All the President’s Thugs – The New York Times

“Among the most disturbing accusations the pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford made in her “60 Minutes” interview about President Trump was that after she sold her story about Mr. Trump to a magazine in 2011, a man approached her in a parking lot, while she was with her infant daughter, and said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”

“And then he leaned around,” she continued, “and looked at my daughter and said: ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ ”Five years later, said Ms. Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, when Mr. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen offered to pay her $130,000 to be silent about her relationship with Mr. Trump, she took the deal because she “was concerned for my family and their safety.”

There is, of course, only Ms. Clifford’s word on this incident, which reads like a scene from a low-grade gangster movie. But this is not the first time that someone who has crossed Donald Trump has spoken of being threatened.”

Stormy Daniels Spanks Trump Again – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

“Nevertheless, the Daniels interview aired on Sunday was important, portending danger for both Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. As I’ve written before, the Daniels affair is a corruption scandal disguised as a sex scandal. And on the corruption front, we learned things on Sunday that could help unravel Trump’s wretched presidency.

Daniels’s most shocking disclosure was her account of being threatened, apparently on Trump’s behalf, in 2011, a few weeks after agreeing to tell her story to a gossip magazine for $15,000. She said she was in a parking lot with her infant daughter when a man approached and said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” Then, she said, he looked at the baby and warned, “A beautiful little girl — it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.” “

A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta and Security Experts Shudder – The New York Times

ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta’s 8,000 employees got the word on Tuesday that they had been waiting for: It was O.K. to turn their computers on.

But as the city government’s desktops, hard drives and printers flickered back to life for the first time in five days, residents still could not pay their traffic tickets or water bills online, or report potholes or graffiti on a city website. Travelers at the world’s busiest airport still could not use the free Wi-Fi.

Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.

The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim’s computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

“We are dealing with a hostage situation,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said this week.

The assault on Atlanta, the core of a metropolitan area of about 6 million people, represented a serious escalation from other recent cyberattacks on American cities, like one last year in Dallas where hackers gained the ability to set off tornado sirens in the middle of the night.

via A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder – The New York Times

How to Protect Yourself (and Your Friends) on Facebook – The New York Times

• Audit your Facebook apps. If you used Facebook to sign in to a third-party website, game or app, those services may continue to access your personal data. On Facebook, go to the settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which apps are connected to your account. From there, you can take a closer look at the permissions you granted to each app to see what information you are sharing. Remove any apps that you find suspicious or no longer use. (Facebook has also made some changes to prevent the gathering of detailed information of friends of users.)

On the App Settings page there is another setting called Apps Others Use. This is where you choose which details are shared about you when your friends use apps. Make sure to uncheck all the boxes if you don’t want any of your information, like your birthday or hometown, accessed by your friends’ apps.

• Audit your Facebook privacy settings. If you are concerned about what details apps can see about you and your Facebook friends, now is a good time to check your privacy settings and minimize the information you share publicly. For example, you can make sure that only your friends can see your Facebook posts, or that only you can see your friends list.

via How to Protect Yourself (and Your Friends) on Facebook – The New York Times

The Danger of President Pence | by Jane Mayer – The New Yorker

“The Kochs, who are not religious, may have been focussed more on pocketbook issues than on Pence’s faith. According to Scott Peterson, the executive director of the Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog group that monitors attempts to influence environmental policy, Pence was invited to the Koch seminar only after he did the brothers a major political favor. By the spring of 2009, Koch Industries, like other fossil-fuel companies, felt threatened by growing support in Congress for curbing carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change. Americans for Prosperity devised a “No Climate Tax” pledge for candidates to sign, promising not to spend any government funds on limiting carbon pollution. At first, the campaign languished, attracting only fourteen signatures. The House, meanwhile, was moving toward passage of a “cap and trade” bill, which would charge companies for carbon pollution. If the bill were enacted, the costs could be catastrophic to Koch Industries, which releases some twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year, and owns millions of acres of untapped oil reserves in Canada, plus coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history,” and Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” (Neither statement was true.) He used a map created by the Heritage Foundation, which the Kochs supported, to make his case, and he urged House Republicans to hold “energy summits” opposing the legislation in their districts, sending them home over the summer recess with kits to bolster their presentations.

According to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, after Pence began promoting the Kochs’ pledge the number of signatories in the House soared, reaching a hundred and fifty-six. James Valvo, the policy director for Americans for Prosperity, who spearheaded the pledge, told the Reporting Workshop that support from Pence and other Republicans helped “a scrappy outlier” become “the established position.” The cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate.”

Source: The Danger of President Pence | The New Yorker

Putting the Ex-Con in Conservatism – Paul Krugman – NYT

“And this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them.

The point is that Trumpism was more or less fated to happen. Trump’s crude racism and blatant dishonesty are only exaggerated versions of what his party has been selling for decades, while his substantive policy agenda — slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, taking health care away from lower-income families — is utterly orthodox.

Even his protectionism is less of a departure from Republican norms than people imagine. George W. Bush put tariffs on steel, while Reagan limited imports of Japanese autos. Cutting taxes on the rich is a fundamental G.O.P. principle; free trade isn’t.Once you realize the extent to which Republican politics has been shaped by the big con, three implications follow.”

‘Hush Money’ Now Playing Everywhere – Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – NYT

“Speaking of which, I know we’re in agreement about the gun issue, and nearly everybody was moved by the marches over the weekend. But I still do wonder why the country was so totally mobilized by what happened in Florida when the response to previous disasters — for God’s sake, grade-school kids in Newtown — was so comparatively muted.

Do you think it was because these survivors are older and so articulate? Or that having Trump in the White House made everyone more sensitive to moral issues? I even wondered if it was because this time it happened in a political barometer-state like Florida.Bret: All of the above, I suspect. The Parkland students have spoken out to magnificent effect, something the Newtown children were simply too young to do for themselves.

I also get the sense that the pace of these atrocities has accelerated. Before Parkland it was the church shooting in Sutherland Springs. Before that, the concertgoers in Las Vegas. Before that, the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise at the baseball field near Washington. Maybe, at some level of the national psyche, we understood that we we’re coming dangerously close to accepting these atrocities as an accepted fact of life. Defining deviancy down for the sake of Wayne LaPierre’s N.R.A.? No, thank you.

Gail: Whenever I feel depressed I remind myself that the N.R.A. is having its worst year ever.Bret: One of the paradoxes of the Trump presidency is that it has galvanized the country in all sorts of positive ways. From Charlottesville to l’Affaire Stormy, he has brought to the surface all sorts of ugliness that is simply unignorable. For instance, do you think the #MeToo movement would have taken hold the way it did if he weren’t in the White House?

Gail: It’s a necessary stage in women’s progress — socially and economically — so we’d have gotten there anyway. But having the worst-possible male image in the White House probably propelled things forward faster.

I guess you could say he’s so bad he’s making us better.

David Lindsay: Yes. Here is one of many good comments:

R. Law is a trusted commenter Texas 2 hours ago
Gail, you say:

“But I still do wonder why the country was so totally mobilized by what happened in Florida when the response to previous disasters — for God’s sake, grade-school kids in Newtown — was so comparatively muted.”

Partly this was because Parkland had just been named the safest city in Florida, partly this was because the city is only a 1/2 hour drive from Mar-a-Loco (the southern asylum), but mostly, it’s because Broward County tax-payers support a school district that EDUCATES their kids – the schools require public speaking instruction from an early age and THIS year, the kids in high school were already debating gun control, as all aptly described by Dahlia Lithwick’s article:

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/the-student-activists-of-mar…

There’s really a wonderful story here of actual, comprehensive public education that deserves more focus, which raises standards in surrounding counties as it partly bleeds over into the way Miami-Dade’s schools are run by the superintendent that NYC unsuccessfully tried to lure as its Schools Chancellor.

Kudos to Broward County tax-payers, and to the educators who devised/implementedthe excellent curriculum to motivate future leaders to excel, producing such dynamic, well-spoken young leaders !”
195 Recommended

John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment – The New York Times

“Rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country this past Saturday. These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society.

That support is a clear sign to lawmakers to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increasing the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old, and establishing more comprehensive background checks on all purchasers of firearms. But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.

Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.”

The E.P.A. Says It Wants Research Transparency. Scientists See an Attack on Science. – The New York Times

“The proposed new policy — the details of which are still being worked out — is championed by the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, who has argued that releasing the raw data would let others test the scientific findings more thoroughly. “Mr. Pruitt believes that Americans deserve transparency,” said Liz Bowman, an E.P.A. spokeswoman.

Critics, though, say that Mr. Pruitt’s goal is not academic rigor, but to undermine much of the science that underpins modern environmental regulations governing clean water and clean air. Restricting the application of established science when crafting new E.P.A. rules could make it easier to weaken or repeal existing health regulations, these people say.

The proposal is “cloaked in all of these buzzwords, in all of the positive things that we want to be for: ‘science,’ ‘transparency,’” said Dr. Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, an independent blog that monitors scientific journals and exposes errors and misconduct. While Dr. Oransky said he agreed that it was critical to hold the scientific process accountable, he said he believed Mr. Pruitt’s intent was to inject doubt into areas of public health where none exists. “Data he doesn’t like will get disqualified,” Dr. Oransky said.”

Can Jim Mattis Hold the Line in Trump’s ‘War Cabinet’? – By ROBERT F. WORTH – NYT Magazine

One morning in mid-November, while answering routine press questions about aircraft carriers off the Korean Peninsula and de-confliction zones in Syria, Jim Mattis quietly hinted at something far more important. The United States would not be withdrawing its forces from Syria after the anticipated defeat of ISIS, as President Trump had been promising since his inauguration. Instead, the defense secretary suggested that American forces not only would remain but could even expand their role. “We’re going to make sure we set the conditions for a diplomatic solution,” Mattis said. “You need to do something about this mess now. Not just, you know, fight the military part of it and then say, ‘Good luck on the rest of it.’ ”

via Can Jim Mattis Hold the Line in Trump’s ‘War Cabinet’? – The New York Times