Open Thread

The Open Thread for January 19, 2017

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon have a pretty big bombshell.  Now this is like Watergate: Follow the Money.

The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said. […]

Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said…


The BBC reported last week that the joint inquiry was launched when the CIA learned last spring, through a Baltic ally, of a recording indicating the Russian government was planning to funnel funds aimed at influencing the U.S. election…

The BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15 from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia. One of McClatchy’s sources confirmed the report.


Donald Trump tweeted a photo of himself in which he says he was writing his inaugural address.

New York Magazine: “As tends to be the case with the president-elect’s social-media statements, there is much to discuss. First, there’s the fact that Trump seems to be drafting his first speech as POTUS with a … Sharpie. And second, perhaps more important, there’s the question of Trump’s desk, which… appears to be one usually occupied by an administrative or hospitality professional — a receptionist or concierge, maybe — in a public hall at Mar-a-Lago, and not in a private office.”

“So we’re not saying that Trump didn’t write his speech, in Sharpie, on a legal pad, at this desk, with its magnificent and inspirational eagle statue. Obviously he did; why would the president-elect stage such a photograph?”

Trump transition officials told CNN that Trump has written his inauguration address draft himself.  LOL.  If he did, it will be disastrous.   “The decision is a departure from how Trump tackled speeches during the campaign, when he either delivered off-the-cuff remarks or relied on text prepared by his senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. It’s unclear exactly to what extent Miller has been involved in fine-tuning Trump’s draft.”


President-elect Donald Trump “promised insurance for everyone this weekend, but Senate Republicans say they are operating under the assumption that Trump meant to say access to insurance for everyone,” BuzzFeed reports.

“The vow clashes with all of the major Obamacare replacement plans put forward by Republicans, which prioritize choice over universality. But some Republicans in the Senate say they are working on repealing and replacing Obamacare under the belief that Trump misspoke.”


Of all the clemency petitions granted yesterday by President Obama, this one might be the most significant, and yet under-reported.

Obama commuted the death sentence of Abelardo Arboleda Ortiz to life in prison without the possibility of parole…Ortiz and two others had been convicted of killing a drug dealer in 1998. The other men did not receive death sentences.

Arboleda Ortiz is intellectually disabled, but his trial lawyer didn’t investigate that disability and didn’t tell jurors about his client’s disadvantaged life, according to a statement by the inmate’s new lawyer, Amy Gershenfeld Donnella. His sentence was harsher than that of his co-defendants, though he wasn’t even on the same floor where the murder occurred, she said.

“Mr. Arboleda Ortiz’s case epitomizes the broken federal death penalty system,” Donnella said. “He is an intellectually disabled person of color with an IQ of 54 who was never able to learn to read, write, or do simple arithmetic, and could not even tie his shoes until he was 10 years old, as noted by the government’s own expert.

Thanks, Obama!


President-elect Donald Trump “plans to select the media representatives who are given access to the presidential press briefing room, but will not move the room out of the White House,” Reuters reports.

Said Trump: “We have so many people that want to go in so we’ll have to just have to pick the people to go into the room – I’m sure other people will be thrilled about that. But we offered a much larger room because we need a much larger room and we offered to do that, but they went crazy. And they’ll be begging for a much larger room very soon, you watch.”


Just days before his inauguration, a new CBS News poll finds Donald Trump’s favorable rating at just 32%, the lowest of any president-elect going back to Ronald Reagan in 1981, when CBS News began taking this measure.

New York Times: “Indeed, Mr. Trump will take office on Friday with less popular support than any new president in modern times, according to an array of surveys, a sign that he has failed to rally Americans behind him, beyond the base that helped him win in November. Rather than a unifying moment, his transition to power has seen a continuation of the polarization of the election last year.”


“We’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military. That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

— President-elect Donald Trump, in an interview with the Washington Post.


“Senate Democrats are gearing up for a potentially ugly fight over Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick, with some liberal activists urging them to do everything possible to block any nominee from the Republican president-elect,” Reuters reports.

“Democrats are still seething over the Republican-led Senate’s decision last year to refuse to consider outgoing President Barack Obama’s nomination of appeals court judge Merrick Garland for a lifetime post on the court. The action had little precedent in U.S. history and prompted some Democrats to accuse Republicans of stealing a Supreme Court seat.”


Sidney Blumenthal: “Before Trump, only four men became president without winning a plurality or majority of the popular vote. Only one lost a greater percentage of the vote than Trump. Three of them served only one term. Three assumed office under clouds of illegitimacy.”

“Each of these presidents, raised to the office against the popular will, was marked by the defect of their election. None evaded the debility of their unpopular elections. Either they were so politically hampered they lacked credibility and could do little, or else they tried to defy their original sin by governing as though they had solid mandates and disintegrated.”


“I have access to buying a $10 million home. I don’t have the money to do that.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), quoted by the New York Times, slamming Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for saying that Americans would have “access” to health care insurance under a Trump administration.



Politico: “Sources close to the transition describe Trump’s national security staffing as a ‘black box,’ leaving everyone from Obama administration officials to Trump job seekers and foreign diplomats guessing at who will land crucial positions shaping policy and managing crises. Much of the speculation focuses on the NSC, which plays the vital role of coordinating foreign policy and national security within the White House. The NSC staffing process is being controlled closely by Trump’s national security adviser-designate, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who, unlike his past several predecessors, has no NSC experience.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “We’re two days away from having a new president. But we’re apparently a lot longer than that from having a Trump administration with even a minimally functional ability to govern.”

“Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.”



Paul Rosenberg’s “Don’t think of a rampaging elephant: Linguist George Lakoff explains how the Democrats helped elect Trump: Democrats played into Trump’s hands, Lakoff says — and they won’t win until they learn how to frame the debate” at provides some painful insights. Lakoff explains in the interview, “The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters…Another problem was the assumption that all you have to do is look at issues, and give the facts about issues, and the facts about the issues supposedly show up in polls, and then they apply demographics. So there was this assumption, for example, that educated women in the Philadelphia suburbs were naturally going to vote for Hillary, because they were highly educated. They turned out also to be Republican, and what made them Republican was Republican views, like Republican views about the Supreme Court, abortion, things like that. So they didn’t all go out and vote for Hillary.”


Democrats must come up with a credible, explainable plan for addressing the job losses caused by automation. In her New York Times article, “A Darker Theme in Obama’s Farewell: Automation Can Divide Us,” Clair Kane Miller writes, “The next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas,” Mr. Obama said. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete…The inequality caused by automation is a main driver of cynicism and political polarization, Mr. Obama said. He connected it to the racial and geographic divides that have cleaved the country post-election…Fifty-one percent of all the activities Americans do at work involve predictable physical work, data collection and data processing. These are all tasks that are highly susceptible to being automated, according to a report McKinsey published in July using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net to analyze the tasks that constitute 800 jobs…Twenty-eight percent of work activities involve tasks that are less susceptible to automation but are still at risk, like unpredictable physical work or interacting with people. Just 21 percent are considered safe for now, because they require applying expertise to make decisions, do something creative or manage people.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

13 comments on “The Open Thread for January 19, 2017

  1. There’s no way Trump stays on script during his inaugural address. No flippin’ way.

    My bet is that his first off-script remark will be about crowd size and how Yuge it is. His second will be about how he’s the winner and the haters lost. His third will be about how his DC hotel is filled to capacity and how luxurious it is and how he’s the greatest negotiator ever!

  2. Enjoying Trump’s Russian Connection immensely, suspect much more mirth and frivolity are to come. Having said that Automation will have devastating effect on lives, and political and societal violence may well be in the cards as well. As for Trump’s address we’ll all have to hear the gory details later as we’ll be ignoring his orange posterior with a vengeance.

    • My son is a mechanical engineer. Automation is what excites him. He understands that this will result in the loss of jobs, but says there is no way to stop progress, and we shouldn’t want to. He envisions a future where work will look very different than it does today – and sees this as a good and necessary thing. I wish I had his optimism and his vision.

  3. I worked in transportation management for far too long and can assure you, a great many displaced workers will be unemployable, far worse many will be untrainable. Predict the outcome will be the same situation that exists in the middle east: Many people, few jobs and an ever simmering potential for violence, unrest and eventually terrorism. Heard an assortment of Ivory Tower Types prattling on about “guaranteed income”, on what planet have the rich ever shared? I’m damn glad I’m 60 and not 16, a strange variation on Malthusian Misery is coming.

    • I hear ya, bamboozer. Automation is coming and it’s going to flip the board. Hopefully, rich people will realize they need customers to make money.

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