The Ledes

Monday, November 20, 2017.

New York Times: "The Argentine Navy disclosed on Monday that the crew of a missing submarine had been ordered to return to its home port on Wednesday after reporting a battery failure. The revelation was the first official confirmation that the Navy had known since Wednesday — when the submarine vanished — that the vessel was contending with equipment malfunction and might have the lost the ability to propel itself.... A multinational effort is underway to try to locate the submarine and its 44-member crew, amid mystery about what happened to the vessel.... The disclosure about mechanical failure is likely to add to fears that the crew has been lost."

New York Times:"Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series 'Touched by an Angel' and became an ordained minister in real life, died on Sunday night at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 86."

New York Times: "Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century..., died on Sunday in Kern County, Calif. He was 83 and had been behind bars for most of his life."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, November 19, 2017.

Tennessean: "Country Music Hall of Famer, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and Grand Ole Opry member Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida...."

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

Sunday
Nov192017

The Commentariat -- November 20, 2017

Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "President Trump called elephant hunting a 'horror show' Sunday and strongly suggested he will permanently block imports of elephant trophies from two African nations despite his administration’s earlier approval of the practice. Following strong bipartisan criticism of the administration’s decision to allow imports of trophy carcasses, a practice was halted under the Obama administration, Trump had moved Friday to put the imports on hold.... Trump wrote [on Twitter] that he would be 'very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.'” ...

     ... Mrs Bea McCrabbie: You can't fool me. Trump doesn't care about anything or anybody who isn't named Donald J. Trump Senior, so why he is suddenly so into saving the elephants? Because he wants to punish Junior, the Great White Hunter, for royally screwing up the Russia thing: "That's the last time you get near an elephant's ass, Kid, unless I push your head up one at the zoo."

Donald Trump Is Still a Self-Absorbed, Whiney Prick. Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times: "A day after LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of the basketball players LiAngelo and Lonzo Ball, played down President Trump’s involvement in getting LiAngelo safely out of China without any criminal charges, the president fired back on Twitter.... 'Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!'... Later in the day, Trump doubled down on his claim that LaVar Ball was ungrateful for his son’s release: 'Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!'" ...

... AND since every day is Pick on Black People Day at the Trump House.... Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump singled out Oakland Raiders football player Marshawn Lynch Monday morning, suggesting that the running back had shown 'great disrespect' by *sitting* for the U.S. national anthem and standing for the Mexican one before his team’s game on Sunday, played in Mexico City.... Lynch has not publicly explained his anthem protests, but did arrive at a road game in Denver last month wearing an 'everybody vs. Trump' t-shirt."

Donald Trump Is Still Donald Trump. Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post: Members of the White House staff who aren't completely crazy can't figure out how to explain why Trump has mocked Al Franken for a relatively minor sexual attack but won't say anything about Roy Moore's allegedly preying on teenaged girls.


** Mike Levine
of ABC News: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team [is] investigating whether ... Donald Trump sought to obstruct a federal inquiry into connections between his presidential campaign and Russian operatives has now directed the Justice Department to turn over a broad array of documents, ABC News has learned. In particular, Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter, according to a source who has not seen the specific request but was told about it. Issued within the past month, the directive marks the special counsel's first records request to the Justice Department, and it means Mueller is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation.... Mueller's investigators now seek not only communications between Justice Department officials themselves, but also any communications with White House counterparts, the source said.... The latest move suggests the Special Counsel is still actively digging into, among other matters, whether Trump or any other administration official improperly tried to influence an ongoing investigation."


The Best People. Esme Cribb of TPM: "Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin on Sunday said he 'didn’t realize' photographs of himself and his wife, actress Louise Linton, holding a sheet of the first $1 bills to bear Mnuchin’s signature, would be posted online." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The photographer works for the AP, which, you know, takes photos for, um, publication. Contrary to your belief, Mr. Secretary, press photographers do not show up to take pictures for "Steve & Louise's Excellent Family Scrapbook." The photographer, Jacquelyn Martin, was surprised by just about everything Munchkin, et ux., did. Apparently she was unaware of just how egocentric & clueless these geniuses were....

... Lois Beckett of the Guardian: "As Republicans push for legislation that would cut taxes for the rich while increasing taxes on lower-income Americans, Trump’s treasury secretary [Steve Mnuchin] said he was flattered to be compared to a James Bond villain.... 'I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie,' the treasury secretary told Fox News on Sunday." --safari

Family Values! Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast: "[T]he first family is far from the only group of relatives staffing the Trump administration. A Daily Beast examination of public records reveals that there are at least 20 families, joined by either blood or marriage, in which multiple members hold some federal post or appointment. They include the families of some of Trump’s most prominent campaign supporters and agency officials, including one cabinet officer. The posts range from senior White House staff to more ceremonial and advisory positions." --safari: If you look closely at the picture, does Eric not have a giant booger peeking out of his nose??? Poor Eric!

There's Always More to the Story. Caroline Orr of Shareblue: "Former Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Ralph Shortey, who also served as the Trump’s campaign chair in the state, agreed this week to plead guilty to child sex trafficking charges after getting caught earlier this year offering to pay a teenage boy for sex. According to The Oklahoman, Shortey was found in a hotel room with a teenage boy on March 9. A subsequent investigation by local and federal officials revealed a series of text messages in which Shortey offered to pay the teen in exchange for 'sexual stuff.'” In February, Shortey introduced a bill in the state legislature to punish "sanctuary cities," partly because he was concerned about immigrants who engaged in sex trafficking. “There’s a trail of death from Honduras to the United States of America, and the families are giving their children and others over to coyotes and to human traffickers,” Shortey argued. Emphasis added. ...

     ... Mrs. McC: What with his being an admitted sex offender, it could be that Shortey isn't getting one of those jobs Trump has been handing out to "all the best people" -- who worked on his campaign. Well, at least till Shortey gets out on parole.

Ellie Smith of ABC News: "'I want to see changes in that [Senate tax] bill, and I think there will be changes,' Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on 'This Week' Sunday. She said one problem with the bill is the inclusion of a provision that would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most people must have health insurance or face a penalty. Collins called that repeal provision 'the biggest mistake' in the Senate's tax bill. 'I hope it will be dropped,' she said." ...

... Mulvaney Claims He Will Oblige the Lady of Maine. Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the administration wants to repeal part of Obamacare in Congress’ tax bill but is 'OK with taking it out' if 'it becomes an impediment.... Donald Trump has called for Congress to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate in its tax bill. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that doing so would save the government $338 billion over a decade but result in 13 million more Americans being uninsured by 2027.”...

... Kate Zernike & Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: People who receive subsidies to help cover the cost of health insurance "complicate the argument of Senate Republicans who are counting on repeal of the so-called individual mandate to free up hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for an array of tax cuts to corporations and individuals. They are assuming that without a mandate, many people would no longer buy insurance, so the government would spend billions of dollars less on the subsidies the health law provides to help those under a certain income level pay their premiums. But polling data, analysis from a private forecasting agency and interviews with people who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces suggest the savings could be far less, largely because many people who qualify for the subsidies will still want to take advantage of them.... Nearly 60 percent of people who buy their own insurance receive subsidies...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In other words, Trump & Senate Republicans have dreamed up a lose-lose-lose situation. The cost of insurance will skyrocket as healthier people, who don't think they need insurance, will drop it, leaving the pool of insureds sicker. But the federal cost of paying out the subsidies also will skyrocket, because the higher costs of insurance will make more people eligible for the subsidies. In addition, people who suddenly get sick people will have to wait to sign up for insurance, so they'll be sicker by the time they get to the doctor. And let's not forget that the more unhealthy Americans are, the worse-off the economy. People who have jobs can't get to work regularly, so productivity will drop, lowering profits. Many usinesses will have to shell out sick pay for non-working employees. People who don't get sick pay won't be able to buy as much stuff. That is, we'll have lower demand, so, necessarily, less supply. And GDP goes south. Idiots!

... Eric Levitz of New York: "The Trump tax cuts are zipping through Congress at the legislative version of light speed.... Tax policy is about a lot more than generating revenue. Every tax code rewards certain kinds of economic activity and disincentives others. In the United States, we are especially reliant on tax incentives for shaping our industrial policy and providing social welfare. The tax bills sprinting through the House and Senate would restructure these incentives, in ways that the public scarcely appreciates, and that even experts need more time to fully understand.... Here’s a rundown of ten consequences those cuts could have for our economy" --safari ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York: "In such a compressed period of time, they couldn’t avoid opening up enormous opportunities for gaming and arbitrage even if they wanted to. And there’s little reason to believe they want to, with their plan essentially having been created by and for the business lobby. The tax code is imperfect now. Once the Republicans get through with it, it will be in desperate need of reform." Read on. --safari...

... Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "... Mick Mulvaney told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that the president 'is not going to sign a bill that raises taxes on the middle class, period.' Unfortunately for Mulvaney, both the House and Senate tax bills would do just that, but he’s now trying to spin millions of people losing their health insurance as them getting a tax break." --safari ...

... AND Ivanka Trump Is Not an Economist

We spend less than any country in the developed world on children between the ages of zero and 5. It’s just a fact, we don’t invest enough resources. — Ivanka Trump, remarks during an interview with Tucker Carlson, November 6

Trump uses the factoid to advocate for the GOP tax plan, which she says would help middle-income families pay the high cost of child care.... Trump pulled her talking point from an Obama-era CEA white paper advocating for expanding pre-kindergarten programs. And even though the white paper found that the United States spends less than almost every OECD country on early-childhood education, the proposed tax cuts wouldn’t boost the United States’ rank. And more important, the tax cuts Trump cites could increase taxes on 40 percent of families with children.... The missing context helps to explain why she stumbled through the talking point in her interview. -- Nicole Lewis of the Washington Post 

Esme Cribb: "Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has no plans to resign after a radio host accused him of forcibly kissing and groping her years ago, according to a spokesperson. 'No,' a spokesperson for Franken told the Star Tribune on Saturday. 'He is spending time with his family in Washington, D.C., and will be through the Thanksgiving holiday.'”

Liz Mair in The Daily Beast: "For at least two years now, Western politics has been rocked by attempt after attempt to bring down the establishment and put outsiders of diverse and frequently conflicting political philosophies in charge of government. Those movements have largely failed.... The establishment still reigns, even if the names and faces have been shuffled a bit. But it may well be wiped out thanks to sexually harassing, threatening, assaulting, and predatory behavior it has too long tolerated, and which is now being exposed, ending careers, threatening some members with potential criminal records, and more." --safari

Senate Race

Jones Stands Alone. Jess Bidgood of the New York Times: "... the Democratic candidate [for the Senate special election in Alambama, Doug] Jones, is a respected former prosecutor best known for convicting two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, who was raising the possibility of a truly competitive race even before the accusations against Mr. Moore. But opportunity has knocked on the door of a Democratic operation with the lights out. With a fairly anemic state party, there is little existing infrastructure for routine campaign activities like phone banks or canvassing drives. National Democrats, while helping to pour in money, are taking pains to keep the race at arm’s length, figuring their presence could hurt rather than help Mr. Jones. There are no beloved statewide officeholders or popular party elders to rally the troops." ...

... The Editors of Al.com, which is produced by Alabama's major newspapers, endorse Democrat Doug Jones for Senate. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Brian Stelter of CNN: "The Alabama Media Group stripped the editorial across its Sunday front pages. The unusual step comes 10 days after misconduct allegations first surfaced against [Roy] Moore, the Republican nominee for the state's Senate seat. The editorial doubles as an endorsement of Moore's opponent, Democrat Doug Jones. It appears in The Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and The Huntsville Times and it is prominently featured on the papers' shared website AL.com." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Roy "Moore’s camp has twice threatened the Alabama Media Group, home to AL.com, according to a letter from a lawyer for the company. 'You have accused AL.com of making "false reports and/or careless reporting" about multiple subjects related to your clients,' reads the letter from John Thompson of Lightfoot Franklin White LLC. 'Your letter demands that AL.com retract and recant its prior stories and that it "cease and desist" from any further reporting about your clients,' reads the letter. 'AL.com hereby rejects your demand,' it continues.... The letter states, 'You have not explained how anything that AL.com has reported is untrue, inaccurate or erroneous, nor do you provide any support for your position.'... Not content to merely play defense against the threats from Moore, the AMG letter notes that litigation from the Senate candidate would 'also reveal other important information about your clients.'”


Not Good. Lois Beckett
 of the Guardian: "Resistance to a ban on military-style assault weapons is strongest among millennials, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released this week. It’s a finding that experts said might be driven by the popularity of first-person shooter video games such as Call of Duty and the increasing prominence of military-style guns in the consumer market. A large majority of Americans say they support a ban on the sale of assault weapons." --safari ...

... John Naughton in the Guardian argues that it is the tech elites' ignorance more than their crass materialism that has led them to create such a giant mess: "Now mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated. They have had no exposure to the humanities or the social sciences, the academic disciplines that aim to provide some understanding of how society works, of history and of the roles that beliefs, philosophies, laws, norms, religion and customs play in the evolution of human culture. We are now beginning to see the consequences of the dominance of this half-educated elite." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'll have to add that their tremendous success has made these masters of the universe remarkably arrogant. They don't think anyone whom they deem less successful can tell them anything. When President Obama (whom many people would say has been mighty successful) warned Mark Zuckerberg of the consequences of Facebook's spreading fake news, Zuckerberg blew off Obama; in fact, he told the president his warning was "crazy."

** Timothy Shenk of the New Republic: Political scientists Karen Orren & Stephen Skowronek argue that the Framers did not have in mind the kind of government that Barack Obama envisioned: one that "gets stuff done." "As Antonin Scalia observed with characteristic snark, the Constitution 'contains no whatever-it-takes-to-solve-a-national-problem power.'”

Beyond the Beltway

Alexia Fernández Campbell of Vox: "The head of Puerto Rico's public utility company [Ricardo Ramos] , PREPA, resigned Friday afternoon following a series of blunders in the effort to restore Puerto Rico’s power grid...As of Friday, less than half of the island had power.... The ongoing lack of power is the central factor in the $20 billion to $40 billion in economic losses the island has sustained since the storm.... Chief among PREPA's gaffes is the $300 million contract it signed with Whitefish Energy, a tiny Montana company that was hardly equipped to rebuild Puerto Rico's fragile power grid.... A House committee released the results of its investigation [of the contract] on Monday, and the conclusions were harsh. PREPA was 'inept' and 'dysfunctional.'... The Whitefish deal seriously damaged the credibility of Puerto Rico's government in the eyes of Congress and the American public." --safari

Way Beyond

Jeffrey Moyo of the New York Times: "Robert Mugabe, 93, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron grip until the military placed him under house arrest last week, stunned the nation on Sunday night by refusing to say whether he would resign. Many political observers and fellow Zimbabweans had been expecting Mr. Mugabe to step down as president after nearly 40 years in power. But the embattled president gave a 20-minute televised speech that acknowledged problems in the nation — and he vowed to soldier on."...

... Sly Bob. Jason Burke Emma Graham-Harrison of the Guardian: "Zimbabwe’s powerful war veterans have claimed that Robert Mugabe swapped speeches to avoid resigning during a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, as they repeated their call for him to go.... His rambling address on Sunday offered no substantial concessions to his critics, the tens of thousands who have marched calling for his resignation, or the army commanders who led the military takeover last week.... Amid the continuing confusion, CNN reported on Monday that Mugabe has agreed to stand down and has drafted a resignation letter, citing a source familiar with his negotiations with the military. Under the terms of the deal, Mugabe and his wife, Grace, would be granted full immunity, CNN said." --safari

Philip Oltermann of the Guardian: "Exploratory talks to form Germany’s next coalition government collapsed shortly before midnight on Sunday when the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) walked out of marathon negotiations.... [T]he four parties involved missed several self-prescribed deadlines to resolve differences on migration and energy policy.... The euro slid in Asian trade overnight thanks to the uncertainty in Europe’s powerhouse nation." --safari

Gated Countries. Rupert Neate of the Guardian: "Construction has begun on a $2bn (£1.5bn) scheme to reclaim land from the sea around Monaco so that more luxury apartments can be built for the thousands of extra millionaires expected to move to the principality in the next 10 years. Nearly 35 in every 100 Monaco residents are millionaires and more of the global super-rich want to join them. Around 2,700 more are expected to call Monaco home by 2026, according to research by estate agent Knight Frank, taking the total to 16,100 out of a total population of under 38,000." --safari

Sunday
Nov192017

The Commentariat -- November 19, 2017

Afternoon Update:

The Editors of Al.com, which is produced by Alabama's major newspapers, endorse Democrat Doug Jones for Senate. ...

... Brian Stelter of CNN: "The Alabama Media Group stripped the editorial across its Sunday front pages. The unusual step comes 10 days after misconduct allegations first surfaced against Moore, the Republican nominee for the state's Senate seat. The editorial doubles as an endorsement of Moore's opponent, Democrat Doug Jones. It appears in The Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and The Huntsville Times and it is prominently featured on the papers' shared website AL.com."

Jason Burke & Emma Graham-Harrison of the Guardian: "Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, is facing the end of his 37-year rule, as he prepares to address the nation after his party sacked him as its leader and told him to resign as head of state. Expectation was mounting that he would resign on Sunday night after Zimbabwean state TV said he would 'address the nation live from State House'. In an extraordinary meeting in Harare, the capital, on Sunday morning more than 200 Zanu-PF leaders voted to sack Mugabe as the party’s leader and demanded that the 93-year-old 'resign forthwith from his position as head of state' or face impeachment."

*****

Steve M.: "We're now living in an era of post-popularity democracy. Republicans simply believe, with good reason, that they don't need popular proposals in order to retain power. They believe they can survive extraordinarily unpopular proposals [like their current tax bill], because gerrymandering, vote suppression, disciplined propaganda efforts by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media, and massive amounts of money from the plutocrats who like what they propose will get them through.... Republican voters will put up with anything from their party's elected officials as long as those officials make clear that they're defying the wishes of the hated Democrats." --safari

Juliet Eilperin & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "A combination of public and private pressure prompted President Trump to overturn his administration’s recent move to allow elephants shot for sport in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported back to the United States as trophies, according to interviews with several individuals briefed on the decision. Trump’s announcement Friday that he was putting the decision 'on hold' until he could personally review it marked animal welfare activists’ first federal victory since the president took office in January, and came just hours after the White House press secretary had defended the idea of renewing the controversial trophy imports.... Political appointees at Interior did press for [lifting the ban on importing trophy elephant remains], which is a top priority for hunting industry allies of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.... A similar change affecting African lion trophies had gone mostly unnoticed since it took effect last month, and it is not clear whether Trump was aware of that earlier decision.... It is unclear who will conduct the review of the import decision, since Trump vowed on Twitter to do it himself, and whether lion trophy imports will also face fresh scrutiny."

Kathryn Watson of CBS News: "The top U.S. nuclear commander said Saturday he would push back against President Trump if he ordered a nuclear launch the general believed to be 'illegal,' saying he would look to find another solution. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday that he has given a lot of thought to what he would say if a president ordered a strike he considered unlawful.... Hyten said he has been trained every year for decades in the law of armed conflict, which takes into account specific factors to determine legality -- necessity, distinction, proportionality, unnecessary suffering and more. Running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order is standard practice, he said." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: We'll have to wait to see what better-informed analysts than I have to say about this, but right now U.S. law gives the president the final say or whether or not to launch a nuclear strike. Hyten seems to be suggesting he has the final say -- based on a document that describes itself not as definitive law or even as the "official" Army position but as a "teaching document." On its face, Hyten's description of the scenario in which he would "school" the president on the law & the president would demur sounds ridiculous. It seems to me that if this President -- or any president -- told the nuclear commander to launch a strike & the commander declined, the POTUS could relieve him of his command & go down the line (Saturday-night-massacre style) until he found an officer who would comply with the presidential order. In any even, Hyten's claim does not make me feel all better about the what the Crazy Guy in the White House might do to "start World War III," as Bob Corker worries.

The Daily Beast: "President Trump’s aides and advisers have made a habit of showing him only positive polls to cheer him up, Politico reports. Aides and advisers cited in the report said they show him polls 'designed to make him feel good,' usually those that focus solely on his base.... Several senior aides and advisers said the Trump administration only becomes concerned when support slips in his base." --safari


Jeremy Herb & Evan Perez
of CNN: "The attorney for Jared Kushner ... is pushing back against the Senate Judiciary Committee after the panel accused Kushner of not disclosing key documents.... Attorney Abbe Lowell wrote that there were no 'missing documents' as the committee has alleged, while criticizing the panel's leaders for going to the media on Thursday with their accusations.... Lowell went point-by-point through the panel's letter to argue that Kushner was being forthcoming with the documents that had been turned over." ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "Either Jared Kushner is trying to hide something, or his memory is very poor for a 36-year-old. On Friday, the New York Times and NBC News reported that the 'Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite' Kushner failed to disclose to Senate investigators involved a banker with close ties to Vladimir Putin.... Kushner’s failure to disclose the records is just the latest example of his consistent evasiveness on all things Russia-related.... As Mueller’s investigation begins to snare some Trump administration targets, Kushner continues to dissemble about which Russians he spoke to and when he spoke to them."

Trump's Russian Rendezvous? Tony Doris of the Palm Beach Post: "Days before President Trump flies into town for Thanksgiving, one of the world’s most expensive yachts, owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, sailed into the Port of Palm Beach Friday afternoon. The 533-foot Eclipse, valued at $400 million to $500 million, comes equipped with a pool, helipad, submarine and room for a crew of 92, according to marine websites.... According to the MarineTraffic app, she plans to head south on the Intracoastal Waterway, toward downtown West Palm Beach. Note to Transportation Security Administration: That would put a Russian submarine within a mile or so of the winter White House. Bloomberg Politics has reported that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner has met Abramovich one-on-one and with their wives on a number of occasions. No word on whether Abramovich, 51, said to be a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has met President Trump or will spend time with him during the stay."

Caroline Orr of Shareblue: "Despite repeated denials, it is now clear that the Trump campaign had extensive and prolonged contact with Russians, and that senior officials — including Corey Lewandowski and recently indicted Paul Manafort, two of the campaign’s three managers, as well as Trump’s son and son-in-law — were aware of it. According to a count by the Washington Post, Trump campaign officials interacted with Russians at least 31 times throughout the campaign, including at least 19 known meetings. These contacts involve at least nine members of the Trump campaign — at least, that’s how many have been made public. All of this occurred as Russia was also manipulating social media, paying U.S.-based activists, and weaponizing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in an effort to influence the 2016 election. 'The Russians were all over the Trump campaign,' wrote Adam Goldman, one of the authors of the latest New York Times piece [on Trump campaign contacts with "Alexander Torshin, a leading figure in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party who has been linked both to Russian intelligence services and organized crime.]. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Also yesterday, Ken Delanian of NBC News was reporting on MSNBC that Donald Trump, Jr., met with Torshin at an NRA dinner, after Kushner sent out a campaign memo saying Torshin's efforts should be squelched. According to Delanian, the White House (or Junior's attorney; I forget) said that Junior & Torshin were not sitting at the same table at the NRA meeting & the two just happened to stop & chat at some point during the event. Okay, then; everything's good. I cannot find a print version of Delanian's on-air reporting.


Tany Basu
of The Daily Beast: "Beyond making graduate education impossible for the foreseeable future should it pass, the new tax bill has the potential to stymie fundamental science research in labs. Here's how. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that passed the House by 227 Republican votes on Thursday repeals Section 1204 of the new bill, which, under the current tax code, offered an exemption for 'Interest Payment on Qualified Education Loans, Tuition & Related Expenses, Interest on United States Savings Bond, Qualified Tuition Reduction, and Employer-Provided Education Assistance.' In plain English, that means that tuition waivers were not considered taxable income and were therefore exempt. The proposed new tax code, however, views that waiver as taxable income." --safari ...

... AND here's how the GOP "tax reform" bill will also raise unemployment among well-educated young people. Jessica Silver-Greenberg, et al., of the New York Times: "... in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work. As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans. Going after professional licenses stands out as especially punitive. Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists and real estate brokers have all had their credentials suspended or revoked." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is pretty much like debtors' prison, which -- although it has been illegal in the U.S. since some time in the 1800s -- persists in municipalities that jail people who can't afford to pay fines (Ferguson, Mo., for instance). It's a Catch-22. Can't afford to pay off your education loans? Then you can't work in the field in which you're trained (and would probably pay you more than the crappy jobs you could get outside your area of expertise). Obviously, as the punitive GOP tax bill would make the cost of education appreciably higher, the number of grads who can't pay down their student loans will increase. Let's be clear: the GOP "tax reform" bill is an anti-jobs bill designed to hurt the best workers the most. ...

... The Hits Just Keep on Coming. Here's another winner in the "Worst Part of GOP 'Tax Reform'" contest: ...

... Washington Post Editors: "MONEYBALL POLITICS took a great leap forward when the Supreme Court opened the door to campaign contributions from corporations and unions in the 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC. Now the Republican-controlled House has passed a tax bill that, should it become law, would unleash another tidal wave of change. It would permit churches, charities and foundations to engage in candidate-specific politicking and enable donors to reap tax breaks for political contributions for the first time.... Churches and church-affiliated groups generally don’t even have to file IRS returns, so there will be no information about who these contributors are.... The churches, charities and foundations already enjoy the right to advocate for issues. There is no need to give these groups a new cash window and make them servants of special interests seeking to further warp the nation’s electoral politics."

Kathryn Watson: "Outspoken Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona was heard on a hot mic Saturday saying the Republican Party will be 'toast' if it is defined by figures like President Trump and Alabama Republican Roy Moore. Flake, whose comments were caught on a microphone of ABC local affiliate KNXV, was speaking with a friend at the time after finishing a town hall on tax reform. '[If we] become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast,' Flake is overheard saying to Mesa, Arizona, Mayor John Giles." ...

... Max Greenwood of the Hill: "Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Saturday declared there was 'no news here,' after reports surfaced of the Arizona Republican warning that the GOP will be 'toast' if it aligns itself with President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (R). 'No news here,' Flake tweeted. 'I've been saying this to anyone who will listen.'"

Senate Race

William Saletan of Slate: "... many of [Roy] Moore’s supporters ... believe that if you have the right principles, all other truth follows.... With God, and with a good man like Moore, there can be no error. This mentality, known in Christian scholarship as 'presuppositionalism,' sustains evangelical support for President Trump, according to Molly Worthen, a professor at the University of North Carolina.... People who think this way dismiss inconvenient facts.... Anyone who claims that Moore is innocent, or that it’s impossible to know who’s telling the truth, is up against a mountain of evidence." Saletan runs down the evidence, along with Moore's self-incriminating & falacious remarks.

Bob Brigham of RawStory: "A South Carolina preacher is continuing to support Republican senate nominee Roy Moore in Alabama, an apparent reversal of his previously claimed focus on wanting to protect children from sexual predators. Pastor Franklin Raddish of the Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries has dismissed recent allegations of powerful men as attacks that are part of a so-called 'war on men.' 'More women are sexual predators than men,' Rev. Raddish claimed. 'Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don’t hear about that because it’s not PC,' Rev. Raddish alleged." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sorry I haven't done much today. But I'm all tuckered out because I always spend Saturday nights chasing young boys up & down the road. (Medlar has a tendency to get aggravated about this, but as I've explained to him again & again, it's all good because on Sunday I go to Rev. Raddish's church & confess my sins, which of course washes them away.)


Daniel Politi
of Slate: Tony Perkins, "the head of the Family Research Council, allegedly kept quiet about claims that an Ohio Republican lawmaker assaulted a teenage boy in a hotel two years ago. Perkins was told that then-candidate for the Ohio legislature Wesley Goodman’s allegedly fondled a supporter’s son during a conference in Washington, according to the Washington Post.... The apparent actions by Goodman apparently didn’t come as a surprise to Perkins who referred to 'similar incidents' in a letter. Perkins called on Goodman to step down from the race, but he continued and eventually won a seat in the legislature in November. Goodman, now 33, resigned his seat earlier this week after state lawmakers learned about 'inappropriate behavior related to his state office,' according to Ohio’s House speaker. Goodman, who is married and repeatedly touted his faith and anti-LGBT views, was reportedly seen having sex with a man in his office."

Gubernatorial Race?

Max Greenwood of the Hill: "Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill apologized on Saturday for posting on Facebook a day earlier bragging about his sexual exploits. O'Neill, who is running for Ohio governor as a Democrat, received massive backlash Friday for detailing his sexual history with '50 very attractive females,' in response to mounting sexual misconduct allegations against prominent political figures.... [However, he qualified his apology.] 'If I offended anyone, particularly the wonderful women in my life, I apologize,' he wrote on Facebook Saturday. 'But if I have helped elevate the discussion on the serious issues of sexual assault, as opposed to personal indiscretions, to a new level...I make no apologies.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You think you've "elevated the discussion" in boasting about your "blondes" & "redheads"??? You were a pig on Friday & you're a pig today ... AND you're toast. Pulled pork on a hot bun, maybe, with a side of anus of oinker.


Katie Rogers & Sheryl Stolberg
of the New York Times: "A day after the latest in a dizzying series of sexual assault revelations enveloped Senator Al Franken and rattled the Capitol, politicians and comedians were left trying to assess the line between predatory behavior and an inexcusable mistake, as calls mounted for him to resign." The reports cites numerous former colleagues -- all women -- who said Franken was not sexually abusive. Mrs. McC: We might want to bear in mind, of course, that women at Fox "News" said the same thing about Roger Ailes., who definitely was a sexual predator. ...

... Mark Stern of Slate writes a compelling case for Al Franken's resignation from the Senate: "The hypocrisy of Franken’s reaction is galling. Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the senator wrote an impassioned Facebook post declaring that sexual harassment is 'appalling' and 'far too common.' He added that it 'takes a lot of courage to come forward, and we owe them our thanks.' Franken then praised Gretchen Carlson for writing about 'the disappointing responses women often face when they go public both embolden harassers and encourage victims to stay silent.' Now Franken has issued the exact kind of 'disappointing response' that Carlson bemoaned, attempting to dismiss the accusation against him as a botched joke that his victim misremembered."

Mark Townsend of the Guardian: "The Observer has gained access to a secret hitlist of almost 100 prominent individuals targeted by Harvey Weinstein in an extraordinary attempt to discover what they knew about sexual misconduct claims against him and whether they were intending to go public. The previously undisclosed list contains a total of 91 actors, publicists, producers, financiers and others working in the film industry.... The names, apparently drawn up by Weinstein himself, were distributed to a team hired by the film producer to suppress claims that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women." --safari ...

... Wherein Maureen Dowd argues that rampant sexual assault by powerful men like Harvey Weinstein is all the Clintons' fault.

The Source of Their Rage? Rank Hypocrisy. David Ferguson of RawStory: "The New York Times  Nicholas Kristof reported Saturday on the results of the annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which found that people living in so-called blue states have lower rates of teen pregnancy, divorce and prostitution than their counterparts in conservative states.... In a survey of 32 states, the states with the highest percentage of teens who are sexually active were Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas. As Kristof noted, 'All but Delaware voted Republican in the last presidential election.'... Of the 10 states with the highest teen birth rates, nine voted Republican in 2016. Of the 10 states with the lowest teen birth rates, nine voted Democratic.... Red state marriages are more likely to end in divorce, the survey found. Furthermore, rates of marital infidelity and prostitution are higher in conservative states." --safari ...

     ... Kristof's column is here. Among the reasons for the red state/blue state dichotomy Kristof reports: "When evangelical kids have sex, they’re less likely to use birth control — and that may be a reason (along with lower abortion rates) that red states have high teen birthrates.... [In blue states, parents] believe in comprehensive sex education and reliable birth control.... Statistical analysis suggests that religious conservatives end up divorcing partly because they marry early, are less likely to go to college and are disproportionately poor. So the deeper problem seems to be the political choices that conservatives make, underinvesting in public education and social services (including contraception). This underinvestment leaves red states poorer and less educated — and thus prone to a fraying of the social fabric." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This phenomenon has been evident for a long time. It's bad news for the Republican/libertarian view of social services. The fact is that liberal values, translated into programs that tend toward equalizing opportunities, have myriad social & economic benefits. Young people who have reasonable hopes of a sunny future are much more likely to take the precautions necessary to ensure that future. Most Reality Chex readers know that because, to some degree or another, that's what they did.

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Navy said a Japanese tugboat ;drifted into' a destroyer during a scheduled exercise Saturday, causing 'minimal damage' to the warship and no reported injuries. The USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, appears to have sustained scrapes on its side and remains at sea, according to the Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is based in Japan. The tugboat lost propulsion before drifting into the warship, the Navy said in a statement.... This incident occurred amid heightened scrutiny of the 7th Fleet in the wake of numerous embarrassing accidents, including two fatal collisions involving guided-missile destroyers.

Beyond the Beltway

Election Results. AP: "LaToya Cantrell, a City Council member who first gained a political following as she worked to help her hard-hit neighborhood recover from Hurricane Katrina, won a historic election Saturday that made her the first woman mayor of New Orleans. The Democrat will succeed term-limited fellow Democrat Mitch Landrieu as the city celebrates its 300th anniversary next year." ...

     ... The Times-Picayune story, written before most results were in, is here.

Max Greenwood: "A former Oklahoma state senator has pleaded guilty to a child sex trafficking charge, The Oklahoman reported Saturday. Former state Sen. Ralph Shortey, a Republican, had been accused of offering to pay a 17-year-old boy for 'sexual' stuff' earlier this year. Federal prosecutors will drop three additional child pornography charges against him in exchange for his guilty plea.... Child sex trafficking carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life in prison." --safari

Way Beyond

Puppets. Julian Borger in the Guardian: "The same patterns were apparent in the Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s shock victory, the surge of the Front National in France and the dramatic ascent of Five Star Movement in Italy, from the pet project of a comedian, Beppe Grillo, to the second most powerful force in Italy. In all cases, libertarians [Assange, Snowden, Farage] viscerally opposed to centralised power made common cause with a brutally autocratic state apparatus in Moscow, an American plutocrat with a deeply murky financial record, and the instinctively authoritarian far right. All in the name of disruption of government and liberal norms in western democracies. So why are the pioneering crusaders of total transparency and freedom of information lining up alongside the most powerful exponents of disinformation and disruption?" --safari

Friday
Nov172017

The Commentariat -- November 18, 2017

Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "The White House asked Congress on Friday for $44 billion in additional relief in response to this year’s devastating hurricanes, but facing rising budget deficits and pushing a tax cut that could cost $1.5 trillion, the administration also suggested that lawmakers make spending cuts to offset disaster costs. Republicans have been conspicuously quiet about the ballooning national debt as they press to enact deep tax cuts before the end of the year. The deficit for the 2017 fiscal year totaled $666 billion, an increase of $80 billion from the previous year. And spending continues to climb." Mrs. McC: Republicans are trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip, & if you're not Warren Buffett or Donald Trump, you're the turnip. ...

... How much Donald Trump knows about macroeconomics? Nothing: ...

... ** Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "President Trump has promised to cut federal taxes and reduce the nation’s trade deficit with the rest of world — two economic priorities that are in direct conflict with each other. A wide range of experts agree that cutting taxes is likely to increase the trade deficit.... In fact, a larger trade deficit is not a byproduct of the tax plan — it is the heart of the plan.... The connection between tax cuts and trade deficits is not controversial.... Republicans are proposing to reduce federal revenue through a $1.5 trillion tax cut without a commensurate reduction in federal spending. To pay for the tax cuts, the government will need to borrow more dollars, some of which will come from foreign investors. Foreigners will get those dollars by selling more goods and services to Americans, which will widen the trade gap.... One widely cited economic simulation, the Penn Wharton Budget Model, projects that the tax plan approved by the House on Thursday would increase the trade deficit by about $800 billion over 10 years. That would increase the annual trade deficit about 16 percent from its 2016 total of $502 billion." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: We could have a contest to see who can come up with the worst feature of the GOP tax bill. Trouble is, the contest would be like the ones they have in kindergarten -- everybody wins. ...

... Here's a Winner, with a BUT. Josh Delk of the Hill: "The latest version of the Senate Republican tax reform bill includes a break for companies that manage private jets. A measure in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would lower taxes on some of the payments made by owners of private aircraft to management companies that help maintain, store and staff those planes for owners. The language would exempt owners or leasers of private aircraft from paying taxes on certain costs related to the upkeep and maintenance of the jets, according to a description from the Joint Committee on Taxation." Uh-oh, looks as if Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) & Warren Buffett are behind this little scheme. Brown's spokesperson claims jet owners themselves don't actually get a break. Uh-huh.

... Joe Williams of Roll Call: "Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski suggested Thursday that her vote on the current version of the Senate GOP tax overhaul is contingent on the passing of a separate bill to stabilize the individual health insurance market. The tax legislation now includes a section to repeal the individual mandate in the 2010 health care law — a provision that opens up more than $300 billion in revenue — but could also threaten the viability of the overall law. The measure has caused some heartburn for moderate Republicans, particularly Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, two of the three senators who helped sink the GOP effort to repeal the health care law this summer." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Well, that's nice, but why don't Murkowski & Collins care about all the other crap that's in the bill? ...

... Steve Benen on the Sherrod Brown/Orrin Hatch dust-up (see yesterday's Commentariat): "... it’s hard not to wonder if Hatch’s outburst was the result of his genuine belief that Sherrod Brown’s argument is 'bullcrap' or if it was because the truth hurts. The Republican National Committee [Friday] morning highlighted the committee clash and said the GOP chairman 'set the record straight' – which, in reality, is the opposite of what actually happened.... As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent put it, the exchange 'perfectly captured the GOP’s whole handling of the tax debate – in all its dishonesty, misdirection and bottomless bad faith.'... Note, as part of diatribe, Hatch added, 'If we worked together, we could pull this country out of every mess it is in.' Hatch was in the process of pushing a partisan tax plan, written in secret, passed without so much as a meaningful hearing. Perhaps this was the wrong time to lecture committee members on the benefits of bipartisan cooperation.”


I'm Shocked, Shocked, to Find that Money-Laundering Is Going on Here. -- Ivanka Trump. Aggelos Petropoulos
[of Reuters?] & Richard Engel of NBC News: "An NBC News investigation into the Trump Ocean Club [in Panama City, Panama], in conjunction with Reuters, shows that the project was riddled with brokers, customers and investors who have been linked to drug trafficking and international crime. [Mauricio] Ceballos, who investigated the project, went as far as to call the skyscraper 'a vehicle for money laundering.'... Ceballos, who says he investigated transactions related to the Trump Ocean Club during his stint as an anti-corruption prosecutor in Panama, describes the building as a magnet for international organized crime, particularly from Russia.... The investigation revealed no indication that the Trump Organization or members of the Trump family engaged in any illegal activity, or knew of the criminal backgrounds of some of the project’s associates. But [Alexandre] Ventura[, a real estate salesman,] said that the Trumps never asked any questions about the buyers or where the money was coming from.... Ventura says that the Trump family, and Ivanka Trump in particular, was involved in the details of the Trump Ocean Club, and that she interacted with him extensively.... 'The Trump Organization has to approve everything because of his name on the project,' Ventura said, describing the project as Ivanka Trump’s 'baby.'... The Trump Organization was not the actual developer of the Panama tower.... For this deal, the Trump Organization would license its brand, operate the hotel and sell its expertise in managing the building, receiving a cut of every condo sale.” ...

     ... Paul Waldman: "... it’s fascinating how one Trump property after another winds up being associated with mobsters, criminals, and money launderers. Must be just a coincidence! It’s also incredible when you consider how many years and millions of dollars Republicans devoted to investigating Whitewater, a two-bit land deal on which the Clintons lost some money. Is there going to be a congressional investigation of this, or the other shady Trump deals? Of course not."

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s decision to mock Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) for groping a sleeping woman while posing for a photo has once again made him a central figure in the national discussion about sexual assault, harassment and misconduct — and has again brought attention to past accusations against the president himself.... Trump did not mention that [Franken accuser Leeann] Tweeden also accused Franken of kissing her against her will — the same thing that at least eight women have publicly accused Trump of doing.... As a growing number of prominent men have publicly faced accusations, Trump has been selective in responding, largely on the basis of whether the accused is an ally or foe and focusing relatively little on the alleged victims. Trump called his own accusers 'horrible, horrible liars” and threatened to sue them, while coming to the defense of friends such as political commentator Bill O’Reilly and former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes, accused of harassment or assault. Trump has also been mostly silent on Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama.... Trump has also said he was not surprised by accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, a major Democratic donor; released an ad during the presidential campaign calling former New York congressman Anthony Weiner a 'pervert;' and hosted a campaign news conference with three women who had accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual assault or misconduct, calling those women 'very courageous.'” ...

** Like everything else Trump touches, he hijacks it with his chronic dishonesty and childishness. The intense, angry and largely ignorant tribalism afflicting our politics predates Trump’s arrival on the scene. But he has infused it with a psychopath’s inability to accept that social norms apply to him. -- Mark Salter, longtime adviser to Sen. John McCain --

Very well said. Salter catches the essence of Trump. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "... the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump’s history would stay far away from discussing someone else’s behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight." Mrs. McC: This is quite a good synthesis of the state of the conversation in Washington, incorporating several shorter stories. My favorite is Mrs. Huckleberry's rationale for Trump's behavior, which goes something like this: "He won, so STFU." ...

Emily Cochrane of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Friday that he will uphold a government ban on hunters bringing trophies of elephants that were killed in Zimbabwe into the United States, pending a further review. His evening Twitter message reversed a decision by his own administration that was announced this week and promoted as recently as Friday afternoon by the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders." Mrs. McC: Guess Trump is mad a Junior, Ace Elephant Hunter, after all.


** Matt Apuzzo
, et al., of the New York Times: "A senior Russian official who claimed to be acting at the behest of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried in May 2016 to arrange a meeting between Mr. Putin and Donald J. Trump, according to several people familiar with the matter. The news of this reached the Trump campaign in a very circuitous way. An advocate for Christian causes emailed campaign aides saying that Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime, had proposed a meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. The subject line of the email, turned over to Senate investigators, read, 'Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,' according to one person who has seen the message. The proposal made its way to the senior levels of the Trump campaign before Jared Kushner ... sent a message to top campaign officials rejecting it, according to two people who have seen Mr. Kushner’s message.... Mr. Torshin’s request ... came just weeks after a self-described intermediary for the Russian government told a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, that the Russians had 'dirt' on Mr. Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, in the form of 'thousands of emails.'... The latest disclosure about Mr. Torshin, who is a leading figure in Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, shows the direct involvement of a high-ranking Russian official in the Kremlin’s outreach to the campaign.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So now we know what that "dinner invite" was, which was a mystery yesterday when it appeared as the subject of an e-mail from Jared Kushner which he accidentally forgot to turn over to Senate investigators. ...

... Manu Raju of CNN: "A West Virginia man ... proposed setting up a meeting with Russians and the Trump campaign last year to discuss their 'shared Christian values,' raising new questions for investigators to explore as part of their Russia inquiry. Current and former US intelligence and law enforcement officials, as well as other intelligence experts, say that Russians sought to employ covert tactics to find entry points into the Trump campaign. And more broadly, experts say, Russian intelligence services have sought to court conservative organizations, including religious groups, to build alliances in the United States.... The Trump campaign appears to have rejected the meeting request -- and seemed to believe it was serious enough to suggest that the matter should be handled by the State Department...." ...

... Yet Another Thing Jared Accidentally Forgot. Jeremy Herb & Evan Perez of CNN: "White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told congressional Russia investigators that he did not communicate with WikiLeaks and did not recall anyone on the Trump campaign who had, a source with knowledge of his testimony told CNN. But Kushner did receive and forward an email from Donald Trump Jr. about contact Trump Jr. had with WikiLeaks, according to a new report this week and a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee.... A Democratic committee source said that Kushner was interviewed at a date when the panels 'did not yet have the documents we needed for the interview.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: On most mornings, Ivanka makes sure Jared is wearing pants before he leaves the house. Sometimes he just plain forgets.

... AND Jeff Sessions thinks the whole Russia-Trump-Sessions, et al., conspiracy is so funny that he tells jokes about it. In public. ...

... ** Tim Egan: "The Russians ... uploaded a thousand videos to YouTube and published more than 130,000 messages on Twitter about last year’s election. As recent congressional hearings showed, the arteries of our democracy were clogged with toxins from a hostile foreign power. But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship.... As we crossed the 300-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency on Thursday, fact-checkers noted that he has made more than 1,600 false or misleading claims. Good God. At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true. We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction." Read on. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is an essential element of the conversation we should be having. Egan's column may be the first time I've seen Americans' primal ignorance named as the root cause of Russia's great success in undermining our democracy. I would add that our often-inane, often-negligent news media are partly at fault, too. Where the public schools have failed our students, the media should pick up the slack by putting stories in context. Oftentimes they do, but too often news reports are limited to the most sensational or salacious aspects of a story. Important as it is for the public to know the facts, so is it essential that people can understand the meaning & implications of those facts. ...

... Should you care to find a little more evidence for Egan's contention, Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast obliges: "As I toggled over the home page [of Snopes], I was flabbergasted by what a high percentage of Snopes articles now are devoted to debunking fake news.... I mean, if I may use the phrase, real fake news. Garbage. And more specifically, right-wing garbage. Some stuff that’s in the actual news, though completely distorted, and other stuff that’s just totally made up, that who-knows-how-many thousands, or millions, of people are out there believing." Tomasky provides a number of laughable examples.

Why is that woman vamping for the camera? And what is she doing at the Bureau of Engraving anyway?... For the Love of Money. Mrs. McCrabbie: I missed this story earlier in the week. It seems Steve Mnuchin invited his wife, the Lovely Louise, on a visit to the Bureau of Engraving & Printing to admire the very first sheet of dollar bills with Mnuchin's signature on them. Martin Belam of the Guardian posted a few Twitter reactions to the pix. Here's one suggested caption: "Louise Linton holds the great love of her life. Also pictured, her husband ."

Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post: "By day, he was a clerk to a federal judge, a Harvard Law School graduate at the start of his career. By night, he was a ghost hunter and a devotee of the macabre. Brett Joseph Talley is now President Trump’s nominee for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench as a U.S. District Court judge in Alabama. Few in memory have been nominated with credentials quite like those of Talley, 36, an Alabama native, a political speechwriter, an author of horror books and a fledgling lawyer who has never tried a case. In 2009 and 2010, he was a member of the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group, a volunteer operation that ... has held all-night vigils and used infrared cameras, handheld sensors and other devices to search for spectral entities in plantation mansions, abandoned hospitals and other buildings.... He is one of four Trump nominees to receive 'not qualified' ratings [from the American Bar Association] this year, the first such ratings to be disclosed by the association in more than a decade."

Ellie Silverman of the Washington Post: "Documents released by law enforcement officials in Montana on Friday show that Greg Gianforte, then the Republican candidate in the state’s special congressional election, told police in May that a reporter from the Guardian had grabbed his wrist during a physical altercation at his campaign headquarters, blaming the 'liberal media' for 'trying to make a story.' His statement appears to contradict the apology he later issued to Ben Jacobs, saying the reporter 'did not initiate any physical contact with me,' raising questions about whether the congressman was truthful with authorities. Gianforte won Montana’s lone U.S. House seat 24 hours after the assault and in June, he pleaded guilty to charges that he assaulted Jacobs and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management classes and a $385 fine in court costs, according to the Associated Press.” ...

... Julia Wong of the Guardian: "US congressman Greg Gianforte misled police after his assault of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in May, falsely stating that Jacobs had initiated physical contact.... hortly after the assault, Gianforte’s campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon, placed the blame for the violent incident on Jacobs.... That narrative was soon contradicted by audio of the incident captured by Jacobs, as well as the eyewitness accounts of a team of Fox News journalists. Jacobs decried the statement as 'defamatory', and Scanlon was harshly criticized by the political press for lying about the incident.... The police report suggests that the misleading narrative originated from Gianforte himself, however." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So very hard to believe Gianforte is a liar. Here I thought he was just a thug & a bully.

Democrats Behaving Badly:

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Some former female staffers of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) spoke out on Friday in his defense, saying that he had treated women with respect while they worked in his office.... The statement is co-signed by eight former Franken staffers who have worked for him since he was elected to the Senate in 2008.... The statement came on the same day that Leeann Tweeden, the Los Angeles radio news anchor who accused Franken of kissing and groping her against her will, said that she had heard directly from the senator and is willing to meet with him to discuss the allegations.... Tweeden made a round of national television appearances on Friday to discuss her allegations and to reiterate that she accepts Franken’s apologies...." ...

... AND. Cristiano Lima of Politico: "Hillary Clinton slammed ... Donald Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore on Friday over their alleged sexual misconduct, criticizing them for not accepting responsibility' and 'apologizing' for their reported transgressions as Sen. Al Franken did.... [Clinton] said Franken’s request to have the Senate ethics panel investigate his sexual misconduct 'is the kind of accountability I’m talking about.' 'I don't hear that from Roy Moore or Donald Trump,' she added during an interview with New York’s WABC radio. 'Look at the contrast between Al Franken, accepting responsibility, apologizing, and Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who have done neither.'... Asked whether there was anything she admired about the Trump’s tenure in office thus far, Clinton replied: 'No. The answer is absolutely no. I didn’t think he’d be as bad as he turned out to be,' she added.” ...

... Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post: "The clamor for Franken’s head is, at best, premature — sentence first, trial (or Senate Ethics Committee investigation) later. At worst, it is alarmingly extreme, absent evidence of a pattern or misbehavior in the Senate. Let us stipulate: ... His behavior was appalling.... The focus is, and should be, on victims. But as employers engage in an overdue reckoning on how to rid workplaces of intolerable conduct, they — we — are going to have to wrestle as well with how to treat the victimizers." ...

... Kate Harding, in a Washington Post op-ed: "As a feminist and the author of a book on rape culture, I could reasonably be expected to lead the calls for Al Franken to step down.... I firmly believe he should suffer social and professional consequences for it. But I don’t believe resigning from his position is the only possible consequence, or the one that’s best for American women.... I am a Democrat because I am a feminist who lives under a two-party system, where one party consistently votes against the interests of women while the other sometimes does not.... Men’s harassment of and violence against women is a systemic issue.... Its roots lie in a patriarchal culture that trains men to believe they are entitled to control women’s bodies — for sex, for sport, for childbearing, for comedy.... If we set this precedent [of ousting known harassers] in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms.... In a sharply divided political climate where toxic masculinity knows no party, yet is only ever acknowledged by one, we must think about how to minimize harm to women." ...

... Eoin Higgins in the Huffington Post: "Lilian Adams and Zoey Jordan Salsbury were teenagers when they started working on opposite sides of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Adams, then 19, joined Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Salsbury, then 18, joined Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign.... But each woman says she was sexually harassed by a fellow campaign worker — and that both campaigns were ill-equipped to address the allegations. ...

... MEANWHILE, in Florida. Patricia Mazzei of the Tampa Bay Times: "Stephen Bittel's rocky tenure as Florida Democratic Party chairman ended in disgrace Friday after he resigned following accusations from women that he leered at them, made suggestive comments and created an unprofessional work environment.... Elected in January after a contentious internal campaign, Bittel lasted less than a year on the job.  His departure marks the latest case of sexual impropriety shaking the state Capitol. Bittel’s position became untenable after all four major Democratic candidates for Florida governor urged his ouster following a Politico Florida report late Thursday in which six women anonymously complained about Bittel’s behavior. They said he was 'creepy' and 'demeaning.' Bittel apologized, but it was not enough." ...

... Gubernatorial Race? Or Not. of the Washington Post: "An Ohio Supreme Court justice who recently declared his intention to run for governor defended 'heterosexual males' Friday amid mounting accusations of sexual misconduct. Justice William O’Neill took to Facebook on Friday morning to make a statement about what he described as the 'national feeding frenzy about sexual indiscretions,' and in doing so he disclosed details about his sexual history. 'In the last fifty years I was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females,' O’Neill, a Democrat, wrote. 'It ranged from a gorgeous blonde who was my first true love and we made passionate love in the hayloft of her parents barn and ended with a drop dead gorgeous red head from Cleveland.'... By Friday afternoon, after a storm of bipartisan condemnation from Ohio politicians, the post was deleted. Shortly before 6 p.m., O’Neill posted new comments. 'As an aside for all you sanctimonious judges who are demanding my resignation, hear this. I was a civil right lawyer actively prosecuting sexual harassment cases on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office before Anita Hill and before you were born,' O’Neill wrote. 'Lighten up folks. This is how Democrats remain in the minority,' he wrote.” O'Neill's campaign spokesman is quitting. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Apparently none of these 50 lucky duckies is a person with, you know, a personality, intellectual attributes, talents, etc. They're all "gorgeous blondes" or "drop-dead gorgeous redheads." "very attractive," or whatever. Pig. ...


Kaitlin Riordan
of KREM TV (Spokane, Washington): "Officials with the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island said one of their aircraft was involved in the obscene skywritings spotted in Okanogan County. Photos sent to KREM 2 by multiple sources show skydrawings of what some people are saying is male genitalia.... In a statement to KREM 2 News navy officials said, 'The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable.'"

Way Beyond the Beltway

Jeffrey Moyo & Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "Zimbabwe’s governing party moved on Friday to expel President Robert Mugabe from its ranks, taking the first step in legally ousting the 93-year-old leader following a military intervention two days earlier. A majority of the leaders of the party, ZANU-PF, recommended Mr. Mugabe’s expulsion from the very organization that he had controlled with an iron grip since independence in 1980, according to ZBC, the state broadcaster. Military officers have insisted that their takeover was not a coup, but the party’s leaders appeared on Friday to be providing political cover for the intervention. The party’s central committee, Parliament and Mr. Mugabe’s cabinet could now take steps to officially end his presidency, if he does not resign."