Lazy Saturday Reads: 100 Exhausting Days

Francis Luis Mora (1874-1940) Morning News

Good Afternoon!!

Today is the 100th day of the Trump regime. Of course everyone (except Trump) knows that the 100 days measure of presidential achievement goes back to Franklin Roosevelt.

NPR’s Tamara Keith: The First 100 Days: ‘A Standard That Not Even Roosevelt Achieved.’

The idea of measuring an American president by the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office goes back to 1933 and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dash to staunch a banking crisis and pull America out of the Great Depression.

In a July 24, 1933, fireside chat, he assessed the early months of his administration.

“I think that we all wanted the opportunity of a little quiet thought to examine and assimilate in a mental picture the crowding events of the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal,” Roosevelt said.

He had signed a record 15 major pieces of legislation in those first 100 days. But it’s not as simple as the legend would make it seem.

“Presidents since Roosevelt have been held up to a standard that not even Roosevelt achieved,” said historian Patrick Maney, a professor at Boston College who has written books about Presidents Clinton and FDR….

“Only two or, at most, three of those measures actually originated in the White House,” Maney said of the 15 major pieces of legislation signed by Roosevelt. “Almost all the rest had originated in Congress and many — including federal relief for the unemployed, the Tennessee Valley Authority — had been up for debate for years.”

Roosevelt, initially at least, opposed the creation of the FDIC. Now it is one of the enduring legacies of his first 100 days.

Desire Dehau Reading a Newspaper in the Garden, 1890, Henri Toulouse Lautrec

But there’s no doubt that Roosevelt achieved far more than the current occupant of the White House. Business Insider assesses the record here: Trump’s First 100 Days: Here’s how they compare with Obama’s, Bush’s, and Clinton’s. You can check that out at the link. Trump has signed more bills and executive orders, but they are less substantive than in past presidencies. He obviously has no significant legislative achievements.

Here’s an assessment from Rosa Brooks at Foreign Policy: Donald Trump Is America’s Experiment in Having No Government.

If you think like a citizen, the first 100 days of the Trump administration will reduce you to weeping and wailing.

But if you think like a scientist, you will see things differently. You’ll see that the United States of America has developed an excellent fourth grade science fair project.

This project is called “A Four-Year Experiment in Not Having a Government.”

Until recently, the United States has had a “government” with “policies.” That is: We have had an adult president, we have had other adults occupying senior government positions, and those adults have sought to develop reasonably coherent and consistent approaches to governing based on the assumption that the usual rules of physics, mathematics, and so on must be taken into account when developing policies, and the corollary assumption that “facts” and “evidence” can be said to exist.

The United States was reasonably successful when it had a government. It was by no means perfect but laws were passed, taxes were collected, revenues were used to fund public services, treaties and international negotiations were concluded, and so on.

But do we need an American government?

Perhaps not! Perhaps the United States and the world can chug along just fine without one. Thanks to the Republican Party, we’re in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime experiment to find out.

The study began by placing a child in the White House. Child labor laws passed by previous U.S. governments (and the Constitution) preclude sending a fourth grader to the White House, but we have done the next best thing by electing Donald Trump, a 70-year-old who makes decisions based on TV shows, doesn’t read, and announces new policy positions via late night tweets IN ALL CAPS.

So true. Please go read the rest.

Aristarkh Lentulov Reading the Newspaper, 1930s

Also happening today: the people’s march on climate change.

CNN: Protest to take on Trump’s climate policies — and the heat — in DC march.

Thousands of people who support action on climate change are expected to brave the sweltering heat Saturday and march through the nation’s capital as part of the People’s Climate March.

“We resist. We build. We rise,” a slogan for the event reads.

With temperatures expected to hit 90 degrees, the march is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. near the Capitol. Protesters then plan to move to the White House and end up at the Washington Monument, according to the proposed route map.

Hundreds of sister marches are also planned across the US and around the world.

They’re being held to coincide with President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office and take on his environmental policies.

“We’ve already seen just how effective people power is against this administration: Trumpcare? Withdrawn. Muslim ban? Blocked,” the group’s website says.

“Now Trump’s entire fossil fuel agenda is next, and we believe that the path forward is based in the voice of the people — which is expressed first and foremost through mass protests and mass marches.”

I hope it goes well. My brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews are in DC for the event.

Tonight is the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner–sans Trump. Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show” will give a speech, presumably a humorous one. There also will be a competing event, Samantha Bee’s Not The White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Thomas Sergeant Perry Reading A Newspaper, Lilla Cabot Perry

The Washington Post: Where to watch the 2017 White House correspondents’ dinner online and on TV.

The red carpet starts around 5 p.m.; The Washington Post will have a red carpet feed on Facebook Live. Typically, everyone heads into the dinner around 7 p.m. — the awards and speeches kick off at 9:30 p.m., and everything wraps at approximately 11 p.m.

C-SPAN’s coverage will start at 9:30 p.m. You can also watch the whole thing on C-SPAN’s live stream or on YouTube. The Washington Post will also have a live stream.

CNN, Fox News and MSNBC will air portions of the dinner throughout the night, and also provide coverage of President Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania, scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

Oh boy, I can hardly wait to hear Trump brag about election night for the umpteenth time, like he did yesterday in his speech to the NRA.

The Washington Post: In Trump’s absence, ‘nerd prom’ challenged by Bee’s bash.

Washington’s once-glitzy “nerd prom” is about to get overshadowed.

Late-night TV star Samantha Bee was pulling in celebrities for the first “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” on Saturday — a tongue-in-cheek play on the real bash, where journalists, the president and, in recent years, lots of bold-face names have mingled.

But President Donald Trump was skipping the White House Correspondents’ Association gala, instead marking his 100th day in office with a rally in Pennsylvania. No president had declined an invitation since Ronald Reagan in 1981, and he was recovering from an assassination attempt. Still, Reagan phoned in some friendly, humorous remarks.

WHCA dinner organizers wanted to put the focus on the First Amendment and the role of the press in democracy. The scheduled headliners were Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, set to present journalism awards. Woodward told The Washington Post the two planned to speak about “the First Amendment and the importance of aggressive but fair reporting.”

Look for the celebrities at Bee’s event: TV stars such as Alysia Reiner of “Orange Is The New Black,” Retta of “Parks and Recreation” and Matt Walsh of “Veep” were expected at her after-party.

By Serge Hollerbach

From Vulture, which is cosponsoring Samantha Bee’s event: Samantha Bee on Why Her Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Won’t Just Be an Anti-Trump Roast.

As host of the weekly comedy show/savage commentary on current events, Bee is usually fired-up and ready to sound a barbaric WTF about everything from Russian hacking to why Democrats are good at protesting but absolutely terrible at voting. But during an interview with Vulture Thursday morning, from her dressing room backstage at Constitution Hall, the actual Bee was pretty soft-spoken and relaxed. The relaxed part is impressive considering that, on Saturday, she’ll host the Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a made-for-television event that, thanks to the diluted nature of this year’s actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, being held that same evening, has become the most talked-about event of what is usually the buzziest weekend in D.C.

That buzz is humming at a much lower frequency this year. Considerably fewer celebrities are rolling into town for the festivities, several media outlets have cancelled the parties they normally host, and, for the first time in more than three decades, the president will not appear at the dinner. (President Trump announced in February that he would not attend the annual formal, glad-handy event; instead, he will hold a rally that evening in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.)

Before Trump bailed, Bee says she and her Full Frontal team sensed there might be a void and started to figure out how they might fill it. On Saturday, they will do so by hosting the TV- and Twitter-ready alternate dinner at D.C.’s Constitution Hall, where it will be recorded in the afternoon and air that night at ten on TBS. An uncensored version will stream on Twitter starting at 11 p.m., and proceeds generated will be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

I’m going to end there. I decided to keep things light today, because I’m just plain exhausted from the past 100 days. I’ll have a few more newsy items in the comment thread.

What are you reading and/or doing today?


Friday Reads: another day fighting the overwhelming need to scream …

Good Afternoon!

The only success story from the first 100 days of Trump is the state of the Trump Family Syndicate’s financial position. But, wasn’t that the goal all along? Matthew Yglesias–writing for VOX–follows the first family of grifting.  Yes, even Shakedown Barbie is in on the action.

…Trump isn’t failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand over fist. It’s a spectacle the likes of which we’ve never seen in the United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday, for now it shows no real sign of failure.

The Trumps have unprecedented conflicts of interest

During the campaign and for much of the transition, Trump liked to at least vaguely allude to the idea that as president, he would separate himself from his business empire and do something to provide the public with transparency on his taxes. Since winning, he’s made clear that’s not going to happen. The day-to-day management of the companies is in the hands of his two oldest sons, while his oldest daughter and her husband (both of whom run substantial businesses in their own right) serve as high-ranking officials in the White House.

But don’t just take my word for it. Multiple reports have found that no meaningful separation exists:

Beyond that, of course, there’s the fundamental reality that everyone knows Trump owns properties like the Trump National Golf Club or Trump Tower because they have his name slapped on them.

Trump is even profiting from his golfing weekends

To an extent, this allows Trump to simply funnel money directly into his own pockets. Like many previous presidents, he golfs. And like all presidents who golf, when he hits the green, he is accompanied by Secret Service agents. The agents use golf carts to get around the courses. And to get their hands on the golf carts, they need to rent them from the golf courses at which the president plays. All of this is fundamentally normal — except for the fact that Trump golfs at courses he owns. So when the Secret Service spends $35,000 on Mar-a-Lago golf cart rentals, it’s not just a normal security expense — Trump is personally profiting from his own protection.

The Secret Service has, similarly, paid $64,000 for “elevator services” in Trump Tower. This is a fairly normal kind of expense for the agency, paying a building money to defray the inconvenience of taking elevators offline so they can be inspected for security purposes. But, again, there is nothing normal about the president personally profiting from the security procedure.

When Trump’s sons fly around the world doing business deals, they too are protected by Secret Service agents whose bills the federal government covers — even if they are staying at Trump properties.

There is something grating about this, especially from a president who is making a big show of donating his salary to charity. Trump is directly pocketing what could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in direct payments from the Treasury, while simultaneously claiming to be serving for free. What’s more troubling, however, is indirect financial entanglements into which we have little real visibility.

It’s now easy to funnel money into the first family’s pockets

Ivanka Trump, for example, was granted five trademarks by the Chinese government on the very same day she had dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Also on that day, Ivanka’s father decided to break his campaign pledge to officially designate China as a currency manipulator. That decision, by all accounts, reflected the growing clout inside the White House of National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and his key ally Jared Kushner, who happens to be Ivanka’s husband and in a position to directly gain or lose from China’s decisions regarding his wife’s trademark applications.

The most bizarre thing I’ve read about recently is the sudden need to treat Ivanka Trump like a serious person instead of Paris Hilton on steroids funded by taxpayers.  She’s as much of a dim bulb as her father.

At some point during her Berlin sojourn, Trump spoke to Mike Allen, the political journalist. Allen ran an item on Axios with the headline “Ivanka Trump’s new fund for female entrepreneurs,” illustrated with a photograph of Trump grazing her fingers on one of the slabs that make up Berlin’s Holocaust memorial. “Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe,” Allen wrote. He added that contributors would include companies and governments—Canada, Germany, “and a few Middle Eastern countries” had already made “quiet commitments”—and that “President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter’s idea, and she has consulted with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.” Double huge. It sounded a lot like the Clinton Foundation, or like any number of corporate or N.G.O. initiatives, except that Ivanka Trump’s office is in the White House. This raised a flurry of questions: What about conflicts? Would this be a for-profit operation or a shakedown one? In a few hours, it became clear that it was neither of those—because “Ivanka Trump’s new fund” was a complete misnomer. This would be a World Bank project, as spokesmen for the White House and the bank emphasized. Trump would not be involved in raising money, managing it, or deciding how it would be spent. But the World Bank wanted everyone to know that it was very, very grateful to Ivanka for promoting the fund, or “facility,” as it would be called. It was kind of her idea.

And, who knows, maybe Ivanka Trump deserves some credit. But it’s worth noting, as Bloomberg pointed out, that the World Bank has set up similar “facilities” in the past. The idea that the World Bank or the I.M.F. needs Ivanka Trump to tell it that a lack of access to financial and capital markets is an issue for women in the developing world is a bit like her father saying that NATO needed him to tell it that terrorism is a problem. (Which he has, indeed, suggested.) But maybe the make-believe about Ivanka coming up with world-changing ideas is harmless, if it means that her father will look kindly on the World Bank—although a report, this week, in the Washington Post about the conditions in a Chinese factory run by the contractor who makes her brand’s clothes (extremely low wages and long hours) does not quite fit into the picture.

This is embarrassing on so many levels. I’m embarrassed as a woman, as an economist, and as an American. Shakedown Barbie is on the world stage, the taxpayer teat, and the front pages of newspapers because of NEPOTISM. She has nothing to offer.  Her business is a sham. She’s a lousy designer.  So, now she basically is being paid to whisper sweet nothings from foreign countries into Daddy’s ear.  That basically sounds like the entire grifting scheme of every Trump “advisor”. Step one:  Flaunt Access.  Step two:  get on the Federal payroll.  Step three: set up a secret offshore bank account. Step four: Visit all you friends all over the world and shake it like a Polaroid. Step five: Live safely knowing the Republicans in Congress will do nothing but try to rescind the ACA one more time.

I’ve no doubt she thinks she is qualified. Politics is not really all that different from advertising, right? You promote handbags; you promote nice causes. Women entrepreneurs, friendship between nations, edgy earrings — whatever. These are all part of a lifestyle that everybody wants, and it’s a lifestyle that Ivanka Trump has been selling, for profit, for most of her life.

But when Trump appeared on a podium in Berlin this week, purportedly to discuss women in the workforce, she did not seem qualified. On the contrary, she provided a shocking reminder of the damage that the Trump lifestyle brand will do (and has already done) not just to America’s “image” but to America’s reputation as a serious country, even to America’s reputation as a democracy.

Why was she there at all? The other panelists — the Canadian foreign minister, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — raised no eyebrows, because their official functions explain themselves. But Trump was there as “first daughter,” a notion which the moderator of the panel — another impressive woman, the editor of a business magazine — at one point asked her to explain. “The German audience is not that familiar with the concept,” she said. “. . . Who are you representing, your father as president of the United States, the American people or your business?”

Trump has enough media training to know what to deny. “Certainly not the latter,” she said quickly (only to contradict herself, a few moments later, by saying, as she is no doubt accustomed, “Speaking as an entrepreneur . . .”). But the question never got a real answer. As everyone in the room knew perfectly well, Trump was not on the panel because she is an entrepreneur, or because she represents the American people or even because she speaks for her father, which is far from clear. She was on the panel because Merkel, ever the pragmatist, realizes President Trump is not interested in history, ideas, policy or any of the other things that have long tied the United States to Germany. To maintain its deep political and economic relationship with this American administration, Germany therefore needs to be solicitous of Trump’s daughter.

Trump voters appear to be willing targets of scams and snake oil salesmen.  They probably think Ivanka is a rocket scientist instead of the heir apparent to a series of money laundering and ponzi schemes.

President Trump’s voters are sticking with him — even if they are starting to think he’s not keeping some important promises.

That’s the takeaway from a new poll conducted for Priorities USA Action, a Democratic advocacy group tracking the attitudes of U.S. voters about his first 100 days in office. The analysis, provided to USA TODAY, offers some insights into why Democrats in Congress may see little political risk in continuing to oppose the president’s agenda.

While 67% of Trump voters say he’s met their hopes and expectations, for the first time, a plurality (43%) say there are some important promises not being kept. That’s a 10-point swing from just two weeks ago. Just over a third say he’s kept all of his important promises so far. It’s a potential warning sign considering Trump’s 41% overall approval rating — in line with other national surveys — is already historically low.

In a speech on the hallowed ground of Gettysburg, Pa., just 18 days before his surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, Trump gave one of the most important speeches of his campaign in outlining a list of 28 campaign promises. By big margins, Trump voters identified six key promises he made as part of a 100-day action plan that he has yet to deliver.

These include replacing Obamacare with a plan that covers everyone at a lower cost; a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to modernize America’s roads, bridges and airports; banning foreign lobbyists from raising money for U.S. elections; naming China a currency manipulator and introducing legislation to provide a new child care tax credit to help working parents.

I’ve never seen such mass delusion in my lifetime. Paul Krugman says we’re living in the Trump Zone It’s akin to the Twilight Zone which we’ve been saying for what seems like decades.  He likens working for the Trump Adminstration to the family and town afraid of Billy Mummy who would send every one he hated to cartoon land.  That’s a disturbing image but undoubtedly an apt one. Trump is the monster child.

And now you know what it must be like working in the Trump administration. Actually, it feels a bit like that just living in Trump’s America.

What set me off on this chain of association? The answer may surprise you; it was the tax “plan” the administration released on Wednesday.

The reason I use scare quotes here is that the single-page document the White House circulated this week bore no resemblance to what people normally mean when they talk about a tax plan. True, a few tax rates were mentioned — but nothing was said about the income thresholds at which these rates apply.

Meanwhile, the document said something about eliminating tax breaks, but didn’t say which. For example, would the tax exemption for 401(k) retirement accounts be preserved? The answer, according to the White House, was yes, or maybe no, or then again yes, depending on whom you asked and when you asked.

So if you were looking for a document that you could use to estimate, even roughly, how much a given individual would end up paying, sorry.

It’s clear the White House is proposing huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, with the breaks especially big for people who can bypass regular personal taxes by channeling their income into tax-privileged businesses — people, for example, named Donald Trump. So Trump plans to blow up the deficit bigly, largely to his own personal benefit; but that’s about all we know.

So why would the White House release such an embarrassing document? Why would the Treasury Department go along with this clown show?

Unfortunately, we know the answer. Every report from inside the White House conveys the impression that Trump is like a temperamental child, bored by details and easily frustrated when things don’t go his way; being an effective staffer seems to involve finding ways to make him feel good and take his mind off news that he feels makes him look bad.

Trump is no longer amused by his job. Most of us are definitely not amused by the way he’s doing it other than those in Trumplandia that still think he’s going to chase of rogue Mexican banditos, stop unqualified women and black people from taking the jobs of noble white men, and send Muslim terrorists back to the Syrian desert.  Did I miss anything?

More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.

Trump, who said he was accustomed to not having privacy in his “old life,” expressed surprise at how little he had now. And he made clear he was still getting used to having 24-hour Secret Service protection and its accompanying constraints.

“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he said.

Yes, you read that right.  It’s the election map all over again.

Meanwhile, first quarter economic performance was extremely “slugglish” and mostly because of lack of buying from households and businesses.  You can watch the stock market behave oddly as much as you want and say, wow, they feel great about life.  That’s probably investors thinking they’ll never pay any taxes again.  What these statistics shows is uncertainty and the desire to hang on to your money. My own personal index of how bad it will get is based on how many people I know start asking me is it time to change their IRA compositions. Believe me, I’ve been asked … over and over … and over now.

The U.S. economy grew at its weakest pace in three years in the first quarter as consumer spending barely increased and businesses invested less on inventories, in a potential setback to President Donald Trump’s promise to boost growth.

Gross domestic product increased at a 0.7 percent annual rate also as the government cut back on defense spending, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was the weakest performance since the first quarter of 2014.

The economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 1.2 percent pace last quarter. The survey was, however, conducted before Thursday’s advance data on the March goods trade deficit and inventories, which saw many economists lowering their first-quarter growth estimates.

I’m ending with good news.  Fox news is under a Federal Probe.  It’s also falling apart at the seams.

Financial crimes experts from the United States Postal Inspection Service are now involved, according to four sources connected to the investigation.

Mail fraud and wire fraud cases are part of the USPIS purview.

Investigators from both the USPIS and the Justice Department have been conducting interviews in recent weeks — including with some former Fox staffers — to obtain more information about the network’s managers and business practices, the sources said.

The existence of the federal investigation was revealed in February. At the time Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox said they had not been subpoenaed, but a spokeswoman said, “we have been in communication with the U.S. Attorney’s office for months — we have and will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with any interested authorities.”

Contacted about this story, the Justice Department and the USPIS had no comment. 21st Century Fox also declined to comment.

In February the investigation was reported to be focusing on settlements made with women who alleged sexual harassment by former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, and questions about whether Fox had a duty to inform shareholders about the settlement payments.

The investigators have been asking “how the shareholder money was spent; who knew; and who should have known,” one of the sources said.

But, CNNMoney has learned, the settlement payments are not the only thing they are examining.

Investigators have been probing possible misconduct by Fox News personnel and asking questions about the overall environment at the network.

Investigators have also been asking questions about mysterious confidants of Ailes — people who were known inside Fox as “friends of Roger.”

The entire network may be work reworked but it will still, undoubtedly, spew right wing shit.  Would a woman really take charge of the cesspool of misogyny?

The Murdochs may be preparing for a leadership change at Fox News. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, CEO and co-chairman of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox, have quietly put out feelers for a new head of Fox News. And the preference, according to two sources familiar with the Murdochs’ thinking, is that the new leader be female.

The move comes as pressure is building on Bill Shine, a 20-year Fox News veteran whom Rupert Murdoch elevated to co-president, with Jack Abernethy, of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network in the wake of the ouster of founding CEO Roger Ailes last summer. Shine runs the programming arm of the media empire, while Abernethy, also a longtime Fox News executive, runs the business side of the company, including ad sales, finance and distribution. On April 24, a few days after the network dismissed Bill O’Reilly, Rupert Murdoch took Shine and Abernethy to lunch at the Central Park South eatery Marea; the outing was interpreted as a public show of support and chronicled on multiple media sties.

In December, Shine and Abernethy announced a new head of human resources. Abernethy is credited with recruiting Kevin Lord, a veteran of NBC and General Electric who most recently worked at the digital media company Tegna. On April 10, they announced the hiring of a new CFO, Amy Listerman, formerly of NBCUniversal and Scripps Networks Interactive; she is due to begin work on May 1. Former CEO Mark Kranz, who was forced out last August, has reportedly been granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation with a federal investigation into the structuring of payments to women who complained of sexual harassment.

The Murdochs have been feeling increased pressure to make good on their public statements to foster “a workplace based on the values of respect and trust.” Putting a woman in the top spot at Fox News would send a distinct message given the issues that have been roiling the network. The feelers are external; though it’s possible that someone could get promoted from within.

Okay, that’s about all I can take reading for today. Just reading about what’s going on makes me want to scream. 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Paul Gustave Fischer (1860-1934): “In the Train Compartment”

Good Afternoon!!

I’m struggling to get going this morning. Having a madman as president is exhausting. Some days I just can’t deal with the news. As usual when this happens, breaking news has overtaken me. There’s a new investigation of General Michael Flynn.

CNN: Pentagon warned Flynn in 2014 against taking foreign payments; IG launches investigation.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 against accepting foreign payments as he entered retirement, according to new documents obtained by the House oversight committee.

The inspector general of the Department of Defense also opened an investigation of Flynn earlier this month, according to an April 11 letter released by the oversight committee Thursday.

“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, in a statement. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.”

The news comes two days after Cummings and House oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz said Flynn may have broken the law by not disclosing payments he received from RT-TV, a station widely considered to be a propaganda arm of the Russian government.

At Politico, a little more on the warning Flynn received in 2014.

The intelligence agency informed President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser in a letter that, as a retired military officer, he was still subject to the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments.

Flynn was notified in the letter that he was prohibited from the “receipt of consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or salary … from a foreign government unless congressional consent is first obtained.”

In a letter dated earlier this month, the Pentagon’s IG informed the House Oversight Committee it was investigating the matter.

Carmichael, Stewart: Dundee Women Reading the War News

Also breaking mid-morning at The Hill: Dems issue shutdown threat over ObamaCare repeal vote.

House Democrats will oppose a short-term spending bill if Republican leaders attempt to expedite an ObamaCare repeal bill this week, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned Thursday.

Hoyer, the Democratic whip, spoke with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Thursday morning to warn him of the Democrats’ position.

The threat is significant because GOP leaders will likely need Democratic votes to pass a short-term spending bill in the face of opposition from conservatives historically opposed to government funding bills.

“If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well,” Hoyer said in an email.

“Republicans continue to struggle to find the votes to pass a bill that will kick 24 million Americans off their health coverage, allow discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, and impose an age tax on older Americans. That’s why they are trying to jam it through the House before their Members can hear from the American people this weekend about their opposition to this horrible legislation.”

This might be a relief to the remaining rational Republicans who don’t want to deal with constituents who will lose their health care if they vote for the bill–even though it would likely die in the Senate.

From last night, the House Intelligence Investigation of Trump and Russia is reportedly back on track. CNN: House Russia investigators agree on schedule, get new access to documents after ‘reset.’

“We’re working in a bipartisan manner, we’re going to be thorough, professional and meticulous,” House Russia investigation leader Mike Conaway told CNN on Wednesday. Conaway added that he is in discussions to get access to the top-level intelligence typically reserved for the “Gang of Eight” in Congress, but he declined to elaborate.

Conaway and Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat on the investigation, met and agreed on a likely witness schedule, culled from a witness list that investigators say includes 3-4 dozen names. Conaway told House intelligence committee members Tuesday that they should plan on spending more time in Washington as the investigation gears up….

Rep. Denny Heck, a Washington Democrat on the investigation said that Democrats agreed on rescheduled the private hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, and Republicans agreed to reschedule the public hearing with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
“We also are now having made available to us documents that were not heretofore available to us before,” Heck said. “So every indication is that we are now leaning into this. And I think (Conaway) ought to be given the space to do the right thing”

I sure hope it’s true.

Unknown reader, Andre Derain

Another Fox News host has gone on a sudden “vacation” after making sexual suggestive remarks about Ivanka Trump. Mediaite reports: Coincidence? Jesse Watters Announces He’s Going On Vacation Following Ivanka Flap.

In the wake of heavy criticism he’s received over remarks he made about Ivanka Trump and a microphone, Fox News’ Jesse Watters announced at the end of tonight’s broadcast of The Five that he’s taking a short vacation.

Watters has come under fire for making what was perceived by many as a penis joke about Ivanka. After watching a clip of her speaking at a women’s conference, the Fox News host said that he really likes “how she was speaking into that microphone” while flashing his signature smirk. It also appeared that he was making some hand gestures.

He later told Mediaite that he was describing the First Daughter’s voice, which he says is “low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ.”

Gabriel Sherman suggests there may be “a management shakeup at Fox News.”

As Fox News is roiled by lawsuits and the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, the network’s co-president Bill Shine has retained the backing of the Murdochs. On Monday, Rupert Murdoch took network co-presidents Shine and Jack Abernethy to lunch at Marea, a seafood restaurant near Fox’s midtown headquarters — a highly public show of support.

But privately, Shine is expressing concern about his future at the network. According to three sources briefed on the conversations, Shine has told friends he recently asked Rupert’s sons James and Lachlan — the CEO and co-chairman, respectively, of network parent company 21st Century Fox — to release a statement in support of him, but they refused to do so. The sources said Shine made the request because of withering press coverage of Fox News in recent weeks. A source added that Shine has privately complained that Rupert “isn’t fighting for him” in the press, which is why he wanted explicit support from the sons.

Through a Fox News spokesperson, Shine denied personally going to James and Lachlan for a statement. A Murdoch spokesperson said Shine did not directly ask for a statement.

By refusing to back Shine at this tumultuous moment for the network, the Murdochs may finally be signaling that they’re prepared to make the sweeping management changes they’ve so far resisted after forcing out CEO Roger Ailes last summer. Shine’s continued leadership has angered many Fox News employees, especially women, who view him as a product of the misogynistic Ailes culture. Shine joined the network in 1996, served as Sean Hannity’s producer, and rose through the ranks to become Ailes’s deputy. In that role, sources say he had the power to stop multiple instances of sexual harassment, including that of former Fox booker Laurie Luhn, but did not do so. He’s currently a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed this week by former Fox host Andrea Tantaros.

More at the New York Magazine link above.

At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring

Last night Rachel Maddow gave a helpful explication of yesterday’s complicated article on Jared Kushner’s sleazy business deals: Bribe Cases, a Jared Kushner Partner and Potential Conflicts. Here’s the introduction:

It was the summer of 2012, and Jared Kushner was headed downtown.

His family’s real estate firm, the Kushner Companies, would spend about $190 million over the next few months on dozens of apartment buildings in tony Lower Manhattan neighborhoods including the East Village, the West Village and SoHo.

For much of the roughly $50 million in down payments, Mr. Kushner turned to an undisclosed overseas partner. Public records and shell companies shield the investor’s identity. But, it turns out, the money came from a member of Israel’s Steinmetz family, which built a fortune as one of the world’s leading diamond traders.

A Kushner Companies spokeswoman and several Steinmetz representatives say Raz Steinmetz, 53, was behind the deals. His uncle, and the family’s most prominent figure, is the billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is under scrutiny by law enforcement authorities in four countries. In the United States, federal prosecutors are investigating whether representatives of his firm bribed government officials in Guinea to secure a multibillion dollar mining concession. In Israel, Mr. Steinmetz was detained in December and questioned in a bribery and money laundering investigation. In Switzerland and Guinea, prosecutors have conducted similar inquiries.

The Steinmetz partnership with Mr. Kushner underscores the mystery behind his family’s multibillion-dollar business and its potential for conflicts with his role as perhaps the second-most powerful man in the White House, behind only his father-in-law, President Trump.

Here’s Rachel’s report:

 

 

I have more links to share. I’ll post them in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

This is Trump’s last week before he hits the 100 day mark and things are getting weird. I can’t tell if he’s planning to start a war or if this is all just bluster to distract from the fact that he has accomplished so little.

Trump held a lunch meeting with representatives of the UN Security yesterday, and he didn’t invite anyone from the State Department. You can read his remarks at the White House press office website. During the meeting, he “joked” that he could easily replace Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador if he wanted to. On Wednesday, Trump has asked the entire US Senate to meet at the White House for a secret briefing on North Korea. On Friday in New York Secretary of State Tillerson will chair a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea. And of course you’ve heard that Trump will hold one of his weird campaign rallies instead of going to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night. Meanwhile, a US submarine is lurking in South Korea waiting for the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its “armada” of warships to arrive; and North Korea is ramping up their military exercises.

Some pertinent reads:

Foreign Policy via The Chicago Tribune: Trump breaks bread with UN dignitaries he sought to starve.

From day one, the TrumpWhite House screamed its desire to emasculate the United Nations, pushing for draconian budget cuts that would kneecap the world body and ease Washington’s retreat from multilateralism.

Yet President Donald Trump’s U.N. envoy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, has turned Turtle Bay into one of the administration’s favored soapboxes, providing an unexpected boost to the organization the White House set out to marginalize.

In her first months on the job, Haley has used the U.N. as a perch to deliver some of the administration’s most visceral attacks against Russia, Syria and North Korea. It was Haley who delivered the first hint that the U.S. would use military force to punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for using chemical weapons.

There is no reason to think Trump is ready to fully embrace an institution he derided before his inauguration as an ineffectual talk shop. The president blithely bypassed the U.N. Security Council when it launched Tomahawk missiles at Syria, seeing little need to secure the U.N.’s blessing and shrugging off claims that missile strikes constituted a violation of international law.

Haley is attracting lots of press attention but hasn’t really accomplished much.

Haley has made the U.N. “the center of attention” but she has not made it the “center of action”- at least not on the diplomatic front, said Richard Atwood, the New York director of the International Crisis Group.

One senior European diplomat said that Haley’s office – handicapped by a shortage of senior and mid-level policy makers in the State Department and in New York – often lacks the bandwidth to delve deeply into a range of issues before the U.N.

“I worry that U.N. watchers are dazzled by Haley, but miss the fact that Trump still seems intent on undercutting” key pillars of the multilateral system, said Richard Gowan, a U.N. scholar at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Articles like the one above might be the reason Trump “joked” about firing Haley.

The Washington Post reports:

If there’s one member of President Trump’s team who has been a wild card early in his presidency, it’s Nikki Haley. The United Nations ambassador has been a surprisingly strong presence, often making news about U.S. foreign policy in ways that seem somewhat, well, un-Trump.

On Monday, Trump joked about firing her — quickly clarifying that she’s doing a “fantastic job.”

“She’s doing a good job. Now does everybody like Nikki?” Trump asked at a meeting of U.N. Security Council ambassadors and their spouses. “Otherwise she could easily be replaced. Right?”

Trump added: “No, we won’t do that. I promise. She’s doing a fantastic job.”

Is Trump jealous of the attention Haley has been getting?

Trump is reputed to be wary of aides getting too much publicity and overshadowing him.

Russia and Syria are perhaps the best examples of Haley’s message getting out in front of the White House’s. After the chemical weapons attack in Syria, Haley went to the United Nations on April 5 and held up photos of the children who were targeted. The next day, Trump himself said such images had affected him and changed his viewpoint, and he launched military strikes against the Syrian government the day after that.

Haley has also been more forward when talking about regime change in Syria, even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has emphasized that defeating the Islamic State is Goal No. 1.

And indeed, as Tillerson has sought to avoid the media, Haley seems to be filling the void and making news — sometimes with a more hawkish bent than the rest of the Trump administration. Vanity Fair has mused about whether Haley could find herself at odds with the State Department.

Newsweek: Donald Trump Calls for New United Nations Sanctions on North Korea.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to impose new sanctions on North Korea as concerns mount that it may test a sixth nuclear bomb as early as Tuesday.

“The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable,” Trump told a meeting with the 15 U.N. Security Council ambassadors, including China and Russia, at the White House. “The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

“This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem and it’s a problem that we have to finally solve,” he said. “People put blindfolds on for decades and now it’s time to solve the problem.”

U.S. officials have told Reuters tougher sanctions could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea’s airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks and other foreign doing busiThenness with Pyongyang.

The Guardian: North Korea won’t bow to Donald Trump’s threats. It needs assurances, by Lawrence Douglas. Douglas describes what happened when Muammar Gaddafi tried to “turn Libya into a nuclear stronghold.”

Thanks largely to the diplomacy of the Clinton and Bush administrations, Gaddafi voluntarily abandoned his nuclear weapons. The diplomatic effort required both forcefulness and great delicacy. While imposing crippling economic sanctions on Libya, the United States also pursued back-channel negotiations to convince Gaddafi that the sanctions would be lifted in exchange for his giving up on his nuclear ambitions.

The quid pro quo and the promise of future cooperation could not work without forging bonds of trust between two distrustful and antagonistic parties. And yet the diplomacy succeeded. Gaddafi dropped the weapons program and the sanctions were promptly lifted.

Then came the Arab Spring, NATO got involved in Libya, and before long Gaddafi was dead. Kim Jong-un doesn’t want the same thing to happen to him, Lawrence says.

All this means that the chance of negotiating a peaceful end to North Korea’s weapons program is vanishingly small. Alas, Donald Trump seems intent on destroying whatever chance might remain. As Bill Clinton understood, the only possible path to peaceful disarmament is by building trust where there is only suspicion and hostility. This requires patience and planning. Trump appears incapable of either.

Trump evidently believes that a show of toughness and a display of brinkmanship will convince Kim Jong Il to negotiate. The thinking betrays a disturbing ignorance. The threat of force can only work to deter a nation from developing nuclear weapons. Once that threshold has been crossed, the threat is worse than empty. It can serve only to strengthen the North Koreans in their belief in the indispensability of their warheads.

Worse still, Trump seems temperamentally incapable of strategic thinking. When he openly confesses that he only learned of the complexity of the Chinese-North Korean relationship after being briefly tutored by Xi Jinping, China’s president, he does more than reveal an embarrassing lack of preparation. He sends a powerful message to America’s adversaries.

It is much the same message that is sent when a commander-in-chief misplaces a carrier group, cannot correctly name the country he has just struck with missiles, and launches his most vociferous verbal volleys against allies such as Australia and now Canada while expressing squeaky admiration of strongmen like Erdogan.

All In The Family

In other news, Trump family members are getting a lot of press. You may have already read the delicious profile of Melania that Vanity Fair published a few days ago: Inside the Trump Marriage: Melania’s Burden. Here’s a taste:

After two high-maintenance wives, Donald Trump seems deliberately to have chosen as his third a woman who would be both bombshell and cipher, a physical testament to his manhood and amazingness. She would be decorative and polite, not needy and annoying. “I’m not a nagging wife,” Melania has declared a couple of times—her manifesto. According to some of Trump’s friends and associates, she has stuck to it.

“She enjoys her role of stepping back and letting him take center stage,” says decorator friend William Eubanks, who spent Thanksgiving with the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago, along with romance-novel-cover model Fabio and boxing promoter Don King. According to Lisa Bytner, who did P.R. for Trump Model Management when it was launched in 1999, and became a friend of the couple’s, Trump found in Melania the perfect mate. “She doesn’t make waves,” says Bytner. “She speaks only when spoken to. She’s just very sweet.” Except, in public, when called upon to defend her husband’s demeaning attitudes toward women, or to be a mouthpiece for some of his offensive claims, such as birtherism.

And yet, woefully pliant as Melania may be, even she may have a breaking point. Over the course of reporting this story, for which her close friends declined to talk, an uneasy picture has emerged of their marital union. Melania’s unhappiness and the couple’s apparent lack of closeness are becoming more noticeable. Despite assurances from her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, that Melania is embracing the role of First Lady, most signs point to a distinct lack of interest. And while Grisham says Mrs. Trump plans to move to the White House once their son, Barron, “finishes out the school year,” there have been indications that she is in no particular rush.

Read the rest at the link–it’s fascinating.

Graydon Carter on Trump Family Values.

You’re not alone if you think you are living through an Allen Drury novel—or, depending upon your age, Dr. Strangelove or Wag the Dog. Sean Spicer, the poor fellow, is living through his own episode of South Park. In the B.T. (Before Trump) era, most people I know went about their daily lives reasonably confident in the knowledge that the papers or news sites they read that morning were all they needed to stay informed for the rest of the day. But now, A.T., all that has changed. Those same people check their phones with the regularity of lovelorn teenagers—wincing as they look to see what fresh horrors the great man in the White House has unleashed. Trump may thrive on conflict and disorder, but most of us do not.

Read the whole thing at Vanity Fair.

At Huffington Post: The Guide To Becoming Jared Kushner.

When Charles Kushner was heading to federal prison in 2005 for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering, his son Jared got some advice from Howard Rubenstein ― the dean of New York damage control ― on how to rehabilitate the Kushner name, Charles would later tell a family friend.

Step one: Buy a New York newspaper. Don’t be too particular, Rubenstein told Jared, according to the family friend’s recounting of their conversation with Charles. Any newspaper will do. Step two: Buy a big Manhattan building. Any building will do. Step three: Marry the daughter of a rich New York family. Anyone will do.

The younger Kushner went on to do just that. He bought the New York Observer in 2006, made a debt-laden $1.8 billion purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. in 2007 and married Ivanka Trump in 2009. (A Kushner Companies spokesman denied the family friend’s account. Rubenstein said: “That’s preposterous. I never said that or anything like that.”)

 LOL!

Finally, the “First Daughter” went to Germany and heard boos and hisses when she tried to claim that her dad cares about women’s issues. New York Magazine:

Ivanka Trump came to Berlin prepared to discuss how micro-finance can #empower female entrepreneurs in the Third World to lean into innovation, and lean out of poverty. (Or so a snarky blogger might uncharitably summarize her recent op-ed in the Financial Times.) But moments after taking her place beside German chancellor Angela Merkel and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde on a panel at the W20 summit, Trump found herself discussing her own motives for being there.

“You’re the First Daughter of the United States, and you’re also an assistant to the president,” the panel’s moderator, Wirtschaftswoche editor-in-chief Miriam Meckel, began. “The German audience is not that familiar with the concept of a First Daughter. I’d like to ask you, what is your role, and who are you representing, your father as president of the United States, the American people, or your business?”….

Trump could not say precisely what her new job as a senior White House official entailed, but defined her goals as “empowering women in the workplace” and achieving “incremental positive change.”

The largely female crowd was willing to politely entertain Trump’s attempt to rebrand herself as a feminist crusader. But when Ivanka tried to rebrand her father as the same, the audience’s patience gave out.

“I’m very proud of my father’s advocacy,” she said of the president’s official (but, so far, entirely passive) support for paid family leave, before calling her father “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.”

Boos and hisses ensued.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday despite the insanity that surrounds us.


Monday Reads: One Hundred Days of Shame

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m a little slow getting started today as I deal with my ongoing shell shock.  I admit to waking up each morning and being quite surprised that nothing has been completely blown up yet. This includes our home planet, Earth.  Then, I head to twitter to see if something is likely to be blown up today.  That gets a little wearing after three months. Kremlin Caligula gave an interview to AP and it should convince every one that his frontal lobe is seriously damaged. I’m not going to be stopping that ritual for some time it seems.

This series of lined threads punctuated by excerpts from the interview transcript offered by Joy Reid says it succinctly.  The man operates at nursery school levels of thinking at best.  I’m still going for a combination of dementia with a huge dollop of personality disorders. I’m also waiting for the mother ship to take me to my home planet where these things don’t happen.  So, excuse me, I’m a little spaced today.

“Watch Trump’s mind wander from subject to subject with no apparent charted course, but always stumbling back to how cable news treats him…”

“He’s like a babbling brook of incoherence and obsession…”

“It’s not even funny. Trump clearly doesn’t know anything about the policies he’s trying to explain. He just recalls who likes him/is nice …”

There is so much crap in that interview that it’s a work fit for flies. Who is going to believe that the Russian Hacks of the election is the fault of Democrats? Bueller?

President Trump blamed Democratic officials for having weak cyber defenses that allowed hackers to compromise their email systems ahead of the 2016 election in a recent interview.

Trump faulted the Democratic National Committee for lacking  “the proper defensive devices” to safeguard against cyber intrusions in an interview with the Associated Press, according to a transcript published over the weekend.

Trump also indicated that his praise for WikiLeaks on the campaign trail last year did not actually mean he supports the organization, which was involved in publishing hacked emails from the DNC and former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

The U.S. intelligence community said in January that the Russian government had ordered an influence campaign during the election to undermine democracy and damage Clinton. The GRU, Russia’s main intelligence agency, targeted the DNC and high-level Democratic officials and passed hacked material to WikiLeaks, the intelligence community assessed.

On Friday, Trump took aim at the DNC when asked about WikiLeaks’ involvement in the influence campaign, arguing that the DNC did not have the same defenses as the Republican National Committee.

“You know, they tried to hack the Republican, the RNC, but we had good defenses. They didn’t have defenses, which is pretty bad management,” Trump said, referring to the DNC. “But we had good defenses, they tried to hack both of them. They weren’t able to get through to Republicans.”

There is so much wrong with the facts in this that it’s hard to even know where to start but, hey, grab them by the pussy!  It’s always the victim’s fault!

Meanwhile, this week’s trauma is the likely shut down of government of what’s functional in the government. Oh, and 100 days will be celebrated with another flurry of Executive Orders.  This is what happens when you really, truly, can’t figure out how to get the system to work for you.  Or, perhaps a crisis … 

To see how Trump changes the normal calculation, consider what the appropriations process would look like in a more generic case, where Republicans enjoyed identical congressional majorities but under a president who behaved rationally.

In that case, we would expect the president and GOP leaders to work backwards from a desire to avoid a shutdown, toward an optimal outcome in which appropriations did not lapse and Congress funded as many of their priorities as possible. The hard fact that funding the government almost always requires a measure of bipartisanship places a fairly firm limit on what’s possible in that context. The minority party has a disproportionate amount of power over annual appropriations, but you go to the spending fight with the army you have, not the army you might want, or wish to have at a later time. If Democrats were horribly recalcitrant, they could reject every single Republican bid, leaving Republicans a choice between simply extending existing funds or shutting down the government—in which case a rational party would harrumph and agree to extend the funds.

The fact that Democrats are not horribly recalcitrant creates room for limited dealmaking. Republicans want to spend more money on defense and immigration enforcement, Democrats want to fund other priorities, and to the extent that these different points of emphasis don’t cross any ideological redlines, the parties can accommodate one another. But Democrats won’t persuade Republicans to agree to adequately fund the IRS, just as Republicans won’t convince Democrats to help them gut the EPA. The construction of a wall along the southern border, meanwhile, is a non-starter for Democrats and many Republicans. A rational GOP president would accept this reality and move on. Trump has made its inclusion in the funding bill a top priority.

It’s fund the wall or we’re all gonna die!!  So, what is it with Trump and ratings and cable? Does every one obsessively tune in?

During a small working lunch at the White House last month, the question of job security in President Trump’s tumultuous White House came up, and one of the attendees wondered whether press secretary Sean Spicer might be the first to go.

The president’s response was swift and unequivocal. “I’m not firing Sean Spicer,” he said, according to someone familiar with the encounter. “That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.”

Trump even likened Spicer’s daily news briefings to a daytime soap opera, noting proudly that his press secretary attracted nearly as many viewers.

For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his blustery-yet-knowing on-air persona into a winning political brand — television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed. And the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet.

Those Trump tweet-storms, which contain some of his most controversial utterances, are usually prompted by something he has seen on television just moments before. The president, advisers said, also uses details gleaned from cable news as a starting point for policy discussions or a request for more information, and appears on TV himself when he wants to appeal directly to the public.

Some White House officials — who early on would appear on TV to emphasize points to their boss, who was likely to be watching just steps away in his residence — have started tuning into Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” because they know the president habitually clicks it on after waking near dawn.

Here’s a fact check list of what Candidate Caligula said he would do and what President (sic) Kremlin Caligula has done via NPR.

Back in October, before his election, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump laid out a 100-Day Action Plan. He called it his “Contract With The American Voter.” Among other things, it called for the full repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, suspension of immigration from certain “terror-prone regions” and the lifting of “roadblocks” to let “infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline move forward.”

The 100-day mark is not an official milestone, but in roughly the last century it has been a traditional point to take stock of a new administration. Throughout President Trump’s first 100 days, there have been both flurries of action and some setbacks. In many cases, the status of some of these efforts is not clear-cut — often with substantial talk but less action. In other areas, progress is clearer.

Charlie Pierce has nailed it on our 100 days of shame: ” The 100 Days: Who Can Stop an Unfit President*? Troubling signs in Trump’s Associated Press interview.”

The word for the 95th day of the presidency* of Donald Trump is “unintelligible.” As nearly as I can recall, the word first came to political prominence on April 29, 1974, when President Richard M. Nixon, in one of his last desperate attempts to throw the hounds of Watergate off his tracks, released to the nation edited transcripts of carefully selected White House tape recordings. (The president* will celebrate his 100th day in office with a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, the 43rd anniversary of the release of these transcripts. History rhymes.) More famously, the transcripts injected the phrase, “Expletive deleted” into the political jargon.

 But “unintelligible” had its day, too. Given what they already knew about Nixon, many people around the country suspected that what was “unintelligible” probably had something to do with a crime or two. Over the weekend, “unintelligible” came back into our politics in a new and terrifying way.

The presidential elections in France took an interesting turn as the usual suspect party got eliminated and the moderate and the nationalist head to a run off. Statistically, it looks like the moderate will win. However, we do know that story here and this horrible sweep of white nationalism sweeping the west is like a plague with no end.  It looks like there will be no more socialist France for some time. But, what will they opt for?  The middle path or the path to destruction?

Emmanuel Macron will be almost certainly be the next French president. And the relief is immense. The much anticipated domino effect following the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election has not, so far, materialised. And the European project has won – at least for now. At Macron’s headquarters in Paris, a euphoric crowd was waving French flags, as well as many European ones. “C’est magnifique!”, his supporters kept saying. Being in the second round is a huge achievement, being the frontrunner even more so.

This result is a relief but it also represents a shock – not because of Marine Le Pen’s presence in the second round, which the polls prepared us for. But because the next president will come from neither of the two traditional main parties, the conservatives and socialists, the first time since the beginning of the fifth Republic, founded in 1958 by Charles de Gaulle.

François Fillon, who surprisingly won the conservative primaries last November, and was initially considered the frontrunner, has suffered badly as a result of allegations of corruption. He refused to stand down and even managed to make up some of his early losses, but not sufficiently to overcome Macron.

Benoît Hamon scored nearly the worst result of any socialist presidential candidate in the history of the fifth Republic. With just 6% of the votes, he comes just ahead of Gaston Defferre who scored just 5.01% in 1969, against Charles de Gaulle. Hamon’s lack of charisma failed to convince the socialist electorate, already badly disappointed by the Hollande presidency.

So, we’re hoping France does not go the way we went which basically is straight to crazy land.

I’m still loving the pictures and stories of the scientists who showed up to protest the Republican attack on Scientific findings and fundings. I adores seeing the number of women and girls fighting for science.  Doctor Daughter ran the Tutoring Center for the Science Department at LSU for a number of years. She was the only undergraduate who had done so at the time.  I always filled her room up with microscopes, rocks, shells, crystals and Sci Fi Books.  It’s easy to get kids interested in science!

From across the fields of science they came, marching to show that women in science have a lot to say.

Biologists and ecologists, medical researchers and EMTs, doctors and nurses, biomedical engineers and neuroscientists came with stories of why they fell in love with science.

They ranged from little girls to seasoned science veterans, all carrying a message of what they’d like to tell other women.

“It’s important for women scientists to be here because there are still too few of us,” said neuroscientist Sharri Zamore.

She drove from Blacksburg, Virginia, to support the cause, but also to “encourage more diversity” in the sciences, she told CNN.

There were many who stood up and marched for the first time in their lives.

Follow the link to read Sharri’s and other women scientists’ stories below.  It goes to a series of CNN interviews.

So, I’m going to go get lost in space for awhile in my particular form of science and grade some papers.   However,  I will not be drinking Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappucino.  It sounds horrible and it’s terrifically unhealthy.  What’s the big deal with it anyway?

Although Starbucks’ new Unicorn Frappuccino has garnered national attention for its whimsical name and and enchanting, pink-and-blue color scheme, at least one local group is cautioning people about its oh-so-sweet content.

On Friday, the Stratford Health Department succinctly called out the drink’s high sugar content on its Facebook page. “While the Unicorn Frappuccino may be pretty to look at, it’s loaded with 59 grams of sugar! That is over two times the amount of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association!”

That statement likely shocked few fans, as the Unicorn Frappuccino contains four kinds of syrup, according to its ingredients label — Frappuccino syrup (Water, Sugar, Salt, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid); Mango Syrup (Sugar, Water, Mango Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavor, Passion Fruit Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Turmeric, Gum Arabic); Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid) and Classic Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid). The calorie count is also high, at 410 per 16 fluid-ounce serving.

Blech!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Today is Earth Day, and science marches are going on around the world. The Washington Post reports: Why people are marching for science: ‘There is no Planet B.’

Earth Day has arrived, and so has the March for Science — a global event on six continents (and cheered on by scientists on a seventh, Antarctica). Thousands of people have gathered on grounds of the Washington Monument for a four-hour rally that will culminate in a march down Constitution Avenue to the foot of Capitol Hill.

“We are at a critical juncture. Science is under attack,” said Cara Santa Maria, a science communicator who is one of several emcees of the rally. “The very idea of evidence and logic and reason is being threatened by individuals and interests with the power to do real harm.”

The article describes the DC march at length; you can read about at the link. A bit more on the rationale:

Some scientists in recent weeks have said they worried the march would politicize the broader scientific enterprise and signal an alignment with left-leaning ideologies. The march’s website offered an answer to that concern: “In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense? There is no Planet B.”

The Washington march may be the biggest gathering — organizers have a permit for up to 75,000 people — but there are similar events in more than 600 cities on six continents. Seven researchers in Antarctica went on Twitter to express their support for the march. Thousands of people gathered in Sydney, Australia, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Science advocates went on social media to post bulletins from marches in Austria, England, Malawi, among other places.

Dr. John Gartner is still trying to get the word out about Trump’s mental illness. The Independent: Donald Trump has ‘dangerous mental illness’, say psychiatry experts at Yale conference.

Donald Trump has a “dangerous mental illness” and is not fit to lead the US, a group of psychiatrists has warned during a conference at Yale University.

Mental health experts claimed the President was “paranoid and delusional”, and said it was their “ethical responsibility” to warn the American public about the “dangers” Mr Trump’s psychological state poses to the country.

Speaking at the conference at Yale’s School of Medicine on Thursday, one of the mental health professionals, Dr John Gartner, a practising psychotherapist who advised psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said: “We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness.”

Dr Gartner, who is also a founding member of Duty to Warn, an organisation of several dozen mental health professionals who think Mr Trump is mentally unfit to be president, said the President’s statement about having the largest crowd at an inauguration was just one of many that served as warnings of a larger problem.

Dr. John Gartner

“Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President. If Donald Trump really believes he had the largest crowd size in history, that’s delusional,” he added.

Chairing the event, Dr Bandy Lee, assistant clinical professor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, said: “As some prominent psychiatrists have noted, [Trump’s mental health] is the elephant in the room. I think the public is really starting to catch on and widely talk about this now.”

Yale issued a statement saying that Gartner was “not on the actual panel” but admitted that the organizer of the conference agrees with him that mental health professionals need to speak out about Trump’s dangerousness. Here’s a quote from another expert:

James Gilligan, a psychiatrist and professor at New York University, told the conference he had worked some of the “most dangerous people in society”, including murderers and rapists — but that he was convinced by the “dangerousness” of Mr Trump.

“I’ve worked with some of the most dangerous people our society produces, directing mental health programmes in prisons,” he said.

“I’ve worked with murderers and rapists. I can recognise dangerousness from a mile away. You don’t have to be an expert on dangerousness or spend fifty years studying it like I have in order to know how dangerous this man is.”

We’ve seen numerous signs that Trump is paranoid and delusional. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it at this point. He’s demonstrating it right now with his claims that he’ll get Congress to pass health care and tax bills soon even though Congress will be busy preventing a government shutdown. Apparently the tax bill is news to Trump’s staff.

The New York Times: Trump Vows to Unveil Tax-Cut Plan Next Week, Surprising Staff.

President Trump promised on Friday that he would unveil a “massive” tax cut for Americans next week, vowing a “big announcement on Wednesday,” but he revealed no details about what is certain to be an enormously complicated effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code.

Mr. Trump offered his tax tease in an interview and again during remarks at the Treasury Department on Friday afternoon as he raced to stack up legislative accomplishments before his 100th day in office at the end of next week.

His announcement surprised Capitol Hill and left Mr. Trump’s own Treasury officials speechless as he arrived at the Treasury offices to sign directives to roll back Obama-era tax rules and financial regulations. Earlier in the day, when reporters asked Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, how far away a tax overhaul proposal was, he said he could not give an answer. “Tax reform is way too complicated,” he said.

Mr. Trump told The Associated Press in the interview that his tax reductions would be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.” But he faces an enormous fight among clashing vested interests as Congress tries to rewrite the tax code.

Trump also has repeatedly claimed that he has accomplished more in his first 90 days in office than any president in history. Here’s Digby’s evaluation of that claim: President Trump’s glorious first 100 days: More frightening or more pathetic?

Back on the campaign trail in 2016, Donald Trump portrayed the nation as a desperate dystopian hellscape and promised his adoring followers that he would make America great again. But he he went beyond that. Decrying NAFTA and inner-city crime, vowing to bring back jobs and go after undocumented immigrants, undo regulations and fight ISIS, Trump promised to fix it all “very, very quickly.” Sometimes he’d add that it would “happen so fast your head will spin.”

Indeed, Trump’s pitch to his voters was that none of these were difficult issues and the problem had been our “stupid” leaders who just didn’t know what they were doing. He famously said in his nomination acceptance speech at the Republication convention, “I alone can fix it,” making it clear that he planned to do it all at once.

Just before the election, Trump released his plan for the first 100 days and it was extremely ambitious. He promised to reverse every Obama executive order he could think of and issue as many of his own as possible on the very first day. His ill-conceived travel ban was the most controversial and a few of his promises, like his pledge to “propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress,” have been quietly shelved. Others, in light of subsequent events, now seem mordantly amusing, such as “a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.”

Read the rest at Salon.

I highly recommend this piece by Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker: The Persistence of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Gopnik skewers both Trump’s cognitive problems as well as the longing of journalists for a “presidential” Trump. He systematically dismantles the arguments that we have to keep an open mind and support Trump when he does something that makes sense.

The problem is that it refuses to see, or to entirely register, the actual nature of Trump and his actions. Our problem is not Trump Derangement Syndrome; our problem is Deranged Trump Self-Delusion. This is the habit of willfully substituting, as a motive for Trump’s latest action, a conventional political or geostrategic ambition, rather than recognizing the action as the daily spasm of narcissistic gratification and episodic vanity that it truly is.

The bombing of Syria, for instance, was not a sudden lurch either in the direction of liberal interventionism, à la Bill Clinton in the lands that were once Yugoslavia, nor was it a sudden reassertion of a neo-con version of American power, à la both Bushes in Iraq. It was, as best as anyone can understand, simply a reaction to an image, turned into a self-obsessed lashing out that involved the lives and deaths of many people. It was a detached gesture, unconnected to anything resembling a sequence of other actions, much less an ideology. Nothing followed from it, and no “doctrine” or even a single speech justified it. There is no credible evidence that Trump’s humanity was outraged by the act of poisoning children, only that Trump’s vanity was wounded by the seeming insult to America and, by extension, to him. It may be perfectly true that the failure of the Obama Administration to act sooner in Syria will go down forever, in the historical ledgers, as a reproach against it; or it may be that the wisdom of the Obama Administration in not getting engaged in another futile Middle Eastern folly will go down in its favor. But it is self-deluding to think that Trump’s action was meant to be in any way remedial. It was purely ritual, and the ritual acted out was the interminable Trumpist ritual of lashing out at those who fail to submit, the ritual act of someone whose inner accounting is conducted exclusively in terms of wounds given, worship received, and winnings displayed. (Perhaps his elder daughter, Ivanka, did play some small part in the action, as her brother Eric suggested in an interview, but this is hardly a comfort; the politics of a mad king with a court are no more reassuring than those of a mad king alone.)

Please go read the rest. Gopnik really has Trump’s number.

The New York Times has an excellent article on James Comey: Comey Tried to Shield the F.B.I. From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election. It’s a long read, so I’ll just give you a brief excerpt:

An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 30 current and former law enforcement, congressional and other government officials, found that while partisanship was not a factor in Mr. Comey’s approach to the two investigations, he handled them in starkly different ways. In the case of Mrs. Clinton, he rewrote the script, partly based on the F.B.I.’s expectation that she would win and fearing the bureau would be accused of helping her. In the case of Mr. Trump, he conducted the investigation by the book, with the F.B.I.’s traditional secrecy. Many of the officials discussed the investigations on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Mr. Comey made those decisions with the supreme self-confidence of a former prosecutor who, in a distinguished career, has cultivated a reputation for what supporters see as fierce independence, and detractors view as media-savvy arrogance.

The Times found that this go-it-alone strategy was shaped by his distrust of senior officials at the Justice Department, who he and other F.B.I. officials felt had provided Mrs. Clinton with political cover. The distrust extended to his boss, Loretta E. Lynch, the attorney general, who Mr. Comey believed had subtly helped downplay the Clinton investigation.

Read the rest at the NYT.

I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: America Held Hostage Day 90

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Today’s cartoons come from The.Daily.Don!  Artist Jesse Duquette is the Daily Don: “Documenting this administration each day from the Inauguration to the Election.” They’re wonderful!  Go look at his Instagram page! There’s one for every day we’ve been held hostage by Kremlin Caligula.

This compelling Op Ed written by retired Army officer Sheri Swokowski is another indication that Trump staffs every position with the wrong person. “Trump’s anti-LGBT Army secretary nominee thinks veterans like me have ‘a disease’”

Like Mark Green — President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army — I served my country in uniform. I was proud to be an infantry officer and retired honorably after 34 years. But as a transgender member of the military, I hid my authentic self for decades to continue serving the country I love. Unlike Green, I was forced to serve in silence the entire time, but I won’t be silent now.

I respect his Iraq War service as an Army flight surgeon, but the disrespect — the bigotry — he’s shown over and over toward the LGBT community, including LGBT service members, doesn’t reflect the spirit or direction of the military I know. Rather, his selection reflects poorly on the president and our armed forces. He’s the wrong choice to be Army secretary.

As a Tennessee state senator, Green has targeted the LGBT community. He introduced legislation that would enable businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. At a town hall meeting with his constituents, he expressed support for the idea of his state’s government defying the Supreme Court’s decision upholding marriage equality in all 50 states. He argued being transgender “is a disease.”

Now that he’s been nominated, Green says “politics will have nothing to do” with how he would do the job of Army secretary. Wrong. Leading the Army requires an appreciation for every individual, without exception, and Green wouldn’t have the confidence of the thousands of LGBT soldiers proudly and openly serving today. Every soldier needs to know that those at the top, uniformed and civilian, have their back. But based on the way he has used anti-LGBT politics to advance his career, that’s not him.

The You Tubes I put here will just give you a moment of zen and peace via Scotland.  I’ve been listening to the haunting bagpipe music of my Gaelic ancestors for the last few days and finding some peace.  I thought I’d share.

We’ve always known that Fox News was a basically a nuclear reactor of hate generation. Read this on Marie Claire.

After 15 years of providing legal protection and millions of dollars to his accusers, Fox News finally fired their marquis star, Bill O’Reilly, on Wednesday. In an age when a self-proclaimed “pussy-grabber” occupies the Oval Office, any public consequences for harassing women feel particularly significant. And this move was particularly satisfying for me—just a few years ago, O’Reilly sent a tidal wave of harassment my way.

On May 31, 2009, an anti-abortion zealot murdered abortion provider George Tiller. At the time, I was 21 years old and working as a counselor at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Dr. Tiller’s murder drove a hot spike of fear and anxiety through my entire body. I walked through anti-abortion protestors a few times a week to get to work; I found their gruesome signs annoying, but not threatening. But Dr. Tiller’s assassination forced me to confront the terrifying reality that my co-workers and I faced more than just screams. We could actually get killed for providing people with legal, safe, and compassionate medical care.

My boyfriend walked me to work the next day, a sweet but feeble attempt to shield me from the protestors. What could he actually do if one of them had a gun? Inside, my coworkers and I gathered to talk about how we felt. As I listened to each person share why they were still so committed to this work despite the danger, I wondered what it would be like for our stories and motivations to be shared in a bigger way. One colleague made a comment about all of us being Dr. Tiller now, and I texted my boyfriend—did he know how to make a website? And how much work would it take?

We stayed up all night with him writing code and me writing content for IAmDrTiller.com. The next day, I told my coworkers to take photos with a sign that said “I Am Dr. Tiller,” and asked them to email me their own explanation of why they provide abortion care. My boss sent the website around to other abortion providers, and overnight I received dozens of submissions from abortion-clinic staff all over the country. Somehow, conservative media got wind of the website, and on June 10, Bill O’Reilly discussed the project on his show.

Read the story of how O’Reilly basically ginned up a group of crazy domestic terrorists to stalk, harass and haunt here.  I’ve been at the receiving end of attacks from those freaks.  They’re an ugly, mean, nasty, and hateful lot.

President Obama will be giving a speech in Chicago after spending a lot of time resting in the tropics. I’d personally like to hear why we didn’t get all this T-Russia information back last summer from him.  I believe we’re owed an explanation but I will take a little bit of hope and a lot of change talk.  I could use it.

Former President Barack Obama will return to Chicago on Monday to speak to young people at the University of Chicago, in what will be his first public event since leaving the White House.

Obama and young leaders will hold a conversation on civic engagement and discuss community organizing at the university’s Logan Center for the Arts, his office announced Friday.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend, chosen from area universities that were given tickets for distribution, said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for the former president. About six young people will appear on stage with him for the 11 a.m. discussion, Lewis said.

The event will be a homecoming for Obama on multiple levels. He formerly taught constitutional law at the U. of C. and his family has a home nearby in the Kenwood neighborhood. It also lets the former president, who came to Chicago to work as a young community organizer, fulfill one of the commitments he set out for his post-presidential years: to engage and work with the country’s next generation of leaders, Lewis said.

One SCOTUS decision could do serious damage to the First Amendment. Will this SCOTUS destroy Church/State Seperation?

One of the many travesties endemic in a government controlled by Republicans is that the evangelical right now has the full weight and force of the federal government to institute a theocracy. Now that religious conservatives control the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the bench, they have an instant ally to achieve the Dominionist movement’s highest priorities: tearing down any and all constitutional barriers between church and state.

Yesterday, in a case the High Court’s conservatives postponed for 15 months wishing and hoping for an evangelical majority, they heard oral arguments in a case very few Americans are aware of. The people should be terrified because a ruling for theocracy will effectively demolish church-state separation and completely neuter the First Amendment’s religious clauses. And it will force every taxpayer to fund religious organizations; like it or not.

This one case will have far reaching effects on every American, and every facet of government, that will make the Hobby Lobby, Voting Rights, and Citizens United rulings seem petty and insignificant in comparison. Sadly, due to the media, including the cowards in the liberal media, and their resistance to reporting the rash of evangelical legislation they claim are simply born of “conservative ideology,” most Americans are clueless as to what is awaiting them; a High Court ruling establishing a veritable evangelical theocracy.

The case, “Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer,” is about forcing Missouri taxpayers to fund upgrading a church school’s playground despite a state and federal prohibition against it. Even though there is a long-standing Constitutional statute against using taxpayer money to fund religious organizations, Missouri is one several states that enshrined the same prohibition in its state Constitution. Still, the “churches” cried foul and claimed that if taxpayers fund public schools, then they damn sure better start funding religious schools and organizations.

One might think that churches earning well-over $82.5 billion annually (in 2013) from taxpayers subsidizing religious non-profits (churches) was enough welfare for the “charitable Christians.” Add to that staggering annual figure the $41.7 billion in annual payments (in 2004) in welfare from Bush’s “faith-based initiative” programs. Money well spent according to W. Bush who wanted the taxpayer’s money to “save one soul at a time.” Still, even that unconstitutional abomination didn’t satisfy their greed for more taxpayer money and more control over government. And, the sad truth is that tearing down the barrier between church and state will set a Constitutional precedent allowing evangelicals to do so much more than just force taxpayers to support their “ministries.”

Since before America was a nation, the Founding Fathers were preparing, and went to great lengths, to keep religion out of government. The concept of not funding, or legislating according to evangelicalism, is not a new idea.

I hold this near and dear as the descendant of Hugenot French who fled the Alsace Lorraine/Rhinelands area as Jews and Protestants being forcefully removed and slaughtered at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church.  The parts of my family who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution made a refuge for folks suffering from state-sanctioned religious persecution.  I’d hate to see us dump on this most important right.

Speaking of Judges, have you ever heard an AG attack one plus show his geography ignorance simultaneously?  I’m willing to bet I can find second and third graders that know Hawaii is a state and is composed of quite a few islands too.  Isn’t this a MaCaCa moment?

The ability of federal judges to strike down actions taken by Congress or the executive branch if they’re deemed unconstitutional is a hallmark of the American system of government. It’s an important part of the system of checks and balances, ensuring that the president and legislators don’t acquire too much power.

But to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, it’s “amazing” — and he means that in a bad way.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions told conservative radio host Mark Levin during an interview Tuesday (as reported by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski on Thursday). “The judges don’t get to psychoanalyze the president to see if the order he issues is lawful. It’s either lawful or it’s not.”

The “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” in question is District of Hawaii judge Derrick Watson, who ruled in March against the Trump administration’s attempt to temporarily ban residents of six majority-Muslim countries and nearly all refugees from entering the US. (Watson’s ruling is just a temporary injunction while the lawsuit against the ban, brought by states including Hawaii, gets a full hearing in court; the Trump administration is appealing Watson’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and appealing a separate ruling against the ban, issued in Maryland, to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Sessions’s remark has gotten a lot of attention as an attack on the state of Hawaii (not least because it fits a little too easily in a long tradition of racist dog-whistling about the “foreignness” of nonwhite and specifically Pacific Islander Americans), but it’s part of a broader attack from Republicans on the “liberal Ninth Circuit” as a whole — and the first indication that not only President Trump, but his chief law enforcement officer, is uneasy with the idea of judicial review itself.

Daily Don april 16.pngBut Sessions has decided to place the spying blame Julian Assange and flutter his little hands and air his squeaky little Tennessee Crackcer voice to keep the attention off his boss and off all those meetings with Russians of his own.

The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now a “priority” for the US, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has said.

Hours later it was reported by CNN that authorities have prepared charges against Assange, who is currently holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Donald Trump lavished praise on the anti-secrecy website during the presidential election campaign – “I love WikiLeaks,” he once told a rally – but his administration has struck a different tone.

Asked whether it was a priority for the justice department to arrest Assange “once and for all”, Sessions told a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday: “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.”

He added: “So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

Citing unnamed officials, CNN reported that prosecutors have struggled with whether the Australian is protected from prosecution by the first amendment, but now believe they have found a path forward. A spokesman for the justice department declined to comment.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s lawyer, denied any knowledge of imminent prosecution. “We’ve had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr Assange,” he told CNN. “They’ve been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr Assange’s status is in any pending investigations. There’s no reason why WikiLeaks should be treated differently from any other publisher.”

We’re all still wondering why Jason Chaffetz is exiting stage left with intense speed. What’s he running from exactly?

Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.

In the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead, and various prominent Republicans, from former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, have experienced what it’s like to get Chaffetzed. But the five-term Utah Republican and powerful chairman of the House oversight committee shocked Washington on Wednesday when he announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 or run for any other political office that year in order to spend more time with his family.

“I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins,” he said in a statement. “I have the full support of Speaker [Paul] Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector.”

His surprise announcement has fueled speculation of a possible scandal, though Chaffetz told Politico there’s nothing to the rumors about a skeleton in his closet: “I’ve been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine… If they had something really scandalous, it would’ve come out a long, long time ago.”

Louise Mensch thinks the Russians have Kompromat. Twitter rumors say that he’s been having multiple affairs.  (Who would fuck a man with a face like that?)

Okay, so I’m still thinking of planning an escape somewhere but meanwhile I’m here in the swamp with the Bagpipes wailing. I’m thinking I should get a set and practice at odd hours of the morning in front of the Air BnBs and the owners of my local nuisance bar. I’d be as unskilled as any of the musicians they hire for pennies there and at least as bad. One thing is certain that Scotland may look better than France if Marie LePen wins.

Have a great weekend! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  The music above is beautiful.  Give it an ear or two.