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

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers! 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oops.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruz has sent an SOS to the UN.

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

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

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

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

He hates us.  He really hates us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile … 

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

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

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

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

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

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

Good Afternoon!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz comforts a hurricane survivor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please go read the rest if you can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTF?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on the link to read the rest.

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

From the New York Times:

Rose McGowan

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

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

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

From Shakesville: This is Rape Culture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Melissa’s piece:

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

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

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

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


Monday Reads: Adult Day Care

Good Morning!!

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

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

Corker’s Twitter response:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

There’s more:

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

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

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

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

Two Media reactions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holier than thou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The major difference?

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

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

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

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

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

Turnkey Hotel

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

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

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

Read more painful stories at the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at the NYT.

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

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


Thursday Reads

Dream Series 5 The Library by Jacob Lawrence 1967

Good Afternoon!!

Before I get to today’s news, I want to call attention to this investigative article in The New Yorker on legal elderly abuse. The author, Rachel Aviv, deeply researched the guardianship system in Nevada, but this apparently happens in other states as well. It’s a long read, but well worth it, especially for those of us who have elderly parents–and who are getting older ourselves.

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights

For years, Rudy North woke up at 9 a.m. and read the Las Vegas Review-Journal while eating a piece of toast. Then he read a novel—he liked James Patterson and Clive Cussler—or, if he was feeling more ambitious, Freud. On scraps of paper and legal notepads, he jotted down thoughts sparked by his reading. “Deep below the rational part of our brain is an underground ocean where strange things swim,” he wrote on one notepad. On another, “Life: the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.”

Rennie, his wife of fifty-seven years, was slower to rise. She was recovering from lymphoma and suffered from neuropathy so severe that her legs felt like sausages. Each morning, she spent nearly an hour in the bathroom applying makeup and lotions, the same brands she’d used for forty years. She always emerged wearing pale-pink lipstick. Rudy, who was prone to grandiosity, liked to refer to her as “my amour.”

In the Library, John Watkins Chapman

On the Friday before Labor Day, 2013, the Norths had just finished their toast when a nurse, who visited five times a week to help Rennie bathe and dress, came to their house, in Sun City Aliante, an “active adult” community in Las Vegas. They had moved there in 2005, when Rudy, a retired consultant for broadcasters, was sixty-eight and Rennie was sixty-six. They took pride in their view of the golf course, though neither of them played golf.

Rudy chatted with the nurse in the kitchen for twenty minutes, joking about marriage and laundry, until there was a knock at the door. A stocky woman with shiny black hair introduced herself as April Parks, the owner of the company A Private Professional Guardian. She was accompanied by three colleagues, who didn’t give their names. Parks told the Norths that she had an order from the Clark County Family Court to “remove” them from their home. She would be taking them to an assisted-living facility. “Go and gather your things,” she said.

Rennie began crying. “This is my home,” she said.

One of Parks’s colleagues said that if the Norths didn’t comply he would call the police. Rudy remembers thinking, You’re going to put my wife and me in jail for this? But he felt too confused to argue.

Parks drove a Pontiac G-6 convertible with a license plate that read “crtgrdn,” for “court guardian.” In the past twelve years, she had been a guardian for some four hundred wards of the court. Owing to age or disability, they had been deemed incompetent, a legal term that describes those who are unable to make reasoned choices about their lives or their property. As their guardian, Parks had the authority to manage their assets, and to choose where they lived, whom they associated with, and what medical treatment they received. They lost nearly all their civil rights.

That’s just the introduction. I hope you’ll go read the rest.

The Library, Elizabeth Shippen Green, 1905

The Las Vegas gun massacre continues to dominate the news. I’d like to recommend a couple of positive articles coming out of the horror. You may have read this one by Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post already, but just in case: Two strangers bond over country music and beer. Then the gunshots started.

Up-and-coming country star Luke Combs had just started his set on the smaller of the two festival stages when Kody Robertson, an auto parts salesman from Columbus, Ohio, squeezed in at the end of the bar next to Michelle Vo, an insurance agent from Los Angeles.

The 32-year-olds connected immediately. They joked about their mutual love of golf. He recommended new beers for her to try as she showed him the large floral tattoo covering much of her back. They realized that they were both staying at the Luxor.

A longtime country music fan, Robertson was in Vegas with a group of friends and told Vo about the fun they’d had at last year’s Route 91 Harvest festival. Vo replied that she’d only recently fallen for the genre; this was her first festival. She was here alone. By the time the night’s final act took the main stage, the fast friends had settled into a spot about 20 yards from the right side of the stage, nestled between a few cuddly married couples and a rambunctious bachelorette party.

It was 10:08 p.m. Robertson and Vo searched the air for the fireworks they assumed they were hearing. Then came a second burst: indiscriminate gunfire hailing from a 32nd-floor window at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Screams punctuated the pop-pop-pop. Jason Aldean, the headline act, ran from the stage. A bullet pierced the left side of Vo’s chest.

“She got hit and I turned and saw her immediately fall to the ground,” Robertson recalls. “She was literally right beside me, maybe two feet away.”

Robertson threw his body on top of hers as a shield from the bullets and, when the firing finally seemed to stop, worked with another man to carry Vo out of the venue — pausing for cover each time the gunfire resumed.

Robertson could have just left it there, but instead he recovered Vo’s purse and cell phone and embarked on a long search to find Michelle as well as communicating with her family. If you haven’t read it already, please do. Lowery’s writing is just brilliant.

The Daily Beast: Unarmed Security Guard Took On Las Vegas Killer Stephen Paddock.

LAS VEGAS—Jesus Campos had no firearm when he found Stephen Paddockand approached his room on the 32rd floor of Mandalay Bay on Sunday night.

Paddock, who had rigged cameras in the hallway and on the peephole of the door, saw Campos coming and fired through the door, hitting him in the leg, said Dave Hickey, president of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America. The union represents Campos and hundreds of security guards at Mandalay Bay.

The Library, Hotel Lambert, Alexandre Serebriakoff

When Campos was hit, he radioed casino dispatch and told them his location—and Paddock’s.

“We received information via their dispatch center…that helped us locate where this individual was sequestered,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Tuesday.

When Campos first arrived on the 32nd floor, he did so by elevator because Paddock had somehow blocked stairwell doors leading to the hallway outside of his room, Hickey said. The door to the room itself was also barricaded, Campos found when he tried to open it, just before the bullets came through the door.

Police officers subsequently approached the room and were met with 200 rounds from Paddock, Lombardo said on Wednesday night. Police fell back until SWAT arrived.

Campos, wounded, stayed on the floor and even went door-to-door, clearing rooms with police, Lombardo said, until he was ordered to leave because he was wounded.

Click on the link to read the rest. Here are a few more stories you might want to check out.

The New York Times: Las Vegas Shooting: Investigators Grapple With Gunman’s ‘Secret Life’

Las Vegas Journal-Review: Las Vegas Strip shooter targeted aviation fuel tanks, source says.

BBC News: Las Vegas shooting: Paddock may have planned to escape.

NBC Boston: Sources: Las Vegas Shooter TheResearched Possible Boston Locations.

Chicago Tribune: Chicago police investigating reports that Las Vegas gunman booked hotel rooms overlooking Lollapalooza.

The Library, WindsorCastle, 1838 James Baker Pyne

The massacre in Las Vegas has completely overshadowed the Puerto Rico crisis in the headlines, but the situation there is still dire. NPR reports: 112 Degrees With No Water: Puerto Rican Hospitals Battle Life And Death Daily.

Every day across Puerto Rico, with its shattered power grid, hospitals are waging a life-and-death battle to keep their patients from getting sicker in the tropical heat. Now two weeks after the storm, about three-quarters of Puerto Rico’s hospitals remain on emergency power. This creates dangerous conditions for critically ill patients.

At the Pavia Arecibo Hospital, about an hour west of San Juan, administrator Jose Luis Rodriguez wipes sweat from his worried brow. “We don’t have any air conditioning,” he says. “We can handle maybe a week, but it’s already been two weeks almost.”

The government calls them “indirect deaths” – those who died after the violent storm: heart attack victims, people on kidney dialysis machines that failed, people who fell off roofs inspecting storm damage, and people killed in auto accidents on highways made more treacherous from Maria’s destruction.

“So far after the storm we have had 49 dead bodies,” says Rodriguez. Earlier this week, the governor of Puerto Rico raised the official fatality figure for Hurricane Maria from 16 people to 34. But with unofficial reports like the one from Arecibo, that number is expected to rise.

More at the link.

USA Today: Puerto Rico health system on life support two weeks after Hurricane Maria.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Two weeks after Hurricane Maria toppled Puerto Rico’s communications towers, wrecked its electrical grid and knocked out power to water systems, medical officials said the island’s health system is “on life support.”

Among the multiple impacts that have left the island’s medical system deeply damaged:

-Patients are dying because of complications related to the primitive conditions and difficult transportation issues so many island residents now endure.

-A lack of transportation in small towns makes it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals.

-An administrator in a small-town hospital has to drive her car to an ambulance company a mile away to ask for a patient to be transferred to a larger hospital.

– Severe lack of communications on the island has resulted in less triage and coordination between hospitals, and more patients arriving at large medical centers than usual, which has stretched capacity.

-Doctors are afraid to discharge patients after surgery to places with unsanitary conditions and where care and transportation may not exist, adding strain to an already strained system.

Other stories of possible interest:

The Guardian: Trump came to Puerto Rico like an emperor: with pomp and little sympathy.

GQ: Turns Out Trump Spent His Puerto Rico Trip “Helping” in the Wealthy Suburbs.

Chicago Tribune: Trump said he wants to bail out Puerto Rico. His budget head says he didn’t mean it.

This is turning out to be a link dump, because there is so much news. I haven’t even gotten to the latest stories on the Russia investigation, and I’m running out of space. Some links to explore:

Business Insider: ‘The issue of collusion is still open’: Top senators hint the Russia probe is heating up.

Newsweek: Russia Investigation: Tell-Tale Signs Trump is Expecting the Worst.

Bloomberg: Russia Needed Help Targeting U.S. Voters, Two Former CIA Leaders Say.

Talking Points Memo: Russia Appeared To Target Wisconsin’s Elections Body Via A Banner Or Popup Ad.

Politico: Trump pushes for Senate intel panel probe of ‘Fake News Networks’ in U.S. (What a moron!)

CNN: FBI chief on Russian hacking: We ‘should have seen this coming.’

What else is happening? What stories are you following?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump Blames Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria

 

A bicyclist rides down a damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico. RICARDO ARDUENGO AFP GETTY IMAGES

Good Morning!!

The illustrations in this post are scenes of the devastation in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Yesterday Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico begged for help from the “president” of the U.S. and/or anyone who could hear her plea. The transcript of her remarks from The Guardian:

“We are dying here. And I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday, we are in trouble.

“Fema [the Federal Emergency Management Administration] asks for documentation, I think we’ve given them enough documentation.”

“They had the gall this morning – look at this [gestures to two large binders filled with paper] – they had the gall this morning of asking me: ‘What are your priorities, mayor?’

“Well, where have you been?

“And I have been very respectful of the Fema employees. I have been patient but we have no time for patience any more.

“So, I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.

“They were up the task in Africa when Ebola came over. They were up to the task in Haiti [after the earthquake of 2010]. As they should be. Because when it comes to saving lives we are all part of one community of shared values.

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do: I am begging. I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.

“We will make it with or without you because what stands behind me is all due to the generosity of other people.

“Again, this is what we got last night: four pallets of water, three pallets of meals and 12 pallets of infant food. Which, I gave them to Comerío, where people are drinking out of a creek.

“So I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake. And we are but one nation. We may be small, but we are huge in dignity and zealous for life.

“So I’m asking members of the press to send a mayday call all over the world. We are dying here. And if we don’t stop and if we don’t get the food and the water into people’s hands, what we we are going to see is something close to a genocide.

“So, Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States of North America. If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”

Early this morning the fake “president” sat in his gold-plated golf club and responded to her on Twitter.

Next he attacked the media for reporting what is actually happening on the ground in Puerto Rico.

If people around the world didn’t know by now what a heartless, self-involved monster Trump is, they certainly know it now. It’s difficult even to write about this horror, because thinking about him makes me sick to my stomach. The comparisons to Bush and Katrina are completely inadequate. This is a whole new level of incompetence and true evil. Responses from Twitter:

More responses to the behavior of the useless piece of human garbage the Russians stuck us with:

Eric Boelert at Shareblue: Trump attacks Puerto Rico: “They want everything to be done for them.”

Residents in Puerto Rico have no power and many may not have power until 2018. There’s a dangerous shortage of water, food, and fuel, and Trump is blaming these American citizens for not doing their part in fix the situation….

Obviously, Trump is lashing out in response to the mounting criticism that his administration hasn’t done enough to help Puerto Rico, more than one week after the story demolished the island, and that he has taken a passive, indifferent approach compared to the active one he took when hurricanes barreled into Texas and Florida this summer.

Specifically, Trump’s responding to the righteous indignation of San Juan’s mayor who on Friday pleaded for American assistance.

Even when people are dying for lack of water and food and he has to power to help, Trump only cares about how the situation affects him.

Sarah Kendzior at Fast Company yesterday: Why Puerto Rico is not Trump’s Katrina.

As the hurricane hit, Facebook and Twitter filled with warnings from Puerto Rican officials telling residents to evacuate or die, videos of palm trees snapping, and homes collapsing, and then an agonizing drop in live reports as the island’s power grid and many transmission lines were destroyed. More anguish followed: Many Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland are still wondering if their loved ones are alive, and the mayor of San Juan wept as she declared a humanitarian crisis amid “apocalyptic”conditions. U.S. politicians ranging from Hillary Clinton to John McCain urged the federal government to send aid, while Latinx celebrities like Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez pledged money and asked for help.

As this disaster played out on U.S. soil, President Trump said nothing. When he finally tweeted on September 25, it was seemingly to cast blame: “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” hetweeted, adding that “Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

That is what Donald Trump thought was sad about Puerto Rico, not the hospitals in rubble and the patients near death, not the shortage of food and water, not the millions of American citizens who lost their jobs and homes. Wall Street, not Puerto Ricans, won his pity. As president, he put this philosophy into practice, initially refusing to waive the Jones Act and allow supplies to be shipped to Puerto Rico unimpeded. The Jones Act was finally lifted on September 28. His rationale for the delay? “We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted,” he explained. Heaven forbid millions of desperate U.S. citizens disturb them.

Much as Hurricane Maria was a predictable catastrophe, so is Trump’s cruel reaction. It is what one would expect from a narcissist unable to detach an external crisis from his own reputation. Much as Trump invents fake threats–voter fraud, soaring crime, “The Bowling Green Massacre”–he denies real crises, often while fabricating fake triumphs. Even when dealing with a disaster that is, for once, not caused by him, Trump cannot fathom the suffering others experience as anything other than a potential blight on his image, and it appears that he attempts to remove that suffering from public view. On September 27, the White House announced that all U.S. lawmakers would be prohibited from visiting the island, thereby reducing oversight and official complaints about the botched recovery.

Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.

The Washington Post: Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria.

As Hurricane Maria made landfall on Wednesday, Sept. 20, there was a frenzy of activity publicly and privately. The next day, President Trump called local officials on the island, issued an emergency declaration and pledged that all federal resources would be directed to help.

But then for four days after that — as storm-ravaged Puerto Rico struggled for food and water amid the darkness of power outages — Trump and his top aides effectively went dark themselves.

Trump jetted to New Jersey that Thursday night to spend a long weekend at his private golf club there, save for a quick trip to Alabama for a political rally. Neither Trump nor any of his senior White House aides said a word publicly about the unfolding crisis.

Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club that Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials — including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response — but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane. Duke and Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not talk again until Tuesday, an administration official said.

Administration officials would not say whether the president spoke with any other top officials involved in the storm response while in Bedminster, N.J. He spent much of his time over those four days fixated on his escalating public feuds with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with fellow Republicans in Congress and with the National Football League over protests during the national anthem.

Click on the link to read the rest.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor.

President Trump is facing growing — but still measured — criticism of the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico. So what does he do? Lash out at the mayor of a hurricane-ravaged city, naturally.

Trump responded Saturday morning to harsh critiques from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz by targeting her personally. The president accused the mayor of playing politics and succumbing to pressure from fellow Democrats to attack his administration. He also, remarkably, directly attacked her and other Puerto Rican officials’ leadership….

Anybody who is surprised at this from a president who attacked a former prisoner of war for being a prisoner war, criticized a Gold Star family and made fun of a reporter’s physical disability has a short memory. This is who Trump is. He doesn’t accept criticism and move on; he brings a bazooka to a knife fight — even when those wielding the knife are trying to save lives.

But it’s also hugely counterproductive. In three tweets, Trump has moved a simmering, somewhat-negative story for his administration to the front burner. He decided to attack a sympathetic character and turn this into a partisan political debate. Cruz is pleading for help by saying, “We are dying.” Trump essentially told her to stop complaining. He’s also arguing that somebody who is in charge of saving lives is somehow more interested in politics. That’s a stunning charge.

I wonder how the Republicans are going to defend their sorry-ass “president” this time?

That’s all I have the strength for this morning. What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: Russia News and Natural Disasters

Goldie Hawn reading a newspaper

Good Morning!!

Naegeli court reporters investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump. Here are the stories that broke just last night, with brief excerpts:

The New York Times: Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump’s Actions as President.

In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 areas in which investigators are seeking information. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mr. Mueller’s requests.

One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.

Mr. Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael T. Flynn, who was Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son,Th to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.

Jane Fonda

The Washington Post: Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign.

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Interesting Twitter posts on this subject:

Isn’t that fascinating? Trump and Putin are obviously still collaborating.

One more from the NYT last night: Manafort Working on Kurdish Referendum Opposed by U.S.

Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.

The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.

In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.

Catherine Deneuve

Manafort is in serious trouble. It’s hard to believe he’s still refusing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. It also looks like Trump is royally f**cked at least in terms of obstruction of justice, thanks to his own loose lips in the Lester Holt interview and his chummy Oval Office meeting with the Russians.

More Russia-related stories from this morning:

Politico: Manafort used Trump campaign account to email Ukrainian operative.

Former Donald Trump aide Paul Manafort used his presidential campaign email account to correspond with a Ukrainian political operative with suspected Russian ties, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

Manafort sent emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine and to discuss potential new opportunities in the country, even as he chaired Trump’s presidential campaign, these people said….

In the emails to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort protégé who has previously been reported to have suspected ties to Russian intelligence, the longtime GOP operative made clear his significant sway in Trump’s campaign, one of the people familiar with the communications said. He and Kilimnik also met in the United States while Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, which he chaired until an August 2016 shake-up.

Mike Allen at Axios: Another potential Mueller honey pot: Spicer’s notebooks.

Now we can tell you about another potential honey pot for Mueller. Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled “notebook after notebook” during meetings at the Republican National Committee, later at the Trump campaign, and then at the White House.

When Spicer worked at the RNC, he was said to have filled black books emblazoned with the party’s seal. Spicer was so well-known for his copious notes that underlings joked about him writing a tell-all.
  • One source familiar with the matter said that the records were just to help him do his job.
  • “Sean documented everything,” the source said.
  • That surprised some officials of previous White Houses, who said that because of past investigations, they intentionally took as few notes as possible when they worked in the West Wing.

Allen texted Spicer about this story and Spicer flipped out, telling Allen to stop contacting him or he would “report to the appropriate authorities.” What authorities? Spicer thinks it’s illegal to text another private citizen–Allen says he has been on friendly terms with Spicer for “more than a dozen years.”

Marlon Brando

Axios also has a terrific timeline of Manfort’s activities beginning in 2006: How the Russia probe closed in on Paul Manafort.

Former U.S. Attorney Harry Littman at the LA Times: Trump will fire Robert Mueller eventually. What will happen next?

Here’s predicting flat out that yes, at some point Trump will try to oust Mueller.

As the probe advances, the likelihood increases that Mueller will uncover evidence of a serious offense by Trump. With the recent search of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home, Mueller has shown his willingness to follow the money trail aggressively. (The latest reports suggest that Mueller’s team is planning to indict Manafort for possible tax and financial crimes.) And Mueller has begun to negotiate interviews with up to a dozen White House aides as well as former White House officials. Trump likely fears that Mueller will zero in on something sleazy or criminal whose revelation could cripple his presidency. Each turn of the screw of the Mueller investigation — and there will be many — increases the pressure on Trump to act preemptively.

The odds also seem great that the erratic, power-consumed and thin-skinned Trump, who every week launches a new Twitter attack on a real or imagined enemy, will be unable to stay his hand month after month as the Mueller investigation unfolds. Like the fabled scorpion who stings the frog even though it dooms him, Trump, being Trump, won’t be able to endure domination by Mueller over the long term. Of course, Trump likely fails to appreciate that it is not Mueller personally, but the law, that is asserting its dominance.

Let’s say Trump snaps.

Angelina Jolie

To fire Mueller, Trump would need to order Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to remove him. But Rosenstein, a career prosecutor with a strong dedication to the values of the Department of Justice, would likely resign his office rather than comply with the order, as would the department’s third-ranking official, Rachel Brand.

Eventually Trump, moving down the hierarchy, would find someone willing to fire Mueller (as Nixon found Robert Bork, the then-solicitor general, to fire Archibald Cox).

From there, Mueller could launch a legal challenge to the ouster (potentially with the support of the Department of Justice). It’s by no means clear that Mueller, an ex-Marine of legendary rectitude, would choose to sue. Assuming he did, though, he would need to overcome a series of constitutional arguments by the president’s lawyers that any restrictions on the president’s ability to terminate him would impinge on presidential power under Article II.

Click on the link to read the rest.

The natural disasters continue as Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico and moves on the fresh destruction and Mexico City struggles to recover from the recent earthquake.

NBC News: Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Facing Months Without Power.

Millions of people across Puerto Rico woke up Thursday to a grim new reality.

Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. territory in almost a century, ravaged the island, demolishing homes and knocking out all electricity. It could take half a year to restore power to the nearly 3.5 million people who live there.

The eye of the storm moved offshore overnight, but the danger remained Thursday: Intense flooding was reported, particularly in San Juan, where many residential streets looked like rushing rivers.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the devastation in the capital city was unlike any she had ever seen.

“The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” Cruz told MSNBC. “We’re looking at 4 to 6 months without electricity.”

Elizabeth Taylor

The Washington Post: Mexico anxiously awaits the fate of a 12-year-old schoolgirl after deadly earthquake.

 A sprawling earthquake recovery effort spanning several states turned intensely personal Thursday as Mexicans were riveted by an effort to save a 12-year-old girl who was pinned in the rubble of her elementary school.

The drama played out live late Wednesday and early Thursday on the major news channels here, with television cameras tracking every movement of the Mexican marines and others who sought to rescue the girl now known as “Frida Sofia.” Under a soft rain, the work was delicate and painstaking, relying on thermal cameras and other technology to try to locate and remove young children trapped for more than 30 hours after their school collapsed on Tuesday afternoon.

At one dramatic point in Wednesday night’s broadcast, Televisa reporter Danielle Dithurbide learned from the marine admiral leading the recovery effort that Frida Sofia — which may not be her real name — was able to tell rescuers that five other students were possibly trapped with her. It was unclear whether they were alive.

I’ll end with this from Grist, via Mother Jones: This Is the Hurricane Season Scientists Tried to Warn Us About.

There is evidence that we are emerging from an era of messy meteorological data, where we were blind to warming seas strengthening hurricanes because the really damaging ones were rare. If that’s true, weather historians may look to this year as the beginning of a frightening new phase of superstorms.

About 85 percent of all damage done by hurricanes is attributable to “major” storms—those stronger than Category 3, so roughly one-quarter of all storms. While relatively infrequent, they are by far the most destructive—a Category-5 cyclone has 500 times the power of a Category 1. Globally, major hurricanes have become slightly more common in recent decades, even as overall numbers have held steady.

Haley Mills

Further, there’s nothing in recorded history that resembles what Irma and Maria have inflicted on Caribbean islands in recent days. Since Sept. 6, the two hurricanes have made six separate landfalls at Category-5 strength. Before this month, just 18 such landfalls had happened in the previous 165 years (and never more than three in a single year). Clearly there’s something happening here—and there’s a developing consensus among scientists about what factors are responsible.

There have been only 33 Category 5 storms in the Atlantic since hurricane records began in 1851. Twenty-three of them have formed since 1961; 11 in only the last 14 years. Part of that uptick comes from better weather monitoring equipment, like satellites that help us spot hurricanes before they make landfall. But even since we developed satellite technology, there’s been a measurable increase in major storms.

The strongest hurricanes require an exceptionally warm ocean to intensify, and with water temperatures currently near record highs in the Caribbean, it’s providing conditions ripe for Category 5s. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, since 1970, the oceans have retained more than 90 percent of the excess energy generated from global warming. That’s a lot of extra fuel for stronger storms.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

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


Saturday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

Wonk the Vote is taking care of some personal business today, so I’m filling in for her. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of exciting political news at the moment, so I’ve got a bit of a potpourri of links for you.

The most bizarre story out there right now is that Jason Russell, one of the founders of “Invisible Children,” an organization that recently released a video on Joseph Kony that went viral on the internet, has been hospitalized after an apparent breakdown.

Jason Russell, 33, was allegedly found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something, according to the SDPD. He was detained at the intersection of Ingraham Street and Riviera Road.

An SDPD spokesperson said the man detained was acting very strange, some may say bizarre….

Police said they received several calls Thursday at 11:30 a.m. of a man in various stages of undress, running through traffic and screaming.

Police recognized that Russell needed medical treatment, and he wasn’t put under arrest. ABC News has more detail on the incident. It sounds pretty bad.

Russell was allegedly walking around an intersection wearing “speedo-like underwear.” He then removed the underwear and made sexual gestures, sources told TMZ, which posted video of a publicly naked man purported to be Russell.

Several bystanders held Russell down until police arrived, ABC’s San Diego affiliate reported.

San Diego police spokesperson Lt. Andra Brown told NBC San Diego that Russell was “screaming, yelling, acting irrationally.” He was running into the roadway and interfering with traffic, although there were “no reports of actual collisions.” Bystanders reported he was in “various stage of undress,” although by the time police arrived, he had his “underwear back on.”

Invisible children is saying that Russell was hospitalized for exhaustion and malnutrition.

To be honest, I haven’t watched the video, because my sister saw it and told me it was very emotionally manipulative. She told me that in the film, Russell talks frankly to his son about Kony’s violent crimes in a way that sounded like child abuse to me. Plus, like many groups who are active in African countries, Invisible Children seems to be run by right wing Xtians. So I avoided seeing the film don’t know much about it. I’d be interested in the opinions of anyone who has seen the film.

I did find some background in The Guardian UK:

Invisible Children has shot to fame in recent weeks after one of the videos that it produces in order to publicise the atrocities of Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army went viral. Viewed more than 76m times, the video gave a high profile to the group’s cause, but also put the tiny charity at the centre of global scrutiny.

Critics have condemned the group for a perceived lack of transparency in its financial records and for over-simplifying a complex issue. They accused the group of being fame-seeking and of having an overtly western focus on what is a regional African problem. Some also pointed out the group had taken large donations from rightwing Christian fundamentalists groups in the US, who have also funded anti gay-rights causes.

However, the group and its many defenders mounted a strong defence, detailing its financial history and saying that their sole aim was to highlight a dreadful and ongoing human rights cause that had garnered little attention for decades. They were also hailed for using social media to engage young people in social activism.

Yesterday a jury in New Jersey Dharun Ravi guilty a hate crime for spying on roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi and posting videos on the internet of Clementi and an older male in sexual encounters. Three days later, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

A former Rutgers University student was convicted on Friday on all 15 charges he had faced for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, a verdict poised to broaden the definition of hate crimes in an era when laws have not kept up with evolving technology.

“It’s a watershed moment, because it says youth is not immunity,” said Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice.

The student, Dharun Ravi, had sent out Twitter and text messages encouraging others to watch…. The case set off a debate about whether hate-crime statutes are the best way to deal with bullying. While Mr. Ravi was not charged with Mr. Clementi’s death, some legal experts argued that he was being punished for it, and that this would result only in ruining another young life. They, along with Mr. Ravi’s lawyers, had argued that the case was criminalizing simple boorish behavior.

I for one am very pleased with the verdict. Ravi’s behavior went way beyond bullying, IMO. I’m sick of seeing young people driven to suicide by behaviors that are characterized as “bullying” because they’re been carried out by young people in school. If adults acted in the same ways, their behaviors would be seen as harassment, stalking, and even outright violence.

Last night George Clooney was arrested in DC along with several legislators for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy.

A group of U.S. lawmakers and film star George Clooney were arrested at Sudan’s embassy in Washington on Friday in a protest at which activists accused Khartoum of blocking humanitarian aid from reaching a volatile border region where hundreds of thousands of people may be short of food.

Protest organizers said those arrested included U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Al Green of Texas, Jim Moran of Virginia and John Olver of Massachusetts – all Democrats. Organizers said Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Martin Luther King III, the son of the slain U.S. civil rights hero, also were arrested.

Clooney, his father Nick and the other anti-Sudan activists ignored three police warnings to leave the embassy grounds and were led away in plastic handcuffs to a waiting van by uniformed members of the Secret Service, a Reuters journalist covering the demonstration said.

I was glad to see that some members of the Massachusetts delegation were involved.

The suspect in the Afghan mass murders has been identified.

The military on Friday identified the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers earlier this week as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 38-year-old father of two who had been injured twice in combat over the course of four deployments and had, his lawyer said, an exemplary military record.

Bales’ name was kept secret for several days because of

concerns about his and his family’s security.

An official said on Friday that Sergeant Bales was being transferred from Kuwait to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., home of the Army’s maximum security prison. His wife and children were moved from their home in Lake Tapps, Wash., east of Tacoma, onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord, his home base, earlier this week….

Little more than the outlines of Sergeant Bales’s life are publicly known. His family lived in Lake Tapps, a community about 20 miles northeast of his Army post. NBC reported that he was from Ohio, and he may have lived there until he joined the Army at 27.

Bales enlisted right after 9/11 and has had four combat deployments. It’s hard to understand how that could be permitted, especially after he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The story notes that the day before the shootings, Bales had seen a fellow soldier lose his leg.

CNN reports that Bales family said he did not want to go to Afghanistan after he had already served three combat deployments, lost part of his foot, and suffered the TBI.

“He was told that he was not going to be redeployed,” [Bales’ attorney John Henry] Browne said. “The family was counting on him not being redeployed. I think it would be fair to say he and the family were not happy that he was going back.”

Browne painted a picture of a decorated, career soldier who joined the military after the 2001 terrorist attacks and had spent his Army life at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. Browne called him a devoted husband and father to his two young children who never made any derogatory remarks about Muslims or Afghans.

I’ve got a few political links for you. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is making news again. Naturally it relates to the war on women. He says the Republican presidential candidates “mishandled the recent debate over women’s health and contraception.”

In an interview with Reuters, he voiced misgivings about how the Republican presidential candidates have framed issues, especially the recent debate over women’s health and contraception.

The Obama administration’s recent decision to require religious institutions such as Catholic-run hospitals to offer insurance plans that cover birth control for women, which his administration later modified under pressure from critics, was “a radical expansion of federal power,” Daniels said….

“Where I wish my teammates had done better and where they mishandled it is … I thought they should have played it as a huge intrusion on freedom,” Daniels said.

Instead, he said they got dragged into a debate about women’s right to contraception, an issue which was settled 40 years ago.

Daniels said they should have framed the argument as one about government intrusion on personal liberty. He said the Obama rule was like saying that because Yoga is healthy, the government should require it.

Excuse me? What about the “intrusion” on women’s “freedom?” And what a stupid analogy. The government isn’t requiring anyone to use birth control. Why won’t Mitch just ride away on his Harley Sportster and leave us alone?

Of course not a day goes by without Mitt Romney saying something idiotic. Yesterday, right after his plane landed in Puerto Rico, Romney attacked Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.

The justice, nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, is beloved by local Democrats and Republicans as the high court’s first member of Puerto Rican descent.

“In looking at Justice Sotomayor, my view was her philosophy is quite different than my own and that’s the reason why I would not support her as a justice for the Supreme Court,” Romney told reporters Friday afternoon, just minutes after his plane touched down in San Juan. “I would be happy to have a justice of Puerto Rican descent or a Puerto Rican individual on the Supreme Court, but they would have to share my philosophy, that comes first.”

The issue puts Romney at odds with a majority of local voters and his most prominent Puerto Rican supporter, Gov. Luis Fortuno, standing at Romney’s side as the former governor or Massachusetts made his remarks. It also underscores the challenges facing Republican candidates as they bring popular conservative rhetoric to an area packed with Hispanic voters ahead of Sunday’s GOP president primary.

And, as if that wasn’t enough of an insult, Romney then followed the poor example of his opponent Rick Santorum and lectured the locals about making English their official language.

Romney and his rival Rick Santorum have supported the conservative push to formalize English as the official language across the country. On Puerto Rico, an American territory that will vote on its political status, including statehood, on Nov. 6, most residents speak Spanish as their primary language.

Santorum made headlines earlier in the week after saying that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English as its main language to attain statehood, a dominant political issue here.

Can you believe the nerve of these guys? I’ll end on a humorous note–another story mocking Mitt Romney. You know how I love to mock my former governor. It seems that in 2006, Romney

declared September “Responsible Dog Ownership Month” in the state.

Eleven dogs and 35 humans gathered at the State House for an event celebrating the governor’s proclamation on Sept. 21 of that year, according to a contemporaneous newsletter from the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners.

“We have a pervasive problem because of people who don’t act as responsible dog owners,” Jennifer Callahan, then a Democratic member of the state legislature, said at the time, citing the hundreds of thousands of dogs that wind up in shelters every year.

ROFLOL! The Seamus on top of the car story didn’t appear in The Boston Globe until 2007.

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?