Conover Kennard smacks down a GOP lawmaker over the "thoughts and prayers" dodge:

A Florida state senator [Kelli Stargel (R)], who is obviously, like, a totally stable genius, said the only thing that is going to stop "the evil" behind mass shootings is "thoughts and prayers." That didn't work after the Columbine school massacre and it won't after the most recent mass shooting in Parkdale, Florida. Maybe God is trying to tell right-wing Christians to do something.

As the gun-lobby's lackey said:

"When we say 'thoughts and prayers,' it's frowned upon. And I take real offense at that because thoughts and prayers are really the only thing that's gonna stop the evil from within the individual who is taking up their arms to do this kind of a massacre."

"It's not the weapon that matters," Stargel insisted, but it's "the evil from within." [...]

"In my opinion, the one thing that will actually change this the most is the one thing that has become fighting words, which is to say 'thoughts and prayers,'" she said. "So that's something I'm gonna continue to add to my comprehensive plan so we can hopefully stop the evil that is happening from within our world."

Does the author of this "comprehensive plan" comprehend anything as relevant as universal background checks, waiting periods, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, or the "well-regulated" part of the Second Amendment?

Asking for a nation tired of getting shot up...

N+1 magazine looks at gun violence and the war on terror, pointing out that the more things change,

There was something unsettling or self-serving about the excess of praise adults heaped on the Stoneman Douglas students who boarded charter buses bound for the Tallahassee statehouse just a few days after watching their classmates die. "This shooting is different from the other ones," a 16-year-old boy told a Times reporter. "I just have a gut feeling--something is going to change." It's understandable that he should feel this way; insofar as no previous school shooting had happened in his school, to his friends and teachers, this time was different. But his representatives quickly demonstrated that it was not different enough. Florida's legislature voted down a motion to debate an assault weapons ban.

they more they remain the same:

That traumatized children had to learn this about their government in front of national news reporters struck me as a continuation of the shooting, not a response to it. The shooting shows us that the US is a place where children either grow up in fear of random, catastrophic violence or else don't grow up at all. The debate that has followed the shooting shows us that things are going to stay that way.

In a sense, this is reminiscent of terrorism, as "Today's mass shooters have all grown up in a country that lives in a constantly reinforced fear of a certain kind of violent spectacle:"

No other violent act is more feared, more discussed, more capable of causing society to change itself--nothing gets more attention and recognition. The mass shooting is our domestic variant of the jihadist terrorist attack. Were the US to abandon the specter of terrorism as the organizing principle of the country's foreign policy, travel laws, and security procedures, the mass shooting would lose much of its dark appeal. But during this century so far, America has responded to terrorist attacks by deepening its fears and by entrenching itself in militarism and surveillance. It is responding to mass shootings in much the same way. So long as that pattern holds, angry and unstable young men will continue to act in accordance with the world that was made for them to grow up in.

Considering that we, as Americans, are 124 times more likely to die from a gun assault than from a foreign-born terrorist incident, the problem can seem intractable. The media (especially those on the Right) are fixated on the wrong problem, while ignoring the fact that, as In These Times' Leonard C. Goodman reminds us, it's never been about the Second Amendment--it's about corporate profits:

Parkland teenagers are smart enough to understand that the real impediment to sensible gun laws is not the Second Amendment but lawmakers who take industry money through groups like the NRA.

"A familiar pattern has emerged after mass shootings," he observes:

Lawmakers offer thoughts and prayers and then quietly shoot down any restrictions on gun sales, citing their fealty to the Second Amendment.

There is a chance that this time will be different, thanks largely to the teenagers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are fighting back against lawmakers who protect industry profits over the lives of their constituents.

One relevant example is Senator Marco Rubio, who has received $3,303,355 from the NRA over the course of his career:

Unable to discuss their NRA funding, gun industry lackeys like Rubio fall back on the excuse that the Second Amendment ties their hands and prohibits restrictions on gun sales. This is nonsense.

"Corporate-owned politicians," Goodman concludes, "don't care about the Constitution:"

How many of them have even read it? They make it easy for mass-killers to buy assault rifles because this helps their patrons in the gun industry sell more guns and maximize profits.

Thank you, Parkland teenagers for finally calling them out.


Cristina Orsini explains how the "fake news frenzy threatens dissent, pointing out that it's "often a catch-all term, used to smear opposing points of view:"

This is why it is crucial for people around the globe to understand the impact that current narratives on fake news and proposed solutions may have on their potential to be active and free citizens, in order to preserve the possibility of dissent and maintain a pluralistic and informative public sphere.

The US is not yet Iran, Egypt, or Brazil, she writes, but "content regulation to fight fake news is concerning activists in what would be considered well-established democracies as well:"

For example, in June last year the German parliament voted for a bill to fine social media platforms that fail to remove illegal content within 24 hours, which can include hate speech and fake news. This triggered concerns over accidental and privatized censorship due to the short time-frame allowed for analysis of each case. Emmanuel Macron started 2018 by announcing that his government is developing rules to crack down on fake news, including the possibility for judges to block accounts.

Orsini continues by noting that "top-down approaches to fake news disregard the existence of propaganda and the fact that misinformation can be spread by governments themselves and used to advance their own interests:"

Letting governments control narratives can result in the homogenization of available information, which would be dangerous for democratic debate, and paradoxical if this was to occur in the name of protecting "truth" itself. [...]

However, investing social media platforms, and thus private companies, with the task of managing content can be extremely problematic. Social media platforms have been criticized for their lack of transparency about the mechanisms and algorithms used to prioritize content, often influenced by the power of money and by a business model based on maximizing clicks for advertisement purposes.

Creeping infotainment is one risk, and another is that "social media platforms can be co-opted by governments:"

For example, Facebook has been removing content published by Palestinian activists at the request of the Israeli government. This has created an asymmetrical social media sphere where hate speech and misinformation by some is removed, but not by others.

"It is perhaps critical thinking itself," she concludes, "that is most deeply challenged by the fake news frenzy:"

In the words of Frank La Rue, a human rights lawyer and assistant director-general for communication and information at UNESCO, "fake news is a trap. Why? Because ... they are trying to dissuade us from reading the news and thinking." In other words, fake news narratives risk making citizens increasingly cynical about information in general, which could result in a sort of agnosticism to news and information. This could lead to public disengagement, a condition in which the powerful go unchallenged and collective action for the defense of citizens' rights becomes harder to achieve. [...]

Most activists seem to agree that if an antidote to fake news exists -- within a truly democratic society where freedom of expression is respected -- it will arrive through education and be based on critical thinking.

Sophia A. McClennen expresses concern that we are a nation of ignoramuses:

In the days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we learned that we weren't just fighting gun violence in our country; we were also fighting bots that were using Facebook and other social media platforms to control the narrative and sow division. Parallel to bot propaganda after the shootings, a similar disinformation campaign popped up after the premiere of "Black Panther," with images of violence circulating on Twitter suggesting that white people weren't welcome at the screenings.

Suddenly the breaking news story is that bots and trolls and other agents of disinformation are not only trying to influence our elections, they are trying to cause conflict among U.S. citizens. And of course, most of the news coverage hysterically suggests that the source of these digital media attacks is primarily Russian.

"The real problem," she tells us, "is that the United States is one of the least intelligent nations in the developed world:"

We aren't good at processing and analyzing information, and that makes us suckers for bots, trolls and all other sorts of disinformation tactics. [...] Study after study shows that the United States underperforms in literacy across the developed world -- especially given its resources. But that isn't even the core issue; the real problem is the way we have consistently devalued quality education across all levels for decades.

Consider the fact that 14 states teach creationism in public schools. Add to that the reality that a Pew Research Study from 2015 found that 34 percent of Americans reject evolution entirely, saying humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

But it isn't just our knowledge base that's the problem; it's the fact that the United States has effectively abandoned the notion that investing in education is critical for the future of our nation.

The situation is no better after high school, because "The same pattern is true for higher education:"

States continue to slash support for public colleges and universities and funding remains below historic levels. Overall, state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2017 school year was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation.

It should come as no surprise that reduced investment in education leads to lower student outcomes and to poorer critical thinking skills. [...]

And as convenient as it might be to turn this into a partisan problem with the Republicans as the stooges and the Democrats as the sharp ones, that approach won't work. Sure, we have considerable data on the gullibility of the Republican brain and the fact that fake news was shared far more often by Republicans, but, in the end, this is a truly bi-partisan problem on a national scale.

"The parties may have their own special brands of ignorance," McClennan observes, "but there is plenty of dumb to go around:"

So before we overly invest energy and resources into shutting down propaganda, hoax news and other forms of disinformation, we should probably make an effort to wise up. Philosopher Steven Nadler wonders if it is even possible to "fix American stupidity," a mindset he describes as intellectual stubbornness. Yet, thus far, we have stubbornly refused to take stock of our own critical thinking failures. The stupidest thing we could do is try to solve this problem by ignoring our own collective stupidity.

NYT's Mark Landler looks at Trump's "treason" comments:

President Trump on Monday accused Democrats who did not clap during his State of the Union address of being un-American and even treasonous. His remarks came in a rambling, discursive speech at a factory in Ohio, during which he celebrated his revival of the American economy as the stock market plummeted by more than 1,000 points.

"Can we call that treason?" Mr. Trump said of the stone-faced reaction of Democrats to his speech. "Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."

Towleroad's Andy Towle discusses Trump's whining about the lack of adulation, and responds that "Treason is colluding with Russians to win an election."
Similarly, Crooks and Liars snarks:

"Collaborating with Russia to steal an election? THAT'S treasonous. Objecting to a despot's behavior? Not so much."

UPDATE: Senator Tammy Duckworth has a thing to say about that.

We don't live in a dictatorship or a monarchy. I swore an oath--in the military and in the Senate--to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap

-- Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) February 6, 2018

WaPo's Robert Barnes discusses the upcoming Pennsylvania redistricting process, noting that SCOTUS refuses to block the PA high court's ruling:

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to delay redrawing congressional lines, meaning the 2018 elections in the state will probably be held in districts far more favorable to Democrats. [...]

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the congressional map drawn by the Republican legislature in 2011 "clearly, plainly and palpably violates" the commonwealth's Constitution. It demanded a quick redrawing of the lines so that 2018 elections could be held in fairer districts.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court justices are elected, and with Democrats in the majority, voted along party lines in demanding a change to the districts. Republicans hold 13 of the 18 congressional seats in what is usually considered a swing state. The ruling gives Democrats a chance to win more of those seats as they try to tip the balance in the House.

PA's League of Women Voters, who challenged the plan, commented of the GOP that: "Their stay applications are just a ploy to preserve a congressional map that violates Pennsylvania's Constitution for one more election cycle." Politicus USA reminds us that the GOP-controlled state legislature has until 9 February to redraw the map, or the state Supreme Court will draw one for the 15 May primary:

A new map would make Democrats competitive or favored in 5-7 seats that are currently controlled by Republicans. The Sixth District, Seventh District, Eighth District, Eleventh District, 15th and 16th Districts could all move to the left with a non-gerrymandered map. Considering that Democrats were already looking at favorable situations for House seat pickups in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California, a redrawn map in Pennsylvania could wipe out Republican control of the House.

In a time when the good news keeps coming for Democrats ahead of the midterm election, the end of the gerrymandered map in Pennsylvania could go down as some of the best news of all.

Jon Chait writes about the Nunes memo and the GOP plot to undermine neutral authority, noting that "Once again, as the facts have emerged in full, the underlying conclusions hyped by conservatives have melted away:"

The memo does not discredit the Russia investigation. It charges that one of the figures in the investigation, Carter Page, had been surveilled in part on the basis of a dossier that had been funded by Democrats, and that the FBI had not adequately disclosed this to the judges who approved the surveillance. If true, the accusation would be legally unimportant (courts frequently approve surveillance on the basis of biased sources), and in any case, the FBI had been investigating Page for years before. The miniscule claim turns out not to be correct anyway -- as the Washington Post reports, the court that approved the surveillance of Page "was aware that some of the information underpinning the warrant request was paid for by a political entity."

But, also like in Climategate, the collapse of the factual underpinnings beneath the conservatives' claims left no impression on them whatsoever. There is no sense of chastening or remorse on the right. To the contrary, Republicans retain all of their initial fervor to use the memo to prosecute their targets in the deep state.

"It might seem perverse," Chait continues, "that Republicans would respond this way in the wake of a high-profile humiliation:"

Yet, from their perspective, it is not a humiliation at all. Republican voters have absorbed the intended message. The rank and file, which once considered support for law enforcement a definitional trait, has quickly turned against the FBI:

20180205-fbi.jpg

"Cultivating distrust in institutions that are designed to play a neutral, mediating role," he reminds us, "is one of the central functions of conservative politics:"

It is a game that conservatives know how to win, because they are waging asymmetric warfare. There is no good way for an institution to withstand partisan attack when its existence relies upon maintaining some distance from partisanship. [...]

Indeed, the FBI finds itself in its current straits in part because it's already attempted to placate conservative distrust. In 2016, the bureau broke its policy and publicized its investigation of Hillary Clinton because the leadership feared the withering attacks they would face from the congressional GOP after a presumed Clinton victory. (They had no such fear of Democrats, which is why they kept their investigation of Trump's connections with Russia secret before the election.) Trump even used the FBI's demonstrated unfairness toward Clinton as a pretext to fire its director last year.

At best, the Republican attacks will clear the way for Donald Trump to close down the Mueller probe or turn federal law enforcement into a weapon of partisan control. At worst, they will supply his followers (including a critical mass of congressional Republicans) with a rationale for ignoring any incriminating conclusions the investigation yields.


the GOP's budget

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Forbes explains the real reason the GOP doesn't want to do a budget this year:

The White House and congressional GOP insisted the big tax cut bill would pay for itself so there would be no negative impact on the federal deficit or national debt. They also said the Trump/GOP economic plans would result in a balanced budget within 10 years. The fiscal 2019 budget resolution -- the one Congress is supposed to debate and adopt this year -- would be the first one considered since the tax bill was enacted and, therefore, the first with projections that should validate and confirm those promises.

That means House and Senate Republicans should be rushing to get it done, take another victory lap and prove themselves to be budget seers, sages, oracles and truth tellers.

But the GOP is doing the exact opposite.

"So," wonders Forbes, "why isn't the GOP going to do a budget?"

Because the vote on the 2019 budget -- the last one Congress will consider before the 2018 midterm elections -- will reveal that all the Republican promises on the deficit and debt, including its blind belief on dynamic scoring, were completely bogus. [...]

But no budget resolution will mean no hearings in the budget committees, no floor debate, much less media attention and, most importantly, no votes. That makes it a great..and maybe the best...way for congressional Republicans to avoid talking about or taking responsibility for the spiking deficit and debt they said wouldn't occur.


Trump called the idea of $1000 bonuses "a lot of money" for employees, while Nancy Pelosi noted the disparity between "the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving to workers," [and got pilloried for it] and later remarked that "it's not a question of $1,000, it's a question of the billions of dollars, the banquet that they have put for the top 1 percent." [For example, consider AT&T's $1,000 bonus for 200,000 employees, which "is only 6 percent of the $3 billion tax windfall."]

In a related incident, Samuel Warde quotes Paul Ryan's since-deleted tweet, where he suggested that $1.50 per week is some sort of windfall for the working class,

A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year. https://t.co/yLX1Bod1j0

-- Paul Ryan (@PRyan) February 3, 2018

and then remarks:

Now, I don't really know which planet Paul Ryan comes from; but on the planet where he dwells at the moment, a $1.50 raise per week is more likely to bring tears of sorrow than ones of the kind of joy that Ryan seems to be experiencing.

NYT provides a higher-level view:

According to an analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, "in general, higher income households receive larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income." Middle-income taxpayers would receive an average tax cut of $930 this year, and those in the top 1 percent would receive an average cut of $51,000.

Open Source turned 20 today, and I'd like to point toward Christine Peterson (Foresight Institute co-founder) and her
personal account
of being "the originator of the term 'open source software':"

On February 2, 1998, Eric Raymond arrived on a visit to work with Netscape on the plan to release the browser code under a free-software-style license. We held a meeting that night at Foresight's office in Los Altos to strategize and refine our message. In addition to Eric and me, active participants included Brian Behlendorf, Michael Tiemann, Todd Anderson, Mark S. Miller, and Ka-Ping Yee. But at that meeting, the field was still described as free software or, by Brian, "source code available" software. [...] Between meetings that week, I was still focused on the need for a better name and came up with the term "open source software." While not ideal, it struck me as good enough. [...]

Later that week, on February 5, 1998, a group was assembled at VA Research to brainstorm on strategy. Attending--in addition to Eric Raymond, Todd, and me--were Larry Augustin, Sam Ockman, and attending by phone, Jon "maddog" Hall. [...]

Toward the end of the meeting, the question of terminology was brought up explicitly, probably by Todd or Eric. Maddog mentioned "freely distributable" as an earlier term, and "cooperatively developed" as a newer term. Eric listed "free software," "open source," and "sourceware" as the main options. Todd advocated the "open source" model, and Eric endorsed this. I didn't say much, letting Todd and Eric pull the (loose, informal) consensus together around the open source name. [...] There was probably not much more I could do to help; Eric Raymond was far better positioned to spread the new meme, and he did. Bruce Perens signed on to the effort immediately, helping set up Opensource.org and playing a key role in spreading the new term.

For the name to succeed, it was necessary, or at least highly desirable, that Tim O'Reilly agree and actively use it in his many projects on behalf of the community. Also helpful would be use of the term in the upcoming official release of the Netscape Navigator code. By late February, both O'Reilly & Associates and Netscape had started to use the term.

"Coming up with a phrase is a small contribution," she demurs, "but I admit to being grateful to those who remember to credit me with it. Every time I hear it, which is very often now, it gives me a little happy twinge." ZDnet's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols discusses Open Source and its impact, starting with Richard M. Stallman's "The GNU Manifesto" and the Free Software Foundation (FSF):

This went well for a few years, but inevitably, RMS collided with proprietary companies. The company Unipress took the code to a variation of his EMACS programming editor and turned it into a proprietary program. RMS never wanted that to happen again so he created the GNU General Public License (GPL) in 1989. This was the first copyleft license. It gave users the right to use, copy, distribute, and modify a program's source code. But if you make source code changes and distribute it to others, you must share the modified code. While there had been earlier free licenses, such as 1980's four-clause BSD license, the GPL was the one that sparked the free-software, open-source revolution.

In 1997, Eric S. Raymond published his vital essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." In it, he showed the advantages of the free-software development methodologies using GCC, the Linux kernel, and his experiences with his own Fetchmail project as examples. This essay did more than show the advantages of free software. The programming principles he described led the way for both Agile development and DevOps. Twenty-first century programming owes a large debt to Raymond.

"Open source has turned twenty," concludes Vaughan-Nichols, "but its influence, and not just on software and business, will continue on for decades to come."

Slate's Rob Gunther wants cops to apply broken-windows policing to their own behavior. A good place to start would be the cards distributed by New York City's police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association:

Each year, cops get a stack of these "get out of jail free" cards to give out to family and friends. If you get pulled over for speeding and flash one of these cards, the cop who flagged you down will likely let you go with a warning instead of a ticket.

The Post story quoted an unnamed "NYPD cop who retired on disability" who was extremely perturbed by the fact that PBA President Patrick Lynch had cut back the outlay from 30 to 20 cards each for current police officers and from 20 to 10 for retirees. "They are treating active members like shit, and retired members even worse than shit," this anonymous officer said.

While police officers can't believe that they're getting treated so shabbily, the bigger scandal is that they get any special treatment at all. Maybe it's naїve to believe in justice wearing a blindfold, but the boldness of institutionalizing a leniency policy via an official card makes a mockery of the notion that police try to operate on a level playing field.

Gunther continues, "it's time to start holding police accountable for minor offenses. Think of it as turning "broken windows" policing around on the police:"

If the police are determined to continue advocating for a hard-line approach, perhaps it would be worthwhile to see how these ideas played out if used on police officers themselves. That would mean no more PBA cards, for starters. If it's OK for one person to get away with a speeding ticket just because she happens to know a police officer, we've already decided that a just society is more a suggestion than a rule. [...]

While it's probably unrealistic to expect favoritism among officers to go away completely, getting rid of those PBA cards would be an extremely heartening move--a step toward realizing our ideals of blind justice and a level playing field.


"their own facts"

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Kellyanne Conway claims that "the American people [by which she means GOP voters] have their own facts," writes Salon's Charlie May. Mark Simone (from a New York radio station) started things off by claiming that "liberals seize more and more control of the infrastructure, they control the newspapers, they control the networks:"

He added, "In the last few years, they've taken total control of the fact checking sites, and they're very slanted. Something's got to be done about this." [...] "Americans are their own fact checkers," Conway said. "People know, they have their own facts and figures, in terms of meaning which facts and figures are important to them."

"Conway's bizarre interviews may make for appealing soundbites and headlines," May continues, "but it is also truly stunning to see how disconnected the Trump administration, and pro-Trump media punditry are from reality:"

American politics have become increasingly, and dangerously, polarizing in recent years, but Conway's doublethink Orwellian rhetoric has made it near impossible to get people to even agree on an establish set of facts in order to have a productive debate or conversation about the issues. Instead, we have opinions masquerading as truths in a dialogue where even simple math is beginning to be denied in order to fit into a political agenda.

Forget "alternative facts" the Trump administration is establishing their own alternative reality through it's own Ministry of Truth.


K is for kink

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Alexander Kacala suggests adding K for kink to the alphabet-soup-acronym of LGBTQQIAAACPPF2K:

L - lesbian
G - gay
B - bisexual
T - transgender
Q - queer
Q - questioning
I - intersex
A - asexual
A - agender
A - ally
C - curious
P - pansexual
P - polysexual
F - friends and family
2 - two-spirit
K - kink

If we Include every non-het, non-cis, non-vanilla possibility, then it would be a community for sexual (and ace!) outcasts of every stripe--a worthy goal.

Steve Benen has exposed the GOP's deficit scam at MSNBC:

Up until fairly recently, federal officials believed the nation would have to raise the debt ceiling by late March or early April. Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office said action will be required even sooner - because the Republican's $1.5 trillion tax cut is already starting to affect U.S. finances.

[The effect is negative, as expected.]

A separate New York Times report added this week that annual budget deficits "are creeping up to $1 trillion and the national debt has topped $20 trillion." The Treasury Department "will need to borrow $441 billion in privately held debt this quarter," which is the largest sum in eight years.

And yet, Republicans - ostensibly, the nation's fiscal hawks and stalwarts of fiscal responsibility - have nothing to say about this. The issue has largely disappeared.

"The underlying issue here," he continues, "is one of the most cynical political scams Americans have ever seen or will ever see:"

Remember the Tea Party movement? According to many of its leaders, one of its principal goals was deficit reduction: annual budget shortfalls, they said several years ago, threatened the future of the nation, its families, and its security.

And because Republicans have an amazing ability to dictate the public conversation, everyone played along, taking the deficit seriously throughout the Obama era. To reject the fiscal argument was to condemn our children and grandchildren to future misery.

Under Obama, however, the deficit shrunk in his first seven years by a trillion dollars - that's "trillion" with a "t" - at which point the issue quietly lost its potency.

At least in theory, for those who care about the deficit, the issue should be back with a vengeance. But it's not: even as the deficit gets significantly larger, due entirely to deliberate Republican choices, the public conversation largely ignores the issue.

It's almost as if--to provide yet another example--the allegedly "liberal" media is in actuality a generally conservative presence in our lives.

Trump's ratings

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Well, that didn't take long: Politico points out that Trump is already lying about the size of his SOTU audience, claiming that its 45.6 million people was "the highest number in history." However, the facts are somewhat different:

Obama's early speeches before Congress significantly outdrew Trump's: his first address to a joint session of Congress, in 2009, drew 52.3 million viewers and his first State of the Union address, in 2010, attracted 48 million.

Former President George W. Bush also delivered State of the Union addresses that attracted more viewers than Trump's. Bush's 2003 speech, which took place weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, drew 62 million viewers, while his 2002 speech, months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, attracted 51.7 million.

Former President Bill Clinton's 1993 joint address to Congress, meanwhile, drew 66.9 million viewers.

TPM snarks that "Trump may have been confused while watching the "Fox and Friends" morning broadcast:"

Co-host Steve Doocy noted that Trump pulled in more viewers than Obama's final state of the union, but he offered the caveat that "fewer people watch" the longer a president is in office. He then boasted about Fox News' ratings for the speech, which were the network's highest ever. Trump also noted this in his tweet.

NYT's look at Resistance at the Grammys observes that Hillary Clinton "read a passage from the new book Fire and Fury that claimed President Trump liked pre-made McDonald's food because he was afraid of being poisoned:"

Her cameo lasted less than 20 seconds. She read just one sentence from a 336-page book.

Although "Democrats see opportunity in awards season [...] as a way to reach critical constituencies of young, Latino and African-American voters," there are caveats. "Democrats and Republicans alike," the piece continues, "said Monday that the organized, concerted effort by the Grammys, topped off with Mrs. Clinton's appearance, could only make the nation's red state-blue state divide more pronounced:"

"When a famous person can use their celebrity to spread information about why someone should get off the sidelines and vote, that's a good thing," said Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist from the party's progressive wing.

But, she added it's a fine line. "You never want a celebrity to make a voter feel like they're wrong or that opinion's stupid."

Digby alleges that Trump is killing democracy one tweet at a time with his relentless imprecations against the legal investigations into his cesspool:

Today those of us who consider ourselves civil libertarians find ourselves in the unusual position of defending law enforcement institutions about which we have deep skepticism, due to their secretiveness and the tremendous power they hold over average Americans. But in this case they're the ones under assault by a rogue group of equally powerful lawmakers and the president of the United States. These elected officials are deeply authoritarian by instinct, ideology and temperament. They are clearly using their authority to undermine the rule of law and democratic norms and practices, not uphold them.

"It's fairly obvious," she continues, "that this is about race, secularism and modernity:"

Both parties used to be predominantly white and now we have one that is almost entirely white and Christian, while the other is a diverse and largely secular mixture of religions, races and ethnicities.

Ominously, she concludes that "It's entirely possible that we are sliding backwards into a new authoritarian system one tweet at a time without even knowing it."

WaPo examines conservative magazines and their stances (to varying degrees) against Trump, particularly Rich Lowry's National Review, which WaPo calls "the country's preeminent conservative magazine:"

Lowry reached out to a wide range of conservatives, hoping to hit Trump from as many angles as possible. The eventual collection [from all the way back in January 2016], titled "Against Trump," featured essays by 22 contributors -- many of them editors of other conservative publications, including William Kristol, then editor of the Weekly Standard; John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary; R.R. Reno, editor of First Things; Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs; and Ben Domenech, co-founder of the conservative website the Federalist. The issue came out on Jan. 21, 2016, 11 days before the Iowa caucuses, and it generated enough notice that Trump himself felt compelled to respond. "National Review is a failing publication that has lost it's way," he tweeted. "It's circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!"

In addition to Rich Lowry's National Review (100,000 circulation), there is also The Weekly Standard (65,000 circulation), John Podhoretz's Commentary (26,000 circulation), American Affairs (12,000 circulation), and The American Conservative (5,000 circulation), also-rans such as Modern Age, and New Criterion are mentioned--but The American Spectator, home of the infamous Arkansas Project, did not make the list.) "Two surprising stars of the Trump era," WaPo writes, "have been the Claremont Review of Books and the religious journal First Things:"

It was in the normally restrained Claremont Review of Books that someone going by the name "Publius Decius Mus" (later revealed to be Michael Anton) published "The Flight 93 Election," an influential essay arguing that the election of Trump [see my analysis here], however extreme the risks, was the only hope of preventing a complete surrender to the cultural left.

I still read these magazines on occasion--CRB foremost among them--but the general decline of conservative magazines has been clear for some time, paralleling the decline in conservatism itself. WaPo's summation is replete with a backward-looking mawkish naïveté:

As much as their contributors may differ in opinion or even dislike one another, what unites these magazines -- and distinguishes them from right-wing outlets like Breitbart -- is an almost quaint belief in debate as an instrument of enlightenment rather than as a mere tool of political warfare. [...]

With so many Americans today engaged in partisan war, any publication with a commitment to honesty in argument becomes a potential peacemaker. It also becomes an indispensable forum for working out which ideas merit a fight in the first place. This is what, in their best moments, the conservative magazines are now doing.

Manafort's hustle

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Franklin Foer's lengthy Atlantic piece on Paul Manafort starts with his low point--2015 intimations of suicide, and then backtracks through his association with Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and hints of millions stashed in overseas tax havens. "Nine months after the Ukrainian revolution," Foer notes, "Manafort's family life also went into crisis:"

The nature of his home life can be observed in detail because Andrea's text messages were obtained last year by a "hacktivist collective"--most likely Ukrainians furious with Manafort's meddling in their country--which posted the purloined material on the dark web. The texts extend over four years (2012-16) and 6 million words. Manafort has previously confirmed that his daughter's phone was hacked and acknowledged the authenticity of some texts quoted by Politico and The New York Times. Manafort and Andrea both declined to comment on this article. Jessica could not be reached for comment.

Foer writes that "The previous November, as the cache of texts shows, his daughters had caught him in an affair with a woman more than 30 years his junior. It was an expensive relationship." Manafort saw the campaign of Donald "TEN BILLION DOLLARS" Trump campaign as a way back into the game:

When Paul Manafort officially joined the Trump campaign, on March 28, 2016, he represented a danger not only to himself but to the political organization he would ultimately run. A lifetime of foreign adventures didn't just contain scandalous stories, it evinced the character of a man who would very likely commandeer the campaign to serve his own interests, with little concern for the collective consequences.

Over the decades, Manafort had cut a trail of foreign money and influence into Washington, then built that trail into a superhighway. When it comes to serving the interests of the world's autocrats, he's been a great innovator. His indictment in October after investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleges money laundering, false statements, and other acts of personal corruption. [...] That he would be accused of helping a foreign power subvert American democracy is a fitting coda to his life's story.

The story goes back some three decades:

When Congress passed tax-reform legislation in 1986, the firm [Manafort and Stone] managed to get one special rule inserted that saved Chrysler-Mitsubishi $58 million; it wrangled another clause that reaped Johnson & Johnson $38 million in savings. Newsweek pronounced the firm "the hottest shop in town."

Whether the thug in question was Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi or Lebanese arms dealer Abdul Rahman Al Assir, Manafort was their PR man:

Manafort's exploration of the outermost moral frontiers of the influence business had already exposed him to kleptocrats, thugs, and other dubious characters. But none of these relationships imprinted themselves more deeply than his friendship and entrepreneurial partnership with Al Assir. By the '90s, the two had begun to put together big deals. One of the more noteworthy was an arms sale they helped broker between France and Pakistan, lubricated by bribes and kickbacks involving high-level officials in both countries, that eventually led to murder allegations. [...]

Manafort's lifestyle came to feature opulent touches that stood out amid the relative fustiness of Washington. When Andrea expressed an interest in horseback riding, Manafort bought a farm near Palm Beach, then stocked it with specially bred horses imported from Ireland, which required a full-time staff to tend. John Donaldson, Manafort's friend, recalls, "He was competing with the Al Assirs of the world--and he wanted to live in that lifestyle."

Rumors swirled about the effects of that hunger:

Stories about Manafort's slipperiness have acquired mythic status. In the summer of 2016, Politico's Kenneth Vogel, now with The New York Times, wrote a rigorous exegesis of a long-standing rumor: Manafort was said to have walked away with $10 million in cash from Ferdinand Marcos, money he promised he would deliver to Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign (which itself would have been illegal). [...] His unrestrained spending and pile of debt required a perpetual search for bigger paydays and riskier ventures.

"Of all Paul Manafort's foreign adventures," Foer continues, "Ukraine most sustained his attention, ultimately to the exclusion of his other business:"

Yanukovych's party succeeded in the parliamentary elections beyond all expectations, and the oligarchs who'd funded it came to regard Manafort with immense respect. As a result, Manafort began spending longer spans of time in Ukraine. One of his greatest gifts as a businessman was his audacity, and his Ukrainian benefactors had amassed enormous fortunes. The outrageous amounts that Manafort billed, sums far greater than any he had previously received, seemed perfectly normal. [...]

Meanwhile, a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska had been after Manafort to explain what had happened to an $18.9 million investment in a Ukrainian company that Manafort had claimed to have made on his behalf.

The 2008 financial crisis hit, and then "in 2011, Manafort stopped responding to Deripaska's investment team altogether:"

Deripaska wouldn't let go of the notion that Manafort owed him money. In 2015, his lawyers filed a motion in a Virginia court. [...] But it was one thing to hide from reporters; it was another to hide from Oleg Deripaska. Though no longer the ninth-richest man in the world, he was still extremely powerful. [...]

For years, according to his indictment, Manafort had found clever ways to transfer money that he'd stashed in foreign havens to the U.S. He'd used it to buy real estate, antique rugs, and fancy suits--all relatively safe vehicles for repatriating cash without paying taxes or declaring the manner in which it had been earned.

But in the summer of 2014, in the wake of the revolution that deposed Viktor Yanukovych, the FBI began scrutinizing the strongman's finances.

"To finance his expensive life," Foer continues, "he began taking out loans against his real estate--some $15 million over two years:"

This is not an uncommon tactic among money launderers--a bank loan allows the launderer to extract clean cash from property purchased with dirty money. But according to the indictment, some of Manafort's loans were made on the basis of false information supplied to the bank in order to inflate the sums available to him, suggesting the severity of his cash-flow problems. [...]

With the arrival of Donald Trump, Manafort smelled an opportunity to regain his losses, and to return to relevance. It was, in some ways, perfect: The campaign was a shambolic masterpiece of improvisation that required an infusion of technical knowledge and establishment credibility.

"All of Manafort's hopes," notes Foer, "proved to be pure fantasy:"

Instead of becoming the biggest player in Donald Trump's Washington, he has emerged as a central villain in its central scandal. An ever-growing pile of circumstantial evidence suggests that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts to turn the 2016 presidential election in its favor. Given Manafort's long relationship with close Kremlin allies including Yanukovych and Deripaska, and in particular his indebtedness to the latter, it is hard to imagine him as either a naive or passive actor in such a scheme--although Deripaska denies knowledge of any plan by Manafort to get back into his good graces. Manafort was in the room with Donald Trump Jr. when a Russian lawyer and lobbyist descended on Trump Tower in the summer of 2016, promising incriminating material on Hillary Clinton. That same summer, the Trump campaign, with Manafort as its manager, successfully changed the GOP's platform, watering down support for Ukraine's pro-Western, post-Yanukovych government, a change welcomed by Russia and previously anathema to Republicans. When the Department of Justice indicted Paul Manafort in October--for failing to register as a foreign agent, for hiding money abroad--its portrait of the man depicted both avarice and desperation, someone who traffics in dark money and dark causes.

"Helping elect Donald Trump," Foer concludes, "represents the culmination of Paul Manafort's work:"

The president bears some likeness to the oligarchs Manafort long served: a businessman with a portfolio of shady deals, who benefited from a cozy relationship to government; a man whose urge to dominate, and to enrich himself, overwhelms any higher ideal.

Tomi Lahren gets pilloried by Crooks and Liars as "Fox News' blonde-haired, blue-eyed millennial Jeanine Pirro-in-training" for this bizarre tirade:

"The left, which dictates popular culture, brainwashes young people into believing they live in a world where 64 gender options are up for selection, everything is free, Beyonce is a god-queen, and eating detergent is funny!," she ranted.

"I know what you're thinking -- the Tide Pod Challenge couldn't possibly be political, could it?" Lahren asked.

Preaching with an air of wisdom she does not possess, Lahren waggled her rhetorical finger and said, "Actually, yes it is. It's just the latest symptom of a larger problem -- the breakdown of the American family. It's what happens when kids aren't taught boundaries, respect, consequences, or logic."

Crooks and Liars wonders "who it is in the political sphere who might be sending kids a message about boundaries, respect, consequences, or logic:"

Behold! It was not liberals! I think about Donald Trump being elected after bragging about grabbing women by the pussy, and wonder why there were no consequences, and there was no respect shown to those women.

I think about the idea of Nazis and misogynists occupying high-ranking positions in our school systems and how there are no consequences, boundaries, or respect.

I think about how Fox News uses its platform to spout venom and poison the body politic. It's almost as if they shovel poison pods into the minds of their viewers daily, addicting them to fear, hate and more venom. Always more venom. And I think, where are their boundaries, respect, consequences or logic.

Salon summarizes Lahren as "a 25-year-old who only just got off her parents' health insurance and has never been responsible for the sole care of so much as a sugar glider and still has the temerity to lecture parents on how they're failing their children and their country. Learning is beyond her."

Counterfire's Sean Ledwith commemorates International Holocaust Day in surviving the death factory, about the Combat Group Auschwitz (KGA):

Communist activists from different parts of Europe who found themselves in that living hell somehow managed to assemble a covert network of resistance that sought to provide physical and mental support to fellow prisoners in the blackest pit of the Holocaust. [...]

As the German war machine rampaged across Europe, leftist prisoners from other countries arrived in massive numbers. The KGA made an explicit effort to overcome nationalist prejudices within the prisoner population, even though the instinct to prioritise self-preservation must have been overwhelming for most.

"In October 1944," Ledwith writes, "the KGA became aware that members of the Sonderkommando (Jews forced to bury the bodies) were planning an insurrection:"

The Communist cell considered that the action was doomed to defeat and did not want to jeopardise their fragile operation in a lost cause. However, neither was the KGA willing to turn its back on fellow-prisoners making a stand against arbitrary terror. Therefore, when the Sonderkommando launched their attack on the SS, it was with machine guns, knives and grenades supplied to them by the KGA's network outside the camp. Tragically, the entire 450-strong force of insurrectionists lost their lives-but they did manage to take four SS guards down with them. [...]

The astonishing heroism and daring of the KGA may seem to some like a drop of resistance in an ocean of horror; but their defiance of the most malicious regime the world has ever seen is a powerful antidote to the stereotype of all victims of the Holocaust trudging helplessly to their fate. We should also take away the message that if revolutionary activism was possible there, it is possible anywhere.


Last night's revelation from the NYT that Trump tried to fire Robert Mueller last year in sensational:

After receiving the president's order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.

Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president's case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump's presidency. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.

Trump, meanwhile, dismissed it as "Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story." Politico observes that other White House flacks are issuing similarly Trumpian denials:

"Well, clearly The New York Times is stirring up these months' old Russian conspiracy stories and quite frankly, you know, I have not spoken to the president about it," White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp told Fox News's "Fox & Friends" Friday morning. "The reality is, is that the president and this White House has been cooperative with the special counsel. And as we continue to see, there's no evidence of collusion. There's no evidence of wrong doing. The white house turned over 20,000 records to the special counsel. Again, we want an expedited end to this investigation. As we've seen thus far, there's no evidence of collusion or wrongdoing."

"Nonetheless," the NYT continues, "Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mr. Mueller, which is an omnipresent concern among the president's legal team and close aides:"

The White House has denied nearly a dozen times since June that Mr. Trump was considering firing Mr. Mueller. The president's lawyers, including Mr. Cobb, have tried to keep Mr. Trump calm by assuring him for months, amid new revelations about the inquiry, that it is close to ending.

The Atlantic calls the incident the Saturday Night Massacre that wasn't, writing that "The episode adds new intrigue to the already transfixing dance between the president and the special counsel's probe:"

Attempting to fire a special counsel would immediately bring back memories of the October 1973 "Saturday Night Massacre," in which President Richard Nixon moved to dismiss the special prosecutor investigating Watergate. He was successful, but only after the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned rather than dismiss Archibald Cox. A judge later ruled the firing was illegal, but at that point the greatest damage had already been done in political terms, and the firing came to be seen as the beginning of the end for Nixon's presidency.

"News of the attempted firing," the piece continues, "comes as Trump's lawyers negotiate the terms on which the president would offer testimony to Mueller:"

While the president has long said he didn't think he'd need to testify, he changed his tune on Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to it, actually," he said. "I would love to do that--I'd like to do it as soon as possible." [...]

It is up to Mueller to decide whether Trump's actions constitute a crime of obstruction of justice, but for Congress and the public, the central question remains what it is that has made Trump so anxious to suffocate the probes examining his campaign, presidency, and finances.

final Hitchens

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Christopher Hitchens' final words have been published in Christopher Hitchens: The Last Interview: and Other Conversations, and The Federalist offers some remarks:

Hitchens was amazingly productive--he wrote a column two weeks before his death from esophageal cancer--and never relied on his purring accent alone to impress audiences (women were another matter).

Instead, like Oscar Wilde, Hitchens was a spellbinding talker, as witty and quotable in person as he was on paper. What is even more impressive about this was that Hitchens, in the interview format, often answered off the top of his head rather than regurgitating previous answers in interviews. [...]

Those beliefs are often revealed to be of a conservative, even of a socially conservative, nature. This is rather ironic considering that when he died he was perhaps the world's best known atheist intellectual.


gerrymandering

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At Smirking Chimp, Harvey Wasserman asks, Is SCOTUS to give Trump another term by approving GOP voter suppression? and suggests that "The US Supreme Court may be about to make a second Trump term inevitable."

The nine "Justices" have just heard oral arguments in an Ohio voter registration case. If their decision goes with Secretary of State Jon Husted, it would mean Republicans like him throughout the United States will be able to scrub from the voter rolls millions of citizens merely because they are suspected of wishing to vote Democrat.

In Ohio alone, millions of Ohio voters have tried to vote on Election Day over the past four presidential elections, only to find their names were erased from the pollbooks.

What's technically at stake is whether the federal government has the right to demand fairness in purging voter registration rolls. Or will the secretaries of the various states be free to purge whomever they want.

In other words, it's supposedly a "state's rights" case.

The history of this particular case is worth reviewing:

In 2004, then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, stripped some 309,000 voters from the rolls and nearly all came from heavily Democratic cities - Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. In Cleveland, nearly a quarter, 24.96% of all voters were removed from the voting rolls.

Blackwell simultaneously served as co-chair for the state campaign to re-elect Bush/Cheney. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Blackwell was officially in charge of running that election. The election was decided by less than 119,000 votes, giving George W. Bush a victory over John Kerry, who never said a word.

"In other words," Wasserman continues, "America's Trump-run FBI/KGB/Savak apparatus may now have the power to silently and invisibly remove enough potential voters to elect and re-elect whoever it wants:"

This and much else could turn on the Supremes' decision on the Ohio case. Should Husted's right to purge whoever he wants from the voter rolls be confirmed by the Court, our sham elections will become an even bigger charade.

ThinkProgress and Politico report that the PA Supreme Court issued an anti-gerrymander ruling, which could remove the GOP's other favorite anti-voter tool from future use. The case, League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is also discussed by Politico's Steven Shepard:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the state's congressional map "clearly, plainly and palpably violates" the state constitution and must be redrawn in the next three weeks after Democrats sued to allege Republicans unreasonably gerrymandered the districts to give the GOP a partisan advantage.

The court ruled a new map must be submitted to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf by Feb. 9. That map "shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population," according to the court ruling.

ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser writes that "the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that that state's gerrymandered congressional maps violate the state constitution:"

That state's map is so aggressively gerrymandered that Republicans won 13 of the state's 18 congressional districts in 2012, despite the fact that Democrats won a majority of the popular vote -- and Republicans have held those districts ever since. [...]

Under the state supreme court's order, the state legislature must submit new maps to the governor by February 9, and the governor has until February 15 to approve the maps and submit them to the court for review. If these deadlines are not met, "this Court shall proceed expeditiously to adopt a plan based on the evidentiary record developed in the Commonwealth Court." [...]

Monday's decision moves Pennsylvania towards a much fairer electoral system, and will remove several bricks in the red wall Republicans build in the House of Representatives through gerrymandering.

It is quite revelatory how, for some elected officials, naked partisanship trumps the intent of a majority of voters.

more marches

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The Women's Marches over the weekend--during the #TrumpShutdown--drew huge anti-Trump crowds, as AlterNet's April Short writes:

It's been exactly a year since the historic 2017 Women's March, which brought millions out to protest Trump's inauguration, flooding the streets of the nation with pink knitted hats. Thousands have taken to the streets again this weekend for the Women's March 2018, empowered by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and fed up with Trump's increasingly authoritarian and anti-immigrant policies, his war-mongering and his tantrum-centric presidency.

This year's march arrives just one day after Trump's attempt to block Planned Parenthood funding and amid a dramatic government shutdown centering on immigration.

"Hundreds of Women's March anniversary events," she notes, "are already underway or kicking off this weekend in every U.S. state:"

In Chicago, the turnout for the second Women's March march had already exceeded last year's numbers by 11:30am, with more than 250,000 people descending on downtown. In Los Angeles, a Weekend of Women movement kicked off Saturday morning with 200,000 expected attendees.

In New York City, where hundreds of thousands protested Trump's shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo kept the Status of Liberty open anyway:

Shutting down the park jeopardizes an economic driver for the State of New York.

But the Statue of Liberty is more than just an economic driver. This park is a symbol of New York and our values.

And her message has never been as important as it is today.

-- Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 21, 2018

Short calls the protest "a clear message to Donald Trump and his allies" about "their politically-motivated refusal to keep the government open:

Republicans could do the right thing and open the government at any moment. Simply put, they control every branch of the government and we are at their mercy.

It's good to see Governor Cuomo take a stand against the Right's continual attacks on our nation.

SocialistWorker's Nicole Colson analyzes the same events with a summary of "one year later, and twice as pissed off:"

"LAST YEAR it felt like a funeral. This year it feels like a resistance."

Those words--from one of the many hundreds of thousands of protesters who took to the streets on January 20 as part of the massive Women's Marches marking the shameful anniversary of Trump's first year in office--summed up the political mood.

In two words: Pissed off.

The sheer size of the marches--smaller overall than last year's turnout of some 3.5 million, the largest single day of protest in U.S. history, but not by much--caught organizers and long-time activists off guard: as many as 300,000 in Chicago; 200,000 in New York City by the official count, but possibly twice that; half a million in Los Angeles; 65,000 in San Francisco and 50,000 across the Bay in Oakland.

Smaller towns and cities, including in reliably red states, turned out big time: some 8,000 in Omaha, Nebraska, for example. [...]

IN WASHINGTON, D.C., the crowd was smaller than last year's massive 500,000--but far larger than the one that turned out to celebrate Trump's inauguration in 2017.

But of course, that didn't stop Trump from sneering at marchers on Twitter that it was "Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March...Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months."

Short also discusses the panoply of popular causes on display:

That sense of collective injustice goes well beyond the issue of sexism: to the need to defend reproductive rights and fight for workplace justice and equal pay; stand in defense of immigrant rights; fight for LGBT rights; to build the anti-racist struggle and the fight against police brutality--in short, to stand in solidarity against oppression in all of its many forms.

Many people at the marches were deliberate in highlighting the need to build this idea that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff explains why Nunes won't release the memo, noting that "The FBI has not been permitted to see the memo Rep. Devin Nunes and his staff wrote about alleged abuses by the intelligence community:"

"The FBI has requested to receive a copy of the memo in order to evaluate the information and take appropriate steps if necessary. To date, the request has been declined," said Andrew Ames, a spokesperson for the FBI. [...]

Nunes, who heads the powerful House intelligence community, put together the four-page memo based on intelligence the FBI showed him and a few of his staff, as well as Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee. More than 150 members of the House have seen Nunes' memo. Scores are calling for its release, while Democrats say it is "a misleading set of talking points attacking the FBI."

"The fact that Republicans refuse to show the memo to FBI," Woodruff continues, "which characterizes the intelligence they shared with Nunes, has Democrats concerned:"

One aide told The Daily Beast it means Nunes' efforts are just politics. [...] The House intelligence committee decided against letting Democrats release a minority report characterizing the intelligence underlying the memo.

The second curious incident is the new White House voicemail greeting, as David Boddiger writes:

In response to the government shutdown over a funding impasse, someone has recorded an automated voice mail greeting on a public White House phone line that is overtly partisan and blames Democrats for "holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate."

Fact-checking website Snopes reported that, on Saturday, "The Republican-controlled White House went so far as to change the outgoing message on the White House telephone comment line (202-456-1111) to an unprecedented message blaming Democrats." Here's the transcript:

Thank you for calling the White House. Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today, because Congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down. In the meantime, you can leave a comment for the president at www.whitehouse.gov/contact. We look forward to taking your calls as soon as the government reopens.

As Snopes continues:

A press release announcing the ad accuses Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and his fellow Democrats of "shut[ing] down the federal government, holding lawful citizens hostage over their demands for amnesty for illegal immigrants."

The press release goes on to call out "Democrats 'who stand in our way' of progress" of being "complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants."

To end on a lighter note, John Prager writes that Mar-a-Lago guests are horrified about plastic spoons with their caviar:

Trump bemoaned the fact that the government shutdown he and his party caused made him have to miss his big election anniversary extravaganza at the Mar-a-Lago.

While his sons Don Jr. and Eric filled in for him, Trump's guests were less than pleased with their $100k-$250k price of admission because they're spoiled rich jerks.

"I hate to do this, but this is a total disgrace, shame on Mar-a-Lago, you can't serve caviar with plastic spoons!" a horrified guest posted on Instagram. "Please offer your caviar with mother of pearl spoons and dishes."

Prager snarks that "It is unclear if the Caviar, like Trump's masters, was Russian."

Trump attacked the WSJ for "misquoting" him in this transcript:

Mr. Trump: President Xi has been extremely generous with what he's said, I like him a lot. I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.

WSJ: Just to be clear, you haven't spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea--

Mr. Trump: I don't want to comment on it--I don't want to comment, I'm not saying I have or I haven't. But I just don't--

"Ahead of Trump's attack," NCRM continues, "late Saturday, the newspaper released the audio of the transcript:"

We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported. Here is audio of the portion the White House disputes. https://t.co/eWcmiHrXJg pic.twitter.com/bx9fGFWaPw

-- The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 14, 2018

NBC News' Geoff Bennett made this comment:

Worth noting this push to discredit the WSJ comes after the paper reported Friday that the president's private attorney brokered a $130K payment to a former adult film star to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump https://t.co/sLrgpdUG7h

-- Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) January 14, 2018


update (9:53pm):
Liberal America contextualizes the controversy:

The reporter was not being dishonest if he misinterpreted it. I guess it comes down to whose interpretation we trust, that of the Wall Street Journal reporter or that of Donald Trump. Me? Of course I believe nearly anyone over Donald Trump. D'uh. When you're dishonest and shady in most of your other dealings, you forfeit the benefit of the doubt in any argument. [...]

How will the Trumpers respond to this? I suspect they'll hear exactly what they want to hear, and they never want to hear the truth.

The duplicity also reaches into Trump's "shithole" remarks. H/t to Taegan Goddard for linking to Erick Erickson's explication of that event:

20180114-erickson.JPG

We now have corroboration of Stormy Daniels' story:

Adult actress Alana Evans claims porn star Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump invited her to their hotel room in a report that offered further corroboration of the Wall Street Journal's account earlier on Friday.

"Evans," the piece continues, "said she received multiple calls from the fellow actress while she was in a room with Trump:

"Stormy calls me four or five times, by the last two phone calls she's with Donald [Trump] and I can hear him, and he's talking through the phone to me saying, 'Oh come on Alana, let's have some fun! Let's have some fun! Come to the party, we're waiting for you,'" Evans told the Beast.

"She ultimately turned down the offer," the piece mentions, thereby foregoing the inevitable hush money and NDA. How many more stripper heels have yet to drop, one wonders...

idiot king

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The Rude Pundit wants Trump's defenders to prove that Trump isn't a fucking moron. Stephen Miller and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have defended Trump, but the Rude Pundit remains unsatisfied, suggesting that we "take a page from Trump himself:"

When questions were created by right-wing nutzoids about whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States, Trump hounded Obama about producing his birth certificate. The best-known birther in the nation, Trump wouldn't let it go until Obama did finally make the document public. Even then, that wasn't enough for Trump, who fanned the flames of crazy until it no longer served a political purpose for him. [...]

So let's demand that Trump fucking prove that he's not an idiot, that he's actually engaged and understands the issues. That he is "like, really smart" and that he understands tax law better than any CPA or health care as well or better than anyone. That he's fit for office. Prove it. Put the fuck up or shut the fuck up. Because right now, we're just supposed to take his word and the word of his lackeys and sycophants. And if President Obama's word wasn't good enough on his place of birth, then Trump's word sure as shit ain't enough.

"Trump's gotta do a press conference," he continues "a real one, not a spontaneous one:"

He's gotta sit for an interview with someone who isn't one of his conservative ball washers. It's gotta be a real reporter who will ask him specific questions about specific policies and demand detail. C'mon, motherfucker. Let's see what you've got.

One can hope--although it's far more likely that "his idiot hordes will tell us that Trump is smart because, indeed, idiots want one of their own as their idiot king."

Alex Shephard discusses Holt's hit book at TNR, noting that "numerous people in the publishing industry have unironically compared Michael Wolff's explosive Trump administration tell-all Fire and Fury to Harry Potter:"

It's a genuine cultural phenomenon. Booksellers across the country told me they sold out in hours, if not minutes. Barnes & Noble's website informs anxious customers that the mega-chain will have the book back in stock on January 19. The otherwise speedy Amazon is even less precise: It warns the prospective reader that the book "usually ships within two to four weeks." More than 1,000 people are on the New York Public Library's waiting list. This scarcity has driven samizdat electronic copies of Fire and Fury, which began circulating even before the book's publisher, Henry Holt, moved the on-sale date up to January 5 from January 8. It may be the most pirated book since, you guessed it, Harry Potter. [...]

For the last year, major publishers have increasingly bet on Trump-focused books like Fire and Fury to drive revenue, with readers being distracted by the daily avalanche of news coming from the White House. Publishers spent 2017 catching up to Trump, having largely written him off in 2016.

HuffPo notes Holt's response to Trump's demands, writing that "Lawyers for the author and publisher [...] issued a letter Monday to the president's attorney, refusing to cease publication:"

"My clients do not intend to cease publication, no such retraction will occur, and no apology is warranted," [Holt and Wolff's attorney, Elizabeth] McNamara wrote in a letter obtained by HuffPost.

"Though your letter provides a basic summary of New York libel law, tellingly, it stops short of identifying a single statement in the book that is factually false or defamatory," the letter continued. "Instead, the letter seems designed to silence legitimate criticism."

Richard Eskow explains how the GOP's 100-year war is bigger than taxes or Trump, and says of Fire and Fury that "the book, and the president's unhinged reaction to it, provide new evidence that Trump is cognitively and emotionally unfit for office." Despite the focus on Trump's (lack of) intellect, Eskow writs, "the deeper forces of history move on, and we ignore them at our peril:"

While the nation obsesses about Trump, he and his fellow Republicans are radically rewiring our political and economic order. The tax bill they passed at the end of last year proves it.

"While Democrats offer complex proposals that tinker at the margins of multiple crises and fight one holding action after another," he continues, "Republicans are thinking big:"

They want to shape the next 100 years. They understand the sweep of history, as former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett told David Sirota in a recent interview:
"Republicans have been working for at least 40 years to get to where they are now. And one of the ways they did this, is by creating a vast number of institutions and outlets for people who think the way they do to create and echo chamber, and really I call itself brainwashing ... There's nothing like this on the left. They don't put the resources into long term institutions and programs. They tend to be fireman. We're gonna rush to put out this fire, and once that fire's put out, they sit back and relax.

"Meanwhile," he adds, "the Republicans are setting other fires in lots of other places:"

The Republicans want to dismantle the collective gains of the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society. Instead of building on the progress of the past, they want to undo it. They want to radically unmake communitarian society, while turning workplaces, medical facilities, and the landscape into scenes of pollution and bodily harm - a Hieronymus Bosch landscape, but with white men in suits and ties instead of that artist's more customary demons.

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