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A Senate upset in the making in New Jersey?

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 21:31

It’s not as if the Democrats have an easy hill to climb if their hopes of taking the Senate majority are to be realized, but the math is clear as can be. They need to flip two of the nine Republican-held seats, but at the same time, they have to hold on to every single one of the 25 seats currently occupied by Democrats or independents who caucus with them. Every loss they sustain translates to one more red seat that has to be flipped. But what if they lose one of their “safe” seats?

That’s the question George Will is asking this week and he’s talking about New Jersey. In the Garden State, Bob Menendez is up for reelection. That would be the same Bob Menendez who barely escaped conviction in a federal court not too long ago. It’s also the same Bob Menendez who was censured by his colleagues in the upper chamber. He’s in a race against a veteran and businessman named Robert Hugin who has much to recommend him. As Will sees it, this “safe seat” may, just possibly, be in play. (Washington Post)

New Jersey Democrats — they outnumber Republicans by nearly 900,000 — powered Menendez to a 19-point victory six years ago. In last month’s primary, however, his opponent won 37.8 percent of the vote while spending next to nothing — not enough to require filing any financial statement. In October he was underwater, 19 percent to 59 percent, in a poll about whether he deserves reelection. Today, polls show Menendez with small single-digit leads, but Hugin’s brass-knuckle ads are saying things such as this: “[President Barack] Obama’s Justice Department said [Menendez] belongs in jail.” The department brought a 14-count felony corruption indictment, which resulted in a nearly three-month trial that did not convict Menendez. The government then decided against a new prosecution…

This election will test whether voters think that being a luridly indiscreet (this is a discreet way of describing Menendez’s behavior) senator is less objectionable than Hugin’s guilt of association with the pharmaceutical industry whose products help to give millions of people sufficient longevity and vitality to nurse grievances against the products’ prices.

In a more sane world, George Will would be making an excellent point. Hugin is a lifelong Jersey resident from Union City. He’s got an inspirational story, being the first of his family to earn a college degree. He went on to serve in the Marines for more than a dozen years and raised two sons who followed in his military footsteps. Returning to civilian life he worked his way up to become the head of a pharmaceutical company.

On the other side of the ballot is Menendez. As mentioned above, his record is dominated by the findings of the unanimous, bipartisan ethics committee, which sent him a letter saying he was “severely admonished” and had “brought discredit upon the Senate,” going on to list his many sins. The only serious knocks the Democrats have come up with against Hugin are his support for the tax cuts (which limited SALT deductions for the state’s highest income residents) and his work in the pharmaceutical industry (which is now apparently a sin in liberal circles).

That’s the choice facing New Jersey voters, who register with the Democratic Party at a rate which leaves Republicans in the dust. Given their respective records, Menendez shouldn’t even be in the running. But are the voters of his state more interested in the best candidate or simply filling the seat with someone who will vote with the Democrats? Will they hold their noses simply to spite the GOP in Washington or elect the better candidate?

Color me skeptical. I’d like to think that Will is correct and this race might fall Hugin’s way, but in the political climate of 2018, I would be completely floored if New Jersey elected their first Republican Senator since the early 70s. All politics used to be local, but in the case of close Senate races this year, all politics revolves around the national collective. And if Menendez somehow carves a laterigrade trail to another six years in office, that fact will be more clear in Jersey than any other state.

The post A Senate upset in the making in New Jersey? appeared first on Hot Air.

The obligatory Roseanne “I thought the bitch was white” clip

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 20:01

If you’re like me, you glanced at a headline about this a few days ago, thought “meh,” and forgot about it. I imagined her saying it in her usual half-laughing sardonic drawl that I’ve heard 8,000 times before. Who cares?

Then I watched the clip. Does the word “Xanax” mean anything to you?

Most reaction online has been of the “get help” variety, which assumes that she’s genuinely out of control. Is she, or is it a performance? She posted the clip, after all. And then she posted the second clip below, of her delivering the same message in a more polished way. Viewed back-to-back they play like a joke on public apology rituals: First is the raw truth about how she feels, then comes the sanitized PR version, which naturally feels inauthentic by comparison. Barr’s most distinctive feature as a performer is her knack for entertainment that feels a bit more real than the usual Hollywood fare. Maybe that’s what the first clip is about too.

Or maybe she really is whacked out.

I don’t know what to make of her saying that she wouldn’t have been summarily fired if she wasn’t a Trump supporter. The fact that she’s a Trump supporter is what drove interest in the “Roseanne” reboot in the first place! How many hot takes have we endured this year about Barr having an insight into middle America that the rest of the TV industry lacked? James Gunn is the opposite of a Trump fan and he was expurgated yesterday from a major film franchise thanks to years-old trollish Twitter jokes. Her timing in making this point couldn’t be worse. But who knows if she’s sincere about it: Claiming Trump-related martyrdom might just be her way of positioning herself for a second act in entertainment aimed explicitly at right-wing audiences. She’ll probably end up with a radio show or [deep sigh] podcast.

The post The obligatory Roseanne “I thought the bitch was white” clip appeared first on Hot Air.

Michelle Obama launches voter registration initiative

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 18:31

She’s baaaaack. Not that she ever fully left, but former First Lady Michelle Obama is roaring onto the scene with a new political initiative. It is called When We All Vote. She wants people to register to vote and she’s brought some celebrities to help spread the word.

“Voting is the only way to ensure that our values and priorities are represented in the halls of power,” Obama said in a statement. “And it’s not enough to just vote for president every four years. We all have to vote in every single election: for mayor, governor, school board, state legislature and Congress.”

“The future of our families, our communities and our country belongs to those of us who show up, cast our votes, and make our voices heard,” she concluded.

Naturally, Obama claims this is a non-partisan initiative. Yes, I know. That’s pretty funny coming from such a hyper-partisan woman but the woman is trying to raise money so other people can foot the bill. She and her fellow organizers hope to raise an $8 million budget through corporate sponsorships and foundation grants.

Her YouTube video launched on Thursday and she was really going for the everywoman approach. She’s sitting in front of window blinds in a non-descript white shirt and talking into the camera before she brings in her celeb pals with her cell phone.

What a gal, right? She just wants everyone to do their civic duty and register to vote. You’ll note, though, that while she hits all the usual identity politics groups – sports stars, country western music stars, a Broadway star, to appeal to all groups imaginable, all of them are well-known liberals. Remember this is the woman who is married to the famous Divider-in-Chief, Barack Obama. While he was in South Africa delivering a loosely veiled attack in a speech on President Trump and his supporters in America for a Nelson Mandela birthday celebration, Michelle was launching a “bi-partisan” initiative.

CNN called the video a “star-studded” one. Clearly, it is aimed at the youngest of eligible voters. Actor Tom Hanks, Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda, Houston Rockets player Chris Paul, and singers Janelle Monae, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw are all listed as co-chairs of the group.

The former first lady appears in a PSA released Thursday from the new organization “When We All Vote” alongside actor Tom Hanks, Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda, Houston Rockets player Chris Paul, and singers Janelle Monae, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, all of whom are co-chairs of the group.

Hey, friends! I’m joining @MichelleObama, @tomhanks, @Lin_Manuel, @JanelleMonae, @CP3,@TheTimMcGraw & @FaithHill to make sure every American understands the rights and
responsibilities we all share in shaping our democracy. That means: VOTING!
Join us:

— COMMON (@common) July 19, 2018

Democrats are disappointed at the alleged bi-partisan tilt of the former First Lady’s initiative. She may campaign for some candidates leading up to the mid-term elections in November but it is unlikely she will be deployed very much. She’s known for her speeches to the left. The speech I remember though, was one that certainly caught the attention of conservatives – in February, 2008, Michelle Obama campaigned for her husband, Senator Barack Obama as he ran for president. She told her audience“For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.” 

For the first time? Really? It was a nauseating statement from a successful African-American woman hoping to live in the White House. So she was full of hope and change for eight years and then she lost the feeling again as Donald Trump was elected as president. She used her final interview as First Lady to tell Oprah Winfrey that she thought the hope was lost.

The First Lady used her final interview in the White House to tell Oprah Winfrey that a ‘grown up’ should be in charge of the country.

Looking forward to president-elect Trump’s looming inauguration, she said even though hope was lost, it was necessary to move on.

‘Now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like. Hope is necessary,’ she said in her first direct response to the November 9 election result.

Michelle Obama will now become the Nag-in-Chief to get people to register to vote so that she can save America from the successes President Trump has accomplished that her husband failed miserably trying to do. The economy is strong, unemployment is at all-time lows, Americans are optimistic about their lives now, tax laws are being reformed, and small businesses are flourishing. Only a partisan leftist would try to sincerely tell unregistered Americans of voting age that change is needed now. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

The post Michelle Obama launches voter registration initiative appeared first on Hot Air.

You won’t have Maggie Haberman to kick around anymore (on Twitter, anyway)

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:01

Another voice on Twitter is falling silent (at least mostly) but it has nothing to do with the recent Great Twitter Purge. New York Times columnist Maggie Haberman is throwing in the towel for the time being, while allowing the possibility that she may return after a break. The first indication of her imminent departure came, ironically enough, on Twitter.

With exception of breaking news and my own stories, taking a break from this platform. No reason or prompt other than that it’s not really helping the discourse.

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 15, 2018

I’m not sure how “no reason or prompt” fits into the explanation, but Haberman expanded on her decision in a column yesterday.

I woke up last Sunday morning feeling anxiety in my chest as I checked the Twitter app on my phone, scrolling down to refresh, refresh, refresh. There was a comment I started to engage with — I opened a new post, tapped out some words, then thought better of it and deleted the tweet. The same thing happened repeatedly for the next two hours.

The evening before, I had complained to a close friend that I hated being on Twitter. It was distorting discourse, I said. I couldn’t turn off the noise. She asked what was the worst that could happen if I stepped away from it.

There was nothing I could think of. And so just after 6 p.m. last Sunday, I did.

After nearly nine years and 187,000 tweets, I have used Twitter enough to know that it no longer works well for me. I will re-engage eventually, but in a different way.

Haberman goes into greater detail than simply saying it “wasn’t working for her” anymore. She describes at length the, “viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism” she regularly encounters. In a sweeping bit of generalization, she describes the platform has having become, “an anger video game for many users.”

Having been a user of the system for eight years now, and not wanting to come off as too much of a jerk, all I could really think to say is, “welcome to Twitter.”

People leave Twitter all the time, some permanently and others just for a break. And yes, if you allow it to absorb your life it can definitely be an overwhelming experience. But as I said, that’s only if you let it. The fact is that Twitter is what you make of it, particularly in terms of how much time you’re willing to invest and to what purpose. Many of us (including yours truly) went through a period during their early days on the internet where our entire evening could boil away because… Oh My God… Somebody Is Wrong On The Internet.

I can remember some of my first online community interactions on the web. For a time I enjoyed participating in some USENET newsgroups. Since we’ve always kept pets I spent a brief period participating in the alt.cats community. What could go wrong in a group that enjoys talking about cats, right? Let me enlighten you. I ran into some Brit who was virulently opposed to keeping cats as indoor pets and thought they should all live outdoors. And yes, I spent weeks in a flamewar with him on that subject which sometimes kept me up until the wee hours of the morning because of the time difference between us. To this day I’m not sure which one of us came off looking more like the troll.

The point is that I eventually learned that I didn’t have to do that. Twitter is no different. If you’re getting so much hate and trolling that you’re losing your mind you can always simply shut down (or ignore) your mentions. It’s easy enough to set up groups of people you actually want to hear from. If you’re a relatively famous blue checkmark person (and Haberman definitely qualifies) you can also tone down the noise by filtering your mentions to only show verified accounts. Mute is also a wonderful feature if those other filters don’t do the trick.

But mostly it’s just a question of how compelled you feel to engage or how much weight you assign to some anonymous user who wants to call you names, impugn your reputation or otherwise haunt you. Personally, I find that my eyes are the best filter of all. After enough time walking through the maelstrom of the various social networks, you can quickly skim past the comments that aren’t going to add to the experience and simply engage with the ones who are either positive or at least offering constructive criticism.

I’m sure Maggie Haberman and I don’t see eye to eye on much but I’ve been following her on Twitter for some time. She frequently highlights and links to articles which I at least find worth my time to read and possibly even respond to here. I hope she comes back.

The post You won’t have Maggie Haberman to kick around anymore (on Twitter, anyway) appeared first on Hot Air.

Trump: Cohen’s tapes of me “inconceivable … perhaps illegal”

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 15:31

The Michael Cohen tape bombshell finally showed up in Donald Trump’s Twitter timeline almost a day after it landed in the media, and the president still seems stunned by the revelation. Trump insisted that the tapes would show that he did “nothing wrong,” but called the notion that a lawyer would tape a client “inconceivable.” Trump also suggested that it might be illegal:

Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2018

We’ll get to “inconceivable” in a moment, but the more pressing question is whether it’s legal and whether it can be used in evidence by prosecutors. That depends on where the recording took place. Most states have “one-party consent” laws, where only one party has to be aware and willing to have the recording be legal and admissible in evidence. Twelve states have “two-party consent” laws, a bit of a misnomer as they require all parties to consent to recording, but in this instance would mean that both Cohen and Trump would have had to consent to recording conversations.

Unfortunately for Trump, neither New York nor Washington DC require all-party consent for recording. Assuming that the conversation didn’t take place when Trump was in one of the twelve states with all-party consent laws (the location of each party matters), then the recording is legal and usable by prosecutors in court. Even if Trump was on his private jet at the time, federal laws apply, and the federal law allows for one-party consent, too. And if Trump was in one of those states at the time, we’d likely never have heard about the tape(s) at all, as they would be useless to prosecutors.

So it’s likely not illegal, but is it “inconceivable” for a lawyer to tape a client? Not only is it not inconceivable, it’s conceivable enough that the American Bar Association ruled in 2001 that it doesn’t violate legal ethics to do so, at least in certain circumstances. The New York County Lawyers Association recommended dispensing with a previous ban on taping conversations in general as far back as 1993. Clearly the issue has been “conceivable” for a significant amount of time.

Besides, in this instance there does seem to be some question as to whether Trump was a client at all. This point came up in the earlier raid on Cohen’s offices (which Cohen himself acknowledged was handled professionally), when Alan Dershowitz proclaimed that “attorney-client privilege is dead.” The privilege cannot be applied when the attorney takes part in the alleged crime, however, and that appears to be what Robert Mueller’s team suspects happened with Cohen.

The question of when Trump was a client and when he was a partner in other business is what occupies a special master at the moment, assigned to look through the records seized from Cohen in the earlier raid. Trump later claimed that Cohen was his attorney on the Stormy Daniels affair, but it’s not clear that the claim will stand there if Cohen took part in an illegal act. The same applies to the machinations around Karen McDougal’s claims. The leak of the news of the tape, likely by Trump’s legal team, suggests that the special master is putting this in the “Unprivileged” bin, which in turn suggests that Cohen wasn’t legitimately acting as Trump’s attorney on this matter. (That is, however, a matter which can still be litigated.)

Does that mean Trump’s in trouble? It depends on what Cohen taped Trump saying, but it’s not inconceivable that it’s either exculpatory or inculpatory. But it’s certainly not inconceivable that someone assigned to make arrangements to keep embarrassing stories out of the media might have taken out a little recorded insurance to be kept from being made the fall guy.

As for Trump’s use of the term, The Princess Bride said it best: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The post Trump: Cohen’s tapes of me “inconceivable … perhaps illegal” appeared first on Hot Air.

Philippe Reines leads protests outside White House

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:01

The former Deputy Assistant to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Philippe Reines, and Adam Parkhomenko, former National Field Director for the DNC in 2016, organized a very loud protest against President Trump during the last few nights. Calling it #OccupyLafayettePark, Reines led the effort with a tweet Monday afternoon as President Trump was expected to return from Europe Monday night.

I would use the actual tweet from his account but the guy blocked me some time ago. It would appear that Reines can dish it out but he can’t take it.

From Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines):

If someone flew home from Helsinki they’d get back to DC around 9pm. Probably jet lagged. You know what I’d hate if I just got back & needed to sleep? A bunch of people outside my home with bullhorns & air horns.

I’ve never started a protest. How does one do that @MoveOn?

The tweet included a photo of air horns, a bullhorn, and whistles. Reines was ready for Trump’s arrival, tweeting:

“Hey @realDonaldTrump I’m the guy outside your window blaring this at your window. I’m gonna wait I a bit to let you start dozing off. Then the air horns come out. I’ve got two canisters. That’s 24 1-second bursts or 8 3-second bursts. Any preference?”

Reines claims he’s a protest rookie and was motivated by Trump’s performance with Putin at their joint press conference in Helsinki. I guess we are to believe Reines had no problem with Trump until last weekend and then it was just all too much for him. Except Reines admits his first big protest event was the March For Our Lives. Trump Derangement Syndrome is real, y’all.

“Donald Trump wakes up every day and not only does he not care for half of the country, he only cares for 35 percent,” Reines said in an interview Tuesday. “Something like yesterday brings the 65 percent together.”

According to Adam Parkhomenko, political advisor to Hillary Clinton and one of the first Twitter users to publicize the event, “quite a few Republicans” took to the streets around the White House on Monday night.

“A few of them described themselves as ‘socially liberal and fiscally conservative,’” Parkhomenko told PEOPLE. “They basically said we agree on a ton of stuff and I have a business background. However, enough is enough.”

No Trump supporters appeared to attend as counter-protestors, Reines said.

I imagine Trump supporters had better things to do than counter-protest in Lafayette Park at 9:00 P.M. on a Monday night. You know, like getting ready to go to work on Tuesday morning and going to bed.

Politicians and celebrities have gathered like moths to a flame. On the first night, Monday, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) joined the crowd. By Tuesday night’s protest, the actress turned political activist Alyssa Milano and Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti were in attendance and spoke to the protesters.  If you ask me, though, Wednesday night’s activities sound much more entertaining. An 18 piece Mariachi band was hired to play. Ah, music. The universal language. Lol! Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) were the featured speakers. Is it me or are these politicians really second or third tier? Wouldn’t you think Philippe Reines would have more pull with well-known leftists and the ability to get them to his protest?

Clinton Aides Found Mariachi Band To Try Ruining Donald Trump's Sleep For Third Straight Night

— People (@people) July 19, 2018

Not to be outdone by the Mexican band, two opera singers performed Thursday night.

Opera singers joined a multi-day protest outside of the White House on Thursday night, singing the national anthem to try and keep President Trump awake.

Opera singers Molly Pinson Simoneau and Carl Rountree stood outside the White House and sang the Star Spangled Banner on Thursday evening.

Parkhomenko said he’s still looking for bagpipers, tap dancers, puppeteers and a professional auctioneer “that can verbally reenact outside the White House everything important Trump is giving away to the highest bidder.”

The Hill: Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests

— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) July 20, 2018

It looks like the crowds aren’t so big so maybe that is why all the entertainment is being rustled up to perform. Parkhomenko is raising money on his Twitter account for the effort and he and Reines are looking into a Baby Trump balloon, too. Friday night the performers were announced to be a hip-hop and brass band and some dancers. President Trump, however, isn’t home to enjoy the festivities. He’s spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey.

Color me unimpressed. Remember real protests, back in the day? This effort is wimpy and uninspiring. Reines is too much of a swamp creature to fake being just one of the people willing to stand outside of the White House and make noise at the president. He’s no doubt still unable to face the fact that he’s not working in the White House with President Hillary now. He did stand in as Trump during Hillary’s debate preparation. Whenever the #OccupyLafayettePark ends, Reines will still be on the outside looking in.

The post Philippe Reines leads protests outside White House appeared first on Hot Air.

WaPo basically admits that Mexico is a s***hole country

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 12:31

I don’t have a tremendous amount of faith that Congress is actually going to do anything useful or productive when it comes to either illegal immigration or how we should handle overwhelming numbers of asylum seekers from Central America and points south. Still, at least there is a discussion of the subject taking place so there’s always room for hope. The editorial board of the Washington Post jumped back into the fray this week with their own suggestions for what should be done regarding asylum seekers.

To their credit, the WaPo’s editors begin by admitting that we do, in fact, have a refugee crisis on our hands. They go one step further, admitting that the Obama administration was “flummoxed” by the unending flow of families and unaccompanied children trying to flee Central and South America and enter the United States, particularly in 2014. But they are dismissive of the one solution being put forward by the Trump administration which might actually make a difference. We’ve had a “safe third country” agreement with Canada since 2004. Under that plan, migrants are to apply for asylum in the first “safe” country they reach. So why can’t we have a similar deal with Mexico? Because, at least in the opinion of the Washington Post’s editors, Mexico is too much of a craphole nation to offer them any safety. (Emphasis added)

In 2002, the United States and Canada secured a similar arrangement, known as a “safe third country” agreement. It has worked because Canada is, in fact, a safe third country: Migrants who apply for asylum there are secure, and their cases are fairly adjudicated.

By contrast, Mexico is patently unsuitable as a place of refuge for most migrants, especially those from Central America, who suffer exploitation, violence and sexual assault almost routinely as they make their way north. In a recent report, Doctors Without Borders noted that two-thirds of Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran migrants in Mexico have reported being victims of violence; almost a third of migrant women there had been sexually assaulted. Twelve of the world’s 50 most violent cities are in Mexico. Forcing refugees to seek sanctuary in Mexico would thrust tens of thousands of them into a country with weak law enforcement, a flimsy judicial system, an anemic asylum process and predatory criminal gangs.

I’m sorry, but isn’t that sort of… racist? The Washington Post is declaring that we can’t tell migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico because so many of them “suffer exploitation, violence and sexual assault” in that nation. Wait… are you saying that Mexico is full of rapists? And if you’re quoting statistics saying that 12 of the 50 most violent cities in the world are in Mexico, that their law enforcement system is “weak,” their courts are “flimsy” and it’s full of gangs, it kind of sounds like you’re describing a real ****hole nation to me. I thought people who said things like that were, by definition, racists. At least I’m sure I read that somewhere.

One other claim in the editorial deserves attention. The editors want to make sure that you know this isn’t an argument in favor of open borders. Perish the thought!

This is not an argument for open borders. Rather, the right response, and the one most likely to succeed in the long term, is for the United States to redouble efforts to strengthen governments and fight the lawlessness that has seized Central America’s refugee-producing countries. Short of that, the administration’s efforts will be self-defeating.

The grimly humorous part of this argument is that the WaPo editorial board is essentially correct on the specifics of all these claims while wildly mischaracterizing the reality of what they’re asking for. A real solution to the burgeoning migrant crisis would indeed be found in one of two pie-in-the-sky plans. We would need to either find a way to more directly and appropriately process all of the asylum seekers in a timely fashion or address the conditions in their home countries causing them to flee. Wonderful in theory, but how do we do either of those things?

To do the first (process all the claims) we would need massive facilities all along the border to house the applicants while their cases are heard as well as adding a staggering number of judges, courts and immigration officials to process all the claims in a reasonable period of time. Recent requests for even modest increases in these resources have been bogged down. So we’ll switch to the second “solution” the WaPo offers and simply cure all of the endemic violence, corruption and societal ills plaguing nations such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Right. That should be no problem at all.

So if those proposals both prove impossible, but Mexico (the aforementioned s***hole nation) is unsuitable, what’s left? The obvious answer is to return to our previous, unofficial “open borders” policy of releasing migrants into the interior of our country and hoping they all show up for hearings months or years later. Oh, and also fervently hoping they weren’t actually coming here with violent intents.

The United States is one of the most generous nations in the world when it comes to helping disadvantaged people around the globe. And we already accept a staggering number of asylum applicants every year, often at considerable risk and cost to ourselves. But there have to be limits to even our generosity, particularly when there are gangs and terrorist groups eager to find a way over our borders. Mexico is a trading partner and an industrial nation, despite the rampant corruption, crime and violence which takes place there. They can take on a more significant role in this process, even if it’s only in the form of setting up refugee facilities near the U.S. border where people can wait for their claims to be processed. If they don’t want to carry their share of the burden, don’t blame it on us.

The post WaPo basically admits that Mexico is a s***hole country appeared first on Hot Air.

Planned Parenthood of NYC: ‘Protect our freedom to f***’

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:56

Usually, when you hear Planned Parenthood talking about it’s core issue, abortion, it’s in serious tones, i.e. this is a difficult choice which a woman makes in consultation with her doctor. It’s not something anyone takes lightly, etc, etc. And that’s followed with a claim that the right to abortion is under assault and must be protected (usually by making a donation to Planned Parenthood).

The ad isn’t really focused on abortion but it still seems to be claiming there is a threat to your freedom to do…something.

Actually, I’m not sure what this ad is saying. Are they speaking to people who think the Handmaid’s Tale is just around the corner in NYC? That’s sort of the impression I get overall. In fact, the ad basically boils down to one four-letter word. From CNS News:

Titled “Protect Our Freedom to F*ck: Donate to Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC),” the video shows one person after another saying “F*ck.” It begins with people using the vulgarity to condemn things they don’t like – then, shifts to people cheering their desire to “f*ck” others, like their local bartender or neighbor.

Here’s the utterly NSFW clip.

It’s worth saying once again that even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, there is zero chance that would have an impact on Planned Parenthood of NYC, except that it’s likely the state would move to eliminate existing restrictions on it. It’s even less likely that sex is about to be outlawed on the island of Manhattan. Simply put, the freedom to have sex with whoever you want isn’t at stake, especially not in New York City. So this edgy, revolutionary stance is just a pose. We’re edgy, give us your money!

The ad went up more than a week ago, just a couple days after comedian Michelle Wolf hosted a “Salute to Abortion” on her TV show. As Allahpundit noted at the time, it seems Planned Parenthood is casting aside the mask of gravitas for something more like giddy celebration. Desperation does strange things to people, I guess.

The post Planned Parenthood of NYC: ‘Protect our freedom to f***’ appeared first on Hot Air.

Vanity Fair reporter: Michael Cohen’s team thinks Trump threw him under the bus with today’s leak

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:01

No, there’s no typo in the headline. If you believe Emily Jane Fox, it’s Team Cohen that’s mad about today’s leak involving secret recordings more so than Team Trump. Why? Because, as I speculated earlier, the leak’s actually coming from Trump and Giuliani themselves, not from Cohen. They’re getting out in front of it knowing that it’ll probably come out eventually anyway, in which case it’s better that they share it with the media now replete with their own spin. Trump has seized the narrative, in other words.

"From people I spoke to today around Cohen's orbit, this is something they see as coming from the President's camp. This was a complete strategy executed in order to throw Cohen under the bus. So they see it very differently …." – @emilyjanefox w/ @NicolleDWallace

— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) July 20, 2018

Assuming it’s true that Giuliani leaked the news about the recording, he seems to have done so believing that Cohen wouldn’t publicly challenge his claim that nothing damaging was said on it. Smart people don’t chatter to the media about potential evidence that may be used against them when they’re under investigation by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, after all.

Emphasis: Smart people don’t. Other people, well

Cohen has other recordings of the President in his records that were seized by the FBI, said both a source with knowledge of Cohen’s tapes and Giuliani, who described the other recordings as mundane discussions. Another source with knowledge of the tape, however, said the conversation is not as Giuliani described and is not good for the President, though the source would not elaborate.

Just a bluff? Maybe. Cohen’s new lawyer, Lanny Davis, was coy when asked for comment:

“Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation, and we are sensitive to that,” Davis told The Daily Beast. “But, suffice it to say, that when the recording you are reading about is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. Any attempt to spin this story cannot change what is on the tape.”

He doesn’t say it’ll hurt Trump but that’s implied. I’m not sure how he can be sure that the recording won’t hurt Cohen, though. If nothing else, a lawyer surreptitiously recording a client is … unorthodox. Saying that Cohen might have an ethical problem with the state bar is the ultimate “dog bites man” story at this point, but still. Of course, if the worst thing that happens to Cohen when this is all done is that he gets reprimanded professionally for his legal practices, he’ll treat it as an almost total victory.

John Ziegler argues that if Giuliani’s telling the truth about the recording (big if!) then it’s hard to see how it might create a legal issue for Trump. There’s only so much you can say to incriminate yourself in two minutes, particularly when there’s no evidence that any money has changed hands between Trump and Karen McDougal. Her deal was with AMI, the Enquirer’s parent company; Trump and Cohen were allegedly recorded discussing whether to buy the rights to her story from AMI, but the deal never happened. What crime could he have conceivably committed? I think Ziegler’s right that there’s little reason to think the recording poses any problem for Trump with respect to McDougal…

…but what about with respect to Stormy Daniels? What I mean is, what if the recording captures Trump talking about making sure that McDougal stays quiet before Election Day? The big risk for him legally with respect to Daniels is that the hush-money payoff will be seen by the FEC as an unreported campaign contribution; the touchstone for a campaign contribution is that it was made with the intention of influencing an election. John Edwards beat the rap on that charge several years ago by showing that payments to his own mistress were made to spare his family from embarrassment, not for the purpose of helping his presidential campaign by silencing someone who might damage his political prospects. No doubt Trump and Cohen will make the same argument about the payoff to Stormy. But if the call about McDougal shows Trump worried about the electoral repercussions of chatty former mistresses, that’s evidence that any and every such payment he made in late 2016 had the same motive — which would mean the Stormy payment is a campaign contribution. That’s trouble.

It could be bad for Trump in a different way too, notes Philip Bump at WaPo. If something was said on the call to suggest that AMI had bought the rights to McDougal’s story with no intention of actually running it, that could place AMI and its boss, Trump pal David Pecker, at risk of being charged with unreported campaign contributions to Trump 2016. And Pecker’s probably in much the same posture vis-a-vis Trump as Cohen is: He may know things about Trump that the president would rather the public not know, and if suddenly he’s under legal pressure, he might be inclined to trade his knowledge of those things for leniency. Did Trump or Cohen say anything on the recording to suggest that AMI was engaged in “catch and kill” rather than in honest journalism, wonders Bump?

“If one of the options was buying it from AMI and AMI convinced them they didn’t need to buy it, that bolsters the argument that it’s a campaign contribution because that would be a discussion with AMI about it,” Noble said. There are ways in which media outlets can engage in political activity, he said, but this likely wouldn’t count. A conversation in which AMI assured Cohen and Trump that the story would be buried “would be strong evidence that AMI made a campaign contribution,” he said. “That this wasn’t a journalistic decision, that this was in coordination with the campaign.”

That wouldn’t pose any legal problem for Trump (I think?) but it might pose a legal problem for AMI, and a legal problem for AMI is potentially a political problem for Trump depending upon what Pecker’s willing to share.

By the way, Michael Avenatti revealed today that he and Cohen ran into each other at a restaurant in Manhattan a few days ago, which is fascinating for many reasons, starting with the fact that apparently no punches were thrown. “Michael and I conversed and I found that meeting to be productive,” Avenatti said to CNN. “That meeting could ultimately end up being a critical meeting.” That’s super, but it’s a basic ethical rule that lawyers aren’t supposed to converse privately with a party to a case they’re involved in if they know that party’s represented by counsel. All discussions are supposed to stay between the lawyers so that everyone’s attorney is fully informed about developments. What was Avenatti doing talking to Cohen given that they’re on opposite sides of litigation over the hush-money agreement in California?

I’ll leave you with this as I crack open a bottle of whiskey:

Breaking: @MichaelAvenatti says if Michael Cohen "was prepared to do the right thing", I would "absolutely consider" representing him.

"Michael Cohen and I had a chance to converse" we had "a very positive meeting"

— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) July 20, 2018

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Are you ready for ‘Theybies?’ Kids raised to choose their own gender

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 23:21

NBC published this video report yesterday about a family in Cambridge, Massachusetts which has decided to raise their 3-year-old twins as “theybies.” That’s a thing, apparently, albeit with a relatively small number of people thus far. The idea is to raise kids without ever referring to them as boys or girls, he or her, or any other binary gender language.

NBC reports only a few hundred parents nationwide are taking this path at present. Even if it’s really a few thousand, that not very significant in the scheme of things. As someone who believes there are innate differences between boys and girls, I can easily imagine both of these kids growing out of this phase on their own, if they’re allowed to do so by their obviously far-left parents.

It does worry me a bit that these parents plan to tell their kids that gender is fluid rather than to tell them that there’s more than one way to be a boy or a girl. Wouldn’t it make more sense to raise boys as boys and then try to avoid some of the stereotypes you think are harmful, i.e. telling them boys never cry?

So, for instance, I wouldn’t start discussing race with my three-year-old because it shouldn’t matter, but if he asks, I’d tell him he’s Caucasian or white and some people are different and that’s all good. I would not tell him race is fluid and that he can be whatever race he feels like he wants to be from year to year.

I’m also not sure it’s a great idea to tell kids gender is fluid at age six when you know 99.9% of the world doesn’t see it that way. Do kids in their elementary school have to call them “they” too? What if the parents of those other kids feel differently about the whole premise behind this? Refusing to assign these kids a gender may be protecting them in some small sense from stereotypes now, but it’s also inviting a lot of additional difficulties that most kids won’t face. It also denies the possibility that there might be some positive aspects of having a gender identity before you become an adult.

As strange as this parental approach seems to me, it also strikes me as inevitable. If you believe, and most people on the left already do, that gender is culturally constructed and that it has nothing necessarily to do with your sex at birth, then what matters is how you feel. It’s the logic of transgenderism applied to toddlers.

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The obligatory “waitress takes down customer who grabbed her butt” clip

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:41

Something to cleanse the palate in case you’re one of the three people online who hasn’t seen it already. Your quote of the day: “I looked at him and I said, ‘You don’t touch me, motherf—–!’”

Think about all of the aggravation this moron has caused himself because he thought he was entitled to cop a feel with the help while out for a slice of pizza:

1. He’s been charged with sexual battery, which in Georgia is defined as intentionally making “physical contact with the intimate parts of the body of another person without the consent of that person.” They’ve got him seemingly dead to rights thanks to the video. Sexual battery is a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or a jail sentence of up to 12 months, or both. A second conviction for sexual battery is a felony, punishable by no less than a year in prison and as much as five years. If this guy happens to have a rap sheet, he’s in big trouble.

2. Lord only knows how bad the personal fallout will be:

He is from Palm Bay, Florida, the father of infant twin girls, and in a long-term relationship with their mother.

Cherwinski and Erica Martin have been together for 11 years, and she was with him at the restaurant when he groped their server and was arrested.

Disrespecting not just the waitress but the mother of your children by groping a stranger — right there in front of her, and now it’s a national #MeToo lesson? Prison is the least of his worries.

3. Thanks to the magic of viral video, he’ll spend at least the next few years being known to everyone he meets as “that guy who got tossed like a ragdoll by a woman half his size after he grabbed her ass.” That sounds like the premise of a lighter episode of “Black Mirror.”

Exit quotation: “[Cherwinski] told police that ‘it was an accident that he grabbed the waitress, that he was only trying to inform her to move because she was in the way.'” Wut?

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Poll: Republicans have a fever and the only prescription is more … tariffs?

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:01

Can I at least get another tax cut if we’re about to wage global thermonuclear trade war? We’re all gonna have to pay the Patriot Premium at the store once the retaliatory tariffs kick in and a little more in the paycheck would go a long way.

There has to be a simpler way to let Trump pick winners and losers among “real America’s” industries than a big trade brawl with China. Why not cancel the tariffs, hike taxes on Americans, and just hand out the extra revenue like candy to the steel industry? It’d be much cleaner administratively. A little Trump dividend for the Rust Belt, right out of your and my wallets, without the fuss and muss of tracking which goods are being taxed by who.

Per Pew, the GOP has now gone almost full MAGA on trade. It’s appropriate that Paul Ryan’s retiring this fall because between this, immigration, and entitlements, his vision for the party is deader than Ronald Reagan is.

Words can’t capture how disorienting it is to be Of A Certain Age and see self-defined conservatives as the most overwhelmingly protectionist group in politics and self-identified liberals as the most overwhelmingly free-trade. But it makes more sense when you dig deeper into the numbers and see the educational divide among whites. Among whites with college degrees, it’s 53/39 in favor of thinking tariffs are bad for America; among whites without such degrees, it’s 38/52 in favor of thinking they’re good. Blue-collar white America, the heart of Trump’s base and to a slightly lesser extent of the GOP’s, is convinced that protectionism will bring back their jobs.

As for the weird conservative/liberal split, that’s probably a straightforward case of partisanship defining ideological labels rather than the other way around. “Conservatism” here doesn’t represent anything having to do with smaller government or free markets, it’s a byword for support for Trump. For decades it’s been the philosophical currency of the Republican Party, Trump is now the head of the Republican Party, therefore it supposedly follows that the more one supports Trump, the more likely one is to be “conservative.” For liberals it’s the reverse. Naturally Trump supporters would be the most inclined to support his views on trade, just as Trump-haters are apt to be the most skeptical.

What’ll be fascinating is to see whether those labels, having been contaminated by short-term partisan preferences, will be redefined by it over time or whether they’ll straighten out once Trump has left the scene. What I mean is, if Bernie Sanders wins the presidency in 2020 and imposes his own protectionist policies, will Republicans be more inclined to support them having supported similar ones under Trump? (Yes, I’d guess, given those blue-collar numbers.) Will liberals be less inclined? Or will everyone revert to more traditional views of trade once those traditional views are aligned with their partisan interests again?

In lieu of an exit question, here’s one more reminder via YouGov that everything that’s important in politics now is very, very partisan.

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Disney fires director James Gunn after old tweets surface (Update)

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:21

Writer-director James Gunn who created the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies has been fired by Disney after old tweets containing offensive jokes were uncovered. From Fox News:

Gunn’s past tweets were dug up on Thursday by critics who oppose his political beliefs. The filmmaker is an outspoken liberal who often criticizes President Trump.

One of the now-deleted tweets said, “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”

Another message read: “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”

Other now-deleted tweets from 2008-2011 included jokes about the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, AIDS and the holocaust.

“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him,” Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn told Fox News in a statement.

Gunn offered his own defense of the old tweets:

1. Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.

— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018

3. In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies.

— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018

5. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018

This takedown apparently started with right leaning news sites digging into Gunn’s online archives. A post early Friday morning at the Daily Caller highlighted several of Gunn’s tweets.

Filmmaker James Gunn came to the defense of director Mark Duplass on Wednesday after Duplass committed the sin of endorsing conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and calling him a “genuine person,” but a Daily Caller News Foundation search of his Twitter account has revealed that Gunn might need some backup of his own.

The DC offered several examples in including a 2008 tweet where Gunn said, “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.” Also today, Breitbart News dug up some of Gunn’s old blog postings including one from 2010 titled “Video: 100 Pubescent Girls Touch Themselves.” The video itself isn’t visible in the archived blog post but @neontaster says it was actually a video of teens singing “I Touch Myself” by the Divynls (video is here). In other words, Gunn was making a crude joke, not spreading child pornography.

Guys, the "link to pedo porn" from Gunn was a joke. It was teen girls singing the song "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls. Complain about his humor all you want but this was not linking to actual porn.

— neontaster (@neontaster) July 20, 2018

It seems all of this was kicked off when Gunn offered a defense of actor-director Mark Duplass. Duplass upset an online mob of left-wingers Wednesday when he said something nice about Ben Shapiro. As the mob went to work on Duplass, Gunn stepped in to offer a defense:

Maybe you disagree with Mark Duplass, which is completely fair (personally I think even Ben Shapiro's mother should unfollow him). But that doesn't make Duplass' point-of-view evil. There are a lot of traitors & racists in the country today. Perhaps save the outrage for them. 1

— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 18, 2018

Gunn went on to criticize the Trump administration and call Ben Shapiro an “asshole.” But Shapiro was one of several today who thought Disney may have jumped the gun (pun intended).

I think @JamesGunn is an a**hole, as my exchange with him earlier this week made clear. I also think that firing him for vile old joke tweets is bad precedent and a mistake. There is no limiting principle to the outrage mob.

— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 20, 2018

No. This is wrong. His old tweets were 100 percent offensive and gross, but this is not how we judge people. This is not how we determine the fate of a person’s career:

— David French (@DavidAFrench) July 20, 2018

I am so sick of this.

— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) July 20, 2018

I don’t think anyone would be defending this if Gunn were genuinely saying these things. And I think Disney would be right to fire him for sullying their brand if he were saying these things right now on a Disney-funded set, even as jokes. But he wasn’t working for Disney in 2008 or 2010.

And to connect this to another scandal involving old blog posts, I’ve said several times that the problem with Joy Reid’s old comments wasn’t that they were too offensive for her to keep her job. The problem was that she came out and lied about having written them, blaming everything on a hacker and never really admitting it was her. That was the problem in her case. It was what she was doing at the moment, not what she said 10 years ago.

I guess the lesson here is that Twitter now has the time stone and anything you’ve ever said on will be treated as if you said it right now. That’s a shame because people do grow up.

Update: More debate on this happening on Twitter and it’s interesting.

If you're a gleeful Robespierre, don't be surprised if one day you end up in the cart headed for the guillotine.

— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) July 20, 2018

The counter-argument here is that only when the left is forced to live by the awful rules it tolerates for the right will the rules change.

I don't think James Gunn should have been fired.
It's dumb.
But I don't care.
Why don't I care?
Because the only way I see this shit is changing is people like Gunn – who sought out @IngrahamAngle's head – return to the Old Rules cuz theirNew Rules will apply to them too.

— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) July 20, 2018

Maybe this is a teaching moment for the left but I sort of doubt they’ll get anything out of it. They don’t really think they’ll ever pay a price because they’re absolutely certain they are on the side of the angels (about everything). So I think the main thing to do here is to keep saying that social media mobs are a bad thing and not stop saying it just because the mob got someone on the left this time.

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Round two: Jeanine Pirro said something after yesterday’s segment that I can’t repeat on the air, says Whoopi

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:41

We’re barely 24 hours in and already this feud is magical and destined to get more so since Pirro’s own show will air tomorrow night on Fox and doubtless she’ll rant about it at length.

The only reason it’s not already the greatest feud in the history of “The View” is because Rosie and Elisabeth Hasselbeck once clashed over whether the “official story” of 9/11 is true and, well, nothing’s going to top that. Unless they have Pirro back on and somehow an argument over whether the Holocaust happened breaks out.

Page Six describes what happened yesterday:

The trouble, sources told us, started before Pirro even went on-air to promote her new book, “Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy” — when Pirro arrived at “The View” to learn that anti-Trump CNN contributor Ana Navarro was filling in for Joy Behar.

“When Jeanine arrived on set she was looking for a fight and refusing to be on with Ana, demanding [Ana] not be in the segment,” an insider said. “[Pirro] was yelling at [‘The View’] executive producer and her staff like, ‘You need to handle this.’”

True, says Whoopi in the clip below. Pirro didn’t want to be on with a hardcore Trump-hater like Navarro. Also true, she says, is this description of what happened after she cut Pirro’s segment short (which she denies doing in the clip below, but whatever):

The confrontation ended with liberal Goldberg allegedly shouting, “F–k you, get the f–k out!” at President Trump supporter and Fox News host Pirro.

During the screaming match, Pirro told Goldberg, “I’ve done more for abused women than you will ever do,” we hear.

Whoopi didn’t like that last line although Pirro is in fact a former D.A. who’s doubtless prosecuted plenty of abusers. Whether there was “spitting” (spittle, maybe?) or whether Pirro was chased from the building remains in dispute. Also in dispute is whether Goldberg was the first to get profane or whether Pirro was. If you believe Whoopi, the only reason she got in Pirro’s face was because of something disrespectful Pirro said right after the segment was cut — which Whoopi wouldn’t say on air. The Daily Beast thinks it knows, though:

Indeed, a witness—who asked not to be further identified—told The Daily Beast that after the segment ended and Goldberg walked off-stage, Pirro ripped off her microphone while the crew members hovered around her and she shouted, “Those c***suckers! This is exactly what I told them would happen.”

Who are the, er, sock-cuckers she’s referring to? The panel? The show’s producers? The bookers who put her on with Navarro, with whom Pirro got along reasonably well? Anything less than titling tomorrow night’s “Judge Jeanine” segment about the show “My Time With The C***suckers” will be a disappointment. Make it happen, Fox.

.@WhoopiGoldberg clears up what happened after our Jeanine Pirro interview: “I rarely get stirred up — but I got stirred up…and I did apologize for getting hot.”
“For 20 years, this show has always had people on with different views…but you cannot come and call people names."

— The View (@TheView) July 20, 2018

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NBC: US, Taliban in secret “indirect” talks to end war

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:01

Is America’s longest war heading to a quiet end? NBC News reported earlier today that Taliban sources claim to have engaged in “indirect negotiations” with the US, primarily through former commanders forced out of the conflict. The talks are fraught with risks, particularly from some surprising sources:

U.S. officials are meeting with former Taliban members amid intensifying efforts to wind down America’s longest war, three of the militant group’s commanders told NBC News.

The talks have occurred in Afghanistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Taliban sources.

One negotiator said Taliban delegations had been joined by “never more than five” Americans for a series of meetings in hotel suites in Doha, Qatar.

Security requires some elaborate precautions to avoid getting smoked out:

Amid concerns about their own safety, the Taliban delegates are taking steps to not be identified by the intelligence services of Russia, China and Arab countries.

“We don’t go to the hotel together,” the negotiator told NBC News. “We never go to the meeting place first. Once they [the Americans] reach the meeting place, then we go there one by one. We use the elevator for some of the floors and then take the stairs out of security considerations.”

It’s curious that they’re more worried about the intel services of Russia and China than American intel. We’re still shooting at them, at least in partnership with the government in Kabul. But then again, the interlocutors in these talks are now largely retired from the battle, and may not want to get identified as potential targets for other purposes.

This might explain why Mike Pompeo was in Afghanistan almost two weeks ago. He only stayed in Kabul for a few hours before departing for the UAE, one of the alleged hosts of the unofficial talks. Assuming that NBC’s sources are correct, it might have reached a stage where Pompeo’s authority was required to approve discussions of certain issues between the Kabul government and Taliban.

But if that’s the case, why didn’t the Taliban seem amenable to a negotiated peace two weeks ago when the Kabul government offered direct talks? Perhaps they wanted to see what they could accomplish by destabilizing elections first:

The Taliban have rejected the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks, another blow to hopes that an unprecedented Eid ceasefire could be a step towards more lasting peace.

Fighting has resumed with full intensity around the country after a brief halt during June. The latest casualties are three children from eastern Ghazni province who were killed by roadside mines at the weekend.

With two rounds of high-stakes elections due within the next year, political tensions are adding to concerns about rising insecurity. Parliamentary elections are due to take place in October. Next spring there will be a presidential vote, with the current leader, Ashraf Ghani, expected to run for re-election.

However, that decision might have left them much more politically vulnerable, thanks to the overwhelming emotional response to the three-day truce, and especially their decision to end it:

The rare days without conflict sparked celebrations and a sense of possibility, alongside a sense of hope that many Afghans had all but abandoned. Taliban soldiers wandered into towns they had attacked for years, where they took grinning selfies with the army and officials who are normally their targets.

“I am 24, and in these years the only thing that I can remember is war and war and war, but during Eid days I saw some moments of joy that I did not see in my entire life,” said Firooz Osmani, a resident of Gozara district in western Herat province. “I cried when I saw Taliban and government officials are hugging and taking selfies, I could not stop my tears. I was really disappointed when I understand that the truce is over.”

Pro-government Afghans who had felt confined to those cities are returning to home villages after long absences. But Taliban commanders were reportedly furious about the impromptu socialising, and worried that the success of the ceasefire could undermine morale.

The Taliban soldiers who participated in the photographs got sent to the front lines as a punishment. That’s likely to have made morale even worse after the fighting restarted, and could be why the Taliban sees the need to explore other options.

Or maybe they’re getting worried about foreign incursions into Afghanistan:

An Afghan official says an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suicide bomber has killed 20 people in northern Afghanistan, including a Taliban commander. Abdul Qayuom Baqizoi, provincial chief police of northern Sar-i-Pul province, said the attack Tuesday took place as village elders met with Taliban officials in the area.

In northern Afghanistan, Taliban and the ISIS faction in the country have been waging bitter battles in recent days. As many as 100 insurgents from both the Taliban and ISIS have perished in recent battles, said Baqizoi.

Provincial council chief Mohammed Noor Rahman said the explosion occurred in a mosque as a funeral was taking place. Reports from regional journalists also spoke of a bombing in neighboring Jawzjan province targeting Taliban elders.

At some point, the Taliban might have to worry about being eclipsed by ISIS and its Sunni Arab leaders — those that remain warmer than room temperature, that is. If they can get a deal from Kabul that allows them some autonomy, they might be able to push off the more radical extremists, but that won’t be possible as long as they’re fighting a war against Kabul and the US at the same time. In fact, ISIS provides everyone else with a shared interest in reconciliation. Perhaps this might be just enough incentive to settle matters and allow us to close out the longest war in our history.

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CNN’s Alisyn Camerota to Rick Santorum: ‘Do you get dizzy living in upside-down world’

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:21

This wasn’t meant as a winking Stranger Things reference to lighten up the exchange, at least it doesn’t look that way to me. It also wasn’t prompted by any heated rhetoric from Santorum. He was taking everything Camerota was throwing at him and doing his best to answer her questions. She finally just got angry and lashed out at him.

The moment in question came about six minutes into the interview. “He tweeted that the free press is the enemy of the people,” Camerota said. She continued, “And then the White House, of course, tweeted yesterday that he is inviting Vladimir Putin, as you know, a former KGB officer who has reporters killed…also not a fan of the free press and his political rivals, to the White House. And I’m just wondering Rick, do you ever get dizzy living in upside-down world?”

Santorum side-stepped the personal attack and tried to answer the question. “Look, I don’t like it when the president tweets out things that undermine the First Amendment,” Santorum said. “The free press element in our society. Does the press get it wrong a lot? And does the press vilify this president more than any president in probably the history of the country? Yes.”

“And does the president vilify the press more than any president ever in history?” Camerota interjected.

“It’s a mutual relationship. I would agree with that,” Santorum said. Asked if he was comfortable with that, Santorum added, “No, I’m not comfortable with it. But I’m not comfortable with people going after the president, accusing him of treason and calling for impeachment because of that.”

Santorum repeatedly said he did not support what the president was saying about America (in Helsinki) or about the media (on Twitter). But Camerota just kept coming after him as if he had made the comments himself. “Rick, I just have to clarify. You seem to have been comfortable standing next to Vladimir Putin and blaming America,” Camerota said.

“First off I’m not comfortable with that,” Santorum said before he was cut off by Camerota suggesting if he really disliked it he’d be okay with people comparing it to treason.

“It’s the greatest advantage that the president has which is people going ballistic and going too far in condemning this president for his actions,” Santorum said. “I think there were a lot of responsible condemnations of the president’s actions and then there were some that were irresponsible and consistent with the hysterics around this president,” he added.

I actually think Santorum did a pretty good job here. There’s really no defending Trump’s comments in Helsinki which is why the president himself has backed away from them over the past week. And as someone who has spent more than a decade criticizing the liberal bias in the media, I also agree with him that Trump’s “enemies of the people” language goes too far. He ought to show more respect for the First Amendment and the role the free press plays even if he thinks the media is often terrible in practice.

But Santorum is also right that the cries of treason in response are hysterical and make the critics look ridiculous. Trump’s saving grace is having enemies who become unhinged in the process of calling him out. Here’s the full interview:

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Kimberly Guilfoyle leaving Fox News to join Trump Super PAC — reluctantly? Update: Guilfoyle out

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:41

It’d be understandable if she wanted out. She’s seeing Trump Jr and has been touted as a potential White House press secretary. If you had to pick any one person at Fox News who might soon make the very short trip to working for the White House officially, you’d pick her.

Today the news finally came that she’s leaving the network after 12 years, likely off to work for the pro-Trump Super PAC America First Policies alongside Don Jr. Presumably there’ll be a White House job for her sometime in Trump’s second term, if not sooner.

The question, though, is whether she’s jumping or being pushed:

Three sources tell HuffPost that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle did not leave the cable news network voluntarily…

A source close to Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle denies that she did not leave voluntarily.

Why might Guilfoyle have been pushed? Well, Politico reported a few days ago that even Fox News execs are starting to get weirded out by how chummy some of the hosts are with the White House. Hannity, Trump’s “shadow chief of staff,” is the most famous example but there’s not much the brain trust can do about that. He’s the network’s biggest name, he delivers its highest ratings. Confront him and you might suddenly have big shoes to fill at 9 p.m. Guilfoyle, however, doesn’t host her own show; she’s one of five co-hosts at 5 p.m., valuable but certainly more replaceable than a primetime anchor. Forcing out Don Jr’s girlfriend might be management’s way of signaling to everyone at FNC whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Shmannity” that there are limits to how pro-Trump even Fox should be. Politico:

Hannity’s coziness with the president, as well as that of other Fox News hosts with Trump, has at times discomfited the executives trying to steer the network in the post-Roger Ailes era. The channel is now led by CEO Suzanne Scott, and Fox News executives have at times pushed its hosts to distance themselves from the president, according to people familiar with their deliberations. On at least one occasion, executives asked a group of Fox personalities who had been invited to dine at the White House to decline the invitation, hoping to fend off the appearance that the network has inched too close to the White House.

You’re left to wonder if the surprising criticism of Trump this week on Fox News and Fox Business was wholly organic or if execs let it be known that hosts were welcome to criticize the president if they chose. Nothing’s going to penetrate the MAGA wall in primetime but various Fox commentators — Cavuto, Trish Regan, Melissa Francis, Brian Kilmeade, off the top of my head — spoke up about Helsinki. Maybe we’re headed towards (even more of) a two-track network in which daytime is lukewarm on POTUS to balance the cheerleading in the evening.

As for Guilfoyle, who’s going to fill the vacancy she’s creating on “The Five”? Here’s how Roger Ailes once described his vision of the show:

“Go around the table,” he told me, delighting in his own ingenuity. “Over on this end, we’ve got the bombshell in a skirt, drop-dead gorgeous.” He raised a chubby finger: “But smart! She’s got to be smart or it doesn’t work.” Next, he said, “we have a gruff longshoreman type, salty but not too salty for TV. In the middle there’s the handsome matinee idol. Next to him we have the Salvation Army girl, cute and innocent—but you get the idea she might be a lotta fun after a few pops. On the end, we need a wiseguy, the cut-up.”

Fox can do anything it wants with the format in the post-Ailes era, of course, but assume they’re sticking with the Ailes blueprint. Who’s in for Guilfoyle? Sandra Smith and Regan both qualify as “bombshells” and smart but each hosts or co-hosts her own show already. Sub one if them in at “The Five” and you have a new vacancy to fill elsewhere. The chatterati on Twitter are speculating that it’ll be Tomi Lahren, but Lahren typically works solo. She had her own show at the Blaze and is best known at Fox for delivering “Final Thoughts” commentary. Who knows if she’d work well in a freewheeling panel format.

If not one of them, who?

Update: It’s official.

FNC confirms: "FOX News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle."

— Aidan McLaughlin (@aidnmclaughlin) July 20, 2018

That’s a conspicuously terse farewell to someone who’s been with the network for more than 10 years and who co-hosted a popular show. If you’re looking for evidence that her departure was less than totally friendly, there it is.

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WaPo column: “God bless the ‘deep state'”

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:01

Old and busted: Democracy dies in darkness! New hotness: Let the Opaque Revolt begin? In today’s Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson pens a paean to the ‘deep state’ as the only force in the Beltway protecting us from the scourge of Donald Trump.

It’s a bit like the scene in Star Wars, but only if Leia had said, “Help us, Grand Moff Tarkin, you’re our only hope”:

Before this harebrained and reckless administration is history, the nation will have cause to celebrate the public servants derided by Trumpists as the supposed “deep state.”

The term itself is propaganda, intended to cast a sinister light upon men and women whom Trump and his minions find annoyingly knowledgeable and experienced. They are not participants in any kind of dark conspiracy. Rather, they are feared and loathed by the president and his wrecking crew of know-nothings because they have spent years — often decades — mastering the details of foreign and domestic policy.

God bless them. With a supine Congress unwilling to play the role it is assigned by the Constitution, the deep state stands between us and the abyss.

I’ll give Robinson some credit on the term ‘deep state,’ which is hyperbolic and much more applicable to nations without self-governing institutions. A more accurate term would be the “entrenched bureaucracy,” which itself wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t have its own ideology and special interests, much of that tied up in ensuring that it stays entrenched. Public-employee unions fight tooth and nail against any attempts to either shrink government or reduce their power, on the rare occasions where elected officials effectively attempt to do either.

And for that matter, I agree with Robinson on some other points too. The Helsinki Summit was a serious error, for instance, especially in Trump’s inability to confront Putin on hostile operations against the US and his dismissal of American intel in the presser afterward. The fact that Trump and the White House entertained even for a hot second the idea of giving Russian intel services an opening to interrogate former ambassador Michael McFaul as an equivalency to Russian interference was embarrassing, or should have been. Robinson seems most concerned, however, about whatever promises Trump made to Vladimir Putin in their private conversation, and calls for unelected bureaucrats to effectively seize the reins of government to expose and counter them:

If you worry, as I do, that Trump may have intentionally or unintentionally given away the store, you have to root for the deep state to find out what transpired in that room — and find ways to reverse, or at least mitigate, the damage. …

Democrats in Congress are powerless; the Republican leadership, spineless. Experienced government officials know that their job is to serve the president. But what if the president does not serve the best interests of the nation? In this emergency, the loyal and honorable deep state has a higher duty. It’s called patriotism.

This is a load of hyperbolic balderdash. In the first place, anything Trump promised won’t remain secret for long if he plans to fulfill those promises. He’ll have to work with Defense Secretary James Mattis, DNI Dan Coats, and likely Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make any concessions in Syria work, for instance, and all of these offices are accountable to Congress. On sanctions, he’d need Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Congress to go along, and ditto on any trade bargains and “nuclear proliferation.” In the American system of government, presidents don’t have the kind of unilateral authority to make formal executive agreements stick, let alone casual pledges tossed around in a meeting.

Want an example? Just ask Barack Obama about his unsigned executive agreement with Iran. There were plenty of people who thought that allowing the biggest state sponsor of terrorism to pursue nuclear weapons in ten years while sending pallets of cash to Tehran didn’t “serve the best interests of the nation,” either. Did Robinson suggest then that unelected bureaucrats seize the reins of power and reverse that?

No, and neither did any serious observer either. Instead, the issue became part of the next election and that policy was reversed, thanks to the authority granted Trump by the voters. However, the authority Trump does have comes along with accountability to the voters who granted it to him. If he makes mistakes, voters can correct them by electing a different president in two years. Entrenched bureaucracies don’t answer to voters, and in some cases don’t answer to anybody. How do voters correct their mistakes? What accountability to the electorate do they have? None at all, and there’s little reason to think that their judgment will be any less self-interested, petty, or malicious than what we have now.

One would think that a newspaper who ostentatiously adopted their current motto, “Democracy dies in darkness,” would consider what a coup d’etat by unelected bureaucrats would do to transparency. Instead, they’re cheerleading for an undemocratic and completely unnecessary palace revolt out of irrational hysteria — and making Trump’s argument on the “deep state” all the more credible at the same time. It’s an amazing own-goal for the media establishment, and it proves once again that Trump is continually blessed by the quality of his political opposition.

Update: I substituted”Darth Vader” for Grand Moff Tarkin shortly after publication.

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Video: Maxine Waters supporters burn a flag, chase off a YouTuber

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:21

Thursday the group Oath Keepers was planning to come to Maxine Waters’ LA office to protest her comments about hounding members of the Trump administration wherever they go. As Jazz pointed out yesterday, Waters didn’t seem to like having the tables turned on her and she put out a statement about the protest. A few dozen Maxine Waters supporters showed up in anticipation of a showdown with the Oath Keepers. There were some voices warning the crowd not to start anything but some people clearly came prepared for violence. As you can see in this clip, one guy showed up with a baseball bat on his shoulder. The LA Times reports the Oath Keepers never showed up after talking with the police:

At 1 p.m., police at the protest site said authorities had been in contact with the group, and it had decided not to come in order to ensure peace…

A number of protesters remained near the intersection of 102nd Street and Broadway long after police announced the Oath Keepers were no-shows. For much of this time, the mood remained festive, although it was punctuated with moments of tension.

At one point, counterprotesters pulled a small American flag off of a pickup, doused it in lighter fluid and set it ablaze. The crowd then began chanting, cursing the government and saying, “America was never great.”

Here’s a video of the flag burning. I’m sure Maxine Waters is thrilled that her self-appointed protectors did this in front of her office:

At some point, a white guy with a microphone was doing interviews and got the attention from some of the rowdier elements of the crowd. After being chased down the street by several people, he eventually jumped in a car and drove away.

It turns out he’s a YouTuber who goes by the name of Slightly Offensive. His cameraman, who goes by Black Mike, was there with him. As you’ll see in this next clip, there was a litmus test for sticking around and asking questions. The first question from the crowd was “Are you for Black Lives Matter?” to which the YouTuber answered “No.” The second question was “Are you for Free Palestine?” Again the answer was “No” and at that point, the conversation turned into shouting and shoving. Here’s the clip:

So it’s probably a good thing that the Oath Keepers decided not to show up yesterday. When both sides of a protest are looking for a confrontation, there’s only so much the police can do to stop it.  I don’t support Maxine Waters or her calls to harass Trump administration officials but we don’t need street fighting to break out over that issue. That would only make things worse and takes us further down the road of less civility and more confrontation.

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Uh oh: Michael Cohen recorded Trump discussing payoff to Playboy model; Update: Multiple recordings?

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 16:41

But … but …

Hope Hicks to @WSJ in November 2016 on AMI payment to Karen McDougal: “We have no knowledge of any of this."

— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) July 20, 2018

The first point to emphasize about this NYT scoop is that Trump and Cohen were apparently chatting about a payment to Karen McDougal, not to Stormy Daniels. A recording of Trump chatting about paying Stormy would be a big deal as it would prove knowledge of the hush-money deal, something Trump has consistently denied. It would also leave him on the hook for an unreported campaign contribution, a violation of federal law. McDougal, however, never received any money from Trump or Cohen. Her payoff came from his cronies at the National Enquirer, part of the “catch and kill” deal in which they bought the rights to her story about a relationship with Trump and then never ran it.

Of course, if there’s something on the recording suggesting that the Enquirer acted at Trump’s and Cohen’s behest in silencing McDougal, that would be interesting too. One of the legal questions floating around about the Enquirer’s catch-and-kill practices for Trump is whether payments it made to third parties might themselves qualify as unreported contributions to his campaign. That’s a thorny issue because the Enquirer’s a newspaper and normally the First Amendment would protect the press from legal liability in pursuing stories. But if the payment wasn’t for the purpose of producing journalism but rather to hush up a former mistress who had information that might damage Trump’s campaign, why should the Enquirer be shielded from campaign finance rules any more than it would be if it had made an outright donation to Trump 2016? A recording of Trump suggesting coordination with the Enquirer to pay hush money would obviously deepen that question.

Anyway. We’ve known for months that Cohen made tapes. What we didn’t know is how many he had, what topics they covered, and most importantly whether Trump’s voice appeared on any of them. We have an answer to the last question now.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments [to McDougal] with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.

“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani said.

It’s powerful … exculpatory evidence?

All right, deep breath. One obvious question is who leaked and why. Was it the U.S. Attorney’s office, wanting to put the fear of God into Trump by teasing hard evidence they might have about wrongdoing? The Times cites “lawyers and others familiar with the recording” but goes on to say later that “Mr. Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the seized materials and shared it with Mr. Trump’s lawyers,” per three sources. That makes sense. Cohen has spent the last few months wondering aloud whether he should roll over and cooperate with federal prosecutors in an apparent bid to get the Trumps to pick up the tab for some of his crushingly exorbitant legal fees. No dice so far! This is probably Team Cohen’s latest gambit to put pressure on Trump to take care of him, leaking sensational news about secret recordings involving payoffs to Playmates on tape. Cohen’s telling Trump in the starkest way he can that he should much prefer to have him as a friend than an enemy.

Another question: The recording is less than two minutes? Realistically, how incriminating could be that? It seems like not nearly enough time to say something meaningful about a matter as complicated as hush money to McDougal. Either the audio shared with Trump’s team is just a snippet of a longer phone conversation or it’s part of a *series* of phone conversations about McDougal. Either way, the implication that Cohen has more on tape — and maybe not just about McDougal — is unmistakable. Trump must have had a panic attack when his lawyers got the copy of the recording about McDougal from Cohen’s team.

The other unmistakable implication is that if Trump knew about McDougal’s interest in hush money from Cohen, he probably knew about Daniels’s interest too. And if that’s true then we’re right back to the point I made up top about campaign finance violations. (That would also fit with the theory that Team Cohen gave the audio to Team Trump to try to pressure Trump. If they really did discuss paying off Daniels, contra Trump’s public assertions, Trump would now have to assume that Cohen has recordings of those phone conversations too.) There’s one important point in the timeline, though: The Times notes in the lede of the article that the recording of Cohen and Trump discussing McDougal was made “two months before the presidential election,” i.e. presumably September 1st or later. McDougal, however, entered into her hush-money deal with the Enquirer on August 5th of that year. Why were Cohen and Trump chatting about possible payments to McDougal if her silence had already been purchased by the Enquirer?

And why the hell would Trump have preferred a paper trail in the form of a check to McDougal to cash payments? I don’t understand Rudy’s explanation at all.

There are updates coming. Stand by.

Update: Yeee-ikes.

Michael Cohen had other recordings of the president in his records that were seized by the FBI, according to Rudy Giuliani and a source with knowledge of Cohen’s tapes, per @DanaBashCNN @GloriaBorger

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 20, 2018

Ed suggests an alternate theory for who leaked: It was Giuliani himself, following the same practice he used on Hannity’s show months ago when he famously disclosed that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payments to Stormy Daniels after all. Rudy’s approach to bad facts is to leak them yourself so that you can put your own spin on them right out of the gate. If he and Trump feared that news of the recordings was destined to leak anyway, he might have done it himself to get in front of it.

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