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Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Some good boys and girls:

Dog lovers the world over know well that their pets help them through all kinds of stressful situations and certainly the loss of a loved one is no exception.In Austin, TX, an 11-month-old puppy is now in training to provide that comfort to families who desperately need it, not to mention those who make their living in the funeral industry.Several months ago, mortician Melissa Unfred adopted Kermit from Fuzzy Friends Rescue in Waco, and he has proved to alleviate quite a bit of her own job stress. While she enjoys helping others through a difficult life situation, it’s a difficult road.“My job is really hard,” Unfred told ABC affiliate KVUE. “We’re faced every day with tragedies and sad situations and it can take a toll on you over time.

”The border collie mix, she says, is a stabilizing force.“He’s very positive in the face of death. He’s even helped me face these type of situations. Every day, I’m dumbfounded that I lucked into such a smart dog.”She realized early on Kermit carried himself differently when he was at the funeral home.“His demeanor would start to fit perfectly with the situation,” Unfred said. “A lot of people have been really surprised that he’s not hyper. You see that as a hand will go out to pet him, it’s like an immediate sigh of relief. I’ve seen it over and over again, whether we’re at a funeral or a nursing home or somebody has just passed away, he is there to be a calm presence.”

Unfred works for Affordable Burial and Cremation Service in Austin. The business’s owner, Robert Falcon, sees the impact Kermit has on the customers.“When he shows up, he calms the room. Kermit has a presence to him,” says Falcon.Falcon added that sometimes, when someone starts to break down in his office, Kermit seems to come in at just the right time.“There have been times …” Falcon said “…when I’m sitting there at the desk with the family going through a tough moment, and he will come up and introduce himself. He will just sit and have a presence. He has a knack to find the person who is hurting the most.”Unfred has also noticed Kermit’s ability to go to the person in the most pain.“He can kind of sense the energy in the room,” Unfred said. “Sometimes I will start to go upstairs and Kermit isn’t behind me. He ended up staying behind and Robert has seen him in action. He just moves himself into the position where he’s closest to the primary griever.”Kermit already has his good citizenship certification, as he is now just a few weeks from turning 1. Once he hits that first birthday, Kermit can be certified as a grief therapy dog, making him the first therapy funeral dog in all of Texas.

He is such a good, sweet boy.


I'd like to teach the world to have a beer together

by digby

That's from the original 1971 Coke ad, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..." And you've undoubtedly seen the more recent even more fatuous approach from Pepsi.  Advertisers always see opportunities in the zeitgeist.

But this one from Heineken is really well done:

It's obviously not always that simple. But sometimes it is.  You never know ...

Flynn was a pretty big miss

by digby

Your Attorney General on the hiring of Michael Flynn:

"We need to do a good job of vetting, but that’s a complex issue and I'm not sure anyone could be expected to find that. I’m comfortable that they’re working hard to do vetting. But it's obvious that often times you don’t catch everything that might be a problem. I don’t know the facts of this case; maybe there's an explanation for it."

This is unsurprising coming from the states' rights zealot who believes the federal government should prosecute marijuana users in states where it's been legalized and backs legislation to force all states to follow the nation's most lax state gun laws. He's got a lot of "situational principles" including, apparently, one that says it's no big deal if the National Security Adviser is possibly colluding with a foreign government to undermine democracy and god-knows-what-else.

The administration is blaming the Obama administration for re-issuing his security clearance in May of 2016 which is kind of hilarious. Just imagine what kind of shitshow would have ensued if they hadn't. It's fair to assume that any new president ought to take a very close look at their new National Security Adviser no matter what, especially since it was obvious he's crazy as a fucking loon. This was already obvious. He'd been fired for it in the Obama administration. Trump knew this and didn't care because Flynn was his boy and he was out there calling Hillary Clinton a pedophile on TV so that made him the perfect top national security adviser. Sessions was the campaign's foreign policy advisory committee chairman so he knew Flynn well and thought he was a good man too.  This is the kind of judgment we can expect from the most powerful law enforcement officer in the country.

I fee so safe.

QOTD: Michelle Obama

by digby

On her last day in the White House, saying good-bye to the staff:
 “I didn’t want to have tears in my eyes because people would swear I was crying because of the new president.”

The country would have understood. We were all crying too.

Picture if you will ...

by digby

Paul Krugman:

Fans of old TV series may remember a classic “Twilight Zone” episode titled “It’s a Good Life.” It featured a small town terrorized by a 6-year-old who for some reason had monstrous superpowers, coupled with complete emotional immaturity. Everyone lived in constant fear, made worse by the need to pretend that everything was fine. After all, any hint of discontent could bring terrible retribution.

And now you know what it must be like working in the Trump administration. Actually, it feels a bit like that just living in Trump’s America.

I hadn't thought of this before but it's perfect. If you are unfamiliar with the episode, here's a little taste:

Now picture if you will, Trump, the alleged trade expert and master negotiator, threatening to abruptly withdraw from NAFTA:
President Trump was set to announce Saturday, on the 100th day of his presidency, that he was withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement — the sort of disruptive proclamation that would upend both global and domestic politics and signal to his base that he was keeping his campaign promise to terminate what he once called “a total disaster” and “one of the worst deals ever.”

“I was all set to terminate,” Trump said in an Oval Office interview Thursday night. “I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it.”

There was just one problem: Trump’s team — like on so many issues — was deeply divided.

As news of the president’s plan reached Ottawa and Mexico City in the middle of the week and rattled the markets and Congress, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and others huddled in meetings with Trump, urging him not to sign a document triggering a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA.

Perdue even brought along a prop to the Oval Office: A map of the United States that illustrated the areas that would be hardest hit, particularly from agriculture and manufacturing losses, and highlighting that many of those states and counties were “Trump country” communities that had voted for the president in November.

“It shows that I do have a very big farmer base, which is good,” Trump recalled. “They like Trump, but I like them, and I’m going to help them.”

By Wednesday night, Trump — who spent nearly two years as a candidate railing against the trade agreement — had backed down, saying that conversations with advisers and phone calls with the leaders of Canada and Mexico had persuaded him to reconsider.

This is the man who claimed he alone could fix everything that is wrong with America because our leaders have been so stupid.

His aides had to bring him pictures and soothe his ego so he didn't blow up the economy.

"That's real fine Trumpie. It's real good that you did that..."


"It's hard work!"

by digby

Trump has made one of the most famous presidential statements in history this week, one that should be his epitaph:
"I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I do miss my old life. This — I like to work, but this is actually more work."
Yeah. He said that. Out loud. Because he's an imbecile.

But it is revealing. He thought the presidency was a performance, kind of like Kim Kardashian hosting a party at Hakkasan. He didn't know you have to do anything more than run your mouth and appear on TV. It turns out that the TV part is real but it's about 1/10th of the job. He's disappointed.

You cannot make this stuff up.

538 published a helpful primer on the first hundred days of Trump. I think their observations are acute and I've highlighted a handful of them:
Trump isn’t a “normal Republican” … but he isn’t a populist, either.

Trump campaigned as a populist (in rhetoric if not always in policy). He railed against undocumented immigrants, job-killing trade deals and “elites” of all stripes. He promised to bring back jobs, avoid foreign entanglements and to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

Trump hasn’t exactly governed as a populist, however. He repeatedly turned to Goldman Sachs and its alumni network for top advisers. He made nice with China, rolled back financial regulations and just this week proposed a huge tax cut for businesses and the wealthy. His health care bill would have reduced insurance subsidies for many of his rural supporters.

Yet Trump also hasn’t become a “normal Republican,” as some pundits thought (or perhaps hoped) he might once in office. He has broken with Republicans’ free-trade orthodoxy by slapping tariffs on Canadian lumber imports and (briefly) threatening to pull out of NAFTA. He wants to limit legal as well as illegal immigration, worrying big businesses that depend on immigrant labor. And his tax plan would blow a multitrillion-dollar hole in the federal budget. 
Trump is doing what he said he’d do … except when he isn’t.

The early narrative of Trump’s presidency was that he was “doing what he said he’d do.” That is, no one should have been surprised when he took steps to dismantle the Affordable Care Act on Day 1 of his administration, or when he cracked down on illegal immigration or when he tried to ban travel from some Muslim-majority countries. He had said on the campaign trail, repeatedly, that he would do all of those things.

The lesson of Trump’s first 20 days, then (give or take), was that we should forgo the admonition to “take Trump seriously but not literally” — that he didn’t really mean the things he said during the campaign. But since then, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that we shouldn’t expect him to fulfill all his promises, either. Or, in some cases, even to try.

Trump, for example, pledged during the campaign to label China a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office. He didn’t, and now he has abandoned that promise altogether. Trump campaigned on a promise to avoid foreign entanglements and (in 2013) warned then-President Barack Obama not to attack Syria; less than three months into his presidency, he launched missile strikes on Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons. And Trump said repeatedly during the campaign that he would protect Medicaid from cuts; the Republican health care overhaul that Trump backed would have cut billions from the program.

Trump really means it on immigration.

If there is one policy area in which Trump has been consistent, it is immigration. Sure, there have been a handful of inconsistencies and reversals — he has wavered on when and how Mexico will supposedly pay for the border wall, and the rumored “deportation force” never materialized — but unlike in foreign policy or trade, Trump has never backed away from his hard-line stance on immigration. The administration has announced plans to hire thousands more border guards and enforcement officers, to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities,” to create a new office to draw attention to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants (it launched this week) and to expand the number of immigrants who can be deported through an expedited process. He has also taken steps to limit legal immigration, putting new restrictions on the use of temporary H1-B work visas and proposing a (still vague) merit-based approach to immigration.

The direct practical impacts of Trump’s new policies aren’t yet clear. Deportations are up but are still below the level from earlier in Obama’s term. A federal judge this week blocked part of Trump’s order on sanctuary cities. And Trump has thus far left in place Obama’s protections for immigrants who came to the country illegally as children. But there is evidence that Trump’s actions are having an impact even before his policies are fully in place. The number of undocumented immigrants apprehended at the Mexican border — a rough proxy for the level of illegal immigration — is down sharply under Trump, a drop many experts attribute to Trump’s tough talk and to would-be immigrants’ fears that they would not be welcomed in the U.S. At the same time, there have been early reports that fewer foreigners are coming to the U.S. as tourists or students, trends that, if they continue, could be bad news for the U.S. economy.
Some political rules do still apply to Trump. 
During the campaign, Trump often seemed to defy political gravity, surviving scandals that would have felled more traditional candidates. That Teflon reputation was always overblown — Trump did fall in the polls after controversies such as the “Access Hollywood” tape and his comments about a Mexican-American judge, though he eventually rebounded. As president, Trump has continued to make bizarre and sometimes false statements, and has continued to survive them. But that doesn’t mean there have been no consequences: Trump is deeply unpopular (though only modestly more so than when he took office), and his approval ratings took a particular hit after the high-profile failure of the Republican health care bill.

Trump is learning that he isn’t immune to other political realities, either. The health care bill was doomed by the same intra-Republican disputes that have plagued the party for years. Trump lost his first nominee for labor secretary and several lower-level appointees over ethical questions and conflict-of-interest issues. And persistent questions over his campaign’s relationship with Russia have brought down Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and have proven a constant distraction during the first 100 days. 
Facts still matter (sometimes).

Trump’s habit of playing fast and loose with the facts didn’t hurt him in the election (at least not badly enough for him to lose), so maybe it’s unsurprising that he has continued the practice since taking office. Most famously, he tweeted that Obama had tapped his phone during the campaign, a claim for which no one has ever produced any supporting evidence. He has also claimed that the U.S. murder rate is at a 47-year high (it isn’t), that he has created 600,000 new jobs (he hasn’t) and, repeatedly, that millions of undocumented immigrants voted in November (there’s no evidence to support that claim). In one particularly peculiar incident, Trump said he was sending an aircraft carrier off the coast of Korea, when it was in fact moving in the opposite direction.

But while those misstatements and falsehoods have generally carried few consequences, there are signs that facts still matter in policy and politics. Perhaps the clearest example was the failure of Republican efforts to discredit the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office ahead of its report on the GOP health plan. Despite those efforts, the CBO’s report — which found the bill would leave millions more Americans without health insurancehelped kill the bill. His new tax plan could face a similar fate: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the bill will pay for itself through economic growth, but it won’t be up to the White House to determine the plan’s cost, which will likely run into the trillions of dollars
There is no ‘Trump administration.’
Political reporters routinely write about the executive branch as if it is a single person — “the White House announced X” or “the administration believes Y.” That’s a conceit, of course; any presidential administration is full of thousands of strong-willed individuals who frequently disagree with one another. But it’s a conceit that contains a fair amount of truth. There may not be one opinion, but there generally is one policy, and a clear process for making it. Members of an administration may disagree, but once a decision is made, they typically fall in line behind it.

That does not appear to be how the Trump administration works. This month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley gave contradictory descriptions of the U.S.’s policy on regime change in Syria. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has called publicly for the U.S. to pull out of the Paris climate accords, a position other members of the administration do not seem to share. Trump’s various economic aides often seem at odds over the administration’s position on free trade.
It's a total mess. But seriously, who thought it would be otherwise?

Trump's going to the NRA convention to get a great big hug

by digby

I wrote about it for Salon this morning:

Donald Trump had many ardent admirers during the 2016 campaign, but one group that jumped on the Trump bandwagon early and enthusiastically was the National Rifle Association. Its passionate endorsement of him may be one of the most unexamined reasons for his success. Back in December, I wrote a piece about NRA president Wayne LaPierre’s savvy move to turn gun rights into a “populist” agenda for the organization. LaPierre was selling Trumpism before Trump even came on the scene.

For at least the past decade, LaPierre’s pitch has been that the NRA stands for more than just gun rights. Rather it stands for a way of life that “elites” are trying to destroy by suppressing free speech, religious liberty and the freedom to run your own business or choose your own health care. LaPierre declared that “drug-dealing illegal immigrants” were pouring over the border and lenient liberal judges were allowing criminals to prey on innocent people destroying our cities. Trump’s “American carnage” inaugural address no doubt resonated strongly with many NRA true believers.

Al Gore’s narrow defeat in the 2000 presidential election convinced Democratic Party strategists to take gun control off the table to stop the erosion of rural white voters in the Rust Belt and the South. Gore’s inability to win his home state of Tennessee — an unusual event, at least at the time — was chalked up to his support for gun control. According to this article by Noam Scheiber in the New Republic, by 2002 it was gospel:
Sure, Gore had won the Rust Belt battleground states, but the Democrats had lost their third straight bid to retake Congress — and many in the party believed gun control was to blame. In particular, they pointed to the election’s regional skew. In famously anti-gun California, the Dems knocked off three incumbents. But throughout the rest of the country, they defeated only one. “Of all the issues,” insists one senior Democratic congressman, gun control “had the greatest net [negative] effect.”
By 2008 the GOP had so discredited itself with the Iraq war and the financial crisis that Democrats were able to win back seats and the presidency in many of those disputed areas. And then a series of horrific mass shootings persuaded many Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, that they couldn’t be silent about gun proliferation any longer. The unhappy result was a reinvigorated gun rights movement and a whopping surge in gun sales.

As we all know, Donald Trump narrowly won three of those crucial Rust Belt states in 2016, putting him in the White House. This time around, the conventional wisdom has been that it was because of his economic populist message rather than gun rights. But as I argued in my earlier article, Trump’s wholehearted embrace of the NRA may very well have been a bigger contributing factor. Certainly LaPierre believes it was. His victory speech after the election was nothing short of triumphant.

He released a videotape to his members entitled “Our Time Is Now,” echoing the title of a famous 1981 speech by Ronald Reagan. He took credit for sending Hillary Clinton “on permanent political vacation” by making “her hatred for the Second Amendment a central issue of this campaign.” He issued a call for vigilance because Americans “face a growing group of anti-Second Amendment elitist billionaires, led by George Soros and Michael Bloomberg, and they will continue to enjoy the support of an openly dishonest media that truly hates your right to speak, your right to worship and your right to vote.”

A couple of months later, LaPierre spoke to the CPAC convention and in a long, passionate stemwinder he explained to the excited crowd that the central threat facing America today is “the violent left.” He put the anti-Trump protest movement on notice that they had better watch themselves or some God-fearing Real Americans might take matters into their own hands:
The left’s message is absolutely clear. They want revenge. You have to be punished. They say you are what is wrong with America. And now, you have to be purged. … Make no mistake, if the violent left brings their terror to our communities, our neighborhoods or into our home they will be met with the resolve, and the strength, and the full force of American freedom in the hands of the American people and we will win because we are the majority in this country. … We are still here and we’ve got President Trump’s back — for the next eight years.
That would sound like typical right-wing hyperbole if it weren’t coming from the man whose followers are all armed to the teeth. Ironically, times are tough for the gun industry when a Republican holds the the White House — gun sales typically fall and NRA membership is likely to flatten out. So the likely strategy is to gin up fear among the faithful so they’ll buy more guns and renew their memberships.

To that end, it appears the NRA has gone full “alt-right.” Media Matters issued a report on Bill Whittle, a new commentator for the NRA’s news outlet NRATV who “has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races and suggested that races could be divided along the lines of ‘civilized man’ and ‘barbarian.'” They are consolidating the entire Trump worldview under the NRA imprimatur.

On Friday Donald Trump will become the first president since Ronald Reagan to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention. We can expect him to receive a rapturous welcome. These gun proliferation zealots are the core of his base and may be the real reason he won the election, and they know it.

The president, who has just discovered, much to his surprise, that his new job is harder than being a reality TV star and heir to a real estate fortune, will no doubt feel relieved to be back in the bosom of his most ardent admirers. Unfortunately, he is also highly susceptible to suggestion, so let’s hope LaPierre cools it with the declarations of war on the “violent left.” Trump’s so desperate for action at this point that he might get carried away and take him seriously.



On being clueless

by Tom Sullivan

Driving home from a meeting in Raleigh takes over four hours. There is a lot of time to kill. On this particular drive, a friend from the New York City area via Los Angeles was riding along. She is an elegant woman with presence. You notice her immediately when you enter a room. She and her husband had run a travel-related business in southern California and retired in western North Carolina, we knew, but not much else.

So my wife and I started talking about how we had come to the South and a little about our family histories. I talked about how on both sides of my family were Irish Catholic, my father's family from Dublin via Ontario, my mother's from the Cork area (we think). My mother's background is working-class. Her father was a fireman and a union man. My father's family had been in shipping on the Great Lakes. My wife's mother traces roots back to the Mayflower while, my wife jokes, her father was the bastard son of a coal miner. And a WWII combat veteran. Then it was our friend's turn.

She grew up in Brooklyn, she said, but her family is from Puerto Rico. Her great grandmother was from Puerto Rico, she knew, but before that there was nothing. We didn't have to ask why. She is black. The car went silent.

It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. It's a common thing, family history. It had never occurred to us someone (other than an adoptee) didn't have one, and our friend does not. There are websites devoted to geneaology, and online records.* It is something the two of us simply took for granted. Is that white privilege or simply white cluelessness? Whatever, it clued me in to how clueless I was and still am.

So the lefty upset over Barack Obama's $400,000 fee for a prospective speech to Cantor Fitzgerald gnawed at me this week. A retweeted piece from Marcus H. Johnson got to part of why. (My Our Revolution friends won't like his take, but for me it brought back a little of that conversation in the car.) Johnson writes:

In late 2016, nearly 9 out of 10 Black voters approved of President Obama. To many Black voters, he is the symbol of success for Black America. You might not agree with everything he has done, and I certainly haven’t agreed with everything, but you have to respect him for what he means to Black Americans — making it to the height of American politics and withstanding eight years of racist attacks. Sanders and his movement see Obama as symbolic of evil neoliberal corporate interests. Therein lies the disconnect. The far right holds disdain for Obama for some of the same reasons that the far left does: They see him as beholden to special interests instead of “those of the people.”

Black people can see this, they aren’t stupid. They see that the political fringe on the left and most of the right hates Obama for some of the same reasons. So when the far left comes out and says that the first Black President should be held to a different standard than Presidents before him — that he doesn’t deserve to get paid for his post-Presidential work or shouldn’t be compensated — the Black community feels that one of its largest symbols of success is under attack from an overwhelmingly white political movement.


Do you see how Black people see this? How we look at this and say “They don’t want Black people to succeed or to be represented in politics, business, or media? They don’t want Black people to make money?” This is a movement that hates identity politics, refused to campaign in the diverse southern states, and calls out prominent successful Black people for getting paid for their work. Vox wrote an article saying that Obama shouldn’t have taken the money not because it was corruption (it clearly wasn’t) but because the optics could make it appear so. Well, think about how the optics of how the far left appears to Black people. From a Black perspective, you can see how the far left and the far right’s criticisms of prominent Black people appear very similar?
What I can see isn't the issue. Are Johnson's views typical of his community? Maybe and maybe not. But I'm sure mine are not. Maybe his criticism that the "far left" (whatever that is) is "moving down a path that doesn’t get them the white working class and pushes away Black and Brown voters," is unfair and maybe not. But having been blindsided once, memorably, by my own white cluelessness, they give me pause. My perspective is not right. It's just mine.

* In 2013, a friend digitized and posted online a searchable archive of slave deeds from our county's past, perhaps the first such record in the country.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

He can't negotiate his way out of a paper bag

by digby

Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker breaks down Trump's backtrack on the border wall and concludes with this:

From a policy perspective, Trump’s reversal is welcome. There is no credible evidence that a twenty-two-hundred-mile physical wall is the best use of federal funds to deter unauthorized border crossings—never mind the message that a giant wall would send to the rest of the world. The members of Congress who know the issue the best think it’s a bad idea. The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “Not a single member of Congress who represents the territory on the southwest border said they support President Donald Trump’s request for $1.4 billion to begin construction of his promised wall.” And if Trump’s retreat from insisting on wall money helps keep the government open, he should be applauded for being flexible.

But, from a political perspective, Trump has given members of Congress another reason not to trust his word. He promised a health-care bill that would cover everyone, settled for one that would have kicked twenty-four million people off insurance, and then watched helplessly as the bill floundered. He promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure package that hasn’t materialized. And now the wall, Trump’s signature proposal on the campaign, has been shelved. This last point risks angering even Trump’s base supporters—Rush Limbaugh declared that he was “very, very troubled” by the news.

There are lots of reasons for Trump’s lack of legislative victories so far. His White House is ideologically divided, as are Republicans in Congress. Democrats have uniformly opposed his initiatives and Trump has done nothing to try to woo them, even though he will need at least some Democratic votes in the Senate to pass any meaningful measures.

But the biggest problem is Trump himself. The man who wrote “The Art of the Deal” is a terrible negotiator.

If nothing else has become obvious in the past three months, everyone should at least have been schooled about this particular bragging point. His endless self-promotion as the world's greatest negotiator was one hundred percent prime grade bullshit. When he gets involved he actually destroys whatever chances there were for a deal. And that's a blessing since every one of his promises, as well as Paul Ryan's, are daft. If they can keep him away from existing agreements with foreign countries we might come out of this alive.

Take a few minutes to watch this nonsense from the campaign trail on his powers of negotiation and ask yourself why anyone ever believed it:

Unless they're buying favors the rich don't want anything to do with the Trump brand

by digby

If you're wondering why the Trumps are now looking to do deals in places like Oklahoma and Texas, this might explain it:

President Donald Trump’s election may have all the diplomats clamoring to stay at his Washington, D.C., hotel, but his controversial campaign’s harsh rhetoric and administration’s agenda have made many potential customers uneasy about giving their business to Trump’s properties. Residents of Manhattan’s Trump Place successfully changed their property’s name, two celebrity chefs famously backed out of D.C.’s Trump International Hotel and others were unwilling to replace them, and Trump’s new line of hotels won’t bear his name. Then last December, a month after three NBA teams announced they wouldn’t stay at his hotels, members of the Cleveland Cavaliers (including Black Lives Matter supporter LeBron James) refused to stay at the Trump Soho. Now, that hotel’s restaurant operator, Koi, an international chainlet of sushi spots for beautiful people, is shuttering its outpost there. But this isn’t a closing as usual. It’s collateral damage from the rise of Trump.

“Obviously, the restaurant is closing because business is down. I don’t think anyone would volunteer to close a business if they were making money,” Suzanne Chou, Koi Group’s general counsel, says with a laugh. “Beyond that, I would prefer not to speculate as to why, but obviously since the election it’s gone down.”


“Before Trump won we were doing great. There were a lot of people we had, our regulars, who’d go to the hotel but are not affiliated with Trump,” says Jonathan Grullon, a busser and host who has worked at the restaurant for a year and a half. “And they were saying if he wins, we are not coming here anymore.”

Ricardo Aca, who worked at the restaurant for four years until this February, concurs, noting twice that “the Kardashians stopped coming.” Following the election, Aca says that business dipped so much that he had to take a second part-time job while he was still working there. As a server in the hotel’s Koi-managed lounge, he saw his hourly earnings fall from about $20 to $15 an hour. And Grullon says he’s making almost $200 dollars less each week and that he, too, has had to get a second job.

According to Grullon, Koi now has just ten service employees, including those in the kitchen. Some staff started walking away once business evaporated, and now that news of the closing is public, more have started to leave. The dining room is often 30 to 40 percent full and never gets past 50 to 60 percent capacity. During lunch, they’ll serve fewer than 30 people in a restaurant that can seat 140.

“We’ve been getting cut all the time. There is no reason for us to be there,” Grullon says. “They say they’re going to close June 18, but I think it’s going to be sooner.”

So much for job creating.

As I wrote earlier, the boys and Ivanka are very worried about this. Their brand is seriously damaged for anyone who isn't trying to buy favors from the president. And that world is pretty small, certainly too small to support an empire.

But they have a lot of experience hawking cheap gaudy consumer items to poor people so they should be ok in the end as long as Trump's voter base stays with him. But their high end businesses may just be taking a fatal hit.

Update: Their cheap consumer goods are too:
On Monday, it was reported that Ivanka Trump apparel was being sold with an “Adrienne Vittadini Studio” label in the US discount chain Stein Mart. The company that makes Trump’s clothes under licence, G-III, then admitted it had been responsible for relabelling the items. 
So now even the people who paid to use Ivanka Trump’s name are secretly removing it? Yes, although we don’t know why. Apparently, it is common to remove or replace labels on high-end fashion items that don’t sell, in order to prevent the brand being seen in discount stores.
Her goods have always been in discount stores. (I know this because I shop in them.) The only reason they would do this is because her stuff isn't even selling there.


The oversight committee watchdogs are on the case

by digby

You may believe that congressional oversight has gone lax now that Trump is in the White House, but you should think again:
The private internet company hired by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to maintain her private email server has been obstructing a congressional investigation into its actions for more than a year, prompting a leading lawmakers to refer the case to the Trump administration’s Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has asked the DOJ to prosecute Platte River Networks CEO Treve Suazo for obstructing a congressional investigation into his company’s role in providing security for Clinton’s home brewed email server, which became the subject of widespread debate following revelations that it had multiple security vulnerabilities.

Smith, whose committee has jurisdiction over the investigation, said the Congress would not tolerate Platte River's failure to comply with the investigation.

"The Committee is referring Mr. Treve Suazo, CEO of Platte River Networks, to the Department of Justice for prosecution under federal laws pertaining to failing to produce subpoenaed documents, making false statements to Congress regarding possession of documents, and obstructing Congress," Smith said in a statement.

"Platte River Networks, a company hired by former Secretary Hillary Clinton, has deliberately withheld requested materials from the Committee and refused to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas," Smith alleged. "With a new administration in place, I am hopeful that the Department of Justice will appropriately respond to the referral.  We cannot allow companies with valuable information to stonewall us in our oversight efforts."

Senior congressional aides apprised of the situation said their investigation shows there is mounting evidence there were "pretty serious cyber security concerns" with Clinton’s server.

They're not going to let anyone get away with such grave threats to our national security, nosirree. They are ON IT.

They don't seem to be interested in the cybersecurity issue of the Russian hacking of the presidential campaign, however, which seems odd.

One member of the committee weighed in last fall on that:

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said Thursday that it was “terrific” that voters got more truthful information about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, regardless of whether the hackers were Russian.

“The hackers, whether or not they’re Russian hackers, I don’t know,” the California congressman said. “I know the CIA and the FBI disagree as to who the hackers are. But whether they’re Russian hackers or any other hackers, the only information that we were getting from hackers was accurate information, was truthful. And that’s not gonna turn the tide. If the American people have been given more truthful information, that’s terrific.”

Contrary to what Rohrabacher said, US intelligence agencies have near uniform consensus blaming Russia for hacks during the presidential campaign into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. As CNN has reported, the disagreement between the FBI and CIA is over whether the Russians’ specific goal was to get Donald Trump elected, not as the lawmaker says over who is behind the cyber attack. Since that was reported earlier this month, Democrats and many Republicans, led by senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, have called for an investigation into Russian interference in the election. Trump, meanwhile, has said he does not believe the intelligence agencies that Russia was trying to help him win the White House.

In the interview on the John and Ken Show on 640 KFI California radio, Rohrabacher expressed skepticism that the hackers were Russian but praised them for doing better investigative journalism during the campaign than the American media.

He said, “It was truthful and in fact, whoever the hackers were, who could’ve been our hackers or Russian hackers or whoever, they were doing more investigative journalism into the corruption and arrogance of the liberal Democratic campaign for president than any of the national media, who were just hellbent to try to destroy Don Trump. That’s all they focused on.”

Rohrabacher, who is the chairman of the House subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, has made headlines in recent months for his affinity for Russian president Vladimir Putin. In an interview earlier this month with Yahoo News anchor Bianna Golodryga, Rohrabacher said that the anchor’s claim that Russia was a human rights abuser was “baloney,” then accused her of bias because she was a political refugee from the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

In Thursday’s radio interview, Rohrabacher recounted a story of how he once played American football, went to a pub, and then arm-wrestled Putin while Putin was an official in the city of St. Petersburg. Putin won the arm-wrestling match, Rohrabacher said.

Trump's a big Rhorabacher fan. He invited him to the White House after he saw Rohrabacher defend him on Fox News.

“I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here. But this shit is hard.”

by digby

Dear God, we are doomed. Politico has published an article on "The Education of Donald Trump" and it is really alarming. It's not just him. It's the whole White House:
It was classic Trump: Confident, hyperbolic and insistent on asserting control.

But interviews with nearly two dozen aides, allies, and others close to the president paint a different picture – one of a White House on a collision course between Trump’s fixed habits and his growing realization that this job is harder than he imagined when he won the election on Nov. 8.

So far, Trump has led a White House gripped by paranoia and insecurity, paralyzed by internal jockeying for power. Mistrust between aides runs so deep that many now employ their own personal P.R. advisers — in part to ensure their own narratives get out. Trump himself has been deeply engaged with media figures, even huddling in the Oval Office with Matt Drudge.

Trump remains reliant as ever on his children and longtime friends for counsel. White House staff have learned to cater to the president’s image obsession by presenting decisions in terms of how they’ll play in the press. Among his first reads in the morning is still the New York Post. When Trump feels like playing golf, he does — at courses he owns. When Trump feels like eating out, he does — at hotels with his name on the outside.

As president, Trump has repeatedly reminded his audiences, both public and private, about his longshot electoral victory. That unexpected win gave him and his closest advisers the false sense that governing would be as easy to master as running a successful campaign turned out to be. It was a rookie mistake. From the indignity of judges halting multiple executive orders on immigration-related matters—most recently this week—to his responses to repeated episodes of North Korean belligerence, it’s all been more complicated than Trump had been prepared to believe...

As he sat in the Oval Office last week, Trump seemed to concede that even having risen to fame through real estate and entertainment, the presidency represented something very different.

“Making business decisions and buying buildings don’t involve heart,” he said. “This involves heart. These are heavy decisions.”

Fergawdsakes! This is infuriating. What in the hell qualifies him for the job then? Or any of them?
When Donald Trump gets angry, he fumes. “You can’t make them happy,” he said. “These people want more and more.”

He was complaining to friends that he had negotiated for weeks with Freedom Caucus members and he couldn’t believe the group was still against the health care legislation. Trump and his advisers were buzzing about making an enemies list and wanted to force a vote. But it was Trump, a man who hates to show weakness, who had to blink. As support flagged, the bill was shelved.

“I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here,” one White House official said of these early months. “But this shit is hard.”

Maybe we should have hired someone for the job who has done something notable other than grab women by the pussy, hawk cheap consumer goods and say "you're fired" on TV. Just a thought.

And it's going to get worse:

The [health care] defeat represented an early inflection point for a president who is openly more transactional than ideological. More than anything, it reinforced the president’s conviction that he could only trust the tight circle of people closest to him.

Now, Trump is forging ahead alone on taxes, rolling out a dramatic package of tax cuts on Wednesday without input from Hill leaders. “We aren’t listening to anyone else on taxes,” said one senior administration official, referring to Ryan. “It’s our plan.”

Yeah, that's already going well. Their "plan" (such as it is) explicitly focuses on giving people like Donald Trump and his kids massive tax breaks. That's a really excellent political strategy.

The problem,of course, is him. He's an incompetent imbecile with a monumental ego and they can't change him at this late date. The man is 70 and he's been dancing away from abject failure his whole life. It's all he knows:

As Trump is beginning to better understand the challenges—and the limits—of the presidency, his aides are understanding better how to manage perhaps the most improvisational and free-wheeling president in history. “If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,” said one Trump confidante. “To talk him out of doing crazy things.”

Interviews with White House officials, friends of Trump, veterans of his campaign and lawmakers paint a picture of a White House that has been slow to adapt to the demands of the most powerful office on earth.

“Everyone is concerned that things are not running that well,” said one senior official. “There should be more structure in place so we know who is working on what and who is responsible for what, instead of everyone freelancing on everything.”

But they’re learning. One key development: White House aides have figured out that it’s best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be – and especially how it will play in the press.

“You don’t walk in with a traditional presentation, like a binder or a PowerPoint. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t consume information that way,” said one senior administration official. “You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like.”

Downplaying the downside risk of a decision can win out in the short term. But the risk is a presidential dressing-down—delivered in a yell. “You don’t want to be the person who sold him on something that turned out to be a bad idea,” the person said.

Advisers have tried to curtail Trump’s idle hours, hoping to prevent him from watching cable news or calling old friends and then tweeting about it. That only works during the workday, though—Trump’s evenings and weekends have remained largely his own.

“It’s not like the White House doesn’t have a plan to fill his time productively but at the end of the day he’s in charge of his schedule,” said one person close to the White House. “He does not like being managed.”

He also doesn’t like managing—or, rather, doesn’t mind stoking competition among his staffers. While his predecessor was known as “no-drama Obama,” Trump has presided over a series of melodramas involving his top aides, including Priebus, Bannon, counselor Kellyanne Conway and economic adviser Gary Cohn.

“He has always been a guy who loves the idea of being a royal surrounded by a court,” said Michael D’Antonio, one of Trump’s biographers.

He's obsessed with the media and it pretty much determines how he sees the world. Nothing else really penetrates. He's got a very important new adviser too:

Trump continues to crave attention and approval from news media figures. Trump huddled in the Oval Office with Matt Drudge, the reclusive operator of the influential Drudge Report, to talk about his administration and the site. Drudge and Kushner have also begun to communicate frequently, said people familiar with the conversations. Drudge, whose visits to the White House haven’t previously been reported, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Several senior administration aides said Trump loves nothing more than talking to reporters – no matter what he says about the “failing” New York Times or CNN – and he often seems personally stung by negative coverage, cursing and yelling at the TV. Kushner, too, sometimes calls TV personalities and executives, in particular MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, according to people close to the Trump son-in-law. (It didn’t go unnoticed in the West Wing that, at the height of the Kushner-Bannon war, the Drudge Report and Scarborough’s Morning Joe had an anti-Bannon flair to their coverage.)

If the goal of most administrations has been to set the media agenda for the day, it’s often the reverse in Trump’s White House, where what the president hears on the cable morning gabfests on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN can redirect his attention, schedule and agenda. The three TVs in the chief-of-staff's office sometimes dictate the 8 a.m. meeting – and are always turned on to cable news, West Wing officials say.

This is so pernicious. As someone who has to watch all this crap let's just say that it will warp your thinking. You have to read. A lot. You simply cannot understand reality if you depend on cable news, particularly Fox.

Relying on Drudge is actually very smart of Kushner. Drudge is a wingnut. Back during the campaign I wrote about how the beltway media also still follow him like the pied piper. There's big money in it. He was instrumental in inflicting as much damage to Clinton as possible, giving big links and exposure to the mainstream media's obsessive coverage of her emails and her health. If they can find the right formula for Drudge to guide the media to their side, it could be very useful. They need a Democrat to torture, unfortunately, and that's tough right now since Republicans have the whole thing. But if anyone can figure out how to manipulate the press it's Drudge. He rules their world.

And yes, he is full of shit:

The fact that 100 days, as a marker, has no legal or actual significance outside the media has not seemed to matter to Trump. While he has publicly derided the deadline as “ridiculous” on Twitter, he has decidedly reshuffled his schedule, priorities and agenda in the last two weeks to notch political points, knowing the deadline would get inordinate media coverage.

He has repeatedly pressed aides to have a health care vote before Saturday. He surprised his own staff by promising a tax reform plan by this week and urged them to round out his list of accomplishments. He has maintained an aggressive calendar, wooing conservative outlets and traditional reporters alike.

He told aides this week needed to be a busy one — just as he told them after his inauguration.

In days 1 through 10, it was executive orders on a federal hiring freeze, abortions abroad, withdrawing from an Asian trade deal and the explosive immigration order barring immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries. He got into a diplomatic row with Australia, one of America’s closest allies. The immigration order sparked international protests and was stopped in court. Trump later told advisers he regretted how it was handled.

In days 90 through 100, it was a flurry of executive orders. He got into a diplomatic row with Canada, one of America’s closest allies, threatening a trade war. He moved toward unwinding NAFTA. “There is no way we can do everything he wants to do this week,” one senior official said.

Trump is a guy of action. He likes to move,” said Chris Ruddy, a close friend. “He doesn’t necessarily worry about all the collateral damage or the consequences.”

Just what we need in a Commander in Chief.

Read the whole thing. There's actually a whole lot more and it's all terrifying. It's actually worse than I thought.

The country may be going to hell but the Trump family grift is going better than ever

by digby

In an apparent attempt to fool people into thinking his first 100 days have been wildly successful, President Donald Trump is engaging in a flurry of activity this week. Evidently he hopes that will serve as a proxy for accomplishment.

He has started a trade war with Canada, chatted up astronauts and talked about sending Americans to Mars, signaled that he plans to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and then changed his mind in that same day, offered up some talking points that he called a tax plan, piled the entire U.S. Senate into buses and summoned them to the White House for a briefing on North Korea (later described by one senator as “a dog and pony show“) and jump-started the doomed Obamacare repeal zombie. And in the middle of all this he weirdly punted on his biggest campaign promise, the “big, beautiful wall.” Trump may not have been productive, but he’s been busy.

The tax proposal is the most interesting because it’s a revealing illustration of Trump’s self-serving White House grift, which carries on regardless of anything else that’s happening in this administration. It’s basically a blueprint for massive profits for himself and his children. Naturally enough, Trump has proposed eliminating the estate tax because it’s so unfair that Ivanka and the boys should have to pay taxes on their immense windfall when their daddy passes on. But that’s just the beginning, as The New York Times reported:

Beyond cutting the tax rate to 15 percent for large corporations, which now pay a rate of 35 percent, Mr. Trump also wants that rate for a broad range of firms known as pass-through entities — including hedge funds, real estate concerns like Mr. Trump’s and large partnerships — that currently pay taxes at individual rates, which top off at 39.6 percent

After presenting this wish list to the press, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared that Trump had no plans to ever release his tax returns because he has been more transparent than any president before him. So they will not be voluntarily produced, period. Mnuchin also acknowledged that a scheme such as the one the administration is proposing for pass-through companies like Trump’s could potentially be used as a tax shelter but assured everyone that it would not be used as a loophole, whatever that means.

The Trump family's massive grift: Who cares about policy? As a business and branding venture, this presidency is going swell

One cannot help but recall this exchange about Trump’s tax returns in a presidential debate just six months ago:

Hillary Clinton: The only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

Donald Trump: That makes me smart.
You have to give him credit. Becoming president, refusing to divest yourself of your business or reveal your conflicts of interest and then proposing gigantic tax cuts that will directly benefit you and your family is actually pretty smart. It should be illegal, but it has never previously occurred to anyone that a president could be so shameless or that the American people simply wouldn’t care.

The family is also using the presidency to advance its “brand” and fill its coffers. The Associated Press reported this week that Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have devised a new business strategy to take advantage of their dad’s popularity in certain states now that the international business schemes have come under more scrutiny. Donald Trump Jr. said the plans will still go through but they’ll be delayed for a few years and “there is an optical component that has to be taken into account.” The New York Times reported a few days ago that this was the main reason Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have taken a leading role in the White House:
Several administration officials and people close to the family said the couple’s move against [Steve] Bannon was motivated less by interest in shaping any particular policy than by addressing what they view as an embarrassing string of failures that may damage [Ivanka’s] father personally, as well as the Trump family brand.
What’s the point of all this if they can’t cash in on all the promises, favors, graft and payola?

As Ivanka and Jared work the angles from inside the White House, Donald Jr. and Eric are working them in Trump country, looking for properties in places where they can parlay the presidency into big bucks for the family. According to the AP:

Among the possible locations being considered: Texas, parts of the South, and perhaps the nation’s capital, where the hotel would exist with the Trump luxury property in the former home of the Old Post Office not far from the White House. The company is also in the very early stages of considering a three-star hotel chain.

Experts quoted in the article said this didn’t seem to present any ethical problems. In fact, one said that while “questions can be raised” about some of the company’s behavior, a pitch in Trump-friendly states seems like “a reasonable business strategy.” I guess there’s no chance of people trying to buy favors from the government with sweetheart deals for the family business. And there’s certainly no chance that the president would be in a position to offer favors to state and local leaders to ensure that certain favors would flow to the Trump organization. It’s perfectly fine.

In fact, Trump is already arranging for some new development possibilities, as USA Today reported:
President Trump [signed] an executive order Wednesday calling into question the future of dozens of national monuments proclaimed by the last three presidents to set aside millions of acres from development.

Trump’s executive order takes aim at 21 years of proclamations beginning in 1996.

Who knows, maybe the Trump Organization can build some three-star hotels in soon-to-be-privatized national monuments and turn them into monuments to President Trump. If the family can spread some money around to help Dad politically and make the whole gaggle even richer than they already are, Donald Trump will be successful on his own terms regardless of what the pollsters and pundits have to say about it. Who cares about the first 100 days? It’s the first billion dollars that matters.


How dare those liberals disrespect broads like that

by digby

Jesse Waters is Bill O'Reilly's heir apparent at Fox News. He was groomed by the man himself. And he learned well:

"It’s funny. The left says they really respect women and then when given an opportunity to respect a woman like that they boo and hiss … so I don’t really get what’s going on here, but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone,” Watters said.

Watters gestured with his hand toward his mouth as he made the remark and then grinned at his co-hosts.

They've told him to take a few days off.

You have to love the fact that this guy was lecturing about how the left is hypocritical about respecting women for booing Ivanka and in the same breath said this. It's not just misogyny although it is that. It's the right's patented "I know you are but what am I" junior high level snottiness that Watters so perfectly epitomizes. This style of politics is a true trademark of the right.

The interesting thing is that the Fox audience is made up of white, male, conservative, senior citizens who apparently never grew up. And they run the world. Explains a lot.

Word salad strategery

by digby

That one-page list of tax cut talking points may not have been too well thought out:
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin today told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos that he couldn’t say how Donald Trump's sweeping tax overhaul plan would affect the president personally, while also declining to guarantee that middle-class families wouldn't pay more under the proposal.

"I can't make any guarantees until this thing is done and it’s on the president's desk. But I can tell you, that’s our number one objective in this," Mnuchin said on "Good Morning America."
It's hard to know what he to meant by that but let's just say that it's inevitable that "middle class families" will end up paying more so that the wealthy can pay less. We already know that they want to stick it to middle class people who have to buy health insurance in the private market. And somebody's got to pay for that massive military build up.

Still, it's interesting that they decided it was a good idea to put out a sheet of paper with a vague blueprint laying out tax cuts for Donald Trump and his family that makes it clear they didn't give a second thought to the question of how it would affect the average working family. I assume they thought this would be popular.

And it undoubtedly will be popular with Trump's base once the right wing media tells them to believe him or believe their eyes. Greg Sargent reported today:

With the White House visibly agitated by the possibility of brutally negative coverage of President Trump’s tenure thus far, he has insisted that the press is misrepresenting his record, while also vastly inflating it himself — thus preparing his voters to dismiss everything they are being told about his historic lack of accomplishments.

A new Post-ABC News poll suggests that this may be working for Trump. It finds that enormous majorities of his voters believe the news media regularly publishes false stories. Even bigger majorities of them believe the news media’s falsehoods are a bigger problem than Trump’s falsehoods are, while only small fractions think Trump tells falsehoods or that his lies are the greater problem. Just look at these findings, which I pulled from the crosstabs:

80 percent of Trump voters think it’s a bigger problem that news organizations produce false stories, while only 3 percent of them think it’s a bigger problem that Trump makes false claims. (Among Republicans overall, this is 69-14.)
Only 17 percent of Trump voters think Trump regularly makes false claims, while 76 percent of Trump voters think he doesn’t. (Among Republicans overall, this is 31-65.) 
By contrast, 78 percent of Trump voters think that news organizations regularly produce false claims, while only 19 percent of them think otherwise. (Among Republicans overall, this is 70-27.) 
Meanwhile, 84 percent of Trump voters think he’s keeping most of his major campaign promises, while only 4 percent think he isn’t, and 89 percent of them think he’s honest and trustworthy.

The question is whether those things are related: Amid increased press scrutiny of Trump’s falsehoods and failings, do Trump’s assaults on the media — and the related widespread belief among Trump voters that the media regularly produces false stories — further bond them to Trump and make them more likely to believe he’s succeeding?

It’s possible. Note this finding from another new poll of Trump voters, this one from the University of Virginia Center for Politics Poll:
Nearly nine in 10 respondents (88%) said that media criticism of Trump reinforces that the president is on the right track, and the same percentage agreed with Trump’s assertion that the press is “the enemy of the American people.” 
The lies that tumble from Trump himself are unprecedented in scope, audacity and frequency. The Post fact-checking team had documented more than 400 false or misleading statements as of Day 91 of his presidency. Other administration members have taken their cues from this, particularly press secretary Sean Spicer, who set the tone early on by lying about Trump’s inaugural crowd sizes and accusing the press of falsely diminishing them. Yet to Trump voters, not only does this reality not exist at all; such critical media scrutiny of him and his administration is a sign that he’s doing something right — that he’s on their side, and the news media is the enemy.

Trump has understood this better than anyone from the beginning:


Voting Rights Jeopardy

by Tom Sullivan

"Alex, I'll take Voting Irregularities for $100."
It's the solution to dead people voting.
"What is Voter ID?"

That is the conservatively correct response to every voting irregularity in the category. Dated voter rolls. Felons voting. Clerical errors. Registration errors. Non-citizens voting. Double voting. Machine tampering. Ballot box stuffing. Absentee ballot fraud (a big one). The entire gamut of election irregularities. For voter fraud vigilantes, one non-solution fits all and puts the voting rights of millions of legal voters in jeopardy in pursuit of the ever-elusive, voter imposter. Why is that?

Right-wing media has been flogging the results of an audit of the 2016 election released last week by the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE). Misrepresenting those results helps sell one single product that won't prevent the overwhelming majority of suspected ineligible votes. On Fox & Friends Sunday April 23, guest J. Christian Adams declared, "The system is broken and needs work."

Yet the Charlotte Observer Editorial Board concludes:

On Friday, the State Board of Elections released the results of an extensive, objective audit of the 2016 election. It found that 4,769,640 votes were cast in November and that one (1) would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law. One out of nearly 4.8 million.
Let that sink in. In fact, the audit identified 508 suspected cases of inelligible votes. Offsetting those (highlight in the original), "A provisional ballot audit resulted in 428 ballots of eligible voters being counted that would not otherwise have counted." (They won't be celebrating that on Fox News.) But before we get to the details, the Republican-led NCSBE is careful not to mischaracterize what the votes flagged as worthy of investigation represent (highlight in the original):
This agency strongly cautions readers not to refer to each of these cases as “voter fraud.” As stated earlier, “ineligible voters casting ballots” may be the result of unintentional or intentional conduct. Fraud, in most cases, is an intent crime that requires prosecutors to show that the voter knowingly committed a crime.

The evidence suggests that participation by ineligible voters is neither rampant nor non-existent in North Carolina. Our audits suggest that in the 2016 general election, approximately 0.01% of ballots were cast by ineligible voters. Most incidents are isolated and uncoordinated, and detecting technical violations does not always prove purposefully unlawful conduct. Our work indicates that ineligible voters are not isolated to one political party or any geographical region of the state.
Contrary to the alarmism on the right about election integrity, a 0.01% error rate would indicate a system that works pretty well, well below the defect rate for consumer electronics, actually. The Observer continues:
About 87 percent of those (441) were felons who voted. State law prohibits felons from voting until their sentence is fully served, including probation and parole. It is believed that many of the felons who voted did not realize they could not vote while on probation.

The probe found 41 non-citizens, from 28 countries, voted. All were here legally, but were not eligible to vote. The audit also found 24 cases of double-voting and two cases of voter impersonation (one by mail and one in person).

The two impersonation cases have been referred to prosecutors. They involve ballots by persons voting the preferences of recently deceased members of the family. (Both were Republicans.) The in-person case is the one identified out of 4.8 million that might have been stopped by a photo ID law.

It's the solution to non-citizens voting

The Board is also careful to remind readers that these are for the most part only suspected cases of “ineligible voters casting ballots." They've been flagged for further investigation. In many cases, the initial screening proves incorrect.

Investigations on non-citizen cases also have revealed the complexities of immigration law and citizenship status.

For instance, some individuals achieve citizenship as a matter of law through “derived citizenship” as the child of a naturalized citizen, though paperwork showing that changed status is only available if requested and official databases may not reflect the correct status. An Application for Certificate of Citizenship costs $1,170. Individual contact with affected registrants has also illustrated the limitations of the data. Even where data from the Division of Motor Vehicles, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the voter rolls matched exactly, a high proportion of flagged individuals were citizens.
And since the cases identified to date are all legal immigrants, they would already have government IDs.

It's the solution to felons voting

As in the cases of felons returning to voting before completing their parole or probation, the Board believes "education and understanding of state law appear to be the primary problem."

It's the solution to double voting

The Board rarely encounters cases of double voting, but has flagged 24 records for further investigation. If past experience is any indication, suspected double voting will turn out in a majority of cases (I wrote about one case I know personally here) to be bad data matching or clerical errors:
Detecting double voting and voter impersonation is a time-intensive process. Database matching is not enough, as administrative errors can lead to voter history being assigned to the wrong person — such as when a poll worker checks off the wrong name on the poll book. Instead, data is only the starting point for cases that ultimately involve live interviews and signature analyses. NCSBE has begun that process on possible instate double voting cases in 2016. This initial review of NC voter registration records indicates that there are a few dozen possible additional cases of double voting; however, this process is still in its preliminary stages and staff have not yet completed review of voter documents to determine whether the match was due to administrative error rather than illegal voting.
The NCSBE offers additional steps it is taking for reducing voting errors to augment deterrents already in place. They involve improved voter education, updated elections software (to check felon status at the time of registration), automated detection of transcription errors in real time, and continued use of the Interstate Crosscheck Program, among others.

But not voter ID, the all-purpose response when "election integrity" advocates play Voting Rights Jeopardy.