Posted: October 19, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: 25th amendment, Bryan C. Black, Devin Nunes, Donald Trump, Dustin M. Wright, FBI, Fusion GPS, George W. Bush, gold star families, Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Jeremiah “J.W.” Wayne Johnson, John Kelly, La David T. Johnson, Russia investigation
Elisabeth Macke, August; 1887-1914. “Unser Wohnzimmer in Tegernsee”, 1909/10.
It just keeps getting worse. Yesterday, decent Americans watched in horror as Trump repeatedly insulted a gold star family and in the process politicized and diminished all fallen soldiers and their families. How much lower can he go? I guess we’ll find out, because there doesn’t seem to be anything too sacred for Trump to trash and disparage.
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump trivializes the deaths of four soldiers.
STAFF SGT. Bryan C. Black, 35, always relished a challenge. As a child, he drove himself to learn chess; as a teen, he excelled as a wrestler; and as an adult, he joined the Army, where he finished Ranger school and joined the Special Forces. Deployed to Niger, he learned the local dialect.
Before joining the Army, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah “J.W.” Wayne Johnson, 39, owned and operated a successful business. In uniform he became a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, was a good student and talented athlete. When he joined the Army he continued a family military legacy dating to 1812.
Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, was known to be both determined and playful, as demonstrated by how he commuted to a job at Walmart — removing the front wheel of his bike and becoming known as the “Wheelie King.”
These are the four soldiers who were killed Oct. 4 when their unit was ambushed by Islamist extremists in West Africa. Their lives, their brave service and the sacrifice of their grieving families should be discussed and honored. Instead — thanks to a president with a compulsive need to be the center of attention — their deaths have been trivialized. President Trump reduced condolences to a political competition and treated the grieving families who received them as pawns in a game.
You know the rest; if not you can read it at the Post. At this point, the entire world knows our shame–that the U.S. president is a disgrace and unfit for the office he holds.
Reading aloud, Julius LeBlanc Stewart
Aaron Blake at the Washington Post: Trump’s unmoored week shows just how aimless he is.
President Trump’s most faithful supporters like to believe he’s always a step ahead of the media and the political establishment — that he’s playing three-dimensional chess while we’re stuck on checkers. Where we see utter discord, they see carefully orchestrated chaos.
This week should disabuse absolutely everybody of that notion.
On two issues — health care and calling the families of dead service members — the White House has shown itself to be clearly unmoored, careening back and forth based upon the unhelpful and impulsive comments and tweets of its captain.
Again, you probably know the rest. I spent the day yesterday on the verge of tears, trying desperately not to sink into depression. Unlike Trump, I’m capable of empathy. I have my own life issues to deal with, as we all do; but always the fear of what is happening to our country hangs over everything and makes it difficult to handle day-to-day worries.
I can’t imagine what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his family must be feeling. CNN reports: Sources: Kelly didn’t know Trump would publicize that Obama didn’t call when his son died.
Chief of Staff John Kelly told President Donald Trump that President Barack Obama never called him after his son’s death prior to Trump raising the issue in a Tuesday radio interview, multiple White House officials told CNN.
But, according to these sources, Kelly never thought the President would use that information publicly.
Kelly and much of the White House were caught off-guard by Trump’s comments, one official said, struck by how the President took a story Kelly has tried to keep private — the death of his son — and used it to defend his handling of four soldiers killed in Niger.
Roberto Ploeg, 1955
Trump, in defense of his own previous claim that Obama didn’t call the loved ones of fallen soldiers, floated the idea Tuesday that reporters ask Kelly, a retired general, whether Obama called him after his son died in Afghanistan.
“As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,” Trump said during a Fox News radio interview.
It’s not clear to me why Kelly expected Trump to keep his confidence. Trump is a sociopath. He doesn’t care any more about Kelly or his dead son than he does about any of the grieving families. He cares only for himself and filling the dark empty hole in his soul with flattery and praise from others.
Kelly should resign or at least begin working with other cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment before it’s too late.
NBC News Opinion: The 25th Amendment Proves Why Trump’s Mental Health Matters, by Richard Painter and Leanne Watt.
The 25th Amendment is the ultimate constitutional “check” — a corrective mechanism for an American president who is physically or psychologically unable to lead. Most important, it grants legal authority to those closest to power — first, the vice president and Cabinet members, then members of Congress — to stage an intervention. At the very least, these individuals are authorized to call a temporary timeout if the president is judged unfit to govern.
Is America today in need of such an unprecedented intervention?
The amendment, ratified in 1967 after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, was constructed to assure a smooth transition when a president becomes incapable of leadership. (Its vague wording leaves room for both physical and psychological justifications.) By the 1960s, the dangers of an incapacitated president were far greater than at the founding of our country. But arguably, the stakes have only gotten higher. With tensions flaring around the globe, there can be no doubt as to the fitness of the man or woman in possession of U.S. nuclear codes.
Pundits and politicians alike have called for the amendment’s implementation over the past few months. But it is both practically and philosophically a tool of last resort. Unlike impeachment, which is controlled solely by Congress, the 25th Amendment requires action by the majority of the president’s Cabinet and potentially Congress. This means that even in today’s polarized climate, partisan removal is unlikely. In addition, the bar for diagnosing mental health conditions is quite high.
This is a deep dive into what would be required to invoke the amendment to rid the country of a dangerous president. I hope you’ll read the whole thing.
Today, Trump is off on a new tangent because he’s apparently worried about the Russia investigation again. It started yesterday with baseless attacks on former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton.
Today he actually accused the FBI of colluding with Russia and Clinton against him.
Those are all lies. Clinton did not sell uranium to Russia. Two people from Fusion GPS did take the 5th, because they have refused to accept the unilateral subpoena issued by Devin Nunes, who is supposedly recused from the Russia investigation. Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: The founders of the firm behind the Trump Russia dossier appeared before the House Intel Committee and refused to testify.
The founders of the opposition-research firm that produced the dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia met behind closed doors with House Intel Committee staff on Wednesday and asserted their constitutional privileges not to testify.
The founders of Fusion GPS — Glenn Simpson, Thomas Catan, and Peter Fritsch — were required to appear before the committee by its chairman, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who had subpoenaed them earlier this month.
Fusion’s counsel, Josh Levy, wrote a 17-page letter to Nunes earlier this week urging him not to force Simpson, Catan, and Fritsch to appear before the committee, because if they did they would have no choice but to assert their constitutional privileges not to testify.
Edouard Vuillard, Lucy Hessel_Reading
“We cannot in good conscience do anything but advise our clients to stand on their constitutional privileges, the attorney work product doctrine and contractual obligations,” Levy wrote.
Nunes required them to appear anyway, prompting Levy to release a blistering statement accusing Nunes — who stepped aside from the committee’s Russia investigation in April but still has subpoena power — of abusing his power as chairman.
“No American should have to experience today’s indignity,” Levy wrote. “No American should be required to appear before Congress simply to invoke his constitutional privileges. But that is what Chairman Nunes did today with our clients at Fusion GPS, breaking with the practice of his committee in this investigation. The committee has not imposed this requirement on any other witness, including the president’s men.”
He added that the “disparate treatment and abuse of power” by Nunes was “unethical, according to the DC Bar rules.”
That Trump would accuse the FBI of conspiring with Russia against him is beyond belief. How can anyone doubt that this man is mentally incompetent?
I just noticed that George W. Bush gave a speech this morning that seems directed at the dangers of Trump’s presidency. Excerpts from The Hill:
Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that “bigotry seems emboldened” in the modern U.S.
“Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts,” he observed during a speech for the George W. Bush Institute. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
Vanessa Bell, Interior with artist’s daughter
Bush also said that public confidence in the country’s institutions has declined in recent decades.
“Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy,” he said.
There are signs, Bush said, that the intensity of support for democracy itself has “waned.”
More from The Washington Examiner:
Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that America should not downplay Russia’s attempts to meddle in the U.S. election.
“Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy,” Bush said in a speech sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute and others in New York. “And that begins with confronting a new era of cyberthreats.”
“America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions,” he said. “According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systemic and stealthy. It’s conducted a range of stealthy media platforms.”
“Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed,” he added. “But foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated.”
That Bush is speaking out seems like a good sign. Will Republicans in Washington DC listen?
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
Posted: October 17, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump
How Trump sees himself: “God Emperor Trump”
Yesterday was another mind-boggling day in the ongoing drama of the “Adult Day Care” Center previously known as the White House. Trump held two strange press avails in an effort to convince horrified Americans that he’s doing a great job as POTUS. Politico: Trump gives his own performance a Trump-sized endorsement.
Friends say President Donald Trump has grown frustrated that his greatness is not widely understood, that his critics are fierce and on TV every morning, that his poll numbers are both low and “fake,” and that his White House is caricatured as adrift.
So on Monday, the consummate salesman — who has spent his life selling his business acumen, golf courses, sexual prowess, luxury properties and, above all, his last name — gave the Trump White House a Trump-sized dose of brand enhancement.
With both the Roosevelt Room and the Rose Garden as backdrops, he mixed facts and mirage, praise and perfidy in two head-spinning, sometimes contradictory performances designed to convince supporters and detractors alike that everything’s terrific, moving ahead of schedule and getting even better. His opponents were cast as misguided, deluded or even unpatriotic.
In the cabinet meeting in the Roosevelt Room Trump said that he has no responsibility for the failure of his initiatives in Congress. It is Congress that is “not getting the job done.” He is blameless.
In the Rose Garden, Trump said he hopes Hillary Clinton runs again in 2020, again attacked NFL players for protesting police violence against African Americans, and dithered about why he hasn’t said anything about the four soldiers who were killed in Niger nearly two weeks ago. He even claimed that President Obama and other former presidents didn’t make calls to the families of fallen service members.
Faced with a question about not calling or writing to families of soldiers killed two weeks ago overseas, he deflected by saying other presidents didn’t do either one — and that he often did both. The letters, he said, were going out Monday evening, and he planned to call once time had passed.
Questioned by incredulous White House reporters, who noted that other presidents had made those calls, Trump said he was told otherwise by unidentified officials — and demurred. “I don’t know if he did,” Trump said.
“To say president obama (or past presidents) didn’t call the family members of soldiers KIA – he’s a deranged animal,” Alyssa Mastromonaco, a top Obama aide, wrote on Twitter.
There’s much more at the link. The entire article is a recap of Trump’s many excuses for the failures he refuses to take responsibility for.
Axios offers a much briefer summary of yesterday’s Trumps lies and obfuscations: Trump’s alternative reality
Trump says he and McConnell are “closer than ever before.” Both men and their staffs have been trashing each other in public and private for months.
Trump says other presidents “didn’t make calls” to families of soldiers killed in duty. They did.
Trump says Obamacare is “dead.” His repeated efforts to repeal it failed.
Trump says it’s been established that “no collusion” took place with the Russians. Bob Mueller is interrogating the president’s associates and advisers on this very point in real time.
Trump says he’s on a historic pace of accomplishment. He’s not.
Trump says he “already” has “the votes right now” for a bipartisan health care fix. He doesn’t….
On GOP senators: “I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done.”
“Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer — you shouldn’t even mention. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.”
On Steve Bannon’s war on McConnell and the Republican establishment: “Steve is … a friend of mine … I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from. … I know how he feels. … There are some Republicans, frankly, that should be ashamed of themselves.”
On whether he’s considering firing Mueller: “No, not at all.”
“Oh, I hope Hillary runs. Is she going to run? I hope. Hillary, please run again.”
Raw Story: ‘The empathy of a cockroach’: Phil Mudd shames Trump’s self-centered response to fallen soldiers.
Responding to the president’s speech, ex-CIA official Phil Mudd was unequivocal in his condemnation.
Boy, a tough day for the president,” Mudd told a panel assembled by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “How about the families who accepted a child or father or spouse home in a casket — it’s not a tough day for them?”
“This guy has the empathy of a cockroach,” Mudd continued, using Trump’s infamous speech in front of the CIA’s “Wall of the Fallen Hero” to brag about the size of his inauguration crowds.
“When you look at people who serve overseas and who give their lives, he’s supposed to say something simple,” the former CIA operative said. “We love what they did for this country, we empathize with the families and we stand with you. Maybe even going to Dover Air Force Base to salute those caskets as they come home.”
Instead, Mudd concluded, “all he can say is ‘my job is tough, and the guys who came before me like President Obama also didn’t do too well in these circumstances.’ I just don’t get it.”
See the video at Raw Story.
Could it be that more Republicans are beginning to see how dangerous Trump is?
CNN Corker: Trump criticism had been ‘building for some time.’
He called the White House “an adult day care center.” He suggested President Donald Trump was setting the nation on a course to “World War III.” And he said Trump “concerns me,” adding that the President was treating the office “like a
And on Monday, Sen. Bob Corker stood by those remarks, adding: “My thoughts were well thought out.””Look, I didn’t just blurt them out,” Corker, a Tennessee Republican, told CNN. “My comments — my comments, I stand by them — yes.”
Corker also added a fresh complication to the intensifying White House push to overhaul the tax code, saying that he would oppose any tax-cut bill that would raise the deficit.
“No,” Corker said when asked if he would back a tax plan that would hike the deficit. “I mean, I’ve stated that clearly.” [….]
“Look I’ve been expressing concerns for some time and it’s built over time,” Corker said Monday. “I’ve had private dinners, I’ve had private phone calls, I’ve tried to intervene on topics that I thought things were going in a different direction and are not going to be good for our country. This is not a new thing, it’s been building for some time. And it’s a pattern that I think we’ve fought and expressed for some period of time.”
And in a speech last night John McCain attacked Trump without naming him specifically. ABC News: McCain slams ‘half-baked, spurious nationalism’ sweeping US in passionate speech.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., slammed “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in an impassioned speech while accepting the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia this evening.
McCain, who was presented with the medal by former Vice President Joe Biden, began by saying he was humbled by the award before eventually lashing out at the nationalism that has swept the U.S. and warning against leaving the nation’s place of prominence in the international community.
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain said, to applause.
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” he continued. “… We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did.”
He added: “We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”
I saved so many stories for today, I don’t have room for all of them. Here are some of them, links only.
LA Times: Jesus Campos, Vegas security guard shot before rampage, appears to have vanished.
WaPo: North Korea says ‘a nuclear war may break out any moment.’
Jessica Valenti at The Guardian: #MeToo named the victims. Now, let’s list the perpetrators.
Politico: White House brushes off House investigators over aides’ use of personal email.
Ron Brownstein at CNN: How Donald Trump is negotiating like a hostage-taker.
Vanity Fair: Jared Kushner’s Family is Screwed and It’s All Boy Wonder’s Fault.
Vanity Fair: Is Trump Precipitating His Own Impeachment?
The Atlantic: Puerto Rico’s Recovery Is More Uncertain Than Ever.
Jefferson Morley at Alternet (via The National Memo): Is The 25th Amendment A Solution To Trump Madness?
What stories are you following today?
Posted: October 14, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Foreign Affairs, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Affordable Care Act, Chad, Donald Trump, health care system, Iran nuclear deal, Trump travel ban
Two Sisters on the Terrace, 1881, Pierre Auguste Renoir
I’m starting to feel as if we normal Americans are being held hostage. Maybe that’s not the right word for our situation; I’m not sure what to call it, but something awful is happening to us. A minority of deplorable or just plain stupid people elected an ignorant, incompetent, narcissistic wanna-be tyrant to the presidency; and we are being forced to bear witness as he burns our democracy down. The people who could take action–the Republicans refuse to do anything to protect the country. All we can do is hope that Bob Mueller is able to make something happen–and that he does it in time to prevent World War III.
After what Trump did yesterday and the night before, I’m really struggling to write a post this morning. I’ve been feeling increasingly depressed. For months I’ve been waking up every morning fearful of what Trump may have done, and recently I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and checking Twitter to see if anything horrible has happened. I know this isn’t normal or healthy, but what can I do? I can’t zone out and pretend nothing is happening. Besides, I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen a number of people here and on Twitter who say they are going through the same anxiety. What can we do about the madman in the White House?
Late Thursday night, Trump announced that he will end subsidies that help lower income people purchase health insurance in the ACA exchanges, a move that threatens 1/6th of the U.S. economy. Then yesterday he announced that he will refuse to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal we agreed to with numerous other countries under Obama. Dakinikat covered both of these stories in her Friday post, so I won’t go into any more detail about these nightmarish “presidential” decisions.
Now what? The consequences of both of these destructive actions by Trump could be extremely serious, and we’re still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the wildfires in California. Will this administration be able (or willing) to handle these Trump-made and natural catastrophes? I fear the answer is no.
Maybe I’m overreacting. If so, I hope someone here can talk me off the ledge.
Meanwhile Trump is very pleased with himself.
When is the last time a POTUS celebrated tanking stocks? Has that ever happened before?
Young girl reading, Renoir
Buzzfeed reports on the Democratic response to the cancellation of the subsidies: Democrats Are Launching A Legal Fight To Save Obamacare’s Subsidy Payments.
A coalition of 19 attorneys general — representing 18 states and the District of Columbia — filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California that accuses the Trump administration of violating the sections of the Affordable Care Act that require the subsidies, as well as other federal law.
“It’s well past time that President Trump learns that he doesn’t just get to pick and choose which laws he’ll follow or which bills he’ll pay,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on a call with reporters. “Just because he’s in the White House doesn’t mean he can make those decisions.” ….
A coalition of 19 attorneys general — representing 18 states and the District of Columbia — filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California that accuses the Trump administration of violating the sections of the Affordable Care Act that require the subsidies, as well as other federal law.
“It’s well past time that President Trump learns that he doesn’t just get to pick and choose which laws he’ll follow or which bills he’ll pay,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on a call with reporters. “Just because he’s in the White House doesn’t mean he can make those decisions.
”The lawsuit was filed by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Other stories to check out
Newsweek: Trump Just Made War With Iran and North Korea More Likely Than Ever, Retired Army General Says.
The U.S. and Iran have both taken defensive measures to prepare for a potential conflict following President Donald Trump’s controversial decision Friday to not certify a landmark nuclear treaty between both countries and four other leading powers….
In response to Trump’s decision to add the IRGC to the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, Iranian lawmaker Alireza Rahimi, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that Iran would put the U.S. military on its “list of groups that undermine international security and stability.” The IRGC is an official branch of Iran’s armed forces but also maintains external operations and operates under direct orders from an appointee of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Renoir, Two girls reading
“Given that the army and [other] armed forces of a country are guarantors of its security, the [possible] move [by the U.S. to designate IRGC forces as terrorists] is tantamount to a declaration of war,” Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic agency, told British analysts and media figures Thursday during a meeting in London, according to the semiofficial Tasnim News Agency….
Retired Army Major General Paul Eaton, who played a key role in rebuilding and training the Iraqi military in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion, on Friday warned that Trump’s decision may not only bring about a new crisis in the Middle East, but further escalate an already tense nuclear standoff with North Korea and further complicate the U.S.’s 16-year military campaign in Afghanistan. He appealed to Congress to not destroy the deal by adding more sanctions during the 60-day window lawmakers now have to take action.
“Donald Trump has moved us closer to a war with Iran, while he has also moved us closer to a nuclear war with North Korea. All while we’re in a war in Afghanistan,” Eaton said in a statement.
Those are the highlights; you might want to read the whole story.
The Boston Globe has an explainer story on Trump’s health care moves: Key questions and answers about Trump’s health care move.
President Donald Trump’s move to stop paying a major “Obamacare” subsidy will raise costs for many consumers who buy their own health insurance, and make an already complicated system more challenging for just about everybody.
Experts say the consequences will vary depending on how much money you earn, the state you live in, and other factors.
Overall, Trump’s decision will make coverage under the Affordable Care Act less secure, because more insurers may head for the exits as their financial losses mount.
I can’t really excerpt this very well, but the story isn’t long and has some helpful information. Basically, poor, working class, and middle class Americans will all be negatively affected.
This piece by ex-Republican conservative George Will is worth reading. It’s directed at the white supremacists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller who have Trump’s ear, but I was most interested in what Will had to say about two Republicans who have enabled Trump in his destructive behavior, Mike Pence and Bob Corker:
Renoir, Woman reading
With eyes wide open, Mike Pence eagerly auditioned for the role as Donald Trump’s poodle. Now comfortably leashed, he deserves the degradations that he seems too sycophantic to recognize as such. He did Trump’s adolescent bidding with last Sunday’s preplanned virtue pageant of scripted indignation — his flight from the predictable sight of players kneeling during the national anthem at a football game. No unblinkered observer can still cling to the hope that Pence has the inclination, never mind the capacity, to restrain, never mind educate, the man who elevated him to his current glory. Pence is a reminder that no one can have sustained transactions with Trump without becoming too soiled for subsequent scrubbing.
A man who interviewed for the position Pence captured, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), is making amends for saying supportive things about Trump. In 2016, for example, he said he was “repulsed” by people trying to transform the Republican National Convention from a merely ratifying body into a deliberative body for the purpose of preventing what has come to pass. Until recently, Corker, an admirable man and talented legislator, has been, like many other people, prevented by his normality from fathoming Trump’s abnormality. Now Corker says what could have been said two years ago about Trump’s unfitness.
The axiom that “Hell is truth seen too late” is mistaken; damnation deservedly comes to those who tardily speak truth that has long been patent. Perhaps there shall be a bedraggled parade of repentant Republicans resembling those supine American communists who, after Stalin imposed totalitarianism, spawned the gulag, engineered the Ukraine famine, launched the Great Terror and orchestrated the show trials, were theatrically disillusioned by his collaboration with Hitler: You, sir, have gone too far.
Wow. Read the rest at the WaPo.
More fallout from Trump’s disastrous policies at Newsweek: After Trump Travel Ban, Chad Pulls Troops from Boko Haram fight in Niger.
President Donald Trump’s decision to place Chad on his revised travel ban shocked experts and former U.S. officials who warned it could have major consequences for the fight against terrorism in Africa.
And it appears Trump’s controversial decision may have already damaged alliances on the continent—which is threatened by a range of militants, including affiliates of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group.
Chad has pulled hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where they had been stationed to assist in a regional fight against Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant Islamist group, Reuters reported.
I’m going to end with an odd Trump story from Vanity Fair: Donald Trump’s Face Renoir: The Untold Story.
A girl reading, 1891, Renoir
Years ago, while reporting a book about a real-estate developer and reality-TV star named Donald Trump,Tim O’Brienaccompanied his subject on a private jet ride to Los Angeles. The plane, as you can imagine, was overly ornate; hanging on one wall, for instance, was a painting of two young girls—one in an orange hat, the other wearing a floral bonnet—in the impressionistic style of Renoir.
Curious, O’Brien asked Trump about the painting: was it an original Renoir? Trump replied in the affirmative. It was, he said. “No, it’s not Donald,” O’Brien responded. But, once again, Trump protested that it was.
“Donald, it’s not,” O’Brien said adamantly. “I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters on the Terrace, and it’s hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago.” He concluded emphatically: “That’s not an original.”
Trump, of course, did not agree, but O’Brien dropped the conversation topic and moved on with his interview. He thought that he had heard the last of the Renoir conversation. But the next day, when they boarded the plane to head back to New York City, Trump again pointed to the painting, and as if the conversation had never happened, he pointed to the fake and proclaimed, “You know, that’s an original Renoir.” O’Brien, chose not to engage, and dropped the conversation….
Then, in 2016, the unimaginable happened: Trump was elected president of the United States. A few days afterward, Trump sat down with 60 Minutes for one of his first interviews as president-elect. O’Brien was watching the interview, which took place in Trump Tower. It was highly choreographed, with cameras set up precisely where Trump wanted them. O’Brien watched Trump seated in an ugly mini-throne—“the kind of furniture Trump loves,” O’Brien notes—and sure enough, in the background, hanging on the a wall, was that fake Renoir.
It’s not just dementia; Trump has always been insane. I’ve illustrated the post with Renoir paintings in honor of his lunacy.
What stories are you following today?
Posted: October 12, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Ben Affleck, Carmen Yulín Cruz, child abuse, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Clinton, Hurricane Maria, Ivana Trump, Melissa McEwan, Puerto Rico, rape culture, Sexual harassment, stock market and national debt, Trump is a moron
Every day I wake up to find that Trump has topped himself in terms of cruelty, ignorance, and selfishness. I guess if Hitler were alive, he’d be a worse person than Trump, but Trump is just beginning his attack on human decency from his powerful position.
The Washington Post: Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort.
President Trump served notice Thursday that he may pull back federal relief workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a staggering humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Declaring the U.S. territory’s electrical grid and infrastructure to have been a “disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote Thursday that it will be up to Congress how much federal money to appropriate to the island for its recovery efforts and that relief workers will not stay “forever.”
Three weeks after Maria made landfall, much of Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million people, remains without power. Residents struggle to find clean water, hospitals are running short on medicine, and commerce is slow, with many businesses closed.
Trump on Thursday sought to shame the territory for its own plight. He tweeted, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” And he quoted Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist, as saying, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”
He also wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz comforts a hurricane survivor.
It has been three weeks, and the Federal Government response has been pathetic and incompetent. People in Puerto Rico have been for help, and Trump has interpreted their pleas as criticism of him personally. This is a very sick man, and he must be removed from power before he destroys our country.
Vox: Everything that’s been reported about deaths in Puerto Rico is at odds with the official count.
Death tolls are the primary way we understand the impact of a disaster. And for nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, as a humanitarian crisis was intensifying, the death toll was frozen at 16.
“Sixteen people certified,” Trump said on October 3 during his visit to the island, repeating a figure confirmed by the territory’s governor. “Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico.” ….
The death toll from the hurricane is now up to 45, according to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. But 90 percent of the 3.4 million American citizens on the island still don’t have power, and 35 percent still don’t have water to drink or bathe in. And given how deadly power outages can be, 45 deaths seems low, according to disaster experts.
At Vox, we decided to compare what the government has been saying with other reports of deaths from the ground. We searched Google News for reports of deaths in English and Spanish media from Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. We found reports of a total of 81 deaths linked directly or indirectly to the hurricane. Of those, 45 were the deaths certified by the government. The remaining 36 deaths were confirmed by local public officials or funeral directors, according to the reports. We also found another 450 reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and reports of at least 69 people still missing.
Please go read the rest if you can.
Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump during 1988 U.S. Open in 1988 (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
In case you imagined Trump ever had any human decency, here’s a little about what he did to his eldest son Donald Jr.
At The New York Times: Gail Collins discusses some revelations from Ivana Trump’s new book: The Trumps, the Poodle, the Sex Scandal.
The book is supposed to be about good parenting. But the most important thing you learn is that we can never say another mean thing about Donald Jr. again. Really, it sounds like the worst childhood ever. His story begins with Dad resisting the idea of naming the baby after him, in case his first born turned out to be “a loser.”
As a toddler, Don Jr. broke his leg due to a negligent babysitter. Then one day when Ivana was out of town, he and Eric called hysterically to report they had found their nanny unconscious in the basement. (She died.)
Wait, there’s more: During their infamous divorce, Dad sent a bodyguard from his office to get Junior, announcing: “You’re not getting him back. I’m going to bring him up myself.”
Ivana says she responded: “O.K., keep him. I have two other kids to raise.” Silence and 10 minutes later the bodyguard returned her son.
It was, Trump’s ex-wife concluded, “a tactic to upset me.” However for some reason, at around this time Don Jr. stopped speaking to his father and wound up getting shipped to boarding school.
After several more years of being the namesake of a man who was then famous for starring in the most sensational tabloid stories of the era, Don Jr. graduated from college, moved to Colorado and got a job bartending. Ivana said she made her disapproval clear by “cutting him off” until he gave up, returned to New York and joined the Trump Organization.
People Magazine recounts the stories told by a college classmate–I wrote about this when it first came out.
Vanity Fair reported that Scott Melker, a Penn classmate, wrote on Facebook, “Donald Jr. was a drunk in college. Every memory I have of him is of him stumbling around on campus falling over or passing out in public, with his arm in a sling from injuring himself while drinking. He absolutely despised his father, and hated the attention that his last name afforded him.”
Melker also described an alleged incident in which Trump showed up to his son’s dorm room to take him to a Yankees game. Trump Jr. was dressed in a Yankees jersey and when he opened the door to his father, “without saying a word, his father slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates. He simply said, ‘Put on a suit and meet me outside,’ and closed the door.” A spokesperson for the Trump family told Vanity Fair this story is “completely false.”
The man in the White House is pure evil. There is so much horrifying news about him that it’s impossible to pay attention to all of it. Here’s more proof that Trump is not only evil, but he is a moron, just as Rex Tillerson said last summer.
CNBC: Trump just claimed stock market gains actually offset national debt.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that, “in a sense,” gains made by private financial markets reduce the national debt. The claim is incorrect on its face, but it does point to how the president views the economic interplay between the federal government and Wall Street.
“The country — we took it over and owed over $20 trillion,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News, referring to the total national debt, which has hovered near $20 trillion since early 2016.
“As you know, the last eight years, [the federal government] borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country,” Trump said. “So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value.”
“So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it,” Trump said.
For evidence that the two metrics have little to no bearing on one another, look no further than the eight years of the Obama presidency: Between 2009 and 2017, the S&P 500 returned 235 percent while the national debt soared.
And while Trump likes to talk about “reducing debt,” the economic policy proposals he’s unveiled so far, especially his tax reform plan, could easily add another trillion dollars to the debt, according to economists.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal continues as more women come forward every day. Oh, and have you heard that the whole thing is Hillary Clinton’s fault? I wonder was it also her fault when Trump said he liked to “grab them by the pussy?”
Sady Doyle at Elle: Harvey Weinstein and the Crisis of Complicity.
When giants fall, they fall fast. We haven’t even been living with the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment history for a week, yet the news has gotten worse every day. From the New York Times’ initial report — which specified the now-familiar details of hotel meetings, ulterior motives, and “massages” that were less than optional — the accusations have escalated to include masturbating in front of an actress, forced oral sex, and vaginal rape. (Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, says ““Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”) Weinstein’s accusers now include Gwyneth Paltrow, Asia Argento, Patricia Arquette, and Angelina Jolie. Meanwhile, a former New York Times reporter has now alleged that a story she was working on in 2004 related to Weinstein’s behavior was “gutted” after she received phone calls from Russell Crowe and Matt Damon vouching for a former Weinstein colleague. (Damon vigorously denies he knew anything about Weinstein’s behavior). Weinstein himself has been forced out of the Weinstein Company.
As always, with such a disturbing story, people are looking to assign blame. Whose fault is Harvey Weinstein?
Harvey Weinstein, apparently, is Hillary Clinton’s fault.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Actress Rose McGowan was suspended from Twitter after she accused actor Ben Affleck of having “prior knowledge of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct, including toward her”.
From the New York Times:
In a sign that the controversy over the producer Harvey Weinstein could engulf other people in the film industry, the actress Rose McGowan accused Ben Affleck of lying on Tuesday about his knowledge of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults of women.
Ms. McGowan, in a tweet and a subsequent email exchange with The New York Times on Tuesday night, said she had told Mr. Affleck that Mr. Weinstein had behaved inappropriately with her.
Mr. Affleck, who rose to stardom with help from Mr. Weinstein on the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” had said earlier Tuesday that he was “angry” over Mr. Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women, but he gave no indication of whether he knew about it. “I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others,” Mr. Affleck said in a statement.
From Shakesville: This is Rape Culture.
Two things I’ve seen this morning are perfect, terrible illustrations of how the rape culture works.
First, there was the news that Twitter has suspended Rose McGowan for publicly stating that Ben Affleck had lied about what he knew regarding Harvey Weinstein.
Yesterday, Ben Affleck has to apologize for actually sexually assaulting someone, which trended on Twitter all day, but he isn’t suspended. Who is suspended is Rose McGowan, who merely contradicted Affleck’s claim not to have known about Weinstein’s sexual abuse, which she knows because she’s the one who told him.
This, as I shouldn’t have to point out, couldn’t be a clearer case of the way institutions work to protect abusers and their abettors, while silencing survivors.
The second thing Melissa wrote about is this excerpt from a piece by Doree Shafrir at Buzzfeed: What To Do With “Shitty Media Men”?
I’ve never been assaulted or harassed by someone I worked with, and it’s only been lately that I’ve realized how messed up it is that I feel fortunate that’s the case. There have been a few uncomfortable incidents for me personally, like the editor who Gchatted me late at night, seemingly drunk, and propositioned me, or the art director who was way too interested in my intern experience and put his hand on my thigh at a party. But people whispered about the guys who were really bad, the ones who coerced young women into sex, the ones who were physically abusive. The ones to stay away from.
Back to Melissa’s piece:
Shafrir begins by saying she’s “never been assaulted or harassed,” only to then describe two instances of harassment. To be clear, I’m not auditing the way she feels about or identifies those experiences, but simply noting they meet the definition of workplace harassment.
The instinct to mitigate manifests in different ways: Here, Shafrir straightforwardly discounts her own experiences as harassment. My go-to strategy as a younger woman was always to turn incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault into “humorous” anecdotes, which allowed me to talk about what happened without really talking about what happened.
I hope you’ll go to Shakesville to read the rest.
I have so many more links saved up, but I’m out of time and space. Please post your thoughts and recommended links in the comment thread below.
Posted: October 11, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics
I don’t know if JJ has internet access yet, so I thought I’d put up a quick open thread.
Now we know the real reason why Rex Tillerson called Trump a moron. From NBC News this morning: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military.
President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.
Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.
According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.
The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a “moron.”
Revelations of Trump’s comments that day come as the U.S. is locked in a high-stakes standoff with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and is poised to set off a fresh confrontation with Iran by not certifying to Congress that Tehran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
Trump was on Twitter this morning denying the story and threatening NBC.
Remember when Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was an “incredible advocate of the first amendment?” The Hill reports:
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders boiled over with frustration at the press during Thursday’s news briefing, telling CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta that “you have a responsibility to tell the truth.”
Acosta, who has been a persistent critic of the administration, asked Sanders whether President Trump believes the First Amendment protecting free speech and press rights is as important as the Second Amendment, which enshrines protections for gun owners.
“Absolutely,” Sanders said. “The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment. With the First amendment … with those freedoms also come responsibilities. You have a responsibility to tell the truth. To be accurate.”
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that the Senate Intelligence Committee should investigate “Fake News Networks” to see “why so much of our news is just made up.”
No wonder Bob Corker is worried about Trump bumbling into WWIII. Peter Beinart at The Atlantic: What Bob Corker Really Fears.
It doesn’t matter all that much that Bob Corker and Donald Trump are insulting each other via Twitter. Sooner or later, Trump insults almost everyone. What matters is that Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a confidant of the secretary of state, is warning publicly that “we could be heading towards World War III,” presumably with North Korea. The crucial question is why.
It’s possible that in his New York Times interview, Corker got carried away. As former Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told me, “Forces have not been mobilized. The military is still saying diplomacy comes first.”
But it’s also possible Corker genuinely fears that Trump and Kim Jong Un’s blood-curdling rhetoric, combined with ongoing North Korean missile and nuclear tests and American displays of military force, pose a risk of catastrophic miscalculation—war by accident. Reducing that risk requires meaningful communication between Washington and Pyongyang. And Corker—who told the Times that “in several instances” Trump has “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out”—seems worried that Trump is rendering such communication almost impossible, thus leaving both the U.S. and North Korea flying blind.
A little more:
It is Trump’s comments torpedoing talks with the North that appear to have alarmed Corker the most. In the Times interview, he said Trump’s “tweets, especially as it relates to foreign policy issues, I know have been very damaging to us” and have “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway.” He specifically rejected the notion that Trump and Tillerson were engaged in “some good cop, bad cop act” in which Trump’s bellicosity strengthened his secretary of state’s bargaining power. And he warned of miscommunication, saying that Trump doesn’t understand the way “the messages that he sends out” are “being received in other languages around the world.”
In this regard, Corker’s fears resemble those of American reporters who have recently been to North Korea. “To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other,” wrote Evan Osnos last month in The New Yorker. More recently, The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof declared that, “I’ve been covering North Korea on and off since the 1980s, and this five-day trip has left me more alarmed than ever about the risks of a catastrophic confrontation.” He urged “talks without conditions, if only talks about talks” to prevent a “crisis that escalates.”
What Corker, Tillerson, Osnos, and Kristof understand is that while a diplomatic deal with North Korea may be impossible, improving communication with North Korea is essential to reducing the possibility of accidental war.
Recently there have been rumors that Trump is getting frustrated with John Kelly as his chief of staff, and an old friend of Trump’s, Thomas Barrack, has been mentioned as a successor. That may be off the table after this story in The Washington Post: ‘He’s better than this,’ says Thomas Barrack, Trump’s loyal whisperer.
Barrack, in interviews with The Washington Post, said he has been “shocked” and “stunned” by some of the president’s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets. He disagrees with some of Trump’s proposals, including his efforts to ban immigrants from certain Muslim countries and his push for a border wall with Mexico. He wonders why his longtime friend spends so much of his time appealing to the fringes of American politics.
“He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,” Barrack said. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”
“I tell him all the time: I don’t like the rhetoric,” Barrack, who runs a large real estate investment company, said at his Manhattan office….
Barrack said he has often thought about how he has remained a close friend for 30 years with a man whose “reputation is selfish and egotistical. Here’s what I think the answer is: I’ve never needed anything from him . . . I was always subservient to him.” Barrack said that his life intersected with Trump “at soft moments,” such as discussions about their divorces and children. He was at Trump’s side during the funeral of Trump’s father, Fred, and they talked for a half-hour about “the weight of a hard dad, and the baton passing.” As a result, Barrack said, he has seen within Trump “a kind of compassion at a very lonely level.”
Out of that has developed a most unusual bond, which in turn has enabled Barrack to talk to Trump “straight up,” telling him when he disagrees. That has been surprisingly often.
“It is not always fun, and no, he doesn’t come back and say, ‘By the way, your idea was right or brilliant,’ ” Barrack said.
There’s much more about the relationship between the two men at the link.
Why has Trump ignored the terrorist attack on U.S. Troops in Niger? From Salon: Trump’s Benghazi? Ambush of U.S. soldiers in Niger goes unnoticed.
It’s been five years since terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, leaving four Americans dead. Last week, as CIA officers disguised in wigs and mustaches testified in court about the predawn ambush on the diplomatic compound, four other Americans soldiers were killed in neighboring Niger.
Most Americans may not even be aware that approximately 800 U.S. troops are stationed in Niger, a West African nation where jihadist groups have taken root. As part of the never-ending war on terror, the United States has also set up a drone base in Niger’s capital city of Niamey. Contrary to his focused commitment to reverse every policy put in place by his predecessor, President Donald Trump has decided to carry on with the construction of a second drone base in Niger commissioned by Barack Obama….
The New York Times reported that when the soldiers were ambushed, no American helicopters came to their rescue. Although Congress has never authorized the mission in Niger — as is required by the Constitution — the military’s Africa Command asked lawmakers for more help months before the attack, the Times also reported.
It remains unclear which terror group carried out the ambush, but there are reports that a new wing of the Islamic State that calls itself the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) had a hand in the deaths of the Special Forces troops — the first U.S. casualties in Niger.
Identified as Staff Sgt. Bryan Black of Washington state, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson of Ohio, Sgt. La David Johnson of Florida and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Georgia, the four dead Americans, part of the Third Special Forces Group based at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, haven’t received much attention. The White House said Trump was notified about the attack in Niger shortly after it happened last Wednesday night. A week later, he still hasn’t sent one tweet or released any official statement about the death of four Americans. He has written more than 60 tweets about Benghazi, another terror attack in the same region of Africa that resulted in four dead Americans.
I’ve been having a tough time with the Harvey Weinstein story, and I haven’t read the stories in detail. I think these stories are traumatizing for lots of women, because most of us have experienced sexual harassment in our work lives. So many men don’t seem to understand how common these behaviors are–either that or they are willfully blind to what goes on all around them. But night Rachel Maddow reported a shocker. She had Ronan Farrow on her show and he said that NBC had refused to publish his story on Weinstein, so he took it to The New Yorker.
Huffington Post: Sources: NBC Let Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein Scoop Slip Away.
Ronan Farrow’s investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s long history of alleged sexual misconduct was in NBC’s hands as recently as August, according to multiple sources both inside and outside the network. By then, Farrow, an NBC contributor and investigative reporter, had already obtained damning audio of an encounter Weinstein had with a woman, in which Weinstein admits to having groped her, sources told HuffPost.
Instead, Farrow’s story — and the audio, from a 2015 New York Police Department sting — appeared Tuesday on the website of The New Yorker. Sources told HuffPost that NBC had concerns related to the story’s sourcing and cleared Farrow to take it to The New Yorker.
It’s not clear what those concerns were. In The New Yorker story, several women spoke on the record about their encounters with Weinstein. Among them were Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino and filmmaker Asia Argento, the latter of whom said Weinstein raped her.
The story relinquished by NBC, according to a network source, was “nowhere close to what ultimately ran in the NY Times or the New Yorker.” The network declined to comment on the record.
Farrow says the New Yorker story was essentially the same as the one he took to NBC.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Posted: October 9, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bob Corker, Columbus Day, corruption, Dana Rohrabacher, Donald Trump, freedom of speech, Indianapolis Colts, Mike Pence, Puerto Rico, San Francisco 49ers, White House adult day care, World War III
Is this finally the beginning of the end? Trump has been attacking fellow Republicans for months, and this time one of them finally hit back hard. Yesterday Trump lashed out at Tennessee Senator Bob Corker on Twitter.
Of course none of that is true. Corker’s office said that Trump had repeatedly asked him to run for reelection, and offered to endorse him. As for the Secretary of State job, Corker withdrew his name from contention after his interview with Trump.
Corker’s Twitter response:
Then last night Corker gave a stunning interview to the New York Times: Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”
In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”
“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”
Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal….
The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.
Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.
…Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private….
Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.
All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.
“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”
Two Media reactions:
ABC News The Note: What’s dangerously serious about Trump’s feud with Corker
What happened to the calm part? The storms have begun, and just might spill over into real wars before they’re done. Sen. Bob Corker’s public feud with President Trump is no mere war of words, even in the Trumpian insult era. Corker is blowing the lid off of months of private frustrations and worries, harbored by erstwhile allies of the president, that the commander-in-chief is reckless, dishonest and could put the nation “on the path to World War III,” as Corker told The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation,” Corker said. Combine that with the tensions between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly, and this has far bigger consequences than your typical Twitter feud. Just words? Perhaps. But they are words that are spurring confrontation with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and more words will come this week that could lead Iran to restart its own nuclear program. Corker’s reference to the White House as an “adult day care center” suggests that grown-ups are ultimately in charge. This may be the week that tests that proposition, and sorts out high-level presidential strategy from absolute and dangerous recklessness.
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, referring to the NYT interview: Bob Corker just confirmed it: Republicans know Trump is unfit.
Corker declined to answer when asked if he believes Trump is unfit for the presidency. But the only reasonable way to read all these comments is as a declaration that Trump is indeed unfit — and that most Republicans know it. After all, Corker had previously said that Trump’s inner circle is helping to “separate our country from chaos.” Now he has added that Trump needs to be restrained by his inner circle from devolving into conduct that could end up unleashing untold global destruction — and that most Republicans know it.
Corker is getting a lot of press plaudits for his unvarnished appraisal. But as James Fallows writes, there is a good deal that Corker can actually do right nowif he wants to mitigate the threat that he himself says Trump poses. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has a range of powers that could help constrain Trump, including the power to hold public hearings to draw public attention to the ways in which Trump’s temperament threatens untold damage. At a minimum, Corker can be asked whether he intends to do these things, and if not, why not.
But whatever Corker says and does now, his new comments should precipitate a fundamental change in the way the press treats the ongoing GOP enabling of Trump. Corker has forced out into the open the fact that Republicans recognize the sheer abnormality and danger to the country of the situation we’re in, which opens the door for much tougher media questioning of them about their awareness of — and acquiescence to — this state of affairs.
This can start with a simple query: Do Republicans agree with Corker that Trump regularly needs to be constrained by his top advisers from engaging in conduct that threatens severe damage to the country and the world? If so, what are Republicans prepared to do about itrgent mentions.
People are still talking about Mike Pence’s ridiculous display at the Indianapolis Colts game yesterday on a day that was supposed to be dedicated to honoring long-time Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
As I’m sure you’re aware, Trump and Pence cooked up a public relations stunt. Knowing that a number of players for the Colts’ opponent the SF 49ers would kneel during the national anthem, the two agreed that Pence would fly to Indy from Las Vegas and then abruptly walk out on the game after the anthem. The press knew this, because Pence told them to wait outside for him because he’d be leaving soon. Pence then flew back out to California for a fund-raiser for Putin’s favorite Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and other Republicans.
Pence is getting plenty of criticism for using taxpayer money to fly back and forth across the country for a political stunt.
CNN: The price tag for Pence’s trip to Indianapolis.
How much did Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Indianapolis to watch — and then abruptly leave — a football game Sunday between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers cost?
Holier than thou
Here is an estimate of just the air costs (which does not include costs of advance personnel, Secret Service or support on the ground):According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000.\
Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500.Some costs of the flight into Los Angeles will be reimbursed by the Republican National Committee because Pence is attending a political event there.
If he had flown just from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, a trip lasting about 90 minutes, the cost would have been about $45,000.
I don’t usually like Connor Friedersdorf, but he has a good reaction at The Atlantic: Mike Pence’s Flagrant Waste of Taxpayer Money.
On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence made a big show of leaving an NFL game early. He declared himself upset that some players knelt during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem,” he declared, as if attacking those things was the intent of the athletes.
The NFL players knelt in protest because they believe that African Americans are being denied their self-evident rights to life and liberty by a prejudiced criminal-justice system.
“This is not about the military, this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem,” 49ers Safety Eric Reid later told reporters. “My mother served in the armed forces. Three of my uncles served … I have the utmost respect for the military, for the anthem, for the flag … This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country … I will keep doing what I feel is necessary, to use the platform that I have, to make changes. It’s really disheartening when everything you were raised on, everything I was raised on, was to be the best person I can be, to help people who need help, and the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message that we’re trying to put out there. I don’t know what to say about it.”
Pence is not compelled to agree with how players protest. But by fleeing the entire NFL game, he adopted the tactics of a childish, petulant snowflake who reacts to speech he dislikes by misrepresenting it, expressing umbrage, and retreating to a “safe space.”
The major difference?
When an immature teenager makes a show of fleeing from expression that he regards as politically incorrect, he’s typically evading ideas he ought to confront on his own dime. Whereas Pence spent taxpayer money to get to that NFL game. Lots of it.
There is so much more news, and so little time and space to discuss it. Most notably, Puerto Rico is still in agony, and the Trump administration seems determined not to help.
The Daily Beast: Without Power Until Next Year, Puerto Ricans Are Leaving—Maybe Forever
VIEQUES, Puerto Rico—Joe and Maria Bernard cook in the dark over a gas stove outside their small hotel, the Tropical Guest House. “The days feel shorter,” says Maria, “we just have 12 hours of daylight to get everything done.”
When it gets dark, the entire island of Vieques is dark.
This is life on the world-renowned tourist island. And it’s going to be life for at least the next six to eight months, if not longer, before electricity is restored here.
“We’re in denial,” says Maria, “we’re going to give it another two weeks maybe a month, then maybe we’ll have to go back to the States.”
In 2005, the couple traded in the bustle of New York and jobs in the television industry for a more rewarding future in Puerto Rico, which offered triple-tax exemption for resettling here. With their savings, they got a loan to buy their turnkey hotel.
Read more painful stories at the link.
Oh, and today is Columbus Day. From the New York Times: Why People Have Protested Columbus Day Almost From Its Start.
A reverend at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan appeared on the front page of The New York Times after he criticized Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator who sailed to the Americas on behalf of Spain in 1492.
The reverend, R. S. MacArthur, said Columbus was “cruel, and guilty of many crimes.”
That complaint may sound familiar to those who condemn the explorer for opening a door to European colonialism, which brought disease, destruction and catastrophic wars to the people who already lived here.
But Mr. MacArthur said those words more than a century ago, in 1893. His comments suggested he was more affronted by Spain, which he called “the poorest and most ignorant country in Europe,” than concerned about Native Americans.
He was one of many to have questioned the legacy of the explorer, whose arrival in the Americas has been celebrated in the United States for hundreds of years.
Read the rest at the NYT.
What’s left of Hurricane Nate has arrived in New England this morning giving us lots of rain and 40mph winds. I’m glad because it has been hot here for the past few days.
What’s happening where you are? What stories are you following today?
Posted: October 7, 2017 Filed under: just because
The illustrations in this post are from an article at Literary Hub: 40 of the Creepiest Book Covers of All Time–just because it’s October and Halloween is approaching and the president is a monster.
Now to the news, beginning with Facebook helping Donald Trump.
Brad Pascale, the Trump Campaign’s digital director will be on 60 Minutes on Sunday. CBS teased the interview yesterday, and it seems that Pascale had help from Facebook employees in targeting specific voters.
“Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won,” Parscale tells Stahl. Parscale says he used the majority of his digital ad budget on Facebook ads and explained how efficient they could be, particularly in reaching the rural vote. “So now Facebook lets you get to…15 people in the Florida Panhandle that I would never buy a TV commercial for,” says Parscale. And people anywhere could be targeted with the messages they cared about. “Infrastructure…so I started making ads that showed the bridge crumbling…that’s micro targeting…I can find the 1,500 people in one town that care about infrastructure. Now, that might be a voter that normally votes Democrat,” he says. Parscale says the campaign would average 50-60,000 different ad versions every day, some days peaking at 100,000 separate iterations – changing design, colors, backgrounds and words – all in an effort to refine ads and engage users.
Parscale received help utilizing Facebook’s technology from Facebook employees provided by the company who showed up for work to his office multiple days a week. He says they had to be partisan and he questioned them to make sure. “I wanted people who supported Donald Trump.” Parscale calls these Facebook employees “embeds” who could teach him every aspect of the technology. “I want to know everything you would tell Hillary’s campaign plus some,” he says he told them.
(Emphasis added.) That sounds highly problematic and I think Mark Zukerberg has some explaining to do.
This article by Max Read at New York Magazine from October 1 is well worth reading: Does Even Mark Zuckerberg Know What Facebook Is?
Mark Zuckerberg had just returned from paternity leave, and he wanted to talk about Facebook, democracy, and elections and to define what he felt his creation owed the world in exchange for its hegemony. A few weeks earlier, in early September, the company’s chief security officer had admitted that Facebook had sold $100,000 worth of ads on its platform to Russian-government-linked trolls who intended to influence the American political process. Now, in a statement broadcast live on Facebook on September 21 and subsequently posted to his profile page, Zuckerberg pledged to increase the resources of Facebook’s security and election-integrity teams and to work “proactively to strengthen the democratic process.”
To effect this, he outlined specific steps to “make political advertising more transparent.” Facebook will soon require that all political ads disclose “which page” paid for them (“I’m Epic Fail Memes, and I approve this message”) and ensure that every ad a given advertiser runs is accessible to anyone, essentially ending the practice of “dark advertising” — promoted posts that are only ever seen by the specific groups at which they’re targeted. Zuckerberg, in his statement, compared this development favorably to old media, like radio and television, which already require political ads to reveal their funders: “We’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency,” he writes.
This pledge was, in some ways, the reverse of another announcement the company made earlier the same day, unveiling a new set of tools businesses can use to target Facebook members who have visited their stores: Now the experience of briefly visiting Zappos.com and finding yourself haunted for weeks by shoe ads could have an offline equivalent produced by a visit to your local shoe store (I hope you like shoe ads). Where Facebook’s new “offline outcomes” tools promise to entrap more of the analog world in Facebook’s broad surveillance net, Zuckerberg’s promise of transparency assured anxious readers that the company would submit itself to the established structures of offline politics.
It was an admirable commitment. But reading through it, I kept getting stuck on one line: “We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German elections this weekend,” Zuckerberg writes. It’s a comforting sentence, a statement that shows Zuckerberg and Facebook are eager to restore trust in their system. But … it’s not the kind of language we expect from media organizations, even the largest ones. It’s the language of governments, or political parties, or NGOs. A private company, working unilaterally to ensure election integrity in a country it’s not even based in? The only two I could think of that might feel obligated to make the same assurances are Diebold, the widely hated former manufacturer of electronic-voting systems, and Academi, the private military contractor whose founder keeps begging for a chance to run Afghanistan. This is not good company.
Rex Tillerson still has his job, but how much longer will he last?
Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair’s The Hive: Tillerson’s Job on Death Watch at Moron-Gate Explodes.
Rex Tillerson’s already-shaky position within Donald Trump’s Cabinet is suddenly looking perilous. Simmering tensions between the president and his top diplomat spilled out into the open on Wednesday amid reports that the secretary of state had threatened to resign and called his boss a “moron” over the summer. Tillerson’s subsequent non-denial denial reportedly left Trump fuming and Chief of Staff John Kelly scrambling to contain the fallout, spurring a fresh wave of speculation that the long-rumored “Rexit” may be imminent.
Trump was livid when the “moron” story broke, according to NBC News, which first reported that Tillerson had vented about the president earlier this summer. With Trump on the warpath, Kelly reportedly canceled his plans to travel to Las Vegas with the president to clean up the mess, summoning Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis to outline a response to the deluge of negative press coverage. By 11 a.m. on Thursday, Tillerson was behind a lectern in damage-control mode, declaring that he “had never considered leaving” his post and praising the president.
Still, Tillerson stopped short of outright denying that he had called the president a “moron,” ushering in a fresh news cycle. When Trump insisted that NBC News had made up the story, and that nobody sought “verification” from him, the network hit back. “Sir, we didn’t need to verify that he called you a moron, he did it behind your back,” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle said on air, delivering another round of bad press and further enraging the president. On Friday morning, Axios cited insiders as saying the relationship is “broken beyond repair,” with Trump furious that Tillerson didn’t shut down the story.
Kelly is reportedly trying to stanch the bleeding, figuring that another major staff shake-up will only further destabilize the administration. But the relationship between the White House and Foggy Bottom is so toxic, sources told Jonathan Swan, that there may be no coming back.
Click on the link to read the rest.
The New Yorker also has an interesting story that provides quite a bit of background on Tillerson. Once you read it, it becomes clear why Tillerson would be shocked by Trump’s dishonesty and corruption.
Rex Tillerson at the Breaking Point. Will Donald Trump let the Secretary of State do his job?
Tillerson, who is sixty-five, was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, and grew up in a lower-middle-class family that roamed across the two states. He was named for two Hollywood actors famous for playing cowboys: Rex Allen and John Wayne (his middle name is Wayne). “I grew up pretty modest,” he told me. “My dad came back from World War Two and drove a truck selling bread at grocery stores. My mom had three kids—you know, the nineteen-fifties.”
His formative experience was in the Boy Scouts. When he was young, his father took a job helping to set up local chapters, and Tillerson eventually became an Eagle Scout, one of an élite class of “servant-leaders” distinguished by obsessive, nerdish attainment. When he was fourteen, and living with his family in Stillwater, Oklahoma, he got a job washing dishes in the kitchen of the student union at Oklahoma State University, for seventy-five cents an hour. On weekends, he picked cotton: “You just show up Saturday morning at 6 a.m., climb into the back of a panel truck with a bunch of other guys, and you drive out to one of the farms and drag a big cotton sack behind you, picking cotton all day long, for a dollar an hour.”
When Tillerson was sixteen, he started sweeping floors at the university’s engineering school, and began thinking about engineering as a career. He got there by an unusual route. Tillerson, who had played drums in his high-school marching band, won a band scholarship to the University of Texas, where he studied civil engineering. Upon graduation, in 1975, he got a job at Exxon as a production engineer.
Exxon has historically been dominated by engineers, who pride themselves on their precise, quantifiable judgments. “Rex is what you would expect to get when you cross a Boy Scout with an engineer—straight and meticulous,” Alex Cranberg, an oil executive who went to college with Tillerson, said. Others described a more pragmatic sensibility, noting that Tillerson’s favorite book is “Atlas Shrugged,” the Ayn Rand novel extolling the virtues of capitalism and individualism. “The thing about Rex is, he’s got this big Texas aw-shucks thing going on,” a Russia expert who knows Tillerson told me. “You think he’s not the smartest guy in the room. He’s not the dominant male. But, after a while, he owns all your assets.”
Tillerson may be a conservative, but he’s the anti-Trump and very different from some other members of Trump’s cabinet–for example, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The New York Times: Seven Flights for $800,000: Mnuchin’s Travel on Military Jets.
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has flown on military aircraft seven times since March at a cost of more than $800,000, including a $15,000 round-trip flight to New York to meet with President Trump at Trump Tower, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General.
The inquiry into Mr. Mnuchin’s air travel, prompted by an Instagram posting by his wife, found he broke no laws in his use of military aircraft but lamented the loose justification provided for such costly flights.
“What is of concern is a disconnect between the standard of proof called for” by the Office of Management and Budget “and the actual amount of proof provided by Treasury and accepted by the White House in justifying these trip requests,” the inspector general wrote.
Mr. Mnuchin has made nine requests for military aircraft since assuming his position earlier this year and has taken seven flights. A request to use a military plane for his European honeymoon with his wife, Louise Linton, in August was withdrawn. A ninth flight is scheduled for later this month, when Mr. Mnuchin is expected to travel to the Middle East.
The investigation follows a series of controversies over the lavish travel of several members of President Trump’s cabinet, including Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, who resigned last week after racking up at least $400,000 in travel bills for chartered flights.
Apparently Trump has come to depend on Chuck Shumer’s advice, to the consternation of Republicans.
Axios: Scoop: Trump phones Schumer for help on health care, worrying GOP.
President Trump telephoned Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday in an effort to revive health-care legislation, Republican sources said.
Trump was seeking “a path forward on health care,” a GOP source said….
Although it’s not known what Trump proposed or how Schumer responded, word traveled fast among Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill…
I’m going to wrap this up with a non-political piece, an excerpt from what looks like a fascinating new book.
The Atlantic: A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas, by Adam Rutherford.
Europeans arriving in the New World met people all the way from the frozen north to the frozen south. All had rich and mature cultures and established languages. The Skraeling were probably a people we now call Thule, who were the ancestors of the Inuit in Greenland and Canada and the Iñupiat in Alaska. The Taíno were a people spread across multiple chiefdoms around the Caribbean and Florida. Based on cultural and language similarities, we think that they had probably separated from earlier populations from South American lands, now Guyana and Trinidad. The Spanish brought no women with them in 1492, and raped the Taíno women, resulting in the first generation of “mestizo”—mixed ancestry people.
Immediately upon arrival, European alleles began to flow, admixed into the indigenous population, and that process has continued ever since: European DNA is found today throughout the Americas, no matter how remote or isolated a tribe might appear to be. But before Columbus, these continents were already populated. The indigenous people hadn’t always been there, nor had they originated there, as some of their traditions state, but they had occupied these American lands for at least 20,000 years.
It’s only because of the presence of Europeans from the 15th century onward that we even have terms such as Indians or Native Americans. How these people came to be is a subject that is complex and fraught, but it begins in the north. Alaska is separated from Russian land by the Bering Strait. There are islands that punctuate those icy waters, and on a clear day U.S. citizens of Little Diomede can see Russians on Big Diomede, just a little over two miles and one International Date Line away. Between December and June, the water between them freezes solid.
Go to the Atlantic to read the rest. The book is titled: A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes.
What else is happening? What stories are you following? Are you in the path of Hurricane Nate?