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Saturday, April 14, 2018

News Nuggets 1572

Daylee picture: A moonrise in the Sierra Mountains in California.  From Smithsonian Magazine.

I Need Your Help...

My brother's brother-in-law, Darren, has been battling pancreatic cancer for several years.  What is so is that the cancer has been under control for a while but that the only course going forward involves a treatment recommended at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, one that they have some confidence it will make a real difference --but it is a treatment NOT covered by his insurance.  Without the treatment, his prognosis is bad.  He needs $10,000 to cover the cost of the treatment.  He is a great guy who has shown tremendous courage in the face of this thing.  Here is the go-fund-me page, and I request that you do what you can and to please help him out.  Thanks!!  Jared

TODAY's BIG NUGGET! Where the Cohen Raid Will Probably Lead

FBI Raid on Michael Cohen Is the Most Dangerous Day of Donald Trump’s Life (Rick Wilson) from the Daily Beast
"Trump must know this may be one of the most dangerous moments in his entire life, not just his presidency. The likelihood is that Mueller and the FBI are now in possession of the Black Books of Trump, NDAs from enough of Trump’s various affairs that you can staff a 12-pole strip club with plenty of girls left for the Champagne rooms. It’s only speculation at this point, but it’s quite likely that Cohen was the keeper of many of Trump’s lending documents, contracts, business arrangements, and the Kryptonite of Trump’s fragile self-worth: the long-sought tax returns.  It’s an open secret and has been for quite a while, but Trump isn’t worth $10 billion. As one of my hedge-fund friends (an actual billionaire) said of Trump in 2015, “He’s a clown living on credit.”"

The Cohen Raid -- More of a Threat than Muller's Investigation

Prosecutors’ Withering Rebuttal of Cohen Shows How Hard It Will Be for Trump to Sabotage Their Investigation from Slate
"That filing...makes a couple of things abundantly clear: The government has a compelling case for reviewing the material and Michael Cohen is in deep, deep trouble. ... “This whole thing is going to make it much harder for Trump to put everything that’s happening on Mueller and Rosenstein, at least for audiences who are listening and care about the facts,” Duke University School of Law professor and former lead Enron prosecutor Samuel W. Buell told Slate. “The network of federal law enforcement professionals with experience and reputations, in different respected offices, involved in these matters makes it much harder to come up with a plausible way to surgically stop this.”"

The Bankruptcy of Right Wing Economics

Unicorns of the Intellectual Right (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"... while there are many conservative economists with appointments at top universities, publications in top journals, and so on, they have no influence on conservative policymaking. What the right wants are charlatans and cranks, in (conservative) Greg Mankiw’s famous phrase. If they use actual economists, they use them the way a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination."

Trump's "Silent Circle of Assent"

James Comey’s memoir: Trump fixates on proving lewd dossier allegations false from the Washington Post
"Interacting with Trump, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”"
The details and suggestions here are really disturbing and often disgusting!

Steele Dossier Case in Point!!

I’m a Peeliever and You Should Be, Too (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"I used to doubt that this episode really happened. I now believe it probably did. I am obviously far from certain, but since Steele’s dossier came out, an accumulation of evidence has tipped the balance from unlikely to likely. Let’s review what we’ve learned since the allegation first surfaced."

The GOP: Breaking Their Brand

After busting the deficit, the GOP's gestures toward fiscal responsibility ring hollow (John Harwood) from CNBC
"Republicans keep supporting tax cuts even while failing to shrink spending.  The result: since Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981, all three Republican presidents before Trump left office with higher federal deficits than they inherited. One Democratic president (Bill Clinton) departed with a budget surplus; the other (Barack Obama) saw the deficit decline by two-thirds as a share of the economy."

Russia and the NRA -- A Closer Look

Inside the Decade-Long Russian Campaign to Infiltrate the NRA and Help Elect Trump from Rolling Stone Magazine
""The idea of private gun ownership is anathema to Putin," he says. "So then the question is, 'Why?' " Why was a pro-gun campaign being hatched by a leader in Putin's own party? The answer, according to Hall, is that Putin was baiting a trap. "He's reaching out to attract the NRA, specifically, over to Russia.""

A Russian Rundown for 2018's Midterms

The Moscow Midterms: How Russia could steal our next election from the New York Times
"Most of us can’t really picture what it would look like to tamper with an election, but security experts can. Even as you read this, voting systems, so dry and complicated and completely taken for granted, could well be in the midst of fending off attacks from foreign adversaries. Things could get bad — really bad. Bad like this ..."

Are the Clinton era leftovers EVER going to be thrown out!?

The Macker readies for a second act from the Richmond Times Dispatch
"Three months after leaving the Virginia governorship, the perquisites of which included a lumbering black SUV driven by a state trooper, McAuliffe is considering a second act: the presidency."
OMG!!!  What is it with former Clintonistas!?!  For how many decades must the Democratic Party have to endure them hanging around stinking things up!?!  Bill, Hillary, Anthony Weiner, Huma, the Thomasons, Mark Penn, and now this guy!  Please: do us ALL A FAVOR and stay away! -- Nuggetsman

Trump, the Man who Never Left Studio 54

How Trump Channels the 1970s (Julian Zelizer) from the Atlantic
"The one consistent message coming out of the White House was born in the 1970s: Don’t trust any institution."

A Job at Trump's W.H.: A Ticket to Nowhere

Trapped In The White House: Many Trump Aides Are Too “Toxic” To Get Jobs from Buzzfeed
"Trump administration officials looking to escape to the private sector are getting a rude awakening: No one wants to hire them."
Awww!   How sad!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

News Nuggets 1571

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/photocontest/detail/travel/a-grand-mosque-visitor/#tyoew1hGi1UEiizy.99
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Daylee Picture: the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dahbi.  From Smithsonian Magazine

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: Trumpland Likely to Become More Trumpified

What’s the Matter With Trumpland? (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"Moretti argues that structural changes in the economy have favored industries that employ highly educated workers — and that these industries do best in locations where there are already a lot of these workers. As a result, these regions are experiencing a virtuous circle of growth: Their knowledge-intensive industries prosper, drawing in even more educated workers, which reinforces their advantage.  And at the same time, regions that started with a poorly educated work force are in a downward spiral, both because they’re stuck with the wrong industries and because they’re experiencing what amounts to a brain drain."

Coming Attractions for the Democratic Party

Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto is Coming (Frank Bruni) from the New York Times
"Count me among the swelling ranks of the infatuated. I, too, have been Beto-struck. ... Cruz is a rare and precious gift. He’s so loathed that any passable Democrat with a picayune chance of toppling him was bound to draw more attention and inspire more hope than the political dynamics warranted.  ... But Beto is more than passable. Many of his campaign events are mobbed. People line up for selfies and then insist on hugs."
Attention Democrats!! THIS is the guy to watch for 2020 and 2024!  It will be nothing short of a miracle if he beats Cruz in November -- but IF HE DOES, put him on the A-LIST for 2020.  Nuggetsman.

Root of Illiberal Democracy: Immigration, Not Economics

The issue that’s poisoning democratic politics around the world from the Washington Post
"The immigration issue is poisoning democratic politics, and not just in the United States. Purging this poison means resisting the urge to demonize the critics of current policies and instead searching for common ground that promotes the common good. While prejudice and hatred cannot be tolerated, liberals and progressives need to pay more attention to grievances — such as fears about economic and cultural displacement, the rule of law and loss of sovereignty — that should not be dismissed as pure bigotry."

Trump Supporters -- Nature or Nurture?

The Contract With Authoritarianism (Thomas Edsall) from the New York Times
"Those with a fixed worldview tend to see “American Carnage,” while those with fluid worldviews see the world as a big, beautiful place that is safe to explore. The fixed tend to be wary of what they perceive as constant threats to their physical security specifically and of social change in general. The fluid are much more open to change and, indeed, see it as a strength. For them, anger lies in holding on to old ideas and rejecting diversity.  .... Citizens care less about the outcomes a policy produces and more about the groups and symbols with which a policy is associated."
Edsall covers A LOT of territory in this article!  It is almost a lit review of recent studies on the psychological roots of people's political and cultural preferences.  A MUST READ if you want to get more grounded in the partisanship that divides us.  Nuggetsman

Trump Loyalism = GOP Loyalism? Maybe Not!

The Trumpification of the GOP Is Complete (Josh Kraushaar) from National Journal
"Republican voters primarily care if their candidates agree with President Trump. Even as the president diverges from a typical conservative agenda, the demand for loyalty is becoming even more intense."
I cannot see that this is anything but bad news both for the GOP and Trump voters generally.  As I noted on Lynn's program the other day, Trump (thankfully) is a unique politician.  I see NO ONE in the Republican Party who commands anything like the loyalty that the great orange one commands.  Again, thankfully, Trump's presidency will be a finite thing.  Thus, the question becomes: once the question of loyalty to Trump disappears, WHO are these people going to vote for?!  Are they going to passively drift back to the Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell wing?  I can't see it.  How about the Trump wannabe up-and-comers?! I can't see that either.  Those folks are all third rate talents -- and it remains to be seen whether any of them can actually win in a general election.  This fall's election is going to reveal SO MUCH!!  --  Nuggetsman

What's Really Wrong with "Illiberal Democracy"!

Democracy’ Still Matters (Jan-Werner Muller) from the New York Times
"Mr. Orban has spent the past several years weakening his country’s democratic checks and balances; he has attacked independent civil society, and he has brought the media under the control of oligarchs close to his government. While doing so, he has advertised his approach as a distinctive form of democracy, one fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is, he says, “illiberal democracy.” Plenty of critics have adopted this term as a description not just of Hungary, but of redesigned political systems in countries as different as Poland and Turkey. Yet “illiberal democracy” fails to capture what is wrong with these regimes."

More "Blow" Back from Trump's Previous Women

Third Woman Sues to Void Secrecy Pact Linked to Trump from Bloomberg
"A former employee of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team sued the organization to nullify a non-disclosure agreement she signed, saying it muzzled her from airing discrimination claims."

The Advice to Expect from Trump's New NS Adviser

John Bolton, cyber warrior from Politico
"Trump’s incoming adviser has said the U.S. should launch a ‘retaliatory cyber campaign against Russia’ and ‘use WikiLeaks for target practice. ... While officials and cyber specialists agree with Bolton’s push for a clearly articulated digital strike policy, the government has hesitated to dive headlong into what Bolton calls “a retaliatory cyber campaign,” wary of blowback on American businesses and infrastructure, the lack of global rules for online warfare and the debatable effectiveness of digital strikes in the first place.’"

Putin and Russia: The Bigger Picture

Is Putin a C.I.A. Agent? (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times
"Because Putin has undertaken so many actions in recent years that contributed to the weakening of Russia’s economy and human capital base that you have to wonder whether he’s secretly on the C.I.A.’s payroll.  Beginning around 2007 or 2008, Putin appears to have decided that rebuilding Russia by nurturing its tremendous human talent and strengthening the rule of law was just too hard ... Instead, Putin decided to look for dignity for Russia in all the wrong places."

Dem Strategy Nugget

Republicans rigged our democracy. Here's how Democrats can fight back (David Faris) from the Guardian (of the UK)
"Republicans have been using the constitution’s flaws to wage a one-sided war against their political opponents. It’s time for Democrats to respond.  .... Democrats, now that they are in the minority for the foreseeable future, must pay homage to their Republican overlords and use what little power they have to slow down legislation, turn the public against the Republican Congress, and then retake total power in 2018 and 2020. Then, what they must do with that power is to fundamentally alter key aspects of our political system that we take for granted but that are not, contrary to popular belief, outlined in the US constitution."

The Cornerstone of NRA Influence: The Ballot Box

We’ve Fought the NRA for Decades—We’ve Never Seen It as Panicked as It Is Now from the Daily Beast
"In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting, we drew on our combined 50 years of experience battling the National Rifle Association to predict that nothing would change on guns.  Those same 50 years of experience now tell us we were wrong. Why? Because we have never seen the NRA more vulnerable. The NRA derives its power on one thing and one thing only: their ability to determine outcomes at the ballot box."
WHAT HAPPENS if being a lawmaker with great scores from the NRA becomes a LIABILITY in an election!?  What happens if young anti-gun voters begin showcasing ads blasting you for those scores (and the NRA campaign donations) that have spelled electoral victory for you for years!?  It may not happen in Georgia -- but in suburban Illinois, Indiana or Michigan it might. -- Nuggetsman

Trade Wars' Biggest Casualties: Trump Voters

Farmers and business groups warn trade war with China will wreck Trump country: ‘This has to stop’ from Raw Story
"“The last thing the administration should be doing is starting a trade war on the backs of American farmers,” said Minnesota Soybean Growers President Michael Petefish. “We have already seen soybean futures down nearly 40 cents as of this morning,” says Minnesota Soybean CEO Tom Slunecka. “That’s more than a billion dollars lost in value for our crop just this morning."A Tra

Red State Risings

Behind The Wave Of Red-State Teacher Walkouts from the National Memo
"“We have the worst pay in the nation for our teachers,” he continued, but pay is just the tip of the iceberg. Arizona teachers have been struggling with years of divestment from Republican governors who slashed education funding to pay for tax cuts.  Thomas dates the worst of Arizona’s tax cuts back to the reaction to the 2008 Great Recession. “Before the recession, we were spending $1,000 more a student on supplies, teacher salaries and staff hirings and building repair, all of the money that goes into that.”"
It is interesting here how long-term conservative contempt (I don't know what else you can call it) for public sector works simply became too open since the great recession.  They seemed to feel that they could treat them like crap and that workers themselves WOULDN'T NOTICE! What shockers!  -- Nuggetsman

Disenfranchisement Textbook Nugget

There’s no good reason to stop felons from voting (George Will) from the Washington Post
"Meade is one of 1.6 million disenfranchised Florida felons — more than the total number of people who voted in 22 separate states in 2016. He is one of the more than 20 percent of African American Floridians disenfranchised. The state has a low threshold for felonious acts: Someone who gets into a bar fight, or steals property worth $300 — approximately two pairs of Air Jordans — or even drives without a licensefor a third time can be disenfranchised for life. "

Sunday, April 1, 2018

News Nuggets 1570

Daylee Picture: Batanes province in the Philippines.  From Smithsonian Magazine.

Hey everyone!  For my Pittsburgh fans, I wanted to let you all know that I will be on Lynn Cullen's program on Wednesday, April 4 from 10 to 11am.  You can catch it live or watch the podcast at the Pittsburgh City Paper website HERE!   

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: 2nd Week in a Row "Who Called It!?" Nugget

Michael Cohen’s Attorney May Be an Even Worse Lawyer Than He Is (Margaret Hartmann) from New York Magazine
"Later in the interview Schwartz suggested Cohen regularly set up these sorts of agreements without telling his client — which seems to back up reports that Trump’s attorneys “took care” of dozens of women during the campaign."
Surprise, surprise!  If you look back to News Nuggets 1569, I had speculated that this was precisely where things were going to go.

Trump's Legal Team of Amateurs

Trump Is Defenseless Against Robert Mueller (Lithwick and Stern) from Slate
"Trump desperately needs a crack legal team. But his lawyers are no match for Mueller, and no sane attorney would join them now."
The last point here is key!  Like most of the people in Trump's administration, his legal team is a crew of second-rate, self-dealing sycophants ... who have kept Trump happy by telling him what he wants to hear (e.g. the investigation will be over by Thanksgiving, etc.).  What's going to happen when Mueller's indictment missiles start landing on Kushner, Don Jr. and himself?  I would not want to be in their shoes.  Mueller has stacked his legal lineup with a Murderer's Row team.  What has Trump got?  A political AA-ball team from Rochester?  Nuggetsman.

What We Can Expect from John Bolton

The second-most dangerous American (George Will) from the Washington Post
"Bolton will soon be the second-most dangerous American. On April 9, he will be the first national security adviser who, upon taking up residence down the hall from the Oval Office, will be suggesting that the United States should seriously consider embarking on war crimes. ... Bolton, for whom a trade war with many friends and foes is insufficiently stimulating, favors real wars against North Korea and Iran."

The Paradox of Anti-globalization in 2018

Globalization’s Backlash Is Here, at Just the Wrong Time from the New York Times
"[Backlash] is coming after the major costs of globalization have already been borne. And it comes just as billions of people who have become integrated into the global economy over the last three decades are starting to become rich enough to become valuable consumers. In short, the anti-globalization drive that is spreading across the Western world may be coming at exactly the wrong time — too late to do much to save the working-class jobs that were lost, but early enough to risk damaging the ability of rich nations to sell advanced goods and services to the rapidly expanding global middle class."

Some Good News Book Review Nugget!

Dear Democrats, Don’t Despair (Charles Kenny) from the Washington Monthly
"Even in the age of Donald Trump, at least in some ways, things have never been better. ... While Pinker enumerates the many ways America and the world has made material and social progress over the past two centuries, Easterbrook focuses on why these positive trends will seemingly continue in the years to come. As he writes, “this book will show a range of reasons why the Western way of life is more robust than meets the eye—and why a better world is closer than it looks.”"

Looking Forward, Where Hope Resides!

In America, Endangered By Trump And Bolton, The Young Bring Hope (Gene Lyons) from National Memo
"Bolton was memorably described as a “kick-down, kiss-up”  bureaucratic infighter by colleagues during 2005 congressional testimony. Every large organization has them. A leader who keeps such sycophants near him is invariably characterized by weakness, incompetence and false bravado. ... I’m persuaded that hope resides mainly in the young: specifically the amazing kids of Parkland, Florida and their cohort nationwide. Should Trump provoke a showdown, millions of patriotic Americans would fill the streets of every big city in America."
I completely agree with Lyons here.  Millennials are the largest generation in US history, and they are mobilizing on two key fronts now: anti-Trump politics and gun control.  For years, this group tended to be deeply jaded and reluctant to get politically active.  Well, under Trump, there have been clear costs associated with this reluctance! Even those who remain disenchanted with the two political parties now have a clear home with the gun control movement.  For decades, the GOP has successfully positioned itself as the party looking out for "the next generation."  It is remarkable seeing so many prominent right-wing talking heads now ATTACKING young people.  All they are doing now is giving Millennials more reasons to vote against them.  See the final nuggets for today just as an example.  Nuggetsman

In the White House Now, Bewildered Resignation

After Another Week of Chaos, Trump Repairs to Palm Beach. No One Knows What Comes Next. from the New York Times
"The decisions attested to a president riled up by cable news and unbound. Mr. Trump appeared heedless of his staff, unconcerned about Washington decorum, or the latest stock market dive, and confident of his instincts. He seemed determined to set the agenda himself, even if that agenda looked like a White House in disarray. Inside the West Wing, aides described an atmosphere of bewildered resignation as they grappled with the all-too-familiar task of predicting and reacting in real time to Mr. Trump’s shifting moods."

Targeting Putin

Putin Has Overplayed His Hand (William Burns) from the New York Times
"Mr. Putin’s muscular revanchism can camouflage his weakness, but it cannot erase it. He remains reliant on a one-dimensional economy, constrained by sanctions, mired in the reckless adventures he’s pursued in Ukraine and Syria, and increasingly subordinate to China and its growing ambitions. An effective diplomatic response needs to expose Mr. Putin’s vulnerabilities as effectively as he has sought to exploit ours."

How Long Can Republican Lawmakers Hide From Voters?

Gun reform activists demand town halls. Many Republicans have ducked them since 2017 from McClatchy News Service
"“This is not an unreasonable thing to expect. If they can meet with donors every recess they can take an hour to talk to constituents – it is called ‘district work period,’” said Nathan Williams, managing director of the Town Hall Project, which is helping out March for Our Lives organizers on the issue. ... The town hall on gun violence hosted by CNN in February after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, was a “red flag” for many Republicans, according to Scott Jennings, a Republican political strategist and special assistant to former President George W. Bush."

The Fading of Christianity in Europe and the US

The Barely-Beating Heart Of Christendom (Rod Dreher) from the American Conservative
"The report’s findings aren’t surprising, exactly, but they are shocking. They confirm that Europe’s is a post-Christian civilization, and they make clear the stark challenges facing the churches there going forward. For American Christian readers, the report may serve as a portrait of our own civilization in the future, if we don’t take strong measures now to prevent that fate."
Dreher, a sane voice of Christian conservatism, may be whistling past the graveyard here.  I have long felt that evangelical Christians pulled their faith into the gutter when they (a) became so politically tied to the GOP back in Reagan's time; and (b) when, more recently, they have merged evangelicalism with white nationalism.  It is now commonplace for them to take positions completely antithetical to the core principles of their faith and to embrace policies that not only alienate moderates and most young people -- but they come off as just ... NUTTY!  See the last post from today's nuggets.  Nuggetsman

The GOP Controls Most Branches of Gov't -- But All their Attention is on One Thing

The Republicans Are Clinging Frantically to Power (Joy-Ann Reid) from the Daily Beast
"The GOP is desperately seeking to build a wall around its power, fearing its imminent erosion as a host of forces—demographic, cultural, and political—come barreling its way."

The Crisis of Conscience Facing Real Conservatives

This madness will pass. Conservatives can’t give up (Michael Gerson) from the Washington Post
"So how do we split the political difference on this one? Shall we talk about Mexican migrants as rapists on every other day? Shall we provide rhetorical cover for alt-right bigots only on special occasions, such as after a racist rally and murder? ... While some Republicans have criticized media bias, Trump has attempted to systematically delegitimize all critical information as “fake news” and referred to the media as “the enemy of the people.” While other politicians have pushed back against investigations, Trump has attempted to discredit federal law enforcement as part of a “deep state” plot against him."
Gerson, a conservative columnist, is spot on with how untenable the current situation is with Trump.  It is impossible to be a principled conservative under his tenure.  Sadly, i think he is wrong about where this will all end up.  When the dust settles, all that will be left will be revanchist white nationalism completely unmoored from reality.  -- Nuggetsman

Right Wing Nuttiness Nugget!

Rep. Mary Franson compares 'March for Our Lives' kids to Hitler Youth from City Pages
"Back in December, the state representative from Alexandria refused to meet with a group of politically active high school students, kids who live in her district, because the small outfit was made up of Democrats. ... This past weekend, Franson offered a clearer understanding of why she might be afraid to interact with young progressives. She fears they might be Nazis."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

News Nuggets 1569

Waves as they approach the coast of California.  From Smithsonian Magazine

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: The "Who Called It" Nugget!!

Karen McDougal is the woman with the best chance of bringing down Trump from Think Progress
".... Daniels and McDougal have sued, asking the court to formally invalidate their agreements and let them speak freely.  But the nature of the agreements signed by Daniels and McDougal are quite different. From a legal perspective, the structure of McDougal’s contract appears to be worse for Trump and his associates."
See the Daniels story from News Nuggets 1568!  To quote myself from March 11: "ALL of the women who have signed NDAs with Trump will go back and find that he didn't sign their agreements either -- and thus they would be free to speak.  It is my sense that some of those cases go way beyond consensual affairs but deal with sexual harassment, rape, and worse."  And here we are just 10 days later!  I thought I was going out on a limb with my prediction.  I am going to follow on here with another prediction: it is now not a question as to if any more will come forward.  The question is how many?  I feel like I should start a pool!  Now, the second issue I raised in my last post was "It seems to me that law abiding people sign an NDA.  More nefarious folks simply blackmail.  I suspect Trump has had to deal with both types many times." What could this look like? See the following nugget!  -- Nuggetsman

Why Have Security Clearance? The Trump Example

The Stormy Daniels Saga Shows How Vulnerable Trump Is To Blackmail from the Huffington Post
"I mention the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes things we had to deal with not to be a martyr or because any of us felt the intensity of the questioning was unfair or inappropriate. I tell you this because it was a job to complete this form, and it was a job we all — senior advisers and junior assistants alike — took seriously. We knew that the security of the United States could be compromised if we screwed up the SF86.  ... We are talking about the president. With every passing news cycle, the current administration is learning this lesson, about the importance of telling the truth, an even harder way. The total failure to follow protocol, to tell the truth about staffers’ backgrounds, is biting them in the ass."

A GREAT DETAILED PRIMER on Firing or Not Firing

Trump would love to fire Mueller. But here’s why he’s been afraid to so far. from Vox
"It is certainly possible that Trump could change his mind and decide that, despite all this, Mueller’s probe is so dangerous that it’s worth casting caution to the wind and firing him. But he’s been afraid to take that step so far — and for some very good reasons."

Assessing Trump's Young Presidency: Check out the Superlatives!

Trump’s presidency is unravelling. But he won’t fall without a push (Gary Younge) from the Guardian (of the UK)
"Witnessing Trump’s presidency unravel so spectacularly provokes a perverse joy. The venality is so baroque, the vulgarity so ostentatious, the inconsistencies so stark, the incompetence so epic and the lies so brazen, it leaves you speechless. His vanity is without guile and the scandals that embroil him without end. Almost everything he says and does has been publicly contradicted, by himself, usually on Twitter. "

Trump "growing into his Presidency"

White House shakeup shows Trump tired of hearing 'no' for an answer from Reuters
" Almost 14 months into Donald Trump’s turbulent White House tenure, loyalists are in, dissenters are out and the president himself is acting on his own instincts more swiftly than ever to make decisions on policies from trade to North Korea."
Oh happy day!

On Trump's New Cabinet: There's Madness to His Method

Trump is systematically removing the guardrails in his cabinet from the New Republic
"These changes suggest a president who is convinced that he has grown into the job and, more troublingly, has come to resent the numerous guardrails that were erected around him to protect the country (and the world) from his erratic instincts. Trump is remaking his cabinet—filling it with hawks and cable news pundits—into his own image."

The Politics of Sophistry and Cynicism

Trump's maximal tribalism (Damon Linker) from The Week
"Without fully grasping the consequences of his words and deeds, President Trump has done more than any previous president to advance a politics of sophistry and cynicism. It's a politics defined by the unrelenting effort to prove that every apparent act of virtue is in fact an example of something lower — of the very tribalism that motivates Trump's every public utterance and act."

2018 House Election Prediction Nugget!

Insiders See Democratic House Gains of 30-45 seats from Roll Call
"Seven and a half months before the midterm elections, the combination of attitudinal and behavioral evidence leads to a single conclusion: The Democrats are very likely to win control of the House in November. Just as important, Republican and Democratic campaign strategists also agree that an electoral wave has already formed. The attitudinal evidence begins with national polling."
I think this analysis is VERY CONSERVATIVE!  If Dems do as well in November as they have done on average in the special elections from last year and this year, the GOP actually has close to 110 House seats in danger.  Now -- I think there is no way the Dems will get anything close to 110.  I am predicting more like a 65-70 seat pickup.  No one else is predicting this.  You heard it here first.  One caveat: I fully expect Russian hackers will be targeting election outcomes by finding ways to actually alter vote totals.  If this happens on anything like a meaningful scale, all bets are off.

The Bigger Picture on Russian Poisoning in the UK

Poisoning of Russian ex-spy puts spotlight on Moscow’s secret military labs from the Washington Post
"During his last run for the presidency, in 2012, Russian leader Vladimir Putin startled U.S. military experts with a mysterious pledge to develop novel kinds of weapons to counter the West’s technological edge. Armies of the future, he said, would need weapons “based on new physical principles” including “genetic” and “psychophysical” science."
There is every indication that Putin has been investing A LOT in unconventional forms of weaponry.  We are now somewhat privy to the kind of cyber warfare he will wage.  Russia has long been the leader in chem-bio WMDs.  This seems like a clear extension of that.  If you want to see the bigger historical picture, see David Hoffman's Pulitzer prize winning book, The Dead Hand.

On the McCabe Firing

I stand with Andrew McCabe (Ronald Klain) from the Washington Post
"A president who doesn’t respect the rule of law will always have the upper hand over imperfect but fundamentally decent civil servants."

Immigration Nugget

Is it still worth trying to come to America as an asylum seeker? I don't think so (Luis Mancheno) from the Guardian (of the UK)
"I know you will come because I am a refugee living in the United States and I know what it means to escape death. I am so ashamed that we will do this to you and I am angry because my new country has betrayed me and every other person who believed in it. This place is not what it used to be. Just know that."

Gun Control Reform Nugget!

Maher panel proposes a new way of taking down the NRA — and the gun organization should be afraid from Raw Story
"“Why does the NRA get a tax exemption and how to do we take it away?” host Bill Maher proposed as his audience applauded. “They would like to say that they don’t run a political action committee, but they do have that wing, saying they are a grassroots non-profit organization,” Sirius radio host Nayyera Haq explained as comedian Pete Dominick interjected, “Elect Democrats.”"

Sunday, March 11, 2018

News Nuggets 1568

DAYLEE PICTURE: Stormy Daniels edifying exhibition. From the New York Times.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: The Trump Presidency: "Worse Than I Had Imagined..."

It’s Worse Than We Thought (Josh Marshall) from Talking Points Memo
"While I’ve been following the Trump era for going on three years and long been a pessimist about the depth of his corruption – both venal and otherwise – the last two weeks has made me think the situation is significantly worse than I’d imagined.  Let me refer very briefly to two points."

Trump, Now Liberated to Act on His Impulses... ?!

“Trump is Going for a Clean Reset": Fuming in the West Wing (Gabriel Sherman) from Vanity Fair
"Donald Trump was telling friends he was tired of being reined in. “I’m doing great, but I’m getting all these bad headlines,” Trump told a friend recently. A Republican in frequent contact with the White House told me Trump is “frustrated by all these people telling him what to do.”  With the departures of Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn, the Trump presidency is entering a new phase—one in which Trump is feeling liberated to act on his impulses."
AH!  So what we have seen so far has been the buttoned down, under-control Trump!!

America: A Hapless Cartoon Character on the World TV Screen

Trump is Wile E. Coyote (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
" When it comes to global diplomacy, America under President Trump has become something of a hapless cartoon villain, detonating bombs on itself and running into walls — while our nimbler adversaries dart away in a blur of dust. ... His strategy, if you can call it that, has been to disrupt America’s traditional economic and security relationships and commitments. He must imagine that this gives him new leverage, but mostly the result has been a series of self-inflicted wounds."

Time for Kushner's Close Up -- and It Isn't Pretty!

The corruption of Kushner (Ryan Cooper) from The Week
"Obviously, the Kushner situation is galactically worse than Trump simply hiring a relatively dim relative. Indeed, Kushner (who recently lost his Top Secret security clearance) is also up to his armpits in extremely shady business deals that reek of corruption. In a healthy democracy, law enforcement would already be closing in. ... Let's just run through just a few publicly known facts and see if we can't connect the dots."

For Christians, After Trump, What Could They Ever Be "Public Witnesses" To?

The Last Temptation (Michael Gerson) from the Atlantic
"Loyalty to Trump has involved progressively more difficult, self-abasing demands. And there appears to be no limit to what some evangelical leaders will endure. ...  The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness."

Prince and Obstruction of Justice?

Erik Prince Might Want To Shift Investments To Private Prison Industry from Talking Points Memo
"Prince appears caught conducting clandestine business, which may not be criminal in itself (you can meet people in the Seychelles) but may or may not be part of a broader criminal conspiracy. But here he may be caught not only in a lie but a highly material lie and perhaps one that is so clear-cut and designed to impede a lawful investigation that he can be prosecuted for it."
Prince has been one of the more prominent war profiteering shit heels for many years.  This couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

More Dangers in the Daniels Discolsures

One Night with Stormy Daniels, the Hero America Needs from Rolling Stone Magazine
""Penguins have terrible breath," she says. "How do you know penguins have terrible breath?" I ask. "They smell like they've been eating bad vagina. I got to pet one at a zoo – if you ever go to the zoo, the penguin habitat is the stinkiest one. It smells like a really bad porn set." ... this meeting began with one such message, promoting a "Make America Horny Again" tour date at a club on Long Island. The release was riddled with typos..."
Wow!  Jennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinski look like really classy dames (like for real) compared to this one.  The Donald sure can choose them!  
On a more serious note, I think there is A LOT of danger to Trump in this Daniels business.  I think it is inevitable that all the lurid details and photos (and accessories?) will come out.  But the danger comes from (at least two fronts)--  fronts that go beyond what most reporters are talking about right now: first, that ALL of the women who have signed NDAs with Trump will go back and find that he didn't sign their agreements either -- and thus they would be free to speak.  It is my sense that some of those cases go way beyond consensual affairs but deal with sexual harassment, rape, and worse.  Second, if this stand alone sex case metastasizes into dozens involving much darker behaviors, at what point will this scandal cross the Russia probe -- where we ultimately confirm the worst allegations from the Steele Dossier with actual videos involving a range of characters and situations?  It seems to me that law abiding people sign an NDA.  More nefarious folks simply blackmail.  I suspect Trump has had to deal with both types many times.
If you want to get a sense of the salacious aspects of his affair with Daniels, see THIS.

When You Have No Shame, Scandals Don't Matter

The President and the Porn Star: A Story’s Slow Rise Above the Din (Matthew Flagenheimer) from the New York Times
"Here is a leader who crowds out scandal with more scandal, who tends to insist that the buck stops elsewhere, who boasted of sexual assault on tape and got to the White House anyway. It is not quite that nothing sticks to Mr. Trump; it is that so much sticks that nothing stays visible for very long. ... The moment touches several crosscurrents of the Trump age: an administration defined largely by its chaos; the #MeToo movement; and a news media still grappling, nearly three years after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, with how to cover his excess of excesses.  “Scandals run on shame. Trump is completely exempt from any shame,” Mr. Murphy said. “So instead of talking about the crime, we just score-keep.”"

No Staff -- No Problem

Devastating graphic featured by MSNBC’s Katy Tur destroys the White House spin on its staffing crisis from Raw Story
“President Trump does not treat his staff well, he publicly embarrasses them and undermines them,” noted former White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “So if you know you’re going to get criticized or undermined by your boss before you even get there, and once you get there you’re not likely to have influence on the process, then why would you even go?”

A Fully Automated McDonalds on the Horizon

Meet Flippy, the world's first burger-flipping robot from The Week
"Artificial intelligence is poised to enter yet another aspect of your life: fast food. After years of preparation, a burger-flipping robot named Flippy made its debut on Monday at the Pasadena, California, location of the restaurant chain CaliBurger."