Thursday Reads: Trump Wants to Arm Teachers, and Other News

President Trump holds a card with talking points during a listening session with high school students and teachers on gun violence on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Good Morning!!

Yesterday afternoon, Trump held a “listening session” for victims of school shootings. (He was invited to the CNN town hall, but chose not to attend.) The Washington Post: This photo of Trump’s notes captures his empathy deficit better than anything.

President Trump held a worthwhile listening session Wednesday featuring a range of views on how to combat gun violence in schools. And while Trump’s at-times-meandering comments about arming teachers will certainly raise eyebrows, for the most part he did listen.

Thanks in part, it seems, to a helpful little reminder.

Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti captured [an] image of Trump’s notes [see photo above].

Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”

Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads.

Activists and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attended a rally at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fl on Wednesday. Don Juan Moore Getty Images

I was surprised that the people at Trump’s White House meeting were permitted to speak honestly about their experiences. But when Trump himself spoke, it was clear he wasn’t really listening to their pain. You know who wouldn’t have needed those notes? Hillary Clinton.

After teenagers cried about losing friends and being terrorized by a person with an AR-15, after angry, heartbroken parents spoke of losing their children to senseless gun violence, Trump’s brilliant solution was to give teachers with handguns and expect them to kill suicidal shooters with semi-automatic weapons.

Trump must have seen some of the media reaction to this insane suggestion, because this morning he was on twitter claiming he never said it–but then he said it again.

And would these armed teachers be paid extra for this dangerous duty? Would the government pay for training them? Wouldn’t all this time spent training take away from their actual job of classroom teaching, which requires plenty of preparation and time spend grading papers? Trump isn’t concerned about all that: “far more assets at much less cost.” Trump sees teachers as slave labor!

Trump must have heard from his supporters at the NRA, because he later tweeted this:

Trump learned absolutely nothing from his “listening session.” Last night Lawrence O’Donnell explain why Trump’s idea is utterly insane. Check it out if you didn’t see it.

More from @Lawrence:

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The economics of arming America’s schools. Bump begins with Trump’s proposal:

“A lot of people are talking about it — it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss,” Trump said. “But concealed-carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent — so let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force. Because that’s pretty much the number, and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders — for the police to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”

How would that work and how much would it cost?

Data from the Department of Education indicates that there are an estimated 3.1 million public school and 400,000 private-schoolteachers in the United States. In total, there are about 3.6 million teachers.

One-fifth of that total is 718,000 — a bit fewer than the number of people in the Army and the Navy combined as of last December. We’d essentially be adding 50 percent to the size of the military by mandating that three-quarters of a million people be trained and prepared to take up arms to defend civilians.

The first cost that needs to be considered is training. What sort of training would be required isn’t clear. Do we want to simply teach the teachers how to target an individual and fire a weapon? Or do we want something more expansive?

Let’s say we want the bare minimum, just enough to pass the safety requirement for gun ownership. In Maryland, there’s a company that will charge you $100 for that training. The cost, then, would be about $71.8 million for all of our teachers.

I’ll let you read the rest at the link. I think the proposal is idiotic. Would Trump expect teachers to pay for this training? It’s a good thing teachers have unions.

As an antidote to all this insanity, here’s a Tweet from Barack Obama:

In other news, Bernie Sanders is on the defensive after indictments from Robert Mueller made it clear that the Russians supported Sanders’ primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Politico: Bernie blames Hillary for allowing Russian interference.

Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.

The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.

In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.“The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.

Some Twitter reactions:

According to CNN, HR McMaster could be on the way out: McMaster could leave WH after months of tension with Trump.

With tensions flaring between President Donald Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.

A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, these officials said.

Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump. The task of easing McMaster out of his role as national security adviser presents a unique challenge for the White House.

While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.

Read more at the CNN link.

I’ll end with a bit of positive news from the Dallas Morning News: Fueled by a Democratic surge, Texans turn out in force on first day of early voting.

AUSTIN — Of the 51,249 Texans who cast ballots Tuesday on the first day of early voting, more than half voted in the Democratic primary.

The total number of voters from the 15 counties with the most people registered is high for a midterm year. In 2016, a presidential election year, 55,931 Texans voted on the first day of early voting for the primary. But in the last midterm election in 2014, only 38,441 Texans voted on the first day.

Even more surprising is the turnout among Democrats. Since the last midterm election, the party saw a 51 percent increase in first-day early voting turnout, while Republicans saw a 16 percent increase….

Political experts attribute much of Texas’ increased voter turnout as a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, as well as the state’s eight open congressional seats.

“In general, there seems to be more energy, largely stemming from people’s reactions to President Trump and a lot of Democrat-leaning groups trying to get people out and organized,” said Robert Lowry, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s maybe more Democrats than Republicans, but people who oppose him and don’t like the results of the election and can’t believe he won, [saying] ‘We obviously can’t vote against him this time but we can try to get more Democrats elected to respond to him.'”

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

 


Thursday Reads: Berning Down The Democratic Party

Good Morning!!

Finally some journalists are beginning to understand that Bernie Sanders is serious about trying to destroy the Democratic Party in hope that his “political revolution” will emerge from the chaos he and his supporters create. The Party should be focusing on how to beat Donald Trump, but Bernie is enjoying being the center of attention so much that he just can’t stop himself.

When he started running for president, I’m convinced that Sanders didn’t think he had a chance, but once the donations started flowing in and he saw the cheering crowd and read the article lionizing him, he began to believe he would win the nomination and actually be able to run the country his way.

Now that he has lost, Sanders seems determined to take everyone else down with him and hand the presidency to a seriously insane person with no experience in politics or government and no interest in learning about either.

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Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: Bernie and Jane Sanders: The Democratic Party’s Thelma and Louise.

Now we are forced to ask whether Bernie Sanders has decided he wants to destroy the Democratic Party. I’m sure he would say he wants to save it. The way we saved villages in Vietnam. You know the quote.

I don’t allege that he decided to run as a Democrat for this reason. He did so, I’m told by those who’d know, because he did not want to be the 21st-century Ralph Nader and because he knew that running against Hillary Clinton would give him a much bigger stage on which to inveigh against the parasites.

That was then. But now, after the Nevada fracas and his gobsmacking statement in the wake of it, it’s remorselessly clear that he wants to obliterate the Democratic Party. Revolutions take on lives of their own. Robespierre never thought back in 1790 or ’91 that the guillotine would be needed. But as the dialecticians like to say, historical circumstances change. By 1793, those little sheep who’d been misled by sellouts like Danton were part of the…corrupt establishment.

Tomasky explains what he thinks is motivating Bernie and Jane Sanders and Jeff Weaver’s vicious attack on the Democratic Party.

Most things that happen in campaigns tell us something about people as politicians. This statement told us something about Sanders—and, I suspect, about his wife, Jane, and Jeff Weaver, his campaign manager—as human beings. Everything is subordinated to ideology. Basic human impulses are buried. There is only politics, only ideology, only the movement. I’m really glad we’re not in Romania in 1965. I know where I’d be.

I know this because I’ve known lots of people like this. Leftists like Sanders regard the Democratic Party as a far bigger problem in the world than the Republican Party. The thinking goes like this: The Republicans, sure, everybody knows they’re evil. That’s obvious. But the Democrats, they’re evil too. They adopt a few attractive positions, say nice things on certain issues as long as saying those nice things doesn’t really threaten the established economic order, so they’re even worse, finally, because they fool people into thinking they’re on their side. I heard this a hundred times from the old guys who used to hector me at the Socialist Scholars Conference in Manhattan 25 years ago when I used to speak there.

That’s what Bernie is. If he’d stayed in Brooklyn, he’d have been a Social Scholars Conference hectorer. He had the wisdom to move to a podunk state, and the luck to do so just as it was becoming the place where all the aging hippies were moving, and so he became a mayor and then a House member and, finally and exaltedly, a senator.

BERNIES

So many liberal bloggers and journalists have been saying nice things about Bernie throughout the primaries. Yesterday, Josh Marshall finally woke up to reality: It Comes From the Very Top.

Over the last several weeks I’ve had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it’s coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

This should have been obvious to me. The tone and tenor of a campaign always come from the top. It wasn’t obvious to me until now.

This might be because he’s temperamentally like that. There’s some evidence for that. It may also be that, like many other presidential contenders, once you get close it is simply impossible to let go. I don’t know which it is. That would only be my speculation. But this is coming from Bernie Sanders. It’s not Weaver. It’s not driven by people around him. It’s right from him. And what I understand from knowledgable sources is that in the last few weeks anyone who was trying to rein it in has basically stopped trying and just decided to let Bernie be Bernie.

Some journalists, like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell have basically been surrogates for the Sanders campaign. I’m not sure where Hayes and Maddow stand on burning down the Democratic Party, but Lawrence O’Donnell made it clear last night that he’s on board with Bernie’s plan.

Too bad Marshall didn’t start asking questions sooner.

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Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum is still holding onto the fantasy that Sanders is basically a good guy who has gotten caught up in power-seeking: The Sad Decline and Fall of Bernie Sanders.

The one thing I do keep wondering about is what happened to Bernie Sanders. Before this campaign, he was a gadfly, he was a critic of the system, and he was a man of strong principles. He still is, but he’s also obviously very, very bitter. I wonder if all this was worth it for him? By all objective measures he did way better than anyone expected and had far more influence than anyone thought he would, and he should feel good about that. Instead, he seems more angry and resentful with every passing day….

I don’t even blame anyone in particular. Maybe Hillary’s team played too rough. Maybe Bernie’s team is too thin-skinned. I just don’t know. But it’s sort of painful to see a good person like Bernie turned into such a sullen and resentful man. And doubly painful to see him take his followers down that path too.

Usually these things fade with a bit of time. Politics is politics, after all. But for Bernie, it’s always been more than politics. I wonder if he’s ever going to get over this?

“Hillary’s team played too rough?” Give me a break. They have held back on many of the attacks they could have used.

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Some journalists, like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell, have basically acted as surrogates for the Sanders campaign. I’m not sure where Hayes and Maddow stand after Bernie’s latest disgraceful behavior, but Lawrence O’Donnell made clear last night that he is still in the Sanders camp.

On last night’s show, O’Donnell hyped the latest Fox News poll that had Trump leading Clinton by a couple of points; of course he failed to point out that poll sample included a larger proportion of Republicans than is contained in the population as a whole.

O’Donnell noted that Bernie Sanders still leads Trump in the Fox poll. He claimed that Hillary Clinton has never been able to raise her standing in polls–she always goes down. He actually went on to advocate that Democratic superdelegates should overturn the will of the voters and make Sanders the nominee!

Here’s Greg Sargent, who has been Bernie-friendly for most of the campaign: Will Bernie Sanders burn it all down?

In an interview with me today, top Sanders adviser Tad Devine — while stressing that Sanders would support the eventual nominee — demurred on the broader question of whether he would, in the end, do everything necessary to persuade his supporters of the legitimacy of the process.

At the same time, in a separate interview, a top supporter of Sanders — Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon — bluntly told me that if Sanders finishes behind in pledged delegates and the popular vote, he should not continue to try to win over super-delegates, and should concede rather than take the battle to the convention.

I asked Devine: If Clinton wins the nomination after all the votes have been cast, will Sanders issue an unequivocal declaration that the outcome was legitimate?

“We’re still involved in this process, so it’s hard for me to declare what’s going to happen at the end,” Devine said. “As we look forward, there are a lot of issues of deep concern.”

Devine cited the DNC’s appointment of former Rep. Barney Frank as the chairman of the Democratic National Convention’s Rules Committee and the appointment of Connecticut governor Dan Malloy as the co-chair of the Platform Committee, arguing that both had been “partisan” in their “attacks” on Sanders.

So the answer is no. The Sanders campaign will continue to whip up the Bernie bros and encourage protests and perhaps even violence at the Democratic convention in July. Democratic leaders need to act now to head these people off at the pass.

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The Hill reports that Democrats held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Sanders threat: How Senate Democrats are trying to deal with Sanders.

Democrats in the room decided the best course would be to let Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) handle the delicate task of talking to Sanders about the increasingly negative tone of supporters of his presidential bid, according to sources familiar with what happened at the meeting.

“I’m leaving it up to Reid. That’s what the caucus did yesterday. We said he would be the lead on it,” said one Democratic senator. “There was some suggestion that we would all make calls. And everybody said the best idea is to let the leader handle it.”

A senior Democratic aide said that thinking reflects an acknowledgement among the senators that Reid is the one member of the caucus who “has an actual relationship with him.”

Sanders is a political independent who caucuses with Democrats. That’s made him a bit of an outsider with his colleagues, something highlighted by the Vermont senator’s rebuke this week of a Democratic Party he says should open its doors to political independents.

The presidential candidate is not chummy with his colleagues.

 Fellow senators have been known to roll their eyes at his idealistic — some say unrealistic — jeremiads in private meetings. Sanders is known for speaking out at the sessions.

Reid, however, has always been a helpful ally. He gave Sanders the full benefits of membership in the Democratic caucus after his election to the Senate in 2006, rewarding him with the committee assignments he wanted even though he was not a registered Democrat.

Well, Harry Reid tried and failed to reason with Bernie. To paraphrase the famous quote from Jaws, I think the Democrats are gonna need a bigger plan.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

 


Thursday Reads

reading-in-the-garden Nikolay Bodanov Belsky

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama will not meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg as previously planned. From The Washington Post:

President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:

“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.

President Obama discussed some of his issues with Russia in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday night.

Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.

After the announcement, Russian-American journalist Julia Iofee wrote at The New Republic: Obama Bails on His Inevitably Awkward Date With Putin

A week after Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia, President Obama canceled his bi-lateral September summit in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, though administration officials are at pains to portray this as something greater than pure tit-for-tattery. Rather, they say, it was an excuse to avoid what, even without Snowden, would have been “a pretty dreary affair.”

A few days before Snowden turned up in Moscow, Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own. Moscow and Washington had talked and talked, they’d gotten START and the transport route to Afghanistan and the sanctions on Iran, but now, the kids are out of the house and they were talking past each other on Syria, on Iran, on pretty much everything.

Lawrence O’Donnell asked Ioffe to appear on his MSNBC show last night to discuss the issues surrounding the decision; but instead of allowing her to express her opinions, O’Donnell interrupted Ioffe, lectured her about Russia and Putin, basically implying she is a liar. Ioffe responded at TNR:

Tonight, I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, and Lawrence O’Donnell yelled at me. Or, rather, he O’Reilly’d at me. That O’Donnell interrupted and harangued and mansplained and was generally an angry grandpa at me is not what I take issue with, however. What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand.

I was invited on the show to talk about Obama’s (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: “Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.” I’m not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I’m a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.

Which is why I wish you’d let me finish answering your bullshit question…

You can watch the interaction at MSNBC and read the things she would have liked to say about Putin at TNR. Basically Ioffe tried to explain the Putin doesn’t control everything that happens in Russia anymore than Obama controls everything that happens in the US. She believes that once the Bolivian plane was forced to land because the US suspected Snowden might be on board, Putin really had no choice but to allow Snowden to stay in Russia, because public opinion there strongly supported him.

I have quoted Ioffe in previous posts, and she certainly is no Putin apologist–as she asserts in her piece. I think O’Donnell treated her shamefully.

In other NSA news, mainstream reporters continue to published far more stunning revelations than anything that has come from Snowden and Greenwald. This morning at The New York Times, Charlie Savage writes about surveillance of e-mails between people in the US and foreign countries without warrants, which is being justified by an interpretation of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.

The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.

While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations….

Government officials say the cross-border surveillance was authorized by a 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, in which Congress approved eavesdropping on domestic soil without warrants as long as the “target” was a noncitizen abroad. Voice communications are not included in that surveillance, the senior official said.

Read more at the NYT link.

And at Reuters, John Shiffman and David Ingram report that a DEA program that appears to use NSA data to target ordinary criminals in the and then require DEA officers to conceal the source of the information was also used by the IRS.

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.

Just as a reminder that Russia’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers is actually a hell of a lot worse than anything that happens in the US, Human Rights Watch reports on Russia’s Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games.

(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.

Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out  againstabuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.

“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”

Obviously that doesn’t justify the Obama administration trying to influence media coverage of the NSA story, but we do need to keep things in perspective. In that vein, Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday: The Real-Life Stories of Legitimate NSA Whistleblowers (Snowden Isn’t One of Them). I hope you’ll give it a read.

In other news, Yemen has been hit by 6 suspected US drone strikes in the past 2 weeks–probably linked to the recently reported threat of an imminent terror strike that led the US to close a number of embassies last weekend.

An official in Yemen said Thursday that the sixth suspected U.S. drone strike in just two weeks had left six suspected al Qaeda militants dead in the group’s former stronghold in the center of the country. The official told The Associated Press that a missile hit a car traveling in the central Marib province, causing the fatalities.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that Yemen has long been a haven for al Qaeda leadership, and the country claimed Wednesday to have disrupted a major plot, which may have exposed potential targets.

Yemeni government officials say security forces are turning up the heat on militants from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global terror network’s branch based in the nation, after foiling the plot to strike foreign embassies, gas and oil installations, and the country’s port cities.

The government has even given a shoot-to-kill order on anybody who looks suspicious and refuses to identify themselves.

The alleged plot appears to have been similar to the January attack in Algeria which saw gunmen storm the Amenas gas plant, killing more than three dozen foreign workers.

Yesterday in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that information about the terror threats came from an al Qaeda “conference call,” involving top al Qaeda leaders and around 20 other people–a report that aroused quite a bit of skepticism on Twitter. Why would these guys risk talking on a conference call? Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Beast article:

The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.

Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.

To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.

Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.

Perhaps the call was encrypted in some way and the US had found a way to listen anyway? But then why would they blow future such operations by leaking the fact that they had listened to the call? This morning  CNN’s Barbara Starr tweeted to Josh Rogin:

Barbara Starr ‏@barbarastarrcnn2h

@joshrogin IT WAS NOT A PHONE CALL. IN FACT, AL QAEDA WENT TO EXTENSIVE MEANS TO SET UP WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY A VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE.”

I’m not sue how to interpret that either. I’ll update if I get anything more on this.

Once again, my morning post has gotten way too long. I have other news links, but I’ll put them in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with whatever stories you’re following today, and have a tremendous Thursday!!


Mitt Meltdown Open Thread

I thought I’d put up an open thread to discuss the ongoing Mitt Shady meltdown–or anything else on your mind. I’m gearing up to listen to Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell and I’ll post anything interesting they have to say. If you’re watching or listening too, please join in.

I know you’re already aware that Romney demanded a retraction from The Boston Globe, and they informed him that their story is solid and they’re not backing down. Of course the Obama campaign laughed their asses off at Romney’s demand for an apology from them. Here are some of the latest headlines on the Mitt Shady meldown.

I really like this post by Brian Beutler: Cutting Through The Bain Bamboozlement

Technical questions are, for the moment, dominating the dispute over when Mitt Romney really left Bain Capital. But from my point of view, on the sidelines of this particular story, it all seems much, much simpler.

The reason this issue is in dispute at all is because Mitt Romney wants full political inoculation from anything Bain did between early 1999 and 2002, when he definitely truly left the company. He wasn’t in charge, except in a narrow, technical sense; he’d delegated his duties; Bain’s business practices from that period can’t be hung around his neck.

If you’re not already belly-laughing think about it this way.

For Romney to be truly off the hook politically for the stuff Bain was doing, he’d have to claim not lack of control, but lack of knowledge. And that’s just not going to wash with anyone. He could try going the “I didn’t have even the slightest idea what the company I technically still owned was doing” route, but he’d be marking himself as either dishonest or incompetent.

Here’s a story from The Boston Globe defending their original piece from this morning.

The Romney campaign did not dispute the contents of the documents reviewed by the Globe but insisted Romney had nothing to do with Bain Capital’s operations after he became chief executive of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

“The article is not accurate,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “As Bain Capital has said, as Governor Romney has said, and as has been confirmed by independent fact checkers multiple times, Governor Romney left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Olympics and had no input on investments or management of companies after that point.” [….]

But a former SEC commissioner told the Globe that even if Romney did not have his hand in Bain Capital’s day-to-day operations, he was still responsible for them, as the firm’s boss.

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to say he was technically in charge on paper but he had nothing to do with Bain’s operations,” said Roberta S. Karmel, now a professor at Brooklyn Law School. “Was he getting paid? He’s the sole stockholder. Are you telling me he owned the company but had no say in its investments?”

The Romney campaign claimed Karmel is biased, noting that she was appointed by Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Karmel did not donate to Obama in 2008 and has not given to the president’s campaign this year, either.

HuffPo: Mitt Romney’s Own Testimony Undermines Bain Departure Claim.

Romney has consistently insisted that he was too busy organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics to take part in Bain business between 1999 and that event. But in the testimony, which was provided to The Huffington Post, Romney noted that he regularly traveled back to Massachusetts. “[T]here were a number of social trips and business trips that brought me back to Massachusetts, board meetings, Thanksgiving and so forth,” he said.

Romney’s sworn testimony was given as part of a hearing to determine whether he had sufficient residency status in Massachusetts to run for governor.

Romney testified that he “remained on the board of the Staples Corporation and Marriott International, the Life Like Corporation” at the time.

Yet in the Aug. 12, 2011, federal disclosure form filed as part of his presidential bid, he said, “Mr. Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.”

Bain, a private equity firm, held a stake in the Lifelike Co. until the end of 2001, including during the period in which Romney claimed to have no business involvement with Bain entities. Bain had heavily invested in Lifelike, a company that Romney identified personally as an opportunity, in 1996 and sold its shares in late 2001. His involvement with Lifelike contradicts his assertion that he had no involvement with Bain business. His testimony is supported by his 2001 Massachusetts State Ethics Commission filing, in which he lists himself as a member of Lifelike’s board.

WaPo: Mitt Romney faces new round of calls to release tax returns.

For the Romney campaign, the calculation is complex, as his advisers are weighing the benefits of transparency against the potential problems he could face should the documents reveal — or even appear to reveal — that he has gamed the tax code.

For now, Romney’s advisers said that the candidate has been sufficiently transparent and that he has no plans to disclose additional tax filings. But with four months left until Election Day — and the near-certainty that Romney will face questions about his finances in any interviews and in the fall debates — his advisers might be forced to reevaluate their strategy if the issue damages his standing in the polls.

Even some Republicans are describing the Romney position as problematic. Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, a onetime party chairman, said this week that he would provide more than two years’ worth of documents if he were in Romney’s shoes.

Strategist Mark McKinnon said the candidate’s reluctance to release his taxes feeds into the Obama campaign’s argument that Romney is hiding something and taking advantage of the system to enrich himself.

The longer Romney stalls, the worse this is going to get. He’s starting to sound like Nixon claiming “I am not a crook.”


Mocking Mitt: “The Weirdest Draft Dodger Who Has Ever Won A Major Party’s Nomination for President”

Last night Lawrence O’Donnell had a absolutely brilliant rant on draft dodger Mitt Romney spouting “utter gibberish” in his “economic speech” in Cincinnati, Ohio yesterday. Where does he get this stuff?

World War II vets can’t “hold the torch as high as they used to?” “It’s not America’s torch?” WTF?!

Mitt Romney is completely clueless about what military men and women do in war, because

Romney men do not go to war. Romney men do not join the American military. None of Mitt Romney’s sons have joined. Mitt Romney refused to join when he was an able bodied young man during the Vietnam war. He used four draft deferments to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam war. And his father did not serve in the military either. So in Romney world, World War II vets are an exotic species.

But most guys I know who were Romney’s age woke up every day, when they were kids, with a World War II vet in the house. My father was a World War II vet, my uncles were World War II vets, all of the fathers in my neighborhood were World War II vets. Seventy-five percent of all eligible men served in World War II. Barack Obama grew up in a home with a World War II vet, his grandfather. But Romney world is a world apart from that chapter of the American experience.

Please watch the whole thing. It’s priceless. I can certainly understand why Romney’s handlers don’t want him to talk to the press. Whenever he talks extemporaneously, he lets loose with the most bizarre verbal diarrhea that I have ever heard.

And you have to see this video that Gregg Mitchell posted yesterday. It’s an actual real Mitt Romney ad from 2008. Did you know he can “turn water into wine?”

This is an open thread.


Late Night Open Thread: Thank Goodness We have a Different Madame Secretary Now

Suddenly, in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the media is trotting out all the Bush administration war criminals to claim the credit. The most obnoxious of these has been Condoleezza Rice. Can you imagine being one of Condi’s students and having to sit through one this lying liar’s lectures?

Let’s flash back for a few moments to those heady days when Condi was in charge of U.S. foreign policy.

Remember this?

And this from Bob Woodward’s State of Denial?

Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, then-CIA director George Tenet became so concerned about the communication intelligence agencies were receiving indicating that a terrorist attack was imminent that he went to the White House with counterterrorism chief J. Cofer Black — without an appointment — to meet with Rice, then the national security adviser. He and Black hoped the meeting would alert Rice to the urgency they felt.

But Tenet and Black felt that Rice gave them “the brush-off,” according to Woodward, telling them that a plan for coherent action against bin Laden was already in the works. Woodward writes that both Tenet and Black felt the meeting was the starkest warning the White House was given about bin Laden.

Please, Condi, just STFU. If we had a true leader as President, you’d be on trial for war crimes.