1. says

    Follow-up to comment 399.

    Trump is tweeting again about Russian meddling. This tweet falls into Trump’s “it’s all Obama’s fault” category:

    Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!

    Trump posted the tweet twice because he misspelled Sessions’ name the first time.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] we could spend several paragraphs explaining to the confused president that there are no alleged “Dem crimes” to investigate. We could also explain that the Obama administration wanted to do more, but Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, blocked efforts to respond to Russia’s attack. We could even explain that Obama did do “something” – he imposed sanctions – which is a heckuva lot more than Trump’s done.

    […] isn’t the more pressing question why the president is pressuring the Justice Department to investigate his political adversaries? […]

    The United States is not, and cannot become, some banana republic in which corrupt leaders use the levers of power and the justice system as a political weapon to be wielded against domestic foes.

    […] Trump not only sees himself as an autocratic ruler with “absolute” control over federal law enforcement, he also envisions a system in which an attorney general’s principal responsibility should be to protect a president’s interests, instead of the public’s.

    It’s against this backdrop that Trump, just this morning, sought some kind of explanation for why Jeff Sessions isn’t launching an investigation into Democrats – as if this kind of presidential lobbying was somehow appropriate.

    It’s not.

  2. says

    Follow-up to comment 486.

    How widespread is the smear campaign against the Parkland, Florida students?

    […] If the attacks were limited to fringe, crackpot websites, they might be easier to overlook, but prominent figures in conservative media have gone on the offensive, criticizing the kids with lies and conspiracy theories, and the nonsense is spreading.

    In one instance yesterday, as Florida’s Republican-run state House was preparing to vote on a measure to ban assault weapons, a GOP aide told a local reporter that some of the high-school students lobbying for new gun restrictions are secretly actors who travel from city to city, trying to exploit tragedies. […]

    Doug Heye, a former House Republican leadership aide, said on Twitter this week, “Questioning the motivations of Parkland students/bizarre conspiracy theories should be beyond the pale. I may disagree with some of their policy goals, but the motivation of these incredibly well-spoken, poised kids is clear: their friends were shot.”

    The fact that so many other conservatives can’t adopt this sensible posture is a reminder of the kind of toxic indecency that exists among far-right extremists. […]


    As I noted in a previous comment, the tweet identifying one student as a tool of the FBI, and as having been paid by George Soros, that tweet has been retweeted more than 111,000 times … and the number is still rising.

    The role of Russian bots was also discussed earlier. Link

  3. says

    While the Florida state legislature was refusing to even debate a ban on assault weapons, the legislators did find time to declare porn a health hazard:

    The bill (HB 219), which would ban the sale and possession of semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines like the kind used by Nikolas Cruz, has been mired in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard.

    Amid rising tensions at the Capitol, Democrats used a highly unusual procedure to try to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote.

    Republicans voted it down, 71-36. Several survivors of the high school massacre, watching from the visitors’ gallery, were overcome with emotion, and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media.

    Tampa Bay Times link

  4. says

    The Trump administration is using junk health plans (insurance) to undermine Obamacare even more than they already have.

    […] senior HHS staff unveiled a draft rule this week that would expand the sale of cheap, skimpy, short-term health plans, they described it as a “lifeline” for the currently uninsured, and insisted the rule change won’t destabilize Obamacare’s individual market. [Bullshit]

    […] a lengthy series of administrative actions that have destabilized and chipped away at the Affordable Care Act, including repealing of the individual mandate, cutting the length of open enrollment in half and slashing funding for outreach and assistance, making it easier for states to cull their Medicaid enrollees, and cutting off CSR subsidies that offset the cost of insuring low-income individuals.

    […] health care experts and economists say the plans—which can charge people higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition, reject them altogether, and refuse to cover basics like emergency room visits and prescriptions drugs—are mainly aimed at enticing people out of Obamacare’s individual market.

    “Rather than eliminate the ACA’s consumer protections, this is simply creating a parallel insurance market that lacks those protections,” Larry Levitt with the Kaiser Family Foundation told TPM. “This is a back door way of creating largely unregulated insurance plans that will siphon off healthy people.”

    […] According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of uninsured people would qualify for significant financial assistance through either Medicaid or the individual market’s federal tax credits, and those free or nearly-free plans would offer them comprehensive coverage regardless of their health status. […]

    “In just the last few months, state insurance departments have been putting out fraud alerts because of the marketing of these products can be pretty deceptive,” she [Sabrina Corlette, a professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute] said, citing Indiana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania as just a few examples. “A lot of people buy them thinking they’re comprehensive insurance and will provide financial protection to them, only to find out to their dismay that they don’t cover very much at all. And because short-term policies are not required to disclose all of their exceptions and limits and caps, in some cases you don’t even know what you’re buying until after you pay your premiums.”


  5. says

    “Mueller asking if Manafort promised banker White House job in return for loans”:

    Federal investigators are probing whether former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in return for $16 million in home loans, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

    Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City and the Hamptons.

    Stephen Calk, who was announced as a member of candidate Trump’s council of economic advisers in August 2016, is the president of Federal Savings Bank.

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is now investigating whether there was a quid pro quo agreement between Manafort and Calk. Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016 after the millions he had earned working for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine drew media scrutiny. Calk did not receive a job in President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

    The sources say the three loans were questioned by other officials at the bank, and one source said that at least one of the bank employees who felt pressured into approving the deals is cooperating with investigators….

    If the story and the allegations are true, this would be interesting in that the agreement/loans would have been made long after Manafort ostensibly left the campaign, and indeed after the election. That would suggest some potential knowledge/involvement by Trump (only potential, because Manafort could have been lying about his relationship with Trump to get the loans, but all of the timing is suggestive).

  6. says

    Someone linked to this report from November 30, 2016, which seems relevant to the report @ #5:

    “Paul Manafort Is Back and Advising Donald Trump on Cabinet Picks”:

    …According to two sources with knowledge of the Trump presidential transition process, Manafort—whose formal association with the president-elect ended in August—is heavily involved with the staffing of the nascent administration.

    But now, a few months and an election night victory later, it seems Manafort is back, and in a position he surely finds more comfortable: one shrouded in almost total mystery.

    “When they’re picking a cabinet, unless he contacts me, I don’t bother him,” one former campaign official who worked closely with Manafort told The Daily Beast. “It’s a heady time for everyone.”

    “I think he’s weighing in on everything,” the former official said, “I think he still talks to Trump every day. I mean, Pence? That was all Manafort. Pence is on the phone with Manafort regularly.”

    Another Trump campaign source who worked alongside Manafort confirmed to The Daily Beast that he is heavily involved in selecting the incoming administration’s “personnel picks.”

    When The Daily Beast caught up with Manafort sometime later, he would neither confirm nor deny his presence on the Trump transition team.

    “I don’t want to get into that,” he said. “I’m here to talk about the campaign, I don’t want to talk about transition.”

    Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, later told The Daily Beast, “Paul Manafort has no association with the transition team or communication with the President-elect.”

  7. says

    Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, has waged a war against poor people for a long time. Walker’s latest attack will take food stamps away from poor people, and it will kick some poor people out of public housing.

    […] Gov. Scott Walker (R) pushed state lawmakers to double down on his previous tweaks to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other safety net systems.

    Taken together, the earlier changes and those passed Tuesday make Wisconsin a living experiment with very old conservative policy ideas. The changes are hard-hearted and soft-brained, a recipe for greater human misery masquerading as a plan to lift the destitute back toward dignity.

    One bill ups existing work requirements for food stamps. Another sets humiliating new conditions for eligibility to live in public housing. Others set aside money to pay private companies that contract with the state if those companies can realize further savings. […]


  8. says

    Republicans in the House of Congress have vowed to pair any new gun control (background check improvements) to a concealed-carry measure backed by the NRA. The concealed-carry measure allows gun owners with permits in one state to bring their weapon into any other state.

    Meanwhile, a clean background check bill does actually stand a chance of passing, if someone can convince Paul Ryan to bring it to the floor. The background check portion would enforce penalties for federal agencies that don’t follow reporting rules, and it would provide incentives to states that comply with rules regarding reporting to the federal database. (Baby steps.)

    The House Freedom Caucus is kicking up a fuss, saying that background-check legislation “would allow bureaucrats and administrators to take away an individual’s Second Amendment liberties, and something that fundamental you’ve got to have a court make that decision to give due process to American citizens.” They view the concealed-carry add-on as a sweetener that might make them more amenable to passing background checks. They are asking for too much.

    Concealed-carry permits are handed out like candy at Halloween by some states. Other states require proof of competence, and a more stringent background check. The concealed-carry measure proposed by far-right Republicans and by the NRA could result in a person who received a permit in a lax state taking a weapon legally to, for example, Times Square.

  9. says

    MSNBC is showing a Parkland-student-led protest outside the FL state capitol in Tallahassee. It’s remarkable and inspiring. A Pulse nightclub survivor is speaking now.

    There’s also an ongoing student protest at the WH and Supreme Court.

    CNN is hosting a town hall on gun reform including some of the Parkland students at 9 ET tonight.

  10. says

    The Trump administration is not yet done with attempts to take away public land, nor are they done when it comes to closing off avenues for public input on land management.

    The Department of the Interior, under Secretary Ryan Zinke, wants to stop the public from “interfering” with its ongoing efforts to hand control of America’s public lands over to commercial and industrial interests. According to a report finalized in September and leaked to the Washington Post last week, the department plans to eviscerate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and explore other ways of clamping down on public involvement.

    NEPA […] requires federal agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to study the environmental effects of their proposals before taking action. […]

    The agencies must also provide opportunities for public input, and then meaningfully respond to any input they receive. In short, NEPA requires a “look before you leap” approach to management. […]

    It looks like they may get their way. The Interior Department’s leaked recommendations for “streamlining” NEPA read like an industry wish list. The recommendations would permit — and in some cases require — BLM to rubber-stamp actions like oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing, logging, mining, and large-scale deforestation, all without considering environmental consequences or public opinion. […]

    Zinke’s plans to cut the public out of public lands include weakening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). […] Interior’s recommendations would amend FOIA to “limit the number of … requests from any one group” and require “more stringent justification for fee waivers.” Regional and community-based watchdog groups, many of which can’t afford to buy access to public records, depend on FOIA’s fee waiver provisions.

    EAJA, meanwhile, allows plaintiffs to recover the costs of litigation in cases where the government is found to have broken the law. Under Zinke’s plan, EAJA would be amended to allow the government to recover costs and fees from public-interest litigants. […]

    Together, the proposed changes to FOIA and EAJA would render public oversight of land management decisions prohibitively expensive, while hiding important planning information — including records of any deals with industry — from public view. […]


  11. says

    “Alt-right leaders can no longer spread disinformation on Medium”: “Medium has suspended the accounts of Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, and Laura Loomer. …Links to any of the suspended accounts (or their published works) redirect to the dreary white suspension page, which reads ‘This page is unavailable’.”

    It notes: “By far the biggest change made by Medium is the addition of a section called ‘Related Content’, which reads ‘We do not allow posts or accounts that engage in on-platform, off-platform, or cross-platform campaigns of targeting, harassment, hate speech, violence, or disinformation’.”

  12. says

    Donald Trump Junior’s tour of India is designed to be corrupt, designed to mix politics and business.

    […] Indian newspapers have been running advertisements that promise homebuyers willing to pay a roughly $38,000 booking fee an opportunity to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner.”

    Government ethics experts in the US are appalled by that prospect, and say that the arrangement encourages Indians — especially those with ties to India’s government — to use purchases of Trump-branded property as a way to gain favor with the Trump administration. […]

    Trump’s polarizing presidency has put a dent in his domestic businesses, it doesn’t seem to have damaged his reputation in India. In fact, the Trump brand seems to be chugging along quite nicely there. […]

    Experts say Junior is selling access to himself — and by proxy, to the president of the US — in exchange for buying his products. […]

    [Junior is] planning to deliver a speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event in India on Friday. (It’s a serious affair — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be speaking at the same summit.) […]

    Trump Jr. is signaling to Indians that he’s in their country as a businessman and as a surrogate for the US government. If any wealthy Indians were on the fence about whether it was worth buying a condo just to talk to Trump Jr. about, say, trade policy, the fact that he’s delivering that speech should make it seem worthwhile. […]

    And since he is deliberately blurring the lines between his role as a businessman and as the son of the president, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that President Trump’s foreign policy could be for sale to the highest bidder. […]


  13. says


    The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple gained their green cards.

    Immigration experts said Viktor and Amalija Knavs very likely relied on a family reunification process that President Trump has derided as “chain migration” and proposed ending in such cases….

  14. says

    Spencer Hsu: “The new Manafort/Gates case charging document was filed under seal, according to the filing earlier today. There is no indication when prosecutors and/or court will move/grant unsealing. Can be quick, but not always. Bottom line, stay tuned, but no ETA.”

  15. says

    That’s right, Republicans, you should NOT raffle off AR-15 rifles at your fundraisers.

    Organizers of a fundraiser featuring Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers reversed course and pulled their plan to auction off an AR-15 rifle […]

    the Stevens County Republican Party removed mentions of the AR-15 and a plan to offer a Ruger 10-22 .22-caliber rifle as a door prize from the event’s website. […]

    The northeast Washington state event is set for March 24, the same day surviving students have planned a nationwide demonstration, including a march in Washington, D.C., calling for stricter gun laws. […]


  16. says

    Did you feel sorry for Keith Schiller when Trump fired him? Probably not. But, just in case, you should know that Schiller is being paid $15,000 per month by the The Republican National Committee.

    […] Just weeks after leaving the White House, […] the RNC hired Schiller’s private security firm, KS Global Group, to provide “security services.”

    […] Schiller is providing consulting services for site selection for the party’s 2020 convention. […]

    Schiller’s “site selection consulting” fees are paid out of the RNC’s convention fund, not its campaign fund, the report noted. The RNC has paid Schiller’s firm $75,000 since October, […]

    Schiller played a high-profile role in the administration, most notably when he hand-delivered former FBI Director James Comey’s termination letter to the Justice Department. […]

    Keith Schiller is Trump’s former body guard and director of Oval Office operations.

  17. says

    A bait and switch of trumpian proportions … and from Disney World no less:

    Unions representing tens of thousands of workers at Disney World filed a federal unfair labor complaint against the company Monday, alleging that it withheld $1,000 bonuses from unionized workers during contract negotiations to convince employees to take lower wages.

    In January, the Walt Disney Company announced it would provide 125,000 employees with a cash bonus of $1,000 for all full-time staff and part-time non-executive domestic employees, […]

    Eric Clinton, president of the local UNITE HERE, said in a Facebook video statement that the company is saying employees can have the bonus “if you agree to stay poor.”

    Angie McKinnon, financial secretary treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 737, said, in a statement posted on the union’s Facebook page, “Using the $1,000 bonus to force cast members to accept low wages amounts to extortion.” […]

    […] Madeline Johnson, an attractions Cast Member at Disney’s Animal Kingdom stated, “We’re not going to be tricked by a $1,000 bribe, especially when other Disney Cast Members are getting the $1,000 with no strings attached.”

    The Service Trades Council said Disney is refusing to deliver the employee bonuses until the union approves a new contract, and that, if the workers do not agree to the offer, the bonuses will expires on August 31, […]


  18. says

    Republican legislators at the state level seem deaf to the pleas from students from Parkland, Florida:

    […] In Arizona, Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to force debate over whether to ban bump stocks and other modifications to increase weapons’ rate of fire — and instead voted to debate an anti-porn bill.

    In Florida, just after the vote to not debate an assault rifle ban, legislators did debate a measure that declares pornography a threat to public health. […]

    Ten other gun control measures — including legislation requiring universal background checks for gun purchases and a bill to prohibit those convicted of domestic abuse charges from owning a weapon — have been bottled up in the Arizona House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this year. None have received a hearing.

    Meanwhile, measures to loosen restrictions on guns have actually moved forward in some cases.

    A Florida legislator breathed new life into a proposal to end a ban on guns in schools. State Sen. Greg Steube (R) said he would bring the measure up for a hearing, […]

    One measure that has received a hearing in Arizona would loosen gun safety rules in foster homes. That bill, which has advanced out of a state House committee, would end gun safety requirements in homes of foster parents.

    In Wisconsin, where Democrats tried to force a vote on a measure requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases, Republicans used a legislative tactic to rewrite the bill to fund armed guards in schools […]

    In South Carolina, legislative leaders threw cold water on a Democratic proposal, which was introduced after the Parkland attack, to ban sales of AR-15 rifles to those under the age of 20.

    “No one wants to see loss of life, ever,” House Majority Leader Gary Simrill (R) told The State newspaper. “Restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to be the answer to the problem.”

    Instead, Simrill suggested allowing those with concealed weapon permits to carry their firearms in more locations. South Carolina legislators are also considering measures that would arm teachers. […]


  19. says

    Follow-up to comment 23.

    It has been pointed out that the Republican convention is three years away. In the meantime, Keith Schiller is being paid $15,000 a month to pick a location? That seems odd. By the time the convention rolls around, Schiller will have been paid $500,000.

    It has also been noted by Stephen Spaulding, former special counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now chief of strategy at the nonpartisan advocacy group Common Cause, that convention funds “are notorious for being operated as slush funds.”

    So what is going on here?

    There’s speculation that Schiller is being paid hush money. He is the man, after all, who arranged trysts between Trump and a porn star; and between Trump and a Playboy bunny. Schiller is also the man who disputed the account in the Steele dossier of Russian prostitutes joining Trump in a hotel room. And while Schiller disputed that, he inadvertently confirmed that a visit to Trump by multiple prostitutes had indeed been offered by his Russian hosts.

  20. says

    Trump’s “listening session” with Florida students and parents … so far:

    – A cleric of some kind said an overly-long and rambling prayer.

    – Mike Pence blathered.

    – Betsy DeVos blathered.

    – Trump bloviated.

    Some students offered practical suggestions. For example: only 32 states require active-shooter drills in schools. The point was made that all schools should have those drills, that they save lives. Some schools don’t have funds needed to hold the drills.

    More on this later.

  21. says

    Follow-up to comment 28.

    One parent suggested age restrictions on gun purchases:

    If he’s not old enough to buy a drink, to go and buy a beer, he should not be able to go and buy a gun at 18 years-old.

    That’s just common sense. We have to do common sense. Please, Mr. Trump, these are things we have to do.

    It’s not left and right, it’s not political, it’s a human issue. People are dying and we have to stop this.

    Trump replied that he did not have an objection to an age requirement of 21. Actually, Trump said he would “consider” raising the age requirement.

    I don’t trust Trump to stick to anything he says in that room full of grieving students and parents.

    I’m not sure an age requirement of 21 to purchase an assault rifle will help.

  22. says

    Trump is now bloviating about teachers and coaches carrying concealed weapons. He wants to train teachers to use defensive weapons.

    Trump also suggested creating “institutions” where mentally ill people could be taken.

    Trump made the point that airline pilots carry weapons.

  23. says

    One of the students at Trump’s listening session today said that he still doesn’t understand why he can go into a store and buy a weapon of war, an AR.

  24. says

    Writing for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin pointed out that Trump-run beauty pageants were a scam. And the voting was rigged. That’s not the main point of the article, but it is a telling detail.

    The first-round results of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant seem to have come as a surprise to some of the competition’s judges, who thought that they would declare the finalists. The seven judges of the pageant’s preliminary round were charged with winnowing eighty-six contestants to fifteen finalists. Divided into two groups, they had brief conversations with each of the contestants, who then paraded onstage, first in bathing suits, then in evening gowns. The judges—including public-relations professionals, a modelling entrepreneur, and a fashion reporter—rated each woman on such qualities as “appearance” and “personality,” after which the ballots were whisked away. “They told us not to share how we voted with each other, but we did anyway,” one of the preliminary judges told me. When the finalists were announced, he said, the winners included several who hadn’t been selected. “I was shocked,” the judge told me. “I didn’t know what had happened. I felt ridiculous.” The contestants were not so naïve—they understood who was in charge. […]

    Adwoa Yamoah, who competed as Miss Canada in 2012, told me, “He made comments about every girl: ‘I’ve been to that country.’ ‘We’re building a Trump Tower there.’ It was clear the countries that he liked did well. He’d whisper to Paula about the girls, and she’d write it down. He basically told us he picked nine of the top fifteen.” Kerrie Baylis, who was Miss Jamaica in 2013, described a similar scene and added that, when the finalists were announced, “the list looked like the countries that Donald Trump did business with, or wanted to do business with.” Shi Lim, who competed that year as Miss Singapore, told me, “The finalists were picked by Trump. He was really in charge. We called it the Trump card.” […]

    the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow looks like a harbinger of the Trump campaign and Presidency, featuring some of the same themes and characters. Miss Universe represents a paradigmatic example of Trump’s business style in action—the exaggerations that teeter into lies, the willingness to embrace dubious partners, the hunger for glamour and recognition. Trump got away with this kind of behavior for decades, and he played by the same rules during his run for the Presidency. […]

  25. says

    The proposals that schools arm teachers or be patrolled by battalions of armed guards are asinine. They’re an insult to people seeking serious solutions. Reporters have to stop asking “Would this help?” No, it wouldn’t fucking help, it’s an intentional deflection from the discussion of effective approaches,* and it’s an insult to children and parents. It’s OK for responsible people to dismiss these lunatic notions.

    * As well as an attempt to expand both gun culture and gun sales.

  26. says

    This WSJ article provides a few additional details re #5 above. I think I missed this report about Calk last year:

    …Mr. Calk, who was a member of the Trump campaign’s economic advisory panel and overlapped with Mr. Manafort on the campaign, said last year the loans to Mr. Manafort were “absolutely not” related to his role in the campaign.

    Around the time his bank made the Manafort loans in late 2016 and early 2017—for several properties including a Brooklyn townhouse—Mr. Calk was seeking to become Mr. Trump’s Army secretary, according to three people briefed on the interactions, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.

    Mr. Calk was placing calls to the Pentagon and specifically to Army headquarters, asking for briefings to obtain information and prepare himself for a possible job, according to a person familiar with the inquiries. Mr. Calk’s overtures raised questions among military leaders as to how to respond, this person said….

  27. says

    “‘Hell on earth’: UN mulls Syria action as Eastern Ghouta deaths rise”:

    UN Security Council members may vote Thursday on a temporary ceasefire for Syria’s besieged Eastern Ghouta region, a day after the United Nations’ chief deplored the plight of the civilians trapped there as “hell on earth.”

    A draft resolution put forward by Sweden and Kuwait on Wednesday calls for a 30-day halt in the fighting in the rebel-held Damascus suburb, where intense shelling by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces has taken a heavy toll this week.

    If agreed, the ceasefire would allow for the delivery of critical supplies and the evacuation of the wounded.

    “I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population in Eastern Ghouta: 400,000 people who live in hell on earth,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday.

    “My appeal for all those involved is for an immediate suspension of all war activities in Eastern Ghouta, allowing for humanitarian aid to reach all those in need, allowing for the evacuation of an estimated 700 people that need urgent treatment that cannot be provided there, and creating also the possibility for other civilians to be effectively treated in the site,” he said….

  28. says

    “Bernie blames Hillary for allowing Russian interference: The senator and his top political adviser also denied Mueller’s assertion that Russian actors backed his campaign.”:

    Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.

    The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.

    In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.

    “The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.

    The Vermont senator was adamant that he did not benefit from Russian bots urging voters to support him. “I did not know that Russian bots were promoting my campaign. Russian bots were not promoting my campaign,” he said.

    Weaver, who is one of the senator’s closest aides, said repeatedly he wasn’t sure if he should believe the charges.

    “The factual underpinning of that in the indictment is what? Zero,” Weaver said. “I have not seen any evidence of support for Bernie Sanders.”

    Sanders repeatedly refused to say why he didn’t call out Russian involvement during the campaign. Clinton’s campaign regularly raised suspicions of Kremlin-backed activity during the home stretch of the race.

    Sanders has faced questions since Friday about why he has not more strongly condemned the Russian actions that benefited his campaign. On Wednesday, liberal writer Joan Walsh of The Nation tweeted in response to Sanders’ comments about Clinton: “Seriously, this could be the end of Sanders 2020. Someone who cares about him ought to tell him how badly he stepped in it today.”

    On Wednesday evening, Sanders took to Twitter with additional statements.

    “Mueller’s indictment provides further evidence that the Russian government interfered in 2016. It also shows that they tried to turn my supporters against Hillary Clinton in the primary and general election. I unequivocally condemn such interference,” he wrote.

    A Sanders spokesman declined to explain the senator’s apparent change of heart over the course of the day.

  29. says

    “Trump supporters, conservatives rage over Russian bot purge, #TwitterLockOut”:

    Conservative Twitter users raged against the social media company, lobbing accusations of left-wing bias and censorship after thousands of followers were wiped out in an overnight bot purge.

    The suspension of multiple accounts followed the indictment by special counsel Robert S. Mueller of Russian nationals for meddling in the U.S. election, including using fake accounts on Twitter to conduct “information warfare” against the United States.

    The hashtag #TwitterLockOut was trending in the U.S. on Wednesday morning as thousands of accounts, including those belonging to Michael Flynn Jr., son of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson complained that hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of their followers had been shut down.

    “The twitter purge is real,” Fox News commentator Dan Bongino wrote. “I woke up and saw I lost 100 or so followers,” columnist Adriana Cohen tweeted.

    Twitter would not say how many accounts it purged.

    “As part of our ongoing work in safety, we identify suspicious account behaviors that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse,” the company said in a statement.

    Twitter denied cracking down on conservative voices. “Twitter’s tools are apolitical, and we enforce our rules without political bias,” it said.

    An organization that tracks Kremlin-backed Twitter accounts — the Alliance for Securing Democracy — says such influence operations have remained active since the election, serving to amplify disputes bubbling on the Web. On Wednesday, #twitterlockout and #twitterpurge were the top and trending hashtags used by the accounts linked to Russian influence operations tracked by the Alliance’s Hamilton 68 project.

    In hearings last year, U.S. lawmakers criticized Twitter for not taking the Russian bot scourge seriously enough….

  30. says

    “GOP Refuses to Ask Twitter for Private Messages in Russia Probe”:

    Republicans on the House intelligence committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election have refused Democratic entreaties to subpoena Twitter for direct messages of Donald Trump associates, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell The Daily Beast.

    Sources would not share with The Daily Beast specifically whose DMs committee Democrats wanted to subpoena Twitter to acquire. But in hearing transcripts, Democrats have indicated they want DMs concerning Donald Trump Jr. and Trump consigliere Roger Stone—both of whom have been linked to WikiLeaks, which famously released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign.

    It’s the latest sign that the Republicans on the hyper-factionalized committee are willing to focus on anything but potential collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin in the 2016 election. Trump’s associates tend to share their boss’ love for Twitter and, like many users of the social network, have been known to use direct messaging for sensitive communications.

    And it comes as frustrated Democrats are accusing their Republican colleagues behind closed doors of intransigence that leaves them in a precarious position for any investigation: being asked to trust witnesses without the tools to verify their stories.

    Democrats are getting restless. They’ve urged in committee hearings dominated by Nunes’ accusations of surveillance malfeasance that the Republicans are blocking access to witness documentation, including travel records and communications logs. The DMs fall in that category….

  31. says

    Tamara Keith: “Today my kid’s preschool is having a regularly scheduled ‘hibernation drill’. We got a note from his teacher last night saying that the kids put 2 and 2 together and realized it was really an active shooter drill and then on their own connected it to Parkland. Ugh.”


  32. says

    Spencer Hsu: “The Rick Gates saga continues: Judge sets a sealed hearing for tomorrow to discuss his sealed response to his lawyers’ request to withdraw from the case. No visible movement on plea talks.”

    Sam Nunberg will be interviewed by someone on Mueller’s team today.

  33. says

    “Senior Republican Calls for E.P.A. Chief’s First-Class Travel Files”:

    The chairman of the House Oversight Committee — in a prominent instance of Republican scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency under Scott Pruitt — demanded on Wednesday that the E.P.A. chief turn over documents related to his first-class travel at taxpayer expense.

    Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, called on Mr. Pruitt to detail all his government travel since assuming leadership of the E.P.A. one year ago. He raised a particular concern over conflicting statements from Mr. Pruitt’s press office about whether the administrator had a waiver to fly first class at all times.

    Mr. Gowdy asked that Mr. Pruitt’s travel information be handed over by 5 p.m. on March 6….

  34. says

    Follow-up to comment 31.

    Trump’s attitude towards women shows up when he discusses the beauty pageants:

    […] From the beginning, Trump did little to conceal his attitude toward women. As he told Howard Stern in an interview, when he bought the pageant he found that it had strayed from its roots as a beauty contest. “They had a person who was extremely proud that a number of the women had become doctors,” Trump said. “And I wasn’t interested.”

    In 1997, during his first year as owner, Trump became embroiled in a conflict involving Alicia Machado, of Venezuela, who was the reigning Miss Universe at the time and had gained weight during her tenure. Trump went on a public crusade to shame her. Wearing a suit and tie, and trailed by cameras, he followed Machado into a gym to watch her work out. “This is somebody that likes to eat,” Trump told the reporters.

    The controversy resurfaced during the 2016 campaign, when Hillary Clinton, in the first Presidential debate, said, “He called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina.” After a pause, Clinton said, “Donald, she has a name: Her name is Alicia Machado.” […]

    Trump also boasted about ogling Miss Universe contestants during the events. “I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” he told Stern. “You know, they’re standing there with no clothes.”

    Over the years, when asked about his management of the pageants, he has often replied with some version of the quip “The bathing suits got smaller and the heels got higher and the ratings went up.”

    The part about ratings isn’t true. As the book “Trump Revealed,” by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, noted, when Trump bought Miss Universe the viewership in the United States had declined from around thirty-five million in 1984 to twelve million in 1997. The numbers kept falling during Trump’s ownership, and the American audience for the 2013 pageant consisted of fewer than four million.

    Still, Trump recognized that the pageant was a useful vehicle for expanding his reach overseas, and no country so consistently kindled his ambitions as Russia. […]

  35. says

    SC @32:

    The proposals that schools arm teachers or be patrolled by battalions of armed guards are asinine. They’re an insult to people seeking serious solutions. Reporters have to stop asking “Would this help?” No, it wouldn’t fucking help, it’s an intentional deflection from the discussion of effective approaches,* and it’s an insult to children and parents. It’s OK for responsible people to dismiss these lunatic notions.

    I agree. And, I couldn’t help but notice that Trump has an unrealistic view of how effective an armed teacher or coach would be against a shooter with an AR-15 (and sometimes body armor as well). During the listening session yesterday, Trump said several times that an armed school official could have taken “one shot” and that would have ended the crisis. Trump said that the coach, instead of blocking bullets with his body, would have just shot at the shooter and that would have been that. Trump has a movie running in his head that does not match reality.

    The thought of gun battles inside a school … well that’s equally bonkers.

  36. says

    SC @35, quoting an article in Politico:

    “The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.

    Oh, FFS! That sounds just like Trump. Moreover, it sounds like Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders who employ whataboutism all the time to blame someone else or to change the topic of the conversation.

    This disgusts me. Bernie Sanders should know better. He and his team should be better than this.

  37. says

    Zeke Miller: “When asked if he’s ready to take on the NRA on age limits: Trump says ‘I don’t think I’ll be going up against them. … They’re good people’.”

    He wants to (re-)open mental institutions to lock people up. Because he’s a disaster of a human being whose answer to every real or perceived problem is coercion and violence.

  38. says


    Since becoming Philly’s DA last month, Larry Krasner has ended cash bail for non-violent offenses, stopped charges for marijuana possession, launched lawsuit against Big Pharma over opioid epidemic, & created a “Conviction Integrity” unit to review both convictions & sentencing.

    Krasner’s office & Washington’s state Senate have both been delivering a stream of exciting reforms since the year began. Great model for what more wins by CJ reformers & progressive lawmakers should and could produce.

  39. says

    SC @57, Trump is still fulminating against gun-free zones right now. He has been on this subject for about twenty minutes.

    The idea that gun-free zones are bad, bad, bad is obviously stuck in Trump’s head. He’s not going to let this go. He is in the trumpian repetition mode now.

    He suggests giving teachers who carry a gun a bonus in their paycheck.

  40. says

    From Steve Benen’s and Rachel Maddow’s “pay attention to what Trump does, not what he says” analysis of gun control measures, or lack thereof:

    […] 1. “I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks.” That sounds like a worthwhile reform, though it would be a rather dramatic reversal for Trump, who, as Rachel noted on last night’s show, has weakened the background check system.

    Indeed, the L.A. Times reported this week, Trump administration officials “have quietly chipped away at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the federal system that stores consult to make sure buyers are eligible to purchase guns.” The piece added, “In his recently released budget for the coming fiscal year, Trump proposed slashing millions of dollars from the budget for the background check system.”

    2. “…with an emphasis on Mental Health.” Again, Trump is the one who, shortly after taking office, took steps to make it easier for the mentally impaired to buy guns. What’s more, as the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell explained last week, Trump’s proposed budget calls for significant cuts that, if implemented, would limit access to mental-health services for many Americans.

    3. “Raise age to 21.” There seems to be a growing number of Republicans who can’t answer questions about why a young adult can buy an assault rifle, but not a beer. The NRA, however, has not yet signed off on the change.

    4. “…end sale of Bump Stocks.” If Trump is serious about this, he could endorse the pending legislation banning bump-stock modifications. So far, he hasn’t. […]

    What Trump tweeted this morning:

    I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!

    Maddow’s segment on this issue is excellent. Included is this information: [Trump administration officials] have narrowed a few legal definitions to make it harder to classify would-be gun buyers as ineligible. […] The FBI used to consider people “fugitives from justice” if there were outstanding warrants for their arrest, but now they must also have fled across state lines to intentionally avoid prosecution to be disqualified. […] Trump officials also purged tens of thousands of law enforcement records from the background system. […] They narrowed the definitions of mentally ill. […]

    LA Times link

  41. tomh says

    [OT] For anyone using Chrome browser, there’s a nifty extension called “Follow the Money” that shows the total amount of NRA contributions the top twenty congresspersons have received, anytime their name appears in a news article. For instance, in a story mentioning Rubio, his name shows up as, Sen. Marco ($3,303,355 from the NRA) Rubio. For McCain you’ll see “John ($7,740,521 from the NRA) McCain,” and so on, whenever the name is mentioned. These are totals over their career.

  42. says

    More on Trump’s push to arm teachers:

    I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!

    History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!

    If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work.

    Trump’s simplistic mind set, and his unfounded claim that, “attacks would end,” offend me. This is a serious, life-and-death issue, but the Clown in Chief is writing a grade-school essay in response.

    Steve Benen has these questions for Trump:

    […] 1. If gunmen are deranged, why does Trump believe they’ll make sensible decisions about committing mass murder based on reason and self-preservation?

    2. If gunmen intend to die anyway, why would they be deterred from attacking a school with armed personnel?

    3. Exactly what kind of training does the president envision for, say, armed elementary-school teachers who would apparently be responsible for neutralizing would-be assailants?

    4. Once more guns are brought into schools, how does Trump intend to deal with possibility of the firearms being accessed by children?

    5. How would Trump pay for all of this? A Washington Post analysis this morning noted that to train and equip 20% of the nation’s 3.6 million teachers would cost about $1 billion.

    Perhaps considering new restrictions on firearm access would be easier?

    The NRA has a proposal to answer question 3. They would train the teachers, and the government would pay them to do so. This would be an on-going thing, with refresher courses every six months, all paid for by the taxpayers. As to cost, Trump also proposes a bump in pay for teachers that carry guns.

  43. says

    People attending CPAC are spreading the falsehood that some of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are “crisis actors.” Facebook still has a lot of that false news up on their site.

    Before getting to the hotel complex hosting the annual CPAC convention Thursday morning, 20-year-old Tabitha Jackson and 21-year-old Teresa Taborga-Urquiola spent part of the morning, like most days, on Facebook.

    Jackson said it was on the social network that she saw “pretty good evidence” and “proof” that at least one of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have become activists in the week since 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed, are paid crisis actors.

    “There was like pictures online of the different crisis actors in Sandy Hook and it was the same person in Parkland, or something like that,” said Jackson, a student at Towson University. “I honestly wouldn’t be surprised, with how much they try to push their anti-gun agenda, if they were to hire crisis actors.” […]

    When the doors to CPAC’s exhibit hall opened a few minutes later, the two students walked in and were immediately greeted with a familiar site: the Facebook logo, surrounded by the social network’s signature emojis.

    Facebook paid for a booth at the conservative conference for the second year in a row, Policy Communications Manager Nu Wexler told ThinkProgress as he set up the spacious, carpeted space alongside several other Facebook employees. On a counter, they set up stacks of information cards for attendees to learn about Facebook’s work on “election and government issues,” how to use Facebook Live, and safety tips for protecting your account. […]


  44. says

    Good news: some states are going around the Trump administration to create gun control initiatives based on a coalition of like-minded governors.

    Not counting on Washington to take action on gun laws, four Northeast Democratic governors on Thursday announced the formation of a state-based alliance to beef up gun controls. It’s modeled on the Climate Alliance formed by Democratic governors after President Donald Trump announced he’d withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

    Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said the initiative would share information on top of what’s in the federal background-check system, trace guns across state lines and create a regional consortium to share policy studies being done at universities and elsewhere.

    “This notion of a coalition of states, of like-minded states, that share best practices to me is a very smart interim step toward a national solution,” […]

    “Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing the initative, the states are going “to take matters into our own hands.” New York has passed a series of gun laws since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

    Raimondo added: “Kids in Florida and across the nation are taking action, and it’s not a surprise: We’ve forced them to lead because for years elected officials in Washington have refused to.” […]


  45. says


    Rep. Claudia Tenney, offering no evidence, told a New York radio host that many mass shooters are Democrats and that the media are overlooking the story.

    Tenney, a gun rights advocate, made the comments during a discussion Wednesday with WGDJ host Fred Dicker about the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, which left 17 people dead.

    “Obviously, there’s a lot of politics in it. It’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats,” Tenney said. “But the media doesn’t talk about that.”

    Tenney said she fears legal gun owners will be “targeted” following the shooting, even though she claimed their demographic had “the least amount of crimes than virtually any other demographic.” Dicker replied that “they tend to vote Republican” and “tend to be white.” Tenney laughed and agreed. […]


  46. says

    “State Department report will trim language on women’s rights, discrimination”:

    State Department officials have been ordered to pare back passages in a soon-to-be-released annual report on global human rights that traditionally discuss women’s reproductive rights and discrimination, according to five former and current department officials.

    The directive calls for stripping passages that describe societal views on family planning, including how much access women have to contraceptives and abortion.

    A broader section that chronicles racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination has also been ordered pared down, the current and former officials said.

    The move, believed to have been ordered by a top aide to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reflects the Trump administration’s rightward turn from the Obama administration on family planning issues. It also appears to highlight the stated desire of Tillerson and President Donald Trump to make human rights a lower priority in U.S. foreign policy.

    The subsection is also expected to be renamed, changing from “Reproductive Rights” to “Coercion in Population Control.”

    The human rights bureau also has been directed to cut back a broader section in the various country reports generally called “discrimination, societal abuses and trafficking in persons.” Along with women’s reproductive rights, that section touches on topics such as anti-Semitism or pressures on the gay and lesbian community. It also includes discrimination that’s not necessarily government-sponsored….

    “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Will Remove ‘Nation of Immigrants’ From Mission Statement”:

    The lead U.S. agency tasked with granting citizenship to would-be Americans is making a major change to its mission statement, removing a passage that describes the United States as a nation of immigrants. In an email sent to staff members Thursday and shared with The Intercept, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna announced the agency’s new mission statement….

  47. says

    So much for Trump’s promise to save the coal industry:

    […] Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported last week in its 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook that by the end of last year, coal plant owners “had announced 12.5GW of planned retirements for 2018, foreshadowing the largest year for coal decommissioning since the 15GW of retirements in 2015.”

    […] there never was a “war on coal.” There’s been two big battles, though. The first is an economic battle in the marketplace, where low cost renewables, natural gas, and energy efficiency became so cheap that costly and inflexible coal (and nuclear) plants simply could not compete.

    Wind, solar power, and batteries have been coming down in price so fast that building new renewables is now cheaper than just running old coal plants.

    The second battle is for public health, fought by state and federal governments along with local activists and the Sierra Club, to reduce some of the most dangerous and toxic air pollutants, a lot of which come from coal plants. Call it a “war on air pollution” or a “war to save lives.”

    Even Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency put out an analysis last year concluding that its effort to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan could kill some 100,000 Americans over the next few decades.

    But it’s really economics that is driving the shift away from coal. And no many how many public health protections the Trump administration undoes, they can’t change the fact that existing coal plants are albatrosses. […]


  48. says

    From Steve Benen, quoted @ Lynna’s #63:

    What’s more, as the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell explained last week, Trump’s proposed budget calls for significant cuts that, if implemented, would limit access to mental-health services for many Americans.

    Trump’s idea of emphasizing mental health in gun violence, like his responses to drug addiction and other public health crises, has nothing to do with what most people understand it to mean. He doesn’t see these as public health crises warranting compassionate, science-based public action. He doesn’t see collective despair rooted in rampaging capitalism, growing inequality and insecurity, and cruel austerity policy. He doesn’t see effects of childhood abuse and neglect or a culture of white male supremacy. His only tools are to stigmatize individuals (“sicko,” “psycho,” “savage,” “loser,” “weak”); violate human rights; implement punitive policies; forcibly exclude, detain, and institutionalize people; and further militarize society. When authoritarians like Trump and Sessions talk about emphasizing mental health in addressing societal problems, this is always what they have in mind.

  49. says

    “Ex-Trump Staffer Rick Gates Fires His Lawyer in Russia Probe”:

    Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates has fired his lawyer, The Daily Beast has learned. And, contrary to recent media reports, Gates is not about to make a deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources familiar with the matter.

    CNN and The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that Gates was on the cusp of signing a plea deal with Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s team, and noted that Gates’ lawyer—Tom Green of Sidley Austin—is known for his work negotiating such pleas. If Gates had started cooperating with Mueller, it would certainly have been a boon to the prosecution.

    Instead, Gates—for the time being, at least—isn’t flipping. And Green is out, replaced with Barry Pollack, of Miller Chevalier, according to sources familiar with the matter. Neither Green nor Pollack immediately returned a request for comment….

  50. says

    They’re such crooks!


    P. 25: “When the document was first submitted to Lender B, a conspirator working at Lender B replied: “Looks Dr’d. Can’t someone just do a clean excel doc and pdf to me??” A subsequent version was submitted to the bank.”

    P. 26: “In addition, Lender D questioned MANAFORT about a $300,000 delinquency on his American Express card, which was more than 90 days past due.”

    Once again, what is it with these people and charging hundreds of thousands of dollars on credit cards?

  51. says

    SC @76, all too true.

    Trump waxed nostalgic for the time when we had lots of mental institutions where we could imprison mentally ill people.

  52. says

    What the hell?

    ABC – “Former Trump campaign aide Richard Gates has formally brought veteran Washington attorney Thomas Green into his case, according to an order of appearance filed late Thursday, a signal of potential movement in the Special Counsel case against him.”

    The opposite was reported in #78.

  53. says

    This is exhausting: “NEW: RICK GATES rejected several offers of a plea deal from special counsel, as talks continued over the past month. The talks broke down over the last few days — yet they were still negotiating as of Thursday.”

  54. says

    This at least seems pretty clear: “UPDATE: Asked to confirm that he is representing Rick Gates — and about the Daily Beast reporting that he was fired, Tom Green tells me, ‘It is ludicrous and I am representing him’.”

  55. says

    Lynna @ #75 – this was published today:

    “Black Lung Disease Comes Storming Back in Coal Country”:

    Federal investigators this month identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung cases ever officially recorded.

    More than 400 coal miners frequenting three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017 were found to have complicated black lung disease, an extreme form characterized by dense masses of scar tissue in the lungs.

    The cluster, identified following an investigation by National Public Radio, adds to a growing body of evidence that a new black lung epidemic is emerging in central Appalachia, even as the Trump administration begins to review Obama-era coal dust limits.

    The severity of the disease among miners at the Virginia clinics “knocked us back on our heels,” said David J. Blackley, an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, who led the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was equally troubling, he said, that nearly a quarter of the miners with complicated black lung disease had been on the job fewer than 20 years.

    Across the coal belt in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, “there’s an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die,” Dr. Blackley said.

    Black lung, a chronic disease caused by breathing in coal mine dust, declined precipitously between the early 1970s and late 1990s, following new health and safety rules put in place by the 1969 Coal Act. The legislation for the first time established airborne dust limits in coal mines and set up a health monitoring program for working miners, offering free chest x-rays every five years.

    But by 2000, black lung was on the rise again. An advanced form of the disease, rarely seen in the mid-1990s, made an especially dramatic comeback.

    To combat black lung disease, the Obama administration in 2014 issued a new coal dust rule. It lowered dust exposure limits for the first time in four decades, increased sampling frequency and required the use of real-time personal dust monitoring devices.

    The rule was challenged by coal industry groups as costly and overly burdensome. A federal appeals court upheld it in 2016.

    Last December, the Trump administration announced a retrospective review of the four-year-old regulation as part of a broader rule-cutting agenda, a move that alarmed mine safety advocates and medical experts….

  56. says

    Tom Steyer: “I am tired of watching stories go unheard by politicians who continue to drag their feet on laws to protect Americans. I am pledging $1 million dollars for a nationwide initiative to register high schoolers to vote ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.”

  57. KG says

    I’d probably rank Washington ahead of Lincoln, only because without Washington, there never would have been a USA or an office of the Presidency. But it’s close. – arids@465

    On those grounds, maybe the top place should go to Louis XVI. OK, so he wasn’t actually the POTUS – but nor was Washington when he played his smaller part in getting the USA started! And after Washington had been both driven out of New York and defeated while trying to defend Philadelphia, it was the news of Saratoga, in which Washington played no part, that brought the rebels the European (primarily French) assistance they needed.

  58. says

    “Former Trump aide Richard Gates poised to plead guilty, cooperate with special counsel, sources say”: “President Trump’s one-time campaign aide Richard Gates is expected to plead guilty in the special counsel’s criminal case against him, setting up the potential for Gates to become the latest well-informed Trump insider to assist in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest, according to sources close to the matter. ”

    Sure, this is about the tenth such report over the past several weeks, but maybe the latest charges finally did it. And it is after all Friday.

  59. KG says

    Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 – Edward-Isaac Dovere, quoted by SC@35

    That strikes me as bizarre, quite independent (pun unintended, but I let it stand) of Sanders’ party affiliation, politics or performance. If he ran, and won, he would be 79 on starting his term. I don’t care how good your health is, that’s not an age to take on what is (or, given Trump’s behaviour, perhaps “should be”) one of the most physically and intellectually demanding jobs in the world.

  60. says

    Haberman now reporting it, too: “A former top adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign indicted by the special counsel was expected to plead guilty as soon as Friday afternoon, according to two people familiar with his plea agreement, a move that signals he is cooperating with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

  61. says

    WaPo and NBC are now reporting a Gates plea, and ABC says they have a letter from Gates to his friends and family explaining his decision: “In the letter obtained by ABC News, Gates writes to family and friends ‘despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart’, Gates explained. ‘The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process’.”

  62. says

    Daniel Dale:

    Rick Gates is regularly described as Manafort’s right-hand-man or Manafort’s protege. He was also:

    – Deputy chair of Trump’s campaign
    – A Trump aide even after Manafort was ousted
    – Deputy chair of Trump’s inaugural committee
    – Co-founder of Trump-blessed America First nonprofit

  63. blf says

    The le penazis & similar here in France are going bonkers — well, more bonkers than their already way-over-the-top frothing-at-the-mouth usual — over the young lady selected to portray Joan of Arc (perhaps the French national hero / icon) at the annual festival in Orléans, French far right attack choice of mixed-race girl for Joan of Arc role:

    A French state prosecutor has opened an inquiry into incitement to racial hatred after the selection of a mixed-race teenager to play the folk heroine Joan of Arc in annual festivities in Orléans was met with racist abuse from far-right users of social media.

    Mathilde Edey Gamassou, 17[†], was chosen from 250 girls on Monday to play Joan in a spring festival marking the Catholic warrior saint’s breaking of the English siege of Orléans in 1429.

    Gamassou, whose father is from Benin and whose mother is Polish, is to ride a horse through the central city dressed in armour for the celebration, which dates back nearly six centuries.


    Joan of Arc was white, read one Twitter post. We are white and proud of being white, don’t change our history.

    Another comment, on the anti-Muslim site Resistance Republicaine, complained: Next year, Joan of Arc will be in a burqa.

    The local radio station France Bleu Orléans reported that two social media accounts were being investigated over incitement to racial hatred after they compared the teenager to a baboon and used a picture of bananas.

    The women’s equality minister, Marlene Schiappa, offered her support to the student.

    “The racist hatred of fascists has no place in the French republic,” she tweeted on Wednesday.

    Bénédicte Baranger, the president of the committee in charge of choosing a girl for the role, said she was saddened by some of the reactions.

    “This girl was chosen for who she is; an interesting person and a lively spirit,” Baranger said. “She responds to our four criteria: a resident of Orléans for 10 years, a student in an Orléans high school, and a Catholic who gives her time to others. She will deliver our French history to everyone, as have previous Joans before her.”

    The mayor of Orléans, Olivier Carré, also defended the teenager.

    “In 2018, as for 589 years, the people of Orléans will celebrate Joan of Arc played by a young woman who shows her courage, faith and vision,” he wrote on Twitter. “Mathilde has all these qualities.”

    Outside school, Gamassou is a student of opera at the prestigious Orléans Conservatory and is learning to fence.


    Meanwhile, in the States, überüfberfacist Marion Maréchal-Le Pen blathered at CPAC, France is no longer free: Marine Le Pen’s niece brings French far right to CPAC:

    Speaking to a crowd of conservative activists that booed every time she mentioned the European Union, Maréchal-Le Pen combined condemnation of the trans-national bloc with attacks on Muslim immigration and old fashioned social conservatism in an effort to link her political efforts against the domination of the liberals and the socialists with the election of Trump and the Brexit process in the United Kingdom.

    Maréchal-Le Pen claimed French sovereignty was under siege. France is no longer free today, she proclaimed. After 1500 years of existence, we now must fight for our independence. She also claimed that after 40 years of mass immigration, Islamist lobbies and political correctness, France was in the process of going from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam.

    She talked about a global conservative youth that wants to protect their children from eugenics, the elderly from euthanasia and humanity from transhumanism.


    […] Matt Schlapp, the head of the American Conservative Union that organizes CPAC, has insisted that Maréchal-Le Pen is a classical liberal, unlike her aunt [le penazi führer Marine Le Pen –blf] and others in the National Front.

    Schlapp is full of it. Maréchal-Le Pen is considered more extreme than her holocaust-denying grandfather Jean-Marie Le Pen (who founded the le penazis). He, in turn, is probably more extreme than the current le penazi führer, who still nonetheless a full-on nazi.

      † I normally redact the ages of people from excerpts, unless it seems directly relevant to the story. In this case, whilst perhaps not directly relevant, I decided to keep it in the excerpt to illustrate just how deranged the young lady’s racist attackers are.

  64. says

    SC @93, that’s so emblematic of the Trump administration. While miners are dying of black lung disease, they want to cut back on rules and regulations that protect miners.

    ““there’s an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die,” Dr. Blackley said.

    Meanwhile, coal company bigwigs found the Obama-era regulations “burdensome.” Trump is on the side of the bigwigs.

  65. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The mark of a good general officer is understanding the war one is fighting. Washington did that. He knew that if he could keep the Continental Army from disintegrating then France would have a very hard time resisting the opportunity to bloody the nose of George III. He was not a great military strategist, but he knew that without strong support from Parliament and facing a potentially costly conflict with France, Britain could not sustain a long conflict across the Atlantic. Arguably, we could just as well give the honor to Cornwallis, to whose military incompetence the American owed a great debt.
    Washington’s true greatness showed itself after the war when he declined power, disbanded his army and sent them on their way. No less than George III said he thought this make Washington one of the most remarkable men of his age.
    Washington saved the new Republic twice more–lending his prestige to the new Constitution and agreeing to become the first President and then by leaving that office and turning over its powers even though he entertained doubts about the man to whom he was handing the office.

    Mr. Lincoln was also a remarkable man–in part because he also understood his war and his role in it. Had he lived to handle the reconstruction, our history might have turned out differently, and he might have proved himself the equal of Washington. I would contend, though, that his time on the national and global stage was probably to brief for us to fully take his measure. It is also quite possible that he would have been impeached by the vindictive victors.

    Both were great men and from all the information we have good men, at least for their time.

  66. says

    From the New York Times report:

    Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, said she had felt no reassurance during a phone call from the president to her hospital room last week.

    “He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up,” she said in an interview after being discharged from the hospital. “Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.”

    Ms. Fuentes, who was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her right eye, said Mr. Trump had called the gunman a “sick puppy” and said “‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.”

    Trump called some of the victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida. I wish Trump’s staff could have protected the victims from that call.

    And there’s this comment from a student who spoke during the “listening session” hosted by Trump at the White House:

    But another participant in the White House session, Samuel Zeif, an 18-year-old student at Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the shooting and spoke tearfully at the White House on Wednesday of the experience, said Mr. Trump had done little to comfort or console him.

    He said he had been particularly stung to see pictures of the notecard after it was over.

    “Everything I said was directly from the heart, and he had to write down ‘I hear you,’” Mr. Zeif said in an interview.

    From Steve Benen:

    As a candidate, the Republican, referring to himself in third person, said empathy would be “one of the strongest things about Trump.”

  67. says

    Here’s the Gates information. The specific crimes to which he’s pleading guilty are interesting. The false statements charge refers to lies he told a few weeks ago about a specific meeting in March of 2013 that included an unnamed member of congress at which Ukraine was discussed and after which Manafort and Gates wrote up a report for Yanukovych.

  68. says

    Whoa – Matthew Miller is suggesting that Gates lied about this during his proffer meeting. People are suggesting that the member of congress involved was likely Rohrabacher – a few days after the 2013 meeting, Manafort donated to Rohrabacher’s campaign.

  69. says

    Follow-up to comment 68.

    More companies are distancing themselves from the NRA:

    Car rental company Enterprise and First National Bank of Omaha have severed their relationship with the National Rifle Association.

    From Time magazine:

    The Wyndham and Best Western hotel companies similarly came under pressure to end their discount programs for NRA members in early 2013, right after the Sandy Hook school shooting that left 26 children and adults dead. Both hotel companies no longer offer such discounts and are not corporate partners with the NRA, as their social media teams said in replies to countless tweets lately.

    MetLife has also ended a relationship with the NRA, as has home-security company SimpliSafe. Link

    So good to see the NRA brand becoming toxic. If the NRA had stuck to teaching gun safety, they would have been okay.

  70. says

    From the Washington Post:

    […] The 1994 law included a ban on 18 specific models of assault weapons, as well as a ban on any firearms containing certain military-style features, like a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a folding stock. It also banned high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets. The bill allowed individuals already in possession of such weapons to keep them. It was also set to expire after 10 years’ time.

    “The original intent of the assault weapons ban was to reduce the carnage of mass shootings,” [Louis Klarevas, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Boston who wrote a 2016 book on mass shooting violence] said. “And on that front the data indicate that it worked.”

    Klarevas has compiled data on gun massacres involving six or more fatalities for the 50 years before 2016. His numbers show that gun massacres fell significantly during the time the assault weapons ban was in place, and skyrocketed after the ban lapsed in 2004.

    Note that Marco Rubio said, to an audience of relatives of Parkland victims no less, that the assault weapons ban of 1994 “failed.” That law did not fail.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Rubio said any attempt to ban assault weapons would open the door too widely: “Once you start looking at how easy it is to get around it, you would literally have to ban every semiautomatic rifle that’s sold in America.” Much to the Republican senator’s chagrin, the crowd erupted in applause.

    Yesterday, he followed up by saying this idea may have received cheers, but it’s outside “the mainstream.” […] there’s ample evidence to suggest Rubio’s assessment is factually wrong.

  71. says

    At times, Trump’s language in his Conservative Political Action Conference speech was alarmingly violent:

    […] He suggested that if a teacher had a gun in Parkland, Florida last week, “the teacher would have shot the hell out of” the gunman “before he knew what happened.”

    Trump also doubled down on his claim that 10 to 20 percent of teachers are likely “gun adept” or have served in the military before becoming teachers and would likely be willing to carry a concealed weapon at school. He pointed to reports that the school resource officer at the high school in Florida stayed outside instead of entering the building when shots were fired […]

    “These teachers love their students and the students love their teachers in many cases,” he said. “And I would rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students, and frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside.” […]


    The “shot the hell out of” phrase was so bloodthirsty that even the CPAC audience was shocked. The applause was scattered, and some people simple did not respond.

    As for Trump’s comments referencing the school resource officer, I think he is looking for a convenient scapegoat. Trump wants to simplify the problem, ignore real issues, and then offer a simplified answer.

    As SC noted in comment 123, statistics do not support putting more security officers in schools anyway. The unintended consequences are bad, and the added safety factor is nil.

  72. says

    More trumpian nonsense from Trump’s speech at CPAC:

    Don’t be complacent. If they [Democrats] get in, they will repeal your tax cuts, they will put judges in that you wouldn’t believe. They’ll take away your Second Amendment, which we will never allow to happen. They’ll take away your Second Amendment. Remember that. They will take away those massive tax cuts, and they will take away your Second Amendment.

  73. says

    Instead of visiting with Trump in the White House, the NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, will meet with local children in Washington D.C.

    […] “We’re not trying to divide and separate this country,” Curry said at the time of Trump’s tweet. “We’re trying to bring everybody together and speak about love and togetherness and equality. I think that was demonstrated in response to what happened this morning, which is a powerful thing for sure.” […]

    Head coach Steve Kerr left it up to the players to determine how they wanted to spend their time, and the players selected a venue in which local kids would join them. It will be closed off to the media, sources said.

    The players wanted the outing to be a personal, intimate experience.

    “It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”

    The tour will consist only of players, coaches and students, sources said. […]

    ESPN link

  74. says

    This happened in Minnesota: a third-grader fired an officer’s gun.

    Maplewood police said no one was hurt after a third-grader reached into a school liaison officer’s holster and fired the gun on Monday.

    The incident happened in the school gym at Harmony Learning Center in Maplewood, where the officer was “interacting with (third- and fourth-graders) and building relationships,” according to a police department release.

    The release says the officer was sitting on a bench, and a third-grader “reached over and placed his finger into the officer’s gun holster and pressed the trigger of the officer’s gun causing it to discharge though the bottom of the holster.”

    The round hit the floor, and no one was injured, the press release states. […]

    The police department release also said the officer was “unaware of the child touching his gun until the weapon was fired.”

    The holster is considered a level-3 security, the city added, and it has a trigger guard “that typically cannot be touched or fired in the holster, but the child’s small finger was able to reach inside.” […]


    Don’t arm teachers. Don’t put loaded weapons in schools.

  75. says

    One of the Parkland, Florida survivors, Cameron Kasky, has been receiving death threats on Facebook.

    At a town hall on Wednesday night, the survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, made Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) squirm with a series of pointed questions about his support for the Second Amendment. One question that drew particularly loud cheers came from Cameron Kasky, when he asked Rubio, “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?”

    But while the crowd at the town hall may have forcefully backed Kasky, the 17-year-old has been subject to a different reception online, where he says he’s encountered vicious smears and death threats. […]

    From Cameron:

    Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the @NRA cultists are a bit more graphic than those on twitter. Will be back when I have the time for it. Busy getting my feelings hurt by fellow teenagers at Br**tb*rt.

    David Hogg has also been receiving death threats. Some of Hogg’s family members have also been threatened. From Lauren Hogg:

    Hey @FLOTUS you say that your mission as First Lady is to stop cyber bullying, well then, don’t you think it would have been smart to have a convo with your step-son @DonaldJTrumpJr before he liked a post about a false conspiracy theory which in turn put a target on my back

    From Luke Barnes:

    […] Part of the reason these conspiracy theories, and the death threats against survivors that accompany them, become so popular is because they manage to exploit the algorithms of major social media platforms that dictate what content is “trending.” YouTube, for instance, removed the video claiming that David Hogg was a crisis actor — but only after media backlash. Because its trending column is dictated by algorithms, no one was able to spot the problem early. Facebook has a similar problem, with content claiming that the Parkland students were lying being shared hundreds of thousands of times on its platform in the wake of the shooting.


  76. says

    Analysis of some more nonsense that Trump spouted at CPAC:

    Does Donald Trump have any idea what the Paris climate accord really does? Based on the president’s speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, it seems unlikely.

    In his longest remarks on the subject since announcing last June that he would withdraw the United States from the landmark agreement, Trump called the deal “totally disastrous,” “job-killing,” and “wealth-knocking out.” He didn’t dwell on the point of the accord, which is to avoid the worst-case-scenarios of climate change […]

    “They basically wanted to take our wealth away,” Trump said at CPAC. “They didn’t want us to use our wealth power.”

    In reality, the 2015 Paris agreement was a flexible deal in which countries around the world put forward voluntary, non-binding targets for curbing their domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists pointed out that the deal didn’t go nearly far enough to avert dangerous climate change, but it was a start—and it still may be one, if the rest of the world stays the course in spite of Trump. […]


  77. says

    Also from CPAC news:

    Trump also attacked the “crooked media,” adding that “we had a crooked candidate, too.” Attendees responded by chanting, “Lock her up.” Trump followed up to say, “Boy, have they committed a lot of atrocities.” He did not specify which atrocities he was talking about.

  78. says

    More CPAX news:

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai received the “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire” award at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday for his efforts to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

    NRA Second Vice President Carolyn Meadows told Pai his award, which is sponsored by the organization, is a “Kentucky handmade long gun” […]


  79. says

    Follow-up to comments 124 and 127 (blf).

    Hertz has also cut ties with the NRA.

    We have notified the NRA that we are ending the NRA’s rental car discount program with Hertz.

  80. KG says

    I agree that it’s to Washington’s credit that he didn’t try to become a dictator. But looked at in a wider context, the “American Revolution” was simply a falling-out among thieves.

    Both [Washington and Lincoln] were great men and from all the information we have good men, at least for their time.

    Yeah, yeah:

    Washington frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings and the threat of particularly taxing work assignments. Perhaps most severely, Washington could sell a slave to a buyer in the West Indies, ensuring that the person would never see their family or friends at Mount Vernon again. Washington conducted such sales on several occasions.

    and interestingly:

    in April of 1781 during the American Revolution, seventeen members of the Mount Vernon enslaved population—fourteen men and three women—fled to the British warship HMS Savage anchored in the Potomac off the shore of the plantation.

    Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings is a fascinating account of the fates of slaves who escaped and fled to the British (who had promised them freedom, of course out of self-interest) during the war. Many died within a few years, but some ended up being taken to the British colony in Sierra Leone, where for a while they had a measure of self-government, and women were among their elected representatives.

  81. says

    A Democrat who is being outspent 17-1 in a Pennsylvania district is now close enough for a possible win.

    […] On its face, the March 13 special congressional election in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania should be a breeze for the GOP. The Cook Political Report rates the district R+11 […]

    The newly open seat was held by former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) since 2003, who was so secure in his seat that he often failed to attract a Democratic challenger. Murphy suddenly resigned in October amid revelations that he had pressured a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to have an abortion. But even after he stepped down, national Democrats didn’t think they could compete in the special election, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee operative told Vox.

    That was, until Democrat Conor Lamb came along.

    Lamb is a 33-year-old Marine and former assistant US attorney who prosecuted drug dealers in the midst of Pennsylvania’s deadly opioid crisis. New to politics, he has struck a decidedly independent tone […]

    Even if Lamb loses in March, he’ll have another opportunity to compete again in the fall in an 18th District that looks different (and more favorable to Democrats), given the new congressional map drawn up by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. But if he wins, it will be another sign that Democratic momentum is strong and barreling toward November.

    Lamb’s opponent is Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone, a Republican who has described himself as “Trump before Trump was Trump.” Trump is certainly popular in the district, which he won by 20 points in 2016 (Mitt Romney won it by 16 points in 2012). Saccone is a decidedly conservative Republican who is pro-life, pro-gun, anti-government spending, and — perhaps most importantly in this heavily unionized district — vehemently anti-union. […]

    accone’s former double-digit lead has diminished significantly. A recent Monmouth poll shows the Republican with a slight lead, hovering around 49 percent to 46 percent (models with lower turnout give Saccone a slightly larger lead). Given the steep odds, these numbers are extremely good for Lamb.

    “It’s enthusiasm I haven’t seen for a Democratic candidate for a long time,” said veteran Pennsylvania Democratic political consultant Mike Mikus, who lives in the 18th Congressional District. “I don’t think the national Republicans would be spending all this money if they thought it was a slam-dunk.” […]


  82. says

    Follow-up to comments 109 and 116 from SC.

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Rick Gates’ lies to the FBI:

    […] See, he told Mr. Mueller that Manafort and the Ukrainian lobbyist never did discuss Ukraine with no Member of Congress in March of 2013. NO SIR! But in fact they had discussed Ukraine, and Gates knew it because he helped write the report for their Russian-backed Ukrainian clients saying, “We just met with the Russia-lovingest fascist in the United States Congress. And he is PSYCHED for you guys to throw that Tymoshenko woman in jail and prop up that Yanukovych dude that Putin likes.” […]

    If you guessed that Gates was negotiating to avoid jail time and finally tapped out when Mueller dropped those indictments yesterday, you’re probably right. But let’s step back and take a guess at what’s going on behind the scenes here.

    On February 1, Gates’s lawyers moved to withdraw from the case, citing irreconcilable differences. They entered their motion about 10 minutes after Gates had his “Queen for a Day” with the FBI. That’s the proffer interview, where a witness lays all his cards on the table and says to the prosecutor, “What will you give me for this?”

    Now in normal circumstances, a witness can’t be prosecuted for what he says during the proffer. But he can lose that immunity if he lies. WHICH HE DID. Meaning that whatever he said during that interview might be used to prosecute him.

    And in normal circumstances, lawyers aren’t allowed to pull out in the middle of a case. But if, say, you know your client lied to the FBI, you have an ethical obligation to withdraw. And you have to balance that obligation with attorney-client privilege. Thus, the “noisy withdrawal,” where the attorney is allowed to breach the privilege and tell the judge in chambers that she needs to be excused from the case because her client has been less than wholly truthful. […]

    – Gates lied to the FBI on February 1 during plea negotiations.
    – His lawyers shit a brick and immediately moved to withdraw.
    – Because of the lie, Gates lost immunity from prosecution for whatever he said during plea negotiations.
    – Gates is a FUCKING FOOL. […]

  83. says

    “RNC started paying Trump campaign’s rent at Trump Tower after it stopped covering Trump’s legal bills for Russia probe”:

    Soon after the Republican National Committee came under pressure for paying legal bills for President Donald Trump and his eldest son in the special counsel’s Russia probe, it started covering expenses for the president’s re-election campaign.

    The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump’s company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew, John Pence, party officials confirmed this week. The rent pays for office space in the Trump Tower in New York for the staff of Trump’s re-election campaign. John Pence is the Trump campaign’s deputy executive director.

    Campaign finance experts who spoke to CNBC said this type of spending by a party committee on behalf of a campaign is highly unusual but legal, and it appears the RNC disclosed it correctly.

    “This is permissible and it’s being reported properly, but why they are doing it is a mystery,” said Brendan Fischer, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “One would think the RNC could be spending their money more effectively right now on the 2018 campaign, rather than spending it to pay Trump’s rent.”

    So far, the party has spent more than $290,000 to cover the Trump campaign’s expenses since September, the first month it paid the Trump Tower rent or Pence’s salary. Before then, both expenses had been paid directly by the Trump campaign.

    Then, in late September, the RNC abruptly began paying them both, and still does, according to financial disclosure forms released this week….

  84. says

    According to Dilanian on MSNBC, the new Manafort indictment concerns him using millions in hidden funds to pay off European politicians to lobby for Ukraine. I don’t have a link yet.

  85. says

    So do the European countries involved have their own versions of FARA which this group of politicians could have violated? Reasonable speculation that Schroeder is the former Chancellor alluded to, but I assume the others involved will soon be revealed.

  86. says

    Language from the IRA indictment (p. 5):

    Defendants, together with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

    Language from the Manafort indictment (p. 22):

    From in or about and between 2006 and 2017, both dates being approximate and inclusive, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendant PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., together with others, including Gates, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Treasury…

  87. says

    A Russian oligarch that was indicted by Mueller is also organizing/leading (paying for?) a group of mercenaries that operate in Syria. With Assad’s approval, and with the Kremlin’s approval, Yevgeny Prigozhin also authorized an attack against U.S. soldiers in Syria. Looking for more coverage on this. Looks like the Washington Post may have the scoop. Will add more later.

  88. says

    “Top Justice Dept. official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance”:

    A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to three people familiar with the discussion.

    The Feb. 9 phone call from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to White House Counsel Donald McGahn came amid growing public scrutiny of a number of administration officials without final security clearances. Most prominent among them is Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who has had access to some of the nation’s most sensitive material for the last year while waiting for his background investigation to be completed….

  89. says

    SC @152, Trump said today that Jared Kushner is “outstanding,” but then he went on to say that Kelly is the one who will make the decision when it comes to Kushner’s security clearance issues. Is this Trump washing his hands of Kushner?

  90. says

    Josh Marshall: “At the end of 2015, Manafort was desperate for money, pleading to save his marriage, owed millions to a mobbed up oligarch. He told family he was considering suicide. Six weeks later he was asking Tom Barrack to hook him up with Donald Trump.”

    A subscription (which I don’t have, but only because I’m poor) is required to read the article, but I didn’t even know this much.

  91. blf says

    Hate groups in US grow for third straight year: SPLC:

    The number of hate groups has grown by 20 percent since 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a new report.

    The number of hate groups operating in the United States grew by four percent in 2017, according to the [SPLC …].

    The SPLC identified 954 hate groups in the US last year, an increase from the 917 it had documented in 2016, the group said in a report released on Wednesday.


    According to the SPLC, 2017 was the third straight year to witness a rise in the number of hate groups. It was also the first year since 2009 that hate groups were documented in all 50 states.

    Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, laid much of the blame for last year’s increase on the administration of President [sic] Donald Trump, saying he has stoked the flames of white supremacy and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

    “President [sic] Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” she said.


    Neo-Nazi groups, which the year before had numbered 99, saw the largest increase, growing by 22 percent and reaching 121 groups across the country.


    Anti-government groups grew from 623 in 2016 to 689 last year, the group explained, adding that 237 of those groups were armed militias.

    Anti-Muslim groups rose for the third year in a row.


    Meanwhile, KKK chapters declined drastically, decreasing from 130 in 2016 to 72 last year.

    Beirich attributed the decrease in KKK chapters to the growing appeal of the alt-right, a loosely knit coalition of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis who advocate a white ethnostate.

    In a recent report, the SPLC documented 100 people killed or injured by affiliates of the alt-right throughout the last four years.


    The SPLC’s new report also included 51 anti-LGBT groups and two male supremacist organisations, a new category that was not included in the monitor’s previous reports.

    The male supremacist movement “misrepresents all women as genetically inferior, manipulative and stupid and reduces them to their reproductive or sexual function”, the SPLC said in its report.

    Beirich said these groups made it “glaringly apparent that it would be weird for us to leave them off of the list, given that they’re doing the exact same as these other organisations are doing to other populations”.

  92. says

    Lynna @ #153:

    SC @152, Trump said today that Jared Kushner is “outstanding,” but then he went on to say that Kelly is the one who will make the decision when it comes to Kushner’s security clearance issues. Is this Trump washing his hands of Kushner?

    And I believe Kelly’s own deadline was an hour and a half ago. This news appears to have been leaked to force Kelly’s hand – he said he didn’t see any reason Kushner’s “work” would be affected, but then Trump publicly removed himself from the equation, so how does Kelly allow Kushner to continue after this new report?

    My biggest fear is that Kushner has been accessing the most secret information in order to create an insurance policy for himself.

  93. blf says

    Possibly connected to @154, Paul Manafort has a mystery multimillion mortgage (May-2017):

    […] Paul Manafort mortgaged his Hamptons home for $3.5 million via a shell company just after departing [hair furor’s] campaign in August [2016], but the requisite government documents weren’t filed and there is no indication that the $36,750 in taxes owed on the mortgage was ever paid, per NBC News.

    […] The mortgage loan was made by a capital group that’s partially funded by Alexander Rovt, a Ukranian-American real-estate billionaire and Trump donor.


    NBC’s report, Feds Subpoena Records for $3.5M Mystery Mortgage on Manafort’s Home (link embedded in above excerpt) adds:

    […] A Manafort spokesperson said the $3.5 million loan, which was taken out through a shell company, was repaid in December [2016], but also said that paperwork showing the repayment was not filed until he was asked about the loan by NBC News.


    On August 19, 2016, Manafort left the Trump campaign amid media reports about his previous work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, including allegations he received millions of dollars in payments.

    That same day, Manafort created a holding company called Summerbreeze LLC. Several weeks later, a document called a UCC filed with the state of New York shows that Summerbreeze took out a $3.5 million loan on Manafort’s home […]

    There is much more at NBC’s site.

    Whilst the above is after the hinted-at 2015 shenanigans, the speed with which it happened, apparent secrecy, and so on loosely suggests a possible connection.

  94. says

    OMG – Samantha Fuentes was just interviewed on CNN. She’s a child with shrapnel behind her eye, wearing a MSD Eagles sweatshirt. It’s almost spooky how composed and thoughtful these kids are.

  95. KG says

    Saccone is a decidedly conservative Republican who is pro-life, pro-gun – Vox, quoted by Lynna, OM@141, my emphasis

    How bizarre that even Vox doesn’t seem to realize you can’t possibly be both!

  96. KG says

    So do the European countries involved have their own versions of FARA which this group of politicians could have violated? – SC@148

    MPs in the UK complete an entry in the “Register of Interests”, and similar registers exist for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and northern Irish Assemblies, and local councils. But my impression is that enforcement is very lax, particularly for “important” MPs and Councillors. The most effective Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards so far (the post is quite recent) was pushed out because she was too effective. I’ve no idea about most other European countries, but Italy, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta all have high levels of corruption.

  97. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I am well aware of Washington’s complicated legacy, not just with respect to Slavery, but also with respect to relations with the native population. He was a complicated man. However, in his will, he did make provisions for the manumission of the slaves he could, and Martha followed through a year later. Interestingly, Jefferson never could free his slaves because he was too far in debt.

    Lincoln’s legacy is also complicated. At one point, he supported sending freed slaves back to Africa, although he did change his mind after discussions with Frederick Douglass and others..

    As PZ discussed in his latest article about Steven Pinker, it is a mistake to think that we can understand men who lived centuries ago through our own eyes. The lived in a different world. That some of those men stood out from their peers, however, is undeniable. That some of those men left the world better for their having lived in it is also undeniable.
    The US is notable in that it is one of the few places that was ever better off after a revolution than it was before it. Washington deserves a lot of the credit for having kept it from descending into madness of type seen in the French Revolution. One can recognize a man’s faults and still appreciate what was remarkable about him.

  98. says

    SC @156, Ivanka Trump also has an interim security clearance. She should not have access to classified material, but Trump seems to have just ignored that fact. He sent Ivanka to South Korea to brief officials there on the new sanctions against North Korea.

  99. says

    Scott Pruitt uses the bible to justify his support of corporate interests over protecting the environment.

    In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, a media outlet that also seems to double as a propaganda arm of the Trump administration, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said his Christian convictions led him to conclude that America should use gas and coal freely because natural resources exist purely for man’s benefit.

    “The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,” Pruitt told CBN’s David Brody.

    Vox link

  100. says

    Another startling moment from CPAC:

    Ian Walters, the communications director of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is under fire for a remark he made Friday evening about former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele—saying he was elected as leader in 2009 “because he’s a black guy. That was the wrong thing to do.”

    Steele told MSNBC’s Joy Reid Saturday morning that he was just outside the ballroom where the speech took place and was “a little shocked, a little disappointed.”

    “I’m surprised that people still in the party feel this way and look at the contributions that anyone would make to the party through the prism of race,” Steele said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s stupid, it’s immature.”

    Steele said Walters did call him to apologize, but added: “That’s not acceptable, that’s not enough.”

    In a separate interview with the Observer, Steele of his tenure at the RNC, “My skin color has nothing to do with that.” He added that Walters should “look at my record and see what I did. I can’t believe an official of CPAC would go onstage in front of an audience and say something like that. I’ve been a strong supporter of CPAC for many years and I thought they raised them better than that here.” […]


  101. says

    About those rightwing dunderheads labeling the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “crisis actors,” there’s a history of similar attempt to discredit students:

    Sixty-one years before teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., would survive a mass shooting only to be labeled “crisis actors,” the nine African American teens who braved racist crowds to enroll in Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were also accused of being impostors.

    False rumors that the Little Rock Nine were paid protesters even forced the NAACP to issue a statement condemning the stories as “pure propaganda.” The students were not, in fact, “imported” from the North, said the NAACP’s Clarence A. Laws, but rather the children of local residents, including veterans.

    The same thing happened in the 1870s when African Americans again testified before Congress about the Ku Klux Klan.

    “Hundreds of black women and men played a remarkable role, coming forward to testify during the hearings,” Kansas University history professor Shawn Leigh Alexander wrote. “Democratic committee members attempted to discredit their testimony, equating the two-dollar-a-day allowance that witnesses received to bribery and accusing local Republicans of coaching them.” […]

    “It’s a theme that crops up throughout civil rights history,” said Kruse. “Back then, it was an assumption that African Americans in the South couldn’t possibly be upset. They must have been stirred up from the outside, either paid to do this or inspired to do this by propaganda. They couldn’t have come up with this on their own.

    “I think this is what we see in the Parkland case today,” he added. “There’s a belief that somehow these 17- or 18-year-olds who witnessed a school shooting … who saw their friends die, somehow could not have been motivated to respond to that on their own, that they would need some sort of outside direction for that protest to take shape.”

    Quoted text if from the Washington Post.

  102. says

    As you might expect, the Trump administration’s new tax law is full of glitches, mistakes, and unintended consequences.

    […] One inadvertently denies restaurants, retailers and others generous new write-offs for things like remodeling.

    Another would allow wealthy money managers to sidestep a crackdown on lucrative tax break that allows them pay lower taxes on some of their income […]. A third creates two different start dates for new rules that make it harder for businesses to shave their tax bills.

    There are dozens of other snafus, hitting everything from real estate investments to multinational corporations to farmers. […]

    “This is not normal,” said Marty Sullivan, chief economist at the nonpartisan Tax Analysts. “There’s always this kind of stuff, but the order of magnitude is entirely different.” […]

    Republicans would like to address the problems as soon as next month, as part of legislation needed to fund the government. But to do that, they’ll need assistance from Democrats, and it’s unclear they are in any mood to help. They were shut out of the process of writing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, […]

    “We’re not going to say to Republicans, ‘Oh tell us what you want to do,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who sits on the tax-writing Finance Committee. “We want to make the bill better, not just correct whatever technical fix is needed.”

    Democrats may also decide to wait, figuring a good showing in this fall’s midterm elections will only increase their leverage when it comes to demanding changes in the law.

    For now, Republicans say they are collecting examples of things that need to be corrected.

    “The Ways and Means Committee is on receive mode,” said Chairman Kevin Brady. “We expect to develop a punch list of provisions that need to be addressed either administratively or through changes in the code itself.”

    Some of the glitches are simple drafting errors. Others would have unintended consequences. Still others are things in the law that aren’t clear. […]

    Politico link

    Much more at the link.

  103. says

    Follow-up to comments 68 and 124.

    United and Delta airlines have also distanced themselves from the NRA.

    “United is notifying the NRA that we will no longer offer a discounted rate to their annual meeting and we are asking that the NRA remove our information from their website,” the airline tweeted Saturday morning.

    Delta Air Lines added: “Delta is reaching out to the NRA to let them know we will be ending their contract for discounted rates through our group travel program. We will be requesting that the NRA remove our information from their website.”

  104. says

    Sebastian Gorka thinks that the election of Trump as president proves that God exists. He said so at CPAC.

    “If you ever had a doubt that God exists, guess what?” Gorka said, “November the 8th is all the proof you need. Why? Because [Clinton] had it all, she had the media, she spent $1.4 billion on a seat, on a position, she thought was owed to her because of her gender and her last name, but she lost!”

    Gorka said that Trump “brought us back from the brink. We didn’t have two wheels over the edge of the cliff, we had three wheels over the edge of the cliff. If she had won, that was it—from the Supreme Court on down, that was it. We would have lost our republic.”

    Gorka thinks that God is also misogynistic. From Wonkette:

    Silly entitled women thinking they are “owed” a presidency. If they were supposed to be President, why would God have made all 44 previous Presidents men, huh? God only lets other countries have female leaders because he doesn’t like them as much! England can have all the LADY Prime Ministers it wants — but not his precious America!

  105. says

    Trump is in love with his arm-the-teachers concept. Here’s one of his tweets from today:

    Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.

    I guess he thinks implementation would be “very inexpensive” because the states would pay for it.

    I don’t think Trump can even hear the pushback he is getting, like this:

    […] American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said her union’s position is firm, even among teachers who are gun owners: “Teachers don’t want to be armed, we want to teach. We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”

    She had some practical questions, too:

    How would arming teachers even work? Would kindergarten teachers be carrying guns in holsters? Is every classroom now going to have a gun closet? Will it be locked? When you have seconds to act when you hear the code for an active shooter, is a teacher supposed to use those seconds getting her gun instead of getting her students to safety? Anyone who pushes arming teachers doesn’t understand teachers and doesn’t understand our schools. Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in reality it would make our classrooms less safe.

  106. says

    Matthew Miller: “The end result of this entire Nunes escapade is Steele looks more credible, the Trump campaign looks more culpable, and the FBI looks more responsible. Well done, Devin.”

    Nunes, who was receiving some sort of award at CPAC when this was released, should immediately be removed from the committee chairmanship.

  107. KG says

    The US is notable in that it is one of the few places that was ever better off after a revolution than it was before it. – arids@166

    That depends on who you were. Both the slave population and the seizure of Indian land increased enormously after the revolution, while the position of white women was unchanged. But hey, it’s white men who really matter, init?

  108. KG says

    One can recognize a man’s faults and still appreciate what was remarkable about him. – arids@166

    Indeed. But we should consider, perhaps above all, the perspective of those who were under their power – many of whom in Washington’s case seem to have run away if they possibly could. And does a good man “from all the information we have” [my emphasis], order slaves whipped, or deported away from everyone they know and to an almost certain early death (Carribean slaves were mostly used in sugar production, where life expectancy was only a few years)?

  109. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    KG, I have acknowledged the complicated nature of Washington’s legacy wrt slavery and natives. By your logic, would you contend that people are more moral or better today than in the 18th century–seems like a rather Pinkeresque position. I don’t think you can judge a person outside of historical context.

  110. KG says

    I don’t think you can judge a person outside of historical context.

    Yet somehow that didn’t prevent you from declaring Washington a good man; what criteria were you using when making that judgement, if not your own? Those of his highly-privileged fellow “Founding Fathers”, perhaps? But aren’t the actions of those of his slaves who made their assessment of him clear by running away when they had the chance – to a completely uncertain fate – part of the historical context? The link I provided @140 suggests that Washington doesn’t come out particularly well even when compared with his slaveowning contemporaries. And your reference to Pinker is simply an irrelevance, indicating to me that you know how weak your position is.

  111. says

    SC @179:

    Nunes, who was receiving some sort of award at CPAC when this was released, should immediately be removed from the committee chairmanship.

    I agree, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. So far, Nunes is getting away with running his Committee Chairman gig as if it is a conspiracy theory clown show.

    Nunes is on TV blithely repeating the lies he told already:

    – that the FISA warrant was based on the Steele dossier (Fact: the dossier played a small, insignificant part in the judge granting the warrant.)
    – that the Steele dossier has been proven to be untrue and/or a fraud (Fact: quite the opposite. Much of the dossier has been born out with reference to other sources; and no parts of it have been proven untrue so far.)
    – that the FBI is in league with the Democrats to oust Trump (Bullshit)

    Most rightwing outlets are going along with Nunes’ conclusions. The Republicans succeeded in at least muddying the waters; and for most Trump supporters, they succeeded in “proving” that the Dems and the FBI are engaged in fraud in order to discredit Trump.

    Republicans got their memo out first, and in doing so they set the narrative.

    Trump is backing Nunes up:

    The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST. Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!

    Dem Memo: FBI did not disclose who the clients were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!

    “Russians had no compromising information on Donald Trump” @FoxNews Of course not, because there is none, and never was. This whole Witch Hunt is an illegal disgrace…and Obama did nothing about Russia!

    “Congressman Schiff omitted and distorted key facts” @FoxNews So, what else is new. He is a total phony!

    […] if this continues to go forward, I really think someday he’s [Nunes’] going to be greatly honored for his service and for what’s he’s done. He’s been very, very brave in the face of a lot of obstacles.

  112. says

    Follow-up to comment 184.

    Excerpts from Adam Schiff’s reply:

    […] the surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was justified because he was “someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.”

    […] Schiff said the memo “should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]. Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement.” […]

    The Democratic memo took aim at the Republican memo’s implication that Justice Department misled the court by not disclosing that its surveillance application for Page drew from a Clinton campaign-funded opposition research project. It was quickly reported after the release of the Nunes memo that the FBI did include an indication in its application that a source for information in its warrant […] was working for a law firm with a political agenda. Schiff’s memo provides more detail on exactly what the warrant told the FISA court about the political goals of its source’s research. […]

    Additionally, the Democratic memo asserts in a heavily redacted section, the FBI verified parts of the Steele dossier with “multiple independent sources.” It also revealed that Steele’s research didn’t make it to the FBI team investigating Russia until mid-September 2016, more than seven weeks after the initial probe into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia was launched.

    The Democratic memo refuted other claims in Nunes’ memo — some of which had already been rebutted by outside reporting or even by evidence put forward by the Republican memo itself. It references former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, who had pleaded guilty in Mueller’s probe to lying to FBI agents about Russian contacts. […]


    Unfortunately, this whole “dueling memos” story is tailor-made for news outlets that use false equivalence as a way to dismiss the points Democrats made.

    Quotes from what Devin Nunes said:

    Just to sum up, this is almost like you have people defending the dirty dossier with their own dirty dossier.

    We think it is clear that the Democrats are not not only trying to cover it up, but are colluding with parts of the government to help cover this up. As you read it, you will see personal attacks on myself and chairman Gowdy with a lot of interesting things that sound really bad, like a lot that has been happening with this Russian investigation over the course of the last year, but what you’re not going to see is anything that actually rejects what was in our memo.

    […] The American people now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt paid for by the Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party. […]

  113. says

    Trump talked on the phone, again, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump managed to insult Peña Nieto so thoroughly, (again), that the Mexican president canceled a planned meeting with Trump in D.C.

    […] The Post, citing unnamed U.S. and Mexican officials, said Peña Nieto had intended to come to Washington, D.C. in February or March to meet Trump in America for the first time since the Trump’s inauguration. […]

    But, the sources said, the plans were called off after Trump “would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position” on the border wall — namely, that Mexico isn’t paying for it — during a phone call with Peña Nieto.

    An unnamed Mexican official said Trump “lost his temper” over the dispute, […]

    An unnamed Mexican official added that Peña Nieto’s team was worried Trump would answer a question about funding the border wall during a press conference.

    The same stalemate occurred just over a year ago, when Peña Nieto announced he would not be going to Washington to meet Trump as planned. Trump tweeted at the time: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” […]


  114. says

    Whiny statement from the NRA to sponsoring companies that have recently distanced themselves from the NRA:

    The more than five million law-abiding members of the National Rifle Association have enjoyed discounts and cost-saving programs from many American corporations that have partnered with the NRA to expand member benefits.

    Since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, a number of companies have decided to sever their relationshipwith the NRA, in an effort to punish our members who are doctors, farmers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, nurses, shop owners and school teachers that live in every American community. We are men and women who represent every American ethnic group, every one of the world’s religions and every form of political commitment.

    The law-abiding members of the NRA had nothing at all to do with the failure of that school’s security preparedness, the failure of America’s mental health system, the failure of the National Instant Check System or the cruel failures of both federal and local law enforcement.

    Despite that, some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve.

    Let it be absolutely clear. The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world.

    The NRA sounds scared to me. The NRA also sounds like a bully.

  115. consciousness razor says

    By your logic, would you contend that people are more moral or better today than in the 18th century–seems like a rather Pinkeresque position. I don’t think you can judge a person outside of historical context.

    Some today are better than specific people in the 18th century, and some are not.

    Of course you need to take historical context into account, to understand why people thought/acted the way they did. For example, Washington didn’t believe in general relativity or plate tectonics. However, it would be utterly foolish to contend that, for this specific reason, he must be an ignorant/anti-scientific/denialist loon who should’ve known better, since that is what it means for a modern adult with such views. They’re simply in different situations, which happens to make a big difference in this case, and it does us no good at all to toss out that information.

    But when you do take historical context into account, you still run into cases where you should say to yourself, “Yep, sure enough, that historical figure certainly did a bad thing. That was one of the many not-good things people have done and may still do in the present day.” Otherwise, you are just bullshitting yourself.

    So think a little harder about general relativity and plate tectonics for a moment, taking into account all of the historical/sociological/etc. data that you want, about when and where and how we believed we learned these things, why most of us today have the attitudes that we do about them, and so forth. Is that what slavery is like? Is it true that nobody back then was in a position to know that these were human beings like any other, who suffered from it immensely, who didn’t get the fair and respectful treatment that slave-owning people clearly valued for themselves? Or is that not true?

  116. blf says

    Mexican president’s US visit called off after border wall row with Trump:

    Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto postponed plans for the leader’s first visit to the White House, after a testy phone call involving Trump’s push for a border wall, a senior US official said on Saturday.


    [… T]he two leaders spoke for about 50 minutes on Tuesday. The discussion led to an impasse when Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of the wall along the US-Mexico border.

    A Mexican official said Trump lost his temper during the conversation […] US officials described Trump as frustrated and exasperated, because he believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to want him to back off his campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall.


    The above is based on a report in the Washington Post (which, weirdly, the Grauniad didn’t link to), probably After testy call with Trump over border wall, Mexican president shelves plan to visit White House:

    Speaking by phone on Tuesday, Peña Nieto and Trump devoted a considerable portion of their roughly 50 minute conversation to the wall, and neither man would compromise his position.

    One Mexican official said Trump “lost his temper.” But US officials described him instead as being frustrated and exasperated, saying Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall.

    Both accounts confirm it was Peña Nieto’s desire to avoid public embarrassment — and Trump’s unwillingness to provide that assurance — that proved to be the dealbreaker.


    “The problem is that President Trump has painted himself, President Peña Nieto and the bilateral relationship into a corner,” said Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States. “Even from the get-go, the idea of Mexico paying for the wall was never going to fly. His relationship with Mexico isn’t strategically driven. It’s not even business; it’s personal, driven by motivations and triggers, and that’s a huge problem. It could end up with the U.S. asking itself, ‘Who lost Mexico?’”


    Earlier this month, a delegation of Mexican officials led by Videgaray met at the White House with senior adviser Jared Kushner […] and other Trump administration officials to work out the parameters for a Peña Nieto visit, officials said.

    The Mexican officials left the Feb 14 meeting believing they had an agreement with the US side that Trump would not embarrass Peña Nieto by bringing up his desire for Mexico to fund the wall […].

    One Mexican official describing his country’s position said, “You cannot talk about the bloody wall.” […]

    […] Trump said he would not be bound by any such agreement and could not commit himself to not talking about the wall.


  117. says

    Excepts from an interview with Dan Rather:

    Veteran journalist Dan Rather […] said it’s critical for the press to point out President Trump’s false statements to the public, no matter how difficult it can be to keep up.

    “I think it’s absolutely imperative. Now more than ever is when the press needs to be a kind of truth squad for this and every other president. It’s perhaps more important with President Trump because there are more untruths […]

    “I do think that most people get it,” he continued. “That most people understand that they’re facing on a daily basis from the White House and from the president himself, the rough equivalent of you’re facing a fertilizer spreader in a windstorm.”

    Rather said Trump has made so many false claims that it’s “past the point of shock” when he says something inaccurate or misleading, but added that it’s still useful for journalists to fact-check such statements. […]


  118. says

    WTF!? Is Trump really retweeting Wayne Dupree, one of the guys who trafficked in Sandy Hook conspiracy theories? Yes, he is. Dupree has also attacked the survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting.

    Trump did not retweet any particular Dupree conspiracy theory, but he did, in effect, send people to Dupree’s Twitter feed by retweeting this:

    This is what it’s all about! It’s ok 2 b black, conservative and love America and not vote Democrat! Freedom exists!

    It bothers me that Trump is following and retweeting people like Dupree. Trump does need to add any more stupid conspiracy theories to his already boggled mind.

  119. says

    More questions arise concerning Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conflicts of interest:

    […] Zinke is a shareholder in a private Montana company that manufactures and sells firearms and advanced weapons materials, a financial interest he did not disclose when nominated last year.

    In response to inquiries from HuffPost, both Zinke and the company, PROOF Research Inc., confirmed the secretary’s holdings, though the dollar value placed on them varied. This previously undisclosed holding comes to light after numerous decisions in his first year in office that benefited the hunting and gun industries. […]

    According to Zinke’s work calendar, he and his top aides met with a group of PROOF Research executives and a company lobbyist on April 11, 2017. […]

    In a follow-up phone conversation, Murphy explained that the company met with Zinke last year mainly because of the “Montana connection,” in an attempt to determine “whether the Secretary knew of any needs in the government for the company’s products.”

    Huffington Post link

    The company is based in Whitefish, Montana, the same town that was the source of a botched contract with a company that was supposed to fix Costa Rica’s electrical power system.

  120. says

    Once again, senators are not able to reach an agreement that would secure the futures of Dreamers.

    The Senate is weighing a short-term fix for “Dreamers” as lawmakers struggle to break a stalemate that has stalled the chamber’s debate.

    The hunt for a fallback option comes ahead of the March 5 deadline created by President Trump’s decision to end the immigration program and amid fresh questions about what, if anything, can clear Congress and win over the White House.

    Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is in talks with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) about a plan to tie a three-year extension of protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients with roughly $7.6 billion in border security. […]

    […] senators appeared increasingly resigned to any potential immigration legislation being a stopgap patch, rather than a permanent fix, […]

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted Congress would only be able to punt into 2019, kicking the hot-button issue past the midterm elections.

    “I think we wind up punting. I think we’ll do a one-year extension of DACA and punt,” he said.

    GOP Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have offered a bill to provide legal protections for current DACA recipients. But it could struggle to win Democratic support because it includes tens of billions in wall funding without a path to citizenship and doesn’t address the larger 1.8 million population of potential DACA recipients. […]


  121. says

    Trump is, once again, in trouble with musicians:

    The daughters of the late performer Oscar Brown Jr. said Sunday that President Trump is misinterpreting their father’s song “The Snake” when he recites it at campaign rallies and speeches.

    “He’s twisting Oscar’s meaning to serve his own campaign and climate of intolerance and hate, which is the opposite of what the original author, Oscar Brown Jr., intended,” Maggie Brown said on MSNBC.

    Maggie and her sister, Africa, said they believe Trump is stealing from their father when he uses the lyrics.

    Brown wrote “The Snake” in the early 1960s. It is a tale of a woman taking in a snake to nurse it back to health and care for it, only for the snake to bite her. […]

    Africa Brown said Sunday that Trump’s use of her father’s work is “an insult to the deep respect for humanity” that her father believed in.

    Trump frequently busted out a reading of “The Snake” during the 2016 presidential campaign, refashioning it to illustrate the dangers of taking in refugees and illegal immigrants.

    He again read the tale during his speech on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), to the approval of the audience.


  122. says

    This is interesting. I like the concept of evicting some of Trump’s associates.

    Representatives at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama are attempting to physically evict the Trump Organization’s team of executives at the property, but are facing opposition, […]

    Orestes Fintiklis, who owns most of the building’s units, filed a legal complaint seeking to fire Trump’s management team late last week, according to the report. The complaint also alleges the Trump team improperly destroyed documents. […]

    When Fintiklis came to deliver termination notices last Thursday, the Trump team’s security outfit “pushed and shouted” at him, according to the legal complaint. Hotel employees then called the police.
    Trump security staff then set up shop in the building’s lobby Saturday, but there was no further conflict reported.

    […] The owners of the building in Panama pushed in November to remove the Trump name from the building in an effort to revive its business and combat low occupancy rates.

    The luxury property at one point had paid at least $32 million to use the Trump brand, […]


  123. says

    From Walter Shaub:

    Anyone care to explain to me why the FCC thinks that the ethics rules allow Ajit Pai to accept the gift of an expensive handmade gun from the NRA, an entity whose interests he can affect (and has affected) by the performance of his official duties? Am I missing something?

    Pai was given the “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award.” Apparently, the NRA thought he was under fire for pushing hard to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Net Neutrality rules were supported by the American public. Pai did not respond to Shaub’s questions.

  124. says

    “In Russia probes, Republicans draw red line at Trump’s finances”:

    Top Republicans on Capitol Hill have made a concerted decision in their Russia inquiries: They are staying away from digging into the finances of President Donald Trump and his family.

    Six Republican leaders of key committees told CNN they see little reason to pursue those lines of inquiry or made no commitments to do so — even as Democrats say determining whether there was a financial link between Trump, his family, his business and Russians is essential to understanding whether there was any collusion in the 2016 elections.

    Republicans have resisted calls to issue subpoenas for bank records, seeking Trump’s tax returns or sending letters to witnesses to determine whether there were any Trump financial links to Russian actors — calling the push nothing more than a Democratic fishing expedition.

    “I don’t see the link at this stage,” Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican leading the House Russia investigation, told CNN. “Deutsche Bank is a German bank — I don’t see the nexus.”

    Asked about exploring Russian-Trump business transactions, Conaway was not moved. “I bet every big bank has a Russian customer somewhere,” he said.

    House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy, who is also a top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has yet to issue a subpoena as chairman since he took the oversight gavel last June. The South Carolina Republican also brushed off calls by Democrats to pursue the money trail as part of the Russia investigation.

    “Isn’t that what Bob Mueller is doing?” Gowdy told CNN when asked about the matter.

    [House Financial Services Committee chair Jeb] Hensarling has resisted, citing investigations in other House committees, saying doing another one in his panel would be “redundant.” And Deutsche Bank has ignored [ranking member Rep. Maxine] Waters’ letters asking for a range of Trump-related information, suggesting it would not disclose confidential information, particularly without a subpoena.

    Hensarling spokeswoman Sarah Flaim pointed to the inquiries that are ongoing in the House and Senate intelligence panels and by Mueller.

    “Those investigations should be allowed to go forward,” Flaim said. Hensarling’s committee, she said, “will certainly review whatever information the investigations produce.”

    Sen. Ron Wyden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee and senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has for months been frustrated with the lack of access to Treasury FinCEN documents….

    But Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has declined to join Wyden in these efforts. And he has rejected Wyden’s requested to review Trump’s tax returns in a private session.

    “We’re not going to do that,” Hatch said in the Capitol. “He doesn’t want to give up his tax returns, and I believe he’s right.”

    The Senate Judiciary Committee has also investigated Russia’s role in the 2016 elections — and any ties with Trump associates. But the GOP chairman of the committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, made clear that investigating finances would not be part of the inquiry.

    “That’s not part of what we’re doing,” Grassley said.

  125. says


    “Exclusive: Trump privately pushing personal pilot to run FAA”:

    The president’s personal pilot is on the administration’s short list to head the Federal Aviation Administration. Trump has told a host of administration officials and associates that he wants John Dunkin — his longtime personal pilot, who flew him around the country on Trump Force One during the campaign — to helm the agency, which has a budget in the billions and which oversees all civil aviation in the United States….

  126. says

    Here’s a bit more about the Kushner (non-)clearance matter (#152 and others above):

    “White House Told Kushner’s Security Clearance Will Be Delayed”:

    The Justice Department informed the White House this month that there were substantial issues related to Jared Kushner that still needed to be investigated and would significantly delay a recommendation on whether he should receive a permanent security clearance, according to two people briefed on the matter.

    The White House was not told what the issues were involving Mr. Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. But the notification led White House lawyers and aides to believe that they were more problematic than the complexity of his finances and his initial failure to disclose contacts with foreign leaders — the reasons Mr. Kushner’s lawyers have said are holding up the process, the two people said….

  127. says

    The Supreme Court has refused to hear Trump’s challenge to the lower court’s order to halt the cessation of DACA! It will now continue not only past what would have been a March 5th deadline, but for at least a year.

  128. says

    Mona Charen is terrible, and she and many other never-Trump Republicans are either themselves delusional or gaslighting the public with regard to their own role in bringing about the current state of affairs, but at least she’s willing to reject the promotion of politicians who are fascists or credibly accused of child molestation or sexual assault. After doing so during a CPAC panel, she had to be escorted out by security for her own safety.

    “I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC.”

  129. says

    “China Proposes Dropping Presidential Term Limits”:

    China’s Communist Party has proposed changing the country’s constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, allowing President Xi Jinping to serve a third term in office. China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua reported the country would remove the provision the president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” from the country’s constitution.

    If ratified by China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament in March, Xi, who would have only served two five-year terms, would be free to serve the country indefinitely. Xi, 64, also heads the military. Term limits on officeholders have been in place since they were included in the constitution in 1982, NBC News reported.

    On China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, one user wrote “We’re following the example of our neighbor,” according to NBC.

    Another posted “Argh, we’re going to become North Korea.”

    The posts were later removed and Weibo started blocking the search term “two-term limit.”

    Xinhua news reported most people supported the new amendment. The Communist Party’s official newspaper reprinted the article.

    However, memes and jokes are circulating the internet making fun of Xi and suggesting China’s government is regressing to times of imperial rule.

    Incidentally, I found this recent article about China interesting.

  130. says

    Update to #34 above – After unconscionable delays, the UNSC finally voted for the temporary ceasefire. The Kremlin appears to be going along, and a corridor is to be opened for evacuations and humanitarian aid beginning within hours. It’s unclear how things will develop.


    Pope Francis, following the recitation of the Angelus prayer from St Peter’s Square on Sunday appealed for what he called the “the beloved and tormented Syria.” The Pope said his thoughts were focused on the country “where the war has intensified, especially in eastern Ghouta. “

    Pope Francis then made a heartfelt appeal for the immediate cessation of violence in the country so that people could get access to humanitarian aid, such as food and medicine , and the wounded and sick could be evacuated….

  131. says

    Thread of some of the statements and communications, many made publicly, that show the Trump campaign at the highest levels actively giving encouragement to, approving of and coordinating with foreign campaign using stolen emails to hurt Clinton and help Trump….”

  132. blf says

    Oh for feck’s sake! The only good thing about this is the mass murderer himself is not the one running for Congress, Disgraced anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield aims to advance his agenda in Texas election:

    Wakefield sees Houston primary as a new start after his anti-vaccine theories [sic] were debunked and medical license revoked

    Anti-vaccine campaigners have found a growing political voice for their debunked ideas in Texas, the adopted home of discredited British researcher [sic] Andrew Wakefield, and now hope to unseat a moderate Republican in the heart of Houston.

    Texas has seen rates of children opting out of vaccines for philosophical [sic] reasons skyrocket after Wakefield […] moved to the state’s capital, Austin, more than a decade ago.

    Since the early 2000s, when he arrived, the rate of Texas children exempted from at least one vaccine has shot up by 1,900% according to one analysis, while Houston has become a battleground for anti-vaccine activists of growing clout.

    Now, Wakefield sees the upcoming Republican primary in Houston on 6 March as an “an extremely important time” to advance his anti-vaccine agenda.

    Anti-vaccine campaigners in the state’s biggest city are door-knocking, fundraising and Facebooking in hopes they can replace a moderate Republican with a conservative challenger, to represent a district that houses 2.1-miles of hospitals and research institutions.

    Conservative Susanna Dokupil has received enthusiastic support from Texans for Vaccine Choice as she challenges fellow Republican Sarah Davis. […]

    Davis angered […] anti-vaccine groups […] when she urged lawmakers to mandate human papillomavirus vaccines for foster children.

    There are clearly a number of candidates running with this platform front and center — vaccine choice, medical freedom, Wakefield told the Guardian. […]

    “We’re seeing moderate candidates being cherry-picked out by candidates running on anti-vaccine platforms,” said Dr Peter Hotez, a tropical disease vaccine researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Hotez […] warns that Texas could be vulnerable to a measles outbreak because so many parents have foregone shots. “They’ve clearly been very aggressive now, and have been emboldened.”

    The trend appears to have spread across Texas. In recent months, high-profile politicians have questioned vaccine safety, such as the Bexar county district attorney, and state representatives and senators.


    [… M]easles is one of the most contagious diseases on the planet, and in the decade before a vaccine was introduced infected roughly four million Americans per year; hospitalized 48,000; and left 4,000 with serious brain swelling.

    “If you really look in the book at the number of adverse events from vaccines, they are incredibly few,” said Hotez. While all medications carry risks, there is near universal agreement that vaccines are among the safest.

    Nevertheless, Wakefield has made a living promoting his discredited theories in the US since he moved to Texas […]

  133. says

    Norm Eisen: “Have now read and analyzed Nunes & Schiff memos. Can come to only 1 conclusion: Nunes, GOP leaders, & Trump intentionally lied 2hurt FBI & USA and benefit Russia. That is unlike anything we have seen—far worse than McCarthy or Nixon, who were not aiding our foreign adversaries.”

  134. tomh says

    @ #202 [On DACA]
    That’s not quite right. No appellate court has ruled on the case yet, and all the SC did was refuse the administration request to take the case directly from the District Court, bypassing the Circuit Courts. They said nothing about the merits. It’s very rare for the SC to take a case this way, only in cases like Nixon’s tapes and such. Appellate courts can lift the injunctions at any time, even before a ruling on the merits. At best, it’s a temporary pause.

  135. blf says

    White House refuses to address petition calling on Trump to release tax returns:

    The petition has attracted more than 1.1 million signatures and is arguably the highest profile item among a backlog of requests

    The White House is ducking a high-profile petition calling on Donald Trump to release his tax returns.


    After more than a year with little response on the backlog, the administration is addressing the raft of petitions submitted on the White House website.

    The website, known as “We the People,” was launched by the Obama administration in 2011.

    The site was briefly taken down by the administration last year but was relaunched in late January.

    The White House says the tax-return question is not within the scope of the government feedback tool because the issue does not address an action or policy of the Federal Government.

    The tax petition reached the 100,000-signature threshold for a response on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 […].

    The administration has, meanwhile, declined to respond to a petition calling on the president [sic] to place his financial holdings in a blind trust.


    The White House addressed an August 2017 petition seeking to declare as a terrorist organization “AntiFa” […]. The White House said Trump opposes violence but that federal law provides no mechanism for formally designating domestic terrorist organizations.[]


    Another key petition awaiting a response opposes the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality regulations last year. Another calls for scrapping the 1934 National Firearms Act, which categorizes weapons for federal registration.

      † It is possible the dalekocracy actually got this correct-ish and that indeed there is no such thing as a “domestic terrorist” category. I was unable to find any such thing. However, I did find this ACLU discussion of what constitutes an “act of domestic terrorism”, which, as you might expect, is unreasonably broad (How the USA PATRIOT Act redefines “Domestic Terrorism”, no obvious date).

  136. says

    SC @201, thanks for the link to the summary of Trump’s CPAC rant. Almost the same summary would serve for Trump’s speech to a meeting of governors today. Trump is repeating the same lies, the same exaggerations and the same bits of self-aggrandizement.

  137. blf says

    Another investigative journalist shot dead, Slovakian journalist investigating claims of tax fraud linked to ruling party shot dead (the Grauniad’s edits in {curly braces}):

    Police chief says murder of reporter and his girlfriend is probably linked to his work

    A journalist investigating alleged tax fraud involving businessmen connected to Slovakia’s ruling party has been found murdered alongside his girlfriend.

    Ján Kuciak […] and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, were discovered shot dead in the home they shared […].

    Slovakia’s most senior police officer, Tibor Gašpar, told reporters the murders “likely have something to do with {Kuciak’s} investigative activities”.


    A €1m reward for information on the perpetrators has been made available by the Slovak government.


    Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European commission, tweeted: “Shocked by the murder of a journalist in the EU. No democracy can survive without the free press, which is why journalists deserve respect and protection. Our thoughts go out to the loved ones of Ján Kuciak & his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová. Justice must be served.”

    Kuciak […] focused mainly on tax evasion stories. His last piece was published on 9 February and covered a suspected tax fraud connected to a luxury apartment complex in Bratislava known as the Five Star Residence. The report identified suspicious transactions among five companies.

    Kuciak had been covering the story for some time. In October 2017, he wrote on his Facebook page that he had reported to the general prosecutor’s office a threatening phone call from a local businessman involved in the apartments, Marian Kocner. “It has been 44 days since I filed a criminal complaint{…} for the threats. And the case probably does not even have a particular cop.”

    Last year, the National Criminal Agency (NAKA) dropped an investigation into alleged tax fraud by Kocner, who had reportedly said that he would set up a website publishing information on the private lives of journalists reporting his case. […]

    Kuciak had also recently been investigating the suspected theft of EU funds destined for eastern Slovakian by the Italian mafia.


  138. says

    Follow-up to comments 202 and 211, from SC and tomh.

    Another explanation, just to add some clarity:

    The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that requires the government to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program going.

    Under a lower court order that remains in effect, the Department of Homeland Security must continue to accept applications to renew DACA status from the roughly 700,000 young people, known as Dreamers, who are currently enrolled. The administration’s deadline of March 5, when it intended to shut the program down, is now largely meaningless.

    In a brief order, the court said simply, “It is assumed the court of appeals will act expeditiously to decide this case.” […]

    NBC News link

    From Nancy Pelosi:

    Today’s Supreme Court action shows that rescinding DACA was not only legally questionable, but also unjust and cruel. The court’s action is welcome news, but only Congress can provide the permanent protection our Dreamers need and deserve.

    Summary of sorts from Steve Benen:

    […] Lawmakers will continue their efforts to find a bipartisan legislative solution – a task that’s proven all but impossible of late – but the remedy need not emerge this week.

    A federal court ruled last month to extend the existing DACA policy, and the Trump administration will now appeal that decision to the 9th Circuit. (There’s a related case out of New York that will now go to the 4th Circuit.)

    The result is a legal process that’s likely to take several months.

    In his speech to governors today, Trump criticized the 9th Circuit several times. He added, “We don’t have all the judges that we want.”

  139. says


    That’s not quite right. No appellate court has ruled on the case yet, and all the SC did was refuse the administration request to take the case directly from the District Court, bypassing the Circuit Courts. They said nothing about the merits.

    Yes, that’s correct. Sorry if I presented it misleadingly.

    It’s very rare for the SC to take a case this way, only in cases like Nixon’s tapes and such. Appellate courts can lift the injunctions at any time, even before a ruling on the merits. At best, it’s a temporary pause.

    Except that this was the point of Trump’s request to bypass the appeals process:

    That process is likely to take months — and it’s extremely unlikely that both [the Ninth and Second Circuit] appeals courts (both of which are fairly liberal and have consistently ruled against the Trump administration on immigration issues) are going to side with the administration. That means that renewals will likely remain open at least until the Supreme Court agrees to take up the cases after the appeals courts rule — which will almost certainly be during the Court’s next term, which starts in October of this year.

  140. says

    A Republican representative to the House of Congress from Iowa, Rod Blum, has now violated so many ethics rules that the resulting scandal is growing daily:

    […] Rep. Rod Blum was one of two directors of the Tin Moon Corp. when the internet marketing company was incorporated in May 2016, as the Republican was serving his first term, a business filing shows. Among other services, Tin Moon promises to help companies cited for federal food and drug safety violations bury their Food and Drug Administration warning letters below positive internet search results.

    Blum said in a statement Wednesday evening that he made an “oversight” in failing to disclose his ties to the company on his personal financial disclosure covering calendar year 2016, which he submitted last August. He said he was amending the form to list his role as director of the company and Tin Moon as an asset, even while he downplayed the significance of the matter. […]

    Late Wednesday, the company also removed an online video testimonial showing “John Ferland representing Digital Canal” and claiming to be a satisfied customer. Ferlan – who is actually chief of staff in Blum’s congressional office and has never worked for Digital Canal – claimed that Tin Moon is “saving us thousands of dollars every month, keeping our traffic and leads higher,” and implored: “From one business owner to another, I suggest you take a look at Tin Moon.” […]

    AP link

    A summary from Steve Benen:

    […] So, while serving in Congress, Rod Blum helped create a sketchy-looking company intended to help those who are accused of violating FDA standards. The GOP congressman, who was featured on the company’s website in a photo featuring his congressional members’ pin, was required to disclose his role in the business, but didn’t. What’s more, as the Associated Press’ report noted, the business is based in the same Iowa office as a construction software company Blum also owns. […]

    Sounds quite trumpian.

  141. says

    Trump’s tweet about the investigations into Russian meddling in the election, (and various other crimes):

    This whole Witch Hunt is an illegal disgrace…

    So few words, so many lies.

    I assume Trump was referring mostly to the Mueller-led investigation. It is not a witch hunt, not illegal, and not disgraceful.

    Also, that’s some “witch hunt” if Mueller has already brought 89 felony charges against 17 people. Some of the accused have pled guilty.

    I’ve noticed that Trump has only recently added the “illegal” or “not even legal” description to his rants against the investigations. He’s not a lawyer, and he is ill-informed on most subjects. Maybe he is just running a PR or propaganda campaign? Or maybe he thinks that any investigation that is aimed at him, at the president, is illegal? Is there a plan afoot to argue that Mueller’s investigation is illegal?

  142. says

    Follow-up to comments 56, 83 and 213.

    In his speech to a meeting of governors today, Trump expanded on his desire to recreate the mental institutions of the 1950s.

    You know, in the old days we had mental institutions. We had a lot of them. And you could nab somebody like this. But you used to be able to bring them into a mental institution and hopefully he gets help or whatever. But he’s off the streets. You can’t arrest him, I guess, because he hasn’t done anything, but you know he’s like a boiler ready to explode, right?

    We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions, because a lot of folks in this room closed their mental institutions also. So we have no halfway. We have nothing between a prison and leaving him at his house, which we can’t do anymore. So I think you folks have to start thinking about that.

  143. says

    Another excerpt from Trump’s speech to governors today:

    When the press covered it, the headline was “Trump wants all teachers to have guns. Trump wants teachers to have guns.”

    I don’t want teachers to have guns. I want highly-trained people that have a natural talent, like hitting a baseball or hitting a golfball or putting.

    How come some people always make the four-footer, and some people, under pressure, can’t even take their club back?

    Oh, FFS! Trump is comparing using a firearm to golfing or playing baseball.

    In listening to arguments made against arming teachers, we hear the most cogent arguments from the most highly trained people.

    Malcolm Nance made the point that SWAT officers are trained to go in with their weapons hot and to look immediately at everyone’s hands. Anyone holding a weapon is shot. An armed teacher would be shot.

    A former military officer made the point that no amount of civilian gun safety and gun training can match the training it takes to become an efficient defender against an armed assailant. Furthermore, the ability to go up against armed assailants is a perishable skill.

    Several trained professionals made the point that the more civilian guns introduced into the situation, the more accidental shootings will occur.

  144. says

    On the @gmfus ‘Hamilton 68’ tracking board, the Russians’ #2 target on twitter the past 24 hours is @SenFeinstein. She is taking on Trump on Russia, and she is taking on Russia’s friends at the NRA — so they are coming after her.”

    I’ve noticed hostile tweets about her over the past several hours in response to tweets about, for example, a Republican challenger to Rohrabacher, and thought it was strange.

  145. blf says

    This is a long story, so I won’t do much excerpting, and refers to events in c.2013, which only now have come to light, Russian millions laundered via UK firms, leaked report says:

    Denmark’s biggest bank believes cash was funnelled through British companies by people linked to Vladimir Putin’s family and the FSB spy agency

    A Danish bank accused of money laundering shut down Russian accounts after concluding that they were being used to funnel cash through British companies by members of Vladimir Putin’s family and the FSB spy agency, leaked reports say.

    Danske, Denmark’s biggest bank, closed 20 Russian customer accounts in 2013 following a whistleblower report alleging that its Estonian branch was involved in suspicious and possibly illegal activity.

    Last September [2017] it emerged that the same branch was at the centre of a secret lobbying operation in which some $2.9bn […] of mostly Azerbaijani money was channeled through opaque British companies.

    The latest revelations concern a different group of firms, most registered in London. In summer 2013 Danske bank employees discovered that one of these UK entities, Lantana Trade LLP, had filed “false accounts” to Companies House.

    According to the whistleblower report, Lantana told Companies House that it was “dormant”, with only a very limited financial turnover. In fact, Lantana held large deposits and made daily transactions of millions of euros. Lantana’s Danske account — opened in late 2012 — functioned for 11 months.

    The ultimate owners of Lantana, and related limited partnerships, were Russians. But their identities were hidden behind a series of offshore management firms based in the Marshall Islands and the Seychelles.

    The whistleblower report were obtained by the Danish newspaper Berlingske, and shared with the Guardian and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCRRP). It said the bank had failed to establish who was behind Lantana, adding that “apparently it was discovered that they included the Putin family and the FSB”.

    Details were sent to Estonia’s financial intelligence unit and passed to Danske’s top management. Danske only began a full inquiry in 2017. It did not inform either the UK or Companies House.


    Danske’s decision to investigative went down badly in Moscow, where Lantana had a city centre office. A Danske account manager flew to the Russian capital to obtain documents revealing Lantana’s real owners. He left a meeting shaken, reporting that his Russian clients were “furious”, bank sources say.

    A few weeks later a meeting was held at Danske’s office in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Two Russians refused to identify themselves and allegedly told bank staff: Do you really feel you can walk home safely at night? And added: The bank will sink after this. […]


    The scale of the fraud is unknown. According to [international financial investigator L Burke] Files it could have been between $2.2bn and $3.3bn in total, based on a pattern of $10m-plus being laundered every day.

    He added: “This is such an excellent way to move large sums of money that I am sure is still occurring. It is a very difficult trail to follow.”


    More details at the link.

  146. blf says

    Trump is comparing using a firearm to golfing or playing baseball.

    Normally it is clay pigeons, which are shot at with shotguns. I suppose shooting golfballs and baseballs (in flight) is more difficult, hence the “need” for large magazines & semiautomatic assault cannons equipped with bump stocks: You get more misses (of the ball) and hits (of people by the bullets when they return to ground). Also leaves a few rounds for the ball-thrower after you keep missing the thrown balls. And the schoolchildren might be equipped with baseballs, so you need to be ready!

  147. says

    blf @224:

    […] the schoolchildren might be equipped with baseballs, so you need to be ready!

    That’s it in a nutshell! Black comedy. Funny but real … it comes too close to the way that Trump actually thinks, (or how he fails to think logically).

    In other news, Iowa is following Idaho’s lead, allowing junk health insurance plans to be offered:

    State lawmakers in Iowa are moving to allow the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation to offer health insurance plans that don’t comply with ObamaCare protections.

    Two bills moving through the state legislature aim to provide Farm Bureau members with plans that cost much less than plans that are currently available on Iowa’s individual market.

    But since the plans will be exempt from ObamaCare protections, people with pre-existing conditions could be charged more.

    According to the Des Moines Register, the proposal calls for the Iowa Farm Bureau to partner with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield to offer “benefit plans.” The plans would not be subject to state or federal insurance regulations, which critics say drive up the cost of health care [overall]


  148. says

    Oh, good, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is being sued for failing to hold elections to fill vacant seats in the state legislature.

    Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s redistricting group sued […]

    Holder’s group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, is suing the governor on behalf of Wisconsin Democrats who live in the two districts that currently lack representatives, […]

    That’s the group, NDRC, that President Obama backs.

    The lawsuit argues that the voters in both districts will remain unrepresented for more than a year and their next chance to vote won’t be until the November elections. It states that, according to Wisconsin statute, the governor has the duty to hold elections for vacant seats “as promptly as possible.”

    “Governor Scott Walker’s refusal to hold special elections is an affront to representative democracy,” Holder said in a statement. “Forcing citizens to go more than a year without representation in the General Assembly is a plain violation of their rights and we’re hopeful the court will act quickly to order the governor to hold elections.” […]


    Walker is probably trying to save money, but he is also afraid that Democrats might win in those districts.

  149. says

    Washington Governor Jay Inslee confronted Trump to his face during the governors’ meeting.

    Speaking as a grandfather, speaking as a governor of the state of Washington, I have listened to the people who would be affected by that [by Trump’s plan to arm teachers]. I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don’t want to do that at any percentage. I have listened to the first-grade teachers, who don’t want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I have listened to law enforcement, who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agencies, which takes about six months.

    I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen — that educators should educate, and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first-grade classes. Now, I understand you have suggested this, and we suggest things and sometimes then we listen to people about it, and maybe they don’t look so good a little later. So I just suggest we need a little less tweeting, a little more listening.

    Trump didn’t respond directly to the points that Inslee brought up, but he did repeat the nonsense about arming only teachers who are “very adept.” Trump rather abruptly cut Inslee off, motioning for him to be seated, and saying, “All right. Thank you very much.” Trump looked pissed off.

  150. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Trump being seemingly enamored with the idea of executing drug dealers:

    Axios reported this weekend that Donald Trump is really taken with the idea of executing drug dealers, because it works […] in Singapore, which has a mandatory death penalty for all drug dealers. For that matter, for Trump’s best bud Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, murdering drug dealers and users — not to mention family members, bystanders and people who turned themselves in and sought treatment for addiction — has become something of a sport. More than 12,000 people have been murdered in extrajudicial killings by police and vigilantes since Duterte began his literal war on drugs in June 2016.

    Trump is just all kinds of thrilled by the prospects of getting so murderously tough on drug dealers that the drug trade will just go away and no one will ever do drugs again, according to people close to Trump. He likes to point out that Singapore has very low rates of drug use:

    “He says that a lot,” said a source who’s spoken to Trump at length about the subject. “He says, ‘When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] ‘No. Death penalty’.”

    He often jokes about killing drug dealers… He’ll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.’

    But the president doesn’t just joke about it. According to five sources who’ve spoken with Trump about the subject, he often leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty. […]

    Trump blames wimpy judges and wimpy attitudes for allowing drug addiction problems to continue:

    He tells friends and associates the government has got to teach children that they’ll die if they take drugs and they’ve got to make drug dealers fear for their lives.

  151. says

    Florida State Attorney General, (and previous recipient of a $25,000 bribe from Trump to look the other way on the Trump University case), Pam Bondi echoed Trump’s ridiculous claim that, “I really believe I would have run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.

    Bondi said:

    Let me put it this way, when you have a school full of students, and your duty is to protect those students, even if I didn’t have a firearm I would have gone into that scene. That’s what you do. That’s what the coach did who was a true hero.

    No, Pam, that’s not what you do.

  152. says

    Rick Santorum seemed to blame single moms in some way for the shooting in Parkland, Florida, (that and video games):

    These kids come from broken homes without dads.

    That is not something we’re talking about and that is the commonality […] We want to talk about things we can work together on? How about working together to try to see what we can do to get more dads involved in the lives of the kids.

    I actually think that if you look at the root cause of these problems, I think the root cause of these problems really end up to a lot of societal factors. You have violence in video games, you have violence on television, you have all sorts of issues related to that kind of culture. Secondly, you have issues in the home. 70 to 75 percent of school shooters, all young males, did not have a father growing up in the home, for a variety of different reasons.

    Santorum also blamed gun-free zones.

    The quotes above are excerpts from a CNN interview on the “State of the Union” show.

  153. blf says

    Trump Organization says it gave back foreign government profits, but offers few details:

    The Trump Organization said on Monday it had made good on the president’s [sic] promise to donate profits from foreign government spending at its hotels to the US treasury, but neither the company nor the government disclosed the amount or how it was calculated.

    Watchdog groups seized on the lack of detail as another example of the secrecy surrounding Donald Trump’s pledges to separate his administration from his business empire.

    “There is no independent oversight or accountability. We’re being asked to take their word for it,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Most importantly, even if they had given every dime they made from foreign governments to the treasury, the taking of those payments would still be a problem under the constitution.”


    The watchdog group Public Citizen questioned the spirit of the pledge in a letter to the Trump Organization earlier this month, since the methodology used for donations would seemingly not require any donation from unprofitable properties receiving foreign government revenue.

    Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, said that the lack of disclosure was unsurprising given that the Trump’s family businesses have “a penchant for secrecy and a readiness to violate their promises”.


    “Did they pay with Monopoly money? If the Trump Organization won’t say how much they paid, let alone how they calculated it at each property, why in the world should we believe they actually have delivered on their promise?” Weissman said.

    Ethics experts had already found problems with the pledge Trump made at a news conference held days before his inauguration because it didn’t include all his properties, such as his resorts, and left it up to Trump to define “profit”. […]


    “It’s bad that Trump won’t divest himself and establish a truly blind trust, and it’s worse that he won’t be transparent,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee. He called the Republicans refusal to do oversight, such as subpoena documents, that would shed light on Trump’s conflicts of interest “unconscionable.”

    Most likely they sent the treasury a bill, claiming their secret analysis had showed they’d accidentally paid some tax. The demanded amount is, supposedly, the total of all taxes to all justifications (anywhere in the world) that they were billed, plus the amount they paid, plus interest, plus a bonus for their “good behavior”, plus a fine for thinking they should ever have to pay any tax, the total multiplied by a factor so as to cover their attorneys’s and accountants’s fees, all to be deposited in a Russian bank, care of a certain “Mr Putin, Kremlin”.

  154. says

    Oh, no. This sounds like such a bad idea. Oath Keepers Plan To Station Volunteer Armed Guards Outside Schools

    […] In the wake of the February 14 massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school, Rhodes [Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes] is calling on members of his far-right anti-government militia group to serve as unpaid and unaccountable armed school guards — whether teachers and students like the idea or not. […]

    Rhodes wants the military and police veterans who make up Oath Keepers’ membership to volunteer for unpaid, rotating shifts at schools of all levels, and colleges, throughout the country. He and two other representatives of the fringe militia community will […] encourage Oath Keepers to station themselves at schools “to protect the children against mass murder, and to help train the teachers and staff.” […]

    Oath Keepers came to prominence as part of the surge of right-wing extremism that marked the early years of the Obama administration. At the group’s core are efforts to stoke fear around outlandish conspiracy theories — that the federal government will disarm all citizens, impose martial law, and round Americans up into detention camps, among other scenarios.

    Yeah, right. Those are just the guys we want serving as armed defenders at schools. Not.

    Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, has referred to Hillary Clinton as “Herr Hitlery,” and “the dominatrix-in-chief,” and has said John McCain should be tried for treason and then “hung by the neck until dead.”

    Law and order, right? Not.

    […] The National Association of School Resource Officers and many school shooting survivors, including those from Parkland, strenuously oppose plans to arm teachers. Teachers may not feel safe wielding arms; students could get ahold of the weapons or get caught in crossfire; law enforcement could mistake an armed teacher or other non-uniformed school staffer for an assailant. The prospect of something going wrong seems even higher with non-vetted, non-professional members of a conspiratorial militia group volunteering services that schools did not ask for. […]

    “What I tell our people is don’t ask for permission,” Rhodes continued. “Let ‘em know what you’re doing and be as friendly as you can. But this is the reality we’re in right now.”

    “Most schools have this retarded no-guns policy,” Rhodes added, calling such measures […]

    And here are some details about an Oath Keeper member who is already standing guard at a school:

    […] Mark Cowan, an Indiana-based member of the Oath Keepers and an Army veteran, has since Friday posted himself outside North Side High School in Fort Wayne, wearing an Oath Keepers baseball hat and carrying a handgun and an AR-15. […]

    Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman said local schools had no need for armed volunteers like Cowan.[…]

    According to local news reports, Cowan was arrested last year in connection with a fight that involved his use of a deadly weapon, and pleaded guilty plea to a count of misdemeanor battery. He told WPTA that the incident involved his effort to protect two of his grandchildren, who were attacked by another man. The guilty plea does not prevent him from carrying a firearm under Indiana law. […]


  155. militantagnostic says

    blf @209

    Anti-vaccine campaigners in the state’s biggest city are door-knocking, fundraising and Facebooking in hopes they can replace a moderate Republican with a conservative challenger, to represent a district that houses 2.1-miles of hospitals and research institutions.

    But, but according to the centrist skeptics anti vaccinationism is a woo of the left.

  156. says

    This article about Dugin is worthwhile – “The Far-Right Book Every Russian General Reads.”

    The chief aim of Foundations is to revive Evola’s fascist idea of traditionalism, which calls for the eradication of any trace of modern, polyethnic, egalitarian, feminist, and democratic cultures—“American globalism”—in favor of a vast, Eurasian, authoritarian empire of racially pure regimes in which women are confined to the home and breeding. That empire would unite regimes across Europe and extend to the United States and Latin America.

  157. says

    Manu Raju reporting yesterday:

    Bernie Sanders and an aide brush back questions about Mueller indictments of the Russians – and how they allegedly helped his campaign. One of his aides stepped in front of me to shield the senator and prevent me from asking questions. Aide bumped into me, saying “Not right now.”

    Sanders then said: “It’s time for the president of the United States to step up to the plate and do what everyone knows is right and tell the Russians that they’re not going to interfere in America.” Asked him a follow if Russians aided his campaign, he grunted, walked into a mtg.

    I tried to tell the aide it’s not OK to physically bump a reporter asking questions in the Capitol halls, and all he said repeatedly was “goodbye” as he departed on an elevator.

    Some of the responses to Raju’s thread refer to the episode during the campaign in which Sanders discussed a debate with Trump, and some of the alleged communications between Devine and Manafort surrounding the stunt. I’d forgotten all about it, but I was angry at the time that Sanders was playing along; when Trump claimed he wouldn’t debate Sanders because Sanders was a second-place finisher due to the Democratic Party’s rigging of the primaries, Sanders did nothing to push back against those allegations, just like he did nothing to push back against Assange’s misrepresentations of the hacked DNC emails.

  158. blf says

    Housing official says she was replaced for rejecting Carson’s costly office redecoration:

    A senior career official in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has alleged that she was demoted and replaced with a Donald Trump appointee after refusing to break the law by funding an expensive redecoration of Ben Carson’s office.

    Helen Foster said she was told $5,000 will not even buy a decent chair after informing her bosses this was the legal price limit for improvements to the HUD secretary’s suite at the department’s Washington headquarters.

    Foster […] claimed that she also faced retaliation for exposing a $10m budget shortfall, and for protesting when she was barred from handling a pair of sensitive freedom of information act (FOIA) requests relating to Trump apparently because she was perceived to be a Democrat.

    A copy of a complaint letter filed by Foster to a watchdog for federal employees was obtained by the Guardian. It alleges that HUD violated laws protecting whistleblowers from reprisals. Foster is seeking a public apology, compensatory damages and reinstatement as HUD’s chief administrative officer.


    More details at the link.

    I know good office chairs are expensive, but suspect the cited claim only only applies to models which are of the executive power-projecting type — all leather, etc.

  159. says

    Lies and obfuscation behind the most recent attack on public-sector unions:

    On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case designed to let the court’s five Republican appointees kneecap the Democratic Party. Everything about Janus reeks of illegitimacy. The legal claim is laughable, the outcome preordained; even the ostensible plaintiff, Mark Janus, is a puppet.

    At a recent event, Janus revealed that he does not understand the case at all and in fact supports collective bargaining but incorrectly thinks his union fees are supporting political campaigns. His lawyers seem to have lied to him – much like the court will soon lie to us in proclaiming that the First Amendment somehow prohibits the agency fees at issue in this case.

    Don’t believe it. The conservative justices can dress up their gibberish in whatever legalese they wish. The reality will remain that Janus is a partisan vehicle designed to serve partisan goals, carried across the finish line by five justices who might as well admit that the Constitution has nothing to do with it

    The background of this deeply cynical case is straightforward. In 1977, the Supreme Court rejected the exact argument being made in Janus. Its decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, involved a virtually identical challenge to agency fees in public sector unions as compelled political speech. These dues, also known as “fair share” fees, support the cost of collective bargaining. Unions are prohibited from using this money to support political activity, like campaigns and candidate contributions. The Abood court found that these fees—meant to prevent “free riders” from benefiting from union negotiations without having to subsidize them—do not violate the First Amendment, because they do not compel political speech. […]

    Mark Joseph Stern, writing for Slate.

  160. says

    Jim Sciutto (CNN):

    This incredible: [NSA Director Mike] Rogers told lawmakers Russia has “not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior,” on cyberattacks on the US, adding he won’t tell the President what he should and should not to do” but agreed the Russians have been in no way deterred.

  161. says

    Follow-up to comment 239.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Anthony Kennedy reportedly “launched into a rant of sorts, arguing the unions consistently push for ‘massive government,’ as well as higher taxes and additional borrowing,” delivering rhetoric “more commonly heard on Fox News than in a courtroom of any kind.”

    Gorsuch didn’t tip his hand during yesterday’s proceedings, but his vote is not in doubt.

    And what happens if/when AFSCME loses this case in another 5-4 ruling? Millions of public-sector workers will be able to opt-out of their agency fees, which in turn would further weaken unions, which in turn would undermine workers’ ability to negotiate for better benefits.

    It will also, naturally, undermine labor’s political potency – which has long been the point of conservative efforts to overturn the 1977 ruling.

  162. says

    Follow-up to SC @237. Since January, Trump has included “witch hunt” in tweets 24 times.

    blf @238, my office chair is a cast-off from a business that closed about twenty years ago. My bet is that Ben Carson thinks he deserves a $5,000 office chair because Jesus chose him for greatness.

  163. says

    Here’s what companies that distance themselves from the NRA can expect: Republican politicians will go after them, (bullying via legislation).

    Georgia’s lieutenant governor on Monday threatened to prevent Delta Air Lines from getting a lucrative tax cut after the company ended its discount program with the National Rifle Association, in the latest fallout from a deadly school shooting in Florida. […]

    Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, president of the state Senate and a leading candidate to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, tweeted that he would use his position to sink the proposed sales tax exemption on jet fuel.

    Cagle on Twitter:

    I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA.

    Cagle heads the Republican-dominated state Senate.

    NBC News link

  164. says

    Carter Page was on Hannity* last night (also on CNN since). Here’s the Fox propaganda about Page the innocent man wrongly accused.

    The person they’re talking about was targeted by a Russian spy ring in 2013 and interviewed by the FBI a month before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016. The FBI sought and received a FISA warrant to monitor his communications, which was then renewed three times when it bore fruit over the course of a full year. Here’s his House Intel testimony. Look particularly at these sections (page numbers in the House transcript, not of the PDF):

    pp. 35-42
    pp. 80-84
    pp. 105-112
    pp. 116-143
    pp. 180-196

    This is who Hannity and the gang have decided to tie themselves to in their flailing attempts to protect Trump and Putin.

    * Interesting thread about Hannity’s former producer.

  165. says

    Well, Drudge tried to hype this as a surprise, but it is not a surprise. Trump is getting more attention than ever, why would he willingly give that up?

    The Drudge Report on Tuesday reported on a “SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT” from President Donald Trump that turned out to be anything but.

    “Just one year into his presidency, Trump will stun the political world by announcing he is running for re-election in 2020,” the agenda-setting conservative website reported on its homepage.

    “Digital guru Brad Parscale will be named campaign manager, DRUDGE REPORT has learned,” the site reported, adding: “The bold move comes 980 days before Election Day, a historical record. Obama announced 582 days out.”

  166. says

    SC @244, Devin Nunes has also hung his hat on Carter Page’s innocence and/or on his having been unfairly monitored by the FBI. Page, the slender thread, will break soon.

    In other news, this is a bad decision from the Supreme Court:

    The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that immigrants the government has detained and is considering deporting aren’t entitled by law to periodic bond hearings.

    The case is a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrants who’ve spent long periods in custody. The group includes some people facing deportation because they’ve committed a crime and others who arrived at the border seeking asylum.

    The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had ruled for the immigrants, saying that under immigration law they had a right to periodic bond hearings. The court said the immigrants generally should get bond hearings after six months in detention, and then every six months if they continue to be held.

    But the Supreme Court reversed that decision Tuesday and sided with the Trump administration […]

    Justice Samuel Alito wrote for five justices that immigration law doesn’t require periodic bond hearings. But the justices sent the case back to the appeals court to consider whether the case should continue as a class action and the immigrants’ arguments that the provisions of immigration law they are challenging are unconstitutional.

    But Justice Stephen Breyer, writing a dissenting opinion joined by two other liberal-leaning justices on the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said he would have read the provisions of immigration law to require hearings for people detained for a prolonged period of time.

    “The bail questions before us are technical but at heart they are simple,” Breyer wrote. “We need only recall the words of the Declaration of Independence, in particular its insistence that all men and women have ‘certain unalienable Rights,’ and that among them is the right to ‘Liberty,’” he wrote.

    The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case on behalf of the immigrants, had previously said that about 34,000 immigrants are being detained on any given day in the United States, and 90 percent of immigrants’ cases are resolved within six months. But some cases take much longer. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

  167. Chris J says


    The full tweet from Cagle is so interesting.

    “I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA,” Cagle tweeted. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

    So an attack on the NRA is an attack on conservatives. And a politician’s actions in defining law is considered a way to fight against corporations to defend conservatives. That’s a really twisted worldview that Cagle is cooking up, especially for a party that is supposedly for small government and individual freedoms and especially corporate freedoms.

  168. says

    Chris J @247, exactly. Well said.

    The NRA is a private organization, and Delta is a private company. Why would state government intervene in any way? The NRA is NOT an extension of the government that needs Cagle’s protection.

    And what about all the jobs that Delta supports in his state? Is Cagle going to be anti-job-growth for his constituents just so that he can side with the NRA?

    Cagle does sound trumpian here, so maybe that’s part of his twisted mind set.

  169. says

    Lynna @ #245:

    Well, Drudge tried to hype this as a surprise, but it is not a surprise.

    He filed like the day after the inauguration and has been doing campaign events and fundraising for more than a year. According to the article @ #144 above, the RNC has been paying the re-election campaign’s rent in Trump Tower since the fall.

    Gabe Sherman speculated: “Thought: Making Parscale campaign manager gives Jared and Ivanka soft landings if/when they leave WH. They’re tight with him and could play big roles in the re-elect.” Among the replies:

    “Also waves a carrot in front of Parscale to influence any testimony before OSC.”

    “Thought 2: Making Parscale campaign manager now gives a ‘legitimate’ way to funnel hush money to him….”

    “Eric Trump’s wife already works for Parscale. They’re going to milk this like the Eric Trump Foundation.”

  170. says

    More nefarious action from Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency:

    A federal environmental program that distributes grants to test the effects of chemical exposure on adults and children is being shuttered amidst a major organization consolidation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). […]

    Perhaps best known for its handling of fellowships that study the effects of chemicals on children’s health, [National Center for Environmental Research] will be dissolved and science staff serving there will be reassigned elsewhere within the department, EPA said. […]

    NCER is largely known for the funding it provides through its premiere program, Science To Achieve Results (STAR). Under the STAR program, grants are given to the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers, which were established in 1988 to discover methods to reduce children’s health risks from environmental factors. […]

    A report released by the National Academy of Sciences last year that was compiled at EPA’s request, championed the STAR program for its “numerous successes.” […]

    The Hill link

  171. says

    SC @244, Devin Nunes has also hung his hat on Carter Page’s innocence and/or on his having been unfairly monitored by the FBI. Page, the slender thread, will break soon.

    And to the best of my knowledge, Nunes hasn’t even read the FISA application(s). Reading through the Page transcript again, it doesn’t appear he was there, and he probably hasn’t read that or many of the other relevant documents or transcripts concerning Page. I believe he’s been absent from several of the interviews. It’s unbelievably stupid for these Republicans to get behind Trump and Page while actively remaining so ignorant of the evidence.

  172. says

    SC @249, many thanks for that additional information. Two aspects of the picture remain the same: more goodies for the Trump family, and more pressure on people who may testify in the Mueller probe.

    I had forgotten about Eric Trump’s wife and her work for Parscale.

    In other news, an NRA Board Member, Charles Cotton, made this statement:

    […] they [advocates for gun control] are playing on the sympathy factor of kids getting killed.

    If you really want to make a difference, then start recruiting NRA members every single day. The NRA better be 15 million strong soon, or this is only going to get worse.

  173. says

    The NRA responded to Senator Ron Wyden’s request for information regarding any financial ties between the NRA and Russia. They replied by denying that the NRA received funds specifically designed to influence the 2018 election.

    As Casey Michel reports:

    […] not an outright denial that the NRA has received funding from foreign entities like the Kremlin. It does not address the notorious trip NRA higher-ups took to Moscow in late 2015. It does not mention the provenance of the $30 million the NRA funneled to Trump’s campaign — money that stemmed from an arm of the NRA that isn’t forced to disclose its donors.

    […] the letter doesn’t actually answer any of the questions Wyden initially issued, which focused on any Russian funding wholesale, not just funding limited to the election. (Nor does the letter mention Russians’ attempts to use the NRA to lobby the White House.) […]

    Wyden also issued a separate letter to the Treasury Department requesting documents pertaining to ties between Russia and the NRA — especially as it pertains to “shell companies or other illicit funding mechanisms suspected of being connected to these reported links.” The Treasury Department hasn’t yet replied to Wyden’s request.

  174. says

    From Representative Don Young of Alaska:

    How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia, because their citizens weren’t armed. How many Jews were put into the ovens because they were unarmed?

    That’s Young’s argument for arming teachers.

    Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani debunked Young’s theory:

    […] The comment is anti-Semitic, outrageous, and incredibly stupid, but just in case you need a debunking: That is not why or how the Holocaust happened.

    The Nazi gun control theory is a tired, ahistorical refrain from conservatives. […] Congress has invited people who make this argument to speak about the dangers of gun control. Fox News, Alex Jones’ conspiracy website InfoWars, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have all invoked the Holocaust to argue against gun control.

    You don’t need to know about gun control in 1930s Germany to know that this argument isn’t true. Adolf Hilter managed to fight entire armies across Europe; Jewish civilians — who at the time made up less than 1 percent of the German population — having more guns wouldn’t have stopped the Holocaust. Holocaust scholars, Jewish groups, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum have all repeatedly called for Nazi analogies to stay out of the gun control debate. No serious scholarship of the Holocaust points to the lack of guns as a serious factor.

    The argument also overlooks the fact that there was armed resistance. […]

    Blaming the Holocaust on the lack of guns also allows people to ignore Nazism and anti-Semitism — both of which seem to be on the rise in the United States today. […]

    Much more at the link.

  175. says

    Don Young:

    How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia, because their citizens weren’t armed.

    Pretty impressive how they were able to keep people unarmed over the course of a revolution, a civil war, and two world wars.

  176. says

    Another way to throw shade at Donald Trump:

    The faculty at Lehigh University has voted that the college should rescind President Trump’s honorary degree.

    Faculty voted online, with 83 percent of respondents saying the university should rescind the degree the president received in 1988 […]

    Faculty members had argued that Trump’s actions do not fall in line with the university’s character or standard. […]

    The results of the vote will now be presented to the university’s Board of Trustees […]

    Last year, nearly 35,000 people signed a petition urging the board to rescind Trump’s honorary degree. […]


  177. says

    Uh oh.

    It’s been downright toasty at the North Pole, at least by Arctic standards.

    The northernmost weather station in the world, Cape Morris Jesup in Greenland, saw temperatures stay above freezing for almost 24 hours straight last week, and then climb to 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6.1 degrees Celsius) on Saturday before dropping again.

    But that Saturday temperature was a whopping 45 degrees Fahrenheit above what’s normal this time of year […]

    While there are year-to-year variations in Arctic temperatures, it’s concerning that this is the third year in a row where we’ve seen a heat wave during winter, according to Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.

    And the heat wave, along with an overall warmer winter, is having a direct impact on the Arctic sea ice that should be at its maximum extent this time of year but is instead at record lows. In January, we saw the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice for this time of year since records began in 1979.

    Occasional rapid temperatures spikes are a common weather phenomenon, even in the Arctic. But scientists read the growing frequency — combined with the backdrop of rising overall temperatures — as a strong signal that the climate is changing at a stunningly rapid pace, even faster than they predicted just a few years ago. […]


  178. says

    Follow-up to comments 243, 247 (Chris) and 248.

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Delta Airline’s end to a discount for NRA members:

    All these Corporate Persons using their free speech to disassociate themselves from the National Rifle Association have really made freedom-loving conservatives mean mad, because once again we see the sick influence of the liberal left in stigmatizing and oppressing patriotic Americans. […]

    So far, no prominent Republican has yet invoked Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks to call attention to the plight of NRA members who’ll now have to pay full price just like everyone else instead of getting special rights, but we’re sure that’s inevitable, probably followed by NRA Freedom Riders sitting in at rental car check-in counters, demanding their God-given discount.

    Among the companies that have drawn the ire of wingnuts is Delta Airlines, which announced Saturday it would end ticket discounts for NRA members flying off to their annual convention. The poor dears are already unable to carry their precious guns on planes or in most convention halls, so this was simply too much to bear. American Airlines dropped its NRA discount a few hours later.

    […] As it turns out, Delta chose a particularly inconvenient time to piss off wingnut snowflakes over guns, because the Georgia state legislature has been considering a tax cut bill that includes a provision cutting jet fuel taxes, which, with Delta accounting for 80 percent of flights at Atlanta’s airport, would give Delta a $50 million annual tax break. […]

    […] the state Senate went ahead Monday and voted to strip the jet fuel tax cut out of the larger tax bill, which should certainly send Delta a message about just how petulant deeply committed to conservative values Republicans can be. […]

    As Eric Levitz at New York magazine points out, Georgia Republicans’ hissy fit at Delta does a better job than progressives ever could to underline that Republicans are actually quite happy to pick winners and losers. If the fuel tax cut were really about keeping Georgia competitive, […]. Instead, it’s clear that, in this case at least, tax cuts are just Culture War by other means.

  179. says

    Follow-up to comment 131.

    From Chris Haynes:

    Golden State Warriors will celebrate their championship in D.C. today by touring the African American Museum with students from Seat Pleasant, the hometown of Kevin Durant.

    The NBA team has opted for the excursion described by Haynes instead of a photo op at the White House with Trump.

    The National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the Smithsonian buildings closest to the White House.

  180. says

    Oh, dear god, no.

    Kim Davis “chronicles her dramatic encounters with furious, fist-pounding, homosexual men.”

    […] The Kentucky county clerk jailed for five days in 2015 after refusing a court order to approve a same-sex marriage license to a gay couple is now promoting her new tell-all book: “Under God’s Authority: The Kim Davis Story.”

    […] “This true story goes behind the scenes to reveal how God gave this unlikely candidate a platform to defend marriage and religious freedom.” […]

    “Kim chronicles her dramatic encounters with furious, fist-pounding, homosexual men and the hate mail that flooded her office. Kim takes you behind-the-scenes of the unlikely saga that took America by storm in 2015.”

    “She tells how God transformed her life in 2011, why she almost retired in 2014, and how she knew — six months before the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous 2015 same-sex ‘marriage’ opinion — she was headed for jail.”


  181. says

    Here’s just one stupid thing that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the press briefing today in response to a question about preventing Russian meddling in future elections:

    Let’s not forget this happened under President Obama, it didn’t happen under President Trump. If you want to blame somebody on past problems, then you need to look at the Obama administration. The President is looking at all the different causes and all the different ways that we can prevent it.

  182. tomh says

    @ #263
    The Warriors made a conscious effort to remove politics from the equation. They could have visited with Nancy Pelosi but declined. They also declined an invitation from Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser. In addition, no reporters or photographers are allowed on the museum visit.

  183. says

    “Kushner loses access to top-secret intelligence”:

    Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access.

    Kushner is not alone. All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.

    “He cannot see the PDB, not a chance,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security law and clearances. “He no longer has access to a range of intelligence information that ordinarily someone in his position and somebody with his responsibilities would normally be privy to in order to perform their functions.”

    Moss said Kushner and others will be debriefed by officials in the White House security office, an event scheduled to take place Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. “They’re going to give him a list, ‘Here’s what you’ve been debriefed from, you’ve been debriefed from this program and that compartment, you no longer have any access to it, and any breach of that would be a serious security violation and a possible criminal issue.’”…

    This is a good point: “Alternate headline: Man Under Active Federal Investigation Retains Access to Classified Information.”

  184. says

    “Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage”:

    Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

    Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.

    It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.

    H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perception of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

    Within the White House, Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him, the current and former officials said.

    They could also have legal implications. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has asked people about the protocols Kushner used when he set up conversations with foreign leaders, according to a former U.S. official….

  185. says

    “Trump campaign chief lends name to penny stock tied to felon”:

    The political strategist and online guru who was named President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Tuesday has a close financial relationship with a penny-stock firm with a questionable history that includes longstanding ties to a convicted fraudster, according to an Associated Press investigation.

    Brad Parscale, who played a key role in Trump’s 2016 election victory, signed a $10 million deal in August to sell his digital marketing company to CloudCommerce Inc. As part of the deal, Parscale currently serves as a member of California-based company’s management team.

    The company touts itself as “a global provider of cloud-driven e-commerce and mobile commerce solutions.” But records reviewed by the AP raise questions about its current financial picture and its rocky past.

    Cloud Commerce’s operations have not turned a profit in nearly a decade, the records indicate. The company’s most recent quarterly earnings showed it has spent more than $19 million in investor money since its creation nearly two decades ago and has only $107,000 in cash on hand.

    And in 2006, a top executive at the company, which was operating under a different name at the time, was caught in an FBI bribery sting and later pleaded guilty to securities fraud. The company said the former executive no longer has any connection to the company, but documents reviewed by the AP indicate he has remained involved in CloudCommerce’s major corporate decisions in recent years….

  186. says

    So there was evidently a “fake news” session in the UK Parliament today. I didn’t know about it ahead of time and so missed it live, but I’m trying to reconstruct this series of statements through tweets.

    Alexander Nix from Cambridge Analytica was a witness. Reporter Robert Trafford tweeted at Arron Banks of Leave.EU: “@Arron_banks Hi Arron, putting together a piece for FT on Alex Nix’s appearance before DCMS Committee today, would you care to comment on his assertion that you lied about the relationship between @LeaveEUOfficial and CA?”

    Banks replied: “CA wanted a fee of £1m to start work & then said they would raise £6m in the states. We declined the offer because it was illegal.” (As Trafford points out in the responses, and as Carole Cadwalladr has shown in great detail, this is a…strange claim – Banks is on record numerous times saying they hired CA and CA played a key role in Brexit.)

    Cadwalladr then tweeted: “Alexander Nix of Cambridge Analytica asked about this. Says it’s untrue. Committee now invited @Arron_banks to give evidence. Can. Not. Wait.”

    Adam Ramsay: “Nix just flat out denied this, which means that one of them is lying.” Banks, in response: “Nix & Cambridge Analytica are compulsive liars.”

    Cadwalladr: “Well, the Cambridge Analytica episode of @UKParliament’s fake news inquiry was fun. But the next one looks like it’s going to be a corker…can @DamianCollins get @Nigel_Farage while he’s there?”

  187. says

    Boris Nemtsov was murdered in Moscow three years ago today. This was the day chosen to dedicate the new Boris Nemtsov Plaza, in front of the Russian embassy in DC.

    In Moscow, volunteers have maintained a “living memorial” to Nemtsov at the site of his shooting:

    …On February 28th, the living memorial to Boris Nemtsov will enter its fourth year of continuous existence. The city sends workers to dismantle it irregularly: sometimes they come several times a week, Mityushkina told me, and sometimes they leave the memorial alone for several weeks. Then, there is the non-governmental violence: vandals who attack the memorial and, with some regularity, thugs who attack the activists. Last week, a Solidarity volunteer was hospitalized with minor injuries. In August, 2017, a weekday volunteer died after he was beaten on the bridge….

  188. says

    SC @268 and 269.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that Kushner would be able to continue doing his important work.

    I worry that the Trump administration, (which has been proven to be incompetent, and which often lies to the public), will claim that they have restricted Kushner’s access to classified material while being either incapable of enforcing the restriction and/or uninterested in actually following through.

  189. says

    “U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election”:

    The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved, according to multiple U.S. officials.

    Top-secret intelligence requested by President Barack Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts — synthesizing months of work — had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases.

    Three senior intelligence officials told NBC News that the intelligence community believed the states as of January 2017 were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

    The officials say systems in the seven states were compromised in a variety of ways, with some breaches more serious than others, from entry into state websites to penetration of actual voter registration databases.

    While officials in Washington informed several of those states in the run-up to the election that foreign entities were probing their systems, none were told the Russian government was behind it, state officials told NBC News.

    All state and federal officials who spoke to NBC News agree that no votes were changed and no voters were taken off the rolls.

    To this day, six of the seven states deny they were breached, based on their own cyber investigations. It’s a discrepancy that underscores how unprepared some experts think America is for the next wave of Russian interference that intelligence officials say is coming….

  190. says

    SC @273, yeah, and Carson, the guy who doesn’t want to make housing for the poor “too comfortable,” is the same guy who wants a $5,000 office chair.

  191. says

    Here it is:

    “Mueller team asks about Trump’s Russian business dealings as he weighed a run for president”:

    Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller have recently been asking witnesses about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 presidential campaign as he considered a run for president, according to three people familiar with the matter.

    Questions to some witnesses during wide-ranging interviews included the timing of Trump’s decision to seek the presidency, potentially compromising information the Russians may have had about him, and why efforts to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through, two sources said.

    The lines of inquiry indicate Mueller’s team is reaching beyond the campaign to explore how the Russians might have sought to influence Trump at a time when he was discussing deals in Moscow and contemplating a presidential run.*

    Several lines of questioning to witnesses have centered on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which was held in Moscow, and unsuccessful discussions to brand a Trump Tower Moscow, two sources said….

    * That’s not really reaching beyond the campaign.

  192. says

    Lynna @ #242:

    blf @238, my office chair is a cast-off from a business that closed about twenty years ago. My bet is that Ben Carson thinks he deserves a $5,000 office chair because Jesus chose him for greatness.

    I had a rebate offer, a coupon, and my desk chair was on sale. I assembled it myself. Cost me $6 for like a $100 chair. I’m still proud.

  193. says

    Follow-up to comment 280. Apparently, Ben Carson’s wife insisted on some of the redecorating of his office, including a dining room set that cost $31,000. A whistle blower turned her in, thanks in part to Mrs. Carson pushing HUD staff to find the money for the redecoration effort, even if they had to break regulations to do so.

    A spokesperson for Ben Carson claimed that he didn’t know about the $31,000 dining room set. But, of course, no one is returning the furniture.

    SC @288, well done on the chair! You paid $6.00. Mine was free. Maybe we should redecorate Ben Carson’s office.

  194. says

    SC @288, well done on the chair! You paid $6.00. Mine was free. Maybe we should redecorate Ben Carson’s office.

    :) Reality show: “Extremely Frugal Redecorating, with Lynna and SC.”

  195. says

    SC @290, that made me laugh.

    In other news, Hope Hicks has a loose relationship with the truth:

    White House communications director Hope Hicks told members of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that she is sometimes required to tell white lies as part of her work for President Trump, according to The New York Times.

    Hicks reportedly made the statement during a lengthy testimony before the committee as part of its investigation into Russia’s inference in the 2016 election.

    Hicks also told the panel, after speaking with her lawyers, that she hasn’t lied about anything related to the Russia probe, sources familiar with her testimony told the Times.

    […] Hicks continued to refuse to answer questions about the administration as well as “key events such as the fabrication of that statement about the Trump Tower meeting,” according to Schiff.

    Schiff slammed Hicks for refusing to answer some questions, calling it “executive stonewalling.” […]


  196. says

    Two podcasts:

    This one is about Jared Kushner and includes compelling information about his family and their business. (Here’s the whole NPR series. This is the first I’ve listened to, but the others look interesting.)

    This one, “The Mysterious Loan Trump Made to Himself and More,” is an interview with David Fahrenthold. He’s now investigating Trump’s loans and debt, and asking people for tips or information in this area, particularly concerning something called Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC, which is a company Trump owns and from which he loaned himself at least $50 million with interest, without listing this money as assets for CUA. That is intriguing. The discussion of this loan begins around the 18-minute mark.

  197. KG says

    The European Commission has published a first draft of the proposed treaty defining EU-UK relations after Brexit. It has been greeted with outrage by May, the Tory Brexiteers, and the “Democratic” Unionists, because it proposes a “common regulatory area” on the island of Ireland, in the absence of any other way of avoiding a “hard border” between northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which, supposedly, everyone agrees is unacceptable. (There isn’t any alternative, as far as I can see, and certainly the Brexiteers have not suggested one. Foreign Secretary and racist buffoon Boris Johnson compared the border to that around the Exclusion Zone in London, within which a charge is made for driving a car.)

    Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has set out Labour’s policy, which is to be in a customs union with the EU after Brexit – but one in which the UK can pick and chose what sort of union it is. IOW, he agrees with the Tories that the UK should have its cake and eat it, but insists that his recipe is so much tastier than theirs.

    So, full-speed ahead for the cliff-edge!

  198. says

    KG @296, thanks for the update on the “full-speed ahead for the cliff-edge” when it comes to EU-UK relations. Tory Brexiteers will never admit that they were wrong, not even a little bit, not even that their attitudes could be adjusted here and there. As for the arrogance behind the idea that the UK has all the leverage and holds all the cards …

    In other news, Jeff Sessions tried so hard to please Trump, (again), that he ordered the Justice Department’s inspector general to use the Devin Nunes’ memo as an excuse to look for abuses of the FISA system. The Nunes memo has been revealed to offer no proof of any abuses, no proof of wrongdoing on the part of the FBI. But Sessions needed Daddy Trump’s approval so badly that he ordered the investigation anyway.

    Here’s how Trump repaid Sessions:

    Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!

    Trump is, of course, wrong. There are no “massive” FISA abuses. Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s IG, , did take office in 2012, but that doesn’t make him part of the mythical Obama Deep State. And, of course, this is the umpteenth time Trump has shown that he wants to use Sessions as an attack dog to go after Comey. It’s all so ridiculous.

    Trump’s attack on Sessions today reminds me of a schoolyard bully that has discovered that there is a child that he can manipulate and bully with impunity, so he keeps on doing it. This must give Trump some pleasure, but for the rest of us it is an ugly scene to watch. More importantly, the real work does not get done while Trump is busy kicking Sessions again.

  199. says

    More churn in the White House. More exits through the revolving door.

    […] Josh Raffel, a senior communications official in the White House who has been a go-to crisis manager and worked closely with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, is leaving the administration, officials confirmed Tuesday. […]

    The Raffel news came just one day after Joseph Yun, a top U.S. diplomat overseeing North Korea policy, announced his retirement.

    And that news came three days after Elaine Duke, the deputy secretary of Homeland Security, announced her retirement.

    And that news came the same day that we learned Sally Donnelly, a prominent adviser to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, is resigning.

    And that news came four days after Reed Cordish, a senior aide to Jared Kushner, announced his departure from the White House.

    And two days before that, George David Banks, a special assistant to the president for international energy and environmental policy on the National Economic Council, resigned because of reported difficulties with his security clearance.

    The Onion recently ran a satirical piece with a headline that read, “White House Now Just Holding Continuous Going-Away Party For Departing Staffers.” It struck a chord for a reason. […]


  200. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment @269.

    Summary from Steve Benen:

    […] So what are we left with? One of the president’s top aides, who oversees a vast policy portfolio, can’t get a security clearance from the FBI, is seen by foreign countries as someone who’s easy to manipulate. This same top aide, facing private financial hardships, has had private meetings with foreign officials, to the alarm of top White House officials.

    […] rules against nepotism exist for a reason.

    Second, having a top White House official facing dire financial straits, and then allowing that official to have undisclosed meetings with foreigners who see him as vulnerable, naturally created serious national security concerns.

    And third, it’s genuinely difficult to imagine how John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and Jared Kushner will continue to serve within the same West Wing for much longer.


  201. says

    Follow-up to comment 298.

    Wilbur Ross is losing some of his buddies at the Department of Commerce.

    Four political appointees in the Department of Commerce lost their jobs Tuesday over issues with their background checks, as Chief of Staff John Kelly cracks down on staffers operating under an interim security clearance.

    According to The Washington Post, the Commerce Department determined that the four appointees — Fred Volcansek, who was a senior adviser to Secretary Wilbur Ross, and aides Chris Garcia, Edgar Mkrtchian and Justin Arlett — should not have access to classified information. […]


    “All the best people.”

  202. says

    In Oath Keepers Webinar, Student Gun Control Activists Are ‘The Enemy’

    The Oath Keepers militia group on Monday issued an official “call to action” asking their members to serve as voluntary armed guards at U.S. schools, in order to intervene in the event of a mass shooting.

    But the group doesn’t seem to think much of some of the students they say they want to protect.

    During a meandering Monday night webinar held by the far-right, anti-government group, the gun writer David Codrea referred to Emma González and David Hogg, survivors of the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida as “the enemy.” […]

    Codrea […] also said that Gonzalez’s father is a “refugee from Castro’s Cuba,” and lamented that the National Rifle’s Association 595,000 Twitter followers paled in comparison to the one million that follow “this young Communist girl.”

    Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who hosted the webinar, suggested that law enforcement may have deliberately ignored multiple tips about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, in order to allow a massacre that could pave the way for gun control. […]

    The conversation focused less on operational details for members, and more on denunciations of what Codrea called the “Leni Riefenstahls” in the media, bent on manipulating the national conversation on guns.[…]


    The Oath Keepers sound like they could be a danger to the students. And they are showing up armed with AR-15 rifles.

  203. says

    Follow-up to comments 239 and 241.

    […] If the court’s conservative justices rule against the union, it will hurt some workers more than others.

    In an amicus brief, the National Women’s Law Center and dozens of other groups “committed to civil rights and economic opportunity” argue that unions have been a vital tool for shrinking economic inequality for women and people and color: “Unions are associated with smaller wage gaps related to gender and race in part because they promote transparency in criteria and decisions on compensation, recruitment, and promotions. Gender-based wage gaps persist throughout the economy, but the wage gap for union members is 53 percent smaller than the wage gap among non-union workers.”

    The brief goes on to argue that union benefits like pensions, health insurance, and paid leave are especially important for women and people of color, who face greater vulnerability in the labor market. […]


  204. says

    Katy Tur byline – “Mueller asking what Trump knew about hacked emails”:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release, according to multiple people familiar with the probe.

    Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the emails. They have also asked about the relationship between GOP operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and why Trump took policy positions favorable to Russia.

    The line of questioning suggests the special counsel, who is tasked with examining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, is looking into possible coordination between WikiLeaks and Trump associates in disseminating the emails, which U.S. intelligence officials say were stolen by Russia….

  205. says

    SC @303, really, when you think about it, the U.S., the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other allies should be joining forces to fight Russian cyberattacks. This is so serious.

    Putin’s goal is to destroy, or to at least seriously weaken, democracies.

  206. says

    SC @307, in one interview a teacher at the school said all the students wanted to see the comfort dogs. Such a good idea.

    Also, those dogs are apolitical.

  207. says

    Follow-up to comment 297.

    Jeff Sessions responded:

    As long as I am attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and constitution.

    And, BTW, when Trump complained in an earlier tweet about Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, he was way off base … again.

    [Horowitz] also received political appointments under President George W. Bush and is seen by people who know him as an independent voice.

    Horowitz is overseeing an investigation into the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the probe into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State.

    That probe reportedly helped lead to the early resignation of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a frequent Trump target. Horowitz also uncovered a series of text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which led special counsel Robert Mueller to remove Strzok from the team probing Russia’s election interference.

    Sounds like Horowitz is, more or less, on Trump’s side, or independent … definitely not just another Obama appointee, which is how Trump sees him.

  208. says

    From Michelle Obama:

    I still haven’t figured it out because I’m old and I don’t understand most of social media.

    I tweet, but I have a committee. I don’t just tweet off the top of my head, which I don’t encourage people to do — especially kids.

    I think kids do think telling it like it is and talking off the top of your head [is cool]… [but] that’s never been good. We weren’t raised like that. That’s rude. That’s what you call rude.

    But yes, I use social media. But I use it like a grown-up.

  209. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of really bad art meant to glorify Trump:

    America’s greatest hack artist, Jon McNaughton, brings us yet another patriotic masterpiece in the tradition of “Barack Obama Steps on the Constitution and Angers the Founding Fathers” […] and “Donald Trump Rescues the Constitution and America and Also So Does Sheriff David Clarke Hooray.” The new masterwork is called, simply, “Respect the Flag,” and is available in atrocious versions to fit any budget, from a frameable lithograph on paper at $29.00 […] to a 20″ by 24″ signed and numbered giclee on real canvas with a burnished bronze frame for just $411.00.

    Because Jon McNaughton is irrepressibly, irredeemably didactic, he made a video explaining what you are looking at […]

    From the artist who first burst on the scene with his True Historical Reenactment of Jesus handing the Constitution to George Washington, this new work is actually far simpler than McNaughton’s usual technique of piling a bunch of symbolic shit into a single painting (sometimes with interactive answer key on the website). Instead, “Respect the Flag” shares far more in style with his simple, subtle masterpiece “Barack Obama Literally Burns The Constitution Because That Is What He Actually Did You Know.” […]

    Sean Hannity, who bought Donald Trump his very own McNaughton print (“Obama Steps on the Constitution Etc.”) the week after the election, tweeted out McNaughton’s new video Monday with a challenge to “The Left”: Love this provocative art or admit you are a big elitist hypocrite, you!

    Video is available at the link. Warning: the video destroys brain cells. That was painful.

  210. says

    From the pantheon of really terrible ideas: manufacturing AK-47 rifles near Parkland, Florida.

    […] protesters denounced a plan by a gun manufacturer to make Kalashnikov-branded AK-47s at a facility in Pompano Beach, Florida — about 14 miles from the site of the Parkland school shooting.

    […] a closer look at the gunmaker, Kalashnikov USA, and its quest to set up a Florida facility reveals a far stranger story, and one that’s perhaps more troubling still.

    Kalashnikov USA first announced its plan to make AK-47s in the U.S. — using the slogan “Russian Innovation, American Heritage” — as a way to get around sanctions, which forced it to stop importing the weapons from a Russian gunmaker with whom it had close ties. But it wouldn’t say where it was making the weapons.

    […] to lure the company to Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration pledged to give the firm $162,000 in tax breaks, but the tax deal fell through […]

    Kalashnikov USA isn’t the only gun company that Scott has rolled out the red carpet for. The number of gun manufacturers in the state has ballooned from 232 when Scott took office in 2011 to 764 today, […] Scott personally announced that he had promised gunmaker Colt a tax break deal of its own, this one worth $1.6m, to relocate 63 jobs to Kissimmee, Fla. […]

    “Did you know that the state of Florida, the governor’s office, gave financial incentives for them to come into the state and manufacture?” Nelson [Scott’s opponent in the Senate race] asked. […]

    The Obama administration’s 2014 sanctions, imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, created a problem for a Pennsylvania-based company called RWC. Since 2012, RWC — it stood for Russians Weapons Company — had been the exclusive importer and distributor of Kalashnikov guns. Now, it was forbidden from doing business with Moscow-based Kalashnikov Concern, which has been described as its parent company.

    […] the National Rifle Association raised concerns at the time about the ban on Kalashnikov Concern doing business in the U.S. […]

    Erich Ferrari, a Washington D. C. attorney who specializes in sanctions law, said if Kalashnikov USA truly didn’t communicate with Kalashnikov Concern in producing its guns, that “may obviate the sanctions concern.” […]

    The company used the slogan: “Russian heritage, American innovation.”

    [Governor] Scott’s DEO inked a deal with Kalashnikov USA, in which it promised the firm a tax refund deal worth $162,000 if it relocated from RWC’s Pennsylvania headquarters to Broward County and created at least 54 jobs. […]

    […] the tax deal was terminated when RWC failed to provide the necessary paperwork. [Maybe. Conflicting reporting] […] Kalashnikov USA appears to have decided to move to Florida anyway. […]

    A clerk at the Pompano Beach Office of Business and Tax Receipt said the Kalashnikov USA facility has licenses for firearms sale, assembly, import-export, and manufacture. […]


  211. says

    Ha. This is funny. The nomination of Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize may be fake.

    Mr Trump was reportedly nominated for his “ideology of peace by force” by an anonymous American.

    The director of the Nobel Institute said there were concerns that Mr Trump’s nomination may have been falsified.

    “I can say that we have good reason to believe that [the nomination of Mr Trump] is a fake,” Nobel Institute Director Olav Njølstad told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

  212. blf says

    On office chairs, I’ve got two at home, both salvaged for free (at different times). One, which using as I tpyo this, was given to me by the landlord of a previous residence. It was (part of) the minimal furnishings. When moving out, the landlord at first tried to claim it was mine and I must remove it, but after I proved them wrong by showing them the initial inventory, they then admitted they’d made a mistake (I believe them) — and offered the chair to me.

    The other one I simply found thrown out.

    Both have somewhat torn-up seats and malfunctioning coasters, but are otherwise quite serviceable.

    Come to think of it, the desk I am using, the adjacent table, and all the shelving, are also salvaged (total cost, 10€, for a trolley). Half of the computers are also salvaged. Ignoring the books and purchased computing equipment, the most expensive thing is perhaps the shredder.

  213. says

    Beware of Mike Pence:

    Standing before a roomful of anti-abortion activists in Nashville on Tuesday, Mike Pence described the “great progress” made under President Donald Trump to limit women’s access to legal abortions in the U.S. and abroad.

    He called for the activists in the room to work ever harder to help “restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.” He then made a stunning suggestion: that legal abortion could “once again” be banned in the U.S., and that it could happen “in our time.”

    Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List and Life Institute, an anti-abortion group, the vice president announced that “life is winning in America once again,” before ticking off the many policies enacted under Trump aimed at limiting access to abortions.

    Huff Po link

  214. says

    California braces for Trump’s ‘border wall hallucination tour’

    […] Trump’s California supporters are “ecstatic” that the president will be making his first official visit to the state next month. […]

    The White House confirmation of Trump’s planned visit to view border wall prototypes — the preeminent symbol of his immigration policy […] comes amid widespread anger on the left related to a series of immigration raids and arrests launched this week throughout California, home to an estimated 2.2 million undocumented immigrants. […]

    “I have full faith that my Southern California Latino community will give Trump’s border wall hallucination tour exactly the respect it deserves: Nada, nunca, forget it,’’ said Gloria Nieto, a veteran Democratic LGBT activist in Santa Cruz. “Considering how much this administration has allowed unfit employees access to information which is a real threat to our country’s safety, this continued charade feeds a false narrative about the dangers we face. Mexicans trying to find work to feed their families are an empty threat.”

    Advance reports of the raids prompted mayors like Oakland’s Libby Schaaf to push back against the administration by announcing the ICE strategy in advance to warn residents in her city. That move earned her a rebuke from ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan, who, in a statement, called her action a “reckless decision was based on her political agenda with the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold.”

    Trump’s impending visit “makes sense with his converting the U.S. presidency into reality TV,” says Chris Newman, legal director for the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network […]

    “If Trump comes to California, he’ll find that California has built an immunity to the type of fear that he’s pushing,’’ Newman said. “[H]e’s trying to spread venom — and I don’t think it will have the desired effect.” […]

    Trump’s visit to California, the nation’s political ATM, is also about money: In addition to the border visit, the president will also head a Republican National Committee fundraiser in Los Angeles. […]


  215. says

    From Adam Schiff, in a letter to Nunes:

    […] To date, there are dozens of important witnesses who have not yet been invited, let alone compelled to come before the committee. And all too many of the witnesses who have appeared, have refused to answer direct questions of core investigative interest to the Committee, and have asserted unprecedented and risible claims of privilege.

    The integrity and independence of the Committee and Congress’ investigative and enforcement powers are at stake. To be credible, the Russia investigation cannot simply take witnesses at their word, or accept baseless assertions of privilege where none apply. Instead, the Committee must verify assertions made by witnesses in testimony, compel testimony as well as the full production of responsive documents, and, where necessary, move to enforce subpoenas.

    […] compel the White House to permit Bannon to testify to Congress fully and without constraints. […]

  216. says

    From Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent to the latest Supreme Court ruling:

    We cannot here engage in this legal fiction. No one can claim, nor since the time of slavery has anyone to my knowledge successfully claimed, that persons held within the United States are totally without constitutional protection.

    Whatever the fiction, would the Constitution leave the Government free to starve, beat, or lash those held within our boundaries? If not, then, whatever the fiction, how can the Constitution authorize the Government to imprison arbitrarily those who, whatever we might pretend, are in reality right here in the United States?

    The answer is that the Constitution does not authorize arbitrary detention. And the reason that it is so is simple: Freedom from arbitrary detention is as ancient and important a right as any found within the Constitution’s boundaries.

    The bail questions before us are technical but at heart they are simple. We need only recall the words of the Declaration of Independence, in particular its insistence that all men and women have “certain unalienable Rights,” and that among them is the right to “Liberty.” We need merely remember that the Constitution’s Due Process Clause protects each person’s liberty from arbitrary deprivation.

    Yes, the conservative Supreme Court justices, including Gorsuch, decided to say that the immigration system’s indefinite imprisonment of immigrants is constitutional.

    […] as Stanford Law professor Lucas Guttentag points out, very few of the 40,000 immigrants affected by Tuesday’s SCOTUS ruling have their own attorneys. As it is, thousands of immigrants who might have had a chance at bail will now stay imprisoned.


  217. blf says

    US immigration attacks Oakland mayor for warning of raid that arrested 150:

    A day after agents confirmed that more than 150 people in California were arrested in immigration raids, a federal immigration official lashed out at the Oakland mayor who gave a public warning ahead of the raids, saying it was no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘police’.

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) chief, Thomas Homan […] said that the warning from the mayor, Libby Schaaf, helped about 800 people avoid arrest. He also said the justice department was looking into whether Schaaf obstructed justice.


    “I do not regret sharing this information,” Schaaf said. “It is Oakland’s legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe our community is safer when families stay together.”

    California lawmakers, from the governor Jerry Brown down to local mayors, have resisted a Trump administration immigration crackdown that they contend is arbitrarily hauling in otherwise law-abiding people and splitting up families that include US-born children.

    Homan lambasted Schaaf and her city in a statement that suggested the sweep targeted so-called “sanctuary cities” that limit cooperation between Ice and local law enforcement.

    “Sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco and Oakland shield dangerous criminal aliens from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety,” Homan said. “Because these jurisdictions prevent Ice from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, they also force Ice officers to make more arrests out in the community, which poses increased risks for law enforcement and the public.”

    Defenders of sanctuary city practices say they actually improve public safety by promoting trust among law enforcement and immigrant communities and reserving scarce police resources for other, more urgent crime-fighting needs.


    Congratulations to Mayor Schaaf, Oakland, et al., on resisting the goons.

  218. says

    Feinstein: “BREAKING: Senator @JeffFlake and I just introduced our bill to raise the age for purchasing assault weapons to 21. If you can’t buy a beer, you shouldn’t be able to buy a weapon of war like an AR-15. While we need to do more, this is a commonsense step forward. #GunReformNow”

  219. says

    More re #309 – Tur and others with sources are all saying that they describe not interviews in which Mueller’s investigators aren’t asking questions fishing for information but presenting witnesses/targets with detailed descriptions of meetings or communications that they already have. They all seem to think the investigation is building up to something very serious.

  220. blf says

    I worry that the Trump administration, (which has been proven to be incompetent, and which often lies to the public), will claim that they have restricted Kushner’s access to classified material while being either incapable of enforcing the restriction and/or uninterested in actually following through.

    It’s worse than that. There is a legal mechanism by which Kushner, et al., can obtain what they supposedly cannot see:

    The president has the unilateral authority to share classified information as he sees fit, including with his son-in-law, despite the clearance downgrade.

    (From Jared Kushner: security clearance change ends direct access to top secret intelligence; also see Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.) This same point came up when hair furor blew an Israeli secret agent’s cover to the Russians. Hair furor is apparently aware of this loophole, twittering at the time: As president I wanted to share with Russia […] which I have the absolute right to do.

  221. says

    The one who elicited the “white lies” response from Hicks during yesterday’s testimony was Eric Swalwell. Reading through his questioning of Carter Page again (see #244 above), I concluded that Swalwell is very good at it. He has a law degree, but I don’t think he’s ever worked as a prosecutor. He has a gift for it.

  222. militantagnostic says

    The Oath Keepers Via Lynna @301

    Codrea […] also said that Gonzalez’s father is a “refugee from Castro’s Cuba,” and lamented that the National Rifle’s Association 595,000 Twitter followers paled in comparison to the one million that follow “this young Communist girl.”

    Eh what? Is teenage rebellion against her father just assumed?

  223. says

    SC @338, Trump’s whole world is going to fall apart if people start standing up to him. For one thing, Trump will be tremendously confused by such a turn of events. Does not compute for him.

    SC @336, Trump also told the people at the Trumpish gun show/deal-making enclave, “I will love you” [if you come up with a deal]. Why does Trump think that a promise of his “love” will sway anyone? A Representative from Connecticut (Elizabeth Etsy) said that she does not need to take into account Trump liking her or not liking her (or her liking Trump, or not liking Trump) in order to come up with gun control legislation.

  224. says

    So, Trump tweeted this:

    45 year low on illegal border crossings this year. Ice and Border Patrol Agents are doing a great job for our Country. MS-13 thugs being hit hard.

    So, he doesn’t need to build a wall anymore, right?

  225. says

    “Kushner’s Business Got Loans from Companies After White House Meetings”:

    Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.

    Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris.

    The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.

    Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show.

    It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.

    That loan was made in the spring of 2017, shortly after Mr. Kushner met in the White House with Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael L. Corbat, according to people briefed on the meeting. The two men talked about financial and trade policy and did not discuss Mr. Kushner’s family business, one person said.

    There is little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business, say government ethics experts.

    All of the executives who met with Mr. Kushner have lots to gain or lose in Washington.

    Apollo has sought ways to benefit from the White House’s possible infrastructure plan. And its executives, including Mr. Harris, had tens of millions of dollars personally at stake in the tax overhaul that was making its way through Washington last year.

    Citigroup, one of the country’s largest banks, is heavily regulated by federal agencies and, like other financial companies, is trying to get the government to relax its oversight of the industry.

    Shortly after Kushner Companies received the loan from Apollo, the private equity firm emerged as a beneficiary of the tax cut package that the White House championed. Mr. Trump backed down from his earlier pledge to close a loophole that permits private equity managers to pay taxes on the bulk of their income at rates that are roughly half of ordinary income tax rates. The tax law left the loophole largely intact.

  226. says

    “Mueller investigation examining Trump’s apparent efforts to oust Sessions in July”:

    Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been investigating a period of time last summer when President Trump seemed determined to drive Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his job, according to people familiar with the matter who said that a key area of interest for the inquiry is whether those efforts were part of a months-long pattern of attempted obstruction of justice.

    In recent months, Mueller’s team has questioned witnesses in detail about Trump’s private comments and state of mind in late July and early August of last year, around the time he issued a series of tweets belittling his “beleaguered” attorney general, these people said. The thrust of the questions was to determine whether the president’s goal was to oust Sessions in order to pick a replacement who would exercise control over the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump associates during the 2016 election, these people said.

    Behind the scenes, Trump has derisively referred to Sessions as “Mr. Magoo,” a cartoon character who is elderly, myopic and bumbling, according to people with whom he has spoken. Trump has told associates that he has hired the best lawyers for his entire life, but is stuck with Sessions, who is not defending him and is not sufficiently loyal….

  227. quotetheunquote says

    RE: SC #336:

    I just accidentally came across a video out of Minnesota complaining about Trump’s disregard for the constitution – from a really out-there gun nut (will NOT link to this loon). The gist of the comments seemed to be “way to lose your base, Trump”. All good by me, looks link the snake is eating itself now…

  228. says

    “Steve Bannon in Rome to ‘support far-right candidate’ in Italian election”:

    Steve Bannon is heading to Rome on Thursday, days ahead of the Italian election, and has reportedly hinted of his support for the far-right candidate Matteo Salvini.

    A meeting between the head of La Lega and the former White House strategist has not been planned, but Bannon has said he is heading to the Italian capital because he is intriguedby the election and believes it has major implications for Europe.

    According to La Stampa’s report, which did not name sources, Bannon has suggested the 4 March election could mark a new path in Europe and open the way to new populist movements to fight the influence of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in and the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

    His brand of economic and anti-migrant populism is gaining momentum across Europe, including in Italy. Salvini, who runs La Lega, previously known as the Northern League, has the support of about 13% of the Italian electorate, driven largely by his anti-migrant and anti-EU “Italians First” campaign.

    Traditional politics is not likely to be Bannon’s only interest in Italy. He is also a Catholic with ties to conservatives in the Vatican, including the AUS cardinal Raymond Burke, who has emerged as Pope Francis’s staunchest internal critic.

    Burke met Salvini a year ago, in an encounter seen as a sign of the deep divisions within the church. Pope Francis has steadfastly called for migrants to be welcomed and supported, and many of his supporters in the US have spoken out against some of Donald Trump’s policies against migrants….

  229. Oggie. says

    Over here , PZed discusses Pinker’s new book and his (Pinker’s) defense of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study.

    When I visited my parents in Maine, I learned a little bit more about my family. My paternal great-grandfather was medical doctor who worked for the Public Health Department. He, Dr. ‘Toliver’ Clark, headed up the syphilis research project. My paternal grandmother, fresh out of college with honors degrees in mathematics and statistics, was hired by the Tuskegee project to crunch the numbers for them. She met, and fell in lust, with Clark’s son. My dad was born three months after the wedding and then he decided my grandmother was nuts and went down to Venezuela to pump oil. Grandma remarried — a medical doctor who also had a PhD in statistics — and slowly descended into alcoholism. Which means, ultimately, if there had been no Tuskegee Study, I would not be here typing this.

    So why did I put this here? This is, after all, Political Madness All the Time, right? What does my family have to do with politics?

    All of us are descended from survivors. From people who may have been wonderful people (Great Grandfather Toliver Clark was not a wonderful man — he was racist, classic RWA, bigoted, and ruled his family with an iron fist (Dad remembers going to his house for Sunday dinners and coming away amazed at how everyone in the household jumped and/or panicked at his every word)), may have been assholes, but were survivors (well, they survived at least long enough to breed). I know some of my ancestors did horrible things. So did I. Does this taint carry down the generations?

    This is the United States of America. It is not supposed to matter what our ancestors did. But it does. I come from a long line of men (and a few women) who spent their lives in public service (some could be described more as public dis-service) with the Department of Public Health, or the Department of the Interior. Public service was my goal from when I was young. And Dad gave me the advice I needed at the right times in my life to help me succeed.

    In many ways, my childhood was wonderful (to leave scouting out of this for a moment), but my father has battled with borderline alcohol addiction his whole life. Sometimes he was violent. Usually he wasn’t. Part of that came from the dysfunctionality of his family. Which came from the authoritarianism of his grandfather.

    Again, our ancestry should not matter, but it does. I am privileged — white, male, college-educated, a family history of higher education, etc. But I think of what my great-grandfather’s experiment, the experiment my grandmother ran stats for, and realize that part of my success, part of my family’s privilege, was built on the back of slave owners and racists. Should I feel guilty about this? Maybe. Do I? A little. Does it colour my interactions with the world? Yes. Does it colour my politics? Without doubt.

    Right now, the US is being ruled by a group who have no concept of public service, no concept of being in the game for anyone but themselves. Yet their actions and attitudes are pretty damn close to Dr. ‘Toliver’ Clark. They are racist, bigoted, willing to kill people to get what they want, and utterly and completely without empathy. Dr. Clark would have loved this crowd.

    The more I learn of my family, the racists, the bigots, the good, the bad, the survivors, the more I learn about my country. And what is wrong with it.

    Rich does not mean virtuous.
    White does not mean right.
    Man does not mean good.
    But we run our country as if these statements were true. As if wealthy white men are the ultimate in virtue, goodness and rightness.

    So what do I do? I contribute to progressive causes and campaigns. I help people vote. And I talk, and write, about the world, and my country, and what is wrong and how it can be fixed. We will never achieve perfection (nor would that be desirable), but I can work toward a world in which the dispossessed, the poor, the downtrodden, minorities, all sexes, are accorded the same benefit of the doubt that Pinker gives the evil Dr. ‘Toliver’ Clark, the same benefit of the doubt that Trump the Traitor is getting, the same benefit of the doubt that I have enjoyed, unearned, throughout my life.

    Vote, Americans. Vote. Get involved. Use the facts to forward your argument but embrace the passion which is what will give voice to social justice. A justice that my ancestors helped to prevent.

  230. blf says

    Here in France, le penazi führer Marine Le Pen charged for posting violent Isis [daesh –blf] images on Twitter:

    Marine Le Pen […] has been charged over photographs she tweeted showing gruesome images of purported atrocities by Islamic State.

    The move by a judge in Nanterre on Thursday came after the national assembly voted in November to strip Le Pen of her parliamentary immunity over the three photos posted in 2015.

    Le Pen […] is facing charges of circulating “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity”, and that can be viewed by a minor. The crime is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of €75,000 […].

    […] I am being charged for having condemned the horrors of Daesh, Le Pen told the news agency AFP. In other countries this would have earned me a medal.

    [… details of the images redacted –blf]

    “Daesh is this!” Le Pen wrote in a caption […] in response to a TV journalist drawing a comparison between the extremists and the French far right.


  231. blf says

    The Grauniad snarks Ms Hicks, Goodbye, Hope Hicks. Can we bring the Mooch back now?:

    Hicks was the sixth communications chief in 13 months of a presidency [sic]. There are Italian prime ministers who would be embarrassed by such a short time in office

    This is a perilous time for Hope.

    One day she admitted telling white lies to spare the president’s [sic] orange blushes. But honestly, those lies were never ever about the whole Russian cover-up. At least, that’s what the communications director testified to the House intelligence committee during eight hours of questioning.

    The next day we learned that Hope Hicks is leaving the West Wing at some unspecified date because she wants to do something — anything — other than work for Donald Trump. But honestly it never ever had anything to do with the whole eight hours of interrogation about Russia.

    How do we reconcile Hope with reality in the Trump White House?

    Let’s see if we can find some clues in the official White House statements about her departure, which she presumably had a hand in writing, being the communications director and all.

    I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood, said Trump himself, sounding totally unlike the man who spends his mornings and evenings on the Twitter machine. I am sure we will work together again in the future.

    Translation: Even I wouldn’t want to work with me. And she knows where all the bodies are buried, so I only hope she never agrees a deal with Robert Mueller. Maybe the chance of future employment will entice her to keep quiet?

    She has served her country with great distinction, said John Kelly, Trump’s kamikaze chief of staff. To say that she will be missed, is an understatement.

    Translation: She was the only one who could tell the boss he was wrong without reading endless tweets about getting fired. Now who do I ask for help?

    There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump, said Hope herself.

    If you can’t express yourself in words, perhaps you weren’t the very best communications director the White House has ever seen.


    Hope is the President’s longest serving aide having worked with him before he announced his candidacy, said the statement, presumably approved by Hope. It’s kind of sad that his longest serving aide only lasted three years, but — on the other hand — it’s kind of an eternity when your boss is Donald Trump.


    Her role evolved from what was initially considered to be an unconventional press and communications aide to formally being announced WH communications director in the summer of 2017, they said.

    That’s an awesome career progression! Of course, “unconventional press aide” doesn’t look great on a resumé, and six months in a director role isn’t entirely professional either. Perhaps a little communications advice would help tighten up the job applications?


    Her exact departure is to be determined but it will be sometime in the next few weeks, the White House added.

    Seriously Mr President [sic]: if this is the best your beloved communications director can do, you might want to ask your favorite Russian troll factory for help. Artful, it is not.

    Of course, it might not be easy to find a replacement for the Worst. Job. Ever.

    How exactly do you direct communications around a man who live-tweets what he sees on Fox News, when he’s not tweeting about how DISGRACEFUL his attorney general is?


    How do you protect the president’s son-in-law when he’s so desperate for cash that he’s reportedly getting played by foreign officials, when he’s not getting played by companies lending millions to his family business?

    There is only one person who can live with this unique combination of corruption, deception, flip-flops and brain farts. There is only one person who can polish the proverbial turd into something shiny enough to feature on a prime-time show at Fox News.


    It’s time to abandon Hope. It’s time for the return of The Mooch.

    That stings.

  232. blf says

    According to the link in @348, much of Ben Carson’s dining set is made of Mahogany wood. Most currently-available Mahogany is not sustainably harvested. In addition, much of the wood imported into the States comes from Peru, where almost all of it is illegally harvested. (Brazil used to be the main exporter to the States, but they banned all exports in 2001, so now most is exported from (and probably harvested in) Peru.) At least one species of Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) is on the CITES list as Threatened (Vunerable).

    It is therefore quite possible the dining set consists of, or at least contains, an illegally- and unsustainably-sourced threatened species.

  233. says

    “Senate Intelligence Leaders Say House G.O.P. Leaked a Senator’s Texts”:

    The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel’s top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter.

    Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, the officials said.

    To the senators, who are overseeing what is effectively the last bipartisan investigation on Capitol Hill into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the leak was a serious breach of protocol and a partisan attack by one intelligence committee against the other.

    Fox News published the text messages, which were sent via a secure messaging application, in early February. President Trump and other Republicans loyal to him quickly jumped on the report to try to discredit Mr. Warner, suggesting that the senator was acting surreptitiously to try to talk with the former British spy who assembled a dossier of salacious claims about connections between Mr. Trump, his associates and Russia….

  234. says

    As I’m sure you will all remember, Joe Arpaio (Sheriff Joe is from Arizona) is running for a Senate seat. This should help:

    I can read his [Trump’s] mind without even talking to him. I think he may be reading mine. Is there something that goes through the airwaves? Mental telepathy?

  235. says

    Trump is trying to exert his branding expertise:

    […] “I like that word, comprehensive,” Trump said. “They say it is a bad word. I like the word. I would rather have a comprehensive [gun safety] bill. … It would be really nice to create something that’s beautiful.”

    The president was being quite literal. It’s not that he likes the component elements of a comprehensive bill on gun safety; rather, he likes the word “comprehensive” as a branding label he can apply to legislation.

    In fact, earlier in the same meeting with senators yesterday, Trump made clear he has preferences when it comes to bill names. He noted pending legislation on improving the NICS database, and added, “It would be nice if we could add everything on to it and maybe change the title, all right? The ‘U.S. Background Check Bill’ or whatever.”

    Because for this president, the title of the proposal is no small matter. He seemed to lack even a rudimentary understanding of the policies at hand, but what a bill might be named captured Trump’s attention. […]


    Maybe Trump can give us some good ideas for rebranding the “victims” of the Parkland, Florida shooting … you know, a word or phrase that is “beautiful.”

  236. says

    Public pressure and scorn does work … sometimes.

    “At the request of the Secretary, the agency is working to rescind the order for the dining room set,” HUD spokesperson Raffi Williams told TPM in an email. […]

    Carson continued: “I left this matter alone to concentrate on bigger issues. I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered. I have requested that the order be canceled. We will find another solution for the furniture replacement.” […]


    Referencing blf in comment 318: Okay, it is now up to blf to salvage enough furniture to transform Ben Carson’s office. blf is a person exceptionally well suited to create a look that is appropriate for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  237. says

    Kellyanne Conway tried to placate the NRA and other rightwing followers of Trump by saying this:

    This meeting was not about gun control. This meeting — let’s not forget — is about school safety. We’re talking about all of this in the context of the tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida.

    Nevermind that Trump supported raising the age to purchase rifles to 21 … and so on.

    The NRA had put out a statement that read, in part:

    The gun control proposals discussed would make for bad policy that would not keep our children safe.

    Kellyanne followed up by saying that the NRA is always “at the table” when it comes to gun safety discussions with the Trump administration.

  238. says

    “Trump Ally Was in Talks to Earn Millions in Effort to End 1MDB Probe in U.S.”:

    A top Republican fundraiser close to President Donald Trump was in negotiations to earn tens of millions of dollars if the U.S. Justice Department dropped its investigation into a multibillion-dollar graft scandal involving a Malaysian state investment fund, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

    In emails dated during the past year, Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and a longtime Republican donor, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, an attorney, discuss setting up a consulting contract with Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman at the center of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal, which brought scrutiny to the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak . The messages include draft agreements between Ms. Rosenzweig’s California law firm and representatives of Mr. Low about the possible terms of their business engagement. In one draft, there is a proposal that includes a $75 million fee if the Justice Department quickly drops its investigation.

    Along with the contract drafts, the emails also appear to show Mr. Broidy prepared talking points for Malaysia’s prime minister ahead of a 2017 visit to Washington that included a meeting with Mr. Trump and other officials. In the talking points, the prime minister was advised to state that Malaysia wanted to emphasize its work with the U.S. in confronting North Korea, while also arguing against the U.S. legal pursuit of the 1MDB matter. It isn’t clear what, if anything, came of the talking points.

    The details of the purported effort to influence the Justice Department investigation were included in a cache of emails from Mr. Broidy’s and his wife’s email accounts that were provided to the Journal.

    Mr. Broidy was a vice chairman for the Trump campaign’s joint fund with the Republican Party during the 2016 campaign, helping it raise more than $108 million. A longtime Republican donor, he gave more than $160,000 last year to the Republican National Committee, where he is currently a national deputy finance chairman. In March, Mr. Trump is set to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles that Mr. Broidy helped organize.

    The Justice Department alleges Mr. Low, a 36-year-old Malaysian financier, helped siphon off at least $4.5 billion from 1MDB, between 2009 and 2015. Mr. Low and conspirators from Asia and the Middle East allegedly used the proceeds to buy luxury homes in the U.S., frequent Las Vegas nightclubs and fund Hollywood movies, among other things. At least six countries are investigating the affair, including Singapore and Switzerland.

    Since mid-2016, the Justice Department has sought, via civil lawsuits in California, to seize almost $2 billion in assets allegedly bought with the stolen money. On Wednesday, authorities in Indonesia seized Mr. Low’s $250 million yacht at a port on the resort island of Bali after a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    Legal experts said certain actions described in the emails had little precedent in Washington. An effort to approach White House officials to close a Justice Department investigation would be unusual because administrations have typically not had any involvement in federal investigations, to avoid giving the appearance of any political motivation. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has often waded into Justice Department matters,…

    In 2009, Mr. Broidy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct and admitted to making nearly $1 million in gifts to benefit four former top officials in the office that oversees New York state’s pension fund, which made $250 million in investments in Mr. Broidy’s firm, the Journal reported. As part of his guilty plea, he agreed to forfeit $18 million to New York state.

  239. says

    Update to #352 – Manu Raju:

    Burr flatly denies report that his panel has concluded that Nunes/House Rs behind leak of Warner texts. Says: “No,” when asked if SSCI concluded that. He also denied they raised concerns about Nunes to Ryan. “We met with Speaker Ryan to update on our investigation. That was it.”

    No idea what’s going on.

  240. says

    NEW: President Trump says the US will impose steel and aluminum tariffs next week

    Steel: 25%

    Aluminum: 10%”

    Needless to say, this decision didn’t go through any sort of proper process.

  241. says

    Josh Dawsey: “White House person who is often understated about drama in the building just texted me to say things were wild, changing by seemingly the minute and that no one knows what Trump is going to announce on a number of issues.”

  242. says


    Warner declined to comment on the matter. “No matter who interferes, we are going to continue our bipartisan investigation to get to the truth.”

    Someone could well be under investigation.

  243. blf says

    After being severely embarrassed, Generalissimo Google implements, in one case, their own terms & conditions, YouTube removes US neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division’s channel:

    The neo-Nazi group has been linked to at least five murders, including the fatal stabbing of a gay Jewish student.

    YouTube has deleted the account of Atomwaffen Division, an American neo-Nazi group that was thrust into the spotlight after several media reports linked it to a spate of murders.

    “This account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy prohibiting hate speech,” a banner read on the group’s YouTube channel as of Wednesday.

    YouTube’s move came a day after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) asked the video-sharing platform to ban the group’s channel.

    According to a recent report by the Daily Beast, YouTube initially refused to remove the group’s channel, despite clear indications that Atomwaffen Division’s content violated YouTube’s policies against hate speech.

    The channel hosted videos such as one titled Gas the k*kes, race war now. Other videos showed members training with firearms.


    Atomwaffen Division, founded in 2015, openly celebrates German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson […]


    The group has been linked to five murders, including the January stabbing of Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old gay Jewish student in California. […]

    Keegan Hankes, an analyst in the SPLC’s intelligence project, estimated that Atomwaffen Division has 80 members across the US.

    “This is a group whose stated purpose is to work toward civilisational collapse,” Hankes told Al Jazeera. “They are seeking to destabilise and work toward the collapse of modern society.”

    Hankes said the group harbours a “dark, dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world” and operates as “a system of revolutionary cells”.


    According to the SPLC, the alt-right has been linked to 100 killings and injuries since 2014.

    “Any time one group is involved in something that brings federal scrutiny, all the other groups worry,” Hankes explained.

    “Most of these groups are not only aware of each other, but they’re hanging out in the same online spaces.”

    Hankes added: “People start worrying once you’ve got an investigation going on. They’re all concerned about their own skin.”


    From the cited (see embedded link) Daily Beast report, YouTube Won’t Ban Neo-Nazi Group Chanting Gas the K**kes, Race War Now (my added emboldening):

    Atomwaffen calls for genocide and has been linked to several murders, but the company site says a warning label is sufficient.
    We announced last June that we would be taking a tougher stance on videos that are borderline against our policies on hate speech and violent extremism by putting them behind a warning interstitial and removing certain features, such as recommended videos and likes, a YouTube spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Monday. We believe this approach strikes a good balance between allowing free expression and limiting affected videos’ ability to be widely promoted on YouTube.

    It’s a fix [SPLC] analyst Keegan Hankes calls “limited state” videos.

    “I think limited state is a good solution for certain types of videos. I say ‘certain types’ because I think it’s not a good solution for Atomwaffen propaganda,” Hankes told The Daily Beast. He added that he would expect a limited state solution for less explicitly violent white-nationalist videos.

    Other social-media companies’ terms of service “have a provision saying ‘if your group is leading to violence in the real world, that factors against you in your review process. Atomwaffen’s had five different murders associated with it in the last few months,” Hankes said, “so it’s a surprising outcome for a group that extreme. We’re talking about a network of radical terror cells. That’s how they set up their organization.”

    YouTube’s decision appears to fly in the face of its policy against hate speech that “refers to content that promotes violence against or has the primary purpose of inciting hatred against individuals or groups based on certain attributes, such as: race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation/gender identity.”

    Atomwaffen’s YouTube recruitment videos, which call for genocide, fit the criteria. […]

    It took the Daily Best, ADL, viewers who flagged the videos, and ProPublica (Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student), at least, an unclear but presumably surprisingly-long time to get Generalissimo Google to do what it says it does. I presume experts like the SPLC — the go-to people on hate groups in the States (even the FBI uses them as a critical resource) — were not consulted.

    Instead, as The Daily Beast report also notes, YouTube’s “algorithmic recommendations also send watchers down a rabbit hole of other extremist propaganda.”

    The EU is fed up with all this nonsense, EU gives Facebook and Google three months to tackle extremist content:

    Commission says internet companies also including YouTube and Twitter need to show progress on issue or face legislation

    The European Union has given Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies three months to show that they are removing extremist content more rapidly or face legislation forcing them to do so.


    The European Commission said on Thursday that internet firms should be ready to remove extremist content within an hour of being notified and recommended measures they should take to stop its proliferation.


    The recommendations, which are non-binding but could be taken into account by European courts, set guidelines on how companies should remove illegal content generally — from copyright infringements to hate speech — and advises a quicker reaction to extremist material.

    The EC said that it would assess the need for legislation of technology firms within three months if demonstrable improvement is not made on what it describes as “terrorist content”, due to the urgency of the issue. European governments have said that extremist content on the web has influenced lone-wolf attackers who have killed people in several European cities after being radicalised.

    For all other types of illegal content the EC will assess the technology firms’ progress within six months.

    It also urged the predominantly US-dominated technology sector to adopt a more proactive approach, with automated systems to detect and remove illegal content, something Facebook and Google have been pushing as the most effective way of dealing with the issue.

    However, the European Digital Rights group described the Commission’s approach as putting internet giants in charge of censoring Europe, saying that only legislation would ensure democratic scrutiny and judicial review.


  244. blf says

    Okay, it is now up to blf to salvage enough furniture to transform Ben Carson’s office. blf is a person exceptionally well suited to create a look that is appropriate for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    The most important thing in any office is the people. Some of the people in HUD, such as the whistleblower Ms Foster, appear to be what should be encouraged. Others, such as Ben “pyramids are gain silos” Carson, need to be jettisoned into the sun. It should be possible to salvage HUD, but this almost certainly requires jesttioning, at speed and soon, Carson and his enablers — hair furor and the rest of the dalekocracy — their enablers in Congress (all the republicansthugs), plus the enabling roadblocks they have or are constructing (such as judicial appointments).

    During and after the salvage process, HUD’s valuable work must not be compromised. People’s lives are at risk, and I don’t just mean those on a one-way journey into the Sun. There is also a need for restitution for all the damage done, albeit with the people responsible having been carbonized (and probably atomized), this would require salvaging the tax code and other grifts.

  245. says

    SC @360:

    Needless to say, this decision didn’t go through any sort of proper process.

    Not only that. Trump also announced that the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would be in effect for “a long period.” WTF does “a long period” mean? Very unprofessional, Hair Furor.

    More details on the slap-dash way this was done:

    […] Plans for Trump to make an announcement were thrown into doubt earlier amid internal wrangling over the decision. Some White House officials, including chief of staff John Kelly, were not fully briefed on the Commerce Department’s plans […]

    The possibility of an announcement, on an issue overseen by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, caught some top White House officials off guard and left several aides scrambling for details.

    Key Senate offices also did not receive advanced warning that Trump was expected to announce a decision before April deadlines. […]

    Any action to impose tariffs is likely to escalate simmering tensions with China and other U.S. trading partners. Critics of such a move fear that other countries will retaliate or use national security as a pretext to impose trade penalties of their own. They also argue that sanctions on imports will drive up prices and hurt U.S. automakers and other companies that use steel or aluminum. […]


  246. says

    More pushback from the far right to Trump’s televised negotiations on gun safety:

    […] Breitbart labelled Trump “The Gun Grabber” and accused him of ceding the Democrats’ “Wish List.” The article had nearly 16,000 comments, with the top-rated comment calling the gun control proposals “an outright betrayal by this president of the constitution and everyone of us who elected him to stand up for it.” […]


  247. says

    Rich people avoiding taxes:

    […] The online retail giant has built its business model on tax avoidance, and its latest financial filing makes it clear that Amazon continues to be insulated from the nation’s tax system. In 2017, Amazon reported $5.6 billion of U.S. profits and didn’t pay a dime of federal income taxes on it. The company’s financial statement suggests that various tax credits and tax breaks for executive stock options are responsible for zeroing out the company’s tax this year.

    The company’s zero percent rate in 2017 reflects a longer term trend. During the previous five years, Amazon reported U.S. profits of $8.2 billion and paid an effective federal income tax rate of just 11.4 percent. This means the company was able to shelter more than two-thirds of its profits from tax during that five year period. […]

    Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy link

  248. says

    Follow-up to comment 368:

    Incredibly, Amazon’s corporate tax goose egg for 2017 doesn’t include the effect of a second big tax disclosure: the $789 million one-time tax break the company projects it will receive due to the new tax law. While the Trump Administration’s corporate tax cuts generally took effect on January 1st, the law includes a grandfather clause for companies that (like Amazon) have managed to defer or postpone tax liability from prior years.

  249. says

    Uh, oh. Not good. I hope this is a temporary snag.

    From the Washington Post:

    A planned rally against mass shootings can’t be held on the Mall later this month because it conflicts with what’s described in a National Park Service permit application as a “talent show.”

    A permit application filed last week by survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre indicated the “March For Our Lives” rally will be on March 24, with up to 500,000 attendees expected. Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the Park Service, said organizers proposed holding the event on the Mall but were looking to move the rally to another location after the request conflicted with a film crew’s permit.

    Litterst said the film permit was “from a student group at a local educational institution,” but he wouldn’t name the institution because “applications from educational institutions are withheld from release for privacy reasons,” he wrote in an email.

    The “March For Our Lives” rally, funded in part by Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities, will include “student speakers, musical performers, guest speakers and video tributes,” according to the permit application, with 14 Jumbotrons, 2,000 chairs and 2,000 portable restrooms. The film crew’s plans for the Mall were more modest, listing equipment such as two tables, two bikes and jump ropes.

  250. says

    Oh, FFS.

    […] the U.S. Treasury Department has cut a $4.7 billion disaster relief loan available to the U.S. territory [Puerto Rico] by more than half […]

    Gov. Ricardo Rossello said federal officials reduced the amount to $2 billion without providing an explanation nearly five months after Congress approved the loan. He warned the move puts Puerto Rico in a “dangerous financial dilemma” and that his administration could be forced to cut some essential services as the island continues to struggle after Hurricane Maria. […]

    CBS News link

  251. says

    Putin says he has new nuclear weapons:

    […] Putin unveiled a number of new nuclear weapons, a nuclear warhead that could fit onto a cruise missile, including underwater nuclear drones, supersonic weapons, and laser weapons.

    In a speech that could be straight out of a Cold War-era movie, Putin said Russia’s new weapons were unstoppable, and said that the West needs “to take account of a new reality and understand that everything I have said today is not a bluff.”

    “Unfriendly steps towards Russia such as the deployment of the (U.S.) anti-missile system and of NATO infrastructure nearer our borders and such like, from a military point of view, will become ineffective,” he said, adding that using the use of any nuclear force against Russia or its allies would be met with an “immediate response.” […]

    Trump, said Weber [Yuval Weber, a fellow at Daniel Morgan Graduate School and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center,], has a different kind of relationship with Russia — one that sees things from the Russian perspective. This counters the military establishment’s view.

    “That’s why the gap between the president and the national security community has grown over the past year; they see a threat from Russia — as evidenced in the various strategy documents produced over the past year — and it’s not clear at all whether Trump shares their views or can explain why he doesn’t.”

    This gap is what Putin is trying to test – if Trump ignores it, the Russian military establishment will then figure that its efforts are for domestic consumption.

    “That’s what they’re trying to figure out: Whether Trump actually cares about the threat of new nuclear weapons coming from Russia,” said Weber. […]


  252. says

    The state of California has enacted automatic voter registration:

    California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law Wednesday legislation that will automatically pre-register all 16 and 17 year olds to vote when they receive a California driver’s license or state identification card.

    The law is “the largest voter registration expansion that we’re aware of in our nation’s history,” according to Terry Schanz, the chief of staff to state Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy (D), who co-authored the bill. According to state lawmakers, this new law is expected to add 200,000 young voters each year. […]


    Sounds like a good thing … and something that Republicans will hate.

  253. says

    What Trump said:

    Many ideas, some good & some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House. Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!

    There is no evidence to support the claim that gun-free zones are proven targets of killers.

    […] Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. For example, 20 were workplace shootings, most of which involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues. […]

    Or consider the 12 school shootings we documented, in which all but one of the killers had personal ties to the school they struck. […]

    Or take the man who opened fire in suburban Milwaukee last August: Are we to believe that a white supremacist targeted the Sikh temple there not because it was filled with members of a religious minority he despised, but because it was a place that allegedly banned firearms?

    Proponents of this argument also ignore that the majority of mass shootings are murder-suicides. Thirty-six of the killers we studied took their own lives at or near the crime scene, while seven others died in police shootouts they had no hope of surviving (a.k.a. “suicide by cop”). These were not people whose priority was identifying the safest place to attack. […]

  254. says

    Follow-up to comments 360 and 366.

    The stock market has dropped about 500 points since Trump announced his tariffs on steel and aluminum.

  255. says

    Another example of states finding a way to work around the bad decisions of the Trump administration:

    The Washington state legislature has approved a net neutrality law that applies to all wired and wireless Internet providers in the state and prohibits blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

    The bill comes in response to the Federal Communications Commission decision in December 2017 to scrap federal net neutrality rules. The state bill still needs the signature of Governor Jay Inslee, who previously pledged to enforce net neutrality “under our own authority and under our own laws,” calling it “a free speech issue as well as a business development issue.”

  256. says

    Louie Gohmert said a lot of stupid stuff on “Fox & Friends.” this guy is an actual Representative in the House of Congress. He’s a Republican from Texas:

    […] my understanding is that Jeff Sessions and some of the DOJ are looking into some of the Hillary Clinton stuff, perhaps on uranium one, but there is so much involving the emails. And, you know, okay, did Comey only come forward before the election about “we’re reopening Hillary’s case” because some of the FBI agents said “either you come forward or we’re going to quit, and we’re going to blow the whistle on how pro-Hillary you’ve been?” All of that needs to be investigated, and it involved DOJ and FBI — that needs a second counsel to do that.

  257. says

    Is McMaster going to be the next high ranking official to leave the White House? Will he go before Jared Kushner. The cliff-hanger reality show goes on.

    The White House is preparing to replace National Security Adivser H.R. McMaster as early as next month, NBC News reported Thursday, citing five unnamed people familiar with the discussions.

    The move, according to NBC News, has been orchestrated by White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

  258. says

    Birds of a whacko feather flock together.

    […] Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will go to federal court to defend a voting restriction that he has for years tried to implement in his state.

    To help Kobach make his case, he’ll be calling on a former member of his now-defunct voter fraud commission, an anti-immigration hardliner, and a professor whose controversial study was used by the White House to justify President Trump’s false claim that “millions” voted illegally in 2016.

    At issue in the case is a 2011 Kansas law, championed by Kobach, requiring that people registering to vote show documentary proof of citizenship. Voting rights advocates say the requirement disproportionately hurts minorities and low income voters, and violates federal voting law.

    Several federal court rulings have blocked the law temporarily. Starting Tuesday, an ACLU lawsuit challenging the measure will go to full trial in Kansas City, Kansas. […]

    Hans von Spakovsky is a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, and, like Kobach, has been a leader of the campaign to exaggerate the threat of voter fraud. […]

    Von Spakovsky made a name for himself serving in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, where he overrode career officials in green-lighting Georgia’s voter ID law and a Texas redistricting plan.

    When Arizona — in an effort backed by Kobach — was trying to enforce its own proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement, von Spakovsky pressured the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission to let the state include the requirement on its federal registration form. […]

    Von Spakovsky has admitted he isn’t a social scientist.

    Steven Camarota is the research director at the far-right Center for Immigration Studies, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. […] Camarota isn’t being asked to weigh in on the immigration aspects of the case. Instead, according to court documents, he’s set to testify that there is “no evidence that the proof of citizenship requirement adversely impacts the registration or participation rates of U.S. citizens in Kansas.”

    The ACLU wanted Camarota’s testimony excluded earlier in the case, too, on the basis that he “is an immigration researcher who has no expertise in the area of voting.” […]

    Jesse Richman, a professor at Old Dominion University, is slated to testify about the “number of noncitizens that have registered or attempted to register to vote in Kansas,” according to a court document.

    An op-ed he wrote for the Washington Post claiming that non-citizen voting may have been responsible for swinging North Carolina to Barack Obama in 2008 earned three separate rebuttals in the Post alone. […]


  259. says

    The U.S. ambassador to Mexico has quit.

    […] The ambassador, Roberta S. Jacobson, 57, served just under two years in the post, after her arrival was delayed by a prolonged confirmation process. Analysts say her departure will be deeply felt by both American and Mexican officials — she was one of the most experienced Latin America experts in the State Department, having spent most of her 31 years there focusing on the region.

    “I have come to the difficult decision that it is the right time to move on to new challenges and adventures,” Mrs. Jacobson wrote in her letter. “This decision is all the more difficult because of my profound belief in the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship and knowledge that it is at a crucial moment.” […]

    Mrs. Jacobson’s supporters say her extensive experience and connections in the country were crucial assets for Washington at a time of strain between the two neighbors, which have closely intertwined economies.

    NY Times link

    Way to mismanage everything, Hair Furor.

  260. says

    Worse than we thought:

    The newly-identified consumers bring the total number of people affected by the hack to approximately 148 million.

    Equifax announced this week that a widespread hack last year may have affected millions more people than originally thought. […]

    “Equifax was able to identify approximately 2.4 million U.S. consumers whose names and partial driver’s license information were stolen, but who were not in the previously identified affected population discussed in the company’s prior disclosures about the incident,” the company wrote in a press release on Thursday. […]

    In November, Equifax was slapped with a national class-action lawsuit, represents plaintiffs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, who say their information already has been used to open credit cards, mortgages, and take out student loans.


  261. says

    An excerpt from Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press briefing lie fest:

    The FBI used political campaign material to get a warrant to spy on American citizens. They failed to disclose to the judge that the dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC even as it was being used to spy on people associated with the trump campaign. Obviously that alone shows us that the process needs to be looked at closely and reformed to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect the privacy of American citizens.

  262. says

    Follow-up to comments 360, 366, and 375.

    […] The American Petroleum Institute (API), a national trade association that represents refineries as well as pipeline producers, called the tariffs “inconsistent with the Administration’s efforts to bolster the U.S. economy.”

    “Today’s announcement by the Department of Commerce to recommend sweeping tariffs around all steel and aluminum imports, in the guise of national security concerns, doesn’t make sense for the U.S. economy,” said API President Jack Gerard.

    “These tariffs would undoubtedly raise costs for U.S. businesses that rely heavily on steel and aluminum for the majority of their products – and ultimately consumers.”

    Trump, in a move that defies GOP lawmakers, announced Thursday that he would impose steep tariffs as early as next week. Under the plan […] the U.S. would impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. […]


  263. says

    The AR-15 is in the news not just because it is the weapon of choice for mass killings, but also because one weird cult blesses and reveres the gun:

    Mass weddings! The Washington Times! Thinking that the Holocaust was simply the world’s way of punishing Jewish people for having killed Jesus! Tax fraud! Brainwashing! These are the things we think about when we think about the Moonies, if we think about them at all these days. […]

    Well, they’re back — and instead of making headlines with their mass weddings, they are making headlines with gun blessing ceremonies.

    Just to be clear, it’s the Unification Church, but it’s also not the Unification Church. Basically, after Sun Myung Moon died, a bunch of other people started their own splinter groups, including his wife, his eldest son and his youngest son. The youngest one, Sean, is the one in charge of the Sanctuary Church in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, which is the one doing this ceremony. […]

    The ceremony was called the “Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing” […], and a press release issued the day before the Parkland shooting invited “all heterosexual couples” to come and get their AR-15s blessed. Those who didn’t own guns were able to buy them at the ceremony from Kahr Arms, the gun company owned by Sean Moon’s brother, Justin Moon.

    Those who could not get an AR-15 for “reasons,” were asked to get $700 gift certificates from gun stores in order to demonstrate their commitment to buying one as soon as they were able to. The ceremony was part of the group’s weeklong “Festival of Faith,” along with a “President Trump Thank You Dinner” held on Sunday.

    The church, by the way, does not just love AR-15s in the way lots of conservative Christians love their guns. In this church, they are an actual part of the theology. They believe the AR-15 is the “rod of iron” foretold in the Book of Revelations […]

    Wonkette link

  264. KG says

    In a speech that could be straight out of a Cold War-era movie, Putin said Russia’s new weapons were unstoppable – Lynna, OM@372

    Well at least he announced it before any modern-day General Jack D. Ripper launched his attack, unlike Premeir Kissov with his Doomsday Machine!

  265. says

    Good news, thanks to a ruling from a federal judge.

    A federal judge has permanently barred Indiana from trying to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in the state under an order Vice President Mike Pence championed as governor.

    U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt approved a judgment Tuesday permanently enjoining Indiana from withholding authorized payments to Indianapolis-based Exodus Refugee Immigration, which resettles refugees in the state.

    Pence cited terrorism fears in issuing a November 2015 order barring state agencies from making payments to help relocate Syrians to Indiana.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued Indiana, arguing Pence’s order illegally targeted Syrians based on their nationality and violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

    Pratt temporarily blocked Pence’s order in February 2016, saying it “clearly discriminates” against Syrian refugees. […]

    Associated Press link

    Like Trump, Mike Pence has to be slapped down by the courts.

  266. says

    Okay, who knows what, if anything, will come of this … A self-described sex expert says she will spill information on Trump and Russia to get out of a Thai jail.

    A self-described sex expert whose videos highlighted the ties between one of Russia’s richest men and the Kremlin has been jailed in Thailand and is calling for U.S. help, claiming she has information about links between Russia and President Trump.

    Anastasia Vashukevich, an escort service worker from Belarus who catapulted to a certain measure of fame after filming a yacht trip with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, was detained in Thailand over the weekend in a police raid on her “sex training” seminar. While still in custody Tuesday, she published Instagram videos asking U.S. journalists and intelligence agencies to help her.

    Deripaska, with whom Vashukevich said she had an affair, used to employ former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. But Vashukevich, better known by the alias Nastya Rybka, provided no evidence Tuesday to back up the claim that she had new information to offer related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A post to her Instagram account showed her sitting on the floor of what was described as a Thai jail cell and said she was sick. […]

  267. says

    VA Secretary David Shulkin may be in more hot water.

    One of the top deputies to VA Secretary David Shulkin has actively lobbied Capitol Hill to demand his boss’s resignation, […]

    John Ullyot, the VA’s assistant secretary for public affairs, asked a senior aide at the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to persuade lawmakers to call the White House and say they wanted Shulkin out, […]

    The move was unsuccessful — but audacious since Ullyot is the secretary’s highest ranking aide tasked with publicly defending him and the agency. It is also the most striking evidence to date that some of Shulkin’s own staff are trying to oust him.

    Ullyot denies it happened. But the two sources said he made the request in a call initiated by VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour on Feb. 15, the day after the release of an inspector general’s report that concluded Shulkin had misused taxpayer dollars during a European trip last year.

    Shulkin had appeared at a congressional hearing that morning and raised the possibility that an aide’s email account had been hacked. The inspector general had concluded the aide had doctored an email to get improper approval for Shulkin’s wife to join him on the trip at taxpayers’ expense.

    On the call, Cashour criticized Shulkin for raising concerns about hacking and told the senior aide that it would reflect poorly on the agency. He then put his supervisor, Ullyot, on the line, who asked the aide for help in an effort to oust Shulkin. […]


  268. blf says

    The Grauniad on twittering: “In spite of these commitments, the platform remains a cesspool of harassment, misinformation, trolls and bots.” From Twitter launches another bid to tackle bots and abuse after years of promises:

    As harassment and misinformation remain rampant, CEO Jack Dorsey asks for help with platform’s health

    Twitter has asked for help in tackling the rampant harassment, bots, misinformation and polarisation in a more strategic way so that it can improve the health of conversation on the platform, the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, said on Thursday.

    We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough, Dorsey tweeted.

    We’ve focused most of our efforts on removing content against our terms, instead of building a systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking. This is the approach we need now.

    While working to fix the problem, Twitter has been accused of apathy, censorship, political bias and optimising our business for share price instead of the concerns of society.


    This is the latest in a litany of pledges from Twitter over the last few years.
    ● In 2012 the company pledged to fight spam.
    ● In 2015, the then CEO, Dick Costolo, said we suck at dealing with abuse and pledged to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.
    ● In September 2017, the company said it was committed to getting better at tackling Russian troll armies and bots.
    ● In October, it promised to increase transparency around political and issue-based ads.
    ● In December 2017, the company pledged to get better at tackling terrorist content.
    ● In January 2018, the company said it was committed to providing a better platform that fosters healthy civic discourse and democratic debate.

    I’ve reformatted the above list to better illustrate (IMO) twitterings consistent lying.

    In spite of these commitments, the platform remains a cesspool of harassment, misinformation, trolls and bots.

    “Haven’t they said that all before?” said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Mercer University who researches harassment on social media. She said that Twitter has a “great track record of saying the right words about harassment” but not delivering results.

    Kate Miltner, who researches technology and cybersecurity at Berkeley, agrees.

    “Jack has made several similar statements over the past few years, and to be sure, there have been incremental changes, but nothing that has made a concrete difference.”


    “Ignoring the fact that they should have taken a systemic approach to addressing harassment eight or nine years ago, evidence of media manipulation started coming to the fore in 2016. Two years after the establishment of a problem that threatens our democratic process is too little, too late.”

  269. blf says

    To absolutely no surprise at all, Congress has again obeyed the NRA, Gun control hopes dashed as lawmakers signal shift to banking reform:

    After a flurry of activity and a sense of urgency in the face of public outrage, lawmakers left Washington without passing gun legislation
    There was a flurry of activity[] on Capitol Hill and a sense of urgency in both parties that inaction was no longer an option in the face of public outrage, led by the Florida students who survived the attack.

      † NO, There was a charade. Congresscritters were running around laughing that anyone would even entertain the possibly of someone considering the utterly remote whiff of even one thug really considering the possibly that maybe, just maybe, the gun nuts are mistaken.

    But Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that the chamber would move on to banking legislation next week — extinguishing hope that lawmakers would act swiftly to pass gun legislation […]

    We’d love to do that at some point, McConnell told reporters on Thursday. […]

    FECKING STOP YOUR LYING!! You do not and have not had the slightest interest in reducing the bribes the NRA pays you.

  270. tomh says

    @ 390
    As of 2016 McConnell had received $1.3 million from the NRA, but of course his biggest contributors have always been the Securities and Investment Industry. Small wonder that he plans to take up banking “reform” first. For McConnell, reform means eliminating regulations.

  271. blf says

    Here is a video of the literal worshipping of AR-15 cannons (see @384), Worshippers clutching AR-15 rifles hold blessing ceremony at US church: “Worshippers wearing crowns and clutching AR-15 rifles drank holy wine and exchanged or renewed wedding vows in a commitment ceremony at a Pennsylvania church, prompting a nearby school to cancel classes. Attendees gripped the guns, which they had been urged to bring unloaded to the church in the rural Pocono Mountains, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Philadelphia. A spokesman for the church, now headed by the Rev Hyung Jin Moon, said, Each of us is called to use the power of the ‘rod of iron’ not to arm or oppress as has been done in satanic kingdoms of this world, but to protect God’s children, citing the biblical Book of Revelation”.

  272. says

    Oh, FFS. Trump tweeted this:

    When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!”

    Trade wars are not good. “Winning” a trade war is not “easy.”

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Trump continues to respond to deeply intricate challenges like he’s the blowhard at the end of the bar who’s convinced he knows the solution to every problem. Opiods? Let’s just execute drug dealers. Immigration? Let’s just build a wall. […]

    Regarding the trade war that Trump started with his tariffs on steel and aluminum, one of his billionaire buddies may have known this was coming.

    Billionaire investor and longtime Trump confidant Carl Icahn dumped $31.3 million of stock in a company heavily dependent on steel last week, just days before Trump announced plans to impose steep tariffs on steel imports.

    In a little-noticed SEC filing submitted on February 22, 2018, Icahn disclosed that he systematically sold off nearly 1 million shares of Manitowoc Company Inc. Manitowoc is a “is a leading global manufacturer of cranes and lifting solutions” and, therefore, heavily dependent on steel to make its products. […]


    Yes, that’s right, companies that make products that require steel will suffer. So will their employees. So will consumers. A smaller number of companies that actually manufacture steel in the U.S. will benefit.

    […] Trump’s announcement rattled the markets, with steel-dependent stocks hardest hit. Manitowoc stock plunged, losing about 6 percent of its value. Reuters attributed the drop to the fact that Manitowoc is a “major consumer of steel.” As of 10:20 a.m. Friday, the stock had lost an additional 6 percent, trading at $26.21. […]

    Once in office, Trump installed Icahn as a “special adviser,” although Icahn did not not unwind his business entanglements before accepting the position.

    Icahn resigned in August, in advance of a New Yorker article which detailed how he used his position in the White House and his connection to Trump to protect his investments […]

  273. says

    We now have proof that Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reduced the size of national monuments in order to give goodies to coal, oil and natural gas companies.

    […] Environmental activists and public lands advocates feared Trump was pushing to reduce the size of national monuments to give mineral extractive industries easier access to drill or mine in the protected areas. But they didn’t have any evidence or a smoking gun to prove their theory. Now they do.

    According to documents obtained by the New York Times, long before Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended a major reduction in the size of the Bears Ears monument in southeastern Utah, the administration was already eyeing the potential for oil and gas exploration at the site.

    Last March, an aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), asked a senior official at the Department of the Interior to consider reduced boundaries for the Bears Ears monument to remove land from protection that contained oil and natural gas deposits, The New York Times reported Friday.

    Hatch’s office sent an email to the Interior Department on March 15, 2017 that included a map depicting a boundary change that would “resolve all known mineral conflicts,” referring to oil and gas sites on the land that the state’s public schools wanted to lease out to increase state funds. […]

    “We’ve long known that Trump and Zinke put polluter profits ahead of our clean air, clean water, public health and coastal economies. This is more proof,” League of Conservation Voters Deputy Legislative Director Alex Taurel said Friday in a statement. “On Zinke’s one year anniversary as secretary, the evidence of just how embedded Trump and Zinke are with the dirty energy of the past could not be clearer.” […]


    The article also documents the decision to reduce the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument so that coal could be mined.

  274. says

    More news on the sweet deal(s) that the NRA has with FedEx:

    […] FedEx put out a statement last week insisting that it would continue to offer a 26 percent shipping discount to members of the National Rifle Association’s Business Alliance, even in the aftermath of the tragic Parkland, Florida mass school shooting. Moreover, it defended the special price for those who align themselves with the NRA, suggesting that it would be discrimination to make them pay full price. […]

    FedEx also has a secret deal with the NRA and the gun industry to bend its own rules on gun shipments. “Some customers have been approved for an exception to ship firearms with a 2-day (AM or PM) service,” a confidential internal document revealed. Those customers included 86 firearms manufacturers and dealers, including Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, SIG Sauer, and the National Rifle Association itself.

    And other companies took notice.

    World of Wonder, the production company for such TV shows as RuPaul’s Drag Race, Million Dollar Listing, and Big Freedia, announced on Wednesday that it would no longer ship with FedEx.“We support the call to boycott the NRA by no longer using FedEx for our company’s shipping needs. We salute the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We are inspired by their leadership and are committed to their safety!” the co-founder Randy Barbato said in a statement.

    ICM Partners, a major Hollywood talent agency, confirmed to Forbes on Thursday that it has stopped using FedEx for its shipping needs. Piper Pirabo, a client and a previous Golden Globe nominee for her acting, tweeted the news approvingly. […]


  275. says

    From BuzzFeed:

    A former White House official said he’s spoken with more aides inside the White House who are trying to leave the administration, but not necessarily getting the kinds of high-paying offers in the corporate world as former aides usually do.

    “Things are still pretty bleak inside the White House,” the source said. “I’ve talked to several people in the last week trying to find a way out, but they can’t get out because no one is really hiring people with Trump White House experience. Not a fun time to say the least.”

    Tainted by Trump.

  276. says

    A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 54% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The approval numbers are higher than they have ever been.

    So, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said this:

    We also finally did away with the individual mandate tax that was established under that wonderful bill called “Obamacare.” [Hatch was referring to the Republican tax overhaul that killed the individual mandate.]

    Now, if you didn’t catch on, I was being very sarcastic. That [Obamacare] was the stupidest, dumbass bill that I’ve ever seen. Now, some of you may have loved it. If you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met.

    Hatch is a staunch mormon. In his home state of Utah, he may get into more trouble for saying “dumbass” than for being a hypocrite. Orrin Hatch co-sponsored individual mandate bill in 1993.

    Hatch says he is retiring soon. Looks like maybe he should have retired a couple of years ago.

  277. says

    Two people at Central Michigan University have been shot. The shooter has not been apprehended. The “domestic situation” is still being investigated.

  278. tomh says

    I think Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors basketball team (who wouldn’t visit the White House), had an accurate description of Trump’s stance on gun control.

    “I think he had forgotten which side he was on,” Kerr said of Trump’s new stance on gun control. “It reminded me of ‘Anchorman’ when Brick ends up on the wrong side of a fight, and he’s like, ‘Yeah!’ They’re like, ‘No, Brick, you’re on this side,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, OK.’

    Kerr’s father was assasinated 34 years ago, and he has often ridiculed politicians who offer ‘thoughts and prayers.’

  279. says

    For all his glee in saying, “You’re fired!”, Trump seems to always have other people do the firing in real life.

    President Donald Trump has asked chief of staff John Kelly for help in pushing his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner out of their official White House positions even has he encourages the two to remain as aides, the New York Times reported Thursday night, citing unnamed White House aides.

    Trump has also said that his daughter and son-in-law should have never come to the White House, according to the New York Times.

    The President has grown particularly frustrated with Kushner recently, given the news that his security clearance was downgraded and the uptick in scrutiny over the Kushner family business, two people familiar with Trump’s thinking told the Times.

  280. says

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ dad, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is having a PR problem.

    […] Huckabee is genuinely a terrible person, frequently using his religion to bully and shame. He regularly espouses racist views, hateful language toward LGBTQ citizens and fought tooth and nail against equal marriage, warmly embracing and championing the bigoted Kentucky clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. In a surprise announcement, the Country Music Association Foundation named him as the newest member of their board, but that didn’t last long. The backlash was swift and furious.


    Mike Huckabee lasted about a day in his new job. Here’s his self-deluded statement:

    It appears that I will make history as having the shortest tenure in the history of the CMA Foundation Board. I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained. I had NO idea I was that influential! I’m somewhat flattered to be of such consequence when all I thought I was doing was voluntarily serving on a non-profit board without pay in order to continue my decades of advocacy for the arts and especially music.

    The message here is “Hate Wins.” Bullies succeeded in making it untenable to have “someone like me” involved. I would imagine however that many of the people who buy tickets and music are not that “unlike me.”

    Huckabee is a big fan of Donald Trump. Like Trump, Huckabee is a con man:

    Huckabee, who shed about 100 pounds after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, filmed TV and radio infomercials advertising a program to “reverse” diabetes in February and March. Huckabee also lent his email list to carry ads about a looming food shortage and a cancer cure found in the Bible. […]

    the video discusses at length the “Double C Diabetes Remedy” of cinnamon and chromium picolinate, which is described as a “weird, spice, kitchen cabinet cure” that “will allow you to live life just like when you didn’t have diabetes at all.” Lon the narrator calls this precise combination of cinnamon and chromium picolinate a “cornerstone” of the system.

  281. blf says

    Follow-up to @214, ‘They can’t kill us all’: Slovakian journalists defiant after murders:

    Colleagues of Ján Kuciak, killed after investigating mafia links, vow to continue his work

    [… T]he editorial team came to an immediate, collective decision: in tribute to Kuciak, they would get to work fact-checking, editing and publishing his final, unfinished investigation.

    Despite members of the investigative team now having to live under police protection, Kuciak’s article was published less than 48 hours after his colleagues had received the news of his death. shared the text of the investigation, which is also available in English, with all their Slovakian competitors, who published it simultaneously in solidarity.

    […] Kuciak’s last story has significance that reaches far beyond his home country: it reveals that criminal clans from Italy infiltrated poor parts of eastern Slovakia and allegedly developed close ties with local politicians to exploit weak state institutions and misappropriate generous EU subsidies.

    Pursued in cooperation with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism and the Investigative Reporting Project Italy, the story began as an investigation into why the Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico, had hired Mária Trošková, then a 27-year-old former Miss Universe contestant, as one of his assistants, despite her relative lack of political experience.


    The story outlines a series of allegations that paint a picture of Italian mafia infiltration of Slovakian political and economic life, whether through relationships with politicians, violent cases of extortion, VAT scams linked to the acquisition of luxury properties, or fraudulent claims for millions of euros in agricultural and energy subsidies.


    The murders have put pressure on the pugnacious Fico, who has served as prime minister for all but two of the past 12 years. On Wednesday, hundreds of people joined a silent protest march organised by opposition parties, snaking their way through the freezing streets of Bratislava and laying candles at the perimeter wall of the prime minister’s office, as if to symbolically lay the blame at his door. More marches are planned for Friday night.

    “Fico is not directly responsible for the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová,” says Samuel Abrahám, rector of the Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts. “He does, however, bear responsibility for the environment in which mafia infiltration blossoms. The sad irony is that if this murder hadn’t happened, then almost nobody would have noticed it was happening.”

    Kuciak’s friends and colleagues at stress that they will continue to pursue the story, regardless of who was responsible for the killings.

    “The mafia is doing business in this country and they have connections with the highest offices of state: they are building Palermo in Slovakia,” says Habara, noting that Kuciak had left behind enough material for months of further investigation.


  282. says

    blf @404, now that’s an example of bravery and integrity.

    In other news, an “oh, FFS” moment from Alabama:

    […] The proposal, which would have to be approved by voters, says the Ten Commandments can be displayed on public property. The displays would have to be mingled with other historical materials in an effort to pass constitutional muster. […]

    “I believe that if you had the Ten Commandments posted in a prominent place in school, it has the possibility to prohibit some student from taking action to kill other students,” Dial [Senator Gerald Dial] said. […]

    “If this bill stops one school shooting in Alabama, just one, then it’s worth the time and effort we’re putting into it,” Dial said.

    Alabama Political Reporter link

  283. blf says

    me@404, In the last excerpted paragraph a Mr Habara is mysteriously introduced. Sorry about that, I usually try to identify in excerpts individuals which are perhaps not instantly recognized. In this case, that is Peter Habara, an editor at, the Slovakian news website which employed the murdered investigative journalist Ján Kuciak.

  284. says

    Trump spelled Alec Baldwin’s name wrong … and there were other spelling errors in this ridiculous tweet.

    Alex Baldwin, whose dieing mediocre career was saved by his impersonation of me on SNL, now says playing DJT was agony for him. Alex, it was also agony for those who were forced to watch. You were terrible. Bring back Darrell Hammond, much funnier and a far greater talent!

    Trump deleted the tweet later and replaced it with a tweet that corrected the spelling errors.

    Alec Baldwin responded on Twitter:

    Agony though it may be, I’d like to hang in there for the impeachment hearings, the resignation speech, the farewell helicopter ride to Mara-A-Lago. You know. The Good Stuff. That we’ve all been waiting for.

    Looking forward to the Trump Presidential Library.
    A putting green.
    Recipes for chocolate cake.
    A live Twitter feed for visitors to post on.
    A little black book w the phone numbers of porn stars.
    You’re in and out in five minutes.
    Just like…

    And Mr President…
    please ask your wife to stop calling me for SNL tickets.
    (Hey, Melania…we’ve got Charles Barkley this Saturday!)

    In an interview on ABC, Baldwin said:

    If things don’t go in the right direction for the midterms. … I could go out on the street, stand on any corner and tap 10 people on the shoulder. And all 10 of them, in all likelihood, would be more qualified — ethically, morally, intellectually and spiritually — than Trump.

    I’ll vote for Mitt Romney. I don’t care. Anybody over this guy. It doesn’t matter. We have to get rid of him. And that’s another project I’m working on. My wife and I agreed that we’re gonna give it everything we have. And then if, God forbid, he wins again in 2020, I’m wondering can I host a game show in Spain.

    Baldwin is better at this than Trump. Gossip and trivia. Suitable fodder for the reality show Trump is currently running. Not the right focus for the leader of the nation.

  285. blf says

    Re @405, If this bill stops one school shooting in Alabama, just one, then it’s worth the time and effort we’re putting into it: Well, a large lump of stone could serve as protection for anyone lucky enough to be nearby and able to hide behind it.

  286. says

    News of another potential departure from the White House:

    Gary Cohn, […] Trump’s top economic adviser, has been rumored to be on the brink of leaving the White House for months but stayed for one main reason: to stop the president from imposing steep tariffs.

    By Thursday afternoon, Cohn had lost the fight.

    In a meeting with steel industry executives, Trump announced plans for a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

    The decision came after a frantic 24 hours in which Cohn and others tried to talk Trump off the ledge. At one point, aides were sure Trump would make the announcement. Then they said he wouldn’t. Finally, sitting alongside steel executives, he did.

    The Dow promptly tanked over 500 points, and Cohn’s allies began wondering if this would be the final insult sending the director of the National Economic Council to the exit.

    One person close to Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, said he wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually left the chaotic and deeply exhausting administration as a result of the decision. A second person close to Cohn described it as a brutal blow that violated one of the NEC director’s core beliefs—that protectionism is economically backward and won’t lead to increased prosperity. […]


  287. says

    blf @408, [laughing], good point. It’s a deadly serious situation, but laughter at the expense of a dunderhead is good therapy.

    In other news, the CDC says the flu season peaked in early February and is now on the decline. Flu cases in Puerto Rico are still alarmingly high. We probably have several more weeks of flu season, which usually lasts from 16 to 20 weeks.

  288. says

    Some Democrats have praised Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum, (Trump doesn’t sign the deal until next week, so the situation could change):

    The decision has been lauded by Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (PA) and Sherrod Brown (OH), who say the tariffs would protect American metal jobs.

    “This welcome action is long overdue for shuttered steel plants across Ohio and steelworkers who live in fear that their jobs will be the next victims of Chinese cheating,” Brown said. He has invited Trump to tour Ohio’s steel manufacturers.


  289. says

    A partial list of industries pushing back against Trump’s proposed tariffs:

    […] US car dealers: […] “Auto sales have flattened in recent months, and manufacturers are not prepared to absorb a sharp increase in the cost to build cars and trucks in America. The burden of these tariffs, as always, will be passed on to the American consumer.”

    Auto manufacturers: […] “This would place the U.S. automotive industry, which supports more than 7 million American jobs, at a competitive disadvantage.”

    “With one stroke of the pen, much of the promised benefit of tax reform and other Administration initiatives aimed at reviving manufacturing and protecting national security could be undercut.”

    Boat manufacturers: “The implementation of these aluminum tariffs … will drive up the costs of the aluminum used to manufacture more than 111,000 aluminum boats, such as pontoons and fishing boats, which make up 43 percent of new powerboat sales each year,” Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said […]

    The beer industry: “About 2 million jobs depend on America’s beer industry. We urge the Department of Commerce and U.S. President Trump to consider the impact of trade restriction tariffs,” Felipe Dutra, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s chief financial officer, said on a call with analysts.

    Retailers: “Make no mistake, this is a tax on American families,” Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. “When costs of raw materials like steel and aluminum are artificially driven up, all Americans ultimately foot the bill in the form of higher prices for everything from canned goods to electronics and automobiles. […]

    Machinery manufacturers: Caterpillar’s director of investor relations, Amy Campbell, told Reuters that the tariffs would pose a “challenge” and would put Caterpillar at a competitive disadvantage with foreign competitors.

    US business groups: “Business Roundtable strongly disagrees with today’s announcement because it will hurt the U.S. economy and American companies, workers and consumers by raising prices and resulting in foreign retaliation against U.S. exporters,” Joshua Bolten, president of the influential Business Roundtable, said in a statement. “Using ‘national security’ tools to implement tariffs could embolden other countries to impose ‘national security’ tariffs on U.S. exporters or otherwise restrict U.S. goods and services sold to their markets.” […]


  290. says

    Good news:

    Southern New Hampshire University has announced a $20 million dollar program that will help up to 1,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients achieve their higher education dreams. Because undocumented youth are barred from federal financial aid due to their immigration status (though some states do offer access to some state-level aid), this will be life-changing for applicants […]


    Southern New Hampshire University is getting support from The Shapiro Foundation, an organization which primarily assists children and refugees and TheDream.US, the largest scholarship program for Dreamers. TheDream.US provides over $100 million in scholarships to 3,000 DACA students at 75 partner colleges in 15 states.

    The university will offer the assistance over the next five years for DACA students to pursue degrees through one of the university’s online programs. The scholarship program will cover many more students than the others because the university estimates the tuition is about 25 times cheaper than what a student might pay to attend a traditional, four-year university.

    Washington Post link

  291. says

    An update on companies distancing themselves from the gun industry:

    Popular outdoor retail chain REI is the latest company to distance itself from the gun industry by placing a hold on future orders of products like CamelBak water bottles, Camp Chef portable grills, and Giro helmets.

    REI decided to disassociate itself from the popular brands since they are owned by Vista Outdoor, a company that also owns Savage Arms, a firearm and assault-style rifle manufacturer. Earlier this week, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, and L.L. Bean raised the age to buy firearm and ammunition from their stores to 21 […]


  292. says

    News about the underlying causes of childhood obesity:

    […] Preschoolers from low-income families had twice the obesity rate of their peers from average-income families.

    […] Diet and exercise may sound like easy things to change, but not if you’re poor, says Asheley Cockrell Skinner, a public health epidemiologist at Duke University and lead author on the study. “Living in a safe neighborhood where you can be active, with sidewalks where you can ride bikes—not having those things are all playing a role in obesity.” […]


  293. says

    Update on the trade war Trump started:

    The European Union is weighing potential tariffs on U.S. goods ranging from Levi’s jeans to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the president of the EU’s legislative body said Friday.

    The proposed tariffs come in response to President Trump’s Thursday announcement that he will impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports next week.

    “We will put tariffs on Harley-Davidson, on bourbon and on blue jeans — Levi’s,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on German television, according to Reuters.

    Trump’s announcement has drawn condemnation across the globe, with several countries threatening retaliation if he imposes the duties.

    “We would like a reasonable relationship to the United States, but we cannot simply put our head in the sand,” Juncker said. […]


  294. says

    Trump is economically illiterate. Zeeshan Aleem takes a closer look at Trump’s trade war:

    […] The president doesn’t seem to have a full grasp of what’s going on here.

    It’s peculiar — and worrying — that Trump labels trade wars as “good.” A trade war is when two countries pursue tit-for-tat protectionism against each other — they take turns blocking the other country’s exports with tools like tariffs (border taxes) and quotas (caps on imports). If their actions against each other’s exports are big enough or go on long enough, they can have a devastating impact on each other’s economies: destroying businesses, increasing unemployment, and raising the price of vital goods in both countries.

    There is a legitimate debate over whether it’s worth it for a country to set up specific tariffs to protect a beleaguered domestic industry (in this case, steel) and possibly risk a trade war with other countries.

    But few trade economists would say that a trade war is good or that it should be sought out; most think of trade wars as something to be avoided […]

    Trump’s conviction that trade wars are “good” seems related to his apparent belief that they are “easy to win,” which is the most revealing part of his tweet. It’s certainly easy to start a trade war, but winning one isn’t so straightforward.

    That’s because countries can always find ways to retaliate — and there are already signs that countries are planning to do just that.

    Trump doesn’t seem to realize that the US is very vulnerable.

    [snipped description of EU retaliation]
    Canada is also eyeing retaliatory measures. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Friday that restrictions on the flow of Canadian steel into the US were “absolutely unacceptable” and that Canada would take “responsive measures.”

    […] Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, and other countries that ship steel to the US could take aim at US exports to their countries. […]

  295. says

    Not only has Kushner’s presence in the White House made a mockery of federal guidelines designed to prevent nepotism […].

    […] Kushner’s divestment was of a very limited and Trumpian form. Rather than selling off his assets to the highest bidder, or setting up a blind trust and hiring an outside expert to manage it, he merely transferred the ownership of some of his assets to his brother and to a trust overseen by his mother. It wasn’t immediately clear what Kushner had held onto, but it turned out to be substantial.

    The Times reported on Thursday that “he retained the vast majority of his interest in Kushner Companies. His real estate holdings and other investments are worth as much as $761 million, according to government ethics filings.”

    […] recusal was also conveniently limited. Thanks to that same report in the Times, we know that it didn’t prevent Kushner from taking meetings at the White House with top executives from two financial firms—Citigroup and Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance—that lent more than half a billion dollars to two Kushner family ventures […]

    […] Even if he didn’t discuss any personal business with Joshua Harris, one of the founders of Apollo’s parent company, or with Michael Corbat, Citigroup’s chief executive, it’s hard to believe that he was unaware of the huge amounts of credit being extended to his family’s real-estate empire and its business partners by their firms. […]

    Not only has Kushner’s presence in the White House made a mockery of federal guidelines designed to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest, it has also raised national-security concerns. Many foreign governments view him not merely as a privileged son-in-law who lucked into the role of senior Presidential adviser, but as a privileged son-in-law who lucked into the role of senior Presidential adviser and is desperate to raise large sums of money. In other words, he’s an easy target.

    […] There is irony aplenty here. Kushner doesn’t look or speak or act like his father-in-law: to all public appearances, he is Trump’s antithesis. But much like Trump did in the late nineteen-eighties, Kushner overpaid for a trophy property, borrowing heavily, and subsequently encountered serious financial challenges that became public. […] An official familiar with the intelligence told the Post, “Every country will seek to find their point of leverage.” […]

  296. says

    Trump “unglued” and “amateurish”:

    […] just as interesting is the behind-the-scenes drama that precipitated the president’s [tariff] decision. NBC News’ report added that Trump’s choice to launch a potential trade war “was born out of anger at other simmering issues,” including Hope Hicks’ testimony to Congress about the Russia scandal.

    The circumstances reportedly left the Republican “unglued,” according to an NBC source familiar with the president’s state of mind.

    So we’re left with an erratic, amateur president launching a trade war while feeling overwhelmed by scandals and White House chaos. How reassuring.

    Postscript: How amateurish was the process this week? The NBC News report added that Ross hadn’t informed the White House in advance of the steel and aluminum executives he’d invited to yesterday’s meeting. “As a result, White House officials were unable to conduct a background check on the executives to make sure they were appropriate for the president to meet with and they were not able to be cleared for entry by secret service. According to a person with direct knowledge, even White House chief of staff John Kelly was unaware of their names.”


  297. says

    “Jared Kushner’s Real-Estate Firm Sought Money Directly From Qatar Government Weeks Before Blockade”:

    The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.

    The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.

    On Friday afternoon, NBC News reported that in late January and early February, Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. “considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country.”…

  298. says

    (I have to wonder whether Mueller has interviewed the outgoing (former?) ambassador.)

    Still outgoing – John D. Feeley’s resignation will take effect in a week (March 9th). I don’t believe a replacement has been nominated.

  299. says

    Shady dealings associated with Trump’s wall:

    A tiny Nebraska startup awarded the first border wall construction project under President Donald Trump is the offshoot of a construction firm that was sued repeatedly for failing to pay subcontractors and accused in a 2016 government audit of shady billing practices.

    SWF Constructors, which lists just one employee in its Omaha office, won the $11 million federal contract in November as part of a project to replace a little more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of a current fence with post-style barriers 30 feet (9.1 meters) high in Calexico, California. The project represents a sliver of the president’s plan that was central to his presidential campaign promise for a wall at the border with Mexico.

    It remains unclear why SWF was listed on the bid for the wall contract instead of Edgewood, New York-based Coastal Environmental Group, which online government documents list as its owner.

    Thomas Anderson, an Omaha lawyer who initially represented a subcontractor that sued Coastal in 2011, said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was an attempt to dodge scrutiny of past legal problems. He says such a practice is relatively common in construction projects.

    “If you kick up a little dust on the trail, it makes the trail harder to follow,” Anderson said. […]


    Much more at the link.

  300. says

    Some “very fine people” on both sides, I assume. (/sarcasm)

    Data gathered by ThinkProgress shows that between 2007 and 2017, at least 33 officers were shot by individuals either actively involved with or affiliated with far-right extremism. These include white supremacists, sovereign citizens, and lone wolf attackers.

    The data shows that far-right extremists pose a consistent threat to law enforcement, particularly in more rural areas away from the national media spotlight. But even at a time of renewed focus on the far-right, discussion of these killings has been muted. […]


    White supremacists and other rightwing fanatics are killing police officers. Maybe we don’t hear more about this because the killers are not black or brown people?

  301. says

    Scott Pruitt’s true rightwing extremism is revealed … again, in more detail, and in his own voice.

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt dismissed evolution as an unproven theory, lamented that “minority religions” were pushing Christianity out of “the public square” and advocated amending the Constitution to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage and protect the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments, according to a newly unearthed series of Oklahoma talk radio shows from 2005.

    Pruitt, who at the time was a state senator, also described the Second Amendment as divinely granted and condemned federal judges as a “judicial monarchy” that is “the most grievous threat that we have today.” And he did not object when the program’s host described Islam as “not so much a religion as it is a terrorist organization in many instances.”

    The six hours of civics class-style conversations on Tulsa-based KFAQ-AM were recently rediscovered by a firm researching Pruitt’s past remarks, which provided them to POLITICO on condition of anonymity so as not to identify its client. […]

    The views he states, in discussions peppered with references to inalienable rights and the faith of the nation’s founders, are in line with those of millions of other conservative, devout Christians. But they also show stances that at times are at odds with the broader American mainstream, and in some cases with accepted scientific findings […]

    “There aren’t sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution, and it deals with the origins of man, which is more from a philosophical standpoint than a scientific standpoint,” he said in one part of the series, in which Pruitt and the program’s hosts discussed issues related to the Constitution. […]


    Much more at the link.

  302. says

    Fox News anchor Shepard Smith told some truth on Fox News again. This is getting to be a habit with Smith. It makes one wonder if the network will fire him soon.

    […] “The president of the United States said ‘if you see somebody who doesn’t seem right, take their guns and worry about the consequences later, go to the court later,’” Smith said.

    That is as un-American as imaginable,” he said. “Is there anyone there who is able to discern what has happened and why these things keep coming out in these ways that really end up usually walked back and are bordering on nonsensical?” […] […]


    Yep, Shep Smith just called something Trump said “un-American,” and “bordering on the nonsensical.”

  303. says

    What Trump tweeted:

    When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!

    Jordan Weissmann’s reply:

    […] This is one of those presidential missives that makes you want to stare silently into the bottom of a whiskey glass for a while. The phrase “trade wars are good, and easy to win” is both terrifying and wrong. It suggests Trump may actually want countries like China and Mexico to escalate the conflict by retaliating against us, since in his mind, trading less with them will bring down our trade deficit through the simple power of arithmetic.

    That’s not actually how the world works. If the U.S. imports less from China, for instance, we may simply end up importing more from Vietnam. Meanwhile, American exporters that do business in the People’s Republic could end up losing sales, while American manufacturers could find their Asian supply chains scrambled. […] broad, tit-for-tat trade wars are a mess that inflict damage on everybody involved.

    And the more countries America picks a fight with, the more we have to lose. George W. Bush learned this when he imposed a tariff on steel from Europe, Asia, and South America in 2002. He was forced to drop the duty 20 months later, when it become clear that our trade partners were going to strike back. Here’s how the Washington Post reported it at the time:

    European countries had vowed to respond to the tariffs, which were ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization, by imposing sanctions on up to $2.2 billion in exports from the United States, beginning as soon as Dec. 15. Japan issued a similar threat Wednesday. The sources said Bush’s aides concluded they could not run the risk that the European Union would carry out its threat to impose sanctions on orange juice and other citrus products from Florida, motorcycles, farm machinery, textiles, shoes, and other products.

    Europe and our other trade partners will almost certainly run the same playbook of putting tariffs on politically important exports like OJ this time around. But Trump does not appear to have looked that far ahead. He’s too busy thinking on the level of an all caps tweet.

    We must protect our country and our workers. Our steel industry is in bad shape. IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!


  304. says

    “ACLU fights anti-abortion Trump appointee on undocumented minors”: “Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, talks with Rachel Maddow about the legal fight against Trump appointee Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who is obstructing pregnant undocumented minors being held at a refugee center from obtaining abortions.”

    The video clips from this guy’s deposition make me ragey. It’s a nightmare.

  305. blf says

    Republican-led committee says Dakota pipeline protesters had Russian backing:

    House lawmakers say Russia helped fund environmentalists and supported them on social media, but evidence is thin

    A powerful US congressional committee has alleged that Russia financed major environmental organizations and used social media to support opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline, fracking and fossil fuels.

    The Republican-controlled committee claimed in a new report that the Kremlin is attempting to make ‘useful idiots’ of unwitting environmental groups and activists to further its global agenda.

    “US energy exports to European countries are increasing, which means they will have less reason to rely upon Russia for their energy needs,” said Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House committee on science, space and technology, in a statement.[] This helps explain why Russian agents attempted to manipulate Americans’ opinions about pipelines, fossil fuels, fracking and climate change.

    A close reading of the report, however, reveals that many of the committee’s claims rely on meager evidence, not least its assertion that Russia has backed land and wildlife conservation organizations including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.


    The committee offered several examples of alleged Russian trolls spreading memes that are critical of US fossil fuel producers and pipeline projects, including the Dakota Access pipeline. Many of the examples the committee cites are drawn from a single Facebook and Instagram page titled “Born Liberal”, whose posts averaged very few shares on Facebook.

    Smith, who has taken more than $700,000 in career oil and gas industry campaign contributions, has long maintained that US green groups are beneficiaries of Kremlin-linked largesse. In a letter to the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, last June, for instance, Smith claimed that shady shell companies and private foundations were passing money originating in Russia to […] the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and others. Smith requested that the treasury department investigate the matter.


    Footnotes supporting the congressional report’s funding claim lead back to a single 2015 publication, “From Russia With Love?”, that was compiled by an organization called the Environmental Policy Alliance, an industry front group created by the Washington DC public relations operative Richard Berman.

    In 2014, the New York Times obtained an audio recording of Berman advising fossil fuel executives at an industry summit that they should envision their struggle against environmentalists as an endless war. He then asked the gathered executives to finance the Environmental Policy Alliance’s Big Green Radicals campaign, an effort to sully the reputation of major American environmental groups.

    Berman’s organization published “From Russia With Love?” as part of that continuing campaign. Its claims hinge on guilt by association […]

      † It is correct that LNG imports from the States are increasing (e.g., Eurostat report Main origin of primary energy imports, EU-28, 2005-2015 (% of extra EU-28 imports) YB17) for various reasons, including reducing the dependence on Russia (multiple sources). This is why I did not put that part of Smith’s blithering in eejit quotes, he actually happens to be a correctly-stuck clock. Admittedly, Smith said “energy” and not “LNG”, but that distinction is not relevant to his Russian delusion.

  306. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC #431, let’s hope that the unidentified girl is now inspired to do great things.

  307. militantagnostic says

    Lynna @414

    In Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op has also decided not to carry Vista Outdoor products.

  308. says

    Jason Fagone: “When news reaches us that Mueller is asking something, it probably means he already knows the answer.”

    We seem to be about (at least) three months behind what Mueller already has locked down.

    “L’Affaire Kushner: A series of revelations about the White House princeling have added further credence to the key claim of the Steele dossier.”

    I still want to know more about the December ’16 Flynn/Kushner/Bannon/MbZ meeting in New York:

    Flynn and Kushner were joined by Bannon for a separate meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undisclosed visit to New York later in December, according to the U.S., European and Arab officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

    In an unusual breach of protocol, the UAE did not notify the Obama administration in advance of the visit, though officials found out because Zayed’s name appeared on a flight manifest.

  309. blf says

    Whilst I haven’t checked — I should leave soon — I assume Ray Moore is lying, Beaten Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore asks for money to fight lawsuit:

    Roy Moore […] is appealing for financial help as he fights a lawsuit brought by a woman [Leigh Corfman –blf] who says he molested her when she was 14.


    In a post to his campaign Facebook page this week, Moore thanked supporters who he said helped me fight over $50m from Washington insiders who did not want me to bring the truth about God and our constitution to Washington DC.

    But, he said, he now faced another vicious attack from lawyers in Washington DC and San Francisco who have hired one of the biggest firms in Birmingham, Alabama to bring another legal action against me and ensure that I never fight again.

    Moore added: I will trust God that he will allow truth to prevail against the unholy forces of evil behind their attack.

    I have lawyers who want to help but they are not without cost and besides their fees, legal expenses could run over $100,000. I have had to establish a legal defense fund, anything you give will be appreciated.

    On Saturday morning, a secure donation page had raised a little over $32,000 of a $250,000 target.

    Moore said: The liberal media, in association with some who want to destroy our country do not want my influence in the 2018 elections and are doing everything they can to stop me.

    Gays, lesbians, and transgenders have joined forces with those who believe in abortion, sodomy, and destruction of all that we hold dear. Unless we stand together we will lose our country.

    Moore laid blame for his defeat by Jones on the Washington establishment, the Republican party, the Democrat party, the ultra-liberal media and people such as George Soros, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and many others who fear the truth.

    He added: My resources have been depleted and I have struggled to make ends meet, but I have not lost my faith in our God, who is our true source of strength and will never leave or forsake us.

    Rather noticeably, the only people he didn’t blame for his defeat, besides himself, are Putin and his hair furor & thugs. He also, as quoted in the above excerpt, avoided mention the claims in the lawsuit (possibly on the advice of the lawyers he claims he can’t afford), and blattered on and on about his electoral defeat.

  310. says

    Some guy shot himself outside the White House fence. No one else was shot or injured, and he’s being tended to. No word on whether it was accidental or intentional, political or not.

  311. blf says

    (me@436, “I should leave soon” — I did, and it turned out to be pointless, grumble…)

    I haven’t read this book — and in fact, had never even heard of it — but it’s possibly illuminating, albeit also perhaps bias confirming, Inside the Mind of Marine Le Pen by Michel Eltchaninoff review — the same racist far right:

    The president of the Front National [führer of the le penazis here in France –blf] is a skilful [sic†] operator who pretends to represent something new. This book looks closely at her words

    During the campaign for last year’s presidential election, Marine Le Pen presented herself as the candidate of reason, a Joan of Arc figure who was the embodiment of quiet strength and the saviour of the French way of life. The Front National logo was dropped from her posters, which carried the slogan La France apaisée (France at peace). She campaigned for total freedom and quoted the Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu.


    Michel Eltchaninoff’s task is therefore an important and urgent one: to subject Le Pen’s words to rigorous analysis, exposing their true meaning. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the leopard has not changed its spots.

    […] Eltchaninoff’s detective work reveals Le Pen’s ideas are deeply embedded in the tradition of French far-right thought

    At first glance, it appears that Le Pen has “erased the entire history of the French far right” from her campaigning. She has distanced herself from anyone who could compromise her, even her father […]. But as Eltchaninoff’s philosophical detective work reveals, her ideas are deeply embedded in the tradition of French far-right thought. An MEP, she loathes the EU, which she says is subservient to the financial markets and takes its orders from Goldman Sachs. There may be no openly antisemitic comments in her speeches, but Eltchaninoff suggests that such language would have been readily understood in the past as code for Jewishness: she has mastered “a subliminal type of racism”. And her “artfully subtle attacks on Islam” offer her followers a new scapegoat, for the Front National is “a movement that needs enemies”.

    Le Pen’s “depressing, conspiratorialist discourse”, a mix of anti-elite populism and xenophobia redolent of 1890s France, was beaten at the ballot box. But, as this illuminating study shows, her ideology still poses a threat to French democracy: “The demon has not yet breathed its last.”

      † I wouldn’t call her “skillful”, only “not as instantly aggravating as either her father (Jean-Marie Le Pen) or neice (Marion Maréchal-Le Pen)”, whilst acknowledging she’s generally(?) considered less extreme than those two full-on nazis — possibly for the reasons apparently explored in this book. A “skillful” operator seems unlikely to have faced multiple lawsuits, or her upcoming trial (see @348), made possible by her “skillfully” managing to loose her parliamentary immunity, or having the courts rule she can be called a facist. The upcoming trial is about misuse of funds, suggesting she is most “skillful” at keeping the family firm operating, including her ruthless takeover from her father.

  312. blf says

    me@441, I meant to add: To-date, most of the readers’s comments are great. Some examples:

    ● “Marine Le Pen should be campaigning for massive monetary reparations to be invested in those French overseas territories whose peoples were enslaved to make France the peaceful paradise which this spoiled daughter of an even more rotten politician father claims it to be. And then, we can begin to talk about the need to returning Gaul to his purportedly pristine purity. Ms Le Pen deserves to be deported to one of the hell-freezing planets in outer space. She has clearly lost her humanity and the right to live among civilized and enlightened humans.”

    ● “Jean-Marie Le Pen, Martine’s father as perennial presidential candidate, recognized that there were enough antisemites and racists in France, particularly old ones with money, to make a comfortable living out of championing their cause. He knew his party was anathema to the vast majority of French people, but that wasn’t necessary bad for the business.
      “Marine foolishly believed that, with enough lipstick in the pig, this could be turned into real power. And with the help of the Russians (mysterious ‘loans’ of millions of euros from Russian banks and cyber attacks on other parties) she made a decent go of it.
      “But she really is a rather stupid woman, with nothing but sound bites to offer a country that takes politics and ideological debate far more seriously than the US. Once put on a televised debate stage, she completely self-destructed. She is finished. The far more professional sarkozists (the ‘Republicans’) have appropriated her racist dog whistles, and her father’s old friends hate her for throwing him under the bus in her lust for power.”

    Oh yeah, I had forgotten about her “skillfully” managing to only be able to get loans from Putin.

  313. blf says

    Teh States-side stooges of the Israeli “government” are about to crank up their hyperventilating “you cannot criticize Israel” machine, Anti-BDS bills expected to feature prominently at AIPAC:

    Israel supporters in the US are gearing up for AIPAC’s much-vaunted annual policy conference, with measures to counter the widening campaign to boycott Israel and its West Bank settlements expected to feature prominently in the powerful lobbying group’s agenda.

    This includes legislation that several Republican and Democratic Congress members have sponsored to curb the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure Israel into ending its occupation of Arab and Palestinian land.

    AIPAC set the stage for its conference, which runs from Sunday through Tuesday and features leaders of both parties, by sending out an action alert to rally support for two anti-boycott bills in the House and Senate.


    Free-speech advocates and various activist groups have been fighting these bills in court and through grassroots organising, arguing that boycott is a protected means of political expression under the First Amendment.

    “Politicians are increasingly out of touch with the grassroots in this country, on many issues, including Palestinian rights,” said Rahul Saksena, a lawyer at Palestine Legal, a group that supports pro-Palestine civil rights activists.

    “While more and more people support boycotts for Palestinian rights, legislators continue to enact unconstitutional anti-boycott laws.”


    The non-profit [Washington DC-based Foundation for Middle East Peace] found that as of March 1, 23 states enacted laws or executive orders to withhold contracts from companies and individuals that boycott either Israel or its settlements, essentially conflating the two.

    At the federal level, Congress is pushing forward with a bill called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would impose criminal penalties — up to $1m fine and 20 years in prison — on those supporting, promoting or providing information that champions efforts to boycott Israel, including its settlements.


    In January, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on a Kansas law requiring US individuals and companies to sign a declaration that they will not engage in a boycott of Israel if they want to be awarded a state contract.


    “Some cities are implementing these laws in their contracts as well, which is extremely troubling” [said Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)].

    “This happened with a mosque that was renting out the Phoenix Convention Center last year for Eid prayers. The language was eventually removed from the contract after the mosque complained.”

    On Friday, CAIR and representatives of the Muslim Students Association at Arizona State University filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona statute requiring contractors to certify that they are not engaging in BDS activity.

    The university has accordingly been prohibiting groups from inviting speakers to campus who support or are affiliated with the boycott movement.


    “What they are doing essentially is policing thought,” CAIR’s Siddiqi said.

    “They are making it illegal to espouse pro-Palestine advocacy.”


    “AIPAC and other Israel advocacy organisations are resorting to efforts aimed at shutting down the conversation by punishing those who speak out in support of Palestinian freedom, censoring our speech, and infringing on our constitutional right to boycott,” said Saksena of Palestine Legal.

    “These anti-democratic tactics should have no place in a democracy.”

    In addition to the federal Israel Anti-Boycott Act bill (with its million dollar & 20 years penalty), the equally Orwellian Combating BDS Act is mentioned, which gives “a federal green light to the 23 states with laws to combat BDS efforts.”

  314. blf says

    Update to @422, Qatar: No contact with Mueller’s team over Jared Kushner:

    Qatar’s ambassador to the US has denied it has been contacted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.

    Ambassador Meshal Hamad Al Thani said on Twitter that Qatar had not been in touch with anyone from the US Special Counsel’s office, adding that any reporting claiming the contrary was false.

    As far as I am aware, no reputable media has claimed Mueller’s team has been in contact with Qatar — e.g., @422 quotes NBC as reporting “Qatari government officials visiting the US ‘considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country'” (my emboldening), leaving it unclear if there was any contact of any sort. This distinction between considering and contacting is probably a quibble, excepting that the Ambassador’s statement is so strongly worded:

    On reports that Qatar has communicated with US Special Counsel’s office: We have not been approached nor have we had any contact with them on any matters. We have also had no contact with the US Government on any related investigations. Any reporting to the contrary is false.

    That does not seem to be typical nuanced diplomatic-speak, suggesting one or both of at least two things: (1) There really has been no contact; and/or (2) Qatar is trying to send a message to the obtuse hair furor (broadly, “Don’t provoke us”). It’s worth noting the statement didn’t rule out contacting Mueller or responding to a contact from Mueller.

  315. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    blf#436, Joy Reid’s response to Moore’s plea on her show this morning; ‘I won’t send you any money, but will send you my thoughts and prayers.’ *ouch*

  316. says

    SC @429, I saw that Maddow segment. Now I can’t forget it. Scott Lloyd was/is not qualified for the job Trump gave him. And yet, Lloyd thinks he is the man who gets to decide that a teenage girl must carry her rapist’s baby to term.

    Thank goodness the ACLU is fighting that dunderhead.

  317. blf says

    Speaking of Le Pen books (see @441/442), apparently the ogre himself has just published the first volume of his “memoirs”, Jean-Marie Le Pen: Self-portrait of a vulgar but at times erudite politician:

    Grand-daddy of Europe’s extreme right publishes his first memoirs and takes a parting shot at his daughter
    The old reprobate regrets nothing. He repeats the obsessive provocations that sometimes landed him in court and led to the final rupture with Marine: defence of Maréchal Philippe Pétain, the leader of the Vichy collaborationist regime; contempt for General Charles de Gaulle; the contention that the Holocaust was a detail of history and that the German occupation was not particularly inhumane; and the justification of torture during the 1954–1962 Algerian war.

    The Washington Post has more details, No publisher would touch Jean-Marie Le Pen’s memoir. Now it’s a bestseller:

    “Son of the Nation” also takes aim at Charles de Gaulle […] for helping make France small by acquiescing to Algerian independence in 1962. Le Pen was a paratrooper in the Algerian war and has always denied accusations that he tortured Arabs in that conflict.


    “Le Pen and his friends all across Europe belong to the political camp of those who lost the war, and they want to take their revenge,” Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the European far right, said in an interview. “They really think that today, as time passes on, and with the number of those who survived the Holocaust greatly diminished, they will have a tremendous opportunity.”

    In an interview last year with The Washington Post, Le Pen acknowledged his hope for mainstream acceptance. After all, they can say, ‘Le Pen was right,’” he said. “Public opinion — the voters, the citizens — has realized that the ideas we defend are not ‘extremist,’ as our adversaries say, but that they conform to the truth.

    Of course, not everyone who buys Le Pen’s memoir buys his views. […]

    The popularity of his book also does not portend a broader embrace of the National Front. In fact, the book may jeopardize the evolution of the party that expelled him in 2015 and that his estranged daughter, Marine Le Pen, now controls.

    Despite the nominal interest of Marine Le Pen in “de-demonizing” the National Front in the 2017 presidential election, her father’s shadow proved inescapable. Members of Marine Le Pen’s entourage were likewise exposed as Holocaust deniers and made to resign.

    “Son of the Nation” appears little more than a week before the party’s annual conference, where Marine Le Pen hopes to shed the “National Front” name and strip her father of his “honorary president” title.

    Yet Jean-Marie Le Pen’s book is likely to serve as a further reminder of the party’s original identity.

    Until recently, the likelihood of a Le Pen memoir was small. […]

    But Le Pen found an amenable obscure publisher, Éditions Muller, run by a writer with ties to France’s extreme Catholic right and who was exposed in 2013 as the author of an Islamophobic newsletter.


    One notable reader’s comment: “Best seller under what catagory? ‘Far Right fairytales, mythology, and other assorted anger issues.’?”

    (Presumably excepting the upcoming le penazi convention, hopefully there won’t be any more fecking French facists fouling this thread for awhile…)

  318. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Senate Republicans in the state legislature pulled a bill to outlaw child marriage in Kentucky, […] following opposition from the conservative group Family Foundation of Kentucky on claims that it takes away parental rights. […]

    “SO disappointed! My SB 48 (outlaw child marriage) won’t be called for a vote. It is disgusting that lobbying organizations would embrace kids marrying adults. We see evidence of parents who are addicted, abusive, neglectful pushing their children into predatory arms. Appalling.” — Julie Raque Adams (@jrajra) March 1, 2018

    Current state law allows 18-year-olds to be married without parental consent, while 16- and 17-year-olds must have parental consent. But teenagers under the age of 16 can also be issued a license if they are pregnant and have a “District Court Judge issue a court order directing the Clerk to do so,” the law states.

    Kentucky has the third highest number of child marriages in the country — behind Texas and Florida — with 11,657 minors married between 2000 and 2010. […]

  319. says

    LaVar Ball was right. Trump was wrong. Trump claimed credit for getting three basketball players out of a Chinese jail. He was claiming credit for something he didn’t do. Trump also blasted LaVar Ball for not showing enough gratitude.

    Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!

    […] While Trump might have spoken to the Chinese president on the player’s behalf, he did not intervene until after everything was taken care of.

    “The situation was already resolved by the time we heard about Trump’s involvement,” a team source told ESPN. “That’s not to take away from the fact that he got involved, but the players already had their passports back and their flights booked to go home,” by the time the president stepped in. […]

    The ESPN report included a few other new details, including the fact that the players stole from two other stores in addition to Louis Vuitton. One player hid a pair of stolen sunglasses in the hotel room of UCLA coach Steve Alford, it said. The news story also recounted how UCLA and Pac-12 officials were able to bail out the students without committing an NCAA violation.

    There are no real winners here, but considering how well Trump reacted to Ball last year, it’s unlikely the President will be issuing any apologies, or showing any support for the Big Baller Brand any time soon.


  320. says

    Lynna @ #448 – that is utterly insane.

    Among the 11,000-plus marriages involving at least one minor between 2000 and 2015, the age variance between the two parties has been extreme. In one case, a 13-year-old girl married a 33-year-old man, and in another, a 15-year-old girl married a 52-year-old man, Pollard said, citing a forthcoming University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work study.

    “State Sen. John Schickel (R) had issues with the bill, stating, ‘Decisions involving a minor child should be made by a parent, not the court’.” Decisions about a minor child getting married shouldn’t be made by anyone. The legal age should be 18. JFC.

  321. says

    “In one case, a 13-year-old girl married a 33-year-old man, and in another, a 15-year-old girl married a 52-year-old man,…”

    These girls didn’t marry these men – they were married off to them by their parents. This should never have been allowed.

  322. blf