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Grace Coddington is leaving Vogue, at a time when the best fashion magazine is Instagram.

Coddington, with her incredibly cool bright red mane, was the real star of the 2009 documentary The September Issue. But The New York Times report on the creative director’s exit from Vogue delicately implies that the magazine’s leadership has been stagnant for a long time, and is packed with old people. Coddington is 74, editor Anna Wintour is 66, and they’ve both held their titles at Vogue since 1988.

Coddington did not use email or computers. That’s too bad; it could have helped Vogue feel less stale. And it has felt stale for a long time. Its ideas about modern women are dated—though the median reader age is 38, just about every issue contains an article about plastic surgery. Here’s a recent slideshow on horses in Vogue through the years. Coddington is “a great celebrator of the fantasy of fashion,” the Times notes, but that fantasy so often was some form of creepy princess. Maybe sometimes modern women want to fantasize about being something other than a tuberculosis patient in ruffles.

If you want to find fun and new and fresh ideas about fashion, follow the right models and a few teens on Instagram. The pictures are tiny, but the ideas are bigger.

August 17, 2018

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The suspicious timing of the Stormy Daniels payout might lead to campaign-finance charge.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that federal prosecutors are zeroing in on the timing of the payments to Stephanie Clifford (whose stage name is Stormy Daniels) by the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. The fact that these payments came immediately after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in the waning weeks of the 2016 election is helping prosecutors construct a plausible narrative that shows the hush-money was election related.

The issue of timing is important because prosecutors have to pre-empt the argument that the payment to Clifford was made just to prevent Trump’s family from learning of her alleged affair with Trump rather than to influence the election. In 2012, Democratic politician John Edwards successfully defended himself from a campaign-finance case of a similar nature by arguing that the allegedly illicit payment was done to shield from his wife information about an extramarital affair rather than for electoral reasons. Earlier this year, Michael Cohen made exactly this argument by saying on CNN, “It wasn’t for the campaign. It was for him.”

But in the Trump/Clifford case, the fact that the payment was made soon after the release of the Access Hollywood tape gives a plausible time-line that pins the motives on influencing the election.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, “Federal prosecutors in New York view the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape as a trigger that spurred Mr. Cohen to bury potentially damaging information about his boss, as they investigate whether the payment amounted to an illegal, in-kind contribution or an expenditure that should have been disclosed by the campaign, people familiar with the matter said.” The path seems to be clearing for federal prosecutors to go after both Michael Cohen and Trump himself for the payments to Clifford.

August 16, 2018

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Reuters discovers that children are suffering from lead poisoning on U.S. military housing.

The international news agency has published an in-depth exposé, based on two-years of reporting, on lead poisoning in military housing. The disheartening finding of the reporting is that lead poisoning is a problem in more 3,800 neighborhoods. As the report notes:

Reuters obtained medical data from the Army showing that at least 31 small children tested high for lead at a Fort Benning hospital over a recent six-year period. All tested above the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for elevated lead levels – 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Any child who tests high warrants a public health response, the CDC says.

Army data from other clinics showed at least 77 more high blood-lead tests for children at Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Riley in Kansas, and Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas.

From 2011 to 2016, Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas – which processes blood tests from many bases nationwide – registered more than 1,050 small children who tested above the CDC’s elevated threshold, the center’s records show.

The roots of the problem go back to the privatization of military housing in the 1990s. The military contractors tasked with running housing have been slow to build new residences and the military has provided meagre funding for upkeep and renovation. Also, the close ties between the military and contractors has led a code of silence about housing problems.

As Reuters observes, “Military families can face special difficulties if they complain about hazards in their homes, however. They are taking on landlords who are in business with their employer. Among the 60 interviewed for this story, more than half expressed fear that being identified could hurt a military member’s career.”

“These are families making sacrifices by serving,” toxicity research Dr. Bruce Lanphear told Reuters. “It appears that lead poisoning is sometimes the cost of their loyalty to the military.”

The free-market fallacy behind Ben Carson’s anti-desegregation policy.

Since taking over HUD, Carson has been on a mission to absolve the department of its responsibilities to desegregate housing. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule was instated by Barack Obama’s HUD in 2015 to strengthen the 1968 Fair Housing Act, by forcing municipalities receiving federal funding to assess local housing segregation—and come up with plans to fix it. Carson has been slowly killing Fair Housing enforcement (which he once compared with “the failure of school busing”) since January, when HUD issued a notice to suspend enforcement of the rule until 2020.

This week, HUD announced proposed changes to the rule to “minimize [the] regulatory burden” on local governments. In a statement, the National Fair Housing Alliance, which is one of several groups currently suing Carson for the rule’s suspension, said that any reconsideration of the rule “must account for the fact that HUD has a track record of more than 40 years of failing to properly ensure compliance” with its Fair Housing mandate. A research group at MIT found in 2017 that only two years into AFFH, the rule had supported more ambitious desegregation plans in almost every participating municipality.

Carson says the rule is “suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods,” which is straight out of the pro-development handbook. As an affordable housing crisis intensifies across the country, the belief of housing development advocates in the power of higher density to “naturally” create more affordable housing has become increasingly widespread. But without any guarantee that this additional housing would be offered at affordable rates, there’s little reason to believe that more density will lead to anything but more displacement and more segregation.

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Trump’s desire for a big military parade is proving to be very costly.

The Pentagon has revised the estimated costs of a military parade in November that is being done at the president’s behest. The original estimate is that it would cost $12 million. The new estimate is 760% higher: $92 million.

The United States doesn’t normally hold such parades unless there is a clear-cut military victory. The last such parade was in 1991 when America and its allies swept Iraq out of Kuwait.

Trump got the idea for a parade after visiting France last September and witnessing an impressive military display during Bastille Day.

“It was a tremendous day, and to a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump said after being awed by France’s military hardware. “We’re going to have to try to top it, but we have a lot of planes going over and a lot of military might, and it was really a beautiful thing to see, and representatives from different wars and different uniforms.”

According to CNBC, the Pentagon is pulling no stops in the effort to show that America can one-up France in military spectacle. “The plans currently include approximately eight tanks, as well as other armored vehicles, including Bradleys, Strykers and M113s,” the network reports. “The parade is also expected to include helicopter, fighter jet, transport aircraft as well as historical military plane flyovers. Troops in period uniforms representing the past, present and future forces will march in the parade, as well.”

The Pentagon believes they’ve resolved the question of whether the Abrams tanks would destroy Washington’s infrastructure. Thanks to the tanks distributed weight and track pads, the streets of Washington will not be torn to shreds.

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Omarosa releases new tape, says Trumps tried to “buy” her silence.

On Thursday, Omarosa Manigault Newman released a secret tape of a conversation between her and Lara Trump during an interview with MSNBC’s Craig Melvin.

Lara Trump, the senior adviser of President Trump’s 2020 campaign and Eric Trump’s wife, can be heard offering Manigault Newman a job working alongside her for $15,000 a month—a figure totaling $180,000 a year.

The tape opens with Mrs. Trump referencing what she considers a troubling New York Times article—the Times’s Maggie Haberman believes it to be this one—in which Manigault Newman is quoted having said she has “seen things that made me uncomfortable” over the course of her work for Trump, and that she has a “profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”

“It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you’ve got in the back pocket to pull out,” Lara Trump says on this new tape, referring to the article. Mrs. Trump then notes that all the money raised for the campaign comes from small donors, and offers to match Manigault Newman’s White House salary of $179,ooo. Manigault Newman told Craig Melvin that the recording is proof of “an attempt” to “buy my silence, to censor me, and to pay men off.”

President Trump’s former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, was also offered a 2020 campaign position that pays $15,000 a month, according to CNN. He left the White House in September 2017 for “financial reasons,” began receiving $15,000 a month for “security expenses” in October, and was interviewed as part of the Russia investigation in November.

The U.S. National Archives

Mississippi GOP Senate hopeful waxes plagiaristically poetic over Robert E. Lee.

Chris McDaniel, who currently serves in the Mississippi State Senate and has his sights set on a U.S. Senate seat, published a Facebook post on Wednesday praising the supposed honor of Robert E. Lee, the Virginia-born general who fought in defense of the South’s slaver aristocracy during the Civil War.

Here’s the irony: McDaniel’s attempt to refute the “historically illiterate left” is astoundingly historically illiterate itself. The claim that Lee “opposed both slavery and secession” would likely come as a great surprise to the Confederate general, who waged a five-year war against the United States on behalf of a secessionist rebellion that sought to preserve slavery. The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer noted last year that not only did Lee own slaves himself, but soldiers under his command sought to enslave free black Americans during the Pennsylvania campaign and routinely murdered captured black Union soldiers throughout the war. Misrepresenting Lee as a benign, honorable figure is a common feature of Lost Cause mythology, which valorizes him and other Confederate leaders who fought to defend white supremacy.

McDaniel might have fared better if he hadn’t lifted the passage whole cloth from Dinesh D’Souza. The conservative filmmaker is known for his relentless efforts to deflect criticism of the Republican Party’s racist tendencies by citing historical episodes of racism within the pre-1960s Democratic Party. Real historians have thoroughly debunked the charade, which willfully ignores the parties’ historic flip on racial issues in the mid-twentieth century over civil rights, but D’Souza remains unrepentant in his quest to paint Democrats as the real racists of the Trump era.

What prompted McDaniel to rise to Lee’s defense in this occasion is unclear. In any event, it’s a jarring move for a public official to make. After all, why should anyone seeking elected office in the federal government praise a man who sought to destroy it?

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Trump wants Omarosa arrested.

Writing in Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman reports that President Donald Trump “told advisers that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to have [Omarosa] Manigault Newman arrested, according to one Republican briefed on the conversations. (It’s unclear what law Trump believes she broke.)” Despite the counsel of his advisors and his wife Melania to ignore Manigault Newman, the president continues to go on a rampage against the former advisor, who he’s known for fifteen years dating back to their work on the reality television.

“In recent days, Trump has called Manigault Newman ‘crazed,’ a ‘lowlife,’ and a ‘dog’ on Twitter,” Sherman notes, “Another Republican recounted how over the weekend Trump derailed a midterm-election strategy session to rant about Manigault Newman’s betrayal.”

The story of Trump demanding that Manigault Newman arrested is consistent with the fact that Trump has repeatedly made public requests that the Department of Justice investigate his political enemies. The president has also expressed frustration in tweets over Attorney General Jeff Sessions not doing his bidding with regard to the Russia investigation:

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New GOP theory: Losing the midterms could actually be great.

As the midterms approach and they continue to lag in the polls, some Republicans are cheering themselves up with the idea that defeat in the House of Representatives and a move to impeach President Donald Trump could be a blessing in disguise. Politico describes this as a lose-to-win” theory and reports it is gaining increasing traction among Republicans.

“If they take the House, he wins big,” former Trump campaign advisor Barry Bennett told Politico.

Losing even one house of Congress would mean the end of unified Republican control of the government. Normally, this isn’t something a party in power would wish for. But, according to Politico, Republicans see a silver lining in defeat:

Proponents of the go-for-broke scenario argue that Trump’s at his best when his back is against the wall, and that a move to impeach would both rally the base and make the president sympathetic to moderate voters. Some scoff at the notion that there’s anything for Trump to fear from Democratic investigators on Capitol Hill, especially given the threat he’s already facing from special counsel Robert Mueller, and suggested that the House doesn’t matter as long as Republicans retain the Senate.

If this is really what Republicans think, it is far-fetched and unlikely. There are all too many ways that losing the House of Representatives could backfire on the Republicans. After all, as House Majority leader, Nancy Pelosi would have subpoena power. All the bubbling scandals of the Trump era would suddenly move from the back pages of newspapers to become live drama on TV, as Democrats grill Trump associates about emoluments, conflicts of interest, and the Russia investigation.

Further, defeat would change the political calculations of elected Republicans. So far, they remain in alliance with Trump because they see the downside of criticizing him, especially losing in primaries, as too dangerous. But if Trump leads his party to a midterm collapse, the remaining Republicans might decide they are better off without him.

Finally, as a polarizing president, Trump won’t be able to triangulate the way Bill Clinton did when he faced a Republican congress after 1994. So Trump’s already limited ability to work with congress would completely end.

The theory of “lose-to-win” seems more like one of the stages of the acceptance of grief (denial) than a viable political strategy.

Fox Business

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s latest wildfire interview is a doozy.

The scandal-ridden Interior Secretary explicitly denied the science of climate change in a Thursday morning interview on Fox Business, saying it’s “still being disputed” whether humans are directly causing global warming—a dispute at this point limited to American politics. Scientists have been warning about human-caused climate change since at least the year 1912. Today, the international scientific community states with 95 percent confidence that humans are the main, direct cause of climate change.

But even if climate change were real, Zinke said, (to be clear, it is), he sees the issue as “irrelevant” to the California wildfires. The real problem, according to Zinke, is the 120 million dead trees sitting in California’s forests—an issue his agency is supposed to help manage. “Alls you have to do is look at our highways and the amount of dead and dying timber in our forests, it’s clear what’s occurring,” he said. “It is the fires are enraged and intensified by too much density of dead and dying timber.”

While dead timber is indeed a problem with regard to wildfire management, Zinke neglected to mention two things: One, that scientists have found climate change is exacerbating California’s dead tree crisis. And two, that Zinke has been promoting industrial logging—that is, clearing live, healthy trees from forests—to solve the problem.

“Alls you have to do is talk to the [firefighters],” Zinke said, claiming they would cite forest management as their biggest problem and not climate change, which is prolonging the season and making extreme blazes more likely. And yet, last week, the assistant deputy director of Cal Fire told The New York Times the opposite.“Let’s be clear,” he said. “It’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires.”

Aside from his climate-change denial, Zinke also used the wildfires to bring up his military experience. Asked to describe the blazes, Zinke replied, “Well, you know, I served in Iraq. The devastation in the California wildfires is the worst I’ve ever seen.” Zinke made a similar comment while visiting Redding, California on Sunday. “As a former (Navy) SEAL that was a deputy commander and acting commander in Iraq, this is on par with anything I’ve seen, just the devastation,” he said.

The whole interview is below.

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Steve Bannon forms a new group to make the midterms all about Trump.

The former CEO of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign has been in the political doghouse for most of this year. Bannon lost his lustre among Republicans and the president himself after critical remarks he made about Donald Trump Jr., and after his support of Roy Moore’s Alabama Senate bid ended with the Democrats winning what should have been a safe Republican seat. Still, despite losing his perch as head of Breitbart News and the patronage of the billionaire Mercer family, Bannon clearly wants to keep his hand in Republican politics. 

The New York Times reports that Bannon is back with a new group called  Citizens of the American Republic which will “try to sell voters on a midterm message that they should support Republicans to defend the Trump agenda and save the president from impeachment.” As with previous Bannon efforts, the main focus will be on ideological messaging rather than grass roots organizing. “But Mr. Bannon, who insists that approaching congressional races as one-offs is a waste of time, is planning a messaging push on cable television, the op-ed pages of newspapers and local conservative radio shows,” The Times notes. “His premise is that more of Mr. Trump will be a good thing.”

As Axios reports this morning, part of Bannon’s propaganda strategy is a new movie titled Trump @ War. A trailer fro the film is now available:

Although he’s now something of a pariah in Trumpian and GOP circles, Bannon’s approach is very much the one that Trump himself has embraced when he goes to campaign on behalf of candidates, which is to make each election about Trump himself. And the Republican Party itself seems to feel that embracing Trump is the way to go, with candidates who act like the president and praise him elbowing out critics

This strategy of making everything about Trump is the opposite of how the Democrats are approaching the midterms. The Democratic Party’s strategy is not to nationalize the elections, to let each local candidate shape a message, and to avoid talking about Trump in areas where the president is popular. 

It’s unlikely that Bannon’s new gambit will win him a spot in the president’s good graces again. Still, Bannon’s actions do show that he’s still on the same page as the president and the larger GOP.