Posted: March 9, 2017 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics
The tRump administration plans for the US government are beginning to take shape. The plan is to hollow it out from the inside. The only question is whether tRump plans to make the U.S. a wholly owned subsidiary of the Russian kleptocracy or whether he wants to make himself a dictator in the mode of Vladimir Putin.
From the cover story of Time this week: Inside Donald Trump’s War Against the State, by Massimo Calabresi.
At 6:35 a.m. on March 4, President Donald Trump launched an attack against the government of the United States. Deploying his favorite weapon, Twitter, he wrote, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” In fewer than 140 characters, he accused a former President of an impeachable offense, suggested that Justice Department agents might have engaged in a felony and gestured at the possibility that federal judges enabled a political outrage.
He wasn’t finished. Over the next half hour–as Trump’s staff, left behind in Washington, began waking up and unlocking their phones to discover what the boss was up to down at Mar-a-Lago–the President added two more tweets suggesting that Obama and federal investigators had broken the law and should be prosecuted. He capped his indictment with a fourth blurt, comparing the allegation with the worst political crisis of his 70-year lifetime. “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Trump was right that the government now faces a test of historic dimensions. The FBI is probing a plot by Russia to subvert the core exercise of American democracy in the 2016 presidential election. Revelations of contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials have forced the resignation of the President’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and the recusal of his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. This probe, which may or may not have involved court-approved surveillance, has unleashed an orgy of political exploitation, resulting in a crisis of confidence in the government’s ability to play by the rules.
But no matter what he tweets from his Palm Beach Xanadu, Trump is more author than victim of this crisis. Neither he nor his White House staff provided any evidence for his extraordinary accusations against what some of them call a “deep state.” Obama denied Trump’s assertions, and was soon joined by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and, via intermediaries, FBI Director James Comey. Trump is rallying his political base against the federal agencies he oversees, thus partnering his presidency with a radical fringe. Win or lose, the standoff he has engineered will diminish the credibility of the government.
Go read the whole thing for more on President Bannon’s quest to destroy the federal government.
Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star Tribune
ProPublica has been investigating how the process of hollowing out is happening: Meet the Hundreds of Officials Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the Government.
A Trump campaign aide who argues that Democrats committed “ethnic cleansing” in a plot to “liquidate” the white working class. A former reality show contestant whose study of societal collapse inspired him to invent a bow-and-arrow-cum-survivalist multi-tool. A pair of healthcare industry lobbyists. A lobbyist for defense contractors. An “evangelist” and lobbyist for Palantir, the Silicon Valley company with close ties to intelligence agencies. And a New Hampshire Trump supporter who has only recently graduated from high school.
These are some of the people the Trump administration has hired for positions across the federal government, according to documents received by ProPublica through public-records requests.
While President Trump has not moved
to fill many jobs
that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior.
Unlike appointees exposed to the scrutiny of the Senate, members of these so-called “beachhead teams” have operated largely in the shadows, with the White House declining to publicly reveal their identities.
While some names have previously dribbled out in the press, we are publishing a list of more than 400 hires, providing the most complete accounting so far of who Trump has brought into the federal government.
The White House said in January that around 520 staffers were being hired for the beachhead teams.
Read much more at the link.
The next three links may provide some clues to whether or not tRump is trying to increase Russian influence in our government.
Think Progress: Trump leaves key cybersecurity jobs vacant across the government.
The Trump administration is leaving many top technology jobs across government vacant, raising concerns about the security and maintenance of federal computer systems in the wake of an election where hacks dominated the headlines. The White House’s own cybersecurity practices are another source of concern, say experts.
Of the nine agency-level Chief Information Officer (or CIO) roles that are politically appointed, only one is currently filled — and that top tech slot is occupied by a holdover from the Obama administration.
The Federal CIO and Federal Chief Information Security Officer (or CISO) jobs are also vacant, as is the White House CISO gig.
“These are critical roles in terms of shepherding any sort of policy towards cyber and technology across the government,” said Paul Innella, the President of cybersecurity consulting firm TDI.
Leaving the jobs unfilled “doesn’t send a good message” about the new administration’s commitment to keeping its systems safe, according to Innella.
Former director of the CIA and NSA Michael Hayden in an op ed at The New York times: How Trump Undermines Intelligence Gathering.
The relationship between a new president and the intelligence agencies that serve him can be difficult in the best of times. But it’s hard to imagine a more turbulent transition than the current one, which has been marred by assertions that the administration has tried to both politicize and marginalize intelligence gathering.
No White House likes it when intelligence agencies — such as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency or the Defense Intelligence Agency — deliver bad news, or when that information undercuts the executive’s preferred policies or political positions. But I can’t remember another White House so quick to dismiss those agencies’ judgments or so willing to discredit them as dishonest or incompetent.
We’ve seen presidential tweets with “intelligence” in accusatory quotation marks, a kind of dog whistle that equates intelligence assessments with news reporting that the president condemns as “fake.” In addition to lumping the intelligence agencies in with the “dishonest” mainstream media, the president has compared his espionage services to Russians, Nazis and WikiLeaks.
Last weekend, Mr. Trump accused President Barack Obama of ordering phones at Trump Tower tapped during the 2016 campaign, a claim so outrageous that James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, denied it a day later. (So did the F.B.I. director, James Comey, according to this paper.) And last month, Mr. Trump blamed the intelligence community, along with the press, for the downfall of his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, saying on Twitter that “information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes and @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (N.S.A. and F.B.I.?).”
I want to highlight these two paragraphs (emphasis added):
As the former director of both the N.S.A. and the C.I.A., I know that leaks are a real problem that can endanger national security. But why would the administration reflexively and punitively blame its own services for leaks, since we do not yet know who is responsible for them?
The president has asserted that the leaking will stop “because now we have our people in,” a choice of words that creates more than a little shudder in the ranks of intelligence professionals, who prefer to work in the background for presidents, Democratic or Republican.
Max Boot at Foreign Policy: WikiLeaks Has Joined the Trump Administration.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump declared, “I love WikiLeaks!” And he had good reason to display affection to this website run by accused rapist Julian Assange. By releasing reams of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, WikiLeaks helped tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.
As president, Trump hasn’t come out and said anything laudatory about WikiLeaks following its massive disclosure of CIA secrets on Tuesday — a treasure trove that some experts already believe may be more damaging than Edward Snowden’s revelations. But Trump hasn’t condemned WikiLeaks. The recent entries on his Twitter feed — a pure reflection of his unbridled id — contain vicious attacks on, among other things, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the New York Times, and Barack Obama but not a word about WikiLeaks. Did the president not notice that the intelligence community he commands has just suffered a devastating breach of security? Or did he simply not feel compelled to comment?
Actually there is a third, even more discomfiting, possibility: Perhaps Trump is staying silent because he stands to benefit from WikiLeaks’ latest revelations.
I hope you’ll read the whole thing.
More reads, links only:
CNBC: EPA chief Scott Pruitt says carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming.
Business Insider: ‘There are no sacred cows’: Breitbart’s honeymoon with establishment wing of Trump White House may be over.
Mother Jones: A Running List of People Who Hate Trumpcare..
Buzzfeed: Republican Chairman Says Sean Spicer Should Stay “In His Lane” On Health Care Bill.
Thanks to NW Luna for this link from The Smoking Gun: Roger Stone’s Russian Hacking “Hero.”
Buzzfeed News: Nigel Farage Just Visited The Ecuadorian Embassy In London.
T.A. Frank at Vanity Fair: The Terrifying Truth Behind the Trump-Russia Mess. (Caveat: I don’t usually agree with Frank and I have a lot of problems with this piece.)
Also from Vanity Fair: Is Louise Mensch Really the Root of this Trump Fiasco?
Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Thursday!
Posted: March 7, 2017 Filed under: open thread, Political and Editorial Cartoons, Wednesday Hump Day Cartoons
(Notice in the antique card above the pussy is grabbing back.)
So…have you seen the latest tweet from the Head Twit in Charge?
This is really not why it is sometimes best to stay in bed…yesterday Robert Osborne, the host of TCM passed away in his sleep.
Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, has died – CNN.com
Robert Osborne, the film aficionado who shared his knowledge and passion for movies with millions of viewers as the longtime host of Turner Classic Movies, has died. He was 84.
Osborne has been on TCM since it made its on-air debut in April 1994.
A cause of death has not been announced.
Osborne, a Washington native, moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting and was once mentored by Lucille Ball, according to an official bio on his website
Robert Osborne, Host Of Turner Classic Movies, Dies At 84 : The Two-Way : NPR
NPR film critic Bob Mondello also highlighted Osborne’s “encyclopedic” knowledge of film history.
Osborne “grew up before the Internet made film research easy — before there was even a book keeping track of Oscar winners,” Bob told our Newscast unit. “So he spent hours at his college library scribbling notes that eventually helped him write film reference books, fill a column for The Hollywood Reporter, and host decades of Turner Classic Movies.”
According to his biography, Osborne was born in a small town in Washington state and studied journalism before he headed to Hollywood, where Lucille Ball encouraged his writing career.
He had a brief acting career — his biography mentions the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies, and Bob Mondello notes uncredited bit parts in Psycho and Spartacus — but it was his work as a host and historian that earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He wrote the “Rambling Reporter” column in The Hollywood Reporter for more than 25 years, and wrote a series of official histories of the Academy Awards.
Osborne was the first host of Turner Classic Movies, when the network launched in 1994. He has been the face and voice of the network ever since, although he was eventually joined by two other hosts and had cut back on his duties in the last few years.
About a year ago, in an interview with Mo Rocca on CBS Sunday Morning, Osborne said he’d been training his whole life to host TCM — without imagining it would be an option. “I was preparing for my ideal job that didn’t exist,” he said.
He also told Rocca why he believed movies matter.
“I think we have to have dreams,” he said in the CBS interview. “We need a little Carmen Miranda with all her tutti frutti hats. And we need some Fred and Ginger dancing. We need Gene Kelly hanging off that lamppost. We need to be taken into a fantasy world, and not be afraid to go there occasionally.”
Robert Osborne dies at 84; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies – LA Times
Robert Osborne, who displayed an encyclopedic knowledge — and love — of film history as the primary host of Turner Classic Movies, died Monday morning at age 84, said his partner of 20 years, theater director and producer David Staller.
Osborne died of natural causes in his sleep at home in New York City, Staller said.
“It’s difficult to imagine a planet without him,” Staller said. “He made the choice to call it a day, and he wants everyone to know that he’ll see them at the after party.”
More stories of Robert here:
Robert Osborne Dead: Turner Classic Movies Host Was 84 | Hollywood Reporter
Robert Osborne: a classic gentleman – latimes
TCM Host Robert Osborne Dead at 84; Survived by Same-Sex Partner | Advocate.com
Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies Host And Oscars Expert, Dies At 84 | The Huffington Post
Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies host, is dead at 84.– Via Slate
Robert Osborne Is Dead, and Classic Movie Fans Are Bereft – Via Jezebel
TCM announces plans to honor longtime host Robert Osborne – LA Times
Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday announced plans to honor longtime host Robert Osborne with a 48-hour tribute featuring a selection of long-form interviews from his 23-year tenure with the channel.
The tribute on March 18-19 will include interviews from Osborne’s interview series “Private Screenings,” including conversations with Liza Minnelli, Peter O’Toole, Debbie Reynolds and Ernest Borgnine. The network will also feature the 2013 installment of “Private Screenings” featuring Alec Baldwin interviewing Osborne.
“Robert was embraced by devoted fans who saw him as a trusted expert and friend. His calming presence, gentlemanly style, encyclopedic knowledge of film history, fervent support for film preservation and highly personal interviewing style all combined to make him a truly world-class host,” TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian said in a statement released Monday.
Here’s the full “TCM Remembers Robert Osborne” schedule (all times Eastern):
6 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne”
7:30 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Norman Jewison”
9 a.m. – “Robert Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute”
10:15 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Alan Arkin”
11:30 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Luise Rainer”
12:15 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli”
1:30 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne”
3 p.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Eva Marie Saint”
4:15 p.m. – “Robert Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute”
5:30 p.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Peter O’Toole”
6:45 p.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Kim Novak”
8 p.m. – Robert Osborne introduces “Gone with the Wind” in his first-ever on-air appearance as a TCM host
8:05 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne”
9:30 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Debbie Reynolds”
10:30 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Betty Hutton”
11:45 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli”
12:45 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne”
2:15 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Norman Jewison”
3:30 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Ernest Borgnine:
4:45 a.m. – “Robert Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute”
6 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Liza Minnnelli”
7 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Eva Marie Saint”
8:15 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Kim Novak”
9:15 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Peter O’Toole”
10:30 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne”
Noon – “Robert Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute”
1 p.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Alan Arkin”
2:15 p.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Luise Rainer”
3 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Ernest Borgnine”
4:15 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Norman Jewison”
5:30 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne”
7 p.m. – “Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli”
8 p.m. – “Robert Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute”
9 p.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Eva Marie Saint”
10:15 p.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Luise Rainer”
11 p.m. – “Robert Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute”
Midnight – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Peter O’Toole”
1:15 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Kim Novak”
2:30 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Alan Arkin”
3:45 a.m. – “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne”
5:15 a.m. – “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Luise Rainer”
It is too sad to think of TCM without Robert…Things have been so depressing lately. I don’t know how much I can take…
Now for some comedy:
This is an open thread….
Posted: March 7, 2017 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: CIA hacked files, GOP health insurance plan, Jason Chaffetz, mass deportation, muslim ban, North Korea, Obamacare, Ryancare, THAAD missile defense system, tRumpcare, Wikileaks
It’s another busy day in tRumpville–not for him, of course, just for us peons. King Donald is so bored that he went out to meet a White House tour group this morning.
So the Muslim ban is back with a vengeance. Plus the GOP “health care” plan is out and it’s even worse than anyone imagined. Dakinikat wrote about tRump’s immigration policies yesterday, but we’re getting more details this morning. As for Ryancare or trumpcare or whatever the f$ck you want to call the health insurance plan from hell, it looks like it will be dead on arrival.
On top of all that Russia and Wikileaks released a bunch of CIA files to try to distract everyone from the antics circus clown they put in charge of what used to be the USA. I don’t have room to write about everything, but here are a few reads to get you started.
Politico: Trump plan pays for immigration crackdown with cuts to coastal, air security.
The Trump administration wants to gut the Coast Guard and make deep cuts in airport and rail security to help pay for its crackdown on illegal immigration, according to internal budget documents reviewed by POLITICO — a move that lawmakers and security experts say defies logic if the White House is serious about defending against terrorism and keeping out undocumented foreigners.
The Office of Management and Budget is seeking a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget, the draft documents show, even as it proposes major increases to other Department of Homeland Security agencies to hire more border agents and immigration officers and construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The budget numbers mark the most detailed breakdown yet about how President Donald Trump envisions restructuring DHS to meet his pledge to halt illegal immigration and deport some of the millions already here.
Overall, DHS would get a 6 percent boost to its budget, to $43.8 billion. But to help pay for that, the administration would slice the budget of the Coast Guard and cut 11 percent in spending from the TSA — reductions that critics say would weaken safeguards against threats arriving by sea or air.
OMB also wants to cut 11 percent from the budget of FEMA, which oversees the national response to disasters such as floods and hurricanes.
The stupid is strong in this one. Obviously the mass deportation agenda has absolutely nothing to do with national security.
Speaking of national security, tRup appears to be mostly ignoring the international crisis being fomented by North Korea–at least he has said nothing publicly about how he plans to handle it. Rex Tillerson hasn’t said anything about this situation either. Has anyone seen or heard from him? The Washington Post reports: North Korea says it was practicing to hit U.S. military bases in Japan with missiles.
North Korea was practicing to strike United States military bases in Japan with its latest barrage of missiles, state media in Pyongyang reported Tuesday, and it appeared to be trying to outsmart a new American antimissile battery being deployed to South Korea by firing multiple rockets at once.
Kim Jong Un presided over Monday’s launch of the four missiles, “feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported in a statement that analysts called a “brazen declaration” of the country’s intent to strike enemies with a nuclear weapon if it came under attack.
“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” the KCNA statement said.
The four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning were launched by the elite Hwasong ballistic missile division “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan,” KCNA said. The United States has numerous military bases and about 54,000 military personnel stationed in Japan, the legacy of its postwar security alliance with the country.
Three of the four missiles flew about 600 miles over North Korea and landed in the sea, within Japan’s exclusive economic zone off the Oga Peninsula in Akita prefecture, home to a Japanese self-defense forces base. The fourth fell just outside the zone.
One thing that’s happening is that the US is sending an anti-missle defense system to South Korea, according to NBC News:
The United States has begun shipping a controversial anti-missile system to South Korea after North Korea test-launched four medium-range missiles on Monday, U.S. officials told NBC News.
The system, called THAAD, which stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is an anti-missile system designed to counter a threat like that from North Korea.
Other THAAD systems are already active in Hawaii and Guam to defend against North Korea, but the shield hadn’t yet been deployed to South Korea — a scenario that Beijing has denounced as a “clear, present and substantive threat to China’s security interests.”
Two mobile launchers landed in South Korea late Monday, part of a missile defense system that the U.S. military says is meant to defend the country against a North Korean attack.
U.S. Forces Korea
I wonder if tRump will give us a heads-up if he decides to start a war with China and North Korea? Huffington Post: North Korea Warns Of ‘Actual War’ Over Military Exercises.
North Korea said on Tuesday it would pursue its nuclear deterrent and weapons program as huge U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises it says model a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” against Pyongyang continued.
South Korea and the United States, which led condemnation of North Korea’s latest missile tests at the Conference on Disarmament, said their military drills were to test defensive readiness against possible aggression from the North.
North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi told the United Nations-backed forum that the allies’ annual exercises were “a major cause of escalation of tension that might turn into actual war”.
“The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is firm in its determination to further bolster its defense capabilities with a nuclear deterrent as a pivot so as to put an end to danger of nuclear war caused by the United States,” Ju said.
During the 90-minute session, envoys from more than 20 countries, including North Korea’s main ally China, as well as Britain, France, Russia and the United States, condemned North Korea’s test-firing of four ballistic missiles on Monday.
On the health insurance (definitely not health care) bill, here’s Sarah Kliff at Vox: The American Health Care Act: the Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare, explained. Also at Vox, Ezra Klein: The GOP health bill doesn’t know what problem it’s trying to solve. You’ll need to go read both of those–there’s much too much to excerpt.
But here’s a little news from the ridiculous Jason Chaffetz. Think Progress: GOP congressman says Trumpcare will force people to choose between new iPhone and health insurance.
During a Tuesday morning appearance on CNN, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) suggested that under Trumpcare, Americans will face some tough choices — like buying an iPhone or making sure they can see a doctor.
Pressed by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota about whether he’s concerned Trumpcare’s reduced tax incentives and lack of individual mandate will result in less people having insurance, Chaffetz said, “Well, we’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want.” ….
The cost of a new iPhone 7 without a contract is roughly $700. By comparison, the per-capita cost of health care in the U.S. last year was $10,345. Even when insurance coverage that defrays some of that cost is factored in, Americans still spend way less on phones than they do on health care….
If too many healthy people decide to forego health care they don’t think they’ll need in favor of new phones under Trumpcare, prices will go up for those remaining in the health insurance market, creating a “death spiral.”
Chaffetz is such a nasty man, to paraphrase tRump on Hillary.
CIA headquarters in Langley, VA
The New York Times on the Wikileaks story, which sounds very serious: WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged C.I.A. Hacking Documents.
WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.
If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release would be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage.
The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the document collection, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, the group said. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said.
Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
The source of the documents was not named. WikiLeaks said the documents, which it called Vault 7, had been “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”
WikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” The source, the group said, “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
The documents, from the C.I.A’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016, and WikiLeaks described them as “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.” One former intelligence officer who briefly reviewed the documents on Tuesday morning said some of the code names for C.I.A. programs, an organization chart and the description of a C.I.A. hacking base appeared to be genuine.
It will be very interesting to see how tRump responds to this disastrous situation, which obviously is the work of his buddy Vladimir Putin.
Here’s an interesting article by Noah Feldman at Bloomberg on tRump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” phones in tRump Tower: Trump’s Wiretap Tweets Raise Risk of Impeachment.
The sitting president has accused his predecessor of an act that could have gotten the past president impeached. That’s not your ordinary exercise of free speech. If the accusation were true, and President Barack Obama ordered a warrantless wiretap of Donald Trump during the campaign, the scandal would be of Watergate-level proportions.
But if the allegation is not true and is unsupported by evidence, that too should be a scandal on a major scale. This is the kind of accusation that, taken as part of a broader course of conduct, could get the current president impeached. We shouldn’t care that the allegation was made early on a Saturday morning on Twitter.
The basic premise of the First Amendment is that truth should defeat her opposite number. “Let her and Falsehood grapple,” wrote the poet and politician John Milton, “who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”
But this rather optimistic adage only accounts for speech and debate between citizens. It doesn’t apply to accusations made by the government. Those are something altogether different.
In a rule of law society, government allegations of criminal activity must be followed by proof and prosecution. If not, the government is ruling by innuendo.
Shadowy dictatorships can do that because there is no need for proof. Democracies can’t.
Thus, an accusation by a president isn’t like an accusation leveled by one private citizen against another. It’s about more than factual truth or carelessness.
Read the rest at the link.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
Posted: March 6, 2017 Filed under: 2016 elections, Afternoon Reads, Breaking News, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Congress, Criminal Justice System
Living under the rule of a crazy person surrounded by ideologues isn’t any thing I ever thought we’d see in my country. It’s no longer tis of me or thee. Tis of white nationalists and a greedy insane baby man stroking his ego and filling his coffers with Tax Payer dollars and access money.
We’ve again got a selective ban of countries Trump wrongly believes are responsible for terrorism in this country. It’s basically a wholesale denial of VISAs. I can’t imagine this will hold up in court. It’s interesting that the countries where we’ve actually had foreign national terrorists hatch are still not on the ban list and still “coincidentally” are places where the Trump Syndicate Thugs operate. Evidently some Pentagon and NSA leaders managed to get Iraq taken off the list but the others remain.
The new guidelines mark a dramatic departure from Trump’s original ban. They lay out a far more specific national security basis for the order, block the issuance of only new visas, and name just six of the seven countries included in the first executive order, omitting Iraq.
The order also details specific sets of people who would be able to apply for case-by-case waivers to the order, including those previously admitted to the U.S. for “a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity,” those with “significant business or professional obligations” and those seeking to visit or live with family.
“This executive order responsibly provides a needed pause, so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in announcing the order had been signed.
Even before the ink was dry, though, Democrats and civil liberties groups asserted the new order was legally tainted in the same way as the first one: it was a thinly disguised Muslim ban.
“While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (D), who had joined the legal fight against the first ban. “This doesn’t just harm the families caught in the chaos of President Trump’s draconian policies – it’s diametrically opposed to our values, and makes us less safe.”
Trump’s administration is taking the blame for the public view that the first few weeks in the White House have been abysmal and produced nothing in the way of legislative change. Trump evidently is upset that Obama was able to accomplish much more in his first month and it appears that Priebus is on top of the list for blame. Video of Trump storming around the oval office with the Kushners, Preibus, and Bannon taking the brunt of the temper tantrum about leaks and bad press filled the Sunday Funnies oops political programs.
As the White House struggles to gain its footing almost two months into Donald Trump’s presidency, administration officials increasingly put the blame on one person: Reince Priebus.
In interviews, more than a dozen Trump aides, allies, and others close to the White House said Priebus, the 44-year-old chief of staff, was becoming a singular target of criticism within the White House.
They described a micromanager who sprints from one West Wing meeting to another, inserting himself into conversations big and small and leaving many staffers with the impression that he’s trying to block their access to Trump. They vented about his determination to fill the administration with his political allies. And they expressed alarm at what they say are directionless morning staff meetings Priebus oversees that could otherwise be used to rigorously set the day’s agenda and counterbalance the president’s own unpredictability.
The finger-pointing further complicates life in an already turmoil-filled West Wing, one that has been hobbled by dueling power centers and unclear lines of command.
“There’s a real frustration among many — including from the president — that things aren’t going as smoothly as one had hoped,” said one senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Reince, fairly or not, is likely to take the blame and take the fault for that.”
“It’s sheer incompetence,” said another White House official. “There’s a lack of management, and a lack of strategy.”
Paul Krugman lays the blame on all Republicans saying “Why Republicans Have No Idea What They’re Doing”. It’s been pretty apparent that Republicans have been increasingly ideological and unrealistic in terms of what can and cannot be done and be within the scope of the Constitution. They continually overpromise and underdeliver. It’s because they never take time to learn about how to govern and how to get legislation pass because they’re not about doing that. They’re about getting their way period.
As Paul Krugman reminds us in his Monday column, there’s a reason why the Republican party gravitated towards Trump in the first place. And it’s hardly surprising that they can’t get it together to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or reform corporate taxes, as promised.
“They have no idea how to turn their slogans into actual legislation, because they’ve never bothered to understand how anything important works,” Krugman says.
For seven years, “Republicans kept promising to offer an alternative to Obamacare any day now, but never did,” Krugman notes.
From what we know about the new plan—and Republicans have gone to tragicomic lengths to keep it a secret—it’s not very good. As Krugman observes:
Politically, it seems to embody the worst of both worlds: It’s enough like Obamacare to infuriate hard-line conservatives, but it weakens key aspects of the law enough to deprive millions of Americans — many of them white working-class voters who backed Donald Trump — of essential health care.
The plan was hatched by “smart” Republicans like Paul Ryan, who the media never tires of painting as the wonky intellectual of the GOP. But there are glaring inconsisencies in the GOP’s Obamacare replacement.
First off, as Krugman notes, “the only way to maintain coverage for the 20 million people who gained insurance thanks to Obamacare is with a plan that, surprise, looks a lot like Obamacare.” But instead of admitting their political failure, Ryan and Co are aiming to shove this bill down the throats of the American people before anyone has a chance to understand what’s in it.
Charles Blow has he best advice I’ve seen in short form. While Krugman argues that the Republicans are a party not ready to govern, Blow says Pause this Presidency”
The American people must immediately demand a cessation of all consequential actions by this “president” until we can be assured that Russian efforts to hack our election, in a way that was clearly meant to help him and damage his opponent, did not also include collusion with or coverup by anyone involved in the Trump campaign and now administration.
This may sound extreme, but if the gathering fog of suspicion should yield an actual connection, it would be one of the most egregious assaults on our democracy ever. It would not only be unprecedented, it would be a profound wound to faith in our sovereignty.
Viewed through the serious lens of those epic implications, no action to put this presidency on pause is extreme. Rather, it is exceedingly prudent.
Some things must be done and some positions filled simply to keep the government operational. Absolute abrogation of administrative authority is infeasible and ill advised. But a bare minimum standard must be applied until we know more about what the current raft of investigations yield. Indeed, it may be that the current investigative apparatuses are insufficient and a special commission or special counsel is in order.
In any event, we can’t keep cruising along as if the unanswered question isn’t existential.
Americans must demand at least a momentary respite from — my preference would be a permanent termination of — Trump’s aggressive agenda to dramatically alter the social, economic and political contours of this country.
Greg Sargent also has a point: “At the root of Trump’s new fury: Total contempt for American democracy”. We don’t need a reboot of the Trump insurgency, we need a reboot of our democracy. The system is trying to right itself and its causing Trump to have temper tantrums of epic proportions as well as a frequent need to run to his private resort to repad his fragile feefees.
President Trump is now wallowing in fury, we are told, because he can’t make the Russia story disappear; he can’t stem the leaks to the media; and he can’t seem to realize his promises. Some reports tell us that unflattering comparisons to Barack Obama’s early accomplishments are “gnawing at Trump,” while others say he went “ballistic” when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, because it telegraphed capitulation to Trump’s foes.
But all of these things are connected by a common thread: Trump is enraged at being subjected to a system of democratic and institutional constraints, for which he has signaled nothing but absolute, unbridled contempt. The system is pushing back, and he can’t bear it.
On Monday morning, the latest chapter in this tale — Trump’s unsupported accusation that Obama wiretapped his phones — took another turn. Trump’s spokeswoman said on ABC News that Trump does not accept FBI Director James Comey’s claim — which was reported on over the weekend — that no such wiretapping ever happened.
As E.J. Dionne writes, this episode is a “tipping point” in the Trump experiment. Trump leveled the charge based on conservative media. Then, after an internal search for evidenceto back it up produced nothing, the White House press secretary called on Congress to investigate it and declared the administration’s work done. While the previous administration did wiretap, the problem is the recklessness and baselessness of Trump’s specific allegations, and the White House’s insistence that the burden of disproving them must fall on others — on Congress and on the FBI. Trump’s allegations must be humored at all costs, simply because he declared them to be true — there can be no admission of error, and worse, the White House has declared itself liberated from the need to even pretend to have evidence to back up even Trump’s most explosive claims.
The best example of this is the temper tantrum resulting from Jeff Sessions actually doing the prudent and right thing over the Russia situation.
Mr Trump is growing increasingly angry at the performance of his senior staff and at the way the Russia investigation is overshadowing his political message, several sources told multiple publications.
He called his inner circle to the Oval Office at the end of last week to talk about this week’s schedule, but the meeting became heated when the topic turned to Mr Sessions.
Sources told CNN Mr Trump used “a lot of expletives” and “nobody has seen him that upset”.
Other sources told Politico there were “fireworks” during the “robust discussion”.
There’s a tape of it even. The man is self-destructing.
Meanwhile, SCOTUS is working. It’s not advantaging the Republicans case at all.
From WAPO: “Supreme Court sends Virginia transgender case back to lower court”
The Supreme Court on Monday vacated a lower court’s ruling in favor of a Virginia transgender student after the Trump administration withdrew the federal government’s guidance to public schools about a controversial bathroom policy.
The justices were scheduled to hear the case later this month. But after the government’s position changed, the court said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit should reconsider the dispute between the Gloucester County school board and 17-year-old Gavin Grimm.
In what had been a big victory for Grimm and the transgender movement, the 4th Circuit had relied on the government’s guidance that schools should let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds with the student’s gender identity.
The Trump administration withdrew that guidance, which was issued by the Obama administration.
From ABC News: “Supreme Court: Jury secrecy no bar to looking into race bias”
A juror’s use of racial or ethnic slurs during deliberations over a defendant’s guilt can be a reason for breaching the centuries-old legal principle of secrecy in the jury room, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The justices ruled 5-3 in a case from Colorado that lower courts can take the unusual step of examining jury deliberations when there are indications that racial bias deprived a defendant of his right to a fair trial.
The decision followed another ruling last month in which the court took a hard line against racial bias in the criminal justice system. In that case, the justices ruled in favor of an African-American prison inmate in Texas whose death sentence may have been tainted by troubling references to race in court testimony.
In Monday’s case, defendant Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez appealed to the Supreme Court after two jurors reported that a third juror tied Pena Rodriguez’s guilt to his Hispanic heritage.
The juror’s statements reportedly saying Pena Rodriguez was guilty because he is “Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want” only came to light after he was convicted of inappropriately touching teenage girls.
Colorado courts ruled against Pena Rodriguez because of a legal rule that protects jury deliberations.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority “that blatant racial prejudice is antithetical to the functioning of the jury system and must be confronted in egregious cases like this one despite the general bar of the no-impeachment rule.” The court’s four liberal justices joined with Kennedy to form a majority.
Let’s keep hoping, praying and wishing for resilient institutions! Resist!!! Hopefully, the leaky T-Rump White House will help put out this National Dumpsterfire.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: March 5, 2017 Filed under: just because
Bill Day – TRUMPIE BIRD
Trump’s ‘evidence’ for Obama wiretap claims relies on sketchy, anonymously sourced reports – The Washington Post
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
— President Trump, tweet, March 4, 2017
This weekend has got me wondering if padded cells should be quiet the rage in Washington this spring. When you look at actual Tweets from Prez tRumpelforeskin, and it seems like a skit from SNL…
Speaking of Saturday Night Live:
But during the show…
This is an open thread.
Posted: March 4, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: "wiretapping", Donald Trump, FBI, FISA court, FISA warrants, paranoia, Richard Nixon, Trump Tower
Why is the media “on a witch hunt” against me? — Donald tRump
First a quick update on the smoking situation I’ve been dealing with. I got an air purifier yesterday and I think it will help a lot as I wait for the man down the hall to be evicted. If necessary, I may get a smaller one to put in the kitchen later on. Someone gave the guy more warnings after my flurry of complaints last Monday and Tuesday, and the air was clear until Thursday afternoon when I noticed the hallway was filled with smoke again.
I called the office yesterday morning, and the woman I’ve been talking to was very nice and supportive. I guess maybe she was just stressed out the last time I talked to her. After all, she had been on the job for less than a week. Yesterday she told me that people have been upstairs monitoring the air every day and talking to the man. She has done a huge amount of paper work, sent him another warning letter and contacted the lawyers to begin working on the eviction. She wants me to call her every time I smell smoke so she can put notes in the file about every incident. She also told me it would help if I get my doctor to write a letter for me. So I’m very encouraged, although the eviction process will probably take awhile.
Thanks for all your support–it really made a difference to my state of mind.
It’s another crazy day in the news. President Baby-Man has been having a major tantrum on Twitter because he somehow learned (or suspects) that there was a FISA warrant for the phones in Trump Tower last fall.
NBC News at 8:29AM today: Trump Accuses Obama of Wiretapping Trump Tower During Campaign.
Donald Trump alleged in a tweet storm early Saturday that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower before his election victory.
Trump did not provide any evidence for the claims, which followed an interview on Fox News where the allegations came up.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump wrote as part of a series of tweets Saturday morning.
He added: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
If it was “turned down by a court” the first time, it must have been a FISA warrant; there were some leaks that one had been obtained after an initial turndown. I guess tRump and his gang should have used better encryption.
How long are we going to have to put up with this joke of a “president” enriching himself from the public trough? Of course we don’t know yet where tRump got his information about the “wiretapping.” It could have been Infowars. The Washington Post thinks it might have been Breitbart: Trump cites no evidence, accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wiretap Trump Tower.
Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities….
Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Reactions from John Schindler:
I have this image of tRump pacing back and forth in his bathrobe in his tacky apartment down in Palm Beach, screaming into his insecure cell phone in frustration. He just can’t understand why he should be subject to any checks on his power. He is truly insane. Folks, we are witnessing the biggest scandal in American history. It’s going to be yuuuuge!
Yesterday’s childish tantrum from President Baby-Man was a demand for an investigation of Chuck Schumer for meeting with Vladimir Putin in 2003. Huffington Post: Donald Trump’s Attempt To Shift Russia Focus To Chuck Schumer Is More Than A Little Desperate.
President Donald Trump attempted to call out Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday by highlighting a meeting over a decade ago between Schumer and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump tweeted the image after it appeared in a Reddit thread Thursday and was shared by a number of conservative pundits, including an editor-at-large for Infowars.com, a site that promotes conspiracy theories. The picture also appeared on Gateway Pundit, which has also promoted conspiracies, as well as on conservative site, The Drudge Report.
The photo appears to be from 2003, when Putin made a public appearance at a New York City gas station that had recently been bought by Russia’s Lukoil. Schumer responded to Trump by highlighting the absurdity of his comparison, noting that Sessions denied having contact with Russia’s ambassador while he was under oath.
According to tRump whisperer and WaPo reporter Robert Costa, tRump was already mad as hell when he left for Florida yesterday.
Remember, Friday night and Saturday are the times when Ivanka and Jerrod are observing the Shabbot and aren’t available to exert control over the crazy man.
Maggie Haberman has more at The New York Times: Sessions Controversy Heightens Trump’s Feeling of Being Under Siege.
President Trump was still upbeat Wednesday night, as he settled into dinner in the White House residence with his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, some 24 hours after giving the most consequential speech of his brief presidency.
But not long afterward, the glow from Mr. Trump’s best day in office began to fade with the breaking news that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had met with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Sessions failed to mention those conversations in his Senate confirmation hearing, or, according to presidential advisers, to tell Mr. Trump at all….
In a statement repeating a familiar critique that Democrats were on a “witch hunt” over the administration’s ties with Russia, Mr. Trump offered a passing but pointed public jab at how Mr. Sessions had handled the matter. “He could have stated his response more accurately,” Mr. Trump said.
The president was irritated that Mr. Sessions did not more carefully answer the questions he was asked under oath, according to people who spoke with him. His larger frustration, however, was not with Mr. Sessions, but with whoever revealed the meetings to reporters for The Washington Post.
Mr. Trump, according to his advisers inside and outside of the White House, has felt besieged by what he regards as a mostly hostile bureaucracy, consisting in part of Democrats and people who opposed his election who are now undermining his presidency with leaks. He believes that they are behind the stories about confusion and dysfunction in his administration and, most of all, that they have made his relationship with Russia a recurring issue.
WTF did he expect after he colluded with a hostile foreign power to damage Hillary and win the election? How stupid do you have to be to think you can get away with something like that?
I also have to wonder if tRump somehow heard about this Andrea Mitchell interview with Senator Chris Coons on MSNBC, posted by Malcolm Nance:
Now the trump administration is looking for technological ways to stop all the leaks, according to Foreign Policy.
White House IT officials met with at least one private firm selling a network security system that would give administration officials control over how staffers use computers and cellphones to transmit sensitive information, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move is part of broader push by the administration to rein in leakers across the federal bureaucracy and in the White House after a string of embarrassing disclosures to the media since Trump took office, the people said.
The leaks have ranged from details of President Donald Trump wearing a bathrobe to watch late-night television, to disclosures of National Security Advisor designee Michael Flynn’s communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Trump has denounced the leakers and vowed to hunt them down.
Now, the White House is searching for a high-tech solution akin to the defense systems used by companies to stop wayward employees from stealing proprietary data. The quest underscores the administration’s desire to better control the news cycle — and perhaps to quash dissent.
This guy is more paranoid than Richard Nixon. The Russian government and their puppet tRump may think the investigations of their ties are a witch hunt, but the American public disagrees. Politico reports: Russia investigations a ‘witch hunt’? Not according to polls.
While the public still has considerable confusion about what, precisely, individuals connected to the Russian government did — and how they might have been connected to the Trump campaign — there is general consensus that whatever happened, it merits further independent investigation.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week asked Americans if they believe that Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is “too friendly” or not. A 38 percent plurality called the Trump-Putin relationship too friendly, more than the 29 percent who said it wasn’t too friendly. Nearly a third, 32 percent, didn’t have an opinion.
When it comes to the Trump-Russia issue, there are two parallel trends that should raise red flags for the White House. First, as Americans have formed opinions on the issue, it has been to Trump’s detriment. Since December, the percentage of undecided Americans on the Trump-Putin relationship has declined from 44 percent to 32 percent. At the same time, the percentage who view Trump as too friendly with the Russian leader has risen from 31 percent to 38 percent.
Moreover, while nearly two-thirds of Democrats feel Trump is too friendly with Putin, only half (52 percent) of Republicans feel he isn’t too friendly with his Russian counterpart. Independents are unsure about Trump’s relationship with Putin — but more feel they are too friendly (35 percent) than think they aren’t (27 percent).
I’ll have more links in the comment thread, and I invite you to share what you’re reading and hearing. Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!