Tuesday ReadsPosted: March 7, 2017 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: CIA hacked files, GOP health insurance plan, Jason Chaffetz, mass deportation, muslim ban, North Korea, Obamacare, Ryancare, THAAD missile defense system, tRumpcare, Wikileaks 29 Comments
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.”
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.
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!
Tuesday Reads: Trials of a Baby-ManPosted: February 7, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: baby-man in the White House, Donald Trump, media, Melania Trump, Melissa McCarthy, muslim ban, Qassim Al-Rimi, Sean Spicer, terrorist attacks, Trump tweets, White supremacists, Yemen raid 29 Comments
Like clockwork, the 70-year-old man-baby in the White House lets us know what he’s having a tantrum about this morning.
Apparently he was displeased with last night’s television coverage of his praise of a vicious dictator who murders journalists and political opponents and and his claim that the U.S. is no better because our military has killed people in war. It also seems he hasn’t yet figured out that the Iran deal was brokered with five other countries–including Russia!
Tomorrow we’ll likely be bombarded with tweets about whatever the judges decide in the muslim ban case, which is scheduled to be argued tonight at 6PM Eastern time. BTW, the audio of the hearing will be live-streamed. You can listen at that link.
NBC News reports:
In an 11-page reply to arguments filed by opponents, the Justice Department restated earlier arguments that the president has “unreviewable authority” to suspend entry of “any class of aliens to protect the national interest” and that states (in this case, Washington and Minnesota) can’t challenge federal denial of entry by third-party aliens.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has rebutted that contention, saying on NBC’s “TODAY” that “we have a checks-and-balances system in our country, and the president doesn’t have totally unfettered discretion.”
Numerous businesses and public officials have weighed in against the baby-man’s executive order.
Almost 100 big tech companies asked the appeals court not to restore Trump’s order, arguing that the restriction “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations — and hire new employees — outside the United States.”
Numerous other third-party filings — called amicus curiae briefs — were entered by pro-immigration and civil liberties groups opposing the president’s order.
And several former top federal officials — including former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser — filed their own statement of support for Washington and Minnesota.
Yesterday in a ridiculous “speech” at the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, the baby-man again bragged about winning and his support from the military and attacked the media, claiming that the press refused to cover terrorist attacks. From Talking Points Memo:
During his speech, Trump claimed that the media is not reporting on terrorist attacks, though he did not explain why.
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” he said. “They have their reasons and you understand that.”
No one seem to know WTF baby-man was talking about, but that’s nothing new. Later yesterday, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks that they believe the media didn’t cover adequately. The list included the Paris and Nice attacks in France, the San Bernardino attack, and the Pulse Nightclub attack, all of which received wall-to-wall coverage. The Washington Post on the list:
It was bare-bones in nature and seemed to have been hastily assembled. The document contained numerous typos and several factual inaccuracies. Some of the attacks listed were so high-profile and thoroughly reported that anyone with Google would be hard-pressed to say they didn’t receive sufficient attention. Among them were the Pulse nightclub massacre, the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, the coordinated shootings and explosions in Paris, and the holiday party shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.
The other attacks included on the list seemed to have been picked arbitrarily. More than half involved two or fewer deaths or injuries, so it’s no surprise that they didn’t receive front-page coverage.
Many significant attacks were missing from the list, and guess what they had in common:
Some of the countries most devastated by terrorism from Islamic extremists were left out entirely. Whether that suggests that the administration thinks they received adequate coverage is anyone’s guess. But it was a glaring omission either way.
In 2015, nearly three quarters of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in five countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, according to the State Department. The White House chose not to include any attacks from Iraq, Nigeria and Syria on its list. The two others got a single mention each — a knife attack that wounded a U.S. citizen in Pakistan in 2015, and a suicide bombing that killed 14 Nepalese security guards in Afghanistan last year.
Similarly, between 2004 and 2013, about half of all terrorist attacks and 60 percent of fatalities from terrorist attacks took place in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Erin Miller, of the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, told the BBC.
It appears the baby-man’s administration doesn’t think attacks on muslim victims are important. I guess that’s why they ignored the recent attack on a Canadian mosque by a white supremacist tRump supporter.
Mark Follman at Mother Jones: The Terror Attacks Trump Won’t Talk About
On Monday, in a case little noticed by the national media, a man went on trial in federal court for plotting a potentially horrific terrorist attack in upstate New York. In 2015, this man allegedly planned to enlist accomplices to help him bomb a house of worship and open fire with assault rifles on any bystanders. “High casualty rates” was the goal. “If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds,” he allegedly said, according to prosecutors.
Also on Monday, the Trump White House released a list of 78 attacks carried out in the US and abroad by “radical Islamic terrorists” since 2014, which it said were mostly “underreported,” following the president’s own claim earlier in the day that the media conspired to ignore such attacks. But had the upstate New York plotter succeeded, he would not have made the White House list. The individual charged with masterminding that plan was Robert Doggart, a 65-year-old white man from Tennessee who allegedly conspired to form a militia and attack a Muslim community in Islamberg, NY, on “behalf of American patriotism.” ….
After six people were killed and many others were injured while praying at a mosque in Quebec City on January 29, the White House and Fox News quickly ran with false claims that the suspected attacker was Moroccan. (That man was in fact interviewed as a witness.) Trump has not tweeted nor made any public remarks about the white nationalist (and Trump fan) who has been charged in the case.After avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at Mother Emanuel Church in in Charleston in June 2015, Trump tweeted that the attack was “incomprehensible,” and expressed his “deepest condolences to all.” But Trump has said nothing publicly about the case at any point since Roof went on trial in December.
After a white man went on a deadly rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado in November 2015—apparently motivated by an infamous video sting that falsely claimed Planned Parenthood was trafficking in “baby parts”—Trump described the perpetrator as a “maniac.” But after that, he went on at much greater length about Planned Parenthood’s alleged misdeeds.
More at the link.
We’re learning more about the botched Yemen raid that the baby-man approved over dinner with his pals. NBC News reports: Yemen Raid Had Secret Target: Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi.
The Navy SEAL raid in Yemen last week had a secret objective — the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who survived and is now taunting President Donald Trump in an audio message.
Military and intelligence officials told NBC News the goal of the massive operation was to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi, considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world and a master recruiter….
On Sunday, al-Rimi — who landed on the United States’ most-wanted terrorist list after taking over al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate in 2015 — released an audio recording that military sources said is authentic.
“The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” he said in an apparent reference to the Jan. 29 raid.
I have to agree that the baby-man in the White House is a “fool.”
The White House is also upset about the Saturday Night Live portrayal of Sean Spicer by Melissa McCarthy, according to Politico.
More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him. And the unflattering send-up by a female comedian was not considered helpful for Spicer’s longevity in the grueling, high-profile job in which he has struggled to strike the right balance between representing an administration that considers the media the “opposition party,” and developing a functional relationship with the press.
“Trump doesn’t like his people to look weak,” added a top Trump donor.
Trump’s uncharacteristic Twitter silence over the weekend about the “Saturday Night Live” sketch was seen internally as a sign of how uncomfortable it made the White House feel. Sources said the caricature of Spicer by McCarthy struck a nerve and was upsetting to the press secretary and to his allies, who immediately saw how damaging it could be in Trump world.
Could Spicer’s days as press secretary already be numbered?
Finally, poor Melania Trump’s lawsuit against The Daily Mail has been revealed to be based on the money she was hoping to make as part of her husband’s keptocracy. The Washington Post reports: Melania Trump missed out on ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to make millions, lawsuit says.
A lawyer for first lady Melania Trump argued in a lawsuit filed Monday that an article falsely alleging she once worked for an escort service hurt her chance to establish “multimillion dollar business relationships” during the years in which she would be “one of the most photographed women in the world.”
The suit, filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Mail Media, the owner of the Daily Mail, said the article published by the Daily Mail and its online division last August caused Trump’s brand, Melania, to lose “significant value” as well as “major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.” The suit noted that the article had damaged Trump’s “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand.”
“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Trump’s behalf by California attorney Charles Harder….
The suit filed Monday did not spell out a plan by Trump to market her products during her tenure as first lady, but mentioned that her reputation had suffered just as she was experiencing a “multi-year term” of elevated publicity. The suit says the Daily Mail article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”
So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday.
Monday Reads: America Held Hostage Day 17Posted: February 6, 2017 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: muslim ban, NSC, Steve Bannon, This land is your land, Wood Guthrie 48 Comments
It’s not getting particularly better on the acting presidential front. The one thing that’s becoming a total scream is that Hair Furor is now taking offense at the suggestion he’s the signing arm of President Bannon. Little wonder on that front. It appears he wasn’t aware the so-called President put Bannon on the NSC.
Oh, and negative polls are now “fake news”. Follow the White House twitters for all the alternative facts unfit for any one but, well, they just keep on coming!!!!
Trump is not good at much of anything. But, he’s quite good at getting revenge. A lot of his conservative critics are anxiously awaiting being “paid back in spades”.
Though the record is fairly clear when it comes to Trump’s passion for vengeance, it remains an open question whether he actually maintains a comprehensive, up-to-the-minute catalog of the haters and losers he wants to destroy. (A White House spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.) It seems unlikely — but, of course, it wouldn’t be a first. Richard Nixon’s aides famously compiled an “enemies list,” the stated purpose of which was to “use the available federal machinery to screw” political opponents. John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel, told me recently that he’d be shocked if Trump didn’t have something similar on hand. “The envy these men have is blended with their desire for revenge.”
Whether or not such a list exists today, there are clear signs that Trump and his team are keeping track of their enemies. Last month, The Washington Postreported that more than 100 national-security veterans in the GOP establishment are said to be “blacklisted” from administration jobs because they signed a public letter during the campaign opposing Trump’s candidacy. In another episode, the president-elect aggressively campaigned behind the scenes to unseat a state party chairman in Ohio who had fought him during the election.
The one thing we do have is a tremendous number of leaks. He may be shutting off the recorders when he speaks with his other Boss, rasPutin, but his staff leaks the particulars of everything. The interesting thing here is that these leaks appear to be akin to whistle blowing which is really unusual in the early days of an administration.
The breadth of the leaks has surprised — and, of course, delighted — journalists, who say it gives the public an unfiltered view of what those in power are thinking and doing. The leaks of Trump’s calls to Turnbull and Peña Nieto may have been the most surprising of all; it’s rare for transcripts of presidential phone calls or details of meetings with foreign leaders, especially potentially embarrassing exchanges, to leak so soon afterward.
“Given Trump’s erratic nature and lack of experience, especially in foreign affairs, these leaks may be more important than ever,” says David Corn, a reporter with the muckraking Mother Jones magazine. “They give us a sense of how he’s doing his job” and what important advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon and Jared Kushner are telling him to do.
Other reporters say the leaks reflect a certain degree of chaos within the new administration, with factions warily circling one another. At the top of the organization is an executive who has himself flouted White House norms, which may be setting a certain tone. “I tend to think chaos begets chaos begets chaos, and that’s what we’re seeing here,” said a reporter familiar with some of the senior players.
But others see the leaks as whistleblowing — an effort to expose Trump’s initiatives before they become policy.
Another creepy player in the West Wing besides the shadow Putin and Bannon cabal is Stephen Miller. This dude is a nightmare and was central to the Alt-Right EO banning Muslims from basically powerless countries entry in to the US.
The gossip in Washington is that this is a classic palace intrigue story; two axes of power in a dysfunctional White House, taking aim at each other in the press. The unusual bit is that instead of the same old set of operators, this crew includes nationalist ideologues like Miller and Bannon who took unconventional paths to power. The pair came together over their ideological harmony on immigration, and their background in a no-holds-barred kind of politics aimed at uprooting exactly the kind of Republican Priebus represents: establishment Chamber of Commerce types who, after 2012, tried to push immigration reform and legalization of undocumented immigrants as a way to bring more voters of color into the party.
“You put the ideologues on one side of the office and the statists on the other, what the fuck do you think is going to happen?” asked one source close to Miller, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Miller, this source said, is essentially being outplayed: “He doesn’t know anyone in our world. Reince, of course, knows everybody.”
Leaks out of the administration have also been unflattering to Miller. The explosive lede of a recent New York Times story asserted that Department of Homeland Security chief John Kelly and other top DHS officials were kept in the dark on the executive order until Trump was signing it, and a Los Angeles Timesstory reported that Miller “effectively ran” a National Security Council meeting about the order—an extremely unorthodox move, and one sure to ruffle feathers among more experienced officials. (Miller has denied this.)
Robert Kagan–writing for Foreign Policy–suggests we’re backing into World War 3. That’s a frightening thought that haunts me daily.
Think of two significant trend lines in the world today. One is the increasing ambition and activism of the two great revisionist powers, Russia and China. The other is the declining confidence, capacity, and will of the democratic world, and especially of the United States, to maintain the dominant position it has held in the international system since 1945. As those two lines move closer, as the declining will and capacity of the United States and its allies to maintain the present world order meet the increasing desire and capacity of the revisionist powers to change it, we will reach the moment at which the existing order collapses and the world descends into a phase of brutal anarchy, as it has three times in the past two centuries. The cost of that descent, in lives and treasure, in lost freedoms and lost hope, will be staggering.
Americans tend to take the fundamental stability of the international order for granted, even while complaining about the burden the United States carries in preserving that stability. History shows that world orders do collapse, however, and when they do it is often unexpected, rapid, and violent. The late 18th century was the high point of the Enlightenment in Europe, before the continent fell suddenly into the abyss of the Napoleonic Wars. In the first decade of the 20th century, the world’s smartest minds predicted an end to great-power conflict as revolutions in communication and transportation knit economies and people closer together. The most devastating war in history came four years later. The apparent calm of the postwar 1920s became the crisis-ridden 1930s and then another world war. Where exactly we are in this classic scenario today, how close the trend lines are to that intersection point is, as always, impossible to know. Are we three years away from a global crisis, or 15? That we are somewhere on that path, however, is unmistakable.
We’ve got some really strange things going on all over the place. CNN is actually considering permanently banning White House Mommy over “serious credibility issues”. Is this the first step at the press finally realizing they fight the propaganda and “alternative facts”?
Over the weekend, CNN pointedly turned down an offer from the White House to have Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway appear on its Sunday shows — and a new report claims that might be a permanent arrangement.
According to the New York Times, CNN executives have “serious questions” about Conway’s credibility, as she has consistently pushed what she herself has called “alternative facts,” such as the nonexistent “Bowling Green massacre” that was roundly mocked last week.
The Times notes that media critics such as New York University professor Jay Rosen have called on networks to bar Conway from their shows due to her repeated use of falsehoods, so it’s possible CNN could be just the first network to decline offers to have Conway on their shows.
Evidently, that wasn’t the first time she inkled Bowling Green Massacre despite her insistance now that it was a momentary word gaffe. Cosmopolitan reports she said it in an interview with them on Jan, 29, This continues her career of making shit up.
Kellyanne Conway took to Twitter on Friday to walk back her comments on MSNBC’s Hardball about a nonexistent terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky. However, this wasn’t the first time she used the words “Bowling Green massacre” in an on-the-record conversation with a reporter.
In an earlier interview with Cosmopolitan.com, she not only used this same phrase but also went a step further in describing the actions of the two Iraqi men involved in the case to which she was referring.
Defending the president’s executive order banning non-U.S. citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country for 90 days on Hardball With Chris Matthews, Conway invoked what she called the “Bowling Green massacre.”
“I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” she told Matthews.
Neither of these are remotely true. When do Trump Voters finally realize they got played? Fact Checkers and ACLU Lawyers appear to be the only growth industry in the Trumpf World DisOrder.
So, I was working last night and even if I wasn’t, the Super Bowel (sic with a reason) would be the last display of Panem et Circenses that would attract me any way. But, Gaga did a fantastic job which I still haven’t seen but I am giving a nod to with all my Guthrie stuff. Yes, This Land is Your Land is a radical song if you sing all the Lyrics. And Woody Guthrie has a history with the Trumps that’s about as bad as you’d think.
This Land Is Your Land
This land is your land,
This land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway,
I saw below me that golden valley,
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled, and I followed my footsteps
To the sparking sands of her diamond deserts,
All around me a voice was sounding,
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, then I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving, and the dust clouds rolling,
A voice was chanting as the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
One bright sunny morning, in the shadow of the steeple,
By the relief office I saw my people,
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wondering if,
This land was made for you and me.
Was a big high wall there that tried to stop me,
Was a great big sign that said, “Private Property, ”
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking my freedom highway,
Nobody living can make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me.
Maybe you’ve been working as hard as you’re able,
But you’ve just got crumbs from the rich man’s table,
And maybe you’re thinking, was it truth or fable,
That this land was made for you and me.
Woodland and grassland and river shoreline,
To everything living, even little microbes,
Fin, fur, and feather, we’re all here together,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, but it once was my land,
Until we sold you Manhattan Island.
You pushed our Nations to the reservations,
This land was stole by you from me
Songwriters: Woody Guthrie
This Land Is Your Land lyrics © T.R.O. Inc.
Vanity Fair mentions how edgy her performance was because it seems to have completely gone over the heads of the MSM. Why do I find myself quoting women’s magazines and Teen Vogue these days for real political analysis. Riddle me that!
According to Guthrie’s son, Arlo, Woody wrote the song in anger as a response to “God Bless America,” written by Irving Berlin, which Guthrie hated. We don’t often sing the latter, angrier verses of This Land in schools—nor did Gaga during the show. But as Arlo told The New Yorker in 2004: “He wanted me to know what he originally wrote, so it wouldn’t be forgotten.” The New Yorker further explains Guthrie’s political evolution:
Guthrie’s inchoate socialist leanings grew into a deep commitment to the labor movement and to the social and political adventurism of the American Communist Party. (Guthrie never joined the Party—his independence was such that he “was not affiliated with anything,” according to his sister Mary Jo; he did follow the Party line, however, down to belittling Roosevelt as a warmonger during the period of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, and he wrote a column called “Woody Sez,” in hillbilly dialect, for the C.P.U.S.A. organs People’s World and Daily Worker.) The first of Guthrie’s three wives, Mary, lamented his politicization as “his downfall as an entertainer,” and she had a point: the more he focussed on rousing the masses, the less he pleased the crowd. Guthrie’s modest popular following diminished; at the same time, through politics, he found his voice.
Gaga no doubt knew exactly what she was doing when she picked that song to open her performance—and though she may have left the edgier verses out, its inclusion still served as something of dog whistle to the protestors who have been singing it in the street over the past few weeks.
If you want to see what the Drumpfocracy has been up to for the last two week you should check out this list from NPR. Rumor has it NPR has gone over to the dark side.
President Trump’s first two weeks in office have been a sprint, not the start of a marathon. If the rapid pace and, sometimes, hourly developments of executive orders, news, controversies and more have left you exhausted, you’re not alone. If you’re finding it hard to remember just everything that’s transpired too, we’re here for that, too.
Meanwhile, enjoy the day, the now, and Gaga! We may not have much left of it by summer.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Lazy Saturday Reads: The So-Called PresidentPosted: February 4, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Department of Homeland Security, District Court Judge James L. Robart, Donald Trump, John Kelly, muslim ban, Noah Purcell, State Department, Steve Bannon, Vincent Viola 31 Comments
Last night a federal judge in Washington state blocked Donald tRump’s executive order on immigration nationwide. The Washington Post reported:
The federal judge’s ruling, which was broader than similar ones before it, set up a high-stakes legal confrontation between the new president and the judicial branch over his temporary ban on entry by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries as well as refugees. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart wrote that “fundamental” to the court’s work was “a vigilant recognition that it is but one of three equal branches of our federal government.”
“The court concludes that the circumstances brought before it today are such that it must intervene to fulfill its constitutional role in our tripart government,” he wrote.
The ruling is temporary, and the ultimate question of whether Trump’s executive order will pass constitutional muster will fall to higher-level courts. Legal analysts have said the ban could be difficult to permanently undo because the president has broad authority to set immigration policy.
Robart granted a request from the state of Washington who had asked him to stop the government from acting on critical sections of Trump’s order. Justice and State department officials had revealed earlier Friday that about 60,000 — and possibly as many as 100,000 — visas already have been provisionally revoked as a result of Trump’s order. A U.S. official said that because of the court case, officials would examine the revoking of those visas so that people would be allowed to travel, Learn more here.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson hailed the case as “the first of its kind” and declared that it “shuts down the executive order immediately.” Robart, a judge appointed by George W. Bush, said in his written order that U.S. officials should stop enforcing the key aspects of the ban: the halting of entry by refugees and citizens from certain countries. He did not specifically address the matter of those whose visas already had been revoked.
Nevertheless the Department of Homeland Security has suspended tRump’s Muslim ban for now. CNN:
The Department of Homeland Security announced it has suspended all actions to implement the immigration order and will resume standard inspections of travelers as it did prior to the signing of the travel ban.
Also, a State Department official tells CNN the department has reversed the cancellation of visas that were provisionally revoked following the President’s executive order last week — so long as those visas were not stamped or marked as canceled.
The State Department has said fewer than 60,000 visas were revoked since the signing of the order. It was not immediately clear how many from that group will continue to be without their visas because their visas were physically canceled.
Following the judge’s ruling — before the government’s announcements Saturday morning — the International Air Transportation Association, a leading airline industry group, wrote to its members to follow procedures “as if the executive order never existed.”
But tRump doesn’t like this one bit. As usual, he broadcast his tantrums on Twitter. Business Insider: Trump blasts ‘so-called judge’ who temporarily blocked immigration ban in morning tweetstorm.
President Donald Trump on Saturday blasted the federal judge who issued a nationwide hold on the executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted.
“Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban,” the president continued. “They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!”
Yes folks, tRump referred to a Republican federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush as a “so-called judge.” Are we having a constitutional crisis yet?
Yesterday we learned that the tRump administration secretly ordered the revocation of as many as 100,000 legally issued visas. For now, that order has been reversed. The Washington Post:
The State Department says previously banned travelers will be allowed to enter the United States after a federal judge in Washington state on Friday temporarily blocked enforcement of President Trump’s controversial immigration ban.
“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under” Trump’s executive order, a State Department spokesman said Saturday. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”
Department of Homeland Security personnel “will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure.”
Immigrant advocates said they were encouraging travelers from the affected countries to get on planes as soon as possible, since the Trump administration has said it plans to appeal the stay on the travel ban.
Now what? Supposedly the White House plans to fight the judge’s order, but they are going to have to come up with better arguments than what DOJ lawyers argued yesterday–basically that a president’s orders cannot be questioned. From MyNorthwest.com:
The DOJ argued that Washington’s case has no standing, or injury because of case-by-case waivers included in the executive order. The DOJ argued that the president is granted broad powers over immigration. The federal lawyer said that the ban does not target any religion, but favors those facing religious persecution.
Attorney Noah Purcell argued the case for the state.
“I did say at one point the Department of Justice’s argument was frightening,” Purcell said. “And the argument was, essentially, that if the president says, ‘I’m doing this in national security interest,’ then a court cannot review if that was the real reason, or if there is any rational reason for the president’s action. Our view is that’s not the law. That’s a scary view of the law. Luckily, the judge rejected that idea.”
While hearing arguments, Judge Robarts stated that he must decide if Trump’s executive order is “rationally based” in facts. The DOJ, however, disagreed that was necessary.
Wow. We’re way past Watergate at this point, and tRump has only been in office for two weeks. Josh Rogin has some background on the machinations that have been going on between the administration over the Muslim ban: Inside the White House-Cabinet battle over Trump’s immigration order.
On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 28, as airport protests raged over President Trump’s executive order on immigration, the man charged with implementing the order, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, had a plan. He would issue a waiver for lawful permanent residents, a.k.a. green-card holders, from the seven majority-Muslim countries whose citizens had been banned from entering the United States.
White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks. Bannon paid a personal and unscheduled visit to Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security office to deliver an order: Don’t issue the waiver. Kelly, according to two administration officials familiar with the confrontation, refused to comply with Bannon’s instruction. That was the beginning of a weekend of negotiations among senior Trump administration staffers that led, on Sunday, to a decision by Trump to temporarily freeze the issuance of executive orders.
The confrontation between Bannon and Kelly pitted a political operator against a military disciplinarian. Respectfully but firmly, the retired general and longtime Marine told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command, two administration officials said. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.
Bannon left Kelly’s office without getting satisfaction. Trump didn’t call Kelly to tell him to hold off. Kelly issued the waiver late Saturday night, although it wasn’t officially announced until the following day.
That did not end the dispute. At approximately 2 a.m. Sunday morning, according to the two officials, a conference call of several top officials was convened to discuss the ongoing confusion over the executive order and the anger from Cabinet officials over their lack of inclusion in the process in advance.
On the call were Bannon, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, White House Counsel Donald McGahn, national security adviser Michael Flynn, Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State designee Rex Tillerson, who had not yet been confirmed.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
I’ll wrap this up with some corruption news.
The New York Times: Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied to His Empire.
While the president says he has walked away from the day-to-day operations of his business, two people close to him are the named trustees and have broad legal authority over his assets: his eldest son, Donald Jr., and Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Mr. Trump, who will receive reports on any profit, or loss, on his company as a whole, can revoke their authority at any time.
What’s more, the purpose of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust is to hold assets for the “exclusive benefit” of the president. This trust remains under Mr. Trump’s Social Security number, at least as far as federal taxes are concerned….
While the trust structure, outlined in documents made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by ProPublica, may give the president the appearance of distance from his business, it drew sharp criticism from experts in government ethics.
“I don’t see how this in the slightest bit avoids a conflict of interest,” said Frederick J. Tansill, a trust and estates lawyer from Virginia who examined the documents at the request of The New York Times. “First it is revocable at any time, and it is his son and his chief financial officer who are running it.”
Click on the link to read the rest.
Again from The New York Times: Vincent Viola, Nominee for Army Secretary, Drops Out.
Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, abruptly withdrew his name for the post on Friday night after concluding it would be too difficult to untangle himself from his business ties, two government officials said.
Mr. Viola is an owner of the Florida Panthers hockey club and a majority shareholder in Virtu Financial and Eastern Air Lines, among a number of other business interests. This week The New York Times reported that Mr. Viola had been negotiating to swap his stake in Eastern Air Lines for a stake in Swift Air, an airline with government subcontracts.
If his nomination had continued, he would have faced certain scrutiny for potentially becoming a government official who benefits from federal contracts.
The Trump administration did not announce his withdrawal, which was first reported Friday by The Military Times, but a senior administration official and a Pentagon official separately confirmed his decision, which the White House accepted Friday. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.
That’s all I have for you today. Now I’m going back to bed to nurse my ongoing terrible cold. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below, and have a nice weekend.
Thursday Reads: We Have Entered The Twilight Zone.Posted: January 26, 2017 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: border wall, CIA black sites, Dan Rather, Donald Trump, first amendment, immigration, journalism, Mexico, muslim ban, sanctuary cities, Torture, Twilight Zone 79 Comments
Yesterday JJ posted a link to this brief post by Melissa McEwan:
I was managing to keep a lid on the bitterness about Hillary Clinton not being our president until I saw Donald Trump start to govern.
It’s going precisely the way I thought it would, so it’s not like I’m surprised.
It’s just that seeing it actually begin to unfold is triggering a deep well of resentment, and a profound grief, that I was only able to keep at bay until he was sworn in.
And now I cannot contain it. I am angry and resentful and grief-stricken in a way I have never felt before.
That’s exactly how I feel. The time from the election to the inauguration was bad enough, but now everything feels unreal and frightening. Last night on Rachel Maddow’s show, Dan Rather called it a “Twilight Zone feeling.” I think it’s likely that a majority of Americans feel this way. A man with the temperament and personality of a 6-year-old–sometimes a 3-year-old–is sitting in the White House watching Fox News and plotting the destruction of our country. And even more horrifying, he has the power to blow up the entire world if he so chooses.
I recall feeling desperate and enraged after the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush, but this is so much worse. I feel anxious and on-edge all the time. I’m afraid to get too far from my news sources for fear that he will do something drastic; and even if I try to escape into a book or TV show or video game I just can’t shake this feeling of everything being out-of-kilter. The only difference I can see between tRump and a dictator like Kim Jong Un is that we have a few checks and balances in place–for now–to keep our child-leader from killing or jailing his critics.
Apparently the DC police feel empowered to arrest and charge journalists now. The New York Times reports: Felony Charges for Journalists Arrested at Inauguration Protests Raise Fears for Press Freedom.
At least six journalists were charged with felony rioting after they were arrested while covering the violent protests that took place just blocks from President Trump’s inauguration parade in Washington on Friday, according to police reports and court documents.
The journalists were among 230 people detained in the anti-Trump demonstrations, during which protesters smashed the glass of commercial buildings and lit a limousine on fire.
The charges against the jouMexirnalists — Evan Engel, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, Shay Horse and Aaron Cantu — have been denounced by organizations dedicated to press freedom. All of those arrested have denied participating in the violence.
“These felony charges are bizarre and essentially unheard of when it comes to journalists here in America who were simply doing their job,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Pen America. “They weren’t even in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were in the right place.”
Carlos Lauria, a spokesman and senior program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called the charges “completely inappropriate and excessive,” and the organization has asked that they be dropped immediately.
“Our concern is that these arrests could send a chilling message to journalists that cover future protests,” Mr. Lauria added.
Witnesses reported that sweeping arrests during the parade targeted rioters, protesters and journalists indiscriminately. A lawyer representing dozens of people arrested, Mark Goldstone, told The Associated Press that the police had “basically identified a location that had problems and arrested everyone in that location.”
Yesterday, tRump began pressing forward with his promised Muslim ban, his fantasy border wall, and his threat to “defund” sanctuary cities by issuing a series of executive orders. He also threatened to reopen CIA “black sites” and reinstate Bush-era torture techniques. On Twitter, he even threatened to send Federal troops into Chicago to crack down on crime!
This isn’t creeping fascism; it’s galloping fascism.
The good news is that the White House and government agencies are leaking like crazy. Vox obtained leaked copies of draft executive orders: Read leaked drafts of 4 White House executive orders on Muslim ban, end to DREAMer program, and more. Yesterday the White House released two of the orders that were exactly like the drafts; therefore Vox decided to report on the others.
The two orders released today by the Trump administration, and delivered yesterday by our source, start the process of building President Trump’s famous “wall,” and make it easier for immigration agents to arrest, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants at the border and in the US. Those policies are explained in detail here.
The four remaining draft orders obtained by Vox focus on immigration, terrorism, and refugee policy. They wouldn’t ban all Muslim immigration to the US, breaking a Trump promise from early in his campaign, but they would temporarily ban entries from seven majority-Muslim countries and bar all refugees from coming to the US for several months. They would make it harder for immigrants to come to the US to work, make it easier to deport them if they use public services, and put an end to the Obama administration program that protected young “DREAMer” immigrants from deportation.In all, the combined documents would represent one of the harshest crackdowns on immigrants — both those here and those who want to come here — in memory.
Read the rest at Vox.
Last night, ABC News ran an interview with tRump conducted by David Muir. I haven’t watched the whole thing yet, but the clips I’ve seen are terrifying. The interview confirmed what we already know–that tRump is a childish, ignorant buffoon who is clearly incompetent to hold any public office, much less be POTUS.
The Washington Post has published the entire interview with annotations by Aaron Blake. I can’t bring myself to post excerpts, but please read the whole thing at the Post. You watch the video there too if you can stand it.
tRump is running around saying dangerous things, apparently without even consulting the Cabinet members who would be charged with carrying out his orders.
Politico: Mattis, Pompeo stunned by CIA ‘black sites’ report.
Two of the officials who will be in charge of carrying out President Donald Trump’s terrorism detainee policies, Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, were “blindsided” by reports of a draft executive order that would require the CIA to reconsider using interrogation techniques that some consider torture, according to sources with knowledge of their thinking.
Lawmakers in both parties denounced the draft order on Wednesday even as White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he had “no idea where it came from” and that it is “not a White House document.”
It’s unclear who wrote the draft order or whether Trump will sign it, though members of Congress in both parties were taking that prospect seriously on Wednesday.
Some members of Congress said the document raised the specter of Trump following through on campaign vows to bring back waterboarding and other George W. Bush-era torture practices, which many lawmakers consider a shameful chapter of U.S. history.
The document, obtained and published by The New York Times and Washington Post, calls for the director of national intelligence to review whether to bring back the CIA’s infamous black-site prisons. Those were secret overseas facilities where the CIA carried out brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2001 to 2006, as documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 investigation into the issue.
The draft order says terrorism suspects in U.S. custody will not be subject to “torture” or “degrading treatment.” But it characterizes a 2016 law barring torture as “a significant statutory barrier” and would revoke an executive order signed by President Barack Obama stating that suspects must be treated in compliance with international law.
I’m going to give you the rest of the news in a link dump, because I’m just too traumatized to do more.
Vox: The best theory for why Trump tells such obvious lies.Tru
WaPo: People were taking Trump seriously. Now they’re starting to take him literally.
WaPo: Maybe Trump isn’t ‘lying’. Jennifer Rubin suggests that Trump may not be able to tell truth from fantasy.
WaPo: In his first major TV interview as president, Trump is endlessly obsessed with his popularity.
NYT: Clinics for World’s Vulnerable Brace for Trump’s Anti-Abortion Cuts.
New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman asks “Is Donald Trump’s War With CNN Personal?”
Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: Trump White House Senior Staff Have Private RNC Email Accounts.
NYT: As Trump Orders Wall, Mexico’s President Considers Canceling U.S. Trip.
CNN: Trump to Mexican president: Better to cancel our meeting.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and try to stay calm just for today. I love you all.