Recently in politics Category

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.

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.

Paul Waldman's assessment of Trump as a third-class intellect, but a fourth-class temperament harkens back to the erroneous attribution of "a second-class intellect but a first-class temperament" as Oliver Wendell Holmes' assessment of FDR. Of Trump, Waldman snarks that "He's the stablest, most geniusy stable genius, believe me," before opining on "the fact that the president of the United States is an obvious halfwit:"

We don't need to argue about whether it's true, because we see it every day.

Not only was he the most uninformed candidate in memory, he had no evident interest in learning about any substantive issue--yet proclaimed himself to know more about everything than anyone.

Contrast Trump's brainless braggadocio with a hypothetical opposite--such as his predecessor:

So if you were building a politician's mind from scratch you'd want him to have the intellect to understand complex policy issues but the judgment to make good decisions with limited information; the social intelligence to connect with a variety of different kinds of people; the wisdom to grasp potential futures from an understanding of the past; and the verbal dexterity necessary to speak eloquently off the cuff, to name just a few of the ways he might be considered smart. Few presidents have them all, yet our current president seems to have none of them.

Waldman then issues this frightening prophecy:

As a 71-year-old man who never exercises and subsists largely on junk food, the potential for Trump to experience a cognitive decline in the next few years is real. If you thought 2017 was crazy, just wait for 2018, 2019, and 2020.

I truly hope that he is wrong.

Sheriff Clarke lies, as Crooks and Liars' Heather points out:

If former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is known for one thing, it's his irresponsible rhetoric. The most recent and egregious example came just a few days ago when he managed to get himself suspended from Twitter for his tweets threatening violence against the media.

Heather also noted that this tweet made a "wild and baseless accusation" against Hillary:

LYING Lib media spreads FAKE NEWS about me and @realDonaldTrump to fool their liberal followers into believing LIES because as Mrs. Bill Clinton once said, "Look, the average DEMOCRAT VOTER is just plain STUPID. They're easy to manipulate." Classic! pic.twitter.com/8n5tIZKOcI

-- David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) December 30, 2017

In fact, as Snopes remarked, what's "classic" about Clarke's tweet is his mendacity:

"This statement was not uttered by Hillary Clinton, nor was it published in the 2005 book Rewriting History by Dick Morris as something she ostensibly said. We found no record of this quote in any major publication or news account. In fact, the first mention of this item came in October 2015, more than a decade after Morris' book was published, on a Tumblr page dedicated to generating fake Hillary Clinton quotes."

As Heather remarks, "It's no wonder that Clarke is such a good fit for his current job working for POTUS (Piece Of Totally Useless Shit) Trump. They're practically twitter soulmates."

The Atlantic's James Hamblin wonders about Trump's cognitive decline, noting that "Trump's grandiosity and impulsivity has made him a constant subject of speculation among those concerned with his mental health:"

But after more than a year of talking to doctors and researchers about whether and how the cognitive sciences could offer a lens to explain Trump's behavior, I've come to believe there should be a role for professional evaluation beyond speculating from afar.

"Viewers of Trump's recent speeches have begun noticing minor abnormalities in his movements," writes Hamblin, and a prominent neurosurgeon commented on what are "clearly some abnormalities of his speech." He continues:

Though these moments could be inconsequential, they call attention to the alarming absence of a system to evaluate elected officials' fitness for office--to reassure concerned citizens that the "leader of the free world" is not cognitively impaired, and on a path of continuous decline. [...]

Unfortunately, the public medical record available to assuage global concerns about the current president's neurologic status is the attestation of Harold Bornstein, America's most famous Upper Manhattan gastroenterologist, whose initial doctor's note described the 71-year-old Trump as "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

The phrasing was so peculiar for a medical record that some suggested that Trump had written or dictated the letter himself.

Hamblin also observes that "over the years, Donald Trump's [verbal] fluency has regressed and his vocabulary contracted:"

Ben Michaelis, a psychologist who analyzes speech as part of cognitive assessments in court cases [said that] Trump has exhibited a "clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time" with "simpler word choices and sentence structure."

"Though it is not possible to diagnose a person with dementia based on speech patterns alone," Hamblin points out, "these are the sorts of changes that appear in early stages of Alzheimer's:"

Trump has likened himself to Ronald Reagan, and the changes in Trump's speech evoke those seen in the late president. Reagan announced his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 1994, but there was evidence of linguistic change over the course of his presidency that experts have argued was indicative of early decline. [...]

After more than a year of considering Trump's behavior through the lens of the cognitive sciences, I don't think that labeling him with a mental illness from afar is wise. A diagnosis like narcissistic personality disorder is too easily played off as a value judgment by an administration that is pushing the narrative that scientists are enemies of the state. Labeling is also counterproductive to the field in that it presents risks to all the people who deal with the stigma of psychiatric diagnoses. To attribute Trump's behavior to mental illness risks devaluing mental illness.

"The idea that the president should not be diagnosed from afar," Hamblin concludes, "only underscores the point that the president needs to be evaluated up close."

Elizabeth Drew's piece "Breaking Bannon" opines that "the bulk of Fire and Fury's disclosures, though deeply disquieting, aren't all that surprising:"

It's not yet clear how Michael Wolff, the book's controversial author, obtained some of his information, but it must be assumed that he taped many of his interviews, particularly those used for the long conversations found throughout the book. What Wolff has achieved is to get attributed quotes from high officials about how the president functions, or doesn't.

But the book mostly tells us what most of political-journalistic Washington already knew: that Trump is unqualified to be president and that his White House is a high-risk area of inexperienced aides. The only surprise is that more calamities haven't occurred - at least not yet.

"A good portion of what was released before the book's publication," she continues, "concerns a battle between two of the most talkative, argumentative, self-regarding braggarts US politics has ever seen: Trump and his one-time chief strategist, Stephen Bannon:"

In the summer of 2016, with his campaign lacking a leader, Trump made Bannon - a scruffy, scrappy former businessman who was then the executive chair of Breitbart News, a website preaching white nationalism - the campaign's chief executive.

Bannon, he surmises, "bragged more than was good for him about his power in the White House and asserted more than he should have" before his ouster in August:

In Trump's view, Bannon's great sin with regard to Wolff's book was to say highly negative things about the president's family. Trump was particularly infuriated by Bannon's description of a now-famous meeting that his son, Donald Jr., and other senior campaign staff held in Trump Tower in June 2016 with some Russians who said that they had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. Bannon told Wolff that the meeting was "treasonous." But, depending on what actually transpired in that meeting, Bannon might not have been so far off. [...]

Trump was also reportedly furious that Bannon had described the president's favorite child, Ivanka, as "dumb as a brick." Wolff also reports that Ivanka and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, had agreed that after their expected smashing success at the White House, it would be Ivanka who would run for president.

Trump's ire over the man he now derides as "Sloppy Steve" boiled over in this Saturday morning tweetstorm:

Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence..... -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018

....Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star.....
-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018

....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!
-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018

As Shannon Barber snarked at Addicting Info:

The idea of the likes of Donald Trump being any sort of genius is laughable. Narcissistic? Yes. Delusional? Sure. Genius? Not a chance in hell.

NYT's Michael Tackett also reacted with dismay at Trump's braggadocio:

Mr. Trump's self-absorption, impulsiveness, lack of empathy, obsessive focus on slights, tenuous grasp of facts and penchant for sometimes far-fetched conspiracy theories have invited armchair diagnoses and generated endless commentary.

Trump's NYT interview is remarkable for his pathologically obsessive denial of what he referred to as "made-up problems like Russian collusion:"

DONALD J. TRUMP: ...frankly there is absolutely no collusion, that's been proven by every Democrat is saying it.

TRUMP: Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. [...] Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it's been proven that there is no collusion. [...]

TRUMP: There's been no collusion.

TRUMP: There was no collusion. None whatsoever. [...]

TRUMP: I think that Bob Mueller will be fair, and everybody knows that there was no collusion. I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion. She's the head of the committee. The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they're so angry because there is no collusion. So, I actually think that it's turning out -- I actually think it's turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion. [...]

TRUMP: There was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. There was no collusion with respect to my campaign. [...]

TRUMP: I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusion. [...] There is no collusion, and even if there was, it's not a crime. But there's no collusion.

This exchange is a cold-shiver moment--except for conservative authoritarians, who will probably love it:

SCHMIDT: You control the Justice Department. Should they reopen that email investigation?

TRUMP: What I've done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.

Trump's ego seemingly knows no bounds:

I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn't, I couldn't have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.

Towleroad notes that Trump claimed "no collusion" 16 times, and the Toronto Star enumerated 25 false claims in a 30-minute interview:

U.S. President Donald Trump sat down Thursday for a rare interview with a media outlet other than Fox News, holding an impromptu 30-minute session with New York Times reported Michael Schmidt at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He made nearly one false claim per minute -- 25 false claims in all.

The Star is keeping track of every false claim Trump makes as president. As of Dec. 22, Trump had already made 978 false claims; adding the Times interview, the tally will pass the 1,000 mark in the next update.

The Star addresses Trump's "no collusion" claims here:

1) "But I think it's all worked out because frankly there is absolutely no collusion, that's been proven by every Democrat is saying it ... Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion."

Democratic members of Congress have not said en masse that they are convinced that there was no collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. Some have acknowledged that they have not seen evidence of collusion, but they have pointed out that the investigation is ongoing. [...]

3) "I saw (Democratic Sen.) Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion."

Trump appeared to be referring, as he has in the past, to a November CNN interview with Feinstein -- in which she did not declare that there is no collusion. Feinstein was specifically asked if she had seen evidence that the Trump campaign was given Democratic emails hacked by Russia. "Not so far," she responded. She was not asked about collusion more broadly, and her specific answer made clear that she was referring only to evidence she has personally seen to date, not issuing a sweeping final judgment.


update (4:04pm)
Ezra Klein's long analysis observes that Trump's interview "begins with a string of falsehoods that make it difficult to tell whether the leader of the free world is lying or delusional:"

It would be comforting, on some level, to believe that Trump is simply lying, that he is trying to convince us of what he knows to be untrue. It is scarier to believe that Trump is delusional, that he has persuaded himself that Democrats have said things they've never said, that his base has strengthened when it has actually weakened, that it's really his opponents under investigation for collusion, that his campaign has been cleared of wrongdoing when the circumstantial case for collusion has only grown stronger. [...]

Read Trump's phrasing carefully: "I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department." It's a statement that speaks both to Trump's yearning for authoritarian power and his misunderstanding of the system in which he actually operates.

"Over the course of reporting on the Trump White House," Klein continues, "I have spoken to people who brief Trump and people who have been briefed by him:"

I've talked to policy experts who have sat in the Oval Office explaining their ideas to the president and to members of Congress who have listened to the president sell his ideas to them. I've talked to both Democrats and Republicans who have occupied these roles. In all cases, their judgment of Trump is identical: He is not just notably uninformed but also notably difficult to inform -- his attention span is thin, he hears what he wants to hear, he wanders off topic, he has trouble following complex arguments. Trump has trouble following his briefings or even correctly repeating what he has heard.

Digby snarks that, "For the layperson, this is called being a "fucking moron."

Back to Klein, who makes more observations:

Whatever Trump is saying [about association health plans], it does not reveal much familiarity with health policy, or even with the status and limits of his own actions. And yet Trump believes himself, on policy, to be the most informed president in American history. As the Dunning-Kruger effect [see http://www.cognitivedissident.org/2010/10/dunning-kruger-effect.html here] suggests, he doesn't know how much he doesn't know, and that, combined with his natural tendency toward narcissism, has left him dangerously overconfident in his own knowledge base.

"This is the president of the United States speaking to the New York Times," Klein continues as a way to stress its import:

His comments are, by turns, incoherent, incorrect, conspiratorial, delusional, self-aggrandizing, and underinformed. This is not a partisan judgment -- indeed, the interview is rarely coherent or specific enough to classify the points Trump makes on a recognizable left-right spectrum. As has been true since he entered American politics, Trump is interested in Trump -- over the course of the interview, he mentions his Electoral College strategy seven times, in each case using it to underscore his political savvy and to suggest that he could easily have won the popular vote if he had tried.

I am not a medical professional, and I will not pretend to know what is truly happening here. It's become a common conversation topic in Washington to muse on whether the president is suffering from some form of cognitive decline or psychological malady. I don't think those hypotheses are necessary or meaningful. Whatever the cause, it is plainly obvious from Trump's words that this is not a man fit to be president, that he is not well or capable in some fundamental way. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, and so many prefer not to say it, but Trump does not occupy a job where such deficiencies can be safely ignored.

Digby concurs:

He's right. They cannot be ignored. But there are serious limits to what we can do about it I'm sorry to say. We have a psychologically deranged president and out system depends upon members of his own party turning on him to restrain his power.

They aren't doing it.


update 2 (10:56pm)
NPR ran its own fact check, and the NYT themselves identifies 10 falsehoods in the interview:

President Trump, in an impromptu interview on Thursday with The New York Times, rattled off at least 10 false or misleading claims about the Russia investigation, wars abroad, health care, immigration and trade.

The Federalist's Tyler Bonin purports to analyze Soviet ideology, and suggests ominously that "this ideology has resurfaced in the United States." Bonin writes that "All speech was loosely interpreted as subversive, and thus the Gulags swelled with political prisoners, especially during Stalin's regime:"

Corruption became a mainstay of the Soviet political system, and continues to pervade Russia today. Russia continually scores low on indices of press freedom, and journalists are silenced or disappear frequently. Vladimir Putin continues to consolidate power. Thus, when considering this bit of Soviet history, two elements present themselves in the context of the modern United States.

Would these elements be Trump's totalitarian tendencies and his idolization of Putin? Of course not. When Bonin sees "a single ideology by silencing and ultimately eliminating all competing ideas," he thinks of "U.S. college campuses today:"

Student activist groups are continually attempting to prevent and ultimately eliminate speech from campuses that contradicts their own ideas, as well as speech that serves as a possible hindrance to activists' collective goal of implementing their social justice agenda. Countless cases have occurred... [...]

Granted, this is not on a scale congruent to the Bolshevik revolution. However, the justification of silence for a larger, collective goal is unnerving, both among our government and the growing activist movement in U.S. colleges and universities.

Any effort to infringe on liberty in the name of a collective goal must be viewed with suspicion. History teaches us that liberty truly is a safeguard against violence and a worldview forced upon us.

Historian and activist Paul Le Blanc takes a more sober look at the lessons and legacy of the Russian Revolution:

It is a pleasure to be with you on this hundredth anniversary of the overthrow of Tsarist tyranny. It is a remembrance that can inspire us in our current struggles against the multiple tyrannies of our time: the tyranny of the wealthy multinational corporations and the governments they control and the vicious policies which they carry out, for their immense profit. For their profit, but at our expense: at the expense of our quality of life, our freedoms, our cultural and natural environment, and more. [...]

The revolution had begun when the workers and peasants - some of them in uniform thanks to being conscripted into the Tsar's army and navy during the incredibly bloody and horrific First World War - overthrew the Tsarist regime in February (according to our own calendar it started on March 8th, International Women's Day).

In this the workers and peasants and soldiers and sailors who fought the revolutionary battles had formed their own democratic councils (soviets) to organize and coordinate their efforts.

Le Blanc points out that "the keystone of the whole effort was the notion that the great majority of people - those whose lives and labor keeps society running - are the ones who should run society," and notes that "such a victory could only be secured on a global level, through revolutionary internationalism."

When we look at the actual history of how the revolutionaries actually functioned over the years, we see that this means not simply lecturing to and at people, but especially in listening to them, learning from them, and integrating what we understand with what they understand.

We also see that it means our being involved in actual struggles in which larger numbers of people are involved or are ready to be involved - struggles not for revolutionary socialism, but struggles for bread, for at least a modicum of elemental dignity, for an expansion of at least some limited rights and well-being.

He ends on an optimistic note:

Some of us who are older are running out of time for engaging with such wrestling - but those of you who are younger, with all of your courage and energy and creativity, will have an opportunity to do amazing things in the spirit of Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin and so many others who represent the traditions of the October Revolution.

America's military won't save us from Trump's fascism, writes Chauncey DeVega:

When fascism comes to America it will arrive in a style and form that fits our country. [...] American fascism will be empowered through racism and sexism and homophobia.

"American fascism," he continues, "will echo throughout the right-wing propaganda machine, including Fox News, Breitbart and talk radio:"

American fascism will empower its foot soldiers by making them feel like "real Americans" who are superior to black and brown people, nonwhite immigrants, those who speak a language other than English, the poor, and gays and lesbians. [...]

American fascism will try to wear a mask of respectability and normality by carrying the banner of the Republican Party.

American fascism will encourage violence against liberals, progressives and Democrats. [...] American fascism will distract the public through the spectacle of entertainment and consumerism.

American fascism will not need internment camps and political street thugs to do its work. Nor will American fascism involve an overt crackdown on free speech and the free press. It will achieve its shock and awe -- first by electing an authoritarian leader -- and then by slowly creating a "new normal" where the heretofore unimaginable is just taken as a dose of daily outrage until it is eclipsed by the next.

"To ignore this reality," he writes, "is to be willfully ignorant, to be in denial or to be drunk on American exceptionalism:"

Militant nationalism is high on this list. Why? Authoritarians surround themselves with generals and wrap themselves in the superficial trappings of patriotism (such as flags and anthems) because they provide a sense of authority and power. This allows the authoritarian leader to intimidate his enemies at home, provides symbolic and material comfort for his base, expands his control over the state and projects power abroad. Militant nationalism also overlaps with fascism and authoritarianism: They are masculine political ideologies that are obsessed with "virility," "strength" and male sexual potency.

A new Military Times survey shows Trump garnering stronger support among members of the military:

President Donald Trump enjoys far stronger support among members of the military than the American public at large, according to the latest scientific Military Times poll. [...] Overall, about 44 percent of all troops surveyed in the Military Times poll have a favorable view of Trump, while roughly 40 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. That's a stark contrast to opinion polls of the general public, which have shown Trump's popularity at less than 40 percent and an unfavorable rating as high as 56 percent.

DeVega writes that "Trump, his administration, his voters, the right-wing media and the Republican Party in its present form are a clear and present danger to American democracy:"

Those in denial of this fact are relying on an obsolescent and naive assumption that America's "enduring political institutions" will protect the country from authoritarianism and fascism.

Digby calls the meeting of Alt-Right and Christian Right "a marriage made in hell:"

The producers of "The Handmaid's Tale" couldn't have possibly known how timely their TV version of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel would be when they first pitched it. The horrifying misogyny of Donald Trump's presidential campaign was illustrated most vividly by his responses to women coming forward with complaints about his harassment and assaults over the years in the wake of the release of the Access Hollywood tape.

"Despite Trump's long record of immoral behavior," she observes, "white conservative evangelicals are among the most fervent and loyal of his supporters:"

A Reuters poll last month showed more than 60 percent of white evangelicals back him, a far higher number than his overall approval rating, which hovers in the 30s.

The marriage of the Christian right and authoritarian white nationalism looks like a match made in heaven -- or perhaps in the other place, depending on your perspective. "The Handmaid's Tale" seems less and less implausible every day.

Chauncey DeVega sees Trumpism as the birth of a new fascism, particularly regarding the annual Values Voter Summit:

That label leads to a natural question: What values were actually encouraged by the speakers and attendees at this event?

The answer is clear. Bigotry, intolerance, hypocrisy, dishonesty and violence.

Donald Trump, the first sitting president to attend the event, was a featured speaker. He is a man who almost literally embodies the Seven Deadly Sins as explained by the Bible. Yet the so-called Christians at the summit gave him a 20-second ovation and repeatedly interrupted his speech with cheers. He told them, "We don't worship government, we worship God" and proclaimed, "We are stopping all our attacks on Judeo-Christian values."

DeVega observes that "former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka's comments were perhaps the most dangerous:"

In a speech on Saturday, Gorka included the following threat: "The left has no idea how much more damage we can do to them as private citizens, as people unfettered." On the surface this comment suggests that right-wing Christian evangelicals do not need the help of the United States government in order to win their war against liberals, Muslims or whoever else they identify as the enemy. But the context of Gorka's speech -- and what is known about his values -- highlights a deeper and more sinister intent.

Gorka is an apparent Nazi sympathizer who has proudly worn a medal given to his father by the Hungarian far-right anti-Semitic group Vitézi Rend. In an interview with the far-right propaganda site World Net Daily, also over the weekend, Gorka said that "radical leftists" were among the three greatest threats to America along with "radical Islamic jihadists" and China.

"When placed in a broader context," DeVega writes, "Gorka's comments -- along with those made by Trump, Bannon, Moore and others -- signal at how white Christian evangelicals are being folded into a broader fascist movement:"

The white supremacist terrorist group the Ku Klux Klan was and is a Christian organization. White Christian evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Jim and Jane Crow and its campaign of racial terrorism against black Americans. White evangelicals have also backed the racist policies of the Republican Party during the post-civil rights era, and have consistently opposed equal rights for women and gays and lesbians, as well as other marginalized groups. Like Republicans and conservatives in general, white evangelicals apparently possess little empathy for poor and working-class people.

Ultimately, the Bible ought not to be a shield -- especially when too many people are willing to wield it as a cudgel against their fellow Americans in a quest to replace the rule of law under a secular constitution with a fascist theocracy.

Trump's tax plan gets skewered by American Prospect for many reasons:

For example, the plan removes taxes on extremely wealthy estates, slashes the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, and abolishes the alternative minimum tax, which ensures that higher-income households--which are often able to take advantage of lucrative deductions and credits--contribute at least some modicum of taxes. It also gives a special low tax rate to owners of pass-through businesses, who are already able to avoid corporate taxes by instead paying personal tax rates on their portion of the businesses' profits, allowing them a lower effective tax rate. All of these provisions would benefit the wealthiest Americans, including Trump himself.

"According to analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center," the piece points out, "the final year of the conventional 10-year budget analysis. Meanwhile, the average household in the top 1 percent would see a tax cut of $207,060 [but] by 2027, 1 in 4 households would actually see their taxes increase under Trump's plan:"

New analysis by the Center for American Progress underscores the sacrifice that could be required in this trade-off. If the bottom 99 percent of households footed the bill for Trump's tax breaks for the top 1 percent, it would cost each household an average of $1,370 more in 2027.*

This is because tax cuts don't pay for themselves--especially cuts of this historic magnitude, which would reduce federal revenues by $2.4 trillion over 10 years. Financing Trump's proposal would require deep cuts to critical benefits and services that all families rely on.

Trump's tax plan, the piece continues, "is a double dose of tired trickle-down economics, delivered on a golden platter to millionaires and wealthy corporations to be paid for on the backs of average Americans." [See the full analysis "An Analysis of Donald Trump's Revised Tax Plan" (PDF).]

Sarah Jones also observes how Trump is reviving the old trickle-down con:

Aren't companies sitting on a lot of money right now? Why, yes, Virginia, they are. Yet wages are not magically rising.

The stock market is doing remarkably well, yet wages are not magically rising. You can see where this is going. [...]

Yeah, it's actually another gift. For the rich. Only don't think this is just a gift for the top 1%, because the middle class and poor will pay for it one way or another.

"It hurts everyone who is not rich," she writes:

Trickle down is an economic theory used to justify giving entitlements to the top, that has been tested and failed.

Threepers

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Mother Jones notes that there was another right-wing terrorist incident this weekend:

Early this Saturday, a day most of the country spent watching the violence spilling over from white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, a 23-year-old claiming to be a member of the Three Percenters militia named Jerry Drake Varnell was arrested as he tried to set off a truck bomb outside a bank in Oklahoma City.

Varnell allegedly told an FBI informant that "I'm out for blood," and "I'm going after government officials." He claimed that the bombing "was not an attack on America, it was a retaliation," then said it was "also a call to arms... The time for revolution is now." Where does this come from? Mother Jones explains that "Varnell described himself as holding 'III% ideology,' and wanting to kick off an anti-government revolution:"

Three percenters, as they call themselves, are ideological descendants of radical and conspiracy-minded right-wing groups dating back to the John Birch society of the 1960s, and running up through the militia movements that grew up in the 1990s--but today the groupings are much larger and bolder.

The movement takes its name from an oft-told myth that only three percent of the male population of the American colonies was willing to fight in the Patriot armies during the Revolutionary War, and the idea is of a loose grouping of self-proclaimed Patriots and defenders of the Constitution, ready to do "whatever it takes" to defend the country against what they see as creeping federal tyranny, and to resist in the case of a foreign invasion or a declaration of martial law. The Oath Keepers, which is the largest and best known, once claimed to have 30,000 members (the man who claims to have coined the phrase "three percenter" is also a member of the Oath Keepers) and emerged into national prominence after a string of standoffs in the West, when members either led or helped to lead armed paramilitary protests that succeeded in forcing federal agents to back off enforcement actions in Nevada, Oregon, and Montana.

Noting their growth since last year's election, Mother Jones notes that "Oath Keepers and unaffiliated Three Percenters have appointed themselves something like the armed wing of the Trump revolution:"

Three Percenters and Oath Keepers have become a fixture of alt-right rallies, where they serve as paramilitary "protection" against attacks from counter-demonstrators. Three Percenter groups and Oath Keepers have always claimed to disavow white supremacy--but militiamen wearing full tactical gear, carrying semiautomatic rifles, and wearing prominent "III%" patches were everywhere in Charlottesville, blending the ideologies of anti-federal Constitutionalists with the hardest core of the white supremacist alt-right. The militias came openly ready for battle, with helmets and body armor.

This mentality of paramilitary paranoia is a troubling indicator...

It amuses me to see conservatives complaining about liberal bias--from Republicans. For example,
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) "who is not known for having the keenest intellect on Capitol Hill," wrote on Facebook that "the media was [sic] never this critical to President Obama, the recent Harvard study proves that the media has [sic] applied a completely different standard to President Trump." [The "different standard" in Trump's case was that they puffed up his early candidacy into a newsworthy event with billions of dollars' worth of free publicity, but that's another story.]

"Duncan, like many on the right, sees a recent study of the mainstream coverage of Trump's first 100 days in office," the piece continues, "as solid proof that the media treat Trump unfairly:"

It looked at news reports "in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets," and found that 80 percent of Trump's coverage by those outlets was negative - significantly higher than the shares for Barack Obama (41 percent negative), George W. Bush (57 percent) and Bill Clinton (60 percent) at this point in their presidencies. Conservative publications greeted the report with headlines like, "Harvard Study Confirms Media Bias Against Trump," and "Harvard Report: There Is A Huge Anti-Trump Bias In Corporate Media."

"The obvious response," the piece observes, "is that the vast majority of stories about famine, natural disasters, and genital warts are negative, and that doesn't imply a bias on the part of those writing them:"

Trump's young presidency has been a train wreck, his White House has been mired in largely self-inflicted scandals and his legislative agenda has so far gotten nowhere in Congress. And Trump, unlike his predecessors, has a penchant for impulsively tweeting dubious claims and inflammatory nonsense. [...]

Ironically, the Shorenstein study did find significant bias at one media outlet: Fox News was a lone outlier in that almost half of its Trump coverage was positive. Looking back at 100 days marked by chaos and failure, it's hard to imagine what a truly fair and balanced news outlet possibly could have covered in order to run so many positive segments.

As the study itself notes, "the fact that Trump has received more negative coverage than his predecessor is hardly surprising:"

The early days of his presidency have been marked by far more missteps and miss-hits, often self-inflicted, than any presidency in memory, perhaps ever.

What's truly atypical about Trump's coverage is that it's sharply negative despite the fact that he's the source of nearly two-thirds of the sound bites surrounding his coverage.

"Trump's first 100 days were a landmark," the study continues, partly because "Trump did most of the talking:"

He was the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of his coverage. Members of the administration, including his press secretary, accounted for 11 percent of the sound bites. Other Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, accounted for 4 percent. Altogether, Republicans, inside and outside the administration, accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency. [emphasis added] Democrats did not have a large voice in Trump's coverage, accounting for only 6 percent of the sound bites. Participants in anti-Trump protests and demonstrations accounted for an additional 3 percent.

One can hardly fault the "liberal" media for the fact that quoting Trump and other Republicans is considered to constitute negative news.

In explaining how Bill O'Reilly ruined the news, Sophia A. McClennen notes "the firing of O'Reilly, which follows the departure of Fox News founder Roger Ailes" and asks, "what will these shifts at Fox News really mean? Are we really rid of these two vile characters?"

It's not likely and here's why: While there is much-needed and valuable attention now being paid to their predatory sexism, that behavior was only one part of a much larger diabolical worldview. Ailes and O'Reilly were of a piece, cut from the same cloth.

She continues by observing that "allegations of O'Reilly's sexism, misogyny and predatory behavior are literally the tip of the iceberg." In addition to chestnuts such as "Punditry over journalism," "Polarization," "Mainstreaming of misogyny, racism and bigotry," and "Hubris disguised as patriotism," her list includes:

2. Fake news

PolitiFact has reported that only 10 percent of O'Reilly's comments on his show were true and 53 percent were mostly false or bold-faced lies.

But it isn't just the lying that makes fake news powerful. It is the packaging of the lie within a sense of outrage. O'Reilly literally perfected the use of fake news to get viewers to freak out.

5. Fear over reason

The O'Reilly approach to covering current issues was to hype fear and foster anxiety, a practice that has spilled into much news media and a constant staple of alt-right reporting. Scholars of democracy know that citizens can't make rational decisions when they are busy freaking out, but that approach can be very successful in keeping viewers tuned to their TVs.

6. Loyal viewers

The fear-based nature of O'Reilly's show logically led to a highly loyal viewership. Because O'Reilly consistently demonized the "left media," he managed to convince his viewers that he and only he could be trusted. This is one reason why his show had such a loyal viewer base.

7. Dumbing down viewers

The O'Reilly approach to news was not about informing members of his audience; it was about getting them riled up and angry at the left, [which] explains why its viewers consistently poll as the least informed in the nation.

9. Crying victim while bullying

Much in the same way that Trump suggests protesters against him must be paid operatives, O'Reilly always cries victim while he bullies his opponents. [...] Rather than address the substance of the accusations, O'Reilly cries foul and suggests that he is the subject of a witch hunt. This strategy makes it virtually impossible to discredit him to his loyal subjects who will all agree that their hero has been falsely accused.

10. Making it all "an act"

This is an echo of the defense of Limbaugh and others of being "just an entertainer" when caught in yet another lie. As McClennen writes,

The [left-wing] comedians just kept the rest of us sane and better informed while the so-called news offered by Fox and friends divided the nation and dumbed us down.

Henry Giroux discusses how we are thus being prepared for American-style authoritarianism:

It is impossible to imagine the damage Trump and his white nationalists, economic fundamentalists, and white supremacists friends will do to civil liberties, the social contract, the planet, and life itself in the next few years.

Rather than address climate change, the threat of nuclear war, galloping inequality, the elimination of public goods, Trump and his vicious acolytes have accelerated the threats faced by these growing dangers. Moreover, the authoritarian steam roller just keeps bulldozing through every social protection and policy put in place, however insufficient, in the last few years in order to benefit the poor, vulnerable, and the environment.

"As the Trump regime continues to hollow out the welfare state," he continues, "it builds on Obama's efforts to expand the surveillance state but with a new and deadly twist:"

This is particularly clear given the Congressional Republicans' decision to advance a bill that would overturn privacy protections for Internet users, allow corporations to monitor, sell, and use everything that users put on the Internet, including their browsing history, app usage and financial and medical information.

This is the Orwellian side of Trump's administration, which not only makes it easier for the surveillance state to access information, but also sells out the American public to corporate demagogues who view everything in terms of markets and the accumulation of capital.

It is the combination of corporate and governmental power that is most dangerous:

The supine response of the mainstream press and the general public to ongoing acts of state and corporate violence is a flagrant and horrifying indication of the extent to which the United States government has merged the corporate state with the military state to create a regime of brutality, sadism, aggression, and cruelty. State sovereignty has been replaced by corporate sovereignty. All the while, militarized ignorance expands a culture awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat making it all the more difficult to recognizes how authoritarianism appears in new forms.

The established political parties and politicians are nothing more than crude lobbyists and shock troops for the financial elite who believe everything is for sale.

"Trump's brand of authoritarianism," he continues, "is a combination of the savagery of neoliberalism and civic illiteracy on steroids:"

This legacy of neo-fascism represents more than a crisis of civic literacy and courage, it is a crisis of civic culture, if not politics itself. As civic culture wanes, a market based ideology increases its grip on the American public. This militant ideology of sadism and cruelty is all too familiar and is marked by unbridled individualism, a disdain for the welfare state, the elevation of unchecked self-interest to an organizing principle of society, the glorification of militarism, and a systemic erosion of any viable notion of citizenship.

Giroux stresses the difficulty of "both educating people and creating broad-based social movements dedicated not merely to reforms but transforming the ideological, economic, and political structures of the existing society:"

A formidable resistance movement must work hard to create a formative culture that empowers and brings together the most vulnerable along with those who inhabit single issues movement. [...]

A moral political coma now drives an authoritarian society that embraces greed, racism, hatred, inequality, stupidity, disposability, and lawlessness, all of which are celebrated as national virtues.

Can we overcome the Fox fascists in time? Let's turn to the towers of academia, where David Masciotra explains the truth about campus free-speech wars:

Many right-wing paranoiacs accuse the professorate of attempting to "indoctrinate" the student body according to a Marxist agenda of critical race theory and intersectionality. I would settle for someone raising his hand and saying, "I liked the Hemingway story."

Far from feeling under threat from students who enforce their increasingly sensitive and hostile ideology on their surroundings, the only complaints I have received are grade protests.

"My struggle is not to engineer a worldwide revolt against the interlocking matrix of oppression but to enjoy a simpler achievement," he writes, "that all the students in my class follow the instructions about how to write their papers:"

There is an unbreachable distance between the debates professional commentators initiate and maintain -- and the real lives of most Americans. An observation on the gap in comprehension that separates what mass media staffers understand from ordinary citizens' experience might seem banal, but that simple truth almost always evades the countless Twitter feeds, podcasts and websites devoted to running in the opposite direction toward the newest flashing light of invented or exaggerated discord.

"Conservative pundits and liberal polemicists run laps around a track they have designed and built," he writes, "rather than exploring the world outside"--something that he calls the "Outrage Olympics:"

The paid pundit suffers under no greater fear or anxiety than the threat of irrelevance. When factual data emerges with the capacity to destroy the pundit's acumen, it quickly finds itself in the incinerator, discarded and forever ignored.

Then down the Memory Hole it must go...

The cacophony of shrieking over would-be tyrants plotting hostile takeovers of universities from their dorm rooms silenced the revelatory survey from the National Coalition Against Censorship, demonstrating that of 800 university professors, only a handful ever used "trigger warnings" or reported students asking them to use trigger warnings.

As far as the fear of universities teeming with student activists, Masciotra busts that myth as well, noting that "only 9 percent of them expressed interest in even attending a campus protest:"

Eighteen-year-old coeds as oppressors in training with diabolical schemes to transform classrooms into Maoist re-education centers make for exciting villains in a melodramatic made-for-TV movie, but the problem with their appearance in newspapers, magazines and internet journals is that they are a species as rare as trigger warnings.

science march

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Ed Yong writes in The Atlantic on how the science march found its voice:

Scientists are not a group to whom activism comes easily or familiarly. Most have traditionally stayed out of the political sphere, preferring to stick to their research. But for many, this historical detachment ended with the election of Donald Trump.

His administration has denied the reality of climate change, courted anti-vaccine campaigners, repeatedly stated easily disproven falsehoods, attempted to gag government scientists, proposed enormous budget cuts that would "set off a lost generation of American science," and pushed for legislation that would roll back environmental and public health protections, pave the way for genetic discrimination, and displace scientific evidence from the policy-making process. Sensing an assault on many fronts--to their jobs, funds, and to the value of empiricism itself--scientists are grappling with politics to an unprecedented extent.

Politicus USA points out that the science march out-drew Trump's inauguration, noting that "Millions of people are marching today for science" in cities ranging from New York City to Philadelphia to St. Paul, Minnesota--in addition to the main march in DC.

Yong also comments on the "55 consecutive speakers [...] who rallied the crowd behind a smorgasbord of causes." This criticism is often made of liberal protests, but it is unjustified--being under stack on many fronts means that defense must be aimed in many directions. He notes with approval the "610 satellite events taking place around the world" that accompanied the main march in Washington DC, comments on the pun-heavy signage, but also expresses some concern:

The risk that the march would further polarize America's view of science, portraying it as a liberal endeavor and diminishing its objectivity, has plagued the event since its inception.

Rolling Stone notes CPAC's awkward flirtation with the Alt-Right:

Dan Schneider, the executive director of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the conference, has just decried the Alt-Right as a "sinister organization that is trying to worm its way into our ranks."

"Schneider," the piece continues, "rather than provoking a serious discussion of the conservative movement's relationship with the Alt-Right, has thrown up a straw man:"

The Alt-Right, he says (correctly) are "anti-Semites," "racists" and "sexists." But, he adds (incorrectly), they do not emerge out of conservatism's own trenches. Instead, he maintains, "they are garden variety left-wing fascists."

Similarly, TNR observes that "the drama of this year's CPAC revolves around how conservatives should handle the alt-right:"

The solution, so far, has been to make a gingerly attempt to separate out the more socially acceptable parts of the alt-right while distancing CPAC from figures like [Richard] Spencer, who would remind the press and larger public that we are dealing with neo-Nazi ideologues.

But you cannot whitewash the alt-right, nor deny its influence in today's conservative movement or the highest levels of the Trump administration. [As with Breitbart's former CEO Steve Bannon.]

TNR notes that "Spencer was ejected from CPAC," and asks:

The current solution of accepting Bannon but rejecting Yiannopoulos and Spencer is a temporary compromise, one that is unlikely to last. Soon conservatism will have to face its moment of truth: Do they accept the alt-right as the future of American conservatism?

Salon also examines the actual history of the Alt-Right, writing that it "actually has its roots in a conservative reaction against President George W. Bush, whose internationalism and support for the Republican Party establishment were perceived as an affront to their own right-wing principles:"

Although it was initially comprised of more libertarian-minded individuals, there were always racist and xenophobic elements within the movement. By the early 2010s it had been overtaken by white nationalists as well as more subtle racists, many of them initially associated with the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Speaking of CPAC, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre is lying his ass off again:

"The truth is the far left have turned protesting into what seems like a full-time profession. Seriously. You would think that for $1,500 a week they would at least know what they are protesting," LaPierre said. "Half of them can't even tell you. One thing is for sure, we've all seen just how violent they can be. Just look at Inauguration Day. They disguised themselves with black ski masks, they spit in the faces of gold star families. They tomahawk beer bottles and rocks at police, putting multiple police in the hospital. They smashed businesses while customers cowered inside."

Though it has been a common refrain from conservatives, Republican lawmakers facing protests at town halls and even the President, there is no evidence that any protesters have been paid. Though there were incidents of violence during Trump's inauguration, with windows being smashed and 200 people being arrested, there is no evidence that that anyone spit in the face of a Gold Star family.

LaPierre also made "a claim that Trump supporters in San Fransisco were beaten, pelted with eggs and had their hats burned. LaPierre said the 'nightmare' of the left's violence is just beginning." He also alleged that "Deliberate lies aimed at destroying freedom is something we've been dealing with for decades"--without a glimmer of either irony or self-awareness.

Right Wing Watch called LaPierre's speech "nothing but a cavalcade of dark warnings about sinister forces intent on killing every law-abiding patriot in the nation:"

Claiming that activists who are protesting President Trump are being paid thousands of dollars as part of a massive conspiracy to "dehumanize and demonize" conservatives in order to purge them from society, LaPierre painted the NRA as the only organization capable of protecting decent Americans from the "terror and bloodshed" that is sure to come.

If there will be terror and bloodshed in our future, you can bet that the NRA and its minions are more likely to be causing it than opposing it.

David Dayen delves into Paul Manafort's shady real-estate loans:

Since 2012, Manafort has taken out seven home equity loans worth approximately $19.2 million on three separate New York-area properties he owns through holding companies registered to him and his son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai, a real estate investor. They include a condo on 27 Howard Street in Manhattan, a condo in Trump Tower, and a four-story, two-unit brownstone in Brooklyn, at 377 Union Street.

"By June 1," Dayen continues, "the lender, Genesis Capital, had filed for foreclosure, alleging a missed payment:"

The total borrowing cost appears to exceed the equivalent market value of a property of that size in the neighborhood, and it's also unusual from a risk management standpoint to loan millions of dollars for a home already in default by the same owner.

In case Manafort's name doesn't ring any bells for you:

A longtime Republican strategist, Manafort's removal from the Trump campaign last summer came amid reports that a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine gave him $12.7 million in off-the-books payments. He has re-emerged in the news because of leaked intelligence reports suggesting his ongoing contacts with Russian government officials during the Trump campaign. Manafort has denied all of these allegations.

The Advocate talks about Trump's reversal of guidelines protecting trans students:

The Departments of Education, headed by Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Justice, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, issued an order Wednesday revoking the guidance issued by their departments last year that advised schools to affirm trans students' identity by using their preferred names and pronouns, and allowing them access to the restrooms, locker rooms, and other single-sex facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The guidance was not legally binding, but it gave schools a blueprint to follow to avoid violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education. President Obama's administration interpreted Title IX as covering discrimination based on gender identity.

Spicer claimed that "We're not reversing [the Obama administration's guidance] [because] "there was no legal basis for it in a law that was instituted in 1972." The article continues by observing that "despite Spicer's assertion that Trump understands trans people's troubles, members of the religious right clearly believe the president is on their side." Approving statements from Concerned Women for America, Liberty Counsel, and Family Research Council certainly bolster that argument.

Not to oversimplify, but if you're siding with the Religious Right instead of trans kids, you're clearly wrong.

In the Age of Trump, conservatism has gone from Edmund Burke to Mr Burns, writes Salon; other writers have made similar observations. Andrew O'Hehir asks, for example, should we blame Friedrich Hayek?

One way to understand what we are witnessing, amid the national humiliation of Donald Trump's presidency, is to see it as the total collapse of conservative ideology.

"That might seem like a strange claim," he admits, but he backs it up:

As a political force, American conservative movement has been morally and philosophically bankrupt for decades, which is one of the big reasons we are where we are right now. Largely in the interest of preserving their own power and empowering a massive money-grab by the class they represent, Republicans have cobbled together cynical coalitions by trying to appease multiple constituencies with competing and often contradictory interests: Libertarians, the Christian right, the post-industrial white working class, finance capital and the billionaire caste. Those groups have literally nothing in common beyond a shared antipathy for ... well, for something that cannot be precisely defined. They don't like the idea of post-1960s Volvo-driving, latte-drinking liberal bicoastal cosmopolitanism, that much is for sure. But the specific things they hate about it are not the same, and the goals they seek are mutually incompatible and largely unachievable.

O'Hehir names Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton as "titans the modern conservative movement likes to cite as forebears," and notes that they "would be horrified by the limited, narrow-minded and intellectually inflexible nature of so-called conservative thought in the 21st century:"

How those guys would make sense of the fact that supposedly intelligent people who claim to share their lineage have hitched their wagons to the idiocy, mendacity and delusional thinking of the would-be autocrat in the White House -- an implausible caricature of the stupefied mob democracy Burke and Hamilton hated and feared -- I can't begin to imagine.

He then delves into Margaret Thatcher's admiration for Frederick Hayek's book The Constitution of Liberty:

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, "is not an ultimate or absolute value". In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

Hayek, writes O'Hehir, "justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth:"

He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are "scouts", "experimenting with new styles of living", who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The progress of society depends on the liberty of these "independents" to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: "the idle rich", who don't have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing "fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs". Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but "aimless display", they are in fact acting as society's vanguard.

Trump, O'Hehir continues, "is the perfect representation of Hayek's 'independent':"

the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want.

While contemplating this situation, I note how Zizek proposed that Trump's darkness would lead to a revolution. Conor Lynch discusses Slavoj Žižek's pronouncement if he were American, that he would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton -- not because Trump was the lesser evil, but precisely because he was the greater evil.

The Slovenian intellectual's hope was that the election of a vulgar, right-wing extremist like Trump would "be a kind of big awakening" that would trigger "new political processes" in America. In other words, with a reactionary demagogue as transparently abhorrent and dangerous as Trump in the White House, a popular movement on the left would emerge to challenge not only Trump's reactionary populism, but the neoliberal status quo that had long prevailed in Washington. Clinton, argued Žižek, stood for an "absolute inertia" that would stifle a populist movement on the left, and while there was great danger in a Trump presidency, there was also great danger in electing Clinton -- especially in the long run.

In the long run, I would argue, we're all dead--and perhaps in the short run, too, if Trump's destructiveness in office matches his business bankruptcies. I do agree with Zizek's snark that "I'm just afraid that Hillary stands for this absolute inertia," but JFC! When it's a contest between Clinton's competence and the nightmare that is Trump's administration, choosing the more volatile option strikes me as juvenile bomb-throwing of the worst sort: destruction for its own sake. As Lynch observes:

Though we are just one month into Trump's term, his presidency has already surpassed all recent predecessors in scandal and controversy, and the dysfunction is palpable. At times it is hard to imagine how the United States can survive another 47 weeks of this unhinged and extremist administration. [..]

With a historically low approval rating, Trump is already the most unpopular president in modern history, and his party is now the "establishment." That means the Democrats will have the perfect opportunity to lead a popular and successful resistance in 2018 and 2020 if they can adopt a compelling populist message of their own.

...and they won't have to lie in order to do so.

Meanwhile, Samuel Warde hopes that President Pence won't be a complete disaster after Trump's impeachment:

Professor Ronald L. Feinman, Ph.D., of Florida Atlantic University predicts that "Trump is on his way to second or third shortest presidency in American history" in an article published on the History News Network earlier this week.

"According to Feinman's analysis," writes Warde:

[I]t seems likely that Donald Trump will be leaving the Presidency at some point, likely between the 31 days of William Henry Harrison in 1841 (dying of pneumonia) and the 199 days of James A. Garfield in 1881 (dying of an assassin's bullet after 79 days of terrible suffering and medical malpractice). At the most, it certainly seems likely, even if dragged out, that Trump will not last 16 months and 5 days, as occurred with Zachary Taylor in 1850 (dying of a digestive ailment). The Pence Presidency seems inevitable.

It's a frightening possibility, but it might be the least-worst option.

LGBTQ Nation analyzes Milo Y's appearance on Bill Maher's episode with "Gay provocateur and Breitbart senior editor Milo Yianoppoulos:"

As the British self-professed "troll" continues to creep into the daily U.S. news cycle, voices on both ends of the political spectrum are speaking out against him.

Another of Maher's guests, Larry Wilmore, slammed Milo with my QOTD:

"You can go fuck yourself, all right?" Wilmore replied, to raucous cheers, defending fellow guest counter-terrorism expert Malcolm Nance adding, "he can talk circles around your douchey little ass from England."

The video is actually worth watching:

This is as good an example as any of what Robbie Medwed means in writing that he's proud of his liberal bubble:

In the wake of accusations of being stuck in a "liberal bubble," many of us have been accused of being intolerant of other opinions and shutting down debate before it even starts.

And you know what? It's true, and I'm proud of it.

Not every opinion or point of view is valid and acceptable.

Medwed continues:

I don't need to hear from a Klansman why ethno-nationalism and white supremacy are beneficial (because they're not). I don't need to hear from a radical Christian who says that transgender people are (a) not real or (b) only here to attack you while you use the bathroom (again, because they're not). I don't need to listen to that guy from high school who swears that the Muslims are going to take over our country and force all of our women to wear burqas as they impose Sharia law (once more, they're not).

I don't need to read those articles or listen to those opinions because I don't need to engage with racism and bigotry to know it's bad. [...] But even more than that, I don't need to defend those people and what they write, because nothing they say has a basis in reality. People who share and say such sentiments should absolutely be silenced because they are objectively wrong. We can prove that.

"Holding ourselves to the highest standard of free speech," he observes, "doesn't mean accepting arguments that aren't factully correct:"

Somehow "Make America Great Again" has turned into "I get to say all the disgusting stuff I want and you can't stop me." I refuse to live in a world where that's the standard.

So, go ahead and call me intolerant. You can even make up new fancy-sounding terms like "reverse bigotry" if it makes you feel good.

If the worst thing you can say about me is that I live in a bubble becuase I refuse to tolerate racism and bigotry? Great. Bring it. I'll take it as a compliment.

Paul Krugman looks at the silence of the hacks on Russian intervention:

Maybe there's nothing wrong here, and it's all perfectly innocent. But if it's not innocent, it's very bad indeed. So what do Republicans in Congress, who have the power to investigate the situation, believe should be done?

Nothing.

Krugman cites do-nothingers like Paul Ryan, Devin Nunes, and Jason Chaffetz, and suggests that Rand Paul has perhaps the worst case of partisan myopia, as evidenced by this quote:

"We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans."

"The thing is," Krugman continues, "this nightmare could be ended by a handful of Republican legislators willing to make common cause with Democrats to demand the truth:"

And maybe there are enough people of conscience left in the G.O.P.

But there probably aren't. And that's a problem that's even scarier than the Trump-Putin axis.

AlterNet's Janet Allon writes, "There it is in a nutshell:"

The hard-liners in the Republican party are not going to let the little whiff of the possibilty that Americans are being governed by a man taking his cues from Moscow get in the way of depriving millions of healthcare, demolishing the safety net and letting polluters pollute freely again.

Speaking of partisan hackery, Jason Chaffetz is still going on about Clinton's emails:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday asking him to convene a grand jury or charge Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton's server while she was secretary of state.

Pagliano did not comply with two subpoenas ordering him to appear before the oversight panel. The GOP-led committee later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.

30 years too late

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NPR wonders about presidential dementia, noting that "At 70, Trump is the oldest American president to ever take office:"

Couple his age with a family history of dementia -- his father Fred developed Alzheimer's disease in his 80s -- and one could argue that the question of baseline cognitive testing for the U.S. head of state has taken on new relevance.

Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University's Langone Medical Center, comments:

"I think we're about 50 years overdue for having some sort of annual physical for the president and vice president, the results of which should be reported publicly," he says. "Part of this should be psychiatric and cognitive testing."

We need it now even more than we did 30 years ago.

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