Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mainstream Wannabe

"Conservative presidents,"argued  host of GOP News Sunday Chris Wallace, "are going to nominate conservative jusges and liberal presidents are going to nominate liberal judges, as long as they are in the judicial mainstream. Isn't that what an election is for?"

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer countered

Well, both The New York Times and Washington Post hired independent experts to rate where Gorsuch would be. The Times said he would be to the right of every judge but Thomas, the most conservative judge we’ve had in history, and The Post analysis said he’d be to the right of that. So, this is not a mainstream judge.

Schumer pointed out also

The average middle-class person, the only recourse they have is the courts. Gorsuch repeatedly on issue after issue has been far to the right. In one case, he even went against what Thomas and Alito said on education of special kids.

Schumer realizes

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected legal reasoning used by President Donald Trump's high court nominee Neil Gorsuch in his role as an appellate judge, ruling in favor of an autistic student who said he was denied an adequate education.

The 8-0 ruling, authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, was issued at the same time Gorsuch was facing questions during his Senate confirmation hearing about a 2008 case in which he ruled against an autistic child who sought a public education more tailored to his needs.

The Supreme Court ruled that public schools must offer disabled students a special educational program sufficiently ambitious to ensure they make progress.

Democrats called the Supreme Court ruling a rebuke of the Republican president's nominee and suggested Gorsuch was not a mainstream judge.

That's quite a judicial mainstream, in which Judge Gorsuch's view is validated by exactly zero of eight judges.

Nonetheless, that wasn't the only preposterous argument made in favor of Justice Gorsuch, deftly handled by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse during confirmation hearings (below). Wallace contended also

Conservative presidents are going to nominate conservative judges and liberal presidents are going to nominate liberal judges, as long as they are in the judicial mainstream. Isn't that what an election is for?

It's hardly likely that the election was used by voters to decide upon a Supreme Court nominee, given that the high court was not a major election issue.  Additionally, if that is "what an election is for," we need to consider the following numbers:  Evan McMullin, .53%; Dr. Jill Stein, 1.06%; Gary Jonson, 3.2%; Donald Trump, 45.94%; Hillary Clinton, 48.03%.

If that is what "an election is for," a plurality of voters opted for the vision and values of Hillary Clinton, not those of Donald Trump. But of course, Americans do not vote for a Supreme Court Justice when they vote for President.  Just ask Merrick Garland.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Reaping Benefits

On Thursday, President Donald Trump stated of President Xi Jinping Pong Ball "I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn't want to see turmoil and death. He doesn't want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well."

Of course, Trump believes Xi is a very good man.  Wikipedia explains that his

administration has also overseen more internet restrictions imposed in China, and is described as being "stricter across the board" on speech than previous administrations.Xi's term has also resulted in a further suppression of dissent from civil society. Xi's term has seen the arrest and imprisonment of activists such as Xu Zhiyong, as well as numerous others who identified with the New Citizens' Movement. Prominent legal activist Pu Zhiqiang of the Weiquan movement was also arrested and detained.The situation for users of Weibo has been described as a change from fearing that individual posts would be deleted, or at worst one's account, to fear of arrest.A law enacted in September 2013 authorized a three-year prison term for bloggers who shared more than 500 times any content considered "defamatory"

Given the context of the politics of the mainland, which has run the gamut from authoritarian to very authoritarian since the Communist takeover, Xi is not quite as evil as Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, congratulated by the leader of the free world upon passage of the referendum likely to give Erdogan absolute power. But he'll do.

Trump knows where his "bread is buttered," an outdated phrase, thus one sure to be understood by a President who is unaware that "disrespected" went out of vogue several years ago. "North Korea," he tweeted Thursday, "disrepected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launced, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!"

But it would be letting Donald Trump off easy to argue that he is merely out-of-touch. The Chinese know the way to President's heart is through the Trump business interests, and they know how to deliver.

Just this month, Ivanka Trump's company received from Beijing provisional approval for three new trademarks.  A couple of months earlier

the Chinese government announced that it was granting Mr. Trump the right to protect his name brand for construction projects, after a decade-long legal battle. That trademark approval was announced just days after Mr. Trump pulled back from his challenge to China’s policy on Taiwan in a call with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.

A number of trademarks have followed, with China’s Trademark Office giving preliminary approval for the 38 new ones on Feb. 27 and on Monday, according to the agency’s website.

Matthew Dresden, a lawyer with Harris Bricken in Seattle who specializes in Chinese intellectual property law, said it was atypical that all the trademarks were “approved at once.”

“I think that’s really odd. That makes you look and think: ‘Somebody got some instructions at the trademark office that these should be approved,’” Mr. Dresden said.

The Chinese government appears optimistic that Donald Trump isn't fickle. However, Vladimir Putin overestimated the value of his purchase but found out what Chris Christie and others have: the man is loyal only until it serves his purpose not to be.  Still, the President has signed onto the one-China policy, has for at least now shelved his idea of a punitive tariff against the mainland, and now has added Xi to his list of most-admired autocrats.

It's one thing to be bought. But mainland China is counting on Trump to stay bought, and it's possible that this singularly corrupt politician doesn't have even that much integrity.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

No To Fearless Girl

Nine days ago, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted a photo of herself

showing her posing with the “Fearless Girl” statue in New York.

"Fight like a girl," Warren wrote alongside the image.

The bronze statue, created by artist Kristen Visbal on commission from financial services firm State Street Global Advisers, was installed in March and stares down the iconic “Charging Bull” statue in New York’s Financial District....

“I hope she stands there until the bull falls over,” Warren told USA Today in an interview published Monday.

Please, no, Ms. Warren.  Salon's Amanda Marcotte (writing before Warren's tweet) understands the need to "fight income inequality while also taking a sledgehammer to the hostility toward female ambition that helped lead to the defeat of Hillary Clinton" Yet she recognizes "girl power is not a suitable stand-in for feminism."  Her primary objection to "Fearless Girl"

is that it doesn’t even succeed at meeting its admittedly limited artistic goal of advocating for female ambition. The piece is infantilizing and places the blame for women’s inequality on women themselves, not on the structural forces of sexism.

Being human, I’m not immune to the appeal this statue has for tourists, especially when it comes to the crowds of little girls crowding around the statue, having their pictures taken. But even the fact that this statue is so popular should be the first clue about how toothless it is. Girl power is widely popular, not just on the left but increasingly on the right. Almost everyone loves the idea of little girls being proud and strong and getting good grades and being good at sports.

But the second those A-student girls grow up into women who want good jobs and egalitarian marriages and maybe even a shot at the presidency, suddenly people stop being so enthusiastic.

“[E]veryone knows that men tend to be OK with ‘girl power’ so long as it’s their daughter benefiting but seem increasingly less comfortable with it when women in general benefit,” wrote the blogger vacuumslayer.

Think same-sex marriage, which has not been an excessively bitter pill for Republicans to swallow, probably because they know someone gay.  After the son of Senator Rob Portman came out to his father in 2011, the Ohio Republican reassessed his opposition to gay marriage, which he eventually endorsed. The far-right Dick Cheney is a supporter of same-sex marriage, though he has been less frank about his reasoning, only rarely acknowledging that daughter Mary (who has been a GOP activist) is a lesbian. In both cases, a member of the politician's immediate family might directly benefit from legalization.

Marcotte approvingly links to Slate's Christine Cauterucci, who explains

Feminists would be hard-pressed to find a better symbol of the movement’s widening class divides than Fearless Girl. Commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a wing of a massive financial services company, Visbal’s work is meant to draw attention to the lack of women on corporate boards. As Jia Tolentino ably lays out in the New Yorker, contemporary feminism’s fixation on the incremental admission of a small number of women into traditional halls of power ignores both the vast majority of women and the ways other forms of oppression disproportionately harm women. Fearless Girl’s school of feminism, to the extent that she represents one, is shallow and apolitical. It doesn’t help that the State Street Corporation counts just three women on its board of 11, or that the company’s advertising firm chose to represent women’s career empowerment with an image of a child.

Marcotte's emphasis is slightly different, for she argues "the image of solitary defiance in Fearless Girl is fun to look at but completely misrepresents what is required to defeat the millenia's worth of male oppression."  However, she notes "the reason for women’s lack of equality is that there’s an ingrained and well-organized system to clip the wings of women and keep them in their place. The only way to fight back is through organizing and collective resistance."

That would no doubt find approval with Cauterucci and with Elizabeth Warren, who understands class division btter than almost anybody.  Senator Warren should have been one of the first to point out that such a statue in the heart of Manhattan belies her struggle for corporate accountability and the rights which consumers, male and female alike, must assert in the face of raw corporate power.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

She Called It

Are you looking to bet on the NBA championship? Perhaps gambling on the eventual winner of the World Series is more your interest. Or perhaps you're looking to get an edge on the stock market.

If so, you should contact Arwa Mahdawi, who penned (typed?) in the Guardian an opinion piece which was posted at 12:53 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday. She noted Ivanka Trump

was loudly jeered at the W20 summit on women’s economic empowerment in Berlin. Speaking on a high-profile panel which included Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Ivanka Trump drew groans and laughter when she defended her father’s attitudes toward women and described him as “a tremendous champion” of working families.

Mahdawi pointed out that the President's favorite daughter

has been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment by at least 15 women (accusations that he denies). It’s worth remembering that he paid men on his campaign staff one-third more than women, while Hillary Clinton paid equal wages, according to an analysis of payroll data last year.

Those are mere (not "alternative") facts, and with moderate insight Mahdaw argues

If she wants to be taken seriously as an advocate of women, she needs to stop listening and start speaking. Her silence since her father has cut funding for women’s reproductive rights, for example, has been deafening. If she wants to be taken seriously as an advocate for women, then she needs to stop her meaningless platitudes about “empowering women” and actually start using her position to empower women.

 But then Ms. Mahdawi exhibited  impressive psychic powers. She remarked that it was not only appropriate that Ms. Trump/Mrs. Kushner was booed at the summit but should be "booed off the world stage."  She contended

There is no doubt that Trump is influential and that she has her father’s ear. But there also seems to be no doubt by now that she doesn’t plan to use this influence to help empower any women whose last name isn’t Trump. She is still, as she told Gayle King in an interview earlier this month, “her father’s daughter”.

She certainly is.  Mike Allen, formerly of Politico and now of Axios, wrote this morning- approximately nineteen hours after Mahdaw-

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.

"The statistics and results prove that when you invest in women and girls, it benefits both developed and developing economies," she said. "Women are an enormous untapped resource, critical to the growth of all countries."

Under the radar: Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made  quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.

How it'll work: The fund will provide working and growth capital to small- and medium-sized  enterprises.

Who's involved: President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter's idea, and she has consulted     with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.

Josh Marshall asks

Is this even envisioned as a foundation and non-profit? Or is Ivanka setting up something like a venture capital or private equity fund? i.e., one designed to make a profit?

As is the case on many other fronts, Trump and his family ran the 2016 campaign not so much against Hillary Clinton but a looking glass Hillary Clinton which was actually what they aspired to be and do if they won.

The conflict-of-interest is obvious. The likelihood that the Trump family will somehow financially benefit, directly or indirectly, by this "pool of capital" is less certain- no more assured than that sometime this July, the temperature will top 80 degrees in Miami Beach. Ivanka truly is "her father's daughter" (video below from early this month).

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Maintaining The Big Tent

On their recent unity tour, Democratic National Committee chairperson Tom Perez and Senator Bernie Sanders stopped off as planned to campaign for Heath Mello, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.

State senator Mello has been mildly pro-life, though otherwise quite progressive and has won the Vermont senator's enthusiastic support. However, Sanders has been notably unenthusiastic about the candidacy for U.S. Representative from Georgia of the center-left Jon Ossoff, ardent advocate of reproductive rights and gay rights but not less focused on economic issues.

This has helped set off a minor firestorm (minor firestorm?), which Salon editors highlighted with two pieces, one by Clinton supporter, feminist writer Anna March, the other by Sanders supporter Conor Lynch, a regular contributor to the site. One point each made is particularly salient and, as Werner Wolf may be paraphrased, for that we "go to the videotape."

March argues

...we need to expect the Democratic Party to stand firm on its pro-choice platform and not lend national support to down-ballot candidates who are not pro-choice. We must refuse to debate choice again within the party. One hundred percent pro-choice is the only pro-choice position. One hundred percent pro-choice is the only pro-choice position. That is, abortions should be safe, legal, accessible, funded and available on demand — for all. Obviously, this position includes supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding for abortion. Sanders historically has had a good track record on abortion rights, yet there is no mention of repealing the Hyde Amendment on Sanders’ Our Revolution site.

A short trip to the website finds separate entries for twenty-one (21) issues. For "Fighting for Women's Rights," we read "The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government."

Although possibly lacking on any website associated with any Republican on the national scene, it does in fact omit support for repealing the Hyde Amendment. Nevertheless, among its bullet points are these two:

Expand and protect the reproductive rights of women. Expand funding for Planned Parenthood, the Title X family planning program, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.

Only nominate supreme court justices who support Roe v. Wade and the reproductive rights of women. Support Supreme Court justices who understand that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and recognize the rights of women to have access to family planning services.

With a perspective markedly different from that of March, Lynch maintains

The Clinton camp has basically sought to use Sanders’ passion about economic inequality and political corruption against him, as if someone who is this intense about economic issues must be a “class reductionist” who cares little about social and cultural issues. (It is only mainstream liberals, of course, who treat economic and cultural matters as if they could somehow be separated.) “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow . . . would that end racism? Would that end sexism?” Clinton absurdly asked at one point.

At the time,  Confessore and Alcindor (not this Alcindor) of The New York Times reported

“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow,” Mrs. Clinton asked the audience of black, white and Hispanic union members, “would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the L.G.B.T. community?,” she said, using an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. “Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

And for context, they add "At each question, the crowd called back with a resounding no."

Admittedly, preventing another economic meltdown would not end sex or gender discrimination or restrictive immigration policies. However, Sanders has taken progressive stances on all three of those issues.   For her part, Clinton has expressed some regret- as much as could be expected- over policies associated with her husband, including the somewhat punitive DOMA, welfare reform, and 1994 crime act.

Nonetheless, she has continued to oppose reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era financial deregulation initiative, which had it remained in place would have helped prevent the Great Recession.

The national Democratic Party does not condone discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual discrimination and vehemently opposes immigration restrictions. That is abudantly clear, and a rough litmus test has come about on the latter two.  The Party's commitment to ending the influence of corporate donors, including those on Wall Street, is far less certain, a reality that has Senator Sanders properly exorcised.

"Don’t abandon us, Democratic Party," pleads March.  "Don’t abandon we, the voters who by 3 million votes said, 'I’m with her.' Let’s see you kiss Sanders goodbye and embrace the rest of us."

Uh, no.  Bernie Sanders appears silent on the Hyde Amendment, a recurring provision no Republican- no Republican- opposes. And he is, shamefully, one of those dreaded "cisgendered, heterosexual men" who so annoy March.   But if he had been nominated and elected, not only would immigrant/refugee policy be more humane, reproductive rights not curtailed, and gay rights not be endangered.  The Supreme Court would be short one radical right-wing Justice who seems to believe that the declaration of belief in Jesus justifies discrimination, supporting, as phrased here, "official designations of privileged religous beliefs."

There were many factors involved in the failure to defeat Donald Trump.  Notwithstanding the claim of March and the similarly minded, Bernie Sanders was not one of them, and supporters of progressive causes must not read out of the Party candidates whose priorites they find faulty.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Wrong Then. Wrong Now.

When someone refers to an "unwinnable war"- or anything "war"- hold on to your wallets unless he or she is referring to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or some other place in which killing the enemy is a major objective.

This refers to the "war room," as it is appallingly called, wherein executives and other employees of a National Football League team consider their next selection during the league's annual draft. But it applies also to the "drug war."

This was never a war and when Tony Newman, communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance, remarks "let's hope this ad is seen by as many people as the original and inspires folks to end this unwinnable war," he is exhibiting the same hyperbolic rhetoric as did the campaign's boosters.

Newman is quite excited because

Twenty years ago today, one of the most memorable ads of all time was launched, when Rachael Leigh Cook and her frying pan starting smashing up eggs in her infamous, “This is Your Brain on Drugs” ad.

Today, Rachael Leigh Cook, her frying pan and eggs are back but this time in a new ad that slams the drug war and its racist enforcement.

When performing the original "brain on drugs" ad, Ms. Cook exhibited little knowledge of the problem but caught the wave of hysteria over illegal drugs. In her current performance, she is doing the same while prioritizing bias in law enforcement over issues public safety- and of class.

Newman continues

The new video, made by Green Point Creative, opens with Cook and her frying pan. She holds up a white egg and explains that it represents one of the millions of Americans who uses drugs but never gets arrested. She then picks up a brown egg and says, “This American is several times more likely to be charged with a drug crime.”

The animated ad, narrated by Cook, then shows what happens to the brown egg that is arrested and funneled through the criminal justice system. The ad highlights a range of harmful collateral consequences that result from drug arrest, including the loss of student financial aid, hindered job prospects and broken up families. The add contrasts the white egg’s family that was never arrested, despite also using drugs.

Clearly, we are to believe one arrest and the individual is condemned to complete and utter failure (not, evidently, of his own making) and his family condemned with him. However, that is not likely for the brown egg, nor for the white egg, which itself is normally arrested if it runs afoul of the law. If Ms. Cook is aware that law enforcement authorities across the country choose to make arrests largely on the basis of color, she should notify a reputable investigative journalist immediately.

We learn

The ad ends with Cook looking into the camera, holding her pan and with a smashed egg and saying, “The war on drugs is ruining peoples’ lives. It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counter parts. It cripples communities, it costs billions and it doesn’t work. Any questions?”

Assessing whether the so-called drug war "fuels" mass incarceration requires a determination of what "fuels" means.  That's a generous criteria because, as fivethirtyeight helpfully points out

According to the Bureau of Prisons, there are 207,847 people incarcerated in federal prisons. Roughly half (48.6 percent) are in for drug offenses. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are 1,358,875 people in state prisons. Of them, 16 percent have a drug crime as their most serious offense. There were also 744,600 inmates in county and city jails.

The vast majority of inmates bought their ticket to prison primarily for reasons other than a drug offense.  Punitive sentencing of drug offenders has contributed relatively little to mass incarceration.

According to Newman

It is gratifying and promising to see the evolution in Rachael Leigh Cook and in the American public over these last 20 years. The war on drugs is a disastrous failure that has ruined millions of peoples’ lives, especially people of color. Let’s hope this ad is seen by as many people as the original and inspires folks to end this unwinnable war.

Rachel Leigh Cook's perception has not "evolved" but rather undergone a dramatic reversal.   But in both cases, she has been behind the curve.  Her version of the "brain on drugs" ad ran in 1997, after the cocaine and crime epidemics (not entirely coincidentally) had crested and begun to reverse.   She was late to the game.

Now, too, she is late to the game as opioids are the newest deadly drug and are disproportionately plaguing sons and daughters in poor white families and in poor white neighborhoods, often in the interior of the country. When Cook claims the drug war "targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counterparts," she turns a blind eye to the current face of the drug war, which is far more diverse than reflected in her white people vs. "colored people"...  uh, er, "people of color" meme.

There is, however, one parallel between the drug war the wealthy Rachel Leigh Cook is concerned about and the one actually occurring in America. They both affect the lower classes, working and otherwise, more than the upper class.  While she chooses to exploit the racial divide, most people realize that the economically disadvantaged of all ethnic groups are getting the shaft.

As it does throughout society, that prevails in the criminal justice system, as most Americans understand.. But not Rachel Leigh Cook, whose effort to be relevant renders her as empty as her emotional, uninformed, and melodramatic pleas two decades apart.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feeling Left Behind

"So how did she lose? asks NPR's Ron Elving, claiming

Providing that answer is the mission accepted by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign." It is by no means the last word on 2016, but Allen and Parnes must be regarded as early front-runners in the race to make sense of it all.

No, they must not. They are the early front-runners in the race to trivialize the election by downplaying factors exogenous to the inner workings of the campaign. But Elving does understand

she had no answer to the populist appeal Trump enjoyed among white males and noncollege working people in general. Her extraordinary career prepared her to be president, but not to understand ordinary Americans.

Her extraordinary career- no quote marks necessary- in the end paled in importance to the efforts of Vladimir Putin and, more so, FBI director Jim Comey. Therefore, it is unlikely that Allen and Parnes can capture Clinton's inability to counter Trump's appeal as well as did author Hanna Rosin- assisted by Bill Maher- on Friday's Real Time.

After Maher contended men are failing "to navigate the modern world," the author of "The End of Man" explained

There's this yearning for that time when men were men and women were women, which I think is what Fox News is all about and the yearning is greater now because men are less traditionally men. The jobless rate is insane, the number of men who are not working who are of working age is huge, like sad, dismal, preposterous.

After Maher noted "working class men are not getting married, are getting divorced at astronomical rates," Rosin added

and not living with kids, so they don't have the provider role that they used to have so that kind of leaves them loose and then on top of that, there's like uppity women... you know, telling them that they have privilege and they're like "I don't feel I have privilege."

Ever-increasing numbers of women have run successful races for office below that of President. Three have spectacularly failed: Sarah Palin; Carly Fiorina; and Mrs. Clinton. And they all had something in common.

Carly Fiorina is odious, and the best thing about Barack Obama defeating John McCain in 2008 is that it did not leave Sarah Palin (who harmed the ticket) a heartbeat from the presidency.  (Palin never has seemed as smart as Fiorina or Clinton.)  But the Alaska governor famously compared herself to a pit bull and Fiorina, once described as an "ice cold shade queen debate princess," has been compared to Margaret Thatcher. Like Hillary Clinton, neither fits the traditional stereotype of a woman satisfied to stay quietly in her place.

That's one of the reasons there was a ring of truth to Maher's statement  "One reason that Hillary lost- let's be honest- a lot of those kind of men, they didn't want a woman smarter then they are telling them they have to change. They get enough of that home" (or from girlfriends, clarified Rosin).

Maher continued "I mean, men are really losing their place in the workplace... women have the skills of the 21st century more than men do- they cooperate better, they communicate better." In apparent agreement, Rosin remarked

So a lot of this has to do with school these days. It's hard to have a good, middle class life if you don't have a degree. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing- it's just a thing now. Women have gotten the memo on that and men have not... They do much better in college so they get more degrees and you know, the economy changes and they kind of make the change. So I did a lot of reporting in Alabama- the only jobs there- healthcare and government work- and American men don't like to work in health care and they definitely don't like to work for the government.

It got better as Rosin zeroed in with

The white- it feels like they're the only ones who are not allowed to want- it's like everybody else's pain counts but they'e not allowed to complain because they're the white man so the white man's got no problems even though the white man feels like he's got problems and then somebody comes and says "I feel your pain."

Similarly, Maher argued "white men never thought of themselves as a minority but they knd of were made to feel that way" because of emphasis by Democrats on "identity politics. " Tragically, they then chose to "turn to this C-list wrestling villain as their champion," allowing them to assert "man, oh, we're so strong and sturdy."

Notwithstanding that questionable bit of pop psychology, the sociology and political behavioralism were sound.   With encouragement from Bill Maher, Hanna Rosin put her finger on a critical American phenomenon, without so much as uttering "racist" or "racism," "sexist" or "sexism," and without the fanfare the lesser Allen and Parnes are getting.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Choice Retreat

Amidst the tens of millions of Americans, including numerous pundits and intellectuals, who support same-sex marriage and reproductive freedom or oppose both, there is a different opinion lurking among some elites. It was well-expressed by the confused Damon Linker when in the wake of Hodges v. Obergfell he wrote

Whereas a reasonable argument can be made, with no reference to revealed truths contained in scriptural texts, that someone (a human being at an early stage of development) is harmed (fatally) in an abortion, no opponent of same-sex marriage has ever made a persuasive case that anyone at all is harmed by living under laws that permit gay Americans to marry.

Even the cogent and persistent David Frum, who has made since November 8 the best conservative (and perhaps simply the best) argument against Donald Trump, fell victim when he recommended (asterisk his) three months ago

Don’t get sucked into the futile squabbling cul-de-sac of intersectionality and grievance politics. Look at this roster of speakers from the January 21 march. What is Angela Davis doing there? Where are the military women, the women police officers, the officeholders? If Planned Parenthood is on the stage, pro-life women should stand there, too. If you want somebody to speak for immigrants, invite somebody who’s in the country lawfully.

Most of those are good recommendations but the idea that an individual opposed to reproductive freedom should speak at a rally called to advocate for women's rights is counter-intuitive and foolish.

But it's not as foolish as arguing that Scripture is silent on the right to marry someone of the opposite sex while unqualifiedly opposing the right to an abortion.

If one wants to go Bible- not the best criteria for determining social policy- one can hardly ignore Genesis 2:24, in which Moses, describing the creation of woman from man, wrote "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh."  Earlier (verse 7) in the same chapter, we read "then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." A fetus does not begin to breathe until roughly the 32nd week of a woman's pregnancy, which implies that a fetus does not become a living person until- well, that's fairly obvious.

That is, if someone wants to base his/her views of  the third leg of the "God, guns, and gays" trilogy on the Holy Bible.  Yet, the notion that avid support for same-sex marriage is inviolate while support for abortion rights is debatable has infected also secular individuals. And so it was that Bernie Sanders was asked by Joe Scarborough  "But can the Democratic Partty be open to candidates that may not be rigidly pro-choice, may not be rigidly pro- gun control..."  He responded "The answer, I think, is yes," unsurprisingly failing to add "and that applies to gay rights, also."

Emerging from short-term obscurity, Hillary Clinton chose to speak on Thursday at a fund-raising event at an LGBT organization (Obama at 1/15 State of the Union, below).   She did not say "of course, you can be gay-friendly and be opposed to same-sex marriage," which would have seemed to many people an odd remark. Yet, the woman who expected to shatter the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman ever to become President was not reluctant a year ago to maintain "of course, you can be a feminist and be pro-life."

That may have presaged some of the daft thinking which took her down seven months later. It also puts her into the mainstream of a portion of misguided elite opinion.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Family Interests Over National Interests? No Problem.

In a rural county in western New York State which voted heavily for Donald Trump

"He's about action," said Clark, who didn't vote for Trump but said he would do so if he could vote again now. "I believe he's doing pretty much everything he promised to do."

That's what Keith and Bobbi Muhlenbeck think, too.

"We love him," said Keith Muhlenbeck, 46. "We support him in everything he's doing. He's a businessman who knows how to get things done, and you can tell he has America's best interests at heart."

Muhlenbeck is right, you know. He's right as long as "America's" is replaced with "the extended Trump family's."

After Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan  pushed through a referendum likely to tighten substantially his grip on power, Mother Jones' Ashley Dejean noted

..... Trump's business ties to Turkey create a conflict of interest. That's according to Trump himself. As Mother Jones reported in November, Trump mentioned his Turkey-related conflicts in 2015 during a conversation with Steve Bannon, who was then the executive chairman of Breitbart News. (Bannon would go on to become Trump's chief strategist.)

On Bannon's radio show, Breitbart News Daily, Trump said on December 1, 2015, "I have a little conflict of interest 'cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It's a tremendously successful job. It's called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it's two."

Trump was speaking truthfully. He had a vested interest in smooth relations with Ankara. And he owed Erdogan a solid. In 2012, Erdogan presided over the opening ceremony for the Trump Towers. (At the time, Erdogan was prime minister—a role the recently passed referendum would eliminate).

After President Trump issued travel ban 1.0, Snopes explained

The order suspends entry into the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days. But critics have argued that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were not included, even though a report from the Cato Institute showed that the three countries were the point of origin for people responsible for 94.1 percent of American deaths due to terrorist attacks in the U.S. Eighteen of the 19 people responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks also hailed from those three countries.

Not only is he subjecting foreign policy to a test of how it affects his business interests, the fellow who accused mainland China of currency manipulation and of a "rape" of  the USA now is singing a different tune about the behemoth.   After the President acknowledged the USA's "one China" policy, the Trump Organization was granted preliminary approval for 38 new trademarks.

While Xi Jingping pong ball was dining with Ivanka Trump and her husband at Mar-a-Lago, Mrs. Trump/Kushner was given preliminary approval for three new trademarks in China, allowing her to hawk her line of handbags, wallets and blouses there.

As John Oliver would say, "and now this:"

U.S. President Donald Trump's comments about the Korean peninsula and its historical relationship to China has sparked a diplomatic storm in Seoul.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Trump said, "Korea actually used to be a part of China."

The president was referring to the peninsula as a whole and what he had learned about Northeast Asia from Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to Quartz.

"[Xi] then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you're talking about thousands of years...and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China," Trump said.

A Seoul foreign ministry official who spoke anonymously to local newspaper JoongAng Ilbo said the remark was "not even worth considering."

"It is a clear historical fact Korea was not a part of China for thousands of years," the official said. "Nobody can deny that."

"He's doing everything he promised to do," says one fan and "he has America's best interests at heart" says another, both no doubt channeling the thoughts of many Trump supporters.   Naive though the remarks are, they do go a long way to confirm one of Trump's few accurate statements of the past 22 months: "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters."

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Graham's New Love Interest

Notwithstanding a few doubters, Mae West is credited with the witticism "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"

As asked him by Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham answers that question: "it's certainly not a gun, Mr. President." Politico reports

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham enthusiastically praised President Donald Trump on Wednesday for his foreign policy, a continued departure from his sharp criticism of Trump during the 2016 race and even after the election.

“I am like the happiest dude in America right now,” a beaming Graham said on “Fox & Friends.” “We have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.”..

On Tuesday night, the Trump administration told Congress that Iran was in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump fiercely criticized during his campaign, and it extended sanctions relief to the country. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. would review the agreement.

These guys should just get a room.  We know Graham would pay because

“To me, that has been music to my ears,” Graham said. “Iran is running through the Mideast. They are toppling every government they can get their hands on. North Korea, if I were Kim Jong Un, whatever his name is, I would listen to Mike Pence. The fact that the vice president of the United States went to the DMZ, looked across the way and said, 'We're watching you'; Donald Trump is not going to let this nut job in North Korea get a missile to hit America. And if I were North Korea and China, I would start thinking anew about the president of the United States.”

“I am all in. Keep it up, Donald,” Graham added. “I'm sure you're watching."

There is enough there to grab the attention of a dozen mental health professionals. But there is a bigger problem here than love and adoration. It lies in Graham's misplaced faith in the power of warning another nation not to test the USA.

Slate's Joshua Keating points out that when Vice President Pence was in Seoul, South Korea Monday, he stated

Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan.  North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.

If only it were so simple as sending a message, which lately has reared its facile head as rationale for military strategy. Instead, Keating explains

The idea that adversaries are impressed by shows of resolve is one of the most overhyped concepts in foreign policy. There’s little evidence to suggest that credibility created by military force is that much of a factor in how governments interact with each other. As political scientist Jonathan Mercer wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2013, summarizing his own and others’ research on the topic, credibility arguments are undermined by the existence of “recursion.” Basically, if I try to signal to you how serious I am, you will probably pick up on the fact that I’m signaling and respond to what you think my real intentions are, rather than the signal itself.

“Those who argue that reputation and credibility matter are depending on strategists to be simple-minded, illogical, and blissfully unaware of recursion,” Mercer writes.

Historical precedents are not hard to come by. Keating again:

For instance, during the Korean War, American policymakers argued that China was watching to see whether the U.S. would back up its commitments to contain the spread of communism.  In reality, China was instead worried the U.S. might nuke Beijing. In another example, the Soviets didn’t see the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam as weakness—they wondered why the U.S. spent so much time and resources there in the first place. And as Slate’s cover story vividly demonstrated last week, the Reagan administration’s efforts to project clarity to the Soviet Union in the early 1980s so confused Moscow that it very nearly led to a nuclear war that neither side actually wanted.

So cool your jets, Senator Graham.  Trump is still Trump, and a foreign policy guided alternately by bravado and the best financial interests of the president's family does not end well.

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A Man Trump Can Look Up to

Criticize Recep Tayyip Erdogan all you want.  But he has scored a major accomplishment now that, as Vox's David Stevens explains

The referendum, if fully implemented, would change Turkey from a parliamentary democracy into one run by a strong executive president who will absorb all the current functions of the prime minister. The new president will be free from accountability to the country's parliament, will wield broad budgetary powers, and will have complete autonomy to shape the executive branch as he sees fit.

In the new system, Erdoğan will also be poised to exercise significant control over the judiciary — undermining the separation of powers and leaving an incredible concentration of unregulated authority in the president’s hands.

By now you know the rest.  On Tuesday morning Vox's Yochi Dreazen informed us "Western democracies were deeply concerned" and while "European leaders stayed mostly silent (and) international monitors condemned the vote as unfair"

there was President Donald Trump, who called Erdoğan to congratulate him on the win.

Trump’s affinity for strongmen the world over is nothing new, from his repeated praise for Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail to the White House invitation he issued to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (whose personal war on drugs has left more than 7,000 dead) to the Oval Office meeting he held last month with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (who took power in a coup and killed more than 800 protesters in a single day).

Still, there are a pair of striking and profoundly disturbing things about Trump’s Monday call with Erdoğan, who has rebuffed US calls to fight ISIS more aggressively, likened the German government to Nazis, jailed more journalists than any other leader in the world, and arrested tens of thousands of his own people on suspect charges.

Following an unsuccessful coup last July (video below), Erdogan had arrested nearly 50,000 people including, the BBC recalls, "many soldiers, journalists, lawyers, police officers, academics and Kurdish politicians."


 But after the referendum and the attaboy from the president of the world's most populous nation

Dozens of members of Turkey’s political opposition were arrested in dawn raids on Wednesday, as a crackdown began on those questioning the legitimacy of a referendum on Sunday to expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr. Erdogan has claimed a narrow 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent victory in the vote, but protesters in pockets of the country have marched in the streets every night since then to demonstrate against what they assert was a rigged election.

After warnings from Mr. Erdogan, at least 38 people accused of participating in the protests were rounded up Wednesday morning or issued arrest warrants, according to lawyers and relatives of the detained.

Though tens of thousands of people have been detained for political reasons in Turkey in recent months, these are the first political arrests reported since the referendum.

“These people are mainly those who attended the protests after the referendum and raised their voice against the referendum result on social media,” said Deniz Demirdogen, a lawyer for one of the detainees, Mesut Gecgel.

“The police told the detainees that they were accused of trying to agitate people against the ‘yes’ vote,” Mr. Demirdogen said by telephone from the police station in Istanbul where his client had been taken.

"No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days," the President contended Tuesday, in what was one of what should be a Trump patent on bogus claims.  Arguably, he may add to his list of accomplishments, few in number and harmful in effect, one more success:  the consolidation of power in a strategically crucial nation of a dictator bent on eliminating all traces of a liberal democracy.  Accruing to himself one more role model  Finding one more role model is truly something to be proud of.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tax Day

Arguing two months ago that the goals of the resistance should be concise and limited, the somewhat conservative, unequivocally never Trumper David Frum wrote

So it should be for critics of President Trump. “Pass a law requiring the Treasury to release the President’s tax returns.” “An independent commission to investigate Russian meddling in the US election.” “Divest from the companies.” These are limited asks with broad appeal.

Completely independent of his advice, a tax march was held on April 15 in more than 200 municipalities nationwide.  An estimated 2,000 people attended the one in Philadelphia. Some of the many signs and the awards I'd give them:


Most Threatening:

Most gruesome:

Most elaborate:


Most concise:

Most witty:


And my favorite (the one in black and white)                                                                                               :

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Flying By The Seat Of His Pants

Michael Anton says of Niccolo Machiavelli, of whom he is an aficionado, "I think he would like the president's unpredictability. I think he certainly would like his focus on putting the citizens of his own country first; he would like his small r-republican spirit."

That's hardly surprising given that Anton is described by Politico interviewer Susan B. Glasser as "head of strategic communications for the National Security Council in Trump’s White House, a provocateur turned policymaker with a front-row seat in the ideological fight underway to define Trump’s presidency."

Anton does, however, reflect the current wishful- and adoring- perception of the President when he argues

he definitely-the only thing maybe predictable about his foreign policy is that he says to the world, I'm going to be unpredictable. He's said many times-he said he thinks that America has been too predictable, and I think he relishes that, to keep adversaries, competitors alike, sort of off balance.

Slate's Fred Kaplan seems to have a similarly benign view of the President's approach when he writes

It may well be that certain world leaders, most notably Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, watch Trump in motion and, as a result, start acting cautiously—as well clamping down on their more antic-prone allies—because they just don’t know what this guy might be capable of. Xi, for instance, recently turned away a boatload of coal from North Korea, one of the country’s chief exports, as a further signal of displeasure over Kim Jong-un’s nuclear tests. We will see if Putin cracks the whip on Bashar al-Assad.

Yet, he recognizes a parallel scenario in which

In his 1960 book On Thermonuclear War, the flamboyant nuclear strategist Herman Kahn likened certain kinds of conflict to the game of highway chicken. Two cars speed toward each other, head on, late at night. In the standard version of the game, there are three possible outcomes. One driver gets nervous and veers away; he loses. Both drivers veer away; the game’s a draw. They both keep zooming straight ahead; everybody dies. But Khan posited a fourth outcome and an unconventional way to win: One driver yanks the steering wheel from his dashboard and visibly throws it out the window; the other driver, seeing that his opponent can’t pull off the road, has no choice but to veer away himself.

In this analogy, Trump is the guy who’s thrown the steering wheel out the window, possibly without knowing what the steering wheel does. The other drivers, Russia or China, can’t be sure of his motives, but they’d better get out of the way anyway.

"Trump," Kaplan explains, "may take this analogy as vindication of his approach to public relations" and

he has said that he wants to foment uncertainty in the minds of adversaries (or, sometimes he’s suggested, in the minds of all foreigners), to throw them off-guard. That may be happening to some extent, but the effect will likely wear off soon—or if it persists, the results will be grim for global stability and American interests.

Notwithstanding recent comments about Korea, China, and the Middle East, Trump seems to grasp insufficiently that

The United States is fundamentally a status quo power. It helped create the international system that took hold at the end of World War II; and so it becomes stronger as the values, institutions, and processes of that system spread. (It has become weaker in the last quarter-century, since the end of the Cold War, in part because the system has broken down.) This being the case, America thrives, in large part, by being a guarantor of that system—and a guarantor of the security of the system’s members. In this role, an American president must appear to be reliable.

There is a place for unpredictability. Also

There is a place for strategic ambiguity but not for uncertainty.

If no one knows what to expect of the United States, maybe, for a while, adversaries will grow cautious—but for the same reason, allies will get nervous, and they will turn to others for security. Maybe they’ll cut deals with one of the adversaries, or maybe they’ll form their own separate alliances. Either way, the United States will find itself cut out of the action—the basis of its strength and influence eroded.

During the campaign, Trump claimed climate change is a "hoax perpetrated by the Chinese" who are committing "rape" against the U.S. economy, and vowed to declare Mainland China on his first day in office as a currency manipulator. As recently as April 2, the Chinese were the "world champions" of "currency manipulation."

But after one short visit with President Xi Jingping Pong Ball, Trump discovered China does not manipulate its currency and "after listening for 10 minutes, I realized it's not so easy" to solve the problem of North Korea. (There was no word whether Korea is still a rapist; someone should ask Trump that. No one will.)

"Unpredictability," as Anton and others see it, can be strategically deployed. Nevertheless, as Kaplan concludes

Xi sees that the American president can be played. Trump is erratic in part because he knows so little and he has failed to build an administration that systematically fills the gaps in his knowledge. So Xi will fill them at key moments. Other leaders will follow suit if they can. Maybe Trump will learn enough that he screws the steering wheel back into the dashboard. The question, at that point, will be whose directions he takes on where to drive the car.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ignore That Price Tag

The BBC reports

US President Donald Trump has signed a new measure aimed at rolling back federal funding for the US women's health group Planned Parenthood.The legislation removes an Obama-era rule that prohibited states from withholding funding for family planning services that provide abortions.

A Republican-led Congress passed the measure last month with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.Republicans have long vowed to defund the group over the issue of abortions.
Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health organisation, provides birth control, STD testing, cancer screenings, breast examinations and pregnancy terminations.

Mr Trump signed the legislation privately without media present on Thursday, repealing a rule issued in the final days of Barack Obama's administration.He signed the resolution under the 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to nullify regulations within 60 days of enactment as long as the president agrees.

Republicans have overturned several Obama-era rules using the CRA.

Mr Obama's regulation prevented states from withholding money from a provider for any other reason than an ability to provide family planning service.That rule was instituted after more than a dozen conservative states denied grants to Planned Parenthood through a Nixon-era family-planning programme known as Title X.

Charlie Pierce remarks

Women are going to get sick. Women are going to die. Many of them are going to live in states that gave the president* a whopping margin of victory last November. You want disgruntled Trump voters? Wait a few months and talk to their families.

If only that were the case.   There is a puncher's chance, and only a puncher's chance, that Trump voters will become disgruntled if they learn that women have died because of the order President Trump will have signed months earlier.

But that will have been months earlier and unaccompanied by video. Contrast that with the dramatic pictures and video which accompanied both the missile attack upon a Syrian base and the detonation of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast upon ISIL militants in Afghanistan a few days later.

Simply mention Planned Parenthood, and the GOP and other right-wing organizations will fall back on Trump's argument in which he claims

As I said throughout the campaign, I am pro-life and I am deeply committed to investing in women’s health and plan to significantly increase federal funding in support of nonabortion services such as cancer screenings. Polling shows the majority of Americans oppose public funding for abortion, even those who identify as pro-choice. There is an opportunity for organizations to continue the important work they do in support of women’s health, while not providing abortion services.

Trump did not let on that there is not much of an "opportunity" if they don't have the funding, and the Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress will make sure they don't.  And he maitained that organizations would do that work "while not providing abortion services," thereby falsely implying that the abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood are federally funded, which, of course, they are not.

Mythmaking is central to the conservative cause.  So is cost, considered when cutting Planned Parenthood, energy assistance for poor people, affordable housing, science research, environmental health, and nutritional assistance to the needy.

There is one area, however, in which expense is to be virtually ignored. When President Trump ordered the missile attack upon a Syrian base, there was tingling up the leg of Brian Williams and Fareed Zakaria, but nary a word about the approximately $1 million replacement cost of a Tomahawk missile. When that was followed by the big bomb in Afghanistan, news anchors and pundits waxed excitedly about the "Mother of all Bombs" without mentioning that each costs approximately $16 million. No military action is to be subjected to any kind of cost-benefit analysis.

We hear from Donald Trump and endless conservatives about the scourge of "political correctness." However, there is little that is more politically correct than the assumption that no expense is to be spared when a bullet is fired, a missile launched, a bomb dropped, or a naval strike group deployed.

                                   HAPPY EASTER
                                                                               and a belated HAPPY PASSOVER

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Public Relations Job

On October 26, 2016, the Chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, thought- as did most of the country- that Hillary Clinton would be elected President of the United States in two weeks. He was licking his chops and announced "Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good."

As coincidence* would have it, two days later FBI director Jim Comey announced that his bureau was reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server,  an irregular decision inasmuch as

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates disagreed with FBI Director James Comey's decision to notify Congress about his bureau's review of emails potentially related to Hillary Clinton's personal server, law enforcement officials familiar with the discussion said.

There was no direct confrontation between Lynch or Yates and Comey. Instead, the disagreements were conveyed to Comey by Justice Department staff, who advised the FBI chief his letter would be against department policy to not comment on investigations close to an election, the officials said.

They added it was contrary to department policies and procedures, one law enforcement source said.

Comey decided to disregard their concerns and sent the letter Friday anyway, shaking the presidential race 11 days before the election and nearly four months after the FBI chief said he wouldn't recommend criminal charges over the Democratic nominee's use of the server.

When vulnerable to congressional pressure, it matters whose ox is gored. Four months or so after the election, The New York Times reported

The F.B.I. is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government — and whether there was any coordination, Mr. Comey said.

Mr. Comey said that it was unusual for the F.B.I. to confirm or deny the existence of any investigations, but that in unusual circumstances when it is in the public interest, the bureau will sometimes discuss such matters.

“This is one of those circumstances,” he said....

But he has now gotten religion:

Mr. Comey told lawmakers that the investigation began in July, but he conceded that he had only “recently” briefed congressional leaders on the existence of the F.B.I. investigation. Asked why he had waited so long, he said, “Because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

There was no issue of sensitivity, however, when tilting the election to one candidate, coincidentally* the candidate of the party which controlled the House committee on government oversight.

This sort of thing could prove a public relations nightmare, at least if the media  were not warming up to the Trump presidency, now that he has made things go "boom" in the Middle East.  Not to worry, though, because, CBS has learned

FBI Director James Comey announced Thursday that he allowed producers Dick Wolf and Marc Levin to have access to the bureau’s New York offices for a year to film a new TV series.

“We have to care what people think about us,” Comey explained during an interview at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. “The faith and confidence of the American people is the bedrock.”

The series will be called “Inside the FBI: New York” and is produced by Dick Wolf, the creator of “Law and Order”, along with documentarian Marc Levin. 

He hopes that the new documentary series will boost the FBI’s image, an understandable wish following a campaign season in which the FBI played an unusually public—and scrutinized—role. 

And on Tuesday we found out

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.

The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

It is unclear whether there was a coordinated effort between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to throw the election to the corrupt real estate mogul, who may have known more than suspected when he ironically referred to the upcoming election as "rigged." But we do realize that Jim Comey influenced the election, by coincidence* or otherwise.

“I worry sometimes that people don’t know us,” he said at the interview at the Newseum.   “We did a lot last year that confused people.” The guy should do stand-up, with the audience in on the joke, that he worries that people actually do know the  Federal Bureau of Investigation and its director.

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The husband-wife (or, rather, wife-husband) duo of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Martha-Ann Alito nee Bomgardner flew an upside do...