Thursday Reads: Trump Is Really Losing It This Time.

By Mona Bell

Good Morning!!

I’ve spent the past two days just trying to hold it together. I’m just glad tomorrow is Friday and maybe Trump will go play golf and leave us alone for awhile. Oh wait, I just remembered he’s going to the G7 this weekend. I may have to avoid TV, radio, and the internet for the duration.

My mother has been in the hospital this week. She fell down last week and had to have stitches in her elbow, but nothing was broken. After that she was having a lot of pain in her back and then she started having nausea and abdominal pain. That’s when the sent her to the emergency room. We’ve had a terrible time getting any information from the doctor, but he finally called my brother this morning. Mom has had every kind of test and x-ray and everything was negative.

The nurses want to send her to an acute rehab facility, but we want her to go back to her assisted living place where she has friends and will get daily therapy. We can also bring in outside caregivers to stay with her if she needs supervision. She is 94 years old and we don’t want her to get isolated and depressed, which is what happened the last time she was hospitalized for a few weeks. She needs to be with friends and people who know her.

By Edward C. Radford

Sorry to bore you with my problems, but I needed to get it off my chest. You can see why I’ve had it with Trump’s crazy behavior. And I do actually think he is decompensating. He shows clear signs of losing touch with reality–seeing himself as some kind of messianic figure, “the King of Israel” and “the chosen one.” And then there’s his desire to buy Greenland and cancelling his state visit to Denmark because he was told that won’t happen. Yesterday, he even revealed that he wanted to give himself the Congressional Medal of Honor! Politico reports:

President Donald Trump claimed to laughter on Wednesday that he sought to give himself a Medal of Honor, but decided not to after being counseled against the move by aides.

The offhand remark from the president came during his address to the 75th annual national convention of American Veterans, a volunteer-led veterans service organization also known as AMVETS….

At the event in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump singled out for praise WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams.

“Thank you, Woody. You’re looking good, Woody. Woody’s looking good,” Trump said.

“That was a big day, Medal of Honor. Nothing like the Medal of Honor,” he continued. “I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody. I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’ They said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’”

Because the medal is “awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor,” and Trump is a five time draft dodger who even as president has steered clear of combat zones.

If you don’t believe me about Trump’s deteriorating condition, here’s a psychiatrist who agrees with me. Newsweek: Trump’s ‘Chosen One’ Comment and Spat with Denmark Shows His ‘Psychotic-Like State’ Says Doctor who First Warned about President’s Mental Condition.

Dr. Lance Dodes, former assistant psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, contributed to the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

He had warned in 2017 that Trump’s mental condition would worsen and he said that his statements over the last few days have proven him right.

By Louise Williams Jackson

He told MSNBC that Trump had “a fundamental need to be all-powerful and all loved and can’t stand challenges.”

“He can’t stand anything that disagrees with him, and the more you challenge him, the more unhinged he becomes, the more paranoid, and the more violent, potentially,” Dodes said

“He doesn’t really love anyone except himself. That’s not a slur, that’s a psychological fact. People like him are about him. If he’s not useful to him, he stops loving him. That’s part of the essential emptiness of Donald Trump. He doesn’t have real relationships with people.”

When Trump looked toward the heavens and bragged about being “the chosen one,” Dodes said it was another example of Trump’s grandiosity.

“There’s something fundamentally different about him from normal people. It’s a psychotic-like state. The more you press him, the more you see how disorganized and empty he is. The more he flies into a disorganized rage.

“He thinks of himself as a dictator, and it’s all him and no one else really matters,” Dodes told MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell.

More reads on the latest Trump crazy:

By János Apátfalvi Czene

Background from The New York Times’ gossip columnists Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: Trump’s Interest in Buying Greenland Seemed Like a Joke. Then It Got Ugly.

It started as a headline seemingly straight out of The Onion. Then it unleashed a torrent of jokes on late-night television and social media. And finally it exploded into a serious diplomatic rupture between the United States and one of its longtime allies.

In the latest only-in-Trumpland episode skating precariously along the line between farce and tragedy, the president of the United States on Wednesday attacked the prime minister of Denmark because she will not sell him Greenland — and found the very notion “absurd.”

Never mind that much of the rest of the world thought it sounded absurd as well. Amid a global laughing fit, Mr. Trump got his back up and lashed out, as he is wont to do, and called the prime minister “nasty,” one of his favorite insults, particularly employed against women who offend him, like Hillary Clinton and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

All of which might be written off as just another odd moment in a presidency unlike any other. Except that attacking Denmark was not enough for the president. He decided to expand his target list to include NATO because, as he pointed out, Denmark is a member of the Atlantic alliance. And he chose to do this just two days before leaving Washington to travel to an international summit in France, which also happens to be a NATO member.

Click the link to read the rest.

Edward Luce at The Financial Times: The next stop on Donald Trump’s end-of-diplomacy tour.

The one good thing about Donald Trump’s failed bid to buy Greenland is that it softens up America’s allies for what is to come. This weekend Mr Trump will join his G7 counterparts in Biarritz for what promises to be one of the most bizarre meetings in its history. Summits are supposed to make global problems easier to manage. The G7 — and others of its kind, notably the G20 — are reaching a point where they result in the opposite: a world less manageable than if the leaders had never met. Mr Trump’s lunge for Greenland was the amuse-bouche before the meal.

Reading in the Afternoon, by Dennis Perrin

It had all the relevant ingredients. First it showcased Mr Trump’s transactional approach to diplomacy. A country has a piece of real estate that Mr Trump covets, so he offers to buy it. Perhaps it could work both ways. Russia has long had its eye on Alaska, for example. Second, it underlined that Mr Trump loathes alliances. By cancelling his trip to Denmark over its refusal to consider the sale, Mr Trump left a close ally in no doubt that its friendship meant nothing. Fifty Danish soldiers lost their lives fighting alongside US troops in Afghanistan. This death toll is a considerably higher ratio to population than the US.

Third, Mr Trump’s motive for buying Greenland undercuts a crucial aim of the other members of the G7: to fight global warming. The territory’s attraction is that its receding ice sheets will open its land for mineral extraction. Mr Trump does not accept that global warming is taking place, except when it offers a chance to make money. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, would have found it impossible to find a choice of words on global warming to which Mr Trump could have signed up. Little surprise then that Mr Macron announced that the G7 would no longer bother with a communiqué at all. Another day in the Trump era. Another precedent dies.

Finally, Mr Trump’s Greenland bid included the spiciest ingredient of all: his support for Russia to rejoin the G7 five years after it annexed Crimea.

Read more at FT.

The Daily Beast: U.S.-Denmark Relations Are Now in the Hands of a Conspiracy-Loving, Climate-Denying Ex-Actress.

Portrait of Winifred Robers by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale

The United States ambassador tasked with cleaning up bizarrely strained relations with Denmark in the wake of Donald Trump’s failed attempt to buy Greenland is a frequent retweeter of conspiracy theories who once starred in a movie so bad it was parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Carla Sands heads the U.S. mission to the kingdom of Denmark, after having been confirmed to the post in 2017. Up until a few days ago, her time in the country was largely uneventful, save for a few domestic hiccups around the Trump administration’s LGBT policy and a more contentious dispute over Germany’s partnership with Russia on a gas pipeline.

Sands, like much of the rest of the universe, appeared utterly caught off-guard by the cancellation. Just hours earlier, she had tweeted her excitement for the visit. But unlike everyone else, she now finds herself at the vanguard of the diplomatic effort to keep matters calm. One Obama-era diplomat told The Daily Beast that he imagined Sands was scrambling to touch base with Danish leadership officials to try and repair hurt feelings and keep the lines of communication productive and open.

“This cancellation on such short notice and for the reason that was given, I think, in a way, it makes it a pretty straightforward discussion,” said Gordon Gray, the former ambassador to Tunisia. “I think the problem Ambassador Sands or any ambassador will have is how can a host government take a message from the ambassador, who is in theory the president’s personal representative, with anything other than a grain of salt at this point.”

Jordan Weissmann at Slate: What Republicans Really Mean When They Call Jews Disloyal.

By Charles-Clos Olsommer

Anti-Semitism is really a wonder to behold, because of how it manages to adapt to the times. Back in the good old days, the line was that Jews couldn’t be trusted because they were loyal to a foreign power. In 2019, we can’t be trusted because we’re disloyal to a foreign power.

That is the viewpoint Donald Trump decided to lay out this week. On Tuesday, while talking to reporters about Israel’s decision to bar two Muslim American congresswomen, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, he said: “I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they are defending these two people over the state of Israel? I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

At first, there was a bit of confusion over whether Trump was accusing Jewish Democrats of disloyalty to Israel or the United States. On Wednesday, he clarified. “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” Trump said. (About 70 percent of Jews broke for Hillary Clinton in 2016.) [….]

And in light of recent events, some progressives have now accused Trump and the Republicans of perpetuating the real dual loyalty smear. But in some sense, that’s not quite right either. Conservatives have actually inverted the old libel. Instead of accusing Jews of being overly loyal to a foreign nation, Trump has turned centuries of anti-Semitism on its head by accusing them of not being loyal enough to one—and his followers are happy to echo the charge.

Read the rest at Slate.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


Wednesday Reads

Yes, it is so true, and tRump is like the beast…telling his fellow misogynists, bigots and racists what they want to hear…

Every day, it is another fucking thing:

And of course…

Not to mention this shit:

This is an open thread.

 

 

And fuck Biden!


Tuesday Reads: Hopeful Views and Crazy News

Illustration by Aïda Amer, Axios

Good Morning!!

Last night Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed Rachel Bitecofer about her accurate prediction of 2018 election results and her current prediction for the 2020 presidential race.

Rachel Bitecofer is assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, where she teaches classes on political behavior, campaigns, elections, and political analysis and conducts survey research on public policy issues and election campaigns. Her work and analysis has been featured in many media outlets such as The New York TimesThe Washington PostUSA TodayNPR, and she is a contracted commentator on CBC Radio. Her book, The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election (Palgrave McMillan) is available via Amazon. Her unique election forecasting model accurately predicted Democrats gaining 42 seats 5 months before the 2018 midterms.

Bitecofer has describes her model for the 2018 and 2020 elections at The Judy Ford Center for Public Policy: With 16 Months to go, Negative Partisanship Predicts the 2020 Presidential Election.

In July of 2018, my innovative forecasting model raised eyebrows by predicting some four months before the midterm election that Democrats would pick up 42 seats in the House of Representatives. In hindsight, that may not seem such a bold prediction, but when my forecast was released, election Twitter was still having a robust debate as to whether the Blue Wave would be large enough for Democrats to pick up the 23 seats they needed to take control of the House of Representatives and return the Speaker’s gavel to Nancy Pelosi.

Based on its 2018 performance, my model, and the theory that structures it, seem well poised to tackle the 2020 presidential election – 16 months out. I’ll serve up that result below, but first let’s set the table by reviewing my model’s 2018 forecasting success.

Rachel Bitecofer

Not only did I predict that they would gain nearly double the seats they needed, but I also identified a specific list of Republican seats Democrats would flip, including some, such as Virginia CD7, that were listed as “Lean Republican” by the majority of race raters at the time. At a time when other analysts coded even the most competitive House races for Democrats as Lean or Tilt Democrat, I identified 13 Republican-held districts as “Will Flips,” 12 as “Likely to Flip,” and 6 as “Lean Democrat.” I also identified a large list of “Toss Ups,” from which I would later identify the remaining “flippers.” In addition, I identified some “long-shot toss-up” districts that could be viable flips under some turnout scenarios. Of the original 25 districts I identified as definitely or highly likely to flip, all but one, Colorado CD3, did so, possibly because the party failed to invest in their nominee there.

What does the model say about 2020?

Barring a shock to the system, Democrats recapture the presidency. The leaking of the Trump campaign’s internal polling has somewhat softened the blow of this forecast, as that polling reaffirms what my model already knew: Trump’s 2016 path to the White House, which was the political equivalent of getting dealt a Royal Flush in poker, is probably not replicable in 2020 with an agitated Democratic electorate. And that is really bad news for Donald Trump because the Blue Wall of the Midwest was then, and is now, the ONLY viable path for Trump to win the White House.

Why is Trump in so much trouble in the Midwest? First, and probably most important, is the profound misunderstanding by, well, almost everyone, as to how he won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the first place. Ask anyone, and they will describe Trump’s 2016 Midwestern triumph as a product of white, working class voters swinging away from the Democrats based on the appeal of Trump’s economic populist messaging. Some will point to survey data of disaffected Obama-to-Trump voters and even Sanders-to-Trump voters as evidence that this populist appeal was the decisive factor. And this is sort of true. In Ohio, Trump managed the rare feat of cracking 50%. Elsewhere, that explanation runs into empirical problems when one digs into the data. Start with the numerical fact that Trump “won” Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan with 47.22%, 48.18%, and 47.5% of the vote, respectively, after five times the normal number in those states cast their ballots for an option other than Trump or Clinton. This, combined with the depressed turnout of African Americans (targeted with suppression materials by the Russians) and left-leaning Independents turned off by Clinton (targeted with defection materials by the Russians) allowed Trump to pull off an improbable victory, one that will be hard to replicate in today’s less nitpicky atmosphere. Yet, the media (and the voting public) has turned Trump’s 2016 win into a mythic legend of invincibility. The complacent electorate of 2016, who were convinced Trump would never be president, has been replaced with the terrified electorate of 2020, who are convinced he’s the Terminator and can’t be stopped. Under my model, that distinction is not only important, it is everything.

Last night Bitecofer predicted that the Democratic candidate will win 270 electoral votes. There’s much more interesting analysis at the link above. Read a slightly less technical analysis of Bitecofer’s model by Paul Rosenberg at Salon: Does anyone understand the 2020 race? This scholar nailed the blue wave — here’s her forecast.

Meanwhile, at the moment we are at the mercy of the insane occupant of the White House. Eugene Robinson: Trump is melting down. Again.

Fears of a global recession, greatly exacerbated by Trump’s erratic and self-destructive trade policies, have sent financial markets tumbling. A sharp downturn would close off one of the principal lines of attack the president was hoping to use against his Democratic opponent. He tried it out at a rally in New Hampshire last week: “You have no choice but to vote for me,” he told the crowd, “because your 401(k)’s down the tubes, everything’s gonna be down the tubes” if he loses. “So whether you love me or hate me, you gotta vote for me.”

Fact check: No.

Trump is flailing. He berates his handpicked chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, for not cutting interest rates fast enough to goose the economy. He practically begs Chinese President Xi Jinping for a meeting to work out a trade deal — any trade deal, apparently — and is met with silence. He threatens more tariffs but then backs down, at least for now. According to published reports, he sees himself as the victim of a conspiracy to exaggerate the growing economic anxiety in order to hurt his chances of winning a second term.

He entertains grandiose, almost Napoleonic fantasies — purchasing Greenland from Denmark in what he calls “a large real estate deal,” perhaps, or imposing a naval blockade to force regime change in Venezuela. He apparently spent much of this past weekend fuming about not getting credit for how his New Hampshire rally broke an attendance record for the arena that had been set by Elton John.

And Trump can’t seem to stop railing against a recent Fox News pollthat showed him losing to four of the leading Democratic contenders. The president seems to consider Fox News his administration’s Ministry of Propaganda — indeed, that is the role the network’s morning-show hosts and prime-time anchors loyally play — but the polling unit is a professional operation. “There’s something going on at Fox, I’ll tell you right now. And I’m not happy with it,” Trump told reporters Sunday . He added a threat, saying that Fox “is making a big mistake” because he is “the one that calls the shots” on next year’s general election debates — the implication being that Fox News might not get to broadcast one of them if it doesn’t toe the party line.

The only thing Robinson leaves out is that Trump’s health is going downhill; his dementia symptoms are getting worse by the day.

Trump’s biggest supporters are nuts too, but they are also very influential on social media. Check out this story at NBC News: Trump, QAnon and an impending judgment day: Behind the Facebook-fueled rise of The Epoch Times.

By the numbers, there is no bigger advocate of President Donald Trump on Facebook than The Epoch Times.

The small New York-based nonprofit news outlet has spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in the last six months, according to data from Facebook’s advertising archive — more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself, and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.

Those video ads — in which unidentified spokespeople thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the “Deep State,” and criticize “fake news” media — strike a familiar tone in the online conservative news ecosystem. The Epoch Times looks like many of the conservative outlets that have gained followings in recent years.

But it isn’t.

Behind the scenes, the media outlet’s ownership and operation is closely tied to Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual community with the stated goal of taking down China’s government.

It’s that motivation that helped drive the organization toward Trump, according to interviews with former Epoch Times staffers, a move that has been both lucrative and beneficial for its message.

Former practitioners of Falun Gong told NBC News that believers think the world is headed toward a judgment day, where those labeled “communists” will be sent to a kind of hell, and those sympathetic to the spiritual community will be spared. Trump is viewed as a key ally in the anti-communist fight, former Epoch Times employees said.

Click the link the read the rest. We are truly living in the Twilight Zone.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll add some non-crazy links in the comment thread. What stories are you following?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Black Cats and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day!

On Black Cat Appreciation Day, August 17, black cats could use a good spin doctor. They’re so sleek and seductive with their all-knowing yellow eyes, that black cats seldom get positive publicity even though they’re just as adorable as other cats. So, who’s to blame for this negative black cat spin? Superstition! During the Middle Ages, people (mainly the Catholic Church) saw witches as shape-shifting black cats and the damage was done.

Today, pop culture loves black cats.  There’s the sarcastic Thackery Binx in  “Hocus Pocus”,  Salem, in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Pyewacket in the classic ”Bell, Book and Candle.” It’s National Black Cat Appreciation Day with big ups to America’s sultry, mysterious and mostly, sweet black cats!

In Other News . . .

By Irina Kalentieva, 1965

Former Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci is now predicting that Trump won’t be on the ballot in November 2020.

William D. Cohan interviewed Scaramucci for Vanity Fair: “Oh My God, This Jackass”: The Mooch Explains Why He Thinks Trump is “Crazy,” “Narcissistic,” and a “Paper Tiger” Who Will Drop Out By March 2020. Some highlights:

Cohan: But what was the moment the scales actually fell from your eyes?

Scaramucci: The red line was the racism—full-blown racism. He can say that he’s not a racist, and I agree with him, okay? And let me explain to you why he’s not a racist, ’cause this is very important. He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that’s why he has no empathy. That’s why he’s got his thumb up in the air when he’s taking a picture with an orphan. That’s why when someone’s leaning over the desk and asks [Nobel Prize–winning human rights activist Nadia Murad], “Well, what happened to your family members?”—they were murdered—he just looks at her and says, “Okay, when are we getting coffee here?”

You know, he doesn’t look at people—and by the way, if you and I were in his field of vision and he had a cold and the two of us had to die for him to get a Kleenex, you’re fucking dead. I mean, there’s no chance. You understand that, right?

Cohan: And then there’s the mental element, right?

The Black Cat, by Christian Schloe

Scaramucci: I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he’s becoming more petulant; he’s becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he’s sweating, his body’s not doing well. It’s obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? And he doesn’t listen to anybody. And just think about this, okay? There’s no one—there’s no Jim Mattis; there’s no Gary Cohn; there’s no one to check him anymore. Whatever my differences were with General John Kelly, after he left, this thing has completely unspooled….

He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.

Of course Scaramucci isn’t the first to predict that Trump will have to drop out. Tom Joseph has been documenting Trump’s rapidly advancing dementia symptoms on Twitter for a long time now. Here’s his latest thread on the subject:

Check out his Twitter feed to read more.

Last Tuesday Trump gave a speech to union workers in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t supposed to be a campaign event, but he turned it into one. The Washington Post:

 President Trump criticized the media, mocked his Democratic challengers, critiqued the Academy Awards, lamented losing money while president and boasted of his poll numbers while visiting a construction site here to give remarks about U.S. energy production.

The president spoke for more than an hour, meandering between his prepared remarks and a campaign-style speech listing grievances and currying votes. He touched on his 2016 victory in Pennsylvania, his love of trucks, “fake news,” China, trade, immigration, the Green New Deal, windmills, the Paris climate accord, former president Barack Obama’s $60 million book deal, Iran, veterans and New York energy policies.

Pierrot et le Chat, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Standing in a room full of construction workers in the middle of the day, many wearing their fluorescent work vests, Trump urged them to support his reelection and to convince their union leaders to do the same…..

Trump’s visit to Royal Dutch Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex here, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was an official White House trip intended to promote the administration’s energy policies.

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the workers were told they would have to attend the speech or lose a day’s pay. They were also ordered not to protest.

The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.

“Your attendance is not mandatory,” said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid.

That company and scores of other contractors on site and their labor employees all have their own contracts with Shell. Several said the contracts stipulate that to get paid, workers must be onsite.

Portrait of Mo von Haugk, 1932 – Conrad Felixmüller, (German 1897-1977)

Those who decided not to come to the site for the event would have an excused but non-paid absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher explained that the workers onsite have a 56-hour workweek, with 16 hours of overtime built in. That means those workers who attended Mr. Trump’s speech and showed up for work Friday, meeting the overtime threshold, were being paid at a rate of time and a half, while those who didn’t go to hear the president were being paid the regular rate, despite the fact that both groups did not do work on the site Tuesday.

Show up to cheer for Trump or lose a day’s pay and overtime to boot.

Yesterday, The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush reported that President Obama tried to caution Joe Biden about running for president in 2020 and has been warning Biden that he needs younger advisers.

The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.

“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.

In the boudoir, 1869, Lucius Rossi

Mr. Obama has said he will not make an endorsement in the primary, and has offered every candidate his counsel. But he has taken an active interest in the inner workings of his friend’s campaign, to an extent beyond anything offered to other candidates.

In his interactions with Mr. Biden — the pair had a quiet lunch in Washington last month — Mr. Obama has hammered away at the need for his campaign to expand his aging inner circle.

He has communicated his frustration that Mr. Biden’s closest advisers are too old and out of touch with the current political climate — urging him to include more younger aides, according to three Democrats with direct knowledge of the discussion.

Biden also met with Biden’s advisers and issued a warning:

In March, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Biden’s top campaign advisers, including the former White House communications director Anita Dunn and Mr. Biden’s longtime spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, to his Washington office for a briefing on the campaign’s digital and communications strategy with members of his own staff, including his senior adviser, Eric Schultz.

When they were done, Mr. Obama offered a pointed reminder, according to two people with knowledge of his comments:

Win or lose, they needed to make sure Mr. Biden did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.

Well Biden has already put his foot in his mouth numerous times, but he’s still leading in the polls. I can only hope voters will wake up before the primaries begin.

Katherina Goncharova – Midday Dream

Yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu banned Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from traveling to Israel, after he was egged on by Trump. Later in the day, Netanyau told Tlaib she could come to visit her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank, with certain restrictions on her freedom of speech. Tlaib declined to accept the conditions. Now Democrats in the House are considering an official response.

The Miami Herald: House Democrats weigh action against U.S. and Israel ambassadors over banned visit.

Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering action against top emissaries of the Israeli government and the Trump administration for their roles in Israel’s decision to bar two House members from entering the country.

About a dozen lawmakers, including senior Jewish members, began discussions on Friday morning over ways to communicate a “deep lack of confidence and trust” in Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

The group is weighing issuing a statement of no confidence in Dermer and opening an inspector general investigation into Friedman’s conduct, the sources said.

Israel banned Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend, provoking outrage among Democrats and several Republicans, including some who have harshly criticized the two lawmakers on policy grounds.

So . . . that’s it for me. what stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

By Childe Hassam

Good Morning!!

For the first time in ages, I’m not finding a lot of political news breaking news this morning. The Hong Kong protests may be approaching a crisis, and Trump isn’t helping. Other than that, the Jeffrey Epstein story is dominating the news along with the shooting of police officers in Philadelphia.

Politico: Trump resists aides’ pressure to back Hong Kong protesters.

Donald Trump’s top aides are urging him to back Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, but the president isn’t interested, multiple people familiar with the administration’s internal debates say.

Trucks and armoured personnel carriers are seen outside the Shenzhen Bay stadium in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong in China’s southern Guangdong province, Aug. 15, 2019.
GETTY

In recent days, national security adviser John Bolton, China hands at both the National Security Council and the State Department, and several economic advisers have pushed for a more assertive posture on the Hong Kong demonstrations, which have paralyzed the former British colony and roiled markets.

They are finding little traction with a president focused more narrowly on trade negotiations with Xi Jinping — and worried that criticizing the Chinese leader’s efforts to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong will scuttle the possibility of inking a deal this winter.

As the protests have intensified over the past month, the president has remained determined to keep China’s human rights abuses from complicating his trade negotiations, going so far as to make a unilateral concession to Xi in the run-up to the G-20 Summit in June, according to three people briefed on the conversation. Aspects of the conversation were first reported by the Financial Times.

But after the initial publication of this report, the president appeared to reverse himself, issuing the latest in a series of contradictory remarks on the issue on Wednesday evening — this time demanding that Xi “deal humanely with Hong Kong.”

Raise your hand if you believe Trump cares about human rights.

A crackdown could be coming.

Reuters: In ‘clear warning’, Chinese paramilitary forces exercise near Hong Kong.

SHENZHEN, China/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hundreds of China’s People’s Armed Police conducted exercises at a sports stadium in Shenzhen on Thursday, as the U.S. State Department expressed concern that they could be deployed across the border in Hong Kong to break up protests wracking the city.

But Western and Asian diplomats in Hong Kong said Beijing has little appetite for rolling the PAP or the People’s Liberation Army onto Hong Kong’s streets.

Men in fatigues could be seen in a stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre, and shouts and whistles could be heard by a Reuters journalist on Thursday morning.

Later in the day, police carried out exercises in which they divided into two groups, one wearing black t-shirts similar to those worn by some protesters in Hong Kong.

A bit more:

Protesters scuffle with police at Hong Kong’s airport © AFP

Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters have plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The protests represent one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

On Wednesday the U.S. State Department said it was deeply concerned about reports that Chinese police forces were gathering near the border with Hong Kong and urged the city’s government to respect freedom of speech.

In Shenzhen, paramilitary police marched in and out of the stadium near a retail complex where shoppers milled about.

The stadium parking lot was filled with more than 100 dark-painted paramilitary vehicles, including troop trucks, armored personnel carriers, buses and jeeps. At least three were armored front-end loaders, and two vehicles carried water cannons.

I haven’t been following this story closely, but it’s certainly concerning. I’ll be paying more attention going forward.

This news just broke. The New York Times:Israel Denies Entry to Omar and Tlaib After Trump’s Call to Block Them.

JERUSALEM — Israel on Thursday barred the entry of two American Democratic congresswomen who had planned to visit the West Bank, hours after President Trump had urged the country to block them.

Mr. Trump’s intervention was an extraordinary step to influence an allied nation and punish his political opponents at home.

The two congresswomen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both freshmen, are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both are outspoken adversaries of Mr. Trump and have been vocal in their support of the Palestinians and the boycott-Israel movement.

The president has targeted them in speeches and Twitter postings that his critics have called racist and xenophobic.

As usual, the NYT can’t bring itself to state the truth–that Trump is in fact racist and xenophobic.

The Washington Post has new information on the Jeffrey Epstein autopsy: Autopsy finds broken bones in Jeffrey Epstein’s neck, deepening questions around his death.

An autopsy found that financier Jeffrey Epstein suffered multiple breaks in his neck bones, according to two people familiar with the findings, deepening the mystery about the circumstances around his death.

Among the bones broken in Epstein’s neck was the hyoid bone, which in men is near the Adam’s apple. Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said….

Artist’s rendering of Jeffrey Epstein in court hearing.

The office of New York City’s chief medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, completed an autopsy of Epstein’s body Sunday. But Sampson listed the cause of his death as pending….

Asked about the neck injuries, Sampson said in a statement that no single factor in an autopsy can alone provide a conclusive answer about what happened.

“In all forensic investigations, all information must be synthesized to determine the cause and manner of death. Everything must be consistent; no single finding can be evaluated in a vacuum.”

The details add to the bizarre circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death, which have launched a wave of questions and conspiracy theories about how he could have died in federal custody. Even President Trump has egged on speculation, without evidence, that Epstein — whose alleged victims say they were pushed to have sex with his powerful and celebrity friends — might have been killed to keep him from spilling the secrets of others.

It’s also odd that guards didn’t check on Epstein for hours before he died and that supposedly both guards fell asleep for three hours and the falsified records.

According to The New York Post, Epstein was upbeat the last time he spoke to his attorneys.

Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein

Jeffrey Epstein was confident he could fight the child sex trafficking charges against him and was in “great spirits” just hours before his jailhouse death on Saturday morning — even telling one of his lawyers, “I’ll see you Sunday,” The Post has learned.

The convicted pedophile also told his lawyers that the neck injuries he suffered in an earlier incident at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were inflicted by his hulking, ex-cop cellmate, which led the lawyers to request that he be taken off a suicide watch, according to a source familiar with Epstein’s case.

Epstein’s optimism behind bars — expressed during daily visits with his lawyers that lasted up to 12 hours each — was so great that it struck some of those around him as “delusional,” the source said.

“He thought he was going to win the double-jeopardy motion” that his defense lawyers were planning to file in connection with his 2008 Florida prostitution conviction, the source said.

More Epstein stories to check out:

New York Magazine: Jeffrey Epstein’s Bodyguard on His Former Boss’s Lifestyle, Cruelty, Suicide.

Bloomberg: The Epstein Tapes: Unearthed Recordings From His Private Island.

CNBC: Mystery of Ghislaine Maxwell’s whereabouts deepens as Jeffrey Epstein accusers eye his alleged madam.

CBS This Morning: Ghislaine Maxwell was apparently living at secluded mansion in New England beach town.

Maurice Hill

The standoff in Philadelphia is over. CBS News: Philadelphia suspected gunman in custody after hourslong standoff and six officers shot.

A suspect is in custody in Philadelphia after an hourslong standoff and shootout that left six officers shot and another injured in a related vehicle crash, authorities said. Two officers and three other people who had been trapped in the building with the shooter were freed after several hours.

CBS Philadelphia says the suspect’s lawyer told the station the suspect is 36-year-old Maurice Hill, though police haven’t released his name. The alleged gunman surrendered shortly after midnight. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross told reporters it was teargas that got the suspect to give up.

Attorney Shaka Johnson said Hill called him to the scene of the standoff while he was barricaded inside. “Maurice called me in a panic, obviously,” Johnson told CBS Philadelphia. “He did not want this to end violently and he really was sort of taking an opportunity to speak his peace. I told him, ‘You gotta surrender, man.”‘

Hill wasn’t injured in the shootout, according to Johnson, who added that Hill was brought to a hospital to be checked out, then released with officers surrounding him overnight. Charges haven’t been announced.

CBS News has learned Hill has a long criminal history.

Police had initially responded around 5 p.m. on a narcotics warrant and things “went awry almost immediately,” Ross said.

More background at the link above.

I’ll end with a feel-good immigration story from Buzzfeed News: A Woman Tweeted A Picture Of A Man Who Had Shown Her Kindness As A Child Refugee. Within 36 Hours They Were Reunited.

A former child refugee has been reunited with a man who bought her a bike when she was 5 years old, thanks to a Twitter appeal to find him that went viral.

Mevan Babakar lived in a refugee camp near Zwolle in the Netherlands with her parents in the 1990s. She is currently taking a sabbatical from her job at a fact-checking organization in London to retrace the journey her family took after fleeing Iraq during the Gulf War.

On Monday she tweeted a picture of the man who worked at the refugee camp, asking for people’s help in identifying him. She wrote that when he gave her a bike, “My five-year-old heart exploded with joy. I just want to know his name. Help?”

The tweet was retweeted thousands of times, and people also got in touch with Babakar, 29, to say the man and his wife had helped them, too. Within 24 hours, not only had the man been found, but he was close enough for Babakar to meet him in person that day.

They were reunited in Germany, where the man, Egbert, lives. Babakar said meeting Egbert “felt like I’d been transported back in time. I felt safe, like I’d seen a family member I hadn’t seen in a long time.”

“It was hugely surreal and kind of overwhelming, a lot of emotions at once,” she told BuzzFeed News from the phone in the Netherlands.

Egbert remembered Babakar and her mother from all those years ago, and the three of them plan to stay in touch and meet up in the future. “My mum is very excited to meet him,” Babakar said, adding that Egbert had told a local journalist that if there was anyone he could have seen again from his time working at the refugee camp, “it would have been Mevan and her mother.”

What stories have you been following?


Tuesday Reads: Trump Destroys Everything In His Path

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the Trump administration announced two shocking new policies: destructive rules changes to both legal immigration and the Endangered Species Act. Rachel Maddow addressed these two stories last night.

Dakinikat addressed the immigration issue exhaustively in her post yesterday, so I’ll focus on the new endangered species issue; but here’s one important piece on immigration from a historian:

The Washington Post: The Danger of Vilifying Poor Immigrants, by Hidetaka Hirota

Supporters of the president’s immigration policies welcome this change because they think it targets undocumented immigrants, or “illegal aliens,” who they believe have no right to stay in the United States. Many who subscribe to this view are themselves descended from European immigrants. And in making their argument against undocumented immigrants, they emphasize that their European ancestors came legally and respected the law — in contrast to today’s immigrants. But they have gotten the history wrong, especially if their ancestors arrived in the United States during the 19th century.

This view of the past is shaped by two misconceptions: that Europeans who were admitted in the 19th century were “legal” and that unauthorized entry is a new problem caused by contemporary immigration, especially from Latin America. This misguided history has contributed to the vilification of today’s Latinx immigrants — resulting in such extreme enforcement policies as expedited removal, family separation and indefinite detention.

In reality, European immigrants in the 19th century were probably not as legal as their descendants think they were.

Female Alabama beach mouse

Hirota explains that in the 19th century, cities and states tried to keep poor immigrants out and deport those who were here, but “the scale of immigration was simply too large for local and state officials to strictly enforce the pauper exclusion provisions of the immigration law.” For example:

Between 1846 and 1855, about 1.5 million Irish men and women fled famine-stricken Ireland, migrating to the United States. This rapid migration of very impoverished immigrants overwhelmed the operation of state-level immigration control, allowing people to enter the United States without proper inspection and bonds.

There have always been nativists like Trump who tried to keep immigrants out of the U.S., but desperate people kept coming anyway–in massive numbers. I’d like to see Trump prove that his grandfather, grandmother, mother, first and third wives came here legally.

Trump’s attack on endangered species

National Geographic, May 6, 2019: One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns.

THE BONDS THAT hold nature together may be at risk of unraveling from deforestation, overfishing, development, and other human activities, a landmark United Nations report warns. Thanks to human pressures, one million species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth.

“The evidence is crystal clear: Nature is in trouble. Therefore we are in trouble,” said Sandra Díaz, one of the co-chairs of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A 40-page “Summary for Policy Makers” of the forthcoming full report (expected to exceed 1,500 pages) was released May 6 in Paris.

Based on a review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources and compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s biodiversity. This report includes, for the first time, indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies. The authors say they found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind nature’s decline. They ranked the major drivers of species decline as land conversion, including deforestation; overfishing; bush meat hunting and poaching; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.

Mountain yellow legged frog, endangered in California

The tremendous variety of living species—at least 8.7 million, but possibly many more—that make up our “life-supporting safety net” provide our food, clean water, air, energy, and more, said Díaz, an ecologist at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, in an interview. “Not only is our safety net shrinking, it’s becoming more threadbare and holes are appearing.”

Read more at the link. Also at National Geographic, see a slideshow of different endangered species in each of the 50 states.

Vox: The Endangered Species Act is incredibly popular and effective. Trump is weakening it anyway.

On Monday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced they were pushing through changes to the Endangered Species Act that will, in effect, weaken protections for species, and possibly give industry more leeway to develop areas where threatened animals live. A draft proposal of these rule changes was announced last summer. And now the rules go into effect in 30 days after they are officially published in the federal register (which the New York Times expects will happen this week).

The Trump administration’s alterations don’t change the letter of the ESA, which was passed in 1973 during the Nixon administration. But they do change how the federal government will enforce it. Here are two of the biggest changes. (Read the full new finalized rules here.)

Roseate Tern, endangered in Connecticut

Currently, species that are listed as “threatened” are defined as “any species which is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.” (Threatened is a designation that’s less severe than “endangered.”) The new rules constrain what is meant by “foreseeable future” and give significant discretion in interpreting what that means.

“The Services will describe the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis,” the new rule states. Discretion is not a problem per se, but as the Washington Post explained last year, this could mean that in determining protections for plants and animals, regulators could ignore the far-flung effects of climate change that may occur several decades from now. Polar bears are threatened now, but they’ll be in even more peril in the future, when there’s less and less sea ice. There’s now more leeway for the government to determine if disappearing ice 40 years from now contributes to the threat Arctic animals face today.

The second big change is more of a giveaway to industry.

Until now, the agencies that enforce the ESA have had to base their decisions of whether to protect a species solely on scientific data, “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.”

North Atlantic right whale, endangered in Georgia

The new rule removes that phrase. “The Act does not prohibit the [government] from compiling economic information or presenting that information to the public,” the rule argues. It does clarify that it’s allowed to do so “as long as such information does not influence the listing determination.” (But that’s confusing: Why strike the phrase from the guidelines in that case?)

That change, conservation groups fear, opens the door to business interests coming into discussions of whether a species should be protected. The new rule also gives the agencies more leeway to determine if an area that’s unoccupied by a species (but where it could also conceivably live) should be protected.

Read the rest at Vox.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Editorial: Trump guts the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears and bald eagles, take notice.

The Trump administration announced reckless and potentially devastating new rules Monday that will weaken the Endangered Species Act, which currently bestows a mantle of protection over 1,663 species of animals and plants. Of those, 1,275 are considered endangered and close to extinction. Another 388 are listed as threatened — the polar bear is one — and at risk of becoming endangered.

Gopher tortoise, endangered in Louisiana

In the 46 years since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the Endangered Species Act has protected imperiled wildlife and brought many species back from the brink of extinction. The law is credited with saving such species as the bald eagle (which recovered sufficiently to be delisted), as well as the California condor and the grizzly bear, both of which are still considered endangered. So are the right whale, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the rusty patched bumblebee….

These irresponsible and short-sighted changes will lead to further extinctions, damage the ecosystem and set back the nation’s efforts to protect wildlife — all as a gift to industry, which finds the law costly and burdensome. The new rules will no doubt clear the way for building, mining and oil and gas drilling in sensitive areas.

The new rules come in the wake of a report from the United Nations earlier this year that more than 1 million plants and animals around the world face extinction, some within decades, owing to human development, climate change and other threats….

It’s unconscionable — and dangerous — to be removing protections at a time when scientists warn that a million species could become extinct. The new rules should be legally challenged and overturned. They undermine a progressive and far-sighted, environmentally conscious law that has worked well for nearly half a century.

Associated Press, via MSN: States vow suit over endangered species rollback.

California and Massachusetts say they’ll go to court to fight the Trump administration’s overhaul of the Endangered Species Act.

Red knot, endangered in New Jersey

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (hahv-YEHR’ beh-SEH’-rah) said Monday that they planned to sue. It came hours after the administration announced broad changes to the way the government would enforce endangered species protections.

Both Democratic state prosecutors pointed to a United Nations report earlier this year warning that more than 1 million species globally are in danger of extinction.

Becerra told reporters that “this is not the time to go low, go slow or go backward.”

Several conservation groups also have promised court fights. The administration says the changes will reduce regulatory burdens while still protecting struggling species.

I can only hope these lawsuits are successful, but if we want to save ourselves and our environment we are going to have to get rid of this evil, destructive administration.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?

 


Lazy Caturday Open Thread

Good Morning!!

Well, this is interesting. Jeffrey Epstein is dead. The New York Times: Jeffrey Epstein Commits Suicide at Manhattan Jail.

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges last month, committed suicide at a Manhattan jail, officials said on Saturday.

Mr. Epstein hanged himself and his body was found this morning at Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan at roughly 7:30….

Last month, a week after being denied bail, Mr. Epstein was found unconscious in his cell at the jail in Manhattan with marks on his neck, and prison officials were investigating the incident as a possible suicide attempt.

It was not immediately clear on Saturday whether the authorities had put in additional safeguards to watch him after the incident last month.

Martin Weinberg, Mr. Epstein’s defense lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Why wasn’t he on suicide watch?

Conspiracy stories are already making  the rounds.

This one was probably inevitable. Naturally, Trump’s loyal stenographer Maggie Haberman is spreading the word.

Charles Pierce: Nobody Will Ever Believe the Official Story on This.

How in the hell do they let this happen? The guy was incarcerated in the Manhattan Correctional Center. He already had made one try. He had to be on suicide watch. And the suicide happens the day after a massive document dump in which a woman who said she was one of Epstein’s victims implicates an entire brigade of celebrity “clients,” up to an including some European royalty? There almost can’t be a dog more reluctant to hunt than this one.

A whole bunch of Somebodies need to get fired behind this. Beyond it, of course, a thousand conspiracy theories will now bloom across all the Intertoobz. The other people involved have to be nervous. Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s alleged accomplice who has yet to be charged, has to be looking over her shoulder. Is she looking over her shoulder to see if the FBI is back there, or to see if something darker is closing in? This country is losing what’s left of its mind.

Julie K. Brown at The Miami Herald: Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein kills himself in New York jail.

The 66-year-old’s death came one day after the Miami Herald and other news organizationspublished a trove of documents describing in detail how he operated the equivalent of a sexual pyramid scheme, luring underage girls to his Palm Beach home, then coercing them into sex.

The Herald sued to have the records released.

The suicide — just weeks after what was apparently a previous attempt — short-circuits what would have been a spectacular sex-trafficking trial that likely would have drawn in an array of prominent witnesses. Epstein had a constellation of important friends in business, political and society circles, including former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump.

 

Meanwhile, Trump is being played like a Stradivarius by his true love Kim Jong Un.

This moron doesn’t seem to understand that Kim is giving the U.S. an ultimatum. Trump seems perfectly happy to let Kim keep developing his nuclear weapons program because he (Trump) has fantasies of putting his name on hotels and apartment complexes on North Korean beaches. He really is that stupid. This alone should be grounds for impeachment.

USA Today: Donald Trump says he’s looking forward to another meeting with Kim Jong Un following missile tests.

President Donald Trump said Saturday he is looking forward to another meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss the elusive goal of denuclearization.

In a tweet about the recent letter he received from Kim, Trump said the North Korean leader “stated, very nicely, that he would like to meet and start negotiations as soon as the joint U.S./South Korea joint exercise are over.”

Kim protested the joint military exercises – as has Trump himself –  and offered “a small apology” for North Korea’s recent missile testing, Trump said. He said that Kim claimed that “this testing would stop when the exercises end” between the U.S. and South Korea.

Trump’s comments came just hours after North Korea conducted what looked to be even more missile tests, the latest in a series of aggressive moves by Kim’s government.

“I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!” Trump said.

I’m going post this now, because my internet is still disconnecting periodically. I will add more links in the comment thread when I can. What stories have you been following?