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March 12, 2019

Hal Brown's blog March 10 - 2019

Evening Edition
His facial expression says it all.

New Zealand’s prime minister asked Trump to do this one thing after the mosque attack — but he completely failed

In recounting her conversation with Trump, she said: “He very much wished for his condolences to be passed on to New Zealand.”
She continued: “He asked what support the U.S. could provide. My message was sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.” When asked what his response was, she said, “He acknowledged that and agreed.”
But despite agreeing to the request on the phone, Trump didn’t follow through. When Trump held a public event on Friday in the Oval Office and addressed the devastating attack, he was seemingly unable to share the “love” and “sympathy” for all Muslim communities that Ardern had requested.

Morning Edition:

First I made this image for my friends who live in New Zealand. Then I decided to write this story for Daily Kos: 

Trump’s Biker Threat Tweet Deleted After Mosque Massacre

Oops. Trump threatened biker violence against leftists, then deleted the tweet after the New Zealand mosque massacre manifesto praised him as a ‘symbol of renewed white identity.’

With other breaking news, this from N. Korea is flying under the radar, so to speak: 

North Korea just threatened to end talks with US and restart weapons testing

Critics accuse U.S. government of aligning with ‘bad actors,’ ‘bullying’ vulnerable nations. The effort is being led by Valerie Huber, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services who founded an abstinence-only sex education group before joining the government. She and other U.S. officials have traveled the world inviting other nations to join the cause.

"This is something about which we have laughed and joked to some time. However, this really may be a far more serious threat or issue than we have given it credit for. Donald Trump is the single most powerful man in the world, arguably. With great power comes great responsibility and so on. Given his important position, it is vital that his mind is not only better than anyone else’s, but working as well as it can do. The problem is that this is clearly not the case. Any press conference or speech that you will have watched or heard will in no time at all give you a really good understanding that this man has a very troubled cognitive circumstance."

Mar. 14, 2019

“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay?” Trump said. “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad." (emphasis added) Here's a photo of Trump giving some manly loved to of few of his biker buddies, and my version:


“The combination of the two disorders is called ‘malignant narcissism,’” Conway added. “It’s highly problematic, to say the least, and it’s astounding how little it has been discussed, even though it has been staring us in the face every day. This goes beyond politics." 

In the wake of the Cook mix-up, Trump claimed that he called the CEO Tim Apple “as an easy way to save time & words.”
“Have we ever seen this degree of brazen, pathological mendacity in American public life? One day he makes a harmless slip of the tongue, something any mentally balanced person would laugh off,” Conway wrote as part of a lengthy Twitter outburst.
“But instead he lies about it. He denies what the world can see on videotape. Even his donors and supporters wonder, what is wrong with him? Why would be feel compelled to tell such an absurd lie?
“But one lie on any subject is never enough for Donald Trump. So he next tells a different lie. Yes, I omitted a word, but to save time. A ridiculous assertion, of course—he really said ‘Tim Apple’ instead of ‘Tim Cook of Apple’ to save **a third of a second**? ”
“This man who recently gave an incoherent, rambling two-hour-plus speech, this man not known for economy of words? Another absurd, crazy lie. Pathological."

News about the other New York City crime family: Boss of Gambino Crime Family Gunned down in New York 


Mar. 13, 2019
Even though this, my second Daily Kos story since I stopped posting there in October, stayed on their page for only half a day, it was recommended 28 times and there were 23 well-thought-out cogent comments which taken together add to the substance of what I wrote. I also received an email of appreciation from the author of the Psychology Today article which I reviewed. It is off the front page but people are still reading it from where I posted it on Twitter and Facebook.

Just Saying, and we haven't even heard from the N.Y. Attorney General:
Click above for link

Mar. 12, 2019

Comment: Why I'm leaving Capitol Hill Blue and going back to posting on Daily Kos See Wikipedia Daily Kos article

I decided to start posting on Daily Kos again. While I am just one of some 100 highly prolific, community members (among thousands of writers who post periodically or infrequently) at least I get feedback through comments and I can engage readers in dialogue. This is satisfying for me. I liked being an actual columnist on Capitol Hill Blue, a member of a select group of one (aside from the editor) writing opinion exclusively for CHB. I liked that what I wrote appeared on Google News searches. 

I never knew how many people read my CHB columns and thus couldn't judge how particular topics went over with the readership. I am able to get a rough idea of readership and reaction on Daily Kos by how many people comment, and if I put a poll on, by how many people take the poll. There is also a function where people can recommend, Facebook shares and Tweet a story and I can see those numbers as well. As far as I can tell a typical column will get between merely 20 up to 150 clicks. There's no way I can see the exact numbers.

Unlike with CHB what I write gets posted instantly and I can use my creative discretion as whether to use my new photoshopping skills to augment a story and try to create an image that stands out in the tiny box next to the title on the main page but also adds to the subject matter when enlarged on the story itself. (My story today, for example.)

If a story is recommended because it gets lots of comments or reader recommendations it ends up at the top of the sidebar along with 15-20 other stories. These stories stay on for as long as 24 hours. Once or month or so one of my stories made this list. Otherwise, a story ends up on the sidebar among 50 stories which cycle off the page as new stories are added.

Kos is, of course, a highly partisan website, but even with a large number of reader posts, it is ranked as one of the top highly partisan progressive websites on Alexa. It's March 10th rank in the United States is 1,072 among all websites that make the top 5,000 but that doesn't tell much because it has an almost cult-like following. I never look at it unless I have a story there. 

My online browsing starts with the NY Times, Washington Post, and HUFFPOST, and then moves through 10 or so opinion sites like Salon (where Heather "Digby" Parton and Chauncey DeVega are my favorites) Daily Beast. Politico, Slate, and VOX, and onto aggregate sites Alternet (which now has some original content) and RawStory. Then I check Google News to see what I may have missed. 

I appreciate the honor of being able to write for CHB. I would have preferred being able to see how many people clicked on each article.  I wish it had an active comment section. 

I get 100-150 hits a day on this blog and not only from people who know me personally but according to Google Analytics (a service of the host) I have regular daily readers from Russia, China, and oddly, Brazil. In the greater world of online opinion writers, these numbers are minuscule, but since I'll never be in the rarified atmosphere of actual paid writers where typically an NYT or WaPo opinion writer gets hundreds or even thousands of comments, it is at least nice to know someone reads what I write. 

For example another favorite of mine who mixes biting satire with straight opinion columns, Dana Milbank got 700 comments on "Trump is a Prophet" on a story put online last night. It was about a topic the editor of CHB objected to my writing about Trump's Bible signing although he allowed me to publish it.  Milbank wrote "When President Trump autographed Bibles while visiting an Alabama church last week, some reacted with dismay. They shouldn’t have. There is nothing more natural than Trump putting his name in the Bible. The man is a prophet! With the assurance of Jeremiah, the clairvoyance of a seer and the prolificacy of a bookie, Trump has peered into his crystal ball and foretold visions of all description...."

For me, this is all about satisfying my desire to express my political opinions in writing where at least a few people will hear and respond to them. I admit that if you had been able to pay me, even a very small amount per column, I would most likely have stuck with CHB. I write for fun, but making enough to take a friend to dinner a couple of times a month would have been nice.

I think the opening CHB has is to become a niche website focused on partisan opinion columns from the left and right and forget about trying to cover the news with articles from the A.P. The model could be the opinion sections of the NYT and WaPo on a vastly smaller scale. 

I regret that my association with CHB and with its founder and editor Doug Thompson personally is ending.

Mar. 11, 2019

You've probably heard about this story: 

A Florida Massage Parlor Owner Has Been Selling Chinese Execs Access to Trump at Mar-a-Lago Here's my take on it posted on Daily Kos. Does anybody believe she isn't a Chinese spy? Read "Chinese spies at the Mar-a-Lago gate?? 

“The Democrats hate Jewish people,” President Donald Trump reportedly told Republican National Committee donors on Friday night at Mar-a-Lago. Phones were sealed away in magnetic bags at the closed-door event, but Axios reported on what members of the audience heard.
Adding to the pile-on attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for supposedly anti-Semitic comments, Trump reportedly said he couldn’t understand how any Jewish person could vote for a Democrat. He also bragged about his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a decision that pleased U.S. conservatives and Israeli’s Lukid party alike, but upended decades of diplomatic policy and sparked international disapproval.

If he were to run in an election for prime minister of Israel, he told the crowd, he’d be at 98 percent in the polls.
Below: NY Times OpED:

"The appropriate immediate path is a special state civil proceeding against the Trump Organization and its officials."

Click above to read


Click above for the story. Here's a related article
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on to something. In her questioning of Michael Cohen, she asked if Donald Trump had ever provided “inflated assets to an insurance company.” He answered in the affirmative — and also testified to rampant tax fraud by Mr. Trump and allegedly by the Trump Organization officials Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari.

State officials should not stop there. The allegations of criminal conduct by Donald Trump and Trump Organization officials are no longer mere speculation or reporting. The public record establishes probable cause for campaign finance felonies, and a potential case for criminal tax fraud, bank fraudinsurance fraud and suborning perjury to hide shady business dealings — a staggering mix of state and federal crimes implicating a range of Trump Organization officials.

State attorneys general — especially New York Attorney General Letitia James — should not wait for any Justice Department official to hold Trump accountable for potential crimes. They also do not need to wait to build a case for criminal indictments. The appropriate immediate path is a special state civil proceeding against the Trump Organization and its officials.


This state investigation might turn up evidence that President Trump committed crimes himself. If the Justice Department will not indict a sitting president, we must ask what is worse: the potential distraction of states indicting presidents, or the crisis for the rule of law of presidential immunity, especially during a re-election when those crimes may recur with the goal of four more years of impunity. If the specter of state indictments is unsettling, that is a reason to allow federal prosecutors to bring indictments instead, perhaps building on state officials’ findings.

Indictments, even if trials are long delayed, at least serve an important message from law enforcement to society about legal norms. Even if justice is delayed, no one will be above the law.
Click above to see on Twitter

Mar. 10, 2019 

Bad news about my Capitol Hill Blue columns:

Doug Thompson, the publisher, editor, and founder of Capitol Hill Blue has notified me that he thinks that CHB has focused too heavily on "Trump-related hysteria." He believes he is a madman but wants to address other news that affects people.  He does not want the site to appear partisan.

He believes that Opinion columns -- his, mine and others are a valid part of the mix but not at the expense of news coverage or a singular focus.  He says that He does not want to turn it into a Never Trump Blog.

He also doesn't want me to use images I photoshop to add a bit of my personal and hopefully appreciated sensibility to what I write. For example, he objected to a photoshopped image I made of Elijah Cummings face replacing that of Cleavon Little in "Blazing Saddles" to illustrate my column "There's a new sheriff in town, Jared" which is no longer on the front page. You can scroll down this page to see the original image. He said he got feedback that some people thought it was racist and one email said it violated copyright law. I made a new image (right) with two public domain photos, but he still thought it distracted from the story.

As for the image I posted on this blog, to avoid copyright infringement I even changed it. The sky is my own addition. Only the hat is from the original. I suppose if there's a complaint I could add another cowboy hat.

I have been told to dial back on my submissions until I can make some needed adjustments.  He won't be writing any columns for the time being either. 

I am exploring other venues for publishing my material where my articles will get more exposure. Until then I will most likely go back to being one of the hundreds of people who post on Daily Kos. I have already posted 689 stories there.

I don't see how Capitol Hill Blue can hold its own by being a comprehensive online news website using purchased stories from wire services like the AP considering the intense competition. It has to compete for readers not only with The New York Times and Washington Post but mega-websites like HUFFPOST, aggregate sites with some original stories like AlterNet, and even algorithm generated sites like Google News. And this doesn't even include major opinion sites like Salon, Daily Beast, Politico, Slate, and others.

Doug started CHB decades ago and it was the first online political website, so it is his decision to make. He is also a veteran newsman who still works full time at the same local paper where he started. I hope he can.  

Spring is coming to Portland starting March 11th, no lows below 33.
Click image to enlarge

The Trump Bible signing story which I wrote about yesterday was covered extensively by the media. Here's the Google search.

Trump is golfing today with PGA pro DUSTIN Johnson as if we should be impressed that the president can get rich golf personalities to pal around with him. I'd be impressed if he could get 81-year old DUSTIN Hoffman to play with him, like that would ever happen. This is the second day in a row that the White House has publicized that he is playing -- and who his playing partner is. A president who wasn't a malignant narcissist would be golfing with his young son, if only because it would make a good photo op showing what a dandy daddy he was. Does Melania forbid such toxic contact? At least Baron wasn't in Alabama signing Bibles. Here's who I think he should be playing with. (Cartoon by Mark Fiore, photoshop by me)

Finally, the concept of Trump's malignant narcissism is making it into the mainstream media: 

Maverick Republican William Weld looks to run against Trump's 'malignant narcissism' by Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who recently launched an exploratory committee to consider a Republican primary challenge in the 2020 presidential race, said that President Trump exhibits “malignant narcissism” and is undercutting the rule of law with actions “way beyond anything Richard Nixon ever did.”
Weld has special credentials to make that judgment: As a young lawyer, he served on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach Nixon, spending five months researching a memo that laid out the legal grounds to remove a president.
Maybe we should be grateful that at least Trump didn't sign any diapers.

This is a worthwhile story in The Washington Post which you may be able to read if you don't have a subscription if you haven't used up your free monthly clicks: The 10 personas of Donald Trump in a single speech 

This of course refers to the CPAC rant. The headline says 10 but I counted only nine personas: The Entertainer, The Fighter, The Victim, The Bully, The Expert, The Auditor, The Braggart, The Fabulist, and The Rebel.

Here's a sample of Trump the Entertainer:

“When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric,” Trump said. Gripping the podium and craning his head to a hypothetical wife offstage, he cried out: “Darling, darling, is the wind blowing today? I’d like to watch television, darling.”

The crowd hooted its approval. And why not? Even the president’s critics admit he can be funny.
Trump feeds off his audiences and adapts to his environments. He delivers scripted remarks when the moment demands it, such as giving the State of the Union to a joint session of Congress, but offers humor, impersonations and taunts — some of them widely viewed as misogynistic, racist or otherwise offensive — when he wants to excite a crowd.

He clutched at his neck and flopped out his tongue, regaling the audience with an impersonation of an unnamed friend — many Trump speeches include references to anonymous (and sometimes nonexistent) friends — who he said fears public speaking and chokes in front of even a small crowd.

The president from Queens adopted a Southern accent to mimic his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, saying, “I’m gonna recuse mahhself.”

Turning back to the ballroom, Trump moaned, “And I said, ‘Why the hell didn’t he tell me that before I put him in?’ ”

As in other speeches, Trump relied on shorthand and recurring characters — the “fake news” media and “Crooked Hillary” — and shouted out to allies in the room.

He repeatedly cited shoddy statistics and inaccurate data. The effect, perhaps intentionally, was a fog of numbers and percentages that gave the impression of expertise.
But the details didn’t seem to matter to the Trump faithful.

“I’m in love, and you’re in love,” the president declared. “We’re all in love together.”

Another Washington Post story to tempt you to pay the (aprox.) $10 monthly fee for an online subscription: Russian trolls can be surprisingly subtle, and often fun to read

On Sept. 10, 2018, @PoliteMelanie tweeted to her more than 20,000 followers: “Criticizing Trump in a book is just unfair. It’s like criticizing the Amish on television.” The next day, this tweet won the Chicago Tribune’s “Tweet of the Week” contest. What the Tribune’s readers didn’t know when casting their votes, however, was that “Melanie” was a Russian troll.
PoliteMelanie appears to be part of a well-coordinated network of Russian troll accounts that we monitored in the run-up to the 2018 elections. Examining a range of data points, including source material and the timing of tweets, told us that this account was most likely operated from Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). This secretive St. Petersburg-based organization, financed by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin (known as “Putin’s chef” because he catered dinners for the Russian president), has worked for years to influence political conversations on social media around the globe. One may have assumed that the Russian trolls’ posts would be crass, vitriolic, vodka-fueled attacks featuring broken English and spreading fake news or simple pro-Putin propaganda. Most Americans probably believe that they could spot a Russian troll from a mile away — and that they would certainly never engage with one. These assumptions, however, do not give credit to what Prigozhin’s people have built.

The embarrassing photos of the president hugging the flag seen around the world. These are the first two screens when you search Trump hugging flag on Google images. Click each photo to enlarge to see where they were published.

The case for revoking Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ pay

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has hosted just one press briefing in the past 81 days, obliterating all records for media non-compliance. This accelerated strategy to choke off press briefings is part of a historic, incremental effort by the Trump administration to lock out the press—and, by extension, the public—from the government’s official duties and business.

And it’s working. The press briefings have been effectively buried, which raises an interesting question: If Sanders won’t do her job of briefing the press, why is she still pulling down a six-figure salary paid for by taxpayers?

Sanders was promoted from a deputy to White House press secretary in 2017 and pocketed a $14,000 raise in the process. She now earns $179,000 a year, which ranks among the highest salaries that White House advisers are allowed to make.

Department of self-promotion:
 With only 54 Twitter followers I still manage to have 1,000 to 7,000 impressions (time a tweet is viewed) on some tweets. You can help by clicking on my tweets, and if you want to join Twitter, by retweeting them.

Click image to enlarge:

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