Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

It’s another busy day in tRumpville–not for him, of course, just for us peons. King Donald is so bored that he went out to meet a White House tour group this morning.

So the Muslim ban is back with a vengeance. Plus the GOP “health care” plan is out and it’s even worse than anyone imagined. Dakinikat wrote about tRump’s immigration policies yesterday, but we’re getting more details this morning. As for Ryancare or trumpcare or whatever the f$ck you want to call the health insurance plan from hell, it looks like it will be dead on arrival.

On top of all that Russia and Wikileaks released a bunch of CIA files to try to distract everyone from the antics circus clown they put in charge of what used to be the USA. I don’t have room to write about everything, but here are a few reads to get you started.

Politico: Trump plan pays for immigration crackdown with cuts to coastal, air security.

The Trump administration wants to gut the Coast Guard and make deep cuts in airport and rail security to help pay for its crackdown on illegal immigration, according to internal budget documents reviewed by POLITICO — a move that lawmakers and security experts say defies logic if the White House is serious about defending against terrorism and keeping out undocumented foreigners.

The Office of Management and Budget is seeking a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget, the draft documents show, even as it proposes major increases to other Department of Homeland Security agencies to hire more border agents and immigration officers and construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The budget numbers mark the most detailed breakdown yet about how President Donald Trump envisions restructuring DHS to meet his pledge to halt illegal immigration and deport some of the millions already here.

Overall, DHS would get a 6 percent boost to its budget, to $43.8 billion. But to help pay for that, the administration would slice the budget of the Coast Guard and cut 11 percent in spending from the TSA — reductions that critics say would weaken safeguards against threats arriving by sea or air.

OMB also wants to cut 11 percent from the budget of FEMA, which oversees the national response to disasters such as floods and hurricanes.

The stupid is strong in this one. Obviously the mass deportation agenda has absolutely nothing to do with national security.

Speaking of national security, tRup appears to be mostly ignoring the international crisis being fomented by North Korea–at least he has said nothing publicly about how he plans to handle it. Rex Tillerson hasn’t said anything about this situation either. Has anyone seen or heard from him?  The Washington Post reports: North Korea says it was practicing to hit U.S. military bases in Japan with missiles.

North Korea was practicing to strike United States military bases in Japan with its latest barrage of missiles, state media in Pyongyang reported Tuesday, and it appeared to be trying to outsmart a new American antimissile battery being deployed to South Korea by firing multiple rockets at once.

Kim Jong Un presided over Monday’s launch of the four missiles, “feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported in a statement that analysts called a “brazen declaration” of the country’s intent to strike enemies with a nuclear weapon if it came under attack.

“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” the KCNA statement said.

The four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning were launched by the elite Hwasong ballistic missile division “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan,” KCNA said. The United States has numerous military bases and about 54,000 military personnel stationed in Japan, the legacy of its postwar security alliance with the country.

Three of the four missiles flew about 600 miles over North Korea and landed in the sea, within Japan’s exclusive economic zone off the Oga Peninsula in Akita prefecture, home to a Japanese self-defense forces base. The fourth fell just outside the zone.

One thing that’s happening is that the US is sending an anti-missle defense system to South Korea, according to NBC News:

The United States has begun shipping a controversial anti-missile system to South Korea after North Korea test-launched four medium-range missiles on Monday, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The system, called THAAD, which stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is an anti-missile system designed to counter a threat like that from North Korea.

Other THAAD systems are already active in Hawaii and Guam to defend against North Korea, but the shield hadn’t yet been deployed to South Korea — a scenario that Beijing has denounced as a “clear, present and substantive threat to China’s security interests.”

Two mobile launchers landed in South Korea late Monday, part of a missile defense system that the U.S. military says is meant to defend the country against a North Korean attack.
U.S. Forces Korea

I wonder if tRump will give us a heads-up if he decides to start a war with China and North Korea? Huffington Post: North Korea Warns Of ‘Actual War’ Over Military Exercises.

North Korea said on Tuesday it would pursue its nuclear deterrent and weapons program as huge U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises it says model a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” against Pyongyang continued.

South Korea and the United States, which led condemnation of North Korea’s latest missile tests at the Conference on Disarmament, said their military drills were to test defensive readiness against possible aggression from the North.

North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi told the United Nations-backed forum that the allies’ annual exercises were “a major cause of escalation of tension that might turn into actual war”.

“The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is firm in its determination to further bolster its defense capabilities with a nuclear deterrent as a pivot so as to put an end to danger of nuclear war caused by the United States,” Ju said.

During the 90-minute session, envoys from more than 20 countries, including North Korea’s main ally China, as well as Britain, France, Russia and the United States, condemned North Korea’s test-firing of four ballistic missiles on Monday.

On the health insurance (definitely not health care) bill, here’s Sarah Kliff at Vox: The American Health Care Act: the Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare, explained. Also at Vox, Ezra Klein: The GOP health bill doesn’t know what problem it’s trying to solve. You’ll need to go read both of those–there’s much too much to excerpt.

But here’s a little news from the ridiculous Jason Chaffetz. Think Progress: GOP congressman says Trumpcare will force people to choose between new iPhone and health insurance.

During a Tuesday morning appearance on CNN, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) suggested that under Trumpcare, Americans will face some tough choices — like buying an iPhone or making sure they can see a doctor.

Pressed by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota about whether he’s concerned Trumpcare’s reduced tax incentives and lack of individual mandate will result in less people having insurance, Chaffetz said, “Well, we’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want.” ….

The cost of a new iPhone 7 without a contract is roughly $700. By comparison, the per-capita cost of health care in the U.S. last year was $10,345. Even when insurance coverage that defrays some of that cost is factored in, Americans still spend way less on phones than they do on health care….

If too many healthy people decide to forego health care they don’t think they’ll need in favor of new phones under Trumpcare, prices will go up for those remaining in the health insurance market, creating a “death spiral.”

Chaffetz is such a nasty man, to paraphrase tRump on Hillary.

CIA headquarters in Langley, VA

The New York Times on the Wikileaks story, which sounds very serious: WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged C.I.A. Hacking Documents.

WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.

If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release would be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage.

The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the document collection, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, the group said. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said.

Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

The source of the documents was not named. WikiLeaks said the documents, which it called Vault 7, had been “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”

WikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” The source, the group said, “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”

The documents, from the C.I.A’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016, and WikiLeaks described them as “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.” One former intelligence officer who briefly reviewed the documents on Tuesday morning said some of the code names for C.I.A. programs, an organization chart and the description of a C.I.A. hacking base appeared to be genuine.

It will be very interesting to see how tRump responds to this disastrous situation, which obviously is the work of his buddy Vladimir Putin.

Here’s an interesting article by Noah Feldman at Bloomberg on tRump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” phones in tRump Tower: Trump’s Wiretap Tweets Raise Risk of Impeachment.

The sitting president has accused his predecessor of an act that could have gotten the past president impeached. That’s not your ordinary exercise of free speech. If the accusation were true, and President Barack Obama ordered a warrantless wiretap of Donald Trump during the campaign, the scandal would be of Watergate-level proportions.

But if the allegation is not true and is unsupported by evidence, that too should be a scandal on a major scale. This is the kind of accusation that, taken as part of a broader course of conduct, could get the current president impeached. We shouldn’t care that the allegation was made early on a Saturday morning on Twitter.

The basic premise of the First Amendment is that truth should defeat her opposite number. “Let her and Falsehood grapple,” wrote the poet and politician John Milton, “who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

But this rather optimistic adage only accounts for speech and debate between citizens. It doesn’t apply to accusations made by the government. Those are something altogether different.

In a rule of law society, government allegations of criminal activity must be followed by proof and prosecution. If not, the government is ruling by innuendo.

Shadowy dictatorships can do that because there is no need for proof. Democracies can’t.

Thus, an accusation by a president isn’t like an accusation leveled by one private citizen against another. It’s about more than factual truth or carelessness.

Read the rest at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Thursday Reads

Kandinsky at Tea, by Gabrielle Munter

Kandinsky at Tea, by Gabrielle Munter

Good Morning!!

It sure looks like Vladimir Putin is trying to embarrass President Obama with the Russian air strikes in Syria. The Russians have bombed U.S.-supported rebels rather than ISIS. From The Guardian:

Russia has bombed targets in north-west Syria for a second day, as the Kremlin said it was going after a list of well known militant organisations and not just Islamic State.

The Russian defence ministry said planes hit 12 Isis targets, including a command centre and two arms depots, though the areas where it said the strikes took place are not held by Isis.

Activists reported a number of strikes in the country’s north and centre, including strikes in the province of Hama, which they said hit locations controlled by the US-backed rebel group, Tajamu Alezzah.

A spokesman for the Syrian civil defence said a strike also hit Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province.

“They targeted the northern neighbourhood of the town, which only houses civilians, but there are very few people there because of repeated airstrikes,” the spokesman said.

Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese pro-Assad TV channel, separately reported that Russian aircraft had launched 30 fresh airstrikes against Jaysh al-Fateh, a powerful rebel coalition that includes Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Autumn Study, Kandinsky

Autumn Study, Kandinsky

The Daily Beast: Putin Hits West’s Rebels Instead of ISIS.

A Russian general asked the U.S. to remove its planes from Syrian airspace Wednesday, just hours before Russian airstrikes began there.

The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell with Iraq, Iran, and the Syrian government, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently—and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out. The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier.

The Russian strikes were centered about the city of Homs, according to initial accounts in the local press and in social media. That’s significant, because Homs is not known to be an ISIS stronghold.

This can’t be good.

“The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army,” Major Jamil al-Saleh of the Free Syrian Army told Reuters. U.S. officials corroborated this account to The Daily Beast.

The FSA has receieved U.S.-made anti-tank missiles; the CIA and Pentagon have been recruiting FSA soldiers as proxies against ISIS.

“There is no Islamic State in this area,” another FSA commandertold Reuters. “The Russians are applying great pressure on the revolution. This will strengthen terrorism, everyone will head toward extremism. Any support for Assad in this way is strengthening terrorism.”

Autumn Landscape, Kandinsky

Autumn Landscape, Kandinsky

The Washington Post: Obama administration scrambles as Russia attempts to seize initiative in Syria.

Blindsided by the unexpected swiftness of Russia’s air attacks in Syria, the Obama administration scrambled Wednesday to retake the diplomatic and military initiatives, saying that it would not be bullied into supporting President Bashar al-Assad and that it was about to significantly expand its own Syrian air operations.

After spending much of the day together here behind closed doors, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said in terse evening statements that U.S. and Russian military officials would meet, perhaps as soon as Thursday, to “deconflict” their operations in Syria.

Standing side by side outside the U.N. Security Council chamber, they said they had reached some preliminary agreements on a way forward toward a negotiated political solution to Syria’s civil war but indicated they were far from agreed on its outcome. They took no questions.

“We have a lot of work to do, understanding fully how urgent this is,” Kerry said.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off Western concerns, suggesting that other countries “get involved” in Syria under Russia’s leadership. Senior foreign policy spokesmen in Moscow said the action proved Russia was a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

Administration officials countered that the airstrikes showed only Russian weakness and what White House press secretary Josh Earnest said was growing concern “about losing influence in the one client state they have in the Middle East.”

This is really making me nervous–probably even more so because I’m not sure how to interpret this news.

Autumn in Bavaria, Kandinsky

Autumn in Bavaria, Kandinsky

Back in the USA, Republicans in Congress are still focused on such non-issues as Benghazi, Hillary Clinton’s emails, and trying to cripple Planned Parenthood–although I’m sure they’ll find a little time to criticize Obama’s foreign policy as well.

The media is filled with descriptions of the contents of meaningless Clinton emails and suggestions that her server may have been hacked. Of course the State Department server actually has been hacked several times and so have a number of other government servers. So perhaps Clinton’s private server was actually safer.

Associated Press reports: Russia-linked hackers tried to access Clinton server.

Russia-linked hackers tried at least five times to pry into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email account while she was secretary of state, emails released Wednesday show. It is unclear if she clicked on any attachments and exposed her account.

Clinton received the infected emails, disguised as speeding tickets from New York, over four hours early the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The emails instructed recipients to print the attached tickets. Opening an attachment would have allowed hackers to take over control of a victim’s computer.

Security researchers who analyzed the malicious software in September 2011 said that infected computers would transmit information from victims to at least three server computers overseas, including one in Russia. That doesn’t necessarily mean Russian intelligence or citizens were responsible.

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign, said: “We have no evidence to suggest she replied to this email or that she opened the attachment. As we have said before, there is no evidence that the system was ever breached. All these emails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam.”

Practically every Internet user is inundated with spam or virus-riddled messages daily. But these messages show hackers had Clinton’s email address, which was not public, and sent her a fake traffic ticket from New York state, where she lives. Most commercial antivirus software at the time would have detected the software and blocked it.

The phishing attempts highlight the risk of Clinton’s unsecure email being pried open by foreign intelligence agencies, even if others also received the virus concealed as a speeding ticket from Chatham, New York. The email misspelled the name of the city, came from a supposed New York City government account and contained a “Ticket.zip” file that would have been a red flag.

Sigh . . .

Autumn Study near Oberau, Kandinsky

Autumn Study near Oberau, Kandinsky

On the Benghazi front, erstwhile Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy opened his big mouth yesterday and gave Democrats an amazing gift. Bloomberg:

…the Republican leading the race to replace John Boehner as House speaker said it for them, boasting Tuesday that his party has spent nearly three years dragging her through investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi in hopes of doing serious damage to her presidential campaign.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”

Wow. The longest investigation in House history–longer than the Watergate hearings!–was totally trumped up, and the next House Speaker admits it publicly. Democrats quickly responded.

“It’s just jaw-dropping,” said former Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who has endorsed Clinton. “The Republicans lied through their teeth when they said this wasn’t about politics.”

Clinton herself said on Wednesday that McCarthy’s comments were “deeply distressing.”

“When I hear a statement like that, which demonstrates unequivocally that this was always meant to be a partisan political exercise, I feel like it does a grave disservice and dishonors not just the memory of the four that we lost but of everybody who has served our country,” she said in an interview with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton.

Earlier, Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon called McCarthy’s words “a damning display of honesty by the possible next speaker of the House,” who has “just confessed that the committee set up to look into the deaths of four brave Americans at Benghazi is a taxpayer-funded sham. This confirms Americans’ worst suspicions about what goes on in Washington.”

The Benghazi committee’s top Democrat, Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, said in a Wednesday statement that McCarthy had simply acknowledged what “Republicans never dared admit in public.” He added that Republicans “have blatantly abused their authority in Congress” by spending more than $4.5 million in taxpayer funds on the Benghazi committee “to pay for a political campaign against Hillary Clinton.”

New York Representative Louise Slaughter, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, added: “That’s not what we’re here for and, in fact, I think that might be impeachable for crying out loud.”

Autumn Landscape with Boats, Kandinsky

Autumn Landscape with Boats, Kandinsky

Someone in the government also chose the day after Republican members attacked Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards for nearly five hours, someone in the government to leak some embarrassing information about the committee’s chair Jason Chaffetz. From the Washington Post:

An assistant director of the Secret Service urged that unflattering information the agency had in its files about a congressman ­critical of the service should be made public, according to a government watchdog report released Wednesday.

“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote in an e-mail to a fellow director on March 31, commenting on an internal file that was being widely circulated inside the service. “Just to be fair.”

Two days later, a news Web site reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and been rejected.

That information was part of a Chaffetz personnel file stored in a restricted Secret Service database and required by law to be kept private….

The Chaffetz file, contained in the restricted database, had been peeked at by about 45 Secret Service agents, some of whom shared it with their colleagues in March and April, the report found. This prying began after a contentious March 24 House hearing at which Chaffetz scolded the director and the agency for its series of security gaffes and misconduct. The ­hearing sparked anger inside the ­agency.

In another slap in Chaffetz’s face the organization that has been running the right wing campaign against Planned Parenthood admitted that the video that Carly Fiorina described in the last Republican debate had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood and the baby Fiorina saw had not survived an abortion. Raw Story: ‘This wasn’t an abortion’: CNN forces anti-Planned Parenthood group to admit Fiorina was wrong.

David Daleiden, the project lead Center for Medical Progress’ anti-Planned Parenthood campaign, admitted on Wednesday that an alleged fetus on a table that GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina described during a graphic anti-abortion rant was actually from a miscarriage.

Read the rest at the Raw Story link.

Landscape with two poplars, Kandinsky

Landscape with two poplars, Kandinsky

Finally, some reactions to Kim Davis’ meeting with Pope Francis for you to explore:

Vanity Fair: Kim Davis and Pope Francis’s Curious Meeting.

Tuesday night, lawyers for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after she was jailed, announced that she had been invited to a secret meeting with Pope Franciswhile they were both in Washington, D.C.

The Vatican initially refused to confirm or deny those reports, which suddenly made things far more confusing. On Wednesday morning, however, the Vatican changed its tune, and confirmed the meeting to The New York Times.

“I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Robert Moynihan at Inside the Vatican, a magazine covering Catholic news, broke the story on Tuesday night, citing “Vatican sources” as confirmation. The New York Timesfollowed up with an interview with Davis’s lawyer, Mathew Staver, who said that yes, totally, the meeting definitely took place.

During the visit, Staver said the Pontiff gave Davis two rosaries and told her to “stay strong.”

According to Staver, the invitation was extended through the Vatican itself, and seeing as Davis and her husband, Joe, were in town to receive an award from a conservative advocacy group, they decided to briefly visit the Pope at the Apostolic Nunciature right before he left for New York City.

Staver added that he expected the Vatican would soon send them photos of the visit.

As far as I’m concerned this is so disgusting that I think it might overshadow anything good that came from the Pope’s visit to the U.S. The fact that the meeting was kept secret until Francis was back in the Vatican makes it even more awful and shameful. The Pope probably doesn’t understand the damage he did, but along with the canonization of Junipero Sera  this will leave a very bad taste in the mouths of many Americans.

More links to peruse:

Vanessa Urquhart at Slate: Why Pope Francis’ Meeting With Kim Davis Is Such a Disaster.

Trevor Martin at The Guardian: Pope Francis’s meeting with Kim Davis should come as no surprise.

Washington Post: Meeting with Kim Davis has pope-watchers asking, what did Francis mean?

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!

 


Thursday Reads: Media Clutches Pearls, Takes to Fainting Couch, and Calls for Smelling Salts

 couch smelling saltsGood Morning!!

I can’t figure out if the corporate media wants to stop Hillary Clinton from running for president or if they desperately want her to run so they can figuratively flog her with a cat-o-nine-tails and then put her in stocks in front of the Capital building.

The story about Hillary using a private email domain when she was Secretary of State has reached the point of ridiculousness, but the media can’t help themselves–they are and yet the coverage continues to get more heated by the hour. The Hillary haters in the media see blood in the water and they’re circling in hopes of getting their teeth into her.

Sorry for the tortured metaphors, but seriously, what does the media want from this woman?

Check out this story from The Hill reporting on remarks by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. (Chaffetz and former Chairman Darrell Issa have been the leaders of the “investigations” of the Bengazi, IRS, and Fast and Furious non-scandals.)

Asked on “Fox and Friends” whether Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email address during her time as secretary of State raised national security concerns, Chaffetz said, “It does beg the question: Were there any sort of classified pieces of information that were flowing through her personal email account?”

“Which is something you can’t do and something yesterday Gen. Petraeus had to plead guilty to, or was going out in a deal, dealing with his personal email and interaction with somebody who didn’t have a classification,” Chaffetz added….

Petraeus reached a plea deal, the Justice Department announced Tuesday, over charges he failed to turn over for archiving small record books kept while commanding U.S. forces in Afghanistan, instead providing them and their classified information to his mistress, Paula Broadwell, who wrote a biography of the Army general.

Seriously?

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday, “we have no indication that Secretary Clinton used her personal email account for anything but unclassified purposes,” adding that Clinton used secure phone calls, aides or took other steps to send sensitive messages and has turned over some emails for archiving.

But the Committee will investigate anyway, and yesterday, according to the WaPo, the “Select Committee on Benghazi”

subpoenaed all communications of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton related to Libya and to the State Department for other individuals who have information pertinent to the investigation,” according to a statement by committee spokesman Jamal Ware. “The Committee also has issued preservation letters to internet firms informing them of their legal obligation to protect all relevant documents.”

Back to The Hill article (emphasis added):

Earlier this week, Chaffetz said his committee would join the House Select Committee on Benghazi to further explore Clinton’s use of personal emails. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of that committee, said Clinton might have to testify several times before the panel, even into 2016.

ABC_jason_chaffetz_card_jef_150303_4x3_992

Chaffetz himself lists a personal gmail address on his “official House card,” according to ABC News, but Chaffetz says that’s different. According to the Hill, when he was asked about the comparison between his use of email and Clinton’s, Chaffetz said, “Well that’s like comparing apples to a boat.”

Read more about the House efforts to bring Hillary down at Bloomberg Politics: House Oversight Committee to ‘Explore’ Clinton’s E-Mail Use, Chairman Says.

At New York Magazine, Frank Rich is deeply concerned.

Do the Democrats Need a Backup Plan for 2016?

Are Clinton’s email shenanigans a federal offense? Probably not. But we still don’t know the whole story, and it seems to be thickening by the minute — notably with a new report from the AP that she was protecting her email by cycling it through her own private email server out of Chappaqua. But the more important question is why the Clintons, who more than anyone in American politics understand the high risks of perceived improprieties, have left Hillary’s campaign so vulnerable even before it is officially out of the gate.

Why in God’s name did they change the name of the Clinton Foundation to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation? That gives Hillary full ownership of a stream of potential conflict-of-interest revelations that have been emerging ever since, notably in the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico: that the foundation solicited funds from at least 60 corporations that were lobbying the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State; that the foundation quietly resumed soliciting donations from foreign governments once she left the State Department; that an Obama Administration ethics framework established to monitor potential conflicts of interest between Bill Clinton’s lucrative foreign speech engagements and State on Hillary’s watch was less-than-exacting.

And one imagines this is only the beginning. At the Post, a lead reporter on the Clinton story is Rosalind S. Helderman, whom some may recall was the dogged investigative journalist whose forensic journalism helped expose the pay-for-play scandal that brought down Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia Governor, and his wife Maureen.

2-silent-film-still-fainting-granger

You can check out Rich’s links for more background. Both the Post and the NYT are really pushing this story, but the Post seems even more worked up than the Times. Rich points out that Democrats really don’t have any legitimate alternatives to Clinton. Who are they going to run instead? Martin O’Malley? Jim Webb? Give me a break. And sorry, Emo-Progs,, Elizabeth Warren is not running.

At least one Joe Biden backer sees this new “scandal” as a golden opportunity, according to the Washington Post.

Top Biden backer: Hillary Clinton will ‘die by 1,000 cuts’ on e-mail story.

Dick Harpootlian, a former Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, home to an early and important presidential primary, said recent reports about Clinton’s use of private e-mail to conduct government business and her family’s charitable foundation accepting donations from foreign governments while she was secretary of state could be damaging to her likely 2016 presidential campaign.

“There’s always another shoe to drop with Hillary,” Harpootlian said in an interview Wednesday. “Do we nominate her not knowing what’s in those e-mails?… If the e-mails were just her and her family and friends canoodling about fashion and what they’re going to do next week, that’s one thing. But the fact that she’s already turned e-mails to the Benghazi committee because she was doing official business on it means she’s going to die by 1,000 cuts on this one.”

He wishes.

Harpootlian — who has been an active and outspoken booster of a Biden 2016 candidacy — said the foundation donations and e-mail stories have sparked chatter among South Carolina politicos about drafting other candidates into the Democratic primary. Referencing Biden specifically, he said, “I’ll tell you this: He ain’t got no e-mail problems. He ain’t got no foundation problems. What you see with Joe is what you get. There’s nothing hidden there.”

Harpootlian added, “The chatter down here is, ‘Is this the best we can do?’ Certainly everyone wants to give a woman a chance to lead this country, but is [Clinton] the woman? There are plenty of other women who would be competitive, whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar or Kirsten Gillibrand.”

Sorry, Dick, those women aren’t running and they wouldn’t be any more competitive than your pal Joe Biden–who has his own past scandals to worry about.

Bewit35

The Wall Street Journal says “some Democrats” are “troubled” about the new Hillary “scandals.” Yes, I’m sure they are. Sometimes I think there are more Clinton-haters among Democrats than Republicans. WSJ reports:

Some Democrats are uneasy about the reports involving Hillary Clinton ’s use of a private email account during her time as secretary of state and her foundation’s fundraising practices, calling on her to break her silence and personally address the two controversies.

Some party figures say the recent disclosures show a need for Democratic rivals to step forward and challenge Mrs. Clinton for a nomination that has long seemed to be hers for the asking.

At least one of these “uneasy” Democrats was willing to use his name.

Don Paulson, chairman of the Muscatine County Democrats in Iowa, said he was disturbed by the Clinton Foundation’s practice of accepting donations from foreign governments at a time when Mrs. Clinton was preparing a campaign for the White House. He saw that as one reason why the party should vet her and other candidates in a competitive primary, rather than allow her to coast to the nomination without a real fight. “It’s a healthier thing all around if there’s competition,” he said.

I’m sure Muscatine County Chairman is a Very Important Job, so we’d better being paying close attention to Mr. Paulson. Or not.

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The WSJ admits that “Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement…was legal while she served as the nation’s top diplomat,” but never mind that. It’s still so “troubling” and it makes people so “uneasy.” They do include the names of two more disapproving Democrats:

Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who has worked on six presidential campaigns, said of the email account: “She needs to explain why she did what she did. I do think it’s a real issue, and I think it’s an issue that has to get dealt with on a serious level.”

“I don’t think it’s something a junior staffer can put out a statement and expect the thing to go away,” he said.

Kim Weaver, chairman of the O’Brien County Democrats in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first presidential contest, said: “The questions need to be answered.” She added she would like to hear whether the personal email system Mrs. Clinton used carried adequate security protections. “If it’s no big deal, why not just come out and say what it is.”

It seems that Iowa Democrats are particularly upset.

But will any of this matter to voters in November of 2016? Brendan Nyhan of the NYT blog The Upshot doesn’t think so. He notes that most Americans aren’t thinking about the 2016 presidential campaign yet, and when they do, attitudes toward toward the “email furor” will likely break down along partisan lines.

Of course that won’t stop his newspaper from running story after story about it on their front page while they ignore the potential loss of health insurance for 8,000,000 Americans along with other important world events.

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One more from Business Insider:

Former State Department officials explain why the Clinton email ‘scandal’ is ridiculous.

According to the State Department, Hillary Clinton’s use of a personalized email address during her time as secretary of state was no secret.

“The State Department has long had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton’s records — including emails between her and Department officials with state.gov accounts,” State Department Deputy Spokesperon Marie Harf said in an email to Business Insider….

Business Insider reached out to Clinton’s representatives. They put us in touch with two former State Department officials who argued that Clinton was careful to use the address in a manner that went above and beyond regulatory requirements and ensured her communications were preserved.

The former officials, who requested anonymity to freely discuss Clinton’s emails and State Department policy, echoed the notion the former secretary’s personalized email address was not kept secret. They said she used it to communicate with over 100 department staffers, other officials, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill….

Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill issued a statement in response to the article wherein he argued Clinton corresponded with people on their government account whenever she conducted official business….”Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained,” Merrill said.

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Guess what? John Kerry is the first Secretary of State to use a government email account! Colin Power also used a private account during the Bush Administration.

The two former officials said efficiency was one reason Clinton set up her own address. At the time, State Department policy would not have allowed her to have multiple email addresses on her Blackberry. Because of this, the officials said, she opted to have one address for both personal and governmental communications. They echoed Merrill’s statement and said Clinton took care to correspond with other State officials exclusively on their governmental addresses. The officials said this meant all of her emails and those sent to her were immediately preserved on government servers.

According to the two officials, regulations discouraged the use of personal email but did not prohibit it. Merrill also argued that Clinton’s use of private email was not against the rules.

“Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved,” he said.

So far, Hillary herself has only responded on Twitter:

 

So . . . . there are lots of important stories out there today. Which ones are you following?


Romney, GOP Appear to be Planning “October Surprise” on Libya . . . Will it Work?

The Romney campaign and the GOP appear to be rolling out an “October Surprise” in the leadup to to tomorrow night’s presidential debate.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Mitt Romney in which he supposedly proposed “A new course for the Middle East.  Here’s the opening:

Disturbing developments are sweeping across the greater Middle East. In Syria, tens of thousands of innocent people have been slaughtered. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power, and the country’s peace treaty with Israel hangs in the balance. In Libya, our ambassador was murdered in a terrorist attack. U.S. embassies throughout the region have been stormed in violent protests. And in Iran, the ayatollahs continue to move full tilt toward nuclear-weapons capability, all the while promising to annihilate Israel….

Yet amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. We’re not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies.

What follows is several paragraphs of criticism of President Obama’s policies as Romney interprets them. For example, Romney accuses the President of “allow[ing] or leadership to atrophy,” “misunderstanding our values,” and “thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries,” but provides no evidence for these claims.

The only “solutions” Romney puts forward are also vague. He argues that we must develop a “coherent strategy” of supporting our Middle Eastern allies and also “restore our credibility with Iran.” Based on Romney’s previous statements, he seems to be suggesting that somehow if he is President, the Iranians will be more terrified of him than weak, Carter-like Barack Obama.

It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.

But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.

Yesterday Craig Unger wrote that he had learned from an anonymous source that GOP operatives will

unleash a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on Sept. 11.

The source, who has firsthand knowledge of private, high-level conversations in the Romney camp that took place in Washington, D.C., last week, said that at various times the GOP strategists referred to their new operation as the Jimmy Carter Strategy or the October Surprise.

He added that they planned to release what they hoped would be “a bombshell” that would make Libya and Obama’s foreign policy a major issue in the campaign. “My understanding is that they have come up with evidence that the Obama administration had positive intelligence that there was going to be a terrorist attack on the intelligence.”

The source described the Republicans as chortling with glee that the Obama administration “definitely had intel” about the attack before it happened. “Intelligence can be graded in different ways,” he added, “and sometimes A and B don’t get connected. But [the Romney campaign] will try to paint it to look like Obama had advance knowledge of the attack and is weak on terrorism.”

“Chortling with glee?” The apparent goal of all this GOP strategizing is to make Barack Obama look like Jimmy Carter circa 1980. Romney and Ryan have both been trying to do this for months, with little effect.

To be honest, I’m having a hard time taking all this too seriously, but today Reps. Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz of the House Committee on Oversight and Government claimed to have information to prove that:

Despite two explosions and dozens of other security threats, U.S. officials in Washington turned down repeated pleas from American diplomats in Libya to increase security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador was killed…

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [read the full letter here (pdf), Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said their information came from “individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya.”

Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months before Sept. 11.

The letter listed 13 incidents, but Chaffetz said in an interview there were more than 50. Two of them involved explosive devices: a June 6 blast that blew a hole in the security perimeter. The explosion was described to the committee as “big enough for forty men to go through”; and an April 6 incident where two Libyans who were fired by a security contactor threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence.

“A number of people felt helpless in pushing back” against the decision not to increase security and “were pleading with them to reconsider,” Chaffetz said. He added that frustrated whistleblowers were so upset with the decision that they were anxious to speak with the committee.

Issa and Chaffetz will hold a hearing on the issue next Wednesday, October 10.

Just a side note: Jason Chaffetz is a convert to Mormonism who attend BYU and is a Romney surrogate.  He also spoke at the Republican Convention.

The Wall Street Journal fired another salvo today with another op-ed by Bret Stephens: Benghazi Was Obama’s 3 a.m. Call Here’s the concluding paragraph, which sums up the entire argument pretty well:

The U.S. ignores warnings of a parlous security situation in Benghazi. Nothing happens because nobody is really paying attention, especially in an election year, and because Libya is supposed to be a foreign-policy success. When something does happen, the administration’s concerns for the safety of Americans are subordinated to considerations of Libyan “sovereignty” and the need for “permission.” After the attack the administration blames a video, perhaps because it would be politically inconvenient to note that al Qaeda is far from defeated, and that we are no more popular under Mr. Obama than we were under George W. Bush. Denouncing the video also appeals to the administration’s reflexive habits of blaming America first. Once that story falls apart, it’s time to blame the intel munchkins and move on.

Jake Tapper also helped out by trying to get White House spokesman Jay Carney to comment on the charges from Issa and Chaffetz. Here’s the response:

Carney said that “embassy security is a matter that is in the purview of the State Department,” and noted that “Secretary Clinton instituted an accountability review that is underway as we speak” while the investigation of the attack itself is being conducted by the FBI.

The press secretary said that “from the moment our facility was attacked” the president has been focused on providing security to all diplomatic posts “and bringing the killers to justice.”
About the list of security issues, Carney said it was a “known fact that Libya is in transition” and that in the eastern part of Libya in particular there are militant groups and “a great number of armed individuals and militias.”

So I guess we can expect Romney to attack President Obama on the Libya issue during tomorrow night’s debate, no doubt accompanied by the famous Romney smirk. Obama should be prepared though, since the “October Surprise” has been so clearly spelled out by multiple media sources.

Is there more to it? Will it work? I kind of doubt it, because it’s clear from the polls that Romney has already destroyed his credibility with voters. But I could be wrong.

What do you think?