The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, December 11, 2017.

Washington Post: Simeon "Booker, the Washington bureau chief of Jet and Ebony magazines for five decades, died Dec. 10 at an assisted-living community in Solomons, Md. He was 99 and had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia, said his wife, Carol Booker. Few reporters risked more to chronicle the civil rights movement than Mr. Booker. He was the first full-time black reporter for The Washington Post, serving on the newspaper’s staff for two years before joining Johnson Publishing Co. to write for Jet, a weekly, and Ebony, a monthly modeled on Life magazine, in 1954."

New York Times: "... the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting 'Salvator Mundi,' which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show. The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most of the Saudi Arabian elite, including members of the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment."

Politico: "PBS announced on Monday that CNN International correspondent Christiane Amanpour would be the interim replacement for Charlie Rose after he was fired and his long-running interview show was canceled over multiple allegations of sexual harassment.... 'Amanpour on PBS' will begin airing on New York’s PBS station on Monday and will roll out to other stations beginning Dec. 11."

Variety: "Netflix has reached an agreement to resume production on 'House of Cards' season 6 — the show’s final season — in early 2018, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos. Production of 'House of Cards' season 6 was suspended in October, following sexual assault allegations against star Kevin Spacey. Season 6 of the political thriller will be eight episodes, starring Robin Wright, Sarandos said. The final season will not include Spacey, as previously announced. Each of the previous season have comprised 13 episodes."

In reaction to the horrors of what happened in Charlottesville, which is named after this queen, her ancestry is very relevant. -- historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom, on Queen Charlotte of Britain's biracial heritage ...

... Washington Post: "When Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement Monday (Nov. 27), Twitter erupted with the news that the newest princess in the royal family would be bi-racial. 'We got us a Black princess ya’ll,” GirlTyler exulted. “Shout out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Their wedding will be my Super Bowl.'... But Markle, whose mother is black and whose father is white, may not be the first mixed-race royal. Some historians suspect that Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III who bore the king 15 children, was of African descent. Historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom argues that Queen Charlotte was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, Ouruana, a black Moor.” The report on Charlotte's heritage is fascinating.

... Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the best things about Southern white bigots is that, slavery being what it was, they're very likely to be less than 99 & 44/100ths percent pure white. For instance, these two young fellas have facial features that are remarkably similar:

But, um, one of them is David Duke & the other is Jesse Jackson. Separated at birth? Give Duke a 'fro, & he'd easily pass for African-American. Maybe a hood kinda relaxes curls.

Guardian: Britain's "Prince Harry is to marry his American actor girlfriend Meghan Markle in spring next year, Clarence House has announced. 'His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle,' it said in a statement on Monday."

 

The full Neiman's Christmas book is here, with some items costing less than $35K.

New Yorker: Thomas Hargrove, a retired journalist, is developing an algorithm to solve serial murders. Interesting & not a bit nutty. Hargrove's research suggests that the number of serial killers still out their doing their jobs is much greater than police departments realize (or will admit -- serial killers are bad for local tourism). Also too, the percentage of murders that get solved has dropped precipitously in the last half-century.

Donaldo da Trumpo. Guardian: "On Wednesday, a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450.3m, rocking the art world.... On Thursday, that same art world was given a reality check, when a sketch by the less celebrated Donald Trump sold for just $6,875 at an auction in Los Angeles. Trump’s untitled piece, which depicts the Manhattan skyline, barely cleared its minimum price of $5,000.... The president took on his project in 2009 for a charity event. Trump seems to have used either pencil or ballpoint pen for the piece, which measures 8in x 5in. The sketch shows what appear to be skyscrapers, alongside something representing the Empire State Building. Nate D Sanders, the auction house handling the sale, presented the sketch in a 15in x 18in frame, along with a signed photo of Trump."

New York Times: "After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi' sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s 'Women of Algiers,' which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed." ...

... New York Times critic Jason Farago calls the painting "a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.... The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. [Some experts still think it's a copy.] Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted.... Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation."

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. Des MacHale (often misattributed to H. L. Mencken)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Tuesday
Dec122017

The Commentariat -- December 13, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "House and Senate Republicans have reached an agreement, in principle, on a consensus tax bill on Wednesday, keeping the party on track for final votes next week with the aim of delivering a bill to President Trump’s desk by Christmas, according to people briefed on the deal. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip, told reporters that Republicans will be briefed on the deal today, and that he is confident it will be approved next week. Details on the deal were not immediately available."

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The release Tuesday night of F.B.I. officials’ text messages describing the possibility of a victory by Donald J. Trump as 'terrifying' and saying that Hillary Clinton 'just has to win' is fueling a Republican campaign to attack the impartiality of the Justice Department and its special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — and possibly hamper him with an investigation of the special counsel’s office. Accusations of bias, primed by the newly released texts from an F.B.I. agent, Peter Strzok, and an F.B.I. lawyer, Lisa Page, took center stage on Wednesday when Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel, began testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Republicans pressed Mr. Rosenstein to appoint a second special counsel to investigate political partisanship in the department and to scrutinize Mr. Trump’s former presidential rival, Mrs. Clinton." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is fairly nutty. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) in questioning Rosenstein, went over a list of contributions Rosenstein & other top DOJ officials had given to Republicans (and zero to Democrats). In other words, Republican partisanship is A-okay, but even lower-level officials cannot support Democrats. Could someone please explain "hypocrisy" & "double standards" to these dopes?

This Is Downright Hilarious. Julia Glum of Newsweek: "The White House confirmed Wednesday morning that Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former Apprentice contestant often known by just her first name, is leaving her job in the Trump administration. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Omarosa resigned Tuesday 'to pursue other opportunities' and will leave her position as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison on January 20.... Journalist April Ryan tweeted that she'd heard there was 'drama' surrounding the departure. Ryan described the alleged resignation as a 'firing' and said Omarosa had been escorted off White House property. 'Sources say General Kelly did the firing and Omarosa is alleged to have acted very vulgar and cursed a lot and said she helped elect President Trump,' Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, added." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The scuttlebutt on CNN is that Omarosa tried to break into the residence, & the Secret Service had to stop her. Everything is going very smoothly. ...

     ... Update: Here's April Ryan's story (audio).

*****

This is how Doug & Louise Jones celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.... Alexander Burns & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Doug Jones, a Democratic former prosecutor who mounted a seemingly quixotic Senate campaign in the face of Republican dominance [in Alabama], defeated his scandal-scarred opponent, Roy S. Moore, after a brutal campaign marked by accusations of sexual abuse and child molestation against the Republican, according to The Associated Press. The upset delivered an unimagined victory for Democrats and shaved Republicans’ unstable Senate majority to a single seat." Mrs. McC: Jones' term would end in January 2021. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: The miracle this year is not on 34th Street. Thank you, thank you, "urban people." And thank you, Senator-Elect Jones. ...

... Sean Sullivan, et al., of the Washington Post: "Democrat Doug Jones has won the special election to fill a Senate seat in Alabama, according to exit polls and returns – a shocking upset in a solidly Republican state, in which massive turnout among African American voters helped defeat a candidate enthusiastically backed by President Trump. The Associated Press called the race at 10:23 p.m. Eastern time.... The night’s early returns showed [Roy] Moore ahead, as mainly rural votes came in. But he surged ahead after 10 p.m. Eastern, as large cities like Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham reported huge increases in turnout and large margins for the Democrat. Overall, news reports indicated that statewide turnout had smashed expectations, roughly doubling what officials had predicted.... [Mitch] McConnell on Tuesday said [Sen. Luther] Strange, who was appointed by the governor to temporarily fill [Jeff] Sessions’s seat, will remain in the Senate through the end of the current session." ...

... "Moore Won't Concede." Margaret Hartmann: "... President Trump (or the person who absconded with his phone) responded [to Doug Jones' win] with this gracious, coherent, and properly punctuated tweet:... 'Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!'... However, in an entirely unsurprising development, [Roy] Moore refused to accept defeat, and told supporters that God still isn’t done with the Alabama Senate race.... Under Alabama law, there’s an automatic recount at the state’s expense if the results are within half a percentage point. But the gap between Jones and Moore is 1.54 percent, or about 20,715 votes.... Moore’s campaign mentioned that military ballots have yet to be counted, but the Washington Post notes that there are only 8,700 people from Alabama serving in the armed forces. Even if every single one of those troops voted for Moore, he still wouldn’t win.... [Alabama Secretary of State John] Merrill suggested on CNN that after that Moore could opt to pay for a recount, even if his loss is still greater than half a percentage point. However, Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen said he thinks that’s incorrect; the law only applies to state offices, not federal elections." ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Aides acknowledged that Mr. Trump, who jumped in with a strong endorsement of Roy S. Moore without telling most of his advisers, rarely assumes responsibility for a misstep, and they anticipated him looking for someone to blame. By early Wednesday, the president was weighing in — and painting the loss as a sign of prescience.... 'The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!'... But aides said that Mr. Trump might still fault others for the loss." ...

... Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "... the stunning victory by Democrat Doug Jones was a devastating blow to a party wracked by divisions and intraparty rivalries and a humiliating defeat for President Trump.... Trump suffered mightily after fully embracing [Roy] Moore in the final weeks of the campaign, despite credible allegations that Moore had engaged in sexually improper behavior with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.... For Trump, nothing good has come from that appointment [of Jeff Sessions as AG] — from a special counsel investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election to a pair of losses in the Alabama races. The outcome was a bad moment as well for Stephen K. Bannon.... Bannon has threatened a year of turmoil for the GOP, but in this high-profile test, both he and the president proved to have limited ability to transfer Trump’s popularity to another candidate." ...

... Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "Doug Jones, a Democrat, should not have won a Senate seat in Alabama.... Donald Trump won the state by 28 points in the 2016 election.... There is no way to overstate the significance of this upset.... Republican voters are demoralized because the Republican president is enormously unpopular and the Republican Party has spent the past year doing enormously unpopular things. Yes, the Moore allegations made a big difference in this race. But they obscure the most important aspect of the special election in Alabama, which is that Republican voters are staying home across the country, while Democrats are voting at unprecedented levels." ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "Doug Jones’s shocking victory in Alabama’s Senate special election is a tremendous humiliation for former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had made Moore’s candidacy the centerpiece of his effort to reshape the Republican Party. And Bannon’s enemies — Republican congressional leaders and their allies, and conservatives who’ve long been skeptical of President Trump — are wasting no time in blaming him for it." ...

... "F[u]ck You & the Horse You Rode in on." Jonathan Chait: "Roy Moore is Donald Trump, but moreso. He is a buffoon, a racist authoritarian demagogue, a sexual predator. In all these qualities, save buffoonery, he exceeds Trump. His defeat in one of America’s reddest states signals deep trouble for the party that has given rise to both men.... But Moore’s sexual history did not hurt him too much, because – as Moore and Donald trump have demonstrated – no personal failing can hurt a Republican nominee too much. The conservative media infrastructure creates an alternative information universe, in which any failing can be denied or whatabout-ed away." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Nice job, Stephen. You may not have Roy Moore to kick around any more.


Ashley Parker
of the Washington Post: "President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a sexually suggestive tweet Tuesday morning that implied Gillibrand would do just about anything for money, prompting a swift and immediate backlash. 'Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office "begging" for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,' the president wrote. 'Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!'” (Also linked yesterday.) ...

of Mother Jones: "The Republican National Committee has joined ... Donald Trump’s all-out attack on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, blasting out an email Tuesday containing opposition research about the New York Democrat. The RNC’s broadside follows a back-and-forth between Gillibrand and the White House over allegations that Trump — who was infamously caught on tape boasting about assaulting women—had engaged in multiple acts of sexual misconduct before becoming president.... The email marks the second time in recent weeks that the RNC has rushed to back up Trump in a fight over sexual misconduct allegations. In November, the RNC cut off its fundraising support for Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore following accusations that Moore had sexually assaulted teenage girls.... But the RNC quickly reversed course earlier this month, once again throwing its support behind Moore after Trump endorsed him.” ...

... ** USA Today Editors: "With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.... A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.... It should surprise no one how low he went with Gillibrand. When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers.... Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office.... It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign." ... 

... Mrs. Huckleberry Threatens CNN's Jim Acosta. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "After Trump signed [a bill into law], he got up and began walking out of the Roosevelt Room. [Jim] Acosta [of CNN] asked: Mr. President, what did you mean when you said that Kirsten Gillibrand would do anything for a campaign contribution?' Later on, Acosta told CNN colleague Wolf Blitzer..., 'In the moments before I asked the president the question..., the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, pulled me aside.... And she warned me that if I asked the president a question at this pool spray, as we call them, that she could not promise that I would be allowed into a pool spray again,” said Acosta. 'Wolf, this was a direct threat coming from the press secretary to me....'” It is customary for reporters to ask questions during a pool spray. ...

... Katie Van Syckle of New York: "Stacia Robitalle, wife of former New York Ranger Luc Robitalle, is the latest woman to come forward and accuse of President Trump of harassment. 'I was once on a elevator alone with @realDonaldTrump (& a man w/him) at Madison Square Gardens,' Stacia Robitalle wrote Monday night on Twitter. 'He was aggressive & told me I was coming home with him. I laughed, stating I was married to a Ranger. He guaranteed me my husband didn’t make as much money as him.' In response to critics claiming Robitalle was just out for attention, she tweeted: 'I’m not a liberal lefty and I’m not looking for attention. Just felt bad keeping it to myself.' Currently, nineteen women have accused Trump of sexual harassment, with one of them suing him, and now others are demanding that Congress investigates their claims.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you're alone on an elevator with two men who appear to be friends & one of them is hitting on you, it is reasonable to believe you're in danger. (Was the man with Trump his beefy bodyguard Keith Schiller?) P.S. In case anyone thinks "You're coming home with me" is some kind of sideways compliment, it isn't. It's a threat. ...

... ** Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders promised that she would produce a list of eyewitnesses to exonerate President Trump from allegations of sexual harassment and assault. In a statement, the White House said these eyewitnesses 'totally disputed in most cases' the accusations that women have raised against Trump.... Overall, at least 14 women have publicly accused Trump of sexual assault — with others alleging other forms of sexual harassment and predation. Sanders sent the list of supposed eyewitnesses to ThinkProgress late Monday night. It contains the names of three people." Legum details the "evidence" the eyewitnesses provide & sums it up: "So the White House’s list of 'eyewitnesses' consists of two women who don’t even claim to be eyewitnesses and a British man with an incredible story and a documented history of deception." Mrs. McC: Just fucking astounding. Mrs. Huckleberry definitely belongs in the front seat of the clown car. (Also linked yesterday.)

Mrs. McCrabbie: For anyone who doesn't think Trump has lost it, he doesn't know when his own birthday is. Also, his family members don't know how to vote. (Also linked yesterday.)

Zeynep Bilginsoy & Sarah El Deeb of the AP: "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Arab and Islamic leaders on Wednesday that the United States is no longer fit to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and should be replaced as mediator by the United Nations, outlining a significant policy shift in response to ... Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In an impassionate speech, Abbas said his people will no longer accept the United States as a peace broker but added that they remain committed to international resolutions which have formed the basis of the process."

Kyle Swenson of the Washington Post: "In September 2016, as the heated presidential election ... swung into a final phase, a Louisiana private investigator repeatedly attempted to access the Republican candidate’s tax returns. According to court documents, Jordan Hamlett used Trump’s Social Security number to apply for federal student aid in hopes of gaining access to the candidate’s tax records. But the breach was detected by federal authorities.... Hamlett pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a charge of misuse of a Social Security number. He faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine."


Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Two FBI agents assigned to the investigation into alleged collusion between ... Donald Trump's campaign and Russia exchanged text messages referring to the future president as an 'idiot,' according to copies of messages turned over to Congress Tuesday night by the Justice Department. Special Counsel Robert Mueller removed one of the agents, Peter Strzok, from the Russia probe "immediately" after learning of the texts in late July, the department said in a letter to lawmakers. The other agent, Lisa Page, had already ended her assignment to Mueller's office.... The agents sometimes expressed respect or outright support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.The agents sometimes expressed respect or outright support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.... The messages, which were turned up during a Justice Department inspector general investigation into potential political influence on investigative decisions during the campaign, are fueling Republican calls for a second special counsel to investigate Mueller's operation." Strzok also called Bernie Sanders an idiot. ...

... Mike Allen, Washington, D.C.'s top gossip columnist, of Axios: "President Trump's legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session's Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt. The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... That's Because.... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. New York Times Editors: Flame-throwing Fox "News" personalities are persuading their viewers, including the head-of-household at 1600 Pa. Ave. & many GOP legislators -- like Sen. Lindsey Graham -- that the Mueller investigation is corrupt & is aimed at taking down Trump rather than at finding the truth. "If the president’s supporters are upset about how close that investigation is getting to the Oval Office, they should ask not whether any F.B.I. investigator has ever held an opinion about politics, but rather why Mr. Trump chose as his closest advisers people with a tendency to talk to Russian officials and then fail to tell the truth, again and again, about the nature of those communications." ...

... Alex Shephard: "Donald Trump’s team is inching closer to firing Robert Mueller.... A Fox News report ... revealed that Brian Ohr, a senior DOJ official, had been demoted for failing to disclose meetings with Fusion GPS, the firm behind the infamous Steele dossier, during the 2016 election. Ohr’s wife was also employed by Fusion GPS in 2016. Republicans have seized on the report to discredit the Steele dossier — arguing that it was only taken seriously because of partisanship at the DOJ — despite the fact that much of it has already been verified.... By demanding that the Department of Justice appoint someone to effectively investigate the investigators, Trump’s legal team is doing two things. First, it’s trying to cloud the issue.... And second, the White House is laying the groundwork for Mueller’s potential firing." ...

... Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Special counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday completed interviews with the last in a slate of about two dozen current and former White House witnesses he’s initially requested as part of the investigation into Russia's actions in the presidential election, White House attorney Ty Cobb said. It’s unclear if Mueller will seek follow-up interviews or seek to question additional people beyond the initial batch of witnesses...." ...

... Maggie Haberman & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Donald Trump Jr. ...  has asked the House Intelligence Committee to investigate information that was leaked from his closed interview with the committee last week. Alan S. Futerfas, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, warned on Tuesday that a leak inquiry was needed 'to maintain the credibility' of the committee’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.... While the interview was underway and after it was completed, he said, accounts of what Mr. Trump had said in private began appearing in media reports.... A spokesman for [Rep. Adam] Schiff [D-Calif.]..., denied that the congressman or his staff had leaked classified or confidential information. But, he said, Mr. Schiff reserved the right to speak out about the 'noncooperation' of a witness."


Alan Rappeport & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Republican lawmakers, scrambling to reach agreement on a final tax bill that they hope to pass next week, are coalescing around a plan that would slightly raise the proposed corporate tax rate, lower the top rate on the richest Americans and scale back the existing mortgage interest deduction.... Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that House and Senate negotiators were making progress in their effort to agree on a final tax bill and that a deal could be reached shortly. 'We don’t have it right this minute, but we’re getting closer,' Mr. Cornyn said shortly before lunchtime (Tuesday)."

Ted Barrett, et al., of CNN: "Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley issued a rare rebuke Tuesday of two of ... Donald Trump's most controversial judicial nominees, urging the White House to rethink the picks. Grassley told CNN that he is advising the White House to 'reconsider' the nomination of Jeff Mateer, who was selected to become a federal judge in Texas. He said the White House 'should not proceed' on the nomination of Brett Talley, whom Trump picked to become a federal judge in Alabama."


Mike Allen
: "Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was the victim of a fake news hit on Tuesday, and has turned over to Capitol Police a document that purports to detail lurid sexual harassment accusations by a former staffer.... This was an apparent effort to dupe reporters and smear a senator — both symptoms of an amped-up news environment where harassment charges are proliferating and reporters have become targets for fraud. The former staffer told me in a phone interview that she did not author the document, that none of the charges ring true, and that her signature was forged."

Mrs. McCrabbie: Like me, Erik Wemple wants to know what sex-related offense Ryan Lizza is supposed to have committed that led to his firing by the New Yorker & his suspension by CNN. It sounds as if the complaint comes from a woman he dated, presumably consenually. (Also linked yesterday.) 

Julia Moskin & Kim Severson of the New York Times: "From almost the day in 2004 that it opened on West 11th Street with the backing of investors like Jay-Z, Michael Stipe and the celebrity chef Mario Batali, the Spotted Pig shot to the top of the list of New York City’s hottest restaurants and stayed there. A clubby place whose third floor is a renowned private playroom for handpicked V.I.P.s, the Spotted Pig has racked up Michelin stars and accolades for its chef, April Bloomfield. In 2016, the James Beard Foundation named [owner Ken] Friedman, known for his charisma and business acumen, its outstanding restaurateur of the year.... [But] Even by the loose standards of the hospitality business..., employees described Mr. Friedman’s restaurants as unusually sexualized and coercive. Ten women said that Mr. Friedman, 56, had subjected them to unwanted sexual advances: groping them in public, demanding sex or making text requests for nude pictures or group sex. Many others also said that working for him required tolerating daily kisses and touches, pulling all-night shifts at private parties that included public sex and nudity, and enduring catcalls and gropes from guests who are Mr. Friedman’s friends." ...

... Here's the Times' report, by Christine Hauser & others, on Mario Batali, who is also as porcine as prosciutto crudo.

Beyond the Beltway

Phillip Bailey & Thomas Novelly of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "A Kentucky lawmaker accused of sexually abusing a teenager said Tuesday that he would not resign from office.... 'This allegation concerning this lady, this young girl, absolutely has no merit, these are unfounded accusations, totally,' state Rep. Dan Johnson, R-Mount Washington, said at a press conference at his church attended by family, campaign volunteers and members of his congregation. Johnson, a self-anointed 'pope' of his congregation, is accused of sexually abusing a member of Heart of Fire Church in the Fern Creek area when she was 17.... Johnson ... said the woman's claims are partly motivated by his political opponents and his support of conservative causes. He claimed the woman was a supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race and supports abortion rights.... The allegations caused a flurry of condemnations from both Republicans and Democrats, and members of both parties have called for Johnson's resignation." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm thinking of moving to Kentucky, so I can make myself pope and/or self-certify as a doctor. "Mrs." is a good enough title, but "Pope" or "Dr." would be great.

Monday
Dec112017

The Commentariat -- December 12, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a sexually suggestive tweet Tuesday morning that implied Gillibrand would do just about anything for money, prompting a swift and immediate backlash. 'Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office "begging" for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,' the president wrote. 'Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!'”

Mrs. McCrabbie: For anyone who doesn't think Trump has lost it, he doesn't know when his own birthday is. Also, his family members don't know how to vote.

Mike Allen, Washington, D.C.'s top gossip columnist, of Axios: "President Trump's legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session's Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt. The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators."

** Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders promised that she would produce a list of eyewitnesses to exonerate President Trump from allegations of sexual harassment and assault. In a statement, the White House said these eyewitnesses 'totally disputed in most cases' the accusations that women have raised against Trump.... Overall, at least 14 women have publicly accused Trump of sexual assault — with others alleging other forms of sexual harassment and predation. Sanders sent the list of supposed eyewitnesses to ThinkProgress late Monday night. It contains the names of three people." Legum details the "evidence" the eyewitnesses provide & sums it up: "So the White House’s list of 'eyewitnesses' consists of two women who don’t even claim to be eyewitnesses and a British man with an incredible story and a documented history of deception." Mrs. McC: Just fucking astounding. Mrs. Huckleberry definitely belongs in the front seat of the clown car.

Mrs. McCrabbie: Like me, Erik Wemple of the Washington Post wants to know what sex-related offense Ryan Lizza is supposed to have committed that led to his firing by the New Yorker & his suspension by CNN. It sounds as if the complaint comes from a woman he dated, presumably consenually.

*****

Old Geezer Sitting at Home Shouting at TV Tweets He Isn't Sitting at Home Shouting at TV. Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump pushed back against a recent New York Times article on Monday, saying in a Twitter post that he does not watch four to eight hours of television each day.... 'Another false story, this time in the Failing @nytimes, that I watch 4-8 hours of television a day - Wrong! Also, I seldom, if ever, watch CNN or MSNBC, both of which I consider Fake News. I never watch Don Lemon, who I once called the “dumbest man on television!” Bad Reporting.'... A spokeswoman for The Times ... rejected the idea that the article was false." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Maggie Haberman knows more about you than you know about yourself. Sad!

Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker elaborates on why Donald Trump was so unfit to appear at the opening of Mississippi's Civil Rights Museum. "In Trump’s case, 'We, the People' has been replaced by 'I, the Person.' The problem, then, is not only that, as Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, of Jackson, said last week, Trump advocates policies that run counter to the objectives of the civil-rights movement. It is that the ethic of seeking commonality rather than division, of enduring insults rather than retaliating for them, of withstanding punishment in service of a civic idea l— in short, anything that might have sustained Annelle Ponder, Fannie Lou Hamer, and the countless other heroes of the civil-rights movement — is apparently alien to the President of the United States."


Eighteen Days in Winter. Carole Lee & Julia Ainsley
of NBC News: "Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn's firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by ... Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... in the 24th paragraph of [the] NBC News report ... is a sentence that indicates Robert Mueller’s cleanest shot — so far — at proving illegality by the president. Mueller, NBC reports, 'appears to be interested in whether Trump directed [Michael Flynn] to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why, the sources said.'... There are many questions around this episode, but the most pertinent ones concern why Flynn would behave so recklessly.... News reports have focused on the possibility that Trump ordered Flynn’s outreach to Russia.... But NBC is raising a different, and more serious, possibility: that Trump also instructed Flynn to lie to the FBI about his conversation. That scenario would explain a lot.... If this is what happened, the legal violation [by Trump] would not be ambiguous at all.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In view of Flynn's agreement to cooperate with the Mueller team, it's quite possible they already know -- or at least Flynn has asserted -- that Trump instructed him to (1) promise Russia the administration would remove the sanctions, (2) lie to pence, et al., & (3) lie to FBI investigators.

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Several women who came forward during the 2016 campaign to accuse Donald J. Trump of sexual misconduct renewed their allegations publicly on Monday, betting that recently aggressive attitudes against harassment will give their stories new life and demanding that Congress investigate the president’s actions. The women said that they were frustrated that their stories about what they described as Mr. Trump’s actions did not have a greater effect on his campaign. But they also expressed hope that they would be taken more seriously after a torrent of similar accusations had toppled the careers of powerful men in the news media, business and politics." ...

... Jonathan Lemire of the AP: "Donald Trump sailed past a raft of allegations of sexual misconduct in last year’s presidential election. Now the national #MeToo spotlight is turning back to Trump and his past conduct. Several of his accusers are urging Congress to investigate his behavior, and a number of Democratic lawmakers are demanding his resignation.... Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, [said Sunday that Trump's accusers 'should be heard.'] Haley’s comments infuriated the president, according to two people who are familiar with his views.... Trump has grown increasingly angry in recent days that the accusations against him have resurfaced, telling associates that the charges are false and drawing parallels to the accusations facing Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Contributor Marvin S. was wondering yesterday who would replace Haley at the U.N. For some reason Marvin anticipated that Trump would be "furious" at Haley.

** Paul Krugman: "On Monday the Treasury Department released a one-page report claiming that tax cuts would pay for themselves. The document was a shameless attempt to fool the public — carefully worded to imply that economic experts at Treasury (they’re still in there somewhere, maybe locked in a closet) had actually done an analysis to that effect, without explicitly saying so. In fact, there was no economic analysis; Trump officials just made up numbers that would give them the result they wanted.... The department’s inspector general is investigating what actually happened, because Mnuchin repeatedly claimed to have ... [a real Treasury] analysis in hand.... [Mnuchin] he may be inspired by the example of Paul Ryan, who pulled off similar scams a few years back, fooling much of the news media...." Read it all. This is an indictment of the Republican party in one act. ...

... The Magical Munchkin. New York Times Editors: "In past administrations, the Tax Policy Office [of the Treasury department] performed detailed work in analyzing proposed tax legislation, and its findings didn’t always agree with the president’s agenda.... While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was publicly claiming that more than 100 people in the office were 'working around the clock on running scenarios for us' on the economic impact of the tax cuts, career tax experts inside the office said that they had been largely shut out of the process and that such an analysis didn’t exist.... After months of promises we now see that the analytical support for a $1.5 trillion, nearly 500-page piece of legislation is a 400-word note that boils down to 'trust us.'” ...

... ** Bess Levin of Vanity Fair: "With the clock running down and the Inspector General digging into the mysterious case of the missing Treasury analysis, [Steve Mnuchin,] the former Goldman partner turned foreclosure mogul pulled through on Monday with a report clocking in at a single page and fewer than 500 words that says the Senate plan will totally pay for itself — assuming a set of circumstances that are about as likely as Jared Kushner bringing peace to the Middle East. For real-live economists and tax experts, Mnuchin’s “analysis” is an infuriating disgrace.... 'It’s a pathetic excuse for a study,' former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told me. 'I suspect the current staff are not happy that the relevant data has been suppressed in the administration’s attempts to obscure the truth.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Levin explains, in layman's terms, everything that is wrong with Munchkin's fake "analysis." What she only hints at is that this one piece of paper is symptomatic & symbolic of the entire Fake Presidency. It would not surprise me in the slightest if it turned out that Trump ordered Munchkin to create a fake "analysis" to support his Tax Heist, just as it would not surprise me if Trump ordered Flynn to promise the Russians the sanctions would disappear, then lie about it to everybody. Convenient fantasies lie at the heart of dictatorships. To laugh at these people the way Charlie Chaplin did at Hitler is to make the same grave mistake Chaplin later admitted. It isn't funny. ...

... Why, here's an example. Watch Sanders refuse to answer questions like one from Matthew Nussbaum of Politico who asked if Trump understood the difference between honest mistakes journalists make & quickly correct vs. Russia's disinformation campaign during the 2016 election. then she completely shuts down Jim Acosta of CNN even a chance.

     ... See Akhilleus' commentary on this in today's thread. He captures the essence of Mrs. Huckleberry's very twisted mind. There's no reason to think that if Akhilleus sat Mrs. H. down for a very elementary tutorial, she would be capable of understanding her double standard. One of the corollaries to the Nixon Rule is, "When the president makes up stuff, it's not a lie."

Senate Race

Charles Pierce, on what Doug Jones did. Mrs. McC: You really don't have to look at Roy Moore at all, or Luther Strange or whatever GOP reprobate Sen. Richard Shelby wants Republicans to write in on today's ballot.

Sean Sullivan, et al., of the Washington Post: "National political leaders, a Hollywood actress and a retired basketball star made last-ditch efforts Monday to woo voters in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, as the candidates gave their final arguments in a pivotal special election that has attracted more than $41 million in spending. Former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden recorded robo-calls for Democrat Doug Jones, while President Trump recorded an appeal for Republican Roy Moore.... Moore brought in a raft of out-of-state conservative activists, including former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), and former Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke.... Jones, who is focused on turning out African American voters, held a final campaign rally in Birmingham on Monday night, where he was joined on stage by basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, actress Alyssa Milano and the city’s newly elected mayor, Randall Woodfin, among others."

Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews.... I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight.... One of our attorneys is a Jew.... -- Kayla Moore, Monday night

Wow! I'll bet one of their maids is black or Hispanic, too. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie 

Scott Douglas, in a New York Times op-ed: "In 2011, Alabama lawmakers passed a photo ID law, ostensibly to combat voter fraud.... [But] Alabama’s law is nothing but a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color.... A state senator who had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s 'black power structure.' In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law 'benefits black elected leaders.' The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called 'aborigines' and 'illiterates' who would ride 'H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls....” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you find yourself thinking that "Southern tradition" is fried chicken & sweet tea -- naw, it's more like extreme racism & any advantage a white boy might get from applying it with ferocity.

Jeff Zeleny of CNN: "Former President Barack Obama is adding his voice to the Alabama Senate race, imploring voters to go to the polls Tuesday to reject the candidacy of Roy Moore as part of an aggressive effort by Democrats to try and counter ... Donald Trump's full-throated endorsement of the controversial Republican candidate. 'This one's serious,' Obama says in the call. 'You can't sit it out.' Two Democratic officials familiar with the Alabama race tell CNN that Obama recorded the phone message in recent days, at the very time Trump stepped up his own involvement in the campaign with a recorded message. Obama does not mention Moore by name. 'Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress,' Obama says. 'Doug will be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Eliana Jackson & Alex Isenstadt of Politico write on how Trump & the RNC came to publicly support Roy Moore. One tidbit: the two guys who talked Ronna Romney McDaniel into backing Moore: John Kelly & Bill Stepien. Stepien is such a jackass Chris Christie fired him; (oh, & he had an affair with Bridget Anne Kelly, the woman convicted in the Bridgegate scandal). Kelly, as we found in his refusal to acknowledge or apologize for his untrue attacks on Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), is a horrible human being. (Also linked yesterday.)

Manu Raju & Todd Barrett of CNN: "In an interview with CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not say if the GOP conference would welcome [Roy Moore] into its weekly policy lunches or give him committee assignments. 'That's a good conversation for sometime after tomorrow,' McConnell said in the Capitol."


Pajama Boy at Work Just Like Pajama Boy at Play. Sheryl Stolberg
of the New York Times: "A peek into the inner workings of [Rep. Blake Farenthold's (RTP-Texas)] office reveals the kind of hostile work environment, rife with sexual innuendo, that prompted Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, to call Congress 'the worst' place for women to work.... Legal documents and interviews with former aides suggest an atmosphere in which the congressman set the tone for off-color jokes and inappropriate banter, which flourished among his underlings. Former employees also said that Mr. Farenthold had an explosive temper and often bullied his aides, prompting a high turnover."


Liam Stack
of the New York Times: "The New Yorker said Monday that it had fired Ryan Lizza, the magazine’s Washington correspondent, after it said he had engaged in what it called 'improper sexual conduct,' a charge that Mr. Lizza denied.... In a statement, Mr. Lizza said the company’s decision to fire him 'was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts' and 'was a terrible mistake.'... The New Yorker was unable to cite any company policy that was violated.'” Thanks to P.D. Pepe for the lead. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The Mooch -- whom Trump fired because of an interview Scaramucci gave to Lizza -- must be having a good laugh over Lizza's firing. I have a hard time believing Lizza is a sexist pig, but we'll see.  According to Stack's report, CNN -- where Lizza is an on-air contributor -- has suspended Lizza & will be investigating the allegations against him, which Stack does not reveal. We'll see what the network decides. ...

     ... On the Other Hand: Michael Calderone of Politico: "Lizza’s name was included [in] the 'Shitty Media Men' list which circulated in response to the Harvey Weinstein allegations. So maybe.  The list was surpposedly compiled by women, but one of its distributors was "extreme right-wing blogger Mike Cernovich..., [a] vocal anti-feminist activist who was charged with rape in 2003...." ...

     ... BTW, Glenn Thrush shared a byline on the Times' big story on Trump's teevee obsession, so either he's back on the job or he worked on the story before the Times suspended him for conduct unbefitting a gentleman.

Jill Disis of CNN: "Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping away from his restaurant business and ABC television show amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Batali said in a statement to CNNMoney that he is 'deeply sorry' for any pain or humiliation he has caused." (Also linked yesterday.)

** Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "Transgender people will be allowed to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, Defense Department officials said on Monday, a move that pauses President Trump’s effort to bar transgender troops. A federal judge allowed an October order pausing the ban to remain in effect, pending further legal review. The judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court in Washington, said in a ruling on Monday that the ban most likely violates constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. She rejected the Trump administration’s argument that it needs more time to prepare to process new transgender recruits for military service.... Sarah Huckabee Sanders ... suggested that Mr. Trump would continue to seek ways to carry out his ban. 'The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the legal options to ensure the president’s directive is implemented,' she told reporters." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It ain't over till it's over, but this is a good sign for those of us who think the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment is essential to a democracy.

** Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Gene Robinson: "The great Simeon Booker, one of the bravest journalists of our time, faced dangers far worse than a petulant president’s social media feed. Booker refused to be cowed — and ultimately helped change the nation. His life’s work should be a lesson to us all about the power of truth to vanquish evil.... More than once, Simeon Booker had to escape from Southern towns where white vigilante mobs were on the prowl to 'get that man from Jet.' We should be able to withstand a few nasty tweets."

"Journalism for Rent." Jack Gillum & Shawn Boburg of the Washington Post turn the tables on Fusion GPS, the firm that produced the Steele Dossier. "Fusion GPS bills itself as a corporate research firm, but in many ways it operates with the secrecy of a spy agency.... hundreds of internal company documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal how Fusion, a firm led by former journalists, has used investigative reporting techniques and media connections to advance the interests of an eclectic range of clients on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in the nation’s capital."

Beyond the Beltway

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "An explosion Monday morning caused the authorities to evacuate one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City.... The Police Department said in a tweet that it was responding to reports of an explosion of unknown origin at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, where two subway stations, Times Square and Port Authority, are connected by a tunnel. The Port Authority bus station was also evacuated.... One person was in custody, the Police Department said. A senior city official ... said that the suspect had been wearing an explosive device strapped to his person and that the police had stripped him naked to remove it. The suspect was alone and the device was reported to have gone off prematurely in the passageway between the two subway stations. The explosion was recorded on surveillance video.... The man who was in custody was in serious condition at Bellevue Hospital." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... This story has been Updated, with Sarah Nir now lead reporter. New Lede: "A would-be suicide bomber detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his body in the heart of Manhattan’s busiest subway corridor, rending the early Monday commute with a blast that reverberated up through the city’s sidewalks, caused transit chaos and terrified thousands of travelers who fled headlong through tunnels choked with smoke. He chose the location because of its Christmas-themed posters, recalling strikes in Europe against Christmas markets, he told investigators, and set off his bomb in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere, several law enforcement officials said. But his makeshift weapon sputtered. The attacker himself was the only one seriously injured."

... Tom Winter, et al., of NBC News: "The suspect in a terror-related attack in New York City has been identified as Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who lives in Brooklyn." (Also linked yesterday.)

Way Beyond

AP: "Eighteen climate scientists from the US and elsewhere have hit the jackpot as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, awarded them millions of euros in grants to relocate to France for the rest of Donald Trump’s presidential term. The 'Make Our Planet Great Again' grants – a nod to Trump’s 'Make America Great Again' campaign slogan – are part of Macron’s efforts to counter Trump on the climate change front. Macron announced a contest for the projects in June, hours after Trump declared he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord. More than 5,000 people from about 100 countries expressed interest in the grants. Most of the applicants – and 13 of the 18 winners – were US-based researchers." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yesterday, we learned that Macron was trying to pull financial businesses from London as a result of Brexit; today we find he's pulling climate scientists from the U.S. He has rather exhilarating ways of getting in the faces of jerks doing stupid things.

Monday
Dec112017

The Commentariat -- December 11, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Dan Merica of CNN: "A group of women who have publicly accused ... Donald Trump of sexual harassment and assault will detail their accounts of being groped, fondled and forcibly kissed by the businessman-turned-politician at a news conference on Monday. The women, according to the group organizing the event, will call on Congress to investigate accusations of sexual misconduct against the President." ...

     ... The Washington Post is carrying the press conference on its front page @ 11 am ET.

Jeff Zeleny of CNN: "Former President Barack Obama is adding his voice to the Alabama Senate race, imploring voters to go to the polls Tuesday to reject the candidacy of Roy Moore as part of an aggressive effort by Democrats to try and counter ... Donald Trump's full-throated endorsement of the controversial Republican candidate. 'This one's serious,' Obama says in the call. 'You can't sit it out.' Two Democratic officials familiar with the Alabama race tell CNN that Obama recorded the phone message in recent days, at the very time Trump stepped up his own involvement in the campaign with a recorded message. Obama does not mention Moore by name. 'Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress,' Obama says. 'Doug will be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama.'" ...

... Eliana Jackson & Alex Isenstadt of Politico write on how Trump & the RNC came to publicly support Roy Moore. One tidbit: the two guys who talked Ronna Romney McDaniel into backing Moore: John Kelly & Bill Stepien. Stepien is such a jackass Chris Christie fired him; (oh, & he had an affair with Bridget Anne Kelly, the woman convicted in the Bridgegate scandal). Kelly, as we found in his refusal to acknowledge or apologize for his untrue attacks on Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), is a horrible human being.

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "An explosion Monday morning caused the authorities to evacuate one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City.... The Police Department said in a tweet that it was responding to reports of an explosion of unknown origin at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, where two subway stations, Times Square and Port Authority, are connected by a tunnel. The Port Authority bus station was also evacuated.... One person was in custody, the Police Department said. A senior city official ... said that the suspect had been wearing an explosive device strapped to his person and that the police had stripped him naked to remove it. The suspect was alone and the device was reported to have gone off prematurely in the passageway between the two subway stations. The explosion was recorded on surveillance video.... The man who was in custody was in serious condition at Bellevue Hospital." This is a developing story. The Washington Post had a very preliminary story up a few hours ago, with no details. ...

... Tom Winter, et al., of NBC News: "The suspect in a terror-related attack in New York City has been identified as Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who lives in Brooklyn."

Jill Disis of CNN: "Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping away from his restaurant business and ABC television show amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Batali said in a statement to CNNMoney that he is 'deeply sorry' for any pain or humiliation he has caused."

*****

NEW. Eighteen Days in Winter. Carole Lee & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn's firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by ... Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign." ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday the evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia is 'pretty damning.' 'The Russians offered help. The campaign accepted help. The Russians gave help. And the president made full use of that help,' Schiff said during an interview on CNN's 'State of the Union.' 'And that's pretty damning, whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not,' he continued. Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a probe into possible Russian election hacking, said people need to look at the 'pattern of chronology.'" ...

There are powerful forces in Washington trying to sabotage our movement. These are bad people, these are very, very bad and evil people. . . . But you know what, we’re stopping them. You’re seeing that right now. -- Donald Trump, at a campaign rally for Roy Moore, Friday ...

... E.J. Dionne: "Our democratic republic is in far more danger than it was even a few weeks ago. Until this point, there was an underlying faith in much of the political world that if Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian collusion in the election turned up unmistakably damning material about Donald Trump, Republicans in Congress would feel obligated by their commitment to the country’s well-being to accept Mueller’s findings and challenge the president.... But we learned last week that Republicans are deepening their complicity in derailing Mueller’s investigation and burying the facts. The more Mueller imperils Trump, the more McCarthyite the GOP becomes. The apotheosis of Republican congressional collusion with Trump’s efforts to hang on at all costs came at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee." ...

... OR, There's This. Daniel Politi of Slate: "The winners of the Nobel Peace Prize warned that a nuclear war that could devastate the planet was closer to being a reality than most realized. Beatrice Fihn, who is the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), accepted the award in the group’s name and warned that the total destruction of humanity could be one 'impulsive tantrum away.' Speaking at the awards ceremony in Oslo, Fihn left little doubt about who she was referring to when she noted that 'a moment of panic or carelessness, a misconstrued comment or bruised ego could easily lead us unavoidably to the destruction of entire cities.' That is why, Fihn noted, the only way to assure that it won’t happen is to get rid of nuclear weapons entirely.”

The Pollution Presidency. Eric Lipton & Danielle Ivory of the New York Times: "An analysis of [EPA] enforcement data by The New York Times shows that the [Trump-Pruitt] administration has adopted a more lenient approach than the previous two administrations — Democratic and Republican — toward polluters.... The Times built a database of civil cases filed at the E.P.A. during the Trump, Obama and Bush administrations. During the first nine months under Mr. Pruitt’s leadership, the E.P.A. started about 1,900 cases, about one-third fewer than the number under President Barack Obama’s first E.P.A. director and about one-quarter fewer than under President George W. Bush’s over the same time period. In addition, the agency sought civil penalties of about $50.4 million from polluters for cases initiated under Mr. Trump. Adjusted for inflation, that is about 39 percent of what the Obama administration sought and about 70 percent of what the Bush administration sought over the same time period." ...

... Chas Danner of New York: "Since Donald Trump became president, the Environmental Protection Agency has been doing a lot less to target polluters than the previous two administrations, according to a new analysis of EPA enforcement data and confidential internal documents by the New York Times...[Scott] Pruitt says he is no ally to polluters and that they will not be allowed to run amok as the Trump administration rolls back regulations across the government. The data in the Times analysis seems to indicate otherwise." --safari: More bald-faced lies from Trump's henchmen. Par for the course.

Nick Turse of The Intercept: "What did officials at U.S. Africa Command know about the fate of Sgt. La David Johnson, and when did they know it?... Despite an enormous amount of attention on the killings ... the Pentagon has refused to officially say what happened to Johnson.... Reporting by The Intercept reveals, however, that the day after Johnson was separated from his Special Forces Unit, officials at the headquarters of Africa Command apparently said he was alive.... The U.S. military’s statements about the attack have changed over time, and even the nature of the mission remains unclear." --safari

#YouTooDonald. Michael Shear & Emily Cochrane of the New York Times: "Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said on Sunday that women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct 'should be heard,' a surprising break from the administration’s longstanding assertion that the allegations are false and that voters rightly dismissed them when they elected Mr. Trump.... Her remarks are the latest indication that the president’s behavior toward women — more than a dozen have accused him of unwanted touching, forcible kissing or groping — may not escape renewed scrutiny at a time when an array of powerful men have had their careers derailed because of their improper treatment of women, some of which took place decades ago." ...

... "Merry Christmas, Everybody." David of Crooks & Liars: "One of the Trump administration's top diplomats, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, wished CNN host Jake Tapper a 'Merry Christmas' on Sunday -- even though he is Jewish. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: This is the biggest downside to saying "Merry Christmas" to people you don't know or don't know well. It forces you to make snap decisions about a stranger's faith, & I find that thought process itself discriminatory. Like Haley, I've never given an iota of thought to Tapper's religious heritage, & why should we? In the context in which we "know" him, he's a secular figure. Since most working people get a day off on Christmas or thereabouts, "Happy Holidays," or other generic greetings & well-wishes are appropriate in most cases. Very often, "Merry Christmas" is not. If I know someone is a practicing Christian -- a priest, for instance -- I do say, "Merry Christmas" or something like it. But not to anyone else.

... Amy Sorkin of the New Yorker: Last week, during a White House briefing, a reporter asked Sarah Sanders, 'Does Donald Trump ... agree with Roy Moore that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress?' 'I haven’t asked him about a past statement from Roy Moore,' Sanders said. Her answer just about summarizes the nihilism of Trump’s Washington, where, when questioned whether the President would ban a religious group from Capitol Hill, his spokeswoman won’t say for sure without checking.... Each day dawns with a possibility that Trump will disgrace the Presidency more than he already has, whether he is insulting Native Americans or mangling relationships with our most trusted allies.... [But Trump has acted with his party's cooperation.] If the [Republican] Party is willing to give its money and its credibility to protect a candidate accused of molesting teen-agers, what might it talk itself into doing to protect the President?" ...

... ** Charles Blow: "If Alabama voters on Tuesday elect Roy Moore to the Senate, the Donald Trump-diseased party once known as the Republicans may as well call themselves Roypublicans.... Trump was the gateway to the Roypublicans.... Republicans have surrendered the moral high ground they thought they held, and have dived face-first into the sewer. The Trump agenda is the Republican agenda: hostility to women and minorities, white supremacy and white nationalism, xenophobia, protectionist trade policies, tax policies that punish the poor and working class and people living in blue states. Trump is a white man on a white stallion fighting to preserve white culture and white power. People who support this point of view and cheer the Trump charade forgave his failings because they believed so deeply in his mission." ...

... Senate Race

** Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would 'eliminate many problems' in the way the US government is structured." At the prodding of the host, Moore criticized the 14th Amendment, which addresses the rights of citizens, including due process & equal protection. "The danger in the 14th Amendment, which was to restrict, it has been a restriction on the states using the first Ten Amendments by and through the 14th Amendment. To restrict the states from doing something that the federal government was restricted from doing and allowing the federal government to do something which the first Ten Amendments prevented them from doing," he said. Read on....

...David Ferguson of RawStory: "In a 2011 radio interview, ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore revealed that he fervently wants to move the U.S. back to the 40s — the 1840s...There are 27 Amendments to the Constitution, the last of which passed in 1992. Among the Amendments Moore would happily do away with are the 13th and 14th Amendments, which abolished slavery and established equal representation. The 19th Amendment gave U.S. women the right to vote." --safari...

... Cameron Joseph of TPM: "A national Democratic group is putting out a 'predator alert' on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to try and convince Republican women to vote against the accused child molester on Tuesday. American Bridge is launching a last-minute digital ad that begins with the sound of an emergency alert — and only gets darker from there." --safari...

Alex Isenstadt & Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "In the last weekend of Alabama’s wild special Senate election, Doug Jones barnstormed the state with A-list Democrats in a bid to turn out black voters he desperately needs to win in the deep-red state. Republican Roy Moore disappeared." It appears he went to Philadelphia to watch the Army-Navy football game, but his campaign would not say.

Rosalind Helderman & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Sen. Richard C. Shelby, who serves as Alabama's senior senator, said repeatedly Sunday that the state's fellow Republicans can 'do better' than Roy Moore.... Shelby has previously said he was not supporting Moore, but his words on CNN's 'State of the Union' on Sunday offered a fresh denunciation of his party's nominee.... 'I didn't vote for Roy Moore,' Shelby said. 'I wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sorry, Donald. Looks as if the WashPo refused to take your advice to fire Dave Weigel.

Charles Bethea of the New Yorker interviews Doug Jones -- you know, the guy running for the vacated Alabama Senate seat who is actually qualified for the job.


** Dominic Rushe
 of the Guardian: "IDonald Trump about to turn America into Kansas? It’s a question some worried people who live in the state are asking as the Republican party pushes through the biggest tax overhaul in a generation – an overhaul that, they claim, bears an uncanny resemblance to a tax plan that left their midwestern home in disarray.... The plan would provide a 'shot of adrenaline' to the Kansas economy, [Governor SamBrownback claimed. Instead, the state’s revenues collapsed. Rich people who had been paying high taxes became “pass-through entities”. The state’s coffers emptied and the promised economic miracle failed to materialize." --safari ...

... Dominic Rushe (May 15): "The plan’s similarity to the one that has left Kansas in crisis is 'unbelievable', according to Duane Goossen, the former Kansas secretary of administration.... Campaigning for re-election in 2014, Brownback pledged his tax plans would add 100,000 new jobs over four years. By March this year, the state had added just 12,400 private-sector jobs.... The prop of the Brownback plan, as with Trump’s, was a huge cut to taxes paid by limited liability companies (LLCs) – and so-called 'pass-through' businesses – which meant independent business owners would pay no state tax on the bulk, if not all, of their income...At the time, Kansas had about 190,000 LLCs. Now it has about 300,000, but so far they have not spurred a new hiring drive in the state." --safari...

... Oliver Gilman in Mother Jones: "For tribal people in northern Alaska, a Republican tax overhaul that was hastily cobbled together in congressional backrooms 3,000 miles away has raised fears that their entire way of life could be erased from this frigid corner of the US. The Senate’s tax bill may land a decisive blow in a 30-year environmental battle over the Arctic national wildlife refuge, a vast untrammeled area hailed as America’s Serengeti by conservationists, by finally prising open the wilderness to oil and gas drilling. The region’s Gwich’in people fret that their primary food source, caribou, may be lost, and with it the future of the tribe itself." --safari: More reason for bigoted assholes to pass the plan. ...

... Killing Them Softly with Their Tax Bill. Heather Long of the Washington Post: "The House tax bill would eliminate the [medical] deduction, while the Senate bill would keep it (and even make it a bit more generous). It’s a key difference that must be reconciled before the final legislation goes to President Trump.... In 2015, 8.8 million Americans used the deduction. Over half were older than 65, according to AARP.... Trump promised that the middle class would be better off under his plan, but scrapping this deduction hits some in that group. Nearly 70 percent of the people claiming the deduction made $75,000 or less, according to AARP. 'This isn’t a high-income deduction,' says Cristina Martin Firvida, director of financial security and consumer affairs at AARP...."


Josh Marshall 
of TPM: "Sen. Lindsey Graham has oscillated between being a fierce Trump critic to being increasingly supportive of the President. But he now seems to have moved firmly into the Trump loyalist camp.... [Graham] is asking for a Special Counsel to reinvestigate Clinton’s private server, the Uranium One story, which is completely ludicrous, and anti-GOP bias at the FBI, which is not only factually nonsensical but seems intended to lay the groundwork for ideological purges of the primary national law enforcement agency which already has a very Republican-leaning political culture.... Why he would now swing so hard and so totally in a Trumpite direction is, frankly, not clear to me. He’s up for reelection again in 2020, which is a ways off.... There’s some story here." --safari

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "Lindsey Vonn, the most successful American ski racer in history, suffered a back injury while competing at the World Cup in Switzerland, threatening her participation in the Olympic games next year. Fox News could barely contain its glee. In an article posted without a byline, the network quickly connected Vonn’s injury to her criticism of President Trump days earlier. The clear implication is that, as a result of her comments, Vonn deserved to get hurt.... Vonn commented that when she participates in the Olympics, she views it as representing the United States, not the president. She offered mild criticism of Trump without mentioning him by name." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

Ta Ta, London; Bienvenue à Paris? David Segal of the New York Times: "France has long been known for its open hostility to corporations and its suspicion of personal wealth. Taxes were high, regulations were baffling.... Now, the country is in the midst of a sweeping attempt at national rebranding. Labor laws are being changed to make hiring and firing easier. New legislation has slashed a 'wealth tax' that was said to drive millionaires out of the country. Courts with English-speaking judges are in the works, and a new international school is under construction to cater to the children of foreign executives.... Paris is vying against Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg.... What is prized most in boardrooms is an array of business-friendly laws, regulations and culture — the sort of warm welcome that Paris once defiantly refused to offer.... And since [Emmanuel Macron's] election, the government has started a highly aggressive campaign to poach jobs from London."

Peter Beaumont Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has warned US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital was a 'threat to peace' as he hosted the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his first foreign trip since Donald Trump provoked widespread condemnation with the decision. The joint appearance by the two men, following talks in Paris, came after tear gas was used to disperse protesters outside the US embassy in Beirut and a Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli security guard at Jerusalem’s central bus station in the first attack in the city since Trump’s announcement.... In uncompromising remarks unlikely to calm the ongoing crisis, Netanyahu replied by saying that the sooner Palestinians recognised the reality that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, the sooner there would be peace." --safari