March 1, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 PM


Senate Intelligence Leaders Say House G.O.P. Leaked a Senator's Texts (NICHOLAS FANDOS, MARCH 1, 2018, NY Times)

The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel's top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter.

Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee's Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, the officials said.

Always worth remembering that the Ethics Committee was unable to complete the investigation of his prior leaks because they weren't cleared to see the intelligence...

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Justice Dept. Report Is Expected to Criticize Andrew McCabe Over Media Disclosures (MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN, MARCH 1, 2018, NY Times)

A Justice Department review is expected to criticize the former F.B.I. deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, for authorizing the disclosure of information about a continuing investigation to journalists, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.

Such a damning report would give President Trump new ammunition to criticize Mr. McCabe, who is at the center of Mr. Trump's theory that "deep state" actors inside the F.B.I. have been working to sabotage his presidency. But Mr. McCabe's disclosures to the news media do not fit neatly into that assumption: They contribute to a negative article about Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration's Justice Department -- not Mr. Trump.

The department's inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has zeroed in on disclosures to The Wall Street Journal as part of a wide-ranging investigation into, among other things, how the F.B.I. approached the 2016 inquiry into Mrs. Clinton's handling of classified information. Mr. Horowitz has said he expects to release a report this month or next.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Trump announces steel and aluminum tariffs Thursday over objections from advisers and Republicans (David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta, March 1, 2018, Washington Post)

The president's move, relying upon a little-used provision of U.S. trade law, is expected to trigger immediate legal challenges by U.S. trading partners at the World Trade Organization and invite retaliation against American exports.

Trump also turned back pleas from companies that are heavy users of steel and aluminum, including automakers, who warn that higher prices will hurt their sales and potentially lead to layoffs. In 2002, the last time the United States imposed steel tariffs, steel users blamed the measures for the loss of up to 200,000 jobs.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Republican leadership, said before the announcement that he feared the tariffs will hurt companies in his home state.

"I continue to be concerned about what other countries do in response to that," Blunt said. "In our state, we make steel and aluminum, but we continue to buy a lot more than we make. Things like sheet aluminum that you use to make boats with, we make a lot of boats, it's not available in the United States."

The United States already has 169 trade taxes in place on various types of imported steel, including 29 on Chinese products. Some of the nation's largest steelmakers, which sought the new tariffs, also are in good shape financially. Nucor reported a $1.1 billion profit last year.

"Import taxes on steel and aluminum will raise the prices of those products, which in turn will raise the price of doing business for U.S. manufacturers," said economist Christine McDaniel of George Mason University's Mercatus Center. "There are more people in U.S. manufacturing sectors that rely on steel than there are in the U.S. steel industry. In terms of the economics, the trade-off does not make sense."

In case you ever wondered how a guy could lose money on casinos...

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


'Secular' Is a French Word for 'Anti-Muslim': French President Emmanuel Macron can't achieve his economic policy goals with policies that alienate Muslims. (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, February 23, 2018, Bloomberg View)

In supporting the new ban, former prime minister Manuel Valls insisted it was the natural continuation of a long tradition of church and state separation in France. Valls's view represents the consensus view of French political and cultural elites. It is also demonstrably false.

Through modern French political history, including after the 1905 law establishing the separation of church and state, members of the French National Assembly have displayed religious symbols; indeed, through much of that history, it never occurred to anyone that this could contradict secularism in any way.

Prominent post-war French political figures included Roman Catholic priests, who sat in Parliament in their traditional cassock. Abbé Pierre, a Franciscan monk who topped polls for the most admired public figure in France for his humanitarian work for decades until his death in 2007, started out in public life as a member of the National Assembly and never parted from his religious garb. So did Father Félix Kir, a highly colorful figure (yes, the cocktail is named after him) who was never far from center stage in French political life for over two decades. Said Benaisse Boualam, representative of then-French Algeria, sat in traditional Berber robes and turban, claiming the garb as a symbol of his Muslim faith. And yet he was elected four times to the vice presidency of the National Assembly.

The 1905 law ended public subsidies for religious institutions, but instituted no legal or cultural rule against public expression of religious values. So, why are we now told differently?

The answer is obvious: Over the past few decades, millions of people of Muslim faith or Muslim background immigrated to France. It is only then that this novel understanding of secularism emerged. The myth that state secularism has always mandated such rigid interpretations is convenient: If there are problems with French Muslims in France, they can be blamed on their reluctance to embrace the sacred rule of secularism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


An outbreak of good manners (Theodore Dalrymple, 2/28/18, Salisbury Review)

I am so used to lamentation - my own, that is - that I know that I am sometimes inclined to overlook how much better certain things have become of late years. We notice deterioration; we take improvement for granted the moment they have occurred.

Among the things that have improved in the London Underground. I spent most of my early life in London but am now only an occasional visitor, and I never cease to be astonished by the improvement in the underground service. The trains are cleaner, more rapid, more frequent better-ventilated, roomier and quieter than I remember them. I recall with a kind of condescending or indulgent amusement that the civilised are inclined to employ towards the primitive that people once actually smoked in them and took the fug for granted, as a quasi-natural phenomenon.

Another thing by which my wife and I have been surprised is the politeness of the passengers: they invariably stand up for her and when they see that I am with her, they stand for me too. They do so with an ease, grace and naturalness that that suggests that their politeness is habitual. Even those whom I would otherwise tend to regard as tattooed monsters often offer us this courtesy. Sometimes I don't even have to be with my wife for a seat to be given up for me.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM

CREEDAL TO GRAVE (profanity alert):

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Is There Really A Difference Between Expensive Vodka And Cheap Vodka? (DAN PASHMAN, 3/01/18, Planet Money)
Walk in to just about any bar in America today and you'll see a row of fancy vodka bottles all lined up. Some people swear by one brand or another, but there is a federal law that requires all vodkas to be pretty much the same, so the Planet Money team decided to test them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Democrats Turn Trump's Gun Control Rambling Into a Proposal (JIM NEWELL, MARCH 01, 2018, Slate)

On Thursday afternoon, one of the leaders of the Senate offered a legislative proposal on guns that would codify the positions President Trump endorsed during a televised meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday. But that Senate leader wasn't a Republican.

"I'm sure many of you in this room, and many Americans around the country, watched the president's meeting on gun violence yesterday and were rather stunned and surprised--many of us, pleasantly--by what we saw," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the beginning of his press conference on Thursday. "I'd like to give credit where due: The president said a lot of things right yesterday."

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


Russia "Previewed" Plan to Disseminate Emails with Trump Campaign (Ryan Goodman, March 1, 2018, JustSecurity)

Prior to the memo, we knew that a Russian agent told Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos of "Moscow possessing 'dirt'" on Hillary Clinton "in the form of 'thousands of emails,'" according to Papadopoulos's plea statement. The memo went a legally significant step further. As Rep. Adam Schiff recently told Chris Hayes, "our memo discloses for the first time that the Russians previewed to Papadopoulos that they could help with disseminating these stolen emails." Rep. Schiff added, "When Donald Trump openly called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails, they'd be richly rewarded if they released these to the press, his campaign had already been put on notice that the Russians were prepared to do just that and disseminate these stolen emails."

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


John Kelly: Leaving DHS to Work in Trump's White House Was Punishment From God (Adam K. Raymond3/01/18, New York)

The comment came at a celebration for DHS's 15th anniversary and was preceded by Kelly rolling his eyes like a surly teen when he alluded to the drama that surrounds him in the West Wing.

"I miss every one of you, every day," Kelly said, rolling his eyes.

"Truly, at six months, the last thing I wanted to do is walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of Homeland Security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess," he said.

You can hardly blame his senior staff/Cabinet for holding him in such public contempt, but for any normal president it would be a crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


NY Fed chief says tariffs risk 'trade war' as Trump eyes protectionist action (Patrick Gillespie, 3/01/18,   @CNNMoney)

"Raising trade barriers would risk setting off a trade war, which could damage economic growth prospects around the world," Dudley said in a speech at the Central Bank of Brazil in São Paulo. Although short-term gains are appealing, "in the longer term it would almost certainly be destructive."

The speech comes the same day that President Trump announced that he would impose a 10% tariff on imported aluminum and a 25% tariff on imported steel.

It's not about economics, just race.
Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Donald Trump Gets a Lesson From That 'Very Bad Judge' (THE EDITORIAL BOARD, FEB. 28, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Trump, who refuses to be held to account for anything he has ever said or done, was irked that a federal judge would dare to entertain litigation against him. At a rally in San Diego, Mr. Trump called Judge Curiel "very hostile," "a very bad judge" and a "hater of Donald Trump," and said he "should be ashamed of himself. I think it's a disgrace that he's doing this."

He added that Judge Curiel "happens to be, we believe, Mexican." Not true: Judge Curiel was born and raised in Indiana. But the implication, of course, was that Mr. Trump, who had begun his own candidacy with derogatory comments about Mexicans and had been pushing a border wall with Mexico throughout the campaign, could not get a fair trial from a "Mexican" judge.

Less than two years later, in a case involving the border wall itself, that same judge ruled in Mr. Trump's favor. He is no longer a "very bad judge," apparently.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


THE FUTURE OF HEALTH-CARE TECHNOLOGY IS ALREADY IN YOUR POCKET: An app designed at Johns Hopkins is saving patients' lives--and the hospital thousands of dollars. (KEVIN CHARLES FLEMING, 3/01/18, Pacific Standard)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have shown that Corrie, a custom app designed for patients who have survived heart attacks, dramatically reduces those patients' chances of being re-admitted to the hospital with complications. The simple bit of technology has the potential to save lives, improve outcomes, and save hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For patients who have suffered a heart attack and been treated in a hospital, being discharged is only the first step in long road to recovery. Medication non-adherence and re-admission for complications are two major concerns in the post-treatment phase. According to the American Heart Association, just 88 percent of patients fill the prescriptions they're given, 76 percent begin taking them, and 44 percent continue to do so. In one recent analysis, the majority of patients didn't understand the medication regimen they were being prescribed, and two-thirds left the hospital without a follow-up appointment scheduled.

At the same time, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one in five heart attack survivors are re-admitted to the hospital for complications within a month of being discharged. Medicare annually covers 51,000 such re-admissions, with a bill that exceeds $693 million in additional hospital costs.

William Yang, a resident at Johns Hopkins, and his colleagues saw an opportunity to replace the traditional, paper-based discharge process with an interactive, digital one.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Wife of 7th Special Forces Group vet faces deportation under tighter immigration rules (Tara Copp, 2/28/18, Military Times)

A Virginia immigration court on Monday could decide to deport the wife of an Army 7th Special Forces Group veteran, despite provisions in the law that allow her to remain in the United States.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Bob Crawford, 52, and Elia, 44, married in 2001 when he was still on active duty and deploying regularly with 7th Group to conduct counter-narcotics operations and training missions in Latin America.

Elia illegally crossed into the U.S. in 1999, after she fled the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, which killed 7,000 people in her native Honduras.

After they married, the Crawfords filled out paperwork to seek legal residency for Elia and learned she was under deportation orders.

"We've been fighting this for years," Bob Crawford said, listing the filings and attorneys the family has pursued to get Elia legal status.

The pair has two sons, ages 12 and 9, and Elia has been the foundation that has allowed Bob to keep deploying -- as many as two or three times a year -- first as an active duty soldier and now as a Defense Department contractor.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Facing Haredi rebellion, PM forms committee to craft new military draft bill (MARISSA NEWMAN and TOI STAFF, 3/01/18, Times of Israel)

Facing a rebellion from ultra-Orthodox lawmakers threatening to topple his coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on Wednesday to establish a committee composed of representatives from all six coalition member parties to hammer out an agreed-upon military draft bill.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Fox News Hosts Correct Their Stories on CNN 'Scripted Question' (Erik Wemple, 2/28/18, The Washington Post)

"For the sake of honesty and full disclosure, to which we are committed, we have to tell you there is no evidence as of right now that CNN tried to give Colton Haab a scripted question. And we want you to know that," said Carlson on his eponymous show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. That admission followed an extensive summary of the events as Carlson had reported them.

For his part, Hannity stuck with a smaller disclosure:

"We have a quick update on a story we told you about last week. Colton Haab is a Stoneman Douglas High School student. He was supposed to appear on CNN's gun-control town hall. He said the network tried to script his question. Both he and his father said they had emails to prove that, told the entire media. Tonight Glenn Haab told the AP that he omitted some words from the email; he says he didn't do it on purpose. Therefore, what (the) Haabs told all news outlets last week was inaccurate. Our job is always to strive for the truth, and we want to correct the record."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Today in Conservative Media: Trump's Gun Grab Proves He Was a Secret Democrat All Along (ELLIOT HANNON, FEB 28, 2018, Slate)

Reactions on the right began to trickle in Wednesday, and it wasn't pretty. In a piece titled "Wait-Did Trump Just Give Pro-Gun Control Democrats Everything They Wanted?" Matt Vespa at Townhall writes that the meeting was a "total disaster" and "pretty much was a capitulation to pro-gun control Democrats." "While gun bans aren't on the table, though the latest bill from Democrats come pretty damn close to that--gun confiscation with no due process is troubling," Vespa writes. "The raising of the age limit for firearms is another way to chip away and deny Americans their Second Amendment rights."

Caleb Howe at RedState writes that the meeting was a betrayal and "step one of putting all the blame on the NRA."

He ceded the ground. He showed what he really thinks ... There is this totally dangerous thing, he is saying, and we could fix it if the NRA wasn't controlling Republicans. It is THE Democrat talking point. He agrees. It's what he thinks. Not "the government failed at every level in Florida" but instead "The government could fix this easily if not for the evil NRA."

"This is where we roll our eyes," Howe concludes. Elsewhere at RedState Susan Wright writes, "any president that openly advocates gun grabbing and 'due process second' is not just a liberal social justice nightmare, but has the dangerous mindset of a dictator in the making."

Breitbart splashed the headline: "Trump the Gun Grabber: Cedes Dem's Wish List ..." and followed with "Trump Guns for NRA in White House Meeting on Gun Policy."

We're gonna need more popcorn...

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


In Arizona, Joe Arpaio's Senate bid tests the strength of Trumpism (Michael Scherer February 28, 2018, Washington Post)

"I can read his mind without even talking to him. I think he may be reading mine," said the former Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio. "Is there something that goes through the airwaves? Mental telepathy?"

Such assertions would be a surprise coming from any candidate other than the national provocateur who trademarked the phrase "America's Toughest Sheriff" in January after losing reelection, being convicted of criminal contempt of court and then receiving a presidential pardon from Trump. [...]

The two men have, after all, long traveled a similar road from a distance, sharing the same ­obsession with their own media coverage, parallel claims of persecution from biased judges, an affinity for reality television and a focus on railing against immigrant threats.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Exxon quits some Russian joint ventures citing sanctions (Ernest Scheyder, Olesya Astakhova, 3/01/18, Reuters) 

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) will exit some joint ventures with Russia's Rosneft (ROSN.MM), citing Western sanctions first imposed in 2014, while the Russian company said the pullout will result in serious losses for its U.S. partner.

The move is an about-face for Exxon, which had opposed the sanctions over Russia's invasion of Crimea and argued they unfairly penalized U.S. companies while allowing foreign energy rivals to operate in the country, the world's largest oil producer.

Yet the sanctions were effective in slowing work on a project by Exxon and Rosneft on what was hailed as a major discovery in the Kara Sea above the Arctic Circle.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Top-Ranking Armed Services Republican Hits Trump on Russia Sanctions (Andrew Desiderio, 02.28.18, Daily Beast)

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the committee's chairman, said he shares concerns relayed by Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, who told Thornberry's Senate counterparts on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "has come to the conclusion that there's little price to pay" for Moscow's cyber-attacks aimed at disrupting elections in the United States and elsewhere.

"An aggressor will always push forward and do more until he meets resistance," Thornberry told The Daily Beast. "There has to be a price to be paid."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM

...TWO TO GO...:

Washington Post: Trump refers to Jeff Sessions as 'Mr. Magoo' (Eli Watkins, 3/01/18, CNN)

Trump has made his disagreement with Sessions known clearly in the past, pointedly referring to the attorney general as "beleaguered" last year and saying he would not have chosen Sessions to lead the Justice Department had he known the former senator would recuse himself from oversight of the Russia investigation.

Sessions has stood by his decision and continued to offer no public signal that he intends to step down in face of the criticism, despite an apparent offer to resign after Trump berated him and called him an "idiot" last year, according to The New York Times.

Two law enforcement officials told CNN that staff aides gave Sessions a bulletproof vest as a gag gift to mark the anniversary of his first year in office earlier this month.

The Post, citing people to whom Trump has spoken, said the President has complained about Sessions not defending him and not being loyal enough, comparing Sessions unfavorably with lawyers who have worked for him personally, and had called Sessions "Mr. Magoo."

Once we claim the scalps of Beauregard and Stephen Miller all that remains is for Robert Mueller to finish the job.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Trump reportedly berated Hicks for admitting to 'white lies' (David K. Li, February 28, 2018, NY Post)

The president got angry at Hicks after learning she made the revelation Tuesday to the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia's meddling into the 2016 election, a Trump ally told CNN.

A livid Trump demanded to know "how she could be that stupid" to admit she lies for the president, the report said.

Mueller's team asked about Hicks (Jim Acosta, 2/28/18, CNN)

The former campaign aide said investigators with the special counsel's office, as well as with the House and Senate Intelligence committees, wanted to know if the comment made by Hicks was accurate, given that numerous contacts with Russian individuals have since come to light. Investigators wanted to know whether Hicks in fact knew there had been contacts.

The former aide has responded repeatedly in those sessions: "You have to ask her."

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Americans Trust Mueller More Than Trump Denials: Poll  (Graham Lanktree, 2/28/18,  Newsweek)

Of the 1,000 registered voters surveyed for a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released Tuesday, 58 percent said they have a lot or some trust in Mueller's investigation being fair and accurate.

Meanwhile, 57 percent said they have little to no trust in Trump's denials his campaign colluded with Moscow's election meddling, while 24% said they had "a lot" of trust in Trump's claims. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 AM


Another Major Retailer Clamps Down On Guns: Walmart (JAMES BARRETT, February 28, 2018, Daily Wire)

Walmart has joined with Dick's Sporting Goods in taking steps to clamp down on the sale of firearms at its stores. In a statement issued Wednesday, Walmart announced that, "in light of recent events," it has decided to raise the age restriction for purchasing both firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. It will also scrub all online items, including toys, that resemble "assault-style rifles."

In the announcement, Walmart notes that it stopped selling AR-15s in 2015 and goes "beyond" federal law in its background checks policy, but now feels that it must take further steps to be a "responsible seller of firearms."