Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Having a childish, incompetent madman in charge of the government is so exhausting. How much more of this can we take? Today, Donnie is headed for the Texas border with Mexico to do something or other. Who knows what insane gibberish will spew from his deformed lips. All I know for sure is that it won’t make sense.

Donnie has been touting his “steel slat” fence for the past week, but guess what? Those slats can be cut through with a common household saw.

NBC News: Test of steel prototype for border wall showed it could be sawed through.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for a steel slat design for his border wall, which he described as “absolutely critical to border security” in his Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday. But Department of Homeland Security testing of a steel slat prototype proved it could be cut through with a saw, according to a report by DHS.

A photo exclusively obtained by NBC News shows the results of the test after military and Border Patrol personnel were instructed to attempt to destroy the barriers with common tools.

The Trump administration directed the construction of eight steel and concrete prototype walls that were built in Otay Mesa, California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico. Trump inspected the prototypes in March 2018. He has now settled on a steel slat, or steel bollard, design for the proposed border barrier additions. Steel bollard fencing has been used under previous administrations.

However, testing by DHS in late 2017 showed all eight prototypes, including the steel slats, were vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.

Photos of the breaches were not included in a redacted version of the CBP report, which was first obtained in a Freedom of Information Act Request by San Diego public broadcaster KPBS.

Gail Collins mocks Donnie’s wall obsession at The New York Times: Trump Hits the Wall. And what’s all that sniffling about?

We need to look at the bright side of Donald Trump’s border wall fixation.

Sure, he’s shut down the government and thrown the nation into chaos. But it could be worse. He could be demanding a fiery moat between us and Canada. Or building a 36,000-foot-deep barrier across the Pacific Ocean to drive home his commitment to tariffs.

See? There’s always a silver lining.

On Trump’s strange oval office address:

Maybe all this wall obsessing makes Trump tired. He certainly seemed low-energy during his Oval Office address. “He makes Jeb Bush look like a combination of Mighty Mouse and Bruce Springsteen,” a friend of mine said after the president finished his nine-minute speech to the American people.

For every viewer whose response to the talk was “Wow, we should do something about immigration!” there must have been a hundred whose first reaction was “Why does this man keep sniffing?” Deviated septum? Nasal polyps? Trump’s breathing has actually sounded strange for a long time, but most of us have chosen to ignore it rather than engage in a national conversation about the president’s nose.

If you watched the address — and really, you could have, it was only about as long as it takes to microwave popcorn — you saw a 72-year-old guy squinting at the teleprompter and making rather alarming breathing sounds while reading a speech about how we need a wall to protect women who are “sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”

This is not a man who should wrap his arguments around the idea of protecting women from sexual assault. But also, gee, he sounded like Uncle Fred who you haven’t seen for a while and suddenly he shows up for Thanksgiving with weird colored hair and vacant eyes and he’s talking into his mashed potatoes.

As the Trump shutdown continues, the administration has been giving tone-deaf advice to government employees who are going without pay.

The Washington Post: Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown.

Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”

The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness.

“Bankruptcy is a last option,” the document said.

The Coast Guard receives funding from the Department of Homeland Security and is subjected to the shuttering of parts of the government along with DHS’s other agencies. That stands in contrast to other military services, which are part of the Defense Department and have funding.

This is interesting, from Buzzfeed News: ICE Might Be Violating Federal Law By Keeping Immigrants Detained During The Shutdown.

A lengthy government shutdown over border wall funding has potentially put Immigration and Customs Enforcement at risk of violating a more than 100-year-old law that could not only require the release of “non-dangerous” individuals in the agency’s custody but also stop it from continuing to arrest and detain certain people, according to former senior ICE officials and experts.

The potential violation could complicate ICE’s operations at a time when President Donald Trump has argued that the shutdown is necessary to force Democrats to implement tougher immigration policies, such as building a wall on the US–Mexico border.

ICE contracts with nonfederal detention facilities, like county jails and private detention contractors, across the country to hold individuals detained by immigration agents. The agency pays for the bed space in various ways, including monthly payments or, in some cases, in advance.

As of Jan. 1, the agency was detaining more than 48,000 individuals, which is 8,000 more than the levels that had been provided for by the now-expired congressional funding. But nearly three weeks after its funding lapsed because of the shutdown, ICE has likely run out of money to pay contractors for the detention space it uses.

And while ICE has some non-appropriated funds it can lean on, those are not enough to pay for the overall detention space for more than a few weeks, said Kevin Landy, who was appointed during the Obama administration to run ICE’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning, a position he held for more than six years, up until 2017.

In other news, Kamala Harris is close to announcing a run for president in 2020.

KCBS Radio: Kamala Harris Ready To Enter Race For President, Sources Say.

Sen. Kamala Harris has decided to run for president in 2020 and will announce her candidacy on or around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, probably at a campaign rally in Oakland, sources close to the freshman senator from California tell KCBS Radio.

Harris, 54, has been making the rounds of television talk shows and appearing at several events this week as part of a brief tour to promote her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.”

At every stop, when asked about running for president, Harris has answered with some variation of “I’m not ready yet” to announce her decision, citing family considerations. But several sources knowledgeable about her plans say she is ready, and has in fact decided to run, with the enthusiastic blessing of her husband and two stepchildren.

The debate within her camp is how, and where, to launch her campaign. The tentative plan is for Harris to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with a campaign rally, most likely in Oakland, where she was born and began her legal career.

And the media continues to belatedly vet Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. Politico: Top Bernie Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate.

On the final night of the Democratic National Convention in July of 2016, Bernie Sanders’ staffers went out to a Mediterranean restaurant and hookah bar in Center City Philadelphia to celebrate and mourn the end of the campaign.

Sitting at the bar sometime after midnight, convention floor leader Robert Becker—who oversaw Sanders’ Iowa campaign, then helped lead his efforts in Michigan, California, and New York as deputy national field director—began talking with a female staffer who had worked under him along with her boyfriend.

Becker, now 50 years old, told the 20-something woman that he had always wanted to have sex with her and made a reference to riding his “pole,” according to the woman and three other people who witnessed what happened or were told about it shortly afterward by people who did. Later in the night, Becker approached the woman and abruptly grabbed her wrists. Then he moved his hands to her head and forcibly kissed her, putting his tongue in her mouth as he held her, the woman and other sources said.

The woman said she didn’t come forward at the time, because Sanders’ campaign was over. But when she was recently contacted by Becker about 2020 the women felt she had to speak up.

“Candidates who allow people like Robert Becker to lead their organizations shouldn’t earn the highest office in our government,” said the woman, who was granted anonymity because she feared retaliation from supporters of Sanders and Becker, who has a loyal following of his own.

“It just really sucks because no one ever held him accountable and he kept pushing and pushing and seeing how much he could get away with. This can’t happen in 2020. You can’t run for President of the United States unless you acknowledge that every campaign demands a safe work environment for every employee and volunteer.”

 

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Thursday Reads: Trump Flubs Troop Visit and Other News

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

Good Afternoon!!

So Trump was finally shamed into visiting some troops in Iraq, and naturally everything about his visit was completely inappropriate. He acted as if he was a a campaign rally, bragging about his mythical accomplishments and telling bald-faced lies as usual.

Previous presidents have used these trips to praise soldiers and let them know that they are appreciated as well as to meet with local officials. Trump did none of that; and, as JJ noted yesterday, he revealed the classified location of Seal team troops and posted their faced on-line. On top of everything else, he autographed MAGA hats for troops who are forbidden from engaging in political activities.

Iraqi leaders were not happy.

Reuters: Iraqi lawmakers criticize Trump visit as blow to Iraqi sovereignty.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi political and militia leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, and lawmakers said a meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was canceled due to a disagreement over venue.

The Book Keeper, by Nicole Gustafson

Sabah al Saadi, the leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc, called for an emergency session of parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over.”

The Bina bloc, Islah’s rival in parliament and led by Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, also objected to Trump’s trip to Iraq.

“Trump’s visit is a flagrant and clear violation of diplomatic norms and shows his disdain and hostility in his dealings with the Iraqi government,” said a statement from Bina.

CBS News: After Trump’s visit, Iraqi lawmakers demand U.S. withdrawal.

Baghdad — Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded U.S. forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by President Donald Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Politicians from both blocs of Iraq’s divided Parliament called for a vote to expel U.S. troops and promised to schedule an extraordinary session to debate the matter.

“Parliament must clearly and urgently express its view about the ongoing American violations of Iraqi sovereignty,” said Salam al-Shimiri, a lawmaker loyal to the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Containing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in a year that saw al-Sadr supporters win the largest share of votes in May elections. Al-Sadr has called for curbing U.S. and Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.

The moron-in-chief can’t get anything right.

CNN: Troops bringing Trump hats to sign may violate military rule.

Seuss-Scape, by Nicole Gusafson

Video footage and the written report of Trump’s visit with service members in Iraq showed the President signing “Make America Great Again” hats and an embroidered patch that read “Trump 2020.”

But troops’ requests for the autographs could brush up against Department of Defense guidelines for political activities.

Those guidelines say that “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.”

The Daily Beast: Trump Takes a War-Zone Victory Lap—and Trips.

This should have been a victory lap for a president hailed by the military for letting them loose to attack ISIS, unconstrained by the reluctance and micromanagement of the Obama administration. But President Donald Trump has just announced the U.S. would be leaving the job to Turkey, deserting Kurdish and Western coalition allies, and abandoning the field of battle to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran.

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” President Donald Trump told a group of about 100 troops, most of them special operators, in an unannounced holiday visit to al-Asad Airbase, in northern Iraq. He added that other countries can no longer expect the U.S. to do their fighting, unless they are willing to pay for it. “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” he said….

“In Syria, Erdogan said he wants to knock out ISIS, whatever’s left, the remnants of ISIS,” Trump told reporters on the trip.  “And Saudi Arabia just came out and said they are going to pay for some economic development, which is great; that means we don’t have to pay.”

But what of the French and British allies the U.S. has left behind in Syria to keep up the fight? Does that mean they are the suckers left holding the bag? Or the Kurdish militia groups that did most of the fighting, and dying, to drive out the so-called Islamic State, now left to the tender mercies of sworn enemy Turkey?

The president was unrepentant, explaining that he gave “the generals” multiple six-month “extensions” to get out of Syria. “They said again, recently, can we have more time? I said, ‘Nope.’ You can’t have any more time. You’ve had enough time. We’ve knocked them out. We’ve knocked them silly,” he said. “Others will do it too. Because we are in their region. They should be sharing the burden of costs and they’re not.”

But the decision hasn’t sat well with many in the special-operations community Trump was addressing, as they’ve known many of these Kurdish fighters for years, and risked life and limb on joint missions together well before the ISIS fight.

In other news, it’s looking more and more like the Trump Organization could end up being indicted in New York. Perhaps that will force Trump out even if the Republicans protect him from impeachment.

NBC News: Probe of Trump’s charity could crash ‘like a Mack Truck’ into his real estate empire.

The Trump Foundation and the Trump Organization shared much more than President Donald Trump’s last name.

And that’s why, experts said, the New York state investigations into the charity could envelop the president’s namesake business.

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

“Nothing but overlap here. It all was held so tightly by he and his family members,” NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC News.

“I don’t think there will be any investigative daylight between what the New York state authorities and investigators are looking into with respect to the foundation vs. the organization vs. anything else involving business dealings that have the name ‘Trump’ attached to them,” he said, predicting that the foundation investigation will “crash through (the Trump Organization) like a Mack Truck.”

Wouldn’t that be fun to watch? A bit more:

Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor and NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst, said that because some of the same people alleged by the state attorney general of persistent illegal activity in running the charity are also involved with the president’s business, there is reasonable justification in broadening the investigation.

“It is likely that the investigation into the Trump Foundation has sufficiently overlapped with the Trump Organization that (state) investigators would be justified in extending their investigation into the Trump Organization,” he said.

The foundation itself had no employees, instead relying on Trump Organization staffers to cut its checks. Prior to taking office in 2017, Trump turned over day-to-day control of his business to his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Both sons were among the charity’s board members, while Weisselberg was listed as its treasurer.

Meanwhile Trump is trying to use the government shutdown to post pone the emoluments case against him in Virginia.

Politico: Trump lawyers, citing shutdown, ask court for delay in emoluments case.

Lawyers for President Donald Trump are invoking the government shutdown to seek a delay in a court case over claims that Trump is illegally profiting from business his Washington hotel does with foreign countries.

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

Justice Department attorneys representing Trump asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to postpone indefinitely all further filings in an appeal related to a suit that the governments of Maryland and Washington, D.C., filed over Trump’s alleged violation of the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments.

The government’s brief is not due until Jan. 22, but DOJ lawyers asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., to put the appeal on ice until the shutdown ends.

“The Department does not know when funding will be restored by Congress,” Justice lawyers wrote. “Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property’. … Undersigned counsel for the Department of Justice therefore requests a stay of briefing on the President’s mandamus petition until Congress has restored appropriations to the Department.”

I don’t understand why the DOJ is defending Trump for illegally profiting from his office.

If you have some extra time today here are two long reads on immigration to check out.

A long read from ProPublica: He Drew His School Mascot — and ICE Labeled Him a Gang Member. How high schools have embraced the Trump administration’s crackdown on MS-13, and destroyed immigrant students’ American dreams.

Another long read from The Washington Post: When death awaits deported asylum seekers. Ronald Acevedo waited eight months for asylum in Arizona. Days after he was deported, he was found dead in the trunk of a car.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Cringe-Inducing European Adventure and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Trump in Scotland

Trump is at his golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, and protesters are out in force there as they were in England. The Guardian:

Trump and his wife Melania arrived in Scotland on board Air Force One on Friday evening, before travelling by motorcade to his Trump Turnberry resort in Ayrshire.

By lunchtime, about 50 protesters had congregated on Turnberry beach. Just before 2pm, the US president appeared on the golf course and waved at the gathering on the beach, to be met with booing and chants of “no Trump, no racist USA”. Meanwhile, close to 10,000 marchers were streaming through the streets of Edinburgh, ending up in the Meadows park to the south of the city centre, where families sat in the sunshine and enjoyed picnics, music and speeches from local activists….

Towards the back of the crowd, the six-metre Trump baby balloon was straining against its tethers in the wind. Organiser Leo Murray described how a crew of “babysitters” had travelled up from London overnight on the sleeper train to fly the blimp at Saturday’s protest.

Murray had originally hoped to fly the balloon, which depicts Trump as an angry baby wearing a nappy, at his Turnberry course, but Police Scotland denied permission on security grounds.

Nevertheless, a Greenpeace protester managed to breach the no-fly zone on a hang glider with a sign reading ““Trump: well below par #resist” (see photo at the top of this post). Thank you to the people of Scotland for standing in solidarity with the U.S. resistance. I’m proud of my Scottish heritage today.

And while we’re talking about Trump’s Scottish golf course, be sure to check out this piece by Adam Davidson at The New Yorker: Where Did Donald Trump Get Two Hundred Million Dollars to Buy His Money-Losing Scottish Golf Club?

Between meeting the Queen of England and Vladimir Putin, President Trump will spend this weekend at Turnberry, the golf course he bought in 2014 and rechristened Trump Turnberry. This property has not received the attention it deserves. It is, by far, the biggest investment the Trump Organization has made in years. It is so much bigger than his other recent projects that it would not be unreasonable to describe the Trump Organization as, at its core, a manager of a money-losing Scottish golf course that is kept afloat with funds from licensing fees and decades-old real-estate projects.

No doubt, the President will be excited to visit. After buying the property for more than sixty million dollars, he then spent a reported hundred and fifty million pounds—about two hundred million dollars total—remaking the site, adding a new course, rehabbing an old one, and fixing up the lodgings. It is possible, though, that he will have some harsh words for his staff. The Turnberry has been losing an astonishing amount of money, including twenty-three million dollars in 2016. The Trump Organization argued that these losses were the result of being closed for several months for repair. However, revenue for the months it was open were so low—about $1.5 million per month—that it is hard to understand how the property will ever become profitable, let alone so successful that it will pay back nearly three hundred million dollars in investment and losses….

President Trump has proclaimed himself the “king of debt,” a proud master of “doing things with other people’s money.” So it was quite surprising when Jonathan O’ConnellDavid A. Fahrenthold, and Jack Gillum revealed in a Washington Post story in May that Trump had abruptly shifted strategies and begun spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to fund projects. In the nine years before he ran for President, the Post reported, the Trump Organization spent more than four hundred million dollars in cash on new properties—including fourteen transactions paid in full. In fifteen years, he bought twelve golf courses (ten in the U.S., one in Ireland, and a smaller one in Scotland), several homes, and a winery and estate in Virginia, and he paid for his forty-million-dollar share of the cost of building the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.—a property leased to Trump by the U.S. government. But his largest cash purchase was the Turnberry, followed by tens of millions of dollars in additional cash outlays for rehabbing the property.

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

Trump meets Queen Elizabeth

Yesterday, just as Rod Rosenstein was preparing to announce indictments of the 12 Russians who were responsible for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton campaign email servers and disseminating embarrassing information designed to hurt Hillary and help Trump during the 2016 election, Donald Trump was meeting with the Queen of England. And he managed to turn that into a clusterfuck just as he has everything else on his disastrous European trip.

The Washington Post: ‘Did Donald Trump just WALK IN FRONT OF THE QUEEN?’

It’s generally quite difficult to upstage the queen of England, but President Trump might have managed to do so.

Trump and Queen Elizabeth II met Friday as part of his working visit to the United Kingdom….

Trump’s walk with the queen during an inspection of guardsmen quickly became a hot topic.

Described as “cringeworthy” and “uncomfortable” viewing on social media, footage of their walk together came under intense scrutiny. While touring the castle grounds, Trump maintained a relatively brisk walk, which saw the queen, at times, fall behind him as he led the way.

At one point, the queen can be seen gesturing to Trump, although it’s unclear what exactly she may have been referring to. On social media, some speculated that Trump was being instructed on which side of her he should walk.

If that was the case, the president didn’t grasp the message.

The Trumps also arrived late for tea, making the Queen wait, and they did not bow or curtsy when they met her. That’s considered optional, but most people don’t opt to simply shake hands as the Trumps did. At least Trump didn’t do his vise grip and pull handshake with her. Then the Queen gave the Trumps the bum’s rush, ending the meeting after about half an hour.

Trump is a crude, crass, and classless pig. What an embarrassment that he is “president.” The Russians got exactly what they wanted. By contrast, the Obama’s got the full royal treatment.

Two great reads on the Mueller indictment released yesterday

Dan Friedman at Mother Jones: Mueller’s Indictment of 12 Russian Spies is Very Bad for Trump.

Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday obtained an indictment of 12 members of a Russian military intelligence agency for hacking Democratic party emails during the 2016 election—a rebuke to President Trump, who has refused to fully acknowledge Russia’s election interference, just three days before his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.

The indictment, announced Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will probably not lead to immediate prosecutions—it doesn’t accuse any Americans of crimes, as the White House was quick to point out, and it’s unlikely that Russia will allow extradition of its own officials—but the charges are still a big deal in the Trump-Russia investigation and they offer extensive new details on how the Russian hacking effort actually worked.

Click on the link to read the “key takeaways.”

Emptywheel: The Russian Hack.

Mueller’s team just announced (and announced the transfer, as I predicted) of the Russian hack indictment, naming 12 GRU officers for the hack of the Hillary campaign, the DNC, and the DCCC. This will be a working thread.

Rod Rosenstein, as he did with the Internet Research Agency, made clear there are no Americans named in this indictment (and that those who interacted with Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks did not know they were interacting with Russians). That said, here are some of the interesting nods in it.

Again, click on the link to read the “interesting nods.” and Emptywheel’s timeline.

Trump’s Immigration Mess

Foreign Policy: White House Official Who Advocated for Refugees Sacked and Escorted From Office.

Jennifer Arrangio (center)

A senior White House official, Jennifer Arangio, was fired Thursday and escorted from her office, ending a turbulent tenure that saw her clashing with President Donald Trump’s most hard-line advisors over human rights and refugee issues, according to several current and former U.S. officials.

The officials said Arangio, a senior director for international organizations and alliances at the National Security Council, had fallen out of favor with Trump aide Stephen Miller over the number of refugees who should be allowed to enter the United States.

She had also sparred with Miller over continuing U.S. participation in international negotiations on a global migration compact, insisting that the United States could better shape international policies on migration from inside the tent.

She lost the argument, but Miller remained embittered by the rift, the officials said. When Arangio sought his endorsement for a position in the State Department, he refused to take a meeting with her.

Adding to the tension, Arangio had defended the State Department’s embattled refugee bureau amid campaigns by other top Trump aides to dismantle or defund it — efforts that were ultimately rebuffed by Congress.

“This is a disaster for the bureau,” one State Department official said. “She is really a good ally.”

Have your handkerchiefs ready for this one at The New York Times: Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention.

Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months.

Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.

Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.

“You had to get in line for everything,” recalled Leticia, a girl from Guatemala.

Small, slight and with long black hair, Leticia was separated from her mother after they illegally crossed the border in late May. She was sent to a shelter in South Texas — one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup. They are reserved for the likes of Leticia, 12, and her brother, Walter, 10.

The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.

Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.

This is a must read, even though the stories of these children are heartbreaking. Trump and his minions must be held accountable for this outrage.

 


Thursday Reads: It’s Not Over.

Self-portrait, Michelle Ranta

Good Morning!!

Shortly after Trump signed his completely unnecessary “executive order” and took off for his Hitler-style rally in Duluth, Minnesota, it became clear that the administration’s supposed retreat from separating the children of refugees from from their parents was a scam. In fact the title of the order on the White House website is “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” The zero tolerance policy will continue and the government has no plans for reuniting families who have already been torn apart.

So Trump is still putting the burden on Congress to solve the problem he caused. Because of the Flores decision, children cannot be kept in detention centers for more than 20 days. The executive order says that Jeff Sessions will go to court to seek relief, but experts say that won’t happen. So families are still going to be separated. From Vox:

The solution to the crisis of family separation at the US-Mexico border, the Trump administration has decided, is to get rid of a 1997 federal court decision that strictly limits the government’s ability to keep children in immigration detention.

The administration has fingered Flores v. Reno, or the “Flores settlement,” as the reason it is “forced” to separate parents from their children to prosecute them. It claims that because it cannot keep parents and children in immigration detention together, it has no choice but to detain parents in immigration detention (after they’ve been criminally prosecuted for illegal entry) and send the children to the Department of Health and Human Services as “unaccompanied alien children.”

The Flores settlement requires the federal government to do two things: to place children with a close relative or family friend “without unnecessary delay,” rather than keeping them in custody; and to keep immigrant children who are in custody in the “least restrictive conditions” possible.

Francoise Gilot (French b.1921), The Red Vest. 1955

Republicans in Congress have proposed legislation that would overrule Flores and allow children to be kept with their parents in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody while they are put through criminal prosecution and deportation proceedings — which many migrant families fight by claiming asylum in the US, a process that can stretch out for months or years.

Trump can’t overrule the Flores settlement with the stroke of a pen. But getting rid of the court agreement has been in his administration’s sights for months. While Republicans frame Flores as the obstacle to keeping families together, many of the people outraged over family separation might not be too happy with a world without Flores, either.

Read the rest at Vox.

As of last night, none of the government agencies or outside organizations involved in what is going on down at the southern border had received any instructions to stop separating families. The government is still refusing to let public officials or media into the facilities where children are being held. We still know almost nothing about what has happened to the girls, toddlers, and infants who have been basically kidnapped by the Trump administration.

Fortunately, MSNBC at least is still keeping reporters down in Texas, and this morning NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is down there. I saw on MSNBC early this morning that Rev. Al Sharpton is in Texas and was planning to meet with the director of a Catholic Charities shelter. But it’s going to be awhile before we understand the extent of the damage Trump and Sessions have done.

It’s very difficult at this point to figure out what is actually happening, so the best I can do is share what I’m finding in the media and hope you’ll do the same. It’s going to take some time for us to understand the depth of the humanitarian crisis we are in as a country, much less begin to deal with Trump’s mess.

Daniela Astone, born 1980 in Pisa, Italy

It’s now after noon, and I see on MSNBC that Melania Trump is planning to visit a center for migrant children this afternoon.

The good news is that all this scrutiny is also shining a light on the treatment of immigrant children who were already in federal custody and have been farmed out to private shelters. It’s not looking good.

Some links to check out

Think Progress: Immigrant children are being placed by feds into abusive homes, reports reveal.

The Texas Tribune: Separated migrant children are headed toward shelters that have a history of abuse and neglect.

The Cut: Immigrant Children Are Being Sent to Shelters With Histories of Abuse.

Time: Young Immigrants Held in a Virginia Detention Center Say They Were Abused By Guards.

Buzzfeed: “You’re Not Even Wanted In Mexico”: Teens Describe Life Inside A US Detention Center.

The Boston Globe: Separations end, but foster care, shelters remain overwhelmed.

Suggested Reads

The New Yorker has a report on the people who are trying to enter the US at approved locations to apply for asylum: “We Are at Capacity”: An Asylum Standoff on the Bridge Between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso.

Around 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, a forty-year-old Mexican woman named Angelica walked to the foot of the Paso del Norte—one of the bridges that connects Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, Texas—with her granddaughter, a toddler no older than three. Later in the day the temperature would hit a hundred and three, but for now the air was cool. Coffee and candy vendors stood with their carts at the intersection that leads to the bridge, and the morning crowd was out, many of them young women, looking like they were walking to work.

Angelica and her granddaughter were there to meet Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, a Catholic hospitality house in El Paso, who intended to walk them over the bridge so that they could request asylum in the United States. As part of the Trump Administration’s new zero-tolerance policy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned that asylum seekers must cross at legal points of entry, such as the Paso del Norte, in order to avoid criminal prosecution. But, in the weeks since Sessions announced the new policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been stationing agents in the middle of Paso del Norte and other legal border crossings, where they turn away many asylum seekers, preventing them from even stepping onto the U.S. side. “They’re saying, ‘We’re too full,’ ” Garcia told me. Angelica had been in Juárez for a month, and had already attempted to cross the bridge once, unsuccessfully.

As we’ve already heard, this is a common experience now for asylum seekers. Read more at the link above.

By now you’ve probably seen the new Time Magazine cover. From the cover story: A Reckoning After Trump’s Border Separation Policy: What Kind of Country Are We?

Presidents have many jobs, and one is telling us who we are.

For the first 240 years of U.S. history, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation by naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, equality. The Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson etched onto the Declaration of Independence were given voice by Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama.

Donald Trump doesn’t talk like that. In the 18 months since his Inauguration, Trump has mentioned “democracy” fewer than 100 times, “equality” only 12 times and “human rights” just 10 times. The tallies, drawn from factba.se, a searchable online agglomeration of 5 million of Trump’s words, contrast with his predecessors’: at the same point in his first term, Ronald Reagan had mentioned equality three times as often in recorded remarks, which included 48 references to human rights, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Trump embraces a different set of values. He speaks often of patriotism, albeit in the narrow sense of military duty, or as the kind of loyalty test he’s made to NFL players. He also esteems religious liberty and economic vitality. But American’s 45th President is “not doing what rhetoricians call that ‘transcendent move,’” says Mary E. Stuckey, a communications professor at Penn State University and author of Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity. Instead, with each passing month he is testing anew just how far from our founding humanism his “America first” policies can take us. And over the past two months on our southern border, we have seen the result.

Click on the link to read the rest.

PAUL GUSTAV FISCHER Leyendo en la terraza

NBC News: Tech companies quietly work with ICE as border crisis continues.

Several high-profile data and tech companies have made millions of dollars from contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency over the past several months — even as some of them publicly disavow the Trump administration’s recent orders to separate immigrant children from their parents.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thomson Reuters, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions and Palantir all have active contracts with the agency, known as ICE, according to a public records search conducted by NBC News.

The contracts highlight how technology companies, many of which have developed advanced data analysis and tracking capabilities, are putting their innovations to work with the U.S. government in ways that are often not visible to the public.

Read the details at NBC News.

More stories to check out

The Washington Post: Families will no longer be separated at the border. But where are my clients’ kids?

NBC News: Pentagon sending military lawyers to border to help prosecute immigration cases.

Charles Blow: The King and Queen of Cruelty.

Gallup: Record-High 75% of Americans Say Immigration Is Good Thing.

CNN: Trump’s immigration reversal creates its own chaos.

 

I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s happening today, so please share your own links in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Here’s some good news for a change: a judge in the Southern District of California will allow a lawsuit by the ACLU challenging the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children at the border to go forward.

Bloomberg: Judge Calls Trump’s Border Separations of Children ‘Brutal.’

The Trump administration failed to kill a legal challenge to its practice of separating undocumented parents and children who seek to enter the U.S. to flee persecution at home, with a judge handing an early victory to civil rights activists who say the policy is unconstitutional and cruel.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the suit, in which the American Civil Liberties Union argues that splitting up families at the border violates their due process rights.

The practice, spearheaded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, caused widespread outrage after images of children in detention centers circulated on social media. The government argues separations are necessary to properly prosecute adults who cross into the U.S. illegally, while activists say children are being used as pawns in an informal policy intended to deter migrants.

“These allegations sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child,” the judge wrote. The conduct, if true, “is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.” [….]

Sabraw said the ACLU’s claims are particularly troubling because the plaintiffs in the case had allegedly come to the U.S. seeking asylum out of fear for their well-being in their home countries. The suit applies to migrants who formally present themselves at ports of entry as political refugees as well as those who seek asylum after they are apprehended during illegal border crossings.

“The government actors responsible for the ‘care and custody’ of migrant children have, in fact, become their persecutors,” the judge said.

Read more at the link. The entire filing can be read here.

More good news: a new NBC/WSJ poll found that voters are much more likely to support candidates who stand up to Trump.

NBC News: Poll: Economic satisfaction under Trump isn’t helping his party’s 2018 chances.

By a whopping 25-point margin, voters say they’re more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on President Donald Trump, according to a new national poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

And by a similar margin, they say they’re less likely to vote for someone who has supported the president on most issues.

At the same time, six-in-10 are satisfied with the U.S. economy, and a plurality of voters give Trump credit for the economic improvement.

Despite that economic optimism, however, the poll shows that Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage on congressional preference, with 50 percent of registered voters wanting a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 40 percent who want a GOP-controlled one.

Now if national Democrats would just wake up and realize that standing up to Trump is the best mid-term strategy!

The summit with North Korea is coming up next week, but Trump isn’t listening to advice from experts on how to proceed, according to Politico: Trump and Bolton spurn top-level North Korea planning.

National Security Adviser John Bolton has yet to convene a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea next week, a striking break from past practice that suggests the Trump White House is largely improvising its approach to the unprecedented nuclear talks.

For decades, top presidential advisers have used a methodical process to hash out national security issues before offering the president a menu of options for key decisions. On an issue like North Korea, that would mean White House Situation Room gatherings of the secretaries of state and defense along with top intelligence officials, the United Nations ambassador, and even the treasury secretary, who oversees economic sanctions.

But since Trump agreed on a whim to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on March 8, the White House’s summit planning has been unstructured, according to a half-dozen administration officials. Trump himself has driven the preparation almost exclusively on his own, consulting little with his national security team outside of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Senior officials from both the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations called the absence of a formal interagency process before such a consequential meeting troubling. Peter Feaver, a former National Security Council (NSC) official in the George W. Bush White House, said his colleagues would likely have held “quite a few” meetings of the so-called Principals Committee of Cabinet-level NSC members in a comparable situation. A former top Obama White House official echoed that point, calling the lack of top-level NSC meetings “shocking.”

Trump has also not presided personally over a meeting of those senior NSC officials, as a president typically does when making the most important decisions.

On the other hand, Trump has given serious thought to whether he should invite Kim Jong Un to play golf with him in Florida if the summit goes well. The Daily Beast reports:

Trump has floated hitting the links with his counterpart as he considers a secondary charm offensive to complement the diplomatic tête-à-tête. The president has already told those close to him and advisers that he is open to inviting Kim to a follow-up summit at Trump’s famous Mar-a-Lago estate and private club in Palm Beach, Florida, as Bloomberg first reported this week.

And, according to two administration officials, Trump has also raised the possibility of a leisurely activity and, perhaps, getting in 18 holes with Kim if the two end up getting along.

“He has also discussed [possibly] golfing with Kim,” a senior Trump administration official said.

It is unclear if such an outing would or could occur during a potential follow-up meeting or the one planned, then canceled, then planned again for Singapore. The site of the upcoming Singapore talks, a five-star hotel on Sentosa Island, is located near a theme park, resorts, and—as luck would have it—multiple golf courses.

The article says no one actually know if Kim even plays golf.

I suppose Kim would agree with Trump on this though. At The Washington Post, Josh Rogin writes that Trump still wants to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea.

For almost two years, President Trump has been talking about withdrawing large numbers of U.S. troops from South Korea, where there are currently around 28,000 stationed. The president’s advisers have repeatedly argued against a large-scale reduction, but he remains unpersuaded. And after his upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump will have another big chance to push the issue.

Less publicly, but still privately, Trump continues to say he doesn’t agree with the argument that U.S. troops in South Korea are strategically necessary, and he thinks the United States gets nothing back from paying to keep them there, according to administration officials and people who have spoken to Trump directly about the issue. He often asks his generals to explain the rationale for America’s deployments in Asia and expresses dissatisfaction with their answers.

At Trump’s direction, the Pentagon has taken a hard line in ongoing negotiations with the South Korean government over a new cost-sharing agreement for U.S. troops there. If those negotiations fail, Trump could have another excuse to move forward with large reductions….

Inside the administration, top officials have been trying — and failing — to convince the president of the strategic value of the South Korea-based troops since the beginning of his administration. In February, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly reportedly talked Trump down from starting a withdrawal.

Trump has picked fights with most of our allies at this point. Now he’s whining about having to to the Canada on Friday because he’s mad at Justin Trudeau.

The president has vented privately about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as their trade tensions have spilled into public view. He has mused about finding new ways to punish the United States’ northern neighbor in recent days, frustrated with the country’s retaliatory trade moves.

And Trump has complained to aides about spending two days in Canada for a summit of world leaders, believing the trip is a distraction from his upcoming Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with Trump’s views.

In particular, the president said Tuesday to several advisers that he fears attending the Group of Seven summit in rural Charlevoix, Quebec, may not be a good use of his time because he is diametrically opposed on many key issues with his counterparts — and does not want to be lectured by them.

Additionally, Trump has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel — largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport — as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct, advisers say.

Awwww . . . poor baby. BTW, have you heard that State Department spokesperson and former Fox and Friends host Heather Nauert thinks Germany was our ally during World War II? Rachel Maddow discussed this at the beginning of her show last night.

Please watch the video–even if you already saw it last night. These are the people who are running our foreign policy!

Politico reports that many foreign leaders are beginning to wake up to Trump’s insanity: Foreign leaders who embraced Trump now feel burned.

Trump calls Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who visits the White House Thursday, his “good friend.” French president Emmanuel Macron is a “great friend.” And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a “great friend, neighbor, and ally.” All have sought to butter up Trump through friendly face time, recognizing that the quickest way to the president’s heart is through his ego.

But all, to varying degrees, are exasperated with Trump.

The president is moving ahead with a June 12 summit with North Korea despite Abe’s grave concerns about its wisdom. He has also threatened to slap tariffs on imported Japanese cars and metals. It’s hardly what Abe expected when he became the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after the November election or when he flew with Trump on Air Force One in February 2017 for golfing at his Mar a Lago resort.

Macron treated Trump to a military parade in Paris last summer. He and Trump also exchanged hugs and handshakes during an April visit by the French leader, during which Trump said of his guest: “He is perfect.” But a few weeks later, Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal despite French pleas, and shows no sign of heeding Macron’s request that he rejoin the Paris climate accords, which Trump rejected last year.

Trump has also threatened trade sanctions on the European Union, and is already slapping them on Canada — prompting Trudeau to call Trump’s tariffs on steel imports “insulting and unacceptable.” That’s a change of tune from the early months of Trump’s presidency, when Trudeau avoided criticizing Trump, and even took Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to a Broadway play in March 2017.

All have paid a domestic political price back home for their efforts to make nice with a highly divisive U.S. president. One French parliamentarian fumed after Macron’s visit that France had “prostituted” and “humiliated” itself.

Angela Merkel knew who she was dealing with from day one, evidence that we need more women in leadership positions around the world.

That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads

Gustave Courbet, Le Desperere,1845

Good Morning!!

I admit it. I’m obsessed with the Trump/Russia investigation, and I think my posts have become boring because of my obsession; so today, I’m going to try avoiding the subject and hope I’ll get more readers. This post is illustrated with “selfies” from  before we had cell phones, just because. I hope you enjoy them.

Have you been getting a lot of annoying calls lately? I have. I usually don’t answer calls that come in from people I don’t know or area codes where I don’t know anyone; but once in awhile, I’ll pick up a call and it’s usually a recorded message. It turns out you can find out which numbers are robocalling your area.

From the Arlington Patch: Here’s Who Keeps Robocalling Your Area Code.

If you think you’re receiving robocalls now more than ever, you’re not wrong. According to the robocall blocker YouMail, pre-recorded phone messages are at an all-time high.

There were 3.36 billion robocalls last month in the U.S., 6.5 percent higher than the previous record and a whopping 34 percent higher than April 2017….

Mary Cassatt, Self portrait

Here are the states that received the most robocalls, as well as how many they received:

  1. California, 384.4 million
  2. Texas, 363.3 million
  3. Florida, 261.1 million
  4. Georgia, 213.6 million
  5. New York, 207.8 million
  6. Illinois, 134.6 million
  7. Ohio, 115.8 million
  8. Pennsylvania, 115.4 million
  9. North Carolina, 111 million
  10. Louisiana, 97.6 million
  11. Michigan, 89.7 million
  12. Tennessee, 88.3 million
  13. New Jersey, 84.3 million
  14. Virginia, 83 million
  15. Maryland, 79 million
  16. Alabama, 77.9 million
  17. South Carolina, 64.4 million
  18. Arizona, 60 million
  19. Missouri, 51.7 million
  20. Indiana, 51 million

Atlanta received the dubious honor of most robocalled city in America for the 29th straight month. People in that city received nearly 148 million robocalls last month and three Atlanta area codes cracked the top 20 most robocalled area code list.

Here are the top 10 most robocalled cities:

  1. Atlanta, GA
  2. Dallas, TX
  3. New York, NY
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. Chicago, IL
  6. Houston, TX
  7. Baltimore, MD
  8. Philadelphia, PA
  9. San Francisco Bay Area, CA
  10. Newark, NJ

M.C. Escher, Hand With Reflecting Sphere, 1935

The company says 47 of the 50 most robocalled cities in the country saw a higher robocalling volume in April. The increase comes even as lawmakers, consumer groups, telecommunications carriers and device makers pay closer attention to illegal calls.

“Despite the best efforts of regulators, industry groups, service providers, and app developers, we are warning consumers to remain vigilant by not picking up any calls from unfamiliar numbers, using robocall blocking apps, and researching numbers before calling them back,” YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said in a release.

Click here and enter an area code to see the full results.

I’m glad to know it’s not just me getting all these annoyance calls. Unfortunately, I’ve found that even when I block the numbers, they just call back from slightly different ones.

The media is currently obsessed with lecturing Democrats about how we need to be kinder and more understanding of Trump voters. Here’s a response to that from Osita Nwanevu at Slate: Liberals, It’s Not About Being Nice.

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “Liberals, You’re Not As Smart As You Think.” In it, University of Virginia political science professor Gerard Alexander accuses American liberals of arrogance and warns them against making broad negative generalizations about large swaths of the population. “Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be,” he writes. “In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.” Alexander cites a few particular examples of recent annoying and repulsive liberal behavior, including comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but the heart of the piece is a broad indictment of identity politics as practiced by liberals and the left. “Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully,” Alexander writes. “Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans—specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump. In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.”

Jean Cooke, self portrait, 1972

The piece was the latest in an unending stream of commentary attributing Democrats’ electoral misfortunes to conservative cultural backlash—a variation on a theme in punditry that was old hat long before Hillary Clinton made the supposed mistake of calling Trump supporters “deplorables.” Alleged gaffes like that, the story goes, form part of an imperious posture Democrats take on questions of identity politics that alienates simple folk who haven’t caught up with the progressive consensus on social questions.

This argument has very little to do with the actual state of American public opinion on those questions. Survey data suggests that identity politics as practiced by Democrats and the left has been quite successful and persuasive. Take racial issues, for instance. According to Pew, the percentage of white people in America who believe that the country “needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites” has grown by 18 points since the beginning of the decade. Most of this can be attributed to white Democrats moving left on the question, but the numbers show change on the right as well: The number of Republicans and Republican leaners who believe this has grown by six points to 36 percent over the same period. The percentage of Republicans and Republican leaners who say that “racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days” has also jumped about five points to 14 percent. These are, of course, still small minorities on the right, but given talk about how liberal arrogance and piety have alienated those who disagree with Democrats on racial identity politics into a backlash, one would expect the numbers to show … well, a backlash. Instead, they suggest that post–Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and Black Lives Matter, rhetoric and activism may be working quite well on a broad cross section of Americans.

It’s a lengthy, thoughtful piece. Read the rest at Slate.

What’s the “nice” response to a “president” who says things like this?

USA Today: Trump ramps up rhetoric on undocumented immigrants: ‘These aren’t people. These are animals.’

President Trump used extraordinarily harsh rhetoric to renew his call for stronger immigration laws Wednesday, calling undocumented immigrants “animals” and venting frustration at Mexican officials who he said “do nothing” to help the United States.

Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait, Facing Death, 1972

“We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said.

“These aren’t people. These are animals.”

Trump’s comments came in a freewheeling, hour-long White House meeting with local California leaders opposed to so-called “sanctuary city” policies. “California’s law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women, and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals,” he said.

I can’t think of anything nice to say about that or about people who support the man who said it.

Will John Bolton destroy Trump’s dreams of a deal with North Korea?  Politico: Trump’s North Korea Nobel buzz could die with John Bolton.

Donald Trump wants a deal with North Korea. His national security adviser thinks the North Koreans can’t be dealt with. And North Korea thinks he’s “human scum.”

North Korea’s latest diatribe against the United States — and specifically a “repugnant” national security adviser, John Bolton — spotlights a core tension within the Trump administration as the president seeks a nuclear deal with North Korea that he hopes might earn him a Nobel Peace Prize.

Lee Krasner self portrait, 1930

Bolton is famously contemptuous of what he considers naïve U.S. diplomacy with foreign adversaries who can only be trusted to cRheat and lie. Prominent on his list is North Korea itself, which he has written “will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily,” calling past U.S. diplomatic forays with the country “embarrassments.”

Trump, too, believes America has struck “terrible deals” for decades. And he shared Bolton’s intense animus for the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump torpedoed last week. But in the case of North Korea, even some Trump supporters worry the president is too eager for a deal that could dazzle the world and reap him huge political rewards.

The question now is whether Trump and Bolton can strike a constructive balance — or whether they might wind up at cross-purposes on one of the most important diplomatic experiments in U.S. history.

Read the rest at Politico.

May it would be a good thing if North Korea backs out of the summit, because Trump thinks he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time getting ready for the meeting. Time: President Trump ‘Doesn’t Think He Needs’ to Prepare Much for His Meeting With North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

With just one month until a scheduled sit-down with North Korea’s leader, President Donald Trump hasn’t set aside much time to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un, a stark contrast to the approach of past presidents.

“He doesn’t think he needs to,” said a senior administration official familiar with the President’s preparation. Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim’s psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far a detailed plan hasn’t been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit.

Even with North Korea threatening to scrap the meeting over long-planned U.S.-Korean military exercises, Trump’s aides in the White House and State Department are continuing to prepare briefing material in advance of the June 12 summit in Singapore. When asked Wednesday if he thinks Kim is bluffing, Trump responded, “We’ll see what happens.” He told reporters he still plans to insist on North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.

So briefing materials are being prepared, but Trump isn’t going to bother to read them. Big surprise.

Paul Gaugin self portrait with halo and snake 1889

I’m going to end with just one article related to the Russia investigation. Eric Wemple at The Washington Post: New York Times acknowledges it buried the lead in pre-election Russia-Trump story.

The upside of the New York Times’ aggressive coverage of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling is that the American public is learning more and more about recent history. The downside is that the newspaper keeps bumping into its archives.

In a massive article Wednesday on the FBI’s 2016 snooping into the possible nexus between Russians and the Trump presidential campaign, reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos include these two paragraphs:

In late October, in response to questions from The Times, law enforcement officials acknowledged the investigation but urged restraint. They said they had scrutinized some of Mr. Trump’s advisers but had found no proof of any involvement with Russian hacking. The resulting article, on Oct. 31, reflected that caution and said that agents had uncovered no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”

The key fact of the article — that the F.B.I. had opened a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — was published in the 10th paragraph.

That’s one heck of a concession: We buried the lead! In their book “Russian Roulette,” authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn report that editors at the New York Times “cast the absence of a conclusion as the article’s central theme rather than the fact of the investigation itself,” contrary to the wishes of the reporters.

The article in question was published on Oct. 31, 2016, and it has received a great deal of hindsight-aided scrutiny for the role it may have played in easing voters’ concerns about ties between Donald Trump and Russia. Under the bylines of Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers, the story, headlined “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,” hit the public sphere just as other outlets — Slate and Mother Jones — published reports that began poking at the outlines of possible collusion.

But will the Times apologize to Hillary Clinton and the American people?

Those are my offerings for today; what stories are you following?


Lazy Saturday Reads: This Is Our Reality Now

What might have been.

Good Morning!!

The news is ugly today. The “president” calls other countries “shitholes” as he works to turn the United States into a “shithole” full of ignorant white people who live in fear of anyone who doesn’t look and think exactly as they do. On top of the “president’s” classless vulgarity and racism, it looks like next we’re going to be subjected to examinations of the “president’s” degrading sexual history.

This nightmare reality we are living in might have been prevented if only the media weren’t populated by numerous misogynist men who prey on naive young women and at the same time enjoy mocking strong, competent women like Hillary Clinton when they dare to pursue their ambitious dreams.

In the wake of the *shitstorm* over the “president’s” vile and ignorant comments in a meeting about immigration, it looks as if one of the worst media misogynist could finally get his comeuppance.

The Cut: Exclusive: Watch Chris Matthews Joke About His ‘Bill Cosby Pill’ Before Interviewing Hillary Clinton.

On January 5, 2016, MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews interviewed Hillary Clinton in an Iowa fire station during the Democratic primary season. Network footage obtained by the Cut shows Matthews, during the interview setup, making a couple of “jokes” about Clinton. He asks, “Can I have some of the queen’s waters? Precious waters?” And then, as he waits for the water, he adds, “Where’s that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?” Matthews then laughs, delighted with the line, for an extended moment, as the staffers around him react with disbelief, clearly uncomfortable. (Cosby has been accused of sexual impropriety by dozens of women, some of whom allege that they were drugged and raped by the comedian, some of them got addicted to drugs so they went to a rehab center from firststepbh.com.) They consulted xarelto lawsuit after the incident.

“This was a terrible comment I made in poor taste during the height of the Bill Cosby headlines,” Matthews said to the Cut. “I realize that’s no excuse. I deeply regret it and I’m sorry.”

Really? Fuck you Tweety. It’s time for you to retire.

Back to The Cut:

Matthews has a long history of talking disparagingly about Hillary Clinton, whom he once called “witchy,”and often seems to channel what a hypothetical sexist Republican might say about a woman candidate: “she-devil,” “Madame Defarge.” In 2005, he wondered whether the troops would “take the orders” from a (female) President Clinton. “Is she hemmed in by the fact that she’s a woman and can’t admit a mistake,” he asked in 2006, “or else the Republicans will say, ‘Oh, that’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind,’ or ‘another fickle woman’? Is her gender a problem in her ability to change her mind?” He once pinched her cheekfollowing an interview, and, though he later apologized, on another occasion suggested that she only got as far as she did on the political stage because her husband had “messed around.”

We’re all familiar with Tweety’s garbage talk. To paraphrase Trump: “Take him out!”

Also worth reading, tweets by Matthew Gertz of Media Matters. A couple of examples:

That’s part of a long thread about Matthews ugly sexist remarks about Clinton you can read on Twitter.

And now let’s check out some of the latest stories about the “president” Chris Matthews and his kind helped put in the White House.

Trump’s racism

The New York Times Editorial Board on the “president’s” “shithole” shitstorm: Donald Trump Flushes Away America’s Reputation.

Where to begin? How about with a simple observation: The president of the United States is a racist. And another: The United States has a long and ugly history of excluding immigrants based on race or national origin. Mr. Trump seems determined to undo efforts taken by presidents of both parties in recent decades to overcome that history.

Mr. Trump denied making the remarks on Friday, but Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who attended the meeting, said the president did in fact say these “hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”

Of course he did. Remember, Mr. Trump is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.

Even the president’s most sycophantic defenders didn’t bother denying the reports. Instead they justified them. Places like Haiti really are terrible, they reminded us. Never mind that many native-born Americans are descended from immigrants who fled countries (including Norway in the second half of the 19th century) that were considered hellholes at the time.

Read the rest at the NYT link. How appropriate that the headline contains the word “flushes.”

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: Trump Puts the Purpose of His Presidency Into Words.

Francis Amasa Walker had fought to preserve the Union in the Grand Army of the Republic, but by 1896 he saw its doom in the huddled masses coming from Eastern Europe. The “immigrants from southern Italy, Hungary, Austria, and Russia,” Walker lamented in The Atlantic, were “beaten men from beaten races; representing the worst failures in the struggle for existence,” people who had “none of the ideas and aptitudes which fit men to take up readily and easily the problem of self-care and self-government, such as belong to those who are descended from the tribes that met under the oak-trees of old Germany to make laws and choose chieftains.”

More than a century later President Donald Trump would put it differently, as he considered immigration from Africa, wondering, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” instead suggesting that America take in more immigrants from places like Norway.

These remarks reflect scorn not only for those who wish to come here, but those who already have. It is a president of the United States expressing his contempt for the tens of millions of descendants of Africans, most of whose forefathers had no choice in crossing the Atlantic, American citizens whom any president is bound to serve. And it is a public admission of sorts that he is incapable of being a president for all Americans, the logic of his argument elevating not just white immigrants over brown ones, but white citizens over the people of color they share this country with.

Please go read the whole thing.

Philip Kennicott at The Washington Post: What did the men with Donald Trump do when he spoke of ‘shithole countries’?

Over the past year, as our political culture has grown more coarse and corrupt, I’ve felt different things: sometimes, anger; often, bitter resignation; and occasionally, a bemused sense of pure absurdity. But the past two nights I have actually wept. Why now? Why in response to these particular prompts? A confused and ailing woman in a thin medical gown was tossed to the roadside in freezing weather by security guards from the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus in Baltimore. Who orders such a thing, and why would anyone carry out that order? Then, the president of the United States calls Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “shithole” countries. Who says that kind of thing? Who thinks it? Who listens to it without reflexive outrage?

Back to the Post article:

According to a few of the president’s defenders, this is what we all really think. “This is how the forgotten men and women of America talk at the bar,” said a Fox News host, imputing to ordinary Americans sentiments they wouldn’t suffer to be said at their own dinner tables. There was the usual talk about “tough” language instead of talking about this course which helps improve language, as if using racist language was merely candor or an admirable impatience with euphemism.

His defenders seemed to say that if the president says things that we would be ashamed even to think, he is somehow speaking a kind of truth. But while there may be countries that are poor and suffer from civil discord, there are no “shithole” countries, not one, anywhere on Earth. The very idea of “shithole” countries is designed to short-circuit our capacity for empathy on a global scale.

These two incidents, in Baltimore and in the Oval Office, seem related — inhumane indifference from a hospital and blatant bigotry from the president — which is even more troubling. They are about who is on what side of the door, or the wall, or any other barrier that defines the primal “us and them” that governs so much of the worst of our human-made world. When Trump called disfavored countries “shitholes,” he was indulging the most lethal and persistent tribalism of all: pure, unabashed racism. After a candidacy and now a presidency marked by implications of racism, the president has grown more comfortable with speaking in overtly racist terms, condemning whole countries and their people for not being more like “Norway,” one of the whitest countries on Earth….

Remarks like these from the president are still shocking but hardly surprising, given the frequency with which they occur. What I want to know is how the men in the room with him reacted. This is the dinner table test: When you are sitting and socializing with a bigot, what do you do when he reveals his bigotry? I’ve seen it happen, once, when I was a young man, and I learned an invaluable lesson. An older guest at a formal dinner said something blatantly anti-Semitic. I was shocked and laughed nervously. Another friend stared at his plate silently. Another excused himself and fled to the bathroom. And then there was the professor, an accomplished and erudite man, who paused for a moment, then slammed his fist on the table and said, “I will never listen to that kind of language, so either you will leave, or I will leave.” The offender looked around the table, found no allies and left the gathering. I don’t know if he felt any shame upon expulsion.

Again, please go read the rest.

On the Trump scandal front:

Raw Story: Haitian government claims ousted dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier laundered stolen money through Trump Tower.

Trump and Baby Doc

More than a fifth of Trump’s condominiums in the U.S. have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive cash transactions that fit a Treasury Department definition of suspicious transactions, reported Buzzfeed News.

Records show more than 1,300 Trump condos were purchased through shell companies, which allow buyers to shield their finances and identities, and without a mortgage, which protects buyers from lender inquiries.

Those two characteristics raise alarms about possible money laundering, according to statements issued in recent months by the Department of Treasury, which has investigated transactions just like those all over the country….

According to the Buzzfeed News report, the Haitian government complained in the 1980s that former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered money stolen from the Caribbean nation’s treasury by purchasing an apartment in Trump Tower.

Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc,” was overthrown in 1986, but three years earlier used a Panamanian shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy apartment 54-K in Trump’s Manhattan tower for $446,875 cash.

Trump, the future U.S. president, signed the deed of sale.

I tried to read the Buzzfeed story yesterday, but it got to be too much to deal with. Now I plan to go read it carefully.

CNN: James O’Keefe says Trump asked him to go on birther-linked mission.

James O’Keefe

Donald Trump in 2013 asked James O’Keefe, the controversial conservative filmmaker, if he could “get inside” Columbia University and obtain President Obama’s sealed college records, according to a passage in O’Keefe’s forthcoming book, a copy of which was reviewed by CNN.

O’Keefe, a guerrilla filmmaker whom critics have decried for his tactics and who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering federal property in 2010 under false pretenses, writes in “American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News” that during a meeting in New York City Trump complimented his ACORN sting videos (“That pimp and hooker thing you did, wow!”). But, O’Keefe writes, Trump “was a man with a plan” and “did not agree to this meeting to sing my praises.” [….]

According to O’Keefe, Trump “suspected Obama had presented himself as a foreign student on application materials to ease his way into New York’s Columbia University, maybe even Harvard too, and perhaps picked up a few scholarships along the way.”

O’Keefe wrote that during the 2013 meeting Trump suggested O’Keefe infiltrate Columbia and obtain the sealed records: “‘Nobody else can get this information,'” O’Keefe quoted Trump as saying. “‘Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'”

Read more at CNN.

The Washington Post: After drubbing by media, Trump’s ambassador to the Netherlands apologizes for anti-Muslim remarks.

Pete Hoekstra and Trump

The embattled U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra apologized Friday for making unsubstantiated anti-Muslim claims at a conference in 2015, after his first week in the post was clouded by questions about the incendiary statements.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan and recent political appointee, made the apology during an interview Friday with De Telegraaf, one of the largest Dutch newspapers, at the end of a particularly rough introduction for the new ambassador.

“Looking back, I am shocked I said that,” he told the newspaper. “It was a wrong statement. It was wrong.”

Hoekstra made the remarks in question during a conference on terrorism hosted by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center. He talked about the supposed “chaos” brought to Europe by immigrants from Islamic countries and repeated a baseless theory about so-called “no-go zones” that is popular in right-wing media.

“Chaos in the Netherlands. There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned,” Hoekstra said at the time. “With the influx of the Islamic community — and yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands. All right? There are no-go zones in France.”

Considering the quality of people Trump is appointing to diplomatic posts, I’m sure we can expect more embarrassing episodes like this.

So . . . I could go on and on. I deliberately left out the story of Trump and the two porn stars. It’s still difficult for me to believe this horrible man is POTUS. He has to go before he completely wrecks this country and destroys any hope of our regaining respect around the world.

What stories are you following?