Interesting Read: “The calculus behind Jason Chaffetz’s sudden decision to walk away”

Two reporters from the Deseret News craft an amazing example of what I suppose must be “Mormon nice”, turning never-less-than-postive words and carefully-buffed stories into a portrait of a vicious little self-promoter attempting to slide out of the unexpected spotlight exposing every wart of Grifter King Trump’s nasty court…

Something had flipped after the election, Chaffetz had noticed, an ugly impulse unfurling across America. He had seen anger directed at him before, but nothing like this. He’d been getting death threats, on his voicemail and in his inbox, and in the ensuing weeks it would only get worse.

He had become a target, the face of Republican fecklessness. At his D.C. office, his young staffers fielded calls from all over the country, hundreds a day, demanding he investigate Trump. As chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Government Reform Committee, Chaffetz had risen to national prominence for his aggressive inquiries into missteps by the Obama administration, making him a hero to the “Fox and Friends” crowd.

He’d hammered the Secret Service, demanded documents on the Fast and Furious gun running scandal, and most notably, grilled Hillary Clinton for hours on the deaths of four Americans at a compound in Benghazi, Libya. So why wasn’t he investigating Donald Trump? People asked him this wherever he went, at the airport, at Five Guys when he was standing in line for a burger. Tonight they wanted answers.

He stepped out from behind the curtain.

The crowd erupted in deafening boos, rising to their feet. Chaffetz smiled. He’d seen worse. As a placekicker at BYU in the mid-1980s he’d played before hostile football crowds with Ty Detmer and Jason Buck. “You think this is bad,” he thought to himself. “You’ve never been to Laramie, Wyoming.”

Besides, plainclothes police officers were standing behind the curtain, and others were scattered throughout the crowd. No one here could rattle him, not really. And even if they did, he wouldn’t let them see it. He would keep smiling, no matter what he felt inside.

Clips of the town hall were starting to go viral. For the part of the electorate who felt the Trump administration was a threat to the republic, this was a moment, #Resistance. Here was one of the few people who could bring Trump to heel, who could subpoena his tax records, force him to testify under oath, really anything he wanted, and his constituents were demanding he do it.

“Do your job! Do your job!” they chanted. Chaffetz smiled through his teeth, pleading for the crowd to calm down, but no one was listening.

In the ensuing weeks, Chaffetz insisted the protesters didn’t bother him, but those closest to him began to worry if all the unhinged Facebook posts and death threats were taking a toll. Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman from South Carolina who Chaffetz considers his best friend, openly wondered if Chaffetz’s ever-ready smile was masking pain.

“Some of the stuff left on his voicemail,” Gowdy said, pausing. “He plays it for me and I’m trying to evaluate, do you take it seriously? What do you do about it?”…
Read more



Friday Morning Open Thread: March for Science

Question from commentor MarcoPolo:

Have my lab coat & will be at the St Louis march w/ friends. Hoping the weather winds up being more cooperative than is currently forecast (rain & about 50). 50/50 on whether I wind up down @ Howards afterwards to witness the actual physical existence of fellow BJers.

More importantly will folks post their bestest/favoritest Science March sign ideas? I really haven’t seen all that many good ones.

Nice piece from the Washington Post’s science reporters:

The March for Science is not a partisan event. But it’s political. That’s the recurring message of the organizers, who insist that this is a line the scientific community and its supporters will be able to walk. It may prove too delicate a distinction, though, when people show up in droves on Saturday with their signs and their passions.

“We’ve been asked not to make personal attacks or partisan attacks,” said honorary national co-chair Lydia Villa-Komaroff, in a teleconference this week with reporters. But Villa-Komaroff, who will be among those given two-minute speaking slots, quickly added: “This is a group of people who don’t take well being told what to do.”

The Science March, held on Earth Day, is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the Mall, and satellite marches have been planned in more than 400 cities on six continents…

Rush Holt, head of AAAS, said there was initial hesitation about whether this was the kind of event a scientist ought to be joining but that members of his association overwhelmingly support the decision to participate.

This is not simply a reaction to President Trump’s election, Holt said. Scientists have been worried for years that “evidence has been crowded out by ideology and opinion in public debate and policymaking.” Long before Trump’s election, people in the scientific and academic community raised concerns about the erosion of the value of expertise and the rise of pseudoscientific and anti-scientific notions. Science also found itself swept up into cultural and political battles; views on climate science, for example, increasingly reflect political ideology…

**************
Apart from protest planning, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up another week?



Open Thread: Erik Prince Is Just Full of Ideas!

Hey, remember Erik Prince, friend-of-Putin and Seychelles tourist? Bloomberg Politics has another profile — “Blackwater Founder Prince Said to Have Advised Trump Team”:

According to people familiar with his activities, Prince entered Trump Tower through the back, like others who wanted to avoid the media spotlight, and huddled with members of the president-elect’s team to discuss intelligence and security issues. The conversations provide a glimpse of Prince’s relationship with an administration that’s distanced itself from him since the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Prince had met with a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles in January.

That island encounter was the latest in a series of conversations between Trump advisers and Russians that have come to light as U.S. investigators probe allegations that Russia interfered with the presidential election…

A Prince spokesman in London said… in a prepared statement: “Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump.” The statement also questioned whether Prince’s activities were being monitored. “Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”

Yet over a two to three month period around the election, Prince met several times with top aides as the incoming government took shape, offering ideas on how to fight terror and restructure the country’s major intelligence agencies, according to information provided by five people familiar with the meetings. Among those he conferred with was Flynn, a member of the transition team who joined the administration and was later dismissed, some of the people said. He discussed possible government appointees with people in the private sector, one person said. Prince himself told several people that while he was not offering his advice in any official capacity, his role was significant.

The meetings occurred in Trump Tower, the administration’s transition office in Washington and elsewhere, according to people familiar with them. In one informal discussion in late November, Prince spoke openly with two members of Trump’s transition team on a train bound from New York to Washington. He boarded the same Acela as Kellyanne Conway and they sat together. Joining the conversation at one point was Kevin Harrington, a longtime associate of Trump adviser Peter Thiel who is now on the National Security Council. They discussed, in broad terms, major changes the incoming administration envisioned for the intelligence community, as recounted by a person on the train who overheard their conversation…

A longtime critic of government defense and security policies, Prince advocated a restructuring of security agencies as well as a thorough rethink of costly defense programs, even if it meant canceling existing major contracts in favor of smaller ones, said a person familiar with the matter…

Lemme see if I understand this: A guy who made billions running mercenaries for the highest bidder, scion of a family notorious for pushing ‘privatization’ of government functions to fatten private businesses, someone who’s currently camped out in Hong Kong supervising the PRC’s turf-building exercises in Africa because he’s leery about answering to American legal authorities… just happened to be providing advice because “Trump was weakest in the area where the stakes were highest — foreign affairs.”

After all, the American military is a mighty machine, and therefore one that can hardly have been privatized enough, so far.

You can’t take your eyes off these goniffs for a single minute.



This is Brilliant

Alexandra Petri nails our infatuation with victim blaming:

Crucified man had prior run-in with authorities

The gentleman arrested Thursday and tried before Pontius Pilate had a troubled background.

Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals.

He had had prior run-ins with local authorities — most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it.

At the time of his arrest, he had not held a fixed residence for years. Instead, he led an itinerant lifestyle, staying at the homes of friends and advocating the redistribution of wealth.

He had come to the attention of the authorities more than once for his unauthorized distribution of food, disruptive public behavior, and participation in farcical aquatic ceremonies.

Some say that his brutal punishment at the hands of the state was out of proportion to and unrelated to any of these incidents in his record.

But after all, he was no angel.

Pretty much.








Monday Evening Open Thread: Congratulations, Mr. Fahrenthold!

… Although the trophy probably doesn’t say “For Excellence in White-Hat Trolling.” May he continue to investigate the myriad weirdness of Donald Trump for as long as the President-Asterisk remains a blot on our national character.

Props also to Marty Baron, former Boston Globe standout, now Fahrenthold’s executive editor at the Washington Post.

Apart from that — and some seders — what’s on the agenda for the evening?



End of the Weekend Open Thread: What Are You Doing with Your Soros Checks?

Best comment, so far: “Ideal buyer would be a wealthy fourteen-year-old.”

Or then, there’s this genuinely lovely Washington Post story — “Can a remote island in Canada become a safe harbor for those who want to flee Donald Trump?”

CAPE BRETON ISLAND, Canada —The first sign of what Rob Calabrese would come to think of as America’s unmooring began last year, just after Donald Trump won his first presidential primary and Calabrese published a $28 website that he’d designed in 30 minutes. “Hi Americans!” it began, and what followed was a sales pitch for an island where Muslims could “roam freely,” and where the only walls were those “holding up the roofs” of “extremely affordable houses.”

“Let’s get the word out!” Calabrese wrote, adding a photo of an empty coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. “Move to Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins!”

It was meant as a joke — but seven hours after Calabrese linked the site to the Facebook page of the pop radio station where he works as a DJ, in came an email from America. “Not sure if this is real but I’ll bite.” And then another: “It pains me to think of leaving, but this country is beyond repair.”…

The emails kept coming, so many that soon the island’s tourism association brought on four seasonal workers to help respond to the inquiries, which were arriving from every state and hundreds of towns, until it seemed to Calabrese that America was filled with people who wanted to get away…

There were emails from a molecular biologist, a University of Oregon professor, a granite construction worker, a contractor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a woman who said her home town was “Unfortunately, Alabama.” There were declarations and confessions about incomes, sexual orientations, goals for their children. Several included résumés. “I am so sick of what has happened to my beautiful country,” one letter began…

People passed around a five-page research paper that said the island needed to attract 2,000 people annually to remain viable. There’d been decades of failed attempts to rebuild.

The island had one new thing going for it — the website. More people knew about Cape Breton now. “We’re receiving thousands of emails,” one person said at the meeting. But that wasn’t the same as thousands of people moving there. Canada had strict immigration laws. People couldn’t just come because they wanted to. Applicants were scored based on age and skills and their ability to help the economy. Anybody who emailed Cape Breton was told they still had to apply through Canada’s immigration agency. They were sent a link to begin a process that could take more than a year.

So maybe some Americans would arrive someday, but they hadn’t yet. As the responses rolled in, Calabrese had revised the site’s text to make it less political — and less directed at Americans specifically…

True, the weather’s kind of inhospitable right now, but GCC will fix that soon enough. Read the whole thing — not least for the photos.



Long Read: “No One to Blame But Trump”

Elizabeth Drew — who has long studied terrible presidencies — in the NY Review of Books:

There’s been a great deal of speculation about shifting alliances among Trump’s White House staff—it’s virtually a daily exercise—but in the end Donald Trump defines his administration. Trump has a mediocre staff, whom he doesn’t treat well. They’re hesitant to give him news he won’t like for fear of being screamed at, a frequent event. Experienced potential aides haven’t been keen to work in a Trump White House and though it’s not widely known by the outside world many of those who are there are unhappy. As one close observer put it to me, “They came to work for the president but found themselves working for Donald Trump.” The moody man at the top is strongly affected by what’s in the news. But so far only one significant aide has seen fit to quit, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’s deputy Katie Walsh; while some reporters described her departure as part of a White House “shakeup,” it’s more likely that Walsh left because she couldn’t stand the unpleasantness of working for Trump. According to reports, with things not going well for him, the atmosphere in Trump’s White House has grown progressively worse. The removal of White House adviser Steve Bannon from the National Security Council is being much examined for its implications, but if Bannon continues to get in Trump’s head it may not mean much at all.

Yet despite the weakness and disorder of the president’s staff, and though previous White House staffs have tried it (if not as thoroughly but without success), Trump and his top aides seem particularly determined to hold power throughout the government. This is why even more than halfway into the first hundred days most of the Cabinet officers are home alone. It’s not accidental that few of them have a deputy, not to mention the legally established complement of assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries—some 550 appointments the president makes and the Senate confirms. As of now, Defense Secretary James Mattis is the only newly confirmed official in the entire Pentagon leviathan, but the wars he has to fight and the crises he has to try to avert won’t wait until he gets his own staff. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also without a deputy, the one he wanted having been vetoed by Trump because he’d criticized him during the primaries. Such a consideration would rule out a great many potential presidential appointees. Tillerson is another tycoon who is more than a little lost in government. The generals whom Trump has appointed (three of them) are more accustomed to a political atmosphere and to dealing with elected politicians. This is no guarantee of success but they do tend to be less bewildered in their new positions of power. At least two other cabinet officials are under a legal cloud—Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services, for allegedly using his inside knowledge to fatten his financial portfolio while he was working on health legislation in the House; and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who allegedly lied during his confirmation hearings.

Yet the thinness of the ranks of officials to propose and implement the laws is actually also how Trump and his top aides want it. “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint someone because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump said in late February. “In government, we have too many people.” Trump, Bannon, and son-in-law Jared Kushner have been particularly keen to keep control of the government in the White House. Kushner now has more assignments than any single figure known of in a modern White House and shows no inclination to devolve power. These people may well be taking on the impossible, and this would be true even if they’d had any government experience…

When the subject comes up, as it does incessantly in Washington, of whether in fact Trump will end up serving as president for four years, a major argument against his somehow having to leave office (for reasons other than health) is that he has a strong base. Richard Nixon also did, until he didn’t. Gradually, Nixon’s onetime backers became disenchanted for one reason or another; he still had support at the end, but it wasn’t strong enough to save him. How long will Trump’s base stick with him even in the face of seeing their hopes betrayed? This isn’t a fanciful question: a recent poll by Geoffrey Garin for Priorities USA, showed a ten-point drop in support among Trump voters in the third week in March (the week the health care bill failed).

A lot of Republicans who had deep misgivings about Trump went along with him before and after the election because they assumed that he could produce legislation dear to their hearts. But what if it turns out that he can’t? Politicians are highly pragmatic people; they will support a president as long as he isn’t too costly to them. But if he becomes too expensive to their own reelection, all bets are off. The discontent with Donald Trump on Capitol Hill runs very deep and also very wide. I’ve been told that upwards of two-thirds of the Senate Republicans, in particular, discuss—in the gym and in clusters on the Senate floor—their desire to see him gone. These senators talk rather openly—even with their Democratic colleagues—about their fear of Trump’s recklessly getting the country into serious danger, about the embarrassment he causes it in the world (his petulantly refusing to shake hands with Angela Merkel was just one example of his mishandling of foreign leaders), about his overall incompetence…