The Wires

Public Service Announcement

November 26: Washington Post: "Federal health officials said Monday that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and that romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested. If consumers, retailers and food service facilities cannot determine whether the romaine was grown outside California, they should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick, according to a lengthy statement from Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. FDA officials said the most likely source of contamination is from the Central Coast growing regions in northern and central California. Romaine lettuce harvested outside those regions 'does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,' the FDA said. Hydroponically grown and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be affected in the outbreak. Romaine from those sources is safe to eat, the FDA said."

... November 20: New York Times: "In a sweeping alert, federal health officials warned people not to eat romaine lettuce anywhere in the country, after 32 people in 11 states fell sick with a virulent form of E. coli, a bacteria blamed for a number of food-borne outbreaks in recent years. The notice, issued Tuesday afternoon by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said consumers should not buy or eat any kind of romaine, whether chopped or whole, and restaurants should stop serving it. Anyone who has romaine, the health agency said, should throw it out." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay then, guess I'll throw out that romaine. Already ate one head, and I ain't dead yet.

Isabel Wilkerson reports, in the New York Times, on Michelle Obama's book Becoming. It's quite a compelling read.

Reality Chex Bargain. Someone will pay $1 million or more for a letter written by Albert Einstein. You can read it for free. ...

... New York Times: The "God Letter," "written [in German] in 1954 by Albert Einstein ... is being auctioned this week.... He sent the handwritten letter to Eric Gutkind, a German philosopher who had written a book called 'Choose Life: The biblical Call to Revolt' that, apparently, Einstein did not much like.... Einstein wrote dozens of letters in which he mentioned God or Judaism. 'Nobody should read one Einstein letter and think that solves what he thinks about God,' Walter Isaacson, the author of the 2007 biography 'Einstein,' said in an interview.... The letter surfaced in 2008. Until then, it had apparently been in the hands of Gutkind’s heirs (he died in 1965). And it rocketed into the universe of big-money auctions, selling for $404,000 in London.... It will go on the block at Christie’s on Tuesday. Christie’s set a presale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million."

Here's New York magazine's take on A Very Melanie Christmas:

... AND Rhonda Garelick of New York has some thoughts on why Melanie's Red Forest is so empty of holiday cheer.

Chris Hayes reviews this year's White House holiday decor:

Okay, here's C-SPAN's version, which is way more cheery:

So if you'd like to read all about Mika Brzezinski's wedding to Joe Scarborough, Emily Fox of Vanity Fair obliges. It sounds as if it was a very nice ceremony. Except, you know, Mika & Joe.

Kwitcherbitchin. Think things are bad now? They were way worse in 536 C.E. A report in Science explains.

Click on picture to see larger image.

... New York Times: "A celebrated and enigmatic painting of two men and a turquoise pool by David Hockney sold at Christie’s on Thursday night for $90.3 million with fees, shattering the auction record for a living artist and cementing a major broadening of tastes at the turbocharged top end of the market. The price for the 1972 painting, 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),' easily surpassed the previous high of $58.4 million, held by Jeff Koons for one of his 'Balloon Dog' sculptures."

Jennifer Szalai of the New York Times reviews Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming.

Laura Holson of the New York Times: "... a number of artists who have reimagined [Norman Rockwell's] 'Four Freedoms,' most of them spurred by racial and political tension that has divided the country.... Mr. Rockwell’s portraits of Americana in the 1940s and 1950s were quite popular, but largely limited to white, Anglo-Saxon subjects who were friends or acquaintances of the artist. His 'Four Freedoms' series helped boost patriotism in a country on the brink of war, a visual reminder of American ideals. During World War II, they were turned into posters to muster sales of U.S. war bonds. Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum, said, 'Rockwell worked for hire and had to address the norms' of The Saturday Evening Post. Later, in the 1960s, the artist joined Look magazine and depicted civil rights and poverty. 'We saw him progressively move toward more representation,' she said. 'But it was an evolution.'... The 'Four Freedoms' series is touring the United States in celebration of its 75th anniversary.... As part of the 'Four Freedoms' tour, the organizers are showing works by contemporary artists inspired by the artist.”

Pops Peterson. "Freedom from Fear." 2015.

In case you've forgotten Rockwell's Four Freedoms, here they are:

Click on picture to see larger image.In fairness to Rockwell, this has to be my favorite "political illustration":

Norman Rockwell. 1964.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

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

Tuesday
Dec112018

The Commentariat -- December 12, 2018

"Trump Shutdown." Julie Davis & Michael Tackett of the New York Times: "President Trump on Tuesday vowed to block full funding for the government if Democrats refuse his demand for a border wall, saying he was 'proud to shut down the government for border security' — an extraordinarily statement that came during a televised altercation with Democratic congressional leaders. 'If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security,' Mr. Trump declared in the Oval Office, engaging in a testy back-and forth with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California.'I will take the mantle. I will be the one the shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it,' Mr. Trump added, insisting on a public airing of hostilities even as the Democrats repeatedly asked him to keep their negotiating disputes private.... Ms. Pelosi ... appeared to trigger the president’s temper when she raised the prospect of a 'Trump shutdown' over what she characterized as an ineffective and wasteful wall."  (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Donnie argues with Chuck & Nancy. You can skip the first 5-1/2 minutes, which Big Fat Pinnochio lies his way through. Thanks to Jeanne for the lead:

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has the transcript, annotated. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

Annie Karni of the New York Times: The meeting "was a remarkable exchange between a veteran congressional leader and a president who is rarely challenged to his face in public, especially by a woman. 'Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as a leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory,' Ms. Pelosi said, about halfway through the meeting, after Mr. Trump accused her of 'being in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.'... The exchange between Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Trump — the first that tested their new power dynamic as Democrats prepare to take control of the House — seemed aimed at making clear to Ms. Pelosi’s Democratic caucus that she can take on Mr. Trump and brush off mansplaining. And it was Ms. Pelosi who may have benefited from the negotiating-in-public style the president prefers. She put him off balance from the start by referring to the possibility of a 'Trump shutdown,' causing the president to visibly recoil. Without raising her voice, she stood her ground as Mr. Trump repeatedly interrupted her with finger wags and calling her 'Nancy.'... Speaking to reporters outside the White House after the meeting, Ms. Pelosi suggested that she actually had gone easy on the president. 'I did not want to, in front of those people, say that you don’t know what you’re talking about,' she said.” ...

... Rachel Bade & Sarah Ferris of Politico: "Minutes after a very public showdown with Donald Trump on Tuesday over his border wall with Mexico, the House minority leader [Nancy Pelosi] returned to the Capitol and railed against the president in a private meeting with her colleagues. Trump 'must have said the word "wall" 30 times,' the California Democrat said, according to multiple sources in the room. 'I was trying to be the mom,' Pelosi added, but 'it goes to show you: You get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.' And then, she went for the most sensitive part of Trump’s ego. 'It’s like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him,' Pelosi deadpanned. 'This wall thing.'... At one point, after reporters and TV cameras left the Oval Office, Trump told Pelosi and Schumer that the new trade agreement he recently struck with Canada and Mexico is going to pay for the wall, Pelosi told lawmakers.... The entire thing baffled Pelosi. It’s a 'cultural phenomenon,' Pelosi told her colleagues, that 'the fate of our country [is] in the hands of this person.'” ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "Sparring with Trump in public, Pelosi more than held her own. She told him directly, 'You will not win,' and repeatedly shot down his cocksure pronouncements that a bill with wall funding could pass the House. Yet after a few minutes going back and forth with the president, she ... [said,] 'I don’t think we should have a debate in front of the press on this,' Pelosi told Trump. 'Let us have our conversation, and we can meet with the press again.' Schumer, on the other hand, is a ... man about whom it is famously said, 'The most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera.'... As Pelosi and Trump went at it, Schumer waited impatiently for his chance to speak. When his turn came, he promptly reminded the president that The Washington Post had given him 'a whole lot of Pinocchios' for constantly misstating the cost of the border wall. 'We do not want to shut down the government,' Schumer told Trump. 'You have called 20 times to shut down the government.'... As the president bestowed Democrats with a political gift [-- taking ownership of a government shutdown --] Schumer sat with his hands clasped and his head nodding. The cameras were running, and the smile never left his face.” ...

... William Cummings of USA Today: "Pence sat stoically as his boss got into testy exchanges with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and the likely next Speaker, House Minority Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Stoically may be an understatement. Stonily might be more accurate. And he didn't say a word. As one Twitter user phrased it with a holiday metaphor, Pence sat there 'exactly like our Elf on the Shelf.'... Radio host Dean Obeidallah wondered if Pence 'is actually still alive' or if it was a "'Weekend at Bernie's" type scenario where they just prop up Pence at meetings.'" And so forth.
"

... The report cited below refutes pretty much everything Trump asserted & that first five-and-a-half minutes of hoo-hah:

... Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "According to a scathing report released by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government doesn’t have much to show for its costly effort to increase border security staffing at the U.S.-Mexico border.... Last January, Trump signed an executive order directing DHS to amp up the number of agents on staff.... Accenture Federal Services ... [was granted] a $297 million contract to hire 7,500 CBP [customs & border protection] officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Interdiction Agents.... An audit conducted by the federal government shows it has already paid Accenture [a global 'consulting' company] $13.6 million, but as of October 1, had only processed two job offers — largely by using CBP’s own resources.... The Pentagon estimates that [the active soldiers sent to the border] costs about $72 million. In exchange, troops are being tasked with shoveling manure, changing tires, and carrying out various other chores that don’t include border control. All the while, the Trump administration is demanding even more money to secure the border. " --s ...

... AND This. Erin Banco & Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: "... Donald Trump on Tuesday cited the recent apprehension of ten suspected terrorists to bolster his case for building a wall along the southern border, implying that a porous border with Mexico is leaving the country vulnerable to national security threats. But the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees security and law enforcement at U.S. borders and ports of entry, was unable to provide data to directly substantiate that claim." Emphasis added. ...

... Aaron Rupar of Vox: "... Donald Trump wants you to believe that the southern border is now secured because of his tough measures. But he also wants you to believe the same border is in crisis and requires the construction of an expensive border wall to secure it.... Trump sent a tweet Tuesday morning accusing Democrats (falsely) of pushing for 'Open Borders for anyone to come in. This brings large scale crime and disease.' In fact, Democrats don’t support open borders, and experts say migrants do not pose a public health risk. Trump then boasted about his achievements at the border: '... Our Southern Border is now Secure and will remain that way.'... But less than an hour later, Trump seemed to realize that claiming the border is secure is not a good bargaining position ahead of a meeting about funding a border wall. In another tweet he said 'A Great Wall' at the southern border is needed so desperately that he’ll order the military to build it if Congress won’t allocate money for it. (There’s just one problem: The president doesn’t have the authority to do that without congressional approval.) Trump also falsely claimed that 'much of the Wall ... has already been built.' The $1.6 billion Congress allocated for border security measures last year actually expressly prohibited funds from being spent on new wall designs." --s

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic: "Donald Trump can’t stop telling on himself.... Given every advantage conferred on the wealthy and connected, including being the president of the United States, Trump can’t help but provide both the public and the authorities investigating him and his campaign with knowledge of his state of mind. Proving guilt in white-collar crime is an exceedingly difficult task for prosecutors. Trump is doing his best to make it easier." --s ...

... So After Serwer Wrote That... Jeff Mason & Steve Holland of Reuters: "... Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was not concerned that he could be impeached and that hush payments made ahead of the 2016 election by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to two women did not violate campaign finance laws. 'It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,' Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview. 'I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,' he said.... 'Michael Cohen is a lawyer. I assume he would know what he’s doing,' Trump said when asked if he had discussed campaign finance laws with Cohen. 'Number one, it wasn’t a campaign contribution. If it were, it’s only civil, and even if it’s only civil, there was no violation based on what we did. OK?' Asked about prosecutors’ assertions that a number of people who had worked for him met or had business dealings with Russians before and during his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said: 'The stuff you’re talking about is peanut stuff.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie P.S. In case you were wondering what could happen if Trump were impeached (and maybe he means also convicted, but who knows?), I think he just gave us a preview: he'll foment a revolution.

Adam Goldman of the New York Times: "Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, asked a federal judge late Tuesday to spare him prison time for misleading investigators, and they suggested that the F.B.I. agents who interviewed him last year at the White House had tricked him into lying.... Mr. Flynn’s lawyers singled out Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director, and Peter Strzok, a senior counterintelligence agent who interviewed Mr. Flynn. Both men were fired from the F.B.I. this year, and the president and his allies have attacked them as enemies bent on undermining Mr. Trump. They also have accused Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok and other former F.B.I. officials of unfairly targeting Mr. Flynn."

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "Michael D. Cohen, the former lawyer for President Trump, is to be sentenced on Wednesday morning for his role in a hush-money scandal that could threaten Mr. Trump’s presidency by implicating him in a scheme to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with him."

Lucien Burggeman & Soo Rin Kim of ABC News: "A federal judge presiding over special counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort asked prosecutors for the 'underlying evidence' to support their claims that the former Trump campaign chairman lied after signing a cooperation agreement as part of their probe of Russian election meddling during the 2016 campaign. Defense attorneys for Manafort and prosecutors with the special counsel’s office met Tuesday in a federal courthouse for the first time since Robert Mueller and his team described the subject of lies Manafort of perpetrating. The defense counsel said they did not have enough information from the government about their client’s alleged lies to respond to their allegations Tuesday. A series of January deadlines were set for the defense to submit disputes with the government’s accusations and for the prosecution to respond."

Khorri Atkinson of Axios: "A federal judge in California on Tuesday ordered adult film star Stormy Daniels to pay Donald Trump $293,052.33 in attorneys' fees for her defamation case against the president, which the judge dismissed in October, and another $1,000 in sanctions for filing a 'meritless' legal challenge."


Greg Miller
of the Washington Post: "President Trump continues to reject the judgments of U.S. spy agencies on major foreign policy fronts, creating a dynamic in which intelligence analysts frequently see troubling gaps between the president’s public statements and the facts laid out for him in daily briefings on world events, current and former U.S. officials said.... Presidential distrust that once seemed confined mainly to the intelligence community’s assessments about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has spread across a range of global issues. Among them are North Korea’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, the existence and implications of global climate change, and the role of the Saudi crown prince in the killing of a dissident journalist. 'There is extraordinary frustration,' a U.S. intelligence official said. The CIA and other agencies continue to devote enormous 'time, energy and resources' to ensuring that accurate intelligence is delivered to Trump, the official said, but his seeming imperviousness to such material often renders 'all of that a waste.'” ...

... So After Miller Wrote That... Steve Holland & Robert Rampton of Reuters: "... Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he stood by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince despite a CIA assessment that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and pleas from U.S. senators for Trump to condemn the kingdom’s de facto ruler....Trump again reiterated on Tuesday that the 'crown prince vehemently denies' involvement in a killing that has sparked outrage around the world.... Asked by Reuters if standing by the kingdom meant standing by the prince, known as MbS, Trump responded: 'Well, at this moment, it certainly does.' Some members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent MbS from becoming king, sources close to the royal court have told Reuters, and believe that the United States and Trump could play a determining role. 'I just haven’t heard that,' Trump said. 'Honestly, I can’t comment on it because I had not heard that at all. In fact, if anything, I’ve heard that he’s very strongly in power.'” ...

... Shira Tarlo of Salon: "Jared Kushner ... told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday night that U.S. intelligence agencies 'are making their assessments' about the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (The CIA has reportedly concluded that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder. After receiving a briefing on the killing, Sen. Lindsey Graham declared, 'There’s no smoking gun – there’s a smoking saw.’) When Hannity asked Kushner whether the U.S. would 'get to the bottom' of who was responsible for Khashoggi's brutal murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the White House aide did not mention the crown prince. Instead, he said only that 'we're hoping to make sure that there's justice brought where that should be.'"

David Sanger, et al., of the New York Times: "The cyberattack on the Marriott hotel chain that collected personal details of roughly 500 million guests was part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering effort that also hacked health insurers and the security clearance files of millions more Americans, according to two people briefed on the investigation. The hackers, they said, are suspected of working on behalf of the Ministry of State Security, the country’s Communist-controlled civilian spy agency. The discovery comes as the Trump administration is planning actions targeting China’s trade, cyber and economic policies, perhaps within days. Those moves include indictments against Chinese hackers working for the intelligence services and the military, according to four government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Trump administration also plans to declassify intelligence reports to reveal Chinese efforts dating to at least 2014 to build a database containing names of executives and American government officials with security clearances." ...

... Roberta Rampton & Jeff Mason: "... Donald Trump said on Tuesday that China was buying a 'tremendous amount' of U.S. soybeans and that trade talks with Beijing were already under way by telephone, with more meetings likely among U.S. and Chinese officials.... But traders in Chicago said they have seen no evidence of a resumption of such purchases following China’s imposition of a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans in July.... U.S. government data has not shown any soybean sales to China since July...." ...

... Jeff Mason & Steve Holland: "... Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene in the Justice Department’s case against a top executive at China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China. Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada Dec. 1 and has been accused by the United States of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.... 'If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,' Trump said." ...

... MEANWHILE. Josh Wingrove, et al., of Bloomberg News: "The detention of a former Canadian diplomat by China’s spy agency signaled an escalation in the feud between the two nations, raising new questions about the safety of foreigners doing business in China. The former diplomat, Michael Kovrig, was detained by a branch of China’s Ministry of State Security during a visit to Beijing on Monday, his employer, the International Crisis Group, said in a statement. The Brussels-based non-profit said Wednesday it has received no information from Kovrig since his detention and was working to secure consular access to verify his health and safety. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang declined to comment on the case, deferring questions to the Crisis Group, which he noted wasn’t registered as a non-governmental organization.... Kovrig’s detention marked a potentially explosive twist in the saga surrounding Canada’s arrest of a top Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou earlier this month in Vancouver. Chinese officials expressed outrage over her arrest and threatened 'severe consequences' if Canada failed to handle the case to its liking."

Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed News: "The Trump administration went to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking an order that would allow it to enforce its new policy barring asylum claims by those who cross into the country at the southern border without authorization.... On Dec. 7, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit denied the Justice Department’s request to put on hold a district court judge’s order that halted the policy’s enforcement.... The ACLU sued on behalf of organizations that assist with asylum applications. US District Judge Jon Tigar halted enforcement of the policy change — issuing a temporary restraining order in the days before Thanksgiving. 'Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,' Tigar wrote."

Juan Cole: "Trump is making Heather Nauert his ambassador to the United Nations, the most empty-headed such appointment since W. Bush tried to shoehorn the crazed John Bolton into that position.... Nauert is Trump’s mini-me, aping his shell-shocked insouciance at atrocities and struggling to understand the simplest questions.... To plumb the depths of Nauert’s ignorance about international affairs it would be necessary to deploy the Deepsea Challenger (DCV 1) that director James Cameron used to reach the deepest part of the Mariana Trench at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.... Nauert isn’t capable of diplomacy, just of mouthing off in imitation of Trump’s Twitterhea." --s


Adam Federman
of Mother Jones: "In an internal memo circulated within the Interior Department earlier this year, government scientists issued a stark warning: The Trump administration’s plans to allow oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) could further jeopardize the region’s already fragile polar bear population.... That analysis contrasts sharply with the administration’s public rhetoric suggesting that the project would be harmless and should therefore be quickly approved.... Despite the Fish and Wildlife Service document warning of serious environmental and legal obstacles to the project, the administration has continued to downplay the impact that seismic surveys could have on the refuge." --s

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Reversing course, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on Tuesday that the Senate would vote on a substantial criminal justice bill before the end of the year, teeing up a bipartisan policy achievement that has eluded lawmakers for years. Advocates of the prison and sentencing law changes on Capitol Hill and in the White House have spent weeks lobbying Mr. McConnell, who controls the Senate calendar. They had the backing of President Trump, who endorsed the bill last month and urged Mr. McConnell in recent days to 'Go for it Mitch!' Mr. McConnell had repeatedly said that there was probably not enough time to consider the measure, and Republican leaders maintained as recently as a few days ago that the bill did not have the support of the majority of Republicans. Mr. McConnell made clear on Tuesday that the Senate was considering the legislation 'at the request of the president' and said that debate could begin later this week.” (Also linked yesterday.)

Charles Pierce: Clarence Thomas, in his dissenting opinion in the Medicaid cases (see related stories linked below) "went zooming off into the fever swamp to find a rationale...: ... these particular cases arose after several States alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates had, among other things, engaged in ‘the illegal sale of fetal organs’ and ‘fraudulent billing practices,’ and thus removed Planned Parenthood as a state Medicaid provider.'... [Thus,] a veteran justice of the Supreme Court, as part of the reasoning for his dissent, has included a debunked smear emanating from the most notorious ratfcking operation in the professional conservative ratfcking apparatus." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

    ... Update. In yesterday's thread, Akhilleus asked rhetorically, "Doesn't this guy have clerks who can do, like, research? Doesn't he do research? I mean, something beyond the Breitbart archives." Later, RAS found the very likely answer to these questions: "It sounds as if Clarence Thomas' wife is now doing his legal research." Ginni Thomas, as Mark Stern of Slate lays out, is a key distributor of outlandish right-wing conspiracy theories. Even worse, she publicizes these nutty notions in service of her lobbying business. This presents, needless to say, a profound ethical challenge for the hubby. But, needless to say, his own ethics do not seem to be of concern to him.

Nathaniel Popper of the New York Times: "CBS News reached a legal settlement with three women who accused the network of not doing enough to stop one of its anchors, Charlie Rose, from sexually harassing them.... Three recent employees — Katherine Harris, Sydney McNeal and Yuqing Wei — sued the network and Mr. Rose this year after another article in The Post indicated that the network had ignored complaints from CBS employees who worked with him.... The women are continuing to pursue their claims against Mr. Rose, a lawyer for the women, Kenneth Goldberg, said."

Beyond the Beltway

Arkansas. Elham Khatami of ThinkProgress: "The Arkansas state legislature advanced a proposal Monday that would slash Medicaid payments to assisted living facilities that provide services to the elderly and individuals with disabilities — a move that continues the state’s assault on the public health insurance program designed for low-income people.... The Department of Human Services proposal would impact nearly 9,000 Arkansas residents who rely on the ARChoices Medicaid program.... According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the proposal could lead to the shutdown of the nearly 100 assisted living facilities in the state that accept Medicaid patients. " --s

California. Rosa Furneaux of Mother Jones: "Just a few months ago, climate activists in California were celebrating an impressive victory: New data showed that the state had brought greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels, four years earlier than planned.... The recent Camp and Woolsey fires, officials say, have produced emissions equivalent to roughly 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, more than three times the total decrease in emissions in 2015. Recently, the Department of the Interior announced that new data shows the 2018 California wildfire season is estimated to have released emissions equal to about one year of power use." --s

North Carolina. Zach Montellaro of Politico: "The North Carolina Republican Party said Tuesday that a new election should be held in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District if a new allegation regarding the leak of early-voting results before Election Day is proven. The results of the race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready have already been held up over allegations of election fraud against a contractor for one of Harris' campaign consultants. But the state Democratic Party has highlighted another incident in the inquiry into the House race, releasing a signed affidavit from a Bladen County poll worker alleging that the results of early votes were shared improperly before the election.... Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the state Republican party, said it was likely early votes were leaked."

Texas. Jason Silverstein of CBS News: "A former Baylor University frat president who was indicted for allegedly sexually assaulting a fellow student will not serve jail time or register as a sex offender under a plea deal accepted by a Texas court on Monday, CBS affiliate KWTX-TV reports. A judge in Waco, Texas, accepted the deal and sentenced Jacob Walter Anderson, 24, to three years of deferred probation. Anderson must also pay a $400 fine and seek counseling. His criminal record will be expunged if and when he completes probation. In a tearful statement to the court, Anderson's accuser said she was devastated by the decision to 'let my rapist go free.'... In a statement to CBS News, Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde defended Anderson's sentence and said the public didn't know all the facts that led to it.  'Conflicting evidence and statements exist in this case making the original allegation difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,' LaBorde said." (Also linked yesterday.) 

Way Beyond

Monday
Dec102018

The Commentariat -- December 11, 2018

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

"Trump Shutdown." Julie Davis & Michael Tackett of the New York Times: "President Trump on Tuesday vowed to block full funding for the government if Democrats refuse his demand for a border wall, saying he was 'proud to shut down the government for border security' — an extraordinarily statement that came during a televised altercation with Democratic congressional leaders. 'If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security,' Mr. Trump declared in the Oval Office, engaging in a testy back-and forth with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California.'I will take the mantle. I will be the one the shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it,' Mr. Trump added, insisting on a public airing of hostilities even as the Democrats repeatedly asked him to keep their negotiating disputes private.... Ms. Pelosi ... appeared to trigger the president’s temper when she raised the prospect of a 'Trump shutdown' over what she characterized as an ineffective and wasteful wall." ...

... Donnie argues with Chuck & Nancy. You can skip the first 5-1/2 minutes, which Big Fat Pinnochio lies his way through. Thanks to Jeanne for the lead:

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has the transcript, annotated.

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump hinted on Tuesday that he may be willing to forego a Christmastime shutdown battle with Democrats over his demands for billions of dollars for his border wall, hours before a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders aimed at breaking a year-end spending impasse. In a series of morning tweets ahead of a scheduled meeting in the Oval Office with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, Mr. Trump falsely stated that substantial sections of the 'Great Wall' on the southwestern border that he has long championed have already been completed, and he suggested that his administration could continue construction whether Democrats fund it or not. That would be illegal, but it suggested that he was looking for a way to keep the government funded past Dec. 21, even if Democrats balk at wall funding.... The president does not have the legal authority to spend money appropriated for one purpose on another task, such as wall-building."

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Reversing course, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on Tuesday that the Senate would vote on a substantial criminal justice bill before the end of the year, teeing up a bipartisan policy achievement that has eluded lawmakers for years. Advocates of the prison and sentencing law changes on Capitol Hill and in the White House have spent weeks lobbying Mr. McConnell, who controls the Senate calendar. They had the backing of President Trump, who endorsed the bill last month and urged Mr. McConnell in recent days to 'Go for it Mitch!' Mr. McConnell had repeatedly said that there was probably not enough time to consider the measure, and Republican leaders maintained as recently as a few days ago that the bill did not have the support of the majority of Republicans. Mr. McConnell made clear on Tuesday that the Senate was considering the legislation 'at the request of the president' and said that debate could begin later this week.”

Charles Pierce: Clarence Thomas, in his dissenting opinion in the Medicaid cases (see related stories linked below) "went zooming off into the fever swamp to find a rationale...: ... these particular cases arose after several States alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates had, among other things, engaged in ‘the illegal sale of fetal organs’ and ‘fraudulent billing practices,’ and thus removed Planned Parenthood as a state Medicaid provider.'... [Thus,] a veteran justice of the Supreme Court, as part of the reasoning for his dissent, has included a debunked smear emanating from the most notorious ratfcking operation in the professional conservative ratfcking apparatus."

Jason Silverstein of CBS News: "A former Baylor University frat president who was indicted for allegedly sexually assaulting a fellow student will not serve jail time or register as a sex offender under a plea deal accepted by a Texas court on Monday, CBS affiliate KWTX-TV reports. A judge in Waco, Texas, accepted the deal and sentenced Jacob Walter Anderson, 24, to three years of deferred probation. Anderson must also pay a $400 fine and seek counseling. His criminal record will be expunged if and when he completes probation. In a tearful statement to the court, Anderson's accuser said she was devastated by the decision to 'let my rapist go free.'... In a statement to CBS News, Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde defended Anderson's sentence and said the public didn't know all the facts that led to it.  'Conflicting evidence and statements exist in this case making the original allegation difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,' LaBorde said."

*****

** Paul Krugman: "As far as I can tell, not a single prominent Republican in Washington has condemned the power grab in Wisconsin, the similar grab in Michigan, or even what looks like outright electoral fraud in North Carolina.... The G.O.P., as currently constituted, is willing to do whatever it takes to seize and hold power. And as long as that remains true, and Republicans remain politically competitive, we will be one election away from losing democracy in America."

Brett Samuels of the Hill: "President Trump on Tuesday pushed back on reports that he's had difficulty finding candidates interested in serving as his next chief of staff.... 'Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position,' Trump wrote. 'Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington.' The president accused the 'fake news' of getting the story 'purposely wrong.'... Multiple news reports in the last 24 hours have portrayed Trump as scrambling to find his next chief of staff after the presumptive favorite for the position, Nick Ayers, said he would not be taking the job. Sources told The Hill there was no clear plan B after Ayers, currently Vice President Pence's top aide, dropped out." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I gather from Trump's tweet that he is limiting chief-of-staff job applicants to people over the age of ten. Good idea.

3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can't manage to pass his agenda. -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, January 10, 2012 ...

Obama did have unusually high chief of staff turnover during his first term.... But Trump is still burning through chiefs of staff faster than Obama. -- Dara Lind of Vox, December 8, 2018 ...

... Everything Is Going Very Smoothly. Kaitlan Collins of CNN: "Trump is now embarking on a hasty search for a new chief of staff with no obvious choice in mind.... [Nick Ayers] and Trump huddled several times over the last week in the residence of the White House..., but they ultimately could not agree to terms [under which Ayers would become chief of staff,] and Ayers declined the job. Multiple sources familiar with Trump's mood told CNN he's frustrated with the Ayers process. One source described his mood as 'super pissed.' A second added he feels humiliated..., because the President did not have a backup candidate prepared.... Trump predicted Ayers would budge on his demand to be chief of staff on an interim basis, with a set departure date of this spring, and was not prepared with a second option." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: You mean the fake author of The Art of the Deal can't outmaneuver a relatively unknown staffer half his age? ...

... Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair reports on how smoothly this all went down. Amusing. Here are some excerpts: “'It got back to Trump that Kelly was bad-mouthing him and Trump had decided he’d had enough. His attitude was, "fuck him,’” [a source] told me.... After weeks of lobbying by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump had been convinced that Mike Pence’s 36-year-old chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was the best candidate. On Friday afternoon, Trump met with Ayers, Pence, and Kelly and finalized the transition.... A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday. But Trump’s frustration with Kelly boiled over after Kelly pressed him to name his deputy Zachary Fuentes interim chief of staff. 'Trump didn’t like how Kelly was trying to dictate the terms of his departure,' a Republican briefed on the discussions told me. Trump blew up the carefully orchestrated announcement and told reporters on Saturday as he walked to Marine One that Kelly would be leaving by the end of the year. 'John wanted to announce his own departure. This was a humiliation,' a former West Wing official said." And so on. ...

... Rahm Emanuel in the Atlantic: "Kelly’s replacement won’t really be the chief of staff, even if that’s what it says on his door; Trump is unwilling to give anyone the authority needed to perform that job. But with Trump unlikely to choose the chief of staff he needs for this moment, what’s important is that the next chief of staff be unusually good at protecting the rest of us from the president’s penchant for self-destruction." ...

... "Whatever." Matt Yglesias of Vox: "No person’s entire career can be summed up in a single quote. But ousted White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s defense to the charge that the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the border was cruel deserves to be etched into his tombstone. 'The children,' he said, 'will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.' That is roughly the degree of thoughtfulness and consideration that was put into the policy. And it properly reflects Kelly’s true legacy as chief of staff.... The emphasis on times when Kelly could rein in Trump ignores the extent to which the two men were genuinely like-minded, and the many crucial moments where Kelly exacerbated Trump’s worst instincts.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Jim Acosta of CNN: "... Donald Trump has expressed concern that he could be impeached when Democrats take over the House, a source close to the President told CNN Monday. The source said Trump sees impeachment as a 'real possibility.' But Trump isn't certain it will happen, the source added."

Michelle Goldberg: "The 2020 presidential election was always going to be extraordinarily ugly, but one can only imagine what Trump will do if the alternative to the White House is the big house. 'It’s dangerous,' said [Rep. Eric] Swalwell [D-Cal.], who worries that Trump could become even more erratic, making decisions to save himself that involve 'our troops or internal domestic security.'”

Greg Sargent: "The connecting thread in much of what we’ve learned as part of the latest round of revelations [from federal prosecutors] is that Trump likely has now defrauded the American electorate in not one, but two, ways. First, via these hush-money payments. And second, by concealing his ongoing negotiations with Russia over a real estate project that promised to be extremely lucrative — during the very period in which GOP primary voters were choosing their presidential nominee. In both these cases, Trump has now justified this apparent deception by claiming that they were private transactions. In other words, Trump is explicitly saying that because these were private, keeping them concealed from voters was perfectly defensible.... He sees no problem with massively defrauding the voters by denying them information.... This isn’t a defense. It’s yet another admission of the degree to which he’s placing his own interests before those of the country -- an admission, that is, of the depths of his own corruption."

Marshall Cohen of CNN: "At least 16 associates of Donald Trump had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign or transition, according to public statements, court filings, CNN reporting, and reporting from other news outlets." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

GOP Profiles in Courage. Adam Raymond of New York: "On Friday, the Department of Justice called Donald Trump a felon.... On Monday, Senate Republicans had their chance to weigh in.... 'The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president,' Utah Senator Orrin Hatch told CNN.... When reporter Manu Raju reminded Hatch that it is not the Democrats, but the Southern District of New York, making the allegations, Hatch said, 'I don’t care, all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president.'... South Dakota Senator John Thune’s argument ... is that campaign finance violations are not a big deal.... Senator Chuck Grassley meanwhile questioned if the allegations against Trump can even be believed.... Louisiana Senator John Kennedy echoed that argument, impugning [Michael] Cohen and questioning the willingness of prosecutors to believe him." --s ...

... MEANWHILE. Forty-four Former U.S. Senators, in a Washington Post op-ed: "As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security. We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.... At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time."

Rosalind Helderman & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist, is poised to plead guilty in a case involving accusations that she was working as an agent for the Kremlin in the United States, according to a new court filing. Attorneys for Butina and federal prosecutors jointly requested in court documents Monday that U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan set a time for Butina to withdraw her previous plea of not guilty. They said they could be available for her to enter her plea as early as Tuesday. 'The parties have resolved this matter,' Butina’s lawyers and D.C.-based prosecutors wrote in their joint filing." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Anna Nemtsova of The Daily Beast: "Often dubbed 'Putin’s chef' because of the enormous catering contracts on which he built his fortune, Yevgeny Prigozhin is the central figure in ... Mueller['s] indictment (PDF). He is also the alleged money man behind the Federal News Agency, known by the Russian acronym FAN, which wages information war by other means, specifically by pretending to be a legitimate source of solid reporting.... FAN['s] unabashed aim is to propagate a semblance of news that supports the Putin government.... Earlier this year Facebook shut down the agency’s accounts, which infuriated FAN’s managers and inspired them to take the conflict to the enemy, as it were. The Russian information soldiers moved to Washington, physically. On Friday, The Daily Beast spoke with FAN’s general director, Yevgeny Zubarev, about that strategy." --s

 

Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly: In House testimoney last week, Jim Comey "indicated that an investigation had been launched into the leaks that were coming from the FBI’s New York field office during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to a report from Reuters in April 2018, the Inspector General planned to release the results of his investigation last May. But so far, we’ve seen nothing. On Monday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced that they are suing the FBI for documents related to that investigation.... While it is important to investigate all of the ways that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election and to what extent the Trump campaign conspired with them to do so, it is also clear that rogue agents in the FBI’s New York field office played a significant role in electing Donald Trump due to their extreme anti-Clinton bias. We need to get to the bottom of that one too."


AP: "... Donald Trump says the military will build his promised border wall 'if Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country.' Trump tweets Tuesday that immigration and border patrol agents and the military have done a 'FANTASTIC' job securing the border with Mexico. But Trump says 'A Great Wall' would be a 'far easier & less expensive solution.' He claims Democrats don't want border security for 'strictly political reasons.'" Thanks to Ken. W. for the lead.

Lolita Baldor of the AP: "The U.S. this week will begin withdrawing many of the active duty troops sent to the border with Mexico by ... Donald Trump just before the midterm election in response to a caravan of Central American migrants, U.S. officials said Monday. About 2,200 of the active duty troops will be pulled out before the holidays, the officials said, shrinking an unusual domestic deployment that was viewed by critics as a political stunt and a waste of military resources. That will leave about 3,000 active duty troops in Texas, Arizona and California, mainly comprised of military police and helicopter transport crews who are assisting border patrol agents. There also will still be about 2,300 members of the National Guard who were sent to the border region as part of a separate deployment that started in April." Mrs. McC: So no wall, no soldiers to protect from the invading hordes.

The Trumpiefenokee Swamp

Trump's Cronies Rake in $$$ from Sanctioned Nations. Ken Vogel of the New York Times: "As President Trump’s administration has increasingly turned to sanctions, travel restrictions and tariffs to punish foreign governments as well as people and companies from abroad, targets of those measures have turned for assistance to Washington’s K Street corridor of law, lobbying and public relations firms. The work can carry reputational and legal risks, since clients often come with toxic baggage and the United States Treasury Department restricts transactions with entities under sanctions. As a result, it commands some of the biggest fees of any sector in the influence industry. And some of the biggest payments have been going to lobbyists, lawyers and consultants with connections to Mr. Trump or his administration." Like Rudy Giuliani & Alan Dershowitz. The pay-for-play culture "has been encouraged, they say, by the willingness projected by Mr. Trump and his team to make deals around sanctions and tariffs exemptions. Previous administrations had worked to wall off politics from those processes, which are supposed to be overseen primarily by career officials and governed by strict legal analyses." Mrs. McC: Trump has engineered quite a nifty scam here.

David Cay Johnston of DCReport: "The Trump Administration hid a study documenting financial abuse of students by some banks working hands-in-glove with colleges, the latest example of how instead of 'draining the swamp' Donald Trump is turning official Washington into a paradise for swamp monsters. The suppressed fee gouging report was made by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB. Students attending colleges which have marketing agreements with banks and other financial institutions paid much higher overdraft and account fees than students at schools with no such deals, the study found.... We know of the study only because it was mentioned last August in a scathing resignation letter by Seth Frotman, a CFPB assistant director and student loan ombudsman.... The study was pried loose by Allied Progress through the Freedom of Information Act[.]" --s


Reuters: "The Trump administration is expected to propose weakening protections for U.S. wetlands on Tuesday, in a move sought by ranching and mining interests but one that will likely be held up in the courts amid opposition from environmentalists. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will make a water policy announcement at 11:25 Eastern Time (1625 GMT), the agency said without elaborating." --s

Brad Plumer & Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "Trump administration officials at high-stakes climate talks [in Poland] offered an unapologetic defense of fossil fuels on Monday, arguing that a rapid retreat from coal, oil and gas was unrealistic. While that stance brought scorn from environmentalists and countries that favor stronger action to fight global warming, there are signs that the administration is finding a receptive audience among other major fossil-fuel producers, including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia.... The [U.S.] public endorsement of fossil fuels came two days after the Trump administration helped to block the United Nations climate conference from embracing the findings of a major scientific report on global warming. It amounted to what might be the most dramatic show of disdain for the Paris Agreement on reducing greenhouse emissions — at a gathering meant to establish a set of rules for implementing the deal — since President Trump announced that the country would abandon the pact. The United States — along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia — refused to allow a collective statement that would 'welcome' the report...."

Alan Pyke of ThinkProgress: "After attracting more scandals in 18 months than his four predecessors managed in 16 years, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke quietly shut the door to further public scrutiny of his office over the Thanksgiving break. The secretary gave control of incoming Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to former Koch Industries adviser and longtime Zinke consigliere Dan Jorjani.... Zinke’s move on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is best understood as a reshuffling of his resources, from attack to defense.... [Previously] Jorjani wrote to a colleague that Interior staffers’ primary responsibility is to protect Zinke from negative press. He will now be the central gatekeeper of the agency’s documents when journalists, watchdogs, and other citizens seek insight into the conduct of their government." --s

Richard Partington of the Guardian: "The storm clouds of the next global financial crisis are gathering despite the world financial system being unprepared for the next downturn, the deputy head of the International Monetary Fund has warned. David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF, said that 'crisis prevention is incomplete' more than a decade on from the last meltdown in the global banking system.... Lipton said individual nation states alone would lack the firepower to combat the next recession, while calling on governments to work together to tackle the issues that could spark another crash." --s

"Paul Ryan's Long Con." Ezra Klein of Vox: "Ryan’s reputation was built on the back of his budgets: draconian documents that gutted social spending, privatized Medicare, and showed the Republican Party had embraced the kinds of hard fiscal choices that [George W.] Bush had sloughed off. And Ryan presented himself as the wonkish apostle of this new GOP.... For this, Ryan was feted in Washington society.... But to critics like the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, Ryan was an obvious con man weaponizing the deficit to hamstring Obama’s presidency, weaken the recovery, and snooker Beltway centrists eager to champion a reasonable-seeming Republican.... Now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review lower court decisions that blocked efforts in two states to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood, refusing for now to get involved in state battles over abortion rights. The cases did not touch on abortion itself, but three justices who said the court should have accepted the cases said that was the reason the court declined to get involved. 'What explains the court’s refusal to do its job here? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named "Planned Parenthood,’” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote.... Thomas was joined in his opinion by fellow conservative justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch.... The court’s action showed a split among the panel’s conservatives, and might indicate a reluctance by the majority to take on controversial cases at a time when the Supreme Court is in the political spotlight.... It takes four justices to accept a case...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Irin Carmon of New York: No, Brett Kavanaugh is not a stealth liberal likely to uphold reproductive rights. "... the two cases the court declined to hear involve interpretations of Medicaid law, not the right to access an abortion or how states can regulate it.... While it is true that these cases aren’t technically abortion cases in the jurisprudential sense, I’ll give [Justice] Thomas this: They’re freighted with abortion politics.... In the end, the decision by Kavanaugh — particularly so soon after being the subject of sexual-assault allegations — and [Chief Justice] Roberts not to wade into this particular muck may mean nothing more than the fact that one or both of them would prefer a different battle. But when it comes to this Supreme Court, even a less-bad day is a good one."

Sarah Smith of the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram: "For decades, women and children have faced rampant sexual abuse while worshiping at independent fundamental Baptist churches around the country. The network of churches and schools has often covered up the crimes and helped relocate the offenders, an eight-month Star-Telegram investigation has found. More than 200 people — current or former church members, across generations — shared their stories of rape, assault, humiliation and fear in churches where male leadership cannot be questioned.... The Star-Telegram discovered at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions, spanning 40 states and Canada."

Eun Kyung Kim of NBC News: "A group of journalists whose work has landed them in jail — or cost them their lives — have been named Time’s Person of the Year for 2018. 'Like all human gifts, courage comes to us at varying levels and at varying moments,' the magazine’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote in an essay about the selection. 'This year we are recognizing four journalists and one news organization who have paid a terrible price to seize the challenge of this moment: Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md.... They are representative of a broader fight by countless others around the world — as of Dec. 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered in 2018 — who risk all to tell the story of our time.'... The magazine revealed its choice of 'The Guardians and the War on Truth' on Tuesday on TODAY, along with the four magazine covers featuring Khashoggi, Ressa, the Gazette staff and the wives of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.'... Editors named [Donald] Trump as this year's runner up, citing 'a crowning irony' to the president's influence. 'His ultimate impact may be determined as much by the resistance he engenders as by the goals he pursues,' the magazine said.... Following close behind as the third runner-up was Trump's nemesis and the frequent subject of his anger on Twitter: Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading the investigation into Russia's meddling into the 2016 presidential election.”


Read more here: https://www.star-telegram.com/living/religion/article222576310.html#storylink=cpy"

Read more here: https://www.star-telegram.com/living/religion/article222576310.html#storylink=cpy

Robert McFadden of the New York Times: "Rosanell Eaton, a resolute African-American woman who was hailed by President Barack Obama as a beacon of civil rights for her role as a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against a restrictive North Carolina voting law that reached the Supreme Court in 2016, died on Saturday in Louisburg, N.C. She was 97.... Caught up as a witness to history in one of the nation’s major controversies, Ms. Eaton, an obscure civil rights pioneer in her younger years, became a cause célèbre after Mr. Obama cited her courage in his response to a 2015 article in The New York Times Magazine about growing efforts to dismantle the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A year after the president’s letter, the Supreme Court, in a 4-4 vote, let stand a federal appeals court judgment upholding the lawsuit spearheaded by Ms. Eaton and other plaintiffs. The ruling struck down a North Carolina statute whose provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” in what the court called an effort to depress black turnout at the polls. In 2017, after regaining its conservative majority with the appointment of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal to revive the case, effectively overturning a far-reaching effort by Republicans to counter what they contended, without evidence, was widespread voter fraud in North Carolina." In 1942, she became "one of the state’s first black voters since Reconstruction." Read on.

Election 2018. Florida. Gary Fineout of the AP: "Florida officials say thousands of mailed ballots were not counted because they were delivered too late to state election offices. The Department of State late last week informed a federal judge that 6,670 ballots were mailed ahead of the Nov. 6 election but were not counted because they were not received by Election Day. The tally prepared by state officials includes totals from 65 of Florida’s 67 counties. The two counties yet to report their totals are Palm Beach, a Democratic stronghold in south Florida, and Polk in central Florida.... Under Florida law, ballots mailed inside the United States must reach election offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Overseas ballots are counted if they are received up to 10 days after the election. A group called VoteVets Action Fund along with two Democratic organizations filed a lawsuit a few days after the 2017 election that argued the ballots should count if they were mailed before Election Day. But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the restriction was reasonable and that Florida election officials have a right to establish deadlines.... The lawsuit, however, is still pending and Walker asked that state election officials report how many ballots were mailed before Election Day but ultimately were not counted."

Beyond the Beltway

Tom Perkins of the Guardian: "Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina suffered stinging losses in November, but the parties aren’t transferring power quietly, or at all in some cases. On the way out the door, 'lame-duck' state legislatures are bringing in last-minute laws that will strip power from incoming Democrats, gut voter-approved ballot initiatives, or otherwise undermine the election results. But some legal experts say the most alarming legislation the Republicans have passed is unconstitutional and unlikely to survive outraged Democrats’ legal challenges. Among other issues, they contend many of the Republican laws blur the constitutionally mandated separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government."

Not Even Raps on the Knuckles for These Twisted Sisters. Haroon Siddique of the Guardian & agencies: "Two nuns who worked for decades at a Catholic school in California embezzled a 'substantial' amount of money from tuition and other funds and used it to pay for gambling trips to Las Vegas, church officials said Monday. Sisters Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang are believed to have siphoned off cash from tuition fees and donations at St James school in Torrance, near Los Angeles for at least a decade. Neither has been charged with a crime.... The total taken from the school was still being calculated, Alarcon said, adding he could not confirm reports that it was up to $500,000 (£400,000).... The archdiocese has notified the police but [Monsignor Michael] Meyers said church officials did not plan to press charges and instead wanted to resolve the situation internally with the money repaid and the nuns disciplined by their order." ...

     ... Update. ABC News: The nuns spent some of the stolen money on travel. "At first the school said it 'does not wish to pursue criminal proceedings,' but now the Archdiocese tells ABC News the investigation has deepened and they are considering making this a criminal case." Sister Mary Margaret was the school's principal. Mrs. McC: Budding comedy screenwriters, take note.

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm not sure why Republicans are so worried about Sharia law. The Roman Catholic Church seems to think that its leaders should decide many cases that otherwise fall under secular laws, from sexual abuse of minors to grand theft to healthcare mandates.

Way Beyond

BBC: PM "Theresa May is meeting European leaders and EU officials on Tuesday for talks aimed at rescuing her Brexit deal. She is holding talks with Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Germany's Angela Merkel after postponing a Commons vote on the deal. The UK PM has said she needs 'further assurances' about the Northern Ireland border plan to get backing from MPs. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU would not 'renegotiate' the deal but there was room for 'further clarifications'." ...

... Stephen Castle & Richard Pérez-Peña of the New York Times: "Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that she would seek to postpone a parliamentary vote on her proposal for Britain’s departure from the European Union, throwing the process into disarray and highlighting her tenuous hold on power. Parliament had been scheduled to vote on Tuesday on the agreement that Mrs. May reached with the bloc for Britain’s withdrawal, or Brexit — a critical moment in her political career and in the battle over an issue that has gripped British politics for nearly three years. But weeks of bitter criticism and days of parliamentary debate had left no doubt that the plan would be soundly rejected by lawmakers, due in large part to objections over plans for dealing with the Irish border that pro-Brexit lawmakers say could potentially leave the United Kingdom tied to some of the bloc’s rules indefinitely." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Macron Addresses Les Gilets Jaunes. Alissa Rubin of the New York Times: "Faced with violent protests and calls for his resignation, President Emmanuel Macron of France said Monday that he had heard the anger of the many whose economic suffering has burst into the open in recent weeks and that he would take immediate steps to relieve their hardship.... He announced tax cuts and income increases for the struggling middle class and working poor, vowing to raise the pay of workers earning the minimum wage. He promised to listen to the voices of the country, to its small-town mayors and its working people.... [BUT] Criticisms came quickly from many of Mr. Macron’s political opponents, who said his proposals fell far short of people’s needs."

Sunday
Dec092018

The Commentariat -- December 10, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Rosalind Helderman & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist, is poised to plead guilty in a case involving accusations that she was working as an agent for the Kremlin in the United States, according to a new court filing. Attorneys for Butina and federal prosecutors jointly requested in court documents Monday that U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan set a time for Butina to withdraw her previous plea of not guilty. They said they could be available for her to enter her plea as early as Tuesday. 'The parties have resolved this matter,' Butina’s lawyers and D.C.-based prosecutors wrote in their joint filing."

Marshall Cohen of CNN: "At least 16 associates of Donald Trump had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign or transition, according to public statements, court filings, CNN reporting, and reporting from other news outlets."

"Whatever." Matt Yglesias of Vox: "No person’s entire career can be summed up in a single quote. But ousted White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s defense to the charge that the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the border was cruel deserves to be etched into his tombstone. 'The children,' he said, 'will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.' That is roughly the degree of thoughtfulness and consideration that was put into the policy. And it properly reflects Kelly’s true legacy as chief of staff.... The emphasis on times when Kelly could rein in Trump ignores the extent to which the two men were genuinely like-minded, and the many crucial moments where Kelly exacerbated Trump’s worst instincts.”

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review lower court decisions that blocked efforts in two states to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood, refusing for now to get involved in state battles over abortion rights. The cases did not touch on abortion itself, but three justices who said the court should have accepted the cases said that was the reason the court declined to get involved. 'What explains the court’s refusal to do its job here? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named "Planned Parenthood,’” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote.... Thomas was joined in his opinion by fellow conservative justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch.... The court’s action showed a split among the panel’s conservatives, and might indicate a reluctance by the majority to take on controversial cases at a time when the Supreme Court is in the political spotlight.... It takes four justices to accept a case...."

Stephen Castle & Richard Pérez-Peña of the New York Times: "Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that she would seek to postpone a parliamentary vote on her proposal for Britain’s departure from the European Union, throwing the process into disarray and highlighting her tenuous hold on power. Parliament had been scheduled to vote on Tuesday on the agreement that Mrs. May reached with the bloc for Britain’s withdrawal, or Brexit — a critical moment in her political career and in the battle over an issue that has gripped British politics for nearly three years. But weeks of bitter criticism and days of parliamentary debate had left no doubt that the plan would be soundly rejected by lawmakers, due in large part to objections over plans for dealing with the Irish border that pro-Brexit lawmakers say could potentially leave the United Kingdom tied to some of the bloc’s rules indefinitely."

*****

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

"No Smocking Gun." Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Monday sought to downplay the felony his former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to this month, arguing that Cohen’s hush money payments on behalf of Trump were a 'simple private transaction' rather than a breach of campaign finance law. Apparently citing a Fox News segment, Trump insisted on Twitter that there is 'smocking (sic) gun' pointing to coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia that emerged from the closed door congressional testimony of former FBI Director James Comey last week.... 'There was NO COLLUSION,' Trump wrote on Monday. 'So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s - but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine.).'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: A smocking gun is the perfect holiday gift for the home-crafter. A multi-purpose tool, it makes light work of smocking baby's Christmas dress & glue-gunning baubles to your festive wreaths. When President* Trump gave his wife Melanie a smocking gun, she went stark-staring-crazy gluing like millions of red berries to a bunch of trees she found out in the hall. Wait till you see Uday & Qusay in the smocked Russian bear dancer outfits Melanie whipped up for them. The smocking gun is available at WalMart, Michael's & the Home Shopping Network. (Not suitable for children under six or Uday and Qusay.) Oh, P.S., the rest of Trump's TwitterTale above is crap. ...

... Avery Anapol of the Hill: "Former CIA Director John Brennan blasted President Trump after he downplayed allegations of campaign finance violations by calling them a 'private transaction.' 'Whenever you send out such inane tweets, I take great solace in knowing that you realize how much trouble you are in & how impossible it will be for you to escape American justice,' Brennan tweeted. 'Mostly, I am relieved that you will never have the opportunity to run for public office again.'” Mrs. McC: Huh. Obviously Brennan thinks Trump will not be in a position to run for re-election. Even if Trump did revoke Brennan's security clearance, Brennan well may know something we don't know.

Ben Protess, et al., of the New York Times: "After [Michael] Cohen pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws and other crimes ... the federal prosecutors in Manhattan shifted their attention to what role, if any, Trump Organization executives played in the campaign finance violations, according to people briefed on the matter.... In addition to implicating Mr. Trump in the payments to the two women, Mr. Cohen has told prosecutors that the company’s chief financial officer was involved in discussions about them, a claim that is now a focus of the inquiry.... In recent weeks, the prosecutors contacted the company to renew a request they had made earlier this year for documents and other materials...." ...

... Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "Michael D. Cohen ... always had a high self-regard for his ability to talk — or bully — his way out of challenging situations, whether acting on his own or on behalf of Mr. Trump. So when federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York began investigating Mr. Cohen, he seemed to undertake a brazen and risky legal strategy: offer enough information that it might prompt prosecutors to ask a judge for leniency for him — but nothing more about his or others’ activities. On Friday, the prosecutors made clear that Mr. Cohen was less useful to their investigation because he would not fully cooperate, therefore he would not reap benefits, such as a government letter on his behalf. They said Mr. Cohen had refused to sign a full cooperation agreement, the sort most people in the Southern District sign when agreeing to testify against their partners in crime. Under that sort of deal, witnesses must admit to every crime they have committed and offer any details concerning crimes by others, even ones the government did not know about."

Michael Burke of the Hill: "Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday said that President Trump might 'face the real prospect of jail time' after prosecutors indicated last week that he directed illegal payments during his 2016 presidential campaign." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Martin Matishak of Politico: "Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Sunday said that if accusations that ... Donald Trump directed illegal payments during his campaign are true that it would 'certainly' be an impeachable offense, but stopped short of saying such action would be taken. 'They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they're important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,' Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on CNN's 'State of the Union.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Quinn Scanlan of ABC News: "Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said repeatedly that ... Donald Trump pardoning former campaign chairman Paul Manafort would be a 'terrible mistake,' and that doing so could possibly 'trigger a debate about whether the pardon powers should be amended.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Erin Durkin of the Guardian has a more extensive report on remarks made by Schiff, Nadler & Rubio. ...

... Megan Keller of the Hill: "Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) said Sunday that the language federal prosecutors are using to refer to President Trump in an indictment against Michael Cohen makes it sound as if they might have corroborating evidence that the president violated campaign finance law." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Stephanie Baker, et al. of Bloomberg: "Not long after Michael Cohen stopped pursuing a Trump-branded property project in Moscow, another Russian connection to the future U.S. president’s entourage started to form. Like the real estate plan, it didn’t end well — particularly for Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg. His effort to engage in statecraft at the highest level unraveled spectacularly, costing him billions, cleaving his family and severing the extensive ties to the U.S. elite that turned him into what one Moscow newspaper called the 'most American' of Vladimir Putin’s plutocrats.... Instead, he became the richest victim of the most dangerous standoff between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

James Risen of The Intercept: "The significance of Mueller’s new filing about [Paul] Manafort is that it raises new questions about connections between Trump’s campaign manager and a figure with ties to Russian intelligence. Many of the details are frustratingly redacted in the Mueller filing, but it suggests that [Konstantin] Kilimnik plays a more important role in Mueller’s investigation than previously believed. What is obvious is that, despite Trump’s denials, he and his campaign were involved in repeated, serious efforts to develop deep connections to Vladimir Putin’s regime from the very beginning of Trump’s run for the presidency." --s ...

... Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Again and again and again, over the course of Donald Trump’s 18-month campaign for the presidency, Russian citizens made contact with his closest family members and friends, as well as figures on the periphery of his orbit.... In all, Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and presidential transition, public records and interviews show.... The mounting number of communications that have been revealed occurred against the backdrop of 'sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election,' as Mueller’s prosecutors wrote in a court filing last week. The special counsel’s filings have also revealed moments when Russia appeared to be taking cues from Trump."

Greg Krieg of CNN: "Former FBI Director James Comey asked American voters Sunday night to end Donald Trump's presidency with a 'landslide' victory for his opponent in 2020. 'All of us should use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on January 20, 2021,' Comey told an audience at the 92nd Street Y on New York City's Upper East Side. He all but begged Democrats to set aside their ideological differences and nominate the person best suited to defeating Trump in an election. 'I understand the Democrats have important debates now over who their candidate should be,' Comey told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, 'but they have to win. They have to win.'... Hours earlier, Trump attacked Comey in a pair of testy morning tweets, claiming without evidence that the former FBI chief had lied on Friday in his testimony to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees. 'Leakin' James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful!,' Trump wrote, adding in a second post: 'On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn't know, didn't recall, or couldn't remember things when asked.'Comey laughed at the idea Trump had even looked over the actual testimony, joking to Wallace before she could read the tweets, 'He's finished reading the 253 pages?'"

Matt Shuham of TPM: "Former FBI Director James Comey testified to the House Oversight and Judiciary committees Friday that he was concerned in late 2016 'that there appeared to be in the media a number of stories that might have been based on communications reporters or nonreporters like Rudy Giuliani were having with people in the [FBI’s] New York field office.'... [From the transcript:] 'In particular..., I want to say mid-October..., Mr. Giuliani was making statements that appeared to be based on his knowledge of workings inside the FBI New York.'”

Ham Sandwich Sues Prosecutor. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "An author and conspiracy theorist who says he’s being threatened with indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the Trump-Russia probe filed a federal lawsuit Sunday night accusing Mueller of constitutional violations and leaking grand jury secrets. Jerome Corsi’s new suit against Mueller also accuses the special prosecutor of trying to badger Corsi into giving false testimony that he served as a conduit between Wikileaks found Julian Assange and Roger Stone.... Corsi is represented in the suit by his defense attorney, David Gray of New Jersey, and longtime conservative gadfly and Judicial Watch founder, Larry Klayman."


Wesley Morgan
of Politico: "... Donald Trump has told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to submit a $750 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2020, in a reversal from his pledge to trim defense spending, two people familiar with the budget negotiations have told Politico. The $750 billion figure emerged from a meeting Tuesday at the White House among Trump, Mattis and the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, both people said.... That would ... represent a stunning about-face for a president who recently called the fiscal 2019 top line of $716 billion for defense spending 'crazy.' ” In October, Trump said the defense figure for 2020 would be $700 billion, a roughly 5 percent cut in line with decreases planned for other agencies.”

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Nick Ayers, President Trump’s top choice to replace John F. Kelly as chief of staff, has declined to take the job, according to three people familiar with the talks. Mr. Ayers, 36, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to leave the administration in the coming weeks as his family returns to Georgia, according to people familiar with his plans." ...

... Such a Principled Young Man. Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: "... a source close to the White House told The Daily Beast, Ayers is expected to return to the pro-Trump dark money group he helped found.... Ayers’ departure from government would mark a return to a private political consulting career that earned him huge paychecks between stints at GOP political outfits including the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association and his work with Pence during the 2016 presidential campaign." ...

... Mehdi Hasan of the Intercept: John "Kelly was never a 'great guy'; never the 'adult in the room.' He was a bully, a bigot and a liar; as racist and reactionary as his soon-to-be former boss. He was an enabler of Trump’s worst crimes and abuses — from the 'unconstitutional' appointment of his crony Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, to the abduction of children at the U.S.-Mexico border, to the fake furor over the migrant 'caravan.'” Hasan runs down Kelly's greatest hits.

Bull in a China Shop. Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post: "Mike Pompeo was supposed to rescue the State Department from its disastrous start in the Trump presidency. When he first turned up at Foggy Bottom on May 1, he promised to staff up a badly depleted bureaucracy, listen to its views and reinvigorate U.S. diplomacy after a year of dysfunction. State, he said, would get 'back our swagger.' Now, after a month that has seen the secretary offer smiles and excuses to Saudi Arabia’s murderous Mohammed bin Salman, trash Congress for 'caterwauling' and inspire a rare revolt by Senate Republicans, it’s time to offer a verdict: Pompeo has managed to worsen the State Department’s already abysmal standing with every significant constituency. Legislators, major allies, the media, career staff, even North Korea are alienated. The only satisfied customer may be President Trump — and even he has grounds for grievance.” Read on.

Command Appearance. Simon Goodley of the Guardian: "China has summoned the US ambassador in Beijing to protest about the detention of a senior Huawei executive in Canada after US law enforcement officials issued a warrant for her arrest last week. The official Xinhua news agency said the vice-foreign minister, Le Yucheng, had 'lodged solemn representations and strong protests' with the ambassador, Terry Branstad, against the detention of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese technology firm."

Nic Robertson of CNN: "'I can't breathe.' These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country's consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist. The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi's painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him."

Sharon Lerner of The Intercept: "A new water rule that will strip federal protections from an estimated 60-90 percent of U.S. waterways will dramatically ease restrictions on how polluting industries do business.... But oil and gas transport companies may benefit most from the imminent shift. When the rule takes effect, pipeline construction projects that are currently required to undergo months, or even years, of scrutiny from water experts in order to minimize their environmental impact will be allowed to speed forward...The oil and gas industries have been pushing for years for these same changes.... The change will likely have the most dramatic effect in Alaska and the arid west, which, depending on the wording of the rule, may see up to 90 percent of its waterways lose federal protection." --s

Damian Carrington of the Guardian: "Global investors managing $32tn issued a stark warning to governments at the UN climate summit on Monday, demanding urgent cuts in carbon emissions and the phasing out of all coal burning. Without these, the world faces a financial crash several times worse than the 2008 crisis, they said. The investors include some of the world’s biggest pension funds, insurers and asset managers and marks the largest such intervention to date. They say fossil fuel subsidies must end and substantial taxes on carbon be introduced." --s

I do not like the fact that Madison and Milwaukee chose Governor Evers and they’re the reason that he won. -- Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin] Vos (R), expressing his opposition to one-person-one-vote for urbanites ...

... Jonathan Chait: "' Donald Trump’s gold-embossed version of authoritarianism, inflected with narcissism and a Mafia ethos, is highly distinctive and, at least to some Republican elites, occasionally unsettling.... Trump’s wild charges about 'rigged elections' and millions of imaginary illegal voters stand out for their blunt-force ignorance but not their basic thrust.... Trump did not invent the broader distrust of democracy infecting his party. Nor is the [anti-democratic] philosophy espoused by [Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin] Vos merely some alarming idiosyncrasy coming from one legislator in Wisconsin. In fact, paradoxically, the black-swan nature of Trump’s presidency is obscuring a decades-long project that, should the grand American experiment in self-government end in ruin, could easily bear more responsibility for its death than any single president.... We now inhabit a political reality in which Republicans looking to exploit the powers of minority control have become even more brazen in their tactics."

Nervous Breakdown at the Wingnut Corral. Elham Khatami of ThinkProgress: "Conservative pastor E.W. Jackson went on a six-minute Islamophobic rant on his radio show Wednesday, telling listeners that Muslims are 'going to turn Congress into an institution of Sharia law.' Jackson was speaking specifically about Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who, along with Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), are set to become the first Muslim women elected to Congress.... 'Floor of Congress is now going to look like a, it’s going to look like an Islamic republic.'... Late Thursday evening, Omar clapped back, tweeting that Jackson is 'gonna have to just deal.' 'Well sir,' she said, 'the floor of Congress is going to look like America…'" --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jamiles Larty of the Guardian: "This year has been by far the worst on record for gun violence in schools, the advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise said, citing research by the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). The NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security counted 94 school shooting incidents in 2018, a near 60% increase on the previous high, 59, an unwanted record set in 2006. The NPS database goes back to 1970 and documents any instance in which a gun is 'brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason', regardless of the number of victims or the day of the week.... In response to the NPS findings and to mark the sixth anniversary of Sandy Hook, on 14 December, Sandy Hook Promise will release a jarring public service announcement [video]." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, et al., of the New York Times: "... as smartphones have become ubiquitous and technology more accurate, an industry of snooping on people’s daily habits has spread and grown more intrusive.... At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information.... These companies sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds seeking insights into consumer behavior.... More than 1,000 popular apps contain location-sharing code from such companies, according to 2018 data from MightySignal, a mobile analysis firm. Google’s Android system was found to have about 1,200 apps with such code, compared with about 200 on Apple’s iOS." ...

     ... Valentino-DeVries & Natasha Singer show you how you can stop the snoopers from tracking you.

Presidential Race 2020. Alex Seitz-Wald of NBC News: "A little over a year from now, millions of Californians will be mailed their ballots on the same day that Iowans head to their famous first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. They could start mailing them back before New Hampshire holds its first-in-the-nation primary in 2020. Meanwhile, Texans will likely have a chance to vote early, too — even before Nevada and South Carolina, which typically round out the earliest portion of the primary calendar. The explosion of early voting and reshuffling of the primary calendar in 2020 could transform the Democratic presidential nominating contest, potentially diminishing the power of the traditional, tiny and homogeneous early states in favor of much larger and more diverse battlegrounds. That would be a boon to the best-known candidates with warchests sizable enough to compete in big states early. And it would empower black and Hispanic voters in large, multiracial states like California, which was a virtual afterthought at the back of the primary calendar in 2016. Criticism has mounted for years about the primacy of New Hampshire and Iowa, which are both around 90 percent white."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

"A Future with Less News." David Uberti in the New Republic: "A decade of turmoil has left a weakened press vulnerable to political attacks, forced into ethical compromises, and increasingly outstripped by new forms of digital media. Deeply reported and scrupulously fact-checked stories now compete with click-bait, memes, bots, trolls, hyper-partisan writers, and fake news produced to rack up views on social platforms. Local news is vanishing as Facebook, Google, and increasingly Amazon dominate the advertising industry on which publications long relied." Uberti reprises the highlights of a book by Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian."

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As we all know, many news outlets, and almost all of the major ones, are speeding up our strict real-news diet by subscriber-firewalling their content. We've been able to get around most of those firewalls (the WSJ being a notable exception) by opening the stories in private windows, but it looks as if that work-around is ending: just this morning I tried to open an LA Times story in a private window -- and it turns out that is now verboten. Other outlets are likely to follow suit. Well, you say, profit-motivated journalism was never the best idea anyway; maybe we should try some kind of publicly-financed journalism. Um, okay ...

... NPR Abuses the Interns It Relies on to Do, Well, Everything. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "For decades, the public broadcaster has relied on a cadre of temporary journalists to produce its hourly newscasts and popular news programs. Without temporary workers — who are subject to termination without cause — NPR would probably be unable to be NPR. Temps do almost every important job in NPR’s newsroom: They pitch ideas, assign stories, edit them, report and produce them. Temps not only book the guests heard in interviews, they often write the questions the hosts ask the guests. And there are a lot of them. According to union representatives,between 20 and 22 percent of NPR’s 483 union-covered newsroom workforce — or 1 in 5 people — are temp workers. The number varies week to week as temps come and go.... Temps were often left in the dark about how long their assignments would last, how much they’d be paid, who they were reporting to, or what their title is. They also said they received little feedback from supervisors after completing an assignment, and were 'routinely' overlooked in NPR’s recruiting efforts." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So if you're wondering why NPR's segments so often suck, it might be because the producer is a 21-year-old "communications" major, the reporter is a 22-year-old Liberty U. grad, & they're both making SAG-AFTRA minimum wage in a high-COL city.

Beyond the Beltway

North Carolina. Follow the $. E.A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "Controversy surrounding election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th district increased this weekend as questions surfaced about campaign debts owed by Mark Harris, the Republican initially declared the winner in the race. According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, the Harris campaign currently owes $34,310 to a political consultant employed by the Red Dome Group. The money is owed for 'Reimbursement Payment for Bladen Absentee' and 'Reimbursement Door to Door,' seemingly to Leslie McCrae Dowless, the consultant. Dowless was named Friday as a person of interest in a probe of possible absentee voter fraud.... In another twist in the saga..., a Democrat-funded PAC may have also been involved in a separate case of illegal absentee voter practices in the same county." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Virginia. Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "Virginia’s House of Delegates is one of the most gerrymandered bodies in the country. In 2017, Democrats won the statewide popular vote in Virginia’s legislative races by over nine percentage points. Nevertheless, Republicans still held a 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates, thanks to gerrymandering. But Virginia Democrats may actually get to compete in something approximating free and fair elections next year, thanks to a pair of documents handed down by a federal court on Friday.... While it remains to be seen what the final maps will look like, the current maps are so egregiously gerrymandered than any alterations are likely to benefit the Democratic Party. And that, in turn, raises the possibility that the increasingly blue state of Virginia could become a haven for progressive ideas." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Wisconsin. H. Claire Brown of The Intercept: "[In the GOP last minute power grab,] buried under controversial moves to curtail early voting and strip authority from Gov.-elect Tony Evers is a sweeping codification of welfare restrictions that Republicans across the country have long sought. The new legislation enshrines in state law outgoing Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial policy of forcing many food stamp applicants to submit to drug testing. It also limits the incoming administration’s ability to walk back the state’s strict new work requirements for aid recipients. After Walker’s approval, Wisconsin will be the only state that requires drug testing for non-felon food stamp applicants." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Way Beyond

BBC: "The [House of] Commons vote on Tuesday [on Theresa May's Brexit plan] will not be delayed, the Brexit Secretary has said, amid growing calls for the PM to go back to Brussels to renegotiate. Stephen Barclay also said Theresa May could stay in post if, as expected, MPs reject her Brexit plan. The PM has warned Tory rebels it could lead to a general election, and there was a 'very real risk of no Brexit'.... The withdrawal deal negotiated between the UK and EU has been endorsed by EU leaders but must also be backed by Parliament."

Dom Phillips of the Guardian: "An epidemic of illegal artisanal mining across the Amazon rainforest has been revealed in an unprecedented new map, pinpointing 2,312 sites in 245 areas across six Amazon countries. Called garimpo in Brazil, artisanal mining for gold and other minerals in Amazon forests and rivers has been a problem for decades and is usually illegal. It is also highly polluting: clearings are cut into forests, mining ponds carved into the earth, and mercury used in extraction is dumped in rivers, poisoning fish stocks and water supplies. But its spread has never been shown before.... In 37 cases, the groups say illegal artisanal mining took place in protected indigenous reserves, 18 of which were in Brazil." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I didn't know what "artisanal mining" was. "Artisanal" sounds so traditional and sweet and, you know, artsy like hand-thrown pottery, delicious bread & small-production, organic wines. So I looked it up: it's small-scale mining by independent miners, like hobbyists panning for gold. Apparently "artisanal miners" are not so into leaving their work sites as they found them.