow-moving impeachment inquiry, but just before Election Day, Strange—then still the state’s attorney general—sent lawmakers a letter asking they halt their proceedings “until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.” Legislators complied, seeing as they rightly concluded that Strange was conducting his own investigation. […]

    […] Strange belatedly claimed in December that he had never actually said he was looking into the governor, lest he look shady for coveting a Senate appointment from someone he was supposedly investigating. But of course, once Bentley tapped Strange, his replacement as state attorney general confirmed that, oh yeah, Strange’s office had been investigating Bentley all along, which Strange later conceded was true. […]

    But as AL.com’s Kyle Whitmire notes, neither that headline nor the “Valley Times” actually exist outside the alternate universe this campaign ad takes place in. […] And even if this headline was true—which it isn’t—that wouldn’t excuse the fact that Strange tried to pretend he might not actually have been investigating Bentley while the governor was considering him for the Senate, a charade Strange kept up until he was in Washington. […]

    Link

  185. KG says

    It is worth noting that the U.S. continues to depend on Pakistan for support in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and for keeping supply routes to U.S. troops open. – Lynna, OM@291

    One wonders if Trump realises Afghanistan is landlocked. In addition to Pakistan, its neighbours are Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan (these three “stans” are also landlocked), and China. If Pakistan were to forbid American transpost of troops and materiel across its territory, which of these other neighbours does Trump think would take its place?

  186. says

    Gender pay gap, and solution: an update that focuses on Iceland.

    Iceland is not waiting for the gender pay gap to fix itself.

    Starting January 1, 2018, it is now illegal for employers to pay women less than men. In Iceland, both public and private employers with 25 employees or more will need to obtain government certification of equal pay policies. Organizations that fail to obtain the certification will face fines.

    [Iceland] already has the most gender equity of any country. The report examines the gender gap across four dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

    The United States ranks 49th, just ahead of Kazakhstan but behind Uganda. […]

    Iceland wants to accelerate the process. “We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera.

    […] A notable factor in Iceland’s decision: almost 50 percent of Iceland’s parliament is female. Iceland ranks first in “political empowerment” in the Global Gender Gap Report.

    The United States ranks 96th in political empowerment of women, behind Nepal, Algeria and Pakistan. Women make up just 19 percent of Congress.

    Link

    Sheesh. The situation in the U.S. is pathetic.

  187. says

    KG @298, good points. I doubt that Trump knows anything. I think he just likes to find someone to threaten, to bully.

    The point has been made that Trump isn’t just a liar, he’s an especially despicable liar.

    […] where the Don really set himself apart was in the maliciousness of his lies. Sometimes people lie to protect themselves from embarrassment or even to protect someone else (like telling your mom you don’t mind taking her shopping), but Trump is just plain vicious a startling amount of the time. […]

    In other words, Trump often lies just in order to bully a person or a country; in order to disparage individuals or countries.

  188. says

    This is good news:

    A group of 300 powerful Hollywood women launched an anti-sexual harassment initiative [today]. […]

    The initiative, called Time’s Up, brings together “prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives” to fight systemic gender inequality in both Hollywood and “blue-collar workplaces” nationwide, […] Its founding members include actresses America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Emma Stone, Ashley Judd, Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, and Reese Witherspoon; lawyer Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff; co-chairwoman of the Nike Foundation, Maria Eitel; and various other showrunners and industry lawyers.

    In a letter on Monday — published as a full-page ad in both the Times and the Spanish-language paper La Opinion — the group’s leading members explained that such inequality “fosters an environment that is ripe for abuse and harassment” that can no longer be ignored.

    “Unfortunately, too many centers of power — from legislatures to boardrooms to executive suites and management to academia — lack gender parity and women do not have equal decision-making authority,” they wrote. “…The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time’s up on this impenetrable monopoly.” […]

    Link

  189. says

    Nerd @302, thanks. :-) That’s a good one.

    Here is an “Oh, FFS!” moment to begin our 2018 version of this thread: Trump lied about safe commercial air travel. Trump tweeted:

    Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!

    A Dutch consulting firm reported the “zero accident deaths in commercial passenger jets last year”.

    You would think that Trump was writing satire for The Onion, but no, Hair Furor is serious. And he is seriously wrong.

    There have been no fatal airline passenger jet crashes in the United States in nine years. Obama did not brag about that. Bush did not brag about that.

    Trump has not been “strict on commercial aviation.” The only thing Trump did that relates to aviation safety was to take steps that “hampered the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration to issue safety orders about aircraft.” Link

    Other aviation-related Trumpisms fall mostly into the category of outright lies:
    – claiming that the F-35 fighter jet is invisible
    – claiming that Japan is buying fighter jets from the U.S. (Link)
    – claiming that Finland is buying fighter jets from the U.S. (Link)
    – lying about lowering the price of a new Air force One
    – lying about lowing the price of F-35 fighter jets.
    – lying about President Obama being refused landing privileges in the Philippines.

    As an aside, most of the plane crashes in 2017 were private planes, and some were for-hire planes.

  190. says

    Follow-up to comments 256 and 268.

    From the Washington Post:

    President Trump on Tuesday appeared to suggest that Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, should face jail time, days after the State Department posted emails found on her estranged husband’s computer that included confidential government information.

    In a tweet, Trump also urged the Justice Department to act in prosecuting Abedin and former FBI director James B. Comey, who the president fired in May amid the mounting investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and contacts between Moscow and Trump’s campaign.

    Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others

    The president’s tweet comes just days after the State Department posted online thousands of Abedin’s emails, which were captured on the computer of Anthony Weiner, her estranged husband. Those emails – some of which contained classified information – spurred the FBI in October to reopen its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, though the bureau would ultimately conclude the messages gave them no reason to change their conclusion not to recommend charges against Clinton or any of her aides.

    Link

    This comes after Trump’s previous statement that, “I have the absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.”

    From Steve Benen:

    […] The president apparently launched his little tirade after seeing a Fox News segment this morning. It led him to not only call for the Justice Department to go after Huma Abedin and James Comey, but also to embrace fringe framing of the institution itself, calling it the “Deep State Justice Department.” […]

    I can appreciate why this morning’s developments may not seem too surprising, but when a president uses his office to call on federal law enforcement to go after his perceived political enemies – without cause – it’s important not to grow inured to these abuses. […]

    […] Trump said. “I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it.” […]

    Brian Klass, a fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science, noted this morning, “In any other presidency, if the president publicly attacked his own Justice Dept, called to jail a political adversary without an indictment, or implied that the former FBI Director should be investigated/jailed, it would be a presidency defining scandal. For Trump, it’s Tuesday.”

  191. says

    Here are some real statistics and real news for which Trump could conceivably take some credit. A record number of women are running for elected office.

    […] More women than ever are in the mix to potentially lead their states as governor — traditionally one of the hardest reaches for female candidates and a position now held by just half a dozen women.

    This year, at least 79 women — 49 Democrats and 30 Republicans — are running for governor or seriously considering it as filing deadlines approach […]

    The numbers are more than double what they were four years ago and on track to surpass the record 34 women who ran for governor in 1994. […]

    Female candidates are stepping up at every level of the ballot. Of the 15 seats that Democrats picked up in the Virginia House of Delegates, 11 were won by women — and the number could grow, depending on how the continuing dispute over another race is settled. […]

    Washington Post link

  192. says

    Let’s debunk another stupid lie from Trump. Trump said, “When I endorsed [Luther Strange], he was in fifth place. He went way up. Almost 20 points.”

    Hey, Hair Furor, there were only three candidates, so no one could have been in “fifth place.”

    Also, Hair Furor’s endorsement caused no boost in the polls, and caused zero uptick in Strange’s poll numbers.

  193. says

    We may not be able to put Barack Obama back in office, but some voters will have a chance to elect former aides and staff.

    At least a dozen former aides and policy staff who worked for President Barack Obama have entered the midterm races, running for office for the first time.

    Wall Street Journal link

  194. says

    From Evan Osnos, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] China has never seen such a moment, when its pursuit of a larger role in the world coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one. Ever since the Second World War, the United States has advocated an international order based on a free press and judiciary, human rights, free trade, and protection of the environment. It planted those ideas in the rebuilding of Germany and Japan, and spread them with alliances around the world. In March, 1959, President Eisenhower argued that America’s authority could not rest on military power alone. “We could be the wealthiest and the most mighty nation and still lose the battle of the world if we do not help our world neighbors protect their freedom and advance their social and economic progress,” he said. “It is not the goal of the American people that the United States should be the richest nation in the graveyard of history.”

    Under the banner of “America First,” President Trump is reducing U.S. commitments abroad. […]

    In a speech to Communist Party officials last January 20th, Major General Jin Yinan, a strategist at China’s National Defense University, celebrated America’s pullout from the trade deal [Trans-Pacific Partnership]. “We are quiet about it,” he said. “We repeatedly state that Trump ‘harms China.’ We want to keep it that way. In fact, he has given China a huge gift. That is the American withdrawal from T.P.P.” Jin, whose remarks later circulated, told his audience, “As the U.S. retreats globally, China shows up.”

    For years, China’s leaders predicted that a time would come—perhaps midway through this century—when it could project its own values abroad. In the age of “America First,” that time has come far sooner than expected. […]

    Much more at the link, including a fascinating review of the Chinese action movie “Wolf Warrior II,” in which,

    […] Leng rescues an American doctor, who tells him that the Marines will come to their aid. “But where are they now?” he asks her. She calls the American consulate and gets a recorded message: “Unfortunately, we are closed.” In the final battle, a villain, played by the American actor Frank Grillo, tells Leng, “People like you will always be inferior to people like me. Get used to it.” Leng beats the villain to death and replies, “That was fucking history.” The film closes with the image of a Chinese passport and the words “Don’t give up if you run into danger abroad. Please remember, a strong motherland will always have your back!”

  195. says

    Senator Hatch (from Utah) has decided after a lot of back-and-forth to not run for re-election in 2018. I guess we can expect Trump to start insulting Romney via twitter again. Romney has been proposed as a possible replacement for Hatch. Trump still harbors animus towards Romney for the public criticism offered on several occasions when Trump was trying to sew up the Republican nomination.

  196. says

    Here’s another record that Trump can truthfully claim: most lies told by a president of the U.S. in his first year in office. Trump told 1,950 lies in 347 days.

    Trump’s average is 5.6 lies per day.

    If you want to count from the day he was sworn in to 365 days later, then Trump is on track to surpass the 2,000-lies mark. Impressive in a horrifying way.

  197. says

    An appeals court in Oregon has upheld the $135,000 fine levied against a bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.

    Denver, Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop has received a lot of attention as the Supreme Court weighs whether the bakery should have legally been allowed to refuse to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, but an Oregon bakery’s case is still underway. Last week, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that Sweetcakes by Melissa did, in fact, violate state law when it refused to serve a same-sex couple and upheld a $135,000 fine against the owners, Melissa and Aaron Klein.

    The Sweetcakes case unfolded in early 2013, just a year after the Masterpiece Cakeshop refusal, but the details of the cases are nearly identical. Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer sought a cake for their impending nuptials, and when owner Aaron Klein refused to sell them a wedding cake for their ceremony –before any discussion about the design of the cake could even take place — the couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). In 2015, an administrative law judge recommended a fine of $135,000 for the Kleins in damages. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Kleins must pay the fine. […]

    Link

    Maybe they can get Judge Roy Moore to pay that fine for them.

  198. says

    Well, the New York Times fucked up again. This time, one of their own leading columnists, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, debunked the story.

    On Monday, the New York Times published an absurd piece about President Donald Trump’s war on health and environmental regulations, ignoring the terrible human cost of Trump’s effort while claiming it is boosting business investment. […]

    The original piece claims that U.S. businesses are supposedly investing more in factories and equipment because Trump is rolling back existing regulations and promising to minimize new regulations.

    “There is no evidence — none — that regulation actually deters investment,” Krugman tweeted, linking to Monday’s piece.

    Krugman […] also tweeted out, “Internationally, the US is low-tax and low regulation compared with other advanced economies. We’re also relatively low investment,” […] [see chart at the link]

    So how is the article able to quote so many business people claiming that regulations have undermined investment then? “There are, however, lots of reasons for businesses to SAY that regs they don’t like deter investment,” explains Krugman, adding, “this is especially true when they want to curry favor with an administration known to abuse its power to reward flattery and punish criticism.”

    […] the original 1,900-word article characterizes regulations as bad for business, it fails to cite a single negative impact from efforts to protect Americans from polluted air and water, for instance.

    Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency concluded last fall that its effort to undo Obama’s climate plan could kill some 100,000 Americans over the next few decades — and lead to tens of thousands of more cases of asthma attacks and hospitalizations for children.

    Instead of honing in on the very real threat to public health and safety from Trump’s war on regulation, the Times offers euphemisms: “Some businesses will essentially be able to get away with shortcuts that they could not have under a continuation of Obama-era policies.”

    And since there is no actual economic evidence supporting the article’s thesis, the Times instead talks about perceptions and, bizarrely, “animal spirits” to support its claim that Trump’s war on regulations will somehow boost investment and jobs. […]

    Link

  199. says

    Is this the female version of Roy Moore? Why are Republican candidates for office getting worse? Rhetorical question. The answer is Trumpism.

    An Arkansas woman who once declared her gun range “Muslim-free” is running for governor.

    Jan Morgan, 54, officially entered the race on New Year’s Eve, challenging the state’s incumbent Republican governor, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, whom she has criticized as a campaigning “like a conservative Republican but [governing] like a liberal Democrat.” […]

    “I’m Jan Morgan, a born-again Christian, a genetically conservative wife, mother, small-business owner [and] certified firearms instructor,” Morgan said in a video announcing her candidacy. “[A]nd yes, like our vice president of the United States, I ride a Harley!”

    Morgan has made her name as a Fox News personality, and she garnered some publicity in 2014 when she announced she would not allow Muslims at her gun range, a Hot Springs establishment called The Gun Cave.

    “Agents with the Counter-Terrorism unit of the FBI met with me last year to alert me that ISIS is in Arkansas… The agency feared I was going to be a target of opportunity, and I was directed to take EVERY SECURITY PRE-CAUTION necessary to protect my life and the lives of all people in my presence at all times,” Morgan wrote on her website at the time. […]

    Morgan has a tendency to sound like President Trump himself. In several of her early campaign materials, she mentions the “large crowds” she has spoken to “at elegant Reagan Day Dinners,” and touts when she has gone “viral.” […]

    Link

    Jan Morgan says that Nazi-allied Sebastian Gorka is her hero.

  200. says

    President Obama posted a reading list and play list showing his picks for the best of 2017. You will not be surprised to see that he is hip, literate, a little bit of a nerd:

    During my presidency, I started a tradition of sharing my reading lists and playlists. It was a nice way to reflect on the works that resonated with me and lift up authors and artists from around the world. With some extra time on my hands this year to catch up, I wanted to share the books and music that I enjoyed most. From songs that got me moving to stories that inspired me, here’s my 2017 list — I hope you enjoy it and have a happy and healthy New Year.

    The best books I read in 2017:
    The Power by Naomi Alderman
    Grant by Ron Chernow
    Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
    Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
    Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
    Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
    Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
    Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor
    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
    Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
    *Bonus for hoops fans: Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano

    My favorite songs of 2017:
    Mi Gente by J Balvin & Willy William
    Havana by Camila Cabello (feat. Young Thug)
    Blessed by Daniel Caesar
    The Joke by Brandi Carlile
    First World Problems by Chance The Rapper (feat. Daniel Caesar)
    Rise Up by Andra Day
    Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled (feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller)
    Family Feud by Jay-Z (feat. Beyoncé)
    Humble by Kendrick Lamar
    La Dame et Ses Valises by Les Amazones d’Afrique (feat. Nneka)
    Unforgettable by French Montana (feat. Swae Lee)
    The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National
    Chanel by Frank Ocean
    Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man
    Butterfly Effect by Travis Scott
    Matter of Time by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
    Little Bit by Mavis Staples
    Millionaire by Chris Stapleton
    Sign of the Times by Harry Styles
    Broken Clocks by SZA
    Ordinary Love (Extraordinary Mix) by U2
    *Bonus: Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen (not out yet, but the blues version in his Broadway show is the best!)

  201. says

    Black comedy from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who presided over the first press briefing of 2018 today:

    […] Sanders also said the President had called for longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s arrest, despite the lack of any charges against her, because he “wants to make clear that he doesn’t feel that anyone should be above the law.”

    At a press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked about Trump’s tweet earlier in the day, in which he personally targeted Abedin and ousted FBI Director James Comey for arrest: “What did the President mean when he said the ‘Deep State Justice Department?’” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega asked. “And does this administration believe that the deep state is a real thing? That there is this shadow government out there actively plotting to sabotage him?”

    “Look, the President finds some of those actions very disturbing,” Sanders said, without specifying further. “And he thinks that we need to make sure, if there is an issue that it is looked at, but if there was anything beyond that I would refer you to the Department of Justice.”

    Vega pressed: “Does he believe the entire Justice Department and its more than 100,000 employees are part of this deep state?”

    “Obviously, he doesn’t believe the entire Justice Department is part of that,” Sanders replied. “One of the things that the President has done is appoint Christopher Wray at the FBI because he wants to change the culture of that agency and he thinks he’s right to do that.”

    “Is the President requesting that the Department of Justice investigate Huma Abedin?” Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum asked later. “How did he reach the conclusion that she should be in jail given she hasn’t been indicted or convicted of any crime?”

    “Look, obviously, the facts of the case are very disturbing and I think the President wants to make clear that he doesn’t feel that anyone should be above the law,” Sanders said. “In terms of any investigation, that would be something the Department of Justice would need to decide.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sarah-sanders-trump-huma-abedin-arrest

    “the President wants to make clear that he doesn’t feel that anyone should be above the law” [how does the entire press corps keep from bursting into laughter?]

  202. says

    More black comedy, mixed with a schadenfreude moment, as Roy Moore’s wife receives serious shade from attorney Richard Jaffe, the famous “Jew” that the Moore’s loved so much:

    […] Birmingham, Ala. attorney Richard Jaffe received attention during the Alabama Senate campaign after Moore’s wife, seeking to rebut allegations of anti-Semitism, told a campaign rally crowd that “one of our attorneys is a Jew,” a reference to Jaffe.

    But in an interview published Tuesday, Jaffe told The Washington Examiner that he has been friends with Jones for over 30 years and both raised and donated money to Jones’s Senate campaign.

    “There could not be a more passionate supporter of Doug than me,” Jaffe told the Examiner.

    The newspaper reports that Jaffe represented Moore’s son Caleb in 2016 in a case involving drug charges. […]

    “Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said at the campaign’s finally rally last month.

    “I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she continued, gesturing at the media assembled at the rally. “One of our attorneys is a Jew.”

    “We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.” […]

    Moore faced multiple accusations of sexual molestation or assault of teenagers, and once suggested billionaire Democratic donor George Soros is going to hell.

    “No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept his salvation are going,” Moore said. “And that’s not a good place.”

    Link

  203. says

    An updated look at how some foreign governments are bribing Trump:

    […] In Indonesia, Bali’s local government is planning to build a toll road that would shorten travel time between the island’s Ngurah Rai International Airport and an upcoming Trump-branded resort and golf course, McClatchy reported on Tuesday.

    […] “When the work is completed, the travel time from the airport to MNC Bali Resort or vice versa will only be about 25 minutes,” the report added.

    Also in Indonesia, a state-owned construction company is building a toll road that would shorten the travel time from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, to another Trump project — a theme park and golf course called Lido City.

    Lido City is also being developed by MNC Land, which is expected to pay for construction, according to McClatchy.

    While the Trump Organization does not own the properties, the company licenses out the Trump name and manages the developments.

    The Panamanian government has also taken over a project to create a sewer and water system that would benefit Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama after the company that was originally awarded the contract went bankrupt, according to McClatchy.

    Beyond that, other governments in foreign countries have eased environmental regulations, given public land and granted permits for projects bearing the Trump name, McClatchy reported.

    “Because the developments you are referring to are all license deals owned and developed by others, any improvements made to the local infrastructure provide no benefit to the Trump Organization or any of its affiliates,” Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, told McClatchy. […]

    Link

  204. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Jan: “I’m Jan Morgan, a born-again Christian, a genetically conservative wife, mother, small-business owner [and] certified firearms instructor,” Morgan said in a video announcing her candidacy.

    So, she’s saying conservatism is genetic? Maybe we can find a cure! Or at least a test so we can know which fetuses to abort.

  205. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So, she’s saying conservatism is genetic?

    Unless I see a verified link to to the genetic data, “that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

  206. says

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    My plan this year is to find a better balance between my work and recording current events here, weighted in favor of the former, so I’ll likely be around less, but following along here. Thanks so much, Lynna and others, for keeping me informed.

    Celebrations aside, my New Year’s highlight was seeing a bobcat teaching her child how to hunt – sitting and watching just like a house cat. I’d never seen a bobcat before. Beautiful.

    I usually don’t have much overlap with Obama in these lists, but

    Rise Up by Andra Day
    Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled (feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller)

    were among my favorites of the year as well. I also had a fairly unhealthy obsession with Jay-Z’s “Bam” (that’s not the actual song, but parts of it interspersed with dialogue), and a renewed interest in Rihanna’s “Stay” and “Pon de Replay” (I’m hoping some music expert can explain why whoever the hell this is and I are the only ones to have made this connection, which seems obvious to me in a way I can’t articulate).

  207. says

    Happy New Year, SC! And the same to all those who contribute to, or who read, this thread.

    And now to not-so-happy news. Trump tweeted this:

    North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

    What the fuck? Could there be a more sexually insecure and simultaneously narcissistic man?

  208. says

    Lynna @ #296:

    Excerpts from Robert Reich’s “New Year’s update for Trump voters”:…

    Excellent. He’s also worked to shift power relations in a way that hurts people in our struggles with the rich and corporations – appointing agency heads hostile to workers’ bargaining rights, eliminating workers’ health and safety protections, disempowering immigrants and pitting workers against one another, twisting the CFPB into an agency for corporate interests, abandoning family-friendly employment laws, destroying environmental regulations, working against class-action litigation, gutting public education, appointing anti-worker/consumer judges, refusing to enforce civil rights legislation, attacking people in debt, getting rid of the policies that would cushion small-business owners in the case of failure (including health care and bankruptcy protections),… Of course, all of this hurts women and minorities the most, but that should (but won’t) be cold comfort to his followers.

  209. says

    his depleted and food starved regime

    His regime isn’t food-starved. The people of NK are. Trump would annihilate them without a second thought. Decent people in our country care about them and everyone else in danger, including ourselves.

  210. says

    A few links:

    John Dean’s analysis. Most interesting:

    Dean’s concern with the active efforts of Trump and his allies to undermine Mueller’s investigation goes deeper. During our interview, on his lap was a pile of research about the case law on the speech and debate clause in Article I of the Constitution, which he’d pulled up after reading a POLITICO article about how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is leading a small group of House Republicans meeting secretly to discuss ways to call attention to claims of corruption within the FBI and Mueller probe. Dean argues that by bypassing the normal committee process, members of the group have negated whatever immunity they might have to legal repercussions by saying they’re acting within the realm of legislating.

    “Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have tried to use the speech and debate clause to protect themselves from everything from bribery to taking care of constituents with the executive branch, and been shown that that clause is not that broad,” Dean said. “I think they’re on dangerous ground.”

    “Donald Trump’s Year of Living Dangerously: It’s worse than you think.”

    Others still look for a different outcome. But in the meantime, the Reassurers are not so reassuring.

    Because a year into his presidency, this is where we are: Trump’s national security team and his allies are engaged in a silent conspiracy of sorts to guide and constrain him. America’s enemies in China and Russia have taken their measure of the man and are preparing to test him more decisively than they have yet ventured. Opportunists in the Middle East and elsewhere are taking what they can get. War talk with North Korea grows ever louder. And in Washington, the America Firsters have been purged from the White House staff—but not from the Oval Office itself.

    “The President Can’t Kill the Mueller Investigation.”

  211. says

    Rachel Maddow reporting on a NYT oped:

    …In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

    We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have….

    We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.
    Continue reading the main story

    Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.

    We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

    The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

    Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?

    What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.

    We’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment.

    It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.

  212. says

    Speaking of which, my unanswered questions (see #19 above) included:

    Why has the Guo situation, and especially Steve Wynn’s involvement, not become a major scandal and investigation?
    Why hasn’t the House Intelligence Committee released the transcript of Glenn Simpson’s testimony?
    Why was the Nunes ethics investigation so narrow? Why did it take so long? How is he allowed to control the course of the House investigation?

  213. says

    So much bad news. Maybe I’ll just go to the link in comment 325 and listen to that again. Beauty and light.

    As for Trump’s tweet about North Korea this evening, I can only see it as Trump goading North Korea to fire a nuclear missile at the USA. See comments 322 and 324.

  214. microraptor says

    I’m cracking jokes because I’m trying to avoid actually contemplating the existential terror caused by realizing just how jaw-droppingly insecure our Idiot in Chief is.

  215. says

    Alysin Camerota on CNN just suggested that Simpson and Fritsch were referring to Papadopoulos, but that doesn’t sound right. The oped says the dossier “corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.” This implies that someone in the Trump camp was reporting directly to the FBI as a source. Steele also had a source in the Trump campaign, presumably the same person.

  216. KG says

    Ever since the Second World War, the United States has advocated an international order based on a free press and judiciary, human rights, free trade, and protection of the environment. – Evan Osnos, quoted by Lynna, OM@308

    I wonder if he managed to keep a straight face while writing that.

  217. says

    “Coal mining deaths double in 2017.”

    …The Senate last month approved David Zatezalo, a former coal mining executive, to lead MSHA, the main agency responsible for coal mine safety.

    Zatezalo faced numerous questions about his own safety record throughout the confirmation process. He was previously head of Rhino Resources when MSHA took multiple enforcement actions against the company.

    Zatezalo sought to assure senators that he would take strong enforcement actions when necessary.

  218. says

    Re #s 335 and 336 – Natasha Bertrand says:

    There was no mole inside the Trump camp, person with knowledge of Fusion’s testimony and the op-ed tells me. This is a reference to Papadopoulos.
    Fusion said in Aug. that the FBI had info from someone inside the Trump camp — didn’t say it was a direct source, & didn’t name names.

    OK, but hmm…

  219. says

    “The Daily 202: Trump’s true priorities revealed in holiday news dumps”:

    The fireworks seen at Mar-a-Lago on New Year’s Eve were paid for by billionaire industrialist David Koch, according to the Palm Beach Daily News, as part of another private party put on by an even more exclusive club.

    We are living through another Gilded Age, with growing inequality and a government that is once again tipping the scales in favor of the rich at the expense of the little guy.

    Like Richard Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell said, watch what they do — not just what they say. Trump campaigned like a populist. Now more than ever, he’s governing like a plutocrat.

    Connecting the dots, here are 10 important stories you might have missed while on vacation:

    1. Overturning key regulations on fracking:…
    2. Weakening the rules that were designed to prevent another Deepwater Horizon spill:…
    3. Declaring open season on migratory birds:…
    4. Reinstating mining leases for Ivanka Trump’s landlord:…
    5. Letting nursing homes off the hook when patients suffer in their care:…
    6. Civil servants may not get a bonus because the rich got a tax cut:…
    7. Undercutting enforcement by waging a war of attrition against the bureaucracy:…
    8. Reneging on a federal commitment to fund a major infrastructure project:…
    9. Firing all the members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS:…
    10. Maneuvering behind the scenes to “sabotage” the Census:…

  220. says

    From Steve Benen:

    […] one of the few key areas on which Donald Trump broke with Republican Party orthodoxy was lowering prices on prescription drugs. In fact, shortly before taking office, he complained bitterly about the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful lobbyists, and said drug companies are “getting away with murder.”

    The president has even accused the drug industry of corruption, arguing that pharmaceutical companies contribute “massive amounts of money” to politicians as part of a scheme to keep the cost of medicines higher.

    So what happened? First, Trump reversed course on using the government’s buying power to lower costs. Second, the White House crafted a policy on drug prices that gave the pharmaceutical industry “much of what it has asked for.”

    And third, the president decided to put Eli Lilly’s former president in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, cementing Trump’s role as a key ally of drug makers. […]

    Some drug prices that were increased for 2018:

    AbbVie’s blockbuster Humira: 9.7%
    Amgen’s arthritis medicine Enbrel: 9.7%
    Allergan’s dry eye drug Restasis: 9.5%
    Insys Therapeutics’ opioid spray Subsys: 9.5%
    Biogen’s multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera: 8%

    https://www.axios.com/vitals-2521941299.html

  221. says

    From the New York Times regarding reaction to Trump’s tweet about his nuclear button being “bigger and more powerful” than Kim Jong-un’s nuclear button:

    The president’s tone also generated a mix of scorn and alarm among lawmakers, diplomats and national security experts who called it juvenile and frightening for a president handling a foreign policy challenge with world-wrecking consequences. The language was reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s boast during the 2016 presidential campaign that his hands, and by extension his genitals, were in fact big enough.

  222. says

    Follow-up to comment 345.

    Meanwhile, North Korea reopened a communications channel with South Korea:

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reopened a key cross-border communication channel with South Korea for the first time in nearly two years Wednesday as the rivals explored the possibility of sitting down and talking after months of acrimony and fears of war. […]

    In his New Year’s address Monday, Kim said he was willing to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. But he also said he has a “nuclear button” on his desk and that all U.S. territory is within striking distance of his nuclear weapons, comments Trump latched onto Tuesday when he boasted of a bigger and more powerful “nuclear button” than Kim’s. […]

    Outside critics say Kim may be trying to use better ties with South Korea as a way to weaken the alliance between Washington and Seoul as the North grapples with toughened international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

    Kim’s latest announcement, which was read by a senior Pyongyang official on state TV, followed a South Korean offer on Tuesday of high-level talks with North Korea to find ways to cooperate on next month’s Winter Olympics in the South and discuss other inter-Korean issues. […]

    South Korea quickly welcomed Kim’s decision and later confirmed that the two Koreas began preliminary contacts on the channel. […]

    Moon has joined U.S.-led international efforts to apply more pressure and sanctions on North Korea, but he still favors dialogue as a way to resolve the nuclear standoff. The Trump administration says all options are on the table, including military measures against the North. Moon has repeatedly said he opposes any war on the Korean Peninsula. […]

    Link

  223. says

    “Honduras: Presidential Candidate Salvador Nasralla Calls for Uprising*”:

    In Honduras, presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla and other opposition leaders have called for an uprising against incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández, saying the November 26 presidential election was stolen. Last month, an election tribunal controlled by Hernández’s government declared Hernández the winner by a narrow margin—after early counts put Nasralla in the lead by 5 points. On Tuesday, Salvador Nasralla said protests would continue right up to Hernández’s scheduled inauguration date of January 27.

    Election observers and the Organization of American States have called for a new election, saying the first vote was so filled with irregularities that it was impossible to declare a winner.

    * “Uprising” seems like perhaps too strong a word.

  224. says

    Another, “Oh, FFS,” moment, courtesy too the Trump administration:

    The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday advocated for the arrest of local and state government officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents.

    “This is a victimization of the American community,” Thomas Homan told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “This isn’t the America I grew up in. We’ve got to take these sanctuary cities on. We’ve got to take them to court, and we’ve got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes.”

    While there’s no strict legal definition a “sanctuary” city or state, Homan, who President Donald Trump has nominated to serve as ICE’s formal director, was responding to California’s SB54, which went into effect on Jan. 1.

    The law, like many on the local level nationwide, limits police officers’ ability to detain suspected undocumented immigrants on federal agents’ behalf. The bill’s author, Senate Leader Kevin de Leon, said it would put “a large kink in Trump’s perverse and inhuman deportation machine.” […]

    “We’re going to vastly increase our enforcement footprint in the state of California,” he said. “We’re going to be all over the place, and we’re going to enforce the law without apology.” [Homan said]
    […]

    Link

  225. says

    White House counselor Kellyanne Conway thinks that the media is afraid of big, bad Trump:

    […] “I’ve seen this many times, that folks are very bold on social media against the President, they’re very bold on cable TV against the President. And then when they’re in his company, the knees start knocking, I’ve actually had to pick up people’s cell phones that they dropped and hand it back to them,” Conway said on Fox News.

    She made the comments while discussing Trump’s Tuesday night tweet announcing a “MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR.” Trump said that he will announce awards for “dishonesty” and “bad reporting” next week.

    Conway seemed enthusiastic about Trump’s upcoming “awards.”

    “I think the struggle there will be how in the world to narrow it down to one or two winners in each of those categories,” she said on Fox News. “I’ve seen this firsthand over the last couple of years in being with candidate- and now-President Trump. You have a lot of folks out there in the mainstream media who work hard to try to get it right. You have people who are trying to get the story; you have many who are trying to get the President.”

    Link

    Bullshit overload.

  226. says

    Trump is responding to Fox News. Fox News in the alpha dog controlling access to Trump’s food.

    From Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star:

    11:03 pm: [Trump] live tweets Fox Business
    8:16 pm: Urges people to watch Fox show
    7:49 pm: Mocks Kim Jong Un after Fox segment
    9:13 am: Talks North Korea after Fox segment
    8:49 am: Tweets about taxes after Fox segment
    8:44 am: Tweets to Fox
    7:48 am: Attacks Justice Dept., Abedin after Fox segment

    From Matthew Yglesias

    […] Kim’s nuclear button boast had, of course, come more than 24 hours before Trump’s tweet. But rather than learning of it through intelligence or diplomatic channels and considering a response, Trump appears to have found out about it a day late via his TV and decided to fire off some tweets.

    The tweet was just one of many inflammatory statements by Trump over a long day of bizarre tweeting that included everything from fanning the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to attempting to take credit for airplanes being safe, calling for the prosecution of a top aide to Hillary Clinton, attacking the new publisher of the New York Times, and plugging Lou Dobbs’s show on the Fox Business Network. Along the way, he also reiterated a New Year’s Day dig at Pakistan.

    It’s a puzzling array of topics that at first glance appears to defy any explanation as a communications strategy or a set of policy priorities. [snipped reference to Daniel Dale, see above]

    […] this is a terrible way to do the job of president of the United States. Even at its very best, cable news is not an ideal source of information about the world, and the Fox News shows that Trump prefers are not cable news at their very best.

    Trump-era Fox has frequently been compared by its critics to a state broadcasting network in an authoritarian regime. But the Soviet Union’s top leaders were not relying on their own propaganda outlets for information about the world. For the president to govern effectively, actual problems need to be brought to his attention. But in the propaganda bubble that Trump prefers to inhabit, there is no endless darkness in Puerto Rico or falling life expectancy amid a growing opioid crisis. […]

  227. raven says

    @ Lynna
    As the resident LDS expert and from deep inside the Morridor,
    What do you know about Monson, the former President?

    I just read the NPR article.
    It said what has been hinted at for years.
    Monson soon after he was elected, started showing signs of memory loss.
    And for more than a few years now, he has been basically absent as a leader.
    They brought him out occasionally and he would say a few words and that is
    about it.

    This happens a lot in a Gerontacracy.
    Spencer Kimball was the same way at his end and so was Ezra Taft Benson.

  228. raven says

    While I’m here, speaking of age related cognitive impairment.
    AFAICT, Trump is showing classic signs of some type of
    age related cognitive impairment.

    Like most, I’m not a real fan of long distance diagnosis from the internet.
    But the symptoms are very hard to ignore.
    And somewhat alarming, they seem to be getting worse rapidly.
    It is getting to be disturbing to say the least.

    FWIW, we’ve been here before.
    Saint Reagan was definitely suffering from age related
    cognitive impairment (Alzheimers) during his second term.

    PS I read this thread often.
    It’s one of my favorite threads on the net.
    Thanks to all for carrying the Enlightenment torch for a while and
    Happy New Years.

  229. says

    Update to #340 from Natasha Bertrand:

    Point of clarification on this: Simpson and Fritsch were referring to Papadopoulos in the op-ed, but we still don’t know whether there was a whistleblower inside the campaign — and Fusion wouldn’t necessarily know, either.

    But also of note (again): they did know Steele had a source inside the campaign. It’s possible that the same source was also informing the FBI.

  230. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Raven: “AFAICT, Trump is showing classic signs of some type of age related cognitive impairment.”

    Or…he could just be stupid. The Donald was never that bright–as evidenced by the fact that he lost nearly a billion dollars in the one year for which we have tax documents. And the cause of his increased impairment could just be a decade of relying on Faux News for information.

  231. says

    raven @352, yes, you are right. Monson was never a good leader. The top mormons in the gerontocracy worked around Monson’s disabilities by writing statements and speeches for him; and, nearer the end, by having other people stand in for him. It’s a ridiculous system.

    Nevertheless, Monson gets the credit/blame for perpetuating the mormon stance against gay marriage, and against allowing women to serve in the priesthood.

    Ex-mormons discussing Monson’s death noted that this event will take away some of the attention previously devoted to Orrin Hatch’s retirement, (and the likely election of Mitt Romney as Hatch’s replacement). That will be good new for Hatch who caught a lot of heat for praising Trump as if he were god.

    Mormons in Utah will be consumed by the news for some time.

    Monson was also famous for shouting, “Let’s go shopping!” when he cut the ribbon at the church-owned mall in Salt Lake City, Cedar Creek Mall. YouTube link

    The next old white guy in line is Russell M. Nelson, aged 92 or 93 (I forget, and I don’t care).

    The mormon leader (Prophet/Seer/Revelator) is supposedly inspired by the mormon god to speak the truth at all times.

    Good joke from ex-mormons: “How could they tell he was dead?”

  232. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Or…he could just be stupid. . . . And the cause of his increased impairment could just be a decade of relying on Faux News for information.

    Stupid AND uninformed. That’s exactly the qualities I want in MY President.

  233. says

    Follow-up to comment 328.

    Excerpts from Wonkette’s coverage of Fusion GPS’ op-ed in the New York Times:

    Guess Fusion GPS, […] is sick of being shat upon by Donald Trump and his GOP minions in Congress and on Fox News. So instead of listening for yet another day while [to people] like Rep. Devin Nunes make up stories about their work with Steele, Fusion’s co-founders, former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, decided to write a nice little “fuck you” op-ed in the New York Times to set the record straight.

    Simpson and Fritsch write that they are “happy to correct the record” […] and add, “In fact, we already have.” Oh that’s right! We forgot! The Fusion GPS boys have testified before three Congressional committees, and even though Senator Chuck Grassley said he would release the transcripts from their Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, that hasn’t happened. Instead, the Fusion boys note, the GOP-controlled committees have selectively leaked things in order to construct their #AlternativeFacts narrative, that Fusion GPS and Hillary Clinton are the REAL Russia colluders […].

    Oh well, here’s Fusion GPS breaking a bunch of news about the Steele Dossier, Trump-Russia collusion, and about how the entire GOP is full of shit:

    We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

    Just as Devin Nunes was launching his latest make-believe investigation into the dossier, news broke that actually the FBI started its investigation after former Trump campaign coffee twink/Russia liaison George Papadopoulos drunk-bragged to his new Australian diplomat BFF that Russia had shitloads of hacked emails that would take Hillary Clinton down, long before said emails started leaking out. […]

    But how interesting that the Fusion boys frame the dossier as corroborating other intel the FBI already had. […] Moreover, they say these GOP committees fucking know this, and they fucking know they fucking know it:

    The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign.

    Short version: This means GOP elected officials like Nunes and Chuck Grassley and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan aren’t just being willfully, maliciously ignorant about the real story — they’re fucking lying.

    […] Fusion GPS Fucking Told Congress Where Trump Hid The Bodies!

    We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip […]

    Guess who has been looking through all the Deutsche Bank receipts? That’s right, it is your real dad Robert Mueller! […]

    We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.

    We explained how, from our past journalistic work in Europe, we were deeply familiar with the political operative Paul Manafort’s coziness with Moscow and his financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. […]

    Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.

    […] The Fusion guys say they didn’t even give Christopher Steele “specific marching orders” beyond trying to figure out why Trump did so much shady business with Russia, when people who are actually good at business don’t engage in such unsavory behavior. And what Steele found blew their fucking minds. […]

  234. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Looks like Trump just lost the Alt-right propaganda mouthpiece. How long before the neo-Nazis start disowning Trump as too liberal?

    If someone had written the last two years of American politics as a fictional political thriller, no publisher would have touched it. This is more bizarre than The Road to Gandolfo or The Road to Omaha.

  235. says

    SC @359, awww. It’s a lover’s spat. A lot of passion.

    Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.

    Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.

    Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.

    We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.

    Steve and Trump are both only in it for themselves. They used to bond, and now they have hurt feelings.

    I wonder who will get to take the white supremacists home? Or will they share custody?

  236. says

    Ogvorbis @360, I see you also made the point about the Nazis in Trump’s base. I think they must be very confused right now. Mommy and Daddy are fighting.

  237. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.

    By whom?

    Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.

    This from the man who just signed himself a multimillion dollar tax cut.

  238. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC#361 Ah, that explains why Joy Reid, MSNBC fill-in-extraordinaire, was in his chair last night.

  239. says

    Commenters on Breitbart are also going bonkers, (if not already bonkers). One called Bannon a “liberal,” and another wrote, “I’d take Bannon over Trump any day! Bannon is a True American Patriot aligned with Middle America, NOT Goldman Sachs types!”

    More comments from Breitbart readers:

    Don Jr. epitomizes the term ‘douchebag’
    ——————-
    President Awesome needs to rethink his family choices for advice.
    —————–
    Kick rocks cuck. Bannon 2020!
    ——————-
    Bannon couldn’t get elected mayor in a one person town. Get serious

    It’s a popcorn-worthy fight.

  240. says

    Donald Trump Junior weighed in, apparently after having selectively read only the comments on Breitbart that support his father:

    Wow, Just looked at the comments section on Breitbart. Wow. When Bannon has lost Breitbart, he’s left with . . . umm, nothing.

  241. says

    And I thought the Trump White House liked trashy tabloid fiction. Trump loves the National Enquirer, for example.

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said,

    This book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House. Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy.

    The first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said:

    The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section. Mrs. Trump supported her husband’s decision to run for President and in fact, encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.

  242. says

    From Hunter, writing for Daily Kos:

    […] It is like the richest child in a private grade school setting up a podium during recess one day to call his ex-best-friend a poopiehead, and the goddamn principal’s office was somehow contractually obligated to send out an official letter to all the other parents informing them of little Billy’s new poopiehead status. […]

    Should we be relieved, because no matter how f–king insane a rubber-nosed horn-honking White House slapfight on official government stationary might seem, at least it took this orange lunatic’s mind temporarily off his weekend obsession, starting a nuclear war? Oh thank God, at least now he’s obsessed with his own ex-staff, that ought to preoccupy him for a day or two? […]

    Was his original toilet rant even worse, and you actually did manage to polish the turd up a bit before Sarah Huckabee Sanders grabbed it with oven mitts and tossed it into the official White House communications feed?

  243. says

    From Adam Schiff:

    Trump condensed:

    My senior policy advisor? I had nothing to do with him.
    My campaign chairman? Only with me for a short time.
    My national security advisor? A liar.
    My foreign policy advisor? He was just a coffee boy.

    Don Jr? Um … fake news!

  244. says

    From a commenter:

    So … does this mean that Breitbart is now in the running for one of the Fake News Awards that Trump is giving out next week?

  245. says

    Excerpt from “Fire & Fury” by Michael Wolff:

    Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom—the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms.

    In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room.

    He ­reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.”

    Then he imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s—nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.)

  246. says

    From Steve Benen:

    […]
    1. Is Trump, who reportedly kept in touch with Bannon even after he left the White House, really breaking up with his former strategist, or is this all for show?

    2. Is Bannon, who’s been planning a “war” against the GOP establishment, prepared to include his former boss in the conflict?

    3. When Bannon testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on the Russia scandal, will Trump’s public repudiation affect his testimony?

    4. How will donors and activists who are still allied with Bannon respond to the president’s condemnation? [SC, what will the Mercers do?]

    5. How happy are GOP leaders, who loathe Bannon, to see the White House’s statement? (Answer: very.)

  247. says

    Fix more popcorn! Paul Manafort is suing Mueller, Rosenstein, and the Justice Department.

    Prosecutors are immune from such suits, so it is likely that this is just a stupid PR move.

  248. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Brother Ogvorbis,
    Faux News viewers aren’t just uninformed. A Fairleigh Dickinson University study showed that Fox viewers are less informed than study participants who have NO source of news! That goes even beyond misinformed. They are malinformed (why, yes, I did have to coin a new word).

    Anymore Faux News doesn’t even pretend to be news. All they are interested in is shoveling out talking points so your senile Uncle Bob has something to shout at Xmas dinner when confronted with an actual fact.

  249. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Lynna: ‘Good joke from ex-mormons: “How could they tell he was dead?”’

    Actually, it was originally Dorothy Parker who said that–in response to the news that Calvin Coolidge had died, but it is a quote that often proves useful.

    My response for how they knew Monson was dead:

    “Because they drove the stake in good and hard and buried him in a lead-lined coffin.”

  250. says

    a_ray @378, Ha! Good to know the background for that joke. Thanks.

    Your addition is perfect.

    In other news, here is a follow-up to comment 376:

    This is a civil action under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§701 et seq.; the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §2201; and for injunctive relief to restrict public officers to their lawful authority, against the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Acting Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, and Robert S. Mueller III.

    In other words, Manafort is claiming that the scope of the Mueller investigation is too broad, and that a scope that broad goes beyond the writ of special counsel legislation.

    That sounds like desperation to me. I think it is unlikely to work.

  251. says

    OMG. Big Brother-like recommendations are being suggested to Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Dr. Robert DuPont, who is in the same anti-marijuana camp as way-out-on-a-limb Sessions:

    […] Early last year, The Daily Beast conducted a lengthy interview with DuPont as he was shopping around a radical proposal —called the “New Paradigm for Long-Term Recovery”—to address America’s festering overdose crisis. It would include a massive expansion of drug testing in addiction medicine.

    “Drug testing is the technology of addiction medicine, but it’s underutilized,” he said. “We want [drug screens] to be routine in all medicine. The health-care sector in general should approach addiction in the same way as diabetes, and that includes monitoring. Doctors already check for things like cholesterol and blood sugar. Why not test for illicit drugs?” […]

    After leaving federal service, DuPont joined the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Pete Bensinger, to cash in on urine testing. The firm they founded, Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, provided drug testing services to some of America’s largest corporations.

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/jeff-sessions-marijuana-adviser-wants-doctors-to-drug-test-everyone

  252. says

    More excerpts from Michael Wolff’s book:

    He [Trump] didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate. He trusted his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said [former deputy chief of staff Katie] Walsh, ‘like trying to figure out what a child wants.’”
    —————–
    Between themselves, the two [Jared and Ivanka] had made an earnest deal: If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.

  253. says

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo (New York) plans to sue the federal government over provisions in the new tax bill that the majority-Republican Congress just passed:

    They’re now robbing the blue states to pay for the red states … it is an economic civil war, and make no mistake, they are aiming to hurt us. We believe it is illegal and we will challenge it in court as unconstitutional … the first federal double-taxation in history, violative of states’ rights and the principle of equal protection.

    Link

  254. says

    Follow-up to comments 328 and 358.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley now says that he is willing to have Fusion GPS executives testify in hearings that are open to the public.

  255. says

    Congress has a year’s worth of policy to address — and about 2 weeks to do it

    At the end of 2017, Congress punted on a full slate of high-stakes priorities, including addressing undocumented immigrants, passing disaster relief funding, and stabilizing the health care markets, to the new year.

    Now they’re back, and there’s a lot of work to do, likely all by January 19 — when Congress must pass a federal spending bill to prevent the government from shutting down. […]

    Republicans have been emphasizing some increased funding for the Department of Defense. Trump has emphasized his proposed border wall. Democrats have emphasized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The prospects for a meaningful infrastructure bill are bleak.

  256. KG says

    A new piece of Brexidiocy from the corrupt and slimy Liam Fox, the UK’s Minister for International Trade. He suggests the UK could join the TPP. As the linked article notes, the UK’s trade with all the countreis left in the TPP negotiations now Trump has pulled the USA out, is less than its trade with Germany.

  257. says

    Trump is threatening to cut off aid to Pakistan and to the Palestinians. Here is one response:

    […] to cut aid to the Palestinians and nuclear-armed ally Pakistan is not simply a case of saving a few hundred million dollars spent on problems in faraway countries, analysts and former officials said Wednesday.

    One expert warned that such a move could drive impoverished refugees into the arms of extremists and further destabilize the Middle East.

    Meanwhile, the chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Defense Committee branded Trump as the “mercurial leader of a declining superpower” and accused him of “raving and ranting.” […]

    NBC News link

  258. says

    Lynna:

    Follow-up to comments 328 and 358.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley now says that he is willing to have Fusion GPS executives testify in hearings that are open to the public.

    OK, fine. And before that they can release the transcript of Simpson’s earlier testimony as Grassley had previously agreed to do. He’s not only been trying to hide from the public the content of Simpson’s testimony, but also trying to conceal how much the committee had learned from that testimony months ago.

  259. says

    Rachel Maddow:

    A single source familiar with the meeting tells us:

    Surprise meeting tonight between Deputy Atty General Rod Rosenstein and House Speaker Paul Ryan was requested by Rosenstein to discuss matters related to Congressman Devin Nunes and the Russia investigation.

  260. says

    “Sen. Feinstein Says Trump’s Social-Media Guru ‘May Have Corresponded With Russian Nationals'”:

    President Donald Trump’s social-media manager, Dan Scavino, “may have corresponded with Russian nationals regarding Trump campaign social media efforts,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote Wednesday in a letter asking Scavino to agree to an interview this month with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Feinstein’s letter says the committee, where she is the ranking Democrat, has “received information” regarding Scavino’s potential communications with Russians. The California senator did not elaborate.

    Feinstein also sent a letter Wednesday to Brad Parscale, who oversaw the Trump campaign’s digital operation, asking him to agree to an interview and turn over any documents he has related to contacts with Russian nationals or groups such as WikiLeaks.

    The letters are the latest in a slew of Russia-related inquiries that Feinstein has sent over the last few months without the cooperation of the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley and Feinstein have conducted mostly separate investigations since October, when their previously bipartisan probe fractured over Feinstein’s complaint that Grassley was overly focused on investigations of Hillary Clinton and the Obama Justice Department. Democrats argue those inquiries are attempts to distract from the Trump campaign’s suspected collaboration with Russia. Without Grassley, Feinstein lacks subpoena power, leaving her reliant on voluntary cooperation.

  261. militantagnostic says

    From the White House (or is it the outhouse) press release quoted by Lynna @362

    Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country.

    Trump sure forget those men and women who voted for him in a hurry.

  262. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Cuomo: “They’re now robbing the blue states to pay for the red states … it is an economic civil war, and make no mistake, they are aiming to hurt us.”

    I would point out that this is not new.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/10/30/blue-states-already-subsidize-red-states-now-red-states-want-even-more/?utm_term=.5a2b9d67b6a6

    This piece notes that South Carolina takes in $4 in federal funds for every $1 they pay in income tax. The EU has a provision that member states will get back in proportion to what they pay in. It may be time to start pushing for that sort of arrangement in the US.

  263. quotetheunquote says

    @ ogvorbis wants to know WTF?!?!?! 366:

    often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.

    By whom?

    I know, right? The phrase I read most often, during the primaries, was “clown car.”

    That whole release looks like something the Onion would write, lampooning an extremely insecure president. Or it would, in any other presidency.

  264. says

    4. How will donors and activists who are still allied with Bannon respond to the president’s condemnation? [SC, what will the Mercers do?]

    Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey at WaPo, who are very reliable, are reporting:

    Bannon has in recent weeks also alienated his main financial backer, Rebekah Mercer, after he told several other major conservative donors that he would be able to count on the Mercers’ financial support should he run for president, a person familiar with the conversations said. The person said Mercer now does not plan to financially support Bannon’s future projects — and that she was frustrated by his moves in Alabama and some of his comments in the news media that seemed to stoke unnecessary fights.

    A person close to Bannon said he was not running for president. Bannon and Mercer declined to comment through representatives.

    “The core constituency for ­Breitbart is what you would call the Trump Deplorables. That’s the audience. And if they’re asked to choose between Steve and Trump, they’re going to choose Trump. That’s clear,” said a person familiar with the company’s ownership.

  265. says

    TPM exclusive – “Russian Social Media Giant Gave Info on Trump Contacts to Senate Probe”:

    The Russian social media giant Vkontakte has given information to Senate investigators about contacts between an executive at the company and the Trump campaign, TPM has learned.

    The Russian tech firm appears to be cooperating with the Senate Judiciary Committee by providing documents related to communication between Russian nationals and Dan Scavino, a Trump campaign staffer who now works as the White House social media director.

    Vkontakte, a social network similar to Facebook, ranks as the most popular website in Russia and is owned by the publicly traded Mail.Ru.

    The nature of the documents obtained by the Committee isn’t clear, but previous reports in the press have detailed emails exchanged in 2016 between Konstantin Sidorkov, VKontakte’s director of partnership marketing, and Scavino….

  266. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    And this must be more of those ‘state’s rights’ that we here the GOP trumpeting:

    In a seismic shift, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce Thursday that he is rescinding a trio of memos from the Obama administration that adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.

  267. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Also from CNN.

    Additonally, it appears that the US may have learned something from Russia.

    Iran has written a letter to the United Nations accusing the US of using Facebook and Twitter to meddle in its affairs.

    Tehran accused US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of inciting Iranians to protest against the government through a series of tweets and described US interference in Iranian issues as “grotesque.”

  268. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    And, under the heading of, “Well, duh!”, poor and red states lead the nation in infant mortality. Again, from CNN. It is almost as if there was some strange link between availability of women’s health care, overall health care spending, and poverty and the infant mortality rate. Shocking, I know.

  269. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    And the link in the first line of 401 should actually be part of comment 400. All hail the Tpyosian Panhteion.

  270. says

    This is utterly outrageous – “Justice Department ‘Looking Into’ Hillary Clinton’s Emails— Again”: “A former senior DOJ official familiar with department leadership’s thinking said officials there are acutely aware of demands from President Donald Trump that they look into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State—and that they lock up her top aide, Huma Abedin.”

    Dan Pfeiffer: “Everyone involved with how this happened should be fired or impeached. It’s a massive abuse of power.”

  271. says

    SC @387, I’m in total agreement.

    SC @397, thanks! Excellent addition to this discussion. I was thinking that the Mercers were probably ready to abandon the Bannon ship. Daddy Mercer already did in a way, by handing the reins to Rebekah.

    SC @398, just keep repeating, “there was no collusion,” and Dan Scavino will disappear, right? Also, Russian social media will implode. /sarcasm Seriously, though, you would think that by now the Russians would be fed up with Trump. Maybe not though … Trump is still damaging western alliances and damaging U.S. democracy. What’s not to like?

    Ogvorbis @400, I see Jeff Sessions failing miserably in this effort to aggressively enforce federal laws against marijuana — even in states where pot is legal. The previous policy was to prosecute “cases of peddling pot to minors, selling marijuana across state borders or growing pot on federal land, or when it involved gangs or organized crime.” That makes sense. The approach from Sessions does not make sense.

    There’s already pushback from some states, including Colorado, where Senator Cory Gardner (a Republican), pointed out that Sessions promised him before confirmation to the Attorney General job that pot laws in individual states would be left as-is. Gardner followed up with:

    I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until [Sessions] lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation. […] I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment that he made to me in my pre-confirmation meeting with him, the conversation we had, that was specifically about this issue of states’ rights in Colorado […]

    Up until about 8:58 this morning, we believed in Colorado that states’ rights would be protected.

    Tthere were no plans to reverse the Cole Memorandum.

    Then-Sen. Sessions told me that marijuana simply wasn’t going to be on President Trump’s agenda, that it was something that they weren’t going to deal with, something that President Trump simply wasn’t going to focus on.

    That was back in the spring of 2016, and up until 8:58 this morning, that was the policy. {Thursday’s announcement marked] a complete reversal of what many of us on the hill were told before the confirmation, what we had continued to believe the last year, and — without any notification, conversation or dialogue with Congress — completely reversed […]

    The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states, and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid, […]

    What has changed President Trump’s mind that the Cole Memorandum would be reversed and rescinded? I think the people of Colorado deserve to have that answer.

    I think Sessions is short on brain power, and he’s not improving over time.

  272. says

    SC @404, I agree with Matthew Miller:

    If the White House asks you to look into it… The answer is to tell the White House to stay out of investigations and prosecutions, especially when it comes to your political opponents.

    Trump must be continuing to pressure Jeff Sessions … and Sessions is complying.

  273. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    We thought all hell was breaking loose yesterday. We were wrong. That’s happening today. The idea that a sitting President is threatening to sue a former top staffer [Bannon] over an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] and (putative) defamation is so comically ridiculous as to defy rationality and mark a new summit of nonsense even in the nonsense pile of the Trump presidency. Taking the matter on the merits, it is hard to imagine the number of first amendment-based fences Trump and his lawyer (the same lawyer who Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel used to destroy Gawker. Really.) have to jump to sustain this. In any case, close to a certainty, there will be no lawsuit. […]

    […] Fundamentally, rightist grievance politics and rightist grievance journalism. Bannon carried on Breitbart’s legacy in every way.

    One of the many oddities and comedies of this moment is that Michael Wolff is anything but a reliable narrator of the Trumpian moment. A year ago he was effusively and conspicuously praising himself as a practitioner of sycophancy-based access journalism, the only journo who would or could cover Trump on the merits rather […] Now this. It makes perfect sense. Never trust an ingratiating reporter. […] I don’t think we should see him as an entirely reliable narrator of the story. The key points though, the quotes? They probably bear out. In any case, according to Mike Allen at Axios, Wolff has tapes. […]

    […] The idea that a sitting President can seek to silence critics and silence dissent using the civil courts is as monstrous as it is comical and is entirely in keeping with the practice of broken democracies that slip into autocracy. (And yes, even though it’s Steve Bannon, it’s still dissent.) But it’s chaos and impulse and incompetence at the core.

    Have you ever seen a coiled hose that suddenly has hugely pressurized water run through it? We all have. It swings and jerks violently this way and that. It gets everyone wet. There’s violence and chaos but no real plan. It’s reflex. That’s our President. […] This instinctive, peristaltic kind of chaotic action is the way to understand him. Not any theory. That’s what’s happening today and will continue for every day of his Presidency, albeit with lulls of lethargy and torpor here and there.

    He is likely the most reviled and mocked man in the entire world today. He is also the most powerful, because of the unique attributes and powers of the American presidency. He’s tossing around nuclear threats with another man on the other side of the globe who has power similarly because he was born into it. Another legacy kid with nuclear weapons. The whole situation is comical, mind-boggling and deeply dangerous.

  274. says

    Sessions is catching flak from another direction:

    Two members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Thursday called for Jeff Sessions to step down as attorney general, arguing that he’s done a poor job of preventing leaks about the Russia probe and quelling news stories about the investigation.

    In an op-ed in the Washington Examiner, Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) complain that the Russia probe has dominated headlines for the past year and that the focus on the probe has “frequently masked the substantial accomplishments of President Trump’s administration.” They also charge that there is still no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, questioning why the investigations into the matter have continued with few results. […]

    “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world. It is time for Sessions to start managing in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations. If Sessions can’t address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general?” they wrote. “Sadly, it seems the answer is now.” […]

    Link

    Meadows and Jordon do not have proof that the FBI leaked information.

  275. says

    SC @388, here’s more info regarding the fact that Trump dissolved the Voter Fraud Commission:

    […] “There was no warning. They didn’t give us a heads up that the President’s considering shutting it down or anything like that,” Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the commission when it ended, told Politico. […]

    Another member of the commission, Jefferson County, Alabama Presiding Probate Judge Alan King, told Al.com Wednesday night that “this came out of the blue.”

    King, a Democrat, compared the commission’s work to a “wild goose chase” and said “I think it’s an urban legend that there’s widespread voter fraud in the U.S.”

    “Throughout my career I have been involved in civic groups, church groups, high school groups, that were run better than this commission. And to say that is a disappointment would be an understatement,” he added.

    […] New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, a Democrat, had told the station Wednesday, before the commission was dissolved, that “he had not heard from the commission staff or other members in several months, but he said that as far as he knew, it was still intact.”

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led the commission and is known for his zeal for voter suppression techniques, said the decision to the end the panel came in “the middle of the day.”

    “Think of it as an option play; a decision was made in the middle of the day to pass the ball,” he told the New York Times. “The Department of Homeland Security is going to be able to move faster and more efficiently than a presidential advisory commission.”

    Kobach is trying to bullshit his way into some kind of acceptable excuse for failing to find the 3 million illegal votes that Trump wanted him to find. Kobach is a guy who has been censured by Kansas courts and by Arizona courts, and whose activities have been declared unconstitutional in the past. He has no credibility, except with fringe rightwing conspiracy theorists.

    More bullshit excuses from Kobach:

    […] “It got to the point where the staff of the commission was spending more time responding to litigation than doing an investigation,” Kobach told the Times. […]

    The White House in its statement blamed “many states” who had refused to provide it “with basic information relevant to its inquiry.”

    “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission,” the statement added.

    The President himself weighed in as well, Thursday morning.

    Many mostly Democrat States refused to hand over data from the 2016 Election to the Commission On Voter Fraud. They fought hard that the Commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally. System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D. […]

    Link

    Republican-dominated states also refused to hand over data to Kris Kobach’s widely disparaged commission. Trump is full of lies and misinformation, as usual. He must have enjoyed the chance to blame Democrats, though.

    Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap sued, in part, because it was the only way he could find out what the commission was doing. Dunlap was a member, but the Republicans shut him out completely.

  276. says

    In that contested race for Virginia’s House of Delegates, the Republican won. Or, rather, the Republican was chosen. The race was declared a tie, after the Democrat had been declared the winner. To break the tie, the two candidate’s name were placed in film canisters, swirled around in a bowl and then one was pulled out.

    This means that there will still be a Republican majority in the Virginia House.

    More Virginians voted Democratic, but gerrymandered districts help the Republicans to retain seats.

  277. says

    I think this is a sign of things to come, the beginning of a trend: some Republicans are rejecting Steve Bannon’s help when it comes to congressional races.

    In September, Republican congressional candidates across the country facing intraparty challenges were crawling over each other to get Steve Bannon’s support. Roy Moore had just won the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama, and Bannon had supported him as the true Trumpian candidate (despite President Donald Trump’s support for his opponent).

    Upstart candidates everywhere were all too eager to give the former White House adviser credit for Moore’s victory, and even more eager to be the next candidate he helped push over the line.

    But four months later, those same candidates are facing pressure to distance themselves from Bannon after Trump publicly torched him on Wednesday, deeming him to have “lost his mind,” and declaring that he “doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.” […]

    Now that Bannon is persona non grata in the White House, some Republican candidates who had once shouted Bannon’s endorsement from the rooftops have started to slowly back away.

    When Kelli Ward, a Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona, officially kicked off her campaign in October, Bannon introduced her and endorsed her candidacy. But Ward has positioned herself as a Trumpian candidate, and on Wednesday a spokesperson downplayed the importance of Bannon’s support. […]

    “Danny Tarkanian and Steve Bannon are frauds whose only skill is losing elections and costing Republicans seats,” said [Dean] Heller’s spokesperson Keith Schipper.

    […] West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, now running for Senate, put out a press release with a transcript of an interview in which “conservative icon Steve Bannon praised Morrisey.” But after the Trump statement Wednesday, Morrisey’s campaign said Bannon was just one endorser, and emphasized Morrisey’s alignment with Trump.

    […] “Attorney General Morrisey does not support these attacks on President Trump and his family, and was proud to stand with President Trump in 2016 when they were both overwhelmingly elected in West Virginia and when he cast his vote for Trump in the Electoral College.” […]

    Andy Sere, a spokesperson for Jenkins, said given Bannon’s recently revealed, negative comments about Trump, the campaign will continue to press Morrisey into choosing between Trump and Bannon. “It would be quite dichotomous of Morrisey for him to claim he would be a Trump ally in the Senate, but when it comes to a top supporter like Bannon, he won’t speak up about it.” […]

    BuzzFeed link

    There are some far rightwing candidates sticking with Bannon, but I think they will find Bannon’s support to be a drag in the long run. The fight between Trump and Bannon candidates will be interesting.

  278. says

    The corrected version of the report @ #398 is even more interesting:

    Editor’s Note: Due to a reporting error, this story originally reported that Vkontakte had directly provided documents to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators about contacts between a company executive and the Trump campaign. TPM has no information on how the committee obtained the documents, and there is no evidence to suggest Vkontakte is cooperating with the investigation. We regret the error.

  279. says

    Follow-up to comment 410.

    Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says that Kris Kobach lied when he offered reasons/excuses for the Voter Fraud Commission having been dissolved:

    […] Kobach tried to lay blame for the failure of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission at the feet of Dunlap and three other Democratic commissioners.

    “[It’s a] bunch of balderdash,” Dunlap told ThinkProgress in an interview. […]

    On Twitter, Trump said Democratic elections officials who refused to provide the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with voter data led to its demise. A White House advisor said it was unable to operate transparently. And Kobach, the commission’s vice-chair, claimed that Democrats on the panel jeopardized their opportunity to be involved in setting federal voting policy.

    “Anyone on the left needs to realize that by throwing the food in the air, they just lost a seat at the table,” Kobach told Politico, likely referring to over a dozen lawsuits against the group by Democrats and voting advocates, including one by a Democratic commissioner against his own commission.

    Dunlap, the commissioner who sued the group in November, said Thursday that Kobach’s attempt to lay blame on him is nonsense.

    “He said we were stonewalling,” Dunlap said. “I was asking for very basic information. I wasn’t asking for all the inner workings of the commission. I wanted to know what our reference documents were, what are our communications like, who are we talking to, what are we saying to each other, what’s our schedule? And I couldn’t get that information at all, under any circumstances, and that’s why we pursued the lawsuit.”

    On December 22, a federal judge ruled in Dunlap’s favor, ordering Kobach to give the Democrat more access to the panel’s records. Dunlap says he is still awaiting the documents.

    “The Federal Advisory Committee Act is quite clear that this is supposed to be a transparent, open process that welcomes perspectives from across the political spectrum, and we weren’t doing any of that,” Dunlap said. “When I filed the suit, [Kobach] said the suit was baseless. Well, the federal judge disagreed.” […]

    Link

  280. says

    More signs that Steve Bannon’s goose is cooked. Rush Limbaugh is taking Trump’s side, and he is repeating unproven allegations that Bannon leaked info to the press:

    […] The thing that I think everybody believes and that everybody knows is that most of the leaking that was coming out of the Trump White House was Steve Bannon. […]

    Bannon is all over the place. You go back to his 60 Minutes interview where he was praising Trump to the hilt and he was saying that the Russian investigation was bogus and there was nothing to it. And now in this book he’s quoted as saying that Trump and Trump Jr. were committing treason by dealing with the Russians. I never understood half of the president’s staffing. I never understood how he knew these people and ended up choosing them. […]

  281. says

    Follow-up to comment 415.

    Mitch McConnell jumps on the bandwagon:

    I’d like to associate myself with what the president had to say about Steve Bannon yesterday.

  282. says

    Follow-up to comments 291, 293, 298, and 386.

    Not good:

    […] Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the department, said at a press briefing that the U.S. would freeze military equipment deliveries and transfers of security-related funds to Pakistan. She said the administration is still working out the dollar amounts of the cuts.

    The U.S. will also freeze reimbursements to the Pakistani government for money spent on conducting counterterrorism operations, Nauert said.

    “Until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, we consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting personnel,” Nauert said.

    Nauert said that there “may be some exceptions that are made on a case-by-case basis if determined to be critical to national security interests.”

    The announcement came two days after Trump railed against U.S. assistance to Pakistan, saying that Washington gives the country “billions of dollars” and gets “nothing” in return. […]

    Link

  283. says

    I’m shocked. A move from the Trump administration that will ease tensions with North Korea?

    […] The US and South Korea just announced that they would delay annual military exercises that were scheduled to take place during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongcheong. These exercises, which involve simulating operations that would likely be used in the event of war with North Korea, generally anger the North […]

    The decision, which was apparently during a call between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In, is surprising given Trump’s belligerent approach to North Korea. […]

    In short? This move decreases the risk of war with North Korea — at least by a little bit and for now.

    “Delaying military exercises will certainly delay a source of tension,” Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korea at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, says. “It will also provide some space to discuss reducing tension.”

    But a lot depends on the follow-up. The exercises are delayed, not canceled, […] This is a temporary reprieve, […]

    President Moon is acutely aware of these risks. During his call with Trump, he asked the US president to delay the exercises specifically to avoid giving the North Koreans a reason to escalate. […]

    Link

  284. says

    Matthew Yglesias:

    If Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress in this year’s midterm elections, the American system of government could very well collapse into Donald Trump’s distinctive — and disturbing — vision of a personalized, authoritarian state.

    Dozens of Republicans in Congress started out skeptical of Trump but have fallen in line behind him as he signed their top initiatives into law, like a trillion-dollar giveaway to the very rich. In exchange they’ve turned a blind eye to Trump’s significant financial conflicts of interest, repeated efforts to undermine the integrity of the criminal justice process, and more. The few remaining critics plan to leave Washington.

    This is one of Trump’s most underappreciated political achievements of the year: consolidation of power over a party to which he had scant personal or institutional ties. And all signs are that if Republicans win in 2018, slavish loyalty to Trump will only grow more ingrained, especially because Trump himself makes no secret that loyalty to him is the key to access, and access is the key to policy influence. […]

    […] if Republicans manage to hold the majority, the Trumpocracy will be upon us. […]

    Congressional Republicans — including ones who said they didn’t vote for him, and ones like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake who’ve pronounced him to be a danger to the Republic — have done more than stick with Trump on policy. They’ve also decided to stick with Trump on topics like whether it’s appropriate for the president to have large secret income streams or berate the Justice Department for declining to indict his political enemies.

    Right now congressional Republicans, who control investigative committees that can send subpoenas for documents and can compel witnesses to come in and testify, are both completely ignoring Trump’s financial conflicts of interest and, worse, using their oversight powers to push Trump’s narrative that the FBI is biased against him. […]

    if the newly Trumpified GOP holds power, the gloves will really be off in terms of asserting control over the bureaucracy.

    This is, according to Levitsky and Ziblatt, often a slower process than one might imagine — “the erosion of democracy takes place piecemeal, often in baby steps,” composed of “quietly firing civil servants and other nonpartisan officials and replacing them with loyalists” while packing the courts over time and eventually turning the intelligence and security services into arms of partisan politics.

    Thomas Honan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Tuesday morning on Fox News that elected officials in “sanctuary cities” should be arrested and held personally responsible if undocumented immigrants in their jurisdiction commit crimes. That’s not actually going to happen, at least not in the near term.

    But Honan isn’t going to be fired for his clearly inappropriate proposal. Nor will he be attacked in conservative media, presidential tweets, or GOP congressional hearings the way Wray has been. And as more jobs open up and are consistently filled with Honans rather than Wrays, the unthinkable steadily becomes the inevitable.

    Much more at the link, including a look ahead to 2019. It’s all worth reading.

  285. says

    More excerpts from Wolff’s book:

    Almost nobody except the president himself thought he could pull off the Correspondents’ Dinner. His staff were terrified that he would die up there in front of a seething and contemptuous audience. Though he could dish it out, often very harshly, no one thought he could take it.
    ——————-
    Beyond acknowledging that Trump was a boy from Queens yet in awe of the Times, nobody in the West Wing could explain why he and Hicks would so often turn to Haberman for what would so reliably be a mocking and hurtful portrayal. […] But however intent he remained on getting good ink in the Times, the president saw Haberman as “mean and horrible”. And yet, on a near-weekly basis, he and Hicks plotted when next to have the Times come in.

  286. says

    Sheesh. Yet another Trump administration nominee for a judicial post turns out to be an awful human being. He helped write memos justifying torture during the Bush administration.

    A number of […] Trump’s judicial nominations have collapsed in recent days after the candidates’ utter lack of qualifications was revealed, signaling (at a minimum) poor vetting on the part of the administration. The most stunning failure was Matthew Peterson, who became an internet sensation and meme generator when he could not answer even basic questions about U.S. law. Also in the candidates’ graveyard is Jeff Mateer, who in 2015 stated that transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan.” Mateer also prophesied that same-sex marriage would lead to bestiality and lamented the banning by some states of harmful and bogus “conversion therapies” for gay and lesbian persons.

    One additional problematic candidate is scheduled for a hearing this month: Howard C. Nielson, who has been nominated for the district court in the District of Utah. The intrepid Alliance for Justice, which has worked assiduously to defeat several judicial nominees, has published a worrisome blog on Nielson calling into question his fitness to enjoy life tenure as a federal judge. (AFJ normally focuses its work on appellate judges; there are so many problematic district court judges in play that it has expanded its vetting role to help Senate staffers and others evaluate candidates.)

    AFJ’s research reveals much about Nielson that is problematic, including his work on behalf of the National Rifle Association, his spurious motion to have a judge recused because of the latter’s sexual orientation, and his involvement in impermissible politicized and ideological hiring at the U.S. Department of Justice during the administration of George W. Bush. […]

    […] a memo Nielson had written in 2005 while at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. […] At the time he wrote the memo, Nielson worked under Stephen Bradbury, one of the infamous authors of the “torture memos,” which Sen. John McCain has described as “permission slips” for torture. […]

    Nielson argued that the Geneva Convention devoted to the protection of civilians in enemy custody or detention only applies to civilians held on U.S. territory. That treaty (the Fourth Geneva Convention governing international armed conflicts) requires signatories to treat all civilian detainees humanely and prohibits torture and other forms of mistreatment.

    If Nielson’s theory of the treaty were to prevail, United States personnel could torture civilians—so long as they did so outside the United States—without breaching the treaty. Under the same reasoning, our adversaries could harm U.S. civilians in their custody, so long as the victims were not brought back to the territory of the belligerent in question. […]

    […] the memo contains results-driven reasoning that fails to engage (or even cite) all (or any of) the opposing precedent and contrary interpretations out there. This approach makes a mockery of the proper role of the OLC, which is to give candid, apolitical, and accurate legal advice to the White House. Furthermore, Nielson cites no support for his position in jurisprudence, scholarship, or the legislative history of the treaties. […]

    Link

    From John McCain:

    I will not support a nominee who justified the use of torture. Our enemies act without conscience – we must not.

  287. says

    “Woman who accused Roy Moore of sexual misconduct sues him for defamation”:

    In a lawsuit that echoes a civil case against President Trump, an Alabama woman on Thursday sued failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and his campaign for defamation, citing harsh personal attacks she faced after coming forward with allegations he touched her sexually when she was 14 years old.

    Leigh Corfman is not seeking financial compensation beyond legal costs. She is asking for a declaratory judgment of defamation, a public apology from Moore, and a court-enforced ban on him or his campaign publicly attacking her again. She said in a statement that the suit seeks “to do what I could not do as a 14-year-old — hold Mr. Moore and those who enable him accountable.”

    Corfman’s lawsuit cites numerous negative comments made by Moore and five top campaign allies, including campaign manager Rich Hobson, who announced Wednesday that he is running for Congress.

  288. says

    I’m shocked. A move from the Trump administration that will ease tensions with North Korea?…

    Wolf Blitzer just reported this on CNN and asked: “Has North Korea won this round?” If Trump sees that, he might well renege on the agreement.

  289. says

    “GOP Donor Mercer: My Family Doesn’t Back Bannon’s ‘Recent Actions’”:

    Conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer on Thursday said her family does not support former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s “recent actions and statements,” a rare but blunt rebuke of her former associate.

    “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements,” Mercer said in a statement to the Washington Post.

    Mercer, who helped finance and advise President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, said she supports “President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed source familiar with conversations between members of Breitbart’s board, that the Mercers and other members were discussing whether to give Bannon the boot after Wolff’s reporting on his alleged remarks.

    The Washington Post also reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with Breitbart News, that discussions have begun there about the possibility of removing Bannon from the role….

  290. says

    “Trump Has Created Dangers We Haven’t Even Imagined Yet”:

    …Why, besides ethics, haven’t more business owners tried Trump’s patented method of ripping people off? Because over the long run it poisons your ability to find willing partners. Indeed, mainstream banks eventually refused to deal with Trump, which is what led to his unusual dependence on Russia and other shady foreign sources for capital. In many ways, his presidency has followed the arc of his business career — short-term leverage plays that benefit Trump and his inner circle before his counter-parties wise up.

    The Republican Party’s hostility to government has made it a willing partner for much of this agenda. Many, if not most, functions of government are designed to mitigate risk. Social insurance protects individuals from the risk of outliving their savings, or of facing unaffordable medical costs. Economic regulation protects society from dangers like financial risk, environmental danger, or crime and other social disorder. Laissez-faire ideology often amounts to an acceptance of greater risk. (This is a basic description of the trade-off, which holds regardless of whether you think Republicans are generally eliminating regulations that are important or unnecessarily burdensome.) By scaling back access to health insurance, they would expose more people to the risk of high medical bills, for the benefit of enjoying lower taxes and premiums right away. Much of their deregulatory agenda would allow business to operate more cheaply by taking fewer precautions to protect workers, consumers, and the environment.

    Trump has embraced this aspect of Republican dogma to a degree that goes well beyond even the staunch pro-business style of government seen under Reagan and other modern Republican presidents. The Trump administration’s mania for reducing federal power runs so deep that it can be difficult to tell where deregulatory fervor ends and incompetence begins. Large portions of the federal bureaucracy simply lie vacant, leaving its remaining workforce puzzled whether they are the victims of deliberate neglect or a president unable to staff the Executive branch.

    Coverage of Trump’s erratic behavior and spectacular crack-ups has obscured a spate of news stories chronicling a pattern across the breadth of the federal government….

    …Any modern state, and especially one that has assumed a leadership role in the liberal international order, requires competent administrators to protect its citizens from a wide array of disasters. They serve as a form of insurance. You can cancel your insurance policy and have some more money in your pocket right away. But when you are insuring yourself against as many risks as the federal government does — financial crises, wars, natural disasters, disease outbreak, terrorism, and on and on — the cumulative risk grows that something, or several things, will go terribly wrong….

  291. says

    “Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation”:

    President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.

    Public pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

    Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.

    Mr. Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” He was referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer, who had been Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s and died in 1986.

    The lobbying of Mr. Sessions is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has learned about as he investigates whether Mr. Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. The events occurred during a two-month period — from when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March until the appointment of Mr. Mueller in May — when Mr. Trump believed he was losing control over the investigation.

    Among the other episodes, Mr. Trump described the Russia investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated” in a letter that he intended to send to the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, but that White House aides stopped him from sending. Mr. Mueller has also substantiated claims that Mr. Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions with the president before he was fired in May….

  292. says

    More:

    The special counsel has received handwritten notes from Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, showing that Mr. Trump talked to Mr. Priebus about how he had called Mr. Comey to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation. The president’s determination to fire Mr. Comey even led one White House lawyer to take the extraordinary step of misleading Mr. Trump about whether he had the authority to remove him.

    The New York Times has also learned that four days before Mr. Comey was fired, one of Mr. Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Mr. Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine the F.B.I. director. It was not clear whether Mr. Mueller’s investigators knew about this incident.

    Two days after Mr. Comey’s testimony, an aide to Mr. Sessions approached a Capitol Hill staff member asking whether the staffer had any derogatory information about the F.B.I. director. The attorney general wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.

    A Justice Department spokeswoman said the incident did not occur. “This did not happen and would not happen,” said the spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores. “Plain and simple.”…

  293. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Author Michael Wolff will be on the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on Monday night for an extended interview. Should be interesting.

  294. says

    SC @424, this statement from the Mercers is a lie, ““My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months […]”

    As Stephanie Ruhle pointed out, Rebekah Mercer hosted a cocktail party for Bannon in November. Bannon was the featured guest. Looks like Rebekah Mercer fudged the truth a bit to put more distance between herself and Bannon.

    In other news, it looks like Paul Ryan sided with Trump toady Devin Nunes over the Justice Department.

    […] Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray were seen going into House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office for reasons that, at least initially, weren’t at all clear.

    It turns out, as Rachel noted on Wednesday’s show, the subject of the chat was House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of Congress’ fiercest allies of Donald Trump and a former member of the president’s transition team, who demanded information from the FBI about the investigation into the Christopher Steele dossier. […]

    Link to analysis by Steve Benen

    From Talking Points Memo:

    House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes announced Wednesday night that the Department of Justice had agreed to turn over to the committee all documents and witnesses related to Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. […]

    [Nunes had] threatened deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher Wray with contempt of Congress, a move that drew censure from fellow Republicans.

    More from Steve Benen:

    […] What does this have to do with Paul Ryan? According to reports from Politico and CNN, the deputy attorney general and FBI director requested the meeting and directly urged the Speaker to narrow the scope of the document request.

    Paul sided with Nunes, “insisting they turn over the full slate.” A Republican lawmaker close to the Speaker told Politico that Rosenstein and Wray “wasted a trip to the Capitol.”

    And why does this matter? In large part because it means Devin Nunes will soon be able to review detailed and sensitive information – about communications with confidential sources, interviews, lists of meetings – that up until now has been limited to a small number of people, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

    Given recent history, the next question is how soon the House Intelligence Committee chairman will share what he learns with his White House allies.

  295. says

    Follow-up to comments 111 and 411.

    I mentioned earlier that more people in Virginia had voted for Democratic candidates than for Republicans. Here are the actual statistics:

    […] As University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato noted yesterday, Democrats received most of the legislative votes — indeed, at 55% to 45%, it wasn’t especially close — but it’s Republicans who’ll end up with most of the legislative power.

    There’s no great mystery as to how this happened: Republicans took full advantage of gerrymandering, to the point that they could lose statewide races by double digits, but remain in control of the legislature anyway. […]

    Conditions in the commonwealth, meanwhile, are not yet fully resolved. Control of Virginia’s House of Delegates has come down to one seat that, by some counts, was exactly tied before a Republican’s name was pulled out of a bowl yesterday.

    The legal fight over the outcome isn’t over just yet.

    Link

  296. says

    Here is Trump’s latest Twitter tantrum, which is, of course, full of lies. There are references to Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury,” and to Steve Bannon:

    I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!
    ————–
    The Fake News Media barely mentions the fact that the Stock Market just hit another New Record and that business in the U.S. is booming…but the people know! Can you imagine if “O” was president and had these numbers – would be biggest story on earth! Dow now over 25,000.
    —————–
    Well, now that collusion with Russia is proving to be a total hoax and the only collusion is with Hillary Clinton and the FBI/Russia, the Fake News Media (Mainstream) and this phony new book are hitting out at every new front imaginable. They should try winning an election. Sad!
    ——————
    The Mercer Family recently dumped the leaker known as Sloppy Steve Bannon. Smart!

    Trump’s son, Don Jr., also referred to Bannon as “Sloppy Steve” on Twitter, so I guess this is the new Trump family disparagement campaign. Really, they didn’t need to bother. Bannon shot himself in the foot and doesn’t need the Trump’s to shoot him again.

    As for the “Zero access” and the claim of “actually turned him [Wolff] down many times,” both are obvious lies.

  297. says

    Oh, FFS. The Trump administration is taking credit for work it did not do … again. This time Scott Pruitt is also taking credit.

    The Environmental Protection Agency is touting cleanups at seven of the nation’s most polluted places as a signature accomplishment in the Trump administration’s effort to reduce the number of Superfund sites, even though records show the physical work was completed before President Donald Trump took office.

    The agency earlier this week credited the leadership of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt with tripling the number of sites fully or partially removed from the Superfund’s National Priorities List in 2017, compared with the two sites taken off in the Obama administration’s last year.

    “We have made it a priority to get these sites cleaned up faster and in the right way,” said Pruitt. […]

    Cleanups of Superfund sites usually take decades, spanning presidential administrations. An analysis of EPA records by The Associated Press shows that overall the seven Superfund sites delisted last year fell short of the average pace set under both the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, even in their opening years.

    So, yeah, they lied about being the best and the fastest as well.

    All told, EPA averaged delisting more than 10 sites a year under the eight years Obama was in the White House. EPA under Bush delisted nearly 18 sites on average annually during his two terms. […]

    EPA declined Friday to provide details of procedural changes under Pruitt that led to the seven sites being delisted faster.

    So, yeah, they’ve got nothing. However, they are backing up Pruitt’s claims to greatness in a vague and unconvincing way.

    […] Records show that construction work at all seven sites hyped by Pruitt’s EPA, such as removing soil or drilling wells to suck out contaminated groundwater, was completed years before Pruitt was confirmed as the agency’s chief in February. Removing sites from the list is a procedural step that occurs after monitoring data show that remaining levels of harmful contaminates meet cleanup targets, which were often set by EPA decades ago.

    Further, entries in the U.S. Federal Register showed that EPA announced its move to withdraw four of the seven sites in 2016. The planned deletions of two others were announced prior to Pruitt’s May 22 directive establishing the Superfund task force. […]

    Link