Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Another Day, Another Tantrum

Meanwhile, in a less blessed nation, per the Washington Post

Alone in the White House in recent days, President Trump — frustrated and defiant — has been spoiling for a fight, according to his confidants and associates…

And on Thursday, the president will come screen-to-screen with the FBI director he fired, James B. Comey, thoughts of whom have consumed, haunted and antagonized Trump since Comey launched an expanding Russia investigation that the president slammed as a “witch hunt.”

Comey’s testimony is a political Super Bowl — with television networks interrupting regular programming to air it, and some Washington offices and bars making plans for special viewings.

Trump is keen to be a participant rather than just another viewer, two senior White House officials said, including the possibility of taking to Twitter to offer acerbic commentary during the hearing…

“He’s infuriated at a deep-gut, personal level that the elite media has tolerated [the Russia story] and praised Comey,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich said. “He’s not going to let some guy like that smear him without punching him as hard as he can.”…

In the weeks leading up to Comey’s testimony, the White House had privately tried to erect a war room that would handle the communications and legal strategies for responding to the Russia matter. Former Trump campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie were in discussions to lead it.

But the plan was scuttled, as with so much else in Trump’s administration, because of internal disagreements, according to multiple officials. Arguments included whether the war room would be run from inside or outside the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.; who would staff it; whether they could be trusted by the president’s high-ranking advisers, or even trust one another; and whether Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s outside counsel, would ultimately control the message…

Looks like Newt imagines himself as a Kissinger for the current White House — and, sadly, he may even be right (… second time, as farce). Worth reading the whole thing, if you have a mordant sense of humor and/or a strong memory of the Watergate crisis.

Rumors were that Bossie, as a professional assassin, decided he no longer wanted a piece of Trump’s action (aka, “family considerations”). And Lewandowski without Bossie was considered Barney Fife without Andy Griffith. Of course none of the insiders — from Kushner to Bannon to Priebus — trust any of their fellows to take charge (not that one could blame them). SAD!

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Apart from stocking up on popcorn, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Late Night Open Thread: Repubs Ginning Up Their War on the First Amendment

I feel like I should add “again”

Conservative radio hosts mock a physical assault on a reporter. A GOP governor blasts a reporter on Twitter as “a sick man.” The president accuses the media of being an “enemy of the people.”

This is not run-of-the-mill Republican criticism of the press anymore. It is now a deliberate strategy to help GOP candidates win elections fueled by public hatred of reporters…

A party that traditionally has had a fraught relationship with the media has become outright hostile, led by a president who picks more fights with journalists than any GOP leader since Richard Nixon.

But interviews with Republican strategists and party leaders across the country reveal that what started as genuine anger at allegedly unfair coverage — or an effort to deflect criticism — is now an integral part of next year’s congressional campaigns.

The hope, say these officials, is to convince Trump die-hards that these mid-term races are as much a referendum on the media as they are on President Trump. That means embracing conflict with local and national journalists, taking them on to show Republicans voters that they, just like the president, are battling a biased press corps out to destroy them…

The strategy still has limits. Motivating core Republican support is an important part of the campaign, but many of them also need to persuade middle-of-the-road voters to pull the lever.

Karen Handel, the Republican running against Jon Ossoff in Georgia, for example, has avoided antagonizing the media in a very close race in a suburban district that narrowly voted for Trump in November…

That’s the point: Demonizing the press was an excellent weapon for Richard Nixon, who was desperate to hide his own crimes and those of his minions, because his ‘Southern strategy’ could agitate a whole bloc of dissatisfied Democratic racists into switching parties. But the voters who were going to be swayed by such appeals to their basest instincts have been voting Repub for forty years now — there’s no juice left in that lemon.

Also, it’s pretty clear that the Trump Crime Cartel is now as desperate as Nixon was in 1972, and they’ve only had a few months to sink that low.

WHAT DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW, AND WHY IS THE GOP TRYING TO KEEP US FROM FINDING OUT ABOUT IT?



Friday Morning Open Thread: “Good Riddance”

For your morning enjoyment, a most excellent rant from Tom Scocca:

The public editorship of the New York Times was always a fictitious job. That essential truth was made clear on Wednesday morning, when the paper’s publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., announced that he would be terminating the position, less than a year into the term of its sixth and final occupant, Liz Spayd.

Spayd’s columns were widely mocked and despised, especially by other people in the media. Still, she was probably not the worst public editor the Times ever had. She produced only one valuable column, in an otherwise unbroken string of dumb and wrong ones, but that was one more than readers ever got from Byron Calame or Arthur Brisbane or that other guy, whoever he was. Clark Hoyt?

The majority of the public editors were bad because the public editor’s job was designed to be badly done. It was created after the Jayson Blair scandal and the collapse of Howell Raines’ executive editorship, as a means of showing that the Times was serious about managing the institutional damage. The first public editor, Daniel Okrent, was sharp and rigorous, befitting a newspaper that saw its mission as a sacred trust and had obvious lessons to learn from its failures. Once the crisis had passed, though, Sulzberger seemed to approach the routine duty of holding his paper accountable the same way a surly 12-year-old approaches the task of mowing the lawn—if he could do it badly enough, maybe people would decide he shouldn’t have been made to do it at all.

So the work of minding the Times fell to a series of timid people, dull-witted ones and bores. Only the fifth public editor, Margaret Sullivan, broke with that pattern and did her job energetically enough that she ended up being hired as a real media columnist, at the Washington Post

And I suspect Ms. Sullivan is now celebrating her escape!

Apart from schadenfreude, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up another busy week?



Saturday Morning #PopCulture Open Thread

(h/t Adam)

If you ever saw Gene Rodenberry speak, you probably heard him describe how the Paramount suits demanded, after watching the Star Trek pilot, that he drop either the female second-in-command or the alien science officer. “So I married the woman and kept Mr. Spock,” he would finish, gleefully, “… because in California, it was illegal to do it the other way around!”

Forty years later…

Also, the new Wonder Woman movie is already drawing raves, so one Texas-based movie chain had a brilliant marketing idea. As described by a (male!) critic at Film School Rejects:

A few days ago, the Alamo Drafthouse did what the Alamo Drafthouse does best: announce a special event themed to one of its upcoming releases. In celebration of Wonder Woman, the first female-driven superhero movie in the current wave of Marvel and DC productions, Alamo announced that they would be holding a special women-only screening on Tuesday, June 6 at their downtown location in Austin. If you identify as a woman, you could spend a night at Alamo’s very own Themyscira and enjoy the film with an all-female audience and staff.

Almost immediately, the company was inundated with both positive and negative responses. The Drafthouse’s initial Facebook post became ground zero for both the worst and best responses to the event; some fans celebrated the fact that Drafthouse was using Wonder Woman as an opportunity to celebrate intersectional feminism, while others decried the event as just another example of liberal snowflakes and their need for safe spaces…

On paper, it’s hard for anyone to defend why they’re upset with the two special screenings of Wonder Woman. There are an additional 31 screenings (three-one) of Wonder Woman in Austin that same Tuesday; that doesn’t even include non-Drafthouse locations, an extra level of math I have no interest in doing. Hell, there’s even one additional late screening of the film at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz for those who really want to see the film in the heart of downtown Austin…

But I personally hope that those who click for the controversy will stay for the affirmation. For every person who has expressed outrage at the screenings, another has expressed excitement at the opportunity for a bunch of women to gather together and watch a kick-ass movie that celebrates women. I’ve seen people discussing sponsoring tickets for non-profit organizations focused on women and women’s health, making plans to drive down to Austin with a close sibling or parent, or simply cheering on those who will attend the screening even if it’s not targeted to them…

Alamo Drafthouse, of course, takes full advantage:

And, finally, happy news about a no-longer-nearly-as-popular “culture”:

What else is on the agenda as we start the holiday weekend?



Excellent (Depressing) Read: “The Seth Rich conspiracy shows how fake news still works”

Today, Dave Weigel published a story in the Washington Post on “The life and death of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory”:

When Seth Rich’s Gmail account received an alert this week from Mega.com, attempting to start a new account on a website created by the New Zealand-based Internet businessman and convicted hacker Kim Dotcom, his family knew that something was off.

Over seven frenzied days, Dotcom had become a leading purveyor of the theory that Rich, a staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was shot dead near his home in Northeast Washington last summer, had supplied DNC documents to WikiLeaks and was killed as a result. Multiple security analysts and an FBI investigation have tied the release to hackers with ties to Russia. D.C. police have said repeatedly that they think Rich was slain in a random robbery attempt…

All that began to unravel Tuesday afternoon when Fox News retracted a story that had claimed the same Rich-WikiLeaks connection, telling readers that the article was “not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Fox News did not respond to a request for comment, but Dotcom wrote on his website that he would not speak further about his allegations…

Of course, this being the internet (and certain people & networks happy to be ghouls for profit) the morbid feasting on other peoples’ tragedy will never actually end.

Here’s Weigel’s original story, on May 20: Read more



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Light Breakfast Reading

Alexandra Petri, at the Washington Post“The president is not a child. He’s something worse:

We were wrong, it turns out. Anyone cannot be president. Anyone can be elected president (any man, that is), but not anyone can be president…

The Trump presidency is the discovery that what you thought was a man in a bear suit is just a bear. Suddenly the fact that he wouldn’t play by the rules makes total sense. It wasn’t that he refused to, that he was playing a long game. It was that he was a wild animal who eats fish and climbs trees, and English words were totally unintelligible to him. In retrospect, you should have suspected that after he just straight-up ate a guy. But at the time everyone cheered. It was good TV. Also, he was your bear.

Okay. So you have spent 200 years building a fragile snow globe, and now you have given it to a bear. The animal doesn’t care. You cannot even explain to him what the thing is. To him, all your words are just sounds. He looks at you when you are making them and he looks away when you are finished. You can only hope the bear becomes bored and sets the snow globe down and wanders off looking for food.

(Again, this is an insult to bears, who have fewer places to live than Trump and do not do so at the taxpayer’s expense.)…

He’s a human Failure to Read the User’s Manual…

Professor Krugman, “What’s the Matter With Republicans?“:

It has become painfully clear… that Republicans have no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power.

They may make a few gestures toward accountability in the face of bad poll numbers, but there is not a hint that any important figures in the party care enough about the Constitution or the national interest to take a stand…

The Democratic Party is a coalition of interest groups, with some shared views but also a lot of conflicts, and politicians get ahead through their success in striking compromises and finding acceptable solutions.

The G.O.P., by contrast, is one branch of a monolithic structure, movement conservatism, with a rigid ideology — tax cuts for the rich above all else. Other branches of the structure include a captive media that parrots the party line every step of the way. Compare the coverage of recent political developments on Fox News with almost everywhere else; we’re talking North Korea levels of alternative reality.

And this monolithic structure — lavishly supported by a small number of very, very wealthy families — rewards, indeed insists on, absolute fealty. Furthermore, the structure has been in place for a long time: It has been 36 years since Reagan was elected, 22 years since the Gingrich takeover of Congress. What this means is that nearly all Republicans in today’s Congress are apparatchiks, political creatures with no higher principle beyond party loyalty…

In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. Think of what it has taken to get us to this point — his Twitter addiction, his bizarre loyalty to Flynn and affection for Putin, the raw exploitation of his office to enrich his family, the business dealings, whatever they were, he’s evidently trying to cover up by refusing to release his taxes.

The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we’d be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.

Apart from waiting for the next shoe(s) to fall, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Open Thread: In the Grand Tradition of Friday News Dumps…

The President-Asterisk won’t be asking for political asylum while he’s in Saudi Arabia, because he’s not competent enough to understand that this whole ‘Russiagate’ thing might be too big for him to skate away from. Wouldn’t come as a real surprise if one or more of Lord Smallgloves’ inner circle dropped out of sight during the travelling circus, though…

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Flynn resigned in February after disclosures that he had lied to administration officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson…

Although the case began quietly last July as an effort to determine whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian operatives to meddle in the presidential election campaign, the investigative work now being done by the FBI also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president. The people familiar with the matter said the probe has sharpened into something more fraught for the White House, the FBI and the Justice Department — particularly because of the public steps investigators know they now need to take, the people said…

Much more at the link. Fire up the popcorn machine?