Some words from that up and coming young man, Frederick Douglass
The Unknown Loyal Dead
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1871
Friends and Fellow Citizens:
Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.
Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable.
Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.
No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph.
When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.
We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.
I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.
If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones – I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?
The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier.
But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.
On the morning after the presidential election, still reeling from the shock and struggling to wrap my mind around what had happened, I wrote this in my column for Salon:
We wake up today to a fundamentally different world than the one in which we woke up yesterday. The nation our allies looked to as the guarantor of global security will now be led by a pathologically dishonest, unqualified, inexperienced, temperamental, ignorant flimflam man. Things will never be the same. And we have no idea at the moment exactly what form this change is going to take, which makes this all very, very frightening.
It seemed a little bit hyperbolic even in that moment, but I’d been saying privately to friends for months before the election that a Donald Trump victory would automatically signal that the post-war security umbrella that had kept the world from another global conflagration had just been turned inside out. The world’s only superpower, after electing this sort of unqualified buffoon, could no longer be trusted.
I suppose that most of us, worried as we were, hoped that once Trump got into office he would sober up and settle down, hire some qualified people who would help him understand the job and reassure the world that the United States hadn’t turned the nuclear codes over to an imbecile. But it was always an open question. After all, it was only 16 years before, following yet another election in which an incurious lightweight had ascended to the presidency by a dubious process, that the world saw the U.S. invade a country that had not attacked us.
But that was after 9/11 and despite most of the world’s disapprobation, there was still perhaps some distant hope that America would be able to do as it promised and usher in a new, more peaceful stability in the region. Obviously that did not happen.
With that background, the rest of the world greeted the 2008 election of Barack Obama with relief. Here was a dignified, intelligent leader who garnered respect and esteem all over the world. The election of the first African-American president seemed to indicate that Americans were casting off the retrograde politics of the previous administration. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize mostly for reassuring the world that the U.S. had not gone crazy after all.
Then we did it again. Marx’s famous quote to the effect that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce,” has never seemed more apt. Unfortunately when the farce is taking place in the world’s most powerful nation, it’s just as dangerous.
Trump’s first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Rome, Brussels and Sicily was one for the books. In Saudi Arabia he bragged about getting the wealthy royal family a “good deal” from American arms manufacturers and never even mentioned human rights. In Israel he bizarrely confirmed that he’d given the Russian ambassador Israeli intelligence secrets without permission and left a yearbook mash note at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.
But when the president got to Europe, it really went south. His visit with the pope was weird enough to inspire Twitter wags to photoshop some memorable pictures:
When he got to Brussels for the NATO meeting, Trump’s true agenda came through. He practically yanked the arm off of newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, in a truly bizarre show of physical force. He shoved aside the prime minister of Montenegro and then shoved out his chest like Mussolini on the balcony. All this strange behavior was noticed by Europe’s leaders. But it was his speech in Brussels and his unwillingness to confirm Article 5, the fundamental commitment to the NATO alliance, that has shaken the world.
Standing before the new monument to 9/11, Trump patted himself on the back for not mentioning the cost of the new headquarters and then rudely admonished the members to their faces for failing to pay up. He linked terrorism and immigration in ways that only the most nationalistic right-wing regimes normally do, daring the European leaders to defy him. It was an astonishingly graceless moment.
Throughout the meeting, Trump signaled that he was likely to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accords, but gave no good reasons for doing it. His apparent affinity for Russia was undiminished, but it was his display of overwhelming ignorance that left his supposed allies shaken.
The Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported that Trump told that nation’s prime minister, Charles Michel, that his view of the European Union was largely based on how long it took him to get permits for his golf courses.
In other words he had done no homework on the EU and believed, as usual, that his limited personal experience had taught him all he needed to know. Then he idiotically told EU leaders that the Germans were “very bad” on trade, threatening to put restrictions on imports of German cars — apparently unaware that German car manufacturers have plants all over the U.S. Neither he nor his team seemed to understand European trade policy at all, suggesting over and over that America had specific trade deals with various countries when the EU trades as a bloc.
On Sunday German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech that may signal just how important this trip was. She said:
The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over. This is what I experienced in the last few days. We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.
The New York Times reported her comments as “a potentially seismic shift in trans-Atlantic relations.”
All that might be fine if it weren’t for the fact that this is happening largely because of the election of a man so crude and unsophisticated that the alliances that have kept the world intact in the nuclear age are coming apart at the seams, with no rational plan or goal to replace them. And getting rid of Trump, on its own, won’t be enough to fix this. His election has resulted in a loss of trust that’s going to be almost impossible to get back. Many countries in this world depend upon the American security umbrella and a predictable American foreign policy, even if they aren’t particularly happy about it. They’re going to look for other arrangements now. Asian countries will look to China. Europeans will look to Germany or Russia. Others will stick with the U.S. New spheres of influence will emerge.
Maybe all this will work out in the fullness of time. But blowing things up without a demolition plan creates strange incentives and invites risk and instability. It leads some people to make mistakes in judgment. If this first foreign trip is any indication, the most likely candidate to make such a catastrophic error is the president of the United States.
It is a weekend for barbecues, memorials, and war movies celebrating American resolve and sacrifice in pursuit of noble causes. Remember those? Memorial Day seems almost as "quaint" and as "obsolete" as Alberto Gonzales described the Geneva Conventions in one of the infamous torture memos that led to Abu Ghraib, the "Salt Pit," and Guantanamo Bay. So you won't find films from the Afghanistan or Iraq conflicts among the epics on Turner Classic Movies this weekend. We lost part of our soul in the post-September 11 madness that never seems to have abated.
There is plenty of madness still, not just in Manchester, but in Portland. But even in the madness, a few heroes to memorialize today for their sacrifice. Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23 lost their lives defending others' humanity.
It becomes harder and harder to recognize each other as humans and fellow citizens in the glowering darkness of permanent fear-by-design. It is as exhausting as it is a burden that drags at the soul and closes minds. Hope has turned to ash not only among those who yearn for some halcyon American greatness, but among others who seek a more expansive freedom and a perfection of the American dream of equality.
Matt Taibbi reminds us that giving in to bitterness and retreating into our tribes is not the path to redemption:
Even as he himself was the subject of vicious and racist rhetoric, Obama stumped in the reddest of red districts. In his post-mortem on the Trump-Clinton race, he made a point of mentioning this – that in Iowa he had gone to every small town and fish fry and VFW hall, and "there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points."
Most people took his comments to be a dig at Clinton's strategic shortcomings – she didn't campaign much in many of the key states she lost – but it was actually more profound than that. Obama was trying to point out that people respond when you demonstrate that you don't believe they're unredeemable.
You can't just dismiss people as lost, even bad or misguided people. Unless every great thinker from Christ to Tolstoy to Gandhi to Dr. King is wrong, it's especially those people you have to keep believing in, and trying to reach.
The Democrats have forgotten this ... Democrats in general have lost the ability (and the inclination) to reach out to the entire population.
Taibbi is right. Wresting friends' focus (and my own) from the Trump sideshow to focus, not on where this country is, but on where we should be leading it is more challenging than ever. Sarcasm is a guilty pleasure. Bitterness is unproductive. Irony is dead. Peacemaking, a lost art.
That is why Memorial Day ceremonies I've attended have a certain nostalgic feel. They are Mass-like in their solemnity and pro-forma in their celebration of an America participants remember fondly but no longer inhabit. There are remembrances of veterans and acknowledgments for first responders. They bring together political adversaries, elected and not, in a kind of Christmas truce before they return to their trenches and exchanges of rhetorical artillery. A cold civil war is upon us.
I'm grateful for the example and sacrifice of the men on the Portland train, and wish a complete recovery for Micah Fletcher, 21, who for his heroism must depend on a Go Fund Me to pay for his medical bills. This is where America is. If we are to lead it to a better place, we cannot give up on our fellow citizens as beyond hope.
Had French President Emmanuel Macron been paying close attention, he would have recognized quickly just how fraught his coming exchange with Donald Trump was to be.
The two leaders had met briefly earlier that day, exchanging a firm, prolonged, “not innocent” handshake that drew attention for its unbound intensity. Now, hours later, as Macron approached Trump and other world leaders at the opening of NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels last week, the U.S. president offered several non-verbal cues indicating his desire to re-establish the global pecking order.
The first came well before he and Macron were face-to-face. Walking toward each other, Trump reached out to King Philippe of Belgium, who stood directly to his right, to offer an impromptu handshake. The King seemed caught off-guard. For good reason. No one in their group was making any such gesture.
Trump’s offer seemed out of place. But Florin Dolcos, a University of Illinois associate psychology professor and faculty member at the Beckman Institute’s Cognitive Neuroscience Group, suggested it was a deliberate. And the intended audience wasn’t Philippe but Macron.
“That’s a signal Trump was sending: ‘This is where you should come first because I’m the alpha here,’” Dolcos said. “‘Iinitiated with the other guy.’”
Moments later, another cue. With the two still walking towards each other, Trump looked up at Macron and opened his arms ― a signal typically reserved for family and friends, not two world leaders who’d just met. Once again, Dolcos suspected Trump was making a nonverbal signal to his French counterpart.
“I think it is a learned behavior. Because typically you don’t do that. You do it with people very close to you in natural circumstances. Not people you don’t really know,” he said. “In a way it could be seen as a trap.”
Macron didn’t fall for it. Instead, he greeted a few others before making his way to Trump. When he did finally arrive, Trump pounced, taking Macron’s hand and pulling it violently away from his body with enough force to turn Macron roughly 50 degrees.
Dolcos again saw a tactical play. Unable to torque his arm, Macron was rendered powerless. He attempted to pull away and Trump refused to let him go.
Macron put his other hand on Trump to pry himself loose. And when he finally freed himself, Trump gave him a pat on the shoulder, ending the exchange squarely on his terms.
Another bizarre, dramatic, uncomfortable handshake with a world leader was in the books, bouncing its way across the Internet to the wonderment of all.
“It goes down to asserting dominance,” said Dolcos. “Why he wants to do that? I don’t know. It looks, to me, like he is trying too hard…. It looks ridiculous”
Who protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds?
Gun goes off at health clinic after woman drops purse; 1 shot in leg
May 25, 2017 --Jackson Mississippi
Woman drops her gun in hospital waiting room, shoots another patient in the leg
The patient was hospitalised but said to have suffered "non life-threatening" injuries.
The question I'd like journalists to ask every time this happens:
Who will pay for the injured person's health care?
In this story in Politico about insurance they talk about the difference between the insurance that the states want to require gun owners to have, and the insurance the NRA is selling.
"Government-mandated firearms insurance shouldn’t be confused with the NRA’s insurance product—the former protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds; the latter protects gun bearers from carrying the costs of their wounded."
- Matt Valentine, Politico
Gun owners are not required to have any liability insurance, but some have it; what does it pay for? Full medical care? Rehabilitation? Loss of time at work? Long term disability? Pain and suffering?
What if the injured person ends up having a pre-existing condition now because of the injury? "Non-life threatening" doesn't mean it's not life changing.
Journalists don't usually ask questions of who is going to pay for medical care, but given our current President and the hostility toward providing health care by the GOP, this needs to be asked right now. Lawmakers in Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, New York and Hawaii have introduced bills this year that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance. But all state and national level politicians need to be asked, "How are the costs of guns and health care going to be dealt with in your community?"
Watch the video and note how the UMMC police officer talks about what was legal or not legal. Part of this information will be used in the eventual criminal case--but it can also apply to civil legal cases. If the gun owner did something illegal, it changes things for the criminal prosecution case, but there is still a civil case that can--and should--be brought by the injured against the gun owner. If something is declared illegal it might also change what the insurance company does. They can decide not to defend a person insured or not pay out on a policy because of exclusions.
But gun owners aren't required to have insurance, so who pays for the injuries their negligence caused? The individual shot, and the community that picks up the bill. The gun lobby has blocked efforts to require "good guys with guns" to have insurance, complaining that they have to pay when criminals do not.
Debra McQuillen had a permit. She was still a law abiding citizen--up until the time she ignored the hospital's NO GUNS signs. If she was required to have liability insurance before she broke the law, she would be able to pay for the medical care of the woman she injured--due to her negligence.
When the argument is that law abiding gun owners shouldn't have to have insurance, since criminals don't, it exempts all the gun owners who go from law abiding to law breaking in an instant. This is also why the NRA works so hard to get rid of laws that make their members law-breakers. (Even acts that make gun owners an "accidental lawbreaker." if they bring their gun to a place that doesn't allow guns)
This line of reasoning --that members are super worried about being "accidental lawbreakers" --is used so that individuals can claim the "law-abiding citizen" moniker. But primarily it is used as a strategy by the gun lobby to avoid criminal prosecution and civil liability for gun owners.
If McQuillen did everything the same, except it was in a location where it was okay to bring in her guns, the injury would still happen. No law would have been broken, no criminal charges would be filed--but there could still be a civil case brought by the injured person against the gun owner. This is a key part of the way financial responsibility is avoided by the gun lobby. They shift the status from illegal to legal. Intent is a huge part of the issue, and by having the police and the media verbalize the word accident and legal instead of negligence and illegal they change the perception of what is happening.
I don't expect journalists to start asking these questions, so we will need to prompt them. I don't expect gun owners to accept being financially responsible for the damage their negligence caused as part of being a responsible gun owner. We will need to ask them. The next time you are in person talking to a gun owner ask them, (And I recommend doing this in person, because online no one is under oath, and you can't see their eyes if they lie to you.)
"Do you have liability insurance? Who provides it? What does it cover? Does the insurance cover you or the person who is injured? Do you think all gun owners should be required to have liability insurance? Why or why not?"
We wake up today to a fundamentally different world than the one in which we woke up yesterday. The nation our allies looked to as the guarantor of global security will now be led by a pathologically dishonest, unqualified, inexperienced, temperamental, ignorant flimflam man. Things will never be the same. And we have no idea at the moment exactly what form this change is going to take, which makes this all very, very frightening.
Here's the video of Merkel's speech in Munich saying that Europe can't rely on the US & the UK anymore and "must take destiny in own hands". pic.twitter.com/dq8cUOeT37
While he was away there was a lot of talk about staffer getting lawyers and others to keep him off twitter.
Nah gah happen:
Psychologists would call this "denial." And I would guess that it's genuine. He doesn't have the psychological strength to deal with the fact that everyone around him is betraying him. And his followers are probably going to go along with it. But at some point, reality bites and it will happen to them too.
It would be sad if it weren't for the fact that this man is a cretinous bully whose narcissistic ignorance will get people killed.
In Brussels, where he attended a series of events celebrating NATO, Trump looked downright bored. As the king of Belgium and other leaders took turns at the lectern, Trump got fidgety, shifting in his seat, looking up to the sky and down to his feet, and crossing his arms over his chest.
The president — whom aides say has little patience for listening to other people speak — then endured a dinner session in which the leaders of all 28 NATO partners gave remarks.
And here in picturesque Taormina, at the Group of Seven summit on the rocky Sicilian coast, Trump struggled to look interested during long meetings with allies in a room decorated with the flags of other countries. As the other G-7 leaders strolled the streets of this ancient fortress town, Trump followed along in a golf cart.
A weight seemed to lift from Trump’s shoulders when he touched down by helicopter at the U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella, on the Sicilian island, for a pep rally with military families before flying home to Washington.
He took a golf cart in Saudi Arabia too but I think they blamed it on the king rather than him.
Golf Cart Update: Line in story makes it sound like more than was. Leaders depart, Trump follows in cart, meets them, seems to walk the rest pic.twitter.com/pFjAjwvWxk
I wouldn't normally mock him if he's feeling infirm on a long trip like this. It could happen to anyone. But he was such an asshole in the campaign toward Clinton and his other rivals about being "weak" and failing to have the "strength and stamina" that he deserves it.
A Freedman Bureau agent stands between armed groups of whites and Freedmen in this 1868 sketch from Harper's Weekly.
You've got to admire their tenacity. Here in North Carolina, Democrats have been fighting a radicalized Republican Party for some years now. At least since they gained control of the legislature in the 2010 sweep election. Since that time, they have worked assiduously at consolidating their power at every turn using every method at their disposal.
The 2013 omnibus election law intended to suppress black turnout in the state "with almost surgical precision" lost in the Supreme Court this month. Their 2011 gerrymandering of state congressional districts designed to limit the influence of black voters lost in the Supreme Court a week later. Gerrymandering cases involving state legislative districts are working their way through the courts.
The New York Times observes that in spite of repeated losses, the Republicans are unbowed:
But if North Carolina Republicans have been chastened in Washington, there is scant evidence of it here in the state capital. Quite the opposite: Hours after the court nullified the elections law, for example, party officials said they would simply write another.
They keep pressing on. To say "with a vengeance" is no exaggeration.
“What we’re seeing in North Carolina is an effort at political entrenchment that is unparalleled,” said Allison Riggs, a senior staff lawyer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham advocacy group that sued Republican leaders over the election law. “It requires a complete disregard for the will of the voters and political participation, and a disregard for the independence of the judiciary.”
That last statement refers to Republican efforts to prevent the new Democratic governor from filling vacancies on the state's Court of Appeals. (Merrick Garland knows all about how that works.) Republicans have also passed measures to make it more difficult for cases to rise to the state Supreme Court where Democrats now hold a slim majority. First-on-the-ballot placement in a nonpartisan Supreme Court race allowed a black Democrat to win a Supreme Court seat in November in the year of Trump. So that arrangement had to change.
In March, a state commission charged with improving the state’s courts urged the legislature to scrap the requirement that judges win election to the bench, saying it forced candidates to seek contributions from people who appeared before them.
Eight days later, the legislature voted to change lower-court elections from nonpartisan to partisan affairs, requiring nearly 400 judges to run under party labels in a bid to put more Republican loyalists on the bench. (The legislators had earlier made appeals and Supreme Court elections partisan.) Two Republican legislators filed a bill to split Charlotte’s Democratic-leaning Mecklenburg County judicial district into three new ones that would give Republicans a better shot at victory.
The assaults are not limited to elections or to the courts. Cities themselves are under attack. Public schools and universities are under assault. Public lands and infrastructure are being privatized. It is, as I've said before, the next phase of the conservative effort to defund the left.
Here is the GOP playbook: 1) Find the line. 2) Step over it. 3) Dare the courts to push them back.
If the courts push back, try, try again. If the courts don't, they've drawn a new line to be stepped over at the next opportunity. It is important for progressives to understand that winning a single victory, winning the presidency or a single court case (or a series) will not stop them. Like the Borg, they adapt and keep coming. Tenacity is a trait progressives will need for these fights.
The Times notes that much of this is "full-bore payback for Democratic abuses in the past."* But since Republicans have not seen this level of control in a hundred years, they are settling scores few Republican legislators serving today were alive to see, and visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation.
* Prior to losing the majority, friends had urged the Democratic Senate Majority Leader to move to partisan redistricting. They were rebuffed, the story goes. "Democrats draw great districts," he said.
SIFF is showing 400 films over 25 days. Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. Yet, I trudge on (cue the world’s tiniest violin). Hopefully, some of these films will be coming soon to a theater near you…
Angry Inuk – Canadian film maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril hails from an Inuk community near Baffin Island, where locals rely on traditional subsistence sealhunting; not only to literally put food on the table, but to earn a living from commercial sales of sealskin products. In 2009, the European Union banned commercial trade in all seal products except for those from Indigenous hunts. While that seems a reasonable concession, the director and her fellow Inuk activists feel that the legislators and animal rights groups miss the fact that the ban has all but killed the market for the products-thus putting the Inuk people in dire economic straits. Aranquq-Baril’s documentary is wise, witty and thought-provoking, offering up a unique perspective on this controversial issue.
Rating: *** (Plays May 28 & May 29)
A Date for Mad Mary – The phrase “star-making performance” is overused, but it’s apt to describe Seana Kerslake’s turn in Darren Thornton’s dramedy about a troubled young woman who is being dragged kicking and screaming (and swearing like a sailor) into adulthood. Fresh from 6 months in a Dublin jail for instigating a drunken altercation, 20 year-old “mad” Mary (Kerslake) is asked to be maid of honor by her BFF Charlene. Charlene refuses her a “plus-one”, assuming that her volatile friend isn’t likely to find a date in time for the wedding. Ever the contrarian, Mary insists that she will; leading to a completely unexpected relationship. The director’s screenplay (co-written with his brother Colin) is chockablock with brash and brassy dialog, and conveys that unique penchant the Irish possess for using “fook” as a noun, adverb, super verb and adjective. Kerslake’s remarkable debut reminds me of Emily Lloyd in Wish You Were Here (1987).
Rating: ***½ (Plays May 27 & May 28)
Endless Poetry – Ever since his 1970 Leone-meets-Fellini western El Topo singlehandedly redefined the meaning of “WTF?” for cult movie aficionados, Chilean film maker/poet/actor/composer/comic book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky has continued to push the envelope on all creative fronts. His new film, the second part of a “proposed pentalogy of memoirs”, follows young Alejandro (the director’s son Adan, who also composed the soundtrack) as comes into his own as an aspiring poet. Defying his naysaying father, he flees to Santiago and ingratiates himself with the local bohemians. He caterwauls into a tempestuous relationship with a redheaded force of nature named Stella. What ensues is the most gloriously over-the-top biopic since Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers. This audacious work of art not only conveys that its creator possesses the soul of a poet, but stands, in and of itself, as an almost tactile evocation of poetry’s soul.
Rating: **** (Plays May 29 & June 5)
Finding Kukan – The first documentary to win an Oscar was the 1941 film Kukan: The Battle Cry of China. There are two unfortunate footnotes. 1.) The film, a unique and historically important “front line” document of Japan’s 1937 invasion of China, has since all but vanished from the public eye. 2.) The female producer, Ling-Ai Li, was uncredited. With two tantalizing mysteries to solve, film maker Robin Lung had her work cut out for her. The director’s 7-year quest yields two separate yet convergent narratives: a world-wide search for prints of Kukan for possible restoration, and the fascinating life of a previously unsung female filmmaking pioneer. Lung nicely ties the threads together.
Rating: *** (Plays May 27, May 28 & June 2)
Godspeed – This neo-noir “buddy film” from Taiwanese writer-director Chung Mung-Hong’s concerns an aging, life-tired taxi driver (Hong Kong comedian Michael Hui) who unwittingly picks up a twitchy young drug mule (Na Dow). Blackly comic cat-and-mouse games involving rivalling mobsters ensue as the pair are pushed into an intercity road trip, with their fates now inexorably intertwined. If the setup rings a bell, yes, it is very reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Collateral, but unfortunately not in the same league. It’s not the actors’ fault; the two leads are quite good. The problem lies in the uneven pacing (an overlong and gratuitous torture scene stops the film in its tracks). Likely too many slow patches for action fans, yet too joltingly violent for anyone partial to road movies. It does have its moments, and I’m sure there is an audience for it, but I’m just not sure who.
Rating: **½ (Plays May 28, June 1 & June 2)
Lane 1974 – This episodic road movie/coming of age story may be too episodic for some tastes, but for those of a certain age (ahem), it hearkens back to the quietly observant character studies that flourished from the late 60s through the mid-70s like Scarecrow, The Rain People, and Harry and Tonto. Writer-director SJ Chiro adapted her screenplay from Clane Hayward’s memoir. 13 year-old Lane (Sophia Mitri Schloss), her little brother, and their narcissistic hippie-dippy mom (Ray Donovan’s Katherine Moennig adopt a vagabond lifestyle after they’re kicked out of a Northern California commune. Schloss delivers a lovely, naturalistic performance as an adolescent coming to the sad realization that she is the responsible adult, as her mother is really the self-centered child.
Rating: *** (Plays June 2 & June 3)
A Life in Waves – While her name isn’t a household word, Suzanne Ciani is a musical polymath whose work has been heard by millions…from New Age fans to pinball enthusiasts. Brett Whitcomb’s film is an inspirational portrait of this innovative artist’s 40-year career. An early electronica pioneer, the classically-trained Ciani was in one respect too ahead of her time, because she hit the glass ceiling fairly quickly (the late 60s synth scene was a boy’s club). Undaunted, she reinvented herself as a “sound designer”, making a ton of loot devising ad jingles (and effects, like the Coca-Cola “pop and pour” sound), theme songs, game sound effects, you name it. She kept composing, eventually founding her own New Age record label and becoming a genre star. A fascinating look at a creative genius who’s managed to ride the wave at the crest between art and commerce.
Rating: ***½ (Plays May 29, May 30 & June 7)
Time Trap – The discovery of a rusted-out VW van near the entrance of an underground cavern prompts a Texas professor/spelunker to investigate what happened to his parents, who mysteriously vanished decades before. Concerned that the professor himself may have now disappeared, two of his students organize a search party, dragging several other friends and young siblings along. From that point forward, it’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mish-mash of time portals, Spanish conquistadors, Neanderthals, aliens, The Fountain of Youth, a magic ring and the end of the world. The only thing missing is a cohesive narrative (and perhaps a MST3K riff track?). Co-directors Mark Dennis and Ben Foster desperately want us to connect the dots with 1980s films like The Goonies. So I’ll play along: this is the most indecipherable sci-fi mess since Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce.
Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker unpacks the Kushner problem and draws attention to the fact that Kushner was especially hostile to Comey and alone among Trumps advisers wanted his to "counter-attack." One wonders why.
The main takeaway from the Kushner news is similar to the takeaway from Trump and Flynn’s handling of the Russia probes. In each case, we have a series of actions by people who seem to be concealing specific contacts with Russians connected to the Kremlin’s intelligence services and then acting to thwart an investigation. Flynn lied about his contacts with Kislyak. Trump tried to kill the F.B.I. investigation of Flynn and eventually fired his F.B.I. director. Kushner hid his contacts with Russian officials and then pressed his father-in-law to sack Comey, who was looking into the matter. “Anytime someone on the Trump campaign conceals or misleads about a contact they had with Russia at the time of Russia’s interference campaign, that’s a big red flag,” Eric Swalwell, the Democratic congressman, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said.
We still don’t have a crime in this case, but there is an awful lot of coverup.
And this doesn't even get into the "back-channel" at the Russian embassy stuff.
A federal judge in Washington has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Hillary Clinton's lax security surrounding her emails led to the deaths of two of the Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson tossed out the wrongful death claims as well as allegations that Clinton essentially slandered the parents of the deceased by contradicting accounts the parents gave of events related to their children's deaths.
The suit was filed last August by Patricia Smith, the mother of State Department information officer Sean Smith, and Charles Woods, the father of CIA operative Tyrone Woods.
The parents sued weeks after Patricia Smith took to the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to deliver an emotional speech blasting the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and for failing to save the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attack while she was secretary of state: Smith, Woods, CIA operative Glen Doherty and U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
Jackson dismissed the wrongful death portion of the suit on technical grounds after granting the State Department's motion to step in as the defendant on those claims. The Obama-appointed judge concluded Clinton used her email in the course of her official duties.
"The Court finds that Secretary Clinton was acting in the scope of her employment when she transmitted the emails that are alleged to give rise to her liability," Jackson wrote in her 29-page opinion. "The untimely death of plaintiffs’ sons is tragic, and the Court does not mean to minimize the unspeakable loss that plaintiffs have suffered in any way. But when one applies the appropriate legal standards, it is clear that plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to rebut the presumption that Secretary Clinton was acting in her official capacity when she used her private email server."
Jackson cautioned that she was not opining on the appropriateness of Clinton's use of the private server or on whether what she said publicly about the Benghazi episode in its immediate aftermath.
"Nothing about this decision should be construed as making any determination or expressing any opinion about the propriety of the use of the private email server or the content or accuracy of the statements made by the Secretary to the family members or to anyone else in the days following the Benghazi attack," the judge wrote.
Jackson added that she was also not making a determination about whether Clinton's use of the private server was legal or not.
For the purposes of the suit, "it...does not matter whether Secretary Clinton used a private email server lawfully or unlawfully. Instead, the relevant inquiry is whether Secretary Clinton’s electronic communications with State Department personnel about official business during her tenure were within the scope of her employment as the head of the State Department," the judge said.
"Her actions – communicating with other State Department personnel and advisors about the official business of the department – fall squarely within the scope of her duty to run the Department and conduct the foreign affairs of the nation as Secretary of State."
The judge also rejected the defamation claims, concluding that Clinton's public statements that the family members' were "wrong" about what she'd said to them about the motivation for the attack were not the equivalent of saying they lied. In short, Jackson concluded that Clinton was saying that the parents could be mistaken in their recollection, particularly given the impact of their children's deaths.
"Secretary Clinton did not refer to plaintiffs as liars," Jackson noted. "Plaintiffs may find the candidate’s statements in her own defense to be 'unpleasant or offensive,' but Secretary Clinton did not portray plaintiffs as 'odious, infamous, or ridiculous....' To the contrary, the statements portray plaintiffs as normal parents, grieving over the tragic loss of their loved ones."
My social media feeds today are debating her use of a private email server. It will never end.
With its former chairman Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist and plans for an ambitious international expansion, Breitbart was supposed to be on its way to becoming a media behemoth in the Trump era, one with unparalleled access and a passionate audience. “While several publishers have enjoyed an uptick in traffic due to election coverage, we are proud to have built a massive and deeply-rooted community that will remain long after the election cycle fades,” Larry Solov, Breitbart’s C.E.O., predicted back in November.
Early on, Solov’s prediction seemed to be coming true. “Breitbart News is the #45th most trafficked website in the United States, according to rankings from Amazon’s analytics company, Alexa.com,” they wrote on January 9, 2017. “With over two billion pageviews generated in 2016 and 45 million unique monthly visitors, Breitbart News has now surpassed Fox News (#47), Huffington Post (#50), Washington Post (#53), and Buzzfeed (#64) in traffic.” A month later, the site had even greater cause to celebrate. “Breitbart News is now the 29th most trafficked site in the United States, surpassing PornHub and ESPN,” they crowed. In the article, its staffers bragged that their bonkers traffic reflected the site’s cementing a permanent place in American politics. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Solov. (Many outlets, including The Hive, experienced traffic peaks around Trump’s inauguration.)
Just a few months later, the numbers have a different story to tell. As of May 26, 2017, according to Alexa.com—the same web-ranking analytics company that Breitbart drew its numbers from in January—Fox News is the 64th most-trafficked site in the country. Huffington Post is at 60. Buzzfeed is at 50. The Washington Post, on the strength of a series of eye-popping scoops, is at 41.
Breitbart is in 281st place.
Alexa global rankings of Breitbart measured against news sites they have compared themselves to. Trends reflect U.S. rankings.
Alexa global rankings of Breitbart measured against competing conservative news sites. Trends reflect U.S. rankings.
Measuring web traffic is an inexact art, but other web-analytics companies reflect a similar, unusually steep decline in Breitbart’s traffic. ComScore estimated that Breitbart had nearly 23 million unique visitors during the month of November 2016, but only drew 10.7 million in April 2017, a 53 percent drop. Last month, the site had fewer visitors than it did in April 2016, when 12.3 million people visited the site. In contrast, the four sites that Breitbart benchmarked itself against saw nowhere near that drop—and, in the case of both Fox News and Buzzfeed, saw small increases in traffic since the November election.
The Breitbart traffic graph in Alexa, the service that Breitbart cites when they celebrate their traffic goals, is oddly shaped, rocketing up to a high plateau where it remained over a period of months, then dropping back precipitously around April 30, Trump’s 100-day mark. In an email to The Hive, an Alexa customer representative suggested that the traffic anomalies could have been caused by Breitbart enabling, then disabling, Alexa’s certified-results feature, which temporarily created an apples-to-oranges comparison with sites that don’t enable the feature, like The Washington Post. (The dates the representative provided coincide perfectly with the dates that Breitbert’s traffic spiked, and then plummeted.)
Other conservative media sites have also experienced declines in traffic in recent months, but none as pronounced as Breitbart’s. According to Alexa data, National Review Online, Infowars.com, The Daily Caller, and Drudge Report all saw slumps in their rankings. Over the last week, as Trump was engulfed in the Comey scandal, Fox News’s viewership dropped to third place behind CNN and MSNBC for the first time in 17 years.
At the most basic level, Trump’s struggles are producing a passion gap among news consumers. “If you’re anti-Trump, there’s never been a better time to read news. It’s like Christmas every morning,” an editor at another conservative media outlet told me. “So every time you open the newspaper or open Twitter or turn on Facebook, you get to enjoy the fact that there are a lot of other people who don’t like Trump and there’s a lot of news stories that show Trump in a negative light. Whereas if you’re Breitbart, you’re scrambling to explain or defend or continue to back the guy that you backed throughout the election. And eventually, if your posture continues to just simply be reactive and trying to explain away things that are happening to or by the president, I think people slowly become sort of disheartened by politics.”
Traffic has long been the definitive measure of the strength of the movement Breitbart championed. “The growing traffic numbers was a huge focus for Bannon and the Breitbart senior management, as it would be for any online platform,” Kurt Bardella, Breitbart’s former spokesman, who left the company in March of 2016, told me in an e-mail. “They saw the growth as validation that their perspective and strategy was paying off. More than that, I think Steve saw it as a big F.U. to the establishment/MSM. In some ways, I think their rapid growth fueled their desire to try and take Breitbart global and expand.”
Trump’s election, however, changed the trajectory and raised journalistic questions the site had never had to ponder. “There’s two types of bias in news,” said a former Breitbart staffer. “There’s bias in news as to how you cover a particular story. And then there’s selection bias as in which stories do you cover. And I think that Breitbart has both of those.” The former staffer pointed to the site’s current homepage, just a few hours after the C.B.O. score for the House’s second attempt at repealing Obamacare was released. The biggest headline on the site was “Associated Press Cracks, Issues Correction Undermining Hit Piece From Leftist Activist Hired to Sneak into Kellyanne Event.” “This is not news anyone wants to read right now, come on,” he said. “That’s not even in English.” (A story about the C.B.O. score was buried in the bottom right-hand corner.)
Another factor could be an apparent decline in the number of times Breitbart stories receive a link from Matt Drudge—a single link on the Drudge Report homepage can fuel an entire month’s worth of web traffic. Andrew Breitbart, a former Drudge employee, essentially built his organization on the back of the Drudge Report; Bannon continued the close relationship after Breitbart’s death. (“Bannon used to go around bragging that he ran Drudge [and that] he could get a Drudge link anytime he wanted,” said the former Breitbarter.) Many see the current editor, Alex Marlow, as having a more difficult time now that Bannon has gone. Says the former staffer, “Alex’s main strategy was to get Drudge links,” while Bannon was there. “When that’s your training, it’s hard to get away from that.” (Drudge did not return a request for comment.)
Their international expansion, too, seems to be slipping past the benchmarks they set for themselves. Reuters reported that Bannon hoped to open Breitbart bureaus in France and Germany in time for their elections with the aim of electing right-wing, anti-immigrant politicians. The model had worked wonders in the U.K., where Breitbart London had opened in 2013 and became a political powerhouse for Brexit. But Breitbart France failed to materialize in time for the presidential election, where a centrist candidate decisively beat Marine Le Pen, the nationalist politician favored by the website. Breitbart Germany does not exist yet, but there is still plenty of time until their September elections.
But for now, the simplest explanation may be that Breitbart’s traffic struggles reflect the struggles of the man they backed during the election, now mired in the difficulties of governance and scandal. “When you tie yourself to a candidate you shouldn’t be surprised,” said the former staffer. “If the candidate has trouble, you’re going to have trouble. And if your goal is to provide cover for that candidate and the news is about that candidate, it’s going to be difficult to cover the news in a way that’s interesting.”
The numbers, indeed, speak for themselves.
Live by the Trump, die by the Trump.
Right wing media is in a crisis. They've never needed the leadership of a guy like Roger Ailes more. But he's gone, Limbaugh is tired and Hannity has become Trump's geisha. The newer group of wingnuts, Ingraham, Levin etc are stuck in their old conservative movement groove and really don't know how to deal with Trump any better than anyone else. He is destroying the machine they've built.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a powerful right wing media anymore. It's just that it's being run by foreign entities using modern social media tactics. These old fashioned dinosaurs are no longer relevant. They are being devoured by a virus they helped create and a wingnut host that will believe anything.
Amid mounting questions at the White House about Russia, three prominent members of President Trump’s family — his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and Eric’s wife, Lara — have ramped up their engagement with the Republican Party’s national political operation, having met privately with GOP leaders to share their concerns and outlook.
Their most recent effort came Thursday, when the president’s eldest sons and Lara Trump visited the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington. Those three family members, who were invited by the RNC, stayed for about two hours, according to four people who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Their appearance at the RNC irked at least two prominent Republicans who were briefed on the session, who wondered whether it was appropriate for the president’s sons, who run the Trump family real estate business, to be highly involved in discussing the party’s strategy and resources.
But two other people familiar with the meeting said it was appropriate for the president’s sons and daughter-in-law, who all volunteered for Trump’s campaign, to huddle with Republican leaders and offer their perspective on what would be most helpful to President Trump ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race.
Former intelligence officials described Jared Kushner's reported attempt to set up a backchannel line of communication with Russia last December that would bypass the US' national security and intelligence apparatus as "off the map," "explosive," and "extremely dangerous."
Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said during a press conference on Saturday that, if Kushner did try to set up such a back channel, "I would not be concerned about it."
"We have back-channel communications with a number of countries," McMaster said. "So, generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner."
Scott Olson, a recently retired FBI agent who ran counterintelligence operations and spent more than 20 years at the bureau, agreed that it is not unusual for low-level staffers to work between governments and bypass bureaucracy to exchange views and build consensus in advance of higher-level negotiations.
But what Kushner appears to have done is "substantially different, in two ways," he said.
"First, he is not seeking a back-channel for a low-level staff exchange," Olson said. "He wants high-level direct-contact communication. This is extremely dangerous because it results in verbal (and therefore undocumented and unwitnessed) agreements, which are binding on governments. Free governments do not work this way. They can't. If they do, they are no longer free."
"Second, he asked to use a foreign government's communication facilities. This is way beyond a private server. This is doing US government diplomatic business over a foreign government's communication system. It's not an off-the-record conversation. It's a conversation recorded by the opposing party. This shows a staggering lack of understanding of the US and its place in the world. Actually, it shows a staggering lack of common sense. When he negotiates a business deal does he use the other guy's notes?"
Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a top White House adviser, was willing to go extraordinary lengths to establish a secret line of communication between the Trump administration and Russian government officials, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Kushner met with Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower, where he floated the possibility of setting up a secure line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia — and having those talks take place in Russian diplomatic facilities in the US. That would essentially conceal their interactions from US government scrutiny, The Post wrote, citing US intelligence officials briefed on the matter.
This is why you don't hire people with no experience in government to run it:
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The Washington Post report adds that Michael Flynn was also there.
The New York Times' Nick Confessore told MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, from the Trump team's perspective perhaps their business ties led them to believe the Russians were "deal partners and friends." Confessore concluded, "Totally boneheaded."
"If an American intelligence officer had done anything like this, we'd consider it espionage," former Acting Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin told Lawrence O'Donnell last night on MSNBC. "I think to some degree, the Trump administration at these senior levels is being consumed by its own hubris. They must think of themselves as masters of the universe." Their seeming contempt for the institutions of government that carry out the functions of democracy reflects, McLaughlin said, "that sophomoric idea we used to hear about, about deconstructing the administrative state." He asked, as if Trump's people should use those they trust more? The Russians? [timestamp 3:30]
The Post first received the information via an anonymous letter in mid-December. This week, officials who reviewed the letter and spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the secret channel portion of the letter was consistent with their understanding of events. This suggests there may be more to come from the letter once the information is confirmed.
Outside of Flynn, though, it’s not clear many people knew this meeting ever happened, much less what happened in it. The meeting was first disclosed by the New Yorker, following which the White House quickly added (in a story to the NYT) Flynn to the story — suggesting he, and not the President’s son-in-law suggested the communication channel.
As Steve Kornacki's guests observed, there may be completely innocent reasons behind the attempt. At every turn, they make decisions that suggests they suffer from, as officials told the Post, "staggering naivete." And yet they went to extraordinary if not paranoid lengths to avoid exposure to U.S. intelligence gathering. The Post concludes:
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.
The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater, now called Academi, and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Besides the lack of experience and the hubris, another thread runs through the Misadventures of Donald Trump and the people who elected him. It is the notion that we need businessmen running the government.
That evangelicals spend so much time defending the notion of biblical inerrancy from science — to the point of erecting creation museums across the country and building full-scale Noah's ark replicas to somehow "prove" science wrong — reflects how well science has successfully co-opted the thinking of even its fiercest critics from another cognitive domain. The same is true for business. It is so successful and so dominant in our way of life that average citizens and business moguls themselves believe that everything could be and must be operated according to a business model. Even when that is totally inappropriate.
But it's the only thing Trump and his kinsmen know. He's a one-trick pony. When the only tool in your toolbox is real estate, etc. After Trump's first international trip and interactions with key U.S. allies, if that truth wasn't painfully obvious before, it should be now. And that goes for "Tel Aviv" Tillerson too.
People who have devoted their entire lives to making money should leave public service to people with not just the brains for it, but hearts for it as well.
Months after the FBI began examining Paul Manafort as part of a probe into ties between President Donald Trump’s team and Russia, Manafort called Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to push back against the mounting controversy, according to four people familiar with the call.
It was about a week before Trump’s inauguration, and Manafort wanted to brief Trump’s team on alleged inaccuracies in a recently released dossier of memos written by a former British spy for Trump’s opponents that alleged compromising ties among Russia, Trump and Trump’s associates, including Manafort.
“On the day that the dossier came out in the press, Paul called Reince, as a responsible ally of the president would do, and said this story about me is garbage, and a bunch of the other stuff in there seems implausible,” said a person close to Manafort.
Manafort had been forced to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman five months earlier amid scrutiny of his work for Kremlin-aligned politicians and businessmen in Eastern Europe. But he had continued talking to various members of Trump’s team and had even had at least two conversations with Trump, according to people close to Manafort or Trump.
While the people say the conversations were mostly of a political or, in some cases, personal nature, the conversation with Priebus, described by the four people familiar with it, was related to the scandal now consuming Manafort and the Trump presidency.
It suggests that Manafort recognized months ago the potentially serious problems posed by the investigation, even as Trump himself continues to publicly dismiss it as a politically motivated witch hunt while predicting it won’t find anything compromising.
The discussion also could provide fodder for an expanding line of inquiry for both the FBI and congressional investigators. They’ve increasingly focused on the Trump team’s handling of the investigations, including evolving explanations from the White House, and the president’s unsuccessful efforts to get the FBI to drop part of the investigation, followed by his firing of FBI Director James Comey. All that has led to claims that the president and his team may have opened themselves to obstruction of justice charges.
Why in the hell would the Trump campaign continue to have contact with this guy after it was revealed he was under investigation for his Russian ties? Were they really this dumb?
Yes, apparently they were. Never mind.
You've got to love this part:
Manafort discussed with other Trump allies the possibility of launching a countervailing investigation into efforts by Ukrainian government officials who allegedly worked in conjunction with allies of Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to damage Trump’s campaign, according to the operative. The operative added that Manafort saw such an investigation as a way to distract attention from the parallel FBI and congressional Russia probes.
Priebus and the White House press office declined to comment, as did the Ukrainian presidential administration, though it previously challenged the notion it meddled in the U.S. presidential election.
Priebus did, however, alert Trump to the conversation with Manafort, according to the operative familiar with the conversation and a person close to Trump.
Apparently even Trump didn't go for that one, at least not publicly. He continues to portray the whole thing as a nefarious plot by Crooked Hillary. Ukrainians don't get big cheers at his rallies.