Trump Used His Aliases For Much More — And Worse — Than Gossip

Trump Used His Aliases For Much More — And Worse — Than Gossip



Donald Trump told a real whopper this week — and we’ve got fresh proof right here.

What we can show is that when Donald Trump made deceptive phone calls over decades — posing as a Trump Organization vice president named “John Miller” or “John Barron” — he was not always puffing up his reputation as a philandering ladies’ man. In his fictional identities, Trump could also be quite threatening, as revealed in the brief clip below from Trump: What’s The Deal?a documentary film that he successfully suppressed for 25 years with threats of litigation.

The story erupted Thursday when The Washington Post put online a recording of Trump posing as “John Miller,” in a 1991 interview with People magazine reporter Sue Carswell. The fictitious “Miller” described himself as a newly hired Trump Organization publicist for the company boss.

Carswell was reporting a story about Trump’s pending divorce from his first wife, Ivana, and whether he planned to marry his longtime mistress, Marla Maples. Their relationship was really hot news at the time, at least in the tabloid newspapers and the tabloid television shows that Trump follows closely whenever they mention him, his self-proclaimed sexual desirability, and the notion that the world’s most gorgeous women cannot resist him.

Even though “John Miller” told Carswell that he was brand new on the job he gave lengthy, detailed and nuanced observations on Trump’s emotional state, various women in his life and whether he was ready to commit to another marriage. “Miller” must have been a really fast study. No publicist I have known in the past 49 years would dare to mention such intimate details about a brand new boss, much less so with the bold authority displayed by “John Miller.”

The morning after the Post story was posted online Trump called the NBC Today show to deny posing as “Miller.” He insisted – emphatically, repeatedly and unequivocally –that his voice was not on the recording. He even offered a conspiracy theory, suggesting it was one of many Trump impersonators trying to harm his reputation.

Asked by host Savannah Guthrie about news reports galore in the early 1990s that Trump routinely planted stories with journalists who received calls from “John Miller” or “John Barron,” Trump replied:

“No, and it was not me on the phone – it was not me on the phone. And it doesn’t sound like me on the phone, I will tell you that, and it was not me on the phone.” It was him, of course.

But “John Barron” didn’t just puff Trump’s sexual boasting in the press. “Barron” was also menacing, as revealed in the following film clip about his abuse of Polish immigrant construction workers – and the attorney who tried to help them.


Trump: What’s The Deal recounts a wide variety of Trump lies, exaggerations, and manipulations, but the misconduct of greatest interest to voters may be his threatening litigation in a scheme to deny payment to about 200 illegal Polish immigrants tearing down the old Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue (an act of architectural vandalism). Many of the men lacked hardhats or face masks, used sledge hammers rather than power tools, had to pull out live electric wires with their bare hands, in a building laced with asbestos — all in blatant violation of worker safety laws.

A lawyer trying to get the workers paid the meager $4 to $6 per hour that Trump owed them received a bullying telephone call from one “John Barron,” as recounted in the film:

Narrator: Chapter Six. [Voiceover various images of Trump Tower and Trump]

 Threaten the lawyer that the Polish illegals hired after your cheap contractor defaults on paying them. Make sure that the threats are untraceable, in case the guy isn’t scared off.

 Interview On Camera: John Szabo (lawyer for Polish workers):

 “Mr. Barron had told me in the one telephone conversation that I had with him, ‎that Donald Trump was upset because I was ruining his credit, reputation by filing the mechanics liens [legal action intended to enforce payment]. And Mr. Trump was thinking of filing a personal lawsuit against me for $100 million for defaming his, uh…reputation.”

 Narrator: It turned out that Mr. Barron was Donald Trump’s favorite alias.

 When this was revealed Trump said, “What of it? Ernest Hemingway used a pen name, didn’t he?”

You can now view the entire 80-minute documentary, which is a superb examination of Trump’s mendacity and manipulation of journalists and politicians. It’s available for $9.99 on iTunes. If any movie chain had the backbone to show the film each seat would cost at least that much. But for the price of one theater ticket and a few beers, you can have a party, inviting Trump fans and detractors to watch the film and discuss what it reveals.

As for how we know that Trump lied to Savannah Guthrie, that’s beyond dispute. He admitted under oath in the federal lawsuit on behalf of the Polish workers that he had used the name John Barron, which resulted in a spate of news stories. In the aftermath Trump continued his deception, but using the name “John Miller.”

Later he admitted that “Miller” was a phony name, too. He confessed the truth to People Magazine, two weeks after its initial story by Sue Carswell made fun of him for trying to pass himself off as “John Miller.”

Following a lengthy trial in federal court, the real Donald Trump was found to have engaged in a conspiracy to cheat the Polish workers. The judge who decided the case found Trump liable for pay and fringe benefits and also found that his testimony — that he was unaware of what was going on during the demolition phase on Trump Tower — was not credible. Not only was he photographed at the site, but his temporary office across Fifth Avenue had a picture window view so he could observe the whole process of tearing down Bonwit’s and putting up his eponymous tower.

Ultimately the case was settled with a sealed agreement that neither side could discuss. But the record shows that what Trump denied was not just a juvenile prank, but part of a complex and lenghty stealth campaign by Trump to sell and protect himself in ways he was unwilling to do honestly.

Whether it’s the story planted on the cover of the New York Post with Marla Maples supposedly saying sex with Trump was the best ever (a quote she later denied ever uttering), his claims of multi-billionaire net worth when he could not pay his bills, or any other tall tale that puffed up the Trump name — or his ongoing efforts to suppress any fact that might tarnish his image — we now possess an important insight into the Trump mentality.

The man who wants us to give him the nuclear launch codes behaves like a child when he is caught with his hand in the cookie jar, crumbs all over his face. He denies the undeniable. And like a four year-old toddler, he thinks Americans are so gullible that they will believe him.

When Trump shifts his story and says he forgot, as he probably will, remember this: Last fall, he bragged that he has “the world’s greatest memory.”

The Kochs Plan to Buy the 2016 Election for $889 Million

Charles Koch | Attribution: None


The New York Times calls it $900 million. The Washington Post“nearly $1 billion.” CNN simply calls it “staggering.” Ben Ray, spokesperson for Democratic-aligned American Bridge put it best, telling USAToday: “What an obscene amount of money.”

The actual amount announced Monday at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton is $889 million, and that is what the Koch brothers’ political network (17 Koch-funded organizations) plans to spend buying the 2016 elections for corporate America and the 1 percent.

It is, as CNN informs us, “[M]ore money than any private network has ever spent on an election cycle.” It is also as much as either the Republicans or Democrats spend: Compare this to the $675 million spent by the Republican Party in 2012. And the Kochs can spend the money however they want, unlike the RNC.

How much money is that? With a budget of $20 per person you could feed nearly 50 million people better meals than most of them have ever had for one day.

If you go by the approximately $3 the USDA reimburses schoolsfor free student lunches, that $889 million would feed 296 million children. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service said 21 million kids received free or reduced-price lunches in 2013. You do the math.

Oxfam has already announced to the world that the “Richest 1 percent will own more than the rest by 2016.” Apparently, that isn’t enough for the Kochs. They’ve got to have their own country, too.

As The Washington Post reported,

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors during an annual winter meeting here hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were all on hand at the Koch’s retreat for seminars and strategy sessions, greedily rubbing their fingers in anticipation. Not coincidentally, Newsmax tells us that,

Most of the 450 who attended the weekend event weren’t interested in another Mitt Romney run. They leaned more toward Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

What we can take from Charles Koch’s welcome speechSaturday, is that the Big Lie is alive and well in the Koch family: “Americans have taken an important step in slowing down the march toward collectivism,” he said. Of course, collectivism is not a threat and the Kochs are huge corporate welfare queens, more than happy to take our tax dollars from the federal government they excoriate.

Like his bought men, Walker, Rubio, Paul, and Cruz, Charles Koch is simply inventing threats out of whole cloth, and reassured guests and employees both,

But as many of you know, we don’t rest on our laurels. We are already back at work and hard at it! In fact, the work never really ends. Because the struggle for freedom never ends.

He claimed that,

Much of our efforts to date have been largely defensive to slow down a government that continues to swell and become more intrusive – causing our culture to deteriorate. Making this vision a reality will require more than a financial commitment. It requires making it a central part of their lives.

So the Kochs are presenting themselves as defenders of American culture now. This, from a man so far removed from American culture he cannot begin to imagine an average American’s life. Yet he claims to be defending our culture. This is the point of Koch’s speech at which the Greek gods would begin casting lightning bolts, for hubris was always mankind’s greatest sin.

Just keep in mind, that freedom he is talking about is serfdom for you and me.

The impact of this amount of money cannot be ignored. As Ben Ray of American Bridge put it, “If they are spending more than the RNC, I know exactly who the (Republican) presidential candidates will listen to.”

And even Grover Norquist told The Washington Post that, “It’s not like a Chicago political boss where Charles would say, ‘We’re all for this guy.’ But if he said, ‘I really like this guy’ and did an op-ed, it would matter.”

Which means Mother Jones is not engaging in mere hyperbole when they say, “It’s official: The Kochs and their rich friends are the new third party.”

Democrats, who have neither a plethora of corporations nor a bevy of 1 percenters to fund their campaigns, will have to work a lot harder to find that kind of cash. Of course, Democrat money will reflect the views of actual Americans rather than the insatiable appetites of the 1 percent.

According to the Post, “The $889 million goal reflects the budget goals of all the allied groups that the network funds. Those resources will go into field operations, new technology and policy work, among other projects.”

The one thing a billion dollars can’t buy are a viable platform or likeable candidates. It remains to be seen whether it is enough to convince blacks, Latinos, women and others that the Republican Party actually cares about them.

But make no mistake: this represents a full-scale assault on American democracy. Ted Cruz was quoted as saying Sunday night that, “There are a bunch of Democrats who have taken as their talking points that the Koch brothers are the nexus of all evil in the world.” He said that thinking is “grotesque and offensive.”

While you have to respect Cruz’s loyalty to his owners, he is wrong. What is grotesque and offensive is what he and his fellow employees of Koch Industries have been up to at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton: plotting the murder of American democracy.

Arrested Reporter Smacks Down Joe Scarborough’s Criticism

Spot on Wesley Lowery, WAPO reporter

The Huffington Post

This is how Joe Scarborough reacted to video of the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery being arrested by police in Ferguson, MO:

“I will just say if I saw that video and my son was the one police arrested after that episode, I’d say, ‘Joey, heres a clue. When the cops tell you for the thirtieth time, let’s go, you know what that means, son? It means let’s go. I’m sorry…I don’t sit there and have a debate and film the police officer unless I want to get on TV and have people talk about me the next day.”

This is how Lowery responded on CNN’s “New Day”:

“I would invite Joe Scarborough to come down to Ferguson and get out of 30 Rock where he’s sipping his Starbucks smugly…I have little patience for talking heads. This is too important. This is a community in the United States of America where things are on fire. This community is on edge. There is so much happening here and instead of putting reporters on the ground we have people like Joe Scarborough running their mouth who have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Watch video HERE…

10 things you need to know today: July 6, 2014

Netherlands celebrates after advancing to the World Cup semis
Netherlands celebrates after advancing to the World Cup semis Michael Steele / Getty Images

The Week

The NSA ensnares far more bystanders than targets, Israel arrests six in connection with Palestinian boy’s death, and more.

1. Report: NSA sweeps snare bystanders far more than intended targets
Surveillance carried out by the National Security Agency led to the collection of significantly more information on “incidental” innocents than on the NSA’s intended targets, according to The Washington Post. Citing files provided by Edward Snowden that detailed collections between 2009 and 2012, the Post found that only about 10 percent of accounts culled in that time period belonged to targets; the rest belonged to people accidentally caught in the agency’s wide search nets. Further, many of the files — a large portion of which belonged to Americans — had a “startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality,” according to the Post. [The Washington PostThe Guardian]


2. Israel arrests six in Palestinian teen’s death
Israeli police have arrested six suspects in connection with the abduction and murder of a Palestinian teenager whose death set off days of violent protests. Police have not identified the suspects, though the newspaper Ha’aretz said law enforcement described the suspects’ motive as “nationalistic.” Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted Wednesday outside his home in East Jerusalem in what Palestinians claimed was revenge for the abduction and murder last month of three Israeli teens. Israel killed five Palestinians and rounded up hundreds more in the search for the missing teens, further inflaming tensions between the two sides. [Associated PressHa’aretz]


3. Argentina, Netherlands advance to World Cup semis
Argentina topped Belgium 1-0 and the Netherlands outlasted Costa Rica in penalty kicks on Saturday as both teams advanced to the World Cup semifinals. Costa Rica was on paper one of the weaker teams in the entire tournament, but they made a surprising run to the final eight and nearly knocked off the powerhouse Dutch team before succumbing in the shootout. Germany and Brazil already advanced to the semis with wins on Friday. [Fox Sports]


4. Purported ISIS leader makes first public appearance in new video
A video posted online Saturday claimed to show the leader of the Sunni extremist group ISIS delivering a sermon in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. The video, which was purportedly shot Friday, is said to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, though so little is known about al-Baghdadi that officials could not immediately confirm it was him on the tape. The video was released through websites and promoted on social media accounts linked to the insurgent group, and the Iraqi government is analyzing it to determine its authenticity. [Associated PressCNN]


5. Petra Kvitova wins Wimbledon
Petra Kvitova routed Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday to win her second Wimbledon title. Kvitova was so dominant it took her less than an hour to finish off the match. On the men’s side, top-seeded Novak Djokovic will take on seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer Sunday in the title match. [ESPNThe Washington Post]


6. California swimmer attacked by great white shark
A swimmer was bitten by a great white shark Saturday in Manhattan Beach, California, after swimming too close to the hooked killer. A fisherman had snared the seven-foot shark off a pier and was trying to reel it in when the victim, one of several distance swimmers training in the waters, swam by. The 40-year-old man suffered what a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman called a “moderate” wound to the torso. [CNN]


7. Nigerian troops kill 53 insurgents
The Nigerian army said Saturday it had killed 53 fighters from the militant group Boko Haram. The army said the insurgents were killed after they attacked a military base in the town of Damboa. Five soldiers and one officer were also killed in the clash. [ReutersBloomberg]


8. Afghanistan nixes proposed Facebook ban
The Afghan government won’t ban Facebook after all as it sorts out the winner of last month’s contested presidential election. Supporters of the two candidates had exchanged inflammatory threats online, prompting the government to ask Facebook for help scrubbing the comments and to consider a blanket ban. “There are people on Facebook who spread hatred and cause damage to national unity,” Fayeq Wahedi, a government spokesman said, “but after talks the council decided not to ban Facebook.” [The Guardian The Telegraph]


9. Spain’s Running of the Bulls begins today
Spain’s iconic bull running festival kicks off Sunday in Pamplona. Thousands of revelers packed the main city square to mark the start of the nine-day festival, whose main event involves, as the name suggests, thousands of thrill-seekers dashing madly through the city streets ahead of rampaging bulls. [Associated Press]


10. Kanye West booed during mid-show rant in London
Rapper and self-described “God” Kanye West was booed during his set at London’s Wireless music festival this weekend. West interrupted his show to assail the media for trying to “dishumanize” him. But as he continued on his five minute tirade, audience members began to heckle him and chant “off, off, off.” [The Independent]

10 things you need to know today: June 21, 2014

The U.S. is sending additional judges and attorneys to Texas to expedite asylum claims.
The U.S. is sending additional judges and attorneys to Texas to expedite asylum claims. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

The Week

The Obama administration addresses illegal immigration, an Egyptian court sentences more than 180 to death, and more

1. Obama administration announces new measures to counteract illegal immigration
The United States will not tolerate a surge of women and children crossing the Mexico border into Texas, administration officials said on Friday as they announced new measures to stymie the recent immigrant influx. Many of those crossing the border are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and the White House said it will invest $9.6 million to help those countries repatriate their citizens. The administration is also sending additional immigration judges and attorneys to Texas, in order to expedite asylum claims. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, and 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended along the border so far this year. [The Washington Post]


2. Egypt court sentences more than 180 to death in mass trial
In what is considered the largest mass trial in recent Egyptian history, a court handed down more than 180 death sentences today, stemming from an August attack on a police station that killed one officer and one civilian. Those sentenced to death include the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie. However, the international community has condemned the mass death sentences, saying Egypt’s government is becoming increasingly politicized. One man sentenced, Mustafa Youssef, “was born blind,” noted his lawyer. “How would he kill, burn and loot?” [The Associated Press]


3. Ukraine begins unilateral ceasefire as Russia redeploys troops to border
Following weeks of fighting, new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko instigated a week-long, unilateral ceasefire on Friday, although he was quick to note that while forces would not take offensive action against pro-Russian militants, they would still defend themselves against any attacks. During the week, separatists have a chance to turn in weapons, although the Donetsk People’s Republic gave no sign of relenting as the ceasefire began. Meanwhile, U.S. officials said that Russia had sent tanks and heavy artillery back across the border on Friday, although Moscow claimed it was merely bolstering troops on its side of a border steeped in fighting. [The Washington Post]


4. U.N.: Number of displaced people reaches more than 50 million
For the first time since World War II, more than 50 million people are living under forced displacement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At least 51.2 million people, roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Spain, are currently seeking refuge or asylum, and at least half of that number are children. And with renewed violence in Iraq, the U.N, says the number may increase this year. “We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars,” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says. “Peace is today dangerously in deficit.” [NPR]


5. Iran, six powers remain in stalemate after nuclear settlement talks
Saying Iran will not reach an agreement until six big powers “abandon excessive demands,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left this week’s nuclear talks in a stalemate. The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany met with representatives from Tehran in an attempt to broker a deal to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for more regulations on the country’s nuclear work. The major powers are aiming for a July 20 deadline, in the midst of renewed fears of Middle East wars. [Reuters]


6. Report: Pentagon, VA not assessing success rate of PTSD treatments
A report released on Friday by the Institute of Medicine says neither the Department of Veterans Affairs nor the Pentagon is tracking the success of PTSD treatments offered to troops. The VA spent more than $3 billion on PTSD care in 2012, but it failed to study whether the treatments actually helped soldiers. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s treatments “appear to be local, ad hoc, incremental, crisis-driven, with little planning devoted to the development of a long-range approach to obtaining desired outcomes,” the IOM reports. While five percent of all troops report cases of PTSD, the number is much higher for those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. [Time]


7. Presbyterian Church will allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages
Changing its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Thursday to allow ministers in states that have legalized same-sex marriages discretion to perform the nuptials. Actually changing the language in the church’s Book of Order to reflect the amendment requires a year-long ratification process, and conservative members of the General Assembly may still push against that measure. “There were some of us with tears of joy, and some of us with tears of grief,” Rev. Susan De George, a lesbian minister of the Hudson River Presbytery, in New York, said of the vote. [The New York Times]


8. Scientists discover new species of Neanderthal in Spain
Researchers published a description in the journal Science on Thursday of a new, Neanderthal-esque prehistoric human species. The remains, found in a cave in northern Spain, do not dramatically alter the current theory of human evolution. They do, however, suggest that there were several isolated, unique human species existing at the same time in different parts of the world, which may have eventually fought for the same land. [The Washington Post]


9. Disney taps Rian Johnson to write, direct Star Wars: Episode VIII
With production just barely underway on Star Wars: Episode VIIDisney and Lucasfilm have already selected director Rian Johnson to helm the next film in the series. Best known for Looper, a sci-fi action film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, Johnson also directed several episodes of Breaking Bad and was on the shortlist for the Star Trek reboot. [Variety]


10. Peanut the mutt wins ‘World’s Ugliest Dog’ title
As far as titles go, “World’s Ugliest Dog” sounds like one most canines would rather not win, but that’s too bad for 2-year-old mutt Peanut. Peanut’s owner, Holly Chandler, entered the dog in the 25th annual competition in California to bring attention to the traumas of pet abuse, and she said she will use the $1,500 prize to pay for other injured animals’ veterinary expenses. While Peanut is healthy now, he was seriously burned as a puppy, resulting in the unsightly, hairless patches all over his body that earned him Friday’s victory. [The Associated Press]

The Obama-Beyoncé Affair Rumors, And Why The Stupidest Fake News Story Of The Week Still Matters

You guys! They touched!
You guys! They touched! | CREDIT: AP IMAGES/WIN MCNAMEE

Think Progress‘ ALYSSA ROSENBERG sets the record straight…

Think Progress

This morning, the French newspaper Le Figaro made some waves ahead of the upcoming state dinner to mark French President François Hollande’s visit to the U.S. by publishing a story in which the photographer Pascal Rostain alleged that the Washington Post was preparing to publish a story suggesting that President Obama and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter were having an affair, and that President Obama and his wife Michelle were preparing to divorce. The story has since been rolled back: the Post has vigorously denied having such a piece in development, and Rostain seems to have acknowledged that the rumor he spread was some sort of attempt at humor.

I’m loath to give stories like this attention, or to give attention to people who try to elude responsibility for eluding stupid sentiments or innuendo by declaring that they were “just joking,” as if humor is a genre that has no standards whatsoever. But the substance of this particular rumor strikes me as interesting and important. The idea that Obama must be having an affair with Knowles-Carter comes from a significant and damaging idea: that men and women can’t be friends.

I’m not really sure what evidence was supposed to exist to support the idea that the Obamas’ marriage was cooling, that President Obama was infatuated with Knowles-Carter, or that she in any way reciprocated his supposed affection. Was it that the couples have done some socializing, and that Knowles-Carter has performed as part of both of Obama’s inaugurations? That Obama and Knowles-Carter’s heads have been captured in the same news wire shots, because we all know how candid photos magically capture the deepest secrets of our souls, rather than simply recording our random facial expressions? That Knowles-Carter is to our present moment what Prince was to the 1980s, and we are all inexorably succumbing to her sexual thrall?

Mostly, I think the rumor comes from the idea that heterosexual men and women are on some genetic level incapable of being friends.  Never mind that Knowles-Carter’s latest album  is a raunchy celebration marital love and sex that brings in her husband on a guest verse to attest to how much fun they have together. Never mind that the Obamas seem perfectly happy together, and to enjoy the time they spend in each other’s company. It just seems impossible for some people to believe that President Obama could admire Knowles-Carter for her formidable talent while feeling no particular need to elbow her husband, Jay-Z, out of the picture. And according to this vision of gender relations, Knowles-Carter, presented with the leader of the free world, wouldn’t be able to resist getting her claws into him, no matter what her relationship to her husband has meant to her in the past.

It’s awful to think that relationships between men and women don’t involve any free will, or ability to grasp complexity, but instead are subject to biological and sexual determination. On a personal level, this sort of suspicion can curtail promising friendships between men and women, and risks poisoning marital and romantic relationships by making straight couples horribly anxious about each other’s opposite-gender friends. If all heterosexual women and all heterosexual men are constantly out to seduce each other, it’s hard to imagine double dating, or long-time couples building sustainable friendships with other couples.

And in mass media, it renders relationships between men and women awfully predictable, though in recent years, we’ve seen some valuable pushback in this area. One of the things that makes FX’s The Bridge stand out, despite other first season missteps, is the fact that it’s managed to build two friendships and partnerships between men and women. Though even that show’s lacked the confidence to do so without putting up obvious barriers to romances between the couples, rather than simply trusting them to sell the value their friendships and professional collaborations. Reporters Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios) aren’t a possible romantic pairing because she’s a lesbian, and Detectives Sonya Cross and Marco Ruiz seem unlikely to get together because of her presence somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Parks and Recreation has acted with more confidence in this space. It never made sense that overeager Parks Department employee Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her libertarian boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) would have romantic sparks because their views of the world are too fundamentally different (as distinct from the kind of manufactured clashes that so often drive pop cultural couples together). But their canny observations of each other’s strengths and weaknesses have made Leslie and Ron formidable allies to each other,particularly when they’re helping each other succeed in their romantic relationships. Ron, rather than a member of Leslie’s family, ends up giving her away at her wedding to Ben Watt. And Leslie is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect Ron from his ex-wives when he’s trying to begin a romance with a woman who might finally be a match for him.Parks and Recreation and Leslie and Ron’s relationship would both be poorer if the show had given in to men-and-women-can’t-be-friends determinism.

So let’s root for Barack and Michelle Obama and Shawn Carter and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to stay friends. I suppose it’ll move magazine covers to suggest that both couples say in trouble. But it’s a lot more fun to imagine a world where the first couples of politics and popular music get to hang out, where Barack and Michelle get to give Jay-Z and Beyoncé parenting tips, where Malia and Sasha baby-sit Blue Ivy while all the adults hang out, where Barack asks Bey what he should do for Michelle on Valentine’s Day, and Jay-Z talks Michelle through what she might do when the Obamas leave the White House.

Those Media Hysterics Who Said Obama’s Presidency Was Dead Were Wrong. Again.

New Republic

It’s been a pretty good week for the Obama administration. The bungled Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray inched toward a modest budget agreement. This morning came a remarkably solid jobs report, showing 203,000 new positions created in November, the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent for the first time in five years, and the labor force participation rate ticking back upward. Meanwhile, the administration’s push for a historic nuclear settlement with Iran continued apace.

All of these developments are tenuous. The Web site’s back-end troubles could still pose big problems (though word is they are rapidly improving, too) and the delay in getting the site up working leaves little time to meet enrollment goals. Job growth could easily stutter out again. The Iran deal could founder amid resistance from Congress or our allies.

Still, it seems safe to say that the Obama presidency is not, in fact, over and done with. What, you say, was there any question of that? Well, yes, there was – less than a month ago. On November 14, the New York Times raised the “K” word in a front-page headline:

President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.

A day later, Dana Milbank gave an even blunter declaration of doom in the Washington Post:

There may well be enough time to salvage Obamacare.

But on the broader question of whether Obama can rebuild an effective presidency after this debacle, it’s starting to look as if it may be game over.

And Ron Fournier, the same week, explained in National Journal that things were so grim for Obama because his presidency had reached a kind of metaphysical breaking point:

Americans told President Obama in 2012, “If you like your popularity, you can keep it.”

We lied.

Well, at least we didn’t tell him the whole truth. What we meant to say was thatObama could keep the support of a majority of Americans unless he broke our trust. Throughout his first term, even as his job-approval rating cycled up and down, one thing remained constant: Polls showed that most Americans trustedObama.

As they say in Washington, that is no longer operable.

Granted, finding overwrought punditry in Washington is about as difficult as hunting for game at one of Dick Cheney’s favorite preserves. Making grand declarations based on the vibrations of the moment is part of the pundit’s job description, and every political writer with any gumption is going to find himself or herself out on the wrong limb every once in a while. That said, this has been an especially inglorious stretch for Beltway hyperventilators. First came the government shutdown and the ensuing declamations about the crack-up of the Republican Party. Then, with whiplash force, came the obituaries for the Obama presidency. The Washington press corps has been reduced to the state of the tennis-watching kittens in this video, with the generic congressional ballot surveys playing the part of the ball flitting back and forth.

What explains for this even-worse-than-usual excitability? Much of it has to do with the age-old who’s-up-who’s down, permanent-campaign tendencies of the political media, exacerbated by a profusion of polling, daily tipsheets and Twitter. Overlaid on this is our obsession with the presidency, which leads us both to inflate the aura of the office and to view periods of tribulation as some sort of existential collapse. Add in the tendencies of even more serious reporters to get into a chew-toy mode with tales of scandal or policy dysfunction, as happened with the debacle – the media has been so busy hyping every last aspect of the rollout’s woes that it did indeed start to seem inconceivable that things might get better soon.

But things did get better, as one should have been able to anticipate, given the resources and pressure that were belatedly brought to bear on the challenge. The fiasco took a real toll on the law and on the liberal project, for which Barack Obama bears real responsibility. But the end of a presidency? Take a deep breath, folks.

The sad thing about this spectacle isn’t even the predictable display of presentism. It’s the evident ignorance of the constitution and the basics of American politics. For the next three years, Obama will occupy the presidency, a position that comes with remarkable legal powers, especially now that he’s been partly liberated from the filibuster’s constraints. Washington columnists—the folks who presumably get paid to disseminate this kind of wisdom to the rubes beyond the Beltway—ought to know this better than anyone else, yet even as they fixate so much on the office’s aura, they are awfully quick to declare an administration defunct. News happens, and in the Oval Office, or the House majority, you always the ability to influence it, even when you don’t deserve it. Kind of like certain well-known writers I could name.

Health insurance plans owe $1.1 billion in rebates

The Washington Post

Millions of consumers and businesses will receive $1.1 billion in rebates this summer from health insurance plans that failed to meet a requirement of the new health-care law, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

That Affordable Care Act rule requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of subscriber premiums on health-care claims and quality improvement initiatives. The other 20 percent is left for administrative costs and profits.

Health insurance plans that don’t hit that threshold will send a rebate to consumers to cover the difference.

There could, however, be one big hitch. If the Supreme Court overturns the health-care law — a decision that could come as early as Thursday morning — experts say those checks are unlikely to hit Americans’ mailboxes.

“If [the Supreme Court] says the law is unconstitutional, insurers couldn’t be forced to pay rebates based on unconstitutional laws,” said Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.

In a new report, the Obama administration found that 12.8 million Americans will receive rebates this year, with an average value of $151 per household.

Continue reading here…

Cantor: No Hurricane Emergency Funding W/O Spending Cuts – Democratic Underground

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Think Progress

Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene this weekend, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) today stood by his call that no more money be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere. The Washington Post reported this morning that FEMA will need more money than it currently has to deal with the storm’s aftermath and is already diverting funds from other recent disasters to deal with the hurricane, but Cantor’s comments suggest Republicans won’t authorize more funds without a fight.

Cantor took the position following the tornadoes that devastated Joplin, Missouri and elsewhere in the spring and summer, and after last week’s earthquake, the epicenter for which was in his district, but the hurricane’s level of destruction is far beyond that of those disasters. Still, Cantor told Fox News that while “we’re going to find the money,” “we’re just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to do so.”

Cantor referred a bill the Republican-controlled House passed that approves $1 billion in disaster relief, which was financed by a $1.5 billion cut from loan program to encourage the production of fuel-efficient vehicles. But the need in the wake of the hurricane will likelygreatly surpass $1 billion, and that spending package was supposed to be used for tornado recovery efforts, for which several hundred million dollars has already been outlayed.

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Report: Bachmann Aides Shove ABC’s Brian Ross

This is only July 2011.  At this rate how in the world will Bachmann’s campaign survive  to November 2012?

Think Progress 

Michele Bachmann’s relationship with the press has always been tense at best, but it spilled over into open conflict on Tuesday as aides to the Congresswoman allegedly shoved ABC reporter Brian Ross.

Ross was chasing after Bachmann after an event to ask about a Daily Caller story on her migraine condition. According to TIME’s Swampland blog, things went downhill from there:

“That’s when things got interesting. Ross dashed after Bachmann, repeatedly asking whether she had ever missed a House vote due to a migraine. She ignored him. Ross pursued her into a parking area behind the stage. Her aides grew alarmed. When Ross made a beeline for the white SUV waiting to carry Bachmann away, two Bachmann men pounced on him, grabbing and pushing him multiple times with what looked to me like unusual force. In fact, I have never seen a reporter treated so roughly at a campaign event, especially not a presidential one. Ross was finally able to break away and lob his question at Bachmann one more time, but she ignored him again.Afterward, I asked Ross-a hard-nosed pro who nevertheless seemed slightly shaken-whether he’d ever been treated so roughly. “A few times,” he told me. “Mostly by mafia people.”

TPM reached out to Bachmann’s camp for comment and will post their response.

Update: ABC Vice President Jeffery Schneider condemned Bachmann’s behavior in an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. He added that ABC has footage of the incident and will likely post it on their website soon.

“He was certainly shoved around and pushed,” Schneider said. “It’s unfortunate when physicality is involved. He was just doing his job.”

Second Update: The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake posted a response from Bachmann’s campaign on Twitter: “We didn’t have time for any questions and we made it clear … he disregarded repeated requests to stay back.”