May 11, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


'Digital. What's digital?' (Chris Graham, 12 MAY 2017, The Telegraph)

Donald Trump has told the US Navy to go back to "goddamned steam" to launch jets from its carriers, declaring the new digital system "no good".  [...]

"It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it's very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out," Mr Trump said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


Labour MPs reject Jeremy Corbyn's manifesto (Kate McCann, 12 MAY 2017, The Telegraph)

Labour MPs last night turned their back on Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing manifesto and vowed to oust him after the election in an attempt to save their seats.

Mr Corbyn faced an open revolt after his socialist plan for Britain was leaked to the Daily Telegraph and his own MPs claimed he did not speak for them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Q&A : Transcript: Interview with Donald Trump : The Economist talks to the President of the United States about economic policy (The Economist, 5/11/17)

What is Trumponomics and how does it differ from standard Republican economics?

Well it's an interesting question. I don't think it's ever been asked quite that way. But it really has to do with self-respect as a nation. It has to do with trade deals that have to be fair, and somewhat reciprocal, if not fully reciprocal. And I think that's a word that you're going to see a lot of, because we need reciprocality in terms of our trade deals. We have nations where...they'll get as much as 100% of a tax or a tariff for a certain product and for the same product we get nothing, OK? It's very unfair. And the very interesting thing about that is that, if I said I'm going to put a tax on of 10%, the free-traders, somewhat foolishly, they'll say "Oh, he's not a free-trader", which I am, I'm absolutely a free-trader. I'm for open trade, free trade, but I also want smart trade and fair trade. But they'll say, "He's not a free-trader," at 10%. But if I say we're putting a reciprocal tax on, it may be 62% or it may be 47%, I mean massive numbers, and nobody can complain about it. It's really sort of an amazing thing. [...]

It sounds like you're imagining a pretty big renegotiation of NAFTA. What would a fair NAFTA look like?

Big isn't a good enough word. Massive.


It's got to be. It's got to be.

What would it look like? What would a fair NAFTA look like?

No, it's gotta be. Otherwise we're terminating NAFTA.

What would a fair NAFTA look like?

I was all set to terminate, you know? And this wasn't like...this wasn't a game I was playing. I'm not know, I wasn't playing chess or poker or anything else. This was, I was, I'd never even thought's always the best when you really feel this way. But I was...I had no thought of anything else, and these two guys will tell you, I had no thought of anything else but termination. But because of my relationship with both of them, I said, I would like to give that a try too, that's fine. I mean, out of respect for them. It would've been very disrespectful to Mexico and Canada had I said, "I will not."

But Mr President, what has to change for you not to withdraw?

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Merrick Garland for FBI Director? : Welcome to the most amazing Republican troll job yet. (Dahlia Lithwick, 5/11/17, Slate)

In the event you weren't quite convinced that the White House could turn the governance of America into the world's most elaborate game of Clue, some Republicans are now floating the name of Merrick Garland to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey.


Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Acting FBI chief contradicts White House on Comey firing, Russia probe (EILEEN SULLIVAN, JULIE PACE AND DEB RIECHMANN May 11, 2017, AP) 

Piece by piece, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe undermined recent White House explanations about the firing of FBI Director James Comey during testimony before a Senate committee Thursday.

Since President Donald Trump's surprise ouster of Comey on Tuesday, the White House has justified his decision, in part, by saying that the director had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI as well as the public in general.

"That is not accurate," McCabe said in a response to a senator's question about the White House assertions. "I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day." [...]

McCabe called the investigation "highly significant" -- another contradiction of the White House portrayal -- and assured senators Comey's firing will not hinder it. He promised senators he would tolerate no interference from the White House and would not provide the administration with updates on its progress.

"You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing," he declared.

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


Inside Trump's anger and impatience -- and his sudden decision to fire Comey  (Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa, May 10, 2017, Washington Post)

Trump kept a close hold on the process. White House press secretary Sean Spicer and communications director Michael Dubke were brought into the Oval Office and informed of the Comey decision just an hour before the news was announced. Other staffers in the West Wing found out about the FBI director's firing when their cellphones buzzed with news alerts beginning around 5:40 p.m.

The media explosion was immediate and the political backlash was swift, with criticism pouring in not only from Democrats, but also from some Republicans. Trump and some of his advisers did not fully anticipate the ferocious reaction -- in fact, some wrongly assumed many Democrats would support the move because they had been critical of Comey in the past -- and were unprepared to contain the fallout.

When asked Tuesday night for an update on the unfolding situation, one top White House aide simply texted a reporter two fireworks emoji.

"I think the surprise of a great many in the White House was that as soon as this became a Trump decision, all of the Democrats who had long been calling for Comey's ouster decided that this was now an awful decision," Dubke said. "So there was a surprise at the politicization of Democrats on this so immediately and so universally."

Trump's team did not have a full-fledged communications strategy for how to announce and then explain the decision. As Trump, who had retired to the residence to eat dinner, sat in front of a television watching cable news coverage of Comey's firing, he noticed another flaw: Nobody was defending him.

The president was irate, according to White House officials. Trump pinned much of the blame on Spicer and Dubke's communications operation, wondering how there could be so many press staffers yet such negative coverage on cable news -- although he, Priebus and others had afforded them almost no time to prepare.

"This is probably the most egregious example of press and communications incompetence since we've been here," one West Wing official said. "It was an absolute disaster. And the president watched it unfold firsthand. He could see it."

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said Trump bears some responsibility for the turmoil because he kept the decision secret from some key aides.

"You can't be the quarterback of the team if the rest of the team is not in the huddle," Gingrich said.

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Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


To Raise Gas Tax, South Carolina Lawmakers Override Governor (Cassie Cope, 5/11/17, Governing)

A proposal to raise the S.C. gas tax will become law after the Legislature Wednesday overrode Gov. Henry McMaster's veto.

The proposal, which takes effect July 1, will raise the state's gas tax by two cents a year for six years, a total of 12 cents. The bill also will hike other driving fees to raise money to repair the state's crumbling roads.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


'Enough Was Enough': How Festering Anger at Comey Ended in His Firing (MAGGIE HABERMAN, GLENN THRUSH, MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and PETER BAKER, MAY 10, 2017, NY Times)

After President Trump accused his predecessor in March of wiretapping him, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was flabbergasted. The president, Mr. Comey told associates, was "outside the realm of normal," even "crazy." [...]

[I]n private, aides said, Mr. Trump has been nursing a collection of festering grievances, including Mr. Comey's handling of the Russia investigation, his seeming lack of interest in pursuing anti-Trump leaks and the perceived disloyalty over the wiretapping claim. [...]

Mr. Comey's fate was sealed by his latest testimony about the bureau's investigation into Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election and the Clinton email inquiry. Mr. Trump burned as he watched, convinced that Mr. Comey was grandstanding. He was particularly irked when Mr. Comey said he was "mildly nauseous" to think that his handling of the email case had influenced the election, which Mr. Trump took to demean his own role in history. [...]

Despite Mr. Trump's apparent endorsement, Mr. Comey remained skeptical about his future. He believed his unwillingness to put loyalty to Mr. Trump over his role as F.B.I. director could ultimately lead to his ouster.

"With a president who seems to prize personal loyalty above all else and a director with absolute commitment to the Constitution and pursuing investigations wherever the evidence led, a collision was bound to happen," Daniel C. Richman, a close Comey adviser and former federal prosecutor, said on Wednesday. [...]

Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to Mr. Trump who has been under F.B.I. scrutiny as part of the Russia inquiry, was among those who urged the president to fire Mr. Comey, people briefed on the discussions said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Obama-Era Regulation Survives Vote (Chelsea Harvey And Juliet Eilperin, 5/10/17, The Washington Post)

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., unexpectedly voted no against a motion to proceed with consideration of the resolution, along with GOP Sens. Susan Collins, Maine, and Lindsey Graham, S.C. Two Democrats who had considered backing the rule's elimination -- Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia -- voted against the motion as well.

McCain, Sasse to oppose Trump's trade nominee over NAFTA (Damian Paletta, May 10, 2017, Washington Post)

Two Senate Republicans on Wednesday said they would vote against President Trump's nominee for U.S. trade representative, questioning the White House's adversarial negotiating tactics with Canada and Mexico.

You'd not have thought the least powerful first year Executive this side of Johnson and Ford could get any weaker, but he's managed it.
Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Pew: Here's How Badly Soviet Atheism Failed in Europe : In 18 nations across Central and Eastern Europe, religion is now essential to national identity. (JEREMY WEBER, 5/10/2017, Christianity Today)

This is how the Pew Research Center summarizes the surge of Christianity in Europe around the fallen Iron Curtain roughly 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"The comeback of religion in a region once dominated by atheist regimes is striking," states Pew in its latest report. Today, only 14 percent of the region's population identify as atheists, agnostics, or "nones." By comparison, 57 percent identify as Orthodox, and another 18 percent as Catholics.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing Labour manifesto leaked (Kate McCann, 11 MAY 2017, The Telegraph)

Jeremy Corbyn will take Britain back to the 1970s by nationalising industries, forcing wage caps on businesses and giving huge power to the unions if he gets into power, a leaked copy of Labour's draft manifesto reveals.

The 43-page document, obtained by the Daily Telegraph, shows that Mr Corbyn plans to nationalise energy, rail and mail and will introduce a 20:1 pay cap for businesses. 

It's not a manifesto; it's a suicide note.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 AM


After Trump fired Comey, White House staff scrambled to explain why (Jenna Johnson May 10, 2017, Washington Post)

After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the darkness and among the bushes near these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.

"Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off," he ordered. "We'll take care of this. ... Can you just turn that light off?"

Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him.

We radically underestimated when we said Donald would be the greatest source of comedy in WH history.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 AM


Trump adviser had five calls with Russian envoy on day of sanctions: sources (Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed, 1/23/17, Reuters)

Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for national security adviser, held five phone calls with Russia's ambassador to Washington on the day the United States retaliated for Moscow's interference in the U.S. presidential election, three sources familiar with the matter said.

The calls occurred between the time the Russian embassy was told about U.S. sanctions and the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had decided against reprisals, said the sources. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing internal U.S. government deliberations about the issue.

There's nothing more hilarious in this whole kerfuffle than the argument that Donald did nothing wrong because there are no secret deals.  Donald publicly promised to lift sanctions on and form an alliance with Putin while Putin hacked his opponents.  It's not as if there can be worse hidden. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 AM


Pence Expresses 'Unwavering' U.S. Support For Ukraine's Sovereignty (Radio Liberty, May 11, 2017)

Vice President Mike Pence expressed the Trump administration's "unwavering support" for Ukraine's sovereignty in a meeting with the country's foreign minister on May 10.

The VP & Ms Haley have to try to escape the dumpster-fire untainted so they can square off in 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Comey's Firing Came as Investigators Stepped Up Russia Probe : FBI director had been providing updates to top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (Shane Harris and  Carol E. Lee, May 10, 2017, WSJ)

In the weeks before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a federal investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government was heating up, as Mr. Comey became increasingly occupied with the probe.

Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter and the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. Mr. Comey was concerned by information showing potential evidence of collusion, according to these people. [....]

There currently are 11 congressional staff working on the Senate probe, a number that some lawmakers have said publicly isn't enough to handle the voluminous intelligence reporting and leads that have been generated by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 AM


The largest health care subsidy: employer coverage (Bob Herman, 5/11/17, Axios)

Sen. Orrin Hatch controversially said this week that repealing the Affordable Care Act subsidies and Medicaid expansion is difficult because once you get people "on the dole, they'll take every dime they can."

Reality check: Nearly every American benefits from subsidized health insurance, not just those who gained coverage under the ACA. The largest health care subsidy is the same one that Hatch and millions of others take advantage of: the tax break for employer-based coverage.