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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Night at the Movies

Summertime Blus: Best BD re-issues of 2017 (so far)

By Dennis Hartley

Since we’re halfway through the year, I thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at some of the best Blu-ray reissues of 2017 (so far). Any reviews based on Region “B” editions (which require a multi-region Blu-ray player) are noted as such; the good news is that quality name-brand multi-region players are now much more affordable!

Being There (Criterion Collection) – For my money, the late director Hal Ashby was the quintessential embodiment of the new American cinema movement of the 1970s. Beginning in 1970, he bracketed the decade with an astonishing seven film streak: The Landlord, Harold and Maude, The Last Detail (reviewed below), Shampoo, Bound for Glory, Coming Home, and this 1979 masterpiece. Adapted from Jerzy Kosinki’s novel by frequent Ashby collaborator Robert C. Jones (who was uncredited...a hitherto unknown tidbit revealed in an extra feature), it’s a wry political fable about how a simpleton (Peter Sellers, in one of his greatest performances) literally stumbles his way into becoming a Washington D.C. power player within an alarmingly short period of time. Only in America! Richly drawn, finely layered, at once funny and sad (but never in a broad manner). Superbly acted by all, from the leads (Sellers, Melvyn Douglas, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden, Richard Dysart) down to the smallest supporting roles (a special mention for the wonderful Ruth Attaway). Like Sidney Lumet’s Network, this film only seems to become more vital with age. The Trump parallels are numerous enough; but one scene where Sellers meets with the Russian ambassador (a great cameo by Richard Basehart) has now taken on a whole new (and downright spooky) relevancy. Criterion’s Blu-ray features a beautiful 4K restoration and a plethora of enlightening extra features.

Fat City (Powerhouse Films) – John Huston’s gritty, low-key character study was a surprise hit at Cannes in 1972. Adapted by Leonard Gardner from his own novel, it’s a tale of shattered dreams, desperate living and beautiful losers (Gardner seems to be the missing link between John Steinbeck and Charles Bukowski). Filmed on location in Stockton, California, the story centers on a boozy, low-rent boxer well past his prime (Stacey Keach), who becomes a mentor to a young up-and-comer (Jeff Bridges) and starts a relationship with a fellow barfly (Susan Tyrell). Like most character studies, this film chugs along at the speed of life (i.e., not a lot “happens”), but the performances are so well fleshed out you easily forget you’re witnessing “acting”. One scene in particular, in which Keach and Tyrell’s characters first hook up in a sleazy bar, is a veritable masterclass in the craft. Granted, it’s one of the most depressing films you’ll ever see (think Barfly meets The Wrestler), but still well worth your time. Masterfully directed by Huston, with “lived-in” natural light photography by DP Conrad Hall. You will be left haunted by Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make it Through the Night”, which permeates the film. The print is beautifully restored, and extras include new interviews with the cast.

The Last Detail (Powerhouse Films) – Hal Ashby’s 1973 comedy-drama set the bar pretty high for all “buddy films” to follow (and to this day, few can touch it). Jack Nicholson heads a superb cast, as “Bad-Ass” Buddusky, a career Navy man who is assigned (along with a fellow Shore Patrol officer, played by Otis Young) to escort a first-time offender (Randy Quaid) to the brig in Portsmouth. Chagrinned to learn that the hapless young swabbie has been handed an overly-harsh sentence for a relatively petty crime, Buddusky decides that they should at least show “the kid” a good time on his way to the clink (much to his fellow SP’s consternation). Episodic “road movie”
misadventures ensue. Don’t expect a Hollywood-style “wacky” comedy; as he did in all of his films, Ashby keeps it real. The suitably briny dialog was adapted by Robert Towne from Daryl Ponicsan’s novel; and affords Nicholson some of his most iconic line readings (“I AM the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker!”). Nicholson and Towne were teamed up again the following year via Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. This edition sports a fabulous 4K restoration (the audio is cleaned up too, crucial for a dialog-driven piece like this). Loads of extras-including a sanitized TV cut of the film, just for giggles.

The Loved One (Warner Archive Collection) – In 1965, this black comedy/social satire was billed as “The motion picture with something to offend everyone.” By today’s standards, it’s relatively tame (but still pretty sick). Robert Morse plays a befuddled Englishman struggling to process the madness of southern California, where he has come for an extended visit at the invitation of his uncle (Sir John Gielgud) who works for a Hollywood studio. Along the way, he falls in love with a beautiful but mentally unstable mortuary cosmetician (Anjanette Comer), gets a job at a pet cemetery, and basically reacts to all the various whack-jobs he encounters. The wildly eclectic cast includes Jonathan Winters (in three roles), Robert Morley, Roddy McDowell, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Libarace, Paul Williams and Rod Steiger (as Mr. Joyboy!). Tony Richardson directed; the screenplay was adapted by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood from Evelyn Waugh’s novel. No extras on this edition, but the high-definition transfer is good.

Man Facing Southeast (Kino-Lorber) – I originally caught this 1986 sleeper from Argentina on Cinemax 30 years ago and have been longing to see it again ever since. Kino-Lorber’s Blu-ray edition signals the film’s first domestic availability in a digital format. Writer-director Eliseo Subiela’s drama is a deceptively simple tale of a mysterious mental patient (Hugo Soto) who no one on staff at the facility where he is housed can seem to remember admitting. Yet, there he is; a soft-spoken yet oddly charismatic young man who claims to be an extra-terrestrial, sent to Earth to save humanity from themselves. He develops a complex relationship with the head psychiatrist (Lorenzo Quinteros) who becomes fascinated with his case. While primarily sold as a “sci-fi” tale, this one is tough to pigeonhole; part fable, part family drama, part Christ allegory (think King of Hearts meets The Day the Earth Stood Still). Beautiful, powerful, and touching. Extras include interviews with Subiela, Soto, and DP Ricardo de Angelis.

Metropolis (Eureka; Region “B”) – Japanese director Rintaro’s visually resplendent 2001 anime is based on Osama Tezuka’s manga reimagining of Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film classic. The narrative (adapted by Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo) is framed as a detective story (not unlike Blade Runner), with a PI and his nephew attempting to unravel the mystery of Tima, a fugitive robot girl who has become a pawn in a byzantine conspiracy involving a powerful and corrupt family that rules Metropolis. Intelligent writing, imaginative production design and beautifully realized animation make this a must-see. Extras include interviews with cast and crew, and a “making of” documentary.

Multiple Maniacs (Criterion Collection) – Warning: This 1970 trash classic from czar of bad taste John Waters is definitely not for the pious, easily offended or the faint of heart. A long out-of-print VHS edition aside, it has been conspicuously absent from home video…until now. Thank (or blame) The Criterion Collection, who have meticulously restored the film back to all of its original B&W 16mm glory (well, almost…there’s grumbling from purists about the “new” music soundtrack, reportedly precipitated by the prohibitive costs of securing music rights for some of the tracks that were “borrowed” by Waters for his original cut). The one and only Divine heads the cast of “Dreamland” players who would become Waters’ faithful repertory for years (Edith Massey, Mink Stole, David Lochary, etc.) in a tale of mayhem, perversity, filth and blasphemy too shocking to discuss in mixed company (you’ll never see a Passion Play in quite the same way). Flippancy aside for a moment, watching this the other day for the first time in several decades, I was suddenly struck by the similarities with the contemporaneous films of Rainier Werner Fassbinder (Love is Colder than Death and Gods of the Plague in particular). Once you get past its inherent shock value, Multiple Maniacs is very much an American art film. Extras include a typically hilarious commentary track with Waters.

Ocean Waves
(Universal Studios Home Entertainment) – This 1993 anime is one of the last remaining “stragglers” from Japan’s Studio Ghibli vaults to make a belated (and most welcome) debut on Blu-ray (it was previously only available on PAL-DVD). Adapted by Kaori Nakamura from Saeko Himruo’s novel, and directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, it concerns a young man who returns to his home town for a high school reunion, which triggers a flood of memories about all the highs and lows of his adolescent years. It’s similar in tone to another Ghibli film, Only Yesterday, which is also takes a humanistic look at the universality of growing pains. On a sliding scale, this may be one of Ghibli’s “lesser” films, but the studio has set a pretty high bar for itself, and it will certainly please Ghibli completists (who, me?). Extras are scant, but the hi-definition transfer is lovely.

Seven Days in May
(Warner Archive Collection) – This 1964 “conspiracy a-go go” thriller was director John Frankenheimer’s follow-up to The Manchurian Candidate (the cold war paranoia force was strong in him!). Picture if you will: a screenplay by Rod Serling, adapted from a novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. Kirk Douglas plays a Marine colonel who is the adjutant to a hawkish, hard right-leaning general (Burt Lancaster) who heads the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The general is at loggerheads with the dovish President (Fredric March), who is perceived by the general and some of the other joint chiefs as a “weak sister” for his strident support of nuclear disarmament. When Douglas begins to suspect that an imminent, unusually secretive military “exercise” may in fact portend more sinister intentions, he is torn between his loyalty to the general and his loyalty to the country as to whether he should raise the alarm. Or is he just being paranoid? An intelligently scripted and well-acted nail-biter, right down to the end. Also with Ava Gardner, Edmund O’Brien, and Martin Balsam. No extras, but a great transfer.

They Live By Night (Criterion Collection) – This 1949 film noir/progenitor of the “lovers on the lam” genre marked the directing debut for the great Nicholas Ray. Adapted by Ray and Charles Schnee from Edward Anderson’s Thieves Like Us (the same source novel that inspired Robert Altman’s eponymous 1974 film), this Depression-era tale concerns the unexpected and intense mutual attraction that sparks between a young escaped convict (Farley Granger) and a sheltered young woman (Cathy O’Donnell). The young lovers’ primal drive to meaningfully connect with someone who truly “gets” them clouds the illogic of expecting to play house when one of them is a wanted fugitive. In a fashion, the film presages Ray’s 1955 social drama Rebel Without a Cause more so than it does his later noirs like In a Lonely Place and On Dangerous Ground, with its shared themes of young outcasts, adolescent confusion, and doomed love. Moody, atmospheric and surprisingly sensual for its time (it doesn’t hurt that Granger and O’Donnell are both so beautiful). Criterion’s 2K restoration lends depth to the shadows and light of George E. Diskant’s cinematography. Extras include commentary by “Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller.

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--Dennis Hartley
They don't care

by digby

The revelations that Donald Trump is looking for dirt on Robert Mueller and his team to undermine the special counsel’s investigation, and that Trump is alsoconsidering using his pardon power to protect himself and his associates from any legal fallout, constitute the latest evidence that Trump is seeking to put himself beyond the reach of the law. An adviser told The Washington Post, “This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’” a denial that sure sounds like the president can’t wait to pardon himself. The New Republic’s Brian Beutler puts the situation most simply: “We’re on the brink of an authoritarian crisis.”

Looming over the investigation is the possibility that Trump might just fire Mueller. Congressional Republicans have responded to this rolling scandal in typical fashion: They might have some critical words for the president on background, but they have been reluctant to take a firm stand in public. Buzzfeed’s Emma Loop asked Republican senators on Thursday whether Trump firing Mueller would be a mistake. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr said, “I don’t think the president can fire Bob Mueller.” Senator Thom Tillis said, “Whether or not it’s a mistake, I won’t—I don’t think I’ll gauge that.” Senator Richard Shelby brushed the question off because, “that’s speculation.” Only Senator Marco Rubio could muster up a “yes it would be a mistake.”

On background, however, three senators had some harsher criticisms of Trump. As CNN reports, one senator called Trump’s interview earlier this week with The New York Times, in which he essentially warned Mueller not to investigate his personal finances, “pretty disturbing,” and acknowledged that Trump “willfully disregards the fact that the attorney general and law enforcement in general—they are not his personal lawyers to defend and protect him.” Another told CNN, “Any thought of firing the special counsel is chilling. It’s chilling. That’s all you can say.” A third remarked, “You’ve got a special counsel. Let the individual do his work. Don’t comment. Don’t interfere.” Only Senator Susan Collins went on the record to say, “It would be catastrophic if the president were to fire the special counsel.”

It has been clear for a long time now that Republicans will allow Trump to do all kinds of damage as long as they can get their legislative agenda through. They clearly know this is a crisis of historical proportions—but what’s the rule of law compared to a tax cut for the rich

The G-Man vs Cotton Mather

by digby

I had assumed they would try to go after Mueller and their first attempts are truly pathetic. (He had a fee dispute at a Trump golf course? Please. He was the FBI director for 12 years. )

Anyway, Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast takes on one of the more irritating right wing hypocrisies of this whole business:

The spin we’re going to start hearing now, in the wake of Thursday night’s bombshell New York Times and Washington Post stories, is that what Trump & Co. are about to do to attempt to destroy Robert Mueller’s credibility is no different from what Bill Clinton and his team did to Ken Starr 20 years ago.

The Washington Post quotes one lawyer involved in the case calling Mueller’s probe “Ken Starr times 1,000,” while The Times draws out the comparison: “By building files on Mr. Mueller’s team, the Trump administration is following in the footsteps of the Clinton White House, which openly challenged Mr. Starr and criticized what Mr. Clinton’s aides saw as a political witch hunt.”

And if you stay on the most superficial level possible, there is one similarity: After news broke in January 1998 that Clinton had had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, his people, led by James Carville, went on a public rampage against the prosecutor that spring and summer to try and win the battle of public opinion against him.

Which they did, by roughly 50 or 60 percentage points—Clinton polled in the 60s or 70s throughout the saga, while Starr’s approval numbers just cracked 10 percent.

But that’s not what this is about. What this is about is a lie machine that’s about to crank up that has to be pre-butted. So here we go. Here are three big differences between the two situations (and there are more).

1. First of all, the actual correct comparison is not between Mueller and Starr, but Mueller and Robert Fiske. Who? Fiske was the special prosecutor originally named by Janet Reno to investigate the Clintons’ investment in the Whitewater land-development deal. In January 1994, a year into Clinton’s tenure, Reno named Fiske as the special prosecutor to look into Whitewater (and the suicide of White House aide Vince Foster, which many of the same people who today defend Trump had spun into some insane conspiracy, e.g., Hillary had him snuffed out because he knew too much, etc.).

For that situation to be parallel to this one, Clinton would had to have denounced and threatened Fiske shortly after his appointment. No such thing happened. Clinton didn’t like it, but he certainly didn’t say anything inappropriate in public.

Oh and by the way: Fiske was a Republican. I mean, can you imagine if Reno had appointed a Democrat? Republicans would have howled that the fix was in. But in the current case, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointed a Republican (Mueller) to investigate a Republican president, and Democrats have done nothing but praise Mueller.

2. Speaking of which, in stark contrast to Mueller, Starr’s appointment was drenched in partisan controversy from the start. This is a little complicated to explain and thus wouldn’t make for a good TV sound bite, but it’s a crucial difference. Bear with me.

At the time Fiske’s probe was just getting underway, President Clinton was also under pressure to sign a new independent counsel law (a previous one had expired). He did so. Catch: Under the terms of the law, authority for appointing said counsel transferred from the attorney general to a panel of the D.C. circuit court. That three-judge panel consisted of two highly ideological movement conservatives, David Sentelle and Laurence Silberman.

In June 1994, Fiske released a report—the same day Clinton signed the new independent counsel law—finding that Foster’s suicide was just that. This wasn’t what the right wanted to hear. A few weeks later, the three-judge panel fired Fiske and replaced him with Starr. This was a highly partisan controversy from the start. But even so, Clinton himself said nothing inappropriate.

3. Starr spent three years leaking stuff to friendly reporters. Starr and his lieutenants always denied that they were the source of leaks, and maybe they built some buffer between themselves and the reporters in question so that that was technically true. But there was only one place a lot of the Whitewater stories of 1995, 1996, and 1997 could have been coming from. These leaks were likely illegal. We’ve seen no comparable leaks from Mueller.

That’s three years—three years of slanted and often untrue leaks (Hillary was about to be indicted and so on). Pre-Lewinsky, the Clinton White House pushed back a little with some leaks about Starr’s tactics, but certainly Clinton himself never went after Starr publicly until much later, in August 1998, after Starr made Clinton’s grand jury testimony from earlier that year public—itself a highly dubious thing for a prosecutor to do.

There are many more differences. Clinton’s White House never said of Fiske or Starr the outrageous thing that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday, as quoted in the Times article: “The president’s making it clear that the special counsel should not move outside the scope of the investigation.”

What? WHAT?? When did that become for a president to say? We’ve lived through six months of assertions and arguments that make us gasp, laugh, and cry all at the same time, but asserting that the person being investigated is allowed to set the parameters of the investigation or else he’ll axe the investigator is genuinely one of the most abominable yet.

What Starr did really was a witch hunt. After three and half years, he had nothing, and then lo and behold he learned of a presidential infidelity from a group of right-wing lawyers (one of whom, George Conway, would later marry Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, now the second-biggest liar in Washington) who convinced Starr’s prosecutors they could get Clinton to lie about it under oath.

What Mueller is doing is undertaking an obviously legitimate investigation. Into something that’s a lot graver than extramarital oral sex, by the way.

Starr was a total partisan (and a total “Christian” hypocrite, as his later disgrace at Baylor reminded us). Mueller is a person who’s taken pains over his career to be above partisanship and who is respected across the spectrum. There’s no comparison between the character of the two men or the probes they’re overseeing. The only question is which Republicans will be willing to say it.

All true.

The most important part of that is spelling out the difference between the alleged underlying crimes. One was about an ancient land deal in which the president lost money and an illicit extramarital affair that was exposed by a partisan perjury trap.

The other is about possible collusion in foreign interference in the presidential campaign, blackmail by the FSB and millions of dollars in laundering of Russian mob money. Other than that though ...

Colbert on that insane NY Times interview

by digby

He rented the room where the pee-pee tape was allegedly filmed in Moscow

Even if you've read it, watch Colbert's take on the NY Times interview. If you haven't you'll want to after this:

Poor Spicer gets no respect

by digby

Nuttier by the day:
Sean Spicer came to the White House on Thursday completely unaware President Donald Trump was planning to meet with Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Wall Street friend, and offer him the job of communications director. Other top aides, including Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, also had no clue.

But in Trump's White House, where rumors of staff shake-ups loom for months, it all happened quickly. By Friday morning, over the strenuous objections of senior aides, Trump had a new communications director. And Spicer had made a spontaneous decision to resign, offended by the whole turn of events. He had been blindsided by Trump before, but he took particular umbrage at this one.

The wham-bam events of the past 24 hours were exceptional even by Trump's standards: the dismissal of his top lawyer and the lawyer's spokesman, West Wing blowups between the president and his top aides, a press secretary fending off rumors about his possible demise without knowing the entire truth, all while new reports landed about Trump going on the attack against the special counsel investigating his White House.

What struck one adviser who speaks to Trump frequently is that the president seemed calm — like he had a plan in mind all along — but just hadn't shared it with many others.

"In the president's business, you don't have the luxury of time," said Vincent Pitta, a longtime Trump friend from New York. "And marketing and communications has always been very important to him."

The outgoing press secretary — who became a national celebrity for his contentious news briefings, inspiring Melissa McCarthy's "Saturday Night Live" impressions with a mobile podium — had tried to lower his profile, wary he was getting too close to the sun. Random passersby would honk and scream at him outside his house in Virginia while he talked on the phone.

"Just look at his great television ratings," Trump wrote in a statement, praising him upon his departure, even though Spicer had not delivered an on-camera briefing since June 20.

Spicer thought he had succeeded in reducing his public footprint. One friend said he seemed to be returning to a more normal version of himself, with less stress and more positive things to say about other people. He had told friends he liked being away from the podium and working on longer-term issues, like tax reform, and had told others how well the White House was going to handle the issue under his stead. And he was coping relatively well with the stress of serving as both press secretary and communications director after Mike Dubke resigned in May...

Meanwhile, Trump had complained that TV coverage of his White House was getting worse and worse, aides and advisers said. He repeatedly said to friends that his communications operation was a problem, even if he didn't always refer to Spicer by name. The briefings would make him upset every day — one reason the White House sharply cut them back. "We need new faces," Trump told one adviser.

The president had watched Scaramucci act as a surrogate for him on TV and heaped lavish praise on him to advisers. Two people who spoke to Trump said he particularly relished that Scaramucci forced CNN to issue a retraction on a story about the businessman's Russian ties — and considered him almost a "white knight" for it, one of these people said. When Scaramucci visited the Oval Office two weeks ago, Trump reminded others repeatedly of the retraction, one senior official said.

Trump had told others that it might make sense to bring in Scaramucci to improve his TV coverage, said a person who spoke to Trump recently. But he didn't want to fire Spicer. He would just make Scaramucci the communications director and give him power to fix some of the problems in the shop.

By Thursday, Trump had basically made up his mind and invited Scaramucci back into the West Wing on Thursday afternoon. Trump blocked aides who might oppose the move from the meeting, keeping it largely to family, administration officials and advisers said. Spicer had no idea that Scaramucci was in talks for the job — or that he was being offered it, according to administration officials. He learned later that evening, along with senior officials including Priebus and Bannon.

Spicer was soon being bombarded Thursday evening with media reports that he was getting a new boss in title — even though he didn't know exactly what to say. There were efforts from Priebus and Bannon to slow or block the move. Administration officials and advisers said they had various reasons for their opposition, including fears that Scaramucci lacked the political or communications experience necessary for the high-profile job, and personal tensions between Priebus and Scaramucci.

After he found out about Scaramucci’s appointment, Bannon had a very "aggressive" confrontation with Trump that some in the West Wing viewed as remarkable, people with direct knowledge of the encounter said. Another person familiar with the encounter said Bannon's behavior was "embarrassing."

"There were a lot of people in the White House that didn't want this," one senior White House official said. "It happened because the family wanted it and because Trump wanted it."
It's like the country is being run by The Addams Family. Except they're idiots.  (And I'd love to know what the Bannon being "embarrassing" was all about ... )
Spicer agonized Thursday night and thought Scaramucci might still be kept out. Putting Scaramucci over Spicer would diminish his standing in the West Wing and prove another humiliation.

He went into the White House on Friday morning, saying he needed to see the president — who was also talking to Scaramucci. Spicer was weighing his options and wanted to see what job Scaramucci would get before deciding whether to resign. After Scaramucci’s position as communications director was announced in a larger senior staff meeting, Spicer returned to the Oval Office separately, told the president he disagreed with the pick and quickly resigned, people briefed on the encounter said.

Trump was taken aback and told Spicer to stay on board. Scaramucci and Spicer could work together, Trump said. "It would all work out, we'll all be on the same team," said a person who was told of Trump's comments. But Scaramucci was going to be in charge and report directly to the president.

Spicer saw it as a personal affront to work for Scaramucci and told the president that it couldn't work. Spicer had expected to evolve into more of a full-time communications director role because he was essentially no longer the public-facing press secretary, having turned over the podium.

Spicer returned angrily to the press office, but put on a happy face for a brief resignation meeting, convened by Priebus. He even gave Scaramucci a half-hug.

It goes on to describe the humiliations Trump had visited on Spicer and what a thankless job it is working for an unbalanced imbecile.

But my God, Spicer is so clueless:

Saturday Morning Soother

by digby

Better late than never.  :)

This video shows the incredible moment a dog bounded into the water to rescue a drowning young deer.

Mark Freeley had been walking his dogs, Storm and Sara, by the Long Island Sound in New York state on Sunday when the pooch suddenly leapt into the water. The English golden retriever swam out into the sound before grabbing something by the neck and pulling it back to shore.

It was a baby deer.

“Storm just plunged into the water and started swimming out to the fawn, grabbed it by the neck, and started swimming to shore,” Freeley told CBS News.

Freeley captured video of the deer’s rescue and posted it on Facebook. “What a morning ... Can’t believe this,” he wrote. “Storm just saved this baby deer.”

As the Facebook video shows, Storm brought the fawn to dry land and ushered it to safety. Obviously weakened, you can see the deer down on its belly as Storm licks and nudges the animal with his nose.

“[When] he laid down next to it, and started nudging it and pawing it … that was really special,” Freeley told WCBS Newsradio 880.

Concerned about the deer’s health, Freeley said he called an animal rescue team who soon arrived on the scene. When Frank Floridia and Erica Kutzing of the Strong Island Animal Rescue League tried to get close to the deer, however, the skittish animal ran into the water again — this time, swimming even further out than before.

Floridia jumped into the water to save it.

“It was a do-or-die situation,” the rescuer told the New York Daily News. “I really didn’t have much of a choice. If I didn’t go in the water, the deer would’ve died.”

Thankfully, Floridia managed to bring the deer back to land. He and Kutzing then transported it to the Star Foundation, a Long Island nonprofit animal rescue organization.

On Monday, Freeley shared photos of Storm getting a “reward” for his heroism.

“I think we could all learn something from Storm,” rescuer Kutzing told Port Jefferson Patch this week. “If we just learn to treat each other nicely and look out for each other, despite our differences, the world would be a better place.”


Tin-pots and pans

by Tom Sullivan

Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk opens this weekend. Reading a review evoked the same dizzying sense that the world is coming apart that has been a feature of the nightly news for weeks. It is as if we are on "some barren, foam-whipped stretch of alien terrain," "merely a handful of the countless individuals suffering this nightmare—random spokes on a wheel spinning furiously out of control." Okay, maybe Trumpworld is not a "conceptual assault of thunderous intensity and emotion," but still a lot of us are asking ourselves, How do we get the hell off this beach?

Dahlia Lithwick summarizes just a few of the other unresolved questions posed by Donald Trump's asymmetrical warfare against the United States Constitution and the rule of law:

Can the president truly continue to enrich himself and his family by leveraging his office to benefit from foreigners? Can the president really fire the FBI director and admit he was thinking about the Russia probe while doing it? Can the president leak classified information to the Russians in the Oval Office? Can the president’s son take a meeting with Russians who are promising dirt on Hillary Clinton? Can he do that with multiple campaign advisers in the room? Can the president’s son-in-law attend such a meeting and still retain his security clearance?

Today, we have a new set of questions to toss on the pile: Can the president really pardon himself and all his friends, family, neighbors, and pets, plus fire Robert Mueller, plus threaten his attorney general?
Answers to those questions are in short supply, Lithwick writes. The system was not designed for a Trump.
The Framers erected an edifice of law intended to constrain power, and the president believes that framework is made of spun sugar and cobwebs. The United States is a nation built upon, as John Adams told us, “a government of laws and not of men.” The Trump administration adheres to no law, and whatever men or women keep faith with the law rather than him are discredited as biased against the president. This only goes one way: Norms are for losers, and laws are for poor people. And now Trump has his dream team of mob lawyers and mad dogs hard at work proving that the only lawyer without a disabling conflict of interest is the one pledging fealty to him.
We are in this fix precisely because — and Lithwick includes herself — Americans indulge in magical thinking about our laws and constitution, believing the system will always right itself, that the ACLU's and other watchdogs' lawyers will fix it. But don't bet your retirement on it. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Especially now.

"The rule of law is precisely as robust as our willingness to fight for it, Lithwick writes. "And to fight for it is not quite the same thing as to ask, 'Isn’t there a law?'” She doesn't exactly call for people to take to the streets, but the suggestion that it might be necessary is perched at the end of her post like a raven.

As Digby mentioned yesterday, should Trump fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Resistance groups are laying plans for just that. It it comes to that, remember to bring pots and pans. They made an impression in Iceland.

A new study issued by the Pentagon suggests that the post-war order "is not merely fraying but may, in fact, be collapsing," and the United States' preeminence in world affairs with it. Alternet summarizes:
Danger comes not just from great power rivals like Russia and China, both portrayed as rapidly growing threats to American interests, but also from the increasing risk of “Arab Spring”-style events. These will erupt not just in the Middle East, but all over the world, potentially undermining trust in incumbent governments for the foreseeable future.
Probably, our own was not one of the incumbent governments the Pentagon had in mind.

Don't forget the wooden spoons.

Friday, July 21, 2017

In case you missed it

by digby


I just thought I'd leave this here for posterity:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort. Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

No biggie. Nothing to see here. Have a nice week-end folks.

GOP donors falling away?

by digby

It's a first step:
Billionaire health care mogul and former GOP megadonor Mike Fernandez has harsh words for Republicans who don't stand up to President Donald Trump.

“All the Republicans who hide behind the flag and hide behind the church, they don’t have the f------ balls to do what it takes,” Fernandez told POLITICO Florida in a telephone interview on Thursday. 
Fernandez, a Miami-area resident, has long been a political rainmaker and donor, spending $3.5 million in ads against Trump in 2016 alone. He has, however, grown disenchanted with the direction of political leaders at both the state and federal level. He left the GOP due to Trump.
“I am out of the political process. Too disgusted, too expensive, too supportive of ego maniacs whose words have the value of quicksand,” he wrote in an email to a Republican fundraiser seeking political contributions.
In the email, the fundraiser was referred to as “Debbie,” but in an interview he would not identify her. 
He was a vocal opponent of Trump during the campaign, and spent roughly $3 million backing Jeb Bush's failed bid for the White House. His disapproval of Trump has not waned, and he is now directing his ire at Republicans who won’t stand up to the president. 
“It is demoralizing to me to see adults worshipping a false idol. I can’t continue to write checks for anyone,” he said. “I know what it’s like to lose a country.” 
He called Trump an “abortion of a human being,” and hammered the New York developer in the harshest terms possible. 

Yeah, well. One down, hundreds to go. But it's a start.

Six months in and it's getting worse

by digby

I wrote about the six month mark of our long national nightmare for Salon today:

Has it only been six months since Donald Trump stood in the rain before a sparse inaugural crowd and declared that America was in a state of carnage, chaos and decline? How can that be? He’s packed in more scandals, lies, errors and gaffes during this short period that any five presidents in their full four-year terms. I feel like I’ve aged at least a decade since January. Each day is like a month.

But it’s true. We are only at the six-month point and it’s time to take stock.

Trump’s plans may not have had to come to full fruition but we can certainly judge whether or not this central promise of his American Carnage speech has born out:
In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over.
As usual, he was projecting his own weaknesses onto others. I think most people who had followed the presidential campaign understood that this was a very bold comment coming from Donald Trump. No one has ever complained or cast more blame on everyone but himself than he has, including a room full of wailing preschoolers badly in need of a nap. He is paralyzed, unable to take action because he has no idea what the job is, much less how to do it. His talk isn’t just empty, it’s completely unintelligible.

On inauguration day we didn’t yet know whether maybe the majesty of the office would change him or the institutions under which he had to operate would, at least, constrain him. There was always a suspicion that maybe he was more of an act than he let on. Now we know. It wasn’t an act.

President Donald Trump is exactly the same person he was on the campaign trail and in the many years of celebrity that preceded his entry into the race. To those who said they liked him because “what you see is what you get,” he has fulfilled their desires. In their book the consistency of his dishonesty is a testament to his authenticity. The rest of us are horrified and appalled and it gets worse all the time.

For six months the White House has been in a nonstop rolling crisis. The gush of leaks from inside the administration is unprecedented. We still don’t know exactly what went on with the election interference but Trump and his associates seem to spend a whole lot of time with Russians — and the president now seems extremely agitated to find out that investigators are looking into his finances. His interview with the New York Times on Wednesday was shockingly incoherent but did seem to imply that he was seriously considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller and was pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. On Thursday we found out that Trump is contemplating using the presidential pardon power for himself and others (presumably his family). None of this is behavior one associates with a powerful leader who has nothing to hide.

The one bright spot for him, and for all of us, is that so far the economy hasn’t crashed. Unemployment is still low and there’s some good news in wage growth for the lowest of earners. Despite all the Sturm und Drang during the campaign the economy is chugging along as it was in the last year or two of the Obama administration. Plenty of people are still hurting as a result of long-term structural problems but Trump has no real plans to help so the best they can hope for is that it doesn’t get any worse. At the moment the economy is status quo.

Foreign policy and national security, on the other hand, are a huge mess and who knows what’s going to happen. We’ve been spared a major terrorist attack, but Trump has systematically degraded our alliances, insulted our friends, empowered our adversaries and generally turned the entire global order upside down. His relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is mysterious and frankly inexplicable in light of all the suspicion surrounding the Russian election interference. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and other top advisers are becoming increasingly anxious about the president’s decision-making.His uncouth ignorance is turning the United States into a rogue nation.

On domestic policy, health care tells the tale. It’s not entirely Trump’s fault that the GOP congress’s cynical anti-Obamacare crusade finally came back to bite them, as it became clear that Republicans had no idea how to fulfill all the promises they made. Trump has been confused and distracted throughout the health care debate, making it obvious that he doesn’t understand it or care about anything but having a bill-signing ceremony. In fact, that’s his attitude about all the domestic promises he made, from the “big, beautiful wall” to the travel ban to his grandiose infrastructure plans. He’s completely uninterested in policy. He just wants to check off boxes and count his coup.

That doesn’t mean the executive branch has come to a standstill. Some of the agencies are hard at work harassing and deporting immigrants, cutting vital programs and rolling back regulations. The damage will be incalculable. But the Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress and have not managed to pass a single piece of major legislation in the first six months. That is an astonishing failure.

Most significantly, these first six months have revealed a central weakness of our system: its dependence on leadership that honors the norms and traditions of our political institutions and understands the necessity of at least appearing to adhere to common values of decency and honesty. 

President Trump and the Republicans in Congress have shown no respect for any of that. It’s a harsh lesson for our country and it may get harsher still. But at least we know now who they really are and what they really believe in: nothing.


Spicey we hardly knew ye

by digby

He'll never find a more loyal soldier.

The Resistance is mobilizing

by digby

I'm glad to see it. This is from Move On, but I think it's happening with every Resistance group in the country:
Host a Mueller Firing Rapid Response Event
New revelations of Russia's meddling in our elections are increasing the odds that Donald Trump will try to block the investigation of his Administration's potential collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice.

Experts believe that there is a good possibility that Trump will fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

If Trump fires Mueller, we want to be ready to take the streets to protest within hours - to demand that Congress respond quickly and forcefully – to protect our democracy and justice system.
This isn't hysteria. People need to be prepared for what they will do in case this constitutional crisis comes to pass. 


Better deals. Bluer dogs.

by Tom Sullivan

The bang-beat, bell-ringing, big-haul, great-go, neck-or-nothing, rip-roarin', every-time-a bull's-eye salesmen at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have themselves a 2018 campaign slogan:

"Congratulations to those of you who reflexively whispered '...Papa John's' before burying your head in your arms and sobbing quietly," Jay Willis writes for GQ.

Actually, the slogan has been out there a while, but the mockery took off last night on Twitter.

Paul Waldman thinks "Better Deal" is not so bad as vapid slogans go. After all, Republicans swept the 1994 mid-terms with "Contract With America." Except they didn't. Waldman writes that, slogans aside, Democrats are about as well positioned as they might be for 2018:

The left is experiencing an unprecedented wave of activism, with groups like Indivisible creating thousands of chapters and local Democratic party organizations inundated with volunteers. In cities and towns, Democrats are running on aggressively progressive platforms and winning. Democrats lead the "generic ballot" test (where poll respondents are asked whether they intend to vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress) by an average of 6.5 points, which according to one statistical model would translate to a net gain of 27 House seats in next year's election (they need 24 to take control). One after another, potentially strong Republican candidates are choosing to sit out the next election or stay in their current seats, while Democrats are lining up to run for the first time or try for a higher office.
Then again, one poll showed Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead over Donald Trump just two weeks ahead of the November election.

But before we leave the slogan, the staff at Paste provides another non-pundit hot-take, "[T]his is a classic move by the Democrats—antiseptic, cautious, and not at all compelling."

That reflexive caution is a fatal flaw. And as loathe as I am to deploy sports analogies ....

Democrats are four points down, deep in their own territory. They have no time left on the clock and no time-outs. Their only prayer for pulling out a win is to throw a Hail Mary pass. Go big or go home. Their first instinct? Fall on the ball at the snap, because what if the other team runs back an interception and they lose by 10?

In that vein, Bloomberg reports Democrats are again courting Blue Dogs:
“The DCCC has seen the light,” said Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon, a Blue Dog coalition member.

Representative Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico Democrat and chairman of the Democrats’ campaign committee, said in a statement that the Blue Dogs have "been incredible partners,” helping develop a list of 79 Republican-held seats to target in the 2018 election.

At least 20 of those seats were previously held by Blue Dogs, according to the caucus.
As Howie Klein chronicles, that's because most Blue Dogs won't hunt but for one or two elections. "Of those 15 Blue Dogs [elected in 2006], not one is still in the House." As for the 2008 election:
Of the 14 Blue Dogs elected that year, just one -- Schrader-- is still in Congress. The following year, 2010-- Democratic voters just stayed away from the polls in droves-- millions of them. All those crap Blue Dogs and most of the New Dems were defeated because Democratic voters realized they had been tricked by the DCCC and by their own leaders into backing Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Democrats lost 63 seats and virtually the whole Blue Dog caucus.
But Democrats being "tricked" is not the only factor in Blue Dogs winning, then losing. Believe it or don't, under the right circumstances some Republican voters in conservative districts can be persuaded to vote for a Blue Dog until they get a chance to vote again for a full-throated conservative.

I worked for the state party on Heath Shuler's NC-11 campaign in 2006. Republican voters there had had enough of their corrupt, Russian bank-connected congressman, "Chainsaw Charlie" Taylor, that they were prepared to back a local football hero even if he was a Democrat. I can't describe the satisfaction in watching Taylor defeated that November. But Shuler didn't lose the seat he won for a third time in 2010. Washington-obsessed Democrats and progressives were asleep at the switch as Republicans took over state legislature after state legislature ahead of the 2010 census. Shuler retired after NCGOP-led redistricting in 2011 made the reddish NC-11 one of the most Republican districts in the country. Now we have Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows.

Shuler became a Duke Energy lobbyist. What can you say? He was a Blue Dog.

Nonetheless, the new slogan, the reflexive caution, and the short-term thinking behind recruiting Blue Dogs again reflects a deep lack of imagination among the party elite. As another GQ writer put it, "If the past year wasn’t an obvious sign that the DNC needs to change how it does business, then what would be? Do we all have to die first?"

Senate Republicans are still working on that.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dazed and confused

by digby

At what point do these Republicans have to admit that there's something seriously wrong with him?

Here's a quote from the NY Times interview:
TRUMP: This health care is a tough deal. I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care. 

He did not say it from the beginning. He said it as gong to be "so easy."

And George H.W. Bush's dead dog Millie knows more about health care than this bozo. (Some of you oldies will get that joke.)

For instance:

TRUMP: But what it does, Maggie, it means it gets tougher and tougher. As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically, you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
What? Where does insurance cost 12 dollars a year? Is he talking about life insurance? Does he know the difference?

Ok, his pathological bragging aside,  he's just a stupid rich guy who's never had to bother with something like this and doesn't think he has to learn. Fine. How can we explain that he hasn't even figured out whether he's for "repeal and replace" or "repeal and delay" or "let's let everything all go to hell and then blame the Democrats." He has no idea who's voting for what or what their concerns are. He's completely confused about when the votes are.

He is completely addled.

Is that just the new normal? The Emperor's new straight-jacket?

Signaling to his bff

by digby

This is amazing:

I don't know exactly what he's signaling to Vlad there but it kind off looks like "you? me? --- this?

Just a little tid-bit

by digby

....from the NY Times interview:

BAKER: Did you shoo other people out of the room when you talked to Comey?

TRUMP: No, no.

BAKER: That time [inaudible] [Michael T.] Flynn —

TRUMP: No. That was the other thing. I told people to get out of the room. Why would I do that?

SCHMIDT: Did you actually have a one-on-one with Comey then?

TRUMP: Not much. Not even that I remember. He was sitting, and I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff. He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.? But people didn’t — we had a couple people that said — Hi baby, how are you?

ARABELLA KUSHNER: [enters room] Hi, Grandpa.

TRUMP: My granddaughter Arabella, who speaks — say hello to them in Chinese.

KUSHNER: Ni hao.


TRUMP: This is Ivanka. You know Ivanka.

IVANKA TRUMP: [from doorway] Hi, how are you? See you later, just wanted to come say hi.

TRUMP: She’s great. She speaks fluent Chinese. She’s amazing.

BAKER: That’s very impressive.

TRUMP: She spoke with President Xi [Jinping of China]. Honey? Can you say a few words in Chinese? Say, like, “I love you, Grandpa” —

KUSHNER: Wo ai ni, Grandpa.

BAKER: That’s great.

TRUMP: She’s unbelievable, huh?


TRUMP: Good, smart genes.

His genes.

You know what he thinks about that, right?

Trump has long attributed his wealth and success to his genetic makeup. He told Playboy in 1990 that he is “a strong believer in genes” and that, because his children inherited those genes, they don’t need “adversity” to build skills and character. In 2010, he gave an interview in which he discussed his “breeding” at length and compared himself to a racehorse.

“I’m a gene believer,” he said. “When you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse. I had a good gene pool from the stand point of that.”

Trump has also repeatedly cited his uncle, an MIT professor, as proof of his “good genes, very good genes.” He has done this so often that the New Yorker referred to the family connection as Trump’s “sort of eugenic guarantor of intelligence and breeding.”

I know it's probably the most innocuous thing he said in that mind-boggling interview which is going to provide fodder for analysts an historian for hundreds of year. I just thought I'd mention it.

Its also kind of interesting that Ivanka interrupted right at that moment, don't you think?


Pathological Pinocchio

by digby

And to think his voters still love him because he "tells it like it is":
Shortly before reaching the six-month mark of his presidency, President Trump made an assertion and then paused that perhaps he should not be so definitive. “I better say ‘think,’ otherwise they’ll give you a Pinocchio. And I don’t like those — I don’t like Pinocchios.”

As it turned out, the president’s claim — that he has signed more bills (42) at this point than “any president ever” — was completely wrong. Just among recent presidents, he’s behind Jimmy Carter (70 bills signed), George H.W. Bush (55) and Bill Clinton (50).

So it goes with Trump, the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered. As part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, The Fact Checker team (along with Leslie Shapiro and Kaeti Hinck of the Post graphics department) produced an interactive graphic that displayed a running list of every false or misleading statement made by the president. He averaged 4.9 false or misleading claims a day.

Readers encouraged us to keep the list going for the president’s first year. So at the six-month mark, the president’s tally stands at 836 false or misleading claims. That’s an average of 4.6 claims a day, not far off his first 100-day pace.

We decided to compile this list because the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up. This interactive database helps readers quickly search a claim after they hear it, because there’s a good chance he has said it before. But the database also shows how repetitive Trump’s claims are. Many politicians will drop a false claim after it has been deemed false. But Trump just repeats the same claim over and over.

Trump’s most repeated claim, uttered 44 times, was some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act is dying and “essentially dead.” But the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. If anything, actions taken by the Trump administration have spawned uncertainty. Several insurance companies have cited Trump administration policy as a reason to leave insurance markets in certain states, though others have sensed opportunity and moved in to replace insurers who have left.

The apparent implosion of the Senate health-care bill suggests the limits of Trump’s rhetoric. His repeated claim that Obamacare has already failed or is dead, in the face of objective evidence that the law is actually working, failed to win enough votes for passage — and failed to sway Democrats to consider working with him. Only rarely has the president tried to make a positive case for action on health care, as opposed to simply tearing down the Affordable Care Act.

Trump, as he did during the presidential campaign, also exaggerated the impact of increases in premiums on the Obamacare exchanges, cherry-picking numbers from a handful of states. Trump also frequently uses the calculation of premium increases without incorporating the impact of tax credits — which most people in the exchanges receive. If you take the subsidies into account, the average monthly premium of most people in the Obamacare exchanges goes down, not up.

Trump also has a disturbing habit of taking credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office — or had even been elected. Some 30 times, he’s touted that he secured business investments and job announcements that had been previously announced and could easily be found with a Google search. Nearly 20 times he’s boasted that he achieved a reduction in the cost of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even though the price cut had been in the works before he was elected.

Trump even claimed that it took “one sentence” to get the president of China to agree to sell U.S. beef in China. “I said, President Xi, we’d love to sell beef back in China again. He said, you can do that. That was the end of that,” Trump bragged on July 17. Perhaps it was so easy because the Obama administration already had brokered the beef deal back in September. The only thing that was new was a set date for beef sales to start.

Seventeen times, Trump asserted that because he demanded NATO members pay their fair share, “billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO.” But at a NATO summit in 2014, after Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO members pledged to stop cutting their defense expenditures and by 2024 “move toward” a goal of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. Since the 2014 meeting, defense expenditures from member countries have increased steadily.

The cumulative spending increase from 2015 to 2017 above the 2014 level is an additional $45.8 billion, according to NATO, with another increase of $13 billion expected in 2017. But these budget decisions were made during the 2016 calendar year, before Trump became president. (Moreover, the money does not “pour into NATO” but remains with each nation.)

Ten times, Trump has said he has proposed “the biggest tax cut in the history of our country,” even though his administration has released no plan beyond a single sheet of paper. Even if it became a reality (there are reports that the tax plan is being scaled back), it still would be smaller than tax cuts passed by Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Eight times, he has claimed to have already achieved “record investments” in the military even though his proposed defense increase is relatively modest — and not yet been approved by Congress.

Trump’s repeated claim that he secured deals worth $350 billion during a trip to Saudi Arabia, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States, was greatly inflated. Many of the purported deals were not concluded and were simply aspirational — and key investments were in Saudi Arabia, creating few jobs for Americans.

More than a dozen times, the president dismissed investigations into Russian interference into the election as a Democratic hoax, even though nonpartisan intelligence agencies concluded that Russia intervened on behalf of Trump and congressional committees led by Republicans have begun their own probes.

When the president was a real estate developer, there was little consequence for repeated exaggeration or hyperbole because few people kept track. But now that he’s president, Trump may find that the “art of the deal” often requires close attention to the facts, especially if he wants to persuade lawmakers to take tough votes.

As president, Trump has already earned 20 Four-Pinocchio ratings — and a total of 152 Pinocchios. If he doesn’t like his Pinocchios, there’s a relatively simple solution: Stick to the facts.

He doesn't know the facts and he doesn't have the capacity to learn them. We're six months in and he's not changing. He's exactly the same malevolent ignoramus he was on the campaign trail.

But his voters don't care and neither does he. This isn't politics it's performance art.

Jared is the son he never had

by digby

....and they know it:
“All the attention to Jared is a bit of a sore point and they feel left out of the fun in D.C.,” a friend of the family’s told People. “They miss being at the center of the action.”

“Don worked on the campaign and Jared gets the big Forbes cover and they make him out to be a big genius,” the friend continued. “and Don is like, ‘No, I worked on the campaign too!’”

“During the campaign, the brothers thrived on being the spokespeople and speaking at rallies and being very visible,” the friend added. “Jared was able to build much more influence and power by doing exactly the opposite.

The news comes one day after People reported Eric and Don Jr. are “miserable” and can’t wait for their father’s stint in the White House to end.

“[President Trump] doesn’t like failure and mistakes, and he doesn’t accept them,” a source told People. “You have to justify your existence to be in his realm.”

And with increased scrutiny surrounding Trump Jr.’s clandestine meeting with a Russian lawyer—which Kushner likewise attended—the president is reportedly growing “frustrated” with his eldest son, Newsweek reports.

They should be happy they're not in Kush's shoes right now. He's in very serious legal jeopardy. Of course, Junior is too now that we know he was taking meetings with Russian lawyers to get dirt on Clinton he thought was coming from the FSB.

Baron and Tiffany are lucky they aren't favored by their daddy. Maybe they'll have a chance.


A commission with a mission

by digby

I wrote about the voter fraud commission for Salon this morning:

President Trump had a very, very big day yesterday. In fact, he was almost manic running from one meeting to the other, speaking before cameras with what seemed to be barely contained rage and ending it with a devastating, incoherent, rambling interview with the New York Times. He must be all worn out.

But he also had photo-ops and made some remarks earlier in the day which were a bit more substantive, if no more coherent or prudent. After the failure of the latest iteration of Trumpcare, the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, the president dragged all the GOP Senators to the White House for lunch and then humiliated some of them before the cameras by threatening their jobs. This gives you the flavor of how it went:

But, Trump’s first meeting of the day had been his surprise welcome to his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. You’ll recall that he promised to put that together after he made the ridiculous claim that Hillary Clinton hadn’t really won the popular vote because 3 million “illegals” had voted in California. It took a while but one of his biggest supporters, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has made vote suppression his life’s work, came in board and it’s finally up and running. (I wrote about Kobach here, here and here.)

Trump named Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence as co-chairs and almost immediately the commission was embroiled in controversy. Kobach had instituted a plan that would kick eligible voters off the rolls in his home state of Kansas and he wanted to take it national so his first step was to cause a national firestorm by requesting all personal voter information from each state, which most secretaries of state of both parties refused.

Now lawsuits are rolling in from all over the country regarding the commission’s lack of transparency and violations of federal regulations and privacy laws. Kobach was served with a suit claiming that he’s illegally exploiting his position to promote his candidacy for governor of Kansas and is being investigated by the Kansas Supreme Court for ironically refusing to turn over documents to the court. Democratic lawmakers have sent an official notice requesting that Kobach be removed from the commission for violations of the Hatch Act and and the Federal Advisory Committee Act. All in all, it’s off to a terrific start.

Wednesday morning, Pence opened the proceedings by saying the commission “has no preconceived notions or preordained results. We’re fact-finders. And in the days ahead, we will gather the relevant facts and data, and at the conclusion of our work, we will present the president with a report of our findings.” But whatever hopes Pence had of keeping the pretense of nonpartisan fact-finding were blown to kingdom come when the president took the mic and started talking about the need for the states get with the program:

If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I ask the vice president and I ask the commission: What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is. 
This issue is very important to me because throughout the campaign and even after, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities which they saw, in some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.
Trump said for months that the electoral system was rigged and even said at a presidential debate that he might not accept the results. Of course people come up to him and say they know about some instance of voter fraud.

His real gripe is that he didn’t win the popular vote and is driven by some egomaniacal need to be able to at least create the possibility that he actually did. Kris Kobach went on MSNBC yesterday and gave an astonishing interview that surely pleased him:

KATY TUR (HOST): Do you believe Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 to 5 million votes because of voter fraud?
KRIS KOBACH: We may never know the answer to that — we will probably never know the answer to that question, because even if you could prove that a certain number of votes were cast by ineligible voters, for example —

TUR: So, again, you think that maybe Hillary Clinton did not win the popular vote?

KOBACH: We may never know the answer to that question.

That’s an outrageous assertion. It is completely impossible that 3 million votes were cast illegally in 2016. In a world that makes sense he would have been fired immediately for casting such a shadow over the electoral results. There have been more than nine major investigations into alleged “voter fraud” and it just does not exist on even a small systematic scale much less something like what he’s suggesting.

One can only imagine what the boss had to say when he heard this follow up, though:

TUR: So were the votes for Donald Trump that led him to win the election in doubt as well?
KOBACH: Absolutely. If there are ineligible voters in an election, people who are noncitizens, people who are felons who shouldn’t be voting according to the laws of that state —

So Trump’s rather pathetic 77,000 vote Electoral College win is also in doubt? Oh my.

But Trump needn’t worry. Kobach is a conservative extremist whose life’s work is preventing people from voting. That’s what this is about. Trump’s victory will never be questioned by him.

There is one slight mystery about all this, however. With all this talk of our electoral system being vulnerable to fraud the commission isn’t the least bit interested in the subject of Russian interference in the election. That seems odd.

Of course if the goal of the hacking was to create chaos sow the seeds of doubt about the integrity of our democracy the Russian government is probably are wondering why they went to the trouble. Kris Kobach and his friends are doing a fine job of that all on their own. If he could manage to get all that voter information for them in one place that would be very helpful for future hacking. They’re pulling for his success if no one else is.