Thursday Reads

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Good Morning!!

Where to begin? Each day since the 2016 election brings with it more insanity, more chaos, more despair. What are we to do with a president-elect who is utterly unqualified for the office as well as shockingly dishonest and seemingly mentally incompetent? We are headed into dangerous waters in a ship with no captain.

Yesterday Donald Trump held his first press conference since last July, and it was a doozy. Dan Balz at The Washington Post: After an aggressive news conference, questions linger about Trump’s readiness.

President-elect Donald Trump’s first news conference in six months was a vintage performance. He was self-assured, aggressive, combative, at times willing to offend and at times trying to sound conciliatory. What it added up to was a reminder of the challenges he will face in gaining and maintaining full public trust once he is sworn in as president.

No president in memory has come to the brink of his inauguration with such a smorgasbord of potential problems and unanswered questions, or with the level of public doubts that exist around his leadership. Though he dealt with the issues directly on Wednesday, what he could not answer — what he cannot answer until he is in the Oval Office — is whether he can avoid having these kinds of questions plague and possibly debilitate his presidency over the next four years.

Trump and his advisers have dismissed much of the pre-inaugural controversy as part of an effort to delegitimize his election victory and undermine his presidency even before he takes office. Still, the questions swirling around him as he came to the lobby of Trump Tower were an unprecedented mixture of the personal, the financial and the substantive.

Has he been compromised by the Russians, the most explosive and newest of allegations? (He denied all as fake news.) Are he and his party in conflict over U.S.-Russia relations? Will he truly separate himself from his sprawling business empire in a way that avoids conflicts of interest? Can he and Congress find common ground on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act? Will he live up to the promises he made as a candidate?

The news conference put on display everything the country has come to recognize in Trump from the presidential campaign….Right from the start, he swung back hard against salacious and unsubstantiated claims of personal misbehavior contained in a document prepared by a former Western intelligence officer and now in the hands of the federal government. He aggressively chastised BuzzFeed for publishing the entire document online and CNN for promoting the story about its existence (though CNN did not publish the document).

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BTW, Trump referred to Buzzfeed as a “failing pile of garbage.” The site is now selling T-shirts and limited edition trash cans bearing Trump’s words.

Think Progress: Trump shouted down CNN’s Jim Acosta as ‘fake news’ then took a question from Breitbart.

One of the stranger moments in Wednesday’s deeply strange Donald Trump press conference came when the president-elect got into a shouting match with CNN’s Jim Acosta, who was trying to ask him a question.

Earlier in the presser — his first one since July — Trump had attacked CNN for disseminating “fake news” because it broke the story that both the sitting president and the president-elect had been briefed on allegations that Russia has “compromising personal and financial information” regarding Trump.

“Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Acosta asked during a Q&A portion of the presser. Trump replied, “Not you, not you, your organization is terrible.”

“I am not going to give you a question,” the president-elect said. “You are fake news.” ….

Shortly after he successfully shouted down Acosta, Trump took a question from Breitbart News — a website closely associated with the white nationalist “alt-right,” and an avid promulgator of misleading or inaccurate information that supports hard-right beliefs. Trump’s top adviser, Steve Bannon, is the former chairman of Breitbart.

I have to assume there won’t be many more press conferences from this thin-skinned wannabe dictator.

Quite a few reporters who gloatingly published unverified hacked emails from the DNC and John Podesta condemned Buzzfeed for publishing the salacious dossier of supposedly compromising information the Russians may have on Trump. But the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review disagrees: BuzzFeed was right to publish Trump-Russia files.

EARLY TUESDAY EVENING, spurred by a CNN story, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier on Donald Trump’s alleged long-term relationship with Russia. The documents contain references to compromising information the Russians purportedly gathered about the president-elect and accusations that Trump’s campaign was in regular contact with Russian officials. Within hours, The Guardian,The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among many others, slammed the digital powerhouse for its decision, while pointing out that they, too, had seen the documents but declined to make them public.

BuzzFeed explained that it was publishing the dossier “so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.” But the Post’s Erik Wemple countered that “Americans can only ‘make up their own minds’ if they build their own intelligence agencies, with a heavy concentration of operatives in Russia and Eastern Europe.” The Guardian, meanwhile, complained that BuzzFeed’s “decision…forced other media outlets to repeat the allegations or ignore a story that lit up the internet.” That writer was quick to note that his paper, too, “had obtained and reviewed the documents in recent weeks but declined to publish because there was no way to independently verify them.”

The media’s full-throated condemnation of BuzzFeed is both self-righteous and self-serving. BuzzFeed noted up front that the documents contained “explosive—but unverified—information,” and Editor in Chief Ben Smith convincingly defended the decision in a staff memo, arguing that the dossier was being read and talked about “at the highest levels of American government and media. It seems to lie behind a set of vague allegations from the Senate Majority [sic] Leader to the director of the FBI and a report that intelligence agencies have delivered to the president and president-elect.”

I think that was supposed to be a reference to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s letter to James Comey in October. CJR argued that Buzzfeed has now made itself a strong candidate to receive future leaks.

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Meanwhile, BBC News reporter Paul Wood says there is more than one source claiming Russia has compromising information on Trump. BBC News: Trump ‘compromising’ claims: How and why did we get here?

I understand the CIA believes it is credible that the Kremlin has such kompromat – or compromising material – on the next US commander in chief. At the same time a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump’s organisation or his election campaign.

Claims about a Russian blackmail tape were made in one of a series of reports written by a former British intelligence agent, understood to be Christopher Steele.

As a member of MI6, he had been posted to the UK’s embassy in Moscow and now runs a consultancy giving advice on doing business in Russia. He spoke to a number of his old contacts in the FSB, the successor to the KGB, paying some of them for information.

They told him that Mr Trump had been filmed with a group of prostitutes in the presidential suite of Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. I know this because the Washington political research company that commissioned his report showed it to me during the final week of the election campaign….

And the former MI6 agent is not the only source for the claim about Russian kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by “the head of an East European intelligence agency”.

Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file – they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was “more than one tape”, “audio and video”, on “more than one date”, in “more than one place” – in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg – and that the material was “of a sexual nature”.

Read the rest at the link.

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The other news from the press conference was Trump’s ludicrous plan to deal with his massive conflicts of interest. A good start would be to release his tax returns, but he reiterated yesterday that he’s not going to do that. Instead he had his lawyer make a bizarre presentation that did nothing to deal with the problem.

For this I’m going to turn to Deadspin, a sports website that seemingly is not as fearful of the incoming tin-pot dictator and some mainstream outlets: This Is Why You Don’t Kiss The Ring, by Hamilton Nolan.

Today we saw a “press conference” by our incoming president at which he put forth a farcical plan to allow his own sons to continue running his vast business empire while he is president, and spoke at length about his belief that as president it is impossible for him to have meaningful conflicts of interest, which is why he felt comfortable presenting his decision to turn down a $2 billion business deal with a Middle Eastern real estate mogul as something noble, rather than as an obvious decision that would be made as a matter of course under a normal presidential administration. He dismissed serious reporting that reflected poorly on him as “fake news,” and promised to retaliate against news outlets that displeased him. These things are not normal. These things are not okay. These are actions that flout well-established ethical and civil norms. Admittedly, there is something thrilling about watching him do this. What will he do next? It always keeps us tuning in, in the same way that a violent alcoholic father will always keep his children on his toes. But we should not fool ourselves about what is happening in front of our eyes. We are all coming to realize that our civil society institutions may not be strong enough to protect the flawed but fundamentally solid democracy that we thought we had. We are witnessing the rise to power of a leader who does not care about norms. Since these norms were created to prevent political, social, economic, and cultural disasters, we do not need to wonder how this will end. It will end poorly.

Please go read the whole thing.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of today’s news, but I’m out of space and I’m still very tired from moving on our new office with moving companies houston. I’ll leave it to you to post your own links in the comment thread below.

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54 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a great Thursday, Sky Dancers!

    • joanelle says:

      Thanks, BB, you too!
      He’s still claiming that Hillz was given questions before televised debate 😠

      • NW Luna says:

        Look! look! look! Emails! questions before debate! Look!

        He’s vainly trying to distract from his illegitimacy as a POTUS.

        • Enheduanna says:

          I know -srsly. Two questions about death penalty and Flint. Like nobody could guess that was going to come up. But to the meatheads who can’t think deeper – it’s a scandal.

          It’s a real tell when they answer any question with an example of Dems doing it or HRC doing something vaguely remotely (or not even remotely) similar. Like that makes it OK for them to do whatever.

          • joanelle says:

            So, let me get this straight, we’re not suppose to pay attention to unverified information about the Donald, but the unverifiable information about Hillz was fine? Where was the DNC when she needed it (them?)
            It will be interesting to see if the Republican Party will have a leg to stand on after his reign, a lot of talk about the Repugs planning to impeach him early on, making pence our ruler.
            Good God, when will we wake up from this nightmare?

  2. Pilgrim says:

    Those are good links, especially the Columbia Journalism Review and the BBC one. I know someone who will also be interested in those accounts. Your organization of these things is helpful and characteristically well done. Here’s hoping you make a good adjustment to new digs, and get enough good rest to power you through the coming days.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      CJR article was excellent. The Trump bitch named, UpChuck Todd, ripped the editor of Buzzfeed to shreds yesterday on MTP Daily. He’ll be eating some crow now!!! Fuck UpChuck.

      • Enheduanna says:

        I saw that, too. Shuck Todd – the guy who said it isn’t his job to challenge Republican lies or inform the public – because journalism.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          Todd is a total waste of viewing time. I’ve been wearing MSNBC out asking them to put someone who will knock heads together to get to the truth like Joy Reid on MTP. Now that MSNBC is doing their trial run on Greta Van Sustern I imagine they’re afraid to do anything else bold. I don’t expect Greta to survive because basically she’s to steeped in right wing memes to see the truth of where we are. And she can’t straddle the center line because she will get hit head on quickly. I expect the Greta experiment to be over as soon as her contract expires.

          • jan says:

            I’m boycotting MSNBC, they went from decent reporting to terrible reporting to now hiring former Fox ‘news’ people. Begone! MSNBC! BEGONE!

  3. janicen says:

    Excellent review of the presser and Buzzfeed’s release of the doc. I’m glad to read that the Columbia Journalism Review agree with Buzzfeed’s decision to publish the material. The rest of the media wasted no time condemning the release. Seems more like sour grapes because they were scooped. You made a great point that so many MAIN stream media outlets gleefully published every single unverified, illegally obtained email released by Wikileaks but are now sanctimoniously criticizing Buzzfeed. Good for Buzzfeed. The only way we are going to control Trump and his band of lunatics is if they cannot control the flow of information. I went to buy a trashcan but they are sold out.

  4. ANonOMouse says:

    Marine Le Pen is at tRump Tower this morning. Must be having a gathering of the Fascists.
    In the meantime, grab your umbrella.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Great post! Seems the media have a double standard when it comes to unverified information, depending on whom it’s about.

    The truly compromising material, his financial ties to Russia and organized crime, has been out there in moderately detailed form for some time. Kurt Eichenwald’s work, Sarah Kendzior, Adam Kahn, to mention only three, have tracked the connections.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Now for an interlude to the gloom:

  7. William says:

    Anyone who expects some kind of internal consistency from the media, is living in a bygone era. The media does what it wants, which is try to get high ratings, and try to get Republicans elected. Of course what they did to Hillary was obscene, and of course they are utter hypocrites for now urging the populace to question the veracity of documents compromising Trump. But they are shameless. They are not our friends, they are not standing up for democracy. Like most corporations, they evolve into self-sustaining entities which have a primal need to make profits at any cost. And beyond the money they make in advertising, the media overlords think they profit from Republican presidents who cut taxes on the very wealthy. So they sit on the scales and pretend that they are being journalists. It is just a con.

    There is an article somewhere about how 20 Republican secretaries of state in various states colluded with the RNC to suppress votes and essentially fix the election. Norms and decency and democratic practices mean nothing to them. If they could burn ballots and get away with it, they would. A win is a win, to them. They have no morals whatsoever. They are like an army of zombies or bodysnatchers which have taken over. Of course, had Democrats been better prepared, from the President on down, to fight this kind of thing, we might have defeated it. But also of course, the media would never tell tlhe real story, would inevitably attack the Democrats for “complaining,” or “distracting.” When one thinks about it, the last forty years or so has involved Democrats being constantly criticized by the media, while Republicans get away with just about anything. We can only hope that the British and other foreign press step up to somehow try to save what is left of Amercan democracy. Because our press certainly will not do it.

    • joanelle says:

      Hear, Hear!

    • Ron4Hills says:

      But the medias show business connections afford them a diguise of liberalism. That way all media negatives accrue to progressive and they feed the masses their conservative propaganda from a completely concealed position.

  8. roofingbird says:

    How about that Senate last night! 51-48.

  9. Earlynerd says:

    Very good post under very trying circumstances, BB! The links are critical news.

    I’ve begun to submit pages I think are important to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, in case Pacifier Mouth (my new name for the Dump) goes on a cleaning spree. From your post, so far I’ve archived the Buzzfeed post with the document story, the WaPo fact-check article and the Columbia Journalism Review article. The document itself from the Buzzfeed story was already archived (74 times! yay!).

    In case anyone else wants to do this too, they’d just go to http://archive.org/web/ and enter the URL of the page they wanted saved in the “Browse History” box. If it’s not there, a page will come back saying that, with a link at the bottom that will save the page to the archive. Just click on that, and the page will be saved.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I’ve read that archivists are working OT to protect the history of this election.

      • Earlynerd says:

        Very relieved to hear that.

        Still, every little bit helps. Internet Archive has been asking people for years to help with archiving, but it seemed to me that if ever there was a time to invest a few minutes here and there to help, it’s now.

      • bostonboomer says:

        They are saving everything they have on a server in Canada just in case.

  10. palhart says:

    I’m not ready, nor will I ever be, to accept this Trump presidency. I hope any compromising material WILL be confirmed if true. That our presidential election was hacked by Putin has to be seriously responded to by our government. Yes, Trump. He has soiled the word intuitive, but my hunch is that we have only scratched the surface as to how dangerous this man will be as president. His election is compromised and illegitimate. We may have a constitutional crisis in our hands. He has been helped by Russia, an enemy. Maybe with a few more exposes, we will have a case of treason. He’s receiving classified briefings and is Putin’s puppet.

    • joanelle says:

      I believe what he’s done is treasonous and honestly can’t fathom why so many of those white males in seats of power are so afraid to do anything to protect our home and our flag!

    • palhart says:

      While being impressed with what Malcolm Nance said to MSNBC interviewers, I’ve read some online articles featuring him. He concludes that trump is an unwitting agent of Putin’s. He will gut the intelligence offices for this problem of his connection to go away. With a smaller intel community and his reading the pdbs once a week, how safe will you feel?
      Also trump espouses Russian strategies of weaking NATO and returning as a super power. We can imagine our becoming a 3rd world nation with nukes.

      We should remain in crisis mode as long as useful idiot trump presides.

  11. I laughed out loud at this onion article…we DO need humor. Maybe it isn’t so funny when you think about it…

    http://www.theonion.com/article/mike-pence-vows-cut-conservation-funding-after-dis-55016

    Mike Pence Vows To Cut Conservation Funding After Discovering Elk Don’t Mate For Life

  12. purplefinn says:

    Congrats on your move, BB! Hope you feel more settled even though this whole process was unexpected and fraught.

  13. NW Luna says:

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    • Earlynerd says:

      Well, there -were- those three letters to Sanders from the FEC, just one of which listed over 600 pages of violations. http://www.politicususa.com/2016/05/20/obscene-calls-bernie-sanders-fec-troubles.html

      The truth behind Sanders’ fundraising will probably never come to light, given his tRump-like ability to successfully stonewall hiding his tax returns, as well as the location and identity of so many of his campaign donors. It seems more and more likely, though, that he was an even earlier target than Trump for cultivation by Putin.

      Another similarity was the Twitter and Facebook troll army that sprang up early on supporting Sanders and attacking Clinton, used by the anti-Clinton media to smear her as lacking comparably “enthusiastic” supporters. Trump’s eerily similar anti-Clinton trolls have in many cases been revealed to be be Russian backed bots, but no one now seems to be looking back at the Sanders campaign to see it this was also the case.

      Without tax returns and with no apparent enforcement ability for the FEC complaints, the truth may never come out in either case.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Sanders isn’t really all that different from Trump in many ways.

        • NW Luna says:

          Agree. As I read it, there is enough in that dossier about efforts to turn out young people against Hillary to include Sander’s efforts.

        • Earlynerd says:

          The only difference may be that Trump gave a public voice and political cover to his supporters’ overt racism and sexism. With Sanders, it was just sexism.

        • Earlynerd says:

          Sorry, I know there’s a new thread up but just had to add this:

          One more odd similarity: both Sanders and tRump had campaign managers who had been on the payroll of pro-Putin deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. tRump had Manafort, Sanders had Tad Devine.

  16. bostonboomer says:

    According to former spook John Schindler, the intelligence community is working on exposing traitor Trump right now. I predicted this.

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  19. Jslat says:

    The Twitter twitter is at it again! Attacking Hillary because the Inspector General is investigating the FBI’s actions re the election.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-clinton-idUSKBN14X1FZ

    • NW Luna says:

      “No enthusiasm.” Funny, that, with the 3 million more votes.

      Besides, Der Twitler badly wants everyone to look somewhere else. Anywhere but at him.

  20. NW Luna says:

    Dems ‘outraged’ with Comey after Friday morning House briefing

    “I’m disappointed, outraged — many of us are right now,” [Rep] Walz said. “I’ll wait to pass full judgment, but the exchange that just happened in the final 15 minutes gives me no reason to have confidence.”

    Shortly after the meeting, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — a sharp critic of Comey’s actions leading up to the elections — spoke broadly about the FBI without weighing in on Comey specifically. She suggested she’s waiting for the results of the DOJ’s IG report to pass a judgement on the FBI director.

    “No, I haven’t lost confidence in the agency,” she told reporters in the Capitol.

    “My concern about the FBI is the timing and their not signing [the broader intelligence document on Russian hacking]. And that was the judgment of Director Comey, unless it goes deeper, and that’s what the investigation will find out,” she added. “Let’s find out how they thought this was a good idea to make the judgments they did, and understanding — weighing full well — that the Russians were actively engaged in disrupting our election.”

    http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/314161-dems-outraged-with-comey-after-house-briefing

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