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The Triumphant Return of Rand Paul Running Away From Things



It has been awhile since we dropped in on the bobs and weaves of the Running Man of Bowling Green, but he's back baby!

And this time Senator Rand Paul is running away from...

...Senator Rand Paul.



And now, the late Johnny Cash:


Behold, a Tip Jar!


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Crippled America is great again and yet nothing has changed

Crippled America is great again

by digby


And yet nothing has changed:

The Republican National Committee spent more than $224,000 at President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in March, according to newly filed FEC reports. The expenditures, which were for rental and catering fees, were to cover the costs of an RNC fundraiser there early in the month. It was, far and away, the largest amount that the committee has spent at that specific Trump property (in January, the RNC spent $62,700 at Mar-a-Lago) and it is a reflection of how the president’s private business holdings continue to be intertwined with his political activities. Mar-a-Lago didn’t see every cent of the $224,857.68 spent by the RNC, since much of it was reimbursement for hosting the event. But it did certainly profit from the fundraiser, in addition to the added allure and promotional value that came with hosting. Outside of that expense, the RNC dropped nearly $30,000 for venue rental and catering at the Trump National Doral in Miami. It also spent $4,796.82 on “donor mementos” to Simon & Schuster.

What a sweet sweet scam. The idea that a president who won by calling his opponent "Crooked Hillary" and promising to put her in jail, is directly making a profit from the presidency is just too perfect.
The expense report does not detail which book the committee purchases in order to give to donors. But Simon & Schuster is the publishing house for Trump’s book, Crippled America, which was later retitled Great Again.
Can we all share a good laugh about the fact that Trump's book called "Crippled America" has just been repackaged as "Great Again" with no changes to the content?

Time for a drink. You can't make this stuff up.

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Hello? Is this Donald?

Hello? Is this Donald?

by digby


Everybody wondered why Trump unilaterally decided not to issue the sanctions against Russia which Nikki Haley had publicly announced were coming. Too bad nobody can check his cell phone log. Who knows what it would reveal?

President Donald Trump is increasingly relying on his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers, multiple sources inside and outside the White House told CNN, as Trump returns to the free-wheeling mode of operation that characterized the earliest days of his administration.

"He uses it a lot more often more recently," a senior White House official said of the President's cell phone.

Sources cited Trump's stepped-up cell phone use as an example of chief of staff John Kelly's waning influence over who gets access to the President ... one source close to the White House speculated that the President is ramping up the use of his personal device recently in part because "he doesn't want Kelly to know who he's talking to."

The senior White House official said Trump "is talking to all sorts of people on it," noting Trump's barrage of private calls is a "recent development."

Three sources familiar with the situation said Trump has also increased his direct outreach to GOP lawmakers over the past several weeks, sometimes employing his cell phone.

"Basically, at this point, he's just sort of engaging on his own," observed a source familiar with Trump's calls to congressional allies.

"Kelly used to be more clearly the gatekeeper than he is now from a Hill standpoint," that source added, noting members would typically call Kelly's office if they wanted to set up a talk with Trump rather than dial the President directly.

"I don't know that he even is running it by the chief of staff anymore," the staff said.
[...]
Former President Barack Obama was permitted to use a Blackberry during his presidency. However, the White House said at the time that the device given to Obama was outfitted with enhanced security to protect potentially classified talks.

A security expert said the President's increased cell phone use makes his calls more vulnerable to eavesdropping from foreign governments.

"All communications devices of all senior government officials are targeted by foreign governments. This is not new," said Bryan Cunningham, executive director of the Cybersecurity Policy and Research Institute at the University of California-Irvine.

"What is new in the cell phone age is the ease of intercepting them and that at least our last two presidents ... have chafed at not being able to use their personal cell phones," Cunningham added. "Of course, calls are only secure if both parties use a secure device."

Another implication of Trump's private cell phone use, Cunningham noted, is the possibility that Trump's conversations may not be "captured for the purposes of government accountability and history."


All features not bugs.

Update: Not directly related but close:

The Treasury Department Monday eased sanctions on Russian aluminum producer Rusal and said it would consider lifting them altogether if the company severs ties with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

Rusal was sanctioned earlier this month by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control because of Deripaska's stake in the company. The Russian billionaire is alleged to have conducted a range of illegal activities, including money laundering, extortion and ordering the murder of a businessman, according to Treasury.

He is also reportedly part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election...Deripaska made headlines last year after it was reported that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort offered him "private briefings" on the 2016 election less than two weeks after Trump became the Republican nominee.

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He could win again

He could win again

by digby



I'm sorry to throw this glass of ice cold water in your face on a Monday afternoon, but as I watch the Democrats preparing for a scorched earth presidential primary campaign, I think it's probably a good idea to be aware of the very shocking reality that Donald Trump might very well win re-election:

The percentage of voters who say Trump deserves re-election is essentially identical to that of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at the time of the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections, respectively. More voters said George W. Bush deserved re-election at the time of the midterm elections in his first term, in 2002.

The latest results are based on an April 9-15 poll of U.S. registered voters. Trump's re-elect number roughly matches his 39% job approval rating among all U.S. adults in the same week of Gallup tracking.

Trump's approval ratings have been significantly worse than those of his predecessors at similar points in their presidencies. And his re-elect figures do not match those of Clinton (40% in April 1994) and Obama (46% in March 2010) in the spring of their first midterm election years. However, by the time voters cast ballots in those presidents' first midterms that fall, the percentage of voters believing Clinton and Obama deserved to be re-elected had fallen to the same level Trump is at now.

Midterm election outcomes are often a referendum on the incumbent president. Clinton and Obama both saw their party suffer huge losses in their first midterm elections, when fewer than four in 10 voters thought they deserved re-election. In 1994, Democrats lost 53 seats in the House, and in 2010, they lost 63 seats. Those losses were large enough to make Republicans the majority party in the House of Representatives. In contrast, the Republican Party gained six seats in the 2002 midterms, when a majority of voters thought Bush deserved to be re-elected slightly more than a year after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Unless voters' opinions of Trump improve significantly, the GOP could face a significant rebuke at the ballot box. Republicans currently enjoy a 44-seat majority in Congress -- 237 to 193 -- with five vacancies. A net shift of 23 seats in this year's midterm elections would make the Democrats the majority party in the House.

U.S. voters' opinions of whether members of Congress -- including their own representative -- deserve re-election are also more similar to what they were in 1994 and 2010 than in 2002, further supporting the idea of a difficult year for incumbents, particularly Republican incumbents.

As would be expected, Republican voters are much more likely than Democratic and independent voters to say Trump deserves to be re-elected. Currently, 78% of Republican voters think he should have a second term, compared with 32% of independents and 6% of Democrats.

According to the 2016 exit polls, 90% of Republican voters supported Trump, as did 48% of independents. Although that suggests Trump has lost a significant amount of support since 2016 among Republicans and independents, part of the gap could be accounted for by voter turnout, since many registered voters do not vote in a given election.

Trump's standing with independents and supporters of the opposition party is similar to that of Clinton and Obama at the time of the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections. About one in three independents believed each deserved re-election, and fewer than one in 10 Republicans did. Trump's numbers among Republicans are essentially the same as Obama's among his fellow Democrats in 2010, but slightly better than those of Clinton among Democrats in 1994. Trump would need to see a recovery in his support over the next two years to successfully win re-election, as Clinton and Obama did.


Could it happen? I don't know. But let's not assume that it can't. It has before.

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Two Moscow nights ...

Two Moscow nights ...

by digby


Yes, he is a reflexive pathological liar but that doesn't mean he never has a reason for lying:

Though Trump reportedly told Comey that he didn't stay overnight in the Russian city, per the director's contemporaneous memos of their private meeting, the flight records and social media posts show that Trump stayed overnight in the city at a hotel.

This development is significant because it undermines Trump's denials that the Russian government has blackmail material on him as mentioned in the Steele dossier, in the form of a video recording of him with prostitutes. The dossier's author, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, said sources told him that Trump had been videotaped with prostitutes at a hotel while he stayed overnight during the pageant.

Comey's memos of his meetings with Trump in 2017 show that the president was preoccupied with proving these claims false. He claimed it couldnt' be true because he didn't spend the night in Moscow. He even suggested that he might ask Comey to investigate the claims to show that they were untrue, but he never officially made this request.

The records clearly show, Bloomberg reports, that Trump arrived in Moscow on a Friday and didn't leave until Sunday morning.


It's possible that Trump spent not just one but two nights in the hotel on that trip. They left pre-dawn on Sunday according to the Bloomberg report but it's quite possible that he was in the room that night before he left for the airport.

As I said, he lies about everything but it's a mistake to assume every lie is just something he says without any other motivation.

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MSNBC: History Rewritten While U Wait


Before you watch the Morning Joe crew drag modern American political history into a soccer stadium and shoot it in the head yet again, it might be helpful for newer readers to get a good, clear idea of the sheer scale of the lies that Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and their cast of scoundrels and sycophants spin for their audience every single day.

To do that, I need you to take a good look at this editorial from The New York Times and note the date.


28 years ago.
The Politics of Slash and Burn
Published: September 20, 1990

'Sick.'' ''Traitors.'' ''Bizarre.'' ''Self-serving.'' ''Shallow.'' ''Corrupt.'' ''Pathetic.'' ''Shame.'' The group that urged political candidates to use these epithets has since regretted suggesting the word ''traitors,'' in response to inquiries from the press. But the others were allowed to stand; they appear in a glossary that a conservative Republican group recently mailed to Republican state legislative candidates.

The group is Gopac, the G.O.P. Political Action Committee. Its general chairman is Representative Newt Gingrich. With the pamphlet, ''Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,'' comes a letter from Mr. Gingrich himself. Its message to candidates: Step up invective. Use words like these to describe opponents. These words work.

Mr. Gingrich's injunction represents the worst of American political discourse...
And, as history has shown, this carefully-calculated Republican strategy of doubling and re-doubling down on Nixon's Southern Strategy of pandering to white rage, racism and paranoia with each election cycle paid off especially handsomely in four years later, when the GOP eagerly turned the keys to the Party of Lincoln over to scum like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.

Again, note the date.

From The New York Times 24 years ago.

24 years ago.
Republicans Get a Pep Talk From Rush Limbaugh

BALTIMORE, Dec. 10— To all the advice for the new Republicans coming to Congress, add this from Rush Limbaugh: A hostile press corps lurks inside the Beltway.

"You will never ever be their friends," the talk-show host warned most of the 73 Republican freshmen at a dinner here tonight. "They don't want to be your friends. Some female reporter will come up to one of you and start batting her eyes and ask you to go to lunch. And you'll think, 'Wow! I'm only a freshman. Cokie Roberts wants to take me to lunch. I've really made it!' " The audience laughed.

"Seriously," he added. "Don't fall for this. This is not the time to get moderate. This is not the time to start trying to be liked."

The freshman class, which included not a single "femi-Nazi," one of Mr. Limbaugh's favorite epithets for supporters of women's rights, whooped and applauded, proving itself one big fan club of the man it believes was primarily responsible for the Republican avalanche in November.

Mr. Limbaugh was made an honorary member of the class as its members tonight finished a three-day orientation here sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and Empower America, two conservative Washington research organizations.

Barbara Cubin, an incoming freshman from Wyoming, told Mr. Limbaugh that because 74 percent of the nation's newspapers had endorsed Democrats, "talk radio, with you in the lead, is what turned the tide." On behalf of the women in the class, she gave him a plaque that said, "Rush Was Right." He also received a pin like the ones the freshmen wore, saying, "Majority Maker."

"Rush is as responsible for what happened here as much as anyone," said Vin Weber, a former Representative from Minnesota, now of Empower America. Citing a poll taken after the election by Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, Mr. Weber said that people who listened to 10 hours or more a week of talk radio voted Republican by a 3-to-1 margin. "Those are the people who elected the new Congress," he said...
Now, cut to a quarter of century of later where the long, dark road of madness, sedition, lies and ruin down which the Party of Limbaugh and Gingrich and Atwater and Rove and DeLay and Cheney and McConnell and Ryan and Fox News and Hate Radio have been giddily plunging has led, at last, to  President Stupid.

And what do we find?

We find the Morning Joe rogue's gallery looking straight into the camera and pretending that this all started five minutes ago, that it's something called "Trumpism" and not Republicanism, and that it all happened completely without warning.
MIKE BARNICLE:  Jeremy, that point that Joe just raised, it seems to many observers that Trumpism in its purest form as it evolves seems to be dealing less with ideology than personal destruction of the opponent. is that accurate? 
We find the Morning Joe crew cashing those sweet, sweet Comcast paychecks pretending that, however monstrous the GOP becomes, the real danger is that we Libtards might starting punching back against the fascist, democracy-slaying killbot that the Republican Party has become. 
JEREMY PETERS:  That's exactly right. that's what has so many people in both parties worried because they see this catching on in the Democratic party as well. there are some prominent Democrats who have argued that the only way to beat Trump and the Republicans in 2018 and 2020 is to get down to his level.  This whole notion of "when they go low, we go high" just doesn't apply in politics anymore,  a lot of people have come to believe. I don't know that this is an enduring shift in politics. I think Joe is exactly right. at the end of the day, people need something more to grasp onto than just anger and insults. so I don't know. I just don't know.



In other words, this is the Beltway, sir.  When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

"See, it's stuff like this that gives me trust issues." -- Nick Fury



Behold, a Tip Jar!


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Little Donnie Trump, king of the world

Little Donnie Trump, king of the world

by digby



This story in the New Yorker about the former national security adviser H.R. McMaster illustrates why this president is something unique in our politics. He is a symptom of the Republican descent into madness but he is something different from them as well. He brings something to their toxic stew that actually transforms it in substantial ways. It's not that they are better, per se, but the challenges they present fit into a paradigm we understand and can mitigate through our common understanding o politics. This is not that:
When Trump assumed office, N.S.C. staffers initially generated memos for him that resembled those produced for his predecessors: multi-page explications of policy and strategy. But “an edict came down,” a former staffer told me: “ ‘Thin it out.’ ” The staff dutifully trimmed the memos to a single page. “But then word comes back: ‘This is still too much.’ ” A senior Trump aide explained to the staffers that the President is “a visual person,” and asked them to express points “pictorially.” 
“By the time I left, we had these cards,” the former staffer said. They are long and narrow, made of heavy stock, and emblazoned with the words “the white house” at the top. Trump receives a thick briefing book every night, but nobody harbors the illusion that he reads it. Current and former officials told me that filling out a card is the best way to raise an issue with him in writing. Everything that needs to be conveyed to the President must be boiled down, the former staffer said, to “two or three points, with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.’ ” 
Given Trump’s avowed admiration for despots, and the curious deference that he has shown Putin, his staff was worried about the March 20th phone call. Putin had recently been elected to another six-year term, but American officials did not regard the election as legitimate. Staffers were concerned that Trump might nevertheless salute Putin on his sham victory. When briefers prepared a card for the call, one of the bullet points said, in capital letters: “do not congratulate.” 
Trump also received a five-minute oral briefing from his national-security adviser, Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster, who goes by H.R. Before McMaster delivered the briefing, one of his aides said to him, “The President is going to congratulate him no matter what you say.” 
“I know,” McMaster replied. 
Trump takes pride in being impervious to the advice of experts, and he had no personal affection for his national-security adviser. McMaster, who had learned to pick his battles, chose not to raise the matter of Putin’s election. The President took the call alone in the White House residence, but McMaster was listening in on a so-called drop line. Sure enough, Trump did not read or did not heed the briefing card, and congratulated Putin.
This is different.

 .

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Oh God. They’re going to try to re-run the 2016 campaign

Oh God. They're going to try to re-run the 2016 campaign

by digby


I wrote about the GOP's 2018 strategery for 2018 for Salon this morning:

President Trump was forced to spend fewer hours on the Mar-a-lago golf course this past week-end due to the occasion of former First Lady Barbara Bush's funeral which he had to pretend to watch on TV. (Protocol says that presidents don't attend first lady funerals in person for some reason.) He must have stayed glued to the tube because his twitter feed was on fire. He once again insisted that Former FBI James Comey had committed a crime, even suggesting that he can retroactively make any government employee who writes down something embarrassing to the president into a criminal by making the document "confidential" months later:

He also claimed he had never heard of Mr Magoo and Mr Peepers so he couldn't possibly have given those nicknames to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and said Sylvester Stallone had recently convinced him that he should pardon the famous African American boxer Jack Johnson who was unjustly convicted of taking his white girlfriend across state lines a hundred years ago. He wished the Republicans in congress "good luck" in trying to get Sessions to criminally investigate Comey and Hillary Clinton. In light of the NY Times story which revealed that Trump is known to insult his lawyer Michael Cohen and treat him like a lackey, he tweeted that he admires Cohen and doesn't expect him to succumb to pressure and "flip" which doesn't seem like something an innocent person would say. He also condemned some "drunk, drugged up loser" for saying that Cohen would turn states evidence causing millions of people to wonder to which drunk, drugged up loser in his orbit he was referring.

And there's was this:

For the record, Kim Jong Un has not agreed to "denuclearization."

And finally another of his now classic primal tweets:

These raging tweet storms have become so commonplace that it may be time to issue a warning for the kids in our country who are growing up thinking that this is normal presidential behavior. If he were the president of the 7th grade perhaps it might be but it's unlikely most 7th grade class presidents would be quite this petulant and undignified. Kids, don't try this at home.

In fact, it's not the young people we have to worry about emulating this immature ranting. It's the other Republicans running for office. According to Jeremy Peters of The New York Times, Trump has inspired GOP candidates all over the country to adopt his puerile political style for their campaigns. They're all wearing MAGA hats and saying things like "Build the wall" and "Drain the swamp" and "Lock her up!" evidently believing that if they can get a little bit of that Trump fairy dust, they'll be big winners just like him.

Peters (one hopes with tongue buried firmly in his cheek) writes that such Republicans "are channeling Mr. Trump’s belligerent and profane style of speaking, seeking to capture that essential but elusive quality that matters so much to voters these days — "authenticity." Nothing says "authentic" better than aping the behavior of another person, a person whose main claim to authenticity is a total inability to tell the truth. But they are going for it:

In Indiana, Representative Todd Rokita, a Republican candidate for Senate, proudly slaps on a red “Make America Great Again” cap in a new ad as he promises to “proudly stand with our president and Mike Pence to drain the swamp.” 
Not to be outdone, one of Mr. Rokita’s opponents, Luke Messer, tarred Mr. Rokita as “Lyin’ Todd,” an echo of Mr. Trump’s epithet for Senator Ted Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted.” Mr. Messer’s gripe? Mr. Rokita falsely claimed to have received the president’s endorsement.
Even Republican women are rolling out female versions of Trumpism on the campaign trail. In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSally, running for the Senate seat being abandoned by Jeff Flake, keeps recounting how she tells those Washington swamp-dwellers to "grow a pair of ovaries" and quotes newspaper articles that bleep her using the f-word. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running for Bob Corker's Senate seat in Tennessee, says she "stands up when President Trump walks in the room." (It's unknown if she curtsies as well.) And she wants that wall built now.

Tea Party-style candidate Chris McDaniel, who is staging a GOP primary challenge in Mississippi against newly-appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (who replaced the retiring Thad Cochran), likes to say that he was Trump before Trump was Trump. But nobody channels the president better than West Virginia's Don Blankenship, who is running to unseat Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. Blankenship truly is the most authentic Trump candidate one can imagine, and he's got a good chance to win the nomination, despite serious GOP establishment jitters. He was chairman of Massey Energy, the sixth-largest coal company in the U.S., at the time of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010, in which 29 miners were killed. He was indicted for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards, lying to authorities and securities fraud. He ended up doing a year in federal prison and was released last May. By all accounts, Blankenship is an abusive boss, a rampant polluter and a generally nasty piece of work. One of his campaign ads puts it simply:

We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary. Lock her up!
That's right: Republicans are still running against Hillary Clinton, mainly so they can thrill their voters with the prospect of putting her in an orange jumpsuit and sending her to rot in jail. That vision appears to have an electric effect on the GOP base that's even more exciting than "Build that wall!"

According to this AP article, Republican strategists are counting on the overwhelming loathing their voters still feel for Clinton and Nancy Pelosi as the key to holding their congressional majority:

“I promise you that you’ll continue to see it — Hillary Clinton starring in our paid media. She’s a very powerful motivator,” said Corry Bliss, who leads the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super political action committee ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to shape House races this fall. “It’s about what she represents. What she represents, just like what Nancy Pelosi represents, is out-of-touch far-left liberal positions.”
Sure, it's all about their "far-left" positions.

As horrifying as it sounds, it appears that the Republicans want to re-run 2016 to validate Trump's victory and endorse his political style and reckless agenda. It could be an inflection point in American history if they pull that off. Let's hope the voters prove to them once and for all that 2016 was a horrible fluke and not something that can ever be repeated.

.
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A Year Over the Limit

Go home, 2018. You're drunk.

-- Jake Tapper, responding to the revelation
that Michael Cohen's mysterious third client is Sean Hannity

This week's featured posts are "Comey's Book" (For a guy who has spent most of his life chasing criminals, James Comey is an excellent writer.) and "Flipping the Script on Fossil Fuels". (As sustainable-energy technologies improve, it's now the fossil-fuel defenders who stand against economic progress.)

This week everybody was talking about North Korea

In anticipation of the Trump/Kim summit that is supposed to happen sometime in May or June, the North Korean government made some encouraging announcements:

These included a declaration that North Korea was satisfied with its existing nuclear warhead designs, and that it had discontinued all nuclear and intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) tests and closed its nuclear test site at Punggye Ri. Kim also announced that North Korea would suspend nuclear testing, and reiterated his commitment not to use nuclear weapons “unless there is [a] nuclear threat,” and to stop the proliferation of nuclear technology.

However, there's a little less here than meets the eye, as The Atlantic's Adam Mount and Ankit Panda go on to explain. Trump seems to think that "they have agreed to denuclearization", which they haven't.

While Kim did say that Pyongyang supported the vision of “global disarmament,” this is a common trope in North Korean propaganda and suggests that North Korea will soon call for tit-for-tat arms control with the United States.

In other words, if Trump asks Kim to give up all his nuclear weapons, the answer may be: "I will if you will." From North Korea's point of view, the point of this summit meeting is to showcase Kim and Trump as equals. Kim isn't going to submit to an unequal deal.

There are a number of ways around the pledges Kim just made, some of which North Korea has used to dodge past agreements. So while the recent announcements should be seen as a good sign, they shouldn't be read as more than that.

the United States cannot accept these measures as a victory—they’re a starting point for forging a verifiable cap on Pyongyang’s arsenal. A hard cap can keep America and its allies safer while Trump negotiates a more comprehensive agreement—something that can only happen if the president does not give in to overconfidence and optimism.

and kids protesting against guns

One of the hardest tasks in political organizing is to turn a protest into a protest movement. Something happens and people want to express themselves, so a bunch of them show up for a demonstration. But what happens then? How does that momentary outrage turn into the kind of persistent force that politicians have to recognize and respond to? (More on that next week.)

That's the challenge faced by the students who became gun-control activists after the Parkland school shooting on Valentine's Day. They promoted a national school walkout to mark the one-month anniversary on March 14, and then held the massive March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC (with mirror rallies around the country) on March 24.

Friday was another school walkout, this time to mark the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. I haven't found any estimate of how the number of students participating compared to the March 14 walkout, but the amount of media attention definitely seemed down. This summer, I think, will be key. Will they keep their momentum, or will this all be a memory by the time schools starts again in the fall?


I remembered Jake Tapper's "Go home, 2018. You're drunk." when I saw the headline "Naked Gunman Kills 4 in Waffle House Shooting". But it wasn't a joke.

A man wearing only a green jacket shot three people dead at a Waffle House. One person later died at a hospital where two others are being treated for injuries. Police say the suspect fled on foot, and is still on the loose.

The reason more people aren't dead is that an unarmed bystander -- a good guy without a gun -- took action.

When the shooting momentarily stopped, a Waffle House customer took advantage of the moment. James Shaw Jr. told reporters, "At that time I made up my mind ... that he was going to have to work to kill me. When the gun jammed or whatever happened, I hit him with the swivel door." Shaw then wrestled the gun away, and threw it behind the counter — prompting the gunman to leave.


There's a perverse effect through which every mass-shooting story causes more people to say, "I need a gun to protect myself." It's hard to figure out how to counter that, because (even though violent crime of all sorts has been falling for decades), you never read a story saying "Everybody in Our Town was Safe Today".

Except this one: The 75th precinct in East New York "regularly logged more than 100 murders a year" during the 1990s. Last year there were 11, and none so far in 2018.

Sometimes such turnarounds happen because the underlying population changes. The neighborhood suddenly becomes fashionable and a bunch of rich people move in, pushing the previous residents out. But that doesn't seem to be the case here.

those kinds of changes have been slow to reach more distant places like East New York, a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood that still struggles with severe poverty and leads the city in robberies this year.

and Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92. She was the matriarch of the Bush clan, wife of the first President Bush and mother of the second. She was First Lady from 1989 to 1993.

Most of the respect and attention her life received this week was due to its own merits. The Wife-and-Mother-of-Presidents Club, after all, includes only Barbara Bush and Abigail Adams. (If you happen across a little girl named, say, Cynthia Collins, you might want to keep an eye on her.) But I think it also reflects nostalgia for an era not so long ago, when public life had a dignity it now conspicuously lacks, and when we expected our leaders to exemplify values we aspire to.

Barbara and George were married for 73 years, and have now been parted in the way their vows anticipated, by death. To a large extent, it's impossible to see inside other people's marriages, even those of your close friends. Marriages of public figures may be very different than they appear from the outside. But everything we do know about the Bushes points to a relationship of deep mutual respect.

The Bush marriage was a traditional one. Barbara left Smith College when she became a wife, and never developed a resume of her own, or sought a career outside the home as George rose through a series of ever-more-impressive jobs. Not everyone wants such a life today, and one huge virtue of our era is that women who don't want to walk that path are not forced onto it. (My own marriage of 34 years is quite different, and I would not trade it.) But nonetheless I find it inspiring to see that the path can be walked. Every successfully concluded life should give us hope.

and James Comey

His book A Higher Loyalty appeared in bookstores Tuesday. One featured post is my response after reading it.

and Michael Cohen

I hesitate to say much about Cohen, because most of the talk about him this week was speculation about whether he'll be indicted and whether he'll cut a deal to testify against Trump. Those are both tantalizing questions, but the fact-to-guess ratio has been pretty low.

The really striking thing in all this speculating, though, is the number of Trump supporters who seem genuinely worried that Cohen will flip on Trump. The Atlantic's David Graham draws the obvious conclusion: Even Trump's friends believe he's guilty of something.

these people are at least aspirationally standing up for Trump, and yet their comments have a clear subtext of guilt. They all start with the premise that Trump has something to hide. You can’t flip on someone unless you’ve got something to offer prosecutors. Usually, the defenders of suspects in prosecutors’ cross-hairs loudly proclaim their innocence, and insist that the investigation will ultimately vindicate them. But Trump’s chorus is singing from a different hymnal.


Attorney-client privilege is one issue that might keep federal investigators from examining some of the stuff seized in the raid on Michael Cohen's offices. But whether that applies at all depends in part on how much law Cohen actually practices. (The privilege only applies to conversations that are genuinely about legal work that the attorney is doing for the client. The mere fact that somebody is a lawyer doesn't mean that whatever you say to him or her is privileged.) The government has claimed Cohen doesn't really practice much law, and so the judge wanted to know who Cohen's clients are. There was Trump, and another rich Republican who tried to cover up an affair with a Playboy playmate, and somebody Cohen didn't want to name.

Last Monday, the unnamed client was revealed: Fox News host Sean Hannity, who had been constantly denouncing the raid on Cohen's office without revealing to his audience that he might have a personal interest in the story.

On a legitimate news network, Hannity would have been in big trouble, and probably would have been fired. (Journalists aren't supposed to report on stories they are involved in. At a bare minimum, Hannity should have disclosed his relationship to Cohen and let his viewers judge for themselves whether to trust his objectivity.) On Fox, not so much. The network announced he has its "full support".

Quartz chided journalists who claimed to be "stunned" by Fox' lack of ethical discipline.

Really? Stunned? Let’s be clear: Fox News is not, and never has been, a news organization. And while Hannity is an influential person on television—and one many listen to—he is not a journalist. That some media observers saw Fox’s non-response to the Hannity debacle as anything other than a sad inevitability shows that we still have a ways to go to normalize those two facts.


By far the best response to the Hannity revelation came from CNN's Jake Tapper: "Go home, 2018. You're drunk."

and whether Trump will fire either Mueller or Rosenstein

Rumors continue to swirl that Trump is about to fire either Special Counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversees his investigation. At the same time, it doesn't actually happen, so I wonder if we're getting de-sensitized to Trump's threats. (For comparison: I almost forgot that today is supposed to be the Rapture. People keep predicting it and it keeps not happening, so it's hard to raise any excitement about it. Even the embarrassment of people who take such prophecies seriously has become old news.)

Democrats in Congress have been worrying about this all along, and several have promoted legislation that would give Mueller some protection against arbitrary firing. But only a handful of Republicans have been willing to go along, until recently. This week the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a bipartisan proposal put together by Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Chris Coons. It might well pass, and then things get interesting.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been adamant that he will not bring the bill to the floor of the Senate. Like Paul Ryan in the House, McConnell claims legislation isn't necessary, because Trump isn't going to fire Mueller anyway. (But that could also be an argument for passing the bill: It puts no real restriction on Trump, because he wasn't going to fire Mueller anyway.) But I'm not sure how anyone can read tweets like this one from Friday and have that kind of confidence.

Sometimes McConnell points out that the effort is doomed anyway, because Trump will veto the bill even if Congress passes it. That's probably true, but Congress' position would be on the record: Don't fire Mueller. Let the investigation take its course. The same logic explains why the Senate should pass it even if the House won't: at least the Senate's position will be on the record, and Trump will have been warned.

But even ignoring his bogus arguments, I think I understand McConnell's thinking: This is a no-win vote for Republicans facing re-election. If they vote against it, they're spineless partisan hacks bowing down to Trump. If they vote for it, they tick off base voters that they'll need in November. Much better to just say it isn't going to happen.

Unless it happens, of course. That would be a true disaster for Republicans facing the voters, and the no-win decision would come back to them in spades: Trump has put himself above the law. Are you going to do something about it or not?


Other people might respond also: The Washingon Post claims that Attorney General Sessions has told White House Counsel Don McGahn that he might resign if Rosenstein gets fired.

That threat lends some credence to a claim James Comey made in an interview with Rachel Maddow Tuesday: The only way Trump could shut down the Russia investigation is to fire the whole Justice Department and the whole FBI.


And that brings up an important question: What are you going to do if Trump fires Mueller or Rosenstein? Nobody Is Above the Law rallies are planned all over the country, to be triggered either by a firing or by Trump pardoning key people who could be witnesses against him. If the triggering event happens before 2 p.m. the rallies start at 5 p.m. local time. If after 2 p.m., the rallies start at noon the next day.

Check for a rally in your area here. I'm planning to go to Veteran's Park in Manchester. I'll be the guy in the blue hat that says "Are We Great Again Yet?"

and corruption

There's an everyday aspect to Trump's corruption of the presidency that it's easy to lose sight of. Here and here, for example, he turns the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe into glittering advertisements for his Mar-a-Lago club, which you can join if you're willing to hand him $200,000. (Chris Hayes has dubbed Mar-a-Lago "the de facto bribery palace". For just a few hundred thousand "you can personally lobby the president on whatever you want".)

The videos end with the symbol of the White House, so I assume they were made with public funds. Each has had more than a million views. I have to wonder what advertisements of similar reach would have cost Trump, if they didn't come as a perk of his job.

Gail Collins quotes Trump speaking to the press with Abe, and then asks:

People, which part of this makes you most unnerved? The fact that the president doesn’t make any sense when he talks or the fact that he devoted a large part of a press conference with the head of one of our most important allies to promoting his resort?

Neither the press-conference testimonial nor the promotional videos Trump made on the White House's dime tells us how much Prime Minister Abe's visit cost the two governments, or how much of that money wound up in Trump's pocket. This was Abe's second visit to Mar-a-Lago. (The picture above is from the first.) By contrast, President Obama last met Abe in a pair of joint appearances: at Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor. He did not personally profit from either one.

and you also might be interested in ...

The Senate is considering a number of Trump nominees. Mike Pompeo is expected to lose a committee vote today, but be approved by the Senate anyway. Gina Haspel as head of the CIA and Ronny Jackson as VA chief will come up in early May.


Long article in Politico about Trump's relationship with Christian TV networks., which is even more incestuous than his relationship with Fox News. TBN and CBN don't even have to pretend to be objective.


Kansans talk about their state's tax-cuts-will-spark-growth experiment, and what it might mean for the country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=955&v=mcLoBdkqxos


Jeff Sessions's attempt to keep federal funds away from so-called "sanctuary cities" is not legal. Three judges appointed by Republicans unanimously ruled against the Trump policy on Thursday.

"The Attorney General in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement. But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement conditions on the receipt of such funds," [Judge Ilana] Rovner wrote, in an opinion joined by Judge William Bauer. "It falls to us, the judiciary, as the remaining branch of the government, to act as a check on such usurpation of power."

The rule of law is tricky that way. If you want other people to obey the law, you have to obey it yourself.


While we're on that topic, Trump's tweets hit a new low on Wednesday:

There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept.

This kind of talk never ends well.

The idea that undocumented immigrants "infest" California and "breed" there is the kind of dehumanizing rhetoric that often precedes and justifies mass persecutions. Every genocide in modern times has begun with rhetoric that equated human beings with vermin. Hutu propaganda leading up to the Rwandan genocide referred to the Tutsis as "cockroaches". Nazis portrayed Jews as "parasites, leeches, devils, rats, bacilli, locusts, vermin, spiders, blood-suckers, lice, and poisonous worms".

In church yesterday, I found myself sitting one seat away from the woman my congregation is currently sheltering against deportation. I have not interacted with her much myself, but by all accounts she's a lovely woman who is the mother of American citizens. (One of the kids is old enough to look after the others while Mom is away, but it's far from an ideal situation.) She's been living in a small apartment in our church for four months now, as the appeal of her deportation order churns through the system. (That's the point of the sanctuary movement: to keep ICE from spiriting people away before their cases are heard. DACA recipient Juan Manuel Montes, for example, "had left his wallet in a friend's car, so he couldn't produce his ID or proof of his DACA status and was told by agents he couldn't retrieve them. Within three hours, he was back in Mexico, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported by the Trump administration's stepped-up deportation policy.")

The whole point of Trump's rhetoric is that people like Maria or Juan aren't really human -- they infest America and breed -- so the rest of us shouldn't care what the government does to them any more than we care about termites.


One widely shared Barbara Bush quote said that she couldn't understand how women could vote for Trump. She was talking about the way he had insulted Megyn Kelly, but this week we saw a more policy-driven reason for skepticism. Under Trump, the US delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women has been turned over to the most zealous culture warriors ever. Official US positions, BuzzFeed reports, are more conservative than even Russia or the Arab countries.

“They were against the whole concept of sexuality education,” the UN official said, adding that the US also opposed the phrase “harm reduction,” which in the context of CSW means “accepting the fact that young people have sex and trying to teach them how to do it safely rather than just abstinence only,” the official explained. The US wanted “no mention of sexuality at all,” the official said.

US representative Valerie Huber would allow no mention of contraception, abortion, or sex education in the consensus statement. She pushed for abstinence education and teaching women "refusal skills".

“She spoke of ‘trying to get women to make better choices in the future,’ which is that terrifying and outmoded idea that women make bad sexual choices and that what happens to them is their fault,” one of the delegates who attended the meeting told BuzzFeed News.


Ever notice how conservatives talk about "law and order" while liberals talk about "justice"? That's because laws protect the established order, which is often unjust.


Avoiding Brexit is still a long shot, but it's possible.

and let's close with something amazing

A fluid mechanics course at Lamar University came up with a fun way to demonstrate the properties of non-Newtonian fluids. It's a simple formula -- two parts corn starch to one part water, with some food coloring mixed for the sake of appearance -- but it behaves in a weird way. It resists sudden motions, behaving like a solid when you jump on it or beat it. But it's a liquid, so if you stay still you will sink into it.

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The war against the press

The war  against the press

by digby

Professor Jay Rosen gave a speech this week called "The Campaign to Discredit the Press" which he shared on a long twitter thread. I thought those who don't tweet might find it interesting:

There is alive in the land an organized campaign to discredit the American press. This campaign is succeeding.

Its roots are long. For decades the Republican coalition has tried to hang together by hating on elites who claim to know things, like “what is art?” Or: “what should college students be taught?” Or: “what counts as news?”

The media wing of this history extends back to Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. It passes through Agnew’s speeches for Nixon in 1969, and winds forward to our own time through William Rusher's 1988 book, 'The Coming Battle for the Media'... .. then through the growth of conservative talk radio, and in the spectacular success of Fox, which found a lucrative business model in resentment news, culture war, and the battle cry of liberal bias.

Donald Trump is both the apotheosis of this history and its accelerant. He has advanced the proposition dramatically. From undue influence — that was Agnew’s claim — to something closer to treason: “enemy of the people.”

Instead of criticizing The Media for unfair treatment, as Agnew did, Trump whips up hatred for it. Some of his most demagogic moments have been attacks on the press, often by singling out reporters and camera crews for abuse during rallies held in an atmosphere of menace.

Nixon seethed about the press in private. Trump seethes in public, a very different act. But his transformation of right wing media complaint goes beyond these lurid performances.

It starts at the top with the President’s almost daily attacks on “the fake news,” and his description of key institutions — the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC — as both failing AND corrupt. Contempt thus has two places to settle.

At the bottom of the pyramid is an army of online trolls and alt right activists who shout down stories critical of the President, and project hatred at the journalists who report them.

Between the President at the top and the base at the bottom are the mediating institutions: Breitbart, Drudge Report, Daily Caller, Rush Limbaugh and especially Fox News.

The campaign to discredit the American press operates differently on the three major sections of the Trumpified electorate: supporters, opponents, and those who are not in either camp.

For core supporters, media hate helps frames the president as a fighter for them. “I will put these people down for you” was one of the most attractive promises Trump made during the campaign. He has delivered on that pledge.

They in turn deliver for him by categorically rejecting news reports that are critical of the President, in the belief that biased journalists are simply trying to bring their guy down.

On his committed opponents, the President’s political style “works” by inviting ridicule and attack. Their part in the script is simply to keep the culture war going via native responses to the awfulness of the Trump phenomenon.

The anger, despair and disbelief that Trump inspires in his most public doubters is felt as confirmation, and consumed as entertainment by his most committed supporters— and his trolls.

Notice how if Trump’s opponents defend the reporting of an elite institution like the New York Times — or simply make reference to it as revealed fact — that only supports his campaign to discredit the press as a merely ideological institution.

Then there’s the third group: Americans who are neither committed supporters nor determined critics of Donald Trump. On them, the campaign to discredit the press works by generating noise and confusion, raising what economists call search costs for good information.

If the neither/nors give up and are driven from the attention field, that is a win for Trump, the polarizer-in-chief. So that’s my short course in how the campaign to discredit the American press operates. Now let me turn to our subject: the risks that come with this pattern.

There is a risk that one third of the electorate — his core supporters — will be isolated in an information loop of their own, where Trump is the source of news about Trump, and independent sources are rejected on principle.

I described this as a risk, but in fact it has already happened. An authoritarian system is up and running for that portion of the polity. Another way to say it: Before journalists log on in the morning, one third of their public is already gone.

There is a risk that Republican elites will fail to push back against Trump’s attacks on democratic institutions, including the press, even though these same elites start their day by reading the New York Times and Washington Post. This too has already happened.

There is a risk that journalists could do their job brilliantly, and it won’t really matter, because Trump supporters categorically reject it, Trump opponents already believed it, and the neither-nors aren’t paying close enough attention.

In a different way, there is a risk that journalists could succeed at the production of great journalism and fail at its distribution, because the platforms created by the tech industry have overtaken the task of organizing public attention.

There is a risk that the press will lose touch with the country, fall out of contact with the culture. Newsroom diversity is supposed to prevent that, but the diversity project has been undermined by a longer and deeper project, which I have called the View from Nowhere.

The press is at risk of losing its institutional footing. For example: In the hands of Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders, the White House briefing has gone to ruin. It was always frustrating, now it’s useless and frequently counter-productive.

Many floors below the surface of journalism there are bedrock attitudes that make the practice possible— and thinkable. There is a risk of erosion there. One example is the shared belief that there exists a common world of fact that can be established through inquiry...

When the President of the United States forcefully rejects the premise of a common world of fact, and behaves like there is no such thing, any practice resting upon that premise is in political trouble. This has happened to journalism. No one knows what to do about it.

Used to be that when the American president went abroad, the press came with. There would be a joint press conference with the foreign head of state. Under authoritarian regimes this would often be the only time the host country’s press corps got to question their own leader.

In these moments, the American government and the American press came together to show the strongmen of the world what a real democracy was. All that is now at risk. What was once described — yes, with some hyperbole — as a beacon to the world is flickering...

When Donald Trump met the president Xi Jinping of China in November of 2017 there was no joint press conference. The Chinese didn’t want it. The State Department failed to press for it.

There is a risk that established forms of journalism will be unable to handle the strain that Trump’s behavior puts upon them. For example: the form we came to call fact checking has had zero effect in preventing him from repeating falsehoods.

There is a risk that journalists will hang onto these forms way past their sell-by date because it’s what they know. They want things to be normal. Access to confusion and disinformation serves no editorial goal, but “access journalism” remains basic to White House reporting.

I will close with something Steve Bannon put to the author Michael Lewis in February of this year. "The Democrats don't matter,” Bannon said. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit."

To this kind of provocation (“The real opposition is the media...") Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post, has a succinct reply: “We’re not at war, we’re at work.”

I think our leading journalists are correct that if they become the political opposition to Trump, they will lose. And yet they have to go to war against a political style in which power gets to write its own story. There's a risk that journalists will fail to draw this distinction: between opposing Trump and opposing a political style that erodes their place in the public sphere. In my role as a critic, I have been trying to alert them to that danger. So far it is not working.

Good morning. That was uplifting wasn't it?

He's right. And none of this is to say that the media is immune to criticism or that people cannot complain about coverage. That's as American as apple pie. But this ugly, extreme hostility we see under Trump along with the propaganda and "fake news" is something different.  Maybe it will peter out. Let's hope so because if it doesn't it's going to escalate into something we don't recognize.

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