Quick Takes: Sarah Huckabee Sanders Excels at Gaslighting

* During today’s press briefing, this is what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said about the plea agreement the Mueller team reached with George Papadopolous:

“Papadopoulos is an example of actually somebody doing the wrong thing while the president’s campaign did the right thing,” Sanders said. “All of his emails were voluntarily provided to the special counsel by the campaign, and that is what led to the process and the place that we’re in right now is the campaign fully cooperating and helping with that. What Papadopoulos did was lie, and that’s on him and not on the campaign, and we can’t speak to that.”

Here is how Wikipedia defines gaslighting: “a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt…in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” In other words, it goes beyond lying and becomes a form of manipulation.

Sanders wants us to believe that the Trump campaign should get credit for the arrest of Papadopoulos. She also suggests that his crime was to lie—something that had nothing to do with the campaign. Of course she didn’t mention that he lied to cover up his conversations with campaign officials about setting up meetings with Russian operatives, which actually has everything to do with the Trump campaign. Also, there’s this:

Papadopoulos was initially interviewed as part of the FBI’s probe into Russian election meddling on Jan. 27. He was arrested in July.

The Washington Post reported that Trump’s campaign handed over emails implicating Papadopoulos to the special counsel in August — after he had already been arrested.

I don’t usually have time to watch Sanders’ briefings live. Just getting bits and pieces like this tells me that avoiding them is good for my mental health.

* NPR has a very helpful timeline focused on all of the events outlined in the Papadopoulos plea agreement and Manafort/Gates indictments.

* When you hear Republicans dismiss Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election by pointing to the fact that they only spent $100,000 on Facebook ads, here is the response:

An estimated 126 million Americans, roughly one-third of the nation’s population, received Russian-backed content on Facebook during the 2016 campaign, according to prepared testimony the company submitted Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by NBC News.

Underscoring how widely content on the social media platform can spread, Facebook says in the testimony that while some 29 million Americans directly received material from 80,000 posts by 120 fake Russian-backed pages in their own news feeds, those posts were “shared, liked and followed by people on Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a story that originated from the Russian operation.”

* This story is still developing:

A man deliberately drove into bicyclists and pedestrians in a bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing at least eight people and injuring more than one dozen in an act of terrorism, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Tuesday.

“This is a very painful day in our city,” de Blasio said at a news conference. “Based on the information we had at this moment this was an act of terror, a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

* Here’s one more reason why Roy Moore is unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate:

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said Monday night that the federal judge who issued an injunction against President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military “should be impeached.”

* Another one bites the dust.

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling won’t run for re-election next year, a decision that continues the reshaping of Republican politics in North Texas…

Hensarling, 60, has represented Congressional District 5 in the Dallas area since he was elected in November 2002. He chairs the powerful Financial Services Committee and has been a strong voice in regulating the financial industry.

Cook Report rates the 5th Congressional District in Texas R+16, so it is clearly not ripe pickings for the Democrats. But I suspect that after the new year, we’ll see a lot more of these kinds of announcements.

* Finally, it’s Halloween. The evening is still young, but here’s my favorite costume so far:

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Where Moderate Republicans Are Wildly Popular

Morning Consult has updated their popularity ratings for the nation’s fifty governors. Some of the results aren’t too surprising. The least popular governor in the country is Chris Christie of New Jersey. He’s followed by Connecticut governor, Dan Malloy. Also trailing the pack are Republican governors Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Bruce Rauner of Illinois.

What’s less predictable is the profile of the most popular governors.

The two most best-rated are Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts. Not far behind them are Phil Scott and Chris Sununu of Vermont and New Hampshire, respectively.

What they all have in common is that they are Republicans serving their first term in states Hillary Clinton won. In fact, Vermont, Maryland, and Massachusetts were some of her strongest states.

There are other Republican governors near the top of the popularity list, like Asa Hutchison of Arkansas, Kay Ivey of Alabama, and Doug Burgum of North Dakota, but they all serve states that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

So, we’re living in a time when being a fairly moderate Republican can be extremely popular, but you’d never know it by the way the Republicans in Washington, D.C. are behaving. Our Republican U.S. Senators and Representatives are terrified of crossing Trump and his supporters, and moderates are retiring and looking for the exits.

I guess this says something about how perverse our national politics have become, perhaps through a combination of factors including the gerrymandering of House districts.

But you can still be a moderate Republican, and a wildly popular politician, as long as you do it in a blue state and stay far away from our nation’s capital.

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Florida Madness: Chair of State Board Wants to Add Private Schools to Public EDUCATION portion of State Constitution

Florida Governor Rick Scott’s appointee to the State Board of Education has proposed a constitutional amendment to allow private schools to be funded as part of the state’s obligation to public schools.

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If a parent doesn’t like public schools, she proposes, public money should go to private schools. The state hard also proposed eliminating the Blaine amendment, which bars public spending on religious schools.

The issue of public funding for religious schools was on the ballot in 2012, and voters rejected it 55-45.

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John Kelly‚Äôs Jim Crow Version of the Civil War

When John Kelly refused to use Rep. Frederica Wilson’s name during his press conference and instead, referred to her as an “empty barrel,” he was accused of racism. I decided to stay out of that discussion because I’ve been there before and know how that one ends.

But the truth is, it represents the most pernicious form of racism that a lot of people of color face today. I say pernicious because there is no way to prove that these kinds of attacks are motivated by racism. For example, was Rep. Joe Wilson motivated by racism when he broke with protocol to shout “You lie” at the first African American president during his speech to a joint session of congress? More recently, Fox News is attempting to smear the judge that Manafort and Gates appeared before yesterday—who just so happens to be an African American woman. Is that racist? You tell me.

However, during his interview last night with Laura Ingraham, Kelly made statements that prove he is steeped in the white supremacist view of this country’s history.

Chief of Staff John Kelly praises Robert E Lee as “honorable man,” says “lack of an ability to compromise led to the civil war,” not slavery http://pic.twitter.com/GSuVRrGKlQ

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 31, 2017

Kelly’s statement that there were “men and women of good faith on both sides” of the Civil War echoed similar arguments Trump made when people protested against neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville. He prefaced those remarks by saying “history is history.” And yet the story he tells about Robert E. Lee and the Civil War is nothing more than the revanchist history of the post-Reconstruction era. It confirmed exactly why there is a need to have a discussion about the statues all over this country that were erected to promote those lies.

If you need a refresher course on all of that, I suggest that you read the tweet storm by Ta-Nehisi Coates that was sparked by those remarks, or the summary of what Philip Bump heard about them from three historians.

“That statement could have been given by [former Confederate general] Jubal Early in 1880,” said Stephanie McCurry, professor of history at Columbia University and author of “Confederate Reckoning: Politics and Power in the Civil War South.”

“What’s so strange about this statement is how closely it tracks or resembles the view of the Civil War that the South had finally got the nation to embrace by the early 20th century,” she said. “It’s the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. I mean, it tracks all of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.”

The history that needs to be noted here is how this “Lost Cause” mentality was created and spread to the point that someone like John Kelly is still buying it 150 years later. That is all the proof we need that the racist divide is still firmly embedded in our country today.

In the end, these last couple of weeks have further enlightened us all about the reason John Kelly was chosen by Trump to be his DHS Secretary and then promoted to be his chief of staff. As Josh Marshall wrote, he represents “Trumpist ideology in a more disciplined, duty-focused, professional package.” But racism dressed up in a more professional package is still racism. That probably has something to do with why Kelly refuses to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson.

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What Did Thomas Barrack Know, and When Did He Know It?

Most of the media focus so far has been on the arrest of Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos, with Rick Gates’s arrest getting much less attention. Within the administration, however, things are a bit different.

Some White House advisers are unhappy with Thomas J. Barrack Jr., Trump’s longtime friend and chair of his inauguration, whom they hold responsible for keeping Gates in the Trump orbit long after Manafort resigned as campaign chairman in August 2016, according to people familiar with the situation. Barrack has been Gates’s patron of late, steering political work to him and, until Monday, employing him as director of the Washington office of his real estate investment company.

Thomas J. Barrack Jr. is a key, and yet perhaps unwitting, character in the Trump-Russia story. To understand why, we’ll need to go back in time.

Forty years ago, in Beirut, Lebanon, Mr. Barrack became an acquaintance of Paul Manafort. It’s interesting to know how each of these men found their way there. For Barrack, it was a kind of homecoming. His grandparents had immigrated to the United States from a part of Syria that is now located in Lebanon. After getting undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Southern California, Barrack landed a job with President Nixon’s personal attorney Herbert K. Kalmbach. This was the first of Barrack’s unsavory connections, as Kalmbach would later be convicted and jailed for his work on Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President.

Barrack next landed a job with the Flour Corporation, which sent him to Saudi Arabia. There he had a fortuitous experience that paved the way for his great financial success in life.

Barrack became a lawyer, and his ability to speak Arabic led to an assignment in 1972 to go to Saudi Arabia to work on a gas deal. Barrack played squash with a local Saudi. Soon the Saudi brought his brothers. It turned out they were all sons of the king of Saudi Arabia. Barrack spent many hours listening to the Arabs discuss their world, which he said gave him “great respect for the society and community.”

The princes, in turn, hired him, and he became, as he put it, the American representative of “the boys.”

So, Barrack was in Beirut forty years ago working for the Saudi Royal Family.

Paul Manafort got there by a different route. His grandfather also immigrated to the United States, settling in Connecticut. His father served as the mayor of New Britain from 1965 to 1971. Manafort got his undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. He soon landed a job with the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease in Washington, D.C., where he was assigned to work with a Saudi construction company.

A roommate at Barrack’s Beirut apartment introduced him to Manafort, who represented a firm doing business with a Saudi construction company. They became close friends and, four decades later, Barrack persuaded Trump to hire Manafort for his presidential campaign.

When they met, these two men were both quite a lot more connected than they might have seemed as young Americans living abroad. Barrack had worked for President Nixon’s attorney while Manafort had helped James Baker round up the delegates President Ford needed to fend off a primary challenge from Ronald Reagan.

The relationship they forged would become more important than either of them could have imagined at the time. Barrack went on to become a billionaire real estate developer who would befriend and mentor Donald Trump. When Trump needed to round up the delegates he needed to win the Republican nomination in the winter of 2016, Barrack would recommend the services of his old friend Manafort who had provided the same service to President Ford in 1976.

How precisely this came about could be the most important question that Bob Mueller needs to answer.

Here’s how the Washington Post described it in an October 10th profile of Barrack:

Barrack supported Trump’s campaign, and shortly after Trump lost the Iowa caucuses, he reconnected with his old friend Manafort, a longtime Republican consultant.

“I really need to get to” Trump, Manafort said, according to Barrack. He told Barrack he wanted to work as Trump’s convention manager, helping him navigate what they expected would be a contentious affair.

Barrack, who had long been friendly with Kushner, as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka, said he wrote them an email urging Trump to hire Manafort.

The timeline there is almost uselessly vague, so let me clear it up. The Iowa caucuses took place on February 1st. A couple of weeks later, Barrack and Manafort had a meeting at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills where they discussed a packet of memos Manafort had prepared to put forth his credentials to handle the delegate fight. On February 29th, Barrack forwarded the packet to Trump along with “an effusive cover letter” that “described Mr. Manafort in terms that Mr. Trump would like, calling him ‘the most experienced and lethal of managers’ and ‘a killer.’”

This must have seemed like a great idea to Barrack, as he could make two good friends happy at the same time. What he almost definitely didn’t then realize is that Manafort had an ulterior motive and was a desperate man.

It’s been known for some time that Manafort was deeply in debt when he approached Barrack about working for Donald Trump. Specifically, the New York Times reported in July that Manafort owed as much as $19 million to a Russian oligarch with mob connections named Oleg V. Deripaska.

When Barrack and Manafort made their pitch to Trump, Manafort wrote “I am not looking for a paid job,” and Barrack reiterated the point in his cover letter: “[Manafort] would do this in an unpaid capacity.” It wouldn’t become clear until later why a man who owes millions to a mobbed-up Putin connected Russian oligarch would be looking to work for free.

On March 28th, Trump hired Manafort without pay. Soon after, this happened:

On the evening of April 11, 2016, two weeks after Donald Trump hired the political consultant Paul Manafort to lead his campaign’s efforts to wrangle Republican delegates, Manafort emailed his old lieutenant Konstantin Kilimnik, who had worked for him for a decade in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Manafort wrote.

“Absolutely,” Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. “Every article.”

“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asks. “Has OVD operation seen?”

The initials OVD obviously stand for Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska. What Manafort was hoping is that by landing his position with Trump, he could somehow free himself from the millions and millions of dollars of debt he owed to Deripaska.

By late summer, it became clear that Manifort was too close to Vladimir Putin and he was fired by the Trump campaign on August 19th. But Manafort’s partner Rick Gates stayed on and gained influence. On Election Night, Gates and Barrack hit it off and Barrack hired Gates to help him organize the inauguration. This is the point at which we have some right to question Barrack’s judgment.

He knew why Manafort had been fired and it must have been a source of some embarrassment since he had so enthusiastically recommended him. But he had no obvious reservations about working with Manafort’s partner. And Gates would run into quick problems after the inauguration. At first, he landed a job working for America First Policies, a non-profit set up to help push Trump’s agenda. But he was quickly forced out because of his association with Manafort. Nonetheless, Barrack continued to befriend him, hiring him to work for his real estate business and dragging him to meetings in the White House. By June, the Daily Beast was picking up on the grumbling about Barrack’s decision-making:

After leaving the Trump-boosting nonprofit America First Policies in March—as former FBI Director James Comey officially announced an investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign team and Russian officials—Gates is now working directly for Tom Barrack, according to eight sources in and around the Trump White House…

…And when Barrack stops by to meet Trump in the West Wing, he has brought Gates with him, according to multiple sources familiar with the meeting. Late last week, Barrack was again at the White House, with Gates in tow, two White House officials confirmed.

In fact, it wasn’t until Gates was arrested yesterday that Barrack broke his ties with him:

Rick Gates, charged today with multiple counts of money laundering, tax fraud and illegal foreign lobbying, was fired by real estate company Colony NorthStar Inc., where he had been a consultant to Executive Chairman Tom Barrack.

Now, Barrack has been no stranger to scandal. In the Reagan White House, he worked for Interior Secretary James Watt who actually retreated to Barrack’s ranch after he was forced to resign in disgrace. He probably also arranged to have someone buy Edwin Meese’s house at an inflated price which cost him a promised job at the Commerce Department. More recently, he’s been accused in Italy of conducting a $190 million tax avoidance scheme. But it’s his decision to pitch Manafort to Trump that has cast the biggest pall over his career, and his almost inexplicable and unshakeable mentorship of Rick Gates is a close second that casts some suspicion on innocent explanations for his role in Manafort’s hiring.

Was he really an unwitting participant? Has he been as naive as he’d like us to believe? Why did he stick with Gates even after he’d been badly burned by Manafort?

I hope Robert Mueller can provide us the answers to these questions.

And then I want to know why Trump was seething when he saw Gates and Manafort had been arrested. Shouldn’t he have been happy considering all the legal problems they’ve caused him?

Maybe the president wasn’t an innocent victim here, either.

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Is This the Worst Charter Scandal in the Nation? Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the for-profit Benjamin Franklin Charter Chain in Arizona, which is owned by a member of the legislature, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth. He is paid $18 million by the state for his four schools. Although Arizona law says that charter boards must have open public meetings, he has won an exemption from the law because he is the only member of the board. As a one-person Board, he holds no public meetings.

It turns out there is more to the story. Jim Hall of Arozonans for Charter Accountability documents that the Benjamin Franklin charters are the only ones in the state that spend more on administration and buildings than on instruction.

“Representative Farnsworth profits from charter ownership

“It is unclear how much Representative Farnsworth profits from his sole ownership of BFCS because for-profit corporations do not have to reveal salary information. We do know that Representative Farnsworth is a multi-millionaire – BFCS has over $3 million in stockholder equity and Farnsworth is the only stockholder. BFCD also has assets of $6.7 million in cash and another $35 million in real estate holdings.

“Farnsworth profits from the ownership of his real estate firm LBE Investments LTD (LBE) as well. LBE actually owns each of the BFCS campuses and leases the schools back to BFCS at substantially more than the mortgage payments and property taxes due.”

Why do taxpayers in Arizona put up with this misdirection of public funds?

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SomeDAM Poet: Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, Betsy DeVos, and Common Core

Due to my technological deficiencies, I have lost some of the visual notes in the original. If you want to see the original, as written by the poet, look through the comments on September 29, about 3 p.m.


Speaking of Poe

“The Teacher” (Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, with some minor modifications)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and glorious volume of Coleman lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the Common Core—
For the rare and radiant standard whom the Coleman named The Core —
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered term, “Common Core”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Common Core!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Teacher of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made she; not a minute stopped or stayed she;
But, with mien of queenly lady, sat inside my chamber door—
Spat upon a bust of Betsy just above my chamber door—
Spat and sat, and nothing more.

Then this stately lady beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance she wore,
“cuz thy face be worn and tired thou,” I said, “art sure retired
Glaring and grim and ancient Teacher wandering from the schoolhouse door —
Tell me what thy queenly name is on the Night’s Reformian shore!”
Quoth the Teacher “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled at this mainly, to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no Reformer
Ever yet was blessed with seeing Teacher inside his chamber door—
Spitting upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Teacher, spitting longly on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if her soul in that one word she did outpour.
Nothing farther then she uttered—not a sound or word she stuttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other teachers have flown before—
On the morrow she will leave me, as my foes have flown before.”
Again she just said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what she utters is her only stock and store
Brought from some unhappy bastard whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Teacher still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of Teacher and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous Teacher of yore—
What this grim, glaring, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous Teacher of yore
Meant in speaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the Teacher whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Common Core
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this Common Core!”
Quoth the Teacher “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Teacher “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted standard whom the Coleman named The Core—
Clasp a rare and radiant standard whom the Coleman named The Core”
Quoth the Teacher “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Reformian Shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—spit no more on the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my floor!”
Quoth the Teacher “Nevermore.”

And the Teacher, never flitting, still is spitting, still is spitting
On the pallid bust of Betsy just above my chamber door;
And her eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er her streaming throws her shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore

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