Culture & Education & Religion

Trump Finally Weighs In On Moore

As for the open Alabama seat, Trump has remained unusually quiet, ignoring questions from reporters. But today, he couldn’t help himself.

This is worth noting because WH spokesperson Sarah Sanders had said on several occasions that Trump supported the RNC’s decision to cut off support for Roy Moore. Yeah, she lied.

When asked if it is better to have a child predator than a Democrat in that seat, Trump responded…

It’s better on video —

FCC Announces End Of Net Neutrality

Very bad news:

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites.

The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration that prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers.

The clear winners from the move would be telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied for years against regulations of broadband and will now have more control over the online experiences of American consumers. The losers could be internet sites that will have to answer to telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. And consumers may see their bills increase for the best quality of internet service.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Mr. Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

This is not good for consumers and the way you can tell is that the businesses are cheering, while the consumers are storming the castle.

A couple of comments to the NY TImes reflect my feelings exactly:

Scott Mooneyham- Fayetteville NC

Pai’s words are absurd and he knows it. The big, incumbent telecom providers are virtual monopolies and he knows it. As such, government has always had a role in significant regulation of such utility companies, and that is what they are. To suggest that all small businesses’ need is technical information to succeed is more deception and absurdity. The big telecoms will continue to block innovation, squeeze out middle-mile/data storage tech companies, take over and dominate content providers, and the result will be that the US economy will fall further behind as government treats infrastructure critical to all US businesses like it is Sears or Best Buy. Why not give the Interstate system to a single company and let them dictate which companies can transport which goods down it? Ten years from now, when people are writing about the demise of the US as a world economic power, they will be writing about this decision. We are indeed following the Russian model.

Tom Krebsbach – Washington

The only way to view this decision is to view it as a gratuitous gift to the plutocracy and a total subjugation of the common man to the desires of powerful corporate interests. At a time when this country is trying to deal with the dramatic increase in inequality between the ordinary person and those who harvest the riches of this society, this decision is a giant slap in the face to the common man and woman. We can blame Trump and the Republicans for this. 

If Trump supporters actually believe that he cares about the ordinary citizen, this decision should disabuse them of that notion. Is this guy and his appointees capable of doing anything good? I haven’t seen it yet.

smurphy – Massachusetts

This is the beginning of the end of any hope of truth in media and our rights to free speech. The throttling, re-direction and micro-management of discussion and access to issues belonging in the “public square” will be killed by this move. The sale of our country to the corporatists has been completed.

And Now It’s…. Oh Dear… Senator Al Franken’s Turn?

The sexual harassment purge is getting ugly.

WaPo:

Broadcaster and model Leeann Tweeden said Thursday that Al Franken “forcibly kissed” and groped her during a USO tour in 2006, two years before the Minnesota Democrat’s election to the U.S. Senate.

“You knew exactly what you were doing,” Tweeden wrote in a blog post for Los Angeles radio station KABC, for which she works as a morning news anchor. “You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later and be ashamed.”

The allegations came two days after a stunning hearing in Washington, where lawmakers acknowledged sexual harassment is a pervasive problem on Capitol Hill — and amid mounting sexual misconduct accusations against Alabama Republican Roy Moore, who has brushed off calls from Republican leaders to end his Senate campaign.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately called on the Senate Ethics Committee to review the allegations against Franken, who issued a brief statement of apology.

Of course Mitch did. It took him three days to condemn Roy Moore, who groped several UNDERAGE girls, but he was on top of this within an hour.

In her blog post, Tweeden recalled that Franken “had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them. Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.”

Franken, she said, “had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.”

But on the day of the show, she wrote, “Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL … we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘okay’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

In a statement, Franken said: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann.

“As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Tweeden’s blog post included an image of Franken looking into a camera, his hands either over or on Tweeden’s chest as she slept.

This is that photo.

A few points:

(1) In the photo, I’m not sure he is touching her.

(2) I would feel much better if there was more than one accuser. While I am certain elements of her story are true, I wonder how much of it is exaggerated — in particular, the tongue down the throat. I’m not saying she is lying, but she may be mis-remembering it based on emotion.

(3) This is really really ugly, especially the art above.  But, standing alone, it does not show a pattern of predatory behavior.

(4) Franken should pay for this — censure, for sure.  I’m not 100% on board with resignation though, which many are calling for.  I’m about 85% there.

UPDATE —

Franken is doing this right —

A further thought:

The Moore Accuser Count Is Up To 8

Via WaPo:

Roy Moore. Born in 1947. He moved out of Gadsden, Ala., in 1954, returning after his service in Vietnam in 1977. He joined the office of the district attorney that year. In 1982, he again left Gadsden, returning in 1985, the year he married his wife, Kayla. She was 24, and he was 38. In 1992, he was appointed to the circuit court.

Leigh Corfman. Born in 1965. Corfman alleges that in 1977, when she was 14, Moore introduced himself to her outside a child custody hearing at the local courthouse. He later called her and asked her on a date, during which, she alleges, he took her to his house and tried to initiate sexual contact. Moore was 32.

Wendy Miller. Born in 1963. Miller alleges that Moore first started talking to her while she was working as an elf at Gadsden Mall at the age of 14. Two years later, he began to ask her on dates. Her mother prevented her from doing so. Moore was 32.

Debbie Gibson. Born in 1964. Gibson alleges that Moore came to her civics class at Etowah High School to talk about serving as an assistant district attorney before asking her out on a date. They dated for several months while she was 17. Moore was 34.

Gloria Thacker. Born in 1961. Thacker alleges that she was working at a store at the mall at the age of 18 when Moore asked her out. They dated off and on for several months. Moore was 32.

Beverly Young Nelson. Born in 1961. Nelson was 16 when she worked at a restaurant called Old Hickory House in 1977. Moore, she said during a news conference this week, was a regular customer who, at one point, signed her high school yearbook. On one evening, he offered her a ride home. Nelson alleges that he instead drove behind the restaurant and assaulted her. Moore was 30.

Gena Richardson. Born in 1959. Richardson alleges that she was working at Gadsden Mall in 1977, at age 18, when Moore introduced himself. He called her at school, interrupting her trigonometry class, to ask her out. He was 30.

Tina Johnson. Born in 1963. Johnson told AL.com that she was 28 when she visited Moore’s office for a legal issue in 1991. Moore, she says, made several inappropriate comments and, as she was leaving, groped her. He was 44.

Moore has specifically denied the allegations levied by Corfman and Nelson.

That’s where things stand today — this morning.

 

In Fairness, It Is Hard To Keep All These Mass Shootings Straight

This week saw another mass shooting, this time in Northern California (4 dead, shooter killed — UPDATE: 5 dead — they found his wife’s bodied hidden in his house).

Trump, returning from his Asia stint, tweeted this in response late last night:

Unfortunately, the Sutherland Springs Texas shooting was LAST week’s mass shooting.  He deleted the above tweet, although it does look remarkably like a tweet he sent out on November 5:

Embarrassing.

It actually wasn’t the only embarrassing tweet from Trump in the past 12 hours.  There was another one.  First, the backstory. Three UCLA basketball players were arrested in China for shoplifting last week. When Trump was in China, he asked President Xi to intervene. The three basketball players, all black, are coming back to America.  And Trump tweeted this about an hour ago:

WHO DOES THIS?  It is almost as if he is being critical of them, expecting them not to be thankful. I’m sure they are.

I have no doubt that if the three student athletes were white, he would not have tweeted this. This is Trump signaling his supporters that black people are ungrateful, and should be grateful.  It’s disgusting.

More More Moore (How Do You Like It?)

Roy Moore is now adopting the “best defense is a good offense” strategy. He is setting up to hit the Washington Post with a lawsuit over the allegations that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl while Moore was in his 30’s.

According to AP, Moore told his supporters in Huntsville, Alabama on Sunday that the WaPo story was “fake news” and “a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign.”

Moore added that the newspaper “will be sued,” a declaration that received applause from the crowd.

I put the chances of this at or about zero percent.  Why?

Discovery, that’s why.

This is like when Donald Trump threatened to sue the women who accused him of sexual harassment. The lawsuits never happened.

Meanwhile, at least five companies said over the weekend that they will no longer advertise their products during Fox News’ “Hannity” television show, which sparked an outpouring on Sunday of counter-protests on social media.

Keurig, Realtor.com, 23 and Me, Eloquii and Nature’s Bounty all pulled their ads from the television show, in response to Fox host Sean Hannity’s coverage of the sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Although Hannity is “in the tank” for Moore, his actual interview of Moore the day after the allegations broke was pretty aggressive, at least for Hannity.  He came back to several points and Moore readily admitted dating younger women, although he denied the worst allegations (fondling a 14 year old).

But that wasn’t what caused advertisers to balk.

On Thursday, the Fox News host spoke about the allegations against Roy Moore, the Alabama senate candidate who, The Washington Post had reported that day, made sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his early 30s, including a 14-year-old.

Mr. Hannity, describing those actions on his radio show while speaking with a co-host, Lynda McLaughlin, seemed to justify Mr. Moore’s reported conduct by calling one of the encounters “consensual. Later, on his television show, Mr. Hannity said that the statement “was absolutely wrong” and that he “misspoke.” He then brought up the possibility of accusers lying for money, or for political purposes.

On Friday, Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, the partisan watchdog organization that has campaigned against Mr. Hannity since at least May, began to criticize advertisers for sponsoring his show in light of his comments about Mr. Moore.

Keurig responded to Mr. Carusone, and said that it had stopped an ad from airing during Mr. Hannity’s show.

Conservatives have responded to Keurig’s boycott with their own boycott of Keurig, although it is likely to grow except for a few viral videos like this:

This clearly annoyed Hannity who has tweeted about Keurig repeatedly over the past few days.

And while some on the left dutifully took up arms, tweeting in support of Keurig, others just seemed bemused (or amused).

“Sorry, I was off Twitter for a while,” wrote the author Geraldine DeRuiter. “It appears that people are destroying coffee machines to show their support of child molesters?”

It is unclear what impact any of this has on Alabama voters.  One poll puts Moore’s Democratic competitor, Doug Jones, up by 4.  Another poll, taken over the same span of days, has Moore up by 10.

Here’s a nice editorial from a leading Alabama newspaper. The author is worried that Moore, if elected, will become Alabama’s “brand” and will hurt business (he’s right):

The Republicans in Congress would REALLY like this go away, and even Senator McConnell came out (moments ago) and said he believes the women.

UPDATE — Here’s Moore’s response

Back to usual post….

Moore defenders — mostly Breitbart at this point — are trying lame attacks.  Like the 14 year old woman is lying, or was paid by the Washington Post. Proof of lying is scant, but they only need to convince those with a propensity to believe Moore, and that’s not hard.

Some are saying that, even if true, it’s not a big deal. Alabama state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) told the Washington Examiner that the allegations are “much ado about nothing.” Zeigler said that even if the allegations are true, Moore never had sexual intercourse with any of the women. He also dismissed the revelations because the accusations are from “40 years” ago and Moore ”

Another tack is to say — so what?  Here is an ugly tweet about that:

Hard to believe. That’s the state of the GOP today: Democrats are worse than child molesters, literally.

The next chapter in the scandal is coming later today…..

More Moore to come….

UPDATE — The next accuser….

Beverly Young Nelson said Moore she was approached by Moore in 1975 in a Gadsen, Alabama restaurant where she worked. One night, Nelson said Moore offered her a ride home in his car. Instead of getting on the highway, Moore parked in the back of the Olde Hickory House restaurant. Nelson said she asked Moore what he was doing.

“Instead of answering my question, Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me, putting his hands on my breasts,” Nelson said. “I tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over and locked it so I could not get out. I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head onto his crotch. I continued to struggle. I was determined that I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him. I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me. I was twisting and struggling and begging him to stop. I had tears running down my face.

“At some point he gave up. He then looked at me and said, “You are a child. I am the District Attorney of Etowah County,” she continued. “If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you.” He finally allowed me to open the car door and I either fell out or he pushed me out. I was on the ground as he pulled out of the parking area behind the restaurant. The passenger door was open as he burned rubber pulling away leaving me laying there on the cold concrete in the dark.”

Two years later, Moore signed Nelson’s yearbook:

More Fallout From More Pedophilia

  • Republican Alabama State Representative Ed Henry said on Friday that he wanted someone to bring charges against the women who accused GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of making sexual advances on them when they were teenage. This has brought huge backlash against Henry, naturally.
  • Vulnerable GOP Senator:

  • The national Republican Party is creating distance. Locals, however, are running to the candidate’s defense. A joint fundraising committee benefitting Moore and a handful of Republican Party organs filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Friday removing the National Republican Senatorial Committee as one of its beneficiaries. Going forward, the committee’s fundraising will benefit Moore’s Senate campaign, the Alabama Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee but not the NRSC.
  • Roy Moore’s brother reportedly defended him against allegations of sexual conduct with a minor, comparing the situation to the persecution of Jesus Christ, according to CNN.
  • Buzzfeed News reports:

    Moore and Democrat Doug Jones are tied at 46% in the survey, which was conducted Thursday by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Decision Desk HQ in the aftermath of a bombshell Washington Post report in which the accuser, now 53, went on record with her story.

    The results also suggested that a write-in campaign by another Republican could tip the seat to Democrats — a prospect that once seemed far-fetched in deep-red Alabama. A three-way race — with Moore, Jones, and interim Sen. Luther Strange as a write-in candidate — would favor Jones with roughly 44% of the vote, followed by Moore at 41%, and Strange at 12%.

In Which My Brilliant Comment Makes The NY Times Pick

UPDATE:  And just as I was typing this, Louis C.K. released a short, emotional statement. It’s as if he read what I wrote. This is a good apology.

But…

In a related story, Roy Moore, accused yesterday of having physical relations with a 14 year old in 1979, is not leaving the race. In fact, he and his Alabama cronies are invoking Jesus’ persecution.

No Pee Tape, BUT….

Breaking from NBC:

WASHINGTON — After a business meeting before the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013, a Russian participant offered to “send five women” to Donald Trump’s hotel room in Moscow, his longtime bodyguard told Congress this week, according to three sources who were present for the interview.

Two of the sources said the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, viewed the offer as a joke, and immediately responded, “We don’t do that type of stuff.”

The two sources said Schiller’s comments came in the context of him adamantly disputing the allegations made in the Trump dossier, written by a former British intelligence operative, which describes Trump having an encounter with prostitutes at the hotel during the pageant. Schiller he described his reaction to that story as being, “Oh my God, that’s bull—-,” two sources said.

The conversation with the Russian about the five women took place after a morning meeting about the pageant in Moscow broke up, two sources said.

That night, two sources said, Schiller said he discussed the conversation with Trump as Trump was walking back to his hotel room, and Schiller said the two men laughed about it as Trump went to bed alone. Schiller testified that he stood outside Trump’s hotel room for a time and then went to bed.

One source noted that Schiller testified he eventually left Trump’s hotel room door and could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night.

Two other sources said Schiller testified he was confident nothing happened.

Schiller said he and Trump were aware of the risk that hotel rooms in Moscow could be set up to capture hidden video, two sources said.

Schiller was grilled about the Moscow trip as part of four hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. The questioning around the Moscow trip took a significant amount of time, the sources said. Schiller was also asked about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians, two of the sources said. He testified that he did not recall much about that day.

This doesn’t mean the tape exists, but it DOES mean that the salacious allegations in the dossier were not ENTIRELY made up out of thin air.

Roy Moore Sex Scandal

The woman is a god-fearing, Trump-voting Republican:

Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.

It was early 1979 and Moore — now the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat — was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.

“He said, ‘Oh, you don’t want her to go in there and hear all that. I’ll stay out here with her,’ ” says Corfman’s mother, Nancy Wells, 71. “I thought, how nice for him to want to take care of my little girl.”

Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.

“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she remembers thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.” Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did.

Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge.

Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.

Wendy Miller says she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the Gadsden Mall when Moore first approached her, and 16 when he asked her on dates, which her mother forbade. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when Moore spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on the first of several dates that did not progress beyond kissing. Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18-year-old cheerleader when Moore began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus Rosé wine. The legal drinking age in Alabama was 19.

Of the four women, the youngest at the time was Corfman, who is the only one who says she had sexual contact with Moore that went beyond kissing. She says they did not have intercourse.

In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations.

“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore, now 70, said.

The campaign said in a subsequent statement that if the allegations were true they would have surfaced during his previous campaigns, adding “this garbage is the very definition of fake news.”

None of the women have donated to or worked for Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, or his rivals in the Republican primary, Luther Strange, according to campaign reports.

Corfman, 53, who works as a customer service representative at a payday loan business, says she has voted for Republicans in the past three presidential elections, including for Donald Trump in 2016. She says she thought of confronting Moore personally for years, and almost came forward publicly during his first campaign for state Supreme Court in 2000, but decided against it. Her two children were still in school then and she worried about how it would affect them. She also was concerned that her background — three divorces and a messy financial history — might undermine her credibility.

The sad thing is that this woman is going to get death threats and be dragged through the mud, and it is unclear if she will even be believed. Obviously, Trump supporters (including herself!) don’t think sexual harassment is an impediment to holding public office. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

That said, I’m not even a little bit surprised.

These women did not seek out the Post and are not looking for the limelight. They only revealed their story after some coaxing:

The implication of this is actually pretty big. If Moore loses the Alabama Senate race in the special election next month (and Doug Jones wins), the Senate is in play. Dems might be able to retake it in 2018.

UPDATE:  Apparently, it is too late to take Moore off the ballot, even if he withdraws, and even if the GOP pulls him.  Furthermore…

Then again…

The JFK Files

The federal government just released thousands of documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

The papers were posted online by the National Archives in compliance with a 1992 law requiring their release after 25 years.

After a chaotic last-minute review in which intelligence agencies lobbied against full disclosure, the White House said it would take more time to process and release thousands more documents that were also supposed to be made public. It set a deadline of late April for the release of those documents.

What is out there from the release?  A few shiny objects::

  • Mexico was a cooperative partner with the United States in many ways — from helping to wiretap the Soviet and Cuban Embassies well prior to the assassination, to thorough attempts to investigate Lee Harvey Oswald’s ties in the country after Kennedy’s murder. Sources told the C.I.A. that Oswald had deposited $5,000 in a Mexican bank. In a document dated March 9, 1964, Mexico was reported to have traced all deposits in Mexican banks, looking for the money. They found no such Oswald transaction.

  • The F.B.I. closely monitored the activities of attorney and conspiracy advocate Mark Lane, who was representing Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee. According to an F.B.I. source, a bizarre meeting Mr. Lane had with a Polish journalist in January 1964 saw wild conspiracy theories tossed around, including a ridiculous claim in a far-right Italian newspaper that J.D. Tippit, the Dallas policeman killed by Oswald shortly after Oswald shot Kennedy, was the real presidential assassin — and that Jack Ruby had killed Mr. Tippit.
  • C.I.A. document alleges that Oswald may have been accompanied on his mysterious September 1963 trip to Mexico City by “El Mexicano.” According to another document, “El Mexicano” is believed to have been Francisco Rodriguez Tamayo, the captain of Cuban Rebel Army 57 until he defected to the United States in June of 1959. A third file also identifies Rodriguez Tamayo as the head of the anti-Castro Training Camp at Pontchartrain, La.
  • A British newspaper received a mystery call minutes before the assassination of John F Kennedy. A memo to the director of FBI revealed that a call was made to the senior reporter at the Cambridge News at 6.05pm on the day Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas.The document, from deputy director James Angleton, said: “The British Security Service (MI-5) has reported that at 1805GMT on 22 November an anonymous telephone call was made in Cambridge, England, to the senior reporter of the Cambridge News. “The caller said only that the Cambridge News reporter should call the American Embassy in London for some big news and then hung up.” More strange revelations came from the memo, including that just 25 minutes after the call ended, the President was shot. It continued: “After the word of the President’s death was received the reporter informed the Cambridge police of the anonymous call and the police informed MI-5. “The important point is that the call was made, according to MI-5 calculations, about 25 minutes before the President was shot.

Document Dump: Federal Court Blocks Trump’s Travel Ban… Yet Again

Tired of winning…?

UPDATE: A second federal court rules the same

A federal judge in Maryland early Wednesday issued a second halt on the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban, asserting that the president’s own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional Muslim ban.

Trump: Blaming The Victim

This is outright inhumane:

Trump is laying the groundwork for abandoning Puerto Rico, and blaming it for its infrastructure problems that existed pre-hurricane. Lost in his “analysis” is that the people suffering there (still no power or clean water on most of the Island) are AMERICANS.

If Bush was negligent with Katrina response, Trump is being outright punishing.

According to some sources, there are now 117 people listed missing in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria struck the island on Sept. 20. (I’m trying to verify)

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — who hasn’t been shy about calling out the President for the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, which she thinks has been inadequate — pushed back.

She called his comments “unbecoming” of a commander-in-chief and said they seem “more to come from a ‘Hater in Chief.’”

He really is a hater.  This is proof.  This has little to do with the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory, not a state, and everything to do with the fact that the people there are Latino.

UPDATE:  More words from the San Juan Mayor — scathing:

And for comparison:

And the White House contradicts Trump:

Asked for a response to Trump’s remarks, the White House later said it was “committed to helping Puerto Rico” and working with local leaders and Congress “to identify the best fiscally responsible path forward.”

“Successful recoveries do not last forever; they should be as swift as possible to help people resume their normal lives,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reiterated during a Thursday news briefing that the Trump administration would “stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done.”

Republican Hypocrisy Exhibit No 352

Earlier this week, Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which “would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy,” according to GovTrack.

The congressman has been lauded by the Family Research Council, for his stance on abortion, as well as for family values, generally. He also has been endorsed by LifePAC, which opposes abortion rights, and is a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, an affiliation that is often cited by his office.

But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found out something:

A text message sent in January to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy by a woman with whom he had an extra-marital relationship took him to task for an anti-abortion statement posted on Facebook from his office’s public account.

“And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,” Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist in Pittsburgh with whom the congressman admitted last month to having a relationship, wrote to Mr. Murphy on Jan. 25…

And the kicker? She wasn’t actually pregnant. It was just a scare.

“After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek reelection to Congress at the end of my current term,” he wrote in a statement. He added: “In the coming weeks I will take personal time to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties and seek healing. I ask you to respect our privacy during this time.”

Yyyyyyeah.

[NOTE: As for the probably unconstitutional bill, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans don’t have the votes to override a filibuster from Democrats, who blocked similar versions of the legislation in 2013 and 2015.]

UPDATE: 

Why Is Trump Tweeting About The NFL?

Thursday night in Alabama, at a rally, Trump went off on a tangent about the NFL and its bad ratings and how players who refused to stand for the national anthem (i.e., Colin Kaepernick) should be fired by the owners.  This got cheers from the Alabamians, because they are Alabamians.  And it made headlines on Friday (since he never says anything of substance), so Trump doubled down this weekend.  And tripled down.  And 4X downed. Etc.  Here’s SOME of those tweets, which are continuing into this morning:

For its part, the NFL stood united. For the Sunday games, many owners released statements supporting their players’ right to protest.  And of course, there was kneeling.  Players kneeled.  An owner kneeled.  A singer of the National Anthem kneeled on the last line.  Many in the crowds kneeled or stayed seated.  Some booed.  Others cheered.  Some teams, rather than take part in a political spectacle, decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem.  Players who didn’t kneel locked arms with those who did, in a sign of solidarity (including Trump’s friend, Tom Brady).

All-in-all, there was significant pushback.  And what was once a smattering of kneels became an overwhelming number of them. Trump seemed please with those who booed.

Later, many players spoke out.  They spoke of being “disappointed” or “disheartened”. A Seattle Seahawks wide receiver minced no words:

Trump does not seem to understand (or care) why some players had been choosing to kneel in the first place.  It is not a stand against American ideals, the flag, or the Anthem.  It is that the American ideals symbolized by the flag and the Anthem are not being applied to all of America’s citizens — black people in particular.

And now Trump is creating  fight, challenging the patriotism of those who kneel. Trump is making clear his moral priorities. He is infinitely more offended by the sight of a black ballplayer quietly, peacefully protesting racism in the United States than he is by racism itself.

The question is why, e.g., why would Trump continue to poke at the players and, as he did Sunday night, call for the NFL to change its policies to ban any sort of protests surrounding the anthem?

The most basic (and right) answer is because he knows that, for his base, this fight is a winner for him. Specifically:

1. The players are rich. Remember that Trump, despite being a billionaire, sees himself (and is regarded) as the voice of the Average Joe. And he knows that lots of Average Joes resent how much money these players make for playing a game.

2. The players are playing a game. Spend 10 minutes talking about football (or any pro sport) with a group of people, and I guarantee that you will hear someone (if not several) say something like: “Man, they get to play a game for their job. I’d do that for free.” (Obviously points No. 1 and No. 2 are closely tied.)

3. The players are (mostly) black. Trump insisted on Sunday night that “this has nothing to do with race.” But that simply doesn’t fly. The vast majority of the players in the NFL are black. Ditto the players in the NBA, whom Trump also went after over the weekend. Trump knows that. And he also knows that when he uses phrases such as “our heritage” to describe what’s allegedly under assault in the anthem protests, many of his supporters see that in racial terms. You don’t simply get to repeatedly flick at racial animus — in the campaign and as President — and then plead total innocence when those code words trigger a reaction.

4. Trump can paint this as a battle for patriotism. The anthem protest was begun last year by then-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who cited concerns about the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police as the motivation for his stance. Trump has seized on the protests as some sort of slap in the face to the military, which it’s not. By painting the players as insufficiently loyal to the country, Trump can make an appeal to patriotism — a powerful emotion not just in his base but in the country.

It certainly does not appear to be working. Yes, maybe it pleases his base, but most people recognize it as being divisive, even if they disagree with the protests. It is stirring a hornet’s nest, plain and simple.

Others are wondering about his priorities. Days after Maria struck, Puerto Rico remains crippled by widespread destruction and catastrophic flooding. Villages were razed and communications ruined, leaving officials unable to tally an accurate toll of the death and devastation. Power is out, and restoration of the electrical grid may take months, not weeks. A dam was compromised, threatening major flooding and a loss of drinking water.

There is no food.

There is no agriculture.

Although Puerto Rico cannot vote for president and has no voting representatives in Congress, its citizens are entitled to the same federal emergency funds and resources that Washington has been funneling to the far more politically powerful and economically resilient states of Texas and Florida in their hurricane miseries.

The same holds true for the US Virgin Islands.

Yet Trump has said (or tweeted) nothing these past few days on the subject.  Instead, he throws oil on the fire of an already too-polarized country.  It’s difficult to see the benefit in rending this country apart in a culture war.  But apparently the White House sees this as good.

Clearly, this is why Russia wanted him to be president – to start wars in his own country.

FLASHBACK: From an owner of the USFL football team in Tampa Bay:

UPDATE:  Conservatives, republicans and old white people have Trump’s back, but all told, only 38% agree with Trump

UPDATE: Props to Greg Popovich, head coach for the Spurs (basketball) for saying this at NBA Media Day:

Not A Hoax

That’s an odd assertion for Trump to make.  Sure, he can make the argument that there was no collusion, but to say that Russia never bought ads on Facebook?  How would TRUMP know that’s not true?  Mueller isn’t saying it… Facebook itself is:

Under growing pressure from Congress and the public to reveal more about the spread of covert Russian propaganda on Facebook, the company said on Thursday that it was turning over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional committees investigating the Kremlin’s influence operation during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity,” Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said during an appearance on Facebook Live, the company’s video service. He added that he did not want anyone “to use our tools to undermine democracy.”

“That’s not what we stand for,” he said.

The announcement that Facebook would share the ads with the Senate and House intelligence committees came after the social network spent two weeks on the defensive. The company faced calls for greater transparency about 470 Russia-linked accounts — in which fictional people posed as American activists — which were taken down after they had promoted inflammatory messages on divisive issues. Facebook had previously angered congressional staff by showing only a sample of the ads, some of which attacked Hillary Clinton or praised Donald J. Trump.

Facebook’s admission on Sept. 6 that Russian agents covertly bought ads on the site during last year’s campaign has brought intense scrutiny on the social network and on Twitter, entangling both companies in the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. Both companies have turned over detailed data to Mr. Mueller.

I’m not sure “it’s a hoax” is the way to go. It happened. The Intel Committees have documentation, as does Mueller.  Soon, we all will get to see it.  Then Trump will have to move the goalposts.

Hell Hath No Firy Like A Base Scorned

I’m not even sure what Trump did.

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer announced after a dinner with the president Wednesday that they had reached a deal securing the protection of DACA. A “big, beautiful wall” that Trump campaigned on was reportedly not part of the agreement.

It’s not a done deal. Trump tweeted so, as did Chuck and Nancy.  However, Trrump’s tweets basically defended his decision to allow Dreamers to stay.

Trump’s base went ballistic:

One Republican in Congress, Rep. Steve King, told CNN Thursday morning that his “life’s work” would be undone if Trump truly struck a deal protecting DACA recipients. When asked what he would do if Trump handed a win over to Democrats without any policy consolations in return, King suggested he was powerless and that all he could do was move on to trade and tax reform.

King did say, however, that if Trump moves forward on this DACA deal, “the base will leave him.”

For its part, Fox News stayed in Trump’s corner.  Both Sean Hannity and the “Fox & Friends” crew tried to spin the latest news as a win for Trump because the agreement makes it look as if the White House is working with Democrats to move the country forward. Host Steve Doocy said that Trump was only reaching across the aisle to Democrats because he could get nothing done with Republicans.

But….

But keep in mind, Trump has made deals before and not gone through with them.  The question is… who has his ear? The Fox News Ass-kissers, or the Breitbart Banner fire-breathers?

Either way, it seems like a Dem win-by-triangulation.

Over at the conservative Redstate:

So much butthurt!

While I’m enjoying the schadenfreude, I have to say I’m mystified. Those who knew Trump’s past, and heard all the warnings from those of us who knew a B-list celebrity with liberal leanings and no real ideological foundation would flip, are falling all over themselves today, stunned that everything Never Trump said would happen, has actually happened.

Why? Did you think we were kidding?

In the meantime….

 

The Less Said, The Better

Ted Cruz is an evangelical Christian who once defended a ban on dildos in Texas, has referred to birth control as “abortifacients,” and pulled an ad during the 2016 primary when he discovered one of the actors he’d hired was a softcore porn actress.

I thought that was important context for this:

Sen. Ted Cruz‘s official Twitter account appeared to “like” an explicit tweet Monday night, causing a stir on social media.

The Texas senator’s account, which has more than 3 million followers, liked a tweet from the account @SexuallPosts, which posts explicit content and porn. The “like” was later removed from the senator’s account, Cruz’s senior communications adviser Catherine Frazier said.

So… that happened.  It’s amusing and hard to know where to take the joke, but in this age of Trump, Ted can probably ride it out by doing nothing. No attempt to say “my account was hacked”.  Just…. nothing.

UPDATE:  I stand corrected.

9/11 Plus 16 — What If Trump Was President?

Each year as 9/11 comes and goes, there is less added to the perspective. An entire generation is now politically aware, who cannot remember that horrible day.  Bizarre, to me.

We forget that Bush, like Trump, was in the infancy of his presidency. I remember thinking that he was over his head — partly because it was unprecedented, and partly because it was, frankly, Bush.

But at least he was surrounded (mostly) by smart people (mostly) and the crisis was handled deftly in the immediate days… until it became a war against Iraq (who did not attack us).

One wonders if the Trump Administration is prepared for something on that level. I suspect not, and I say that knowing that he has the benefit of a 9/11/ type attack no longer being “unprecedented”.  But consider this:

  • The White House is in constant disarray as key personnel are hired and fired at an unprecedented rate. One cost is that most basic measure of experience: days on the job. Another is an inability to forge sustained working relationships as colleagues are summarily dispatched in the manner of a reality-TV show. And how can those who remain do their best work when the boss at the top exhibits a management style that is as volatile and erratic as it is petty? Many dignified people have simply refused to consider working for him.
  • Huge numbers of important State Department positions are still unfilled, including key undersecretary positions; and the ability of the United States to conduct diplomacy or to draw on country-specific expertise seems to have atrophied.
  • The United States is crazy divided. And according to a recent Fox News poll, it isn’t just that a majority of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing—56 percent say that he is “tearing the country apart.”
  • The Trump Organization’s murky asset portfolio, with heavy investments in numerous foreign countries, and the Trump family’s refusal to divest from it, makes it impossible for congressional overseers or the public to adequately discern when the Trump family’s business interests diverge from America’s interests.

And none of this gets to Trump’s incompetency.

One HOPES that there is enough institutional competency such that a terrorist attack would not flummox us. After all, at this very moment, Texas is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma just trampled Florida.  And FEMA seems to be doing fine (Trump’s role seems to be limited to tweeting).

So maybe we can get by without Trump’s leadership, even in a 9/11-type event.

I just would prefer not to test that theory.

Ivanka Is Either A Fake Or Stupid On Equal Pay

A few months ago:

From TPM:

First daughter Ivanka Trump, who made wage equality and workplace protections for women one of her signature issues on the campaign trail and in her personal brand, declared her support for the White House’s announcement Tuesday that it will halt a proposal requiring businesses to disclose employees’ pay, gender, race and ethnicity.

“While I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.”

Wait — information about employees’ pay and gender will not help provide information on gender wage gap?  It sounds to me like JUST the sort of things that is needed.

 

You Say You Want A Revolution?

Well, what do you even MEAN by the word “revolution”?

It’s often said that reformists are former revolutionaries who simply got old, tired and beaten down. Maybe.  But reformists get things done and actually bring about social change.  After all, revolutionaries tend to gripe about the problem (terrible society) and the process to change that problem (revolution), but always fall short on what comes after.  And I refer to all revolutionaries, whether they be Marxists on the left, or the Tea Party on the right. Revolutionaries tend to…. well, gripe.

Which brings me to this piece by Jonathan Matthew Smucker, a piece so good I am reprinting it in its entirety (without permission) although you can find it here. Smucker argues as I do that revolution has become meaningless — an almost dreamlike hope of an apocalyptic event that will magically change society. Please read:

Trumpers See Whatever They Want To See In Trump – Exhibit A

“He is unashamed in standing up for increasing an awareness of God in the United States. He recognizes how important that is and that that is a basis of Western civilization. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I could not be more happy with what I am seeing coming out of the Trump White House. This is beyond my wildest expectations.

“The president himself is man of prayer and man who loves to receive prayer. He is a man who, I do believe, understands who the God of the Bible is and he wants to lift up the God of the Bible here in the United States.

“The Lord is working mightily in our government and I believe it is because God is being reverenced, God is being lifted up. Prayer is not foreign in the White House, it’s not foreign in the Executive Office Building; looking to God, looking through Bible studies, this is not foreign anymore.” – Michele Bachmann, speaking this weekend on Christian radio.

From Joe. My God.

There are few certainties in life, but there is no doubt that Trump is NOT NOW and NEVER WAS a man of God.

Trust The GOP, Do You?

Well, read this:

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server.

The data leak contains a wealth of personal information on roughly 61 percent of the US population. Along with home addresses, birthdates, and phone numbers, the records include advanced sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity. The data was amassed from a variety of sources—from the banned subreddit r/fatpeoplehate to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by former White House strategist Karl Rove.

Deep Root Analytics, a conservative data firm that identifies audiences for political ads, confirmed ownership of the data to Gizmodo on Friday.

Verdict in on Philando Castile Killing

Remember this? I wrote about it last year.

A Minnesota jury has reached a verdict in the manslaughter trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year.  Yanez is on trial for one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety because Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were also in the car.

Announcement soon.

UPDATE: NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS

Of course.

Trump’s Tweets Today Are The Most Unhinged And SELF-Destructive (And It’s Only 10:00 AM)

God knows why they just don’t take his phone away. Or give him a fake phone with a fake Twitter account.

This is how bad it has gotten: Trump’s own advisers have gone on television and stated that Trump’s tweets are not his policy.  Well, who knows? How can we tell? Would Trump agree with that?

Even this morning, Kellyanne Conway said that the media is obsessed with Trump’s tweets, implying that people should not place emphasis on them.  But that is in contradiction from what others in the White House – and Trump himself — have said:

“This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little what he does as president …” Conway said during that interview.

“That’s his preferred method of communication with the American people,” said Craig Melvin, the show’s co-host.

“That’s not true,” Conway interjected.

“Well, he hasn’t given an interview in three weeks, so lately it has been his preferred method,” Melvin replied.

Even setting aside that three-week modification, Melvin is correct that the administration has touted Twitter as being more important than media coverage. After Trump won the presidency in November, he and his team were asked if he would stop tweeting so much as president. The answer? No — because the media can’t be trusted.

Shortly after the election, Trump spoke with CBS’s Leslie Stahl, telling her how he planned to moderate his Twitter use once he was sworn in.

“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained,” he said. “I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s — it’s where it’s at.”

By January, his description of his Twitter habit was a bit less enthusiastic.

“Look, I don’t like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract,” Trump told Reuters in January. That’s the theme: The media is the enemy, so Trump will tweet to the people directly.

On ABC’s “This Week” in January, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer made that same case.

And more to the point, even if his tweets are not policy, they sometimes contradict policy.  And that makes for headaches for Trump’s team.

Today being a prime example. Let’s start with his first four tweets of the day (which apparently were made while watching Morning Joe on MSNBC):

Let’s start with the first tweet at the bottom, where he calls “it” a “travel ban” and a “watered down, politically correct” version of his original executive order which banned all travel from 7 mostly-Muslim nations. Arguably, Trump is showing his intent to disfavor Muslims by the executive order, a point that has doomed the executive orders in court so far. In court briefs, DOJ lawyers have said the orders are “religion-neutral” in operation, drawing “distinctions among countries based on national-security risks identified by Congress and the Executive Branch, not religion, and applies evenhandedly in the six designated countries.”

There is also a glaring problem: the revised travel ban was authored by Trump’s administration and signed by Trump himself — the Justice Department’s role is merely defending its legality.  Why is he taking umbrage with the Justice Department?

In any event, his tweets this morning on the subject of the travel ban hurt his already weak case.

Next up on this morning’s hit parade, this:

Again, he was watching Fox & Friends and they were apparently talking about vacancies.  Odd that he would blame the Democrats, since they do not control the Senate (who has to improve Ambassadors and other certain posts).

Almost two months ago, Politico did a story on why this is taking so long, and it has nothing to do with the Democrats:

Hundreds of key jobs across the federal government remain vacant as a result of an overworked White House personnel office that is frustrating Cabinet secretaries and hampering President Donald Trump’s ability to carry out his ambitious legislative agenda.

The process is bogged down as a result of micromanaging by the president and senior staff, turf wars between the West Wing and Cabinet secretaries and a largely inexperienced and overworked staff, say more than a dozen sources including administration insiders, lobbyists, lawyers and Republican strategists.

Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one, according to two people with knowledge of the administration’s hiring process. Also weighing in on the names — and not always agreeing on final picks — are leaders of sometimes warring factions, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon, Cabinet secretaries and, sometimes, the White House’s top lawyer, Don McGahn.

“It’s like a medieval court,” said one person advising potential nominees through the confirmation process. “The White House meets once a week to go over personnel in some attempt to create uniformity, but in this White House, you just have to smile at that. … It’s hard to impose uniformity among the White House’s different coalitions.”

The only uniformity is that potential hires must show fealty to the president. One person close to the White House said a sense of “paranoia” has taken over amid fears that disloyal hires might undercut Trump’s agenda or leak to the press.

Another reason they are having a hard time getting positions filled? People don’t want to serve under Trump. especially with a special counsel investigation and FBI probe hanging over the White House.

Even if it were true that Dems were somehow slowing up the confirmation process, that doesn’t explain the vacancies. From the LA Times:

What’s the effect? Just eight of 120 State Department posts, including ambassadorships, that require Senate confirmation have been filled, according to the Partnership for Public Service. As a result, foreign officials and diplomats struggle to find someone to discuss trade and security issues with.

We have officially entered hurricane season with no head of NOAA and no head of FEMA.

And in the Pentagon, Trump has filled only five of the 53 top jobs – the slowest pace for nominations and confirmations in over half a century. No Army Secretary. No Navy Secretary.

The hold-up, insiders say, is Trump’s insistence on absolute loyalty… to him.

The Washington Post has a wonderful database tracker page to keep up with Trump’s lack of progress on filling key positions.

And finally, Trump’s final tweet of the morning (we hope):

This is Trump engaging in an attack against London mayor Sadiq Khan (a Muslim) when Khan said that is “no reason to be alarmed”. Trump attacked that quote, complaining that London had just had a terrorist attack, and they should be freaking out (I guess).

What happened here? Trump watched Fox News, which had truncated the quote and changed its meaning:

But Mr Trump’s criticism is based on a quotation entirely removed from its context. He appears to be confused about what happened in part because Fox News repeated the same short quote but without the full remarks from the mayor of London.

What Mr Khan actually said was that there is no reason to be alarmed about the increased police presence on the streets after the attack.

“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today,” Mr Khan said. “You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers.

“There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”

There is no reason to be alarmed by this… with “this” referring to the increased police presence.

Rather than admit he was misquoting Khan, Trump doubled down… on the mayor of a city just attacked by terrorists.

Could it be because this particular mayor is Muslim?

Today could have been a good day for Trump — he intended to announce an infrastructure bill (which Dems could get behind). But he squandered it with these Tweets.  With Comey testifying in a few days, Trump does not have many more chances to have “good days”.

Day 116. Jeopardized.

1/ Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats during their Oval Office meeting last week, which has jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. Trump’s decision to disclose information risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. A US official said Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” Trump’s disclosures are not illegal as he has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it represents a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship. (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and Sean Spicer. Trump is irritated with several Cabinet members and “frustrated, and angry at everyone.” (Axios)

3/ Senate Republicans are looking at steep cuts to Medicaid that could drop millions of people from coverage and reduce programs for the poor. Under pressure to balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending on food stamps, welfare, and even veterans’ benefits through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate. If the Medicaid cutbacks get passed by both chambers, it could significantly scale back the federal-state insurance program that covers 73 million low-income or disabled Americans and shift significant costs onto hospitals and states. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

4/ James Clapper said that US institutions are under assault from Trump and warned that federal checks and balances are eroding. Former Director of National Intelligence called on the other branches of the federal government to step up in their roles as a check on the executive. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Republicans and Democrats agree that if Trump has tapes, he’ll need to turn them over to Congress. Lawmakers from both parties said any White House recordings must be preserved for congressional review and that “it’s probably inevitable” that they would be subpoenaed. (Washington Post)

5/ North Korea successfully test-fired a new type of ballistic missile, signaling an advance in their development of an intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea said the new “medium long-range” missile is capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, warning that the United States’ military bases in the Pacific were within its range. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Associated Press)

  • Putin warns against “intimidating” North Korea after its latest missile launch. Putin called for a peaceful solution to the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and said that Russia is “categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states.” (CNN)

6/ The 9th Circuit Court will hear the travel ban appeal, again. A three-judge panel will hear a challenge to a Hawaii judge’s decision to halt travel ban 2.0. Lawyers at the Justice Department must convince at least two of the judges to ignore Trump’s record of campaign calls to ban Muslims from entering the US. (CNN)

7/ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will brief the full Senate on Thursday about the firing of James Comey. The briefing is classified and will take place in the regular secure room in the Capitol Visitors Center. (CNN / Washington Post)

8/ The Supreme Court rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification law, which a lower court said targeted African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a statement noting that there was a dispute about who represented the state in the case and that nothing should be read into the court’s decision to decline to hear it. (Associated Press / Politico / New York Times)

9/ The Dakota Access pipeline has its first leak. The $3.8bn oil pipeline is not yet fully operational, but managed to spill 84 gallons of crude oil. (The Guardian)

10/ White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torch-bearing group protesting the sale of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Virginia. The group chanted “You will not replace us.” Spencer added: “What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced.” (NPR / Washington Post)

11/ Trump thinks that exercising too much uses up the body’s “finite” energy. Trump mostly gave up athletics after college because he “believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.” (Washington Post)

12/ Comey said he’d be willing to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but wants it to be in public. Comey originally declined an invitation from the committee to be interviewed in a closed-door hearing. (New York Times)

13/ Syria is using a crematorium to hide executions, the State Department said. The US believes Syria’s “building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Saydnaya prison.” A State Department official said the regime could be killing as many as 50 detainees a day. (CNN / BuzzFeed News / Washington Post)

14/ Senate Republicans are breaking away from Trump as they try to forge a more traditional Republican agenda and protect their political fortunes. Republican senators are drafting a health care bill with little White House input and pushing back on Trump’s impending budget request. Many high-ranking Republicans have said they will not support any move by Trump to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. (New York Times)

poll/ 29% approve of Trump’s firing of James Comey. Trump’s job-approval rating stands at 39%. (NBC News)

Trump’s Executive Order On “Religious Liberty”

I was dreading this. Trump signed it about half an hour ago.

But the final version of the order addresses two issues. First, it instructs the Internal Revenue Service to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion” in cases of pastors and other religious leaders speaking about political candidates from the pulpit, which is currently outlawed by a provision typically referred to as the Johnson Amendment. ““We are giving churches their voices back,” Trump said. Second, it provides “regulatory relief” to religious organizations that object to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires most employers to cover contraception in employee insurance plans.

This is good news.

Trump could not overturn the Johnson Amendment — that would require an act of Congress.  All he could to was instruct the IRS not to enforce it much, which it wasn’t doing anyway.  As for the regulatory relief, well, the Hobby Lobby case took care of that issue before he came into office.

So this doesn’t change things much (although it appeases his fundie base and Trump gets to do a victory lap).

There was no LGBTQ provision, which was in an earlier draft.

Maybe that’s why many fundamentalist people are not happy. On Twitter, the National Review columnist David French called the order “total weaksauce” and a “sop to the gullible.” Russell Moore, the head of the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said “I am hoping that the draft we are seeing this morning is not the entire project, and that more will be forthcoming.” And on Ryan Anderson, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who works on religious issues, called the new order “woefully inadequate.”

Praise the Lord — Trump fools people again.

Trump Has More Civil War Issues

Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating “The River of Blood.”

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ ”

The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!

Like many of Mr. Trump’s claims, the inscription was evidently not fact-checked.

“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group devoted to an 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, including the Lowes Island site.

“The only thing that was remotely close to that,” Mr. Gillespie said, was 11 miles up the river at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861, a rout of Union forces in which several hundred were killed. “The River of Blood?” he added. “Nope, not there.”

Mr. Gillespie’s contradiction of the plaque’s account was seconded by Alana Blumenthal, the curator of the Loudoun Museum in nearby Leesburg. (A third local expert, who said he had written to Mr. Trump’s company about the inscription’s falsehoods and offered to provide historically valid replacement text, insisted on anonymity because he did not want to cross the Trump Organization by disclosing a private exchange.)

And It Was Only Monday

Politico:

President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War— which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the “right circumstances.”

The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was “looking at” breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.

And Monday still had nine hours to go.

It was a bewildering day of bizarre interviews.  (Note: Yesterday was the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month)

This morning, on Morning Joe, Mika and Joe admitted that Trump’s behavior is pathological, saying the President is literally unfit to serve. “Beyond bizarre.” “Erratic.” “A confused mental state.”  Interesting assessment, since Mika and Joe have done a lot over the past year to normalize Trump. Also on Morning Joe, Jon Meacham said Trump told him last year that he could’ve done a deal to stop the Civil War.

If it was a White House plan to flummox the press and the country, it is hard to see the purpose.  On one hand, it was more of the same. On the other hand, it was just too much, especially as he embarked on his post-100 presidency.

Let’s sum up yesterday:

1/ Congress reached a deal to keep the government open through September. The plan would add billions for the Pentagon and border security, but it doesn’t allow the money to be spent on building Trump’s wall. There is no money provided for a deportation force and there are no cuts of federal monies to so-called sanctuary cities. Votes in both chambers are expected by the end of the week. (CNN)

2/ North Korea said it will continue its nuclear weapons tests and bolster its nuclear force “to the maximum.” The North called US sanctions and its show of force – sending an aircraft carrier to the Korean peninsula and joint drills with South Korea – aggression and hysteria. (Reuters)

3/ Trump said he would be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong Un if the circumstances were right. “I would be honored to do it,” he said amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Bloomberg)

  • Trump calls Kim Jong-un a “a pretty smart cookie” for managing to hold on to power after taking over at a young age. (The Guardian)

4/ Trump doesn’t know what’s in his health care bill. The Republican health care plan Trump described on Face the Nation is at odds with his health care goals. He said that people with preexisting conditions will be protected, but the latest amendment says they won’t be. Trump also said deductibles will go down under the Republican plan, but a nonpartisan analysis expects deductibles to go up. (Vox)

  • GOP faces a make-or-break moment on Obamacare repeal. This week may be the last, best chance to get it done in the House. (Politico)

5/ The administration ends Michelle Obama’s girls education program. The “Let Girls Learn” program comes to an end as Melania Trump begins to define her own platform as first lady. (CNN)

6/ The Department of Agriculture is relaxing Obama-era school lunch standards. The new rules suspend the sodium reduction and whole-grain requirements, as well as allow 1% fat chocolate milk back into school cafeterias nationwide because of “palatability issues.” (ABC News)

7/ Trump claims Andrew Jackson was upset about the Civil War and wonders why that the issues “could not have been worked out.” Jackson died 16 years before the war began. Trump suggested that if Jackson had been president “a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War.” (Associated Press)


8/ Trump abruptly ended an interview after being pushed on his claims that Obama ordered surveillance of him. He said his allegation that he was illegally surveilled has “been proven very strongly” and that he is entitled to his own “opinions.” (Politico)

  • Trump’s interview with “Face the Nation.” (CBS News)

9/ Trump invited Duterte to visit him at the White House after their “very friendly conversation.” The authoritarian leader is accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, which has drawn criticism from human rights groups. The State Department and the National Security Council were both caught off guard by the invitation and raised objections internally. (New York Times)

  • Rodrigo Duterte says he may be too busy for a White House visit. (New York Times)

10/ Reince Priebus said the Trump administration has “looked at” changes to libel laws that would curtail press freedoms. Trump has frequently slammed the press for its coverage of him and has suggested changing libel laws. Libel is when defamatory statements about someone are published. But the American press enjoys some protection from lawsuits claiming libel because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights. (ABC News)

11/ Trump says his rally crowd broke records despite empty seats at his 100-day rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night. Journalists pointed out rows of empty seats at the expo center. (The Hill)

Just insane.  Most of the focus was on Trump’s comments regarding Andrew Jackson, which he tried to clean up in a tweet saying that Jackson was dead 16 years before the Civil War (see everyone, I knew that!) but he saw it coming and was angry about it.

No, he didn’t see it coming, and he wasn’t angry about it. Trump just made that up.

Also…

Anyway….. Seth Meyers puts it together

This morning, we get two more tweets.  Clearly he was tweeting in response to the show he was watching, but we don’t know what that is:

Uh…. he WANTS a government shutdown?  Interesting, seeing as he blamed Democrats four days ago for almost bringing on a government shutdown. Remember this?

Government shutdowns are bad, Mr. President. Here’s what happened in 2013 when we did that:

  • $2.5 billion in compensation costs for furloughed workers (whose lack of pay for two weeks hampered consumer spending);
  • 120,000 fewer private-sector jobs created in the first half of October;
  • $500 million lost in visitor spending because of closed National Parks ;
  • $11 million in lost National Parks and Smithsonian Institution revenue;
  • Interest accrued on billions of dollars of payments owed to third parties that the government was unable to pay during the shutdown;
  • Resources spent on putting activities in standby or maintaining them in an idle mode;
  • 1.2 million Internal Revenue Service identity verification requests that couldn’t be processed, causing a delay in private-sector lending and other activities;
  • Stalled approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration delayed moving products to market.

Yyyyeah. Of course, as President, he COULD just veto what he doesn’t like. Does he know that yet?

Look, when Trump was a businessman and failed, he simply declared bankruptcy. I think, in Trump’s mind, “shutdown” is the political equivalent of bankruptcy.  I think he saw the morning shows and saw that his Trumpcare was failing (again).  He wants a “shutdown”, a clean slate (in his mind).

2017 Tony Nominees

Best Musical

Come From Away

Dear Evan Hansen

Groundhog Day

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Best Play

A Doll’s House, Part 2

Indecent

Oslo

Sweat

Falsettos

Hello, Dolly!

Miss Saigon

Best Revival of a Play

Jitney

The Little Foxes

Present Laughter

Six Degrees of Separation

Best Book of a Musical

Come From Away,” Irene Sankoff and David Hein

“Dear Evan Hansen,” Steven Levenson

“Groundhog Day,” Danny Rubin

“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” Dave Malloy

Best Original Score

“Come From Away,” Music and Lyrics: Irene Sankoff and David Hein

“Dear Evan Hansen,” Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

“Groundhog Day,” Music and Lyrics: Tim Minchin

“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” Music and Lyrics: Dave Malloy

Best Leading Actor in a Play

Denis Arndt, “Heisenberg”

Chris Cooper, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Corey Hawkins, “Six Degrees of Separation”

Kevin Kline, “Present Laughter”

Jefferson Mays, “Oslo”

Best Leading Actress in a Play

Cate Blanchett, “The Present”

Jennifer Ehle, “Oslo”

Sally Field, “The Glass Menagerie”

Laura Linney, “The Little Foxes”

Laurie Metcalf, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Best Leading Actor in a Musical

Christian Borle, “Falsettos”

Josh Groban, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Andy Karl, “Groundhog Day”

David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!”

Ben Platt, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Best Leading Actress in a Musical

Denée Benton, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Christine Ebersole, “War Paint”

Patti LuPone, “War Paint”

Bette Midler, “Hello, Dolly!”

Eva Noblezada, “Miss Saigon”

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Michael Aronov, “Oslo”

Danny DeVito, “The Price”

Nathan Lane, “The Front Page”

Richard Thomas, “The Little Foxes”

John Douglas Thompson, “Jitney”

Best Featured Actress in a Play

Johanna Day, “Sweat”

Jayne Houdyshell, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Cynthia Nixon, “The Little Foxes”

Condola Rashad, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Michelle Wilson, “Sweat”

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Gavin Creel, “Hello, Dolly!”

Mike Faist, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Andrew Rannells, “Falsettos”

Lucas Steele, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Brandon Uranowitz, “Falsettos”

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Kate Baldwin, “Hello, Dolly!”

Stephanie J. Block, “Falsettos”

Jenn Colella, “Come From Away”

Rachel Bay Jones, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Mary Beth Peil, “Anastasia”

Best Scenic Design of a Play

David Gallo, “Jitney”

Nigel Hook, “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Douglas W. Schmidt, “The Front Page”

Michael Yeargan, “Oslo”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Rob Howell, “Groundhog Day”

David Korins, “War Paint”

Mimi Lien, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!”

Best Costume Design of a Play

Jane Greenwood, “The Little Foxes”

Susan Hilferty, “Present Laughter”

Toni-Leslie James, “Jitney”

David Zinn, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Linda Cho, “Anastasia”

Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!”

Paloma Young, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Catherine Zuber, “War Paint”

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Christopher Akerlind, “Indecent”

Jane Cox, “Jitney”

Donald Holder, “Oslo”

Jennifer Tipton, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Howell Binkley, “Come From Away”

Natasha Katz, “Hello, Dolly!”

Bradley King, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Japhy Weideman, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Best Direction of a Play

Sam Gold, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, “Jitney”

Bartlett Sher, “Oslo”

Daniel Sullivan, “The Little Foxes”

Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent”

Best Direction of a Musical

Christopher Ashley, “Come From Away”

Rachel Chavkin, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Michael Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Matthew Warchus, “Groundhog Day”

Jerry Zaks, “Hello, Dolly!”

Best Choreography

Andy Blankenbuehler, “Bandstand”

Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, “Groundhog Day”

Kelly Devine, “Come From Away”

Denis Jones, “Holiday Inn”

Sam Pinkleton, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Best Orchestrations

Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, “Bandstand”

Larry Hochman, “Hello, Dolly!”

Alex Lacamoire, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Dave Malloy, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater

James Earl Jones

Special Tony Award

Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, Sound Designers for “The Encounter”

Regional Theater Tony Award

Dallas Theater Center, Dallas

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award

Baayork Lee

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater

Nina Lannan

Alan Wasser

Trump Loses In Federal Court…. Again…. This Time on Sanctuary Cities

A federal district court ruling yesterday bars President Trump from withholding funds from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal agencies to deport undocumented immigrants, marking his second setback in court on immigration.  The first setback, of course, was his Muslim ban.

Before I get to the substance of this post, first things first:

No, it wasn’t the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Donald — it was a federal district court — one level down.  Yes, the court is within the Ninth Circuit, but it isn’t the ACTUAL Ninth Circuit court itself.  So the next stop isn’t the Supreme Court, it’s the Ninth Circuit.

Also, it wasn’t JUST the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Trump’s Muslim ban; it was a federal district court in Maryland.  And Massachusetts, I believe, as well.

*Sigh*.  He apparently thinks you sue a circuit court when you don’t like a decision.

Look, the opinion was a no-brainer.

Trump’s order, signed Jan. 25, threatened to cut off funding from local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco challenged the order, arguing, among other things, that the president doesn’t have the power to withhold federal money.

They’re right. He doesn’t.

The 49-page ruling focused largely on an all-too-familiar theme for this administration: the consequences of bragging and bluster by Trump and top administration officials.

Just like the judges who ruled on Trump’s travel ban, Judge Orrick homed in on the vast discrepancies between what government lawyers defending the sanctuary cities order argued in court and what administration officials said about it in public.

In court, the government tried to make the case that the order doesn’t actually do anything, at least not at the moment, because the administration has yet to define what exactly a sanctuary city is or threaten any particular jurisdiction with a loss of funds.  It was their way of convincing the judge to toss out the lawsuit on the grounds that no city or county has yet suffered any harm.

The problem with that approach is that administration officials boasted about how the order would force sanctuary cities to their knees, singling out particular places.  So, in court, the Trump lawyers argued that it was essentially an empty shell even though it was portrayed in news conferences, briefings and television interviews as a powerful tool to protect the public from dangerous undocumented immigrants being shielded by wayward cities and counties.

Fine,said, Judge Orrick. If the order is powerless, then surely you won’t mind if I impose this injunction which prevents you from actually doing anything. So that’s what he did.

I somehow don’t think Trump was briefed about that, because he is treating it as a loss.  Which it IS, but it’s just what his lawyers argued.

According to Orrick, the government contended that the order was merely an example of Trump using the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement” — in essence, something much more benign than what Trump and company had described.

The argument was lost on the judge, who ridiculed the government’s position as “schizophrenic.”

“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

“Is the Order merely a rhetorical device,” he added, “or a ‘weapon’ to defund the Counties and those who have implemented a different law enforcement strategy than the Government currently believes is desirable?”

The ruling continued: “The statements of the President, his press secretary and the Attorney General belie the Government’s argument in the briefing that the Order does not change the law. They have repeatedly indicated an intent to defund sanctuary jurisdictions in compliance with the Executive Order.”

Here is the decision.  If you do nothing else, read the last paragraph.

The Hole Left By Bill O’Reilly Is Filled By Another Skeevy Guy

So with Bill O’Reilly out at Fox News, they’ve done some moving around of people, but they still need to promote talent to fill O’Reilly’s absence.  That guy is Jesse Watters, an O’Reilly protege of sorts (appearing on O’Reilly regularly). He’s not a pundit — more like Fox’s answer to a political humorist. Except he’s not funny.  Kind of a jerk.  Think of Rupert Pupkin.

Watters premiered this week with “The Five”, Fox’s panel discussion show, which moved to O’Reilly’s slot.  And, well…..the trouble for Watters started on Tuesday, when he said that he liked the way that Ivanka Trump was “speaking into that microphone” during a panel discussion on The Five, as he smiled and made a gesture with his hands that seemed to imply he was talking about oral sex.

Notice how he said it just seconds after he decryed “liberals” for apparently claiming that they respect women, but booing Ivanka Trump in Germany.

Getting hit with the backlash today, Watters tried to defend his remarks:

People aren’t buying it:

And of course, even if you accept his perspective, he’s still reducing her to superficial features (it’s her voice, not what she’s saying).

And you wonder why Fox has a sexual harassment problem.

Is WikiTribune The Answer To “Fake News”?

Nieman Lab:

Good things can happen when a crowd goes to work on trying to figure out a problem in journalism. At the same time, completely crowdsourced news investigations can go bad without oversight — as when, for example, a group of Redditors falsely accused someone of being the Boston Marathon bomber. An entirely crowdsourced investigation with nobody to oversee it or pay for it will probably go nowhere. At the same time, trust in the media is low and fact-checking efforts have become entwined with partisan politics.

So what would happen if you combined professional journalism with fact checking by the people? On Monday evening, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune, an independent site (not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation) “that brings journalists and a community 
of volunteers together” in a combination that Wales hopes will combat fake news online — initially in English, then in other languages.

The site is launching with a crowdfunding campaign to fund the first Wikitribune journalists (the default amount is $10 a month, but users can donate any amount they wish) “with the first issue of Wikitribune following shortly.” The Wikitribune page said that the goal is to hire 10 journalists.

The idea is that the professional journalists will be paid to write “global news stories,” while volunteer contributors will “vet the facts, helps make sure the language is factual and neutral, and will to the maximum extent possible be transparent about the source of news posting full transcripts, video, and audio of interviews. In this way Wikitribune aims to combat the increasing proliferation of online fake news.”

The Wiki concept is always interesting, but the old adage of computers remains true: “garbage in, garbage out”.  Crowdsourcing, as the article suggests, is not necessarily the best way to get at truths, and we just had an election where huge percentages of people swallowed false news line and hook.  So just how will WikiTribune deal with this?  Described above, it just sounds like professional journalists being edited by, well, everybody.  A lot of sniping about semantics.

And even if the changes are substantive, at what point in the never-ending editing and rewriting process does an article cease to be by the person who originally wrote it? The answer to this question will have to be reflected in WikiTribune’s design. If the model is anything like Wikipedia’s page history, the level of transparency that is necessary can make it incredibly time-consuming for readers to synthesize the true source of what they’re reading.

And suppose journalist Jones quotes Congressman Smith, and Congressman Smith wants to retract? Or alter slightly the words he said? He can just go into Wikitribune and edit.  And who is to say who is right?

Still, Wikipedia, despite having accuracy problems here and there, does actually self-correct over time, and that’s a good starting model. The question is whether or not “news” has the time for that kind of self-correction before it stops being news.

 

The Culture At Fox News

Apparently, someone unearthed an accusation of sexual harassment against Sean Hannity, and the accuser is a right wing pundit Debbie Schlussel, who apparently stands by the story but says it doesn’t rise to the level of sexual harassment, but she may sue Hannity anyway because he insulted her in his denial and….

Well, I’m just going to put this here.  Apparently, there are more heads that need to roll at Fox News.  Maybe not Hannity’s, but certainly whoever is running that place.  Someone higher up.  Time for a better corporate culture.

UPDATE:  Okay fine — here’s the Daily Beast summary:

During a Friday interview with Tulsa, Oklahoma-based radio host Pat Campbell, former Fox News guest Debbie Schlussel accused Hannity of inviting her to his hotel room before and after a debate with a pro-Palestinian guest in Detroit. Schlussel said she rejected Hannity’s alleged advances and that she was never invited on his show again.

Schlussel and Hannity were scheduled to speak together at the Detroit show, Schlussel said. But before the show, Hannity allegedly invited her to an event at a nearby bookstore. The Daily Beast was not able to confirm whether the pair ever spoke at such a show.

“He had some event at a bookstore where he signed his book for people standing in line. He asked me to come meet him at this book signing,” Schlussel said on Campbell’s show. “So I met him there and it was very awkward. He had me up there with him while he signed books and I felt very weird. These people don’t know me and they didn’t come for me to sign their books. Then I left to get ready for the show, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come back with me to my hotel?’ and I said no, I have to get ready for the show.”

Shortly before the show, Hannity allegedly told Schlussel they would team up against another panelist. But Schlussel told Campbell that the move was a “head-fake” against her.

“Sean came up to me and said we’re gonna double-team (which was a weird phrase to use) this Palestinian guy that I was up against on the show,” Schlussel said. “And then every time I tried to open my mouth and say something, they yelled at me and said obey your host, you can’t say anything or else we’re gonna shut off your microphone.”

After the show, Schlussel claims Hannity made another advance on her. “My dad and my brother were there in the green room,” Schlussel said, claiming that Hannity “tried to get me to go back with him to the hotel after the show.”

Schlussel claimed she rejected the offer a second time, and was not invited on any future Hannity programs.

“After that, I wasn’t booked on his show again. And he called me and yelled at me,” Schlussel said. “I got a very weird feeling about the whole thing, and I kind of knew I wouldn’t be back on his show.”

After her comments to Talk 1170 Radio received widespread media attention, Schlussel told Law Newz that she would not characterize Hannity’s behavior as sexual harassment. “I would never accuse him of that. Sexual harassment has a special meaning under the law,” she said.

She did, however, confirm that Hannity had propositioned her. “I never thought I was sexually harassed by Sean Hannity, I thought he was weird and creepy,” she said.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Hannity denied Schlussel’s allegations and accused her of seeking attention.

“LET ME BE CLEAR THE COMMENTS ABOUT ME ON A RADIO SHOW THIS WEEK by this individual ARE 100 percent false and a complete fabrication,” Hannity wrote. “This individual is a serial harasser who has been lying about me for well over a decade. The individual has a history of making provably false statements against me in an effort to slander, smear and besmirch my reputation.”

“The individual has not just slandered me over the years but many people who this individual disagrees with,” Hannity wrote. “This individual desperately seeks attention by any means necessary, including making unfounded personal attacks and using indefensible and outrageous political rhetoric.”

He went on to threaten legal action against Schlussel.

“My patience with this individual is over. I have retained a team of some of the finest and toughest lawyers in the country who are now in the process of laying out the legal course of action we will be taking against this individual. In this fiercely divided and vindictive political climate I will no longer allow slander and lies about me to go unchallenged, as I see a coordinated effort afoot to now silence those with conservative views. I will fight every single lie about me by all legal means available to me as an American.”

Hannity and Schlussel have a history of clashing, after she wrote a 2010 blog post accusing him of running a scam charity for military families. Schlussel alleged that less than 4 percent of the revenue from Hannity’s “Freedom Concerts” went to U.S. troops and their families, and that most of the concerts’ earnings went to lavish expenses. Hannity and his colleagues denied the allegations.

In 2007, Schlussel wrote a blog post accusing Hannity of “deliberately ripping off” an anti-Muslim column she wrote in the New York Post.

“That’s Sean Hannity for you,” she wrote in the 2007 post. “This is not the first time he’s done this to me, just the latest.”

UPDATE #2:  And it isn’t just sexual harassment. Fox News has a race problem:

The letter also includes new allegations of racism in Fox News’ accounting department. According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Slater demanded that black female employees hold “arm wrestling matches’” with white female employees in her office, just down the hall from Ailes’s office on the second floor of Fox headquarters. “Forcing a black woman employee to ‘fight’ for the amusement and pleasure of her white superiors is horrifying. This highly offensive and humiliating act is reminiscent of Jim Crow era battle royals,” the letter says, referring to the practice of paying black men to fight blindfolded at carnivals for white spectators’ entertainment. The lawyers argue that Efinger bragged about wanting to “fight” a black employee.

The new claims, if true, reveal not just the failures of the legal and HR departments to deal with problematic managers but also just how deep the culture of discrimination and harassment may have run during Ailes’s reign.

7th Circuit: LGBTQ Discrimination IS Sex Discrimination

It’s not definitive, but this is a huge step. The Seventh Circuit ruled 8-3 that a woman who was denied a job because she was a lesbian had a cause of action under Title VII.  Title VII is the civil rights law which prevents workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Congress has frequently considered amending Title VII to add the words “sexual orientation” to the list of prohibited characteristics, yet it has never done so.

In an opinion which many critics will call “legislating from the bench”, the 7th Circuit majority in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, ruled that Title VII discrimination is applicable because “it would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation. ‘”  This is undeniably true.  If Ms. Hively had been a man with a preference for women, there would have been no issue with her being hired.  But she is a woman.  Therefore, this has to do with gender.

The dissent argues, predictably:

[Plaintiff’s attorney] is advancing a creative new legal argument for reinterpreting Title VII, deploying the comparative method not as a method of proof (its normal and intended function) but as a thought experiment with the end of imbuing the statute with a new meaning that it did not bear at its inception.

That’s a rather typical conservative judicial interpretation (unless we are talking about the word “arms” in the Second Amendment).

Anyway, this is a big step forward, and I expect that the Supreme Court will visit this soon.  Here is the full opinion:

In Other News, The Travel Ban

As we watch Attorney General Jeff Sessions not remember, then remember, but only sort of kind of remember whether or not he talked with the Russians around the same time they were hacking into the DNC, and as we learn about more and more meetings between the Trump campaign team and the Russians even though they all denied those meetings, there are other things happening, including the Trump White House’s revamping of the travel ban, which failed so gloriously a few weeks ago.

The question is, why is the new revised ban taking so long? And the answer is: there isn’t any credible national security rationale for it. Unlike on the campaign trail, when you’re governing, you actually have to have justification for what you’re proposing, or you often run into trouble.

Last night,Rachel Maddow revealed a second Department of Homeland Security document which further undercuts the substantive case for Trump’s ban, which would restrict entry into the country by refugees and migrants from select Muslim-majority countries. The new internal Department of Homeland Security document that reached this key judgment:

We assess that most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns.

So… remember when Trump on the campaign trail asked that we stop all Muslims from coming into the country until we can assess “what’s going on”?

Well, we now know what’s going on.  They are not coming IN radicalized; they (and by “they”, I mean a teeny tiny fraction of them) are becoming radicalized AFTER they get here, probably because of assholes like Trump who are bigots.

Anyway, the hard-to-find full document is here:

Who’s Sorry Now?

On July 25, 2015, Joe Torres and Kayla Norton, joined about a dozen other people in a convoy of pickup trucks waving large Confederate flags as they drove around Douglas County, a suburban Atlanta community. Most of them belonged to a group called “Respect the Flag.”

This was only a few weeks after Dylann Roof attended a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, then shot and killed nine people, all African Americans.

The convoy of trucks passed by the victim’s residence where the victims were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers while hosting a child’s birthday party featuring a bouncy castle, snow-cone machines, and a DJ.  They yelled racial slurs.

The drivers parked the trucks near the house and the slurs continued. Torres retrieved a shotgun from his vehicle, pointed his shotgun at the group of African American party-goers and stated he was going to kill them while his friends stated that “the little ones can get one too,” referring to the young children at the party.

Norton was accused of making similar threats. The victims said some member of Torres’ group was armed with a knife and a tire tool.

Most of the group was arrested and made some sort of plea deal.  But Torres and Norton were sentenced yesterday. Torres was sentenced to 20 years, with 13 years in prison, after a jury convicted him on three counts of aggravated assault, one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violating of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.  Kayla Norton was sentenced to 15 years, with six years in prison. She was convicted on one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violation of the Street Gang Act.

Look how sad they are.

I suspect they weren’t sad until they actually got caught.

At the sentencing hearing, Kayla Norton apologized for her role in the incident saying, “I want you all to know that is not me. That is not me, that is not him. I would never walk up to you and say those words to you. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I am so sorry.”

The problem is that she did walk up and say those words.

Oh well. No sympathy here. Actions have consequences.  I’m sure they will make many friends among the mixed-race populations in prison.

Redstate’s Patterico’s Analysis of the 9th Circuit Decision Against Trump

Don’t normally quote from the conservative Redstate blog, and I rarely agree with Patterico (the author) on anything.  But this analysis is so good — so spot on — that I am reprinting it in full:

As you have no doubt heard, the Ninth Circuit today issued an opinion upholding the District Court’s TRO halting much of Trump’s order on immigration. This post analyzes the decision, which can be read here. Throughout, I’ll grade my own previous predictionsabout the ruling.

My overall impression is that this is a sound legal ruling — and that Donald Trump is personally to blame for it. By allowing Steve Bannon & Co. to write the order in a sloppy and overbroad manner, and further allowing them to decide that it applied to green card holders, Trump issued an the order that was bound to fail.

Perusing Twitter tonight, I see that many people who support the policy behind the order (as I do), but who have not followed the legal arguments closely, are saying this is just another leftist Ninth Circuit decision. But the order is a unanimous “per curiam” (through the court) ruling. It was joined by a judge appointed by George W. Bush who, at oral argument, expressed skepticism towards the idea that the order was motivated by religious bias, and seemed receptive to the argument that these countries might pose a threat.

The Twitter lawyers point out that this was not a ruling on the merits — and that’s right . . . but the merits still factored into the decision. A subtle point — brought up in the oral argument but missed by many observers — is that once the District Court entered the injunction, the burden shifted to the Government to show on appeal that it was likely to win in the trial court. The Court held that the Government had failed to make that showing. This portion of the ruling, then, does relate to the merits. The Court also held that the Government failed to show irreparable injury, since the TRO put the U.S. back in the same state of affairs that had existed for years.

According to the opinion, the executive order’s principal potential flaw was that it may have deprived a substantial number of people of due process, in three ways (the following paragraph describes the states’ arguments, which the Government failed to rebut for purposes of this appeal):

First, section 3(c) denies re-entry to certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders without constitutionally sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond. Second, section 3(c) prohibits certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders from exercising their separate and independent constitutionally protected liberty interests in travelling abroad and thereafter re-entering the United States. Third, section 5 contravenes the procedures provided by federal statute for refugees seeking asylum and related relief in the United States.

The decision to interpret the order as applying to lawful permanent residents was reportedly made by Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. This was clearly the most troubling aspect of the order to the judges — as well as the aspect of the order that stood out to most objective observers as the dumbest part of the order. As I said in my analysis of the oral argument: “I think even Judge Clifton would be on board with staying the executive order to the extent it applies to LPRs [lawful permanent residents].” What I didn’t predict outright was that Judge Clifton would find this enough to join an opinion upholding the entire TRO; I had expected that he would file a concurring opinion agreeing that the TRO was appropriate as applied to LPRs, but only as to LPRs.

The Government argued that the issue of the application of the executive order to LPRs was moot, because the White House counsel had interpreted the order as not covering LPRs. But the court was not convinced, noting that the White House counsel is not the President — and, since the Administration had given so many contradictory statements on this point, nobody can be certain that they won’t apply it to green card holders again:

[I]n light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings

Basically, the court said the order is clearly illegal in denying re-entry to LPRs and non-immigrant visa holders, and they aren’t going to rewrite the order (or let the White House counsel rewrite it) to conform to the law. That’s the President’s job. The court said that the Government’s different proposals for limiting the scope of the TRO still resulted in potential due process violations.

The lack of due process for LPRs was the central aspect of the opinion, and it was completely avoidable. The fault lies with Donald Trump.

As to the argument that Trump was targeting Muslims, the Court’s language seemed carefully crafted to maintain the unanimous nature of the opinion. I predicted there were two votes for a finding of possible religious discrimination, based on Trump’s repeated statements during the campaign that he wanted a Muslim ban — but Judge Clifton was clearly skeptical of this claim. The Court dealt with this by saying: “The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions” (language clearly inserted by Judges Canby and Friedland) but refused to use this as a ground to uphold the TRO, instead reserving the issue for later, after further litigation in the District Court (an evident concession to Judge Clifton to get him on board with this opinion).

This means that Donald Trump’s mouthing off about a Muslim ban wasn’t the reason for today’s decision — but it could still have legal consequences down the line.

In other aspects more of interest to lawyers than others, the court (as predicted) found standing based on the states’ proprietary interests, and treated the injunction as an appealable preliminary injunction rather than a TRO proper, because of the length of the briefing schedule. (These are also aspects I predicted correctly based on the oral arguments.)

In summary, this is a solid legal opinion and I don’t see it being reversed by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the U.S. Supreme Court. The judges did their jobs and they did them well. They won’t get a lot of credit for this from political partisans, but they’ll get it from me.

Yup.

Redstate by the way is now a conservative blog in exile. In a world of Brietbarts and Infowars, it remains a bastion of logical reasoned conservatism.  It is a credible opposition to the progressivism that I espouse — with emphasis on the word “credible”.

Here, for posterity’s sake, is the full opinion:

The Kinda Crazy, Somewhat Uplifting, Complete Unprecedented Weekend Of Trump

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order that bans some refugees and immigrants from entering the US.

It hits ‘pause’ on Syrian refugees coming into the US. And also temporarily shuts the door on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Initially, the ban even applied to people with valid visas or green cards. Over the weekend, at least 100 travelers were detained at airports across the country. Including an Iraqi man who once worked as an interpreter for the US gov. So the ACLU sued the White House. And a federal judge blocked anyone who was being held at US airports from being deported. Thousands of people protested across the country, especially at airports.

That the ban may be unconstitutional because it could violate religious freedoms. See: prioritizing letting in Christian refugees coming from places like Syria. Plus, some experts say the order won’t help protect the US, since people from these banned countries aren’t the ones who have carried out deadly attacks in America in recent years. And some people — including GOP lawmakers — say Trump’s move might end up helping terrorist groups recruit more members in the future.

The ban still stands. But the White House has backtracked juussst a little bit. Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that green card holders aren’t affected by the ban. Meanwhile, more than a dozen Attorneys General are saying ‘see you in court, Mr. President.’

America is a country built by immigrants and religious freedom is a constitutional right. Even though Trump said yesterday that the US has always been the “land of the free,” his moves have some people worried that the founding principles of the US could be at risk.

The ban is arbitrary, which is a nice way of saying it has no basis in reality.  Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.

Zero.

Six Iranians, six Sudanese, two Somalis, two Iraqis, and one Yemeni have been convicted of attempting or executing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during that time period — so we HAVE been catching them.

And more than that, it actually CREATES a security risk…

Oh, but that wasn’t all.

(1) Reince Priebus issued a statement that the omission of Jews from the statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day was deliberate and is not regretted.

(2) Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that the intent of yesterday’s order was very much a ban on Muslims, described in those words, and he was among the people Trump asked how they could find a way to do this legally.

(3) CNN has a detailed story (heavily sourced) about the process by which this ban was created and announced. Notable in this is that the DHS’ lawyers objected to the order, specifically its exclusion of green card holders, as illegal, and also pressed for there to be a grace period so that people currently out of the country wouldn’t be stranded — and they were personally overruled by Bannon and Stephen Miller. Also notable is that career DHS staff, up to and including the head of Customs & Border Patrol, were kept entirely out of the loop until the order was signed.

(4) The Guardian is reporting (heavily sourced) that the “mass resignations”of nearly all senior staff at the State Department on Thursday were not, in fact, resignations, but a purge ordered by the White House. As the diagram below (by Emily Roslin v Praze) shows, this leaves almost nobody in the entire senior staff of the State Department at this point.

The seniormost staff of the Department of State. Blue X’s are unfilled positions; red X’s are positions which were purged. Note that the “filled” positions are not actually confirmed yet.

As the Guardian points out, this has an important and likely not accidental effect: it leaves the State Department entirely unstaffed during these critical first weeks, when orders like the Muslim ban (which they would normally resist) are coming down.

The article points out another point worth highlighting: “In the past, the state department has been asked to set up early foreign contacts for an incoming administration. This time however it has been bypassed, and Trump’s immediate circle of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus are making their own calls.”

(5) Yesterday witnessed a reorganization of the National Security Council: Bannon and Priebus now have permanent seats on the Principals’ Committee; the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both been demoted to only attending meetings where they are told that their expertise is relevant; the Secretary of Energy and the US representative to the UN were kicked off the committee altogether (in defiance of the authorizing statute, incidentally).

All of this is objectively horrific, but there are some silver linings, most notably, the public protests.  They sprang quickly, they sprang fast, and they were huge!  it felt almost like Arab Spring.  And it makes the Trump White House very out of touch, as well as corrupt.

You do have to wonder how Steve Bannon is expected to continue to shine in Trump’s eyes.  He has not delivered the adoring masses to Trump, as shown by the inauguration size, as well as the size of the protests.  Photo ops about great executive orders turn into catastrophe.  It’s a constant state of damage control over there.  Trump’s vanity and idiocy are sufficient that it may take him some time to realize this. But once he does, it’s bedtime for Bannon, who will be defenestrated without ceremony.

Well, actually, the machinations of Bannon may have brought ONE person out: Six people were killed last night in a terrorist attack on a Quebec City mosque.

Right wing blogs and media instantly jumped to the conclusion that Islamists were responsible for the shootings, as they always do. But today we’re learning more about the sole suspect in this terrible attack: he’s a far right anti-immigration fan of Donald Trump and French fascist leader Marine Le Pen.  This guy:

Walter Scott Follow-Up

It has been a year and a half since Walter Scott’s death.  I wrote about it here… but basically, he was running from a cop and was shot IN THE BACK As HE WAS RUNNING AWAY.  The video makes this crystal clear:

There’s even indication that the cop planted evidence on/near the body.  Yes,. look at the video.

So what happened at trial?

But despite an unarmed victim, forensics proving he was shot multiple times in the back, a police officer who made a false report, and clear video showing the entire debacle, Slager was not convicted of murder or manslaughter in his trial this week. A lone juror spared him that fate with a refusal to convict. That triggered a mistrial.

Something is horribly wrong with the system.

Fortunately, the prosecutor will retry the case.  Again.  For the THIRD time.

Even operating under a standard in which police officers get the benefit of every reasonable doubt, it seems hard to understand why the cops involved wouldn’t have been convicted of manslaughter. The fact that neither was convicted is the latest evidence that the system as it now exists does not reliably punish cops for even egregious killings.

The policy debate around policing has lately focused on the tactics and rhetoric of Black Lives Matter (while mostly ignoring its excellent Campaign Zero roadmap for policy reform). Whatever conservatives think of Black Lives Matter, it is long past time that more of them join with libertarians and liberals in an effort to address this problem: Armed agents of the state are killing American citizens at rates far higher than other developed countries, and even when videos show them killing unarmed individuals, some are somehow getting away with it.

A Win Against The Pipeline

In a rare win for progressives, the Secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reportedly told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Archambault that the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline will be denied.

According to MSNBC, the Corps of Engineers will conduct an environmental study to see how the pipeline can be rerouted to lessen any potential environmental impact. However, the pipeline will not cross the Missouri River under Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Reservation.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a statement Sunday afternoon in support of the decision.

“The thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts, as envisioned by NEPA,” Jewell said in the statement.

“The Army’s announcement underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

The protesters had been facing a Monday deadline to vacate their encampment near Cannon Ball, ND.

“We will not fight tonight, we will dance!” Rami Bald Eagle, Cheyenne River Lakota Tribal Leader shared the great news, with much celebration breaking out among the people.

Thousands of U.S. Veterans have boots on the ground at the Standing Rock Protest, many more than expected. Tim King, former editor of Salem-News.com, is there and heard the announcement.

U.S. military Veterans have been standing “out front” for a couple of days with more of their brothers and sisters-in-arms arriving daily. No, they do not have weapons.

The bitter cold has not chilled the passion behind stopping the pipeline. The many members of “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” brought supplies such as gas masks, earplugs and body armor, to stand firm as a unit to protect protesters from the police and their rubber bullets.

But instead, tonight they dance. It looks like the Americans have won, after all.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II reacted to the announcement, calling it a sign that President Barack Obama “is listening.”

“We are encouraged and know that the peaceful prayer and demonstration at Standing Rock have powerfully brought to light the unjust narrative suffered by tribal nations and Native Americans across the country,” Archambault said. “We call on all water protectors, as we have from the beginning, to join our voices in prayer and to share our opposition to this pipeline peacefully. The whole world is watching and where they see prayerful, peaceful resistance, they join us.”

Water protectors have been camped out near the construction site of the pipeline since April and have dogged the pipeline work at every step. More than 400 people have been arrested as they stood their ground against pepper spray, mace, rubber bullets and sound cannons, among other violent methods.

Why McCrory Lost

Public Policy Polling looks at why Governor McCrory lost here in North Carolina in what was obviously a banner year for Republicans:

What happened in the summer of 2013 to make McCrory so permanently unpopular? He allowed himself to be associated with a bunch of unpopular legislation, and progressives hit back HARD, in a way that really caught voters’ attention and resonated with them.

Medicaid Expansion? 56% of voters wanted it to move forward, only 26% wanted it blocked.

Sneaking in abortion legislation by putting it in a bill about motorcycle safety? 8% of voters supported that, 80% opposed it.

Guns in bars? 17% in support, 73% opposed. Guns in parks? 29% in support, 65% opposed. Guns on college campuses? 25% in support, 69% opposed.

Eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit?  Only 30% of voters wanted to do that, 42% thought it should be kept.

Cut unemployment benefits? Only 29% of voters agreed with changes in the law, 55% were opposed.

Reduce the early voting period in North Carolina by a week? Just 33% of voters wanted to do that, 59% were against it.

Straight party ticket voting? 68% of voters wanted it continued, only 21% wanted it eliminated.

McCrory spearheaded or went along with all of this. And he might have gotten away with it without much impact on his image. Most voters don’t pay close attention to state government.

But the Moral Monday movement pushed back hard. Its constant visibility forced all of these issues to stay in the headlines. Its efforts ensured that voters in the state were educated about what was going on in Raleigh, and as voters became aware of what was going on, they got mad. All those people who had seen McCrory as a moderate, as a different kind of Republican, had those views quickly changed. By July McCrory had a negative approval rating- 40% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapproved. By September it was all the way down to 35/53, and he never did fully recover from the damage the rest of his term.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.

Pushing back hard on McCrory worked. The seeds of his final defeat today were very much planted in the summer of 2013. And it’s a lesson for progressives in dealing with Trump. Push back hard from day one. Be visible. Capture the public’s attention, no matter what you have to do to do it. Don’t count on the media to do it itself because the media will let you down. The protesters in North Carolina, by making news in their own right week after week after week, forced sustained coverage of what was going on in Raleigh. And even though it was certainly a long game, with plenty more frustration in between, those efforts led to change at the polls 42 months after they really started.

Keep Pounding.

While I agree with the “keep pounding” advice, and the positive impact of progressive movements like Moral Mondays, the analysis overlooks one HUGE aspect of McCrory’s loss: HB1, the so-called bathroom bill.  It became a national issue, and put North Carolina on the map as Bigotry Central.  Even if you didn’t care about whether or not transgenders could use this or that bathroom (and I think “not caring” probably describes the majority of NC voters), you did care when sports teams and leagues like the NCAA started boycotting your city.  I think most North Carolinians didn’t like McCrory for that.

She Seems Nice

Trump voter going on a tirade

This incident is the just the latest in a recent spate of obscene and racist tirades by Trump supporters. Last week a Trump fan abused black employees of a Miami Starbucks and over the weekend a viral video showed a Delta Airlines passenger screaming about “Hillary bitches.” Yesterday Delta apologized for not removing the man. Also this weekend a Colorado home supply store fired its manager for calling a customer a “faggot who voted for Hillary.”

Photo Op

328400_web1_top_new112216_kobachtrumpap

Hey!  Look!  It’s President-Elect Donald Trump!  And who is with him?  Why, that’s Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  This was yesterday as they were meeting at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster NJ.

I wonder what that was all about. Kris Kobach is a central figure in the nativist movement and the architect of Arizona’s notorious “papers please” law.

Oh wait.  What’s our boy Kris holding?

Can we zoom in on that?

328400_web1_top_new112216_kobachtrumpcroppedap

Closer?  Turn 90 degrees clock– uh, can you sharpen that up a ,little?

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Huh.

Looks like some kind of plan…..

The document is arranged in a numbered format. The first point reads, “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists.”

The document calls for updating and reintroducing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. The program was implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but largely suspended in 2011.

“All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” the document reads.

The document then calls for “extreme vetting questions” for “high-risk aliens”; echoing Trump’s campaign rhetoric. High-risk aliens would be questioned about support for Sharia law (Islamic religious law), jihad, the equality of men and women and the U.S. Constitution.

The document also asks for reducing the intake of Syrian refugees to zero.

The rest of the page is either partially or totally obscured by Kobach’s hand and arm. When the photograph was taken, Kobach was standing outside with Trump – it is highly unlikely Kobach wasn’t aware he was being photographed.

The document contains obscured references to the arrest and removal of illegal aliens, “386 miles of existing actual wall,” the post-9/11 PATRIOT Act, and voter rolls. “Draft amendments to National Voter —” can also be seen, perhaps a reference to the National Voter Registration Act.

Good to know.

Does Korematsu Provide Precedent For A Muslim Registry?

No.

No, it doesn’t.  Not even a close call.

Let’s just all get on the same page.

This is happening:

And the obvious question is…. would it be constitutional for the government to require citizens to register based on their religion?

The OBVIOUS answer should be NO, and the reason most people instinctively know it would be unconstitutional is to do a thought experiment: substitute “Christian” for “Muslim” and see how that flies.

I’m going to set aside the obvious invidiousness of the proposed registry, as well as the obvious difficulties in enforcing registration.  Instead, I’m just going to focus on Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), the case that Trump surrogates are citing as “precedent”.

Korematsu was the case involving Japanese-American internment during World War II.  Roosevelt ordered that George Takei and his family and other Japanese-Americans leave their jobs, friends, businesses, etc. and report to “camps” for the duration of the war.  These were American citizens, living on the West Coast, of Japanese descent.  It came about as the result of a presidential executive order — Executive Order No. 9066 to be exact.

Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, in 1919, the third of four sons to Japanese parents Kotsui Aoki and Kakusaburo Korematsu who immigrated to the United States in 1905.  When the internment order came down, he refused to comply and went into hiding in the Oakland area. He was arrested on a street corner in San Leandro on May 30, 1942, after being recognized as a “Jap”.  He was tried and convicted of violation of a military order – specifically, the military order for internment given under the authority of Executive Order 9066.

That military and executive orders were challenged and the US Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans, with three dissents.

Korematsu is still good law, so I revisited it. Why did the Supreme Court find such an order to be constitutionally valid?

One reason was precedent.  One year earlier, in a case called Hirabayashi v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld a curfew which applied only to the Japanese.

But addressing the race issue, the majority wrote only this:

It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers — and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps, with all the ugly connotations that term implies — we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders — as inevitably it must — determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot — by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight — now say that, at that time, these actions were unjustified.

Basically, they are saying — “we’re at war”.

The dissent by Justice Roberts was having none of it:

This is not a case of keeping people off the streets at night, as was Hirabayashi v. United States,320 U. S. 81, nor a case of temporary exclusion of a citizen from an area for his own safety or that of the community, nor a case of offering him an opportunity to go temporarily out of an area where his presence might cause danger to himself or to his fellows. On the contrary, it is the case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry, and solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. If this be a correct statement of the facts disclosed by this record, and facts of which we take judicial notice, I need hardly labor the conclusion that Constitutional rights have been violated.

And that is essentially the difference.  We’re not at war with the Muslims — there has been no declaration of Congress to that effect.  Furthermore, there is no “military urgency” now like there was following the bombing of Pearl Harbor (it is more than 15 years after 9/11).  Two good reasons right there.

Then you have something that you didn’t have in Korematsu, which was a case about heritage.  The proposed Muslim ban isn’t about heritage; it is about religion.  “Muslim”, after all, simply means an adherent to the religion of Islam.  Islam knows no national origin or skin color.  Cassius Clay, a black American, didn’t come from another country.  Yet he was a Muslim (which he became Muhammad Ali).

So if this is registry of religious beliefs, — welcome First Amendment.

There’s simply on way in hell this Supreme Court would be cool with registering Muslims.  It would be unanimously shot down, even without overturning Korematsu.

In fact, that would be a nice way to start the Trump presidency.  With a 8-0 loss in the Supreme Court.

In Her Epic Speech, The First Lady Spoke For Men Too

Yesterday in her historic speech, Michelle Obama spent a lot of her time talking directly to women about Donald Trump and his candidacy. But she also spoke about what it means to men.

And how is this affecting men and boys in this country? Because I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this. And I know that my family is not unusual. And to dismiss this as everyday locker-room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere.

The men that you and I know don’t treat women this way. They are loving fathers who are sickened by the thought of their daughters being exposed to this kind of vicious language about women. They are husbands and brothers and sons who don’t tolerate women being treated and demeaned and disrespected. And like us, these men are worried about the impact this election is having on our boys who are looking for role models of what it means to be a man…

Because let’s be very clear: Strong men — men who are truly role models — don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.

That is precisely why Michelle’s remarks yesterday were such an antidote to the ugliness we are seeing in the Trump campaign. She not only touched women’s hearts and said it was OK to feel the hurt. She demonstrated what it means to stand up to it all and say, “No…this is NOT normal.” And she reminded us all how authentically strong men behave.

What Happened In Charlotte Last Night

The Guardian’s Ijeoma Oluo wrote about the events of the night (you need to click through to see the photo described below):

A line of police officers stand in the dark on a Charlotte, North Carolina, highway. They look like an occupying force with their helmets and face shields and various weaponry strapped all over their armored clothing. A large bus illuminates them with its headlights. The front of the bus declares in bright lights: “NOT IN SERVICE”.

It’s as if these police responding to protests of Tuesday’s shooting death of Keith Scott are carrying with them a lighted banner that declares what black Americans already know: they are not in service. Not for us.

It’s the message that police have always been sending black Americans. Blacks make up about 13% of the US population, and yet accounted for 27% of the approximately 1,146 people killed by police in 2015. “Not in service” is the message we got when Tamir Rice was killed, when Freddie Gray was killed, when Eric Garner was killed. This was the message we got when Terence Crutcher was killed this week while asking for service. We understand that if our police force really does exist to protect and serve, it does not exist to protect and serve us.

From what I saw (on national TV) last night, and from reports of friends who were there, the Charlotte police got rambo’ed up too quickly last evening, getting in riot gear long before there were signs of violence and destruction.  While this had the effect of dispersing the more gentle elements of the remaining protesters, it predictably agitated others, turning them into… well… agitators.

I don’t condone or excuse those who destroyed property or threw tear gas back at police.  I am also sympathetic to those police injured last night.  But the key word in the previous paragraph is “predictably”.  The police knew, or should have known, that their show of force and resoluteness would bring about what eventually happened.

The job of police, both as an individual and as a force, is to DE-escalate dangerous or potentially dangerous situations.  Something about their training (at least for some of them) has failed to stress that, and instead, it is about escalation.  With predictable results.

I think they are continuing this mistake with the curfew and declaration of a state emergency (bringing in the National Guard).  A return to normalcy is what is needed.  The mayor and the police are not signaling a return to normalcy with these actions.  I don’t know what will happen tonight, but I don’t expect it to have calmed down in the face of this overdone “response”.

Trump and Clinton Neck and Neck in NC

Yeah, it is exciting to be in a semi-big swing state.  The candidates keep coming through.  It’s like the New Hampshire primaries in the old days.

A new PPP poll on North Carolina came out this morning.

Bottom line: Donald Trump 45, Hillary Clinton 43, Gary Johnson 6.

Clinton/Trump head to head is tied at 47:

That’s okay news since Trump had pulled ahead in some NC polls these past few weeks.

The PPP poll took some deep dives and discovered a few things:

(1)  Undecideds.   Among undecideds for President in NC, 62% would take 4 more years of Obama to only 5% who prefer Trump. If undecideds in NC voted Clinton/Trump the same as their Obama/Trump preference, Clinton would lead state 50/48.  The problem for Clinton with undecideds in NC, even though they like current direction of country, is her favoritism rating is 10/75.  Trump’s favorability among undecideds in North Carolina is literally 0, with 79% seeing him unfavorably.

(2) More Obama Please.  The key to the race in NC is voters who want to continue Barack Obama’s direction, but dislike Hillary Clinton. Overall in NC 51% of voters would prefer continuing Obama’s leadership to 46% who prefer Trump’s direction.

(3) Equally (dis)lilked.  Clinton and Trump have identical favorability numbers in NC: 40/55.

(4) Bigots Be Here.   30% of Trump supporters have a higher opinion of David Duke than Hillary Clinton. 47% of Trump voters were “not sure” who they prefer.  Meanwhile, 44% of Trump supporters are “not sure” about their opinion on LGBT people. 29% unfavorable. Only 27% favorable.

(5) Idiots Be Here Too. 71% of Trump voters in NC think if Clinton wins it will only be because the election was rigged, 17% say it will be because she got more votes

(6) Release The Tax Returns. 63% of voters in North Carolina think Trump needs to release his tax returns, only 24% don’t think he needs to.

(7) Governor’s Race Is Solid Democrat.  For first time ever, there is a clear leader for Governor- Roy Cooper 46, Pat McCrory 41, Lon Cecil 2. Independents are the story here: McCrory won them 2:1 in 2012. This time Cooper leads 44-33 with them.  11%

(8) HB2 Wildly Unpopular.  52% of voters in North Carolina want HB2 repealed, only 32% support keeping it on the books.  This has less to do with the economic harm than with acceptance of th4e LGBT community. Only 19% of NC voters view LGBT people negatively. 47% positive, 34% don’t care.

(9)  Senate Race Has Gotten Tight.  The NC Senate race tied – Richard Burr and Deborah Ross both at 41%, Libertarian Sean Haugh at 4%:

(10) In fact, everything tight.
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(11)  This.

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9/11 – 15 Years Later

It is kind of cool to have a blog for this long — I can go back and look at past reflections of past events.

I write about my 9/11 experience here.  I had left New York by the time 9/11/2001 happened, but, like everyone else in the country, I experienced that day.  For me, I came to lump it in with 2/26/1993, the date of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

It is remarkable how things have changed.  I deal everyday with people who were children when 9/11 happened.  The World Trade Center site is a beautiful memorial, museum, and tourist site.  I don’t bemoan that — using that public space as a space of education and commemoration is perfectly fitting.  And it is all in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, representing, if nothing else, that the beat of NYC goes on despite what happened on that terrible day.

50 Years Ago Today: The Debut Of Star Trek

A lot of ink and pixels being spilled about Star Trek and its cultural impact.  Many of these articles are personal, and I was going to write one myself.

But here’s the thing about Star Trek — you either get it or you don’t. And if you are a child of the 1970s like me, you get Star Trek in a way that I could not convey to you in words.  It’s just one of those things that binds.  You loved the original series, loved the animated series, hated the first movie, were relieved at the second movie and the fourth, came to love The Next Generation, were a little troubled to see the cult phenomenon become so mainstream, and are fine with new reboot, although, it’s just not the same as when you discovered that original series and played it in the backyard.  The world is different now, you are different now, and Star Trek is different now — and they don’t seem to fit like they used to.

And you either get that or you don’t.

Live long and prosper, indeed, Star Trek.

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“It Was Better In The Original German”

Many people are saying that last night’s “Immigration Policy” speech by Trump in Phoenix Arizona was historical.  I’m one of those people.  Just WHY it was historical is a point of contention.

To me, the speech was historical because it contained the 21st century version of some of the worst ills of the world’s past.  Divisiveness and demagoguery.  Mad red0faced ranting.  I really felt like this was somewhere in Germany in 1939.

The country has heard this nationalistic refrains before.

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Trump spun a dystopian tale that painted all immigrants as people to be feared, people to be rounded up and hauled out of this country.

He said immigrants would need an “ideological certification” that confirms they “share our values.”  I mean… fuck, that’s some scary Big Brother shit.

He again approvingly referenced President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deportation program “Operation Wetback,” a cruel and deadly disaster from the 1950s, suggesting that Trump’s version of that program would be even tougher.

The crowd cheered.

He claimed there are 2 million “criminal aliens” in America and then said, preposterously, “Day one, my first hour in office – those people are gone!”

Saying that some think the word “deport” is not politically correct, Trump mocked: “You can call it whatever the hell you want, they’re gone.”

Loud. Spewing insults and absurd claims. Red-faced and nationalistic. It was Trump as we know him to be.

It was a hate speech. You could see the hands of Steve Bannon, who runs the far-right “news” site Breitbart and is now CEO of Trump’s campaign, all over it, as if Trump was barfing out the comments section under one of the site’s white nationalist screeds.

Moderate Republicans who have been praying daily for their nominee to grow into a plausible candidate had to be sickened by what they saw Wednesday night.

That wasn’t a speech on immigration policy, as the campaign had promised. That was Donald Trump thumbing his nose at the establishment and at all the pundits who suggested he was “softening” his stance on immigration.

That was an angry man catering to a base that shares his anger, a base that mistakenly believes it constitutes an electoral majority.

Trump’s swoop from supposed statesman in Mexico to manic hate-monger in Arizona was jarring. Truly.

How bad was it?  High-profile Hispanic supporters of Donald Trump have pulled or are considering pulling their support after last night’s raging speech:

Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, has resigned, and Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in an interview that he is “inclined” to pull his support.

“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” said Monty, a Houston attorney who has aggressively made the Latino case for Trump. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.”

He withdrew from the board following Trump’s speech in Phoenix, which was heavy on calls for border security and emphasized that all immigrants in the country illegally were subject to deportation.

We need to start talking — not about the damage that a Trump presidency would do to this country — but about the damage Trump’s candidacy is doing to this country.  Some media outlets are trying to break down Trump’s with all sorts of seriousness, and — for fear of looking biased — are afraid to do what needs to be done: an outright condemnation of Trump’s words.  This wasn’t policy — it was hate.  As the New York Times editors noted today:

To mock him for emptiness is almost too easy. But the fear and loathing that he has tapped into, that so easily won him the nomination, are real. . .  Tornadoes are hollow at the center, too, and they do a lot of damage.

Indeed.  This is a blood soaked white nationalist politics that has caught fire with a significant minority of the electorate. There’s no reason to imagine that changes before November.  Or after.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

With Trump in control of the golden door, that lamp goes dark.

Trump’s South Of The Border Gambit

All eyes on Trump today.

It’s a day when he is set to give his big immigration speech, which should help to clarify his muddled position.  He used to be for the wall and mass deportation, but in the past few days, he’s hinted at NOT mass deporting 11 million “illegals” (as he calls them) — which is impossible anyway.  He has suggested touchback provisions (they leave and then come right back, except we leave the “bad ones” out) or something else… everything has been suggested except what the majority of Americans are in favor of… a path to citizenship (or amnesty).  His on-TV surrogates insist — with no credibility — that Trump is not changing from his hardline position, even as he indicates that he is indeed softening.  The whole thing is an exercise in ambiguity, just enough to satisfy his base but also appear to appease people with Trumpian doubts.

That speech is tonight.

But the BIG news — one that his advisers are saying is a potential “gamechanger” — is Trump’s visit to Mexico today.  This was prepared within the last 24 hours.  President Peña Nieto of Mexico had invited both campaigns to visit.  Trump took up the offer.

I, along with many others, consider this to be high risk, high reward.  And to be honest, I’m not sure what is going on.  Trump and Nieto will meet privately and talk.  Both will say something about their meeting…. and…. that’s it?

What do is a “win” here for Trump?  Unless he comes back with a check for $200 billion earmarked for “the wall”, I don’t see what he has to gain.  Maybe some in the Trump campaign thinks it raises his stature, particularly on a day when he is giving a speech on immigration.  I don’t see how though.  Trump has been bashing Mexico for over a year. I mean, here’s the statement that literally launched Trump’s campaign — 218 words into his first speech:

“When Mexico sends their people …  They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump later added:

“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”

So, it seems, visiting Mexico would lower his stature if you believe in Trump.

Maybe the Trump campaign thinks it is like a “Nixon goes to China” thing.  Except Trump isn’t Nixon and Mexico is (unlike China in the 1970s) an ally and trade partner.  And Trump’s advisers are certainly no Kissingers.  But Trump DOES think Mexico is the enemy.

It’s just hard to see what Trump gets out of this.

More importantly, you have to wonder about Nieto’s motives.  He probably didn’t think it would work out this way.  He invited both candidates; he expected only Clinton would respond (if anybody).  That plan backfired — that’s my guess.

Still, is is happening. Nieto is very unpopular in Mexico.  Polling at 23% favorability, he is in the midst of a plagiarism and corruption scandal.  Meeting with Trump, who is also hated by Mexicans for obvious reasons, seems to be a stupid move, UNLESS Nieto has something up his sleeve.  Peña Nieto has every reason to play the tough guy and earn Trump’s wrath. Everyone in Mexico hates Trump, so standing up to him, or even embarrassing him, would be a political win.

But the same might be true of Trump. His base would certainly go wild at the prospect of Trump having a beef with the president of Mexico. The last thing they want is a cordial get together that suggests some kind of future rapprochement. And if Trump plays it right, a meeting that could be spun as an insult to America might even help him with swing voters.

Then again, maybe Trump desperately wants Peña Nieto’s respect, and wants this meeting to demonstrate that he’s not just a bomb thrower who can’t be trusted with international relations.

Because the whole endeavor is fraught with unpredictability, Josh Marshall has what seems like the most sensible take — “Can Trump Be This Stupid? Not A Trick Question”:

It’s a general rule of politics not to enter into unpredictable situations or cede control of an event or happening to someone who wants to hurt you. President Nieto definitely does not want Donald Trump to become President. He probably assumes he won’t become president, simply by reading the polls. President Nieto is himself quite unpopular at the moment. But no one is more unpopular than Donald Trump. Trump is reviled. Toadying to Trump would be extremely bad politics; standing up to him, good politics…

Remember that the central force of Trump’s political brand is dominance politics. Trump commands, people obey. Trump strikes, victims suffer. It will be extremely difficult for him to manage anything like this in the Mexican capital. He comes with a weak hand, no leverage and the look of a loser. All Peña Nieto needs to say is no.

Again, when you’re in a campaign under constant scrutiny you do your best to control every situation, reduce the risk of unpredictable, embarrassing or damaging events. You try not to cede control to others. You especially try not to cede near total control to someone who has every interest in the world in harming you. The maximal version of that ‘big thing you’re not supposed to do’ is precisely what it looks like Trump is doing.

Trump’s Razor helps here. It’s tempting to assume that there’s some angle Trump has here, some plan or understanding with Peña Nieto to make this not as silly a decision as it appears to be. I’m tempted because how could they think this was a good idea? Trump’s Razor tells us to resist this temptation. “The stupidest scenario possible that can be reconciled with the available facts.” I think that’s what we have here. It’s as stupid as it looks. Who knows? Maybe Trump will handle this deftly and it’ll be a huge success. But Trump’s Razor has yet to fail me. So I’m going to stick with it.

It is hard to know what Trump’s thinking is, or if there is any thinking at all. [UPDATE: He is apparently not bringing along his press corps, which is both unprecedented and unusual for a presidential candidate going abroad. Makes the whole trip even stranger]

If I were Peña Nieto, I would meet Trump at the airport, and with the Mexican press pool there, hand Trump one of his Mexico-made Trump shirts, shake his hand, and walk away.

In the meantime, we need to build that wall to keep Trump down there.

Anyway, you look at it — Trump wins this news cycle… perhaps he will wish otherwise.

UPDATE:  Conservative fan fiction

Tweet from former Mexican ambassador to China:

UPDATE #2:  Viewing the outrage in Mexico about this meeting, Josh Marshall is having additional thoughts.

It would be one thing if Pena Nieto had some grand and tightly organized plan to humiliate Trump. But the evidence of the last 24 hours suggests he’s winging it perhaps every bit as much as Trump himself. Having two clumsy political actors together on the same literal and figurative stage in a highly volatile situation is not one geared to good outcomes. It seems to me like you have a good chance that neither player has much of any idea what he’s doing, and Pena Nieto is already under the gun because of the furious reaction to the news that started last night.

This confrontation of panic, confusion and poor planning is magnified by a less noted factor. Organizing a foreign trip for a President or would-be president is a highly complicated affair, especially when you figure in security needs. It never gets done on a day’s notice. We’re now hearing that the US Embassy in Mexico City strongly counseled against the idea. Those folks tend to be quite apolitical and logistics focused. We can’t rule out the possibility that Trump’s entourage shows up at the wrong palace or isn’t able to make it back to Arizona in time for the speech.

Also, Trump is not bringing the press along.

I think, at the end of the day, the actual visit might just turn out to be a big nothingburger.  We won’t know what happened or what was said, allowing both Peña Nieto and Trump to spin what happened today (and its purpose) to each’s political advantage: messages that will be crushed in the next news cycle.