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Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Poisoning the epistemological well

by Tom Sullivan

The Enlightenment was so 18th century. In the 21st, the spirit that gave birth to the United States of America is under attack by people who value form over substance, for whom values themselves are simply patriotic affectations.

Paul Krugman comments on how Donald Trump's thralls reject the very idea of objective fact and by extension, one might add, learning that teaches any. “'Fake news' doesn’t mean actual false reporting; it means any report that hurts Trump, no matter how solidly verified," Krugman writes. "Any assertion that helps Trump ... is true precisely because it helps him."

Krugman continues:

The attempt by Trump and his party to shut down the legally mandated Florida recount with claims, based on no evidence, of large-scale voting fraud fits right into this partisan epistemology. Do Republicans really believe that there were vast numbers of fraudulent or forged ballots? Even asking that question is a category error. They don’t “really believe” anything, except that they should get what they want. Any vote count that might favor a Democrat is bad for them; therefore it’s fraudulent, no evidence needed.

The same worldview explains Republicans’ addiction to conspiracy theories. After all, if people keep insisting on the truth of something that hurts their party, it can’t be out of respect for the facts — because in their world, there are no neutral facts.
Stephen Colbert the character defined "truthiness" in 2005. Using truthiness to form national policy long predates the Trump presidency.

Amanda Marcote offers some advice for children of the Enlightenment "still romantically attached to the idea of reasoned debate." Friends who ask how they can reason with right-wingers are compounding the category error Krugman defines in assuming "that for every problem, there must be a solution — an assumption that the evidence simply doesn't support."

Marcotte's approach is not to waste one's time, explaining, "you can't reason someone out of a belief they didn't reason themselves into." Arguing facts is pointless with people who are lying to themselves at you. She suggests:
Instead, try to raise the social costs of lying for the purpose of trolling -- as high as possible. For randos on social media, shame is admittedly unlikely. Blocking them and depriving them of the interaction they crave is the only real method. But on those occasions when you're engaged with a coworker, friend or family member, that's a time that social shaming — which liberals are often reluctant to use, but which can be really effective — is helpful.

Don't debate facts. Focus instead on impacts. Instead of getting into an argument about whether climate change is real, point out that lying in order to leave the world a worse place for one's children is gross behavior. Don't debate whether #MeToo has gone "too far" or whether Christine Blasey Ford is lying. Instead, shame the person saying these things by bluntly stating your support for victims and opposition to sexual abuse. I find that making it personal can often be really helpful. If a conservative in my life praises Trump for trolling the press with his "enemy of the people" language, I might ask that person if they really think that I am a force for evil and that I should be censored, or perhaps imprisoned.

Be calm and dispassionate, however, and state things matter-of-factly. Any sign of emotion will be taken as evidence of "triggering" and is likely encourage to encourage still more trolling behavior. But I've personally had a lot of luck with calm but adamant shaming, perhaps because it makes behavior the focal point, rather than some pointless debate over what the facts are.
In essence, don't give antagonists the satisfaction of you wasting your breath arguing a point when theirs is to poison the epistemological well. That is, "avoid speaking to liars and instead speak about them." Good advice.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Whiny Little Twit Presidential Tweet of the Day

by digby

You cannot make this stuff up.

I wish I could understand why so many adults in the country like this five-year-old beahvior. The bragging the blaming, the whining.

I think we may have misdiagnosed the source of the Republican meltdown. Yes, they are voting for racists and misogynists without a second thought which is revealing of their characters. But the bigger problem, it seems to me, is that the Republican coalition is suffering from a case of mass arrested development. You can only appreciate this arrogant, ignorant man-child if you are equally immature.

What happened to these people? Fox? Rush? Bad schools? Lead in the water? It's a real conundrum.


What do the troops think about Trump?

by digby

They don't think as highly of him as they used to:

President Donald Trump’s approval rating among active-duty military personnel has slipped over the last two years, leaving today’s troops evenly split over whether they’re happy with the commander in chief’s job performance, according to the results of a new Military Times poll of active-duty service members.

About 44 percent of troops had a favorable view of Trump’s presidency, the poll showed, compared to 43 percent who disapproved.

The results from the survey, conducted over the course of September and October, suggest a gradual decline in troops’ support of Trump since he was elected in fall 2016, when a similar Military Times poll showed that 46 percent of troops approved of Trump compared to 37 percent who disapproved. That nine-point margin of support now appears gone.

During that same period, the number of neutral respondents has dwindled from almost 17 percent to about 13 percent, suggesting political polarization inside the military community has intensified in recent years.

Still, the latest survey shows that military service members are more supportive of the president than the American public at large, which, according to the most recent Gallup poll, approves of Trump at a rate of 43 percent compared to the 53 percent who disapprove.

“The general rule of thumb with the military is that it moves along with public opinion but lags conservative,” said Peter Feaver, a former adviser to former President George W. Bush who is now a political science professor at Duke University and an author of several books on military culture.

“In this case, we’re seeing military members shifting along with the public, but still staying a little more pro-Trump than the rest of the country.”
But even there we see the familiar polarization.
The new survey results also show sharp divides within the ranks. Enlisted men show Trump the most overwhelming support. Military women, meanwhile, have a much harsher view of Trump’s time in office. Officers still have a lower opinion of his presidency than enlisted troops.
Reflecting views in the broader American public, Trump’s support is higher in the military among men and enlisted troops, and significantly lower among women, minorities and officers.

A CNN poll released earlier this month put Trump’s disapproval rating among women at 62 percent. 
In the Military Times poll, that figure topped 68 percent, with only about 26 percent of military women expressing a favorable view of the president.

Among military men, Trump still enjoys a 47 percent favorable rating and a 38 percent disapproval mark.
Dissatisfaction with Trump among minorities in the ranks was less pronounced than the gender gap, but still significant. Only 29 percent have a favorable view of Trump, as opposed to 47 percent with an unfavorable view.

Since the December 2016 poll, the biggest shift among minorities has been into the “no opinion” viewpoint of his presidency. Two years ago, only about 15 percent of that group did not have a positive or negative view of Trump. In this poll, that figure rose to nearly 25 percent, drawing from both the favorable and unfavorable camps.

As has been the case in the past, the poll shows that officers are less enamored with Trump than enlisted troops. More than half have an unfavorable view of his presidency, against 41 percent who have a favorable view.

Still, that’s an improvement for Trump, who saw only a 31 percent favorable rating from officers in the poll one year ago.

Enlisted service members trend in the opposite direction. More have a positive opinion of the president (about 45 percent) than a negative view (about 41 percent), but those numbers are down from a 49 percent favorable, 34 percent unfavorable split two years ago.

In most categories, troops were more likely to fall into the “very favorable” or “very unfavorable” groups when asked about Trump’s presidency, suggesting the military may be even more polarized than the overall differences suggest.

The military isn't all that different from the rest of the country. But Trump hasn't done himself any favors by sending all those troops down to the border for a political stunt or refusing to visit the troops in the field even once during his presidency, which is just weird. Acting like an ass on Veteran's Day is never a good look although his followers seem determined to overlook all his flaws.

Still, it's interesting. I'm sure he believes the military is fully supportive --- and they are slightly more supportive than the general population. They're mostly Republicans after all. But they don't really love him all that much and the numbers are going the wrong way.


Trump is making Naziism great again

by digby

This is just one little story among many. But it's so telling. It happened in Wisconsin, not Alabama. And according to this twitter thread, it's infected the whole culture of this high school. Female and racial minority students report constant harasment from this disgusting people and say that when they reported it to the school authorities they were brushed off.

And apparently, theboys bragged when they took that picture that they got "the black guy" to do it too. If you look closely you'll see that they are flashing that "ok" white power sign as well. Nice kids.

The local paper reports that the school officials are suddenly concerned:

A photo that appears to show the boys from the Baraboo High School Class of 2019 spring prom is generating outrage online over what some say looks like a Nazi salute made by a majority of those in the photo.

The photo was taken on the Sauk County Courthouse steps and includes about 50 students, though not all are holding their arms outstretched.

The photo quickly spread on twitter Sunday night and Monday morning with the hashtag #barabooproud, which often is used by the Baraboo School District to promote its activities and athletics programs. The photo also was shared on Facebook.

Baraboo School District Administrator Lori Mueller addressed the controversy on twitter and said school officials were investigating.

"The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address," Mueller tweeted.

Baraboo High School was placed in a "soft hold" Monday due to the photo, according to Administrative Assistant Angie Cowling. She said a soft hold prevents students from leaving school premises — such as for off-campus lunch — unless they have permission from a parent and approval through the office.

The Baraboo Police Department said officers are assisting with the school district's investigation into a "controversial photo."

According to reports in that twitter thread I referenced above, this stuff has been going on in that school for a while and they did nothing about it. They used to just do this:

Now they've gone full-on Nazi.

Trump thinks they are very fine people I'm sure.

Good lord. Look at this mascot. It's real:


The sanctity of an arbitrary vote counting deadline

by digby

Back when I first started blogging, the 2000 election was still fresh in many of our minds and we used to chatter a lot about Republican electoral tactics. (Also known as GOP cheating.) 

I wrote this comment way back in 2003, about a different election dust-up in New Jersey, in which the Republicans once again decided that their best friend, the arbitrary deadline, overrides every other consideration, particularly the counting of all the votes.:

Despite their varying objections, there was one overriding matter of principle that every last Republican agreed upon, --- a matter so serious and of such fundamental importance to our system that any legalistic hairsplitting or judicial interpretations of it are, by their very nature, antithetical to the practice of democracy. 

This principle is not, you understand, that old liberal clap trap about “counting all the votes” or “whoever wins the most votes wins” or even something silly like “short of incapacity or corruption, office holders who have been certified in a legal election should be allowed to serve their entire term.” These are nice concepts but they don’t carry any serious philosophical weight. 

No, Republicans hold that the single most important principle upon which our electoral system rests is the sanctity of the arbitrary deadline which under no circumstances shall ever be overruled, even if it conflicts with another arbitrary deadline, is incomprehensibly vague or was instituted by the legislature for purely administrative purposes that had no bearing on anyone but a couple of election workers in outlying suburbs (if anyone can even remember why it was instituted in the first place.) 

If an arbitrary deadline is on the books it is sacrosanct under any and all circumstances and no court in the land has a right to tamper with it. 

This is because a deep and abiding fidelity to bureaucratic timetables that mean absolutely nothing is the very foundation of our democracy. You can look it up. 

*This rule only applies to those elections in which Republicans might lose if all the votes are counted.

They are still at it 15 years later:

And some of them are so dumb they are just literally saying that any vote counted after election day is null and void:

Trump getting trolled

by digby

It's raining in Washington today just as it was in Paris over the week-end. So naturally, Trump doesn't want to mess up his hair and go to lay the ceremonial wreath.

The French Army trolled him hard:


“There is #MondayMotivation rain, but it's okay to 😅 stay motivated.”

But his hair will be ruined!

"But the bone spurs ... poor baby!"


The World Turned Upside Down 

by tristero

I can't believe it, but it's true. The NY Times has actually published an op-ed arguing for Democratic progressive mobilization rather than tacking to the center or prostituting our values for   white nationalist votes. What next? How about dropping torture-enablers like John Yoo from the roster of Times op-ed contributors? Or balancing the opinions of so-called never-Trump conservatives with liberals who were actually right about the moral, social, and economic catastrophe that was the George Bush administration?

Anyway, it's good to read some common sense advice for Dems in the Times rather urgent calls for accommodation to Trumpists. Thanks, Steve Phillips:

Yes, the strategy of mobilizing voters of color and progressive whites is limited by the demographic composition of particular states. But what Mr. Obama showed twice is that it works in enough places to win the White House. And that is exactly the next electoral challenge. 
Democrats can go the old route that has consistently failed to come close to winning and demoralized supporters down the line, or they can do the math and follow the example of Ms. Abrams and Mr. Gillum and Mr. Obama before them. Invest in the infrastructure and staffing to engage and mobilize voters. Stand as tall, strongly and proudly for the nation’s multiracial rainbow as Mr. Trump stands against it. And mobilize and call forth a new American majority in a country that gets browner by the hour and will be even more diverse by November 2020.

This is real

by digby

As advertised on Fox:

It is:


Nov. 6 wins that did not make headlines

by Tom Sullivan

With all the election-rigging and disenfranchising in the 2018 cycle, it is nice to know there were efforts to fix the way we hold elections. Daily Beast enumerates a few:

There were campaign and election reform initiatives on the ballot Tuesday in more than two dozen states and localities, and with a few notable exceptions, they won, sweeping aside defenders of a status quo system that consistently produces incivility, political extremism and government gridlock. Some of the most notable reforms will end the practice of partisan gerrymandering that allows politicians to choose their voters, rather than the other way around, which explains why the vast majority of seats in the House of Representatives are uncompetitive.

Other reforms will end the practice of low-turnout “closed primaries” that empower extreme partisans in both parties and disenfranchise political independents. Still other reforms that passed last week will introduce automatic voter registration to make voting easier, and impose stricter ethics laws on politicians to reduce the influence of money in politics and slow the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists.
Michigan, Colorado, and Missouri passed measures to hand redistricting to independent or bipartisan commissions. Votes for Utah's effort are still being canvassed.
Voting reforms that automatically register voters whenever they update a driver’s license or state identification card and make it easier to receive absentee ballots passed in Michigan and Nevada last week. Anti-corruption reforms that limit or ban lobbyist gifts to politicians, tighten campaign finance rules and increase government transparency passed in Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota. A host of voting and anti-corruption reforms passed last week at the city level in Denver, Baltimore, Memphis, Phoenix, and New York.
Systems constructed decades ago and refined to service those in power appear corrupt and broken to a growing population of nonaligned voters disgusted with the "duopoly." Reforms are overdue. Voters are willing to fix the problems. Repairs are happening. But like highway work, never not fast enough.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Trump takes revenge against states and territories he doesn't like

by digby

That would specifically be California and Puerto Rico. If the citizens of those places want federal support they're going to have to kiss his ... ring, and do it vigorously:

President Trump doesn't want to give Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria, White House officials have told congressional appropriators and leadership. This is because he claims, without evidence, that the island’s government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt.

Trump also told senior officials last month that he would like to claw back some of the federal money Congress has already set aside for Puerto Rico's disaster recovery, claiming mismanagement.

The White House didn't comment on this reporting.

In late October, Trump grew furious after reading a Wall Street Journal article by Matt Wirz, according to five sources familiar with the president's reaction. The article said that "Puerto Rico bond prices soared ... after the federal oversight board that runs the U.S. territory’s finances released a revised fiscal plan that raises expectations for disaster funding and economic growth."

Sources with direct knowledge told me Trump concluded — without evidence — that Puerto Rico's government was scamming federal disaster funds to pay down its debt.
On Oct. 23, Trump falsely claimed in a tweet that Puerto Rico's "inept politicians are trying to use the massive and ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations."

At the same time, White House officials told congressional leadership that Trump was inflamed by the Wall Street Journal article and "doesn't want to include additional Puerto Rico funding in further spending bills," according to a congressional leadership aide. "He was unhappy with what he believed was mismanagement of money," the aide said.

A second source said Trump misinterpreted the Journal article, concluding falsely that the Puerto Rican government was using disaster relief funds to pay down debt.

A third source said Trump told top officials in an October meeting that he wanted to claw back congressional funds that had previously been set aside for Puerto Rico's recovery. "He's always been pissed off by Puerto Rico," the source added.

Trump's wariness about sending federal money to Puerto Rico dates back to the beginning of his administration. In early 2017, when negotiating the omnibus spending bill, Democratic congressional leaders were pushing Trump to bail out Puerto Rico's underfunded health care system that serves the island's poorest citizens.

Trump insisted in the negotiations that he wouldn't approve anything close to the level of funds Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats requested, according to two sources involved. (And he didn't.)

Can you believe this man whose various businesses went bankrupt four times has the gall to say anything about anyone else's "mismanagement" of finances? Especially when he's practically illiterate and can't even properly read a fucking newspaper article?

There's going to be a big fight over this. And he'll probably win as the lame-duck GOP congress crawls over broken glass to suck up to their Dear Leader.

Congress took steps to keep disaster relief funds from being used to pay down the island's debt, and as Bloomberg reported at the time, "neither the island's leaders — nor the board installed by the U.S. to oversee its budget — are proposing using disaster recovery aid to directly pay off bondholders or other lenders."

Congress will have to pass a new package of spending bills in December. Hill sources say the package may include a bill to send more federal money to disaster areas. Trump has told aides he believes too much federal money has already gone to Puerto Rico — more than $6 billion for Hurricane Maria so far, according to FEMA. (The government projects more than $55 billion from FEMA's disaster relief fund will ultimately be spent on Maria's recovery.)

In comparison, per the NYT, "when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Congress approved $10 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency four days later, and another $50 billion six days later. The federal government is still spending money on Katrina assistance, more than 12 years after the storm’s landfall."

The fight won't just be over Puerto Rico either:

Trump often blames Democratic-controlled states for the fallout from their natural disasters. On Saturday, Trump threatened "no more Fed payments" for California to deal with its deadly fires unless the state addresses what Trump claims is "gross mismanagement of the forests."

At least 23 people have died because of California's historically destructive wildfires over the past few days.

Around 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria, according to government estimates. Trump, without evidence, has claimed this is fake news designed to make him look bad.

I guess we should be grateful that a couple of his most trusted henchmen, Kevin "My Kevin" McCarthy and Devin Nunes are from California. But frankly, I'm not sure that even matters much anymore. Now that he's lost the House he's going to be asking, "what have you done for me lately?"

This is disgusting. But what else is new. The world is now being run by the whim of a man with the mind of a 6-year-old and the character of a mob boss. Saddam Hussein was much more sophisticated.

Blast from the past: Trump's "globalist" agenda

by digby

With all of Trump's blathering about globalists these days, I thought this op-ed he (supposedly) wrote in 2013 was interesting:

What has been made clear by current events and financial upheavals since 2008 is that the global economy has become truly that -- global.

The near meltdown we experienced a few years ago made it clear that our economic health depended on dependence on each other to do the right thing.

We are now closer to having an economic community in the best sense of the term -- we work with each other for the benefit of all.

I think we've all become aware of the fact that our cultures and economics are intertwined. It's a complex mosaic that cannot be approached with a simple formula for the correct pattern to emerge. In many ways, we are in unchartered waters.

The good news, in one respect, is that what is done affects us all. There won't be any winners or losers as this is not a competition. It's a time for working together for the best of all involved. Never before has the phrase "we're all in this together" had more resonance or relevance.

My concern is that the negligence of a few will adversely affect the majority. I've long been a believer in the "look at the solution, not the problem" theory. In this case, the solution is clear. We will have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability.

Is this possible? Is this a new frontier? Yes and no. There is the fait accompli strategy -- stay under the radar -- and the passive aggressive strategy, acts of terror used to paralyze and so on -- so the bottom line must be balance. Rationality must rule. There are philosophical approaches to economics. However, at this point, we don't so much need philosophy as we need action. Which way to proceed is the question.

You ask about Europe in crisis as an opportunity for investment. I see the world in crisis at the moment. I'm a firm believer that there are always opportunities whether the markets or up or down, but it requires insight and sometimes creativity to see those opportunities. I have no doubt that the balance we need will be achieved, but it won't happen overnight.

Europe is a tapestry that is dense, colorful and deserving of continued longevity and prosperity. There are many pieces that must be carefully fitted together in order to thrive.

Our challenge is to acknowledge those pieces and to see how they can form a whole that works together well without losing any cultural flavor in the process. It's a combination of preservation along with forward thinking.

Europe is a terrific place for investment. I am proud to have built a great golf course in Scotland after searching throughout Europe for five years for the right location. I've seen many beautiful places.

The future of Europe, as well as the United States, depends on a cohesive global economy. All of us must work toward together toward that very significant common goal.

I don't know about you but it seems to me that Trump has moved pretty precipitously to the nationalist right in the last few years. At one time he was quite the "globalist", at least when it came to lining his pockets.

This shows to me that his call to claim "nationalism" for his movement is a purely cynical political move. He may not fully understand the full implications of it, but he admitted before that he knows "you're not supposed to say it" so he understands something.

Again, I doubt he actually wrote this. But it went out under his name when he was trying to make money. Today he has a different motive --- assuaging white nationalists.

In both cases it's entirely self-serving.


Oh look, a Republican who isn't a whiny little twit

by digby

I was impressed when I heard that Dan Crenshaw wasn't demanding an apology from Pete Davidson on SNL for his stupid comment about his war wound. It showed something we don't see much in GOP circles: maturity. And he doubled down last night:

I give the guy credit. He resisted the standard hissy fit and acted like an adult instead of a hysterical child or a pearl clutching schoolmarm. And it evoked a round of decency on all sides, imagine that.

Kudos to Pete Davidson too. That was a good apology and a great use of his platform. Good for him. Good for both of them.


Which way will Whittaker go?

by digby

This piece by Murray Waas at Vox suggests that Whittaker has been playing both sides since he came into the Justice Department:

Matthew Whitaker, whom President Donald Trump named as his acting attorney general on Wednesday, privately provided advice to the president last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s political adversaries, Vox has learned.

Whitaker was an outspoken critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe before he became the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in September 2017. That has rightfully raised concerns that Whitaker might now attempt to sabotage Mueller’s investigation. But new information suggests that Whitaker — while working for Sessions — advocated on behalf of, and attempted to facilitate, Trump’s desire to exploit the Justice Department and FBI to investigate the president’s enemies.

In May 2018, President Donald Trump demanded that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign and whether Obama administration officials were involved in this purported effort. Trump, his Republican allies in Congress, and conservative news organizations — most notably Fox News — were making such claims and amplifying those of others, even though they offered scant evidence, if any, that these allegations were true.

Sessions, Rosenstein, and other senior department officials believed that if they agreed to Trump’s wishes, doing so would constitute an improper politicization of the department that would set a dangerous precedent for Trump — or any future president — to exploit the powerful apparatus of the DOJ and FBI to investigate their political adversaries. Those efforts, in turn, coincided with the president’s campaign to undermine Mueller’s investigation into whether the president’s campaign aides, White House advisers, and members of his own family colluded with Russian to help Trump win the 2016 election.

During this period of time, Whitaker was the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and in that role was advising Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on how to counter the president’s demands. But according to one former and one current administration official, Whitaker was simultaneously counseling the White House on how the president and his aides might successfully pressure Sessions and Rosenstein to give in to Trump’s demands.

Sources say that Whitaker presented himself as a sympathetic ear to both Sessions and Rosenstein — telling them he supported their efforts to prevent the president from politicizing the Justice Department. A person close to Whitaker suggested to me that the then-chief of staff was only attempting to diffuse the tension between the president and his attorney general and deputy attorney general, and facilitate an agreement between the two sides.

But two other people with firsthand information about the matter told me that Whitaker, in his conversations with the president, presented himself as a vigorous supporter of Trump’s position and “committed to extract as much as he could from the Justice Department on the president’s behalf.”

One administration official with knowledge of the matter told me: “Whitaker let it be known [in the White House] that he was on a team, and that was the president’s team.”

Whitaker’s open sympathizing with Trump’s frequent complaints about the Mueller investigation resulted in an unusually close relationship between a president and a staffer of his level. The president met with Whitaker in the White House, often in the Oval Office, at least 10 times, a former senior administration official told me. On most of those occasions, Sessions was also present, but it’s unclear if that was always the case.

During this period, Whitaker frequently spoke by phone with both Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly, this same official told me. On many of those phone calls, nobody else was on the phone except for the president and Whitaker, or only Kelly and Whitaker. As one senior law enforcement official told me, “Nobody else knew what was said on those calls except what Whitaker decided to tell others, and if he did, whether he was telling the truth. Who ever heard of a president barely speaking to his attorney general but on the phone constantly with a staff-level person?”

Despite this being the case, on Friday as he was leaving on a trip to Paris, Trump told reporters, “I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” He also claimed that he never spoke to the then-DOJ chief of staff about the Mueller investigation: “I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker about it,” he said.

Whitaker was a White House ally in building the case to investigate Hillary Clinton

Whitaker also counseled the president in private on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to name a special counsel to investigate not only allegations of FBI wrongdoing but also Hillary Clinton. Trump wanted the Justice Department to investigate the role that Clinton purportedly played, as secretary of state, in approving the Russian nuclear energy agency’s (Rosatom) purchase of a US uranium mining company.

The FBI had earlier investigated the allegations, concluded that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, and closed out its investigation. Trump presented no new evidence to the Justice Department that would justify reopening the investigation, and thus senior Justice Department officials considered the president’s request to be a blatant attempt to improperly use the Department and FBI to discredit a political adversary.

Yet Whitaker suggested to the White House that he personally was sympathetic to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate these matters, according to the two officials with knowledge of the matter. A Justice Department official told me: “You have to have a predicate to open an investigation, or to reopen a closed case. You have an even higher one, an extraordinary threshold, to appoint a special counsel. If you don’t, what you are doing is unethical as a lawyer.”

A person close to Whitaker suggested that he did what so many others around Trump do, which is tell the president what he wants to hear: “With Sessions and Rod, [Whitaker] said he was on their side, and thought the appointment of a special counsel was ludicrous.”

CNN repoted that Sessions didn't Whittaker's backstab coming. Rosenstein seems like a savvy player who survived after Whittaker stabbed him in the back. (He's clearly one of the sources who fed that NYT story about "wearing a wire" to the NYT along with any number of others.)

Whittaker doesn't stike me as a hero or someone who is particularly bright. He's been run by Don McGahn, who is now out of the White House. I don't know who's pulling the strings now other than Trump. So it's doubtful he's going to be unpredictably independent now.

It's hard to imagine he will last or, if he does, that he will actually initiate a new investigation into Clinton. But then again, Donald Trump is president so anything can happen. And if they get desperate enough, and FOX News advises the president that he has to do it, I wouldn't be surprised to see it. I've always thought it was one of Trump's aces in the hole. Those "lock her up " chants tell him exactly how much his base would love it if he did it.

Uh oh, Trumpie's really gonna be mad now

by digby

"His personal Verdun"

by digby

Quote o' the day:

Rather than make the hour-long drive (Aisne-Marne is only 55 miles from Paris), the low-energy president remained behind at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. It’s not as if he didn’t sacrifice anything, however. Odds are that his room didn’t have Fox News. So he was probably reduced to watching CNN all afternoon. If the New York dating scene was Trump’s personal Vietnam, this was his personal Verdun.

That's Max Boot pointing out that for all of Trump's love of "the military," he doesn't really show much love for the troops.

He's the first president in memory who has never visited the troops in a war zone. Apparently, he doesn't think they rate his personal attention. Maybe it's one of those things like his view of campaigning --- he refuses to visit people in their homes or a local diner of soup kitchen because he figures people don't really respect a King who mingles with the poloi.

Frankly, I think he prefers to mingle with his Red Hats, local police, ICE and Border Patrol. Those are his personal troops. He never misses a chance to be with them.

Trump was very happy to see his fellow white nationalist:

The War to End All Wars
by Batocchio

Today, 11/11/18, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the Great War, the supposed War to End All Wars that unfortunately didn't. I've always been struck by how eager nations were to go to war at the start and how horrific the reality often was. By the end, by most estimates, about 8.5 million soldiers were dead and the total casualty count was about 37.5 million. Add in a couple million civilian deaths from fighting and several million more indirectly from disease and hunger, and the toll is just staggering. The death count would be exceeded in World War II, but it's hard to overstate how devastating the "Great War" was to the world, especially Europe.

The Imperial War Museums (a set of five museums in Britain) has posted an excellent collection of first-hand British accounts on the armistice 100 years ago. Follow the link for the audio, but I've copied some key accounts below. Not everyone got the news about the armistice, and even for those who did, the final hours could be tense:

The news travelled at different speeds, and was delayed in getting to some places. George Jameson’s unit read about it.

When the war actually ended, we didn't even know about it. We knew that things were getting pretty critical, we knew that we were doing well and nobody wanted to cop out on one when the war might be ending tomorrow, sort of thing. It was the wrong time to get wounded or hit or anything, you see! So we were pretty careful. But we were moving forward with the idea of taking another position when one of the drivers shouted up to somebody, ‘There's a sign on that,’ it was an entrance to some house. He said, ‘There's a sign on that thing marking somebody’s headquarters and it says the wars over.’ Don’t believe it. Nobody would believe it. The war couldn't be over; it had been on for years, nobody would believe it could finish! It’s a fact; it says there the war was over. So somebody rode back and read this thing that said, as from 11 o'clock this morning, hostilities have ceased. And we then realised the war was over.

Fighting continued in some places as the news made its way along the Western Front, and men still lost their lives on the final day of the war. Jim Fox of the Durham Light Infantry remembered one such incident.

Of course, when the armistice was to be signed at 11 o'clock on the 11th of November, as from 6 o'clock that morning there was only the occasional shell that was sent either by us over the German lines or the German over at our lines. Maybe there was one an hour. And then, about 10am, one came down and killed a sergeant of ours who'd been out since 1915. He was killed with shrapnel, you know. Thought that was very unlucky. To think he’d served since 1915, three years until 1918, nearly four years and then to be killed within an hour of armistice…

William Collins clearly remembered conditions on the morning of the 11 November, and noted the significance of where he was that day.

On armistice morning, I remember the fog was – it was a Monday morning, November the 11th. The fog was so thick that visibility was down to 10 yards. And as we moved and moved on, we found ourselves at about 10 o'clock that morning we were up with the infantry patrols. And of course, when we found out that they were the closest to the Germans, we stopped and we stood in that place until… must have been oh, half past 12, one o'clock before the order was given to retire. A silence came over the whole place that you could almost feel, you know, after four and a half years of war, not a shot was being fired, not a sound was heard because the fog blanketed everything, you see, and hung really thickly over… We were north-east of Mons, whereas I'd started the battle four and a half years before, south-east of Mons. So there I was, back where the war started after nearly four and a half years of it.

For an exhibit, the Imperial War Museum in London recreated "the last few minutes of World War I when the guns finally fell silent at the River Moselle on the American Front" using WWI seismic data that the Smithsonian explains well. Take a listen:

(It seems the birds were added as an artistic choice, and I think they come in too early and too loudly, but it's still a fascinating piece.)

( Paris.)

In the field, some soldiers celebrated the armistice with gusto, while others were simply exhausted:

Charles Wilson of the Gloucestershire Regiment was delighted when he heard of the armistice.

Well of course there was tremendous jubilation, I can remember. We had just come out of this battle and the armistice was on the 11th of November. We were doing battalion drill back in some village in France when we formed up and the commanding officer made the announcement: an armistice was signed at 11 o'clock today. Of course there was a swell of excitement amongst the men and our only interest then was to find something to drink to celebrate it and there was nothing to be had, not a bottle of wine or anything else! However we soon put that right…

But Clifford Lane was just too physically and mentally shattered to celebrate.

Then as far as the armistice itself was concerned, it was an anti-climax. We were too far gone, too exhausted, really to enjoy it. All we could do was just go back to our billets; there was no cheering, no singing, we had no alcohol – that particular day we had no alcohol at all – and we simply celebrated the armistice in silence and thankfulness that it was all over. And I believe that happened quite a lot in France. There was such a sense of anti-climax; there was such a… We were drained of all emotion really – that’s what it amounted to, you see. Then it was a question of when we were going to get home…

( Trafalgar Square, London.)

More reactions:

Mary Lees, who worked for the Air Ministry, was caught up in the scenes of jubilation that day.

But of course, I mean, Armistice Day was fantastic. You see, you visualise every single office in Kingsway pouring down the Strand. I should think there must have been about 10,000 people. There was no traffic of course. It was solid, like that. And you see, when they got to the end of the Strand of course it opened up, like that, into Trafalgar Square. And still Trafalgar Square was packed. Well, we didn’t get back to the office, to our work, till about half past three, four. And, when I came to get my bus back in the evening, the people had been careering all round London on the buses. But nobody would go inside because they all wanted to go on top and cheer. I forget how many it was in the papers the next morning, fifty or sixty buses had all their railings broken, going up the stairs on the top.
For many, the moment of the armistice was a time to reflect on all the lives that had been lost during the war. Ruby Ord was serving in France with the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

I think it was a bit of an anti-climax. Suddenly you thought about, you see, all the people you had known who were killed, etc. They were just in the war zone, and they could come home in your imagination. But the Armistice brought the realisation to you that they weren’t coming back, that it was the end. I think that it was not such a time of rejoicing as it might have been. You were glad the fighting was over and that not more men would be killed. But I do think it was dampened down very much, in France. I think they had all the enthusiasm probably in England, but I think we were too near reality to feel that way. I didn’t, certainly. I did not go out of camp on Armistice Day.

This remembrance seems the best to end on:
After the long years of hardship, suffering and loss, it was no surprise that the news the war had finally ended was received with such a mixture of emotions by those who were immediately affected by it. From shock and disbelief, to relief and jubilation, men and women around the world had their own reactions to the armistice. Basil Farrer served on the Western Front during the war. He was in Nottingham on 11 November 1918 but found he couldn't join the cheering crowds in the city that day.

I remember Armistice Day and I didn't know at the time but in every city, everybody went mad. In London, they were dancing in the streets, the crowds, in all the cities, in Paris and in Nottingham too. In Market Square, it was one mass of people dancing and singing. I did not go there. I do remember – for some reason or other – inexplicable, especially in so young a chap as myself, I felt sad. I did – I had a feeling of sadness. And I did remember all those chaps who'd never come back, because there was quite a lot, nearly a million – not quite a million. As a matter of fact, in Paris I remember the Prince of Wales inaugurating a plaque in the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris to the million dead of Great Britain and the British Empire. And I did have a feeling of sadness that day.

Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing, Belgium.)

(Notre Dame de Lorette, also known as Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery, France.)

(Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, France.)

(Poppy on a Canadian grave.)


West of Washington

by Tom Sullivan

Congress bids dasvidanya to Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California's 48th District. As Tuesday's votes came in on Saturday, the Associated Press projects the famously Russophile Orange County congressman lost his seat to Democrat real estate entrepreneur Harley Rouda. A "landmark shift away from the GOP for suburban America," according to the Los Angeles Times. No county "has been at the heart of conservatism since the 1960s" like Orange County. John Wayne country.

But in American iconography, Texas might have a stronger claim to being John Wayne country. Things are changing out there too.

Democrats' number of state trifectas nearly doubled in the 2018 elections. That is, the party controlling the governorship and state legislative chambers. Republicans held 26 to Democrats' 8 Tuesday morning. By the end of vote-counting, Democrats' count went from 8 to 14. Texas was not one of those, and probably will not be for a long time.

Yet despite Beto O'Rourke's narrow loss in Texas's U.S. Senate contest to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, shifts seen in Orange County have their counterpart in Texas. O'Rourke's campaign proved that much.

Christopher Hooks writes in The Atlantic O'Rourke has reanimated the Democratic Party in Texas. Among the bad takes on the Texas race was that O'Rourke had gone too far left to attract Republican voters:

Dead wrong, it turns out—it looks like some 400,000 people voted for both Abbott and O’Rourke. O’Rourke wasn’t a wild-eyed lefty or a dead-eyed centrist. He was a former small-business owner who came to Congress by beating a Democratic incumbent in his primary from the right, and who spoke passionately about liberal causes while mostly avoiding specific policy prescriptions. He was pro-immigration and pro-trade, which is to say that he had common cause with the left-wingers at the Texas Association of Business.

O’Rourke was a Texas liberal, a member of a long-standing political tradition. The main difference between O’Rourke and previous Democratic candidates is that people liked him a lot. When he spoke to crowds, he talked of our obligations to one another, patriotism, public service, and investment in public projects. It may have been momentarily shocking for political reporters to hear a Texan running for office talking about marijuana, or the principle of universal health care. But 53 percent of Texans support legalizing pot, according to polling from the University of Texas, and 46 percent say that they support a “single national health insurance system run by the government.” A broad semiautomatic weapons ban only pulls 40 percent, but you could make a case that Cruz is the one who’s more out of step—a significant majority of Texans favor requiring criminal and mental-health background checks for all gun sales, including private ones.
Moreover, 51 percent of native-born Texans said they voted for O'Rourke in exit polls. It was the closest Senate race Texans had seen in 40 years, writes AP's Paul Weber:
On the surface, Texas didn’t change much after Tuesday. Republicans continued a 24-year streak of sweeping statewide races and lost only two seats in Congress, both of which had already been trending toward Democrats. The GOP also still comfortably controls the Texas Legislature, even after losing a dozen seats in what was the biggest single-year pickup by Democrats in decades.

But Republicans’ big margins shrank in a number of places.

Typically easy wins in five congressional districts around Austin, Dallas and Houston were sliced to within 5 percentage points this time. The driving social conservative force in the Legislature, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, won just over 51 percent of the vote in his first election since pushing a failed North Carolina-style “bathroom bill” that would have required transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. Not surviving, however, was a Republican who carried the bill in the House.
Control of state legislatures shifted towards Democrats last week. Even in deep-red Idaho, Democrats upset Republicans, picking up three seats in the Idaho House and one in the Senate. A second state senate seat in which the Democrat lost by six votes goes to a recount. Maybe not in Idaho, but elsewhere Democrats have more chances of advancing their own legislative agendas, and will be better positioned to roll back Republican gerrymandering by 2021. Republicans control redistricting in 16 states and Democrats in seven, Pew's Stateline reports. More states are moving to a nonpartisan redistricting process.

Pew continues:
The Democratic power surge in statehouses and governors’ offices will boost a host of progressive priorities, including health care, school spending, gun control, environmental protection and voting rights — even as divided government causes gridlock in Washington.

In at least seven states, Democratic governors succeed Republicans. And the party flipped at least 350 state legislative seats from red to blue. During the eight-year Obama administration, the Democrats lost nearly 900 state legislative seats, allowing Republicans in many states to cut taxes, restrict access to abortion and stiffen voter ID laws with little Democratic resistance.
That is set to change for at least two years. More, if Democrats wisely leverage their wins.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday Night at the Movies

In the lap of the gods: Bohemian Rhapsody (***)

By Dennis Hartley

One of my favorite scenes in the BBC-TV series I Claudius takes place in a library, where aspiring historian Claudius encounters two scholars whom he admires. When Claudius diplomatically says they are the “two greatest” historians, it gets awkward fast:
Pollio: Well, there can't be two greatest. That's just shilly-shallying, apart from being an abuse of the Roman tongue. So, you will have to choose. Which one of us would you rather read?

Livy: Oh come Pollio, that's not fair.

Pollio: Nonsense. The lad's obviously intelligent. So, speak up, boy. Which of us would you rather read?

Claudius: Well, it d-d-depends, sir.

Pollio: Ah, intelligent, but cowardly.

Claudius: No. I mean, it depends on what I'm reading for. For b-beauty of language I would read L-Livy, and for interpretation of fact I would read P-P-Pollio.

Livy: [indignantly] Now you please neither of us and that's always a mistake!

Now, I like to fancy myself a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll historian. I’m not claiming to be a “scholar”, mind you…but I’m cognizant enough to conclude that for beauty of language, I would read Lester Bangs, and for interpretation of fact…I would read Richard Meltzer.

I am also a film critic (allegedly). So when I settle down to review a rock ‘n’ roll biopic like Bryan Singer’s long-anticipated Bohemian Rhapsody, I start to feel a little schizoid. My mission as a film critic is to appraise a film based on its cinematic merits; e.g. how well is it directed, written, and acted? Does it have a cohesive narrative? Do I care about the characters? How about the cinematography, and the editing? Are you not entertained?

However, my inner rock ‘n’ roll historian also rears its head, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge it’s only a movie, thereby releasing the kracken of pedantic angst. So I’ll endeavor to tread lightly…otherwise I’ll be at risk of pleasing neither of my two readers.

In the remote case you are unaware, the film dramatizes the story of Queen, one of the most successful rock acts of all time. The film’s title is taken from one of their most recognizable songs, guaranteed to be playing soon on your local classic rock FM station (simply tune in…you will hear it within an hour or two, most likely in a sweep set that is required by law to include “Money” by Pink Floyd and “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin).

You are likely aware that there has been a kerfuffle or two regarding this film. Sacha Baron Cohen was originally cast as lead singer Freddie Mercury but walked out over creative differences with producers. Credited director Singer was booted off the project by the studio while it was still in production (he was replaced by uncredited Dexter Fletcher). Then there was social media outcry in wake of the teaser trailer, which some members of the LBGTQ community felt “straight-washed” Mercury’s sexual orientation.

Talk about performance pressure.

The film opens with a Scorsese-style tracking shot following Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) as he energetically works his way from backstage to enter the mainstage at London’s Wembley Stadium where an excited throng of humanity awaits. It’s July of 1985, and Queen is about to deliver their now-legendary performance as part of Bob Geldof’s massive Live-Aid benefit concert to raise money for Ethiopian famine victims.

Adhering to the Golden Rules of Rock ‘n’ Roll Biopics, this is but a framing device-and a cue to abruptly cut away from this moment of triumph to embark on a 2-hour flashback showing How We Got Here (spoiler alert-the time loop eventually reconnects with 1985).

Anthony McCarten’s screenplay proceeds from there in a fairly standard by-the-numbers fashion, beginning in early ‘70s London, which is when and where baggage handler, rock superfan and later-to-be-christened “Freddie Mercury” (née Farrokh Bulsara) joins his favorite band Smile after their bassist/lead vocalist quits. With Farrokh, new bass player John Deacon (Joseph Mazzelo), guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) now in place, Smile is all set to morph into the classic Queen lineup.

Theirs was not an overnight success; it wasn’t until 1973 that they found themselves in a position to record their first proper album. The film depicts the band scrambling to find their voice in these first forays in the recording studio; working out the basic rudiments of what would eventually become the band’s signature formula of proggy neo-classical melodies meets heavy metal riffing, topped off by intricate harmony vocal arrangements.

The band’s 1974 sophomore album Queen II and its follow-up Sheer Heart Attack (same year!) were actually more significant in terms of sales and career-building, but the filmmakers curiously skip over this crucial transition period of substantive creative progression and jump into the sessions for 1975’s international hit A Night at the Opera.

It’s in these scenes, where the band becomes ensconced in the studios that the film really came alive for me; then again, I’m a sucker for fly-on-the-wall peeks at creative process.

Unfortunately, the film falls flat whenever it takes soap-opera excursions into Freddie Mercury’s personal life. I don’t fault the actors; Lucy Boynton and Aaron McCusker each give it their best shot as Mercury’s longtime girlfriend Mary Austin and male lover Jim Hutton, respectively and Malek’s completely committed portrayal never falters (although I was initially distracted by his uncanny resemblance to Mick Jagger early in the film). In case you were wondering, they do address his sexuality (as well as the AIDS that took him from us; although they inexplicably alter the timeline as to when he was diagnosed).

To millions of fans, Queen “was” Freddie Mercury; and indeed, he was the embodiment of a Rock Star-a flamboyant, dynamic, iconoclastic front man with fabulous pipes and charisma to spare. I get that. Yet Mercury was one-quarter of a unit where the others brought their own monster musicianship, angelic harmonies and songwriting skills to the table. When I was a 17-year-old longhair stoner rocking out to “Liar”, “Modern Times Rock and Roll” and “Keep Yourself Alive” while dancing around my room wearing comically over-sized Koss headphones, I don’t recall giving one infinitesimal fuck whether the singer was gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual or asexual. I just dug the music.

Bottom line, if you go in expecting a Freddie Mercury biopic replete with all the juicy details of his love life and recreations of his legendary bacchanals, you will be disappointed. If you go in expecting a Queen biopic that neatly distills the essence of the band and its music, and you’re not overly bothered by fudging on the facts for the sake of some dramatic license, I think you will come out of the theater with Bic lighter held aloft.

Special note: The showing of Bohemian Rhapsody that I attended was presented in a format hitherto unknown to me called “Screen X”. While I did balk at the $18 price tag (for a goddam matinee?!) I figured it was my duty to check out this newfangled technology. Screen X requires a three-screen configuration. The center is your standard movie screen image, matted the same as any theater, cable or home video presentation. Additional footage is projected on the left and right wall panels immediately adjacent. This affords what is billed as a “270-degree” field of view (what am I…a fuckin’ owl?).

These side images are composed, filmed, and edited at the same time as the standard theatrical material; the intended effect is to fill your peripheral vision. In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, only “selected scenes” were given the full effect (mostly used for the live concert scenes). It’s being compared to IMAX, but I found it reminiscent of Cinerama (I’m showing my age). Truth be told, it didn’t enhance my movie experience. I found it distracting. Meh. Now, if they could figure a way to add quadrophonic sound…

Previous posts with related themes:

All the glitter we can use: a top 10 list

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

Planning for the Wednesday morning massacre

by digby

CNN reports that Jeff Sessions didn't realize that Matt Whittaker was a White House mole who was after his job until it was too late. Ok. Kind of dumb of him. But he did realize it eventualy. This part of the story about what happened last Wednesday morning when he was fired sheds some light on how he reacted:

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, asked Sessions to submit his resignation, according to multiple sources briefed on the call. Sessions agreed to comply, but he wanted a few more days before the resignation would become effective. Kelly said he'd consult the President.

Soon, the sources say, top Justice officials convened on the 5th floor suite of offices for the attorney general. Eventually, there were two huddles in separate offices. Among those in Sessions' office was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, his deputy Ed O'Callaghan, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Steven Engel, who heads the Office of Legal Counsel.

A few yards away, Whitaker strategized with other aides, including Gary Barnett, now his chief of staff.

Emptywheel has a theory. I think she's may be right:
for the sake of this Kremlinology, I will assume that Sessions remained Attorney General for the remainder of the day on Wednesday. That means that, for at least a half day after this went down, any orders he gave were binding and all those men huddling with him on Wednesday morning retained the relative seniority to Whitaker that they started the day with.

As CNN says in its report, the people huddling with Sessions included key players overseeing Mueller’s probe. Rosenstein and O’Callaghan provide the day-to-day oversight of the probe.

The fact that Whitaker would become acting attorney general, passing over Rosenstein suddenly raised concerns about the impact on the most high-profile investigation in the Justice Department, the Russia probe led by Mueller.

The Mueller probe has been at the center of Trump’s ire directed at Sessions and the Justice Department. Whitaker has made comments criticizing Mueller’s investigation and Rosenstein’s oversight of it, and has questioned the allegations of Russian interference.

Rosenstein and O’Callaghan, the highest-ranked officials handling day-to-day oversight of Mueller’s investigation, urged Sessions to delay the effective date of his resignation.

That day-to-day oversight is critical both to any claim that Mueller operates with constitutional authority and to any effort by Trump and Whitaker to undermine Mueller’s authority.

But CNN doesn’t talk about the important role played in the probe by the other two Senate-confirmed figures in the room, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and OLC head Steven Engel.

As Michael Dreeben, who formally reports to Francisco, noted Thursday (that is, the day after this huddle) during his DC Circuit argument defending the constitutionality of Mueller’s authority, Francisco must approve any appeal Mueller’s team makes (presumably, he must approve any appellate activity at all). The arguments Dreeben made publicly Thursday — as well as whatever arguments Mueller submitted in a brief in sealed form in the Mystery Appeal that same day — were arguments made with the approval of and under the authority of the Solicitor General, the third ranking official at DOJ.

Then there’s Engel. He’s the guy who decides, in response to questions posed by Executive Branch officials, how to interpret the law for the entire Executive Branch. It’s his office, for example, who would decide whether it would be legal for Mueller to indict the President. His office also interprets the laws surrounding things like the Vacancies Reform Act, whether any given presidential appointment is legal.

Which is why this passage of the CNN report is so significant.

At least one Justice official in the room mentioned that there would be legal questions about whether Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general is constitutional.

In a room of men huddling with Jeff Sessions at a time he undeniably retained authority as Attorney General, at least one person — it might though is unlikely to be Sessions, it might be the Solicitor General who would argue the case legally, it might be the Deputy Attorney General or his deputy overseeing the Russian probe, it might be the guy who ultimately decides such things, or it might be several of them — at least one of those senior DOJ officials raised questions about whether Whitaker’s appointment would be constitutional. All of those men are sufficiently senior to ask Engel to write up a memo considering the question, and so long as Sessions retained the authority of Attorney General, he could decide whether to accept Engel’s advice or not. Sure, the President could override that (Obama overrode OLC, to his great disgrace, in Libya). But Trump would be on far shakier legal ground to do so without OLC’s blessing, and anyone operating in defiance of the OLC opinion could face legal problems in the future.

And an OLC opinion is precisely the kind of thing that Mueller’s team might submit to the DC Circuit — under the authority of the Senate approved and third-ranking Noel Francisco — in a sealed appendix to a challenge to Mueller’s authority.

I asked around this morning, of both those who think Whitaker’s appointment is not legal and those (like Steve Vladeck) who think it is. And it seems crystal clear: if Whitaker’s appointment is illegal, then that is a disability (just like recusal would be), and the regular DOJ succession would apply. In that case, the Deputy Attorney General would be acting Attorney General, for all matters, not just the supervision of the Special Counsel

This is very reasonable speculation. Keep in mind that when the Saturday Night Massacre came down, Richardson and Ruckleshaus and others in the DOJ had already gamed out what they were going to do. They even knew that Bork was going to be the one to fire Cox.

I suspect these Justice Department leaders have similarly been planning. And as Marcy points out, one of the most interesting aspects of this story is the fact that Francisco was part of the meeting. There's been a lot of specualtion about where he stands. If Marcy's right about this, it appears he may have chosen the constitutional order rather than the Trump protection racket.

Trump's foreign trip is a bit of a trainwreck so far

by digby

Macron tried to flatter him and make him love him, but he's stuck in a groove about Europe ripping him off and he can't get out of it. But when Macron said that Europe needs to arm up to defend itself, which is pretty much what Trump is asking them to do when he says they have to pay more to NATO, he gets mad.This is because he's so stupid that he still hasn't gotten it into his head that these countries don't write him a personal check to "pay for" NATO.

By the way, when he said they might need to protect themselves against China, Russia and even the US he was talking about cyberwarfare. The other comment about building up a European Army came later. Not that it matters. Trump is clueless about all of it.

He skipped the ceremony to lay a wreath for the WWI veterans, which is what that picture with Macron and Merkel above is referring to. Frankly, it's a good thing. He would just pollute sething that's actually a very meaningful moment.

Nobody really knows why he didn't go. They said it was raining and they couldn't fly Marine One. But nobody believes them. It was just drizzlig. He stayed in his hotel room and tweeted insults instead.

None of the European leaders know what to do with him. They've tried standing up to him and flattering him and ignoring him and none of it works. Welcome to our world.

Meanwhile in Bizarroworld

by digby

This is the brainwashing happening over on Fox right now. It's from the OG Orwellian wingnut brainwasher, Newt Gingrich:

Watch the Democrats try to steal elections, and think about how Democratic dishonesty is a much greater threat to freedom than some unproven Russian conspiracy.

As you watch the long, long, long counts in Florida, Arizona and California, remember the long count which stole Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s Senate seat for Democrat Al Franken in Minnesota back in 2008.

Remember Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia Stacey Abrams’s assertion that her "blue wave" was made up of both legal and illegal residents. Remember that 22,000 of the applications her voter registration group filed in Georgia were either canceled, duplicative or couldn’t be reconciled (probably because the voters did not exist).

The Democratic supervisor of elections for Broward County, Florida, Brenda Snipes, has a consistent record of breaking the law and trying to steal elections.

When you have the state’s sitting governor and Republican Senate candidate, Rick Scott, filing a lawsuit against "rampant fraud" and saying, "I will not stand idly-by while unethical liberals try to steal an election," you know things have gotten very serious.

As Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has said, "What’s happening in Broward County should concern every American."

In Arizona, you can bet that many of the 400,000 mail-in ballots still outstanding will turn out to be non-existent or cast by illegal immigrants – or simply made-up by the election officials in two of the state’s most liberal counties. Already, the Arizona Republican Party has alleged that left-wing election officials in one county destroyed evidence related to early voting irregularities.

The fact is that after all of their feigned worries about Russia influencing the election, Democrats will end up stealing a lot more votes than Vladimir Putin ever dreamed of taking.

Watch the next few days unfold. Remember the lies, smears and character assassination Democrats threw at Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

And worry for the very fabric of our country.

Rick Scott has not filed that lawsuit. There is no evidence of fraud. Votes take longer to count because we are voting by mail and there was massive turnout.

Republicans commonly steal elections and are trying to rig the count so they can steal these.

One thing I do agree on. We should worry for the very fabric of our country.