WTF Community

📝 Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles



It’s the best true-crime thriller in decades, I’m surprised more people aren’t into this work. :woman_shrugging:t2:

Ms. Jurecic is the managing editor of Lawfare.

The first half of the report — on efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election — is a spy thriller, a high-stakes caper with greed, dirty deals and intrigue straight out of a Cold War potboiler. The second half — on President Trump’s efforts to obstruct Mr. Mueller’s investigation — is a Shakespearean drama about deception and power. But at its core, the 448-page volume is a detective story.

Like most good detective stories, the report actually tells two stories at once. First, there is the tale of what happened: The Russian government worked to reach out to Mr. Trump’s circle and, once he began running for president, his campaign; then, when the F.B.I. and later Mr. Mueller began investigating, Mr. Trump repeatedly sought to undercut the probe.

But nestled in the citations and prosecution or declination decisions for each section, there is the second story, which is closer to what most people think of when they think of a detective novel — the drama of how Mr. Mueller and his team came to uncover that first narrative and what they made of it. Examining footnotes, the reader can trace which information came from which witness — and discover, for example, that Don McGahn, then the White House counsel, provided Mr. Mueller’s office with hours of interviews about the conduct of the president.

Detective stories are usually about order and the collapse of order: The world is shattered by an act of violence, and the detective sets about making things right by turning the crime into something that can be explained. As Ms. Kakutani writes, “At the end of detective stories, order is usually restored with the solving of a crime, and with the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.”

The Mueller report does provide a framework for understanding just what has happened to America in 2016 and the years since.

More than a tale about the restoration of order, though, the Mueller investigation is also about the limits of what can be known…


If you’ve seen The Great Hack on Netflix about the work that Cambridge Analytica did and their role in the 2016 election, figured prominently is Brittany Kaiser who was someone who helped configure the data which helped to persuade the undecided, yet maleable voters. As described here, is Kaiser looking to recast her role in her vital position.

She’d like to be remembered as a whistleblower and a human rights advocate. You decide.

For Kaiser — at the time a 30-year-old Democrat from Texas who’d become business development director for Cambridge Analytica, a firm created to elect Republicans — the massive wave of critical news reports about the company threatened to deliver catastrophic damage to her reputation and even made her fear possible arrest.

So she did something drastic: Kaiser fled to Thailand, and she let a crew of filmmakers tag along.

What followed was a highly public — and still unfinished — quest for moral redemption that has played out across the globe and, now, in a Netflix documentary called “The Great Hack,” released July 24. It includes images of Kaiser up to her shoulders in a giant pool under an impossibly blue sky in Thailand, uncertain what to do. And it later depicts Kaiser, in a far more determined frame of mind, testifying before the British Parliament about the many unsavory deeds of her former employer and warning of the ongoing privacy threats posed by Facebook, whose dealings with Cambridge Analytica resulted in July in more than $5 billion in U.S. fines.

But two important elements are missing from the film. The first is Kaiser’s private meetings with British and U.S. prosecutors, including those from then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office, which she recently detailed in interviews with The Washington Post. In these she also explained her visit with Assange in 2017 and how close she came during the hottest days of the Cambridge Analytica scandal to turning over the entirety of her hard drive to WikiLeaks for publication online.

The second missing element is a decisive moment of reckoning for Kaiser, during which she fully acknowledges her role in matters she now regards as wrong and possibly illegal. She repeatedly calls herself a “whistleblower” but viewers of the film may wonder: Why didn’t she blow the whistle a little soonerideally before Cambridge Analytica’s misdeeds had become front-page news worldwide?

She knew before the story blew up that the rights of Americans had been violated,” said David Carroll, an associate professor of media design at the New School in New York and a hero in the film for his dogged legal battle to gain access to the data Cambridge Analytica had collected on him. He is among those who would think better of Kaiser had she spoken up about her qualms with Cambridge Analytica before the scandal erupted.

> “Once that’s out, it’s hard to be a whistleblower,” Carroll said. “You’ve missed your chance.”

(David Bythewood) #423

“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.” Rest in peace, Toni Morrison.

(David Bythewood) #424

The Uncanny Power of Incompetent Men

Inspired by the legendary ineptitude of the U.K.’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, you too can use your incompetence to succeed beyond your wildest imaginings


White Supremacists Own Domestic Terrorism

as conclusively shown in this infographic by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. This is a real eye-opener. Once you are on the page (via the link below), click on the infographic to enlarge it.

Of the 25 “race-based extremists” who perpetrated domestic terrorist incidents in 2018 all 25 were “white supremacists.” See the first 25 boxes in the infographic.

This article by Yahoo News lead me to the infographic. You may be interested in that article as well, but basically it describes this chart so if you want to cut to the chase, just view the chart. The article also makes the point that our Department of Justice appears reluctant to make this information available. However, the state of New Jersey has stepped up and published the facts.

And here’s an excellent companion editorial from the Washington Post with more statistics documenting the surge in domestic terrorism by white nationalists.

Day 939

From a FB feed

Powerful, President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, has a message for people who are excusing President Trump’s racism:

“I had fully intended to ignore President Trump’s latest round of racially charged taunts against an African American elected official, and an African American activist, and an African American journalist and a whole city with a lot of African Americans in it. I had every intention of walking past Trump’s latest outrages and writing about the self-destructive squabbling of the Democratic presidential field, which has chosen to shame former vice president Joe Biden for the sin of being an electable, moderate liberal.
But I made the mistake of pulling James Cone’s ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree’ off my shelf — a book designed to shatter convenient complacency. Cone recounts the case of a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., in 1918 that lynched an innocent man named Haynes Turner. Turner’s enraged wife, Mary, promised justice for the killers. The sheriff responded by arresting her and then turning her over to the mob, which included women and children. According to one source, Mary was ‘stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.’
God help us. It is hard to write the words. This evil — the evil of white supremacy, resulting in dehumanization, inhumanity and murder — is the worst stain, the greatest crime, of U.S. history. It is the thing that nearly broke the nation. It is the thing that proved generations of Christians to be vicious hypocrites. It is the thing that turned normal people into moral monsters, capable of burning a grieving widow to death and killing her child.
When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020. It is a cause for shame. It is the violation of martyrs’ graves. It is obscene graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial. It is, in the eyes of history, the betrayal — the re-betrayal — of Haynes and Mary Turner and their child. And all of this is being done by an ignorant and arrogant narcissist reviving racist tropes for political gain, indifferent to the wreckage he is leaving, the wounds he is ripping open.
Like, I suspect, many others, I am finding it hard to look at resurgent racism as just one in a series of presidential offenses or another in a series of Republican errors. Racism is not just another wrong. The Antietam battlefield is not just another plot of ground. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is not just another bridge. The balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel is not just another balcony. As U.S. history hallows some causes, it magnifies some crimes.
What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.
Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.” — Michael Gerson

And another piece of his writing…

(David Bythewood) #427

The 1619 Project

The 1619 Project (named for the year the first slave ship arrived in America) is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.

In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.

We asked 16 writers to bring consequential moments in African-American history to life. Here are their poems and stories.

Myths about physical racial differences were used to justify slavery — and are still believed by doctors today.

America holds onto an undemocratic assumption from its founding: that some people deserve more power than others.

For centuries, black music, forged in bondage, has been the sound of complete artistic freedom. No wonder everybody is always stealing it.

What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot.

Why doesn’t the United States have universal health care? The answer has everything to do with race.

Slavery gave America a fear of black people and a taste for violent punishment. Both still define our criminal-justice system.

The sugar that saturates the American diet has a barbaric history as the ‘white gold’ that fueled slavery.

A vast wealth gap, driven by segregation, redlining, evictions and exclusion, separates black and white America.

Their ancestors were enslaved by law. Today, they are graduates of the nation’s preeminent historically black law school.


All Brian Fisher wants is to make it through Season 2 of HBO’s “Westworld.”

Fisher, 65, retired from Silicon Valley to Alicante, Spain, where he imagined he’d spend his time catching up on television and enjoying the beach. But now, he jokes, he can’t seem to do either — and for that, he blames President Trump.

“You think, ‘Well, I’ll have my coffee and see what happened overnight in the States,’ ” he said, before describing a morning ritual that includes copious cable news and scrolling through the news alerts on his phone. “I can barely find time to go out to the beach. I live on the beach in Spain — that’s the whole point — but by the time I finish the news, it’s already getting dark.”

Fisher is not alone. Mary Ingham, 52, described a similarly disrupted television viewing routine, spurred on by the negative impact she fears the president is having on her 7-year-old niece. “I used to go home at the end of the day and watch ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ” Ingham said. “Now I go home and watch MSNBC. Then when I wake up, well, my TV is already tuned to it.”

Interviews with more than a dozen voters, at the Iowa State Fair here and elsewhere, reveal a Democratic electorate wearied by Trump’s near-constant stream of incendiary behavior and racially tinged — and at times overtly racist — invective.

Democratic hopefuls are making a pitch seemingly geared directly at these voters, promising to offset their anxieties and concerns with a return to normalcy via a president who is everything they believe Trump is not — measured, predictable, responsible. Or, at its most reductive, they’re offering an unofficial pledge to Make America Boring Again.

Former vice president Joe Biden casts Trump as a historical anomaly — “an aberrant moment in time” — and argues for taking the country back to when politics was a little less combustible and government a bit more basic.

Another Democratic candidate, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, more overtly captured the sentiment in a tweet that went viral, racking up more than 37,000 retweets as he spoke to those voters’ most primal desire.

“If you elect me president, I promise you won’t have to think about me for 2 weeks at a time,” Bennet wrote earlier this month. “I’ll do my job watching out for North Korea and ending this trade war. So you can go raise your kids and live your lives.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) speaks to Iowa voters on the Soapbox stage at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11, 2019, in Des Moines. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

In an interview, Bennet said his tweet reflected a sentiment he has been hearing from voters, but rejected the notion that he’s lobbying to be the nation’s next mundane commander-in-chief. “No! No! No!” he said. “I don’t want a boring president either, but I’d like to have a president who is competent again to do the job.”

I totally agree with Bennet on this point and hope that whoever wins the Democratic primary will make it a key talking point in their campaign. Drop the daily drama!

And here’s an excellent companion editorial about how destructive it is for the U.S. to have a DQP (Drama Queen President):

President Donald Trump is showing what happens when the United States abandons its decades-long role as a guarantor of stability and instead chooses to act as an agent of global disruption.

A series of economic and political shocks are fomenting disorder across the planet and straining an international political system that Trump deliberately set out to undermine.

  • Stock markets are tumbling as warning signs flash of a global recession exacerbated by fears deepened by the US-China trade war.
  • Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are locked in a dangerous new standoff.
  • The post-Cold War arms control regime is breaking down.
  • South Korea and Japan – the foundation of US influence in Asia – are reviving age-old animosity.
  • Concern about a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown by Beijing in Hong Kong is growing as Trump looks the other way.
  • Iran and the US just narrowly avoided spiraling into a disastrous war partly precipitated by the President’s maximum pressure campaign.
  • And the European Union – for years a crucial co-sponsor with the US of world stability – is seeing one of its three most influential members, Britain, heading for the exits, with enthusiastic encouragement from the White House.

Trump did not cause all these crises. But his actions or unwillingness to temper them did deepen the discord in many cases. And his refusal to play the kind of stabilizing leadership role expected of a US president is fomenting power vacuums and may convince key protagonists in each drama that they may not face the kinds of consequences they might normally expect from Washington.

"Someone needs to remind the Potus … that diplomacy is a tool of national security - and that ignoring it will bring about a world of diminished US influence, greater conflict, less freedom and prosperity, and increased demands on the US military," [Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations] tweeted.

Right on, Richard!


More destructive behavior from our President of Chaos. This time directed at our national intelligence agencies. His BFF Putin must love this.

The accompanying video commentary is excellent. The infographic says it all:


When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his deputy Sue Gordon leave their offices for the last time on Thursday, it will mark a turning point for an administration that has already endured the highest level of senior staff turnover in history.

Both Coats, who took on the role of intelligence chief in 2017, and Gordon, who started as his deputy a few months later, have outlasted a slew of their national security colleagues who left the Trump administration at various points over the last two years.

This “is a defining day in the Trump administration’s national security structure – they have finally cleared out all the national security positions in terms of senior officials,” said David Priess, a former CIA official who delivered the president’s daily briefing in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

“With all the twists and turns in the Trump administration and the national security establishment and intelligence community over the past two years, at least there has been stability in one way – the DNI and his principal deputy have quietly remained an island of steadiness,” Priess said. “As of August 15, that changes.”

[George Beebe, director of the Intelligence Project Center] told CNN that it is difficult to understand the importance of Coats, Gordon and whoever the new leaders of the ODNI turn out to be, without getting into that domestic political story.

"The intelligence community is not supposed to be playing a political role in our tradition," he added. “We’re not supposed to have a secret police … normally the impulse Americans have and Congress has and the media has is to want to place constraints on the intelligence community, to make sure they’re staying within the lines.”

"That dynamic has flipped now. People are seeing the intelligence community not as something that should be constrained, but something that should constrain the President," Beebe said.


:boom: Wow. Let’s just take that in for a second.

(David Bythewood) #431

The Right-Wing American Love Affair With One of the Most Disturbing Serial Killers

A monster who boasted of how he had hacked up a 12-year-old girl—had Ayn Rand’s ear, as well as her heart. What happened next was the modern Republican Party.


By all means, Mr. President, go ahead and shoot yourself in the foot once again. Alienate your “Fox News Base” and what have you got left?

Before he boarded Air Force One to fly back to Washington on Sunday afternoon, President Donald Trump was asked about a recent Fox News poll that showed him in serious trouble vis a vis the 2020 election. Trump, as he is wont to do, went off at length on his once-favorite network.

The poll showed Trump’s approval rating in the low 40s and had him losing by six or more points to Democratic 2020 rivals Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Unsurprisingly, Trump didn’t like that. Here’s the key bit:

“Well, Fox has always given me – I’ll tell you, Fox is a lot different than it used to be, I can tell you that. … Fox has changed. And my worst polls have always been from Fox. There’s something going on at Fox, I’ll tell you right now. And I’m not happy with it.”

“There’s something going on at Fox.”

Now, let’s be clear here: What Trump doesn’t like is that Fox News conducts a credible national poll – like every other network including CNN – that shows Trump’s approval rating dipping to 43%. (That’s broadly consistent with where other national polls have shown Trump’s job approval.)

In Trump’s mind, Fox’s polling should be favorable to him. As should all of its hosts and the tone of its coverage. He has no idea what an independent media organization should look like. He views the world through a very simple lens: Are you for Trump or against Trump? That’s it. There are only two sides – and for a long time Trump has assumed that Fox is in the “for Trump” camp, largely due to its fawning morning show and Sean Hannity’s open advocacy for Trump during primetime.

But there remain elements of serious news within Fox – most notably in people like Chris Wallace, Shepard Smith and Bret Baier. And Fox’s political unit conducts a serious, nonpartisan poll because, well, duh, it’s a major media company.

Trump’s worldview doesn’t understand that nuances like this can exist. Again, you are either for him or against him. No gray area. Simply put: Trump wants Fox to be state-sponsored TV of the sort they have in authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea.

So the Fox poll does not compute for Trump. And the way he handles things that don’t compute is to assume some dark conspiracy that is out to get him.

Trump’s use of “something” – vague but loaded with suspicion – is the President’s default way of pushing pet conspiracy theories to his followers. He never actually says there is a conspiracy within Fox to get him, but he knows that his backers pick up on any thread of “deep state” conspiracy and run with it.

That he sees conspiracy where this is none should not be surprising given his long history of embracing debunked conspiracy theories – from the idea that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States to the idea that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. What is somewhat surprising is that Trump is killing one of his darlings. But as close Trump-watchers know, he turns on everyone at some point. Everyone.

And a related development…

IMHO, if Trump jumps ship from Fox News to the even more right-wing OANN, it can only have the effect of further shrinking his base. Only his furthest right followers would make the jump with him, leaving the rest confused and feeling abandoned. Many of those “left behind” may stick with Trump, but many may also finally realize what Trump is all about and may simply stay home on election day.

Last month after Donald Trump watched Fox News lob what he called “softball questions” at a Democratic lawmaker, the US president delivered a crisp smackdown of his favourite network: “Fox sure ain’t what it used to be”.

After years of often fawning coverage by Fox, particularly from its pro-Trump anchors like Sean Hannity, the commander-in-chief appears to be tilting his media gaze toward a younger, more right-wing rival, cable outfit One America News Network (OANN).

The small upstart broadcaster was launched only recently, in 2013, by technology millionaire Robert Herring, who sought a more conservative alternative to mainstream media behemoths like CNN.

Today it seeks to outfox Fox by drawing extra attention from Trump, who has been voicing his displeasure with the ratings leader over everything from presidential polling to its hosting of Democratic candidate town halls.

Last week in a tweet to his 63 million followers, the president managed to disparage Fox and his mainstream news foil CNN, while heaping praise on the new object of his media affection.

“Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews. Actually, whenever possible, I turn to @OANN! Trump posted.

Since March he has tweeted links to OANN stories or shared his appreciation of the network 13 times.

The relationship has been years in the making. In 2015 Trump was interviewed by Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008, when she guest-hosted OANN’s show On Point .

At his first press conference as president-elect, in January 2017, Trump took a question from an OANN reporter.

OANN was then called on dozens of times at the daily briefings in Trump’s first 100 days in office.

During his June 2018 press conference in Singapore, following the summit with North Korea’s Kim Jon-un, Trump took a question from OANN White House correspondent Emerald Robinson, but not before gushing about her network.

“Thank you for the nice way you treat us. We appreciate it,” he said.

“Really, it’s very good. It’s really beautiful what you do.”

The San Diego-based operation describes itself as “straight news, no opinion”.

But the pro-Trump agenda is crystal clear, more than a dozen current and former employees told The Washington Post in 2017.

OANN has faced accusations of promoting conspiracy theories and peddling Kremlin propaganda.

“Yeah, we like Russia here,” a staffer assigned to brief new OANN producer Ernest Champell told him, according to The Daily Beast.

Champell left, disillusioned, four months later.

“The network has a history of race-baiting and presenting anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion reporting,” according to Media Matters, a progressive non-profit group that says its mission is “analysing and correcting conservative misinformation”.

Day 942
(David Bythewood) #433

The next time some smirking gundamentalist claims there’s no such thing as an assault rifle, THIS is the thread to hit him with:

(David Bythewood) #434

This perfectly lays out Trump’s betrayal of Democracy and embrace of fascist oligarchy.

Trump Has Defected: The president crossed an important line when he canceled a meeting with the Danish prime minister.

Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bush Sr. all faced primary challengers while incumbent; they went on to lose in the general election.

LBJ dropped out due to a primary challenge that left the Democrats in disarray, saw Robert Kennedy nominated, then assassinated, and replacement Hubert Humphrey lose to Richard Nixon.


Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell penned an Op-Ed in The NY Times warning “Democrats who want to change Senate rules for temporary political gain will rue the day, as they have before.”

That was my warning to Senate Democrats in November 2013. Their leader, Harry Reid, had just persuaded them to trample longstanding Senate rules and precedents. Now that some Democrats are proposing further radical changes to the Senate’s functioning, it is instructive to recall what happened next.

To confirm more of President Barack Obama’s controversial nominees, Democrats took two radical steps. First, since the nominees had proved unable to earn the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, Democrats sought to change Senate rules so that ending debate on most nominations would require only a simple majority. Second, lacking the two-thirds supermajority needed to change the rules normally, Democrats decided to short-circuit standard procedure and muscle through the new rule with a simple majority as well — the first use of the infamous “nuclear option.”

Republicans opposed both moves on principle. Strong minority rights have always been the Senate’s distinguishing feature. But when appeals to principle fell on deaf ears, I tried a practical argument. The political winds shift often, I reminded my Democratic friends. And I doubted they’d like their new rules when the shoe was on the other foot.

Unfortunately, Senate Democrats bought what Senator Reid was selling — but buyer’s remorse arrived with lightning speed. Just one year later, Republicans retook the majority. Two years after that, Americans elected President Trump. In 2017, we took the Reid precedent to its logical conclusion, covering all nominations up to and including the Supreme Court.

So this is the legacy of the procedural avalanche Democrats set off: Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and 43 new lifetime circuit judges — the most ever at this point in a presidency. The consequences of taking Senator Reid’s advice will haunt liberals for decades.

A number of Democrats publicly regret their 2013 vote. One calls it “probably the biggest mistake I ever made.” Nevertheless, the far left now wants Democrats to touch the hot stove yet again. This time, they want to erase the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation.

A Democratic assault on the legislative filibuster would make the nomination fights look like child’s play. That’s because systematically filibustering nominees was not an old tradition but a modern phenomenon, pioneered in 2003 by Democrats who opposed President George W. Bush. When Republicans followed suit and held up a handful of Obama nominees the same way, Democrats could not stomach their own medicine and began a “nuclear” exchange that Republicans had to end.

The back-and-forth was regrettable, but the silver lining is that the failed experiment Democrats started in 2003 is now over. The Senate has taken a step back toward its centuries-old norms on nominations: limited debate and a simple majority threshold.

On legislation, however, the Senate’s treasured tradition is not efficiency but deliberation. One of the body’s central purposes is making new laws earn broader support than what is required for a bare majority in the House. The legislative filibuster does not appear in the Constitution’s text, but it is central to the order the Constitution sets forth. It echoes James Madison’s explanationin Federalist 62 that the Senate is designed not to rubber-stamp House bills but to act as an “additional impediment” and “complicated check” on “improper acts of legislation.” It embodies Thomas Jefferson’s principle that “great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.”

The legislative filibuster is directly downstream from our founding tradition. If that tradition frustrates the whims of those on the far left, it is their half-baked proposals and not the centuries-old wisdom that need retooling.

Yes, the Senate’s design makes it difficult for one party to enact sweeping legislation on its own. Yes, the filibuster makes policy less likely to seesaw wildly with every election. These are features, not bugs. Our country doesn’t need a second House of Representatives with fewer members and longer terms. America needs the Senate to be the Senate.

I recognize it may seem odd that a Senate majority leader opposes a proposal to increase his own power. Certainly it is curious that liberals are choosing this moment, when Americans have elected Republican majorities three consecutive times and counting, to attack the minority’s powers.

But my Republican colleagues and I have not and will not vandalize this core tradition for short-term gain. We recognize what everyone should recognize — there are no permanent victories in politics. No Republican has any trouble imagining the laundry list of socialist policies that 51 Senate Democrats would happily inflict on Middle America in a filibuster-free Senate.

In this country, radical changes face a high bar by design. It is telling that today’s left-wing activists would rather lower that bar than produce ideas that can meet it.

I am known for appreciating an old Kentucky saying: “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.” Some Senate Democrats seem to agree. Thirteen of their ranking members on Senate committees have publicly stated that they oppose tampering with the legislative filibuster.

But the Democratic Party is racing leftward, with presidential debates that make the 2008 exchanges between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards look downright conservative by comparison. The party is rallying around the very kinds of radical schemes that the Constitution intentionally frustrates. And rather than moderate or engage in persuasion, many on the left seem more tempted to rewrite the rules once again.

A majority of the Democratic presidential candidates are flirting with ending the legislative filibuster. Even more irresponsibly, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, the top two Senate Democrats, have signaled openness as well. On this subject, like so many others, what was recently fringe nonsense seems to be rapidly becoming mainstream Democratic dogma.

I hope the saner voices among Democrats can help their compatriots see reason. Unless and until that happens, Americans must never let this radical movement gain enough power to vandalize the Senate.

If future Democrats shortsightedly decide to reduce the Senate to majority rule, we’ll have lost a key safeguard of American government.

And — stop me if you’ve heard this one — they’d regret it a lot sooner than they think.

It’s more of a threat than anything else.

(David Bythewood) #436

Hypocrisy in action, though he’s not wrong about that proving a mistake. I can’t see the whole thing, it’s behind the pay wall, but something tells me this is packed with hypocrisy. Just his calling their nominees controversial is ludicrous.


I’m posting this under editorials because, basically, it’s a snarky (yet highly perceptive) take on Trump’s latest “press conference.” Chris Cillizza from CNN now regularly publishes these “bizarrest lines” pieces and I love them. They give me a chance to review what Trump has said without actually having to watch and listen to him (fingernails on a chalkboard for me) – and they provide some welcome comic relieve from what is otherwise troubling verbiage coming from the leader of our nation.

My favorites in this one (Trump’s statements are in bold. Cillizza’s comments are in italics):

6. "Denmark, I looked forward to going, but I thought that the Prime Minister’s statement – that it was absurd; that it was an absurd idea – it was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say, ‘No, we wouldn’t be interested.’"

OK, so. Trump wanted to buy Greenland, which is owned by Denmark. The Danes said no. But it was the way they said “no” that pissed Trump off. Everyone knows “absurd” is fighting words, right? RIGHT?

7. "But all they had to do is say, ‘No, we’d rather not do that,’ or ‘We’d rather not talk about it.’ Don’t say, ‘What an absurd idea that is.’"

Did someone just say “absurd”?!?!?! [Looks around for someone to fight]

9. "We’re working on background checks. There are things we can do. But we already have very serious background checks. We have strong background checks. We can close up the gaps. We can do things that are very good and things that, frankly, gun owners want to have done. But we also have to remember the gun doesn’t pull the trigger, a person does. And we have great mental illness."

I dare you to figure out what Trump actually wants to do on guns from this word salad. …“we have great mental illness” doesn’t sound all that good.

11. "No President has ever done anywhere close to what I’ve done between Golan Heights, Jerusalem, Iran – and other things."

He is always the first. And the best. Especially on those all-important “other things.”

12. "No President has done what I’ve done."


17. "[Russia was] taken out [of the G8] because Putin outsmarted – on Crimea, on the red line, on other things – totally outsmarted Obama. Obama was upset; they took them out."

This is a stunning rewrite of history. Russia was removed from the G8 because they annexed land controlled by another country. They were not removed from the G8 because Obama was mad that Russian President Vladimir Putin had somehow outsmarted him.

19. "This isn’t my trade war. This is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago by a lot of other Presidents."

“Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” – Donald Trump, March 2018

20. "Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one. [looks up to the sky] Somebody had to do it."


22. "The Prime Minister used a terrible word when describing something that we’ve been talking about for years with our country."

[narrator voice] The word was “absurd.”

23. "She shouldn’t treat the United States that way by saying, ‘What an abs-…’ She said ‘absurd.’ That’s not the right word to use: ‘absurd.’"

Look, I warned you guys about using that word! So now it’s on. [Jumps into crowd like Amir Garrett taking on the entire Pirates team]

26. "I am the least racist person ever to serve in office, OK? I am the least racist person."

The least racist person doesn’t spend a ton of time talking about how they are the least racist person.

28. "There are many, many things in play. People are talking about videos. People are talking about lots of different things. But we do have a way of bringing what we already have, because we have many, many – as you know, we have many, many people that are unable to buy guns right now. Many people are unable to buy guns."

Trump regularly talks in circles. But when he talks about guns and the way forward on gun control (or not) he takes it to a whole other level.

31. "We wiped out the caliphate, 100%. I did in record time."

Was there a previous record for wiping out ISIS that I am unaware of? Also, this.

33. "So when I went to Dayton, and when I went to El Paso, and I went into those hospitals, the love for me – and me, maybe, as a representative of the country – but for me – and my love for them was unparalleled."

So, the big takeaway from Trump’s visits to mass shooting victims was that they really loved him. Like, a lot.

That last one is truly an O. M. G. moment.

Note: Above, I put “press conference” in quotes because Trump’s version of a “press conference” is really just him bloviating over helicopter noise until he gets bored and walks off. Ah, for the days when the press actually gathered in a quiet room and conducted a dignified question and answer session with the President. Here’s a good analysis of how Trump has debased press conferences just as he has done with almost everything else related to the office of President.

It was another bravura performance of “Chopper Talk.”

The latest iteration of President Donald Trump’s signature news conferences in front of a thwapping Marine One on Wednesday was a whirligig of boastfulness, slingshot attacks and public self-therapy — in other words, vintage Trump.

As reporters shouted dozens of questions above the din of the helicopter’s churning engines, Trump picked the ones he wanted — on Greenland, Russia, the Fed and background checks for gun sales — and brushed past those he didn’t.

Wednesday’s careening, impromptu 35-minute news conference may have looked bizarre to veteran observers of the White House, not to mention maddening to television pros accustomed to high-quality audio and video production values. But there’s a method to the seeming madness.

The “Chopper Talk” sessions, as comedian Stephen Colbert has dubbed them, serve multiple goals for Trump, reporters and White House insiders say. They allow him to speak more often in front of the cameras than his predecessors, yet firmly on his own terms.

Trump’s freewheeling Q&As have essentially replaced the formal White House press briefing, which hasn’t been held in more than five months. The traditional on-camera briefings, which were held regularly under press secretary Sean Spicer, became shorter and less frequent under Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and have been nonexistent under Stephanie Grisham, who took the reins in June.

Reporters say the shift from a formal process — in which the president or his press secretary call on reporters one-by-one, without knowing what will be asked, and where follow-up questions are expected — diminishes their ability to hold him accountable.

“If he was at a podium, we would be pressing him after he answers the question, we would be correcting him, we would be pointing out discrepancies in previous answers, and we’re not able to do that in the chaotic setting of a departure,” said CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang.

(David Bythewood) #438

Trump, frustrated by unpopularity with Jews, thrusts Israel into his culture war

This article lays it out in a way that makes sense; it’s often said that crooks think everybody else is also crooked. This isn’t necessarily so in all cases, but some people, especially the powerful and arrogant, do tend to feel that everybody can be bought, and that everybody is as selfish and transactional as they are.

Trump is definitely one of those. Even the most cursory look at his policies and words shows this, He sees trade agreements as one-on-one deals, trade deficits as losses, alliances like NATO and our commitments to Japan and the Gulf as other nations taking advantage of us when they should be paying through the nose, and the economy as the ultimate carrot he can dangle, which is why he keeps boasting about 501ks and lower unemployment and lower prices at the cost of the environment.

To him, white people want to be protected from the scary caravans and MS-13, black people clearly only care about low unemployment and prison reform, and if he backs Israel in every way imaginable, why naturally Jews should owe him.

And the fact that there are so many of us who do not must mean we’re ungrateful, or want something more, and he doesn’t get what, and so this confirms all of his worst biases that lead him to believe these things to begin with. When you look at it through the lens of Trumpian transactionalism, it fits neatly together in all of its greedy, scheming, self-centered delusion.


These ALL make me shudder. He is off-the-charts on these comments - beyond belief. But as Maddow would say, this can happen on any day that ends in “y.”

Is there NO ONE who will knock any sense into him…? And he’s going to the G 7 shortly - a spot where he makes more enemies with our allies than anyone. And he left last year’s conference without signing their collective agreement.



Ahead of 2020, I’ve been thinking about leadership lately. What makes a good leader? How do we decide who has leadership skills? I found this piece contemplating those very questions in this New Yorker essay from 2016, so I thought I would share.

In the nineteen-eighties, the scholars James Meindl, Sanford Ehrlich, and Janet Dukerich introduced a term for how leadership looks from the outside: “the romance of leadership.” Meindl and his colleagues studied this romance in a number of ways. In one study, they asked people to evaluate the performance of a hypothetical company; when they attributed the boost in the company’s performance to good leadership, people judged it more valuable than when it was attributed to other, more mundane factors. Another study analyzed mentions of leadership in newspapers: reporters turned out to write more about corporate leadership when companies were doing either very well or very poorly. Leaders, the scholars concluded, are narrative devices. It’s through thinking about leadership and leaders that we arrive at “an intellectually compelling and emotionally satisfying comprehension of the causes, nature, and consequences of organizational activities. It is the way many prefer to cope and come to grips with the cognitive and moral complexities” of reality. It humanizes the forces that shape history—“forces that are often unknowable and indeterminant, perhaps even objectionable.” How else could we make sense of a world that has so many interlocking parts—a world constructed, as Hardy put it, with such “intimate welding”?

To some extent, leaders are storytellers; really, though, they are characters in stories. They play leading roles, but in dramas they can’t predict and don’t always understand. Because the serialized drama of history is bigger than any one character’s arc, leaders can’t guarantee our ultimate narrative satisfaction. Because events, on the whole, are more protean than people, leaders grow less satisfying with time, as the stories they’re ready to tell diverge from the stories we want to hear. And, because our desire for a coherent vision of the world is bottomless, our hunger for leadership is insatiable, too. Leaders make the world more sensible, but never sensible enough.

Should our leaders keep this in mind? Do we want them to lead with a sense of submerged irony, of wistful self-awareness? When we’re swept up in the romance of leadership, we admire leaders who radiate authenticity and authority; we respect and enjoy our “real” leaders. At other times, though, we want leaders who see themselves objectively, who resist the pull of their own charisma, who doubt the story they’ve been rewarded for telling. “If a man who thinks he is a king is mad,” Jacques Lacan wrote, “a king who thinks he is a king is no less so.” A sense of perspective may be among the most critical leadership qualities. For better or worse, however, it’s the one we ask our leaders to hide. :diamonds: