Friday Reads: The Drumpfistan Detritus: More news from the Deplorable in Chief

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers! 

It’s difficult living under an administration’s whose goal and dreams for America manifest as tearing everything down.  We don’t have leadership. We have an ethos of chaos and destruction. I’m afraid if we don’t see the Cabinet and grown ups in the West Wing exercise the 25th Amendment there will not be much left of our democracy.  I’m not sure the Mueller investigation can move fast enough to save us from this human wrecking ball.

 

Jonathan Chait–writing for New York Magazine–discusses yesterday’s latest attack on the American populace.  Trump Unveils Full-bore Obamacare Sabotage.    We have a POTUS who is okay with killing Americans. I’m don’t even think he gives human life an afterthought.

Donald Trump and his party have never been able to figure out a viable alternative to Obamacare. Having failed to repeal and replace the law, they have set out to wreck it. The Trump administration is taking two steps to accomplish this goal. First, it is opening two loopholes to allow healthy people to purchase unregulated insurance, splitting the market and loading more costs onto people with expensive medical needs. Second, it announced tonight it is ending cost-sharing payments to insurers who take on low-income customers.

Both these changes are designed to put pressure on insurers, increasing premiums by an average of 19 percent, and even splitting up the individual insurance markets. Whether they will succeed is yet to be seen. States committed to making Obamacare work will find solutions that keep their markets intact. (Indeed, there has been a marked difference in the premium levels of states that are trying to help cover their citizens and those that aren’t.)

What’s more, by withholding payments promised in the law, the administration is exposing itself to a lawsuit it could very well lose. (New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and others have already announced their intention to sue.) Premiums are going to rise in the meantime, because insurers are subjected to greater uncertainty and the now-demonstrated knowledge that the administration is deliberately sabotaging the law they are operating under.

The exchanges in 2017 had stabilized financially, as insurers found a profitable price point. The Republican Party has, as a matter of theological principle, refused to accept the possibility that Obamacare might succeed at its stated ends. If Obamacare were truly collapsing, sabotage would not be necessary. It is the law’s success, not its failure, that has made Trump so determined to wreck it. The White House has released a statement confirming its intention to end the payments, written in the pidgin English indicating the president’s own authorial hand …

Trump wants to erase all traces of his predecessor in a childish and racist manner than ignores the fact that what he’s really doing is killing the people of this country.  This is the act of an insane man with no grounding in morality. This is nothing but the act of a mad king.

Donald Trump has long predicted the implosion of Obamacare. He just took a huge step to fulfilling his own prophecy.

The White House announced late Thursday morning it would cut off a key Obamacare subsidy that makes copayments and deductibles more affordable for low-income Americans. Trump pulled the trigger on the plan late Thursday night.

Trump has spent months toying with the idea of ending these payments, which are drawn from a $7 billion fund set up specifically to cover these costs. House Republicans havechallenged these payments in court, arguing that they were never appropriated in Obamacare and thus being illegally distributed.

There is no question that this new policy is lose-lose-lose for key stakeholders with no upside:

  • It will raise Obamacare premiums by an estimated 20 percent in 2018, as health plans have to charge more to make up the lost funds. By 2020, premiums would increase 25 percent due to this change.
  • Pulling the plug actually increases the national deficit. As those insurance plans make double-digit rate increases, the government will have to spend billions more on the other subsidies that 10 million Americans receive to purchase that coverage.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this move will ultimately cost the government $194 billion over the next decade.
  • The number of uninsured Americans would rise by one million people in 2018, in the CBO’s estimate.
  • Insurance companies lose out, too, particularly those that assumed Trump would pay these subsidies and set their premiums accordingly. They now stand to face significant financial loses on the Obamacare marketplaces.

To recap: Trump is enacting a policy where the government spends billions more to insure fewer people.

If we didn’t already have enough intellectually and emotionally challenged people in Washington already, Trump’s wrecking krewe just continues to astound us.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry appeared to think that Puerto Rico is a separate country during a House hearing Thursday.

Rep. Kathy Castor asked Perry about efforts to restore Puerto Rico’s hurricane-ravaged power grid during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.

“What is your plan to build a more distributed grid there with the modern technology that’s at our fingertips?” Castor asked.

“Congresswoman Castor, you have just pointed out the real challenge that this country faces in dealing with the territory and the citizens of Puerto Rico,” Perry replied. “That is a country that already had its challenges before this storm…”

“Well, they’re — it’s America,” Castor interjected. “They’re American citizens, so it’s not a country. But could you just detail, since the time is limited.”

“Yeah, that’s the reason I called it a territory, ma’am,” Perry replied. “I apologize for misstating here and calling it a country.”

Oops.

The Banana Republic of Drumpfistan continues to kill citizens in Puerto Rico.   Trump threatened to abandon them because of budget concerns and whatever demons dance in his head as they die of preventable diseases, starve, and live in unimaginable squalor and destruction.

On the island, residents and elected officials responded to Trump’s Thursday tweets with outrage and disbelief. Radio disc jockeys gasped as they read aloud the presidential statements, while political leaders charged that he lacked empathy and pleaded for help from fellow U.S. citizens on the mainland.

“The U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has publicly praised Trump’s handling of the crisis, tweeted in apparent response to the president.

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, who has been feuding publicly with Trump, strongly condemned the president’s tweets. In a tweet of her own, she derided him as a “Hater in Chief.” And she said in a statement that he “is simply incapable of understanding the contributions, the sacrifices and the commitment to democratic values that Puerto Ricans have shown over decades.”

Yulín Cruz tweeted back that the comments would be more appropriate coming from a “Hater in Chief” and said, “Shame on you!” for the president’s lead-footed, tone deaf responses to the crisis.

Republican strategist Rick Wilson said that Trump doesn’t care about Puerto Rico because he thinks of its people as “Sea Mexicans” and not actual Americans.

Cruz has sent an SOS to the UN.

NBC News published the one-page statement, in which Yulín called on the United Nations and UNICEF to “stop the genocide” and bring “drinkable water, food and medicine” to the U.S. territory, which has suffered mightily in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The president’s cavalier attitude and threats of withdrawing aid Puerto Rico, said Yulín Cruz, “seem to be taken out of a book about how to add insult to injury.” She accused Trump of being “incapable of empathy” and said he is “frankly simply cannot the job done.”

“I ask every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this president know WE WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE. I ask the United Nations and UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a president that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls.”

Trump tweeted on Thursday morning that the country “cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

He hates us.  He really hates us.

Donald Trump is to address the annual conference of an anti-LGBT group which has been classified as a hate group.

The US president will become the first sitting president to address social conservative activists and elected officials at the Value Voters Summit in Washington DC on Friday.

President Trump has addressed the event which is hosted by the Family Research Council three times in total and did so last year as the Republican presidential candidate.

The Family Research Council opposes and actively lobbies against equal rights for LGBT persons. The conservative Christian group campaigns against same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions, LGBT adoption, abortion, embryonic stell-cell research, pornography and divorce.

The Trump Baby Sitters are trying to Protect the Iran Deal by hiding it.   I just want to walk off a bridge each time I read stories about generals in the White House protecting us all from nuclear war that we might start,   This is not what we should be worrying about this day and age. We’ve a history of banging things with bigger sticks than necessary but I thought this kind of thing was beyond us.

In a meeting with Senate Democrats last week, President Donald Trump’s top national security aide had a message for those worried that the administration may scuttle the Iran nuclear deal: If Trump doesn’t have to see it, he won’t be able to kill it.

The point National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster conveyed, according to a congressional Democratic aide, was that “[Trump] wants this out of sight and out of mind.”

McMaster was more subtle and careful in his words when he hosted a group of roughly 12 lawmakers at the White House, conspicuously timed with the president out of town. But that was the impression he left, three sources familiar with the briefing tell The Daily Beast.

Under the terms of legislation passed around the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, the president is required every 90 days to determine whether Tehran is in compliance. The measure was designed to put President Barack Obama (and anticipated successor Hillary Clinton) in a bind—forcing politically-uncomfortable declarations in support of an unpopular nuclear accord on the regular. But in the age of Trump, the 90-day-deadline has presented an unanticipated problem.

So, we may not completely lose the Iran Deal. But, really, do they know this?  Can they really stop him?

President Donald Trump will say on Friday the Iran nuclear deal is no longer in America’s national security interests, but he won’t withdraw from the landmark 2015 accord or immediately re-impose sanctions, U.S. officials said.

The announcement is essentially a compromise that allows Trump to condemn an accord that he has repeatedly denounced as the worst deal in American history. But he stops well short of torpedoing the pact, which was negotiated over 18 months by the Obama administration, European allies and others.

Instead, Trump will kick the issue over to Congress, asking lawmakers to come up with new legislation that would automatically re-impose sanctions should Iran cross any one of numerous nuclear and non-nuclear “trigger points,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said in remarks released ahead of Trump’s announcement.

Those “trigger points” would include violations of the deal involving illicit atomic work or ballistic missile testing, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilize the region, human rights abuses and cyber warfare, they said.

I’m going to end with something that’s a good question and may get you drinking way too early in the day. Sean Illing puts up this bit at VOX:  20 of America’s top political scientists gathered to discuss our democracy. They’re scared. “If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast.”

Nancy Bermeo, a politics professor at Princeton and Harvard, began her talk with a jarring reminder: Democracies don’t merely collapse, as that “implies a process devoid of will.” Democracies die because of deliberate decisions made by human beings.

Usually, it’s because the people in power take democratic institutions for granted. They become disconnected from the citizenry. They develop interests separate and apart from the voters. They push policies that benefit themselves and harm the broader population. Do that long enough, Bermeo says, and you’ll cultivate an angry, divided society that pulls apart at the seams.

Meanwhile … 

Is President Donald Trump aware residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands are, in fact, Americans? It’s unclear.

In a speech Friday, Trump said he’d recently “met with the president of the Virgin Islands” to discuss the recent hurricanes that have devastated Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the island.

But Trump could not have spoken to the “president of the Virgin Islands” because, of course, he is the president of the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose residents are U.S. citizens.

Okay, now I’m done. I’m really really done.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

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Thursday Reads: Donald Trump, the Worst Person in the World, and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Every day I wake up to find that Trump has topped himself in terms of cruelty, ignorance, and selfishness. I guess if Hitler were alive, he’d be a worse person than Trump, but Trump is just beginning his attack on human decency from his powerful position.

The Washington Post: Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort.

President Trump served notice Thursday that he may pull back federal relief workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a staggering humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Declaring the U.S. territory’s electrical grid and infrastructure to have been a “disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote Thursday that it will be up to Congress how much federal money to appropriate to the island for its recovery efforts and that relief workers will not stay “forever.”

Three weeks after Maria made landfall, much of Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million people, remains without power. Residents struggle to find clean water, hospitals are running short on medicine, and commerce is slow, with many businesses closed.

Trump on Thursday sought to shame the territory for its own plight. He tweeted, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” And he quoted Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist, as saying, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”

He also wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz comforts a hurricane survivor.

It has been three weeks, and the Federal Government response has been pathetic and incompetent. People in Puerto Rico have been for help, and Trump has interpreted their pleas as criticism of him personally. This is a very sick man, and he must be removed from power before he destroys our country.

Vox: Everything that’s been reported about deaths in Puerto Rico is at odds with the official count.

Death tolls are the primary way we understand the impact of a disaster. And for nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, as a humanitarian crisis was intensifying, the death toll was frozen at 16.

“Sixteen people certified,” Trump said on October 3 during his visit to the island, repeating a figure confirmed by the territory’s governor. “Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico.” ….

The death toll from the hurricane is now up to 45, according to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. But 90 percent of the 3.4 million American citizens on the island still don’t have power, and 35 percent still don’t have water to drink or bathe in. And given how deadly power outages can be, 45 deaths seems low, according to disaster experts.

At Vox, we decided to compare what the government has been saying with other reports of deaths from the ground. We searched Google News for reports of deaths in English and Spanish media from Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. We found reports of a total of 81 deaths linked directly or indirectly to the hurricane. Of those, 45 were the deaths certified by the government. The remaining 36 deaths were confirmed by local public officials or funeral directors, according to the reports. We also found another 450 reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and reports of at least 69 people still missing.

Please go read the rest if you can.

Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump during 1988 U.S. Open in 1988 (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

In case you imagined Trump ever had any human decency, here’s a little about what he did to his eldest son Donald Jr.

At The New York Times: Gail Collins discusses some revelations from Ivana Trump’s new book: The Trumps, the Poodle, the Sex Scandal.

The book is supposed to be about good parenting. But the most important thing you learn is that we can never say another mean thing about Donald Jr. again. Really, it sounds like the worst childhood ever. His story begins with Dad resisting the idea of naming the baby after him, in case his first born turned out to be “a loser.”

As a toddler, Don Jr. broke his leg due to a negligent babysitter. Then one day when Ivana was out of town, he and Eric called hysterically to report they had found their nanny unconscious in the basement. (She died.)

Wait, there’s more: During their infamous divorce, Dad sent a bodyguard from his office to get Junior, announcing: “You’re not getting him back. I’m going to bring him up myself.”

Ivana says she responded: “O.K., keep him. I have two other kids to raise.” Silence and 10 minutes later the bodyguard returned her son.

It was, Trump’s ex-wife concluded, “a tactic to upset me.” However for some reason, at around this time Don Jr. stopped speaking to his father and wound up getting shipped to boarding school.

After several more years of being the namesake of a man who was then famous for starring in the most sensational tabloid stories of the era, Don Jr. graduated from college, moved to Colorado and got a job bartending. Ivana said she made her disapproval clear by “cutting him off” until he gave up, returned to New York and joined the Trump Organization.

People Magazine recounts the stories told by a college classmate–I wrote about this when it first came out.

Vanity Fair reported that Scott Melker, a Penn classmate, wrote on Facebook, “Donald Jr. was a drunk in college. Every memory I have of him is of him stumbling around on campus falling over or passing out in public, with his arm in a sling from injuring himself while drinking. He absolutely despised his father, and hated the attention that his last name afforded him.”

Melker also described an alleged incident in which Trump showed up to his son’s dorm room to take him to a Yankees game. Trump Jr. was dressed in a Yankees jersey and when he opened the door to his father, “without saying a word, his father slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates. He simply said, ‘Put on a suit and meet me outside,’ and closed the door.” A spokesperson for the Trump family told Vanity Fair this story is “completely false.”

The man in the White House is pure evil. There is so much horrifying news about him that it’s impossible to pay attention to all of it. Here’s more proof that Trump is not only evil, but he is a moron, just as Rex Tillerson said last summer.

CNBC: Trump just claimed stock market gains actually offset national debt.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that, “in a sense,” gains made by private financial markets reduce the national debt. The claim is incorrect on its face, but it does point to how the president views the economic interplay between the federal government and Wall Street.

“The country — we took it over and owed over $20 trillion,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News, referring to the total national debt, which has hovered near $20 trillion since early 2016.

“As you know, the last eight years, [the federal government] borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country,” Trump said. “So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value.”

“So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it,” Trump said.

WTF?!

For evidence that the two metrics have little to no bearing on one another, look no further than the eight years of the Obama presidency: Between 2009 and 2017, the S&P 500 returned 235 percent while the national debt soared.

And while Trump likes to talk about “reducing debt,” the economic policy proposals he’s unveiled so far, especially his tax reform plan, could easily add another trillion dollars to the debt, according to economists.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal continues as more women come forward every day. Oh, and have you heard that the whole thing is Hillary Clinton’s fault? I wonder was it also her fault when Trump said he liked to “grab them by the pussy?”

Sady Doyle at Elle: Harvey Weinstein and the Crisis of Complicity.

When giants fall, they fall fast. We haven’t even been living with the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment history for a week, yet the news has gotten worse every day. From the New York Times’ initial report — which specified the now-familiar details of hotel meetings, ulterior motives, and “massages” that were less than optional — the accusations have escalated to include masturbating in front of an actress, forced oral sex, and vaginal rape. (Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, says ““Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”) Weinstein’s accusers now include Gwyneth Paltrow, Asia Argento, Patricia Arquette, and Angelina Jolie. Meanwhile, a former New York Times reporter has now alleged that a story she was working on in 2004 related to Weinstein’s behavior was “gutted” after she received phone calls from Russell Crowe and Matt Damon vouching for a former Weinstein colleague. (Damon vigorously denies he knew anything about Weinstein’s behavior). Weinstein himself has been forced out of the Weinstein Company.

As always, with such a disturbing story, people are looking to assign blame. Whose fault is Harvey Weinstein?

Harvey Weinstein, apparently, is Hillary Clinton’s fault.

Click on the link to read the rest.

Actress Rose McGowan was suspended from Twitter after she accused actor Ben Affleck of having “prior knowledge of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct, including toward her”.

From the New York Times:

Rose McGowan

In a sign that the controversy over the producer Harvey Weinstein could engulf other people in the film industry, the actress Rose McGowan accused Ben Affleck of lying on Tuesday about his knowledge of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults of women.

Ms. McGowan, in a tweet and a subsequent email exchange with The New York Times on Tuesday night, said she had told Mr. Affleck that Mr. Weinstein had behaved inappropriately with her.

Mr. Affleck, who rose to stardom with help from Mr. Weinstein on the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” had said earlier Tuesday that he was “angry” over Mr. Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women, but he gave no indication of whether he knew about it. “I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others,” Mr. Affleck said in a statement.

From Shakesville: This is Rape Culture.

Two things I’ve seen this morning are perfect, terrible illustrations of how the rape culture works.

First, there was the news that Twitter has suspended Rose McGowan for publicly stating that Ben Affleck had lied about what he knew regarding Harvey Weinstein.

Yesterday, Ben Affleck has to apologize for actually sexually assaulting someone, which trended on Twitter all day, but he isn’t suspended. Who is suspended is Rose McGowan, who merely contradicted Affleck’s claim not to have known about Weinstein’s sexual abuse, which she knows because she’s the one who told him. 

This, as I shouldn’t have to point out, couldn’t be a clearer case of the way institutions work to protect abusers and their abettors, while silencing survivors.

The second thing Melissa wrote about is this excerpt from a piece by Doree Shafrir at Buzzfeed: What To Do With “Shitty Media Men”?

I’ve never been assaulted or harassed by someone I worked with, and it’s only been lately that I’ve realized how messed up it is that I feel fortunate that’s the case. There have been a few uncomfortable incidents for me personally, like the editor who Gchatted me late at night, seemingly drunk, and propositioned me, or the art director who was way too interested in my intern experience and put his hand on my thigh at a party. But people whispered about the guys who were really bad, the ones who coerced young women into sex, the ones who were physically abusive. The ones to stay away from.

Back to Melissa’s piece:

Shafrir begins by saying she’s “never been assaulted or harassed,” only to then describe two instances of harassment. To be clear, I’m not auditing the way she feels about or identifies those experiences, but simply noting they meet the definition of workplace harassment.

The instinct to mitigate manifests in different ways: Here, Shafrir straightforwardly discounts her own experiences as harassment. My go-to strategy as a younger woman was always to turn incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault into “humorous” anecdotes, which allowed me to talk about what happened without really talking about what happened.

I hope you’ll go to Shakesville to read the rest.

I have so many more links saved up, but I’m out of time and space. Please post your thoughts and recommended links in the comment thread below.


Wednesday Reads

Good Morning!!

I don’t know if JJ has internet access yet, so I thought I’d put up a quick open thread.

Now we know the real reason why Rex Tillerson called Trump a moron. From NBC News this morning: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military.

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a “moron.”

Revelations of Trump’s comments that day come as the U.S. is locked in a high-stakes standoff with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and is poised to set off a fresh confrontation with Iran by not certifying to Congress that Tehran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

Unbelievable.

Trump was on Twitter this morning denying the story and threatening NBC.

Remember when Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was an “incredible advocate of the first amendment?” The Hill reports:

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders boiled over with frustration at the press during Thursday’s news briefing, telling CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta that “you have a responsibility to tell the truth.”

Acosta, who has been a persistent critic of the administration, asked Sanders whether President Trump believes the First Amendment protecting free speech and press rights is as important as the Second Amendment, which enshrines protections for gun owners.

“Absolutely,” Sanders said. “The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment. With the First amendment … with those freedoms also come responsibilities. You have a responsibility to tell the truth. To be accurate.”

Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that the Senate Intelligence Committee should investigate “Fake News Networks” to see “why so much of our news is just made up.”

No wonder Bob Corker is worried about Trump bumbling into WWIII. Peter Beinart at The Atlantic: What Bob Corker Really Fears.

It doesn’t matter all that much that Bob Corker and Donald Trump are insulting each other via Twitter. Sooner or later, Trump insults almost everyone. What matters is that Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a confidant of the secretary of state, is warning publicly that “we could be heading towards World War III,” presumably with North Korea. The crucial question is why.

It’s possible that in his New York Times interview, Corker got carried away. As former Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told me, “Forces have not been mobilized. The military is still saying diplomacy comes first.”

But it’s also possible Corker genuinely fears that Trump and Kim Jong Un’s blood-curdling rhetoric, combined with ongoing North Korean missile and nuclear tests and American displays of military force, pose a risk of catastrophic miscalculation—war by accident. Reducing that risk requires meaningful communication between Washington and Pyongyang. And Corker—who told the Times that “in several instances” Trump has “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out”—seems worried that Trump is rendering such communication almost impossible, thus leaving both the U.S. and North Korea flying blind.

A little more:

It is Trump’s comments torpedoing talks with the North that appear to have alarmed Corker the most. In the Times interview, he said Trump’s “tweets, especially as it relates to foreign policy issues, I know have been very damaging to us” and have “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway.” He specifically rejected the notion that Trump and Tillerson were engaged in “some good cop, bad cop act” in which Trump’s bellicosity strengthened his secretary of state’s bargaining power. And he warned of miscommunication, saying that Trump doesn’t understand the way “the messages that he sends out” are “being received in other languages around the world.”

In this regard, Corker’s fears resemble those of American reporters who have recently been to North Korea. “To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other,” wrote Evan Osnos last month in The New Yorker. More recently, The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof declared that, “I’ve been covering North Korea on and off since the 1980s, and this five-day trip has left me more alarmed than ever about the risks of a catastrophic confrontation.” He urged “talks without conditions, if only talks about talks” to prevent a “crisis that escalates.”

What Corker, Tillerson, Osnos, and Kristof understand is that while a diplomatic deal with North Korea may be impossible, improving communication with North Korea is essential to reducing the possibility of accidental war.

Recently there have been rumors that Trump is getting frustrated with John Kelly as his chief of staff, and an old friend of Trump’s, Thomas Barrack, has been mentioned as a successor. That may be off the table after this story in The Washington Post: ‘He’s better than this,’ says Thomas Barrack, Trump’s loyal whisperer.

Barrack, in interviews with The Washington Post, said he has been “shocked” and “stunned” by some of the president’s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets. He disagrees with some of Trump’s proposals, including his efforts to ban immigrants from certain Muslim countries and his push for a border wall with Mexico. He wonders why his longtime friend spends so much of his time appealing to the fringes of American politics.

“He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,” Barrack said. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”

“I tell him all the time: I don’t like the rhetoric,” Barrack, who runs a large real estate investment company, said at his Manhattan office….

Barrack said he has often thought about how he has remained a close friend for 30 years with a man whose “reputation is selfish and egotistical. Here’s what I think the answer is: I’ve never needed anything from him . . . I was always subservient to him.” Barrack said that his life intersected with Trump “at soft moments,” such as discussions about their divorces and children. He was at Trump’s side during the funeral of Trump’s father, Fred, and they talked for a half-hour about “the weight of a hard dad, and the baton passing.” As a result, Barrack said, he has seen within Trump “a kind of compassion at a very lonely level.”

Out of that has developed a most unusual bond, which in turn has enabled Barrack to talk to Trump “straight up,” telling him when he disagrees. That has been surprisingly often.

“It is not always fun, and no, he doesn’t come back and say, ‘By the way, your idea was right or brilliant,’ ” Barrack said.

There’s much more about the relationship between the two men at the link.

Why has Trump ignored the terrorist attack on U.S. Troops in Niger? From Salon: Trump’s Benghazi? Ambush of U.S. soldiers in Niger goes unnoticed.

It’s been five years since terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, leaving four Americans dead. Last week, as CIA officers disguised in wigs and mustaches testified in court about the predawn ambush on the diplomatic compound, four other Americans soldiers were killed in neighboring Niger.

Most Americans may not even be aware that approximately 800 U.S. troops are stationed in Niger, a West African nation where jihadist groups have taken root. As part of the never-ending war on terror, the United States has also set up a drone base in Niger’s capital city of Niamey. Contrary to his focused commitment to reverse every policy put in place by his predecessor, President Donald Trump has decided to carry on with the construction of a second drone base in Niger commissioned by Barack Obama….They say the building will have the best features, starting off with the best round mosaic tiles in the industry.

The New York Times reported that when the soldiers were ambushed, no American helicopters came to their rescue. Although Congress has never authorized the mission in Niger — as is required by the Constitution — the military’s Africa Command asked lawmakers for more help months before the attack, the Times also reported.

It remains unclear which terror group carried out the ambush, but there are reports that a new wing of the Islamic State that calls itself the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) had a hand in the deaths of the Special Forces troops — the first U.S. casualties in Niger.

Identified as Staff Sgt. Bryan Black of Washington state, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson of Ohio, Sgt. La David Johnson of Florida and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Georgia, the four dead Americans, part of the Third Special Forces Group based at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, haven’t received much attention. The White House said Trump was notified about the attack in Niger shortly after it happened last Wednesday night. A week later, he still hasn’t sent one tweet or released any official statement about the death of four Americans. He has written more than 60 tweets about Benghazi, another terror attack in the same region of Africa that resulted in four dead Americans.

I’ve been having a tough time with the Harvey Weinstein story, and I haven’t read the stories in detail. I think these stories are traumatizing for lots of women, because most of us have experienced sexual harassment in our work lives. So many men don’t seem to understand how common these behaviors are–either that or they are willfully blind to what goes on all around them. But night Rachel Maddow reported a shocker. She had Ronan Farrow on her show and he said that NBC had refused to publish his story on Weinstein, so he took it to The New Yorker.

Huffington Post: Sources: NBC Let Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein Scoop Slip Away.

Ronan Farrow’s investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s long history of alleged sexual misconduct was in NBC’s hands as recently as August, according to multiple sources both inside and outside the network. By then, Farrow, an NBC contributor and investigative reporter, had already obtained damning audio of an encounter Weinstein had with a woman, in which Weinstein admits to having groped her, sources told HuffPost.

Instead, Farrow’s story — and the audio, from a 2015 New York Police Department sting — appeared Tuesday on the website of The New Yorker. Sources told HuffPost that NBC had concerns related to the story’s sourcing and cleared Farrow to take it to The New Yorker.

It’s not clear what those concerns were. In The New Yorker story, several women spoke on the record about their encounters with Weinstein. Among them were Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino and filmmaker Asia Argento, the latter of whom said Weinstein raped her.

The story relinquished by NBC, according to a network source, was “nowhere close to what ultimately ran in the NY Times or the New Yorker.” The network declined to comment on the record.

Farrow says the New Yorker story was essentially the same as the one he took to NBC.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: The Daily Drumpfistan Detritus

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m trying not to count the days and ways our country has been held hostage by a Russian and NAZI installed madman.  I really think we’re beginning to witness an implosion of the Republican party.  They have so many niche interest groups that there are nothing but internecine battles between them. The only way they hold it all together is by a group gestalt of hating what they perceive as “other”.

Most of us fall into the group of other one way or another.  People of color, people not practicing the right form of Christianity or not Christian at all,  the GLBT community, the creative class, intellectuals and professors, recent immigrants from certain countries, any one not fixated on the second amendment to the exclusion of all others, or people not deemed symbolically patriotic enough all make the enemies’ list one way or another.   It’s the season for attacking the wonderful work of Planned Parenthood too.  Nothing like lies and strawmen to whip up the country’s basket of deplorables.

Here’s today’s news in Republican acts we despise.  Let’s start with her ickinesss Marcia Blackburn. Blackburn specializes in being a gender traitor.

Twitter is barring a top Republican Senate candidate from advertising her campaign launch video on the service because a line about her efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood was deemed “inflammatory.”

GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker, launched her campaign last week with a video proclaiming herself “a hard core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.” In her announcement video, she boasts: “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts. Thank God.”

Twitter decided the line violated its ad policies, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. A Twitter spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a request for comment. The video is still on Twitter, but the campaign is barred from paying to promote it.

The line refers to her work leading a House select committee investigating Planned Parenthood following a 2015 controversy in which videos shot by undercover conservative journalists appeared to show the group profiting from the sale of fetal body tissue. Democrats have argued the panel’s inquiry was a waste of taxpayer funds, intended to concoct a reason to shut down the group.

Planned Parenthood consistently denied wrongdoing and never faced criminal charges.

Then, there’s this white supremacist in the White House who continues to push the Bannon agenda.  Stephen Miller represents the worst of the modern Republican party.

Miller, a staunch immigration hawk, was conspicuously left out of the bipartisan dinner meeting where that DACA framework had been formed. By the morning after the dinner, Miller, sources say, was already in discussions with Capitol Hill offices about how to ensure conservative policy gains ended up in the final deal his boss might cut.

A hard-lined anti-immigration advocate, Miller strategized with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) about a more specific, more conservative, set of extractions the White House would demand in the deal. Cotton was the natural choice—he is one of the Senate’s most conservative members on the immigration issue, and the co-author of legislation, dubbed the RAISE Act, to significantly limit the number of legal immigrants to the U.S.

Miller is a jerk for all jerks.  He’s one of those folks that believe in their superior genes while the rest of us look at him and wonder if he ever got laid by anything he didn’t pay for. 

Whenever Donald Trump gives a speech and you find yourself thinking, “I can’t believe anyone could be this hateful,” there’s a good chance that the man behind that speech was Stephen Miller, the prematurely balding 32-year-old who must have made a deal with the devil at some point wherein he traded his youth and morals for power. Well, The New York Times has a new profile of Miller that gives us a glimpse of his youth in liberal haven Santa Monica, California. And it turns out that he’s always been just the absolute worst. Some of the anecdotes in the piece have circulated before. A young Stephen Miller running for student government and getting booed for complaining about having to pick up his own trash when they have janitors to do that for them? Absolutely gross, but we’ve heard it. Miller calling a classmate and telling him that they could no longer be friends because of, among other things, said classmate’s Latino heritage? Awful, but already part of the Miller narrative. But the stories in this profile we haven’t heard before? Oh god, they’re…something.

Like the story of his weird “striptease” for the school newspaper editor?

Mr. Miller set off on a patriotic semi-striptease before the editor of the student newspaper, according to the editor, Ari Rosmarin, theatrically removing a button-down to reveal an American flag T-shirt in protest of an article he found inconsistent with the national interest. (The White House denied any symbolic unbuttoning, though officials confirmed Mr. Miller’s fondness for the T-shirt.)

Who does that? What an odd and bizarre thing to do, especially over an article in a school newspaper. Really? You found an article in your high school paper “inconsistent with the national interest”? It’s high school! Didn’t Miller have high school things to do? Like go on dates or work for minimum wage at a video store? But in fairness to Stephen Miller (I know, I know, he doesn’t deserve it, but hear me out), this particular story is more weird than infuriating. But make no mistake, Miller has plenty of infuriating stories. And perhaps none more so than this next anecdote from the piece.

He jumped, uninvited, into the final stretch of a girls’ track meet, apparently intent on proving his athletic supremacy over the opposite sex.

This is obviously insanely disrespectful, and just such a gross “look at me” stunt, but it’s also just super dumb. If I wait at the last stretch of a marathon and, being well-rested, “beat” the people who have run the previous 26 miles, that obviously doesn’t make me athletically superior to them. Anyone who thinks that it does would have to be a complete moron

We all know that Trump’s on a daily search for his manhood and gets away with most of it because of his money and sheer audacity. Trump hates the narrative that makes him look like anything less than the superior master race.  He’s such a nitwit he offered to prove the “moran” narrative wrong by taking an IQ test. Do we really believe he’d achieve a score above room temperature?

President Donald Trump, scorned by reports that Rex Tillerson called him a “moron” earlier this year, told Forbes in an interview released Tuesday that he has a higher IQ than his secretary of state.

The comment underscores the volatility between the two men after multiple reports that their relationship has frayed over the secretary of state’s comment. Trump and Tillerson, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will have lunch together at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests,” Trump said. “And I can tell you who is going to win.”

I really haven’t wanted to delve very deeply into this swamp but here’s a bit on sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. The Drumpf history of predation has been tough enough to read.  This man is a nightmare waiting to happen.  Most of the time women warn each other about the pussygrabbers.  I was warned early in the 1980s to never get in the Senator’s elevator with Strom Thurmond.  He was a notorious ass grabber.  Hollywood is full of these kinds of stories. I really hope we can eventually rid ourselves of this but since we got the Pussy Grabber elected knowing what we know about him, I’ve given up all hope of any one treating any one with respect and kindness from the Republican Klan.

And now  …  “RNC chairwoman calls on Clinton to speak out about Weinstein”.  Weren’t they just telling her to shut up and go away?

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel suggested on Saturday former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should speak out about the sexual assault allegations against former campaign donor and film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“Whose side is Hillary Clinton on: Harvey Weinstein’s or his victims?” McDaniel said in a tweet.

So, we just continue to learn that some people were just not raised right.   Here’s yet another example and go read the byline from WAPO as well as the rest of the article.

Frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes, President Trump is now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda, numerous White House officials and outside advisers said Monday.

In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem.

In doing so, Trump is laboring to solidify his standing with his populist base and return to the comforts of his campaign — especially after the embarrassing defeat of Sen. Luther Strange in last month’s Alabama GOP special election, despite the president’s trip there to campaign with the senator.

Sen. Bob Corker’s brutal assessment of Trump’s fitness for office — warning that the president’s reckless behavior could launch the nation “on the path to World War III” — also hit like a thunderclap inside the White House, where aides feared possible ripple effects among other Republicans on Capitol Hill.

After a caustic volley of Twitter insults between Trump and Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, few GOP leaders came to the president’s defense Monday — though few sided openly with Corker, either. The most vocal Trump defender was the one under the president’s direction, Vice President Pence.

Trump in recent days has shown flashes of fury and left his aides, including White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, scrambling to manage his outbursts. He has been frustrated in particular with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was reported last week to have earlier called the president a “moron.” Trump’s Sunday morning Twitter tirade against Corker caught staffers by surprise, although the president had been brooding over the senator’s comment a few days earlier about Trump’s “chaos” endangering the nation.

One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. “I think we are in pressure cooker territory,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.

Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are dying and California is burning and people are missing and dying.  Maybe Kremlin Caligula should take a lesson from Nero. Ah, I forget!  He doesn’t read.

Powerful wildfires fanned by strong winds ravaged parts of Northern California’s wine country on Monday, killing at least 11 people and destroying some 1,500 structures.

More than a dozen blazes continued to burn across eight counties since the weekend, while over 20,000 people in the paths of the fast-moving infernos fled their homes, fire officials said.

With increased resources headed to the region to battle the wildfires, “hopefully we’ll start seeing some turnaround throughout the course of today and into tomorrow,” Scott McLean, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said Tuesday on “TODAY.”

It’s autumn which is the time to reap what you sow.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Adult Day Care

Good Morning!!

Is this finally the beginning of the end? Trump has been attacking fellow Republicans for months, and this time one of them finally hit back hard. Yesterday Trump lashed out at Tennessee Senator Bob Corker on Twitter.

Of course none of that is true. Corker’s office said that Trump had repeatedly asked him to run for reelection, and offered to endorse him. As for the Secretary of State job, Corker withdrew his name from contention after his interview with Trump.

Corker’s Twitter response:

Then last night Corker gave a stunning interview to the New York Times: Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal….

 

The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

There’s more:

…Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private….

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Two Media reactions:

ABC News The Note: What’s dangerously serious about Trump’s feud with Corker

What happened to the calm part? The storms have begun, and just might spill over into real wars before they’re done. Sen. Bob Corker’s public feud with President Trump is no mere war of words, even in the Trumpian insult era. Corker is blowing the lid off of months of private frustrations and worries, harbored by erstwhile allies of the president, that the commander-in-chief is reckless, dishonest and could put the nation “on the path to World War III,” as Corker told The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation,” Corker said. Combine that with the tensions between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly, and this has far bigger consequences than your typical Twitter feud. Just words? Perhaps. But they are words that are spurring confrontation with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and more words will come this week that could lead Iran to restart its own nuclear program. Corker’s reference to the White House as an “adult day care center” suggests that grown-ups are ultimately in charge. This may be the week that tests that proposition, and sorts out high-level presidential strategy from absolute and dangerous recklessness.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, referring to the NYT interview: Bob Corker just confirmed it: Republicans know Trump is unfit.

Corker declined to answer when asked if he believes Trump is unfit for the presidency. But the only reasonable way to read all these comments is as a declaration that Trump is indeed unfit — and that most Republicans know it. After all, Corker had previously said that Trump’s inner circle is helping to “separate our country from chaos.” Now he has added that Trump needs to be restrained by his inner circle from devolving into conduct that could end up unleashing untold global destruction — and that most Republicans know it.

Corker is getting a lot of press plaudits for his unvarnished appraisal. But as James Fallows writes, there is a good deal that Corker can actually do right nowif he wants to mitigate the threat that he himself says Trump poses. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has a range of powers that could help constrain Trump, including the power to hold public hearings to draw public attention to the ways in which Trump’s temperament threatens untold damage. At a minimum, Corker can be asked whether he intends to do these things, and if not, why not.

But whatever Corker says and does now, his new comments should precipitate a fundamental change in the way the press treats the ongoing GOP enabling of Trump. Corker has forced out into the open the fact that Republicans recognize the sheer abnormality and danger to the country of the situation we’re in, which opens the door for much tougher media questioning of them about their awareness of — and acquiescence to — this state of affairs.

This can start with a simple query: Do Republicans agree with Corker that Trump regularly needs to be constrained by his top advisers from engaging in conduct that threatens severe damage to the country and the world? If so, what are Republicans prepared to do about itrgent mentions.

People are still talking about Mike Pence’s ridiculous display at the Indianapolis Colts game yesterday on a day that was supposed to be dedicated to honoring long-time Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Trump and Pence cooked up a public relations stunt. Knowing that a number of players for the Colts’ opponent the SF 49ers would kneel during the national anthem, the two agreed that Pence would fly to Indy from Las Vegas and then abruptly walk out on the game after the anthem. The press knew this, because Pence told them to wait outside for him because he’d be leaving soon. Pence then flew back out to California for a fund-raiser for Putin’s favorite Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and other Republicans.

Pence is getting plenty of criticism for using taxpayer money to fly back and forth across the country for a political stunt.

CNN: The price tag for Pence’s trip to Indianapolis.

How much did Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Indianapolis to watch — and then abruptly leave — a football game Sunday between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers cost?

Holier than thou

Here is an estimate of just the air costs (which does not include costs of advance personnel, Secret Service or support on the ground):According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000.\

Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500.Some costs of the flight into Los Angeles will be reimbursed by the Republican National Committee because Pence is attending a political event there.

If he had flown just from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, a trip lasting about 90 minutes, the cost would have been about $45,000.

I don’t usually like Connor Friedersdorf, but he has a good reaction at The Atlantic: Mike Pence’s Flagrant Waste of Taxpayer Money.

On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence made a big show of leaving an NFL game early. He declared himself upset that some players knelt during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem,” he declared, as if attacking those things was the intent of the athletes.

The NFL players knelt in protest because they believe that African Americans are being denied their self-evident rights to life and liberty by a prejudiced criminal-justice system.

“This is not about the military, this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem,” 49ers Safety Eric Reid later told reporters. “My mother served in the armed forces. Three of my uncles served … I have the utmost respect for the military, for the anthem, for the flag … This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country … I will keep doing what I feel is necessary, to use the platform that I have, to make changes. It’s really disheartening when everything you were raised on, everything I was raised on, was to be the best person I can be, to help people who need help, and the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message that we’re trying to put out there. I don’t know what to say about it.”

Pence is not compelled to agree with how players protest. But by fleeing the entire NFL game, he adopted the tactics of a childish, petulant snowflake who reacts to speech he dislikes by misrepresenting it, expressing umbrage, and retreating to a “safe space.”

The major difference?

When an immature teenager makes a show of fleeing from expression that he regards as politically incorrect, he’s typically evading ideas he ought to confront on his own dime. Whereas Pence spent taxpayer money to get to that NFL game. Lots of it.

There is so much more news, and so little time and space to discuss it. Most notably, Puerto Rico is still in agony, and the Trump administration seems determined not to help.

The Daily Beast: Without Power Until Next Year, Puerto Ricans Are Leaving—Maybe Forever

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico—Joe and Maria Bernard cook in the dark over a gas stove outside their small hotel, the Tropical Guest House. “The days feel shorter,” says Maria, “we just have 12 hours of daylight to get everything done.”

When it gets dark, the entire island of Vieques is dark.

Turnkey Hotel

This is life on the world-renowned tourist island. And it’s going to be life for at least the next six to eight months, if not longer, before electricity is restored here.

“We’re in denial,” says Maria, “we’re going to give it another two weeks maybe a month, then maybe we’ll have to go back to the States.”

In 2005, the couple traded in the bustle of New York and jobs in the television industry for a more rewarding future in Puerto Rico, which offered triple-tax exemption for resettling here. With their savings, they got a loan to buy their turnkey hotel.

Read more painful stories at the link.

Oh, and today is Columbus Day. From the New York Times: Why People Have Protested Columbus Day Almost From Its Start.

A reverend at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan appeared on the front page of The New York Times after he criticized Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator who sailed to the Americas on behalf of Spain in 1492.

The reverend, R. S. MacArthur, said Columbus was “cruel, and guilty of many crimes.”

That complaint may sound familiar to those who condemn the explorer for opening a door to European colonialism, which brought disease, destruction and catastrophic wars to the people who already lived here.

But Mr. MacArthur said those words more than a century ago, in 1893. His comments suggested he was more affronted by Spain, which he called “the poorest and most ignorant country in Europe,” than concerned about Native Americans.

He was one of many to have questioned the legacy of the explorer, whose arrival in the Americas has been celebrated in the United States for hundreds of years.

Read the rest at the NYT.

What’s left of Hurricane Nate has arrived in New England this morning giving us lots of rain and 40mph winds. I’m glad because it has been hot here for the past few days.

What’s happening where you are? What stories are you following today?


Sunday Stuff

Well, Nate was a no show for New Orleans but I have a feeling that it’s giving JJ a time up there in Georgia.  Here are some things to chomp on for the moment. What isn’t particularly passing for a President in the White House is having more Twitter Trumper Tantrums. 

Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, on Sunday called the White House “an adult day care center” after President Trump attacked him in a morning Twitter tirade.

Setting off an extraordinary squabble between two leaders of the same party, Trump alleged in a trio of tweets that Corker “begged” him for his endorsement, did not receive it and decided to retire because he “didn’t have the guts” to run for reelection next year.

In response, Corker (Tenn.) tweeted, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

Our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean need our help. This headline from Think Progress shows more weaponized Twitter.  “Desperate San Juan Mayor takes to Twitter after Trump administration ignores requests for help. Trump, meanwhile, is patting himself on the back.”  It seems our only way to get the attention of this White House is to Troll Kremlin Caligula on TV or Twitter.

By official estimates, just under 12 percent of power is restored on the island. Even drinking water in many areas remains limited: just over half of customers reliant on Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) have potable water.

Mayor Cruz said the federal government’s response has been slow, inadequate, or downright nonexistent. She said FEMA had offered “no response” after a hospital requested aid.

 

Meanwhile, the deplorable veep takes aim at the NFL.  WTF is wrong with these people?  What kind of priorities do they have? “Trump says he directed Pence to walk out of game if 49ers protested during national anthem”.

The plan had been for Vice President Mike Pence to attend the Indianapolis Colts game at which Peyton Manning’s number is to be retired, a gala celebration of the former Colts quarterback’s contributions to Pence’s home state.

The former governor of Indiana and his wife, wearing a Manning No. 18 jersey, left Lucas Oil Stadium after the national anthem, following instructions from President Trump after a number of San Francisco 49ers players took a knee during the anthem.

“I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled,” Trump posted on Twitter. “I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”

Sometimes, you just have to scream. The NAZIs are at it again in Charlottesville.

Richard Spencer, who in August led white nationalists and white supremacists in a torchlight march across the University of Virginia campus that touched off a weekend of deadly clashes, returned Saturday night to Charlottesville.

Spencer, a white nationalist, posted video on social media of followers carrying torches to the statue of Robert E. Lee, which the city has sought to remove.

They showed up here in New Orleans too but didn’t gain any attention as they stood in the mist of Nathan on Jefferson Davis near the missing statue. Every one else was more concerned about the hurricane and the curfew.

He’s still going after every one’s health care.   “How Trump is planning to gut Obamacare by executive order. The president could use association health plans to badly damage the law’s markets.”

With a repeal bill off the table, the Trump administration has drafted an executive order that could blow a huge hole in the Affordable Care Act, according to a source with direct knowledge of the plan.

The order would, in effect, exempt many association health plans, groups of small businesses that pool together to buy health insurance, from core Obamacare requirements like the coverage of certain essential health benefits. It would potentially allow individuals to join these plans too, which would put individual insurance marketplaces in serious peril by drawing younger and healthier people away from them.

The draft order is also said to broaden the definition of short-term insurance, which is also exempt from the law’s regulations. Together, these changes represent a serious threat to Obamacare: President Trump seems ready to open more loopholes for more people to buy insurance outside the health care law’s markets, which experts anticipate would destabilize the market for customers who are left behind with higher premiums and fewer insurers.

“This appears to be a backdoor way of undermining the Affordable Care Act,” Kevin Lucia, who studies the markets at Georgetown University, said of the alleged changes.

It’s possible that the order could change before Trump signs it, or never be signed at all, as has happened with other executive orders in the past. The details of the order as described, though, generally match up with what had been expected after Trump said he would soon issue an executive order on health care. Association health plans have been a priority for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has urged Trump to expand them.

The White House declined to comment when Vox inquired about the pending order. A senior administration official detailed the outline of the executive order to the Wall Street Journal on Saturday evening, which aligns with the description provided to Vox.

Okay, well, that’s enough scary headlines today.  The real slasher villains appear to be in the West Wing. Freddy Kruger and Michael Meyers are benign in comparison.  Who schemes to kill millions of people because the first black president zinged you at a press dinner?

I’m going to go grade and hope we hear from JJ.  Take care!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

The illustrations in this post are from an article at Literary Hub: 40 of the Creepiest Book Covers of All Time–just because it’s October and Halloween is approaching and the president is a monster.

Now to the news, beginning with Facebook helping Donald Trump.

Brad Pascale, the Trump Campaign’s digital director will be on 60 Minutes on Sunday. CBS teased the interview yesterday, and it seems that Pascale had help from Facebook employees in targeting specific voters.

“Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won,” Parscale tells Stahl.  Parscale says he used the majority of his digital ad budget on Facebook ads and explained how efficient they could be, particularly in reaching the rural vote.  “So now Facebook lets you get to…15 people in the Florida Panhandle that I would never buy a TV commercial for,” says Parscale.  And people anywhere could be targeted with the messages they cared about. “Infrastructure…so I started making ads that showed the bridge crumbling…that’s micro targeting…I can find the 1,500 people in one town that care about infrastructure. Now, that might be a voter that normally votes Democrat,” he says. Parscale says the campaign would average 50-60,000 different ad versions every day, some days peaking at 100,000 separate iterations – changing design, colors, backgrounds and words – all in an effort to refine ads and engage users.

Parscale received help utilizing Facebook’s technology from Facebook employees provided by the company who showed up for work to his office multiple days a week. He says they had to be partisan and he questioned them to make sure.  “I wanted people who supported Donald Trump.”  Parscale calls these Facebook employees “embeds” who could teach him every aspect of the technology. “I want to know everything you would tell Hillary’s campaign plus some,” he says he told them.

(Emphasis added.) That sounds highly problematic and I think Mark Zukerberg has some explaining to do.

This article by Max Read at New York Magazine from October 1 is well worth reading: Does Even Mark Zuckerberg Know What Facebook Is?

Mark Zuckerberg had just returned from paternity leave, and he wanted to talk about Facebook, democracy, and elections and to define what he felt his creation owed the world in exchange for its hegemony. A few weeks earlier, in early September, the company’s chief security officer had admitted that Facebook had sold $100,000 worth of ads on its platform to Russian-government-linked trolls who intended to influence the American political process. Now, in a statement broadcast live on Facebook on September 21 and subsequently posted to his profile page, Zuckerberg pledged to increase the resources of Facebook’s security and election-integrity teams and to work “proactively to strengthen the democratic process.”

To effect this, he outlined specific steps to “make political advertising more transparent.” Facebook will soon require that all political ads disclose “which page” paid for them (“I’m Epic Fail Memes, and I approve this message”) and ensure that every ad a given advertiser runs is accessible to anyone, essentially ending the practice of “dark advertising” — promoted posts that are only ever seen by the specific groups at which they’re targeted. Zuckerberg, in his statement, compared this development favorably to old media, like radio and television, which already require political ads to reveal their funders: “We’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency,” he writes.

This pledge was, in some ways, the reverse of another announcement the company made earlier the same day, unveiling a new set of tools businesses can use to target Facebook members who have visited their stores: Now the experience of briefly visiting Zappos.com and finding yourself haunted for weeks by shoe ads could have an offline equivalent produced by a visit to your local shoe store (I hope you like shoe ads). Where Facebook’s new “offline outcomes” tools promise to entrap more of the analog world in Facebook’s broad surveillance net, Zuckerberg’s promise of transparency assured anxious readers that the company would submit itself to the established structures of offline politics.

It was an admirable commitment. But reading through it, I kept getting stuck on one line: “We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German elections this weekend,” Zuckerberg writes. It’s a comforting sentence, a statement that shows Zuckerberg and Facebook are eager to restore trust in their system. But … it’s not the kind of language we expect from media organizations, even the largest ones. It’s the language of governments, or political parties, or NGOs. A private company, working unilaterally to ensure election integrity in a country it’s not even based in? The only two I could think of that might feel obligated to make the same assurances are Diebold, the widely hated former manufacturer of electronic-voting systems, and Academi, the private military contractor whose founder keeps begging for a chance to run Afghanistan. This is not good company.

Rex Tillerson still has his job, but how much longer will he last?

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair’s The Hive: Tillerson’s Job on Death Watch at Moron-Gate Explodes.

Rex Tillerson’s already-shaky position within Donald Trump’s Cabinet is suddenly looking perilous. Simmering tensions between the president and his top diplomat spilled out into the open on Wednesday amid reports that the secretary of state had threatened to resign and called his boss a “moron” over the summer. Tillerson’s subsequent non-denial denial reportedly left Trump fuming and Chief of Staff John Kelly scrambling to contain the fallout, spurring a fresh wave of speculation that the long-rumored “Rexit” may be imminent.

Trump was livid when the “moron” story broke, according to NBC News, which first reported that Tillerson had vented about the president earlier this summer. With Trump on the warpath, Kelly reportedly canceled his plans to travel to Las Vegas with the president to clean up the mess, summoning Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis to outline a response to the deluge of negative press coverage. By 11 a.m. on Thursday, Tillerson was behind a lectern in damage-control mode, declaring that he “had never considered leaving” his post and praising the president.

Still, Tillerson stopped short of outright denying that he had called the president a “moron,” ushering in a fresh news cycle. When Trump insisted that NBC News had made up the story, and that nobody sought “verification” from him, the network hit back. “Sir, we didn’t need to verify that he called you a moron, he did it behind your back,” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle said on air, delivering another round of bad press and further enraging the president. On Friday morning, Axios cited insiders as saying the relationship is “broken beyond repair,” with Trump furious that Tillerson didn’t shut down the story.

Kelly is reportedly trying to stanch the bleeding, figuring that another major staff shake-up will only further destabilize the administration. But the relationship between the White House and Foggy Bottom is so toxic, sources told Jonathan Swan, that there may be no coming back.

Click on the link to read the rest.

The New Yorker also has an interesting story that provides quite a bit of background on Tillerson. Once you read it, it becomes clear why Tillerson would be shocked by Trump’s dishonesty and corruption.

Rex Tillerson at the Breaking Point. Will Donald Trump let the Secretary of State do his job?

Tillerson, who is sixty-five, was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, and grew up in a lower-middle-class family that roamed across the two states. He was named for two Hollywood actors famous for playing cowboys: Rex Allen and John Wayne (his middle name is Wayne). “I grew up pretty modest,” he told me. “My dad came back from World War Two and drove a truck selling bread at grocery stores. My mom had three kids—you know, the nineteen-fifties.”

His formative experience was in the Boy Scouts. When he was young, his father took a job helping to set up local chapters, and Tillerson eventually became an Eagle Scout, one of an élite class of “servant-leaders” distinguished by obsessive, nerdish attainment. When he was fourteen, and living with his family in Stillwater, Oklahoma, he got a job washing dishes in the kitchen of the student union at Oklahoma State University, for seventy-five cents an hour. On weekends, he picked cotton: “You just show up Saturday morning at 6 a.m., climb into the back of a panel truck with a bunch of other guys, and you drive out to one of the farms and drag a big cotton sack behind you, picking cotton all day long, for a dollar an hour.”

When Tillerson was sixteen, he started sweeping floors at the university’s engineering school, and began thinking about engineering as a career. He got there by an unusual route. Tillerson, who had played drums in his high-school marching band, won a band scholarship to the University of Texas, where he studied civil engineering. Upon graduation, in 1975, he got a job at Exxon as a production engineer.

Exxon has historically been dominated by engineers, who pride themselves on their precise, quantifiable judgments. “Rex is what you would expect to get when you cross a Boy Scout with an engineer—straight and meticulous,” Alex Cranberg, an oil executive who went to college with Tillerson, said. Others described a more pragmatic sensibility, noting that Tillerson’s favorite book is “Atlas Shrugged,” the Ayn Rand novel extolling the virtues of capitalism and individualism. “The thing about Rex is, he’s got this big Texas aw-shucks thing going on,” a Russia expert who knows Tillerson told me. “You think he’s not the smartest guy in the room. He’s not the dominant male. But, after a while, he owns all your assets.”

Tillerson may be a conservative, but he’s the anti-Trump and very different from some other members of Trump’s cabinet–for example, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The New York Times: Seven Flights for $800,000: Mnuchin’s Travel on Military Jets.

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has flown on military aircraft seven times since March at a cost of more than $800,000, including a $15,000 round-trip flight to New York to meet with President Trump at Trump Tower, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General.

The inquiry into Mr. Mnuchin’s air travel, prompted by an Instagram posting by his wife, found he broke no laws in his use of military aircraft but lamented the loose justification provided for such costly flights.

“What is of concern is a disconnect between the standard of proof called for” by the Office of Management and Budget “and the actual amount of proof provided by Treasury and accepted by the White House in justifying these trip requests,” the inspector general wrote.

Mr. Mnuchin has made nine requests for military aircraft since assuming his position earlier this year and has taken seven flights. A request to use a military plane for his European honeymoon with his wife, Louise Linton, in August was withdrawn. A ninth flight is scheduled for later this month, when Mr. Mnuchin is expected to travel to the Middle East.

The investigation follows a series of controversies over the lavish travel of several members of President Trump’s cabinet, including Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, who resigned last week after racking up at least $400,000 in travel bills for chartered flights.

Apparently Trump has come to depend on Chuck Shumer’s advice, to the consternation of Republicans.

Axios: Scoop: Trump phones Schumer for help on health care, worrying GOP.

 

President Trump telephoned Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday in an effort to revive health-care legislation, Republican sources said.

Trump was seeking “a path forward on health care,” a GOP source said….
Although it’s not known what Trump proposed or how Schumer responded, word traveled fast among Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill…

Hahahahahahaha!

I’m going to wrap this up with a non-political piece, an excerpt from what looks like a fascinating new book.

The Atlantic: A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas, by Adam Rutherford.

Europeans arriving in the New World met people all the way from the frozen north to the frozen south. All had rich and mature cultures and established languages. The Skraeling were probably a people we now call Thule, who were the ancestors of the Inuit in Greenland and Canada and the Iñupiat in Alaska. The Taíno were a people spread across multiple chiefdoms around the Caribbean and Florida. Based on cultural and language similarities, we think that they had probably separated from earlier populations from South American lands, now Guyana and Trinidad. The Spanish brought no women with them in 1492, and raped the Taíno women, resulting in the first generation of “mestizo”—mixed ancestry people.

Immediately upon arrival, European alleles began to flow, admixed into the indigenous population, and that process has continued ever since: European DNA is found today throughout the Americas, no matter how remote or isolated a tribe might appear to be. But before Columbus, these continents were already populated. The indigenous people hadn’t always been there, nor had they originated there, as some of their traditions state, but they had occupied these American lands for at least 20,000 years.

It’s only because of the presence of Europeans from the 15th century onward that we even have terms such as Indians or Native Americans. How these people came to be is a subject that is complex and fraught, but it begins in the north. Alaska is separated from Russian land by the Bering Strait. There are islands that punctuate those icy waters, and on a clear day U.S. citizens of Little Diomede can see Russians on Big Diomede, just a little over two miles and one International Date Line away. Between December and June, the water between them freezes solid.

Go to the Atlantic to read the rest. The book is titled: A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes.

What else is happening? What stories are you following? Are you in the path of Hurricane Nate?