The Ledes

Friday, November 24, 2017.

Washington Post: "A court in South Africa on Friday more than doubled the prison sentence for Oscar Pistorius to 13 years and five months for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius, who gained fame as a double-amputee runner who competed in the 2012 Olympics, fatally shot Steenkamp four times through a closed bathroom door at his home in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013. Pistorius claimed he thought Steenkamp was an intruder. Under a 2015 murder conviction, Pistorius was originally sentenced to six years in prison. On Friday, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal called that sentence ]shockingly lenient,] and more than doubled it after unanimously upholding an appeal by prosecutors, the Associated Press reported."

The Wires

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."

A D.C. Hotel for Liberals. Bloomberg: Eaton Workshop will open an anti-Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., late next spring. It's the "world’s first politically motivated hotel, the flagship for a global brand that’s built around social activism and community engagement."

Mike Isaac of the New York Times, in an article written in all tweets: "On Tuesday, [Twitter] said nearly all of its 330 million users would now be able to tweet with 280 characters, the exact total in this paragraph.... The only Twitter users who will remain at 140 characters are those who post in Japanese, Korean or Chinese, the company said. Those languages have alphabets that typically allow for the expression of more thoughts in fewer characters...."

Travel Advisory. New York magazine: "Oh Good, Southwest Airlines to Host Live Country-Music Concerts on Flights."

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

Friday
Nov242017

The Commentariat -- November 24, 2017

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Adam Gabbatt of the Guardian: "Activists will launch a last-ditch effort to prevent Donald Trump’s tax bill from passing in the Senate on Monday, with scores of groups planning to lay siege to politicians’ offices. Indivisible, the progressive group that aims to use Tea Party tactics to thwart the Republicans, has called for a day of action to stop the tax legislation, which the Senate is expected to vote on in the week after Thanksgiving. According to some estimates, the GOP bill would actually raise taxes on middle-class workers over the next decade, and leave 13 million more people without insurance. A different tax bill passed the House on 16 November.... Indivisible, which is made up of more than 6,000 groups nationwide, has called for people to target seven senators in particular who it believes could vote against the bill: John McCain, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowsi, Susan Collins, Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito and Bob Corker." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You can check this Indivisible page to see where some of the sponsored protests are. There's more info here.

Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "Michael Flynn has so much criminal exposure it’s almost ridiculous, including things as potentially serious as conspiracy to kidnap, perjury, and obstruction of justice. He has to worry about those charges, plus a long list of problems with disclosure forms involving his lobbying work, background checks, and compliance with military rules and regulations. And he’s reportedly worried that his son will wind up with a lengthy jail term, as well. To significantly reduce all that exposure, he’s going to have to tell a pretty compelling story to Robert Mueller’s prosecutors. It’s true that plea negotiations could still break down, but they’ve almost certainly begun. The chances are now very high that Flynn will be testifying against the president of the United States and that his testimony will be the basis for a criminal referral of some sort to Congress from the office of the special counsel. This also has to be of concern to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, because they’re missing the chance to be the first cooperating witnesses, and are therefore losing the opportunity to reduce the amount of time they’ll be spending in prison."

Declan Walsh of the New York Times: "Islamist militants detonated explosives and sprayed gunfire at a crowded Sufi mosque near Egypt’s Sinai coast on Friday, killing at least 235 people and wounding 109 more, in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in the country’s modern history."

*****

Pax Americana. Politico: "... Donald Trump tweeted that he’ll be speaking with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.... The president’s tweet comes a day after Erdogan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at Sochi to try to find a solution to end the fighting in Syria. 'Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East,' Trump tweeted Friday morning. 'I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!'” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: So Trump is calling Erdogan to find out what-all went in on the meeting Putin shut him out of, after which the sidelined Trump is going to bring peace to the Middle East & end multi-millennia-long conflicts. Ding ding ding -- another 25th Amendment moment.

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "On Thanksgiving, President Trump celebrated winning. Early in the morning, he tweeted a list of wins, including the 'highest Stock Market EVER,' a reduced unemployment rate and a new Supreme Court justice. A few hours later, he video-chatted with troops stationed around the world and told them that they are now winning because his administration is allowing them to do their jobs and win. Trump then traveled to a nearby Coast Guard mess hall to hand out sandwiches and commend the military branch for improving its brand over the past few months. Afterward, he stopped by his private golf club in West Palm Beach." Mrs. McC: Sandwiches? Were they turkey sandwiches? If you wonder why the Guard got sammiches & chips instead of the traditional Thanksgiving fare Trump had at Mar-a-Lago, it might be because, according to Johnson, Trump paid for the meal. ...

... Elliot Hannon of Slate: "On Thursday, a so-called billionaire, who is the current president of the United States woke up in his so-called luxury resort in Mar-a-Lago and spoke to the American military servicemen and women stationed overseas to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. Speaking via teleconference with American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East, President Trump haltingly delivered prepared remarks with a message: You guys are doing great, thanks to me." Hannon goes on to report some of Trump's ridiculous boasting. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Will Trump start tweeting insults at American troops because the ingrates are not giving him sufficient thanks for so much winning? ...

... Brett Samuels of the Hill: "retired lieutenant general [Mark Hertling] said Thursday that President Trump’s comments to troops deployed overseas, which included remarks about the economy and military’s recent success, were 'somewhat insulting.'... 'You’re talking to soldiers and military personnel around the world who have been in this fight for 17 years, and to suddenly be told they’re winning now when they weren’t winning before is somewhat insulting.' Hertling said troops likely don’t care about the economy or stock market, but just want to be thanked for their service.”

Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "President Trump attacked ObamaCare on Thursday night.... 'ObamaCare premiums are going up, up, up, just as I have been predicting for two years. ObamaCare is OWNED by the Democrats, and it is a disaster,' Trump tweeted. 'But do not worry. Even though the Dems want to Obstruct, we will Repeal & Replace right after Tax Cuts!'... ObamaCare premiums have risen after Trump ended key subsidies to insurers that helped to cover costs for low-income Americans. Trump’s promise to repeal ObamaCare comes as enrollment in the health-care law has unexpectedly surged since the start of the open enrollment period.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump is right about one thing: "Premiums are going up, up, up." For some reason, he doesn't mention that this is almost entirely his fault. Because Trump ended the subsidies, costs spiked for those who don't qualify for subsidies. One Reality Chex reader wrote earlier this week that his family's costs went up 43 percent over last year's insurance premiums. That's outrageous.

Flynn Flips? Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case — an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal. r. Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.... The notification alone does not prove that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with Mr. Mueller.... [But he probably] has, at the least, begun discussions with Mr. Mueller about cooperating."

Anita Kumar & Ben Wieder of McClatchy News: "Several of ... Donald Trump’s top aides — including former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorkahave failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to the White House. Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, filed his report this week, according to a White House official, after McClatchy requested his form multiple times and reached out to him for comment. Priebus left the administration in late July, and the filing came well beyond the 30-day deadline for filing these reports. In total, at least four senior White House staffers have not filed termination reports, which outline their financial activity while serving in the White House. They include Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who served as senior director for intelligence programs for the National Security Council for seven months, and Middle East adviser Derek Harvey, who served on the National Security Council for six months, according to the White House and the Office of Government Ethics." The report suggests Bannon could have used his White House position to profit from a contract Cambridge Analytica made to trash Qatar. ...

     ... Follow the Money. Mrs. McCrabbie: As you may recall, Rex Tillerson tried to mitigate a Middle East feud with Qatar. but the White House undid his efforts by abruptly taking sides against Qatar. From Middle East Eye: "Following [a June 2016] move by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to boycott Qatar, which they accuse of supporting terrorism, Tillerson publicly asked the nations to ease the blockade, and put the onus on both sides to end the crisis. Less than 90 minutes later, Trump accused Qatar of being a 'high-level' sponsor of terrorism and suggested he had helped plan the Qatar action with Arab leaders." And Bannon is still at it. In a speech he delivered in October 2017, Bannon compared Qatar to North Korea -- and said Qatar was worse. Bannon claims now he has "nothing to do with" Cambridge Analytica. Right. Even if Bannon did sell his interest in CA (the McClatchy reporters can't tell since Bannon didn't file his financial disclosures), one of the major owners of CA is Robert Mercer. The Mercer family has been Bannon's No. 1 backer, pouring millions into Bannon's little projects like Breitbart and the push to inflict unhinged wingers like Roy Moore on the Senate. But, you know ... Nothing to see here, folks.

Union Calls Trump's Bluff. Clever. Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "At the heart of the Republican tax plan hurtling through Congress is an implicit promise that cutting corporate taxes will lift the middle class through higher wages and more jobs.... Mr. Trump has put a number on it, saying a typical American would see a $4,000 raise if the corporate rate was reduced to 20 percent.... This week, the Communications Workers of America asked several companies that employ its members to promise to give workers a pay increase if the cut in the corporate tax rate goes through.... In a letter sent this week to the top executives of Verizon, AT&T and six other companies, the communications union asked them to pledge a $4,000 annual pay increase for employees for every year that the corporate rate rests at 20 percent. The union, which has called the tax measure 'an outrageous money grab.'... The request, while unlikely to be heeded, highlights a critical question over who would benefit the most from the tax bill: shareholders or workers?"

Emily Atkin of the New Republic: "The toxic chemical industry is having a really great year.... The $800 billion chemical industry is finally getting what its been attempting to buy from Republicans for decades.... On Monday, the Republican-controlled Senate released a spending bill that eliminates ... an EPA program called the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which assesses the health risks of thousands of chemicals across the country.... IRIS scientists’ findings have huge financial implications for polluters.... Freed from the Obama administration’s clampdown on safety, companies that produce essential but oftentimes toxic substances are seeing their stocks rally. Pesticides and chemicals banned for their poisonous nature are being newly reviewed; safety regulations are being relaxed; and industry representatives are being chosen for top government positions.... In Trump’s federal government, industry players decide what’s best for protecting human health and the environment." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I wonder why Trump didn't mention his pollution successes in his Thanksgiving day celebration of "winning."

     ... Update: Oh, he sort did when he spoke about himself at the Coast Guard facility: "We've cut back so much on regulation and all the waste and the all of the abuse." BuzzFeed has the full transcript of Trump's remarks at the picnic or whatever it was.

Chris Sommerfeldt of the New York Daily News: "Actor Billy Baldwin claims President Trump hit on his wife during a ritzy hotel party in Manhattan over two decades ago.... Baldwin fired off the accusation on Thanksgiving morning in response to a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. about the latest sexual harassment allegations against beleaguered Democratic Sen. Al Franken. 'Your Dad is a 5th degree black belt when it comes to sexual impropriety allegations,' Baldwin tweeted at Trump Jr. 'In fact…I once had a party at the Plaza Hotel… your father showed up uninvited & hit on my wife... invited her on his helicopter to Atlantic City.' The 54-year-old Baldwin brother bluntly added, 'She showed his fat a[ss] the door.' A man who attended the party told the Daily News that Baldwin was hosting an intimate get-together in a Plaza hotel room for his soon-to-be wife Chynna Phillips’ birthday when Trump suddenly knocked on the door.... The mogul ... zeroed in on Phillips and 'looked her up and down,' the witness [said]. 'He tried to coerce her into getting in his helicopter.... (Phillips) laughed uncomfortably at the prospect and said thanks but no thanks.' [according to the witness]” ...

... Brandon Conradis of the Hill: "Embattled Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who is facing a growing number of allegations of sexual misconduct, issued a new statement on Thursday promising to regain the trust of Minnesotans and apologizing for past behavior. 'I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again,' Franken said in a Thanksgiving Day statement.... Franken also suggested on Thursday that some of his conduct with women might have been misjudged. 'I'm a warm person; I hug people. I've learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women -- and I know that any number is too many.'" ...

... American "Justice," Ctd. David Dayen in the New Republic: "The reason adjudicating sexual misconduct claims has been left to the media and the crowd is that people have no expectation that the legal system will adjudicate those claims fairly.... [Victims] have witnessed endless instances of powerful people, mostly wealthy men, getting away with criminality and deception, in every context imaginable. When you don’t have a working justice system, you get a kind of vigilantism as a result.... Brazen impunity for the powerful is a hallmark of our era. The worst financial crisis in America in nearly a century led to practically no convictions for those whose actions facilitated the meltdown. The Catholic Church shuttled around sex-abusing priests for decades with little reckoning. Cops shoot black people and go back on the job. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have a wildly punitive justice system for those unlucky enough to have no money or power. Black men are sentenced to more jail time for committing the exact same crimes as whites. Nonviolent drug offenders rot in jail. Mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes laws trap many in an unforgiving correctional system.... The best response to the #MeToo revolution is to restore the rule of law so women don’t have to use a hashtag to ensure their story of assault gets heard." ...

...

Even though there’s been nothing subtle about the current push to fill dozens of judicial vacancies kept open by the Republican-controlled Senate during the final years of the Obama administration, a document now making the rounds inside the Beltway is head-snapping. It is a proposal by a leading conservative constitutional scholar to double or even triple the number of authorized judgeships on the federal Courts of Appeals, now fixed by law at 179. Why so many, and why now? The author, Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern University, a founder and the current board chairman of the conservative Federalist Society, declares his goal boldly: 'undoing the judicial legacy of President Barack Obama.'” ...

     ... Here's Ian Millhiser's report (dated Nov. 17). "In a memo to Congress, the founder and board chair of America’s most influential conservative legal society proposed a massive court-packing plan that would enable President Donald Trump to fill the judiciary with hundreds of new judges." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is so-o-o-o surprising because I remember how Chuck Grassley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thought the D.C. appeals court had way too many judges & accused President Obama of trying to pack the court even though Obama was merely nominating judges to fill vacated seats.

of the Washington Post: "Shoppers, it seems, are over the frenzied, harried, wait-all-night-in-the-cold madness of Black Friday. They are increasingly shunning the shopping holiday, opting instead to spread out purchases over a course of weeks or months. For the first time, more Americans are preparing to shop online this holiday season than in department stores, according to data from the National Retail Federation.... Online spending is expected to surpass $100 billion for the first time this holiday season."

Sean Hannity's going off the rails to save the moron. --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

Austin Ramzy of the New York Times: "The United States Navy on Friday ended its search for three sailors who have been missing since a transport plane crashed near Japan this week, the Navy’s Seventh Fleet said in a statement. Eight of the 11 passengers and crew members who were aboard the C2-A Greyhound propeller cargo plane were rescued after the crash Wednesday. The Seventh Fleet said they remained in good condition." ...

... Elliot Hannon: "After a week of searching for a missing Argentine Navy submarine off the coast of the country, the families of the 44 crew members aboard have been told that their loved ones are believed to be dead. That news came Thursday after naval officials announced they had detected a sound believed to be an explosion aboard the vessel shortly after it went missing on Nov. 15th. A spokesman described the sound as 'abnormal, singular, short, violent' and 'consistent with a non-nuclear explosion.'”

Wednesday
Nov222017

Thanksgiving Day 2017

Late Morning Update:

** A Thanksgiving Day Gift.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "President Trump is at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Fla., for the Thanksgiving holiday.... 'Low-key' is ... how deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters described the day to the press pool Wednesday morning. Trump would make a few calls this week, she said, but otherwise not much going on. Less than 10 minutes later, though, the White House asked the press pool for a correction.... "The president will NOT have a low-key day and has a full schedule of meetings and phone calls.'... About an hour after ... [the] update about how Trump wouldn’t be having a 'low-key' day after all, another update from the press pool: Trump was departing Mar-a-Lago for destination unknown. Ten minutes later, the destination was revealed: The president is spending his morning at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. Clearly part of that 'full schedule' of meetings and calls.”

Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump may be on vacation at his resort in Florida, but he was up early on Wednesday, railing against a college basketball player’s father ... and the N.F.L. in a series of Twitter posts before 6 a.m. On the day before Thanksgiving, Mr. Trump apparently felt he was not getting enough credit for helping to free three U.C.L.A. basketball players who were detained in China after being accused of shoplifting designer sunglasses.... Mr. Trump tweeted and retweeted about a variety of topics early on Wednesday morning, but it was not until 8 a.m. that the president posted about the United States Navy aircraft that crashed outside of Okinawa, Japan...." If you'd care to know what-all Trump tweeted that was so much more important than this commander-in-chief job, Sullivan posts quite a few TrumpenTweets. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Vann Newkirk argues in the Atlantic that Trumpism is about nothing but white nationalism. "Without people of color to serve as a foil, there is no Trumpism. If not for his attacks on the Central Park Five, his birtherism, his slanders of immigrants, his 'what the hell do you have to lose' exhortations, the travel bans, and his autonomic reactions against prominent black people, it’s hard to see how Trump ever could have been elected in the first place." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

**Howard Blum of Vanity Fair: "During a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, the president betrayed his intelligence community by leaking the content of a classified, and highly sensitive, Israeli intelligence operation to two high-ranking Russian envoys, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov. This is what he told them—and the ramifications." --safari: A riveting piece of journalism, read on. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Perhaps for Trump one of the more consequential points of Blum's report is this: "... Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election." For the rest of us, and for American intelligenice agencies & our allies, is how to isolate a treacherous U.S. president. Of course the best way is to impeach & convict him. ...

... NEW. In a similarly fascinating account, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker reports on how one former Russian journalist, Dimitri Skorobutov, describes Russian media coverage in general & their 2016 U.S. presidential election in particular: “Me and my colleagues, we were given a clear instruction: to show Donald Trump in a positive way, and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in a negative way,” he said during a speech in the Netherlands. "Skorobutov said in his speech that the pro-Trump perspective extended from Kremlin-controlled media to the Moscow élite. 'There was even a slogan among Russian political élite,' he said. “‘Trump is our president."’... He flipped through his pages and pointed to the coverage guide for August 9, 2016, when Clinton stumbled while climbing some steps. The Kremlin wanted to play the story up big." ...

... NEW. Julia Ainsley of ABC News: "A former business associate of Michael Flynn has become a subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation for his role in the failure of Flynn's former lobbying firm to disclose its work on behalf of foreign governments, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News. Federal investigators are zeroing in on Bijan Kian, an Iranian-American who was a partner at the now-dissolved Flynn Intel Group, and have questioned multiple witnesses in recent weeks about his lobbying work on behalf of Turkey."

Jonathan O'Connell & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s company has agreed to remove the Trump name from its hotel in Lower Manhattan and give up management of the property, the most visible sign yet of the toll his presidency has taken on his brand. The decision, announced by the company Wednesday afternoon, follows signs that business has flagged for months at Trump SoHo, beginning during his polarizing campaign last year. The hotel’s sushi restaurant closed. Professional sports teams, once reliable customers, began to shun the property. The hotel struggled to attract business for its meeting rooms and banquet halls, according to reporting by radio station WNYC. Trump SoHo has emerged as one of the clearest examples of how Trump’s divisive politics have redefined his luxury hotel and real estate company, which spent years courting upscale customers in liberal urban centers where he is now deeply unpopular."

Emily Cochrane of the New York Times: "The Justice Department on Wednesday ordered a federal review of a database that is used to check gun buyers’ backgrounds, after a man who shot and killed more than two dozen people at a Texas church this month was omitted from the system despite a criminal record. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was asking the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to conduct a comprehensive review of the database, known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” ...

... Here's Something Stupid that Is Not Trump's Fault. Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Tens of thousands of people wanted by law enforcement officials have been removed this year from the FBI criminal background check database that prohibits fugitives from justice from buying guns. The names were taken out after the FBI in February changed its legal interpretation of 'fugitive from justice' to say it pertains only to wanted people who have crossed state lines. What that means is that those fugitives who were previously prohibited under federal law from purchasing firearms can now buy them, unless barred for other reasons. Since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was created in 1998, the background check system has prevented 1.5 million people from buying guns, including 180,000 denials to people who were fugitives from justice, according to government statistics.... Late last year, before President Trump took office, the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel ... said that gun purchases could be denied only to fugitives who cross state lines."

This is how it's going to work today. If you want to ask a question I think it's only fair since I've shared what I'm thankful for ... you start off with what you're thankful for. -- Sarah Sanders, at Monday's White House fake press briefing ...

... John Kirby of CNN: "At Monday's daily press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders encouraged reporters to first state things they were thankful for before asking their questions. Most of them obliged. They shouldn't have.... It's neither the time nor the place for kibbitzing or moralizing, and it's certainly not appropriate for a press secretary to lay down special rules for who gets to ask questions or how those questions need to be prefaced or proffered.... The whole cringe-worthy exercise made me embarrassed for the reporters and angry at Sanders and this White House for their arrogance and condescension.... I believe her little stunt is just part and parcel of a longer, larger effort by this administration to undermine the credibility and stature of a free press in this country." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post: "For a press secretary to require professional journalists to essentially beg for their supper, surrendering their adversarial posture like a dog commanded to Drop The Bone, is an infantilizing tactic.... Sanders, whose persistently arched brows convey an air of constant disapproval, routinely brushes reporters’ questions aside.... If Sanders isn’t evading, she’s scolding.... She’s everything a terrible person — or, say, an unpopular president — could hope for in a public relations artist. She says nothing; gives away nothing; looks fierce and dutifully repeats falsehoods as required.... Her daily humiliation of the press, making them seem like churlish children, is a booster shot of “fake news” animus.... To the media, she is the wall Trump promised to erect and, increasingly, it seems, we are the swamp he seeks to drain. Out with the media, out with free speech, out with facts! For these purposes, Sanders is perfectly cast." ...

... Also, Too, Sanders Started by Picking on a Black Person. Perfect! Masha Gessen of the New Yorker: "The President of the United States is a bully who makes a mockery of his office, democratic institutions, and the English language. So is his press secretary. On Monday, during the last briefing before the Thanksgiving holiday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders treated the White House press pool the way a sadistic teen-ager would treat a group of third graders. The journalists, for the most part, went along with it.... Her tone was menacing, the tone of a bully asking for a volunteer to be humiliated in front of the room. She called on April Ryan, of American Urban Radio Networks. Ryan was one of the few African-American reporters in the room...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A prominent government ethics expert has filed a complaint against ... Kellyanne Conway, alleging that she violated federal law Monday by appearing to oppose Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore's Democratic opponent [during a Fox 'News' segment]. Walter Shaub, who resigned in July as the head of the Office of Government Ethics, said on Twitter on Wednesday that he lodged a complaint claiming that ... [Conway] ran afoul of the Hatch Act when she discouraged Alabamans from voting for the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones.... Outside the White House on Tuesday as he prepared to leave for Thanksigivng weekend in Florida, Trump made similar comments to Conway's. However, the Hatch Act — which limits political involvement by federal employees — does not apply to elected officials such as the president or vice president.... Shaub noted that the ban on partisan political activity does cover senior administration officials when they are speaking in their official capacity or using their official titles. She was introduced on Fox as 'counselor to the president.'"

David Gelles of the New York Times has the silly idea of trying to apply logic to the Trump administration: "In a matter of hours this week, the Trump administration twice weighed in on one of the central issues shaping business and society today — just how much market power big companies should be allowed to amass. Yet in back-to-back developments, two federal agencies arrived at starkly different conclusions, and one company, AT&T, found itself on opposite sides of the debate. On Monday, the Department of Justice sued to block AT&T’s proposed $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner, a deal that would unite one of the country’s biggest internet providers with the company that owns CNN, HBO and the Warner Bros. film studio.... Then on Tuesday morning, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to dismantle net neutrality rules. The move would let companies charge higher fees and block access to some websites, and was effectively a green light for big internet service providers — including AT&T — to freely wield their influence against rivals." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Dan Diamond of Politico: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she supports GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, the Alaska Republican wrote in an op-ed for a local newspaper Tuesday.... Murkowski's renewed support for repealing the mandate — after repeatedly opposing her party's Obamacare repeal bills this year — may be a boon for Senate Republicans' tax legislation, which includes mandate repeal and is expected to be taken up on the Senate floor next week. [BUT] A spokesperson for Murkowski told Politico that the comments should not be construed as support for the tax bill, which does not yet appear to have sufficient support to pass the chamber." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Today in Sexual Harassment News:

Mrs. McCrabbie: When I heard on the teevee that there were nude photos of Rep. Joe Barton -- who is not only physically unattractive but also dumber than a rock -- were floating around the InterTubes, I thought it was going to be a fun family Thanksgiving story. But that dimwitted, weird, nasty SOB managed to turn a joke on him into intimidation & harassment of a woman to whom he'd sent "sexually explicit photos, videos & messages." The woman had a relationship with Barton, which began when she made a political comment on his Facebook page. "Over time, she said, she became aware of and corresponded with multiple other women who engaged in relationships with Barton, who represents a suburban Dallas district and is one of the most senior Republicans in the House." ...

... Mike DeBonis & Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post: "Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who apologized Wednesday for a lewd photo of him that circulated on the Internet, told a woman to whom he had sent sexually explicit photos, videos and messages that he would report her to the Capitol Police because she could expose his behavior, according to a recording reviewed by The Washington Post. [Another bit Barton thought was a good idea to share: "a 53-second cellphone video Barton recorded of himself while masturbating.] The woman spoke to The Post after the lewd photo was published Tuesday by an anonymous Twitter account.... The woman said she did not post the image herself.... She shared a secretly recorded phone conversation she had with Barton in 2015 in which he warned her against using the explicit materials 'in a way that would negatively affect my career.'...  In a statement late Wednesday, Barton said a transcript of the recording provided by The Post may be 'evidence' of a 'potential crime against me.' He said that he received word Wednesday that the Capitol Police are opening an inquiry.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The Capitol Police, we must assume, will be laughing their heads off over this one. For those of you interested in seeing the type of artwork a sitting Congressman thinks will is seductive, TMZ has the pic, which was bowdlerized by the sender. Just as a note of advice to Rep. Barton & men everywhere: to each her own, but the majority of women are not that turned on by the sight of erect penises & fat guts. You jerkoffs are showing off for yourselves or to other men, but there a high likelihood the woman you're trying to impress is thinking, "Oh, please." ...

... Katie Leslie of the Dallas Morning News: Barton's "spokeswoman told The News that he has no plans to step down.... The news comes less than three weeks after Barton, the longest-serving member of the Texas House delegation, announced that he's launching his 18th congressional campaign -- a decision now in turmoil."

Jenavieve Hatch & Zachary Roth of the Huffington Post: "Two more women have told HuffPost that Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) touched their butts in separate incidents. The two additional women, who said they were not familiar with each others’ stories, both spoke on condition of anonymity. But their stories, which describe events during Franken’s first campaign for the Senate, are remarkably similar — and both women have been telling them privately for years.... The first woman ... said Franken groped her when they posed for a photo after a June 25, 2007, event hosted by the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus in Minneapolis.... The second woman told HuffPost that Franken cupped her butt with his hand at a 2008 Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis, then suggested the two visit the bathroom together."

Kimberly Kindy, et al., of the Washington Post: Melanie Sloan, a "high-profile Washington lawyer specializing in congressional ethics, said Wednesday that Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) harassed and verbally abused her when she worked for him on Capitol Hill in the 1990s and that her repeated appeals for help to congressional leadership were ignored.... Sloan, the former executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was hired by Conyers in 1995.... She held the job until 1998. During that time, Sloan said, she witnessed and experienced behavior by Conyers similar to episodes described in claims against him that on Tuesday prompted the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation.... Sloan said she did not believe she was sexually harassed by the congressman, but she said his behavior toward her was inappropriate and abusive.... Sloan said that Conyers routinely yelled at and berated her, often criticizing her appearance. On one occasion, she said, he summoned her to his Rayburn Building office, where she found him in his underwear."

Senate Race:

Roy Moore’s communications director John Rogers has resigned from the Alabama Senate candidate’s campaign, according to the Associated Press. Campaign strategist Brett Doster told CNN that Rogers wasn’t prepared to deal with the 'level of scrutiny' from the media following The Washington Post’s extensive report on Nov. 9 detailing allegations that Moore pursued relationships with teenage girls, including a 14-year-old when he was 32. Since the publication of The Post’s report, other women have stepped forward to make similar accusations." ...

... Adam Raymond of New York: "Moore adviser Brett Doster offered some thoughts on Rogers’s departure to Fox News.... 'John just did not have the experience to deal with the press the last couple of weeks, and we’ve had to make a change,' Doster said." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh, I don't know. I think the Moore campaign's communications efforts are exceptional. That Brett Doster guy -- who dismissed Rogers as too inexperienced -- is himself super-professional: ...

... Michael Scherer of the Washington Post: "Senate candidate Roy Moore’s campaign refused Wednesday to substantiate a key claim it made as part of an effort to raise doubts about one of the Alabama candidate’s accusers. The campaign has claimed to have found documents that show Leigh Corfman lived more than a mile from the intersection where she said Moore picked her up for dates in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32.... [But] a police report about property theft published in the Gadsden Times on March 31, 1980, listed [a family address that conforms with Corfman's story]. The Post requested documentation to support [the campaign's] description of another address on Tuesday [and again on Wednesday].... Brett Doster, a strategist for the Moore campaign, sent an email to The Post. 'The Washington Post is a worthless piece of crap that has gone out of its way to railroad Roy Moore,' Doster wrote in an email he described as an 'on the record' statement. 'There is no need for anyone at the Washington Post to ever reach out to the Roy Moore campaign again because we will not respond to anyone from the Post now or in the future. Happy Thanksgiving.'” Other supposed "evidence" against Corfman which the Moore campaign cited "did not contradict what Corfman has told The Post." Emphasis added.


Cristiano Lima
of Politico: "Kelley Paul called the assault on her husband Sen. Rand Paul 'a deliberate, blindside attack' on Wednesday, disputing a characterization by the alleged attacker's legal team that the altercation was 'regrettable dispute between two neighbors.' 'This was not a "scuffle," a "fight" or an "altercation," as many in the media falsely describe it. It was a deliberate, blindside attack,' Kelley Paul wrote in a an op-ed for CNN published Wednesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm tellin' ya, even tho Randy doesn't bag his leaves, we're going to find out he bagged the ex-Mrs. Boucher. And, yeah, I'm making this up, I have no reason more reliable than a hunch, & my apologies to all the victims of my random, crabby, totally unverified thoughts.

NEW. KHOU (Houston): "A woman in the Brookshire area (Houston metropolitan area) is accused of sending explosives to three government leaders in 2016. According to the six-count indictment, 46-year-old Julia Poff mailed explosives to Governor Greg Abbott, President Barack Obama and Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Carolyn Colvin on Oct. 12, 2016. Other court documents say Gov. Abbott opened the package, but it failed to explode because he didn't open it right. If opened correctly, documents say 'it could've caused severe burns and death.'...  Federal investigators say they were able to connect Poff to the packages using pieces of the shipping labels, and also matched cat hair found in the box mailed to President Obama with her cat." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The awkward construction of that last sentence made me think Poff had sent her dead cat in the package that contained the bomb mialed to President Obama, but that's not the case. Court documents included in the report indicate that forensic experts matched hairs in the box to hairs on a cat she had in her home.

Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "Eight people have been rescued and are in 'good condition' after a U.S. Navy cargo plane carrying 11 crew members and passengers crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Japan, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said Wednesday. The search for the remaining three people is continuing. It was the latest accident to befall the 7th Fleet, which is based in the Japanese port of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, and has endured multiple collisions at sea this year, including two that involved guided-missile destroyers and left 17 sailors dead.... It crashed at 2:45 p.m. local time Wednesday, the 7th Fleet said in a statement." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Julia Wong of the Guardian: "Uber is facing government scrutiny around the world in the wake of its admission it concealed a massive data breach affecting 57 million drivers and passengers. The $68bn ride-hailing company acknowledged Tuesday that hackers had stolen the personal information in October 2016, and that Uber had paid them $100,000 to destroy the information and keep the breach quiet. The global nature of the breach exposes Uber to potential liability in numerous jurisdictions. Many countries and US states have laws requiring companies to inform individuals if their personal information has been compromised."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Marlise Simons, et al., of the New York Times: "With outbursts inside and outside the courtroom at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Gen. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It was the last major item of business for the tribunal in The Hague before it wound down, a full quarter-century after some of the crimes it prosecuted were committed." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Tuesday
Nov212017

The Commentariat -- November 22, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Trumpo Twitters While Airmen Die:

Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "Eight people have been rescued and are in 'good condition' after a U.S. Navy cargo plane carrying 11 crew members and passengers crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Japan, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said Wednesday. The search for the remaining three people is continuing. It was the latest accident to befall the 7th Fleet, which is based in the Japanese port of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, and has endured multiple collisions at sea this year, including two that involved guided-missile destroyers and left 17 sailors dead.... It crashed at 2:45 p.m. local time Wednesday, the 7th Fleet said in a statement." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That is, Trump would have been briefed about the crash this morning before he got back to picking on black people, something probably many racists eschew during the holiday season. ...

... Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump may be on vacation at his resort in Florida, but he was up early on Wednesday, railing against a college basketball player’s father ... and the N.F.L. in a series of Twitter posts before 6 a.m. On the day before Thanksgiving, Mr. Trump apparently felt he was not getting enough credit for helping to free three U.C.L.A. basketball players who were detained in China after being accused of shoplifting designer sunglasses.... Mr. Trump tweeted and retweeted about a variety of topics early on Wednesday morning, but it was not until 8 a.m. that the president posted about the United States Navy aircraft that crashed outside of Okinawa, Japan...." If you'd care to know what-all Trump tweeted that was so much more important than this commander-in-chief job, Sullivan posts quite a few TrumpenTweets.

This is how it's going to work today. If you want to ask a question I think it's only fair since I've shared what I'm thankful for ... you start off with what you're thankful for. -- Sarah Sanders, at Monday's White House fake press briefing ...

... John Kirby of CNN: "At Monday's daily press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders encouraged reporters to first state things they were thankful for before asking their questions. Most of them obliged. They shouldn't have.... It's neither the time nor the place for kibbitzing or moralizing, and it's certainly not appropriate for a press secretary to lay down special rules for who gets to ask questions or how those questions need to be prefaced or proffered.... The whole cringe-worthy exercise made me embarrassed for the reporters and angry at Sanders and this White House for their arrogance and condescension.... I believe her little stunt is just part and parcel of a longer, larger effort by this administration to undermine the credibility and stature of a free press in this country." ...

... Also, Too, Sanders Started by Picking on a Black Person. Perfect! Masha Gessen of the New Yorker: "The President of the United States is a bully who makes a mockery of his office, democratic institutions, and the English language. So is his press secretary. On Monday, during the last briefing before the Thanksgiving holiday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders treated the White House press pool the way a sadistic teen-ager would treat a group of third graders. The journalists, for the most part, went along with it.... Her tone was menacing, the tone of a bully asking for a volunteer to be humiliated in front of the room. She called on April Ryan, of American Urban Radio Networks. Ryan was one of the few African-American reporters in the room...."

David Gelles of the New York Times has the silly idea of trying to apply logic to the Trump administration: "In a matter of hours this week, the Trump administration twice weighed in on one of the central issues shaping business and society today — just how much market power big companies should be allowed to amass. Yet in back-to-back developments, two federal agencies arrived at starkly different conclusions, and one company, AT&T, found itself on opposite sides of the debate. On Monday, the Department of Justice sued to block AT&T’s proposed $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner, a deal that would unite one of the country’s biggest internet providers with the company that owns CNN, HBO and the Warner Bros. film studio.... Then on Tuesday morning, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to dismantle net neutrality rules. The move would let companies charge higher fees and block access to some websites, and was effectively a green light for big internet service providers — including AT&T — to freely wield their influence against rivals."

Dan Diamond of Politico: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she supports GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, the Alaska Republican wrote in an op-ed for a local newspaper Tuesday.... Murkowski's renewed support for repealing the mandate — after repeatedly opposing her party's Obamacare repeal bills this year — may be a boon for Senate Republicans' tax legislation, which includes mandate repeal and is expected to be taken up on the Senate floor next week. [BUT] A spokesperson for Murkowski told Politico that the comments should not be construed as support for the tax bill, which does not yet appear to have sufficient support to pass the chamber."

Cristiano Lima of Politico: "Kelley Paul called the assault on her husband Sen. Rand Paul 'a deliberate, blindside attack' on Wednesday, disputing a characterization by the alleged attacker's legal team that the altercation was 'regrettable dispute between two neighbors.' 'This was not a "scuffle," a "fight" or an "altercation," as many in the media falsely describe it. It was a deliberate, blindside attack,' Kelley Paul wrote in a an op-ed for CNN published Wednesday." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm tellin' ya, even tho Randy doesn't bag his leaves, we're going to find out he bagged the ex-Mrs. Boucher. And, yeah, I'm making this up, I have no reason more reliable than a hunch, & my apologies to all the victims of my random, crabby, totally unverified thoughts.

Marlise Simons, et al., of the New York Times: "With outbursts inside and outside the courtroom at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Gen. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It was the last major item of business for the tribunal in The Hague before it wound down, a full quarter-century after some of the crimes it prosecuted were committed."

*****

The president of the United States appeared to endorse an accused child molester to serve in the U.S. Senate. -- Chris Hayes of MSNBC, Tuesday night

Trump Backs Accused Serial Predator for Senate. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump defended Roy S. Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct with minors.... Mr. Trump said that Alabama voters should not support Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate running against Mr. Moore in a special election next month.... Mr. Trump declined to say whether he would campaign for Mr. Moore." ...

... Bob Brigham of RawStory: "Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House as he left Washington, DC to go to his golf properties in Florida, President Trump was asked 'is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?' 'Well, he denies it,' Trump replied.... 'What is your message to women during this is pivotal moment in our nation’s history?' a reporter asked. 'Women are very special,' Trump responded." --safari ...

... Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "... Donald Trump’s near-endorsement of Alabama Republican Roy Moore followed days of behind-the-scenes talks in which he vented about Moore’s accusers and expressed skepticism about their accounts. During animated conversations with senior Republicans and White House aides, the president said he doubted the stories presented by Moore’s accusers and questioned why they were emerging now, just weeks before the election, according to two White House advisers and two other people familiar with the talks. The White House advisers said the president drew parallels between Moore’s predicament and the one he faced just over a year ago when, during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, Trump confronted a long line of women who accused him of harassment." ...

... Jeff Zeleny of CNN: "... Donald Trump's decision to embrace Roy Moore on Tuesday was rooted in several factors, but one of the biggest: the noise and confusion from a recent tidal wave of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations from Hollywood to media to politics. '(It) made it easier and easier to stick with Moore,' a Republican source close to the White House said." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Oh, there are parallels, all right. ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trump’s stance is remarkable on several levels. First, it contradicts the position the White House has espoused since the first allegations emerged two weeks ago. The administration has avoided assessing the claims, saying instead that if they are true, [Roy] Moore should step aside. But in his remarks on Tuesday, Trump both seemed to accept Moore’s denials as fact—he also noted that the claims were about events that were many years old — and took the view that even if true, the weight of a Republican vote in the Senate overcame the import of the allegations.... Trump’s charge that [Doug] Jones is weak on crime is doubly ironic. Jones is a former prosecutor who put Klansmen behind bars; his opponent not only was twice removed from the state bench for violating the U.S. Constitution, but in the matter stands accused of committing a crime himself.... It’s hard to think of two easier stands to take in American politics than condemning Nazis and denouncing child sex-abuse, and yet Trump has flinched twice." ...

... Jonathan Chait explains the many reasons Trump's endorsement of Moore was "the Trumpiest decision ever." Mrs. McC: Chait forgot one element that is essential to every Trumpy decision: at least one big, baldfaced lie. Needless to say, Trump does not disappoint here. ...

... Eric Levitz: "Doug Jones is a career prosecutor, famous for his role in convicting Ku Klux Klan members and terrorists. Roy Moore is a theocratic demagogue, famous for nullifying court orders and (allegedly) sexually harassing and assaulting so many teenage girls, he got himself banned from the Gadsden Mall. On Tuesday, president Trump suggested that Alabamians should vote for Moore over Jones in the state’s upcoming special Senate election – because the alleged sexual predator’s rival was 'soft on crime.' 'He’s terrible on the border, he’s terrible on the military,' Trump said of the Democratic Senate Tuesday. 'I can tell you, you don’t need someone who’s soft on crime like Jones.'... If the president believes that an alleged, serial sexual abuser of teenage girls (who wants to deport law-abiding undocumented immigrants) is 'tougher on crime' than a lifelong prosecutor (who has little interest in deporting law-abiding, undocumented immigrants) than what, do you suppose, he means by crime?” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Here's a hint, Eric, & one that every American should understand: Trump believes that a person who prosecutes members of the Ku Klux Klan for murdering black children is soft on crime. The SOB who is POTUS* privileges the KKK & sex abusers (like himself) over black people, Muslims, immigrants of all stripes & the rule of law.

... David Edwards of RawStory: "White House counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway reportedly spoke with President Donald Trump about the Alabama Senate race before she suggested that voters should cast their ballots for Republican candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 14." --safari: Kellyanne Conjob has four children less than 12 years old. Pedophile politics trump her "values". What a sad sack of soul, destined for history's scarlet letter.

Jeremy Diamond & Elizabeth Landers of CNN: "... Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for 'a little over an hour' Tuesday morning, discussing a range of pressing international concerns a day after Putin met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a White House official told CNN. The two leaders discussed the situation in Syria and terrorism more broadly, the official said, as well as the state of affairs in Afghanistan, Ukraine and North Korea. The White House was expected to release a full readout of the call later Tuesday." ...

... Liz Sly, et al., of the Washington Post: "Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a major new push Tuesday to end the war in Syria after an unannounced visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Russia that seemed to affirm his future role in any eventual settlement. The Russian initiative builds on an agreement reached with President Trump this month in which the United States effectively acknowledged Russia’s lead role in Syrian diplomacy in return for Russian acceptance of a continued U.S. role in Syria now that the Islamic State is nearing defeat.... Putin then talked for more than an hour on the phone Tuesday with Trump, a conversation that focused mostly on Syria, according to readouts of the conversation from both the Kremlin and the White House. Putin told Trump he had secured a commitment from Assad to cooperate with the Russian initiative, including constitutional reforms and presidential and parliamentary elections, the Kremlin said." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yeah, those elections are going to be free, fair & unfettered. ...

... Henry Meyer & Stepan Kravchenko of Bloomberg: "Putin has taken a dominant role in efforts to end the conflict after a two-year Russian military campaign helped Assad to fight off opponents, including some backed by the U.S. With Islamic State nearly defeated in Syria, the Kremlin is moving on to bring together regional and global powers to revive long-stalled efforts to reach a settlement expected to cement the Syrian president in power. [In the phone conversation between Putin & Trump Tuesday,] Trump did not bring up the issue of political transition, an administration official said.... Nor did Trump bring up Russia’s veto last week of a Security Council resolution that would have extended the investigation into who used chemical weapons in Syria, the official said.... The Russian leader’s triumphant tone [in his Moscow meeting with Assad] underscores his success in turning the tables on the U.S., which under Barack Obama pressed for Assad’s removal and came close in 2013 to ordering strikes on Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack blamed on the regime." ...

... Reuters: "Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad late on Monday for three hours of talks to lay the groundwork for a new push by Moscow to end Syria's conflict now that Islamic State's territorial caliphate is overrun. Russia is actively trying to broker an international consensus around a peace deal for Syria, over two years after Moscow began a military intervention that turned the tide of the conflict in Assad's favor." ...

... Putin Sidelines Trump, the Useful Idiot. Michael Crowley of Politico: "Six months after ... Donald Trump ordered an airstrike against a Syrian government airbase, an act his aides said would give the U.S. renewed leverage across the Middle East, he is increasingly a bystander as Russian President Vladimir Putin takes the lead in shaping postwar Syria. On Wednesday, Putin will host the presidents of Iran and Turkey in the resort city of Sochi — one of several Russian-brokered meetings the U.S. will not attend as the Syrian conflict winds down.... Trump may not care: He has said privately that he considers Syria to be [President] Obama’s failure and that he sees little the U.S. can do about it now, according to a person briefed on one of his conversations. That view was reflected in Trump’s decision earlier this year to cancel a covert CIA program that armed moderate Syrian rebels fighting [Syrian president Bashar] Assad’s regime. But Trump has at least one major unmet goal in Syria: rolling back the influence of Iran, which partnered with Russia to defend Assad." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Despite the U.S.'s long but erratic support for Syrian rebels, Trump is overseeing a U.S. loss in an armed, political, diplomatic & economic conflict. Trump -- and Western democracies -- have lost not so much to Assad, but to Putin, who is busy cementing Russia's major role in the Middle East. The U.S. media have been surprisingly muted about the loss of a civil & regional war in which an estimated 400,000 people have been killed.


Gabriel Sherman
of Vanity Fair: "...  it wasn’t long ago when Trump handed [Jared] Kushner a comically broad portfolio that included plans to reinvent government, reform the V.A., end the opioid epidemic, run point on China, and solve Middle East peace. But ... according to sources, [Chief-of-Staff John] Kelly has tried to shrink Kushner’s responsibilities to focus primarily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And even that brief appears to be creating tensions between Kushner and Kelly. According to two people close to the White House, Kelly was said to be displeased with the result of Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia last month because it took place just days before 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrested 11 Saudi royals, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Washington Post reported that Kushner and M.B.S., as the prince is known, stayed up till nearly 4 a.m. 'planning strategy,' which left Kelly to deal with the impression that the administration had advance knowledge of the purge and even helped orchestrate it, sources told me."

Jason Szep & Matt Spetalnick of Reuters: "A group of about a dozen U.S. State Department officials have taken the unusual step of formally accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of violating a federal law designed to stop foreign militaries from enlisting child soldiers, according to internal government documents reviewed by Reuters. A confidential State Department 'dissent' memo not previously reported said Tillerson breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a U.S. list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries.... Keeping the countries off the annual list makes it easier to provide them with U.S. military assistance. Iraq and Afghanistan are close allies in the fight against Islamist militants, while Myanmar is an emerging ally to offset China’s influence in Southeast Asia." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Gary Cohn wants to save morons from the estate tax. Spirit of the season, Gary; you're a great guy. New York Times Editors reprise some of the lies & fake rationales Republicans are pushing to eliminate the estate tax on the top 0.02 percent of Americans. Mrs. Mc. C: BTW, the No. 1 moron Cohn is sparing is his boss (and needy little heirs). (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "Federal agents are planning to conduct a major worksite enforcement operation at a national food service chain in the coming weeks, according to an internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) document reviewed by The Daily Beast. The current plan is focused on employers who exploit undocumented workers by illegally paying them below the minimum wage. The operation will target locations around the country and will likely result in charges of 'harboring illegal aliens,' according to an ICE official." --safari

David Dayen of The Intercept: "As soon as Richard Cordray, the current director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, officially resigns — which could happen as soon as this week — we are told President Donald Trump will choose Mick Mulvaney, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, to run the CFPB on a temporary basis.... It would be a GOP dream come true. Mulvaney ... once called CFPB a 'sad, sick joke.'... There’s only one problem: it’s not Trump’s pick to make.... In the event of the absence of a director for the agency, the deputy director serves that role.... [I]t doesn’t require Senate confirmation. This would mean David Silberman..., a former AFL-CIO deputy general counsel and a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall who has worked at the CFPB since 2011." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I gather it works like this: The director names a deputy director who takes over & names a deputy director, & so on. However, as Dayen points out, there is no deputy director now; Silberman is an acting deputy director. In any event, Dayen also foresees "a titanic legal battle" between the White House & the agency over the naming of a new director.

Cecilia Kang of the New York Times: "The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. Those limits are central to the concept called net neutrality. The action immediately reignited a loud and furious fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom giants like AT&T against internet giants like Google and Amazon, who warn against powerful telecom gatekeepers." ...

... Margaret McGill of Politico: "The Obama administration’s net neutrality rules met their all-but-certain demise Tuesday as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outlined a plan to repeal them — while making sure states can't impose their own regulations to fill the void.... Blocking states from acting unilaterally would help cement that victory in a policy dispute that has whipsawed for years as the White House changed hands and courts took up the issue.... Proponents of the current rules question whether the FCC has the authority to block states from issuing their own rules, especially when the agency is paring back its oversight over internet service providers in the order." ...

... Adi Robertson of the Verge: "New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed today that his office has been investigating a flood of spam FCC comments that impersonated real people.... In an open letter addressing FCC chairman Ajit Pai, Schneiderman writes that his office has spent six months investigating who submitted hundreds of thousands of identical anti-net neutrality comments under the names and addresses of unwitting Americans. But he says that the FCC has ignored multiple requests for logs and records, offering 'no substantive response.'... Public comments played a huge role in helping pass strong net neutrality rules in 2015, but this time around, the process was a mess. Many comments were made under assumed names or disposable email addresses, and the system briefly crashed in early May, when the FCC claimed it had been hit with a denial-of-service attack.” ...

... David Coldewey of TechCrunch: "For someone who claims to be working for the American people, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sure doesn’t seem to care what they have to say. In his announcement today that the Commission would vote whether to roll back net neutrality rules on December 15, he made no mention of the inconvenient and embarrassing fact that his proposal had attracted historic attention, garnering over 22 million comments — the majority of which opposed it. The statement mentions benefiting or protecting consumers five times.... Yet those very same consumers wrote the Chairman by the millions to say that they felt the existing rules protect them very well and that to remove them would be detrimental to their safety and privacy."

** Mark Stern of Slate: "Another federal judge has concluded that ... Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military service is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, a George H.W. Bush appointee, blocked the entirety of Trump’s order on Tuesday in a trenchant opinion that pilloried the president for his 'capricious' attempt to 'degrade' American service members on account of their gender identity. LGBTQ advocates could not have hoped for a better decision.... Garbis recognized judicial deference is typically 'owed to military personnel decisions.' But he declined to apply that deference here in light of the fact that the president tweeted the ban with no 'policy review' or 'evidence demonstrating' that it “was necessary for any legitimate national interest.” Instead, Garbis agreed with Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who blocked the ban in October, that 'the decision to exclude transgender individuals was not driven by genuine concerns regarding military efficacy.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What? You mean instantaneous "governance" by tweet is unacceptable? This could be the most important takeaway from Garbis's decision: that a president cannot instantly turn his politically-motivated whims into federal policy. For a president who is too impulsive to wait for "process," Garbis's smackdown must be infuriating.

Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "Three military personnel have been reassigned from their White House jobs amid allegations that they had improper contact with foreign women while traveling with President Trump on his recent trip to Asia, according to officials familiar with the situation. The service members worked for the White House Communications Agency, a specialized military unit that helps provide the president, vice president, Secret Service and other officials with secure communications. The military is scrutinizing three Army noncommissioned officers who allegedly broke curfew during Trump’s trip to Vietnam this month, officials said."

Today in Sexual Harassment News:

 Yamiche Alcindor, et al., of the New York Times: "Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, moved swiftly on Tuesday against the House’s longest serving lawmaker, calling for the House Ethics Committee to investigate sexual harassment charges against Representative John Conyers Jr., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Conyers, 88, who has represented parts of the Detroit area in the House since 1965, confirmed the settlement of a wrongful termination complaint in 2015 from a staff member who had accused him of sexual harassment. But he denied that the staff member was fired for refusing to have sex with him. The settlement was first reported by Buzzfeed News on Monday. Ms. Pelosi and senior Democrats on the Judiciary Committee offered little support, and the Ethics Committee said it had indeed opened an investigation." ...

... Paul McLeod & Lissandra Villa of BuzzFeed: "Another former staff member to Michigan Rep. John Conyers alleged that she endured persistent sexual harassment by the congressman, according to court documents. A former scheduler in the Conyers' office attempted to file a sealed lawsuit against him this February in the US District Court for the District of Columbia that alleges she suffered unwanted touching by the Democrat 'repeatedly and daily.' She abandoned the lawsuit the next month, after the court denied her motion to seal the complaint. The woman was not involved in the 2015 sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal complaint that Conyers settled in 2015, which was revealed Monday by BuzzFeed News, and is now under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. The lawsuit centered on behavior that took place later, from 2015 to 2016, but involves similar allegations." ...

... Say What? AP: "Longtime Michigan Rep. John Conyers on Tuesday denied settling a complaint in 2015 from a woman who alleged she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances.... Conyers, who answered the door at his Detroit home, told The Associated Press that he knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and learned of the story from television just hours earlier. 'I have been looking at these things in amazement,' he said, referring to allegations of sexual harassment and assault being made against politicians and others." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Um, this won't be the end of the story. BTW, Conyers didn't deny the allegations; he denied knowledge that anyone had made a claim. ...

... Editors of the Detroit Free Press call for Conyer's resignation. ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Journalism can make for strange bedfellows. Case in point: BuzzFeed and Mike Cernovich. Cernovich — a controversial far-right figure who has promoted blatantly false conspiracy theories, such as the discredited 'Pizzagate' hoax — was the source of a big BuzzFeed scoop Monday night.... The agreement between Cernovich and BuzzFeed appears to have come with a hidden facet: Cernovich acquired the congressional documents after offering to pay $10,000 for them.... Cernovich declined Tuesday to say whether he actually paid anyone; he also said he didn’t know whether BuzzFeed knew about his offer. BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith said Tuesday he was not aware of the offer. A BuzzFeed spokesman said the site 'would never pay for information.'...”

Christie D'Zurilla of the Los Angeles Times: "Saying they 'feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken,' 36 women affiliated with 'Saturday Night Live' during the now-senator's 20 years on the show have signed a letter countering sexual harassment allegations recently leveled against the Minnesota Democrat. Signatories included original 'SNL' cast members Laraine Newman and Jane Curtin, along with 34 women who worked on the show behind the scenes between 1975 and the present. Franken was a writer and performer on the NBC sketch comedy show primarily from 1975 to 1995. 'What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize ...,' the letter said. However, it continued, 'after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each one of us with the utmost respect and regard.'" ..

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: At this point, it appears that the horrific allegations against John Conyers may help Franken keep his seat. So far, when compared with Conyers' apparent pattern of harassment & abuse, the stories about Franken are beginning to look more like really bad manners.

Senate Race

Brad Reed of RawStory: "A retired Alabama police officer told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday that she had to keep an eye on Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore in the 1980s at local high school football games because he would regularly harass the team’s teenage cheerleaders. Faye Gary, who for 37 years was an officer at the Gadsden Police Department, explained to Mitchell that Moore’s reputation for pursuing underage girls was widely known throughout the community." --safari


Patrick Coolican & Jennifer Bjorhus
of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "A pair of Minnesota state lawmakers — one a DFL senator, the other a Republican representative — announced Tuesday that they will resign from office in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. Word of the resignations of Sen. Dan Schoen and Rep. Tony Cornish came within two hours of each other, capping a stunning sequence of events that vividly demonstrated a new awareness of what many insiders say has been a long-standing tolerance of mistreatment of women working at Minnesota’s Capitol. Both men had been under pressure from leaders of their parties to resign. But in leaving, the two legislators, both with law enforcement backgrounds, struck sharply different tones. Cornish, an eight-term representative from southern Minnesota’s Vernon Center, issued an apologetic statement and agreed to pay the legal bills of Sarah Walker, a lobbyist he had repeatedly propositioned for sex.... Schoen continued to deny wrongdoing. The St. Paul Park resident served two House terms starting in 2013 and joined the Senate at the beginning of this year. His lawyer, Paul Rogosheske, said Schoen felt he had little choice but to resign, adding that they plan to release information Wednesday that would demonstrate Schoen’s innocence."

So Long, Charlie. John Koblin & Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "CBS fired Charlie Rose on Tuesday, a day after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. Not long afterward, PBS canceled distribution of his self-titled nightly interview program. David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, told staff members in an internal email that Mr. Rose, a host of 'CBS This Morning' and a '60 Minutes' correspondent, had been let go after allegations were raised 'of extremely disturbing and intolerable behavior said to have revolved around his PBS program.' PBS, which had been the longtime home of 'Charlie Rose,' released a statement 70 minutes after CBS cut ties with the host. 'In light of yesterday’s revelations, PBS has terminated its relationship with Charlie Rose and canceled distribution of his programs,' the nonprofit broadcaster said in its statement. 'PBS expects all the producers we work with to provide a workplace where people feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect.'” ...

... Daily Beast: "Three CBS News employees have come forward accusing Charlie Rose of sexual misconduct."

Brooks Barnes of the New York Times: "One of the Walt Disney Company’s most important executives, the Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, said Tuesday that he would take 'a six-month sabbatical' after unspecified 'missteps' that made some staffers feel 'disrespected or uncomfortable.' Mr. Lasseter, 60, made the announcement in a lengthy email sent to employees at Disney’s animation division, which he leads as chief creative officer.... Shortly after Mr. Lasseter’s announcement, The Hollywood Reporter published an article that cited 'grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes' as recurring behavior by Mr. Lasseter.”

Natasha Lennard of The Intercept: "A national conversation about structurally enabled sexual violence in this country needs to address prisons and detention centers. According to a 2012 Justice Department report, an estimated 200,000-plus people are sexually abused in U.S. detention centers every year...." --safari


Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Eric Newcomer
of Bloomberg: "Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers. Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers was accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken, Uber said."

Noor Al-Sibai of RawStory: "After discovering that Richard Spencer and his National Policy Institute were hosting an event at their farm venue over the weekend, the owners of Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, Maryland kicked the white nationalists out in the middle of their booking." --safari

Juan Cole: "China will have installed 54 gigawatts of new solar energy by the end of 2017, instead of the 15 gigawatts forecast last January or the 30 gigawatts forecast as late as last June. As of last June, the US installed solar capacity was only 47 gigawatts, accounting for less than 2% of American electricity generation. That is, China is putting in more solar energy in 2017 than has ever been installed in the whole history of the United States.... Not only is the sheer amount of solar power generation increasing at blinding speed but the cost is plummeting in unrigged markets, as well. Mexico just accepted bids of 1.77 cents per kilowatt hour.... In most states in the US it would now cost you 8 cents to 22 cents, if the electricity were generated by coal and natural gas." --safari

Jessica Brown of the Guardian: "[T]he battle against sugar might have begun sooner if the industry hadn’t kept secrets to protect its commercial interests, according to new findings. In 1967, when scientists were arguing over the link between sugar consumption and increased risk of heart disease, researchers now claim that the International Sugar Research Foundation (ISRF) withheld findings that rats that were fed a high-sugar diet had higher levels of triglycerides (a fat found in the blood) than those fed starch...The researchers conclude that the debates we now have on sugar’s effects on our health are potentially rooted in six decades of the sugar industry’s manipulation of scientific evidence." --safari

Beyond the Beltway

Frances Robles of the New York Times: "With less than half the power on Puerto Rico restored two months after a deadly hurricane hit the island, the company hired to help bring back the electricity is 'standing down,' it said, because it is owed tens of millions of dollars for weeks of work. Whitefish Energy Holdings had already been fired last month by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority after widespread criticism and multiple investigations of a $300 million contract it received to help repair the island’s power grid. Even with the cancellation of the contentious contract, the company and its 500 workers were supposed to stay on the job until the end of the month. Puerto Rico’s bankrupt electric company, known as Prepa, is behind in its payments and Whitefish cannot continue fronting the cash needed to hire subcontracted workers, Whitefish said. Dozens of line workers from Florida have already begun heading home, because the utilities they work for are nervous about payment, the company said in a letter to Prepa. It added that it hoped to resume work once the payment issue was resolved."

Tom Boggioni of RawStory: "Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has chosen an official charged with obstruction of justice in the Flint water crisis to head up the state’s Public Health Advisory Council. According to WUOM-FM, Snyder selected Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Well[s], to head up the agency tasked with anticipating and preparing  and responding to public health crises. Wells was expected to appear in court on Tuesday on charges of obstruction of justice and lying to an officer in connection to the Flint water crisis, with threat of manslaughter charges looming due to the deaths of Flint residents according to prosecutors.... Snyder’s office defended the controversial appointment, issuing a statement reading, 'Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.'"--safari

WWJGrab? Tom Boggioni of RawStory: "An LDS church in Berkeley County, West Virginia has been hit with a massive lawsuit for knowingly allowing a pedophile to serve as a youth leader despite accusations of child molestation dating back to 2007. According to Fox13, Michael Jensen was sentenced to 35 to 75 years in prison in 2013 for first-degree sexual assault, after he was convicted of abusing minors, including one as young a[s] 4-years-old. Now twelve plaintiffs — identified in court documents as 'John and Jane Doe' — are suing the church and church officials, including Jensen’s parent, after it was revealed they allowed the man to oversee children despite knowing about complaints." --safari

Way Beyond

Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, resigned as president on Tuesday shortly after lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against him, according to the speaker of Parliament. The speaker of Parliament read out a letter in which Mr. Mugabe said he was stepping down 'with immediate effect' for 'the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the need for a peaceful transfer of power.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Shaun Walker & Hannah Devlin of the Guardian: "A secretive Russian nuclear facility has denied it was behind high atmospheric concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106, after Russia’s meteorological service confirmed levels several hundred times the norm were found in several locations in the country during tests in late September.... Russia’s nuclear agency had denied European reports of increased ruthenium-106 levels.... Nuclear experts also said there was no evidence to suggest the leak posed a significant hazard to human health or the environment." --safari