Hello, Goodbye

The Inauguration Clusterfuck; massive cuts to gov't programs on the horizon; and more.


  • RIP Wayne Barrett, the dogged investigative reporter who was one of Donald Trump’s first biographers, who died yesterday of lung cancer at the age of 71. As WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein, one of the many journalists he mentored, recalls him, “He trained a whole generation of journalists to view every closed door as just a chance to walk up a back alley.” After a series of investigative reports he did in the late 1970s resulted in a federal jury investigation of Trump, the short-fingered vulgarian tried to bribe him by offering him a better apartment to live in, she notes. Barrett was also once arrested for crashing a Trump birthday party in Atlantic City, seeking to report on who was in attendance.

  • Remember when the FBI told New York Times reporters that it had looked into reports of Russian links to Trump and found nothing (back in October)? Now wrap your mind around the fact that the FBI is leading a multi-agency investigation, first reported by McClatchy and now confirmed by The New York Times, into the connections between top Trump associates and Russia—and the fact that that investigation has been underway since last spring. As Adam Serwer, senior editor of The Atlantic, points out, “There were FBI investigations related to both candidates in October. The FBI, fully aware of the consequences, only made one public.”

  • Most of Trump’s national security positions are still vacant, Dan De Luce and John Hudson report for Foreign Policy. “The delays and dysfunction threaten to cripple the incoming administration from the outset and raise the risk the White House will present confused or contradictory policies to the outside world. Without his team in place, the new president will likely be unprepared should an early-term crisis erupt abroad, or an adversary test the new administration’s mettle, said former officials who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.” They note that Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday, “This will become the gold standard going forward.”

  • Here’s a mind-boggling list of the many types of classified secrets President Trump will shortly have access too, pulled together by Garrett Graff for Politico Magazine.

  • Incoming President Donald Trump’s transition team wanted tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, Jessica Schulberg reports for The Huffington Post, but the military shot down the request. At the president-elect’s request, there will be five military flyovers, a Pentagon spokesman told her, which have generally not been part of most inaugurations since 1949.

  • Operating from a blueprint developed by the Heritage Foundation last year, the incoming Trump administration is planning to seek massive cuts in many government programs, reports Alexander Bolton for The Hill. These include “eliminating the [Justice Department’s] Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions,” eliminating the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewal Energy, eliminating the State Department’s programs that support the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and axing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Yale computer scientist David Gelernter is being considered for the position of White House science advisor, Sarah Kaplan reports for The Washington Post. Gelernter has attributed the decline in American culture to “an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges” (he is himself Jewish), called President Obama a “third-rate tyrant,” and questioned the reality of man-made climate change.

  • The new White House chief digital officer will be Gerrit Lansing, who held that same position at the Republican National Committee, Mohana Ravindranath reports for Nextgov.

  • Don’t expect any immediate major changes to WhiteHouse.gov, Darren Samuelsohn reports for Politico. Trump’s digital team is taking its team. Joe Rospars, a top digital strategist for both Obama campaigns, gets a nice dig in on what to expect from the new White House website. He tells Politico: “Our team was focused on design and content that reflected the dignity of the office, a sense of humility at the honor of it, and the inclusiveness of representing all Americans. I suspect they’ll be doing something different than that.”

  • Starting today, Matt Cutts, the former heard of search for Google, will be the acting director of the U.S. Digital Service, he shares in a blog post on his personal site.

  • Here’s Think Progress’s new interactive tool for tracking all of Trump’s 663 promises.

  • Media matters: Here are ten times Trump spread fake news, going back to 2011, compiled by Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times.

  • New academic research by Stanford’s Matthew Gentzkow and NYU’s Hunt Alcott argues that fake news didn’t help elect Trump, James Warren reports for Poynter. In a nutshell, they say that since just 14 percent of Americans deemed social media their primary source of news, and few of the people they surveyed post-elect could recall the specifics of any fake stories or claimed to believe them, the impact was insignificant.

  • Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has some smart-as-usual thoughts on why so much of the media got 2016 wrong. The TL/DR version: the polls were as accurate as they’ve been, overall, since 1968. Instead, he blames “real shortcomings in how American politics are covered, including pervasive groupthink among media elites, an unhealthy obsession with the insider’s view of politics, a lack of analytical rigor, a failure to appreciate uncertainty, a sluggishness to self-correct when new evidence contradicts pre-existing beliefs, and a narrow viewpoint that lacks perspective from the longer arc of American history.” This is the first of a series, which, he tells us, will focus on The New York Times’ coverage and its mistakes.

  • Opposition news: It appears that many anti-Trump protesters are not only trying to block entrances to the National Mall; many are entering to stand alongside people coming to welcome the new president’s inauguration. Here’s hoping that whatever happens, it’s peaceful.

  • Here’s an unverified Google map of the “Inauguration Clusterfuck” showing what’s going on in our nation’s capital this morning.

  • Here’s a curated list of all the counter-inaugural protests taking place in Washington, DC this week, built by Alejandro Alvarez.

  • There are now more than 1.3 million people signed up to join one of the more than 600 Womens Marches taking place Saturday in more than 50 countries across all seven continents.

  • This Chrome extension will change references to President Trump to “President” Trump as you browse the web.

  • On the agenda tomorrow at David Brock’s big invitation-only donor conference in Florida: “Disruptive Technology and How to Apply Them [Sic] to Politics . Two technology innovators, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Marc Pincus of Zynga, “will show how Democrats can utilize technology to build platforms to bring people together around key issues. They will discuss how disruptive technologies can be used to engage communities online, the unexpected consequences of building these platforms, and what it can mean for future electoral and issue campaigns.”

  • Just launched by Andrew MacDowell and friends: Swing Left, an online network for finding the nearest swing congressional district and accessing opportunities for action to shift it.

  • Also just launched, by Civic Hall member organization Rhize: Activated Majority, a platform connecting people across the country with ongoing and emerging grassroots efforts aiming to build a more inclusive and equal world.

  • Changing of the guard: For people who experienced Barack Obama’s 2008 election as a political awakening, Andrew Slack’s new piece for Civicist, “Childhood’s End: A Meditation on America After Obama,” may offer some solace. And it does contain this brilliant line: “Donald Trump, who started his career barring black people from housing, did not like that a black man had entered the White House.”

  • The Obamas have launched Obama.org, with a short video announcing a few details of their future presidential center. “More than a library or museum, it will be a living breathing center for citizenship,” they say, asking people to send them to their ideas for it.

  • In Obama’s final press conference, he said that one of his parting worries is “the flood of endless money that goes into our politics.” Ellen Miller, the retired founder of the Sunlight Foundation, Public Campaign, and the Center for Responsive Politics, three groups that each have fought the good fight against big money in politics, came out of retirement to tell First Post on the record, “Give me a fucking break.” As a presidential candidate, Obama chose to abandon the public financing system that kept a cap on general election spending by candidates; as president he failed to build the open directory of lobbying disclosure that he had promised, failed to issue an executive order that would have forced federal contractors to disclose their political spending, signed into law a six-fold increase in contribution limits, among other embraces of big money in politics. (Full disclosure, yours truly worked with Miller at both Public Campaign and the Sunlight Foundation.)

  • Backers of Bernie Sanders “turned out en masse at ordinarily sleepy party caucuses” earlier this month across California, Reid Wilson reports for The Hill, giving them the leverage to choose the state’s next Democratic Party chair. The turnout is the first real evidence of the mobilizing power of Sanders’ post-presidential political action committee, Our Revolution, which ran an on-the-ground get-out-the-vote effort and sent more than 100,000 emails and 40,000 text messages as part of its push.

  • Life in Facebookistan: CEO Mark Zuckerberg is suing to force about 300 Hawaiians and their estates to give up their waterfront properties so his 700 acre Kauai estate can be more private, Meg Wagner reports for The Daily News.

  • Crypto-wars, continued: Zeynep Tufekci has posted an open letter to the Guardian, signed by several dozen security researchers, lambasting the paper for its terrible reporting on supposed problems with WhatsApp’s privacy protections.

  • Here’s a guest post on Civicist from Dave Algoso, who attended Wednesday’s Knight-Civic Hall Symposium on Tech, Politics and the Media, and offers his observations on the lessons he took away.

  • Your moment of zen (and civic tech): NY1 covers Civic Hall member Melanie Lavelle and her Benefit Kitchen app, which streamlines access to social services.